I will be giving a talk on Magna Carta and the Making of the Modern World at Fulford Place Museum in Brockville on Thursday February 18 at 2pm. My book Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights will be for sale and I will be signing books after the talk.by
“It’s a very interesting read and Carolyn Harris knows her stuff. Don’t be too frightened by the ‘academic’ air about it, it’s still quite readable even if you aren’t a professor.”by
In May 2015, I gave a talk on Women and Magna Carta at the Tedx The Annex Women event in Toronto. Magna Carta promised noble widows freedom from forced remarriage, setting a precedent for future women’s rights legislation. In the talk, I compare the clauses concerning women’s rights in Magna Carta to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and discuss the enduring impact of Magna Carta 800 years after the document was reluctantly accepted by King John in 1215.
Here is my Tedx Talk on Women and Magna Carta:
For more on Magna Carta and the impact of the famous charter on women, see my book Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rightsby
King Felipe VI of Spain’s sister, Infanta Cristina will face charges of tax fraud on Monday. I was interviewed about the likely repercussions of the trial for Spain’s royal family by Alistair Dawber at the The Independent.
The charges against Cristina are contributing to a generational divide regarding support for the monarchy in Spain. As I discussed in a previous column, those who remember Francisco Franco’s dictatorship admire former King King Juan Carlos for managing a peaceful transition to a constitutional monarchy. In contrast, there are many younger people who view the monarchy as out of touch with current economic conditions in Spain. While King Felipe, Queen Letizia and their children are personally popular, the charges against Cristina and Juan Carlos’s 2012 elephant hunt damaged the reputation of the royal family.
I do not believe Cristina will resume a more prominent role in the royal family, even if she is acquitted of the charges. There is a general trend in Europe toward more streamlined royal families that emphasize the public role of the monarch and his or her consort and children instead of the larger royal families of the past where a wider circle of relatives would represent the monarch and perform public engagements.by
For a generation of young women, the outbreak of the First World War brought new experiences and leadership opportunities. When Russia entered the conflict with Britain and France against Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914, Tsar Nicholas II’s four daughters joined the war effort. Olga and Tatiana, aged eighteen and seventeen, became nurses and headed philanthropic committees. Maria and Anastasia, aged fifteen and thirteen, volunteered in a hospital named in their honour.
Of the four Grand Duchesses, Tatiana achieved the most success in her war work and became a well known public figure in her own right. In Tatiana Romanov, Daughter of the Last Tsar: Diaries and Letters, 1913-1918, Helen Azar, editor and translator of The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution and Maria and Anastasia: The Youngest Romanov Grand Duchesses in Their Own Words: Letters, Diaries, Postcards. allows Tatiana to speak for herself through her own writings as a witness to war and revolution in Russia.
The publication of Tatiana’s writings challenges numerous longstanding myths about Nicholas II’s children that have developed since the murder of the Imperial family in 1918. A number of popular biographers, including Robert Massie in Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter Kurth in Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra have described the Grand Duchesses as leading cloistered or socially isolated lives. Tatiana’s diaries and letters discuss a broad range of friends, relatives, officers and fellow nurses with whom she socialized on a regular basis and continued to correspond with after the Russian Revolution. Tatiana’s detailed accounts of her participation in committee meetings and operations in military hospitals refute any idea that her war work was primarily ceremonial in nature.
Azar’s translations of the letters and diaries are richly annotated by Nicholas B. Nicholson, an expert in Russian decorative arts and author of Object of Virtue: A Novel. Tatiana and her sisters often referred to their relatives and friends by nicknames and initials in their writings and Nicholson’s notes provide detailed mini biographies of many of these figures. Nicholson also describes the fate of the places where Tatiana visited during the tricentennial of the Romanov dynasty in 1913 and First World War. Stalin’s rule saw the demolition of historic palaces and churches in Moscow’s Kremlin. The Siege of Leningrad during the Second World War caused the destruction and damage of imperial sites surrounding St. Petersburg.
The letters and diaries in the book are complemented with excerpts from the memoirs of those who knew Tatiana during the First World War and Russian Revolution, providing valuable context and background to the events and personalities in the Grand Duchess’s writings. Some of these accounts, such as Thirteen Years at the Russian Court, by the Imperial children’s French tutor, Pierre Gilliard, will be familiar to readers of biographies of Russia’s last Imperial family. Tatiana Romanov, Daughter of the Last Tsar: Diaries and Letters, 1913-1918 is unique because it includes memories of Tatiana’s fellow nurses and wounded soldiers, published in English for the first time.
Tatiana’s letters from 1917 and 1918 reveal how the twenty year old Grand Duchess responded to the Russian Revolutions and her family’s imprisonment. Although, Tatiana wrote to one of her tutors in October 1917, “As you know, we don’t dejected easily,” her correspondence makes clear that she felt betrayed by members of her extended family who had not remained loyal to her father and was concerned about a variety of circumstances from her family’s isolation from the outside world to Bolshevik treatment of military veterans. The book ends on a haunting note, with Tatiana’s final letter to fellow nurse Valentina Cherbotaryeva in May 1918, “Send regards to all who remember me.”
Tatiana was murdered alongside her family just two months later, at the age of twenty-one. The remains of the Imperial family were excavated in the 1990s and are now buried in the Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg. Tatiana Romanov, Daughter of the Last Tsar: Diaries and Letters, 1913-1918 captures the experiences and achievements of the young Grand Duchess during one of the most tumultuous periods of Russia’s history.
Next week: Agincourt: Great Battles Series by Anne Curry
My review of The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport has been published in the current issue of The Royal Studies Journal, a peer reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary and international academic journal for the field of Royal Studies published by Winchester University Press.
Click here to read the review in The Royal Studies Journal, Volume 2, Number 2, 2015.by
In January and February 2016, I will be teaching an eight week course on Wednesday afternoons about Artists and Their Royal Patrons at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Click here to register
For centuries, artists sought out royal patrons to advance their careers. European monarchs were eager to fill their courts with artists to demonstrate their own acumen and prestige. Through lectures, images and discussions, Carolyn Harris will lead you through a lively exploration of the relations between great artists and their royal patrons. These include Hans Holbein and Henry VIII, Leonardo da Vinci and François I, Anthony van Dyck and Charles I, Peter Paul Rubens and Marie de Medici, and Élisabeth Vigée-LeBrun and Marie Antoinette. We will look at Catherine the Great, who helped found the Hermitage Museum, and Queen Elizabeth II, who is appreciated as a “curator monarch” for her part in opening the British Royal Collection to the public. You’ll learn more about the collaboration and tension between royalty and artists that produced some of Europe’s most famous works of art and established collections now featured in great museums around the world.
On November 26, I delivered a lecture on Magna Carta and the Making of the Modern World, based on my book Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law in Edmonton. I discuss the impact of Magna Carta on 800 years of history in an hour. Watch the lecture here:by
I will be giving a talk on Victorian Christmas customs and the impact of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on how we celebrate Christmas today at Toronto’s 1st post office on December 13 from 6-9pm. There will be holiday treats and carol singing. Click here for more information including ticket pricesby