Author Archives: CarolynHarris

Shakespeare’s Missing Magna Carta

King John

My latest article on the Magna Carta 2015 Canada website discusses why there is no mention of the the Great Charter in Shakespeare’s history play “King John.” I also review the current staging of “King John” at the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, which I had the pleasure of attending this past weekend.

Click here to read Shakespeare’s Missing Magna Carta

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Interview on Royal Finances: “Two-kitchen Kate’ stirs royal spending ruckus”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and family dog Lupo in the window of their apartment at Kensington Palace.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and family dog Lupo at Kensington Palace.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s finances have become the focus of public scrutiny in recent months. The extensive renovations to their apartment in Kensington Palace and erroneous reports that Prince William received a helicopter for his 32nd birthday prompted criticism of the usually popular royal couple. I discussed William, Kate and Royal Finances with Janet Davison at CBC.ca

Click here to read “‘Two-kitchen Kate’ stirs royal spending ruckus” at CBC.ca

For more of my thoughts on royal finances see the recent article I wrote for the Ottawa Citizen, “The Truth About Royal Spending” and the 2013 article I wrote for Bloomberg View, “How Big an Inheritance Awaits Kate and William’s Baby”

 

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Friday Royal Read: John Buchan: Model Governor General by J. William Galbraith

John Buchan was a Scottish journalist, novelist and Member of Parliament. He is most famous for writing the thriller, The Thirty-Nine Steps, which inspired a 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film. Lord Tweedsmuir was Canada’s fifteenth Governor General since Confederation and the first to be appointed after the 1931 Statute of Westminster granted Canada and the other Dominions legislative equality with the United Kingdom. Tweedsmuir’s five year tenure as Governor General from 1935 to 1940 encompassed key events in Canada’s history including the Abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936, the 1939 tour of Canada by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the outbreak of the Second World War.

There are many who are unaware that Buchan and Tweedsmuir were the same person and that his time in office served as a model for subsequent Governors General. The monarch’s representatives in Canada prior to the Second World War are sometimes treated as interchangeable British political figures despite their distinct approaches to the office. In John Buchan: Model Governor General, J William Galbraith, council member of the John Buchan society, analyzes Buchan’s profound impact on Canadian history and lasting influence on the office of Governor General in Canada.

Galbraith’s study of Buchan’s tenure as Governor General provides reveals Canada’s role behind the scenes of key royal events of the late 1930s. The Abdication Crisis of 1936 had an international dimension as there was evidence that the Dominions would not accept the twice divorced Wallis Simpson as Edward VIII’s consort and queen. As Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII was an extremely popular figure in Canada and owned a ranch in Alberta. Buchan interpreted Canadian popular opinion for Edward VIII’s private secretary though he stated it would be, “improper for me to have any view.” Buchan also played a key role in the organization of the 1939 royal tour though he appeared to fade into the background when George VI and Queen Elizabeth were on Canadian soil.

In contrast to past narrative biographies of Buchan, Galbraith focuses almost exclusively on the Canada years and adopts a thematic approach to his five years in office. This structure highlights key aspects of Buchan’s time as Governor General such as his patronage of the arts and extensive travels across Canada. In a few instances, however, the thematic chapters fragment contiguous historical events. For example, there is entire chapter devoted to George VI’s and Queen Elizabeth’s 1939 tour of Canada but their subsequent visit to the United States is covered in a subsequent chapter about Buchan’s role as an intermediary between Great Britain and America. The close focus on Buchan also means that readers must look elsewhere for detailed biographical information on the key figures who influenced Buchan and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, such as political power broker Violet Markham.

John Buchan: Model Governor General restores Buchan to his rightful place in Canadian history. In the foreword,  Canada’s current Governor General, His Excellent the Right Honourable David Johnston states, “John Buchan quietly established a new model for the position of Governor General. His considerable impact on Canada has not been fully recognized.” Galbraith’s book reveal’s the full extent of Buchan’s political and cultural influence on Canada.

Next Friday Royal Read: Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts by James Anderson Winn

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My articles on Magna Carta and The Charter of the Forest in the Canadian Encyclopedia

My latest contributions to the Canadian Encyclopedia are “Magna Carta” and “The Charter of the Forest.” The articles discuss the creation of the two Charters and the lasting historical and legal significance throughout the English speaking world, including Canada.

Click here to read “Magna Carta” in the Canadian Encyclopedia 

Click here to read “The Charter of the Forest” in the Canadian Encyclopedia

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The Truth About Royal Spending

 

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

My column in today’s Ottawa Citizen corrects some longstanding misconceptions about Royal Finances, discussing the Sovereign Grant and the history of other sources of royal income. I explain why reports that Prince William received a helicopter from the Queen for his 32nd birthday and that renovations to Kensington Palace will be billed to “the taxpayer” are inaccurate.

Click here to read “The Truth About Royal Spending” in the Ottawa Citizen

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Weekend Royal News Roundup: Prince William Celebrates His 32nd birthday and June 28th is the 100th anniversary of the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The Duke of Cambridge

The Duke of Cambridge

1) The Duke of Cambridge (Prince William) celebrated his 32nd birthday today, his first since the birth of his son, Prince George of Cambridge. Media outlets in the UK and Canada reported that the second-in-line to the throne received an expensive helicopter from the Queen as a birthday present.

The History: There are number of issues with articles such as the CBC’s “Prince William gets $11M helicopter from Queen on his birthday.” Due to the timing of the helicopter lease and William’s past experience as a Search and Rescue Pilot, the acquisition has been presented as a private “birthday present” from the Queen to her grandson. The helicopter has in fact been leased to assist a number of members of the royal family with their duties. Royal transport acquisitions often prompt popular controversy because their perceived expense to the taxpayer but income for equipment that helps members of the royal family carry out their duties comes from a separate Sovereign Grant.

King George III in his coronation robes

King George III in his coronation robes

In 1760, King George III placed the Crown Lands under the administration of his government, with the exception of the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides for the sovereign’s personal expenses and the Duchy of Cornwall, which provides the income for the heir to the throne. George III’s government returned a portion of the income from the Crown Lands to the KIng to cover the expenses incurred by royal duties. This arrangement is the origin of the Civil List, which governed the monarch’s working expenses until the Sovereign Grant Act of 2011.

The 2011 reforms replaced four individual grants to the sovereign, The Civil List, The Grant-in-Aid for Royal Travel, The Grant-in-Aid for Communications and Information and The Grant-in-Aid for the Maintenance of the Royal Palaces, with a single grant from the Crown Lands, initially set at 15% of the annual income from these properties. Any implication that the taxpayer is directly responsible for expenses incurred my members of the royal family undertaking their duties is therefore inaccurate. Income for the original Crown Lands covers the expenses incurred by royal engagements.

For more of my writing on royal finances, see my 2013 article for Bloomberg View, “How Big an Inheritance Awaits Kate and William’s Baby?”

Archduke Franz Ferdinand his wife Sophie and their three children.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand his wife Sophie and their three children.

2) June 28 is the 100th anniversary of the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in Sarajevo. This event which contributed to the outbreak of the First World War. 

The History: On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie were assassinated by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This event was one of the catalysts for the First World War yet the victims of the assassination are little known today beyond the circumstances of their deaths.

There are numerous reasons for the comparative obscurity of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie as historical figures. The political entity that they represented, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, collapsed during the First World War. In contrast to the 1963 Kennedy assassination and the murder of Russia’s last Imperial family in 1918, there were no mysteries about the perpetrators or possible survivors respectively to capture the popular imagination. Most significantly, the public has little sense of who Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were as people because they usually appear in the history books just in time for their assassination.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

New books commemorating the centenary of the First World War are bringing Franz Ferdinand and his family out of the shadows. The War That Ended Peace by Margaret Macmillan discusses Franz Ferdinand’s hopes for achieving peace in Europe. His assassination eliminated a key political figure that might have steered Austria-Hungary toward a more moderate course. The most recent biography of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, The Assassination of the Archduke by Greg King and Sue Woolmans presents Franz Ferdinand as a romantic determined to marry Sophie against the wishes of the court and a political visionary, who hoped to recreate the Hapsburg Empire as a federation of equal states, inspired by his travels across North America. The centenary of WWI is  bringing the lives of Franz Ferdinand, Sophie and their children out of the shadows revealing their full historical significance beyond the 1914 assassination.

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Interview about Queen Sofia of Spain and the History of Royal Marriage

Queen Sofia [right] with her daughter-in-law, Felipe VI's consort, Queen Letizia

Queen Sofia [right] with her daughter-in-law, Felipe VI’s consort, Queen Letizia

King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicated yesterday and his son was proclaimed King Felipe VI today. I discussed the popularity of Juan Carlos’s consort, Queen Sofia, and the history of royal marriage with Atlantico this week.

Click here to read “Sofia, dernière reine de l’Histoire : les monarchies ont-elle besoin de mystique ou d’être proches du peuple ?”

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Monday Royal News Roundup: Trooping the Colour, Prince William’s First Father’s Day and Juan Carlos’s title

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh parading down the Mall for the 2014 Trooping the Colour Parade. Photo credit: Chris Jackson?GETTY

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh parading down the Mall for the 2014 Trooping the Colour Parade. Photo credit: Chris Jackson?GETTY

1) The Queen Celebrated Her Official Birthday in the United Kingdom on June 14, 2014 at the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony

The History: In the British Isles, the monarch’s birthday has been a time for public celebrations for centuries. Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) employed a “Fire Master of England” to release fireworks on special royal occasions. The earliest versions of the Trooping the Colour parade date from the reign of King Charles II (r. 1660-1685). Following the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, regiments displayed their flags in a parade, enabling all soldiers to recognize their regimental colours for use as a rallying point in battle. During the reign of King George II (r. 1727-1760), Britain decided to combine the celebration of the sovereign’s official birthday with the Trooping the Colour Parade. In 1901, King Edward VII, whose actual birthday was November 9, decreed that the Trooping the Colour should always take place in June and was the first monarch to review the troops in person at this event. The Queen has attended Trooping the Colour every year of her reign except for 1955, when a railway strike prompted the cancellation of the event.

The celebration of the sovereign’s official birthday varies throughout the Commonwealth. For more on how the Queen’s birthday is celebrated outside the UK, including Victoria Day in Canada see my blog post “Why The Queen’s Annual Birthday Celebrations Take Place On Different Days Around The World”

Prince George and the Duchess of Cambridge at the polo match. Photo credit: Splash news

Prince George and the Duchess of Cambridge at the polo match. Photo credit: Splash news

2) Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge celebrated his first Father’s Day on the polo field. The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George were there to watch the game.

The History: Prince George of Cambridge, who will be one year old next month, made his first public appearance since his April tour of New Zealand and Australia with his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, when he attended a charity polo match on Father’s Day.  George wore red and white striped overalls to the Jerudong Polo Trophy at Cirencester Park Polo Club demonstrating that William and Kate are not constrained by “blue for a boy, pink for girl” stereotypes when dressing their son. George’s overalls are reminiscent of earlier eras when all royal babies were dressed similarly. For example, the generation of European royal babies born in the two decades before the First World War wore white dresses as infants then sailor suits as toddlers.

Prince William enjoys a close relationship with his son, George, and father, Prince Charles. Multiple generations of harmonious father-son relationships are rare in royal history. For centuries, raising an heir often meant raising a rival. The 18th century House of Hanover was notorious for the poor relationships between monarchs and their adult sons but other dynasties also had their share of absentee, resentful or overbearing royal fathers. In contrast, both Charles and William were present in the delivery room when their children were born and have taken an active role in child rearing.

For more on the history of royal fatherhood, see my Father’s Day 2013 column, “A New Kind of Royal Father

Princess Letizia, Prince Felipe, Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos of Spain. Photo credit: Abraham Carralero/Getty

Princess Letizia, Prince Felipe, Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos of Spain. Photo credit: Abraham Carralero/Getty

3) King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain are expected to keep their titles after the installation of the new King Felipe VI on June 19

The History: Following the installation of their son as King Felipe VI, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia are expected to retain the titles of King and Queen. Spain’s government is also taking measures to ensure that Juan Carlos retains some degree of the judicial immunity he enjoyed as King after he abdicates, examining measure to prevent civil suits, such as paternity cases.

Spain has debated the appropriate title for a reigning monarch’s father before. When Juan Carlos became King in 1975, he succeeded the dictator Francisco Franco rather than his father, Infante Juan so the new King had to address the question of his father’s title under a restored Spanish monarchy. Two years after Juan Carlos became King, Juan formally renounced his rights to the throne and received the historic title of Count of Barcelona. Since the Catalan parliament in Barcelona approved a declaration asserting that Catalonia is a sovereign entity last year “Count of Barcelona” would be a controversial title for Juan Carlos in the 21st century.

The Counts of Barcelona were instrumental to the eventual unification of Spain. For more on Barcelona’s royal history, see my blog post, “A History of Barcelona in Three Royal Marriages.”

 

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Friday Royal Read: Hereward by Peter Rex

The Norman Conquest did not end with William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. There was an older vision of England that remained stubbornly persistent in the decade following the coronation of William I in Westminster Abbey. During the reign of King Canute (1016-1035), England was part of a vast Anglo-Scandinavian Empire, ruled by the same monarch as Sweden, Norway and Denmark. There was an Anglo-Danish elite with a vested interest in the connections between Saxon England and Scandinavia rather than a new Norman regime. In Hereward, the late Peter Rex, author of William the Conqueror: The Bastard of Normandy, The English Resistance and Edward the Confessor reconstructs the life and rebellion of Hereward, who led the best known rebellion against William the Conqueror.

Source material for Hereward’s life beyond the revolt on the Isle of Ely in 1071 is fragmentary. The first line of the book is, “While it is not possible to produce a full biography of the Lincolnshire thegn called Hereward, the main threads of his career can be recovered, at least in outline.” Nevertheless, Rex reaches informed conclusions about who Hereward was and who he was not. There is no evidence that  the outlaw known as Hereward was the son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia and the famous Lady Godiva and therefore a descendant of Alfred the Great. There is also no evidence that Hereward had surviving children despite unsubstantiated claims that the Wakes are descendants in the female line and the Harwoods are descendants in the male line.  Rex argues that that Hereward’s patrimony and lineage were inflated by early chroniclers and later novelists to make him seem a more worthy adversary for a King.

Instead, Hereward appears to have been from a comparatively modest gentry family, an Abbot’s nephew who spent time gaining military experience in Flanders before leading his rebellion. The most dramatic chapters of the book concern the rise and breakdown of Hereward’s insurrection. Hereward counted on Danish support to reverse the Norman Conquest and bring back the Anglo-Scandinavian world of his youth Instead, the Danes abandoned him and he held the Island of Ely with the support of northern Earls before a final defeat and flight from the Normans. The struggle between William and Hereward became personal as the outlaw came to personify the Saxon resistence that the Conqueror was determined to crush at all costs.

As a Harwood descendant, I was disappointed to learn from Hereward that I am probably not descended from Hereward “the Wake,” let alone Alfred the Great. There are many questions about William the Conqueror’s best known English adversary that will always remain unanswered. Rex provides the most complete and accurate account of Hereward’s life and rebellion to date and sheds light on a different path that English history could have taken. If the Danes had supported Hereward and his rebellion had been successful, Scandinavia might have shaped England’s political future and language. A lasting Norman Conquest was only one of many possible outcomes in the aftermath of 1066.

Next week: John Buchan: Model Governor General by J. William Galbraith

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