Queen Mary with her granddaughters Princess Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret.
My latest interview for CBC.ca discusses “The risks and rewards of being ‘the spare’ to the throne.” For recent “spares” such as Princess Margaret, Prince Andrew and Prince Harry, there has been the challenge of carving out a meaningful role in public life. Both Andrew and Harry experienced success in their military careers but Andrew has faced criticism since leaving the military and there is speculation that Harry may face challenges finding a new role once he finishes his secondment with the Australian forces.
For the Queen’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, life as “the spare” initially seemed glamorous but she was discouraged from marrying the man she loved and, like Prince Andrew, was criticized for her travel and spending. Before the current reign, however, “the spare” had a good chance of succeeding to the throne. George VI, George V, Charles I and Henry VIII were all second sons while Elizabeth I and Queen Anne were second daughters. There have been other monarchs were born even further down the line of succession. Henry I, King John and Richard III were all fourth surviving sons and Queen Victoria was the daughter of King George III’s fourth son.
Charlotte was a popular royal name in Georgian England as it was the name of George III’s queen, Charlotte of Mecklenberg, her daughter, Princess Charlotte of Württemberg and her ill fated granddaughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales, who died in childbirth in 1817, giving birth to a stillborn son. Princess Charlotte of Wales was second-in-line to the throne at the time of her death and her pregnancy was the first instance of bookmakers taking bets on whether a royal baby would be a boy or a girl.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son, Prince George
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – William and Kate – are expecting their second child this month. I discussed possible royal baby names with Janet Davison at CBC.ca. There are numerous predictions that “Alice” will be chosen for a girl. Alice was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite names for girls and the name of a number of her descendants including Prince Philip’s mother. I also discuss the impact of royalty on baby name choices in Canada, including the reason “Louise” and “Lorne” became popular Canadian baby names by the early twentieth century.
When Victoria became Queen in 1837, she shut the door of the royal bedchamber to the public. The government officials who traditionally attended royal births were relegated to the adjoining room while only the Queen’s consort, Prince Albert, and medical staff were permitted in the bedchamber for the arrival of the royal children. The Queen observed a strict separation between her public life and her domestic life. In Tales from the Royal Bedchamber, Dr. Lucy Worsley, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, reveals that the monarch’s bedchamber was a ceremonial space in Tudor and Stuart times where proximity to the monarch meant proximity to political power.
Worsley presents the history of the English royal bedchamber with enthusiasm and energy. She climbs into beds to test just how comfortable they were, showing that it was impossible to lie entirely flat on a hammock-like, collapsible medieval royal bed frame. She also tries her hand at silk weaving. Sitting on the edge of royal beds, Worsley has interesting discussions about royal marriage, mistresses and childbearing with a broad range of fellow curators, historians and authors such as Anna Whitelock, Tracy Borman and Helen Rappaport.
Perhaps the most engaging part of the documentary is Worsley’s description of the rumours that the son of James II and Mary of Modena, born in 1688, was a “warming pan baby” smuggled into the Queen’s bed to replace a stillborn child. Worsley shows viewers a warming pan, an early form of hot water bottle that was too small to hold a baby, draws the supposed route the warming pan took through state rooms to the royal bedchamber and describes the crowd that witnessed the actual birth. The warming pan baby story was a convenient fiction to justify the Glorious Revolution&accession of William III and Mary II.
Since Worsley is chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, much of the documentary is filmed in royal bedchambers of the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Kensington Palace. There is also a visit to the Isle of Wight to view the memorial to Queen Victoria in the private bedchamber where she died at Osborne House. If the program were longer, a trip across the channel to Versailles would have shown the origins of certain late seventeenth century English court practices. It is no coincidence that the late Stuart monarchs commissioned elaborate state beds after the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. Charles II was first cousin to Louis XIV and spent part of his exile in France, observing the elaborate ceremonies that took place when the King rose from his bed in the morning or retired in the evening.
Tales from the Royal Bedchamber is a look behind the royal bed curtains of centuries past. Before Queen Victoria shut the door, the whole court thought they had the right to know exactly what took place in the royal bed. The modern fascination with the private life of the royal family is as old as monarchy itself.
Princess Charlene, consort of Prince Albert II of Monaco is expecting twins by the end of the year. I discussed the succession in Monaco with Eun Kim at today.com. In contrast to most other European ruling houses, Monaco has not introduced gender neutral succession policies. If the twins are a boy and girl, the boy will be heir regardless of which twin is born first. The most recent succession reforms in Monaco, passed in 2002, allowed Albert’s siblings and their children to succeed in the event that Albert remained childless. Albert’s sister. Princess Caroline, is the current heir until the arrival of the twins.