My article in Quartz discusses how women in power are portrayed on two hit TV shows: The Crown on Netflix and Victoria on PBS. Both Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown and Queen Victoria in Victoria appear as young women who are mentored or challenged by the men who surround them and experience frequent moments of self doubt. In fact, both queens had been trained for their future roles since childhood and were confident queens who were both extremely popular when they first succeeded to the throne. The portrayals of Elizabeth II and Victoria on TV today reflect current anxieties about women in power.by
Readers who received advance review copies of my forthcoming book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting are sharing their reviews on goodreads. Raising Royalty will be published by Dundurn Press in Canada in April 2017 and in the USA and UK in May 2017.
Here are excerpts from some of the reader reviews:
“Raising Royalty is a comprehensive study of how…Kings and Queens have raised their children. Twenty families with their widely varying parenting approaches from Anglo-Saxon times to the present are studied.
While the book is a thoroughly researched subject by a scholar, it is a joy to read. It provides a clear picture of how parenting in the rarefied atmosphere of castles and palaces has evolved and, perhaps more importantly, why. Boys were brought up to fight and rule, and girls for dynastic/political marriages. Princes and princesses had no choice one thousand years ago and, one also sympathizes, today their futures are still fixed in stone but with a little more leeway.
Carolyn Harris, the author, has done an excellent job of writing this book for general readership and it will open eyes with the detail and surprises. Recommended for history buffs and royal watchers.” — Julie Ferguson
“I was expecting the book to be entirely be about English royalty, but was pleased to find that it covered enough of Europe to give it some diversity.
Filled with a lot of interesting facts and written in a way that held my attention.
Both well researched and written.” — MissyLynne
“I was expecting a list of “advice” and “lessons” and was pleasantly surprised.
Ms. Harris presents a HUGE amount of history in this book and her skill at writing in a way that keeps the reader engaged and interested is refreshing.
Anyone with any interest in royal families will love this book. It’s a great read. ” — Michelle Griswold
Click here to pre-order your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parentingby
My thoughts about Queen Victoria and her opposition to women’s suffrage have been quoted in the New York Post as part of a list of facts about the famous Queen, who is currently being portrayed by Jenna Coleman in the Victoria TV series on PBS. The quotes are an excerpt from a longer interview with the University of Alberta Faculty of Law blog about Queen Victoria, her family and women’s rights.
Click here to read Thank queen of ‘Victoria’ for this Oval Office centerpiece in the New York Post.by
The ITV series Victoria premieres on PBS on January 15 at 9pm ET. My interview with CBC.ca discusses Queen Victoria, the Netflix series The Crown and why the Stuart queens Mary II and Anne would be ideal candidates for a dramatic treatment of this kind.
For more information about Queen Victoria, click here to read my article about Queen Victoria and Canada in the Queen’s Alumni Review and my profile of Queen Victoria in the Canadian Encyclopedia
My forthcoming book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting includes a chapter about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and how they parented their nine children.by
A partial breakdown of the cost of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s 2016 Canadian tour was released today. I discussed the expenses of the royal tour with the Canadian Press, noting the differences between William and Kate’s 2011 and 2016 tours of Canada and the positive impact of their presence for Canadian charities, institutions and environmental initiatives.
I am honoured to be a recipient of a 2016 Excellence in Teaching award from the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. The award recognizes sustained dedication to the delivery of adult education.
My course about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution begins at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies on January 11. Click here for more information and to register.
In the Spring of 2017, I will be teaching one of my most popular courses: Peter the Great and the Building of Saint Petersburg. Click here for more information and to register.
December 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the murder of Grigori Rasputin, the controversial holy man, faith healer and adviser to Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. Rasputin’s presence at the Imperial court undermined popular confidence in the ruling Romanov dynasty and he was ultimately murdered by members of the Czar’s extended family and the political elite. Rasputin’s life, reputation and murder are the subject of the December installment of my monthly column in Smithsonian Magazine. I examine Rasputin’s rise to power, theories concerning his ability to alleviate the heir to the throne’s hemophilia and what really happened on the night of his murder.
Sources and Further Reading:
If you are interested on learning more about Rasputin and his impact on the collapse of the Romanov dynasty, I strongly recommend Douglas Smith’s 2016 biography,Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs. During the research for his previous book, Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy, Smith found that almost every prominent Russian in the last years of Czar Nicholas II’s reign had an opinion about Rasputin and his influence. Smith therefore draws on an unprecedented range of source material to determine how Rasputin came to be introduced to the Imperial family, his role at the court of the last Czar and how he developed the larger than life reputation that persists to the present day.
Smith reveals that much of what we think we know about Rasputin is legendary but in the political and social conditions of early twentieth century Russia, what people thought they knew about “the Mad Monk” became even more significant than his actual behaviour. Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs far surpasses all previous biographies of Rasputin and is essential reading for anyone interested in this controversial historical figure.
The quote at the beginning of my Smithsonian article is from the description of Father Zosima, a character who plays a key role in Feodor Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Zosima dispenses advice and is treated with reverence in the novel, giving a sense of the role of holy men in late Imperial Russian society.
An excerpt from Nicholas II’s letter to his Prime Minister, Peter Stolypin about the first meeting between the Imperial couple and Rasputin is published in A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, a selection of diary entries, letters and memoir excerpts written by Nicholas and Alexandra and the people closest to them. The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra: April 1914-March 1917 (Documentary Reference Collections) has also been published.
Nicholas II’s sister, Grand Duchess Olga, who witnessed Rasputin praying by the bedside of her nephew, Alexei, survived the revolution and eventually settled in Canada. During her last years, she dictated her memoirs to Ian Vorres, which were published as The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. There is also a popular biography of Olga, Olga Romanov by Patricia Phenix.
Empress Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting, Sophie Buxhoeveden, also survived the revolution and wrote three sets of memoirs about her time at the Russian court. before the Storm discusses the possibility that Rasputin employed peasant faith healing techniques. Buxhoeveden also wrote The Life & Tragedy Of Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress Of Russia. A Biography and Left Behind: Fourteen Months in Siberia During the Revolution, December 1917-February 1919 about the Imperial family and her own experiences during the Russian Revolution.
In Les Romanov: Une dynastie sous le règne du sang (Biographies Historiques) (French Edition), French historian Hélène Carrère d’Encausse discusses the theory that Rasputin’s success in alleviating the heir to the throne’s hemophilia symptoms was his insistence that the doctors leave the child alone and stop giving him medications, which may have included aspirin.
The traditional exaggerated account of Rasputin’s murder, including his supposed immunity to poisoned cakes and superhuman strength in his last moments comes from Lost Splendor: The Amazing Memoirs of the Man Who Killed Rasputin by Prince Felix Yussupov. The Prince was the only one of the murderers who discussed the deed publicly and his sensationalized account remains the most widely known description of Rasputin’s death, informing popular culture.
Rasputin’s daughter, Maria, was the only member of his family to escape Russia after the Revolution. She became a circus lion tamer and cabaret dancer before settling down as a Russian language teacher in the United States. She wrote a number of books about her famous father, including Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth – A Personal Memoir by Maria Rasputin and Patte Barham. Maria Rasputin has been the subject of numerous historical novels including Rasputin’s Daughter by Robert Alexander.by
In the past few weeks, I have had a couple more interviews published about the portrayal of the young Queen Elizabeth II in season 1 of “The Crown” on Netflix.
I discussed the Queen’s image with Elizabeth Renzetti at the Globe and Mail. In addition to “The Crown,” Queen Elizabeth II has been the subject of numerous works of fiction from novels such as Mrs Queen Takes the Train and The Uncommon Reader to films such as The Queen and Royal Night Out and plays such as The Audience.
One of the reasons why Elizabeth II appeals to novelists, screenwriters and playwrights is that her appearance and demeanor is known to the world but as an impartial constitutional monarch, she is expected to remain above politics. Fictional portrayals of the Queen are opportunities to speculate about what she is really thinking when performs public engagements or meets with her Prime Ministers.
One of the key themes in “The Crown” is conflict between the young Queen Elizabeth II’s position as sovereign and the prevailing gender roles in Britain in the 1950s. I discussed how “‘The Crown’ is a low-key guide to outfoxing the men in your way” with Rachel Thompson of Masahable.com. Although women over 30 had been able to vote in Britain since 1918 and all adult women received the franchise in 1928, there were few female members of parliament in the 1950s and a female Prime Minister would not be elected anywhere in the world until Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Head of Government in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1960.
In “The Crown,” the Queen has to negotiate a role for her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and insist that her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, treat her according to her position as sovereign rather than her age and gender. She also reflects on her education, which included a thorough grounding in the constitution from the Provost of Eton College but paid little attention to subjects considered unimportant for women of her social background at the time such as mathematics or science.
Season 2 of the Crown is expected to be released in November 2017.
“When Queen Victoria granted a royal charter to establish Queen’s College in Kingston in 1841, she was 22 and had reigned for four years. Over the course of her nearly 64-year reign (1837–1901), Victoria shaped key events in Canadian history, including the aftermath of the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada, the relationship between the Crown and the First Nations, and Confederation. The Queen also shaped Canadian culture and institutions, and her birthday remains a national holiday in Canada.”by
My new monthly column in Smithsonian Magazine discusses the events that led to the Russian Revolutions of 1917: the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in March and the Bolshevik seizure of power in November. One hundred years later, the events of 1917 continue to have a profound impact on Russia and the world. The column discusses events in Russia as they unfolded month by month 100 years ago.by