How royal parents dealt with raising their children over the past thousand years, from keeping Vikings at bay to fending off paparazzi.
William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are setting trends for millions of parents around the world. The upbringing of their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, is the focus of intense popular scrutiny. Royalty have always raised their children in the public eye and attracted praise or criticism according to parenting standards of their day.
Royal parents have faced unique challenges and held unique privileges. In medieval times, raising an heir often meant raising a rival, and monarchs sometimes faced their grown children on the battlefield. Conversely, kings and queens who lost their thrones in wars or popular revolutions often found solace in time spent with their children. In modern times, royal duties and overseas tours have often separated young princes and princesses from their parents, a circumstance that is slowly changing with the current generation of royalty.
In March, April and May 2017, I will be teaching one of my most popular courses at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies: Peter the Great and the Building of Saint Petersburg. Click here to register
When Peter became czar in 1682, Europe had become quite foreign to Russia. Fascinated by the West, Peter was determined to transform Russia into a great European power. In this course, we’ll discover the traditional Russia of Peter’s childhood, his Grand Tour of Europe and his subsequent dream of building St. Petersburg, a new city to match his vision of the country.
My eight week afternoon course about Queen Marie Antoinette of France and the French Revolution begins January 11, 2017 at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies. All are welcome.
Click here for more information and to register.
More than 200 years after her execution, Queen Marie Antoinette is still one of the most famous and controversial figures in European history. In late 18th-century France, her reputation influenced debates about the role of women in politics, their families and the arts. Austrian-born, her position at the top of French society informed criticism of the monarchy and contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. Her influence on popular culture continues today.
Her Royal Highness The Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, Marchioness of Lorne was the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and vice-regal consort of Canada from 1878 to 1883 (born 18 March 1848 in London, United Kingdom; died 3 December 1939 in London, United Kingdom). Louise was the first member of the royal family to visit British Columbia. As vice-regal consort, she promoted the arts in Canada, including the founding of the National Gallery of Canada and Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Lake Louise and the province of Alberta were named in her honour.
The cover of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting features Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s painting of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their five eldest children, which is now part of the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace. The heir to the throne, the future Edward VII, stands next to his mother, Queen Victoria, while Prince Alfred toddles in front of his parents. The royal couple’s two eldest daughters, Princess Victoria and Princess Alice are gathered around the cradle of their infant sister, Princess Helena.
The painting reflects the image of domestic harmony that Victoria and Albert presented to the public. The royal influence on parenting spread throughout the English speaking world. Mothers and fathers from a variety of social backgrounds took their children on seaside vacations and hosted Christmas celebrations where the entire family gathered around a decorated fir tree (a custom from Prince Albert’s childhood).
Behind palace walls, relations between the royal parents were more complicated. Victoria had little affinity for young children, writing, “an ugly baby is a very nasty object – and the prettiest is frightful when undressed. Until about 4 months; in short as long as they have their big body and little limbs and that terrible froglike action.” Albert spent more time in the nursery but the demanding educational program that he drew up for his elder children made the future Edward VII miserable. When her children grew up, Victoria expected to remain the dominant influence in their lives and shape the upbringing of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Victoria and Albert are just one of the twenty-five sets of British and European royal parents from the past thousand years profiled in my forthcoming book. Click here for more information and to pre-order Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting.
In January and February 2016, I will be teaching an eight week course on Wednesday afternoons about Artists and Their Royal Patrons at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Click here to register
For centuries, artists sought out royal patrons to advance their careers. European monarchs were eager to fill their courts with artists to demonstrate their own acumen and prestige. Through lectures, images and discussions, Carolyn Harris will lead you through a lively exploration of the relations between great artists and their royal patrons. These include Hans Holbein and Henry VIII, Leonardo da Vinci and François I, Anthony van Dyck and Charles I, Peter Paul Rubens and Marie de Medici, and Élisabeth Vigée-LeBrun and Marie Antoinette. We will look at Catherine the Great, who helped found the Hermitage Museum, and Queen Elizabeth II, who is appreciated as a “curator monarch” for her part in opening the British Royal Collection to the public. You’ll learn more about the collaboration and tension between royalty and artists that produced some of Europe’s most famous works of art and established collections now featured in great museums around the world.
Review: “Harris’ richly detailed comparative study of Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette offers fresh perspective on how both queens understood their roles as heads of households, wives, and mothers and how, in turn, those roles were interpreted by their husbands’ subjects. Combining a rigorous review of the literature with new research and original analytical insights, Harris has crafted an eminently readable and engaging work that effectively illuminates the complex nature of early modern queenship and revolution.” –Michelle White, UC Foundation Professor of History, University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, USA
About the book: Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI of France and Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I of England were two of the most notorious queens in European history. They both faced accusations that they had transgressed social, gender and regional norms, and attempted to defend themselves against negative reactions to their behavior. Each queen engaged with the debates of her time concerning the place of women within their families, religion, politics, the public sphere and court culture and attempted to counter criticism of her foreign origins and political influence. The impeachment of Henrietta Maria in 1643 and trial and execution of Marie Antoinette in 1793 were also trials of monarchical government that shaped the English Civil Wars and French Revolution.
My photo in the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies 2015-2016 course calendar
Registration is now open for the three eight week courses that I will be teaching during the 2015-2016 academic year at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. There are no prerequisites for arts courses at the School and everyone is welcome to enroll. Here are the course descriptions:
Fall 2015: Magna Carta and the Making of the Modern World
The year 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the landmark charter that placed limits on the power of the English king. Neither the king nor his rebel baron opponents necessarily expected its terms to be respected for long. But some of the Magna Carta’s principles – like the right to trial by peers and due process – have become basic to common law. The charter influenced the creation of Parliament and the concept of equality before the law. Later interpretations informed the American and French Revolutions, Canada’s Confederation and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 800th anniversary is being celebrated around the world (a surviving copy of the Magna Carta will be exhibited across Canada). Join Carolyn Harris, author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights, and discover the enduring impact of this document on the modern world. Click here to register!
For centuries, artists sought out royal patrons to advance their careers. European monarchs were eager to fill their courts with artists to demonstrate their own acumen and prestige. Through lectures, images and discussions, Carolyn Harris will lead you through a lively exploration of the relations between great artists and their royal patrons. These include Hans Holbein and Henry VIII, Leonardo da Vinci and François I, Anthony van Dyck and Charles I, Peter Paul Rubens and Marie de Medici, and Élisabeth Vigée-LeBrun and Marie Antoinette. We will look at Catherine the Great, who helped found the Hermitage Museum, and Queen Elizabeth II, who is appreciated as a “curator monarch” for her part in opening the British Royal Collection to the public. You’ll learn more about the collaboration and tension between royalty and artists that produced some of Europe’s most famous works of art and established collections now featured in great museums around the world. Click here to Register!
Spring 2016: Imperial Spain
Ferdinand and Isabella transformed a united Spain into a world power, sponsoring Columbus’ voyages to the Americas and forming alliances with other European kingdoms. This new Imperial Spain had a dark side: the rise of the Inquisition, the expulsion of Spain’s Jewish population and the exploitation of the native peoples in the colonies. Gold and silver from the Americas made Spain’s rulers the richest in Europe until its Golden Age came to an end with the wars of the 18th century. Join Carolyn Harris and learn about the rise and fall of Imperial Spain and its lessons for politics and international relations today. Click here to Register!
When Victoria became Queen in 1837, she shut the door of the royal bedchamber to the public. The government officials who traditionally attended royal births were relegated to the adjoining room while only the Queen’s consort, Prince Albert, and medical staff were permitted in the bedchamber for the arrival of the royal children. The Queen observed a strict separation between her public life and her domestic life. In Tales from the Royal Bedchamber, Dr. Lucy Worsley, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, reveals that the monarch’s bedchamber was a ceremonial space in Tudor and Stuart times where proximity to the monarch meant proximity to political power.
Worsley presents the history of the English royal bedchamber with enthusiasm and energy. She climbs into beds to test just how comfortable they were, showing that it was impossible to lie entirely flat on a hammock-like, collapsible medieval royal bed frame. She also tries her hand at silk weaving. Sitting on the edge of royal beds, Worsley has interesting discussions about royal marriage, mistresses and childbearing with a broad range of fellow curators, historians and authors such as Anna Whitelock, Tracy Borman and Helen Rappaport.
Perhaps the most engaging part of the documentary is Worsley’s description of the rumours that the son of James II and Mary of Modena, born in 1688, was a “warming pan baby” smuggled into the Queen’s bed to replace a stillborn child. Worsley shows viewers a warming pan, an early form of hot water bottle that was too small to hold a baby, draws the supposed route the warming pan took through state rooms to the royal bedchamber and describes the crowd that witnessed the actual birth. The warming pan baby story was a convenient fiction to justify the Glorious Revolution&accession of William III and Mary II.
Since Worsley is chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, much of the documentary is filmed in royal bedchambers of the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Kensington Palace. There is also a visit to the Isle of Wight to view the memorial to Queen Victoria in the private bedchamber where she died at Osborne House. If the program were longer, a trip across the channel to Versailles would have shown the origins of certain late seventeenth century English court practices. It is no coincidence that the late Stuart monarchs commissioned elaborate state beds after the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. Charles II was first cousin to Louis XIV and spent part of his exile in France, observing the elaborate ceremonies that took place when the King rose from his bed in the morning or retired in the evening.
Tales from the Royal Bedchamber is a look behind the royal bed curtains of centuries past. Before Queen Victoria shut the door, the whole court thought they had the right to know exactly what took place in the royal bed. The modern fascination with the private life of the royal family is as old as monarchy itself.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a Gala in honour of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in New York City today for a three day American visit that focuses on philanthropy including endangered species conservation and fundraising for the University of St. Andrew’s at a gala dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although the United States is not a monarchy, royalty have received a warm welcome there since Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Albert Edward (the future Edward VII) toured in 1860. I discussed the history of royal philanthropy and royal visits to the United States with CBC.ca