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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.