2013 has been an eventful year for royalty in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. In the sixteen realms where Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State including the United Kingdom and Canada, 2013 was the year of Prince George of Cambridge, the long awaited child of William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In continental Europe and the Middle East, 2013 was the year of abdications as Pope Benedict XVI, the monarchs of Belgium and the Netherlands and the Emir of Qatar stepped down. I discussed royal news over the past year with Janet Davison of CBC news. Here are more 2013 royal news highlights from Canada and around the world.
January Since the Duchess of Cambridge’s health prompted the announcement of her pregnancy in December, 2012, January was filled with speculation about the future royal baby’s upbringing and the complicated process of succession reform in the sixteen commonwealth realms. I discussed the royal baby’s financial prospects on the Bloomberg View economic history blog and the historical precedents for succession reform in the Ottawa Citizen. On January 31, Canada’s Succession to the Throne Act received its first reading in the House of Commons. Canada also marked the country’s long relationship with the Netherlands and the House of Orange-Nassau, celebrating the 70th birthday of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands on January 19. Margriet was born in Ottawa during the Second World War and has visited Canada on numerous occasions since her return to the Netherlands.
January also saw Prince Harry’s return from a tour of duty as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. In a candid interview, Harry spoke frankly about his military training and duties, including killing members of the Taliban.I discussed the controversy surrounding Harry’s interview in the Globe and Mail, and returned to the centuries old relationship between the monarchy and the military in a feature article for Military History Magazine, published in November, 2013.
February In February, it was the Duchess of Cambridge’s turn to face controversy as acclaimed historical novelist Hilary Mantel described Catherine as a “plastic princess.” Mantel’s speech was part of a larger trend of notable British figures critiquing the Duchess’s approach to her royal duties, wardrobe and image. As I discussed in a column published in mid-February, however, Catherine remained popular in the commonwealth because she had developed a strong rapport with the public during her tour of Canada in 2011 and the South Pacific in 2012. February also saw the authentication of the remains of King Richard III through DNA provided by the Ibsen family, Canadian descendants of the King’s sister, Anne of York.
March: In March, there was widespread public concern about the Queen’s health as she entered hospital to be treated for gastroenteritis. The Queen has rarely been hospitalized over the course of her reign and her illness prompted discussion of the future of the monarchy. I wrote about the Queen’s health within the context of the changing face of the monarchy. As the Queen and Prince Philip grow older, their children and grandchildren will assume a wider range of royal duties. That same month, Canada’s royal succession bill received royal assent amid controversy concerning whether changes to the succession require a constitutional amendment and Canada’s ability to “assent” to British legislation.
April: The end of April saw numerous royal news stories as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited Toronto to present new colours to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated their second anniversary and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated, passing the throne to her son, who succeeded as King Willem-Alexander. Prince Philip’s travels attracted widespread attention because the 91 year old Duke had remained in the United KIngdom during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations and appeared to have stopped undertaking overseas tours. The abdication of Queen Beatrix was also notable because it was part of a larger trend of royal abdications in 2013 and resulted in the ascension of the first male Dutch monarch since 1890.
May: In May, Canadians celebrated Victoria Day, a uniquely Canadian holiday that marks both Queen Victoria’s contribution to Canada’s confederation in 1867 and the current Queen’s official birthday in Canada. This past year, there was an initiative to rename the day Victoria and First People’s Day to also honour the contributions of Canada’s First Nations. The initiative prompted a national debate over the Victoria Day weekend but gained little support over the rest of the year.
June: With the royal baby due to arrive in July, royal news in June focused on royal parenting as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge prepared Kensington Palace for the new arrival. I wrote about the history of royal parenting in the BBC News Magazine, observing that many royal parenting trends that appear modern, such as the presence of fathers in the delivery room and breastfeeding by royal mothers are actually centuries old. I also wrote a column about the history of royal fatherhood as Prince William announced that he would take parental leave after the arrival of the baby. In Canada, June 2013 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the first tour of Canada by William’s parents, the Prince and Princess of Wales. Diana charmed Canadians in 1983 and there was renewed interest in her legacy with the arrival of her grandchild in 2013.
Next week: 2013: The Royal Year in Review (July-December) with predictions for 2014