Royalty at Rideau Hall cited in The Making of Women Artists in Victorian England

My chapter in Canada and the Crown: Essays in Constitutional Monarchy entitled “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” has been cited prominently in a new book, The Making of Women Artists in Victorian England: The Education and Careers of Six Professionals by Professor Jo Devereux at the University of Western Ontario.

Princess Louise in Canada, dressed for an Ottawa winter.

Princess Louise in Canada, dressed for an Ottawa winter.

In her analysis of Princess Louise, an accomplished painter and sculptor, Devereux states:

“On July 24, 1878, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli invited the Marquess of Lorne to become Canada’s fourth Governor General, an appointment which, as Carolyn Harris points out, ‘reflected the long-standing personal relationship between Queen Victoria’s family and the newly self governing Dominion.’…Louise and Lorne could be said to embody for Canadians their continuing connection with the British monarchy, a connection that continues today in the style of the numerous royal visits to Canada, in the many regiments in the Canadian military named for Princess Louise, and in the fact that both the province of Alberta and Lake Louise, in Alberta are named for her.”

“The presence of Princess Louise and the Marquess of Lorne, their travels across this large country and their response to Canadian regionalism in the years just after Confederation in many ways helped define the future ceremonial visits to Canada by members of the British royal family that continue to this day. Carolyn Harris suggests that the ‘practice of royal visits encompassing the full range of Canadian geography was another precedent set in the nineteenth century that continues to shape the structure of royal tours of Canada.'”

Princess Louise was the first member of the royal family to visit the province of British Columbia, which will be toured by William and Kate, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte at the end of this month.

Click here to purchase The Making of Women Artists in Victorian England: The Education and Careers of Six Professionals

Click here to purchase Canada and the Crown: Essays in Constitutional Monarchy, which contains my chapter “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown.”

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The Weekend Bookshelf (Georgian Edition): The Trials of the King of Hampshire, The English and The Annotated Pride and Prejudice

Royal History: The Trials of the King of Hampshire: Madness, Secrecy and Betrayal in Georgian England by Elizabeth Foyster. 

The madness of King George III made the mental health of the wealthy and powerful a national concern. The early nineteenth century saw the invention of the tabloid press as the workers who moved to the cities during the industrial revolution created a market for inexpensive broadsheet newspaper. In this cultural climate, the insanity trial of the 3rd Earl of Portsmouth was a public sensation. The Earl was well connected to the leading cultural figures of his time. Jane Austen’s father was his first tutor and Lord Byron was part of his wedding party. Foyster, co-author of The Family in Early Modern England, places the reader in the position of the Lunacy Commission, beginning the book with the insanity trial then presenting the evidence concerning Portsmouth’s sanity over the course of his life.

Portsmouth’s experiences reveal the dark side of the seemingly genteel high society of Georgian England. Although George III’s health increased public awareness of mental illness, those deemed to be “backward” or “mad” were treated badly, confined to public or private madhouses and often treated as shameful family secrets. Portsmouth’s trial seemed to threaten the existing social order as the earl’s servants and labourers on his estate testified that he had the mind of a child, challenging the recollections of members of the aristocracy who did not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary when he appeared at balls. Only when Portsmouth cast his vote as a peer in the House of Lords during the adultery trial of Queen Caroline did he appear “muddled” to members of his own social class as he hesitated and changed his mind over the course of the legal proceedings that became the first royal scandal covered by the tabloid press.

Portsmouth’s story unfolds like a novel, filled with blackmail, abductions, adultery, secret marriages, disputed inheritances and family scandals. Readers will find the book difficult to put down. There’s also a Canadian postscript to the story: Portsmouth’s widow eventually immigrated to Canada and settled in Chatham-Kent where the story of “How the Countess of Portsmouth came to Chatham” remains a fixture of haunted walks in his Ontario town. *****

 History: The English: A Social History, 1066–1945 by Christopher Hibbert

I bought The English: A Social History in a second hand bookstore last month, having read and enjoyed Queen Victoria: A Personal History and Napoleon: His Wives and Women by Christopher Hibbert. The English: A Social History is a denser book, filled with details of how English people of all social classes lived their lives from the Norman Conquest of 1066 until The Second World War. The book is divided into four parts: the middle ages, Tudor and Early Stuart times, the Restoration and Eighteenth Century, and Victorian and Modern Times with chapters in each section addressing a single theme. Hibbert uses both documentary and literary sources to illuminate daily life in past centuries but is sometimes too reliant on a single set of texts for a particular theme. (The daily lives of medieval women are summarized through analysis of the Paston letters from the Wars of the Roses alone). The strongest section of the book covers the Restoration and Georgian times as Hibbert captures the sense of England in transition, rapidly becoming more urbanized, populous and connected to the rest of the world. A thorough and readable examination of social change in English history. ***
 Literature: The Annotated Pride and Prejudice: A Revised and Expanded Edition by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard

When Jane Austen’s famous novel Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, her readers recognized the social constraints that governed the lives of the characters. There was no need to explain why Mr. Bennet had to visit Mr. Bingley before his wife and daughters could be introduced to him or why Lydia Bennet had the power to undermine her sisters’ marriage prospects through her scandalous conduct.  Shapard’s annotations are filled with interesting details about regency society that bring this context alive for the modern reader. What was the purchasing power of Mr. Bingley’s 5,000 pounds per year? (£150,000 to £200,000 in modern income but goods were more expensive and hiring servants was more affordable). Why is Mr. Collins so grateful for the “condescension” of his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh. (Only 30% of early nineteenth century clergymen received a living within five years of ordination and half spent their lives as poorly paid curates). Why did the Gardiners leave their children in London when they spent Christmas with the Bennets? (Christmas would not be a family celebration centred on the children until Victorian times). The Annotated Pride and Prejudice is an excellent guide to all things regency that will fascinate anyone interested in Jane Austen and Georgian England.  *****

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Upcoming Guest Lecture: The Future of the Monarchy and the Global Commonwealth, September 16, Kingston Later Life Learning

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in Canada in 2010

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in Canada in 2010

I will be giving a talk about The Future of the Monarchy and the Global Commonwealth for Later Life Learning in Kingston, Ontario on September 16, 2016 at 10am.

The talk will be followed by a sale and signing of my book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada.

Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Click here to purchase my book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada

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CBC Radio Yukon Interview: Royal Visits and Local Politics

Princess Alexandra opens the MacBride Museum of Yukon History in Whitehorse during her 1967 Canadian centennial tour

Princess Alexandra opens the MacBride Museum of Yukon History in Whitehorse in 1967

William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit the Yukon as part of their Canadian tour in September-October, 2016. (Click here to see their itinerary). I discussed the royal tour with Dave White at CBC Radio Yukon this afternoon, including parallels to Princess Alexandra’s 1967 Yukon tour, royal visits to Canada delayed because of election campaigns and the forthcoming publication of my 3rd book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting.

Click here to listen to my interview with CBC Radio Yukon

Click here to pre-order my latest book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

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The Weekend Bookshelf: The Tudor Brandons, Ivan’s War and Water for Elephants

 Royal History: The Tudor Brandons: Mary And Charles – Henry VIII’s Nearest & Dearest by Sarah-Beth Watkins by Sarah-Beth Watkins.

When Michael Hirst wrote the screenplay for the Showtimes series, The Tudors, he was fascinated by King Henry VIII’s lifelong friend and brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Hirst wrote in The Tudors: Its’ Good to Be King, “Charles Brandon, was, perhaps, the only man in all of England to successfully retain Henry’s affection over a span of forty years.” Over the course of his reign, Henry remained close to Charles even though his friend committed the transgression of marrying the King’s widowed sister Mary without permission. Charles remained in favour even as Henry ordered the executions of formerly trusted advisers, Thomas More then Thomas Cromwell and queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Hirst made Charles a prominent character in The Tudors, giving the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk their most notable appearance in popular culture since the 1950s Walt Disney film, The Sword and the Rose.

Watkins, author of Lady Katherine Knollys, The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII, provides a short, readable biography of Charles and Mary in The Tudor Brandons. At the centre of the couple’s story is their elopement in 1515. Mary was the widow of King Louis XII of France and she married Charles Brandon to avoid being compelled to make another dynastic marriage. There would not be another instance of an English princess marrying a subject until Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise married John Campbell, Lord Lorne in 1871. Watkins provides a thoughtful analysis of the circumstances surrounding the controversial royal wedding including reasons why Henry VIII was inclined to forgive the match and the implicit challenge to his authority.

The Tudor Brandons also includes Brandon’s family history (he descended from a long line of opportunists who were often on the wrong side of the law) and Mary’s continued role in Anglo-French relations including her presence at the Field of the Cloth of Gold summit between Henry VIII and Francis I. Mary also exerted a cultural influence at court, shaping trends in fashion and country house gardens in addition to popularizing picnic suppers for the elite. Charles and Mary’s granddaughter Lady Jane Grey, the nine days queen, became a significant figure in later Tudor history and the family remains a part of popular culture today (For another biography of Henry VIII’s younger sister, see Mary Rose by David Loades). ***

History: Ivan’s War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945

There have been numerous books written about the experiences of the British “Tommy” or German “Fritz” fighting on the front lines of the Second World War. In Ivan’s War, Catherine Merridale, author of Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin, examines the daily life of “Ivan,” the Soviet soldier in what became known in Russia as The Great Patriotic War. Merridale provides the details of daily life at the front. In the early days of the war, adequate training (not to mention regular rations) were in short supply. Unless soldiers brought their own socks, they spent the war marching in one size fits all foot wrappers. There was no standardized system of leave and military service therefore meant long separations from families who also suffered hardships during the war.

In addition to reconstructing the daily lives of soviet soldiers during the Second World War, Merridale examines broader questions about the motives and worldviews prevalent within the Red Army. What motivated individual soldiers to keep fighting under such harsh conditions? What were the differences in perspective between older people, who might have had military experience from the First World War and the reign of Nicholas II and younger people, who had never known any other political system than the Soviet regime? How were women and religious majorities perceived? What were the factors that contributed to the atrocities committed by the Red Army in Romania, Hungary and East Prussia? Merridale concludes with a thoughtful analysis of the lasting impact of the wartime experience and includes the perceptions of the surviving veterans. ****

 Historical Fiction: Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen.

When veterinary student Jacob Jankowski loses his parents in a car accident, he leaves Cornell university and runs away with a 2nd tier traveling circus during the depression. The book was adapted into an Academy Award Winning film, Water for Elephants, starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.  In the novel, Jacob is ninety – or perhaps ninety-three, he can’t quite remember – looking back on his youth at the circus from his retirement residence. There’s a realism to his old age but his past unfolds like a fairy tale where the heroine is a elephant named Rosie.

Gruen based the novel on a series of true events that took place in Depression era American circuses and the setting is compelling, filled with intrigues on trains between small towns and tensions between performers and roustabouts. The characters have rather one dimensional personalities, however, and the ending is unconvincing. For circus themed historical fiction with more compelling characters, I recommend The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin or Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss. ***

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Canadian Itinerary for Fall 2016

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Ottawa for Canada Day in 2011

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Ottawa for Canada Day in 2011

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s itinerary for their fall 2016 visit to Canada was announced today. They will tour British Columbia and the Yukon from September 24 until October 1. Here is the itinerary:

  • September 24: Victoria
  • September 25: Vancouver
  • September 26: Bella Bella and Great Bear Rainforest, B.C.
  • September 27: Kelowna, B.C. and then to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon
  • September 28: Whitehorse and Carcross, Yukon
  • September 29: Victoria
  • September 30: Haida Gwaii, B.C.
  • October 1: Victoria

I discussed the possibility of Prince George and Princess Charlotte accompanying their parents on the tour for CBC News Toronto this evening. Here’s the interview (around 26 minutes into the hour). The interview also appeared on The National.

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The Weekend Bookshelf: Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, The Luminaries and How to Be a Victorian

Royal History: Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance by Amy Licence When King Edward IV of England announced to his council in 1464 that he had secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, his advisers responded “she was not, all things considered, a suitable wife for him, nor a woman of the kind who ought to belong to such a prince.” Elizabeth was not the wealthy foreign princess expected to become queen but the widow of a knight as well as the mother of two young sons. The unlikely royal romance has become part of popular culture, inspiring Philippa Gregory’s novel, The White Queen and a TV series of the same name.

Licence, author of Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen and Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Tudor Queen examines the marriage of Edward and Elizabeth and the culture of their court. The book stands out for its careful examination of the reputations of the King and Queen. Edward IV’s younger brother, Richard III, claimed the throne on the grounds that Edward and Elizabeth’s children were illegitimate. Edward’s reputation as a womanizer and Elizabeth’s image as a schemer suited Richard’s purposes and continue to appear in popular biographies and historical fiction to the present day. Licence examines Edward and Elizabeth within the context of their times, attempting to separate the surviving evidence from Edward IV’s reign from later speculation about the characters of the controversial King and Queen. ***

History: How To Be a Victorian: A Dawn to Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman Histories of the Victorian era often focus on the lives of the wealthy and powerful. Goodman is interested in the daily routines of ordinary people in nineteenth century England from the city clerks (whose offices were only heated to 10 degrees in the winter, if at all, necessitating heavier business suits than those worn today) to the farm labourers (who ate better meals in the north where potatoes and oatmeal were widely available than in the south where bread was the staple food). The book is structured as a day in the life for the average Victorian, from stepping out of bed onto a tiny homemade rug made from woven rags to washing dishes by gaslight after the evening meal.

Goodman is uniquely placed to explain daily life in the nineteenth century as she starred in the the BBC historical documentary series, Victorian Farm. Goodman combines diaries, letters and advertisements from the Victorian era with her own experiences doing laundry with a hand cranked washing machine, keeping clean with a pitcher and basin, going to the seaside in a voluminous nineteenth century bathing suit and wearing a corset for months at a time. How To Be a Victorian is a treasure trove of fascinating details about an era that still influences the structure of daily life today. ****

 Historical Fiction: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton In Catton’s novel (winner of the Man Booker prize and Governor General’s Literary Award), a series of unexplained events occur near the New Zealand goldfields in 1866. An enormous fortune appears in the cabin of an intoxicated hermit, one of the wealthiest prospectors disappears and a “camp follower” appears to have attempted suicide. Newcomer Walter Moody stumbles upon a meeting of twelve men at a local hotel determined to get the bottom of these mysteries and he becomes involved in the investigation. The Luminaries includes the classic structure and plot elements of nineteenth century novels. Chapters have headings like “In which Harald Nilssen reneges on a contract; the holy book; Cowell Devlin is confounded; and George Shepard forms a plan.” Characters hold seances, struggle with opium addiction, attempt to hide family secrets and seek their fortunes. Over the course of eight hundred pages, details emerge connecting the characters one another – and the wider mystery – in unexpected ways within a broader astrological framework. The perfect book for a long train journey. ****

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“Richard III: Monstrous or Misunderstood?” begins October 4, 2016

The earliest surviving portrait of King Richard III

The earliest surviving portrait of King Richard III

My eight week evening course about the life and legacy of King Richard III is open for enrollment at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies. All are welcome. Click here for more information and to register.

The discovery in 2012 of the remains of Richard III underneath a parking lot in Leicester revived a centuries-old debate. Is he one of history’s greatest villains or the victim of Tudor propaganda? We will look at the bloody upheaval of the Wars of the Roses, including the famous disappearance of his nephews, the young Princes in the Tower. Was Richard the scheming villain of Shakespeare’s play or the misunderstood king who is the hero of modern novels by writers like Josephine Tey and Philippa Gregory? Join us to study a fascinating example of what may happen to leaders’ reputations once they’re dead.

Registration information is available here from the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies.

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CBC News Interview: Will Prince George and Princess Charlotte come to Canada? The pressures of taking the royal children on a trip

The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George arrive in Sydney. Photo credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George arrive in Sydney. Photo credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

While I was on vacation this past week, CBC news published my interview about royal children and royal tours. Since the article was posted on Sunday, there have been reports that William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will bring their two children Prince George and Princess Charlotte on their official tour of Canada next month. My interview discusses the history of royal children on Commonwealth tours and the impact of the presence of royal children on popular attitudes toward the monarchy.

Click here to read: Will Prince George and Princess Charlotte come to Canada? The pressures of taking the royal children on a trip

My book on royal parenting, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting will be published by Dundurn Press in 2017. 

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Yahoo News Interview: Prince George wants Prince George and Royal Family to visit

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son, Prince George at Kensington Palace in 2014

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son, Prince George at Kensington Palace in 2014

I discussed the upcoming royal tour of Canada with Yahoo News. The city of Prince George, British Columbia is eager to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son, Prince George. In the interview, I discuss how the interests of the royal couple may be incorporated into the fall 2016 tour. When William and Kate visited Prince Edward Island during their 2011 tour, there was speculation that the Duchess’s love of the novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery shaped the itinerary.

Click here to read “Prince George wants Prince George and Royal Family to visit”

Click here to read my 2011 Globe and Mail column “The Royal Consort’s Royal Request” about the Duchess of Cambridge and Anne of Green Gables 

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