The Tudor Book Reviews 9: Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion by Susan Ronald

After Elizabeth I died in 1603, her reign acquired a legendary quality. Both her immediate Stuart successors, James I and Charles I favoured monarchical government by divine right, which conflicted with the assertive parliamentary government that Elizabeth managed throughout her reign. The Stuarts also inflamed religious tensions in the British Isles as they attempted to impose Church of England forms of worship on Presbyterian Scotland while appearing to tolerate Roman Catholicism at Court. By the time these political and religious tensions precipitated the English Civil Wars in the 1640s, the reign of Elizabeth I appeared to be a Golden Age of prosperity and harmony.

The twenty five year old Elizabeth I in her coronation robes, embroidered with Tudor roses

Since Elizabeth I was preceded by her sister Mary I, who was famous for ordering the burning of Protestants who refused to conform to her Catholic religious settlement and succeeded by the misrule of the Stuarts, the religious conflict of her own reign largely disappeared from the popular imagination. In Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion, biographer and screenwriter Susan Ronald invites readers to step away from the Tudor mythology that has inspired popular histories, novels and films and immerse themselves in Elizabeth’s England, where religion infused every aspect of daily life and public disagreement with the Queen’s conception of the Church of England could cost Roman Catholics or dissenting Puritans their lives. Ronald dramatically retells Elizabeth I’s reign through the lens of her role in the sixteenth century Wars of Religion, revealing the violence and conflict that accompanied the seemingly peaceful Elizabethan religious settlement.

In contrast with her contemporaries in continental Europe, such as Catherine de Medici, Regent of France and King Philip II of Spain, and her siblings, Edward VI and Mary I, Elizabeth had an unusually tolerant attitude to the religious conflict that followed the Protestant Reformation. “There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith,” the Queen once proclaimed, “All else is a dispute over trifles.” In this spirit, Elizabeth attempted to introduce a state religion that would satisfy the greatest number of her subjects, with a Protestant Book of Common Prayer and the familiar rituals of the old medieval Catholic Church.

Portrait of Elizabeth I celebrating her victory over the Spanish Armada

While Ronald argues Elizabeth I’s approach to religion ultimately helped make England a great world power, the Elizabethan settlement was reviled by both Roman Catholics and Protestant Puritans who favoured their own religious traditions. Since Elizabeth ruled as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, public adherence to the state church was synonomous with obedience to the monarch.

To defend her church and her authority, Elizabeth executed or drove into exile Roman Catholic nobility in the North of England, who had enjoyed near autonomous authority over the turbulent borderlands between England and Scotland. The Queen also accepted Protestant exiles from continental Europe who were fleeing French or Spanish Catholic religious authority. These displacements of whole families or communities changed England, filling the cities of the south with Huguenot artisans and finally subordinating the North to the monarch’s full authority.

Elizabeth’s role in the sixteenth century Wars of Religion is well told by Ronald, but her interpretation of some of the Queen of England’s fellow rulers does not incorporate the full range of recent scholarship concerning their own political and religious activities. Ronald is correct to place Mary, Queen of Scots in her proper French context. As the widow of King Francois II, her political interests were intertwined with those the French monarchy. The question of whether Mary acquiesced to the murder of her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, however, is not discussed at length. Ronald states that Mary argued the incriminating “Casket Letters” were a forgery then concludes, “Of course she would, wouldn’t she?”

The scholarly and popular debate regarding the authenticity of the Casket letters should have been discussed in greater depth as these documents strongly influenced Elizabeth’s treatment of her cousin and fellow sovereign. Ronald also uncritically accepts the traditional view that Catherine de Medici ordered the massacre of thousands of Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. Catherine’s recent biographers have separated the removal of Huguenot leaders from the wider massacre, suggesting that popular religious violence far exceeded the expectations or political goals of the Dowager Queen and her sons. Just as Elizabeth I’s reign achieved a popular mythology as a golden age, Mary, Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici also inspired received wisdom that has recently been debated by historians.

Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion vividly retells Elizabeth I’s role in the sixteenth century European Wars of Religion, demonstrating that a violent struggle accompanied the Queen’s religious compromise. While Elizabeth would be glorified after her death, she had to fight for her legitimacy as Queen and her religious settlement in her own lifetime. Ending the Protestant Reformation in England involved as much turmoil and displacement as the beginning of the religious upheaval introduced by Elizabeth’s father, King Henry VIII.

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The Royal Nanny: Prince William and Prince Harry Mourn Olga Powell

Diana, Prince of Wales, Prince William, Prince Harry and the children's nanny, Olga Powell

Olga Powell, former nanny to Prince William and Prince Harry for fifteen years, died suddenly yesterday at the age of eighty-two. Powell cared for the princes from early childhood, through the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the death of Diana in 1997. She remained close to her former charges after she retired, attending Prince Harry’s twenty-first birthday party and his graduation from Sandhurst military academy as well as Prince William’s wedding to Catherine Middleton.

The week before she died, Powell wrote to Harry in Afghanistan, concerned about his safety after the recent Taliban attack on Camp Bastion, where he is stationed as an Apache helicopter pilot. The enduring relationship between Powell and the Princes is part of a long tradition of caregivers to royal children becoming honorary family members, continuing to influence their former charges into adulthood.

Prince Charles in St. James' Park on his second birthday with his nanny, Mabel Anderson

Prince Charles also enjoyed a warm relationship with his nanny, Mabel Anderson. Just as Powell provided stability for William and Harry during the breakdown of their parents’ marriage, Anderson was a figure of continuity in Charles’s childhood as Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were often away from their children for commonwealth tours. Anderson was a member of the royal household for decades and has been described as one of the most significant influences over the Prince of Wales.

In 1949, she replied to an advertisement for an “assistant nanny,” unaware that her charge would be Prince Charles, and was reputedly hired for her quiet unassuming manner. Anderson also cared for Charles’ siblings, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward before leaving the Queen’s household to look after Anne’s son, Peter Phillips. Although she retired in 1982, Anderson maintained a close relationship with the royal family. Prince Charles personally supervised the redecoration of her grace and favour home at Frogmore House in the Windsor Castle Park. As recently as 2010, Anderson accompanied the royal family on a summer cruise around the Western Isles of Scotland to celebrate the 60th birthday of Princess Anne and the 50th birthday of Prince Andrew.

The future Edward VIII riding a pony in 1902.

Not all members of the royal family enjoyed warm and loving relationships with their caregivers. The future King Edward VIII and King George VI had an abusive nanny who attempted to make herself appear indispensible by secretly pinching her charges before taking them to the drawing room to see their parents, the future George V and Queen Mary. When the children cried, they would be sent back to the nursery. The effect of this treatment on the young princes is discussed in the recent film, The King’s Speech. George and Mary eventually discovered this nanny’s abuse of their children and dismissed her from their service. She was replaced by Charlotte “Lalla” Bill, who devoted much of her attention to the royal couple’s youngest child, Prince John. Bill’s devotion to John, who was epileptic and may also have suffered from autism, is dramatized in the BBC miniseries, The Lost Prince.

The experience of being cared for by an English nanny was not unique to members of the British royal family. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the employment of nursery staff from the British Isles became fashionable throughout Europe’s royal courts. Historian Charlotte Zeepvat explained in her article about English nannies to Russian Imperial children, “For at least a century, the Tsars and Grand Princes and Princesses of Russia grew up speaking English as their first language and learning the habits of the English nursery. It was a situation no one questioned; all over Europe nursery English ruled, along with porridge, mutton, cold baths and bracing fresh air. (Zeepvat, Romanov Autumn, p. 84).” As in England, the Russian Imperial Family treated favourite nannies as members of their family. When Katherine Strutton, nanny to Tsar Alexander III and his siblings, died in 1891, the Tsar and the Grand Dukes walked behind her coffin in the funeral procession through St. Petersburg.

The warm relationship between William and Harry and the late Olga Powell demonstrates that the tradition of favourite nannies being treated as honourary members of the royal family has continued in the twentieth century. Powell provided stability for the two young princes and her influence over her charges continued into their adulthood.

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Diana, Princess of Wales and the Monarchy Part 3: Reviving an Old Approach to Royal Philanthropy

Diana, Princess of Wales, visiting with victims of land mines in Angola in 1997.

A few months before her death in August, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales visited Angola as a supporter of the the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Both Diana’s choice of a politically sensitive cause and her physical engagement with children who had lost their limbs to these hidden, explosive devices were characteristic of her approach to the traditional royal practice of philanthropy. In common with medieval and early modern royalty popularly believed to possess “the healing touch,” Diana held hands with AIDS patients and embraced ill and injured children. Fifteen years after her death, the public expects royalty to personally engage with the beneficiaries of their philanthropy, demonstrating the Princess of Wales’ continuing influence over the monarchy.

King Charles II touching scrofula sufferers. The monarch's touch was believed to cure this disfiguring condition until the eighteenth century.

When Diana held hands with patients in hospitals, she was not introducing a new way for royalty to engage with ordinary people but instead reviving the ancient practice of the royal healing touch, which persisted until the eighteenth century. In his religious history of the monarchy, Ian Bradley states, “Alongside her role as a celebrity and media superstar, Diana took on an iconic and spiritual status which at one level resembled nothing so much as the sacred aura of medieval monarchy with its magical healing touch (Bradley, God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Heart of the Monarchy, p. 204).”

Medieval monarchy was intensely personal. Kings and Queens reinforced their authority by connecting with their subjects on a physical level. Royalty dispensed alms directly to the poor outside churches or palaces and washed the feet of underprivileged parishioners during Maundy Thursday services. The monarch’s touch was believed to cure the disfiguring symptoms of scrofula, a form of tuberculosis of the neck glands now known to arise from consuming unpasteurized milk.

A 19th century artist's depiction of Queen Anne touching the young Samuel Johnson, who suffered from scrofula as a boy.

Both the monarchs of England and France held ceremonies where scrofula sufferers were presented at court to have their swollen neck glands touched by the sovereign. These ceremonies were comparatively rare by the reign of King Charles I (1625-1649), who also reduced the number of royal progresses and other opportunities for personal engagement between the monarch and his subjects. The circumstances of the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 revived the healing ceremonies as Charles II sought to reinforce the personal relationship between the ruling dynasty and its subjects. Charles II’s niece, Queen Anne, was last British monarch to touch scrofula sufferers as her second cousin and successor, King George I, deemed these ceremonies to be “too Catholic.”

The emergence of the philanthropic monarchy occurred during the eighteenth century and therefore reflected the sensibilities of the Hanoverian monarchs rather than their more tactile predecessors. King George III, Queen Charlotte and their children dutifully opened hospitals and donated to charitable causes but did not embrace the patients. George III’s and Queen Charlotte’s approach to philanthropy informed what is now perceived as the traditional approach to royal charitable patronage. Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter, Princess Anne, is one of the most active members of the current royal family in the charitable sector but she is never photographed holding the children who benefit from her patronage of Save the Children.

Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia in the robes of the Order or Martha and Mary that she founded in 1910.

Although the majority of royal philanthropy prior to Diana’s activities reflected the sensibilities of the Georgian monarchs, the older tradition of personal contact between royalty and the less fortunate did not entirely disappear. Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Elizabeth of Hesse-Darmstadt (1864-1918), who married Emperor Nicholas II of Russia’s uncle, Grand Duke Sergei, founded an order of working sisters that personally engaged with the poor of Moscow during her widowhood.

There are numerous parallels between Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Diana, Princess of Wales. In her youth, Elizabeth was considered one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe and was the focus of popular speculation regarding her percieved unhappy marriage to Sergei.

As Head Abbess of the Order of St. Mary and St. Martha, Elizabeth combined hands on charity work in the poorest slums of early twentieth century Moscow with a continued interest in fashion. In contrast to the dark robes worn by other orders of Russian Orthodox nuns, Elizabeth commissioned religious artist Michael Nesterov to design soft grey baize robes for her order with wimples and veils. The Grand Duchess’s own robes were created by the House of Pacquin in Paris (King and Wilson, The Court of the Last Tsar: Pomp, Power and Pageantry in the Reign of Nicholas II, p. 81).

Like Diana, Elizabeth’s image and charity work inspired a broad range of responses from the admiration and gratitude of the poor women and children assisted by her convent to the scepticism of the traditional nobility and clergy who questioned the Grand Duchess’s personal image and innovations within the traditional hierarchy of religious orders. Elizabeth was murdered by Russian revolutionaries in 1918 and was eventually canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Her example inspired the philanthropy of her niece, Princess Alice of Greece, the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The Duchess of Cambridge embracing Diamond Marshall during her 2011 tour of Canada. Photo Credit: Todd Korol

Diana, Princess of Wales’ personal engagement with the recipients of her philanthropy appeared to be a entirely new way for royalty to connect with ordinary people but actually mirrored medieval conceptions of the royal healing touch. Various members of the extended royal family, including Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia and Princess Alice of Greece continued to have physical contact with the less fortunate after more detached expressions of royal philanthropy became prevalent.

Diana’s willingness to hold hands with AIDS patients and embrace children injured by land mines brought this older form of royal humanitarian work back into the mainstream. When the Duchess of Cambridge embraced six year old cancer survivor Diamond Marshall in Calgary in 2011, she continued Diana’s example of reaching out and touching ill and underprivileged children.

Next Week: Diana, Princess of Wales and the Public Perception of Royal Parenting

 

 

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The Tudor Book Reviews 8: A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I by Rayne Allinson

When Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the thrones of the United Kingdom and fifteen other commonwealth nations in 1952, the press hailed her reign as a new Elizabethan age. In contrast, the new Queen herself believed she had little in common with her sixteenth century predecessor, Elizabeth I. In the first Christmas broadcast of her reign, delivered from New Zealand, Elizabeth II stated, “I do not myself feel at all like my great Tudor forebear, who was blessed with neither husband nor children, who ruled as a despot and was never able to leave her native shores.”

Elizabeth II correctly noted the differences in family life, monarchical government and ability to travel between herself and her predecessors but there is one crucial similarity between the two queens. The reigns of both Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II are notable for the monarch’s engagement with the wider world. Elizabeth II has become the world’s most traveled monarch, visiting remote commonwealth nations unfamiliar to her predecessors while Elizabeth I engaged in more personal correspondence with foreign monarchs that any previous English monarch.

Rayne Allinson’s fascinating book, A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth Ilooks at the Queen’s foreign policy through her letters, analyzing her complex relationships with her fellow rulers, Philip II of Spain, Mary, Queen of Scots, Catherine de Medici, Ivan the Terrible of Russia, Sultan Murad III of the Ottoman Empire, Henry IV of France and her eventual successor, James VI of Scotland. The world had become a smaller place in the sixteenth century with the Italian practice of posting regular foreign ambassadors spreading throughout much of Europe and the continent’s monarchs expanding their networks of trade and exploration. As a talented linguist and prolific letter writer since childhood, Elizabeth I responded to these new conditions by establishing personal relationships with her fellow monarchs through correspondence.

Allinson devotes each chapter to a different one of Elizabeth I’s illustrious correspondents, demonstrating that the queen used different rhetorical techniques and a wide variety of decorative flourishes depending on her relationship with the recipient. While Allinson’s research demonstrates that Elizabeth I and Philip II viewed each others’ ambassadors as bearers of bad news throughout their reigns, the personal correspondence between the two monarchs maintained the pretense of friendship until the outbreak of war between the two kingdoms. As a more experienced ruler and the widower of Elizabeth’s sister and predecessor, Mary I, Philip adopted a mentoring tone in his letters and attempted to advise the new queen.

Elizabeth largely ignored the King of Spain’s advice but adopted a similar tone with her younger cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. The Queen of England maintained the voice of calm authority through her letters as Mary’s correspondence became increasingly emotional as her authority over her kingdom collapsed. As godmother to Mary’s son, James, Elizabeth would adopt a parental tone in her letters with the young King of Scotland, which eased the transition between the Tudor and Stuart dynasties in England.

The form of a royal letter was as significant as its tone. Elizabeth I’s royal correspondents in Western Europe expected their letters to be signed with a small privy seal, which demonstrated their close relationship with their fellow monarch. In contrast, Tsar Ivan and the family of Sultan Murad sent ornate letters to Elizabeth I and expected her responses to be just as magnificent looking, displaying the Queen’s great seal. If the ruler of Russia or the Ottoman Empire believed himself slighted by Elizabeth I because of the display or delivery of her letters, the merchants of the Muscovy company or Turkey company would lose valuable trading channels. Elizabeth I’s personal engagement with the rulers of Russia and the Ottoman Empire was unprecedented for an English monarch and she encountered cultural differences and misunderstandings over the course of these new diplomatic and economic relationships.

In addition to her well researched scholarly analysis of Elizabeth I’s correspondence, Allinson also has a eye for revealing details that bring Elizabeth I and her correspondents to life. Philip II’s first letter to Elizabeth as a reigning queen was also her first proposal of marriage, filled with passionate rhetorical flourishes unmatched in the King’s other letters. Ivan the Terrible’s desire for a secret correspondence with Elizabeth inspired him to send her a packet of letters pickled in a wooden bottle of vodka. By the time they reached the English court by horseback and ship from Moscow, the smell of alcohol on the pages was overwelming.

Perhaps the most significant detail about Elizabeth I is her scrutiny of one of Ivan’s original letters. The Queen saw similarities between the Cyrillic script of the Russian language and the classical Greek she knew from her childhood tutors and declared she “could quicklie lern it.” Elizabeth I’s fascination with the world beyond her kingdom informed her monarchy of letters, inspiring her correspondence with more foreign monarchs than any previous English sovereign. A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I analyzes the full extent of Elizabeth I’s foreign policy through the fascinating letters exchanged with her fellow rulers.

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The Royal Court: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Initiate Legal Proceedings in France

The Duchess of Cambridge boarding the Spirit of Chartwell for the Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant

Lawyers representing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began legal proceedings today against Closer, a French tabloid that published photographs of the Duchess sunbathing topless on the terrace of a private estate in Provence. The royal couple is seeking an injunction to prevent the tabloid from reselling the images, lodging a criminal complaint with French prosecutors and seeking damages from Closer and the photographer who captured the images with a long lens.

Both French privacy law and public sympathy are on the side of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are currently in the Solomon Islands as part of a tour celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. These legal proceedings have not prevented Irish and Italian tabloids from publishing the photographs but they send a powerful message that members of the royal family are willing to go to court to defend their right to a privacy.

Prince Charles visiting the Island of Jersey in 2012.

Both of Prince William’s parents have experience defending their interests within the legal system. Prince Charles has been subjected to numerous invasions of his privacy concerning his relationships with Diana, Princess of Wales and the now Duchess of Cornwall. The Prince was even photographed through a window getting into the shower while staying a French chateau in Avignon, in 1994. The case that prompted legal proceedings from Prince, however, was the unauthorized publication of excerpts from his journals by The Mail on Sunday. These journals, which were leaked to the press by a former member of Prince Charles’ staff, contained personal observations of the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to China in a volume entitled, “The Handover of Hong Kong, or The Great Chinese Takeaway.”

Prince Charles in Hong Kong in 1997.

In contrast to the embarrassing personal revelations concerning Prince Charles, which had surfaced in previous decades, the publication of the journal entries called into question the heir’s ability to succeed to the throne as a politically impartial constitutional monarch. The Mail on Sunday was aware of the political significance of the documents in its possession and argued that the public had the right to know the Prince of Wales’ opinions on international affairs. In 2006, Prince Charles won his privacy suit against the Mail in Sunday as the judge ruled that the Prince’s presence at the handover of Hong Kong was a public event but the journals had not been written for public consumption. In common with the current legal proceedings initiated by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the case involving Prince Charles’ journals attempted to establish the royal family’s right to a personal life outside their public role as representatives of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.

Diana, Princess of Wales at the Cannes film festival.

Diana, Princess of Wales attempted to defend her privacy in 1993, when Bruce Taylor, the owner of her gym, LA Fitness, sold unflattering photographs of the Princess exercising to The Mirror.  The Princess had already received a high court injunction against Taylor and the Mirror Group of Newspapers preventing further publication of the pictures and sought to prevent the sale and publication of the photographs outside the United Kingdom.

The BBC reported at the time, “Princess Diana’s decision marks a new approach by the royal family, which has traditionally resisted using the law to hit back. She could become the first member of the royal family to testify in a courtroom since 1891 when the then Prince of Wales gave evidence for a friend in a libel action.” The case was ultimately settled out of court with Diana receiving an apology from the Mirror Group of Newspapers and an undisclosed the settlement that included her legal fees and donations to her charities.

While the BBC was correct to note that the royal family rarely initiated legal proceedings against the press, Diana’s case was not entirely unprecedented in the twentieth century. King George V began his reign in 1910 by initiating legal proceedings against a French journalist, Edward Mylius, who wrote that the King was guilty of bigamy, having reputedly secretly married the daughter of an Admiral in Malta two years before his public marriage to Princess Mary of Teck. Since this allegation threatened the royal succession, the King initiated proceedings against Mylius for criminal libel.

The prosecutor successfully argued that Mylius’s story was entirely fictional and the journalist was sentenced to twelve months in prison. Although the King expressed his willingness to take the stand to disprove the rumour, his attorney-general, Sir Rufus Issacs, advised that it would be unconstitutional for the King to give evidence in his own court. The monarch’s presence in the courtroom ultimately proved to be unecessary.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s current legal proceedings in France are the most recent example of the royal family defending its reputation in a courtroom setting. Both Prince William’s parents attempted to establish their right to private activities and opinions through the legal system, setting a precedent for subsequent cases involving the relationship between the monarchy and the press.

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The Countess of Wessex Attends the Toronto International Film Festival

The Earl and Countess of Wessex in Ottawa on September 12 Photo Credit: Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY

The Earl and Countess of Wessex began their 2012 Toronto engagements this evening with a visit to the Toronto International Film Festival. The Countess of Wessex attended a Diamond Jubilee medal presentation and TIFF reception at the Lieutenant Governor’s
Suite in Queen’s Park, the legislative building for the province of Ontario at 6pm. Canadian Filmmaker Atom Egoyan, and Festival Directors Piers Handling and Michèle Maheux each received the medal for their contributions to Canadian arts and culture. At 9pm, the Countess will attend a screening of Rebelle, by Canadian director Kim Nguyen at the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre.

Rebelle is a drama about Komona, a twelve year old girl forced to become a child soldier in the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo and her attempts to overcome her tragic circumstances. Lead actress Rachel Mwanza received a Best Actress Prize at the Berlin Film Festival and the most non- professional cast has been praised by critics for their authentic performances. The Earl and Countess of Wessex both have a strong interest in the welfare of children worldwide. In 1999, they founded the Wessex youth trust, which provides funding for organizations that help children in need. The choice of film reflects the couple’s interest in improving the lives of young people.

The Duchess of York, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie at the premiere of The Young Victoria in 2009. Photo Credit: Brent Perniac/AdMedia/KEYSTONE Press

The Toronto International Film Festival has seen royalty on the red carpet on previous occasions. In 2009, Sarah, Duchess of York and her daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie attended the premiere of The Young Victoria at Royal Thompson Hall. The Duchess of York co-produced the film with Martin Scorsese and Princess Beatrice had a prominent cameo as one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting. During their visit to Toronto, the Princesses took the opportunity to shop and see the sights incognito, visiting the Yorkville Club Monaco and the Royal Ontario Museum.

The Earl of Wessex has a longstanding interest in film and the theatre. Instead of pursuing a military career like his elder brothers Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, Prince Edward pursued jobs in the arts. In 1988, he joined Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group as a production assistant.

Edward’s work inspired a personal visit to Toronto in 1989, when the Prince attended the premiere of the Phantom of the Opera. After working for another theatre company, Theatre Division, Edward founded his own television production company, Ardent Productions, in 1993. Ardent produced a broad range of programs, most notably documentaries about King Edward VIII and the restoration of Windsor Castle after the 1992 fire, but experienced financial difficulties. Both the Earl and Countess began a full schedule of royal duties with the Golden Jubilee in 2002 but the couple’s artistic interests continue to influence the itineraries of their official, working and personal visits.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex will attend further engagements in Toronto on Monday, September 17. They will accompany Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley to a 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games briefing in the morning. The Earl has a strong interest in youth athletics through his patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh Award program and this briefing is an opportunity for the royal couple to engage with planning of the 2015 Games in Toronto.

In the afternoon, the Earl will preside over a Duke of Edinburgh Community Showcase & Gold Award Ceremony while the Countess visits with Roots of Empathy, a charity that focuses on reducing bullying in the classroom. The Earl and Countess of Wessex’s visit to the Toronto International Film Festival is the start of a busy program of events in Toronto that reflect the royal couple’s artistic interests and charitable patronages.

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Interview with CKNW Radio Vancouver about the Duchess of Cambridge, September 14, 5:30pm EST

I will be discussing media coverage of the Duchess of Cambridge on the Simi Sara Show on CKNW AM 980 News Talk Vancouver at 5:30pm EST today, September 14. Click here to listen live. The interview will be available through the CKNW audio vault (September 14, 2:30pm Pacific Time) for the next thirty days. Click here to access the audio vault.

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Royals in the Arctic: The Earl and Countess of Wessex Visit Iqaluit, Nunavut

The Earl and Countess of Wessex are greeting by Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak in the presence of Commissioner Edna Elias. Photo credit: Government of Nunavut

The Earl and Countess of Wessex arrived in Iqaluit, the capital of the territory of Nunavut last night on the second stop of their week long working visit to Canada. Although Prince Edward has visited Canada on thirty-two previous occasions, and is the only member of the royal family apart from the Queen to have a Canadian Private Secretary, 2012 marks his first visit to Nunavut. According to Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak, the territory was the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s first choice of destination on their 2012 working visit.

Iqaluit skyline during the winter

The royal couple have a full itinerary of events during their time in Nunavut. The program began this morning at 10:30am with a ceremony at the Nunavut legislative building to honour sixteen long serving members and employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Earl of Wessex is Honorary Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP and takes a close interest in the organization. Five of the honourees will receive Diamond Jubilee medals. After a lunch  given by The Honourable Edna Ekhivalak Elias, the Commissioner of Nunavut, at her Residence, the Earl and Countess will attend a service of dedication at St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral.

The rebuilt St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral in Iqaluit in 2012.

The site of the original St. Jude’s cathedral was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II during her 1970 tour of the Canadian arctic. The unique building, designed to resemble an igloo, was severely damaged by fire in 2006 and has recently been rebuilt. The presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex at the dedication of the new building continues to the royal connection to the seat of the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic. At 5:30pm, the royal couple will attend a reception for community leaders and volunteers at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangiit museum with Commissioner Elias. The museum is housed in an old Hudson Bay Company Warehouse and contains exhibitions of Inuit sculpture, prints and artifacts.

The people of Iqaluit will have the opportunity to meet the Earl and Countess of Wessex at a community feast this evening at at St. Jude’s Anglican Parish Hall. The Hall was the setting of Anglican religious services after the destruction of the original St. Jude’s cathedral and still serves as a community centre. After spending the night in Iqaluit, the Earl and Countess will visit the nursing program at Nunavut Arctic College before returning to Ontario for the remainder of their visit. The college was founded in 1968 as an Adult Vocational Training Centre by the government of the Northwest Territories and became Nunavut Arctic College when Nunavut became a separate territory in 1999. The nursing program operates in a partnership with Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne touring Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories in 1970

Royal visits to Canada’s territories are not only an opportunity for the Queen and her family to engage with the people and institutions of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut but are politically significant as direct evidence of Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic. During the Cold War, Canada’s territories were strategically significant because of their proximity to both the United States and the Soviet Union.

Queen Elizabeth II’s 1970 tour of the Arctic was a direct statement of Canadian sovereignty over the region during a period when the United States was questioning Canada’s ability to effectively populate and defend its northern territories. Instead of only visiting the territorial capital cities of Whitehorse and Yellowknife, as she had done during her 1959 cross Canada tour, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne traveled north of the Arctic Circle to what are now the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Her presence symbolized Canada’s authority over these regions.

In the twenty-first century, Canada is once again facing challenges to its sovereignty over the Arctic. As global temperatures rise, the Northwest Passage through the islands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is increasingly accessible to sea going vessels. Canada claims the Northwest Passage as part of its internal waters according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The other Arctic Nations, most notably the United States, argue that the Northwest Passage is part of international waters and cannot be closed to shipping traffic by the Canadian government.

As these debates unfold, royal visits to the Arctic territories continue to reinforce Canada’s sovereignty over the region. The presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex in Iqaluit had broader political significance in addition to the royal couple’s personal engagement with the people and institutions of Nunavut.

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