NBC Interview: ‘The Crown’: Was Princess Margaret’s life really full of scandal?

Princess Margaret in 1965

I discussed the portrayal of Princess Margaret in the Netflix series “The Crown” with Daniel Arkin at NBC News.

As I mention in the interview, The Crown focuses closely on Princess Margaret’s personal life with Season 1 examining her doomed relationship with the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend and Season 2 ending with her marriage to society photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones. The emphasis on Margaret’s relationships with Townsend and Armstrong-Jones as well as her struggle to establish an independent identity within the royal family obscures some of the Princess’s other interests such as art and the theatre. The Crown, like other works of historical fiction, emphasizes certain events and personality traits of public figures and obscures other aspects of their lives.

Click here to read “‘The Crown’: Was Princess Margaret’s life really full of scandal?” at NBC News Pop Culture


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Books I’ve Read This Week: January 15-21, 2018

My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is to read a book (or listen to an unabridged audiobook) every day: 365 books by December 31. I will post my reviews here each week and provide regular updates on Twitter and Goodreads. Recommendations are always welcome!

Week 3: The Reading Schedule. At the end of Week 3 of my Book a Day 2018 project, I have settled into a regular reading schedule, starting books in the evenings and continuing them in the mornings, finishing the following evening and starting the next book. I’ve also established a pattern of reading material. Each week’s reading list includes 1) A scholarly history book in my field (My 2nd book Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette is part of the Queenship and Power series and I have been reading other recent titles in this series in recent weeks); 2) A work of classic literature; 3) A novel or work of popular history that’s outside my field 4) Plenty of royal history! Here are this week’s reviews:

 #15 of 365: William IV: A King at Sea by Roger Knight

Genre: Royal History

Format: Hardcover, 103 pages

Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Read: January 15, 2018

Review: A good overview of the life and reign of King William IV (Queen Victoria’s uncle and predecessor). Knight is critical of William’s career as a naval officer but concludes that he was a success as king because he was willing to listen to advice. There is some insightful analysis of William’s personal life as well. Knight praises William’s longtime mistress Dora Jordan as “remarkable and openhearted” but has a mixed view of Queen Adelaide who helped William get his finances under control but opposed political reform in the 1830s. I would have been interested to read more about William’s relationship with his ten children with Dora Jordan and his travels in British North America and the Caribbean. Knight concludes with a wide range of suggestions for further reading.

#16 of 365 Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Format: Audiobook, 14 hours and 52 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from audible.com

Genre: Classic Novel

Dates Read: January 12-16

Review: I listened to the audiobook of Far From the Madding Crowd after watching the 2015 film starring Carey Mulligan. In the film, Bathsheba Everdene is always at the centre of events but in the novel, there are numerous chapters from Gabriel Oake’s perspective and much of the narrative follows other characters observing Bathsheba rather than Bathsheba herself. Thomas Hardy’s descriptions of nature and rural life at the time are beautiful but the narrator’s generalizations about women are painfully dated and distract from the story. The audiobook is well narrated, capturing the regional accents and the songs in the text (which are different from the songs in the film). The novel was enjoyable but not quite what I expected.

#17 of 365 Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking by Deborah Cadbury

Genre: Royal History

Format: Hardcover, 416 pages

Read: January 15-17, 2018

Acquired: Review Copy

Review: I enjoyed Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury and looked forward to reading her research about Queen Victoria’s efforts to arrange marriages for her children and grandchildren among Europe’s royal houses. I especially enjoyed the first two thirds of Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking where Queen Victoria’s strong character and opinions are present on almost every page and the correspondence of her grandchildren demonstrates their efforts to manage her expectations concerning their personal lives. The book is filled with extracts from royal diaries and letters and the personalities of Albert Victor, George V and Queen Mary, Queen Marie of Romania, Grand Duchess Ella, and Czar Nicholas II and Empress of Alexandra of Russia are particularly well illustrated.

The book loses a bit of focus in the final chapters as Cadbury expands the scope of her work to discuss the place of Europe’s monarchies during the First World War then relates this material back to the broader theme of royal matchmaking in the final few pages. Cadbury devotes the greatest amount of attention to the courtships and marriages of Queen Victoria’s most prominent grandchildren and I would have been interested to read more about the marriage prospects of their lesser known cousins.

#18 of 365 The Memoirs of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester by Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester

Genre: Royal History

Format: Hardcover, 208 pages

Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Date Read: January 18, 2018

Review: Queen Elizabeth II’s late aunt, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester was witty, well traveled and a keen observer of changing social customs and the nature of royal life. Her personality comes alive in her memoirs. Alice begins by describing her aristocratic Scottish childhood as the daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch. Her family employed one maid who made the boiled eggs for breakfast in the stillroom while another maid made the scrambled, fried and poached eggs in the kitchen. As an adult, Alice traveled the world. In her 20s and early 30s, she spent time in Kenya (where she learned Swahili), South Africa, India and what is now Pakistan (where she joined a dangerous expedition to the Afghan border). After her marriage to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester at the age of 34, she undertook a busy schedule of royal engagements during the Second World War and overseas tours including two years as viceregal consort of Australia. Henry and Alice brought their young sons to Australia and there are fun anecdotes about the royal children on tour.

#19 of 365 Anna of Denmark and Henrietta Maria: Virgins, Witches, and Catholic Queens by Susan Dunn-Hensley

Genre: History

Format: E-Book, 230 pages

Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Date Read: January 19, 2018

Review: An innovative comparative study of the first two Stuart queens consort of England, Anna of Denmark (queen to James I) and Henrietta Maria of France (queen to Charles I). Susan Dunn-Hensley places each queen in the cultural context of how women were perceived in early 17th century England and Scotland, focusing on their organization of court masques and their participation in these theatricals. Anna of Denmark has been dismissed as “stupid” by a number of her past biographers and the author’s research demonstrates that she was in fact “a shrewdly political woman.” The lasting influence of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots over the image of subsequent royal women also informs the book. Well written and thought provoking.

#20 of 365 Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Dates Read: January 16-20, 2018

Format: Audiobook, 15 hours and 48 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Review: I enjoyed Belgravia more than Julian Fellowes’s other novels but not as much as his television series, Downton Abbey. The early Victorian setting, with the aristocracy coming into contact with a rising middle class, is engaging and the audiobook is well read by Juliet Stevenson. The plot, however, moves slowly in the middle chapters as half a dozen characters investigate a mystery is already known to the reader from the first chapters of the novel. I would have preferred the point of view to have been focused more closely on Charles and Maria and the mystery to have been revealed to the characters and the reader at the same time. A good story, which could have been better plotted.

#21 of 365 Flapper by Joshua Zeitz

Genre: History

Date Read: January 21, 2018

Format: Paperback, 338 pages

Acquired: Purchased from Book City

Review: I bought this book after reading a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. Zeitz provides a good analysis of American consumer culture and changing attitudes towards women during the 1920s. The illustrations, including photographs of actresses and advertisements from the times, capture the aesthetic of the era. The focus is almost exclusively on the United States and it would have been interesting to read more about how the Flapper phenomenon shaped popular culture in other regions of the world.

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CBC News Interview: Obama or Trump at royal wedding? Why Prince Harry and Meghan’s guest list may not get too political

Prince Harry

I discussed the history of politics and royal wedding guest lists with Janet Davison at CBC.ca.

The location of the royal wedding and the member of the royal family’s place in the line of succession both impact the guest list. Queen Victoria did not attend the wedding of her second son, Prince Alfred because his marriage to Czar Alexander II’s only daughter, Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna took place in Saint Petersburg. Queen Victoria’s own comparatively modest wedding at St. James’s palace was controversial because the guest list displayed her political sympathies: far more Whig politicians were invited than Tory ones.

In the 20th century, both the Queen and Prince Philip had relatives who were not included on their 1947 wedding guest list: the Queen’s uncle, the former King Edward VIII, who had abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson in 1936 and Prince Philip’s 3 surviving sisters, whose husbands were German princes.

The marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 took place at St. Paul’s cathedral, a large venue that could accommodate the full range of diplomatic guests expected to the attend the wedding of the heir to the throne. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson also had a large wedding in Westminster Abbey in 1986 but Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones in St. George’s chapel at Windsor Castle in 1999 (the venue where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry on May 19), in a ceremony that was notable for the absence of non-royal political figures as attendees.

When Prince William married Catherine Middleton in 2011, the couple had more control over the guest list than previous younger members of the royal family as the Queen allowed them to give priority to their friends. The guest list still contained a strong representation of European royalty and Commonwealth leaders as William is second in line to the throne. Prince Harry will also expect to have influence over his wedding guest list and his more junior place in the line of succession, as well as the choice of location at St. George’s chapel, will ensure that the couple themselves have a greater degree of control over the guest list and that fewer political figures and foreign royalty are present.

Click here to read “Obama or Trump at royal wedding? Why Prince Harry and Meghan’s guest list may not get too political.”

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Books I’ve Read This Week: January 8-14, 2018

My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is to read a book (or listen to an unabridged audiobook) every day: 365 books by December 31. I will post my reviews here each week and provide regular updates on Twitter and Goodreads. Recommendations are always welcome!

Week 2: The Big Books: During week 2 of my Book a Day 2018 project, I searched for books and articles by authors who had also spent  a year reading a book each day. I noticed a common theme: an emphasis on short to medium length books. In  Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, Nina Sankovich discusses searching for books in the library that were 250-300 pages to allow for time to read each day and write her daily review. A 2012 article in Slate Magazine by Jeff Gray entitled “366 Days, 366 Books” states that “Read Short Books” is rule number 2, after the importance of not allowing the reading challenge to take over all aspects of your life.

“Read Short Books” is not a helpful guideline for my 2018 Book a Day project because there are some enormous books on my to-read shelf. My book club is reading Hamilton, which is more than 700 pages long, for the beginning of February and I have long been interested in reading the 422 page Diary of Queen Maria Carolina of Naples (Marie Antoinette’s sister). I have tailored my approach to reading a book a day to ensure that I complete the long books as well as short and medium books. After I finish each day’s book, I also read a few chapters of a longer book, to be completed in subsequent weeks. Long books as well as short and medium length books will be reviewed here in the coming months. Here are the books I finished this week:

#8 of 365: Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth Century Europe by Sarah Gristwood

Genre: Royal History

Format: Hardcover, 351 pages

Read: January 8, 2018

Acquired: Review Copy

Review: I enjoyed Sarah Gristwood’s book about royal women during the Wars of the Roses, Blood Sisters, and looked forward to reading her book about the connections between the ruling queens of sixteenth century Europe, a topic that I address in my Women in Power course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

Game of Queens is an excellent introduction to the powerful women of 16th century Europe. The book will be of interest to readers of biographies of Tudor queens who are interested in learning more about their counterparts in France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Gristwood places Anne Boleyn in a European context, examining the influence of Margaret of Austria and Marguerite of Navarre over Anne’s approach to queenship as the second wife of Henry VIII. The book contains an extensive list of suggestions for further reading, highlighting recent scholarship in the field of queenship in Early Modern Europe.

#9 of 365: The Ring and the Crown by Alison Weir, Tracy Borman, Sarah Gristwood and Kate Williams.

Genre: Royal History

Format, Audiobook, 4 hours and 53 minutes

Listened: January 9, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Review: The Ring and the Crown was published at the time of Prince William’s marriage to Catherine Middleton in 2011 and readers interested in more recent developments in the history of royal marriage, (such as the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle or the repeal of the Royal Marriages Act) will not find them here.

Nevertheless, The Ring and the Crown, provides a good overview of the history of royal wedding ceremonies and celebrations including the origins of street parties (the Tudors), the white wedding dress (Queen Victoria) and the kiss on the Buckingham Palace balcony (Charles and Diana). The book provides a particularly detailed account of the weddings from Princess Patricia of Connaught in 1919 (the first modern royal bride to be married in Westminster Abbey) to Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005.

#10 of 365 The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History edited by Charles Beem and Miles Taylor

Genre: Royal History

Format: e-book, 270 pages

Read: January 10, 2018

Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Review: The scope of the scholarly articles in The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History is impressive from the kings consort of medieval Navarre to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh today. Among the highlights of this volume are Elena Woodacre’s thoughtful examination of the different approaches adopted by the husbands of the Queens of Navarre, Michael Bittner’s analysis of the role of Empress Anna Ivanovna of Russia’ favourite, Johann von Biron, in Anglo-Russian relations and the favorable account of Francis Stephen of Lorraine’s role as Empress Maria Theresa’s consort by Derek Beales.

There are two chapters about Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert and a detailed analysis by Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska of Prince Philip’s promotion of athletics and youth leadership during the early years of his marriage. There comparatively few studies available in English about the present day European royal houses and the chapters about the different styles of the consorts of the three successive 20th century Dutch Queens, and the grievances of Queen Margrethe of Denmark’s husband, Prince Henrik are therefore especially interesting. Highly recommended!

#11 of 365: Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

Genre: Non-Fiction

Format: Audiobook, 11 hours and 30 minutes

Listened: January 7-11, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Review: An engaging history of cooking and kitchen implements from ancient times until today. The book is divided into thematic chapters, examining the changing roles of various aspects of cooking and eating such as cold storage, fire, tableware and weights and measurements. The author, Bee Wilson, is a food writer for the BBC and there is a strong British focus to the book. For example, the section about fire discusses the history of roasting meat in detail as well as the modern phenomenon of chip pan fires. Wilson places British culinary history in a wider global context, however, discussing the reasons why refrigeration was far more prevalent in the United States than the United Kingdom until recently and the impact of forks vs. chopsticks on how meals are prepared and eaten.

#12 of 365: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

Genre: Classic Fiction

Format: Audiobook, 4 hours and 27 minutes

Listened: January 11-12, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Review: The audiobook of Eugene Onegin (translated by James E. Falen and read by Raphael Corkhill) is excellent. Falen captures the rhyme and metre of Pushkin’s original and Corkhill reads with enthusiasm. The famous scenes in the epic poem including Tatiana’s letter, Tatiana’s dream and the duel unfold amidst beautiful descriptions of the Russian winter, (and the boredom experienced by the Russian aristocracy at their country estates during this season), as well as the nature of 19th century Russian literature. Pushkin is critical of how French had supplanted Russian in fashionable society and the poem captures the flavour of his times.

#13 of 365: Victoria: Queen, Matriarch, Empress (Penguin Monarchs Series) by Jane Ridley

Genre: Royal History

Format: Hardcover, 160 pages

Read: January 13, 2018

Acquired: Borrowed from Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Review: Jane Ridley, the author of Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, provides a solid overview of Queen Victoria’s life and reign, providing new analysis of the Queen’s restrictive upbringing, her marriage to Prince Albert, her relationship with her children, her attitudes toward her Prime Ministers, and her controversial friendship with John Brown. Ridley is especially critical of the romantic narrative of Queen Victoria’s marriage, popularized in the film The Young Victoria (and now the Victoria series on PBS), noting that Albert undermined Victoria’s self-confidence and that she had to relearn how to reign alone after his death. Victoria’s interest in her own public image is also discussed in the book, including her letters to newspapers that were critical of her extended period of mourning as a widow.

#14 of 365 Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch

Genre: Memoir

Format: Paperback, 256 pages

Read: January 13, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Chapters/Indigo online

Review: A memoir about finding joy and solace in reading. The author, Nina Sankovitch, read a book a day for a year while grieving the loss of her sister. Her impressions of the books are interwoven in a wider memoir about her family. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair includes a full list of the books she read during her book a day challenge.

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Books I’ve Read This Week: January 1-January 7, 2018

My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is to read a book (or listen to an unabridged audiobook) every day: 365 books by December 31. I will post my reviews here each week and provide regular updates on Twitter and Goodreads. Recommendations are always welcome!

Week 1 – Book Selection: My Book a Day 2018 project is off to a strong start as I found plenty of time to read this week while at home recovering from the flu. My biggest challenge was choosing among my books. In recent months, my to-read shelf has expanded greatly. I have been sent review copies of recent royal history books, received copies of books by other authors at literary events and purchased signed books at book launches. I participated in a bookstore marketing workshop last year and received a substantial gift card. I love browsing second hand bookstores and rarely leave one without purchasing a few titles. Last summer, I bought a monthly Audible subscription and often purchase additional audiobook titles in the Daily Deals. After examining my book stack, I decided to read two royal history books, three other works of non-fiction, and two novels (including a classic) this week. Here are my reviews:

#1 of 365: The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine

Genre: History 

Format: Hardcover, 1104 pages

Acquired: Purchased at Indigo, Yonge&Eglinton, Toronto

Dates Read: December 26, 2017-January 1, 2018

Review:  The House of Government begins “This is a Work of History. Any resemblance to fictional characters, dead or alive, is entirely coincidental” and what follows is a thousand page Russian history book that reads like a classic Russian novel complete with interconnected families, political intrigue and sudden rises and falls and fortunes. Slezkine examines Moscow’s “House of Government,” the residence that housed some of the most prominent figures in the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s and their families. The book provides a fascinating looks at the social and literary history of Russia between the Revolutions of 1917 and the Second World War and is particularly compelling when it compares public and private life in the Soviet Union.

#2 of 365 The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

Genre: Fiction

Format: Hardcover, 227 pages

Acquired: Purchased at an Alexander McCall Smith book signing at the Toronto Reference Library

Date Read: January 2, 2018

Review:  I’ve read the entire No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and enjoy Detective Precious Ramotswe’s quiet wisdom and insights. For longtime readers of the series, The House of Unexpected Sisters is an especially enjoyable read because the central mystery concerns the detective’s own family and childhood. (Another mystery, concerning a wrongful dismissal from an office furniture supply warehouse provides some comic relief as Mma Makutsi, Rra Polopetsi and Charlie all bring their own approaches to the case.) If this is the final book in the series, it provides an emotionally satisfying conclusion.

#3 of 365 Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: Classic Novel

Format: Audiobook read by Prunella Scales, 6 hours, 45 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com 

Dates Listened: January 2-3, 2018

Review: A gentle and witty social satire of small town English life during the 1830s and 1840s. There are many depressing 19th century novels but Cranford has a happy, heartwarming ending for all the characters and is enjoyable from beginning to end. The audiobook is well read by Prunella Scales, who does an excellent job of bringing out the personalities of the characters and the humour in the social situations. For readers interested in royal history, the novel contains hint of the cultural impact of King William IV and Queen Adelaide as the town general store sells bonnets based on the claim that the same designs were worn by the Queen (and admired by the King), and the women of Cranford embroider “loyalty woolworks” consisting of portraits of Queen Adelaide.

#4 of 365 The Crown: The Official Companion: Volume 1 by Robert Lacey

Genre: Royal History

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages

Acquired: Review Copy

Date Read: January 4, 2018

Review: Excellent companion volume to Season 1 of The Crown on Netflix. Beautifully illustrated with images from the TV series and historical images of the royal family, demonstrating how the series recreated particular scenes and costumes. Each chapter examines an episode from Season 1, separating fact from fiction and providing mini biographies of major and minor characters. Royal titles and styles, royal residences and frequently misunderstood terms such as “regnal name” and “morganatic marriage” are also explained. Recommended to all viewers of The Crown on Netflix who are interested in learning more of the history behind the drama.

#5 of 365 Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Genre: History

Format: Audiobook read by Ruth Redman, 14 hours and 16 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Dates Listened: January 3-January 5, 2018

Review: Lucy Worsley’s biography of Jane Austen is told through the study of the houses that Austen lived and visited and the portrayals of domestic life in her novels. Austen and her mother and sister experienced frequent moves and financial troubles over the course of their lives and the instability of Austen’s domestic settings informed the concerns of the heroines of her novels. Worsley’s enthusiasm for Austen’s writing and the historic houses of the time is clear throughout the text and she reads the introduction and epilogue of the audiobook. A fascinating listen, filled with details about Austen’s domestic life and the challenges faced by Georgian women.

#6 of 365: Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness by Shawn Micallef

Genre: Non-Fiction

Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages

Acquired:  Purchased at Indigo, Yonge&Eglinton, Toronto

Read: January 5-6, 2018

Review: In Frontier City, Micallef examines of Toronto’s recent municipal politics, public transit, construction and the system of ravine parks that connects the city. In each chapter, he visits a Toronto neighbourhood with a candidate for city council, examining the common concerns that knit Toronto together as a city. The book is filled with thoughtful insights about how Toronto’s past continues to shape perceptions of the city and the potential for an exciting future.

#7 of 365. George and Marina: Duke and Duchess of Kent by Christopher Warwick.

Genre: Royal History

Format: Audiobook read by Gildart Jackson, 7 hours and 35 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Dates Listened: January 6-7, 2018

Review: In George and Marina, royal biographer Christopher Warwick provides a good overview of the lives of Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle and aunt, the Duke and Duchess of Kent. (As “Aunt Marina,” the Duchess makes a brief appearance in the final episode of Season 2 of the Crown on Netflix). The book provides an especially interesting summary of Marina’s extensive connections to the royal families of Europe including the Romanovs. Both her grandmothers made narrow escapes from the Russian Revolutions of 1917. Marina’s influence on women’s fashion and George’s enthusiasm for interior decorating are also discussed in the book. I would have been interested to read more about the Duke and Duchess of Kent’s Commonwealth tours including the Duke’s time in Canada during the Second World War and Marina’s extensive travels during the 1950s.

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5 Key Figures from Prince Philip’s Childhood Who Are Missing from Season 2 of The Crown on Netflix

In Season 1 of The Netflix series, The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II succeeds to the throne in 1952, at the age of 25, and there are flashbacks and discussions of the challenges of her father’s reign: The Abdication Crisis of 1936 which brought George VI to the throne and the Second World War. In Season 2, the series explores Prince Philip’s childhood, dramatizing his family and education. In Season 2, Episode 2, a fictional Australian journalist asks him about his family’s exile from Greece, his mother’s nervous breakdown, his father’s abandonment of the family and his sisters’ connections to the Nazi party, prompting Philip to end the interview abruptly.

In Season 2 Episode 9, a remarkably well informed classmate at the Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland bullies Philip about his family, stating most of the same details as the Australian journalist. Episode 9 also features flashbacks showing the death of Philip’s sister Cecile in a plane crash en route to a family wedding (there is no evidence that Philip’s father blamed him for this family tragedy as dramatized in the series) and the emotional support provided by Philip’s maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten.

The Crown presents a particular image of Prince Philip as an exile and an outsider to elite society in Great Britain. This interpretation, as well as the time constraints of the series, necessitates leaving out other key figures from Prince Philip’s childhood, who would demonstrate that he moved in royal circles – both British and European – throughout his life. Here are 5 key figures from Prince Philip’s childhood who do not appear in The Crown on Netflix:

1 — Philip’s grandmother, Princess Victoria of Battenberg, the Marchioness of Milford Haven (1863-1950)

One of the most prominent figures in Prince Philip’s childhood was his maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Battenberg the Marchioness of Milford Haven. Victoria was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and was born at Windsor Castle (as was her eldest child, Prince Philip’s mother, Alice of Battenberg in 1885). While Philip was at school at Gordonstoun, Victoria’s apartments at Kensington Palace (dubbed “the aunt hill” by King Edward VIII because of the number of older members of the royal family who lived there), acted as a home for Philip, where he sometimes spent school holidays and kept his possessions. Victoria was a friend of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Queen Mary and both women became godmothers to their great-grandson Prince Charles in 1948.

2– George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven (1892-1938)

The best known of Philip’s maternal uncles is Lord Louis Mountbatten, who also enjoyed a close relationship with Prince Charles, making him an ideal figure of continuity in The Crown series. During Philip’s childhood, however, another maternal uncle, George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, also took an interest in Philip’s upbringing. George was a naval officer and mathematician with a strong interest in science and technology, which likely influenced Philip’s own intellectual curiosity. In Season 2 of The Crown, Philip demonstrates his own scientific interests by giving the Queen a detailed description of the workings of Suez Canal over dinner.  George’s son, David Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s best man at his wedding, not Mike Parker, as shown in Season 1 of The Crown.

Queen Elizabeth II and Pamela Mountbatten in Brisbane, Australia in 1954

3&4–Patricia (1924-2017) and Pamela Mountbatten (1929-) Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina have a brief scene together in Season 2 of The Crown but their daughters, Patricia and Pamela do not appear onscreen. They were childhood friends of both Philip and Elizabeth and frequently appear in documentaries about the royal family. Patricia belonged to the palace girl guide troop where Elizabeth was a guide and Princess Margaret was a brownie. Pamela was a bridesmaid at Elizabeth and Philip’s wedding and accompanied the royal couple on Commonwealth tours in the 1950s as a lady-in-waiting. Pamela’s memoir, Daughter of Empire, provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on the overseas tours took place in Season 1 of the The Crown.

Wedding picture of King Michael of Romania and Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma

5 –King Michael of Romania (1921-2017) In Episode 10, Prince Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece, Duchess of Kent (the widow of Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, the Duke of Kent) makes a brief appearance to complain about the noisy renovations to Princess Margaret’s apartment in Kensington Palace. Marina’s wedding is probably where the Queen and Prince Philip first met, before the famous 1939 tour of the Dartmouth Naval College.

Aside from the Duchess of Kent, Philip vast extended family from Greece and Denmark, which connected him to Europe’s other royal houses, is missing from the series. One of Philip’s cousins and childhood friends was King Michael of Romania (the son of Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark). Philip and Michael played together as children and Philip spent part of his Christmas holiday with Michael in 1936. Michael met his future wife Anne of Bourbon-Parma, who had been one of Philip’s kindergarten classmates, at Philip and Elizabeth’s wedding in 1947. Photos of Philip and Michael as children together are available to view on Marlene Koenig’s Royal Musings website.

Further Reading About Prince Philip’s Childhood:

Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life by Philip Eade

Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage by Gyles Brandreth

Further Reading About The Crown on Netflix

The Crown: The Official Companion: Volume 1 by Robert Lacey

Patricia Treble also discusses the portrayal of Prince Philip in The Crown on her Write Royalty website.

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My review of Crowns and Colonies (eds. Aldrich and McCreery) in the Royal Studies Journal

My review of Crowns and Colonies: European Monarchies and Overseas Empires, edited by Robert Aldrich and Cindy McCreery has been published in the December 2017 issue of the Royal Studies Journal.

The Royal Studies Journal is available online. Click here to read Aldrich & McCreery (eds.), Crowns and Colonies: European Monarchies and Overseas Empires (Manchester University Press, 2016), reviewed by 

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New Article in Quartz Magazine: Actresses Like Meghan Markle Have Been Winning The Hearts of Royals since 1668

Meghan Markle

My recent article in Quartz Magazine discusses the history of romances between princes and actresses in Britain since the 17th century including Charles II and Nell Gwynn, William IV and Dorothy Jordan and Edward VII and Lillie Langtry.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Since the 17th century, royal patronage of the arts has brought princes and actresses together. Until the First World War, royalty usually married other royalty, so these relationships did not end in marriage. The women who combined a successful career on the stage with a high-profile relationship with a prince, however, became the celebrities of their time, expanding the role of women in public life.”

Click here to read “Actresses Like Meghan Markle Have Been Winning The Hearts of Royals since 1668.”


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CBC News Interview: “This feels very modern’: How Meghan Markle could nudge the House of Windsor into the future

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (photo credit: Hello! Magazine)

Further details regarding the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were released today. The couple will be married at St. George’s chapel, Windsor Castle in mid-May. On the day the engagement was announced, I discussed Meghan Markle with Janet Davison at CBC News. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“One thing that Harry and Meghan have in common is their passion for humanitarian work,” said Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian.

Harry, 33, is involved in causes ranging from support for mental health to his Invictus Games for wounded, injured and sick soldiers and veterans. Markle has worked with World Vision and the United Nations. She has travelled to Rwanda and advocated for issues ranging from clean water to rights for women and girls.

“As a member of the Royal Family, her philanthropic work will expand and she will be in demand to become a patron of various charities,” said Harris. “She will fit very well into the Royal Family in terms of her passion for philanthropy.”

Click here to read ‘This feels very modern’: How Meghan Markle could nudge the House of Windsor into the future” at CBC News

I am also quoted in this National Post article “Why a grown prince asked his grandmother permission to get married and other burning Harry, Meghan questions”

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The Engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Clarence House announced today that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged and will marry in the Spring of 2018. I was interviewed about the big news by a variety of media outlets including CBC News and Global News (above).

I discussed the impact of the engagement on Meghan Markle’s daily life, career and charity work with University of Toronto News. The interview is online here.

I also discussed royal titles and surnames with Town and Country Magazine. Here is the interview.

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