Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 88th birthday today, marking the occasion privately at Windsor Castle. I was interviewed by Janet Davison of CBC.ca about the Queen at 88. Although the monarch’s children and grandchildren are assuming a larger number of official engagements, especially overseas tours, the Queen continues to have a full schedule. If she matches the longevity of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, she may still be an active public figure for years to come.by
My Canadian Encyclopedia article on Prince Philip, (HRH The Duke of Edinburgh) was published today. The article focuses on Philip’s activities in Canada including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Program, military patronages, philanthropy and discussion of the future of the Canadian monarchy.by
My article in the Canadian Encyclopedia about the Prince of Wales was published today. The piece focuses on the Prince’s time in Canada as well his philanthropy and philosophy on the natural world.by
My latest article for the Canadian Encyclopedia is a biography of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900-2002) with a focus on her impact in Canada. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured Canada in 1939, the first Canadian visit by a reigning monarch. During her fifty year widowhood, the Queen Mother visited Canada on numerous occasions and there were rumors that she would be appointed Governor General during the 1950s. During her long lifetime, the Queen Mother became honourary Colonel-in-Chief of Canadian military regiments and a patron of Canadian charities.by
The second Monday in March is Commonwealth Day and Queen Elizabeth II will mark the occasion by attending a multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey with the Duke of Edinburgh, High Commissioners, Commonwealth dignitaries and young people from around the world. Women’s education advocate Malala Yousafzai will deliver the keynote address. The 2000 person congregation will be the largest Commonwealth Day observance but similar events will take place around the world including a Canadian Commonwealth Day Observance Service in Toronto, in the presence of The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
In the twenty-first century, the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth as a family of nations are synonymous in the popular imagination. Recent coverage of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs) has emphasized the importance of these events for the Queen and the future of the monarchy. In 2011, coverage of the Perth CHOGM focused on the support for succession reform in the sixteen Commonwealth Realms where the Queen is Head of State. In 2013, the presence of the Prince of Wales in Sri Lanka, representing the Queen, sparked discussion of the changing face of the monarchy as the Queen’s children and grandchildren assume more of the royal duties and overseas engagements once undertaken by the monarch.
In Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government, and the Postwar Commonwealth, Philip Murphy, Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Professor of British and Commonwealth Studies at the University of London explains that the current “Royal Commonwealth” was a controversial idea for much of the organization’s history. As much of the former British Empire transformed into a Commonwealth of independent nations after the Second World War, it seemed inevitable that the connection with the monarchy would gradually weaken. Newly independent African nations were encouraged to become republics rather than constitutional monarchies. The Queen took her role as Head of the Commonwealth seriously and became the most traveled monarch in history but the desirability of a “ceremonial head” for the Commonwealth was a matter of debate.
For Canadian readers, there is plenty of fascinating material about the decline and rebirth of the Canadian monarchy during the reign of Elizabeth II. In recent years, Australia had a referendum about the future of the monarchy while Canada was chosen as a friendly destination for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first overseas tour as a married couple in 2011. During the 1960s, Canada was the nation that appeared more likely to become a republic as the Quiet Revolution fostered negative attitudes toward the Crown in Quebec and prominent Canadians mused about the gradual decline of the monarchy in Canada. The Duke of Edinburgh’s remark at a 1969 Ottawa press conference, “We don’t come here for our health…we can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves” has been dismissed as a gaffe but Prince Philip was actually making a larger point about how monarchy exists in the interests of the people rather than the monarch.
Murphy also provides a fresh perspective on the Queen through his analysis of the Commonwealth. A number of recent biographies focus on her role as Queen of the United Kingdom and therefore emphasize her ceremonial role. By looking at the Queen through the context of the Commonwealth, Murphy reveals her multifaceted political influence around the world over the course of her reign. The Queen supported sanctions to aid the collapse of apartheid in South Africa and encouraged continued democracy in Ghana. Murphy also illuminates the influence of gender on public perceptions of the monarchy. Just as the public saw Queen Victoria as the “mother” of the British Empire, Elizabeth II has been viewed as a maternal figure for the Commonwealth.
Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government, and the Postwar Commonwealth is an erudite and engaging study of the relationship between the monarchy and the Commonwealth since the Second World War. For the past sixty-two years, the Queen has been the one constant figure in the organization, her role endlessly scrutinized by successive governments around the world. It remains to be seen if the current model of a “royal commonwealth” will remain successful during future reigns.by
My column in this weekend’s edition of the Kingston Whig Standard looks at the role of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise in founding of the National Gallery and Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Louise’s husband, Lord Lorne was Governor General of Canada from 1878 to 1883 and the Princess resided at Rideau Hall, Ottawa for long periods during that time. Louise was a trained painter and sculptor and she was eager to develop national institutions where Canadian artists could share their work with the public and attract patrons.
Interested in learning more about Princess Louise in Canada. See Carolyn Harris, “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” in eds. D. Michael Jackson and Philippe Lagassé, Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy (2014)by
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.
Next: HRH The Prince of Wales (The Prince Charles)by
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.by
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.”by
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.by