Toronto Public Library Lecture on September 19, 2018: Royal Weddings from Victoria and Albert to Harry and Meghan

George Hayter’s painting of the wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert

I will delivering a lecture at Toronto Public Library, Leaside Branch on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 2pm about the history of Royal Weddings from Victoria and Albert to Harry and Meghan followed by the sale and signing of my most recent book Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting. All are welcome.

Click here for more information

Huffington Post Interview: How Meghan Markle And Prince Harry’s Wedding Differed From The Last Royal Nuptials

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their wedding on April 29, 2011.

I compared the weddings of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) in an interview with the Huffington Post, along with Marlene Koenig at Royal Musings Here is an excerpt from the interview:

“At the last royal wedding, things went a little more by the book, with Michael Francis Middleton walking his daughter, the soon-to-be Duchess of Cambridge, down the aisle to meet Prince William.

There is royal precedent for close relatives stepping in to handle escort duty. Queen Victoria, whose father died when she was an infant, was walked down the aisle by one of her uncles when she married Prince Albert, said Carolyn Harris, the author of Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette.”

Click here to read “How Meghan Markle And Prince Harry’s Wedding Differed From The Last Royal Nuptials” in the Huffington Post

Books I’ve Read This Week: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and the Modern Monarchy

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 18: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and The Modern Monarchy: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married on May 19 in a wedding that combined royal traditions with modern innovations, which reflected the personalities and interests of the royal couple. I have spent the week discussing the history of royal weddings with the media and reading about the royal couple and the modern monarchy. My recent book choices include three recent biographies of Harry and Meghan as well as biographies of royal women both current (Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Sophie, Countess of Wessex) and past (Queen Mary, whose tiara Meghan wore on her wedding day, and Queen Victoria’s descendants, who married into most of Europe’s royal houses) Here are this week’s reviews:

#120 of 365 American Princess: The Love Story of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry by Leslie Carroll

Genre: Royal Biography

Dates Listened: May 10-12, 2018

Format: Audiobook, 7 hours and 25 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from

Review: A light and breezy joint biography of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Only the last few chapters are about Harry and Meghan as a couple and the plans for their wedding. The book covers a lot of familiar ground including Charles and Diana’s divorce, Harry’s military career and his past relationships with Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas as well as Meghan’s acting career and lifestyle blog and the charity work undertaken by both Harry and Meghan. The author memorably refers to Harry as “A Rebel with Many Causes.”

The chapters about Meghan’s early life, growing up in California are more interesting because her life is less well known than Harry’s. The book was published before the wedding and therefore concludes with speculation concerning which title the royal couple would receive on their wedding day. The author discusses the precedents for the couple becoming Duke and Duchess of Clarence, Sussex or Buckingham. An fun read but provides little new information and is already outdated following Harry and Meghan’s wedding and new titles.

#121 of 365 The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown by Penny Junor

Genre: Royal Biography

Format: Audiobook, 12 hours and 39 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from

Dates Listened: May 12-12, 2018

Review: I enjoyed the early chapters of this book, which provide an excellent overview of Camilla’s upbringing, worldview and the culture of her social background and times, which included limited education for women and close proximity to the royal family and the rhythms of royal life. The later chapters, from Camilla’s marriage to Charles until the end of the book are also very interesting as they discuss the challenges of her transition to royal life at the age of 57 including overcoming her fear of flying to undertake Commonwealth tours as Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla’s charitable work also receives extensive analysis in the later chapters.

The middle of the book, however, is dominated by the conflicts between Charles and Diana, which are well known from other sources, as well as conflicts among courtiers. Junor is also interested in the tense relationship between the royal family and the press. The author has a clear bias toward Charles in her analysis of his marriage to Diana and emphasizes her own proximity to royalty. These sections become repetitive. The book is at its best when the focus is on Camilla’s life and work. The audiobook is well read and engaging.

#122 of 365 Grandmama of Europe: The Crowned Descendants of Queen Victoria by Theo Aronson

Genre: Royal History

Dates Read: May 12-14, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from

Format: Paperback, 678 pages

Review: A royal history classic! Theo Aronson examines the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria who married into Europe’s royal houses. The book was first published in the 1970s and there are some sections of the book, especially the chapters concerning the Russian Imperial family, which are rather dated, but Aronson provides an excellent account of how princesses with British upbringings experienced the courts of Russia, Romania, Greece, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Aronson’s favourite among of Queen Victoria’s descendants is clearly Queen Marie of Romania, who is described in glowing terms throughout the book. Aronson argues that the the connections between Europe’s royal houses were of limited political importance as the frequent family gatherings of the early 20th century did not prevent the First World War but these marriages still had a profound cultural influence as British customs and conceptions of royal duties spread across the continent. Well worth reading, especially in conjunction with more recent works. 

#123 of 365 Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor by Anne Edwards

Genre: Royal History

Acquired: Purchased from

Format: Audiobook, 16 hours and 35 minutes

Dates Read: May 13-15, 2018

Review: Despite her profound influence on the monarchy, including the upbringing of her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II, there are few in depth of biographies of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. The most famous and comprehensive is the 1959 book by James Pope-Hennessey. Anne Edwards, who has written books about numerous public figures, wrote her biography of Queen Mary in the 1980s, a period of increased interest in the monarchy with the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and the births of Prince William and Prince Harry.

Edwards’s biography of Queen Mary excels in certain respects but is curiously incomplete in other ways. Edwards incorporates a variety of primary sources including Queen Mary’s correspondence and diaries as well as newspaper reports of the time. There is a great deal of attention devoted to Mary’s family life including her often distant relationship with her children and their experiences growing up in the royal family. Mary’s various homes and her intellectual interests are also discussed. Mary was far better educated than George and she read aloud to her husband and helped him practice his French and German. There are also whole chapters about wider European events that affected Mary and her family.

In contrast, the book summarizes Mary’s childhood very quickly, even though her background as a the child of a morganatic marriage – but also a close relative of Queen Victoria – is essential to understanding her character and outlook on the monarchy. The 1901 world tour is also summarized quickly with little discussion of how she was received in Canada or Australia. Her visits to India receive more attention. There are frequent references to public engagements and visits to hospitals in wartime but I would have liked more detail about her charities and her interactions with the people she met as a public figure. The author also mentions Britain and England interchangeably, which is inaccurate and distracting.

The audiobook is read in a suitably stately fashion by Corrie James.

#124 of 365 Harry: Life, Loss and Love by Katie Nicholl

Genre: Royal History

Dates Read: May 15-16, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from

Format: Audiobook, 8 hours and 31 minutes

Review: My favourite one of the recently published biographies of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In contrast to past biographies of Harry that often recount all the details of Charles and Diana’s marriage and divorce, Nicholl keeps the focus firmly on Harry and his experiences. Nicholl discusses Harry’s family life and the loss of his mother, how he gained a reputation as a party prince in his youth, his military career, passion for endangered species conservation and spending time in Botswana, humanitarian work, and relationships, including his engagement to Meghan Markle. Well worth reading in the aftermath of the royal wedding.

#125 of 365 Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton

Genre: Royal Biography

Acquired: Purchased from Indigo Books

Format: Hardcover, 272 pages

Date Read: May 19, 2018

Review: Morton’s biography of Meghan Markle, clearly written in anticipation of the royal wedding, contains some interesting facts. Meghan, now Duchess of Sussex, once took part in a USO holiday tour and appeared in a school play with Scarlett Johansson. The tone of the book is sometimes judgmental though, with references to Meghan having a love of selfies or having a reputation as a “thirsty socialite.” There are interviews with people who only knew Meghan in passing (such as Deal or No Deal co-stars) or clearly have an axe to grind (such as her half brother Thomas Markle Jr.). The book was clearly written in haste and the photographs are out of order with later photos preceding earlier ones. The book did not meet my expectations.

#126 of 365 Sophie’s Kiss: The True Love Story of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones by Garth Gibbs and Sean Smith

Genre: Royal Biography

Format: Paperback, 268 pages

Acquired: Purchased from Willow Books, Toronto

Date Read: May 20, 2018

Review: I found this 1999 joint biography of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones (now the Earl and Countess of Wessex) in a secondhand bookstore and it is an interesting read in light of the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Like Harry and Meghan, Edward and Sophie enjoyed cooking together while they were dating and dealt with the intrusive behaviour of the media. The authors clearly admire Sophie and describe her as “a delightful girl.” The tone of the book, however, is very gossipy and occasionally in poor taste. There are some patronizing generalizations about women and relationships. I enjoyed the subject matter of this biography but not the authors’ approach to the material.

CBC News Interview: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Why it’s more than just a wedding

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Earlier in the week, I discussed the significance of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with Janet Davison at CBC News, including the role of the marriage in the 21st century public image of the royal family and the history of popular responses to royal weddings, including Walter Bagehot’s 1867 work, The English Constitution.

Click here to read Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Why it’s more than just a wedding at CBC News


National Public Radio Interview: Getting Ready For The Royal Wedding

Prince Harry

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married today in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Prince Harry received the title His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. Harry and Meghan are now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

I discussed the historical and cultural context for the royal wedding on National Public radio earlier this week, along with Daisy Goodwin, the creator and primary writer of the Victoria series on PBS and Chioma Nnadi, the fashion and news director at Click here to listen to Getting Ready For The Royal Wedding on NPR’s On Point

My BBC History Magazine article: The 8 most famous royal weddings in British history

Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales on their wedding day in 1981

In honour of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this weekend, my feature article in the BBC History Magazine is about the 8 most famous royal weddings in British history. I discuss what each bride wore on her wedding day, guest list complications, wedding cakes and the variety of popular responses to royal weddings over the centuries from Tudor times to today.

Click here to read The 8 Most Famous Royal Weddings in British History


E News Interview: Who Could Walk Meghan Markle Down the Aisle in Place of Her Father, According to a Royal Expert?

Meghan Markle

There have been conflicting reports this week concerning whether Meghan Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, will attend the royal wedding on Saturday May 19 and escort his daughter down the aisle to marry Prince Harry. The latest news indicates that he will be undergoing heart surgery later in the week and be unable to travel to the United Kingdom for the wedding.

I discussed the history of royal weddings with Lindsay Good at E News online. Although the most famous recent royal brides, Catherine Middleton and Lady Diana Spencer were accompanied by their respective fathers on their wedding days, there are numerous royal brides who have been escorted by other relatives including mothers, uncles, brothers and brothers-in-law. As a widow, Queen Victoria escorted at least two of her daughters, Helena and Beatrice, down the aisle when they married.

Click here to read Who Could Walk Meghan Markle Down the Aisle in Place of Her Father, According to a Royal Expert


CBC News Interview: Pomp, pageantry and the PR spectacle of the royal wedding

George Hayter’s painting of the wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert

I discussed royal wedding traditions and preparations with Janet Davison at the CBC News Channel for the latest edition of the CBC Royal Wedding newsletter, the The Royal Fascinator. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Jump back to the 19th century, and you’ll see that royal weddings were riveting the public throughout Queen Victoria’s reign. She had nine children and they all married. She also lived long enough to attend the weddings of several grandchildren, says Toronto-based royal historian and author Carolyn Harris. After Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, Victoria lived a relatively secluded life, says Harris, “so a royal wedding was a rare public opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Queen.”

Click here to read The Royal Fascinator: Pomp, pageantry and the PR spectacle of the royal wedding

CBC The Goods Interview: Royal Wedding Quiz

The wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert

I discussed the history of royal weddings on The Goods on CBC (Season 2, Episode 97). The audience participated in a royal wedding quiz with questions about royal wedding gifts, dresses and balcony appearances!

Click here to watch the episode 


My lectures about Royal Tours of Toronto at Market Gallery on November 17 and 24

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh leaving the Royal York hotel in Toronto on a tour of Canada in 2010.

I will be giving two Friday afternoon lectures later this month at Market Gallery in Toronto about royal tours of Toronto, complementing the Maple Leaf Forever exhibition currently on display there. Afternoon tea will be served at both events and my books Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada and Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting will be for sale.

On November 17, I will be discussing the 1860 royal tour of Canada by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), which set key precedents for subsequent royal tours. More details about the talk are available here.

On November 24, I will be discussing Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to Toronto from 1951 to 2010. More details about the talk are available here.

Tickets for each lecture and afternoon tea are $20 and are available from Market Gallery.