Click here to pre-order A Resilient Crown: Canada’s Monarchy at the Platinum Jubilee
Click here to pre-order A Resilient Crown: Canada’s Monarchy at the Platinum Jubilee
In the first episode of the 2022 Royal Studies Podcast, I discussed the history of royal jubilees with Dr. Elena Woodacre, editor-in-chief of The Royal Studies Journal, including the Golden Jubilee of King George III in 1809-1810, the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Queen Victoria in 1887 and 1897 and the Silver, Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, 2002, 2012 and 2022.
My new eight week online course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies starts Wednesday January 12, 2022. Click here for more information and to register.
The year 2022 marks Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne. It’s an opportunity to look back on the social, political and cultural changes during her long reign. The personal lives of royalty are a popular subject for fiction in novels, films and TV series but the real history is more interesting. Each generation of royalty must respond to the challenges of their times to keep the monarchy relevant and engaged with public opinion. Join Carolyn Harris, historian, commentator and author of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting for a lively discussion of the history, politics and cultural significance of the monarchy in the UK and Canada.
My new article in the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia is about Royal Tours of Canada from the late eighteenth century to the present day, including early visits by King George III’s sons, the travels of Queen Victoria’s children, the 1939 royal tour by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), and official visits and working visits during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
February 6, 2017 is Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire Jubilee. The Queen is the first British monarch to celebrate a 65 year reign though there have been longer reigns elsewhere in the world. (King Louis XIV of France reigned for 72 years, the longest reign in European history so far). As I discussed with Eun Kim at Today, the Queen plans to mark this historic date quietly as it is also the anniversary of her father King George VI’s death.
This year, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British and modern Canadian history, surpassing the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria (1837-1901) My most recent article in the Canadian Encyclopedia discusses Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the second to be celebrated after that of Queen Victoria in 1897. I discuss the preparations for the celebrations, the Diamond Jubilee Medals in Canada, the Thames Diamond Jubilee river pageant and Commonwealth tours by members of the royal family including the Canadian tour by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in 2012.
On September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest reigning monarch in Britain’s history. Her 63 year reign has encompassed so many distinct phases (See the series of articles that I wrote in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012: The Young Queen of Canada, The Controversial Queen of Canada, The Celebrity Queen of Canada and The Jubilee Queen of Canada) that it’s easy to forget that when she ascended to the throne in 1952, she faced all the expectations that were directed toward British women in the 1950s in addition to nearly a thousand years of royal tradition.
In Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story Of Women In The 1950’s, Virginia Nicholson, author of Millions Like Us: Women’s Lives in the Second World War and Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived without Men After the First World War, provides a social history of women’s lives in Britain in the 1950s. Popular culture expected them to be Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes but whether the women profiled in Nicholson’s book lived in palaces or council houses, their homes rarely conformed to ideals. Throughout the decade, the two most prominent women in Britain were Queen Elizabeth II, whose marriage and motherhood appeared to conform to 1950s expectations and Princess Margaret who struggled in the face of overwhelming pressure to “settle down” with a suitable husband.
The Queen’s coronation in 1953 was one of the most memorable events of the decade and Nicholson presents a vivid account of women’s engagement in the ceremony, from the Queen herself at the centre of events, to the women involved in the coverage and planning to spectators of all social backgrounds including peeresses in the galleries of Westminster Abbey, Londoners camped on the sidewalk in the rain and the thousands of women who watched the ceremony on their first television set. Although the monarch was female, the BBC journalists who covered the event were male with the exception of one female commentator and four “back-up girls” in charge of providing human interest stories. There were plenty women involved in the preparations, however, including Constance Spry, who created the floral decorations and Rosemary Hume, who invented “coronation chicken.”
Nicholson also provides a fresh perspective on Princess Margaret’s relationship with Peter Townsend and her ultimate decision not to give up her royal position to marry a divorced man. The Princess’s relationship with Townsend took place less than two decades after King Edward VIII abdicated to marry the twice divorced Wallis Simpson but attitudes toward divorce, remarriage and royal duty were already undergoing a gradual change. Nicholson discusses how English women, from Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting Iris Peake to working class women who read about the relationship in the press hoped the Princess would be able to marry the man of her choice. In contrast, the male establishment, some of whom had been involved in divorce cases themselves, were adamant that Townsend was unsuitable. The Queen supported the establishment and Margaret ultimately married the photographer Antony Armstrong Jones in 1960, divorcing in 1978.
There’s far more to Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story Of Women In The 1950’s than royalty. Through the stories of individual women, Nicholson reveals the adversity faced by those women whose aspirations included other goals besides marriage, home and family. As late as 1959, only one in a hundred British women pursued post-secondary education and Oxford and Cambridge had only begun granting degrees to women in 1920 and 1947 respectively. Most British women of the period left school at fifteen and worked in jobs that provided little hope of career advancement until they married. Nicholson analyzes the context for women’s roles in the period including the desire to return to pre-Second World War life and slow adoption of modern conveniences within British households.
Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story Of Women In The 1950’s is a fascinating history of how British women lived at the beginning of Elizabeth II’s record breaking reign. The cultural climate has changed immeasurably over the past sixty-three years but Nicholson presents convincing case that the attitudes toward women from the 1950s still cast a long shadow over modern life.
Next Week: Elizabeth I and Her Circle by Susan Doran
My latest article in the Canadian Encyclopedia is about Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Queen Victoria (who reigned from 1837–1901) was the first monarch to celebrate 60 years on the throne. Celebrations to honour the grand occasion — the first Diamond Jubilee — showcased the Queen’s role as “mother” of the British Empire and its Dominions, including Canada. Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier led the Canadian delegation to the London ceremonies, while communities across Canada held their own civic celebrations in honour of the Queen.
My latest interview for Yahoo Shine Canada discusses the wide range of official duties performed by royalty today. Since the reign of King George III, philanthropy has been a key role for royalty, especially princesses. Queen Victoria’s five daughters all assumed charitable patronages, many of which were devoted to the health and education of women and girls. Today, representing Queen Elizabeth II at official engagements is also an important role for members of the royal family. The Queen and Prince Philip have reduced their overseas travel in recent years and their children and grandchildren often represent them outside the United Kingdom.
In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada. The Canada Day celebrations led by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on Parliament Hill in 2010, the choice of Canada for the first overseas visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 and the success of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, including a Canadian tour by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall for Victoria Day weekend in 2012, have all contributed to public support for the monarchy as a Canadian institution after decades of comparative indifference.
At the same time, a wave of recent publications, including The Secret Of The Crown: Canada’s Affair With Royalty by John Fraser, Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy: An Introduction to Our Form of Government by Nathan Tidridge and The Evolving Canadian Crown edited by Jennifer Smith and D. Michael Jackson have presented a sound case that the Crown is not an archaic institution left over from Canada’s history as British North America but an evolving, vital component of the modern Canadian political system.
In The Crown and Canadian Federalism, D. Michael Jackson, chief of protocol for the government of Saskatchewan from 1980-2005 and co-ordinator of ten royal tours of the province, restores the provincial Lieutenant Governors to their rightful place in Canadian history and politics. The compound monarchy consisting of a Governor General representing the Queen at the federal level and ten Lieutenant Governors at the provincial level emerges as a key component of Canadian federalism, safeguarding the rights of communities and minority groups as well as the individual.
Jackson focuses his study on his home province of Saskatchewan, which brings a fresh perspective to the study of the Canadian Crown. In many works regarding the history and function of the Crown in Canada, the province of Quebec takes centre stage because the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s led to a profound change in French-Canadian attitudes toward the monarchy, from protector of minority rights to symbol of British oppression.
By drawing examples from Western Canada, Jackson highlights the long relationship between the First Nations and the federal Crown as well as lesser known aspects of the relationship between the provinces and Canada’s constitutional monarchy. For example Governor General Jeanne Sauvé’s attempts to present herself to the Canadian public as “Head of State” was not well received in Western Canada, where the public expected Governors General to present themselves as representatives of the monarch.
For readers interested in personalities as well as politics, Jackson provides plenty of fascinating anecdotes about how Lieutenant Governors and Governors General engaged with their governments and the public over the past few centuries. Despite the importance of political impartiality for representatives of the Crown, several Lieutenant Governors found themselves in conflict with the governments elected during their tenure.
Examples include Lieutenant Governor John Bowen of Alberta, who was turned out of Government House in Edmonton by Premier William Aberhart in 1938 for reserving royal assent to legislation and Lieutenant Governor Frank Bastedo of Saskatchewan, a former counsel for the oil industry accused of conflict of interest when he reserved royal assent on Bill 56, The Alteration of Certain Mineral Contracts, in 1961. In contrast to these contentious figures, Jackson describes Bastedo’s successor as Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, my great granduncle Robert Leith “Dinny” Hanbidge as “informal, low-key and non-controversial” during his seven year term from 1963 to 1970.
Jackson concludes The Crown and Canadian Federalism with a study of the various republican options for Canada’s government, presenting a strong case for the continued viability of the constitutional monarchy. He also looks at current perceptions of the monarchy – including my Diamond Jubilee Series of articles about the Queen in Canada – assessing whether the current interest in the Canadian monarchy is a short term phenomenon or a long term trend. The Crown and Canadian Federalism is essential reading for anyone interested in Canadian history and politics as well the evolving constitutional monarchy in Canada.