Royal Chat: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Tour with Prince George

On Tuesday March 11 at 1pm, I will be participating in a Canada.com online chat about 2014 royal events including the upcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George.

Click here to read the chat and join in with your questions!

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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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Princess Louise and the Founding of the National Gallery of Canada

 

Princess Louise in Canada, dressed for an Ottawa winter.

Princess Louise in Canada

My column in this weekend’s edition of the Kingston Whig Standard looks at the role of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise in founding of the National Gallery and Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Louise’s husband, Lord Lorne was Governor General of Canada from 1878 to 1883 and the Princess resided at Rideau Hall, Ottawa for long periods during that time. Louise was a trained painter and sculptor and she was eager to develop national institutions where Canadian artists could share their work with the public and attract patrons.

Click here to read “Princess Louise and the Founding of the National Gallery of Canada” in the Kingston Whig Standard.

Interested in learning more about Princess Louise in Canada. See Carolyn Harris, “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” in eds. D. Michael Jackson and Philippe Lagassé, Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy (2014)

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When Catherine the Great Invaded The Crimea And Put The Rest of the World On Edge

Portrait of Catherine the Great as a Legislator in the Temple Devoted to the Godess of Justice by Dmitri Levitsky, early 1780s.

Portrait of Catherine the Great as a Legislator in the Temple Devoted to the Goddess of Justice by Dmitri Levitsky, early 1780s.

My article in Smithsonian Magazine, “When Catherine the Great Invaded The Crimea And Put The Rest of the World On Edge” looks at the original annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Empire during the reign of Empress Catherine II in the late eighteenth century. Catherine presented herself to the world as an “enlightened” despot who ruled according to the law, and considered the welfare of her subjects.  Her foreign policy and treatment of internal dissent, however, demonstrated that she saw did not observe any constraints on her power. For centuries the Crimean peninsula and other regions of the modern day Ukraine have been one of Europe’s battlegrounds. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin is following in a long tradition of Russian leaders expanding their political influence at the expense of Ukrainian autonomy.

Click here to read “When Catherine the Great Invaded The Crimea And Put The Rest of the World On Edge” in Smithsonian Magazine. 

Interested in learning more about Catherine the Great and The History of the Ukraine?

Books about Catherine the Great

Simon Dixon, Catherine The Great (2010).

Isabel de Madariaga, Catherine the Great: A Short History; Second Edition (2002).

Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (2011).

Books about the Ukraine

Anna Reid, Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine (2000).

Paul Robert Magocsi, Ukraine: An Illustrated History, (2013).

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My interview in the Globe and Mail about the Duchess of Cambridge and Royal Fashion

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at The 2011 Sun Military Awards at Imperial War Museum in London.  (Photo by Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at The 2011 Sun Military Awards at Imperial War Museum in London. (Photo by Arthur Edwards – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

I am quoted in Sarah Hampson’s article “Will a ‘regal makeover’ mean the end of winsome Kate?” in the Style section of today’s Globe and Mail. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit Australia in April and there is a great deal of speculation that Catherine’s wardrobe will incorporate jewels from the royal collection. There is a long tradition of royalty displaying their status through elaborate clothing and jewels. In Hampson’s article, I mention the regal fashions of Queen Elizabeth I.

Click here to read “Will a ‘regal makeover’ mean the end of winsome Kate?” in the Globe and Mail. 

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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 Duke of York (Prince Andrew) at 54

 

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York

In “Happy Birthday, Prince Andrew,” I am quoted regarding the Duke of York’s long relationship with Canada. Andrew has been a frequent visitor to Canada since childhood and he lived in Ontario for six months in 1977, as an exchange student at Lakefield College. Today, Andrew is a trustee of Lakefield College School and Patron of numerous Canadian organizations including the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the Canadian Canoe Museum and the Canadian International Air Show. Andrew is also Honourary Colonel-in-Chief of three Canadian regiments: The Queen’s York Rangers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada and the Princess Louise Fusiliers.

Click here to read the full article “Happy Birthday, Prince Andrew” at Canada.com

Click here to read my blog post about Prince Andrew’s 2013 visit to Canada

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The Queen’s Crumbling Palaces

 

The site of Greenwich Palace, favourite residence of King Henry VIII

The site of Greenwich Palace, favourite residence of King Henry VIII

My column in this weekend’s edition of the Kingston Whig Standard looks at the recent scrutiny of the Queen’s finances. While press coverage focuses on the Queen being “down to her last million” in her reserve fund, the most important issues raised by the UK Treasury report are the urgent repairs necessary for the royal palaces. The disappearance of the Palace of Plancentia at Greenwich, the setting of key events from King Henry VIII’s reign demonstrates that is is possible for neglect to render a palace uninhabitable.  In contrast, the survival of Windsor Castle for nearly a thousand years reflects a succession of visionary plans for the historic royal residence.

Click here to read the full column, “The Queen’s Crumbling Palaces” in the Kingston Whig Standard

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My article “150 Years Ago Sochi Was The Site Of A Horrific Ethnic Cleansing” in Smithsonian Magazine

Czar Alexander II

Czar Alexander II

As you watch the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi today, it is worth reflecting on the troubled history of the Caucasus region. My article in today’s edition of Smithsonian Magazine looks at Czar Alexander II’s decision to expel the Circassian people from Sochi and the surrounding region in 1864. This rapid expulsion resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 people. Today, Alexander II is famous for abolishing serfdom in 1861 and his treatment of the Circassian people is comparatively little known. The expulsion of the Circassians and the abolition of serfdom both reflected the Czar’s preoccupation with the stability of the Russian Empire. Alexander II spent his entire reign attempting to stabilize Russia before falling victim to a terrorist bomb in 1881.

Click here to read the full article “150 Years Ago Sochi Was The Site of a Horrific Ethnic Cleansing” in Smithsonian Magazine.

I also wrote about the history of Sochi in the Ottawa Citizen. Click here to read “Sochi’s Bloody History.”

Interested in learning more about Czar Alexander II and the expulsion of the Circassian people from Sochi? Here are some of the books I consulted while researching my articles on Sochi:

Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History, (2010).

Amjad Jaimoukha, The Circassians: A Handbook (Caucasus World: Peoples of the Caucasus), (2001).

W. Bruce Lincoln, The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russians (1983).

Edvard Radzinsky, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar (2006).

Walter Richmond, The Circassian Genocide (Genocide, Political Violence, Human Rights), (2013).

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Royal Visits: How They Still Matter

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will visit Canada in May, 2014. I discussed how royal visits still matter with Janet Davison for CBC.ca. The nature of royal visits is currently changing as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have reduced their overseas travel in recent years. The Queen’s children and grandchildren are increasing their royal engagements with the Prince of Wales assuming more and more engagements previously undertaken by the sovereign. In Canada, royal tours allow Canadians to see their monarchy in a Canadian context, challenging the view that Elizabeth II is primarily “The Queen of England.”

Click here to read the full article: Royal Visits: How They Still Matter

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