On Tuesday March 11 at 1pm, I will be participating in a Canada.com online chat about 2014 royal events including the upcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George.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
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.
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.
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.by
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.
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.
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.
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
I’m quoted in a couple of articles published today about Prince George of Cambridge, the christening and the godparents.by
I will be discussing Prince George of Cambridge’s christening on CBC radio early in the morning on October 23. Here’s the cross-Canada schedule (In Eastern Time):
6:40am Thunder Bay – Superior Morning
7:10am Gander – Central Morning
7:25am Yellowknife - The Trailbreaker
7:40am Edmonton - Edmonton AM
7:50am Whitehorse – A New Day
8:05am Kamloops – Daybreak Kamloops
8:20am Regina – The Morning Edition
8:40am Daybreak North
The Kings & Queens of England: The Biography stands out from other collective biographies of Queen Elizabeth UU and her predecessors because it begins with the unification of what is now England under the Saxon King Athelstan and ends with analysis of Prince Charles as the future King. Most studies of Queen Elizabeth II and her predecessors begin with William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and end with the present reign. By expanding the scope of The Kings & Queens of England: The Biography, David Loades, author of over thirty books including Henry VIII, Mary Rose and The Boleyns: The Rise & Fall of a Tudor Family, reveals the origins of the relationship between England and the monarchy and the nature of the institution that will be inherited by the Prince of Wales.
Since forty monarchs reigned between 1066 and the present day alone, each chapter about an individual monarch is brief, focusing on key themes. Loades states in the introduction that his goal is to recover the identities of each ruler but he is far more interested in how successive monarchs engaged with their subjects, church and finances than the personal lives of Kings and Queens. This approach reveals some interesting trends in royal history. Despite his reputation for indulgent living, King Edward IV was the first monarch to die solvent since Henry II, setting a precedent for the frugality displayed by Edward IV. Long after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, constitutional monarchs continued to exert influence and Loades presents the Hanoverian Kings and their families as political figures rather than focusing on their dysfunctional family relationships.
The strongest section of The Kings & Queens of England: The Biography are the chapters about the Tudor monarchs, Loades’s field of expertise. Loades complicates the popular perceptions of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I. He explains that Henry VII did not live up to his reputation as a miser, spending large sums on court spectacles in keeping with the other monarchs of the time. The execution of the Duke of Buckingham, dramatized in the first season of the Showtime TV series, The Tudors, emerges as a turning point in the reign of Henry VIII, the moment when he developed a distrust of the nobility and came to rely on advisers from humbler backgrounds.
In a book covering over a thousand years of history, the occasional factual error is difficult to avoid. In the early chapters of the book, Loades occasionally misinterprets the personal lives, families and relationships of the medieval Kings. He states that the ultimate fate of Harold II’s children is “not known” even though the last Saxon King’s daughter Gytha made a prestigious royal marriage after the Battle of Hastings, becoming the consort of Vladimir Monomakh, Grand Duke of Kiev. The genealogical tables erroneously present King Stephen’s mother, Adela, as the daughter of Henry I rather than his sister.
Unfortunately, the number of factual errors increases in the chapters concerning Queen Victoria and her descendants. Loades states that the Queen had ten children, five sons and five daughters when even the genealogical tables in the book affirm that Victoria had nine children and only four sons. Loades asserts that Edward VII emerged from his childhood with “a highly developed moral sense” and that his “flirtations” “were all superficial,” an interpretation that does not match the portrayal of the future King in Jane Ridley’s Bertie: A Life of Edward VII or Stanley Weintraub’s Edward the Caresser: The Playboy Prince Who Became Edward VII. Prince Charles is described as the first royal father to be present in the delivery room for the birth of his child, an inaccurate statement that was widely accepted as fact by the press during the weeks preceding the birth of Prince George of Cambridge in July, 2013
The Kings & Queens of England: The Biography end on a high note with a nuanced final chapter placing Prince Charles in historical context. Loades argues that the current Prince of Wales is the most active heir to the throne since King George II’s son Frederick became involved in opposition politics during the eighteenth century. The book ends with informed speculation regarding Charles’s eventual reign. Loades’s approach to the history of the monarchy reveals how the relationship between crown and country developed over the course of hundreds of years and continues to evolve in the twenty-first century.by
The christening of Prince George of Cambridge on October 23 in the Chapel of Royal of St. James’s Palace will be private occasion attended by family, close friends and the royal baby’s godparents. From Saxon times until well into the reign of Queen Victoria, however, royal christenings were often public occasions. When the christening of a royal baby went according to plan, the ceremony effectively symbolized the close relationship between the Crown and the Church and presented the next generation of royal heirs to the world. Unfortunately, royal christenings also had the potential to showcase unfortunate omens, religious discord and conflicts within the royal family regarding names, godparents and child rearing. Here are the 7 most controversial British royal christenings:
1) King Aethelred the Unready (c. 968-1016) According to the medieval chronicler William of Malmesbury, the life of the future King Aethelred the Unready began inauspiciously when the infant defecated in the font at his christening. Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury exclaimed angrily to the assembled guests, “By God and his mother, this will be a sorry fellow!” Aethelred grew up to become one of the most ineffective Kings of Saxon England, losing his throne to King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark from 1013 to 1014.
2) Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) The future Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was the first royal baby received into the newly created Church of England. Since the ceremony in the Church of Observant Friars in Greenwich proclaimed both the legitimacy of the King’s second marriage and the new religious settlement, there was critical commentary from supporters of the repudiated Queen Catherine of Aragon and the old papal supremacy. Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, one of Catherine’s most prominent supporters wrote, “the christening has been like her mother’s coronation, very cold and disagreeable, both to the Court and to the city, and there has been no thought of having the bonfires and rejoicings usual in such cases.”
3) Prince Henry Frederick (1594-1612) The eldest son of King James VI of Scotland (the future James I of England) and Anna of Denmark received a lavish christening at Stirling Castle. The King intended to make his son’s ceremony stand out from all previous royal celebrations by surprising the guests with a lion pulling a chariot into the christening banquet. At the last moment, this plan was cancelled as there were concerns that the lion might “forget himself.” Guests had to settle for viewing the King’s lions from a distance as the animals remained in their courtyard enclosure. Prince Henry died at the age of eighteen and his younger brother Charles succeeded James as King Charles I.
4) Princess Catherine Laura (1675) When the future James II’s second wife, Mary of Modena gave birth to her first child, the Roman Catholic royal couple arranged for a secret christening by Mary’s Catholic chaplain. James’s children from his first marriage, the future Queens Mary II and Anne, were Protestants and he wanted the children of his second marriage to share his Roman Catholic faith. When Charles II found out about Catherine Laura’s secret baptism, he ordered a second, Church of England, christening for his niece against the wishes of the baby’s parents. The infant princess died of convulsions at the age of nine months.
5) Prince George William (1717-1718) Arrangements for the christening of the future King George II’s second son led to a lasting rift between the Prince of Wales and his father, King George I. The Prince and Princess of Wales – the future King George II and Queen Caroline – wanted to name their son Louis and suggested the Queen of Prussia and Duke of York as godparents. George I promptly took charge of the christening planning, choosing “George William” as the name for his grandson and asking the Lord Chamberlain, the Duke of Newcastle to be one of the godparents. The Prince of Wales detested Newcastle and confronted him at the ceremony, declaring, “You are a rascal, but I shall find you out!” Due to the Prince’s thick German accent, Newcastle heard “I’ll fight you!” and assumed he had been challenged to a duel. George I banished his son and daughter-in-law from court because this incident, retaining custody of their children. When baby George William died at the age of three months, the Prince of Wales blamed his father for the tragedy because he had separated the child from his parents. The relationship between George I and the future George II never recovered from the circumstances surrounding George William’s christening and death.
6) Queen Victoria (1819-1901) The christening of the future Queen Victoria was the setting of an argument between the baby’s father, the Duke of Kent and her Uncle, the future King George IV, regarding suitable names. The Duke and Duchess intended to name their daughter Victoria Georgiana Alexandrina Charlotte Augusta after her mother and godparents. The King rejected these choices and told his brother and sister-in-law that he would inform them of the baby’s name at the christening. At the ceremony, The Archbishop of Canterbury held the baby over the font until the King decided, after some deliberations, that she would be named Alexandrina for her godfather, Czar Alexander I. The Duke of Kent requested a second name for the baby and suggested Elizabeth. George refused this idea, declaring, “Give her the mother’s name also then but it cannot precede that of the Emperor.” With the name settled, the future Queen was finally christened Alexandrina Victoria.
7) Prince William (1982) After the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles, Princess Diana stated that she had been excluded from the planning of her elder son’s christening. Diana stated in a taped interview with James Colthurst published in Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words, “I was treated like nobody else’s business. Nobody asked me when it was suitable for William – 11 o’clock could not have been worse. Endless pictures of the Queen Mother, Charles and William. I was excluded totally that day.” Diana’s biographer, Tina Brown dismissed Diana’s account in The Diana Chronicles, writing, “The christening was a dynastic ceremony involving all the Royal Family, not a “Mommy and Me” class.”by
More than two years after her marriage to Prince William, and two months after the birth of her son, Prince George, the Duchess of Cambridge, better known to the world as Catherine “Kate” Middleton, remains something of an enigma. As the first “middle-class” woman to marry a direct heir to the British throne since Anne Hyde married the future James II in 1660, Catherine is described as both a cornerstone of the modern monarchy and a social climber. The Duchess received near universal acclaim from the public in Canada and the South Pacific during her overseas tours but has been the subject of scathing critiques by prominent Britons including award winning author, Hilary Mantel and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.
Now that baby George has arrived, Catherine’s choices as a mother are under intense scrutiny because the decisions she makes and the products she purchases will influence millions of parents around the world. Meanwhile, William and Catherine have said little about their relationship on the record since their engagement interview. In response to the royal couple’s discretion and determination to protect their privacy, speculation regarding their courtship, marriage and parenting has flourished.
In Kate: The Future Queen, Katie Nicholl, Royal Editor and columnist for the Mail on Sunday and contributing editor to Vanity Fair attempts to separate the facts about Catherine’s life from the speculation through extensive interviews with teachers, friends and acquaintances. This fascinating biography fills in key gaps in Catherine’s biography such as when she first met Prince William and how the supposedly “middle class” Middleton family were able to send their children to some of the best schools in the United Kingdom while they built the Party Pieces business that would make them millionaires.
One of the greatest strengths of Nicholl’s work is her decision to place Catherine firmly at the center of the story. Too many books about William and Catherine focus on the impact of the Duchess and the Middleton family on the monarchy. In contrast, Kate: The Future Queen focuses on Catherine’s life before she met William and how her life changed once she decided that the Prince was the man she wanted to marry. Although Nicholl states that William and Catherine chose to omit the word “obey” from their wedding vows because it “somehow seemed so incompatible with the equality on which their relationship was founded,” the courtship brought more changes to Catherine’s “middle class” life than William’s royal existence.
Nicholl provides vivid descriptions of Catherine’s life before William and how dating a Prince changed almost everything. Before William, Catherine Middleton had a wide and varied social circle, held a diverse range of summer jobs from waitress to deckhand, traveled to Florence as an anonymous art history student and was involved in amateur theatricals as well as sports. Life with the Prince entailed sharply curtailing her social circle to include only the most discreet friends, adapting her work schedule to the William’s calendar of military training and royal engagements, and avoiding activities, such as a planned charity Dragon Boat race across the English channel, with the potential to attract a media circus. Certain aspects of Catherine ‘s life before William have survived her transition to Duchess of Cambridge, most notably her close relationship with her family, but Nicholl’s sources demonstrate just how great a change occurred in her life when she began the path to royal life.
Nicholl is at her best when she writes about Catherine, her family and the pressures of dating and marrying royalty but the brief sections involving royal history could have used a little more attention and expansion. There are a few typographical errors – such as King George VI being referred to as “George V” in a passage about the Queen’s engagement to Prince Philip and there not enough comparisons between Catherine and other royal spouses who faced a similar situation to her own. The correspondence of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon reveals that she hesitated before accepting the future George VI’s proposal and the life of royal duty that accompanied it. More comparisons between Catherine’s situation and that of other non-royals who married royalty would have enhanced Nicholl’s work.
Advance reviews of Kate: The Future Queen focused on Nicholl’s controversial evidence that Catherine changed her university plans once William’s intent to attend St. Andrew’s were made public. Nicholl certainly implies that William’s university plans influenced Catherine’s decisions about her future but she allows the reader to draw the final conclusion, writing, “The truth is Kate did change her mind and reapplied to St. Andrews, knowing that the prince was going there, but only she truly knows whether her change of heart was because of William.” Since William and Catherine remain private about the circumstances of their courtship, the Duchess of Cambridge will remain the focus of conjecture but Nicholl’s engaging biography provides fresh insights about her life as well as informed speculation about how she found her prince and what her future will hold as a wife, mother, philanthropist, Princess and Queen.by
Prince George of Cambridge will be christened by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at St. James’s Palace on October 23. The choice of venue took the public by surprise because both Prince Charles and Prince William were christened in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, which became a favourite venue for royal christenings after the palace chapel suffered bomb damage during the Second World War. The Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace, however, has been the setting for key royal occasions since the reign of King Henry VIII. The upcoming christening will follow in a long tradition of royal events unfolding within the Chapel Royal.
Today, St. James’s Palace is the administrative centre of the monarchy and the senior royal palace in the United Kingdom. The Accession Council meets at the palace to proclaim each new sovereign and British Ambassadors represent “The Court of St. James.” The palace did not enjoy this prominence when Henry VIII ordered its construction in the 1530s. Henry’s principal residence in London was Whitehall Palace and he intended for St. James’s Palace to be a secondary residence. Much of the palace was constructed on the site of a leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Lesser. The palace chapel was originally part of a nearby convent acquired by the King during the dissolution of the monasteries.
St. James’s Palace was completed in 1536. In 1540, Henry commissioned the artist Hans Holbein to decorate the chapel in honour of his fourth marriage to the German Princess, Anna of Cleves. Holbein had been a key figure in the marriage negotiations, painting the famous portrait of Anna that prompted the King’s proposal of marriage. Although the marriage ceremony itself took place at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, the adornments to St. James’s Palace were intended to celebrate the new Queen.
Unfortunately for Holbein’s career, Henry was not attracted to the actual Anna as he was to her portrait and the marriage was annulled that same year. Holbein continued to work as an artist at court but he received fewer royal commissions after the failure of the King’s 4th marriage.
St. James’s Palace continued to be a significant royal residence during the Tudor period. Two of Henry VIII’s children, Henry Fitzroy and Queen Mary I, died in the palace and the heart of the Queen is buried under the choir stalls. Elizabeth I reputedly prayed for the success of her fleet against the Spanish Armada in the Chapel Royal in 1588.
In 1623, construction began on a new chapel at St. James’s Palace. Negotiations were underway for King James I’s heir, the future Charles I, to marry Princess Henriette-Marie of France and marriage contract ultimately stated, “. . . in all the said King’s Palaces in which the said Madam shall remain or be she shall have a Roman church or chapel capable and large with sufficient commodious entrances not only for the use of Madam and the better sort but also for the meanest of families. And this church or chapel shall be decently adorned according to the rites and customs of the Roman church.”
Inigo Jones, a favourite architect of James I’s late wife, Anna of Denmark designed the new Roman Catholic place of worship and Charles I’s bride brought her own chapel furnishings from France. Although there was widespread public concern that Henrietta Maria would encourage her husband to convert to Roman Catholicism, Charles I remained a devout member of the Church of England and received in his last Communion in the original Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace before his execution at Whitehall in 1649.
During the interregnum, Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell made clear what he thought of Henrietta Maria and her religion by using the Queen’s Chapel as a stable. Henrietta Maria’s chapel became a royal chapel once more in 1938 and the remains of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother remained there during the preparations for her lying-in-state in Westminster Hall after her death in 2002.
After Whitehall Palace was destroyed by fire in the reign of King William III, in 1698, St. James’s Palace assumed its current role as the administrative centre of the monarchy. Although William preferred to live at Kensington Palace because of his asthma, George I, George II and George III all used St. James’s Palace as their principal residence in London during the eighteenth century. At this time, the Chapel Royal became a significant cultural centre. George Frederic Handel was appointed ‘Composer of Musick of His Majesty’s Chappel Royal’ in 1723 and he composed the music for the coronation of King George II in 1727.
Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace in 1840. The chapel has been renovated in 1836 to include oak paneling and a high ceiling. The overjoyed bride wrote in her journal, “His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!” In addition to ensuring the Queen’s happiness, the wedding also had worldwide social significance as Victoria’s choice of a white wedding gown with fresh flowers has influenced bridal fashions to the present day.
In contrast to the Georgian monarchs, Victoria did not use St. James’s Palace as her residence, preferring Windsor Castle and the newly enlarged Buckingham Palace as official homes for her growing family. Nevertheless, the Palace continues to be the setting for royal events to the present day. The children of Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, Lord Frederick and Lady Gabriella Windsor, were christened in the Chapel Royal in 1979 and 1981 respectively. The Queen’s granddaughter, Princess Beatrice was also christened there in a ceremony conducted by John Habgood, Archbishop of York, in 1988.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have chosen a setting for the christening of their son Prince George that has a long and colourful royal history. For Prince William, the choice of the Chapel Royal also has profound personal significance. In September 1997, the coffin of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales was placed before the altar of the Chapel Royal so that family and friends could pay their respects before the funeral at Westminster Abbey. By choosing the Chapel Royal as the setting for Prince George’s christening, William and Catherine are honouring the late Princess of Wales in addition to their son’s destiny as heir to a thousand year old monarchy.by