New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: Fathers of Confederation: Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché

Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché

Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché

I am currently expanding and revising a series of Canadian Encyclopedia articles on the Fathers of Confederation in preparation for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. Here’s the new article about Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché. He was a member of every government of the United Province of Canada between 1848 and 1857, including two coalitions with John A. Macdonald. He presided over the 1864 Québec Conference and defended the 72 Resolutions that determined the shape of Confederation in 1867.

Click here to read the article on Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché in the Canadian Encyclopedia

New cover design for my forthcoming book: Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada

Magna Carta cover My forthcoming book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights has a new cover design! The new cover features one of the original thirteenth century versions of Magna Carta and an illuminated manuscript image of King John hunting a stag with hounds.

The book launches on May 5, 2015.

In Canada,  Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada is available for pre-order on amazon.ca The book is also available for pre-order at Indigo and directly from Dundurn Press

In the USA, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada is available for pre-order on amazon.com

In the UK, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada is available for pre-order at amazon.co.uk

New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: The St. George’s Society of Toronto

Saint George, England's patron saint, slaying a dragon

Saint George, England’s patron saint, slaying a dragon

My latest article in the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia is about The St. George’s Society of Toronto.

Founded in 1834, the St. George’s Society of Toronto is one of Canada’s oldest philanthropic organizations. The Society was created to assist English and Welsh immigrants, and promote patriotism among English Canadians. Today, the Society has three $1-million endowments and gifts, and makes annual donations to more than 20 charitable causes.

Click here to read the full article about The St George’s Society of Toronto in the Canadian Encyclopedia

Hello! Canada Interview: “Fabulous at 50: Sophie of Wessex”

The Earl and Countess of Wessex in Ottawa on September 12, 2012 Photo Credit: Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY

The Earl and Countess of Wessex in Ottawa on September 12, 2012 Photo Credit: Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY

The Countess of Wessex turned 50 on January 20, 2015. I discussed her philanthropy and royal duties with Hello Canada! in “Fabulous at 50: Sophie of Wessex.” The Earl and Countess of Wessex undertake a full schedule of royal engagements  including overseas tours. They visit Canada almost every year.

Click here to read Fabulous at 50: Sophie of Wessex in Hello! Canada

Toronto Star Interview: Shabby Toronto apartment was once home to Russia’s Grand Duchess Olga

Grand Duchess Olga painting in her Cooksville home

Grand Duchess Olga during her last years in Canada

Grand Duchess Olga, younger sister of Russia’s last Czar, Nicholas II, lived in Canada from 1948 until her death in 1960. Olga’s last home in Toronto has recently gone up for sale, demonstrating the changes she experienced over the course of her life, from her birth at the Peterhof Palace outside St. Petersburg, to her last months in a Toronto apartment.

I am quoted in an article about Grand Duchess Olga’s time in Canada in today’s Toronto Star. Click here to read “Shabby Toronto apartment was once home to Russia’s Grand Duchess Olga

For more on Grand Duchess Olga, see my article on this site, “From St. Petersburg to Toronto: The Life of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna”

CBC Interview: Royal visit: Princess Anne’s Ottawa tour will honour ‘everyday heroes’

Princess Anne

Princess Anne

Princess Anne will pay an official visit to Ottawa on November 10 and 11 to mark Remembrance Day. I discussed the history and significance of Princess Anne’s visits to Canada with Janet Davision of CBC.ca.

Click here to read “Royal visit: Princess Anne’s Ottawa tour will honour ‘everyday heroes'” at CBC.ca 

What’s in store for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s second child? A short history of “the spare.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son, Prince George

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son, Prince George

Clarence House announced today that “Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting their second child. The Queen and members of both families are delighted with the news.” The announcement follows months of speculation concerning William and Catherine’s plans to expand their family. Various media outlets have already dubbed the forthcoming royal baby, “the spare” after Consuelo Vanderbuilt’s famous phrase “the heir and the spare,” coined to describe her two sons, born in her loveless first marriage to the 9th Duke of Marlborough.

Portrait Consuelo Vanderbuilt, Duchess of Marlborigh with her husband and two sons, whom she dubbed, "the heir and the spare."

Portrait Consuelo Vanderbuilt, Duchess of Marlborough with her husband and two sons, whom she dubbed, “the heir and the spare.”

The designation, “spare” suggests that a second royal child, or second son prior the current succession reforms, always exists in the shadow of his or her elder sibling, experiencing constant comparisons to “the heir.” For the past three generations, “the spare” has presented in the media as the fun loving sibling, a royal rebel eager to challenge the boundaries of court protocol. Before the present reign, however, there was a strong change “the spare” would become a sovereign and have as many responsibilities as “the heir.”

When photographs of Prince Harry playing strip billiards in Las Vegas were leaked to the press in 2012, his partying was compared to his elder brother William’s work as a Search and Rescue pilot in Wales. William performed rescues the same week as Harry’s Las Vegas trip, emphasizing the apparent contrast between a responsible, dutiful “heir” and a carefree, thoughtless, “spare.”

Harry’s public image initially improved when served a subsequent active tour of duty in Afghanistan but when he spoke frankly of the need to “take a life to save a life,” the press compared his outspokenness to William’s more guarded approach to the media. Harry will be thirty next week and continues to attract speculation regarding his future role in the royal family.  He has received praise for his successful charitable endeavors and overseas tours His past girlfriends, most notably Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas, have been the focus of intense media attention. With the arrival of William and Catherine’s second child, he will be fifth in line to the throne.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at The 2011 Sun Military Awards at Imperial War Museum in London.  (Photo by Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at The 2011 Sun Military Awards at Imperial War Museum in London. (Photo by Arthur Edwards – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Both the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, and her late younger sister, Princess Margaret were judged unfavorably by the public in comparison to their elder siblings. While Prince Charles and Princess Anne are praised for their charity work, their younger brother Andrew has been dubbed “Air Miles Andy” for his extensive travels during his time as a British trade envoy.  When Andrew was Harry’s age, he had a similar reputation to the current “spare.” Like Harry, Andrew was praised for his military service but his relationships attracted press attention, earning him another nickname, “Randy Andy.”

In 1952, Princess Margaret appeared carefree compared to her dutiful elder sister, the new Queen, but her status as “the spare” did not allow her freedom from the royal conventions of the time. In 1955, Margaret ended her relationship with the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend, stating, “Mindful of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others.” Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones, a society photographer, in 1960, and became a divorceé herself in 1978. Revelations regarding Margaret’s extramarital affairs and spending attracted considerable negative attention and there were calls from UK Labour MPs for her to be removed from the Civil List.

King George VI, the most recent second son to become King

King George VI, the most recent second son to become King

The experiences of Harry, Andrew and Margaret suggest that William and Catherine’s second child will face a lifetime of comparisons to older brother Prince George and a struggle to balance personal fulfillment with expected royal duties. This pattern, however, is a comparatively recent one. Prior to the present Queen’s reign, there was a strong chance that “the spare” would become the sovereign. Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Charles I, Anne, George V and George VI were all second sons or second daughters who unexpectedly became Kings and Queens. (When the future George V became a direct heir in 1892, his “spare” was his sister Louise, Duchess of Fife, the most recent brother/sister “heir and spare.”) Royal “spares” with living elder siblings sometimes found opportunities to rule outside Britain. Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, became Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. King John’s second son, Richard, was elected ruler of Germany “King of the Romans” in 1256. The life of “the spare” contained as much responsibility as the life of “the heir.”

The popular perception that the “spare” has fun while “the heir” performs extensive royal duties is a recent one, dating from the present reign. The 2012 Diamond Jubilee Thames river pageant emphasized the direct royal line – the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry – rather than the extended royal family. In a streamlined royal family that precludes extensive engagements for royal cousins, William and Catherine’s second child may one day face a busy schedule of royal engagements with little time to act as the fun loving counterpart to a dutiful older sibling.

 

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

Magna Carta and the Development of Parliament

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester

My latest article on the Magna Carta 2015 Canada website discusses the impact of Magna Carta on the development of parliament. A generation after King John affixed his seal to Magna Carta in 1215, his son, Henry III and son-in-law, Simon de Montfort fought over the Great Charter’s legacy. Like his father, Henry III was inclined to disregard Magna Carta when it conflicted his personal interests but Montfort sought to impose checks and balances on the King that would ensure the rights codified by the Charter. By drafting the Provisions of Oxford in 1258 and expanding parliamentary representation to include townspeople, Montfort became a father of representative government with a legacy that continues to the present day.

Click here to read “Magna Carta and the Development of Parliament” at Magna Carta Canada

Interviews: Prince George of Cambridge’s 1st Birthday

Prince George is one year old today. In his first year, the royal baby has already had a profound impact on how the public views the monarchy. I’ve discussed George’s first year with a number of journalists in the past week. Here are the interviews:

Click here to read “Happy birthday, Prince George — the baby who rescued the monarchy” at Canada.com

Click here to read “Prince George turns 1: ‘Republican slayer’ PR gold for Royal Family” at CBC.ca

Click here to read “Tiny Prince George has Big Impact on the Royal Family” at The Toronto Sun