Category Archives: Royal News

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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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 Definition of Royalty

Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne and eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II

Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne and eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II

With the arrival of a baby girl for the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips and her husband Mike Tindall last Friday, there has been renewed interest in the size of the royal family of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.  The new baby is 16th in the line to the throne. Another royal baby born recently, Maud Windsor, granddaughter of the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, is 43rd in the line of succession.

A reader of the Royal Spectacle  blog asked how far down the line of a succession a person must be before they lose all contact with their royal ancestry and are no longer considered a member of the royal family. I addressed that question in a Royal Spectacle blog post, published today.

Click here to read my full answer to “Does a Royal Ever Stop Being a Royal?” on the Royal Spectacle blog.

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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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My article, “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” published today

My article about Queen Victoria’s daughter and son-in-law in Canada, “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” has been published today in the new book Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy, edited by D. Michael Jackson and Philippe Lagassé. This volume is an essential addition to any collection of books about the monarchy and/or Canadian history and politics, containing chapters about the role of the Crown in Canada from numerous perspectives including history,  the media, the constitution, the First Nations and French Canada.

Here is the abstract of my contribution to Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy, ”Royalty at Rideau Hall”:

Princess Louise in Canada, suitably dressed for winter weather.

Princess Louise in Canada, suitably dressed for winter weather.

In 1878, Queen Victoria’s son-in-law, John Campbell, Lord Lorne was appointed the fourth Governor General of Canada since Confederation. The arrival of Lord Lorne and his wife, Princess Louise, in Halifax to travel through Quebec City and Montreal to Ottawa to take up residence in Rideau Hall was the first post-confederation royal tour. Princess Louise was the first female member of the royal family to cross the Atlantic and visit North America. Historians often discuss Lord Lorne and the other British born Governors General of the 19th centuries as examples of Canada’s continued British identity after Confederation. The arrival of Lord Lorne and Princess Louise in 1878, however, provided an opportunity for Canadians to assert their nascent national identity by expressing their expectations of the new Vice Regal couple as Canadians. Newspaper coverage, correspondence and popular publications discussing the appointment of Lord Lorne and the arrival of the royal couple highlighted three key aspects of the emerging Canadian identity in 1878.

These cultural trends were loyalty to the crown (in contrast to the United States), a democratic society without class distinctions (in contrast to Great Britain) and a uniquely Canadian engagement with winter sports and the natural world. The enthusiastic welcome provided for the royal couple as they traveled from Halifax to Ottawa combined with the popular concerns that they would expect the same degree of deference accorded to members of the royal family reflected the emergence of a unique national culture in nineteenth century Canada. Lord Lorne and Princess Louise achieved popularity during their first months in Canada by responding to these expectations, holding broadly accessible events at Rideau Hall and embracing Canadian outdoor pastimes such as curling, fishing, skating and tobogganing. The arrival of the royal couple in Canada in 1878 provided the impetus for the articulation of a Canadian identity distinct from both Great Britain and the United States.

Click here to purchase Canada and the Crown: Essays in Constitutional Monarchy from Amazon.

Click here to purchase Canada and Crown directly from McGill-Queen’s University Press.

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2013: The Royal Year in Review (July-December) and Royal News Predictions for 2014

Prince George of Cambridge at his christening on October 23, 2013. Photo Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire/Press Association via AP Images

Prince George of Cambridge at his christening on October 23, 2013. Photo Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire/Press Association via AP Images

Last week, I looked back at the key royal events from the first half of 2013. Here are the royal highlights from the past six months followed by a few predictions regarding the direction royal events will take in 2014.

July: July, 2013 became known as “The Great Kate Wait” as the world anticipated the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s 1st child. On July 22, a baby boy was born. The intense media attention surrounding the arrival of the Prince suggests that the decisions William and Catherine make regarding the upbringing of their son will influence millions of parents around the world. The arrival of a son appeared to render gender neutral succession reform irrelevant for another generation but I wrote that it remains important that the United Kingdom and Commonwealth espouse gender equality through succession reform.

Once the baby Prince arrived, the next big piece of news was the announcement of his suitably royal name: George Alexander Louis. In addition to noting that George honours the regnal name of Queen Elizabeth II’s father, King George VI and Louis honours the Duke of Edinburgh’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, I wrote that the choice of Alexander may represent a nod to the monarchy’s Scottish heritage at a time when Scotland is considering devolution.

The earliest surviving portrait of Richard III

The earliest surviving portrait of Richard III

August: In August, 2013, the controversy regarding the final resting place of Richard III’s remains intensified. A high court judge granted permission for descendants of the King’s relatives to challenge the plan to bury the King in Leicester Cathedral. The legal claimants, members of an organization called the Plantagenet Alliance, argue that Richard III would have wanted to be buried at York Minister. The legal challenge has not yet been resolved. In one of my columns, I placed Richard III’s “Bones of Contention” within the wider context of controversial royal excavations including Czar Nicholas II of Russia and his family in the 1990s.

September: In September, Prince William announced that he was leaving his job as a Search and Rescue Pilot, assuming full time royal duties following a period of transition. William also made clear that he intended to devote more time to his philanthropic initiatives, particularly wildlife conservation. While other royal commentators focused on the job that William was leaving behind, I wrote about the potential for him to make a difference through his environmental initiatives. Other members of Europe’s royal houses have discovered that the environment is a ideal cause for a multi-generational institution like the monarchy and William is building on the conservation efforts of his father and grandfather.

St. James's Palace in London

St. James’s Palace in London

October: On October 23, Prince George Alexander Louis was christened at St. James’s Palace in London. The christening attracted public interest because it would be the royal baby’s first public appearance since leaving hospital as a newborn. The choice of godparents reflected William and Catherine’s desire to honour their close friends rather than foreign royalty or friends of the sovereign. The christening ceremony was followed by the Queen and three generations of heirs posing for a historic photograph. At the time of Prince George’s christening, the baby’s great-aunt, Princess Anne was in Canada in her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of The Grey & Simcoe Foresters, the Royal Canadian Medical Service (RCMS), and the Communications and Electronics Branch.

November: On November 1, the Earl and Countess of Wessex visited Toronto, attending a black tie Gala evening in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Canada. November also marked the launch of Magna Carta 2015 Canada website in anticipation of a historic exhibition of the Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest that will tour Canada in 2015.

December: In December, the Queen and her family gathered at Sandringham for the traditional royal Christmas. Despite speculation that the Duchess of Cambridge’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, and Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, would be part of the royal party, only members of the Queen’s family and their spouses joined the sovereign for Christmas. The 2013 Christmas message emphasized the Queen’s role as Head of the Commonwealth and included footage from the photo shoot that followed Prince George’s christening.

Royal News in 2014:

What Will Happen:

The Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips will give birth to the monarch’s 4th great-grandchild. The due date is January 14.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will tour Australia and New Zealand in April, most likely with their baby son, Prince George.

On September 18, Scotland will vote on devolution. If Scotland decides to secede from the United Kingdom, the monarchy will become the main political link between England and Scotland, as it was at the time of the ascension of James VI of Scotland as James I of England of 1603.

What May Happen:

In 2014, Princess Beatrice may announce her engagement to her partner of seven years, Dave Clark. Although most 2014 royal wedding speculation is focused on Prince Harry and Cressida Bonas, Beatrice and Dave have been a couple for a much longer time and are far more likely to announce an engagement in 2014.

King Juan Carlos of Spain may announce his abdication. The 2013 abdications of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and King Albert II of Belgium demonstrated that retirement is becoming an increasingly acceptable choice for elderly monarchs in continental Europe. King Juan Carlos’s fragile health and declining popularity may prompt him to abdicate in favour of his son Felipe, Prince of the Asturias in 2014.

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2013: The Royal Year In Review (January to June)

The Duchess of Cambridge with the newborn Prince George of Cambridge in July, 2013

The Duchess of Cambridge with the newborn Prince George of Cambridge in July, 2013

2013 has been an eventful year for royalty in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. In the sixteen realms where Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State including the United Kingdom and Canada, 2013 was the year of Prince George of Cambridge, the long awaited child of William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In continental Europe and the Middle East, 2013 was the year of abdications as Pope Benedict XVI, the monarchs of Belgium and the Netherlands and the Emir of Qatar stepped down. I discussed royal news over the past year with Janet Davison of CBC news. Here are more 2013 royal news highlights from Canada and around the world.

January Since the Duchess of Cambridge’s health prompted the announcement of her pregnancy in December, 2012, January was filled with speculation about the future royal baby’s upbringing and the complicated process of succession reform in the sixteen commonwealth realms. I discussed the royal baby’s financial prospects on the Bloomberg View economic history blog and the historical precedents for succession reform in the Ottawa Citizen. On January 31, Canada’s Succession to the Throne Act received its first reading in the House of Commons.  Canada also marked the country’s long relationship with the Netherlands and the House of Orange-Nassau, celebrating the 70th birthday of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands on January 19. Margriet was born in Ottawa during the Second World War and has visited Canada on numerous occasions since her return to the Netherlands.

January also saw Prince Harry’s return from a tour of duty as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. In a candid interview, Harry spoke frankly about his military training and duties, including killing members of the Taliban.I discussed the controversy surrounding Harry’s interview in the Globe and Mail, and returned to the centuries old relationship between the monarchy and the military in a feature article for Military History Magazine, published in November, 2013.

The Duchess of Cambridge embracing Diamond Marshall during her 2011 tour of Canada

The Duchess of Cambridge embracing Diamond Marshall during her 2011 tour of Canada

February In February, it was the Duchess of Cambridge’s turn to face controversy as acclaimed historical novelist Hilary Mantel described Catherine as a “plastic princess.” Mantel’s speech was part of a larger trend of notable British figures critiquing the Duchess’s approach to her royal duties, wardrobe and image. As I discussed in a column published in mid-February, however, Catherine remained popular in the commonwealth because she had developed a strong rapport with the public during her tour of Canada in 2011 and the South Pacific in 2012. February also saw the authentication of the remains of King Richard III through DNA provided by the Ibsen family, Canadian descendants of the King’s sister, Anne of York.

March: In March, there was widespread public concern about the Queen’s health as she entered hospital to be treated for gastroenteritis. The Queen has rarely been hospitalized over the course of her reign and her illness prompted discussion of the future of the monarchy. I wrote about the Queen’s health within the context of the changing face of the monarchy. As the Queen and Prince Philip grow older, their children and grandchildren will assume a wider range of royal duties. That same month, Canada’s royal succession bill received royal assent amid controversy concerning whether changes to the succession require a constitutional amendment and Canada’s ability to “assent” to British legislation.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

April: The end of April saw numerous royal news stories as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited Toronto to present new colours to the  3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated their second anniversary and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated, passing the throne to her son, who succeeded as King Willem-Alexander. Prince Philip’s travels attracted widespread attention because the 91 year old Duke had remained in the United KIngdom during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations and appeared to have stopped undertaking overseas tours. The abdication of Queen Beatrix was also notable because it was part of a larger trend of royal abdications in 2013 and resulted in the ascension of the first male Dutch monarch since 1890.

Queen Victoria at the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897

Queen Victoria at the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897

May: In May, Canadians celebrated Victoria Day, a uniquely Canadian holiday that marks both Queen Victoria’s contribution to Canada’s confederation in 1867 and the current Queen’s official birthday in Canada. This past year, there was an initiative to rename the day Victoria and First People’s Day to also honour the contributions of Canada’s First Nations. The initiative prompted a national debate over the Victoria Day weekend but gained little support over the rest of the year.

June: With the royal baby due to arrive in July, royal news in June focused on royal parenting as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge prepared Kensington Palace for the new arrival. I wrote about the history of royal parenting in the BBC News Magazine, observing that many royal parenting trends that appear modern, such as the presence of fathers in the delivery room and breastfeeding by royal mothers are actually centuries old. I also wrote a column about the history of royal fatherhood as Prince William announced that he would take parental leave after the arrival of the baby. In Canada, June 2013 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the first tour of Canada by William’s parents, the Prince and Princess of Wales. Diana charmed Canadians in 1983 and there was renewed interest in her legacy with the arrival of her grandchild in 2013.

Next week: 2013: The Royal Year in Review (July-December) with predictions for 2014

 

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“This Wonderful Man” The Queen and Nelson Mandela

My column in this weekend’s Kingston Whig-Standard discusses Queen Elizabeth II’s decades long friendship with the late former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. The Queen and the statesman belonged to same generation and shared a common vision of racial equality and democracy for South Africa.

Click here to read the full column in the Kingston Whig Standard

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