This year, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British and modern Canadian history, surpassing the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria (1837-1901) My most recent article in the Canadian Encyclopedia discusses Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the second to be celebrated after that of Queen Victoria in 1897. I discuss the preparations for the celebrations, the Diamond Jubilee Medals in Canada, the Thames Diamond Jubilee river pageant and Commonwealth tours by members of the royal family including the Canadian tour by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in 2012.
While Magna Carta is on display at Fort York in Toronto, I will be delivering a series of lectures based on my book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights, at the historic Blue Barracks, which will be transformed into the Runnymede pub for the duration of the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty and Legacy exhibition. Here is the lecture schedule:
October 7 and 8: King John and the Making of Magna Carta
Wednesday, October 7, 2 – 3 p.m.
Thursday, October 8, 8 – 9 p.m. (Pub open 6 – 10 pm)
When King John’s rebel barons presented him with terms of Magna Carta, they did not see themselves as revolutionaries but as guarantors of traditional English rights and customs. King John’s predecessors issued Coronation Charters promising to uphold traditional English customs and the rights of the barons and clergy. When King John refused to uphold these traditions and his barons rebelled, he was presented with Magna Carta, the first example of a king accepting limits on his power imposed by his subjects. Tickets are available here.
October 14 and 15: King Edward I “Longshanks” and Magna Carta in 1300
Wednesday, October 14, 2 – 3 p.m.
Thursday, October 15, 8 – 9 p.m (Pub open 6 – 10 pm)
Today, Edward I – known as Longshanks for his great height – is best known as the villain of Mel Gibson’s 1995 film Braveheart but in his own lifetime, he earned the respect of his English subjects through his military victories in Scotland and Wales. The King’s wars required the financial and military support of his people. In exchange for taxes and troops, Edward I’s subjects expected him to accept the terms of Magna Carta and Edward I reissued the document numerous times during his reign. Clauses from the Edward I’s Magna Carta remain on the Statute Books in the UK. Tickets are available here.
October 21 and 22: Magna Carta and the Making of the Modern World
Wednesday, October 21, 2 – 3 p.m.
Thursday, October 22, 8 – 9 p.m. (Pub open 6 – 10 pm)
In Tudor times, Magna Carta fell into obscurity and became an obscure legal document. A strong monarch seemed necessary to protect England for external threats and Shakespeare’s play, King John, does not even mention the Great Charter. Magna Carta emerged from obscurity because of the legal writing of Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) who argued that document was the foundation of all English liberties. Coke’s interpretation of Magna Carta informed the American and French Revolutions and the development of modern Canada, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Tickets are available here.
Click here to purchase my book Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights
In 2011, the Queen and the Commonwealth Heads of Government met in Perth, Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. All sixteen Commonwealth realms agreed in principle to succession reform that would introduce absolute primogeniture. The monarch’s eldest child, male or female, would succeed to the throne. The succession reforms also addressed the 1701 Act of Settlement, which did not allow those married to Roman Catholics to retain their succession rights and the 1772 Royal Marriage Act. which required the descendants of King George II to receive the monarch’s permission to contract a valid marriage. The introduction of gender of equality in the British and Commonwealth monarchies followed the trend established by the other European monarchies but succession reform proved to be far more complicated for the House of Windsor.
While the sixteen commonwealth realms agreed on the importance of gender equality, reopening the question of the royal succession demonstrated the difficulties of sixteen commonwealth realms with different relationships with the monarchy passing similar legislation. In the United Kingdom, succession reform was criticized for not taking into account the land holdings that have traditionally passed to the heir to the throne through male preference primogeniture. In Australia, succession reform demonstrated the independence of the states in a federal system as Western Australia became the last region of the commonwealth to pass a royal succession bill before the changes came into force. In Canada, the government’s decision to assent to the British succession legislation rather than formulate its own reform legislation was controversial and is currently facing a court challenge.
La Couronne et le Parlement/The Crown and Parliament, which emerged from the May 2014 conference by the Canadian Study of Parliament Group is an essential resource for the debate concerning succession reform in Canada. The four chapters in the book concerning succession reform address all sides of the debate. Anne Twomey’s chapter, “The Succession to the Crown of Canada” is particularly fascinating as it compares Canada’s approach to succession reform to the changes enacted in other Commonwealth realms and compares modern succession reform to the Dominion response to the Abdication crisis of 1936. In the chapter on “The Crown and Constitutional Amendment” in Canada, Philippe Lagassé and Patrick Baud examine Section 41a of the Constitution Act of 1982, which concerns changes to the office of the queen, looking at the implications of the various interpretations of this passage for succession reform and the broader role of the Crown in Canada. In contrast, Mark D. Walters and The Honorable Serge Joyal discuss the Canadian assent to British succession reform legislation in successive chapters, discussing crown identification and the development of the constitutional monarchy in Canada.
In addition to explaining all sides of the Canadian debate on succession reform, the essays in La Couronne et le Parlement/The Crown and Parliament provide important historical and political context for the modern relationship between the Crown and Parliament, beginning with an overview of the history two institutions by André Émond. Political innovations that reflected the circumstances of individual reigns set established precedents in the relationship between Crown and Parliament. For example, prior to the reign of Henry VIII, royal assent was granted by the monarch in person at a ceremony where the entire text of a bill was read aloud. That changed in 1541 when Henry VIII expressed reluctance to give personal royal assent to the Bill of Attainder that condemned his 5th wife, Catherine Howard to death. The result was a new process of granting royal assent to legislation, royal assent by commission.
As David Smith, author of The Invisible Crown: The First Principle of Canadian Government observes in his chapter about Parliament and the Crown, there is a divide between public perceptions of the Governor General’s position and the constitutional role of the Crown. La Couronne et le Parlement/The Crown and Parliament bridges this divide by bringing together a broad range on scholarship on Canada’s political institutions. The book is essential reading for any Canadian who wants to learn more about the crucial relationship between the Crown and Parliament.
Next Week: The Tudor Kitchen: What the Tudors Ate & Drank by Terry Breverton
I will be speaking at the University of Regina on September 29 about Magna Carta and the Making of the Modern World at 7pm. My interview with the University of Regina discusses history, the enduring impact of Magna Carta and my great-granduncle Robert Leith “Dinny” Hanbidge, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan from 1963 to 1970.
On November 26, I will be giving lectures on Magna Carta in Edmonton, the last stop for the Magna Carta Canada touring exhibition in 2015. The Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta has compiled a list of “10 Things You Didn’t Know about Magna Carta” from my book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights
Click here to read 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Magna Carta
Click here to purchase my book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights
Here is my schedule of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights book signings and lectures in Saskatchewan September 28 and 29, 2015. All are welcome:
September 28: Saskatoon
September 29: Regina
7pm “Magna Carta and the Making of the World” lecture at the University of Regina, Dr. John Archer Library
Click here to purchase Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights
My book Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights has been reviewed in Canadian Materials Magazine, which recommends resources for teachers and librarians across Canada.
“Secondary school and public libraries across Canada should add Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada to their collections. Librarians and booksellers will want to recommend this volume to history buffs and civics teachers alike. Highly Recommended.”
Click here to purchase Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights
My column in today’s Globe and Mail, The Queen of Canada marks a special anniversary, compares the impact of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II on Canadian politics, history and culture. As female heads of state, their example encouraged other women to enter the political realm, campaigning for votes for women in Victoria’s reign and running for office in Elizabeth II’s reign.
On September 9, Queen Elizabeth II will exceed Queen Victoria’s record for longest reigning monarch in British (and post-Confederation Canadian) history. In my interview with the Canadian Press, I compared the approaches of Victoria and Elizabeth II to the role of constitutional monarch. While Victoria made her opinions about her Prime Ministers clear, Elizabeth II remains above party politics. Since Elizabeth II has reigned for 63 years, her approach has become synonymous with the role of a constitutional monarch in the popular imagination
On September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest reigning monarch in Britain’s history. Her 63 year reign has encompassed so many distinct phases (See the series of articles that I wrote in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012: The Young Queen of Canada, The Controversial Queen of Canada, The Celebrity Queen of Canada and The Jubilee Queen of Canada) that it’s easy to forget that when she ascended to the throne in 1952, she faced all the expectations that were directed toward British women in the 1950s in addition to nearly a thousand years of royal tradition.
In Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story Of Women In The 1950’s, Virginia Nicholson, author of Millions Like Us: Women’s Lives in the Second World War and Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived without Men After the First World War, provides a social history of women’s lives in Britain in the 1950s. Popular culture expected them to be Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes but whether the women profiled in Nicholson’s book lived in palaces or council houses, their homes rarely conformed to ideals. Throughout the decade, the two most prominent women in Britain were Queen Elizabeth II, whose marriage and motherhood appeared to conform to 1950s expectations and Princess Margaret who struggled in the face of overwhelming pressure to “settle down” with a suitable husband.
The Queen’s coronation in 1953 was one of the most memorable events of the decade and Nicholson presents a vivid account of women’s engagement in the ceremony, from the Queen herself at the centre of events, to the women involved in the coverage and planning to spectators of all social backgrounds including peeresses in the galleries of Westminster Abbey, Londoners camped on the sidewalk in the rain and the thousands of women who watched the ceremony on their first television set. Although the monarch was female, the BBC journalists who covered the event were male with the exception of one female commentator and four “back-up girls” in charge of providing human interest stories. There were plenty women involved in the preparations, however, including Constance Spry, who created the floral decorations and Rosemary Hume, who invented “coronation chicken.”
Nicholson also provides a fresh perspective on Princess Margaret’s relationship with Peter Townsend and her ultimate decision not to give up her royal position to marry a divorced man. The Princess’s relationship with Townsend took place less than two decades after King Edward VIII abdicated to marry the twice divorced Wallis Simpson but attitudes toward divorce, remarriage and royal duty were already undergoing a gradual change. Nicholson discusses how English women, from Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting Iris Peake to working class women who read about the relationship in the press hoped the Princess would be able to marry the man of her choice. In contrast, the male establishment, some of whom had been involved in divorce cases themselves, were adamant that Townsend was unsuitable. The Queen supported the establishment and Margaret ultimately married the photographer Antony Armstrong Jones in 1960, divorcing in 1978.
There’s far more to Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story Of Women In The 1950’s than royalty. Through the stories of individual women, Nicholson reveals the adversity faced by those women whose aspirations included other goals besides marriage, home and family. As late as 1959, only one in a hundred British women pursued post-secondary education and Oxford and Cambridge had only begun granting degrees to women in 1920 and 1947 respectively. Most British women of the period left school at fifteen and worked in jobs that provided little hope of career advancement until they married. Nicholson analyzes the context for women’s roles in the period including the desire to return to pre-Second World War life and slow adoption of modern conveniences within British households.
Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story Of Women In The 1950’s is a fascinating history of how British women lived at the beginning of Elizabeth II’s record breaking reign. The cultural climate has changed immeasurably over the past sixty-three years but Nicholson presents convincing case that the attitudes toward women from the 1950s still cast a long shadow over modern life.
Next Week: Elizabeth I and Her Circle by Susan Doran
The book launch for The Queen at the Council Fire: The Treaty of Niagara, Reconciliation, and the Dignified Crown in Canada took place at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on August 13. The museum is currently displaying an original copy of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, a document that has become known as the “Indian Magna Carta,” as part of a unique companion exhibit to the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty and Legacy exhibition opening at the museum on August 15. The Royal Proclamation’s 250th anniversary took place in 2013, prompting new discussion of the complicated relationship between Canada’s government and First Nations.
In The Queen at the Council Fire, Nathan Tidridge, an educator and author of Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy: An Introduction to Our Form of Government and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent: Father of the Canadian Crown, explores the impact of the 1764 Treaty of Niagara on Canada’s history. While much less known to non-indigenous Canadians than the Royal Proclamation, this gathering of First Nations at Fort Niagara accompanied by a treaty symbolized by the Covenant Chain Wampum is viewed as the birth of modern Canada by the country’s first peoples.
The Queen at the Council Fire places an important emphasis on the role of language in these early treaties between the Crown and Canada’s first nations. The familial words employed in the treaties meant equality to the First Nations but subordination to the Europeans. There were also differences concerning the importance of the treaties. European negotiators often viewed the treaties as an endpoint in their relations with indigenous peoples while First Nations leaders viewed these documents as part of an ongoing, living relationship. The nature of the Crown itself changed over the course of the Treaty relationship. The development of responsible government and the modern Canadian constitutional monarchy from the eighteenth century to the present often conflicted with the personal relationship between monarch and First Peoples enshrined in the treaties.
In a chapter on “Building community, a model royal visit” Tidridge highlights the importance of the work of the Earl and Countess of Wessex in engaging with First Nations communities in Canada. The Queen’s youngest son and daughter-in-law visit Canada almost every year but their itineraries are privately funded “working visits” rather than higher profile “official visits” and therefore receive less media coverage. In September 2014, the Countess of Wessex visited Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation in Northern Ontario with a delegation of high profile women, spending the night on the reserve. The extended stay provided opportunities for shared experiences and extended engagement with the community.
The Queen at the Council Fire: The Treaty of Niagara, Reconciliation, and the Dignified Crown in Canada is a thoughtful examination of the relationship between the Crown and Canada’s First Nations. There are works of Canadian history that devote a single chapter to Canada’s First Nations and treat the monarchy as a relic of Canada’s past instead of a living institution. The Queen at the Council Fire instead places both the monarchy and First Nations history, language, culture and belief at the centre of Canada’s history, providing a framework for strengthening the vital relationship between the Crown and Canada’s First Peoples in the future.
Next week: Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story Of Women In The 1950’s by Virginia Nicholson