I will be delivering a guest lecture about the Queen in Canada on June 21 at 2pm at the Don Mills Public Library in Toronto.
Buckingham Palace announced this week that the Prince of Wales will represent his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this fall in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Queen is committed to her role as Head of the Commonwealth and has attended every one of these biennial meetings since 1971. The decision to send the Prince of Wales to Sri Lanka as the Queen’s representative in 2013 demonstrates that the 87 year old monarch is gradually reducing her overseas travel. In 2012, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh toured the United Kingdom in honour of the Diamond Jubilee while their children and grandchildren visited all the commonwealth realms to mark the occasion. The Prince of Wales’s representation of the Queen at the 2013 CHOGM is part of the broader pattern. Click here for my interview with Janet Davison of CBC about the significance of the Prince of Wales attending CHOGM on the Queen’s behalf.
The Prince of Wales’s visit to Sri Lanka is also an example of the Queen carefully preparing her heir, and public opinion in both the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms, for a seamless transition between this reign and the next one. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother lived to age of 101 and there is no reason to believe that the current Queen will not continue to reign for years to come but there is evidence that the Prince of Wales’s public role will continue to expand in the coming years in anticipation of his eventual ascension to the throne.
Prince Charles has participated in a number of high profile public engagements and commonwealth tours in 2012 and 2013. The role of Head of the Commonwealth is not hereditary. The Prince’s successful Diamond Jubilee tours of Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 2012 and attendance at CHOGM in 2013 affirm his commitment to eventually assuming this role and increase the likelihood that the Commonwealth Heads of Government will choose him as Elizabeth II’s successor as Head of the Commonwealth
Today, May 8, the Prince of Wales accompanied the Queen to the State Opening of Parliament at Westminster with the Duchess of Cornwall, the first time he has attended this event in 17 years. While the attendance of the Prince and Princess of Wales at State Openings of Parliament in the 1980s received public attention because of Diana’s fashions, the 2013 event showcases Charles in his role as future King.
Although Prince Charles’s reputation has improved considerably in recent years with greater public interest in his philanthropic and environment initiatives, successive opinion polls demonstrate that his mother, the Queen, and his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry remain more popular with the general public in both the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. The Prince of Wales’s second marriage to the former Camilla Parker-Bowles, his willingness to express his political opinions publicly and his increasing age have all prompted concerns about his suitability to become King. Prince Charles’s presence at high profile events such as the 2013 CHOGM and the State Opening of Parliament are all opportunities to demonstrate to the public that he has the experience and stature to serve as Head of State for sixteen nations in the twenty-first century.
As a young Princess, the current Queen experienced a similar “apprenticeship” from her father, King George VI that showcased her ability to effectively reign as a constitutional monarch through public engagements, wartime service and commonwealth tours. As Prince William explained to Robert Hardman in the 2011 book, Our Queen, “Back then there was a different attitude toward women. Being a young lady at twenty-five – and stepping into a job which many men thought they could probably do better – it must have been very daunting. And I think there was extra pressure for her to perform.”
George VI ensured that his elder daughter had the necessary training to overcome any skepticism about her ability to fulfill her constitutional role. Beginning in 1939, the thirteen year old Princess studied the history and structure of the British political system with Henry Marten, the Vice Provost of Eton College. During the final year of the Second World War, Elizabeth served at the Mechanical Transport Training Centre run by the Auxiliary Transport Service.
Princess Elizabeth completed her first commonwealth tour with the King and Queen in South Africa in 1947 then represented her father in Canada in 1951 and Kenya in 1952. If King George VI had not died in 1952 at the comparatively young age of fifty-six, this period of apprenticeship would have continued for decades in the manner of the current Prince of Wales’s preparation for his eventual ascension.
The Prince of Wales’s attendance at the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as the Queen’s representative is part of a broader program of public events that present him to the public in his role as future King. Charles’s recent Diamond Jubilee Commonwealth Tours and presence at the 2013 State Opening of Parliament all demonstrate that he has been carefully prepared for the role of future monarch and that the Queen is planning for a seamless transition between her reign and that of her eldest son.
At the age of only twenty-eight, Prince Henry “Harry” of Wales, the younger son of the Prince of Wales and the late Diana, Princess of Wales has experienced a remarkable series of transformations in the popular imagination. At the age of twelve, he was the focus of public sympathy along his elder brother William as the two Princes walked behind their mother’s coffin to her funeral at Westminster Abbey. By the time he reached his gap year between Eton and Sandhurst, however, Harry was chastised in the press for his poor judgement compared to his seemingly more responsible brother. From his experimentation with marijuana to his inappropriate choice of Hallowe’en costume, Harry seemed to be a “party prince” alone without understanding of his responsibilities as a member of the royal family.
Harry’s reputation changed once more in recent years when he completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan and represented the queen on a highly successful trip to Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Brazil. The Prince also served as an Olympic ambassador, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh by promoting youth athletics. As Harry undertook royal duties, charitable work and active military service, even his “party prince” moments, such as his notorious game of strip billiards in Las Vegas, were treated indulgently by the public. In Harry: The People’s Prince, Chris Hutchins, author of Diana’s Nightmare – The Family and Fergie Confidential explains how the military was making of Harry, transforming him from Party Prince to People’s Prince.
The sections of Harry: The People’s Prince concerning Harry’s military service are the strongest chapters of the book. Hutchins combines the Prince’s extensive and occasionally controversial interviews about Afghanistan with quotes from his fellow soldiers and royal observers, giving a sense of Harry’s commitment to his military duties and daily life during his tours of duty. Hutchins also discusses Harry’s relationship with Chelsy Davy in more detail than previous works, revealing the full extent of her influence over key years in Harry’s life. Chelsy even edited Harry’s best man speech at Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011, removing jokes that might offend the Queen.
Unfortunately, these informative, interesting chapters do not appear until the second half of the book. In the same manner as Penny Junor in her recent biography of Prince William, Hutchins devotes far too much space to the breakdown of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales. These marital difficulties have been analyzed extensively in other works and Hutchins contributes little to the reader’s understanding of his subject by reexamining them in minute detail in Harry: The People’s Prince.
Hutchins also omits vital historical context that is essential to understanding Harry’s military service and place in the royal family. The author focuses on the Prince’s admiration for military figures that he encountered during his childhood, such as Diana’s lover, James Hewitt (who was certainly not Harry’s father), with only passing mentions of Harry’s interest in “Granny’s soldiers.” The centuries old tradition of military service in the royal family would have as much if not more influence on Harry’s decision to attend Sandhurst than his childhood role models.
British monarchs led troops into battle until the mid eighteenth century and military service has long been accepted avenue for channeling the energies of a “party prince.” Readers of Harry: The People’s Prince should also read a work about royalty at war, such as Charles Carlton’s Royal Warriors: A Military History of the British Monarchy, to get a better sense of Harry’s place in the long tradition of royalty in the military.
The conclusion to Harry: The People’s Prince also displays an absence of historical context. Hutchins argues that the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child in July, 2013 will allow Harry the freedom to move to Africa, devote his energies to his Lesotho charity, Sentebale, and possibly rekindle his relationship with Chelsy Davy. The arrival of a niece or nephew certainly reduces the chances that Harry will one day become King, in the manner of other famous royal second sons such as Henry VIII, Charles I, George V or George VI.
The experiences of other younger royal children in recent decades, however, demonstrates that a lower place in line of succession does not result in freedom from royal duty. Princess Margaret faced pressure to end her relationship with the divorced Peter Townsend even after the births of her nephew and niece, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. All four of Queen Elizabeth II’s children perform extensive royal engagements both within the United Kingdom and throughout the commonwealth.
Harry’s very popularity may preclude a life of comparative obscurity abroad. Queen Elizabeth II, the Prince of Wales and Prince William will need “The People’s Prince” to continue his rapport with the public throughout all sixteen commonwealth realms. Harry: The People’s Prince is an interesting biography of a popular prince that would be improved by greater historical context for his military exploits and future, and less attention to the well known story of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ divorce.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are currently in Australia as part of a two week tour of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. This tour marks the Duchess of Cornwall’s first visit to these countries but Prince Charles has a long history of involvement in the region. In 1966, he spent two terms at Geelong Grammar School in Australia as an exchange student from the Gordonstoun School in Scotland. As part of his studies, the Prince traveled to Papua New Guinea with his history tutor to learn about the history and culture of this unique commonwealth realm. The Diamond Jubilee tour therefore celebrates the Prince’s decades of interest and involvement in the region as well as the Queen’s 60 year reign.
The three commonwealth realms on the royal couple’s itinerary may share Queen Elizabeth II as head of state but they have distinct systems of constitutional monarchy. Popular perceptions of the royal family and royal tours, both in previous decades and today, also differ amongst Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.
In Papua New Guinea, there is widespread popular admiration for “Misis Kwin” as Elizabeth II is known in the local creole language, Tok Pisin. Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia in 1975 but retained the Queen as its Head of State. In contrast to the other commonwealth realms, where the Queen’s representative, the Governor General, is nominated by the Prime Minister, the parliament of Papua New Guinea elects the nominee for Her Majesty’s approval. This collaborative system for selecting the Governor General undoubtedly contributes to the monarchy’s popularity.
The Duke of Edinburgh, known in Tok Pisin as “oldfella Pili-Pili him bilong Misis Kwin” visited the island as part of an extensive commonwealth tour of the region in 1956-1957 that included opening the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. The Queen’s most extensive visit to Papua New Guinea occurred during her Silver Jubilee tour in 1977 when she visited the capital, Port Moresby, Popondetta and Alotau.
In common with Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, commonwealth realms visited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this year, Papua New Guinea experienced fewer royal visits after the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall’s visit this week has been greeted by cheering crowds and the Prince’s decision to introduce himself in the local language as the “nambawan pikinini bilong Misis Kwin” (The number one child belonging to Mrs Queen) endeared him to the people of Papua New Guinea.
The history of popular perceptions of the monarchy in Australia is more complicated, encompassing both extreme enthusiasm for the royal family and republican sentiment. The first royal tour of Australia, by Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1868, was marked by the first political assassination attempt in Australian history. The Prince was shot and wounded in the back by Irish-Australian law clerk Henry James O’Farrell necessitating a two week hospital stay before his departure.
Mishaps also occurred during royal tours of Australia in the 20th century. When the future Edward VIII visited in 1920 to thank Australians on behalf of his father, King George V, for their contributions to the First World War, his railway carriage overturned. The Prince was unhurt and made light of the incident, calling it a The Prince was unhurt and made light of the incident, calling it a ‘harmless little railway accident.’ More serious injuries occurred in Melbourne in 1954, when the enormous crowd that gathered to greet Elizabeth II on her first visit to Australia broke through police barricades. According to the Adelaide newspaper, “The Advertiser,” “Screaming women added to the tumult and some who were trampled on had to be treated by St. John Ambulance Officers.”
More recently, Australia has debated changing its government from a constitutional monarchy to a Republic. In 1999, a referendum proposing that Australia cut ties with the monarchy was defeated by 55% of the popular vote. At the time, Republican sentiment was divided by whether the Governor General would be replaced by a President nominated by the Prime Minister or by popular vote. A 2011 poll, however, revealed that support for constitutional change is the lowest it has been for twenty years. Of those surveyed, only 34% were pro-republic as opposed to 55% pro-monarchy, suggesting that the monarchy’s popularity has increased in the twenty-first century.
Queen Elizabeth II’s role as Head of State has been much less controversial in New Zealand. The existence of the modern state of New Zealand dates from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 when over 400 Maori chiefs granted Queen Victoria sovereignty over what is now New Zealand in exchange for recognition of their land rights and receiving the status of British subjects. The Crown is therefore integral to the history of the modern state, particularly the property rights of the Maori people. Royal visits to New Zealand have been well received in the past. The Queen has visited on ten occasions and has included words of the Maori language in her speeches at Maori welcoming ceremonies, reaffirming the historic relationship between the crown and New Zealand’s first peoples.
Prince Charles’s Diamond Jubilee tour of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand encompasses three distinct constitutional monarchies that share Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. The monarchy has been embraced as part of the national character of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand and royal visits there have traditionally been well received. Australia has gone through periods of republican sentiment and popular reactions to royal tours have ranged from an 1868 assassination attempt to a 1954 stampede by thousands of enthusiastic Australians. Recent polling data suggests that Australians are once again embracing the constitutional monarchy and will provide a warm welcome for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.
Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent is currently in Uganda where he will celebrate two jubilees on October 9. The Duke’s visit to Uganda is part of the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which has seen members of the royal family travel to all commonwealth nations to mark the monarch’s sixty year reign. For Uganda, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of full independence from the United Kingdom, the nation’s Golden Jubilee. The Duke of Kent represented the Queen at the independence ceremonies in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, in 1962 and his presence represents the continuity of his interest in this African nation. October 9 is also the Duke’s birthday. The Duke’s busy schedule of royal engagements and tours also demonstrates the importance of the Queen’s extended family to her relationship with the global commonwealth.
Following the death of Queen Victoria and the ascension of Edward VII in 1901, the number of members of the royal family performing official duties began to contract. Queen Alexandra assumed charitable patronages previously held by Edward’s sisters, Princesses Helena, Louise and Beatrice. In an era when overseas royal visits were rare, a smaller royal family appeared to suit public needs.
The process of streamlining the royal family was formalized in 1917 when King George V decreed that only children or male line grandchildren would be Princes or Princesses addressed as His or Her Royal Highness. The German royal titles of many members of the King’s extended family were abolished and replaced with titles that placed them within the English aristocracy. For the younger children and grandchildren of Queen Victoria resident in the United Kingdom, the reigns of George V and George VI marked their gradual withdrawal from royal engagements and life in the public eye.
By the time Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952, the public role of the royal family had expanded to encompass frequent personal visits to the Commonwealth, which expanded rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s as the decolonization of the former British Empire accelerated. The new Queen took her role as Head of the Commonwealth seriously and was determined to increase the royal family’s personal relationship with this global group of nations. To achieve this goal, the Queen reversed the streamlining of the royal family enacted by her predecessors and actively involved her royal first cousins, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra, Prince Michael of Kent and Richard, the present Duke of Gloucester in public engagements and tours.
Queen Elizabeth’s ascension therefore marked the beginning of Edward’s long career of public service. The sixteen year old Duke, who had inherited the title on the death of his father Prince George, (younger brother of Edward VIII and George VI), in an airplane crash in 1942, walked behind George VI’s coffin and swore allegiance to Elizabeth II at her coronation. Following his graduation from Eton, Edward enrolled at Sandhurst, the beginning of a long military career that included a tour in Hong Kong and command of a squadron serving in Cyprus as part of a United Nations force in 1970. Following his retirement from the military in 1976, Edward assumed the role of Vice Chairman of British Trade International, a position he held until 2001.
Although Edward’s 1961 wedding to Katharine Worsley, at York Minster cathedral, which had not been the setting of a royal wedding since the Middle Ages, had raised his public profile in the United Kingdom, Edward was not well known internationally until he represented the Queen at a series of independence ceremonies for new commonwealth nations including Sierra Leone, Uganda, Guyana and The Gambia. As royal historian Hugo Vickers has recently written, Uganda’s first executive Prime Minister Milton Obote did not consider the Duke of Kent to be a sufficiently senior member of the royal family to represent the Queen when Uganda formalized its independence, describing Edward as “a young man and totally unknown in Uganda.”
Despite the skepticism that greeted his arrival in Uganda for the independence celebrations, the Duke received popular acclaim for his speech, which expressed his admiration for the Ugandan people and hopes for the newly independent nation. Edward stated, “This lovely country which is your home was once aptly described as “a fairy tale” – a description given to it by one of the greatest men of our time, Sir Winston Churchill, who came to Uganda nearly sixty years ago. In Uganda, he continued, “There is discipline, there is industry, there is peace”. And, “From end to end, it is one beautiful garden.”
It was a well-deserved tribute, as my wife and I have been able to see for ourselves; it is now in your hands to preserve this good repute; to ensure that your country’s name is respected by other nations, not only in the vast Continent of Africa but throughout the world, and to build it into a nation that is envied everywhere for its stability, and for its happiness.” The full text of the Duke of Kent’s 1962 speech is available here.
Sadly, the people of Uganda experienced little stability or happiness during the first fifty years following independence. Obote was deposed in 1971 and replaced by the military dictator Idi Amin, whose eight year reign of terror resulted in the mass killings of 300,000 Ugandans. More recently, the civil war between the Ugandan government and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistence Army, which is notorious for the use of child soldiers, has killed thousands and displaced millions. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of independence, many Ugandans have expressed disappointment in the current state of the country.
The combined celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Uganda’s Golden Jubilee provides an opportunity for Uganda to begin a new chapter in its history. The stability and happiness predicted by the Duke of Kent in 1962 may finally occur in the twenty-first century as Uganda gradually rebuilds after decades of warfare. The Duke of Kent’s presence for the fiftieth anniversary of Ugandan independence represents the continuity of the monarchy’s relationship with this troubled commonwealth nation and the royal family’s hopes that the next fifty years will bring more stability and happiness to Uganda.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex began their 2012 Toronto engagements this evening with a visit to the Toronto International Film Festival. The Countess of Wessex attended a Diamond Jubilee medal presentation and TIFF reception at the Lieutenant Governor’s
Suite in Queen’s Park, the legislative building for the province of Ontario at 6pm. Canadian Filmmaker Atom Egoyan, and Festival Directors Piers Handling and Michèle Maheux each received the medal for their contributions to Canadian arts and culture. At 9pm, the Countess will attend a screening of Rebelle, by Canadian director Kim Nguyen at the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre.
Rebelle is a drama about Komona, a twelve year old girl forced to become a child soldier in the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo and her attempts to overcome her tragic circumstances. Lead actress Rachel Mwanza received a Best Actress Prize at the Berlin Film Festival and the most non- professional cast has been praised by critics for their authentic performances. The Earl and Countess of Wessex both have a strong interest in the welfare of children worldwide. In 1999, they founded the Wessex youth trust, which provides funding for organizations that help children in need. The choice of film reflects the couple’s interest in improving the lives of young people.
The Toronto International Film Festival has seen royalty on the red carpet on previous occasions. In 2009, Sarah, Duchess of York and her daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie attended the premiere of The Young Victoria at Royal Thompson Hall. The Duchess of York co-produced the film with Martin Scorsese and Princess Beatrice had a prominent cameo as one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting. During their visit to Toronto, the Princesses took the opportunity to shop and see the sights incognito, visiting the Yorkville Club Monaco and the Royal Ontario Museum.
The Earl of Wessex has a longstanding interest in film and the theatre. Instead of pursuing a military career like his elder brothers Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, Prince Edward pursued jobs in the arts. In 1988, he joined Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group as a production assistant.
Edward’s work inspired a personal visit to Toronto in 1989, when the Prince attended the premiere of the Phantom of the Opera. After working for another theatre company, Theatre Division, Edward founded his own television production company, Ardent Productions, in 1993. Ardent produced a broad range of programs, most notably documentaries about King Edward VIII and the restoration of Windsor Castle after the 1992 fire, but experienced financial difficulties. Both the Earl and Countess began a full schedule of royal duties with the Golden Jubilee in 2002 but the couple’s artistic interests continue to influence the itineraries of their official, working and personal visits.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex will attend further engagements in Toronto on Monday, September 17. They will accompany Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley to a 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games briefing in the morning. The Earl has a strong interest in youth athletics through his patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh Award program and this briefing is an opportunity for the royal couple to engage with planning of the 2015 Games in Toronto.
In the afternoon, the Earl will preside over a Duke of Edinburgh Community Showcase & Gold Award Ceremony while the Countess visits with Roots of Empathy, a charity that focuses on reducing bullying in the classroom. The Earl and Countess of Wessex’s visit to the Toronto International Film Festival is the start of a busy program of events in Toronto that reflect the royal couple’s artistic interests and charitable patronages.
I will be speaking with ABC Radio Australia on September 14 at 8am EST to discuss the Duchess of Cambridge’s upcoming meeting with women’s groups in the Solomon Islands. The interview will be broadcast on Monday. Click here to listen online.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex arrived in Iqaluit, the capital of the territory of Nunavut last night on the second stop of their week long working visit to Canada. Although Prince Edward has visited Canada on thirty-two previous occasions, and is the only member of the royal family apart from the Queen to have a Canadian Private Secretary, 2012 marks his first visit to Nunavut. According to Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak, the territory was the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s first choice of destination on their 2012 working visit.
The royal couple have a full itinerary of events during their time in Nunavut. The program began this morning at 10:30am with a ceremony at the Nunavut legislative building to honour sixteen long serving members and employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Earl of Wessex is Honorary Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP and takes a close interest in the organization. Five of the honourees will receive Diamond Jubilee medals. After a lunch given by The Honourable Edna Ekhivalak Elias, the Commissioner of Nunavut, at her Residence, the Earl and Countess will attend a service of dedication at St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral.
The site of the original St. Jude’s cathedral was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II during her 1970 tour of the Canadian arctic. The unique building, designed to resemble an igloo, was severely damaged by fire in 2006 and has recently been rebuilt. The presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex at the dedication of the new building continues to the royal connection to the seat of the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic. At 5:30pm, the royal couple will attend a reception for community leaders and volunteers at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangiit museum with Commissioner Elias. The museum is housed in an old Hudson Bay Company Warehouse and contains exhibitions of Inuit sculpture, prints and artifacts.
The people of Iqaluit will have the opportunity to meet the Earl and Countess of Wessex at a community feast this evening at at St. Jude’s Anglican Parish Hall. The Hall was the setting of Anglican religious services after the destruction of the original St. Jude’s cathedral and still serves as a community centre. After spending the night in Iqaluit, the Earl and Countess will visit the nursing program at Nunavut Arctic College before returning to Ontario for the remainder of their visit. The college was founded in 1968 as an Adult Vocational Training Centre by the government of the Northwest Territories and became Nunavut Arctic College when Nunavut became a separate territory in 1999. The nursing program operates in a partnership with Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Royal visits to Canada’s territories are not only an opportunity for the Queen and her family to engage with the people and institutions of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut but are politically significant as direct evidence of Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic. During the Cold War, Canada’s territories were strategically significant because of their proximity to both the United States and the Soviet Union.
Queen Elizabeth II’s 1970 tour of the Arctic was a direct statement of Canadian sovereignty over the region during a period when the United States was questioning Canada’s ability to effectively populate and defend its northern territories. Instead of only visiting the territorial capital cities of Whitehorse and Yellowknife, as she had done during her 1959 cross Canada tour, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne traveled north of the Arctic Circle to what are now the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Her presence symbolized Canada’s authority over these regions.
In the twenty-first century, Canada is once again facing challenges to its sovereignty over the Arctic. As global temperatures rise, the Northwest Passage through the islands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is increasingly accessible to sea going vessels. Canada claims the Northwest Passage as part of its internal waters according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The other Arctic Nations, most notably the United States, argue that the Northwest Passage is part of international waters and cannot be closed to shipping traffic by the Canadian government.
As these debates unfold, royal visits to the Arctic territories continue to reinforce Canada’s sovereignty over the region. The presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex in Iqaluit had broader political significance in addition to the royal couple’s personal engagement with the people and institutions of Nunavut.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their nine day Diamond Jubilee tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands today with a visit to Singapore Botanical Gardens. William and Catherine admired an orchid named for Diana, Princess of Wales, which she had intended to view herself at the time of her death in 1997. To commemorate their visit, the royal couple were presented with a special white and purple hybrid orchid named the Vanda William Catherine in honour of their marriage. The Diana and William Catherine orchids join the dozens of flowers, and a few vegetables, named in honour of royal occasions.
William’s great-great-great-grandfather, King Edward VII achieved immortality in the garden through the development of the King Edward potato, one of the oldest varieties still in cultivation today. Following the disastrous blight that precipitated the Irish potato famine in 1840s, attempts were made to develop more disease resistant varieties. In 1902, John Butler of Scotter, Lincolnshire derived a white skinned, pink coloured potato from the Rough Purple Chili potato that predominated in nineteenth century Ireland. The new potato was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1902, the year of King Edward VII’s coronation. Butler therefore named his new spud, “The King Edward potato” in honour of this royal occasion. This hardy vegetable was a staple of British diets during the food rationing of the Second World War and is now considered one of the best potatoes for making gnocchi.
The 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is not the first royal wedding to inspire a new kind of flower. When the future King Edward VII’s brother, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh married Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia in 1874, florists George Jackman & Son developed a new flower, which they named the “Duchess of Edinburgh” clematis in honour of the bride. The most spectacular modern display of these royal flowers is in the white garden at Sissinghurst Castle, designed by Vita Sackville West.
Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret Rose, naturally inspired botanists to develop new varieties bearing a name that was both royal and floral. The pink Camellia japonica or winter rose ‘Princess Margaret’ flowers honoured the Princess. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother cultivated varieties of this flower in her own garden and these “Margaret Roses” were included in the Princess’s funeral wreath.
The Dutch royal family has also inspired unique varieties of flowers. The orange “Princess Irene” tulip, is named for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands’ sister, Irene. The Princess was born on the eve of the Second World War and her parents Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard named her for the Greek word for peace in the hope that hostilities would be averted. Princess Juliana and her daughters spent the wartime years in Ottawa as guests of the Canadian government. To thank Canadians for their involvement in the liberation of the Netherlands and for hosting the Dutch royal family, Princess Juliana sent thousands of tulip bulbs to Ottawa including the newly created Princess Irene tulips. The name celebrated both the Dutch princess who spent her early childhood in Canada and the peace that followed the Second World War.
The orchids in Singapore Botanical Gardens named for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Diana, Princess of Wales are part of a long tradition of royal names for new varieties of flowers or, in the case of the King Edward Potato, vegetables. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, royal weddings, coronations, tours and homecomings have been commemorated through the naming of new plants. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continued this custom on their Diamond Jubilee tour of Singapore.