New Article in Quartz Magazine: Actresses Like Meghan Markle Have Been Winning The Hearts of Royals since 1668

Meghan Markle

My recent article in Quartz Magazine discusses the history of romances between princes and actresses in Britain since the 17th century including Charles II and Nell Gwynn, William IV and Dorothy Jordan and Edward VII and Lillie Langtry.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Since the 17th century, royal patronage of the arts has brought princes and actresses together. Until the First World War, royalty usually married other royalty, so these relationships did not end in marriage. The women who combined a successful career on the stage with a high-profile relationship with a prince, however, became the celebrities of their time, expanding the role of women in public life.”

Click here to read “Actresses Like Meghan Markle Have Been Winning The Hearts of Royals since 1668.”

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

CBC News Interview: “This feels very modern’: How Meghan Markle could nudge the House of Windsor into the future

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (photo credit: Hello! Magazine)

Further details regarding the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were released today. The couple will be married at St. George’s chapel, Windsor Castle in mid-May. On the day the engagement was announced, I discussed Meghan Markle with Janet Davison at CBC News. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“One thing that Harry and Meghan have in common is their passion for humanitarian work,” said Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian.

Harry, 33, is involved in causes ranging from support for mental health to his Invictus Games for wounded, injured and sick soldiers and veterans. Markle has worked with World Vision and the United Nations. She has travelled to Rwanda and advocated for issues ranging from clean water to rights for women and girls.

“As a member of the Royal Family, her philanthropic work will expand and she will be in demand to become a patron of various charities,” said Harris. “She will fit very well into the Royal Family in terms of her passion for philanthropy.”

Click here to read ‘This feels very modern’: How Meghan Markle could nudge the House of Windsor into the future” at CBC News

I am also quoted in this National Post article “Why a grown prince asked his grandmother permission to get married and other burning Harry, Meghan questions”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Clarence House announced today that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged and will marry in the Spring of 2018. I was interviewed about the big news by a variety of media outlets including CBC News and Global News (above).

I discussed the impact of the engagement on Meghan Markle’s daily life, career and charity work with University of Toronto News. The interview is online here.

I also discussed royal titles and surnames with Town and Country Magazine. Here is the interview.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

CBC News Interview: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Lots of speculation and a new kind of royal relationship

Meghan Markle

I recently discussed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with Janet Davison at CBC News. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“What’s interesting about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s relationship is that there have been milestones that often we do not see until after a royal engagement,” says Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal historian and author.

They’ve openly spoken about the relationship. Harry, 33, talks about Meghan, 36, as his girlfriend. She has talked about how she feels about him — in a cover story in Vanity Fair. In their first public appearance together, they showed up holding hands during the Invictus Games in Toronto in September.

“In many ways, in terms of their public image, they’re behaving as an engaged royal couple,” says Harris, whose book Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of Royal Parenting, was published earlier this year.

Click here to read “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Lots of speculation and a new kind of royal relationship”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

My lectures about Royal Tours of Toronto at Market Gallery on November 17 and 24

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh leaving the Royal York hotel in Toronto on a tour of Canada in 2010.

I will be giving two Friday afternoon lectures later this month at Market Gallery in Toronto about royal tours of Toronto, complementing the Maple Leaf Forever exhibition currently on display there. Afternoon tea will be served at both events and my books Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada and Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting will be for sale.

On November 17, I will be discussing the 1860 royal tour of Canada by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), which set key precedents for subsequent royal tours. More details about the talk are available here.

On November 24, I will be discussing Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to Toronto from 1951 to 2010. More details about the talk are available here.

Tickets for each lecture and afternoon tea are $20 and are available from Market Gallery.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

CBC News Interview: Stepping back but not down: How the Queen is gradually shifting duties to the next generation

Queen Elizabeth II investing Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969.

I discussed Queen Elizabeth II with CBC News this past week in the context of her decision to observe the Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in London with Prince Philip while their son Charles, the Prince of Wales, laid the wreath that the Queen usually places herself.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“The Queen appears to view her position as a lifelong commitment to her people,” says Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian whose book Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of Royal Parenting was released earlier this year.

“At the age of 21, she stated that she would devote her whole life whether it was long or short to the service of her people and she received a religious coronation ceremony in 1953 that emphasized this lifelong commitment.”

Click here to read “Stepping back but not down: How the Queen is gradually shifting duties to the next generation”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

My 2nd book Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe is now available in paperback

I am pleased to announce that my 2nd book, Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette is now available in paperback for $39.99 and as an e-book for $29.99.

Book Description:

Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI of France and Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I of England were two of the most notorious queens in European history. They both faced accusations that they had transgressed social, gender and regional norms, and attempted to defend themselves against negative reactions to their behavior. Each queen engaged with the debates of her time concerning the place of women within their families, religion, politics, the public sphere and court culture and attempted to counter criticism of her foreign origins and political influence. The impeachment of Henrietta Maria in 1643 and trial and execution of Marie Antoinette in 1793 were also trials of monarchical government that shaped the English Civil Wars and French Revolution.

Click here to order Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette from Palgrave History.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

My January-February 2018 course at University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies: Family Life from Medieval to Modern Times

On Wednesday afternoons in January and February 2018, I will be teaching an eight week history course about Family Life from Medieval to Modern Times.

Click here for more information and to register.

Course Description:

Our views on marriage and childrearing would seem very strange to families of past centuries. We’ll see the influence of romanticism on the current understanding of family life, the changing role of grandparents in relation to family traditions, and the emergence of a distinct children’s culture including the birth of children’s literature, due in part to the expansion of formal education. Join us for a look at marriage and parenting customs and advice through the centuries, and the surprising influence of history on family life today.
Learning Outcomes:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Imperial Russia Book Reviews: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna and Maria and Anastasia: The Youngest Romanov Grand Duchesses in Their Own Words

Grand Duchess Maria (1899-1918) is the least well known of the four daughters of Russia’s last Czar, Nicholas II and his consort, Empress Alexandra. Her two older sisters, Grand Duchess Olga (1895-1918) and Grand Duchess Tatiana (1897-1918) came of age and made their debut in Russian high society before the outbreak of the First World War and continued to be prominent public figures in wartime as nurses and heads of charitable organization. Maria’s younger sister, Grand Duchess Anastasia (1901-1918) became famous after her death as she was impersonated by numerous women who claimed to have survived the massacre of the Imperial family in 1918. In the context of her family, Maria was overshadowed by her sisters and younger brother, the heir to the throne, Grand Duke Alexei (1904-1918) and there is evidence that she sometimes felt overlooked in her own lifetime.

 In recent decades, the publication of new primary source material concerning the imprisonment and murder of the Romanovs has done little for Maria’s reputation and historical legacy. A 1918 interview with Vassili Yakolev, the Bolshevik Commissar who escorted Nicholas, Alexandra and Maria from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg (their final place of imprisonment), translated and reprinted in The Fall of the Romanovs: Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution dismisses Maria in a few lines: “Maria, the Romanovs’ daughter, is completely immature for her years. She has no understanding at all of life in the broad sense of the word. She is under the strong influence of her mother.” The 2005 book The Fate of the Romanovs, quotes extensively from biased Bolshevik sources and presents the teenaged Maria as a flirt who was censured by her family because of her friendly relations with the soldiers who kept the Romanovs under guard in 1917 and 1918.  Helen Rappaport’s books about the Imperial family are kinder to Maria but Rappaport still emphasizes Maria’s perceived flirtations, concluding that “Gauche and naive, she was an innocent abroad in the company of men” in The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg.

Two new volumes of Maria’s letters and diaries,1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna: Complete Tercentennial Journal of the Third Daughter of the Last Tsar and Maria and Anastasia: The Youngest Romanov Grand Duchesses In Their Own Words: Letters, Diaries, Postcards, edited by Helen Azar, finally allow the Grand Duchess to speak for her herself and demonstrate that she was not fully understood by those who met her in passing during the final months of her life. Klavdia Bitner, a tutor employed in 1917 noted that the Grand Duchesses were unfamiliar with certain contemporary authors and concluded that they were indifferently educated but Maria’s 1913 diary reveals that at the age of thirteen and fourteen, Maria’s days were dominated by lessons. On February 5, 1913, she wrote, “Had lessons in the morning…[In the afternoon] Had a dance lesson. Had a music lesson…Then did homework.” A report card from that year demonstrates that Maria received top marks from all of her tutors and that she experienced a wide variety of educational opportunities from frequent visits to theatre and ballet to physics lessons in the science lab of a secondary school near the Alexander Palace.

During the First World War, Nicholas II spent months at a time at military headquarters as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army and his daughters wrote him frequent letters. Of the four sisters, Maria may have been the most descriptive letter writer, providing detailed and thoughtful accounts of the hospital where she volunteered with her sister Anastasia. On May 29, 1916, Maria wrote to her father, “This afternoon we rode around then went to our infirmary. Almost all the wounded are lying in the tent…Those who are able, walk to the Catherine Park and sail around the lake in row boats. They really enjoy this and always ask the nurses to go with them.”

Both Maria’s 1913 diary and her wartime letters demonstrate how closely she and her sisters were integrated into their father’s close relationship with the military: all four of the Grand Duchesses became honourary Colonels-in-Chief of regiments from the age of fourteen, attended military reviews, organized social events for military personnel and volunteered in military hospitals. This routine meant that Maria was comfortable socializing with soldiers from a young age. Her interest in the daily lives of soldiers and ability to create a friendly rapport would be interpreted as flirtation by Bolshevik observers after her family was placed under guard following Nicholas’s abdication in March 1917.

Maria’s diaries and letters also provide insights concerning the daily routine and social circle of the Russian Imperial family during the 1913 tercentennial of the Romanov dynasty and the First World War. The involvement of two of Czar Nicholas II’s relatives, his cousin Grand Duke Dmitri and nephew by marriage Prince Felix Yusupov, in the 1916 murder of Grigori Rasputin seems to demonstrate a longstanding estrangement between Nicholas and his extended family but Maria’s letters and diaries demonstrate that Nicholas, Alexandra and their children had a warm relationship with numerous members of the Romanov extended family. Maria appears to have been particularly close to the “Ai-Todorsky,” the children of her Aunt, Grand Duchess Xenia, including Princess Irina, who married Felix Yusupov.

Maria was murdered with the rest of her family on the night of July 16-17, 1918, soon after her nineteenth birthday. Her final letters demonstrate that she was the most hopeful member of her family in their final months. In a letter written just two months before her death, Maria wrote, “It is difficult to write anything pleasant, because there is very little of it here to report, but on the other hand, God does not abandon us, the sun shines and the birds sing.” The publication of Maria’s letters and diaries provide valuable new insights about life within Russia’s last Imperial family from 1913 to 1918 and show Maria to be an intelligent and thoughtful observer of her family’s experiences during the Romanov tercentennial, First World War and Russian Revolution.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Tudor Book Reviews: The King’s Pearl by Melita Thomas and So High a Blood by Morgan Ring

The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary by Melita Thomas

The childhood of Queen Mary I has long been viewed through the perspective of her adolescence and adulthood. As Melita Thomas, observes, Mary was known for centuries as “Bloody Mary” because of the executions of Protestants during her short reign and has recently been rediscovered as “Tragic Mary” because of the devastating impact of the divorce of her parents, King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, on her life. As a result, Mary is viewed as her mother’s daughter and the dynastic marriage negotiations of her childhood are often treated as doomed to failure from the beginning.

In The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary, Thomas re-evaluates the relationship between Henry VIII and Mary I, emphasizing Mary’s political and personal significance to her father. The dynastic marriage negotiations of Mary’s childhood are taken seriously as Henry attempted to increase his prominence in European politics by securing prestigious marriage for Mary. Henry’s relations with Catherine’s nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, are particularly well analyzed by Thomas as the prospect of having a grandson who would rule most of Europe seemed to reconcile Henry to the prospect of a female heir.

Thomas makes clear that popular opinion within England and the rest of Europe deemed Mary to be Henry’s heir until the birth of a younger brother, despite the efforts of Henry and Anne Boleyn to assert their daughter’s Elizabeth’s seniority in the succession through the Act of Supremacy. After Anne’s execution, there were doubts concerning whether Henry would have subsequent children with his third wife, Jane Seymour. Mary therefore remained politically significant event after she had been declared illegitimate.

Thomas devotes less attention to the personal bond between Henry and Mary beyond their shared love of music, gardens and courtly display as well as willingness to take risks to achieve their political ambitions but this imbalance reflects the available source material. There is more evidence of Mary’s personal relations with her successive stepmothers from her antipathy toward Anne Boleyn to her warm friendship with Katherine Parr. Mary’s determination to be an active rather than passive participant in Tudor politics is evident throughout the book. The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and His Daughter Mary is an interesting and well researched counterpoint to prevailing image of Mary I as a “Bloody” or “Tragic” figure. Like her half-siblings, Elizabeth I and Edward VI, she was a child of Henry VIII and his influence had a lifelong impact on her politics and personality.

So High a Blood: The Story of Margaret Douglas, the Tudor that Time Forgot by Morgan Ring

One of Queen Mary I’s closest friends was her Scottish cousin Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of King Henry VIII’s sister Margaret Tudor and her second husband Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. Margaret Douglas was a prominent figure at the Tudor court during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Through her grandson, King James VI of Scotland/James I of England, she is an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II. Despite her importance during the sixteenth century and the dramatic circumstances of her life – she was imprisoned in the Tower of London on more than one occasion – Margaret Douglas is little known today. Her long residence at the Tudor court resulted in her being marginalized in histories of sixteenth century Scotland while her Scottish ancestry meant that she received little attention in histories of England during the same period.

In So High a Blood: The Story of Margaret Douglas, the Tudor that Time Forgot, Morgan Ring presents Margaret Douglas a strong and adaptable personality, a key figure in the religious and political upheaval of Elizabeth I’s reign and a consummate survivor. Margaret enjoyed the rare ability of reconciling with Henry VIII after incurring his displeasure on more than one occasion because of her romances with members of the Howard family. The exclusion of the Scottish line from Henry VIII’s will, however, suggests that they were in conflict at the time of his death and Ring provides a convincing analysis of these circumstances in her book.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, Margaret, a devout Roman Catholic who had enjoyed a close friendship with Mary I, opposed the Queen’s Protestant religious settlement. Margaret also favoured the marriage of her elder son, Lord Darnley, to Mary, Queen of Scots in opposition to Queen Elizabeth I’s wishes. After Darnley’s death, Margaret blamed Mary, Queen of Scots and enjoyed an improved relationship with Elizabeth that lasted until Margaret’s younger son married without the Queen’s permission. As the mother of two sons who survived to adulthood (a circumstance that was rare among the Tudors) and then as the grandmother of the King of Scotland, Margaret was an important political figure throughout Elizabeth I’s reign. Ring restores a little known member of the Tudor dynasty to her rightful place in sixteenth century history.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather