My column in this week’s Kingston Whig Standard discusses Prince William and the history of royal fatherhood. With the birth of the royal baby less than a month away, there has been a lot of speculation about the choices the Duchess of Cambridge will make as a mother with less attention paid to Prince William’s planned approach to fatherhood. In this week’s column, I look at how Prince William will fit into a new generation of royal fathers who balance their royal duties with plenty of family time.
Long before King George III’s fourth son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent became the father of the future Queen Victoria, he spent the 1790s in British North America. The Duke of Kent left his mark on the map of present day Canada, lending his name to both Prince Edward Island and Prince Edward county. In Prince Edward, Duke of Kent: Father of the Canadian Crown, Nathan Tidridge, author of Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy reveals that Duke also had a lasting influence on Canadian institutions and eventual nationhood.
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent: Father of the Canadian Crown is the first biography of the Duke of Kent to focus on the Prince’s impact on the development of Canada. British North America in the 1790s was vulnerable to invasion by the newly independent United States of America. The Duke applied his military experience in Hanover, Geneva and Gibraltar to improving the defences of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Tidridge presents compelling evidence that the Duke of Kent’s improvements to Halifax’s defences, including the renovation of Fort George on Citadel Hill and the introduction of a semaphore telegraph system deterred the Americans from attacking the city during the War of 1812.
Although the Duke of Kent resided in British North America in a military capacity, his vision for the region went far beyond improving city fortifications and introducing new technologies. Decades before Canada’s confederation in 1867, the Duke of Kent recognized the potential for the Crown to unify the diverse colonies and their inhabitants.
When rioting broke out during the 1792 elections to the Lower Canada (modern day Quebec) legislature, the Duke addressed the crowd in French, stating, “Can there be a man among who does not take the King to be the father of his people?…Part then in peace; I urge you to unanimity and concord. Let me hear no more of the odious distinctions of French and English. You are all his Britannic Majesty’s Canadian subjects.” Prior to this speech, the term “Canadian” referred to French Canadians alone. The Duke of Kent saw the potential for English and French speaking inhabitants of British North American to assume a common identity as Canadians.
In addition to discussing the Duke of Kent’s numerous contributions to the making of modern day Canada, Tidridge also provides a rich portrait of British North American society in the 1790s. In contrast to London, where royal mistresses were not received in polite society, the Duke’s partner, Madame Julie St. Laurent, acted as his hostess in North America and traveled with him from the Maritimes to modern day Ontario. Both the Duke and Madame St. Laurent socialized with the most prominent figures of late eighteenth century British North America including John Graves Simcoe, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (modern day Ontario), and his wife, the geographer and diarist Elizabeth Simcoe. There were even visits from foreign royalty as the French Revolution brought the Duke d’Orleans to the Halifax harbour.
Previous biographies of the Duke of Kent focus on his real and imagined personal life including his often strained relationship with his parents and siblings, alleged obsession with military discipline and rumoured affairs that reputedly left Canada populated with half-siblings of Queen Victoria. Tidridge analyzes this reputation critically, creating a more nuanced and accurate portrait of the Duke. His focus on the Duke of Kent’s relationship with Canada is a fresh approach that reveals the Prince’s full significance as a historical figure in both Canada and the United Kingdom. Nathan Tidridge’s lively and insightful biography, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent: Father of the Canadian Crown, restores the Duke to his rightful place in Canadian history.
I will be delivering a guest lecture about the Queen in Canada on June 21 at 2pm at the Don Mills Public Library in Toronto.
I discussed the history of royal parenting with Rebecca Perrin on canada.com this week. We covered a lot of ground including how breastfeeding by royal mothers dates back to Marie Antoinette, why Prince William will almost certainly be in the delivery room when his child is born and why “Edward” was once an unusual name for a royal baby.
On Thursday June 6, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila Putina announced on state television that are getting a divorce after nearly thirty years of marriage. Putin described the divorce as “our joint decision” and explaining that the couple had lived separate lives for some time. The couple were married in 1983 and have two adult daughters, Mariya and Ekaterina.”
The Putin divorce is in keeping with current Russian social trends. Russia has the 15th highest female divorce rate and 28th highest male divorce rate in the world and the Russian Orthodox Church permits divorce under certain circumstances. The Russian people, however, are not accustomed to the public breakdown of the marriages of their leaders.
President Putin will be the first Russian leader to divorce while in office since Czar Peter the Great sent his first wife, Evdokia Lopukhina to a convent in 1698. Like the Putins, Peter and Evdokia had lived separate lives for a long time before the official end of their marriage. Unlike this week’s Russian divorce announcement however, Peter the Great’s divorce was not a mutual decision and transformed his first wife from an admirer to a potential political opponent.
Czar Peter I of Russia married Evdokia Feodorovna Lopukhina on January 27, 1689. At the time of the marriage, seventeen year old Peter nominally ruled Russia as co-ruler with his elder half brother, Ivan V. Real power, however, was exercised by Peter’s half sister – and Ivan’s full sister – Sophia, who ruled as regent on account of Peter’s youth and Ivan’s intellectual and physical disabilities.
By 1689, Ivan’s wife, Praskovia was expecting her first child and it was possible that Sophia would exclude Peter from the succession and continue to rule as regent for Ivan and his child. This arrangement would ensure that the relatives of Sophia and Ivan’s late mother, the Miloslavskys would continue to hold key government positions while the family of Peter’s mother, the Naryshkins, would be entirely excluded from power.
Peter’s mother, the Dowager Czarina Natalya Naryshkina decided that the most effective challenge to Sophia’s continued rule was a suitable marriage for her son. As a married man, Peter would be perceived as an adult who could rule without a regent. Any children of Peter’s marriage would be alternate successors to Ivan’s children. The teenaged Peter, however, was more interested in shipbuilding and spending time with his friends in Moscow’s foreign quarter than choosing a bride. Natalya therefore made the final selection. She chose Evdokia Lopukhina, the daughter of Feodor Abramovich Lopukhin and Ustinia Bogdanovna Rtishcheva, members of the gentry with strong ties to the Naryshkin faction at court. There are no portraits of Evdokia painted in her youth but an observer described her as of “average beauty but good understanding.”
The marriage achieved its political ends. By the fall of 1689, Peter the Great had seized power and sent his sister Sophia to Moscow’s Novodevichy Convent. Peter retained Ivan as his co-ruler and remained on good terms with his brother, sister-in-law and their daughters but power was exercised by Natalya and the Naryshkin faction while the newly married Czar pursued his own interests.
On a personal level, however, the marriage of the restless, reforming Peter and the pious conventional Evodokia was a disaster. Within a few weeks of the wedding, Peter left Evdokia with his mother in Moscow to participate in shipbuilding on Lake Pleschev, pursuing his dream of equipping Russia with a navy. During his months in Pereslavl, Peter wrote often to his mother but did not send a single letter to Evdokia.
Despite Peter’s silence, Evdokia wrote to Peter on his shipbuilding expedition, hoping he would return to her. One surviving letter states, “I salute my Lord, the Tsar Peter Alexeevich. May you be safe, my light, for many years. We beg your mercy. Come home to us, O Lord, without delay. I, thanks to your mother’s kindness, am safe and well. Your little wife, Dunka, bows low before you.”
Evdokia’s submissive expressions of affection irritated Peter because she also disapproved of his interests. The new Czarina had been raised to regard foreigners as heretics and viewed Peter’s enthusiasm for Western culture and technology with alarm. In contrast to Peter’s sister-in-law, Praskovia, who assumed Western dress and hired foreign tutors for her daughters according to the Czar’s wishes, Evdokia remained attached to Muscovite ways. The birth of two sons, Alexei in 1690 and Alexander in 1691 did not bring the couple closer together. When Alexander died in infancy, Peter was so estranged from Evdokia that he did not attend the funeral.
When the twenty-six year old Peter embarked on his eighteen month tour of Europe in 1697, he ordered senior courtiers and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church to persuade Evdokia to become a nun. Once the Czarina took the veil, her earthly ties, including marriage would be at an end, leaving Peter free to remarry. Evdokia refused to leave the Kremlin and her surviving son, Alexei.
Upon his return to Russia in 1698, Peter summoned Evdokia and demanded that she release him from their marriage by taking vows. When Evdokia continued to refuse, citing her duties as a wife and mother, Peter seized their eight year old son, and placed him in the custody of his younger sister, Natalya. Evdokia was placed in a postal carriage without attendants and sent to the Pokrovsky convent in Suzdal. There, the twenty-nine year old Czarina’s head was shaved and she was compelled to take vows as the nun Helena.
Peter’s marriage to Evdokia ended in 1698 but the Czar’s former wife reemerged later in his reign as a potential political opponent. In 1718, Peter suspected his son Alexei of conspiring against him and had him arrested. Evdokia and Alexei had remained in contact after the divorce and Peter suspected that his former wife was plotting against him as his overthrow would allow her release from the convent. Furthermore, Evdokia had refused to live as a nun in Suzdal. She had dressed as a laywoman, allowed her hair to grow back and taken a lover, Major Stephan Glebov. Evdokia was arrested and brought to Moscow for questioning then exiled to a convent in Ladoga. Her son Alexei met a far worse fate. The Tsarevich died in prison on July 7, 1718, having been sentenced to death by his father and tortured for alleged conspiracy against the state.
Peter the Great died in 1725 and was succeeded by his second wife as Catherine I. Upon Catherine’s death in 1727, Peter and Evdokia’s grandson, ascended the throne as Peter II. The teenaged Tsar released his grandmother from captivity and she was able to hold court in Moscow at the Novodevichy Convent until her death in 1731. The breakdown of Peter’s marriage to his wife, Evdokia and relationship with his son, Alexei had lasting repercussions for the Russian state. The Russian succession was unstable throughout the eighteenth century until the ascension of Catherine the Great, the wife of another one of Peter the Great’s grandsons, Peter III. There would not be another Russian leader to divorce while in office until President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Lindsey Hughes, Russia in the Age of Peter the Great
Russell E. Martin, A Bride for the Tsar: Bride Shows and Marriage Politics in Early Modern Russia
Robert K. Massie, Peter the Great: His Life and World
Natalia Pushareva, Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Century
I will be discussing the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on Entertainment Tonight Canada this evening (June 4 at 7:30pm ET/PT)
I will also be discussing the coronation on the CTV News Channel at 6:45pm ET
See also my interview today with Yahoo News “Has Queen Elizabeth II Made Her Last Trip to Canada“
I will be discussing the worldwide impact of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation 60 years ago on the BBC Radio 5 live “Up All Night” Programme on June 3 at 9:35pm EST, (June 4, 2:35am BST in the United Kingdom). Please tune in if you are in the UK and up late this evening!
I also discussed the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation with cbc.ca over this past weekend. Click here read my interview with Janet Davison of cbc.ca about the impact of the coronation on Canadians – and the television industry.
My column in this weekend’s Kingston Whig-Standard discusses the potential for Prince Charles to receive a Canadian coronation when he succeeds Queen Elizabeth II. In May, 2013, the Church of Scotland approved a separate Scottish coronation for the next monarch in the event that Scotland votes for devolution from the United Kingdom in 2014. I argue that the revival of the 17th century practice of different English and Scottish coronations in the 21st century may prompt the introduction of investiture ceremonies for the monarch throughout the commonwealth. A distinct Canadian ceremony would increase support for the monarchy as a national institution.
Beginning June 1, 2013, my regular column on the monarchy will appear alternating Saturdays in the Kingston Whig-Standard.
June 2 marks the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. Click here for my interview with Janet Davison at CBC.ca about the significance of the coronation to Canada.
With the Duchess of Cambridge – better known as Kate Middleton – in her third trimester, there is intense speculation about the arrangements for the birth of the royal baby and the choices the royal couple will make as parents. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are known for combining their own innovations with royal traditions. For example, they were married in Westminster Abbey, where the weddings of the future Elizabeth II and George VI took place, but they introduced a charity gift registry and English field maple trees to decorate the aisle.
There is every reason to assume that the royal couple will adopt a similar blend of tradition and modernity in their approach to parenting. Nevertheless, a number of recent articles about royal parenting have assumed that since William and Catherine are a modern, twenty-first century royal couple, every single decision they plan to make as parents is either their own innovation or was introduced into the royal family by Princess Diana. These assumptions ignore the long history of royal parenting . I explained in a previous post that a number of royal parenting innovations attributed to Princess Diana are actually revivals of nineteenth century practices.
Despite clear evidence of nurturing royal parenting before Princess Diana, there a number of royal commentators who credit the late Princess of Wales with introducing “modern” royal parenting trends that were supposedly unknown to previous royal mothers.
A recent article by Rob Wallace of ABC news incorrectly claimed that Princess Diana was the first royal mother to breastfeed, allow her children to socialize with non-royalty and take her infant on an overseas tour. Another article published this month erroneously states that Prince William plans to “break with tradition” and become the first royal father in the delivery room.
There are numerous supposedly “modern” royal parenting trends that are actually centuries old and certainly long predate either the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge or Princess Diana. Here are 5 examples:
1) Breastfeeding The stereotype about royal mothers before Diana is that they handed their infants over to a wet nurse at birth. Royal commentators often cite Queen Victoria’s distaste for breastfeeding as evidence that royal mothers before Diana did not nurse their own children. The reason we know so much about Victoria’s views on breastfeeding, however, is because her daughters ignored her advice on this matter and nursed their own children.
When Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, known as “Vicky” to her family, began nursing her own children, the Queen wrote a disapproving letter on the subject to her own half-sister, Princess Feodora of Leningen. The reply demonstrated that Queen Victoria’s distaste for breastfeeding was far from universal in royal circles, even in the nineteenth century. Feodora wrote, “I am sorry to find that Vicky’s determination to nurse makes you so angry…the Queen of Prussia feels the same as you. I have no opinion…as I have always felt it a duty for a mother to nurse a child if she can and if the doctors approve (See Hannah Pakula, An Uncommon Woman, p. 215).”
2) Royal Fathers in the Delivery Room Queen Victoria may have disapproved of breastfeeding but she was more than willing to break with tradition by having her husband, Prince Albert by her side for the births of her children. Childbirth unsettled the Queen, who owed her crown to the death of her cousin, Princess Charlotte, following the birth of a stillborn son.
The Queen described Albert’s presence at the birth of her eldest daughter, Vicky, in her 1840 journal, The Queen recorded, “Just before the early hours of the morning of the 21st I felt again very uncomfortable & with difficulty aroused Albert . . .Tried to get to sleep again, but by 4, I got very bad & both the Doctors arrived. My beloved Albert was so dear and kind. . . Dearest Albert hardly left me at all, & was the greatest support and comfort (Reprinted in Hannah Pakula, An Uncommon Woman, p. 27-28).” When William was born in 1982, Charles followed Albert’s example and was present for Diana’s entire 16 hour labour.
3) Royal Babies on Tour Long before Diana insisted that the infant William accompany his parents on a tour of Australia in 1983, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, the Empress Alexandra of Russia and her husband, Czar Nicholas II traveled with their ten month old daughter, Grand Duchess Olga, on their 1896 coronation tour of Europe. Nicholas II wrote to his brother, Grand Duke Georgy, after his coronation, “This year seems to be a year of hard labour with Alix and me as the martyrs: Moscow in the Spring, and now soon all these intolerable foreign visits. First of all we are going to Austria, then Kiev, Germany, Denmark, England, France and finally Darmstadt . . .On top of it, we shall have to drag our poor little daughter with us, as all the relatives want to see her. I can imagine what the French will get up to in Paris – maybe they really will rename her Napoleondra, or something like it! (Translated and Reprinted in Maylunas and Mironenko, A Lifelong Passion, p. 151).” Like Nicholas II, Diana discovered that a royal tour with an infant was difficult and William remained in the United Kingdom when the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Canada later in 1983.
4) Involvement of Non-Royal Grandparents in a Royal Baby’s Upbringing The Duchess of Cambridge’s mother, Carole Middleton, has received extensive scrutiny from the British press for her rumoured plan to live with her daughter for the weeks following the royal baby’s birth. In past centuries, British royalty often married foreign royalty, circumstances that frequently prevented royal children from having a close relationship with their maternal grandparents. When monarchs of England or Scotland married members of the nobility, however, the queen consort’s family were closely involved in the upbringing of the royal children.
For example, when King Edward IV’s consort, Elizabeth Woodville, went into labour with her first child, Elizabeth of York, in 1466, the new baby’s maternal grandmother, Jacquetta Woodville, and maternal aunts were present. One of the reasons Richard III seized the throne from Edward IV’s and Elizabeth Woodville’s son Edward V in 1483 was to protect his own interests because he feared young Edward was too much under the influence of his Woodville relatives. For more information about the role of the Woodvilles in the upbringing of Edward IV’s children, see Amy Licence’s biography of Elizabeth of York.
5) Royal Children Experiencing Life Outside Palace Walls
Richard III’s own upbringing was a classic example of a royal child living and learning alongside non-royal peers centuries before Diana sent William to kindergarten. During the Middle Ages, children of English, Welsh and Scottish royalty often spent part of their childhood in a noble household, socializing with young people outside the royal family and receiving their education in a group setting.
The future King Richard III spent part of his childhood in the household of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, where he met his lifelong friend, Francis Lovell, and future wife, Anne Neville. In Warwick’s household, young Richard learned the techniques of medieval warfare alongside other boys from the English nobility. The pressure to match the abilities of his peers may have helped the future King to master horseback riding and the heavy medieval broadsword in spite of his scoliosis. For more information about the childhood of Richard III, see David Baldwin’s biography of the controversial King.