Category Archives: Royal History

The Monarchy in Canada: HRH The Duke of Cambridge (The Prince William)

 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Canada in 2011

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Canada in 2011

My article for the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia on Prince William is a short biography of the Duke of Cambridge that emphasizes his time in Canada and how the Canadian public responded to the royal wedding and his tours of Canada. The article also includes information on the birth of Prince George in 2013 and the succession reform debate in Canada.

Click here to read HRH The Duke of Cambridge (The Prince William) in the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia.

Next: HRH The Prince of Wales (The Prince Charles)

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The Duke of York (Prince Andrew) at 54

 

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York

In “Happy Birthday, Prince Andrew,” I am quoted regarding the Duke of York’s long relationship with Canada. Andrew has been a frequent visitor to Canada since childhood and he lived in Ontario for six months in 1977, as an exchange student at Lakefield College. Today, Andrew is a trustee of Lakefield College School and Patron of numerous Canadian organizations including the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the Canadian Canoe Museum and the Canadian International Air Show. Andrew is also Honourary Colonel-in-Chief of three Canadian regiments: The Queen’s York Rangers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada and the Princess Louise Fusiliers.

Click here to read the full article “Happy Birthday, Prince Andrew” at Canada.com

Click here to read my blog post about Prince Andrew’s 2013 visit to Canada

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The Queen’s Crumbling Palaces

 

The site of Greenwich Palace, favourite residence of King Henry VIII

The site of Greenwich Palace, favourite residence of King Henry VIII

My column in this weekend’s edition of the Kingston Whig Standard looks at the recent scrutiny of the Queen’s finances. While press coverage focuses on the Queen being “down to her last million” in her reserve fund, the most important issues raised by the UK Treasury report are the urgent repairs necessary for the royal palaces. The disappearance of the Palace of Plancentia at Greenwich, the setting of key events from King Henry VIII’s reign demonstrates that is is possible for neglect to render a palace uninhabitable.  In contrast, the survival of Windsor Castle for nearly a thousand years reflects a succession of visionary plans for the historic royal residence.

Click here to read the full column, “The Queen’s Crumbling Palaces” in the Kingston Whig Standard

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My article “150 Years Ago Sochi Was The Site Of A Horrific Ethnic Cleansing” in Smithsonian Magazine

Czar Alexander II

Czar Alexander II

As you watch the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi today, it is worth reflecting on the troubled history of the Caucasus region. My article in today’s edition of Smithsonian Magazine looks at Czar Alexander II’s decision to expel the Circassian people from Sochi and the surrounding region in 1864. This rapid expulsion resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 people. Today, Alexander II is famous for abolishing serfdom in 1861 and his treatment of the Circassian people is comparatively little known. The expulsion of the Circassians and the abolition of serfdom both reflected the Czar’s preoccupation with the stability of the Russian Empire. Alexander II spent his entire reign attempting to stabilize Russia before falling victim to a terrorist bomb in 1881.

Click here to read the full article “150 Years Ago Sochi Was The Site of a Horrific Ethnic Cleansing” in Smithsonian Magazine.

I also wrote about the history of Sochi in the Ottawa Citizen. Click here to read “Sochi’s Bloody History.”

Interested in learning more about Czar Alexander II and the expulsion of the Circassian people from Sochi? Here are some of the books I consulted while researching my articles on Sochi:

Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History, (2010).

Amjad Jaimoukha, The Circassians: A Handbook (Caucasus World: Peoples of the Caucasus), (2001).

W. Bruce Lincoln, The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russians (1983).

Edvard Radzinsky, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar (2006).

Walter Richmond, The Circassian Genocide (Genocide, Political Violence, Human Rights), (2013).

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Royal Visits: How They Still Matter

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will visit Canada in May, 2014. I discussed how royal visits still matter with Janet Davison for CBC.ca. The nature of royal visits is currently changing as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have reduced their overseas travel in recent years. The Queen’s children and grandchildren are increasing their royal engagements with the Prince of Wales assuming more and more engagements previously undertaken by the sovereign. In Canada, royal tours allow Canadians to see their monarchy in a Canadian context, challenging the view that Elizabeth II is primarily “The Queen of England.”

Click here to read the full article: Royal Visits: How They Still Matter

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The Rebirth of Magna Carta

Magna_Carta_(1225_version_with_seal) My latest article on the website for the Magna Carta 2015 Canada exhibition discusses the “Rebirth of Magna Carta” during the 17th century. Magna Carta has not always been the famous charter that it is today. The Great Charter fell into obscurity during the late Middle Ages only to be revived as a seminal constitutional document by renowned seventeenth century jurist Sir Edward Coke. Since Coke wrote legal texts that were studied throughout the English speaking world, his interpretation of Magna Carta directly influenced the American Revolution and the growth of democracy throughout the modern day Commonwealth, including Canada.

Click here to read “The Rebirth of Magna Carta” on the Magna Carta 2015 Canada website

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The Reign in Spain of King Juan Carlos

King Juan Carlos of Spain.

King Juan Carlos of Spain.

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

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

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Why Prince William Belongs at Cambridge

Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge at the wedding of Lady Melissa Percy last year.

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge at the wedding of Lady Melissa Percy last year.

This week, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, began a ten week course in Agricultural Management at Cambridge University. William’s studies reflect the generational shift currently underway in the royal family. Just as the Prince of Wales is assuming the overseas travel once undertaken by the Queen, including recently attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka and Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa, William is learning more about his future responsibilities. Once Prince Charles becomes King, William will succeed to the Duchy of Cornwall and be responsible for managing this vast landholding. A course in agricultural management is professional training for the Prince’s future role as Duke of Cornwall.

Despite the importance of increased knowledge of agricultural management to William’s future responsibilities, the Prince’s enrollment at Cambridge has triggered a backlash from his fellow students. Will Heilpern of the Cambridge student newspaper, The Tab, wrote,  “Normally students need A*AA at A-level to gain entry to Cambridge University, whilst the Prince only achieved a mediocre ABC. Conveniently though for Will, he is the registered benefactor of the department he will be studying at.” Leaving aside the fact that the Prince of Wales is the actual Patron of the Cambridge Program for Sustainability Leadership, the part of the School of Technology that organized William’s course, the Tab article presents a very narrow definition of the role of universities in twenty-first century education.

The Prince of Wales as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1969 (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The Prince of Wales as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1969 (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Heilpern’s emphasis on A-levels (the approximate British equivalent of Canadian academic Grade 12 credits) assumes that all university students follow a similar trajectory from secondary school to a degree granting program that concludes their education. If William’s attendance at Cambridge is viewed within that traditional framework, he appears to be part of a tradition of royal gentleman scholars who spent time at Oxford and/or Cambridge regardless of their academic qualifications.

William’s great-great-great grandfather, the future King Edward VII, studied at both Oxford and Cambridge despite his difficulties with academic subjects throughout his childhood and adolescence. The Queen’s father, King George VI, spent a year studying history, economics and civics at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1919 even though he ranked at the bottom of his class in his final examinations at the Royal Naval College at Osborne. An heir to the British and Commonwealth thrones did not complete a university degree at either Oxford or Cambridge until the current Prince of Wales earned a Second class honours, lower division, Bachelor of Arts on June 23, 1970.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a 2012 Olympic Gala

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a 2012 Olympic Gala

Prince William, however, is not a student who has recently finished secondary school attending university for his first degree. He has already graduated from the University of St. Andrews and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Instead, William is part of a growing trend toward lifelong learning where adult professionals return to university to upgrade their qualifications or simply gain new knowledge and skills. As an instructor at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies and frequent guest lecturer, I have had the pleasure of meeting numerous students who view education as a process that continues far beyond the completion of traditional university degrees. Since William is returning to university after receiving a degree to complete a course that will assist him with his future endeavors, he has more in common with continuing education students around the world than secondary students who have just completed their A-levels.

When Kensington Palace announced that William would spend ten weeks at Cambridge studying Agricultural Management, Diane Bell, who runs the shop and post office in the north Wiltshire village of Nettleton, expressed the view that the Prince could become an advocate for people living in rural areas.  I hope that William’s decision to continue his education long after the completion of his degree will also bring worldwide attention to the benefits of lifelong learning. As the Duke of Cambridge and thousands of others have discovered, there are advantages to returning to the classroom at any age or career stage.

My history course “Women in Power,” begins at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies on March 18, 2014

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The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley (Review)

The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter, the full first biography of the controversial Princess in more than twenty years, makes an excellent first impression. The handsome cover depicts a colorized photograph of Louise, demonstrating her keen fashion sense. The author, Lucinda Hawksley, is a direct descendant of Charles Dickens and has written extensively about Victorian women and the arts in her previous books including Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel and Charles Dickens’ Favorite Daughter: The Life, Loves, and Art of Katey Dickens Perugini. The introduction presents the compelling argument that the Princess was not an obscure figure in her own lifetime but a celebrity and role model for nineteenth century women who questioned the social conventions of the period.

The Mystery of Princess Louise, however, does not live up to its early promise. While Hawksley presents a vivid portrait of the Victorian artistic milieu frequented by the Princess as a sculptor and painter, her analysis of Queen Victoria’s family dynamics contains inaccuracies and curious omissions. The chapters that cover Princess Louise’s time in Canada as consort of the Governor General also contain inaccuracies that suggest the author did little research regarding Canadian history beyond the public response to the presence of the royalty in the Dominion. The errors and omissions regarding known circumstances make it difficult to accept the author’s theories regarding why access to numerous archival collections related to the Princess remains restricted.

The Mystery of Princess Louise has attracted extensive press attention in the United Kingdom because of Hawksley’s theory that the Princess had an affair with her brother Leopold’s tutor, Walter Stirling, and gave birth to an illegitimate son who was adopted by Queen Victoria’s doctor, Sir Charles Locock. There were certainly cases of eighteenth and nineteenth century Princesses who bore children fathered by male members of the royal household including King George III’s daughter, Princess Sophia, and Princess Thyra of Denmark, who was the sister of Louise’s sister-in-law, the future Queen Alexandra. Both Sophia and Thyra spent their pregnancies in seclusion, the former in Weymouth, Dorset and the latter in Greece.

If Princess Louise had found herself in similar circumstances, it is probable that she too would have been sent away from court and experienced a period of seclusion, Hawksley does not mention the experiences of Sophia and Thyra. Instead, she argues that a pregnant Louise carried out public engagements and danced at a Scottish ball, concealing her condition under a maternity corset and numerous shawls, muffs and dress ruffles. She further posits that the baby remained within the royal household as an infant, cared for by the servants until the adoption by the Lococks. While Hawksley correctly states that there were cases of Victorian servant women who concealed pregnancies while going about their household duties, the seclusion of Sophia and Thyra demonstrates that was not the experience for Princesses. If Louise had borne a child before her marriage with Stirling or anyone else, she would have spent months away from the public eye.

In other sections of the book, there are factual inaccuracies. Alice, Countess of Athlone was the daughter of Prince Leopold not Princess Helena. Louise was not the first “royal” to marry a commoner since 1515 but the first Princess as future James II married Anne Hyde in 1660. There are also questionable interpretations of Queen Victoria’s views. Regarding Louise’s marriage to Lord Lorne, Hawksley states, “The Queen must have had ulterior motives for ‘marrying off’ Louise…to someone of a lower rank to whom the marriage would be an honour.” In fact, there are numerous examples of Victoria supporting the marriage of her children and grandchildren into families that were not considered fully royal, such as the Tecks and the Battenbergs. Hawksley also speculates that Queen Victoria accepted an affair between her daughter and the sculptor, Joseph Edgar Boehm, which is difficult to believe considering the Queen’s disproportionate reaction to her son Albert Edward’s affair with the actress Nellie Clifden.

The chapters concerning Louise’s time in Canada also contain inaccuracies and omissions. As I state in my article, “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” in Canada and the Crown: Essays in Constitutional Monarchy, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald did not actually greet the royal couple upon their arrival in Halifax. Hawksley also curiously refers to Quebec as “French owned” on two different occasions, which was certainly not the case in 1878. The need for more Canadian history and politics in the narrative is most evident when the author attributes Lorne’s difficulties as Governor General to his alleged homosexuality and a possible “bitchy feud” between Princess Louise and the Prime Minister’s wife, Lady Macdonald. There is no mention of the key political conflict between Lorne and Sir John A. MacDonald regarding the dismissal of the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, Luc Letellier.

The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter ends as well as it started, revealing the full extent of Louise’s charitable activities and public appearances in her old age. Hawksley’s book will bring Louise to the attention of a new generation and provoke plenty of discussion and controversy. The inaccessibility of key archival material means that there are still plenty of unanswered questions about the life of this fascinating historical figure. Unfortunately, the errors and omissions in The Mystery of Princess Louise undermine Hawksley’s attempts to separate fact from scandalous rumour.

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My March-April 2014 course “Women in Power” Open For Enrollment at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies

Portrait of Elizabeth I celebrating her victory over the Spanish Armada

Portrait of Elizabeth I celebrating her victory over the Spanish Armada

In March and April, 2014, I will be teaching a seven week course on “Women in Power” at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies, examining history’s most politically significant women and their influence over women in public life today. I encourage all history and politics enthusiasts in the Toronto area to consider enrolling. There will be lively discussion of history and current events as the legacy of such towering figures as Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great and Queen Victoria continues to shape the public image presented by female political figures today.

Click here to visit the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies website for the full course description and registration information.

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