Monday Royal News Roundup: King Felipe VI’s Installation, Prince Philip’s 93rd birthday and Prince William’s New Initiative

Felipe, Prince of Asturias in Ecuador in 2013

1) King Felipe VI of Spain’s Installation to Take Place on June 19, 2014

The History: King Juan Carlos of Spain announced his intention to abdicate on Monday June 2, 2014. The installation of his son as King Felipe VI will take place on June 19 in a joint session of Spain’s Congress and Senate in Madrid. Since Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 televised coronation ceremony is so well known, a number of journalists have described the upcoming ceremony as a “coronation.” Felipe will not be crowned but instead sworn into office in the same manner as his father, Juan Carlos, in 1975. There will not be any foreign royalty or other heads of state in attendance at the ceremony because of the short notice and shortage of seating room in Spain’s parliament.

The surrounding festivities, however, will differ between the two reigns. Juan Carlos attended a celebratory Mass following his installation. There will not be any religious component to Felipe’s succession to throne. The focus will be on Felipe VI’s role as leader of Spain’s armed forces with the new King attending the installation in uniform and full military honours taking place outside Congress. The King’s military leadership played a crucial role in recent Spanish history. In 1981, Juan Carlos prevented a coup against Spain’s nascent democratic government by ordering the troops to stand down in a televised address as Commander-in-Chief.

For more on King Juan Carlos and Spain’s royal history, click here to read my column from January, “The Reign in Spain of King Juan Carlos”

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in Canada in 2010

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in Canada in 2010

2) Prince Philip will celebrate his 93rd birthday on June 10, 2014

The History: Queen Elizabeth II’s consort Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh will turn 93 on June 10, 2014. Despite health problems in recent years, Philip maintains a busy schedule of royal engagements and continues to support the Queen in her duties. Philip is the oldest and longest serving royal consort in British and Commonwealth history.

There have only been four other men married to undisputed reigning Queens over the course of English history. Philip II of Spain, consort of Mary I, and William III, consort of Mary II were both reigning monarchs in their own right. George of Denmark, consort of Anne, and Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, consort of Victoria, were both junior members of foreign royal houses like Prince Philip. From the beginning of the Queen’s reign, Philip made clear that he intended to re-imagine his role to support a modern monarchy. He explained to his biographer, Gyles Brandreth, “Queen Victoria was an executive sovereign, following in a long line of executive sovereigns. The Prince Consort was effectively Victoria’s private secretary. But after Victoria the monarchy changed. It became an institution. I had to fit in with the institution.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Canada in 2011

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Canada in 2011

3) Prince William to launch new United for Wildlife Campaign on Monday June 9, 2014

The History: The Duke of Cambridge will announce his new initiative for United for Wildlife, the online  #WhoseSideAreYouOn campaign, at London’s Google town hall on Monday June 9, 2014. At the launch, William will be joined by soccer star David Beckham. As part of the campaign, high profile athletes will encourage opposition to trade in illegal wildlife products by engaging with young people on social media.

The #WhoseSideAreYouOn campaign combines three key assets that royalty have brought to philanthropy for decades: personal engagement with problems that require multi-generational solutions, a willingness to promote their message through new technologies and the public profile to bring different groups together in support of a single cause. By founding United for Wildlife, which combines the resources of seven global conservation organisations and the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, William is following in the footsteps of his father, Prince Charles and grandfather, Prince Philip who both champion environmental conservation efforts.

For more of my thoughts on royalty, philanthropy and the environment, click here to read my column from 2013, “Royalty, Environment, A Natural Partnership”

Interview: The Abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain

King Juan Carlos of Spain announced today that he will abdicate in favour of his son Felipe, Prince of the Asturias, who will reign as King Felipe VI.

I was interviewed by Bloomberg News about the Spanish royal family prior to today’s announcement. Click here to read Spain’s King Juan Carlos Abdicates to Make Way for Youth

Upcoming Royal Chat: Will Queen Elizabeth abdicate?

I will be participating in a Postmedia online royal chat this Wednesday, June 4 at 2pm ET on King Juan Carlos of Spain’s plans to abdicate, whether the continental European trend toward abdication will have any influence on Queen Elizabeth II, royal attendance at  the D-Day 70th anniversary ceremonies , Prince Philip’s 93rd birthday and the Duke of York’s upcoming visit to Canada.

Click here to read the chat and submit your questions!

The Reign in Spain of King Juan Carlos

King Juan Carlos of Spain.

King Juan Carlos of Spain.

In my first column of 2014, I discuss the recent unpopularity of the Spanish royal family, placing the scandals of the past few years within the context of the otherwise successful reign of King Juan Carlos. If the King decides to abdicate in the coming year, the end of his reign will be an opportunity for Spain to look back on his key role in the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in the late 1970s.

Click here to read “The Reign in Spain of King Juan Carlos” in the Kingston Whig Standard

King John, England and the Wider World in 1215

My latest article on the website for the Magna Carta Canada 2015 touring exhibition discusses the connections between King John’s England and the wider world in 1215. King John was the father-in-law of Llewellyn the Great, Prince of Wales and King Alexander II of Scotland, and his sisters married the rulers of Saxony (now part of Germany), Sicily and Castile (now part of Spain). John’s elder brother, King Richard I, traveled extensively in Europe, the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Land as a leader of the Third Crusade. English knowledge of the world beyond these regions was more uncertain in 1215 but gradually increased during the reign of John’s son, Henry III when contact was made with the growing Mongol Empire ruled by Genghis Khan.

Click here to read the full article about King John, England and the Wider World on the Magna Carta 2015 Canada website

Why The Queen Will Never Retire

My column in Saturday’s Kingston Whig-Standard discusses why Queen Elizabeth II will never abdicate despite the 2013 retirements of Pope Benedict XVI, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, the Emir of Qatar and King Albert II of Belgium.

Click here to read the full column in the Kingston Whig-Standard

Royalty and the Atlantic World 1: The Battle for Spain in 1492

1882 painting of King Muhammad XII of Granada surrendering to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile after the Fall of Granada in 1492

On January 2, 1492, King Mohammed XII of Granada, known to the Spanish as Boabdil, surrendered his capital to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. The Moorish King’s capitulation ended the eight month siege of Granada and the the ten year war waged by Ferdinand and Isabella to unify all Spain under their leadership. The Fall of Granada, however, was not simply a change in political circumstances for the Iberian peninsula. For Ferdinand and Isabella, the reconquest of Granada was a religious crusade intended to replace the co-existence of Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities with a unified, Roman Catholic state.

Spain at the time of the Grenada War

From the establishment of the Caliphate of Cordoba in the 8th century, establishing Muslim rule over much of modern day Spain and Portugal through the gradual Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula during the later Middle Ages, Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities co-existed and lived in relative harmony. There was cultural exchange between members of the three religions, most notably in centres of learning such as the University of Salamanca.

Despite increased conflict between the three religions during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, there was still evidence of interfaith co-operation and celebration in the decades immediately preceding the fall of Granada. When the future Queen Isabella’s sister-in-law, Blanca of Navarre arrived in Castile to marry King Enrique IV in 1441, the Chronicle of King Juan II recorded that in the village of Brivesca, “Following [the artisans] came the Jews with the Torah and the Moors with the Quran [dancing] in the manner usually reserved for [the entry of] kings who come to rule a foreign country. There were also many trumpets, tambourines, drums and flute players.” The celebrations accompanying Blanca’s arrival demonstrated the enduring tradition of interfaith co-operation and coexistence in medieval Spain.

Queen Isabella of Castile

Isabella, Ferdinand and Muhammad had few examples of harmony or coexistence in their own early lives. All three future rulers were born into uncertain circumstances and had to fight for their place in the royal succession. Isabella was born in 1451, the daughter of King Juan II of Castile and his second wife, Isabel of Portugal. Her father died when she was three and her mother increasingly withdrew from public life due to depression. Isabella’s elder half-brother, Enrique IV did not allow Isabel full access to her dower income and the family lived modestly for royalty. According to the chronicler Fernando del Pulgar, “The Queen, Our Lady, from childhood was without a father, and we can even say a mother . . . She had work and cares, and an extreme lack of necessary things.”

In Aragon, Isabella’s second cousin Ferdinand, born in 1452 as the son of King Juan II of Aragon and his second wife, Juana Enriquez, faced the potential collapse of his kingdom before ascending to the throne. The region of Catalonia was determined to regain its independence and the elderly King Juan did not appear to have the energy or authority to maintain the cohesion of his kingdom. The young Ferdinand and his mother assumed authority over the conflict with Catalonia.

Ferdinand of Aragon

At sixteen, Ferdinand was already a politically active figure, addressing the Parliament of Aragon in Zaragoza in 1468, “Lords: You all know with what hardships my lady mother has sustained the war to keep Catalonia within the House of Aragon. I see my lord father old and myself very young. Therefore I commend myself to you and place myself in your hands and ask you to please consider me as a son.”

In Castile, Isabella was determined to avoid marriage to a distant sovereign that would prevent her from eventually succeeding her brother, Enrique. The King of Castile was unpopular and his acknowledged daughter Juana was rumoured to be illegitimate, circumstances that improved Isabella’s political situation. In 1469, the eighteen year old Isabella entered into secret negotiations with seventeen year old Ferdinand and the Prince slipped into Castile disguised as a servant so they could be married without the knowledge of Enrique IV.

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the Catholic Kings

Isabella became Queen of Castile in 1475 and spent the early years of her reign fighting factions loyal to Infanta Juana. Ferdinand became King of Aragon in 1479. The “Catholic Kings” as the royal couple were known acted as partners throughout their kingdoms. A German visitor to the court of Castile in 1484, Nicolaus von Poppelau observed, “The King did nothing without the consent of the queen; he did not seal his own letters until the queen had read them, and if the queen did not approve of one of them the secretary tore it up in the presence of the King himself.” Isabella’s authority within her marriage was unusual as lands belonging to royal heiresses of this period were often controlled by their husbands.

Muhammad XII of Granada

Ferdinand and Isabella shared the goal of reconquering Granada throughout their reigns. The fall of the last Moorish kingdom in the Iberian peninsula would not only contribute their religious goals but neutralize a political threat in the person of Muhammad XII. Muhammad became King of Granada in 1482 following the expulsion of his unpopular father, King Abu l-Hasan Ali. To prove his ability to rule over the competing claims of his uncles and exiled father, Muhammad invaded Castile on numerous occasions. The conquest of Granada allowed Isabella and Ferdinand to impose Roman Catholicism on all of modern day Spain and neutralize any threats to their authority and religion. Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism were expelled from the Iberian peninsula in 1492 and the Isabella and Ferdinand created the Spanish Inquisition to investigate the sincerity of conversions.

Christopher Columbus

The explorer Christopher Columbus was present at Mohammad XII’s surrender and described the event in a letter to the Catholic Kings, “After your Highnesses ended the war of the Moors who reigned in Europe, and finished the war of the great city of Granada, where this present year on the 2nd January I saw the royal banners of Your Highnesses planted by force of arms on the towers of the Alhambra, which is the fortress of the said city, I saw the Moorish sultan issue from the gates of the said city, and kiss the royal hands of Your Highnesses.” The fall of Granada provided Queen Isabella with the funds to provide Columbus with ships for his first Atlantic voyage in 1492.

Ferdinand and Isabella’s goal of a unified Spain, however, proved elusive. The death of their only son, Juan, resulted in the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon becoming part of the Holy Roman Empire during the reign of their daughter Juana’s son, Emperor Charles V. The dynastic union of Aragon and Castile would not become a formal political union until the reign of the first Bourbon King Philip V, following the War of the Spanish Succession in the early eighteenth century. The Battle for Spain increased the wealth and religious authority of the Catholic Kings but the political unification of Castile and Aragon would not occur for another two centuries.

Further Reading:

Peggy K. Liss, Isabel the Queen: Life and Times, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
ed. David A. Boruchoff, Isabel La Católica, Queen of Castile: Critical Essays,  New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003.

™ Henry Kamen, Spain, 1469-1714: A Society of Conflict (3rd Edition), 3rd Edition, Harlow: Pearson, 2005.

™ Chris Lowney, A Vanished World: Medieval Spain’s Golden Age of Enlightenment, New York: Free Press, 2005.
Next Weekend: Napoleon, Josephine and the French Caribbean

The Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made It Into the Twenty-First Century by Peter Conradi (Review)

In 1948, King Farouk of Egypt reputedly predicted, “The whole world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five Kings left — the King of England, the King of Spades, the King of Clubs, the King of Hearts, and the King of Diamonds.” The First World War had seen in the overthrow of the German, Austrian and Russian Imperial Houses and the Second World War destabilized another series of monarchical governments including that of Egypt. King Farouk’s prediction that only the British monarchy and the Kings pictured in decks of cards would survive this unrest, however, turned out to be untrue.

The number of constitutional monarchies in Europe has been constant since Juan Carlos I became King of Spain in 1975. In addition to Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway all have reigning Kings or Queens. The  Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the principalities of Lichtenstein and Monaco also have titled leaders. Despite this plethora of royalty in Europe, the English language media focuses its coverage on Queen Elizabeth II and her family with only occasional attention to the wealth, weddings or scandals of the continental royal families. In The Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made It Into the Twenty-First Century. Peter Conradi, the author of The King’s Speech, compares all the surviving royal families of Europe.

Conradi’s masterful work reveals the different paths that the institution of monarchy has taken in the 20th and 21st centuries and the similar challenges faced by all Europe’s crowned heads. Rather than devoting a chapter to each European royal house, Conradi approaches the material thematically, comparing such topics as succession law, a typical day of royal duties for a European monarch, wealth and pageantry, marriage and the education of heirs. This approach reveals the full range of royal customs throughout Europe, challenging popular perceptions in the English speaking world regarding how monarchy works.

For example, the iconic televised coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 created the popular perception that the legitimacy of a King or Queen depends on a ceremony of this kind. In fact, the House of Windsor is the only royal dynasty where the King or Queen experiences a coronation. The other monarchs of Europe are sworn into office. In Spain and Norway, the royal regalia is visible during this investiture but the new monarch is not crowned in manner of the monarch of the United Kingdom.

Conradi’s approach also reveals that numerous events in royal history considered unprecedented when they occurred in the United Kingdom actually had clear antecedents among the continental royal houses. In 2011, Prince William became the first direct heir to the British throne to marry a woman from a middle class background with little controversy but a generation earlier, the future Kings Carl Gustav of Sweden and King Harald of Norway challenged the traditions of their families and their countries to marry middle class brides. For the future Queens Beatrix of the Netherlands and Margrethe of Denmark, there few available princes of their generation and marriage to a commoner was a near certainty.

The Great Survivors contains an enormous amount of material and Conradi generally does an excellent job of organizing all this information. The only place where the book briefly loses it way is the chapter about royal mistresses, children out of wedlock, and complaisant husbands. In this section, Conradi moves away from the current reigning houses to look at some the royal scandals that allegedly took place in eighteenth century Russia. With so much material to cover concerning the royal families that reign to the present day, there is little room for the inclusion of additional dynasties. In contrast to the rest of the book, the discussion of Russia’s eighteenth century Empresses cites unreliable source material and could have been easily omitted from the narrative.

The Great Survivors is an excellent introduction to the full scope of current European royal monarchy. Peter Conradi places all the current reigning houses of Europe in their proper historical context and compares how they have achieved success in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, The book ends with informed predictions about the future of monarchy in Europe, providing convincing arguments that this form of government remains effective to the present day.

A History of Barcelona in Three Royal Marriages

The original entrance to the Roman city of Barcina and part of the Roman wall

On September 11, 2012, around 600,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish province of Catalonia to demand that Spain grant the autonomous province independence as a sovereign state. The thriving independence movement in modern day Catalonia reflects the region’s unique royal history. The union of Barcelona with Aragon then of Aragon with Castile to eventually form modern day Spain occurred through two dynastic marriages rather than popular acclaim. The current reign of King Juan Carlos and his consort, Queen Sofia has seen further historic changes including the inclusion of Spain in the European union, the revitalization of Barcelona as part of the 1992 Summer Olympics and the current Catalan independence movement. (All photographs in this post are from my visit to Barcelona from December 7 to 9, 2012).

Statue of Ramon Berenguer IV near Barcelona Cathedral

On August 11, 1137, the eighteen year old Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona married the one year old future Queen Petronilla of Aragon. The treaty between the Count of Barcelona and his father-in-law, King Ramiro II “the Monk” of Aragon stated that the descendants of this marriage would rule both territories. Each region, however, would retain its own laws, institutions and autonomy under this dynastic union, circumstances that provided a clear precedent for subsequent Catalan autonomy. One week after the wedding, King Ramiro retired to the Abbey of San Pedro, leaving Ramon Berenguer regent for the infant Queen. Ramon Bereguer ruled Aragon from this time but never assumed the title of King, referring to himself as Count of Barcelona and Prince of Aragon throughout his reign.

The Museum of Catalan History on Barcelona’s waterfront

When Queen Petronilla turned fifteen, her marriage to Ramon Berenguer was consummated and the royal couple had five children. Their descendants reaped the rewards of this strategic royal marriage as combined Counts of Barcelona and Kings of Aragon. Barcelona gained additional security by becoming part of larger entity while Aragon gained access to the Mediterranean Sea, which would be significant to the region’s subsequent trade and economy.

As the terms of Ramon Bereguer’s and Petronilla’s marriage contract stated, Catalonia retained it’s autonomy over the subsequent centuries. Attempts at centralization by the Kings of Aragon were met by popular rebellions. Prince Ferdinand, heir to the kingdom of Aragon and his mother, Queen Juana were instrumental to the resolution of one of these uprisings in the 1460s. Ferdinand addressed the parliament in Zaragoza in 1468, “Lords: You all know with what hardships my lady mother [Queen Juana Enriquez] has sustained the war to keep Catalonia within the House of Aragon. I see my lord father [King Juan II] old and myself very young. Therefore, I commend myself to you and place myself in your hands and ask you to please consider me as a son (translated and reprinted in Peggy Liss, Isabel the Queen: Life and Times, p. 64 .”

The Plaza del Reys where King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile may have received Christopher Columbus after his return from his first voyage to the New World.

Ferdinand’s marriage to Princess Isabella, the future Queen of Castile the following year, absorbed Barcelona, and the entire kingdom of Aragon into an even larger dynastic union. In contrast to Queen Petronilla of Aragon, who allowed her husband to continue to rule her kingdom after she came of age and abdicated immediately after his death in favour of her eldest surviving son, Isabel was determined to retain control over Castile.

The 1469 marriage contract formalized the equality of the King and Queen as future rulers of their respective kingdoms. In 1484, a German visitor to the court of “The Catholic Kings” observed “The King did nothing without the consent of the queen; he did not seal his own letters until the queen had read them, and if the queen did not approve of one of them the secretary tore it up in the presence of the King himself (ed. David Boruchoff, Isabel La Católica, Queen of Castile: Critical Essays, p. 30). The political and personal partnership between Ferdinand and Isabella strengthened the political position of both kingdoms. The two monarchs conquered the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492 and presided over the beginning of Spain’s age of exploration.

Statue of Christopher Columbus on Barcelona’s waterfront, supposedly pointing the way to the New World (but actually pointing to the Island of Madiera).

The union of Castile and Aragon, like the previous union of Barcelona and Aragon was dynastic rather than political and what is now Spain became part of the Holy Roman Empire upon the ascension of Ferdinand and Isabella’s grandson, Emperor Charles V to the Aragonese and Castilian thrones. The enactment of the Spanish constitution of 1812, allowed King Ferdinand VII of the Bourbon dynasty to assume the title of “King of Spain.”

In 1962, another royal marriage took place that would shape the recent history of Barcelona. The Infante Juan Carlos, son of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, married Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark. At the time of the marriage, Spain was ruled by General Francisco Franco and did not have a reigning monarch. Franco declared Juan Carlos his heir, assuming the young prince would continue his authoritarian regime as King. At the suggestion of Princess Sofia, Juan Carlos assumed the title of “Prince of Spain” in 1969 rather than “Prince of Asturias,” the traditional title held by heirs to the Spanish throne.

Barcelona’s waterfront, revitalized for the 1992 Summer Olympics

When Juan Carlos became King upon Franco’s death in 1975, he presided over the transformation of Spain from authoritarian regime to democratic constitutional monarchy. In contrast to Franco’s regime, which suppressed regional autonomy and the Catalan language, Juan Carlos’ reign has seen the peaceful revival of Catalonia’s independence movement, culminating in the 2012 demonstrations in Barcelona.

The 1992 Summer Olympics served as the impetus for the urban renewal of Barcelona, opening the city up to its Mediterranean waterfront. The royal family was closely involved in the Games. Juan Carlos’ and Sophia’s son, Felipe, Prince of Asturias was the Spanish team’s flag bearer and participated as part of the sailing team. The European Union came into being the following year, placing the entire nation of Spain within a larger political entity as the marriages of Ramon Berenguer and Petronilla, and Ferdinand and Isabella had done for Barcelona during the Middle Ages.

Barcelona Marina

The current Catalan independence movement, centred in Barcelona, reflects how the regions that now comprise modern day Spain were gradually united through dynastic marriage. The wedding of Ramon Berenguer, Count of Barcelona to Queen Petronilla of Aragon in 1137 united Catalonia with Aragon while the marriage and conquests of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabel of Castile brought together all the regions that now comprise Spain by 1492. The reign of the current King of Spain, Juan Carlos and his consort, Queen Sofia has brought even greater change to Barcelona including the urban renewal that accompanied the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.