Friday Royal Read: Family Politics: Domestic Life, Devastation and Survival 1900-1950

The first half of the twentieth century was a turbulent time for Europe’s royal families. The First World War precipitated the collapse of the German, Austrian and Russian ruling houses. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary fled into exile with their families while Nicholas II of Russia was murdered with his wife, children and servants in 1918. The Turkish War of Independence led to the overthrow and exile of the last Ottoman Sultan in the 1920s. The Greek royal family (including the infant Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) also experienced exile in the 1920s. King Alfonso XIII of Spain went abroad in 1931 and his dynasty would not be restored until his grandson Juan Carlos became constitutional monarch in 1975. Italy’s reigning House of Savoy lost power in 1946. Not only did Umberto II have to leave the country but his male descendants were forbidden from visiting Italy until 2002.

Family Politics: Domestic Life, Devastation and Survival, 1900-1950 is the story of what happened to German, Russian, Turkish and Spanish families after the fall of each country’s monarchy and Italian families during the last years of the House of Savoy. While countless historians have analysed the politics and wars of 20th century Europe, the impact of these cataclysmic changes on ordinary families has received little attention. Ginsborg combines short biographies of key figures with careful analysis of changes to family law in the early 20th century including the resistance to these developments. The new regimes that came to power often distrusted the traditional family that emerged from the 19th century, fearing that loyalties to other individuals would supersede loyalty to the state. Successive conflicts including the Spanish Civil War to the Turkish Wars of Independence divided families and tested the bonds between spouses, siblings, and parents and children.

Family Politics: Domestic Life, Devastation and Survival, 1900-1950 is often a heartbreaking book, particularly the last couple of chapters that discuss the destruction of millions of families in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust and Soviet Russia during the Holodomar and Stalinist Terror. Amidst the devastation, individual tales of heroism and family solidarity emerge from a Soviet lamp factory worker who refused to disown her husband after he was sent to a gulag to a lawyer’s wife who disguised herself as a street vendor to safeguard her children during the Spanish Civil War.  Family Politics is never an easy read but it is a very important one that illuminates how the family endured through  war and revolution across Europe.

Next week: Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared To Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

Book Excerpt in the Ottawa Citizen: Magna Carta and Women’s Rights

An excerpt from my book Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights about Magna Carta and women’s rights was published in the Ottawa Citizen today as part of a feature issue on the Great Charter. Magna Carta guaranteed noblewomen freedom from forced remarriage during their widowhood and set precedents future legal reforms that improved the position of women in society.

Click here to read “Magna Carta and Women’s Rights” in the Ottawa Citizen

My writing on Magna Carta is also quoted in this Ottawa Citizen article: “Magna Carta: The “essence” of the West or irrelevant scrap of parchment?”

CBC Interview: Royal Baby 2: The risks and rewards of being ‘the spare’ to the throne

Queen Mary with her granddaughters Princess Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret. George V's consort believed that younger royals should be prepared for their future life of public service.

Queen Mary with her granddaughters Princess Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret.

My latest interview for 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.

Click here to read “Royal Baby 2: The risks and rewards of being ‘the spare’ to the throne”

New Canadian Encyclopedia Article: Fathers of Confederation: Charles Fisher

Charles Fisher

Charles Fisher

I have revised and expanded the Canadian Encyclopedia’s article on Charles Fisher, one of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation from the province of New Brunswick. Fisher led the first responsible government in New Brunswick (1854–61) and was the leading constitutional lawyer of his day. He attended the Québec and London Confederation conferences and contributed to the drafting of the British North America Act (1867) as New Brunswick’s attorney general.

Click here to read the article on Charles Fisher in the Canadian Encyclopedia

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

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

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

Interview: “Has Canada seen the last of Queen Elizabeth? Don’t bet on it!”

Queen Elizabeth II last visited in Canada in 2010, celebrating Canada Day on Parliament Hill. This royal tour began a revival of popular interest in the Canadian monarchy that has continued to the present day. Since the Queen has reduced her overseas travel in recent years, there has been speculation that there will not be any further tours of Canada. As I discussed in an interview with Ruth Dunley, Prince Philip made an unexpected visit to Canada last year and its certainly possible that the Queen may do the same in the future.

Click here to read “Has Canada seen the last of Queen Elizabeth? Don’t be on it” in the Vancouver Sun

Coronation Media Appearances

I will be discussing the worldwide impact of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation 60 years ago on the BBC Radio 5 live “Up All Night” Programme on June 3 at 9:35pm EST, (June 4, 2:35am BST in the United Kingdom). Please tune in if you are in the UK and up late this evening!

I also discussed the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation with over this past weekend. Click here read my interview with Janet Davison of about the impact of the coronation on Canadians – and the television industry.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Press

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a 2012 Olympic Gala

On April 29, 2013, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated their second anniversary. While the royal couple were almost universally praised during their first year of marriage, Catherine has been the target of criticism during the past year despite the happy news that the royal couple’s first child will arrive in July. Recent critiques and invasions of the couple’s privacy suggest that William and Catherine are still negotiating their relationship with the press.

Click here to read my full article about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the press in the Kingston Whig Standard

The Abdication of Queen Beatrix and the Ascension of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands

Willem-Alexander and Maxima, the new King and Queen of the Netherlands attending the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling in 2010.

My article in today’s Kingston Whig-Standard, “All Eyes on the New King” discusses the challenges facing the new King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who succeeded his mother, Queen Beatrix upon her abdication today. While the House of Orange-Nassau enjoyed near universal popularity during the Second World War, as a symbol of Dutch resistance and independence, there are now concerns that the royal family has become the most expensive in Europe and is more popular with older generations. It will be up to King Willem-Alexander, the first of Europe’s current generation of heirs to ascend to the throne to demonstrate the importance of the Dutch monarchy in the 21st century.

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

Click here to read my interview with Janet Davison of about Queen Beatrix’s childhood in Ottawa

I will also be discussing the Dutch monarchy on CJAD 800 AM radio Montreal on April 30 at 1:30pm