BBC News Interview: When the Duke of Windsor met Adolf Hitler

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor meeting with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in 1937

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor meeting with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in 1937

A collection of 60 photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – the former King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson – touring Nazi Germany in 1937 has been auctioned for £6,830 this week. I was interviewed by BBC News about the controversial royal visit and am quoted in the article “When the Duke of Windsor met Adolf Hitler.

Following his abdication in 1936, the Duke of Windsor was eager to carve out a new role for himself and ensure that his wife was treated as a full member of the royal family even though she had not received the title of “Her Royal Highness.” There was no precedent for an abdicated sovereign assuming an active public role on behalf of the current sovereign and the Duke was frustrated that he appeared to be expected to live a quiet life in exile.

The Duke of Windsor was familiar with Germany and had numerous relatives there. He seems to have envisioned a diplomatic role for himself as a mediator between Britain and Germany. Right up until the outbreak of the Second World War, there were senior figures in the British government who thought a lasting peace could be negotiated through diplomacy and the the Duke seems to have shared their views. When war was imminent in 1939, the Duke contacted Hitler hoping to negotiate a peaceful solution, attempting to draw upon the rapport they developed during the 1937 visit.

The Duke of Windsor’s ties with Nazi Germany made him a liability for Britain during the Second World War and he was appointed Governor of the Bahamas, which removed him from Europe for the remainder of the war. In the Bahamas, the Duke and Duchess  continued to cause anxiety for the British government as their visits to the United States attracted an enormous amount of public attention and the Duke expressed pessimism about a British victory. He would not receive further official positions following the end of his term as Governor of the Bahamas.

Click here to my interview with BBC news in the article “When the Duke of Windsor met Adolf Hitler”

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Government House in 1941

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Government House in 1941

For more about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the Bahamas, see my blog posts:

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s Arrival in the Bahamas in 1940

Miami and a Murder Mystery: The Duke of Windsor as Governor of the Bahamas 1940-1945

For further reading about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, see my book reviews:

That Woman by Anne Sebba: Book Review of the latest biography of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

Friday Royal Read: Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII by Deborah Cadbury

The Woman Before Wallis: Prince Edward, The Parisian Courtesan and The Perfect Murder by Andrew Rose (Review)


My Imperial Spain course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies begins March 15

Losreyescatolicos I am teaching an eight week course about Imperial Spain at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies on Tuesdays from March 15 to May 3, 2016 from 11am to 1pm. All are welcome

Click here to Register

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. Learn about the rise and fall of Imperial Spain and its lessons for politics and international relations today.

Click here to Register

New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: Monarchism

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in Canada in 2010

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in Canada in 2010

My latest article in the Canadian Encyclopedia is about Monarchism in Canadian history, politics and culture. I discuss the role of monarchism in Canada’s Confederation, monarchist themes in Canadian literature, monarchist societies active in modern day Canada and critiques of monarchism. I also compare attitudes toward the monarchy in Canada with monarchism in other Commonwealth realms.

Click here to read Monarchism in the Canadian Encyclopedia

Review of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada in Resource Links Magazine

My 1st book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights has been reviewed in Resource Links Magazine for teachers and recommended for students in Grades 9-12.

Here is an excerpt from the review: “Lavishly illustrated throughout, Dr. Harris gives a well-rounded history of the document and its creation and guiding principles. She explains the impact of the document right through to seeing it as a basis of the United Nations’ Universal declaration of Human Rights. Of particular interest to students may be the importance of the Magna Carta in Canada’s history through to the present day. As well, Dr. Harris looks at the impact of it on the American and French Revolution…Highly recommended for both school and public libraries.

Click here to read the full Resource Links review

Click here to read all reviews of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada

Click to here to purchase Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights

My article about Prince Rupert on the cover of Canada’s History Magazine

Prince Rupert Canada's history My article on Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the cousin of King Charles II who became the first Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, is the cover story for the October-November issue of Canada’s History Magazine. In the article, I discuss Rupert’s adventure filled life including his escape from Prague during the 30 Years War as a child, his victories and defeats as a cavalier general during the English Civil Wars, his time as privateer in the royalist navy and his meeting with explorers Pierre-Esprit Radisson  and Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers that led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Pick up a copy of the October-November issue of Canada’s History Magazine to read my article on Canada’s Warrior Prince.

My interview with Canada’s History Magazine about Prince Rupert is available on the Canada’s History website

Friday Royal Read: The Queen at the Council Fire by Nathan Tidridge

 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

New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria, the Mother of Confederation

Queen Victoria, the Mother of Confederation

My most recent article in the Canadian Encyclopedia is about Queen Victoria and her role in Canadian history as a “Mother of Confederation.” Queen Victoria succeeded to the throne at age 18, following the death of her uncle, William IV, in 1837. She became an ardent imperialist and took an intense interest in her colonial subjects and her role as head of a vast British empire where “the sun never set.” Queen Victoria favoured Confederation and acted as a unifying influence for Canada’s provinces. While the Queen never visited Canada, five of her nine children spent time in Canada, where her name has been given to numerous public buildings, streets, communities and physical features. Queen Victoria also exerted a profound cultural influence, popularizing white wedding dresses, family Christmases and the use of anesthesia during childbirth.

Click here to read “Queen Victoria” in the Canadian Encyclopedia

New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: Lady Dufferin

Hariot Georgina Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava

Hariot Georgina Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava (Lady Dufferin)

My latest article in the Canadian Encyclopedia is a profile of Lady Dufferin, viceregal consort while her husband, Lord Dufferin, was Governor General of Canada from 1872 to 1878. Lady Dufferin transformed Rideau Hall into a social and cultural centre. She was the first Governor General’s wife to tour Canada and became one of the most well-known and popular viceregal consorts. Lady Dufferin wrote extensively about her time in Canada. The letters she wrote to her mother from Canada were published in 1891 as My Canadian Journal: 1872–8.

Click here to read my article on Lady Dufferin in the Canadian Encyclopedia

Royal Travelogue 3: The Royal Yacht Britannia’s Last Harbour

“The yacht was now permanently beside a quay in Leith, outside Edinburgh. Tourist attraction. Such a pity, really. She loved that ship. She’d fly out to the Caribbean, meet some governors, tour the hospital wards, look at the new sewers, and then they could all retire to Britannia for a few days, having justified the expense of sailing her out by holding some official dinners on board. How lovely, she looked, white and buff and blue, rising out of the haze on a hot afternoon. And when she became too old, too expensive to run, well the Government absolutely refused to build another yacht.” – From the novel, Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

IMG_2329The Queen’s former yacht, Britannia, decommissioned in 1997, is not only a tourist attraction today but was voted a top tourist attraction in the United Kingdom by Trip Advisor, receiving 300,000 visitors per year. The Britannia’s last harbour cannot be described as majestic. The ship is docked behind the Ocean Terminal shopping mall in Leith, accessible via escalator to the second floor and a walk through the mall food court. The view from the bridge is of a cruise ship docked in the harbour and the shuttle buses on the pier to transport the passengers into Edinburgh.

Royal Family on the YachtThere are complimentary audio tours, an onboard tea room and an exit through a gift shop selling Britannia t-shirts. Families from around the world arrive by the double decker bus load from the Royal Mile, allowing their children to take their turn at the helm. Parties of cruise ship passengers make their way around the pier, clutching the enormous umbrellas from their staterooms, emblazoned with name of their cruise line. When wind and rain make the journey into Edinburgh  uninviting, they visit the Britannia.

The Queen's drawing room aboard Britannia

The Queen’s drawing room aboard Britannia

Inside Britannia’s royal apartments, the modern world is forgotten. The Queen launched the ship in 1953 and the interiors reflect the aesthetic of the early decades of her reign. In the state drawing room, where the Queen entertained foreign dignitaries in port and gathered with her family at sea, there is a set of furniture that was a gift from the Swedish royal family in 1956. The Queen personally selected the chintz sofa and armchair covers. Off duty, the royal family gathered here to play cards and board games and Princess Margaret, Princess Alexandra and Princess Diana all took their turn at the piano. The state dining room seated thirty two people with extra tables available from the previous royal yacht, Victoria and Albert III, for especially large banquets.

The Queen's bedroom

The Queen’s bedroom

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh occupied simple private cabins on the Britannia, two adjoining bedrooms on the starboard side with twin beds. The Queen preferred floral decoration while Prince Philip favoured dark timber furniture and requested pillows that did not have lace borders. The bedrooms across the hall were originally occupied by Prince Charles and Princess Anne as children but when Charles and Diana spent their honeymoon onboard the Britannia, his former bedroom was transformed into a honeymoon suite, complete with the yacht’s only double bed.

Gift from the people of Pitcairn Island in 1971 signed by all adult islanders

Gift from the people of Pitcairn Island in 1971 signed by all adult islanders

The focus of the exhibition is the role Britannia played in the past but there are hints of how the absence of a royal yacht affects the Queen’s royal engagements in the present. The gifts from the Commonwealth nations that now adorn the walls of the dining room reveal how a royal yacht helped the Queen engaged with a worldwide maritime family of nations. The sixteen Commonwealth realms where the Queen is Head of State all have maritime traditions. The yacht allowed the Queen to visit her Pacific and Caribbean realms more frequently, stopping at several islands in a single tour.

Narwhal tusk presented to the Queen by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in Frobisher Bay, 1970

Narwhal tusk presented to the Queen by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in Frobisher Bay, 1970

When the Queen decommissioned the Britannia, she observed, “Looking back over forty-four years we can all reflect with pride and gratitude upon this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with such distinction. Britannia has provided magnificent support to us throughout this time, playing such an important role in the history of the second half of the century.” There is still a case to be made for the importance of a royal yacht to a global Commonwealth.


Next: The Palace of HolyroodHouse in Edinburgh

My column in today’s Globe and Mail about Prince Charles’s remarks on Vladimir Putin

My column in today’s Globe and Mail discusses Prince Charles’s remarks on Vladimir Putin. There’s a long history of royalty making critical remarks about Russia but still fulfilling their duties as constitutional monarchs.

Click here to read “A Future King and that Hitler thing” in the Globe and Mail