The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Make Their First Visit to Cambridge, a Royal Dukedom since the Restoration

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Visiting the Cambridge Guildhall

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited their namesake city today, arriving by train from London at 10am. The royal couple received an official greeting from the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Hugh Duberly and his wife Sally then met with the enthusiastic crowds. The Duke’s cheerful acceptance of a homemade baby gift from Cambridge resident and new mother Samantha Hill fuelled ongoing speculation that the royal couple will be starting a family of their own in the near future. Hill’s gift was babyclothes decorated with a picture of a helicopter and the words “Daddy’s little co-pilot,” alluding to the Duke’s work as a Search and Rescue pilot.

After lunch in a town pub, the royal couple toured Jimmy’s homeless shelter and the Peterborough City Hospital then attended receptions at the Guildhall and Senate House at Cambridge University. Among the 400 students and faculty members at the Senate House reception was the Duchess of Cambridge’s first cousin once removed, Dr. Penny Barton, graduate tutor at Homerton College. Barton attended the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in April, 2011 and was warmly greeted by the royal couple at the university. After this eventful day, the royal couple returned to London on the train.

Punting on the River Cam, Cambridge

The Duke and Duchess’s visit to the city that gave its name to their Dukedom was well received. Cambridge has lent its name to a royal Dukedom since the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660. In contrast to his immediate predecessors, Charles had two younger brothers at the time of his ascension and therefore required additional titles for his prospective nephews.

The first Prince styled Duke of Cambridge was born into a royal scandal. During the interregnum of the 1650s when the royal family was in exile on the continent, Charles II’s younger brother, James, Duke of York, began an affair with Anne Hyde, a lady-in-waiting to his sister, Princess of Orange and the daughter of Charles’s advisor, Edward Hyde. In 1659, James and Anne were formally betrothed in secret, a ceremony often considered a binding as a wedding in seventeenth century England. The following year, Anne became pregnant and James’s fortunes improved dramatically with the restoration of his elder brother to the English throne. Since James was now in a position to marry a princess, he treated Anne as a royal mistress.

Anne Hyde, the strong willed Duchess of York and mother of the first Dukes of Cambridge

Anne refused to cede what she believed to be her rightful place as Duchess of York. She arrived in London at the time of the Restoration in the household of Princess Mary of Orange heavily pregnant and publicly affirming that she was betrothed to the heir to throne. Anne’s horrified father distanced himself from his daughter, declaring that the King should imprison her in the Tower of London for her presumption. James’s mother, the Dowager Queen Henrietta Maria openly questioned the paternity of Anne’s unborn child and five of James’s friends each expressed willingness to acknowledge the child as his own to allow the Duke of York to escape his betrothal to a commoner.

Eager to end the scandal, King Charles II made clear to James that  “He must drink as he had brewed and live with her whom he had made his wife.” James and Anne were quietly married and when their son, Charles was born on October 22, 1660, he was styled Duke of Cambridge. Anne would be the last woman from a “middle class” background to marry a direct heir to the throne until Catherine Middleton married Prince William in 2011. Sadly, the first Duke of Cambridge, and his younger brothers James and Edgar, who received the same title, all died in infancy. The two surviving daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York reigned as Queen Mary II and Queen Anne.

King George II

The title of Duke of Cambridge was revived in 1706 for the future King George II. He became a direct successor to the English throne following the 1701 Act of Settlement, which confined the succession after the death of Queen Anne to the Protestant descendants of his grandmother, Electress Sophia of Hanover. Following his marriage to Princess Caroline of Ansbach in 1705, the Hanoverian Prince became Duke of Cambridge and a Knight of the Garter. The future George II retained this Dukedom as Prince Wales after the ascension of his father, King George I in 1714.

The Dukedom of Cambridge was revived again in 1801 for Prince Adolphus, the tenth child and seventh son of King George III. Once again, the existence of a large royal family necessitated the use of a comparatively obscure dukedom. Prince Adolphus enjoyed a long military career, primarily in Hanover, participating in the hostilities against France in 1790s. His son, Prince George, inherited the Duchy of Cambridge in 1850 and followed a similar career to his father, fighting in the Crimean War and serving as Field Marshal Commanding in Chief for much of the second half of the nineteenth century. Since Prince George married the actress Sarah Fairbrother in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act, his son was not eligible to inherit the Duchy of Cambridge.

Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Duchess of Teck with her daughter, the future Queen Mary of England and her three sons.

The Cambridge name survived through the descendants of Prince Adolphus’s younger daughter, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, the Duchess of Teck. Mary Adelaide’s daughter, Princess Mary of Teck married the future King George V in 1892. When King George abolished the royal family’s German titles in 1917, Mary’s brother Alexander, adopted the surname of Cambridge, receiving the English title of Earl of Athlone. The Earl served as Governor General of Canada from 1940 to 1946.

Prince William is Queen Mary’s great-great-grandson and is therefore a direct descendant of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. Today’s visit to Cambridge by the current Duke and Duchess reaffirms the crown’s historic relationship with Cambridge, the name of a royal dukedom since the Restoration of King Charles II.

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From St. Petersburg to Toronto: The Life of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960)

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna at home in Cooksville in 1959

In June, 1959, the widowed seventy-seven year old Mrs. Nikolai Kulikovsky of 2130 Camilla Road in Cooksville, Ontario, [now part of Missisauga] received a royal invitation. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh would be hosting a luncheon on the royal yacht Britannia during their visit to Toronto as part of their Canadian tour and requested the presence of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and her elder son, Tikhon Kulikovsky. For the last time, Olga’s early experiences as a Russian Grand Duchess, the sister of Emperor Nicholas II and the cousin of King George V, and her later life as a farmer’s wife in Canada came together as she met with her royal relatives.

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was born on June 13, 1882 at the Peterhof Palace outside St. Petersburg, the youngest daughter of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Marie Feodorovna, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark. Olga and her elder siblings, the future Nicholas II, Georgy, Ksenia and Mikhail, spent much of their childhood at the country palace of Gatchina for their own security. Olga’s grandfather, Emperor Alexander II, had been assassinated by members of the People’s Will revolutionary organization in 1881 and Alexander III and Marie feared for the safety of their children during this turbulent period.

Emperor Alexander III and his family in 1888. Olga is standing in front of her father. Clockwise from the left: Grand Duke Mikhail, Empress Marie, Grand Duke Nicholas, Grand Duchess Ksenia and Grand Duke Georgy

Although the Gatchina Palace had more than 900 rooms, Olga enjoyed a relatively simple upbringing. She reminisced to the Danish magazine BT in 1942, “When Spring was in the air, [my father] would see to it that we were given different tasks which would force us into the fresh air. We cleared the snow away and collected firewood. Together with him we would then make a lovely little bonfire where we roasted an apple or two which we later shared between us. And then there were the walks through the grounds and the deer park (25 Chapters of My Life: The Memoirs of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, p. 27).” Every summer, the Russian Imperial family would visit Denmark, where Olga could visit with her grandparents without the same concerns for her security that existed in Russia.

Alexander III’s death in 1894 was devastating for the twelve-year-old, Olga who was particularly close to her father. The Grand Duchess’s relationship with her mother was more difficult, as Marie expected her daughter to conform to the formal etiquette of the Imperial court as she grew older while Olga sought a simpler life. Olga’s desire to escape her mother’s direct control while still remaining in Russia undoubtedly influenced her decision to accept a proposal of marriage from her distant cousin, Prince Peter of Oldenburg in 1901.

Grand Duchess Olga with her first husband, Prince Peter of Oldenburg

Senator Alexander Polovtsev, State Secretary under Alexander III and a close friend of the Imperial family was deeply skeptical of the marriage, writing in his diary, “In spite of being high-born and extremely well off . . .[the] prince is rather undistinguished in all respects and his appearance is far less than undistinguished. Though he is young he doesn’t have much hair on his head and comes across as a sickly person, lacking the ability of producing multiple descendants. . .Obviously this match was made for reasons other than making the couple happy which will most probably lead to disaster (Translated and reprinted in Patricia Phenix, Olga Romanov: Russia’s Last Grand Duchess, p. 51).

Although relations between Olga and her new husband were initially amiable, she regretted her hasty marriage when she met Nikolai Kulikovsky, a member of her brother, Mikhail’s Blue Cuirassier guard regiment, at a military review in 1903. She told her biographer Ian Vorres decades later about the moment their eyes met across the parade ground, “It was fate. It was also a shock. I suppose on that day I learned that love at first sight exists . . .I just told Mikhail I wanted to meet him. Mikhail understood. He arranged a luncheon party the very next day. I don’t remember much about the luncheon. I was twenty-two years old and I loved for the first time in my life, and I knew that my love was accepted and returned (Ian Vorres, The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, 1 June 1882-24 November 1960, 4th edition, p. 94-95).”

Olga and Nikolai Kulikovsky on their wedding day

Both Peter of Oldenburg and Olga’s brother, Emperor Nicholas II refused her requests for an annulment of her marriage until 1916. During those difficult years, Olga painted, worked in her garden and enjoyed a close relationship with her brother’s family. In another article for the Danish newspaper BT, she remembered, “The years passed. I had grown up. He had become Emperor. We were both married. The difference between my eldest brother and his youngest sister was gone. I loved being with him and was very fond of my sister-in-law [Empress Alexandra],  and when they had children – five lovely ones in all – I gave them all my love (25 Chapters of My Life: The Memoirs of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, p. 74).”

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Nikolai Kulikovsky’s regiment was called to the front and Olga followed him as a front line nurse, finally receiving an annulment and permission for a morganatic marriage in 1916. Olga and Nikolai were in Kiev when Nicholas II abdicated in 1917 and they fled to the Crimea with the Dowager Empress Marie soon afterward, where their son Tikhon was born in November, 1917. Since she was married to a commoner, Olga was not arrested with the rest of her family after the Bolshevik Revolution of November, 1917 and was able to flee Russia over the Caucasus Mountains, where her younger son, Guri was born in 1919.

Portrait of Tikhon Kulikovsky by his mother, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna in 1960

Olga, Nikolai and their children settled in Denmark after leaving Russia . They initially lived with the Dowager Empress Marie, who had been rescued from the Crimea on a battleship sent by King George V, then moved to a farm owned by Danish millionaire Gorm Rasmussen, who employed Nikolai to look after his horses. Olga increased their modest income by selling her watercolours.

These peaceful years prior to the Second World War were interrupted only by Olga’s upsetting visit to “Anna Anderson” in Berlin. Anderson claimed to be Olga’s niece, Anastasia, who had been murdered with her parents and siblings by Bolsheviks in 1918. Olga did not recognize and resemblance between the claimant and Anastasia but would continue to be asked her opinion on the “Anastasia case” until her death in 1960.

The proximity of Soviet troops to Denmark after the Second World necessitated another emigration. Nikolai, Olga, their sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren left Denmark for Canada via England in 1948, crossing the Atlantic aboard The Empress of Canada. Olga recalled that on the long train journey from Halifax to Toronto, “The immense spaces I saw deeply impressed. I felt at home. Everything spoke to me of the vastness I had known in Russia (Vorres, The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, 1 June 1882-24 November 1960, p. 196).

Grand Duchess Olga's home in Cooksville

Olga and Nikolai settled on a two hundred acre farm in Campbellville, Halton County while their sons and their families settled in Toronto. Olga cared for the poultry yard while Nikolai looked after their cattle and pigs. Olga enjoyed the farm life, telling Vorres, “It was a joy to move from Toronto, and I worked like a slave to turn the house into a real home. All our belongings turned up eventually, and there were dear mementos of the past in every one of then rooms. The place was a paradise for flowers . . . (Vorres, The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, 1 June 1882-24 November 1960, p. 198).

As Nikolai and Olga grew older, they had difficulty with the upkeep of their Campbellville farm. In 1952, they sold the farm and livestock and moved to Cooksville. Nikolai died there in 1958. The five room house on Camilla road was the setting for visits from Olga’s British royal relatives throughout the 1950s. Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent visited Olga’s home in Cooksville between her royal engagements on her Canadian tour in 1954 and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten visited in 1959.

Grand Duchess Olga painting in her Cooksville home

Olga therefore accepted the luncheon invitation from Queen Elizabeth II aboard the Britannia with equanimity. Her neighbours in Cooksville were much more anxious about the impending royal visit. Olga complained to Vorres, “They were at me morning, noon, and night, urging that I should buy a new frock . . .they do not see that I am far too old to start buying new clothes. (Vorres, The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, 1 June 1882-24 November 1960, p. 207).” She ultimately accepted the advice of her neighbours and went shopping in Toronto, buying a new dress and hat for the occasion, joking, “All this fuss, just to go see Lilibet and Philip!”

Katherine Keiler-Mackay, wife of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Lieutenant Colonel John  Keiler-MacKay, had different concerns than Olga’s wardrobe. She told Patricia Phenix that prior to the luncheon, “[Olga] looked nervous . . .We were all afraid the Queen might overlook her and she might be hurt (Phenix, Olga Romanov: Russia’s Last Grand Duchess, p. 239). Keiler-Mackay need not have worried. When the Queen entered the banquet room, she immediately approached Olga, put her arm around her the shoulders of her grandfather’s cousin, and guided her to the head table.

The luncheon on the Britannia was Olga’s last royal visit. Russia’s last surviving Grand Duchess died in Toronto on November 24, 1960 at the age of seventy-eight. Her long and eventful life had begun at an Imperial Russian palace and ended in Canada, a country she grew to love for its friendly people and vast landscapes reminiscent of her native Russia.

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The 20th Anniversary of the Windsor Castle Fire

Windsor Castle, viewed from the air

2012 has been a successful year for Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Family celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth and presided over the successful London Summer Olympics, where the Queen’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips. This week, on November 20, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

The circumstances faced by the Royal Family in 1992 were very different. November 20 also marked the twentieth anniversary of the Windsor Castle fire, the crescendo of the Queen’s famous “Annus Horribilis.” The destruction of state rooms within the centuries old palace appeared to symbolize the impending collapse of the monarchy, and provoked a fierce debate about the financial situation of the Queen, her family and her properties.

The Round Tower of Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle was originally built in the eleventh century as part of the system of Norman fortifications designed by King William I to establish his rule over England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The castle became a royal residence during the reign of William I’s youngest son, King Henry I, who celebrated his wedding to his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain, there in 1121. King John used the castle as his base for the negotiations with his barons that precipitated the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 and his son, Henry III, viewed the castle as his principal residence for himself, his Queen, Eleanor of Provence and their children.

The Tudor monarchs made changes and improvements to the castle. King Henry VII established a memorial to his Lancastrian predecessor, Henry VI, which attracted pilgrims who believed the murdered to King to be a holy martyr. King Henry VIII added a tennis court to the grounds and redesigned the chapel, where he is buried with his third wife, and the mother of his only son, Jane Seymour. Elizabeth I viewed the castle as a place of safety in times of crisis,”knowing it could stand a siege if need be.”

St. George’s Hall, Windsor Castle in the reign of Charles II

The castle was damaged and looted during the English Civil Wars of the 1640s. Following the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, the King’s cousin, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the first Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, received the post of Constable of Windsor Castle and was charged with the Castle’s refurbishment in the baroque style of another one of Charles II’s cousins, King Louis XIV of France. The castle was restored a second time during the reign of King George IV, who persuaded parliament to grant him £300,000 for refurbishment. (The equivalent of £245 million in twenty-first century terms).

Although Queen Victoria complained of Windsor Castle’s “prison-like” atmosphere early in her reign, the Castle became the setting of extensive social occasions and state visits. After her Consort, Prince Albert died there in 1861, Victoria kept many of his rooms as they were during his lifetime, earning the popular sobriquet, “The Widow of Windsor.”

Photograph of Queen Victoria and her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice in the Queen’s sitting room at Windsor Castle

When George V decided to replace the Germanic surnames and titles within the Royal Family with English equivalents during the First World War, he was inspired by Windsor Castle and its illustrious royal history. One of England’s most popular and successful medieval Kings, Edward III, was born at the Castle and was known in his lifetime as “Edward of Windsor.” In 1917, the Royal Family became the House of Windsor, identifying themselves with the historic castle.

During the Second World War, Windsor Castle’s reputation as a place that “could stand a siege if need be” was once again significant as the wartime home of the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret. In contrast to Buckingham Palace, which was damaged by bombing, Windsor Castle survived the war unscathed and appeared to symbolize the continuity of the monarchy. Elizabeth II thought of the Castle as home and has resided there on weekends throughout her reign.

The 1992 fire at Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle’s reputation as a place of stability and continuity was shattered by the November 1992 fire, which destroyed nine principal staterooms and damaged a hundred more over the course of fifteen hours. There had been a number of prominent scandals within the Royal Family that year, including the separation of the Duke and Duchess of York, the divorce of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips and the publication of Andrew Morton’s tell all book about the Prince and Princess of Wales’ marriage, Diana : Her True Story. The fire at Windsor Castle appeared to symbolize the breakdown of the Queen’s prestige and authority.

The restored St. George’s Hall at Windsor Castle after the 1992 fire.

In contrast to King George IV, Queen Elizabeth II would not receive a parliamentary grant for the restoration of Windsor Castle. Prime Minister John Major’s proposal that parliament pay for the damages, as the castle is the property of the state was deeply unpopular and provoked widespread demands for changes to the monarchy’s financial situation. The monarch was called upon to restore Windsor Castle from her private revenue from the Duchy of Lancaster and to once again pay income tax. (King George VI was exempted from income tax in 1937, due to the unexpected expense of Edward VIII’s settlement after the 1936 Abdication). The Queen ultimately paid for the restoration of Windsor Castle through her own income and the revenue generated from opening the Buckingham Palace state rooms to the public. The Castle was reopened to the public in 1997.

Although the 1992 fire at Windsor Castle marked the nadir of an already difficult year for the Queen, the aftermath of the disaster contributed the current popularity enjoyed by the Royal Family. The Queen’s willingness to personally contribute to the restoration of the Castle and pay income tax was widely admired. The accessibility of Buckingham Palace after the fire allowed a wide audience to view masterpieces from the royal collection, earning the Queen a reputation as a “curator monarch,” willing to share the Royal Family’s cultural heritage. The Queen recovered from the  “Annus Horribilis” of 1992 to become the acclaimed Diamond Jubilee Queen of 2012.


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How Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Will Celebrate Their 65th Wedding Anniversary

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day, November 20, 1947.

On November 20, 2012, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh will have been married for sixty-five years, the longest royal marriage in British history. The royal couple plan to publicly mark their Blue Sapphire anniversary by attending the Royal Variety Performance at Royal Albert Hall, the evening of November 19. This televised gala performance showcases family entertainment including comedy, song and dance, raising money for the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund, which supports elderly members of the entertainment industry. Queen Elizabeth II is the Patron of this philanthropic organization and there have always been members of the royal family present at the Royal Variety Performance since its inception in 1912.

On November 20, the Queen and Prince Philip will enjoy a rare day without public engagements, marking the anniversary privately at Buckingham Palace. Although the Queen is now 86 years old and the Duke of Edinburgh is 91, they still perform a full program of public duties. In 2012, they toured the United Kingdom to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and participated in the Thames Jubilee Pageant. Although Prince Philip was unable to attend the remainder of the London Diamond Jubilee celebrations due to a bladder infection, he resumed royal duties after his recovery, attending the opening of the Olympic Games with the Queen.

Buckingham Palace, London where the Queen and Prince Philip will spend the day of their 65th wedding anniversary

Although the royal couple will not be attending public engagements on their 65th wedding anniversary, the Queen’s duties as Head of State will not pause for this historic occasion. The red boxes containing cabinet and foreign and commonwealth documents will be delivered to the palace for the Queen’s attention as they are on every other day excluding Christmas Day and Easter Sunday.

On November 20, the Queen will also have two morning audiences. Her Majesty receive the High Commissioner for Belize, the only English speaking constitutional monarchy in Central America. Belize is currently involved in a border dispute with neighbouring Guatemala, which has claimed Belizean territory since 1940 and this matter will likely comprise part of the High Commissioner’s audience with the Queen. The monarchy reaffirmed its relationship with Belize earlier in 2012, when Prince Harry made a highly successful Jubilee visit to the Central American nation.

The 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh on parade with their mascot, "Private Shenkin Jenkins."

The Queen will also receive the outgoing and incoming Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh, the Territorial Army Battalion formed from the current Royal Welsh Regiment, part of the Prince of Wales’s division. Elizabeth II’s audiences on her anniversary demonstrate her commitment to her roles as Head of the Commonwealth and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The presence of the High Commissioner of Belize and Commanding Officers of The Royal Welsh Battalion on a day otherwise devoid of royal engagements also demonstrates the degree to which the Queen’s public and private lives are closely intertwined both in practice and in the popular imagination.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinbugh in Canada in 2010

The Queen has paid tribute to Prince Philip at key anniversaries throughout their marriage and her reign. During her speech to the Members of Parliament at Westminster Hall in March, 2012, Her Majesty stated, “Prince Philip is, I believe, well known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.”

The Queen expressed similar sentiments on her Golden Anniversary in speech at London’s Guildhall in 1997, stating, “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”

The circumstances of the royal marriage have not been easy. Prince Philip was initially distrusted by prominent members of the English aristocracy for his foreign origins and interest in modernizing the royal household. The Duke of Edinburgh left a promising naval career to support the Queen in her royal duties after she ascended to the throne in 1952. The long gap between the birth of Princess Anne in 1950 and the birth of Prince Andrew in 1960 fuelled popular speculation of difficulties within the royal marriage.

The Queen’s tributes to Prince Philip in recent years suggests that the bond between them has only strengthened with the passing decades, creating a long and enduring union. Tomorrow’s anniversary without public engagements provides the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh with a rare opportunity to spend a day in each others company without being in the public eye, as they have been for most of their sixty-five year marriage.

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The Theft of the Tower of London Keys and the History of the Crown Jewels

View of the Tower of London from the Thames showing Traitor's Gate

During the wee hours of November 6, 2012, Guy Fawkes night, an intruder broke into the Tower of London. The suspect scaled the front gate and an inner entrance then stole a set of keys from an unlocked metal safe before escaping. The stolen keys provided access to the conference room and restaurants and control the drawbridges. Although the suspect was seen on the security cameras by the yeoman warders, they have strict instructions not to leave their posts and additional security arrived too late to catch the intruder. The Metropolitan London police are currently investigating the theft but an arrest has not yet been made.

A copy of St. Edward's Crown, made in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II and used in all subsequent British royal coronations

A spokeswoman for Historic Royal Palaces, which administrates the Tower of London and other former royal residences such as Hampton Court Palace was quick to reassure the public that the security of the Crown Jewels had not been compromised by the intruder. She stated, “It would not have been possible to gain access to the Tower with any of these keys. All affected locks were immediately changed.”

The theft has prompted criticism of the security arrangements in the Tower of London and questions concerning the safety of the Crown Jewels in this historic fortress. Despite the recent security breach, the Crown Jewels are more secure than they have been at any other point in English history. Previous sets of English Crown Jewels have been lost, used as collateral for unpaid troops, pawned to purchase munitions, broken down, very nearly stolen, threatened by fire, and damaged when handled by careless tourists. The comparatively recent provenance of the current Crown Jewels demonstrates the difficulty previous monarchs have experienced protecting their coronation regalia.

Undated portrait of King William I, "The Conqueror" wearing medieval coronation regalia that is no longer in existence.

King Edward the Confessor, the second last Saxon King before the Norman Conquest assembled the first known set of coronation regalia intended for subsequent monarchs. Following his death in 1066, the monks of Westminster Abbey, which had been commissioned by the late King, claimed that the jewels had been bequeathed to the Abbey. The original St. Edward’s crown attracted pilgrims who venerated the late King as a Saint, increasing the revenues for the monastery.

William I and his descendants who reigned from the Norman Conquest of 1066 brought their own coronation traditions and regalia from Normandy. William’s great-grandson, King John may have lost his Crown Jewels in 1216 when his baggage carts overturned in the Wash, the bay that separates Lincolnshire from East Anglia. Treasure hunters continue frequent the site to the present day, searching for the King’s lost crown.

John’s son, King Henry III venerated Edward the Confessor and was determined to be crowned wearing St. Edward’s Crown from Westminster Abbey. Henry III’s coronation revived Edward the Confessor’s tradition of regalia passed from one monarch to another but did not guarantee the security of the Crown Jewels. The Crown remained at Westminster Abbey in the care of the monks and was used as collateral by King Edward III when he found himself unable to pay his troops during the Hundred Years War.

Queen Henrietta Maria, consort of King Charles I. The Queen pawned Crown Jewels in Holland and France during the English Civil Wars

The Crown Jewels worn by the medieval English monarchs were lost during the English Civil Wars of the 1640s. King Charles I required funds for mercenaries and munitions to support the royalist cause. His consort, Queen Henrietta Maria alleviated his financial difficulties by pawning Crown Jewels abroad when she traveled to Holland in 1642 to deliver her daughter, Princess Mary, to her son-in-law, Prince William of Orange.(Their son would become King William III of England in 1688).

A furious English House of Commons called for the impeachment of the Queen in 1643 on eight different charges including that she, “Hath to provide monies and arms, pawned and sold the jewels of this realm.” Following the final defeat of Charles I and his execution in 1649, the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell ordered the remaining Crown Jewels broken down to symbolize the collapse of the monarchy and augment his own state treasury.

King Charles II at his coronation in 1661

In 1660, Charles I’s and Henrietta Maria’s eldest son, was invited to return to the British Isles as King Charles II. New regalia had to be created for his coronation in 1661 and the current St. Edward’s Crown dates from this time. To ensure the security of the new Crown Jewels, Charles II ordered that they be stored in the Tower of London, a traditional stronghold for royal valuables.

The more secure location did not prevent further threats to the security of the Crown Jewels. The keepers of the jewels relied on the income they received from charging visitors to view the coronation regalia and security standards for these early tourists were not as strict as they are today. In 1671, Irish anti-royalist “Colonel” Thomas Blood knocked the assistant jewel keeper, Talbot Edwards, unconscious with a mallet and seized Charles II’s crown, smashing the arches to hide it under his cloak. The theft was thwarted when Edwards’ son, Whythe arrived home for his sister’s betrothal at that very moment and chased Blood across the tower courtyard, finally apprehending him outside the gates and recovering the Crown Jewels.

The Imperial State Crown, created for the coronation of King George VI in 1937. Queen Elizabeth II wears this crown each year for the state opening of Parliament.

Despite this unfortunate episode, visitors to the Tower of London were permitted to handle the Crown Jewels, for an additional fee to the warder, until 1815, when a woman later judged to be “insane” pulled apart the arches of St. Edward’s crown. In 1841, a fire broke out in a building adjacent to the jewel house, prompting a bucket brigade of yeoman warders to pass the regalia to safety. The Times of London reported ‘A most extraordinary scene presented itself, the warders carrying crowns, sceptres and other valuables of royalty, between groups of soldiers, police, firemen…to the Governor’s residence.’ The jewels were saved and restored to the Tower of London.

The recent theft of keys from the Tower of London has attracted widespread media attention because threats to the security of the Crown Jewels are comparatively rare in the twenty-first century. Nevertheless the incident is in keeping with the long history threats to the security Crown Jewels of England.

For my Canadian readers, I will be discussed the history of the Tower of London tomorrow, (November 15, 2012) at 11:15am on the CTV 24 hour news channel.

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King George V and The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh lead a procession of members of the royal family including Prince William and Prince Michael of Kent on November 11, 2012. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The royal family marked Remembrance Day in different parts of the world today. Queen Elizabeth II presided over the national ceremony in the United Kingdom at the cenotaph at Whitehall, laying a wreath in memory of British servicemen and women who gave their lives in wartime. Prince William, dressed in his Royal Air Force uniform also laid a wreath with the message, “For Jo, Lex and all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country” referencing his friends from Sandhurst, Lt Joanna Dyer who died in Afghanistan in 2009 and Major Lex Roberts who died in Iraq in May 2007.

Other members of the royal family in attendance included the Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex, who watched the ceremony from the Foreign Office balcony. In New Zealand, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attended a Remembrance Day ceremony in Auckland as part of their Diamond Jubilee tour of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea while the Queen’s cousin Prince Edward, Duke of Kent marked the occasion in the Falkland Islands as part of his Jubilee visit. Remembrance Day is particularly significant for the entire royal family this year as Prince Harry is on active duty in Afghanistan and will remain there through the Christmas holiday.

The tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, London

On November 11, 1920, Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather, King George V marked the most significant Remembrance Day in British history, laying to rest the Unknown Warrior in his tomb in Westminster Abbey. The funeral procession for the unidentified serviceman, who represented all the dead from Great Britain and the British Empire during the First World War, began at Whitehall. There, King George V unveiled the cenotaph where all subsequent national Remembrance Day ceremonies have taken place and laid a wreath on the coffin. The King and three of his surviving sons, the future Edward VIII, the future George VI and the Duke of Gloucester walked behind the gun carriage carrying the coffin as it slowly traveled to the North entrance of Westminster Abbey.

King George V and his sons walking behind the coffin of the Unknown Warrior, November 11, 1920

In the Abbey, female members of the royal family including the King’s mother, Queen Alexandra, his sister, Queen Maud of Norway and his cousin, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain led a congregation of women who had lost husbands and sons during the First World War. The congregation watched as the King scattered a handful of French earth on the coffin before it was lowered into the grave. The Unknown Warrior’s Coffin was covered with the contents of one hundred sandbags of French earth and a simple black stone with a long inscription that concluded, “THEY BURIED HIM AMONG THE KINGS BECAUSE HE
.” The placement of the tomb in Westminster Abbey where so many British monarchs were buried symbolized the nation’s gratitude to the men and women who served in the First World War.

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother on her wedding day.

In 1923, the tomb of the Unknown Warrior became the site of a new royal wedding tradition when Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother laid her bridal bouquet on the memorial as she entered Westminster Abbey to marry Prince Albert, Duke of York, the future King George VI. This act honoured her elder brother, Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon who died in the Battle of Loos and was buried in an unknown grave. Since 1923, subsequent royal brides have left their bouquets on the tomb of the Unknown Warrior the day after their weddings.

The Queen’s current Remembrance Day traditions follow the example set by her grandfather, King George V. The King reigned through the First World War and led his nation in mourning for the losses suffered during the hostilities. The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was dedicated by the King to commemorate all those died serving their country and the tomb acted as a focal point for national mourning in the decades following the burial.

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The Imperial Russian Book Reviews 4: Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith

When Emperor Nicholas II abdicated the Russian throne in 1917, there was no counterrevolution. The monarchy had lost the confidence of Russian society from the nobility to the peasantry and the last Tsar found himself almost entirely alone. Nicholas returned to the Alexander Palace under house arrest accompanied by a single member of his household. The response of Russia’s diverse nobility to the March Revolution ranged from optimism for the country’s future under a more representative government to grudging acceptance of the sweeping political changes.

By the 20th century, the Russian nobility consisted of at least 1.9 million people or 1.5 of the population of Nicholas II’s Empire. Since there was only the beginnings of an urban middle class in Late Imperial Russia, the nobles held most of Russia’s wealth and were the most educated sector of society, staffing the professions, the officer class and the cultural elite. Despite the violence suffered by numerous noble country estates in the wake of Nicholas II’s abdication, the nobility largely aspired to contribute their skills to the new regime and help build a prosperous Russian state. The Bolshevik Revolution in the fall of 1917 permanently changed the fortunes of the nobility. For Vladimir Lenin, ironically a member of the hereditary nobility, Russia’s aristocracy were “Former People” tainted by class origins that could never be overcome by themselves or their descendants.

Douglas Smith’s moving account of the destruction of the Russian nobility, Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy, is the first book in any language to focus on the fate of Russia’s nobles after the Revolutions of 1917. The terrible human cost of Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent Stalinist regime has been discussed in Orlando Figes’s recent works including The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia and A People’s Tragedy but Smith’s work documents the unique hardships faced by the nobility by chronicling the fortunes and tragedies of two noble families: the Sheremetevs and the Golitsyns. In contrast to the thousands of nobles who fled Russia after the Bolsheviks came to power, the majority of the members of both the Sheremetev and Golitsyn families remained in Russia during the Soviet period with terrible consequences. Very few would still be alive by the end of the Second World War.

Although Nicholas II plays little part in the narrative after his abdication, the worldview of the Sheremetev and Golitsyn patriarchs sheds light on the decisions made by the last Imperial family in 1917 and 1918. A number of recent works, most notably  The Fate of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson have criticized the last Imperial family for not making more effort to flee Russia. Although Nicholas was alienated from the nobility at the time of his abdication, he had enjoyed a typical noble upbringing including military service in the officer corps. The former Emperor would have shared the sentiments expressed by Count Sergei Sheremetev and Prince Vladimir Golitsyn: that leaving Russia in its time of turmoil was a kind of cowardice and that the Bolshevik regime could not possibly survive in the long term.

The persecution of Russia’s nobility, even those who attempted to assimilate into the Soviet regime also sharply illuminates the violence inherent in Lenin’s ideology. Popular audiences usually associate Soviet atrocities with the rule of Joseph Stalin but the quotes Smith provides from Lenin’s writings demonstrate that the first Soviet leader viewed social class as a fixed category and was determined to eliminate whole families based on their ancestry, regardless of their acceptance of his rule. Lenin believed that Robespierre had not gone far enough during the Terror that followed French Revolution because he only sent “active” opponents to the guillotine instead of eliminating anyone who might be a passive opponent. In common with Jung Chang’s and Doug Halliday’s biography of Mao Zedong, Mao: The Unknown Story, Smith reveals the full scope of the atrocities perpetrated by a 20th century tyrant.

The publication of Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy will hopefully contribute to more balanced teaching of the Russian Revolution in high schools and universities. Smith observes that history is not only written by the victors but about the victors. Since there was no restoration of the monarchy in Russia as there was following the English Civil Wars and French Revolution, the voices of the nobility were obscured. The surviving members of Russia’s noble families observed that foreign visitors to the Soviet Union were not interested in their stories. Volumes of primary sources prepared for undergraduate European history survey classes still focus on the writings of the victors of the Russian Revolution rather than the victims. Douglas Smith’s groundbreaking work will hopefully address this imbalance, restoring the fate of the nobility to its true place in Russian history.

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Comparing the Constitutional Monarchies of the Countries on Prince Charles’s November Itinerary: Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand

Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Photo credit: Reuters

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are currently in Australia as part of a two week tour of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. This tour marks the Duchess of Cornwall’s first visit to these countries but Prince Charles has a long history of involvement in the region. In 1966, he spent two terms at Geelong Grammar School in Australia as an exchange student from the Gordonstoun School in Scotland. As part of his studies, the Prince traveled to Papua New Guinea with his history tutor to learn about the history and culture of this unique commonwealth realm. The Diamond Jubilee tour therefore celebrates the Prince’s decades of interest and involvement in the region as well as the Queen’s 60 year reign.

Prince Charles on his first visit to Papua New Guinea in 1966. Photo credit: The Associated Press

The three commonwealth realms on the royal couple’s itinerary may share Queen Elizabeth II as head of state but they have distinct systems of constitutional monarchy. Popular perceptions of the royal family and royal tours, both in previous decades and today, also differ amongst Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.

In Papua New Guinea, there is widespread popular admiration for “Misis Kwin” as Elizabeth II is known in the local creole language, Tok Pisin. Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia in 1975 but retained the Queen as its Head of State. In contrast to the other commonwealth realms, where the Queen’s representative, the Governor General, is nominated by the Prime Minister, the parliament of Papua New Guinea elects the nominee for Her Majesty’s approval. This collaborative system for selecting the Governor General undoubtedly contributes to the monarchy’s popularity.

The Royal Yacht Britannia, now a museum ship in Edinburgh. Before it was decommissioned in 1997, the yacht facilitated royal visits to island commonwealth realms such as Papua New Guinea

The Duke of Edinburgh, known in Tok Pisin as “oldfella Pili-Pili him bilong Misis Kwin” visited the island as part of an extensive commonwealth tour of the region in 1956-1957 that included opening the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. The Queen’s most extensive visit to Papua New Guinea occurred during her Silver Jubilee tour in 1977 when she visited the capital, Port Moresby, Popondetta and Alotau.

In common with Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, commonwealth realms visited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this year, Papua New Guinea experienced fewer royal visits after the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall’s visit this week has been greeted by cheering crowds and the Prince’s decision to introduce himself in the local language as the “nambawan pikinini bilong Misis Kwin” (The number one child belonging to Mrs Queen) endeared him to the people of Papua New Guinea.

Prince Charles greeting Governor of Queensland Penelope Wensley upon his arrival in Australia. Photo credit: Tertius Pickard/AFP/Getty Images

The history of popular perceptions of the monarchy in Australia is more complicated, encompassing both extreme enthusiasm for the royal family and republican sentiment. The first royal tour of Australia, by Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1868, was marked by the first political assassination attempt in Australian history. The Prince was shot and wounded in the back by Irish-Australian law clerk Henry James O’Farrell necessitating a two week hospital stay before his departure.

Mishaps also occurred during royal tours of Australia in the 20th century. When the future Edward VIII visited in 1920 to thank Australians on behalf of his father, King George V, for their contributions to the First World War, his railway carriage overturned. The Prince was unhurt and made light of the incident, calling it a The Prince was unhurt and made light of the incident, calling it a ‘harmless little railway accident.’ More serious injuries occurred in Melbourne in 1954, when the enormous crowd that gathered to greet Elizabeth II on her first visit to Australia broke through police barricades. According to the Adelaide newspaper, “The Advertiser,” “Screaming women added to the tumult and some who were trampled on had to be treated by St. John Ambulance Officers.”

The Queen in Australia in 1954

More recently, Australia has debated changing its government from a constitutional monarchy to a Republic. In 1999, a referendum proposing that Australia cut ties with the monarchy was defeated by 55% of the popular vote. At the time, Republican sentiment was divided by whether the Governor General would be replaced by a President nominated by the Prime Minister or by popular vote. A 2011 poll, however, revealed that support for constitutional change is the lowest it has been for twenty years. Of those surveyed, only 34% were pro-republic as opposed to 55% pro-monarchy, suggesting that the monarchy’s popularity has increased in the twenty-first century.

Queen Elizabeth II wearing a traditional kiwi feather cloak while giving royal assent to the Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act 1995

Queen Elizabeth II’s role as Head of State has been much less controversial in New Zealand. The existence of the modern state of New Zealand dates from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 when over 400 Maori chiefs granted Queen Victoria sovereignty over what is now New Zealand in exchange for recognition of their land rights and receiving the status of British subjects. The Crown is therefore integral to the history of the modern state, particularly the property rights of the Maori people. Royal visits to New Zealand have been well received in the past. The Queen has visited on ten occasions and has included words of the Maori language in her speeches at Maori welcoming ceremonies, reaffirming the historic relationship between the crown and New Zealand’s first peoples.

Prince Charles’s Diamond Jubilee tour of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand encompasses three distinct constitutional monarchies that share Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. The monarchy has been embraced as part of the national character of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand and royal visits there have traditionally been well received. Australia has gone through periods of republican sentiment and popular reactions to royal tours have ranged from an 1868 assassination attempt to a 1954 stampede by thousands of enthusiastic Australians. Recent polling data suggests that Australians are once again embracing the constitutional monarchy and will provide a warm welcome for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.


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On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines-And Future by Karen Elliott House (Review)

Most Western authors who write about the history, culture and politics express incredulity at how different the country’s society is from their own. In Princess: The True Story of Life Inside Saudi Arabia’s Royal Family, Jean Sasson was shocked by how women at the apex of the Saudi social period still experienced tightly regulated personal and public lives on account of their gender. In the Land Of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom, Dr. Qanta Ahmed encountered the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, which is very different from the moderate Muslim upbringing she experienced in the United Kingdom. For Jayne Amelia Larson, her experience chauffeuring Saudi Princesses on a Los Angeles holiday in Driving the Saudis highlighted the extreme wealth and social inequality within the Saudi royal household.

For Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Karen Elliot House, who has written about Saudi Arabia for the past thirty years as a diplomatic correspondent, foreign editor and publisher of the Wall Street Journal there is something eerily familiar about the desert Kingdom. House spent her childhood in Matador, Texas, an insular community of nine hundred people where religion permeated daily life and all social events took place at church. Her father had absolute authority over his family, alcohol was not permitted anywhere in the county and shorts were considered immodest dress. House uses her own formative experiences and decades of travel to Saudi Arabia to analyze the nature of Saudi society and and the obstacles prevented the kind of political change that occurred in other regions of the Middle East during the Arab Spring.

As a foreign woman navigating a gender segregated society, House describes herself as a member of a “third gender,” able to interview men and women alike across the full spectrum of Saudi society. On Saudi Arabia contains interviews from a diverse array of people from members of the royal family, to a Professor’s devout second wife, eager to convert House to Islam to the urban poor, who rely on charity from the oil wealth controlled by the Princes. These snapshots of Saudi life are fascinating and insightful, particularly her discussions with ordinary women, who often have complex attitudes toward the religion and culture that regulates their daily activities.

Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, the first King of Saudi Arabia

House also interviews Princes and Princesses from the House of Al Saud, the men and women who comprise one of the world’s last absolute monarchical governments. King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, the first monarch of Saudi Arabia was the father of at least fifty sons and eighty daughters by his twenty-two wives and the succession currently passes from brother to brother amongst his elderly sons.

This unique line of succession prevented political power from being concentrated in any one branch of the vast extended royal family. House identifies the eventual transition from the elderly sons of the Abdulaziz Ibn Saud to his middle aged grandsons to be one of the most significant challenges the kingdom will face  despite the reassurance from one Prince, “The only difference is that instead of being loyal to our uncles, we will be loyal to our cousins. . .In the next two to five years this will cease to be an issue.” Although Saudi Princesses are traditionally distant from public affairs, House finds evidence that their role is changing, interviewing King Abullah’s daughter Princess Adelah about her advocacy for victims of domestic violence.

House’s interviews suggest that transition from autocracy to the accountable, constitutional monarchy favoured by many ordinary Saudis will be a long process, particularly while the royal family maintains its oil wealth. When the late Crown Prince Nayef met with reformers proposing a constitutional monarchy in 2003, he informed them angrily, “I don’t want to be Queen Elizabeth!” The younger generations of the royal family seem more receptive to political reform but House predicts that change will come slowly to the Saudi Monarchy.

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future is an insightful and well written snapshot of one of the world’s last absolute monarchies. Karen Elliot House’s interviews with the Princes and Princesses of the House of Al Saud indicate that there are a variety of possibilities for the kingdom’s future but that change will be a gradual process.

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