Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children From 1066 to the Present Day by David Cohen (Review)

Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children from 1066 to the Present Day  is a topical book considering the current circumstances within the royal family. With the announcement in December, 2012 that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will become parents in 2013, there is intense interest how they will raise their child. Potential answers to questions regarding the baby’s name, the influence of parents vs. nannies over the child’s early years and the eventual education of a future monarch may be found in the precedents set by previous members of the royal family. There are centuries of well documented examples of royal parenting that had a profound influence on the characters of successive monarchs.

David Cohen, a psychologist and the author of Diana: Death of a Goddess combines his interests in royalty and child psychology to assess the impact of generations of royal parenting on the monarchy. He places the parenting decisions of successive Kings and Queens in context, discussing changing parenting trends to discern whether a monarch was the product of his or her times or influenced by the unique conditions of a royal upbringing. The majority of the book is devoted to the Hanover dynasty, which was notorious for its quarrels between monarchs and their heirs, and the modern royal family, which has slowly changed its approach to royal child rearing.

Cohen concludes that Queen Victoria’s upbringing was particularly different from the parenting norms of the early nineteenth century as eighteenth century enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau encouraged greater freedom for children. In contrast, the “Kensington system” devised by Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent and her comptroller, John Conroy, strictly regulated all aspects of the princess’s life, refusing to allow her any time alone. Cohen’s psychological approach to royal history informs some interesting insights about past royal parents. Cohen speculates that Prince Albert’s difficulty assimilating into British court society may have contributed to his strictness with his son, the future Edward VII. The Prince Consort may have wanted to ensure his son’s success in an environment that he himself did not entirely understand.

Cohen’s original approach to the material and unique insights, however, are undermined by a number of factual inaccuracies in the text. For example. the Gloucester affair of 1654, when the exiled Queen Henrietta Maria attempted to convert one of her sons to Catholicism concerned her youngest son, Henry, Duke of Gloucester not her second son, the future James II as Cohen states in the text (p. 78-79). Inaccuracies of this kind should be corrected for future editions of the text and the inclusion of genealogical tables would clarify the birth order of large groups of royal siblings for general readers. There are also a number of surprising omissions from the bibliography. Cohen does not appear to have consulted Charles I: Personal Monarch, Charles Carlton’s psychological biography of the ill fated Stuart monarch, which includes in depth analysis of King James I and Anna of Denmark as parents, and their influence over the future King.

There are no footnotes in Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children from 1066 to the Present Day and Cohen comes to some conclusions that do not match existing data and historical analysis. In his discussion of King George V’s place in the extended European royal family, Cohen states, “The irony is that Lenin was a pragmatist and would probably have been quite prepared to let the Tsar sail out of St. Petersburg on a British warship (p. 220).” This statement contradicts evidence, including recent analysis by Helen Rappaport in The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg, that Lenin was directly involved in the decision to murder the entire Imperial family. Cohen also appears to still support conspiracy theories regarding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, which have been firmly refuted by numerous investigations and inquests into the circumstances surrounding the Paris car accident.

Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children from 1066 to the Present Day is an excellent subject for a royal history book during a time of intense interest in how a new generation of royal children will be raised. Cohen places the upbringing of successive royal children within the context of their times, analysing royal parenting trends over the past thousand years. The author’s credibility, however, is undermined by factual inaccuracies, surprising omissions from the bibliography and certain conclusions that are not supported by reliable evidence. Hopefully, a second edition will address these issues and expand on the centuries of precedents for the parenting of royal children.

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Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires by Justin C. Vovk (Review)

Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires is a biography of four princesses raised at the margins of European royal society who became consorts to the most influential monarchs who reigned during the First World War. Three of these women would lose their thrones in the conflict find themselves in straightened circumstances once more. Princess Augusta Victoria “Dona” of Schleswig-Holstein’s father, Duke Frederick VIII was exiled from his duchies after losing Prussian support for his rule, as part of Otto von Bismark’s plan for the unification of Germany. Dona’s marriage to the future Kaiser Wilhelm II was controversial as there were many who did not consider the daughter of a deposed duke to be a grand enough consort for a future German Emperor.

Princess Victoria Mary “May” of Teck had a father with morganatic ancestry and a mother who was a comparatively impoverished cousin of Queen Victoria. She spent part of her adolescence in Florence after her parents fled the creditors who gathered outside their grace and favour apartment at Kensington Palace. May’s circumstances changed dramatically when Queen Victoria decided she would make a suitable consort for her grandson Albert Victor and then his brother, the future King George V despite her morganatic ancestry and impecunious parents.

In common with the House of Schleswig-Holstein, Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt’s family found themselves on the wrong side of Bismark’s unification of Germany, and had persistent financial problems alleviated by Queen Victoria’s generosity to her motherless grandchildren. Marriage to Emperor Nicholas II of Russia catapulted the shy young Alix into the most opulent court in Europe as the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. A generation younger than Dona, May and Alix, Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma was also raised in financially straightened circumstances as the seventeenth of her father, Duke Robert’s, twenty-four children. Zita’s husband, Archduke Karl became the last Emperor of the Hapsburg Empire in 1916, at the height of the First World War.

Justin C. Vovk, an independent historian based in Hamilton, Canada has experience writing sweeping composite biographies of royalty, having previously written In Destiny’s Hands: Five Tragic Rulers, Children of Maria Theresa. His approach provides a portrait of royal society and court politics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries encompassing both the provincial courts and the grand centres of power. Fluent in English, German and Slovenian, Vovk draws upon published works and extensive archival material from the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria to craft compelling three dimensional portraits of Europe’s Imperial consorts during the First World War.

The greatest accomplishment of Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empiresis Vovk’s recovery of Dona and Zita from the margins of history. Dona has been criticized by both her contemporaries at the German court and subsequent historians for her perceived haughtiness, bigotry and subservience to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Vovk provides analysis of the last German Empress that incorporates both her well known character failings and her often overlooked strengths including her close involvement in the upbringing of her children and promotion of charitable causes benefiting poor women, including vocational training for underprivileged girls.

While most consorts of deposed monarchs are blamed for their husbands’ political failings, Dona remained a popular figure despite the collapse of the House of Hohenzollern and exile of the German royal family, an accomplishment that was not matched by Zita and Alix. Zita’s brief tenure as the Hapsburg Empress may appear to preclude a political role but Vovk’s archival research and interviews with her descendants reveal the full involvement of the consort and the House of Bourbon-Parma in Emperor Karl’s attempts to make a separate peace for Austria during the First World War. The collapse of these efforts directly contributed to the overthrow of the Hapsburg dynasty.

Vovk also provides fresh analysis of May’s family life, particularly the conflicting accounts of her parenting and the influence of her financially precarious childhood on her decisions regarding her household as an adult. The weakest sections of the book are those pertaining to Alix’s tenure as Empress of Russia. Vovk does not appear to have used Russian language archival sources and he is insufficiently critical of the memoir literature written about the Imperial family after the Revolution, which leads to some inaccuracies in the text.

Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires is a fascinating composite biography of four obscure princesses who married the rulers of powerful empires during a period of intense political turmoil. Their marriages and political influence shaped the course of European history during the First World War. Vovk has rescued the last German and Austrian Empresses from comparative historical obscurity and placed them in context with the last Empress of Russia and one of Britain’s most respected Queens.

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What To Expect On in 2013

I leave for Barcelona today and will be away for the next two weeks, delivering lectures about royalty and the Atlantic World on a trans-Atlantic cruise from Barcelona to Miami via the Canary Islands and St. Maarten. I will be offline until I return to Toronto on December 21 and will therefore be unable to approve comments, respond to e-mail or post new articles here in my absence.

There will be lots of interesting material on in 2013. I have Jane Ridley’s biography of Edward VII, Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, Justin Vovk’s study of Europe’s prominent royal consorts during the First World War, Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empiresand David Cohen’s Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children from 1066 to the Present Day packed for the voyage and will post my reviews in the New Year. Other royal history books on the way!

I am planning a 2013 blog series based on my cruise ship lectures about royalty in the Atlantic World so check back here for posts on such fascinating historical figures as Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Empress Josephine of France and King Edward VIII. I will also post the “royal histories” of the places of my itinerary complete with photos of any historic sites I encounter in my travels!

And, of course, I will continue to post material on the history of royal confinements and childrearing in anticipation of the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child in 2013.

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Today’s Media Interviews Concerning the Duchess of Cambridge’s Pregnancy

Today, December 5, 2012,  I will be participating in a Postmedia Live Chat at 2pm about the recent news that the Duke and Duchesss of Cambridge are expecting their first child in 2012. Click here to read the discussion and submit your questions.

I am also quoted in a Yahoo Shine article about Royal Parenting.

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Today’s Media Interviews Concerning the Duchess of Cambridge’s Pregnancy

Today, I will be discussing the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy on Global News Regina at 8:05am EST and participating in live chats about the upcoming royal baby on the Ottawa Citizen website at 12pm EST. I will also be interviewed on Global news Toronto at 5:30pm.

More of yesterday’s interviews have been published online. I am quoted extensively in the piece, How a Royal Pregnancy Lost It’s Privacy. I am also quoted on the celebuzz website and in the New York Post. Note that the New York Post piece has outdated information about my teaching position as I am now an instructor at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies.

Links to all my interviews concerning the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy are available on the “Interviews,” “Radio,” and “Television” pages of this site.

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Article in the Ottawa Citizen and Media Interviews Concerning the Duchess of Cambridge’s Pregnancy

An article I have written concerning the significance of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy was published online today and will appear in tomorrow’s edition of the Ottawa Citizen. Click here to read “Cause for Celebration.”

Here is my schedule of interviews for today and tomorrow with links to those interviews available online. All times are Eastern Standard Time

December 3, 2012

12pm Radio Interview with News 1130 Vancouver

3:20pm Television Interview with Caryn Lieberman on the Sun News Network

5:30pm Radio Interview with CKNW AM 980 Vancouver

8:50pm Radio Interview with CBC radio Vancouver “On the Coast”

Also an interview with the Toronto Sun (Please note the information in this article about my teaching position is a little out of date. I completed my contract as a Queen’s University teaching fellow in April, 2012, just before I defended my PhD in May and am now an instructor in history at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies).

Interview with the Canadian Press

Interview with the National Post

December 4, 2012

8:05am EST Television Interview with Global News Regina

12pm EST Live Chat on the Ottawa Citizen website

More print and online interviews will be published tomorrow and listed in a subsequent blog post!


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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are Expecting Their First Child

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a Gala in honour of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London

St. James’s Palace announced today that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child. According to the announcement,”The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both families are delighted with the news.”

The early announcement of the royal pregnancy may have been prompted by the Duchess of Cambridge’s hospitalization for Hyperemesis Gravidarum or acute morning sickness at King Edward VII Hospital in Central London. The palace spokesperson stated, “As the pregnancy is in its very early stages, Her Royal Highness is expected to stay in hospital for several days and will require a period of rest thereafter.”

The christening of the future Edward VIII in 1894

The new baby, which is expected in 2013 will be Queen Elizabeth II’s third great-grandchild. The Queen’s grandson, Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn have two daughters, Savannah and Isla Phillips. The arrival of the Duchess of Cambridge’s firstborn child, however, will mark the first time since 1894-1901 that there have been four generations of the direct line of the royal family alive at the same time.

On June 23, 1894, the future King Edward VIII was born at White Lodge in Richmond Park, the residence of his parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, future King George V and Queen Mary. A family photograph taken on the occasion of the royal baby’s christening on July 16 marked the momentous occasion. Queen Victoria holds her newborn great-grandson, the fourth in line to the throne, flanked by her eldest son, the future King Edward VII and her grandson, the future King George V. A similar historic photograph of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince William and the new baby will undoubtedly be taken at the christening of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first born child.

Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and his cousin King George V at the wedding of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany's daughter Princess Victoria in 1913

The new Prince’s godfather, the Duke of York’s cousin, Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, who would become Emperor Nicholas II at the end of that year described the christening and photograph in his journal, writing, “At 5 o’clock, the infant son of Georgie and May was christened at White Lodge in the presence of the whole family. Granny gave him seven names [Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David]. I was one of the godfathers. . . Then we had tea in a marquee in the garden. Four generations had their photograph taken together. There was no rain on the way back,” (Reprinted in Maylunas and Mironenko, A Lifelong Passion, p. 79)  Nicholas was newly engaged to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt and Queen Victoria encouraged the future Tsar to call her “Granny.”

The British public was equally interested in the birth of a future monarch. The House of Commons tabled a motion to congratulate Queen Victoria on the birth of the new Prince. The only objection was lodged by the first socialist member of parliament, Kier Hardie, who opposed the motion, stating, “From his childhood onward, this boy will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score . . .A line will be drawn between him and the people he is called upon to some day reign over. In due course . . .he will be sent on a tour round the world, a probably rumours of a morganatic alliance will follow, and at the end of it the country will be called upon to pay the bill! (Reprinted in Philip Ziegler, King Edward VIII, p. 5-6). In light of Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 and the generous settlement paid to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor by King George VI, Hardie’s prediction of the young prince’s future seems strangely prescient.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of the future King Edward VIII in 1894 provide a precedent for the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s firstborn child. In 2013, there will once again be four generations in the direct line of succession as there was during the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign.



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The Top Ten Royal History Books of 2012

Since founding the Royal Historian website in February, I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing numerous of royal history books. Here are my ten favourites from 2012, which would make perfect stocking stuffers for those who love history books, biographies and all things royal.

1) The Secret Of The Crown: Canada’s Affair With Royalty by John Fraser. This  eloquent and entertaining analysis of Canada’s constitutional monarchy should be on every Canadian’s bookshelf. Click here for the full review.

2) Our Queen by Robert Hardman. Of all the books published in 2011 and 2012 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, Hardman’s study provides the most comprehensive discussion of the monarch’s work as Head of State. Click here for the full review.

3) Richard III: A Life by David Baldwin. In a year that saw the discovery of what may be the remains of Richard III, Baldwin’s biography is a topical read that attempts to reconcile the many contradictory aspects of the King’s personality. Click here for the full review.
4) A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy by Helen Rappaport. The effect of Prince Albert’s death on Queen Victoria is well known but Rappaport reveals lasting impact of the Queen’s mourning on Victorian culture and the institution of monarchy. Click here for the full review.

5) Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith. This tragic account of the fates of the Sheremetev and Golitsyn families after the Russian Revolution reveals the full impact of the Fall of the Romanovs on the Russian aristocracy. Click here for the full review.

6) The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc by Nancy Goldstone. The true story of how Joan of Arc gained the opportunity to change the course of the Hundred Years War, revealing the political role of Yolande of Aragon, Queen of the Four Kingdoms. Click here for the full review.

7) On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future by Karen Eliott House. House interviews members of the Saudi royal family to discuss the past and future of one of the world’s last autocratic monarchies. Click here for the full review.

8 ) A Bride for the Tsar: Bride-Shows and Marriage Politics in Early Modern Russia by Russell E. Martin. A scholarly history book that deserves a wide popular audience. Martin discusses the political intrigues surrounding Russian Imperial weddings from Ivan the Terrible to Peter the Great. Click here for the full review.

9) Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion by Susan Ronald. Ronald’s engaging book places Queen Elizabeth I at the centre of the religious conflict of the sixteenth century. Click here for the full review.

10) The Divorce of Henry VIII: The Untold Story from Inside the Vatican by Catherine Fletcher. A fresh look at the often recounted story of the annulment of King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon from the perspective of diplomat Gregorio Casali, revealing the impact of the royal divorce on the Vatican. Click here for the full review.

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