What to Expect at Prince George of Cambridge’s Christening

The Duchess of Cambridge leaving the hospital with Prince George of Cambridge on July 23, 2013 the day after his birth.

The next big event in the life of the newborn Prince George of Cambridge will be his christening. The ceremony will probably take place in September or early October, after Queen Elizabeth II returns from her summer holiday at Balmoral.The baby’s gown, the christening font and the location will follow tradition but the choice of godparents may reflect the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s personal preferences.

The newborn prince will wear a replica of the 172 year old Honiton lace and white satin gown designed for the christening of Queen Victoria’s eldest child, Princess Victoria in 1841. Royal babies from Princess Victoria  to Lady Louise Windsor in 2004 wore the original gown before it was deemed too delicate for further use and a replica was created for subsequent christenings.

The Lily Font

Prince George’s christening will also follow the precedent set by Queen Victoria by including the Lily font. From the Restoration in 1660 to the christening of the future Queen Victoria herself in 1819, the silver-gilt font and basin commissioned by Charles II was a fixture of royal christenings and continued to be in use as a secondary font for Victoria’s three eldest children. Victoria reputedly disliked the Restoration font because it had beenused for the christenings of her illegitimate cousins and Prince Albert designed the new “Lily Font” as the primary font for their children.

Since the reign of Queen Victoria most royal christenings have taken place at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. The private chapel at Buckingham Palace was damaged during the Blitz and both Prince Charles and Prince William were baptized in the Music Room, which has become a familiar setting for royal christenings. A number of nineteenth and twentieth century royal parents chose non-traditional venues for christenings.

Queen Victoria holding the future Edward VIII at his christening, flanked by her son, the future Edward VII and her grandson, the future George V on July 16, 1894

The future Edward VIII was christened at White Lodge in Richmond Park in 1894 and Princess Eugenie of York became the first member of the royal family to receive a public christening as part of a regular service at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham in 1990. Due to Prince George’s place in the line of succession, his christening will probably take place in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, following the precedent set by his father and grandfather.

While the setting, gown and font for Prince George’s christening will follow tradition, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may personalize the ceremony through their choice of godparents. There has been speculation that Prince William, Prince Charles and the Queen may select all the godparents because there were no representatives of the Spencer family chosen as godparents to Prince William in 1982. William’s godparents were The Prince of Wales’ second cousins, Constantine II, King of the Hellenes and Norton Knatchbull, Baron Romsey, Prince Charles’s favourite author, Sir Laurens van der Post, the Queen’s cousin Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Westminster, and the Queen’s Woman of the Bedchamber, Lady Susan Hussey.

Princess Elizabeth with Prince Charles at his christening in 1948

The exclusion of family or friends of the Princess of Wales from the list of William’s godparents actually broke with tradition as previous generations of royal babies had sponsors chosen by both their father and mother. Prince Charles’s own godparents included Queen Mary and the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, the surviving grandmothers of the future Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Uncle, Prince George of Greece and cousin, the former Lady Patricia Mountbatten were also godparents, in addition to Princess Margaret, King George VI, the honourable David Bowes-Lyon and King Haakon VII of Norway.

Just as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have welcomed the involvement of Catherine’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, in the upbringing of their son, it is likely that they will select a godparent from the Middleton family in addition to royal cousins, such as Peter or Zara Phillips and mutual friends. The royal couple may also choose a godparents from the Duke of Cambridge’s numerous Spencer cousins, which include a George, an Alexander and a Louis. Where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may break with tradition is the selection of foreign royalty. While there may be a member of the Greek royal family chosen in honour of Prince Philip, it is unlikely that there will be same array of foreign royal godparents that were present at the christenings of previous generations of British royal babies.

The autumn christening of Prince George of Cambridge will follow traditions established by Queen Victoria. The baby Prince will wear a replica of the 1841 honiton lace robe and the Lily Font will be the centrepiece of the ceremony, which will probably take place in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may personalize there ceremony through their choice of godparents, selecting more Spencer and Middleton relatives and family friends and fewer members of Europe’s royal houses.

My BBC News Magazine Article: Royal Baby: Revolution in the Nursery

In my article for the BBC news magazine, I discuss how the royal baby’s upbringing will compare to that of previous royal children and how William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will create a revolution in the royal nursery through their parenting choices.

Click here to read Royal Baby: Revolution in the Nursery at the BBC News Magazine

How Diana Reinvented the Royal Tour

My column in today’s Kingston Whig-Standard discusses the Prince and Princess of Wales’ 1983 visit to Canada and the lasting impact of Princess Diana’s approach to royal tours on her sons, William and Harry and the monarchy in Canada.

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

Eight Interesting Insights Into The Birth of the Future Royal Baby

I discussed the history of royal parenting with Rebecca Perrin on canada.com this week. We covered a lot of ground including how breastfeeding by royal mothers dates back to Marie Antoinette, why Prince William will almost certainly be in the delivery room when his child is born and why “Edward” was once an unusual name for a royal baby.

Click here for Eight Interesting Insights Into The Birth of the Future Royal Baby

5 “Modern” Royal Parenting Trends That Are Actually Centuries Old

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Ottawa for Canada Day in 2011

With the Duchess of Cambridge – better known as Kate Middleton – in her third trimester, there is intense speculation about the arrangements for the birth of the royal baby and the choices the royal couple will make as parents. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are known for combining their own innovations with royal traditions. For example, they were married in Westminster Abbey, where the weddings of the future Elizabeth II and George VI took place, but they introduced a charity gift registry and English field maple trees to decorate the aisle.

There is every reason to assume that the royal couple will adopt a similar blend of tradition and modernity in their approach to parenting. Nevertheless, a number of recent articles about royal parenting have assumed that since William and Catherine are a modern, twenty-first century royal couple, every single decision they plan to make as parents is either their own innovation or was introduced into the royal family by Princess Diana. These assumptions ignore the long history of royal parenting . I explained in a previous post that a number of royal parenting innovations attributed to Princess Diana are actually revivals of nineteenth century practices.

The Prince and Princess of Wales and Prince William

Despite clear evidence of nurturing royal parenting before Princess Diana, there a number of royal commentators who credit the late Princess of Wales with introducing “modern” royal parenting trends that were supposedly unknown to previous royal mothers.

A recent article by Rob Wallace of ABC news incorrectly claimed that Princess Diana was the first royal mother to breastfeed, allow her children to socialize with non-royalty and take her infant on an overseas tour. Another article published this month erroneously states that Prince William plans to “break with tradition” and become the first royal father in the delivery room.

There are numerous supposedly “modern” royal parenting trends that are actually centuries old and certainly long predate either the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge or Princess Diana. Here are 5 examples:

Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter

1) Breastfeeding The stereotype about royal mothers before Diana is that they handed their infants over to a wet nurse at birth. Royal commentators often cite Queen Victoria’s distaste for breastfeeding as evidence that royal mothers before Diana did not nurse their own children. The reason we know so much about Victoria’s views on  breastfeeding, however, is because her daughters ignored her advice on this matter and nursed their own children.

When Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, known as “Vicky” to her family, began nursing her own children, the Queen wrote a disapproving letter on the subject to her own half-sister, Princess Feodora of Leningen. The reply demonstrated that Queen Victoria’s distaste for breastfeeding was far from universal in royal circles, even in the nineteenth century. Feodora wrote, “I am sorry to find that Vicky’s determination to nurse makes you so angry…the Queen of Prussia feels the same as you. I have no opinion…as I have always felt it a duty for a mother to nurse a child if she can and if the doctors approve (See Hannah Pakula, An Uncommon Woman, p. 215).”

Albert, the Prince Consort in 1860

2) Royal Fathers in the Delivery Room Queen Victoria may have disapproved of breastfeeding but she was more than willing to break with tradition by having her husband, Prince Albert by her side for the births of her children. Childbirth unsettled the Queen, who owed her crown to the death of her cousin, Princess Charlotte, following the birth of a stillborn son.

The Queen described Albert’s presence at the birth of her eldest daughter, Vicky, in her 1840 journal, The Queen recorded, “Just before the early hours of the morning of the 21st I felt again very uncomfortable & with difficulty aroused Albert . . .Tried to get to sleep again, but by 4, I got very bad & both the Doctors arrived. My beloved Albert was so dear and kind. . . Dearest Albert hardly left me at all, & was the greatest support and comfort (Reprinted in Hannah Pakula, An Uncommon Woman, p. 27-28).” When William was born in 1982, Charles followed Albert’s example and was present for Diana’s entire 16 hour labour.

Ten month old Grand Duchess Olga meeting her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, in 1896 as part of her parents’s coronation tour of Europe

3) Royal Babies on Tour Long before Diana insisted that the infant William accompany his parents on a tour of Australia in 1983, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, the Empress Alexandra of Russia and her husband, Czar Nicholas II traveled with their ten month old daughter, Grand Duchess Olga, on their 1896 coronation tour of Europe. Nicholas II wrote to his brother, Grand Duke Georgy, after his coronation, “This year seems to be a year of hard labour with Alix and me as the martyrs: Moscow in the Spring, and now soon all these intolerable foreign visits. First of all we are going to Austria, then Kiev, Germany, Denmark, England, France and finally Darmstadt . . .On top of it, we shall have to drag our poor little daughter with us, as all the relatives want to see her. I can imagine what the French will get up to in Paris – maybe they really will rename her Napoleondra, or something like it! (Translated and Reprinted in Maylunas and Mironenko, A Lifelong Passion, p. 151).” Like Nicholas II, Diana discovered that a royal tour with an infant was difficult and William remained in the United Kingdom when the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Canada later in 1983.

Elizabeth Woodville, consort to King Edward IV

4) Involvement of Non-Royal Grandparents in a Royal Baby’s Upbringing The Duchess of Cambridge’s mother, Carole Middleton, has received extensive scrutiny from the British press for her rumoured plan to live with her daughter for the weeks following the royal baby’s birth. In past centuries, British royalty often married foreign royalty, circumstances that frequently prevented royal children from having a close relationship with their maternal grandparents. When monarchs of England or Scotland married members of the nobility, however, the queen consort’s family were closely involved in the upbringing of the royal children.

For example, when King Edward IV’s consort, Elizabeth Woodville, went into labour with her first child, Elizabeth of York, in 1466, the new baby’s maternal grandmother, Jacquetta Woodville, and maternal aunts were present. One of the reasons Richard III seized the throne from Edward IV’s and Elizabeth Woodville’s son Edward V in 1483 was to protect his own interests because he feared young Edward was too much under the influence of his Woodville relatives. For more information about the role of the Woodvilles in the upbringing of Edward IV’s children, see Amy Licence’s biography of Elizabeth of York.

The earliest surviving portrait of King Richard III

5) Royal Children Experiencing Life Outside Palace Walls

Richard III’s own upbringing was a classic example of a royal child living and learning alongside non-royal peers centuries before  Diana sent William to kindergarten. During the Middle Ages, children of English, Welsh and Scottish royalty often spent part of their childhood in a noble household, socializing with young people outside the royal family and receiving their education in a group setting.

The future King Richard III spent part of his childhood in the household of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, where he met his lifelong friend, Francis Lovell, and future wife, Anne Neville. In Warwick’s household, young Richard learned the techniques of medieval warfare alongside other boys from the English nobility. The pressure to match the abilities of his peers may have helped the future King to master horseback riding and the heavy medieval broadsword in spite of his scoliosis. For more information about the childhood of Richard III, see David Baldwin’s biography of the controversial King.

Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children From 1066 to the Present Day by David Cohen (Review)

Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children from 1066 to the Present Day  is a topical book considering the current circumstances within the royal family. With the announcement in December, 2012 that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will become parents in 2013, there is intense interest how they will raise their child. Potential answers to questions regarding the baby’s name, the influence of parents vs. nannies over the child’s early years and the eventual education of a future monarch may be found in the precedents set by previous members of the royal family. There are centuries of well documented examples of royal parenting that had a profound influence on the characters of successive monarchs.

David Cohen, a psychologist and the author of Diana: Death of a Goddess combines his interests in royalty and child psychology to assess the impact of generations of royal parenting on the monarchy. He places the parenting decisions of successive Kings and Queens in context, discussing changing parenting trends to discern whether a monarch was the product of his or her times or influenced by the unique conditions of a royal upbringing. The majority of the book is devoted to the Hanover dynasty, which was notorious for its quarrels between monarchs and their heirs, and the modern royal family, which has slowly changed its approach to royal child rearing.

Cohen concludes that Queen Victoria’s upbringing was particularly different from the parenting norms of the early nineteenth century as eighteenth century enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau encouraged greater freedom for children. In contrast, the “Kensington system” devised by Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent and her comptroller, John Conroy, strictly regulated all aspects of the princess’s life, refusing to allow her any time alone. Cohen’s psychological approach to royal history informs some interesting insights about past royal parents. Cohen speculates that Prince Albert’s difficulty assimilating into British court society may have contributed to his strictness with his son, the future Edward VII. The Prince Consort may have wanted to ensure his son’s success in an environment that he himself did not entirely understand.

Cohen’s original approach to the material and unique insights, however, are undermined by a number of factual inaccuracies in the text. For example. the Gloucester affair of 1654, when the exiled Queen Henrietta Maria attempted to convert one of her sons to Catholicism concerned her youngest son, Henry, Duke of Gloucester not her second son, the future James II as Cohen states in the text (p. 78-79). Inaccuracies of this kind should be corrected for future editions of the text and the inclusion of genealogical tables would clarify the birth order of large groups of royal siblings for general readers. There are also a number of surprising omissions from the bibliography. Cohen does not appear to have consulted Charles I: Personal Monarch, Charles Carlton’s psychological biography of the ill fated Stuart monarch, which includes in depth analysis of King James I and Anna of Denmark as parents, and their influence over the future King.

There are no footnotes in Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children from 1066 to the Present Day and Cohen comes to some conclusions that do not match existing data and historical analysis. In his discussion of King George V’s place in the extended European royal family, Cohen states, “The irony is that Lenin was a pragmatist and would probably have been quite prepared to let the Tsar sail out of St. Petersburg on a British warship (p. 220).” This statement contradicts evidence, including recent analysis by Helen Rappaport in The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg, that Lenin was directly involved in the decision to murder the entire Imperial family. Cohen also appears to still support conspiracy theories regarding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, which have been firmly refuted by numerous investigations and inquests into the circumstances surrounding the Paris car accident.

Bringing Them Up Royal: How the Royals Raised Their Children from 1066 to the Present Day is an excellent subject for a royal history book during a time of intense interest in how a new generation of royal children will be raised. Cohen places the upbringing of successive royal children within the context of their times, analysing royal parenting trends over the past thousand years. The author’s credibility, however, is undermined by factual inaccuracies, surprising omissions from the bibliography and certain conclusions that are not supported by reliable evidence. Hopefully, a second edition will address these issues and expand on the centuries of precedents for the parenting of royal children.

Diana, Princess of Wales and the Monarchy Part 4: The Public Perception of Royal Parenting

The Prince and Princess of Wales with the young Prince William

When Prince William was born in 1982, the press observed that Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales seemed determined to change recent trends in royal parenting. Charles was present in the hospital delivery room throughout Diana’s difficult sixteen hour labour. Although the royal couple employed nannies, they both participated in nursery activities, bathing and feeding their new baby.

When William reached school age, his parents enrolled him at the Wetherby School in Notting Hill, allowing him to meet other children from different backgrounds at a young age. Most significantly, Charles and Diana accepted Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s suggestion that the nine month old William accompany them on their six week tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1983. In contrast to Prince Charles and his mother, the future Queen Elizabeth II, who spent protracted periods of time in the care of their grandparents and nannies while their parents undertook commonwealth tours, William traveled to Australia with his parents. The baby Prince stayed on a sheep farm in New South Wales with his nanny, receiving visits from his parents every few days instead of experiencing the long separation from his parents experienced by his father and grandmother.

The Prince and Princess of Wales escorting Prince William to his first day of nursery school

All these innovations in royal parenting were the focus of intense public interest. The press in the 1980s was correct to observe that Prince William was being raised differently than his immediate predecessors. The majority of reporters, however, perpetuated two significant misconceptions about the young Prince’s childhood. Diana was assumed to be the sole influence over the modernization of William’s upbringing and the changes she introduced had never occurred in the royal household before.

While Charles’s close relationship with his sons has come to the public attention since Diana’s death in 1997, his presence in the delivery room and the inclusion of William on the 1983 Australian tour are still described as “unprecedented.” Charles’s and Diana’s approach to child-rearing instead bore a close resemblance to the innovations introduced by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during the nineteenth century, which continued until the outbreak of the First World War.

Portrait of Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in 1842.

Contrary to popular belief, Prince Charles was not the first royal father to be present in the delivery room when his children were born. When Queen Victoria went into labour with her first child, Princess Victoria, in 1840, Prince Albert was by her side. The Queen recorded in her journal, “Just before the early hours of the morning of the 21st I felt again very uncomfortable & with difficulty aroused Albert . . .Tried to get to sleep again, but by 4, I got very bad & both the Doctors arrived. My beloved Albert was so dear and kind. . . Dearest Albert hardly left me at all, & was the greatest support and comfort (Reprinted in Hannah Pakula, An Uncommon Woman, p. 27-28). Prince Albert’s presence in the delivery room was unusual for a member of the nineteenth century British aristocracy and was widely attributed to his German background.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were the first British royal couple to take family holidays together with their children. Postcards showing the royal family together at Balmoral in Scottish tartans or enjoying the seaside near Osborne House on the Isle of Wight were sold throughout the British Isles, reinforcing the public perception that the Queen and Prince Albert shared British middle class domestic values including close involvement in the education and leisure activities of their children.

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children at Osborne House

During Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901), overseas visits were comparatively rare and usually undertaken by male members of the royal family alone, leaving royal mothers to remain closely involved in the upbringing of their children. The first British Princess to cross the Atlantic with her husband, Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter Princess Louise, was childless and therefore did not have to balance her responsibilities as Vice Regal Consort of Canada with motherhood.

Visits by members of the British royal family to Europe’s royal courts took place much more frequently than overseas visits in the nineteenth century and were often family affairs. When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France in 1855, they brought their two eldest children, fourteen year old Princess Victoria and thirteen year old Prince Albert Edward. The children greatly enjoyed their time in Paris and the special attention they received from the French Imperial couple. Queen Victoria recorded in her journal, “The Emperor kindly took Bertie out in his curricle, which he drove himself . . .and drove him about Paris (Reprinted in Giles St. Aubyn, Edward VII, Prince and King, p. 37).”

Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra of Russia present their baby daughter, Grand Duchess Olga to her great grandmother, Queen Victoria during their 1896 coronation visit to Balmoral.

As the nineteenth century progressed and the royal marriages of Queen Victoria’s children and grandchildren created close ties between Europe’s royal houses, the difference between a state visit and family visit with all the children was present was often imperceptible. When Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Alexandra of Hesse and her husband Emperor Nicholas II of Russia planned their 1896 coronation tour of Europe, the Queen regarded the visit as an opportunity to meet her ten month old great-granddaughter, Olga.

Nicholas did not look forward to the prospect of undertaking an exhausting European tour with his young child. He wrote to his brother, Grand Duke Georgy, “This year seems to be a year of hard labour with Alix and me as the martyrs: Moscow in the Spring, and now soon all these intolerable foreign visits. First of all we are going to Austria, then Kiev, Germany, Denmark, England, France and finally Darmstadt . . .On top of it, we shall have to drag our poor little daughter with us, as all the relatives want to see her. I can imagine what the French will get up to in Paris – maybe they really will rename her Napoleondra, or something like it! (Translated and Reprinted in Maylunas and Mironenko, A Lifelong Passion, p. 151).

Nearly ninety years before Prince William visited Australia with his parents, the infant Grand Duchess Olga became a European celebrity as part of Nicholas II’s coronation tour. Royal children continued to accompany their parents on state visits until the First World War, which disrupted the close family links between Europe’s royal houses. The parenting innovations introduced by Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s were not unprecedented but instead mirrored the values of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who included their children in holidays and state visits alike. The modern royal family has revived the domestic atmosphere of the nineteenth century, facilitating close relationships between royal parents and children.

Diana, Princess of Wales and the Monarchy Part 3: Reviving an Old Approach to Royal Philanthropy

Diana, Princess of Wales, visiting with victims of land mines in Angola in 1997.

A few months before her death in August, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales visited Angola as a supporter of the the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Both Diana’s choice of a politically sensitive cause and her physical engagement with children who had lost their limbs to these hidden, explosive devices were characteristic of her approach to the traditional royal practice of philanthropy. In common with medieval and early modern royalty popularly believed to possess “the healing touch,” Diana held hands with AIDS patients and embraced ill and injured children. Fifteen years after her death, the public expects royalty to personally engage with the beneficiaries of their philanthropy, demonstrating the Princess of Wales’ continuing influence over the monarchy.

King Charles II touching scrofula sufferers. The monarch's touch was believed to cure this disfiguring condition until the eighteenth century.

When Diana held hands with patients in hospitals, she was not introducing a new way for royalty to engage with ordinary people but instead reviving the ancient practice of the royal healing touch, which persisted until the eighteenth century. In his religious history of the monarchy, Ian Bradley states, “Alongside her role as a celebrity and media superstar, Diana took on an iconic and spiritual status which at one level resembled nothing so much as the sacred aura of medieval monarchy with its magical healing touch (Bradley, God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Heart of the Monarchy, p. 204).”

Medieval monarchy was intensely personal. Kings and Queens reinforced their authority by connecting with their subjects on a physical level. Royalty dispensed alms directly to the poor outside churches or palaces and washed the feet of underprivileged parishioners during Maundy Thursday services. The monarch’s touch was believed to cure the disfiguring symptoms of scrofula, a form of tuberculosis of the neck glands now known to arise from consuming unpasteurized milk.

A 19th century artist's depiction of Queen Anne touching the young Samuel Johnson, who suffered from scrofula as a boy.

Both the monarchs of England and France held ceremonies where scrofula sufferers were presented at court to have their swollen neck glands touched by the sovereign. These ceremonies were comparatively rare by the reign of King Charles I (1625-1649), who also reduced the number of royal progresses and other opportunities for personal engagement between the monarch and his subjects. The circumstances of the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 revived the healing ceremonies as Charles II sought to reinforce the personal relationship between the ruling dynasty and its subjects. Charles II’s niece, Queen Anne, was last British monarch to touch scrofula sufferers as her second cousin and successor, King George I, deemed these ceremonies to be “too Catholic.”

The emergence of the philanthropic monarchy occurred during the eighteenth century and therefore reflected the sensibilities of the Hanoverian monarchs rather than their more tactile predecessors. King George III, Queen Charlotte and their children dutifully opened hospitals and donated to charitable causes but did not embrace the patients. George III’s and Queen Charlotte’s approach to philanthropy informed what is now perceived as the traditional approach to royal charitable patronage. Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter, Princess Anne, is one of the most active members of the current royal family in the charitable sector but she is never photographed holding the children who benefit from her patronage of Save the Children.

Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia in the robes of the Order or Martha and Mary that she founded in 1910.

Although the majority of royal philanthropy prior to Diana’s activities reflected the sensibilities of the Georgian monarchs, the older tradition of personal contact between royalty and the less fortunate did not entirely disappear. Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Elizabeth of Hesse-Darmstadt (1864-1918), who married Emperor Nicholas II of Russia’s uncle, Grand Duke Sergei, founded an order of working sisters that personally engaged with the poor of Moscow during her widowhood.

There are numerous parallels between Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Diana, Princess of Wales. In her youth, Elizabeth was considered one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe and was the focus of popular speculation regarding her percieved unhappy marriage to Sergei.

As Head Abbess of the Order of St. Mary and St. Martha, Elizabeth combined hands on charity work in the poorest slums of early twentieth century Moscow with a continued interest in fashion. In contrast to the dark robes worn by other orders of Russian Orthodox nuns, Elizabeth commissioned religious artist Michael Nesterov to design soft grey baize robes for her order with wimples and veils. The Grand Duchess’s own robes were created by the House of Pacquin in Paris (King and Wilson, The Court of the Last Tsar: Pomp, Power and Pageantry in the Reign of Nicholas II, p. 81).

Like Diana, Elizabeth’s image and charity work inspired a broad range of responses from the admiration and gratitude of the poor women and children assisted by her convent to the scepticism of the traditional nobility and clergy who questioned the Grand Duchess’s personal image and innovations within the traditional hierarchy of religious orders. Elizabeth was murdered by Russian revolutionaries in 1918 and was eventually canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Her example inspired the philanthropy of her niece, Princess Alice of Greece, the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The Duchess of Cambridge embracing Diamond Marshall during her 2011 tour of Canada. Photo Credit: Todd Korol

Diana, Princess of Wales’ personal engagement with the recipients of her philanthropy appeared to be a entirely new way for royalty to connect with ordinary people but actually mirrored medieval conceptions of the royal healing touch. Various members of the extended royal family, including Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia and Princess Alice of Greece continued to have physical contact with the less fortunate after more detached expressions of royal philanthropy became prevalent.

Diana’s willingness to hold hands with AIDS patients and embrace children injured by land mines brought this older form of royal humanitarian work back into the mainstream. When the Duchess of Cambridge embraced six year old cancer survivor Diamond Marshall in Calgary in 2011, she continued Diana’s example of reaching out and touching ill and underprivileged children.

Next Week: Diana, Princess of Wales and the Public Perception of Royal Parenting

 

 

The Royal Court: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Initiate Legal Proceedings in France

The Duchess of Cambridge boarding the Spirit of Chartwell for the Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant

Lawyers representing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began legal proceedings today against Closer, a French tabloid that published photographs of the Duchess sunbathing topless on the terrace of a private estate in Provence. The royal couple is seeking an injunction to prevent the tabloid from reselling the images, lodging a criminal complaint with French prosecutors and seeking damages from Closer and the photographer who captured the images with a long lens.

Both French privacy law and public sympathy are on the side of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are currently in the Solomon Islands as part of a tour celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. These legal proceedings have not prevented Irish and Italian tabloids from publishing the photographs but they send a powerful message that members of the royal family are willing to go to court to defend their right to a privacy.

Prince Charles visiting the Island of Jersey in 2012.

Both of Prince William’s parents have experience defending their interests within the legal system. Prince Charles has been subjected to numerous invasions of his privacy concerning his relationships with Diana, Princess of Wales and the now Duchess of Cornwall. The Prince was even photographed through a window getting into the shower while staying a French chateau in Avignon, in 1994. The case that prompted legal proceedings from Prince, however, was the unauthorized publication of excerpts from his journals by The Mail on Sunday. These journals, which were leaked to the press by a former member of Prince Charles’ staff, contained personal observations of the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to China in a volume entitled, “The Handover of Hong Kong, or The Great Chinese Takeaway.”

Prince Charles in Hong Kong in 1997.

In contrast to the embarrassing personal revelations concerning Prince Charles, which had surfaced in previous decades, the publication of the journal entries called into question the heir’s ability to succeed to the throne as a politically impartial constitutional monarch. The Mail on Sunday was aware of the political significance of the documents in its possession and argued that the public had the right to know the Prince of Wales’ opinions on international affairs. In 2006, Prince Charles won his privacy suit against the Mail in Sunday as the judge ruled that the Prince’s presence at the handover of Hong Kong was a public event but the journals had not been written for public consumption. In common with the current legal proceedings initiated by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the case involving Prince Charles’ journals attempted to establish the royal family’s right to a personal life outside their public role as representatives of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.

Diana, Princess of Wales at the Cannes film festival.

Diana, Princess of Wales attempted to defend her privacy in 1993, when Bruce Taylor, the owner of her gym, LA Fitness, sold unflattering photographs of the Princess exercising to The Mirror.  The Princess had already received a high court injunction against Taylor and the Mirror Group of Newspapers preventing further publication of the pictures and sought to prevent the sale and publication of the photographs outside the United Kingdom.

The BBC reported at the time, “Princess Diana’s decision marks a new approach by the royal family, which has traditionally resisted using the law to hit back. She could become the first member of the royal family to testify in a courtroom since 1891 when the then Prince of Wales gave evidence for a friend in a libel action.” The case was ultimately settled out of court with Diana receiving an apology from the Mirror Group of Newspapers and an undisclosed the settlement that included her legal fees and donations to her charities.

While the BBC was correct to note that the royal family rarely initiated legal proceedings against the press, Diana’s case was not entirely unprecedented in the twentieth century. King George V began his reign in 1910 by initiating legal proceedings against a French journalist, Edward Mylius, who wrote that the King was guilty of bigamy, having reputedly secretly married the daughter of an Admiral in Malta two years before his public marriage to Princess Mary of Teck. Since this allegation threatened the royal succession, the King initiated proceedings against Mylius for criminal libel.

The prosecutor successfully argued that Mylius’s story was entirely fictional and the journalist was sentenced to twelve months in prison. Although the King expressed his willingness to take the stand to disprove the rumour, his attorney-general, Sir Rufus Issacs, advised that it would be unconstitutional for the King to give evidence in his own court. The monarch’s presence in the courtroom ultimately proved to be unecessary.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s current legal proceedings in France are the most recent example of the royal family defending its reputation in a courtroom setting. Both Prince William’s parents attempted to establish their right to private activities and opinions through the legal system, setting a precedent for subsequent cases involving the relationship between the monarchy and the press.

Diana, Princess of Wales and the Monarchy Part 2: The Evolution of the Royal Walkabout

Princess Diana on a royal walkabout in Wainuiomata, New Zealand in April, 1983. Photo credit: The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library

When Diana, Princess of Wales died in 1997, the mourners who left flowers outside Kensington Palace commented on her unique rapport with people of all backgrounds. She was perceived as “The People’s Princess” with the ability to transcend her privileged position to empathize with children, the underprivileged and the unwell. Diana’s public reputation for empathy and concern developed from both her charity work and her participation in royal walkabouts. The Princess of Wales’ approach to the royal walkabout, which had been part of royal tours since 1939 had a lasting effect on how members of the royal family interact with the public at official engagements.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth acknowledge the crowds at Toronto City Hall in 1939

The first modern royal walkabouts took place during the 1939 tour of Canada by King George VI and his consort, Queen Elizabeth, one of the most well received royal visits in Canadian history. On May 20, the King and Queen visited Ottawa where George VI dedicated the National War Memorial in front of a crowd of 10,000 war veterans. After the ceremony, the royal couple spontaneously jointed the crowd, personally greeting the assembled onlookers and spending 30 minutes speaking with the soldiers. Further walkabouts occured at various points during the tour including the couple’s departure from Victoria, British Columbia.

Elizabeth II in New Zealand in 1970

Queen Elizabeth II revived the royal walkabout during her 1970 tour of Australia and New Zealand. During the first decades of her reign, access to the monarch was carefully regulated by the Royal Household, ensuring that only “suitable” persons were permitted to meet their sovereign. The walkabout was reborn in New Zealand when the Queen departed from the official program to greet a group of schoolchildren eager to meet the monarch. She shook hands with the children and accepted flowers and other small presents from them. Photographs of this walkabout were published by the press worldwide and the Queen received widespread praise for her willingness to respond to personally engage with the enthusiastic crowds on the tour. The walkabout was once again a staple aspect of a royal visit.

The Prince and Princess of Wales on their wedding day

When Lady Diana Spencer married Charles, Prince of Wales in 1981, participating in royal walkabouts was an essential elements of her new royal duties. The young bride had been dubbed “Shy Di” because of her unwillingness to speak to the press during her engagement and public interest in how she would interact  with onlookers during royal walkabouts was intense. The new Princess of Wales quickly developed her own unique approach to structure of public engagements refined by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II.

One of Diana’s biographers, Tina Brown, attended an early royal engagement undertaken by the Prince and Princess of Wales, a black tie dinner at the American embassy in London. Brown observed, “I was struck by how odd it must be to be always coming upon silent people who stand there waiting to be addressed. But even at this early stage, Diana had evolved a perfect way to deal with it. In a light, airy way, she broke through by offering a shared little experience of her own that immediately communicated she was human (Brown, The Diana Chronicles, p. 223). When Brown commented that she had traveled to Venice by train, Diana volunteered, “I can never sleep on trains, can you?”

Diana’s engaging approach to royal walkabouts charmed audiences worldwide. Prior to her marriage, she had worked as a kindergarten assistant and nanny and had an instant rapport with children, crouching to their level when speaking with them. The Princess learned greetings in the local languages of the places she visited, greeting onlookers in Welsh on her first trip to Wales in 1982. Diana also connected with ill and disabled onlookers at her walkabouts, holding their hands and expressing an interest in their health. In Canada in 1983, Diana was even seen picking up a camera for an onlooker who accidentally dropped in in her path, further breaking down the barriers between royalty and those who gathered to meet them during their walkabouts.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Canada in 2011

Diana’s approach to royal walkabouts has had a lasting effect on how royalty engages with the public. Twenty-first century royal tours are marked by longer conversations between royal visitors and members of the public than earlier royal walkabouts. During their 2011 tour of Canada, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took the time to interact extensively with ordinary Canadians, extending their walkabouts to allow for lengthier conversations with members of the public. The most recent royal tours have also been filled with spontaneous moments that provide new opportunities for royalty to engage with the public. Earlier this year, Prince Charles joined a game of street hockey in New Brunswick, scoring a goal to the delight of onlookers. Prince Harry danced in the streets during his tour of the Caribbean. The informality and spontaneity that Diana, Princess of Wales brought to royal walkabouts has had a lasting impact on the relationship between the royal family and the public.

Next Week: Diana, Princess of Wales and Her Charities