Category Archives: The Royal Succession

The Monarchy in Canada: HRH The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles)

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

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.

Click here to read Prince Charles (HRH The Prince of Wales) in the Canadian Encyclopedia

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Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government and the Postwar Commonwealth by Philip Murphy (Review)

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.

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The Monarchy in Canada: HRH The Duke of Cambridge (The Prince William)


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Canada in 2011

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Canada in 2011

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.

Click here to read HRH The Duke of Cambridge (The Prince William) in the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia.

Next: HRH The Prince of Wales (The Prince Charles)

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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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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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Kate: The Future Queen by Katie Nicholl (Review)

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.

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The Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace from King Henry VIII to Prince George of Cambridge

St. James's Palace in London

St. James’s Palace in London

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.

Portrait of Henry VIII's 4th wife, Anna of Cleves by Hans Holbein

Portrait of Henry VIII’s 4th wife, Anna of Cleves by Hans Holbein

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.

The Queen's Chapel, designed by Inigo Jones for Charles I's consort, Queen Henrietta Maria.

The Queen’s Chapel, designed by Inigo Jones for Charles I’s consort, Queen Henrietta Maria.

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.

George Frederic Handel

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.

George Hayter's painting of the wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert

George Hayter’s painting of the wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert

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 Duchess of Cambridge leaving the hospital with Prince George of Cambridge that day after his birth

The Duchess of Cambridge leaving the hospital with Prince George of Cambridge the day after his birth

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.

Click here to read my interview with Ruth Dunley of about the christening arrangements for Prince George of Cambridge.

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Royal Babies: A History 1066-2013 by Amy Licence (Review)

The future Empress Matilda was delivered by a team of monks in 1102. Edward II came into the world in a tent during his father’s Welsh campaign in 1284. Henry VIII and his elder brother Arthur were born surrounded by women in chambers specially arranged by their formidable grandmother, Margaret Beaufort. Queen Henrietta Maria’s doctors required parliamentary permission to cross the battle lines of the English Civil Wars to deliver Princess Henrietta Anne in 1644.

Queen Elizabeth II was delivered by caesarian section at her maternal grandfather’s London house. Prince William and his newborn son, Prince George of Cambridge were born in a hospital with the world’s media outside. In Royal Babies, Amy License, author of In Bed with the Tudors: The Sex Lives of a Dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I, Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Tudor Queen and Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen presents a history of Britain in 25 royal births, revealing the long and fascinating history of royal childbirth.

Licence places each royal baby in the context of his or her times, including a wealth of information from centuries of childbirth guides, revealing whether each expectant mother followed the advice of their day or made controversial choices in the delivery room. Numerous queens consort found it difficult to balance their duties as royal wives with motherhood. Edward IV’s consort, Elizabeth Woodville may have breastfed the future Edward V because she was confined to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey during the Wars of the Roses but numerous other Queens employed wet nurses, allowing them to resume public life and have another child more quickly.

Until the 20th century, mortality for mothers and children was high and royal women and children succumbed to illness and infection. The survival of certain royal babies profiled in Licence’s book would have changed the course of history. Henry VIII’s eldest son with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon died at the age of ten weeks, beginning the King’s long quest for a male heir. George IV’s only child, Princess Charlotte, died giving birth to a stillborn son, George, which allowed for the eventual succession of her cousin as Queen Victoria. Henry VIII’s mother, Elizabeth of York and third wife, Jane Seymour died of what was described at the time as childbed fever.

Royal Babies is not only the story of 25 princes and princesses but of their parents, revealing changing trends in royal marriage as well as childbirth. While the eighteenth century monarchs from the House of Hanover made purely dynastic marriages with varying degrees of success, a surprising number of medieval monarchs made marriages based on physical attraction or shared interests as well as political advantage. Henry I “long desired” marriage to Edith of Scotland, who shared his cultural interests. Henry II and John were drawn to the beauty of their respective wives, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of Angouleme rather than their wealth alone. Edward III chose Philippa of Hainaut as his queen over her sisters because she wept when he left her father’s court. The thousand year range of Licence’s work reveals the full scope of how royal domestic life changed over time.

With only 25 royal babies profiled in the book, however, there are omissions that leave gaps in the narrative. While the Queen, Prince William and the newborn Prince George each receive a chapter, the birth of Prince Charles is not discussed. His absence is surprising as he was the first direct heir since the Glorious Revolution who was not born with a member of the government close at hand. Henry III and his Queen, Eleanor of Provence were known for their close attention to their children, yet none of their babies receive a chapter. As the main text of the book is only 164 pages long, the inclusion of a few more royal babies would have allowed for more seamless transitions from one royal delivery room to the next. There are also some factual and proofreading errors that suggest Royal Babies was rushed to press for the birth of Prince George.

  Royal Babies is filled with fascinating details about royal births over the past thousand years, revealing the varied experiences of English and Scottish Queens in the delivery room. The arrival of Prince George this year in the same hospital where his father, Prince William was born in 1982 suggests that future royal births may follow an established pattern. In contrast to their predecessors, the wives of subsequent royal heirs may know exactly what to expect when they give birth to next generation of princes and princesses.

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Three Kings: Why Succession Reform Is Still Important

My article in today’s Kingston Whig-Standard discusses why succession reform remains important even though the arrival of William and Catherine’s baby boy indicates that Elizabeth II will be followed by three Kings.

Click here to read the full article in the Kingston Whig-Standard

I gave a number of interviews about the royal baby on Canada AM and the CTV News Channel today.

Click here to watch one of my royal baby interviews on Canada AM

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