In August, I gave a royal history lecture series on a Baltic sea cruise. The first stop was Stockholm, Sweden, where I visited the royal palace, the official residence of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Sylvia. Here are a few of my photographs from the trip:
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 30: Queens and Empresses: In recent weeks, I have been reading extensively about one of my favourite topics, the political and cultural influence of royal women. I will be delivering a lecture about Catherine the Great and the Hermitage later this month as part of a royal history lecture series on a Baltic Sea cruise and I have therefore been reading extensively about Catherine’s famous art collection. I am also working on a feature article about royal wedding dresses to be published in time for Princess Eugenie’s wedding this October, and so I have been reading more about royal fashions from the eighteenth century to the present day. I also recently read three more titles from the Palgrave Macmillan Queenship and Power series. Here are this week’s reviews:
#204 of 365 Royal Women and Dynastic Loyalty edited by Caroline Dunn and Elizabeth Carney
Format: E-Book, 207 pages
Acquired: Borrowed From Robarts Library, University of Toronto
Date Read: July 25, 2018
Review: A collection of articles about royal women and their contributions to royal dynasties from classical times to the 19th century. While there are familiar figures examined in this volume, such as Mary, Queen of Scots and her son James I’s queen, Anna of Denmark, most of the contributors examine comparatively overlooked figures. There are chapters concerning Empress Elizabeth Christine (the mother of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and the grandmother of Queen Marie Antoinette of France), and the little known royal women of the 17th century Ottoman Empire who served as stabilizing figures during an uncertain time for their ruling house.
The authors draw conclusions that continue to be relevant to the history of monarchical government, women and power, and royal court culture. For example, in her chapter on Queenship and the Currency of Arts Patronage as Propaganda at the Early Stuart Court, Wendy Hitchmough observes that royal palaces continue to be sites of national identity and memory, as demonstrated by the recent Remembrance Day poppies installation at the Tower of London and the role of Kensington Palace as a site for mourning Diana, Princess of Wales.
Since the book is based on a series of conference papers, the chapters are short and sometimes end abruptly, especially the opening chapter about King’s Daughters, Sisters, and Wives: Fonts and Conduits of Power and Legitimacy by Waldemar Heckel. I hope that the contributors will expand their research into longer articles and books as the chapters in this volume examine important and often overlooked historical figures and their contributions to dynastic legitimacy.
#205 of 365 The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia by Susan Jaques
Genre: Biography/Art History
Acquired: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: Paperback, 480 pages
Date Read: July 25, 2018
Review:The Empress of Art provides a good overview of Catherine the Great’s art patronage and the development of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. Jaques writes in an engaging, accessible style, and places the acquisition of key art collections such as the Walpole paintings within the context of the wider events of Catherine the Great’s reign. The author has visited Saint Petersburg and demonstrates a familiarity with the historic buildings of the city, Catherine the Great’s influence on architecture, and her role in setting wider cultural trends.
In addition to detailing Catherine’s cultural activities, Jaques explains the ultimate fate of the paintings acquired by the Empress. While some of Catherine’s purchases remain on display at the Hermitage museum, her grandson Czar Nicholas I sold some of the pieces that he judged to be inferior while other acquisitions were destroyed by fire or sold to the National Gallery in Washington D.C. during the Soviet period.
Unfortunately, there are some historical errors sprinkled throughout the book, especially toward the beginning and end. The errors concern names, dates, and, most often, the family relationships between royal personages. (For example, Maria Josepha was Maria Theresa’s daughter, not her daughter-in-law. A daughter of the last Byzantine Emperor did not marry a czar, as stated in the book. Instead, a niece of the last Byzantine Emperor married a Grand Duke of Muscovy, Ivan III. The title of czar was not in use until their grandson’s reign.) While these errors do not undermine Jaques’s overall argument that Catherine was a key cultural patron with a lasting legacy in a number of different spheres, they are distracting for the reader.
The Empress of Art is an engaging biography of Catherine the Great as a cultural patron that is especially useful for visitors to Saint Petersburg and the city’s Hermitage Museum. Includes illustrations of key paintings and architecture from Catherine’s reign.
#206 of 365 Queenship and Counsel in Early Modern Europe edited by
Date Read: July 26, 2018
Format: E-Book, 291 pages
Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto
Review: An excellent collection of scholarly articles about how early modern queens exercised and received political counsel. The book includes fresh perspectives on Tudor and early Stuart era queens who are often reduced to one dimensional portrayals in the popular imagination.
For example, Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, closely associated with her nephew Holy Roman Emperor Charles V because of the circumstances of the breakdown of her marriage, in fact had a more complicated attitude toward English foreign policy and was not always perceived as placing Spain’s interests first. Henry VIII’s sister Mary, Queen of France, famous for marrying Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and incurring the King’s displeasure in fact remained closely interested in Anglo-French relations for the rest of her life, and attempted to maintain her own network of connections during her brief marriage to Louis XII. Mary, Queen of Scots paid careful attention to her household, avoiding appointing the wives of privy Councillors to attend her in a personal capacity in an attempt to separate her public and private spheres. Queen Elizabeth I made use of her classical education to affirm her authority over male Councillors.
In addition to chapters reassessing well known queens, there is analysis of little known queens consort and the manner in which they exerted political influence. The book’s focus on the early modern period allows for exploration of how royal women’s roles were passed through the generations. For example, there is a chapter about Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland followed by a chapter about her daughter, Catherine Jagiellon, Queen of Sweden, two queens consort who deserve to be more well known. The book comes together as a cohesive whole, with parallels drawn between the various queens discussed in individual sections and wider conclusions presented about the range of roles for a queen in the sixteenth century. Highly recommended for scholars and general readers interested in early modern queenship.
#207 of 365 Queens Matter in Early Modern Studies edited by Anna Riehl Bertolet
Format: E-Book, 399 pages
Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto
Dates Read: July 28-August 2, 2018
Review: A collection of scholarly essays dedicated to Carole Levin, the co-editor of the Palgrave Macmillan Queenship and Power book series. I am honoured that my own book is mentioned in Charles Beem’s essay concerning the development of the series, which states, “…Carolyn Harris’s Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette, a provocative comparative study of two queens who suffered miserably at the hands of revolutionary ideologies.” The chapters are divided by theme, presenting a broad range of perspectives on early modern queenship, especially the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. I found the chapters about Elizabeth I’s role as a godparent (she had at least 114 godchildren over the course of her reign including John Harington, inventor of the flush toilet), and the comparisons between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots especially fascinating. An interesting and informative read.
Genre: Art History
Date Read: July 30, 2018
Acquired: Received as a Gift
Format: Paperback, 328 pages
Review: The book that accompanied the 2005 Catherine the Great exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. A nice balance between beautiful illustrations of works of art collected and commissioned by Catherine the Great, and insightful essays about the different facets of her role as patron of arts. The art historians focus on the variety of different art forms in Catherine’s collection including paintings, sculpture and cameos, her motives for amassing such an extensive art collection, and the question of whether she possessed good taste or was simply a “glutton for art” who bought large collections without considering the merits of the individual works. The essays concerning her patronage of women artists including Elisabeth Vigee LeBrun and Marie-Anne Collot are especially interesting. I would have been interested to read a concluding essay about the expansion of the Hermitage museum’s collection after Catherine the Great’s reign.
#209 of 365 The Royal Wedding Dresses by
Genre: History and Fashion
Date Read: August 2, 2018
Acquired: Read at Toronto Reference Library
Genre: Hardcover, 176 pages
Review: A beautifully illustrated history of royal wedding fashion from Henry VII and Elizabeth of York to Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Although the title suggests that the book examines wedding dresses alone, the authors also look at the fashions worn by royal bridegrooms, bridesmaids and guests. There are some fascinating examples of royal brides adapting traditional bridal fashions to reflect their own preferences including Queen Marie of Romania choosing a tulle veil instead of the wedding lace favoured by most of Queen Victoria’s descendants, and her cousin Princess Margaret of Connaught choosing an Irish made gown embroidered with shamrocks to reflect her happy memories of spending time in Ireland as a child. I would be interested to read an updated edition that includes the last few decades of royal wedding fashion.
Date Read: August 7, 2018
Acquired: Borrowed from Toronto Public Library
Format: Hardcover, 299 pages
Review: An excellent read, especially in tandem with Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the French Revolution by Caroline Weber. Bashor examines the life and hair-raising exploits of Leonard Autie, who rose from obscure origins in Gascony to become Marie Antoinette’s hairdresser and confidant. Both the hairdresser and Marie Antoinette’s milliner, Rose Bertin, became recognizable public figures in their own right and were nicknamed Ministers of Fashion, setting precedents for future celebrity stylists and fashion designers.
I especially enjoyed the chapters about the Flight to Varennes, where Leonard acted as a secret messenger for the King and Queen, and his brother may have unwittingly foiled the royal family’s plan to flee France. Leonard had a long career after the French Revolution, styling the hair of the Russian Imperial family, including the murdered Czar Paul I for his state funeral. Marie Antoinette’s Head is lavishly illustrated with images from the French archives of Marie Antoinette, her family and her famous hairstyles. Highly recommended.
Abstract: In the United Kingdom and Canada, support for the monarchy is higher among women than men. From Walter Bagehot’s political theory in the nineteenth century to modern day polling data, monarchism among women is usually attributed to royal events in popular culture from nineteenth-century royal weddings to twenty-first century depictions of the royal family in television and film. Press coverage of royal tours of Canada in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often depicted women as passive bystanders in crowds, only gradually adding depictions of women as active participants in welcoming royalty.
The history of Canadian women’s responses to royal tours and other public engagements by royalty in Canada from the eighteenth century to the present day reveals that there is a long history of women assuming active roles when royalty are present in Canada, seeking redress in legal cases in the eighteenth century, requesting patronage for organizations benefiting women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and debating the future of the monarchy in Canada in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
The impact of royalty in Canada on women’s lives has become part of Canadian culture and literature. The higher levels of support for monarchism among women compared to men should therefore not be assumed to be due to passively viewing royal weddings, fashions or popular culture alone, but should be placed within this context of women actively engaging with royalty during their public appearances in Canada, viewing royal occasions as opportunities to have their concerns addressed by prominent public figures.
My latest article in the Canadian Encyclopedia is about Her Royal Highness Princess Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline of Albany, Countess of Athlone, viceregal consort of Canada from 1940 to 1946 (born 25 February 1883 in Berkshire, United Kingdom; died 3 January 1981 in London, United Kingdom).
Princess Alice promoted Canadian culture and women’s contributions to the Second World War. She was the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria and the last member of the royal family to serve as viceregal consort of Canada.
Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth of Connaught (born 17 March 1886 in London, United Kingdom; died 12 January 1974 in Windlesham, Surrey, United Kingdom). Patricia resided in Canada from 1911 to 1916 and acted as hostess for her father, the Duke of Connaught, during his term as governor general. She gave her name to Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and became honorary colonel-in-chief in 1918. A talented artist inspired by Canadian landscapes, she exhibited her paintings in Canadian art exhibitions, and examples of her work remain part of Canadian collections.
The Canadian Kingdom: 150 Years of Constitutional Monarchy, edited by D. Michael Jackson was published by Dundurn Press today. The book contains a chapter I wrote about the history of Royalty and the Arts in Canada from the eighteenth century to the present day. Click here to purchase The Canadian Kingdom: 150 Years of Constitutional Monarchy
From the introduction of The Canadian Kingdom:
“In “Royalty and the Arts in Canada,” Carolyn Harris examines royal interest in Canadian culture over the three centuries since Queen Anne. The royal family have paid particular attention to the artistic heritage of the Indigenous Peoples, paralleling the intimate link between the Crown and the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. A daughter of Queen Victoria, the accomplished artist Princess Louise gave a big boost to Canadian culture when she was chatelaine of Rideau Hall with her husband Lord Lorne, governor general from 1878 to 1883. Vigorous royal support resumed when the artistic Princess Patricia, daughter of Louise’s brother the Duke of Connaught, accompanied her father during his term as governor general from 1911 to 1916. Harris points out that the present Queen and her family are very much involved as patrons and collectors of the arts in contemporary Canada. Indeed, she refers to Elizabeth II as the “curator monarch” and believes that “the continued close ties between the royal family, the creation of fine art, and the Royal Collection suggest a dynamic future for royal involvement in the arts in Canada.”
I contributed a chapter about Royalty and the Arts in Canada to The Canadian Kingdom edited by D. Michael Jackson and published by Dundurn Press. The book will be published next month.
Queen Elizabeth II’s role as a curator monarch over the course of her long reign has exerted a profound impact on Canadian art and culture, building upon centuries of patronage of Canadian artists, architects, and cultural institutions by past generations of royalty, most notably members of the royal family who resided in Canada for years at a time. A number of Canada’s past royal residents, including Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise and granddaughter Princess Patricia, were accomplished artists in their own right who raised the profile of Canadian galleries by founding new cultural institutions, attending events, submitting their pieces for judgement in Canadian exhibitions, and donating their work. Over the course of her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has loaned or donated art to Canadian cultural institutions and acquired works by Canadian artists for the Royal Collection, expanding the scope of royal involvement in the arts in Canada and setting precedents for artistic patronage by future generations in the royal family.
I discussed the impact of royalty on fashion with York University Magazine. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“When members of the royal family undertake public engagements, their clothing and accessories are closely scrutinized and fashion designers often experience increased exposure and sales,” says Carolyn Harris, a royal historian in Toronto and author of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting. “Sentaler is the latest example of the impact of royalty on fashion.”
Click here to read “Fresh Coat” in York University Magazine
My recent article in Quartz Magazine discusses the history of romances between princes and actresses in Britain since the 17th century including Charles II and Nell Gwynn, William IV and Dorothy Jordan and Edward VII and Lillie Langtry.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Since the 17th century, royal patronage of the arts has brought princes and actresses together. Until the First World War, royalty usually married other royalty, so these relationships did not end in marriage. The women who combined a successful career on the stage with a high-profile relationship with a prince, however, became the celebrities of their time, expanding the role of women in public life.”
As Governor General, Lorne founded the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the National Gallery of Canada and undertook extensive tours of western Canada, proposing the names Alberta and Lake Louise in honour of his wife, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta. Lorne’s patronage of Canadian artists set precedents for future Governors General and his books promoted Canadian landscapes, culture and history to a wide international audience.
For more about the Marquess of Lorne, Princess Louise and their reception in Canada, read my chapter “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” in Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy