Books I’ve Read This Week: Royal Reading for the New Year

My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is to read a book (or listen to an unabridged audiobook) every day: 365 books by December 31. I will post my reviews here each week and provide regular updates on Twitter and Goodreads. Recommendations are always welcome!

Week 51: Royal Reading for the New Year: 

As my Book a Day 2018 project comes to an end, I reviewed my list of books that I am interested in reading and found yet more royal titles! In the past few days, I read a couple of historical novels where royalty appear, three scholarly histories of Kings, Queens and Princes in England, Germany and Spain, and biographies of Queen Mary and her granddaughter Princess Margaret. Here are this week’s reviews:

#352 of 365 The Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland

Genre: Historical Fiction

Dates Listened: December 23-27, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Format: Audiobook, 9 hours and 34 minutes

Review:
A nice, understated novel about coming of age during Napoleon’s rise to power. Sandra Gulland’s Josephine B. trilogy are among my favourite historical novels and I am always glad to read/listen to new books by the same author. Compared to the epic Josephine trilogy, The Game of Hope focuses on a comparatively short period of time in the life of Josephine’s daughter Hortense de Beauharnais. There is a strong focus on Hortense’s studies at a boarding school run by the late Queen Marie Antoinette’s lady of the bedchamber, Madame Campan, her ambition to become a composer, her difficulties coming to terms with the execution of her father during the Terror and her mother’s remarriage to Napoleon, and a budding romance with one of Napoleon’s officers.

The novel convincingly recreates the setting and society of late 1790s France and the lasting trauma created by the Terror for Hortense and her friends and family. The book is intended for a young adult audience and therefore concludes as Hortense is launched into adult society but I would be interested to read a sequel about the events that followed her social debut including her marriage and time as Queen of the Netherlands. The audiobook is well read by Janick Hebert but does not include the author’s historical afterword.

#353 of 365 Elizabeth I in Writing: Language, Power and Representation in Early Modern England

Genre: History

Format: E-Book, 264 pages

Date Read: December 27, 2018

Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Review:
A fascinating collection of scholarly articles about Queen Elizabeth I as an author, scholar, translator, diplomat, patron and inspiration. Elizabeth I received an extensive humanist education and made use of the written word to shape her public image both at court and in her dealings with other European powers. The book contains extensive analysis of the writings surrounding the the French Duke of Anjou’s courtship of the queen including Cristina Vallaro’s chapter on Elizabeth I’s poetry and Iolanda Plescia’s comparison of the letters exchanged by Elizabeth I and Duke of Anjou with Henry VIII’s letters to Anne Boleyn.

Elizabeth I’s translations of classical and literary texts also receive an extensive analysis as the political circumstances of the Queen’s life and reign may have shaped the linguistic choices of her translations. Elizabeth I often bestowed her translations as gifts and Carole Levin provides an extended analysis of the variety of gifts that the queen bestowed and received. The gift exchanges between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, who never met in person, are especially interesting as they include clothing, needlework and sound advice as well as gold objects and jewellery.


Elizabeth I in Writing is an excellent resource for scholars and general readers alike interested in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign and the humanist education received by her generation of noblewomen in the 16th century.

#354 of 365 Royal Heirs in Imperial Germany: The Future of Monarchy in Nineteenth-Century Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg by
Frank Lorenz Müller

Genre: History

Date Read: December 28, 2018

Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Format: E-Book, 266 pages

Review:
A complicated thematic study of three heirs to regional German thrones: the future King Wilhelm II of Württemberg, the future King Friedrich August of Saxony and the future King Ludwig III of Bavaria. These three princes became the last rulers of their respective kingdoms and fell from power as the German monarchy collapsed in 1918. Royal Heirs in Imperial Germany contains a vast wealth of information about the three future Kings but the narrative sometimes comes across as two books condensed into one. 


First, there are chapters devoted to the public perception of each prince with an emphasis on the difficulties that they faced when the public expected contented domesticity from royalty who were still obliged to marry other royalty. The popular response to the breakdown of the marriage of Friedrich August to Luise of Tuscany in 1903 was especially interesting and foreshadowed certain aspects modern royal coverage. Although Luise eloped with her children’s French tutor, she received widespread public sympathy because of the perceived unhappiness of her marriage, the cold formality of the Saxon court and the fact that her divorce separated her from her children. 


The other theme that could easily be expanded into a book of its own is the role of the Bavarian, Saxon and Württemberg royal houses within a German state united under the overbearing Kaiser Wilhelm II and the House of Hohenzollern in Berlin. Some of the analysis of this theme moves away from the three regional princes themselves to wider political issues within the late 19th and early 20th century federal German state.


Royal Heirs in Imperial Germany is an informative and interesting read but one that attempts to cover a great deal of material in a comparatively short book.

#355 of 365 Princess Margaret: A Life in Contrasts 

by Christopher Warwick

Date Read: December 28, 2018

Genre: History/Biography

Acquired: Purchased from BMV Books, Toronto

Format: Hardcover, 344 Pages

Review:
An authorized biography of Princess Margaret updated and reissued this year with the popularity of The Crown on Netflix. Warwick focuses closely on Margaret’s family and early life and the first half of the book is the Princess’s life to age 18. There is some interesting analysis of the influence of Margaret’s Bowes-Lyon grandparents on her cultural interests. Margaret’s maternal grandmother, the Countess of Strathmore, was fond of singing and after dinner musical entertainment, traditions cherished by her granddaughter. 


Warwick also devotes extensive attention to Margaret’s doomed romance with Peter Townsend, and analyzes their relationship and obstacles to their marriage at length. I would have been interested to read more about Margaret’s children and her overseas tours. Warwick clearly admires Margaret and sometimes minimizes the more difficult aspects of her personality. Princess Margaret: A Life in Contrasts should be read alongside 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown for a more critical perspective.

#356 of 365 The Quest for Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy and Hugo Vickers

Date Listened: December 28-30, 2018

Genre: History

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Format: Audiobook, 9 hours and 24 minutes

Review:
One of my favourite royal history books of the year, filled with fresh information and perspectives from often overlooked members of the extended royal family in the 1950s. 


James Pope-Hennessy was commissioned to write the official biography of Queen Mary after her death in 1953 and interviewed dozens of European royalty and courtiers to gather their impressions of the Queen and her family. He took extensive notes about his interviewees and their insights, leaving instructions that they were not to be published for another 50 years as many comments were provided off the record. Hugo Vickers, author of biographies of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Princess Andrew of Greece (Alice of Battenberg), has edited the notes, providing a unique behind the scenes look at writing an official royal biography in the 1950s, and accounts of the fascinating people whom Pope-Hennessy interviewed while researching his book.


The Quest for Queen Mary is a fascinating and entertaining look at royal court culture during Queen Mary’s lifetime and immediately afterward. Perhaps the most memorable chapter is the weekend that Pope-Hennessy spent with Queen Mary’s third son, Prince Henry Duke of Gloucester and his wife Princess Alice that included a hilarious series of Scrabble matches and time working in the garden. Henry and Alice shared their memories and often corrected one another and expanded on each other’s memories, providing a portrait of their marriage as well as their views on Queen Mary. 


Another highlight is Pope-Hennessy’s sensitive interview with a nervous Grand Duchess Xenia. Pope-Hennessy never mentions the numerous relatives that Xenia lost in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, including her brother Czar Nicholas II, the Czarina Alexandra and their children but instead encourages the Grand Duchess to reminisce about her childhood holidays with her maternal grandparents, King Christian IX and Queen Louise. I hoped that Pope-Hennessy had traveled to Canada to speak to Nicholas and Xenia’s younger sister Grand Duchess Olga but only Xenia appears to have been interviewed.


All the interviewees provide interesting insights concerning Queen Mary. While they agree that her first fiance Albert Victor would have made a disastrous King and her father, Duke Francis of Teck suffered from mental illness toward the end of his life, they also provide individual insights concerning the Queen’s daily life including how she chose Christmas gifts by colour and liked her ladies in waiting to read to her for 7 hours a day. These details all add up to a multifaceted portrait of the Queen and her milieu. The Quest for Queen Mary is an engrossing read filled with new information and entertaining anecdotes. Highly recommended.

#357 of 365 Raising Heirs to the Throne in Nineteenth-Century Spain: The Education of the Constitutional Monarch by Richard Meyer Forsting

Date Read: December 29, 2018

Genre: History

Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Format: E-Book, 274 pages

Review:
An insightful comparative study of the education of three nineteenth and early twentieth century Spanish monarchs: Isabel II, Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII. The book makes a strong case for the importance of including Spain in comparative analysis of the development of modern European monarchical government. Although literacy rates in Spain were comparatively low (45% in 1900 compared to 89% in the USA or 83% in France), there was a widespread view that the education of the heir to the throne was a decisive factor in the future of Spain, even after the establishment of a constitutional monarchy limited the monarch’s powers.

Forsting examines three key themes: the degree to which each monarch was trained for their future political role, the involvement of the military in their education, and debates concerning royal education in the press. This analysis places royal education within the framework of the political, intellectual and cultural history of nineteenth century Spain. I found Forsting’s analysis of Isabel II especially interesting as she was a contemporary of Queen Victoria and also had to balance 19th century conceptions of gender roles with her role as head of state.

While Queen Victoria’s upbringing was left to her mother, Isabel II’s education was the subject of widespread debate in the press and in parliament with at least one tutor arguing that Isabel should receive less training in feminine accomplishments such as music, dancing and needlework, and more instruction in politics and science because her role as monarch transcended her gender. Isabel II ultimately received a fairly narrow education and was unable to project the domestic image embodied by Queen Victoria because of her turbulent personal life. Raising Heirs to the Throne in Nineteenth-Century Spain is a fascinating read that provides a fresh perspective on 19th century Spanish history.

#358 of 365 Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Genre: Historical Fiction

Date Read: December 30, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from ReReading Books, Toronto

Format: Paperback, 378 pages

Review:
An engrossing novel about the aviator Beryl Markham. I especially enjoyed the early chapters about her free spirited childhood in Kenya and the descriptions of the landscape. The book becomes more slow moving in the middle as Markham’s personal life becomes extremely complicated but picks up pace once again toward the end as two Princes, the future King Edward VIII and his younger brother Henry, Duke of Gloucester, make a royal visit to Nairobi at a time when Markham’s son’s life hangs in the balance. I would have liked the book to have been a bit longer as McLain speeds through the rumors of royal scandal surrounding Markham and the Duke of Gloucester as well as her record breaking flight across the Atlantic. An enjoyable read that shares many characters with Out of Africa.

Imperial Spain: My March-April course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile

I will be teaching an eight week course about the history of Imperial Spain at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies on Tuesdays from March 6 until April 24 at 11am. Click here for more details and to register.

Course Description:

Ferdinand and Isabella transformed Spain into a world power. They sponsored Columbus’s voyages to the Americas and formed alliances with other European kingdoms. This new imperial Spain had a dark side in the rise of the Inquisition, the expulsion of Spain’s Jews and the exploitation of the colonies’ native peoples. Gold and silver from the Americas made Spain’s rulers the richest in Europe until the Golden Age came to an end with the wars of the 18th century. Join Carolyn Harris for illustrated lectures and lively discussion about the rise, fall and enduring influence of imperial Spain.

What You’ll Learn:

Click here for more details and to register

Advance Reader Reviews of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Readers who received advance review copies of my forthcoming book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting are sharing their reviews on goodreads. Raising Royalty will be published by Dundurn Press in Canada in April 2017 and in the USA and UK in May 2017.

Here are excerpts from some of the reader reviews:

“Raising Royalty is a comprehensive study of how…Kings and Queens have raised their children. Twenty families with their widely varying parenting approaches from Anglo-Saxon times to the present are studied.
While the book is a thoroughly researched subject by a scholar, it is a joy to read. It provides a clear picture of how parenting in the rarefied atmosphere of castles and palaces has evolved and, perhaps more importantly, why. Boys were brought up to fight and rule, and girls for dynastic/political marriages. Princes and princesses had no choice one thousand years ago and, one also sympathizes, today their futures are still fixed in stone but with a little more leeway.
Carolyn Harris, the author, has done an excellent job of writing this book for general readership and it will open eyes with the detail and surprises. Recommended for history buffs and royal watchers.” — Julie Ferguson

“I was expecting the book to be entirely be about English royalty, but was pleased to find that it covered enough of Europe to give it some diversity.
Filled with a lot of interesting facts and written in a way that held my attention.
Both well researched and written.” — MissyLynne

“I was expecting a list of “advice” and “lessons” and was pleasantly surprised.
Ms. Harris presents a HUGE amount of history in this book and her skill at writing in a way that keeps the reader engaged and interested is refreshing.
Anyone with any interest in royal families will love this book. It’s a great read. ” — Michelle Griswold

Click here to view all reader reviews for Raising Royalty on goodreads

Click here to pre-order your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

My Imperial Spain course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies begins March 15

Losreyescatolicos I am teaching an eight week course about Imperial Spain at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies on Tuesdays from March 15 to May 3, 2016 from 11am to 1pm. All are welcome

Click here to Register

Ferdinand and Isabella transformed a united Spain into a world power, sponsoring Columbus’ voyages to the Americas and forming alliances with other European kingdoms. This new Imperial Spain had a dark side: the rise of the Inquisition, the expulsion of Spain’s Jewish population and the exploitation of the native peoples in the colonies. Gold and silver from the Americas made Spain’s rulers the richest in Europe until its Golden Age came to an end with the wars of the 18th century. Learn about the rise and fall of Imperial Spain and its lessons for politics and international relations today.

Click here to Register

Interview in The Independent: Spain’s ‘wayward’ Infanta Cristina absent from annual military parade ahead of fraud trial

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

King Felipe VI of Spain’s sister, Infanta Cristina will face charges of tax fraud on Monday.  I was interviewed about the likely repercussions of the trial for Spain’s royal family by Alistair Dawber at the The Independent.

The charges against Cristina are contributing to a generational divide regarding support for the monarchy in Spain. As I discussed in a previous column, those who remember Francisco Franco’s dictatorship admire former King King Juan Carlos for managing a peaceful transition to a constitutional monarchy. In contrast, there are many younger people who view the monarchy as out of touch with current economic conditions in Spain. While King Felipe, Queen Letizia and their children are personally popular, the charges against Cristina and Juan Carlos’s 2012 elephant hunt damaged the reputation of the royal family.

I do not believe Cristina will resume a more prominent role in the royal family, even if she is acquitted of the charges. There is a general trend in Europe toward more streamlined royal families that emphasize the public role of the monarch and his or her consort and children instead of the larger royal families of the past where a wider circle of relatives would represent the monarch and perform public engagements.

Click here to read, Spain’s ‘wayward’ Infanta Cristina absent from annual military parade ahead of fraud trial in The Independent

Click here to enroll in my Spring course, “Imperial Spain” at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies 

My 2015-2016 courses at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

My photo in the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies 2015-2016 course calendar

My photo in the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies 2015-2016 course calendar

Registration is now open for the three eight week courses that I will be teaching during the 2015-2016 academic year at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. There are no prerequisites for arts courses at the School and everyone is welcome to enroll. Here are the course descriptions:

Fall 2015: Magna Carta and the Making of the Modern World 

The year 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the landmark charter that placed limits on the power of the English king. Neither the king nor his rebel baron opponents necessarily expected its terms to be respected for long. But some of the Magna Carta’s principles – like the right to trial by peers and due process – have become basic to common law. The charter influenced the creation of Parliament and the concept of equality before the law. Later interpretations informed the American and French Revolutions, Canada’s Confederation and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 800th anniversary is being celebrated around the world (a surviving copy of the Magna Carta will be exhibited across Canada). Join Carolyn Harris, author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights, and discover the enduring impact of this document on the modern world. Click here to register!

Winter 2016: Artists and Their Royal Patrons

For centuries, artists sought out royal patrons to advance their careers. European monarchs were eager to fill their courts with artists to demonstrate their own acumen and prestige. Through lectures, images and discussions, Carolyn Harris will lead you through a lively exploration of the relations between great artists and their royal patrons. These include Hans Holbein and Henry VIII, Leonardo da Vinci and François I, Anthony van Dyck and Charles I, Peter Paul Rubens and Marie de Medici, and Élisabeth Vigée-LeBrun and Marie Antoinette. We will look at Catherine the Great, who helped found the Hermitage Museum, and Queen Elizabeth II, who is appreciated as a “curator monarch” for her part in opening the British Royal Collection to the public. You’ll learn more about the collaboration and tension between royalty and artists that produced some of Europe’s most famous works of art and established collections now featured in great museums around the world. Click here to Register!

Spring 2016: Imperial Spain

Ferdinand and Isabella transformed a united Spain into a world power, sponsoring Columbus’ voyages to the Americas and forming alliances with other European kingdoms. This new Imperial Spain had a dark side: the rise of the Inquisition, the expulsion of Spain’s Jewish population and the exploitation of the native peoples in the colonies. Gold and silver from the Americas made Spain’s rulers the richest in Europe until its Golden Age came to an end with the wars of the 18th century. Join Carolyn Harris and learn about the rise and fall of Imperial Spain and its lessons for politics and international relations today. Click here to Register!

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 ?”

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.”