Royal Studies Journal Article: Canadian Women’s Responses to Royal Tours from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day

Princess Louise in Canada, dressed for an Ottawa winter during her time as vice regal consort of Canada from 1878 to 1883.

My new article in the Royal Studies Journal discusses how Canadian women responded to royal tours from the late eighteenth century to the present day.

Abstract: In the United Kingdom and Canada, support for the monarchy is higher among women than men. From Walter Bagehot’s political theory in the nineteenth century to modern day polling data, monarchism among women is usually attributed to royal events in popular culture from nineteenth-century royal weddings to twenty-first century depictions of the royal family in television and film. Press coverage of royal tours of Canada in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often depicted women as passive bystanders in crowds, only gradually adding depictions of women as active participants in welcoming royalty.

The history of Canadian women’s responses to royal tours and other public engagements by royalty in Canada from the eighteenth century to the present day reveals that there is a long history of women assuming active roles when royalty are present in Canada, seeking redress in legal cases in the eighteenth century, requesting patronage for organizations benefiting women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and debating the future of the monarchy in Canada in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

The impact of royalty in Canada on women’s lives has become part of Canadian culture and literature. The higher levels of support for monarchism among women compared to men should therefore not be assumed to be due to passively viewing royal weddings, fashions or popular culture alone, but should be placed within this context of women actively engaging with royalty during their public appearances in Canada, viewing royal occasions as opportunities to have their concerns addressed by prominent public figures.

Click here to read “Canadian Women’s Responses to Royal Tours from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day” in the Royal Studies Journal

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Updated Canadian Encyclopedia Article: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

I have updated my Canadian Encyclopedia Article about Prince Harry to include his new royal titles as well as his marriage to Meghan Markle. There is a new section about the royal wedding!

Click here to read Prince Harry (HRH The Duke of Sussex) in the Canadian Encyclopedia.

 

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University of Toronto Alumni Reunion Lecture: Raising a Royal Family

I will be giving a lecture about royal parenting from medieval times to modern times, inspired by my book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, at the University of Toronto Alumni Reunion on June 2 at 3:45pm. Book signing to follow!

Click here for more information and to register.

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Books I’ve Read This Week: Royal Historical Fiction

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 19: Royal Historical Fiction: In the past week, I read six historical novels about royalty. There are certain monarchs who have become iconic figures in popular culture such as Queen Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots and Marie Antoinette and are therefore the subject of dozens of historical novels. I focused on novels about historical figures that have not been dramatized as frequently, choosing novels set in Spain, Russia, Sweden and India as well as England. After six historical novels, I wrapped up the week with a couple of fun books, classic and modern. Here are this week’s reviews:

#127 of 365 The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile by C.W. Gortner

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Audiobook, 15 hours and 53 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Dates Listened: May 17-May 20, 2018

Review:  I enjoy C. W. Gortner’s novels, especially The Last Queen, because he brings a fresh perspective to historical figures and events. Queen Isabella of Castile is an excellent subject for a historical novel because her life and reign were filled with dramatic circumstances and interesting personages. I enjoyed the first half of this book because Isabella’s path to throne was filled with danger and sudden changes in fortune, which provide the novel with dramatic momentum.

In contrast, the second half of the novel moved very quickly through the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition, Isabella’s first meeting with Christopher Columbus and waging war against the Moors, leaving out other key events or mentioning them in passing. I thought Ferdinand was introduced too early as part of a fictional teenage romance. It would have been more compelling to have Isabella come of age and develop her own ideas without his influence before their marriage.

While Ferdinand appears in the novel too early, Isabella’s intent to wage war against Granada emerges too late in the narrative, and appears to be Ferdinand’s idea, when it was in fact her intention from the time of her marriage as stated in the Marriage Conditions of 1469. The book ends abruptly, acting as a prequel to The Last Queen (a novel of Isabella’s daughter Queen Juana la Loca). An engaging read but I did not always agree with the author’s pacing and approach to dramatizing Isabella’s reign.

#128 of 365 I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover, 352 pages

Acquired: Received as a Gift

Date Read: May 21, 2018

Review: I Was Anastasia has a fascinating premise, following the story of the most famous Anastasia claimant backwards and the Russian Revolution and imprisonment of the Romanovs forwards, with the stories meeting in the cellar room in Ekaterinburg where the Imperial family was murdered by Bolsheviks in 1918. The chapters concerning the claimant are interesting as they reveal a broad range of colourful characters who become involved in her quest to be recognized as Anastasia including Rasputin’s daughter Maria, and a Romanov cousin, Princess Xenia, who became an Oyster Bay socialite after the revolution.

The chapters concerning the actual Grand Duchess Anastasia and the imprisonment of the Romanovs in 1917 and 1918, however, contain numerous historical inaccuracies, which are infuriating for readers who have read extensively about Anastasia and her family. The author notes in her afterward that she is not particularly interested in royalty and considers Russian names confusing. These biases are evident in her portrayal of the Romanovs. There are violent scenes involving the Czar’s daughters prior to the murder of the Romanovs that did not actually take place but are presented as historical, even in the author’s afterward. If these scenes had been depicted as the claimant’s imaginings, which differ from the historical record, they might have made sense in the novel but as a dramatization of the actual Anastasia’s experiences, they are completely inaccurate and come across as gratuitous sensationalism.

I Was Anastasia has an interesting structure and approach and would have been a much better novel if the author had focused entirely on the claimant and her imagined memories instead of providing an inaccurate and sensationalized portrayal of the imprisonment of the last Romanovs.

#129 of 365 Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir

Genre: Historical Fiction

Dates Listened: May 21-23, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Format: Audiobook, 19 hours and 52 minutes

Review: My favourite novel in Alison Weir’s 6 Tudor Queens series so far. Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife is presented as quiet and contemplative but not a passive figure, as she is often described. Her rise from country girl to maid of honour to queen consort unfolds amidst Tudor intrigue and an engaging cast of characters including the royal family, ladies-in-waiting, ambassadors, political figures and the ambitious Seymour family. The first two books in the series, which focused on Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn respectively, sometimes became mired in the details of Henry VIII’s first divorce but Jane’s perspective provides a sense of how individual courtiers responded to these circumstances.

Jane sometimes compromises her principles to maintain her family’s place in the Tudor court hierarchy and her experiences reflect the difficult choices made by many of her contemporaries at Henry VIII’s court as the king initiated religious and political upheaval. Weir provides a richly detailed narrative, contrasting Jane’s comparatively modest family home, where all the women of her family joined in the labour of kitchen and the herb garden, with the glittering Tudor court where established and rising families jostle for precedence. Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen is an absorbing read and I am looking forward to the publication of the next novel in the series, Anna of Kleve, next year!

#130 of 365 Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Genre: Historical Fiction

Date Read: May 22-25, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Indigo Books

Format: Paperback, 400 pages

Review: The Rani of Jhansi is an ideal subject for a historical novel, a female ruler with a dramatic life and times who deserves to be better known around the world. This novel is not about the Rani, however, but one of her female guards, Sita. A lot of the book is devoted to court intrigue, conflicts and friendships between the women in the Rani’s household and Sita’s concern for her family. The Indian Rebellion of 1857, where the Rani was one of the key leaders, goes by quickly in the last 70 pages of the novel. The book is engaging and readable but it seems like a missed opportunity to focus on the Rani and the Rebellion.

#131 of 365 The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr

Genre: Historical Fiction

Acquired: Borrowed from one my students

Format: Hardcover, 416 pages

Date Read: May 25, 2018

Review: This book was recommended to me by one the students in the history of Imperial Spain course that I taught earlier this year. The novel is an absorbing murder mystery set in rural Aragon during the reign of King Philip II amidst the preparations for the royal wedding of the king’s daughter, the Infanta Catalina, to the Duke of Savoy. The novel is well researched and captures the atmosphere of the sixteenth century Spanish kingdoms when the Inquisition was scrutinizing the behavior of Conversos (descendants of Jewish people who had converted to Christianity) and Moriscos (Former Muslims and their descendants who converted to Christianity) for signs of their former religious practices.

The mystery itself was less compelling for me than the setting and historical context but the author maintains a consistent pace and I was interested in Magistrate Mendoza’s investigation to the very end. The novel provides a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of King Philip II and I would have liked to have read more scenes set at the royal court.

#132 of 365 The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Genre: Fiction

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Format: Audiobook, 11 hours and 56 minutes

Dates Listened: May 24-25, 2018

Review: A fun, farcical novel about a missing atomic bomb and a plot to kidnap the King of Sweden. The last six or seven chapters are especially funny as the calm King and anxious Prime Minister are kidnapped by an anarchist in 2007 (who has himself narrowly survived falling through a roof into a pillow distribution centre in a condemned building). The anarchist, and his much smarter identical twin brother who does not legally exist, have accidentally come into possession of a South African atomic bomb mailed in error to Sweden. Like the twin, the bomb also does not legally exist.

There is amusing repartee between the King and the Prime Minister such as “Fredrik Reinfeld finished pondering&he said to his king,”I have been thinking.””Great,”said the king,”That’s the sort of thing we have Prime Ministers for, if you ask me.” The kidnappers travel to a farm owned by a potato growing Countess who arranges an impromptu dinner party because “no-one should have to abdicate on an empty stomach” and then the Israeli secret agent arrives…

At the centre of the novel are the twists and turns in the life of Nombeko, who goes from latrine emptier to jewel thief to the brains behind a nuclear facility to the king’s unlikely rescuer. The author provides an affectionate portrait of King Carl XVI Gustaf who is unflappable throughout the kidnapping (even fixing a tractor) and always has the common touch. An enjoyable and sometimes hilarious read. I look forward to reading other novels by this author.

#133 of 365 Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson

Genre: Classic Fiction

Acquired: Received as a Gift

Format: Paperback, 187 pages

Date Read: May 25, 2018

Review: “My dear, it is just busy people that have time for everything,” declares Lucia to describe her wide array of hobbies and interests including taking up yoga. A 1920s social satire set in a British resort town with lots of quirky characters. The novel was written in the aftermath of the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and Lucia uses over the top analogies about social disorder whenever there is a threat to her leadership of seaside society such as “Bolshevism was in the air!” A fun read but I prefer the recent BBC TV series.

#134 of 365 Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Genre: Comedy/Memoir

Format: Audiobook, 6 hours and 25 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Date Listened: May 27, 2018

Review: I always enjoy David Sedaris’s essays, especially his reflections about his childhood, family, travel and learning languages. This collection is not as funny as the classic Me Talk Pretty One Day but it is more entertaining than the recent Theft by Finding. There is some Canadian content as Sedaris gives a reading at an Indigo bookstore in Toronto then makes a disastrous appearance at Costco, where he is ignored by passing shoppers.

My favourite chapter was about Sedaris’s travels in Hawaii where the holiday exactly matches the brochure in contrast to Normandy, which is not as picturesque as he expects. I could have done without most of the opening chapter at the creepy British taxidermist shop though Sedaris’s observations about gift giving at the beginning of the book are very funny.

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Reader’s Digest Interview: In conversation with royal historian Carolyn Harris

I discussed a variety topics concerning the royal family including the royal wedding, popular attitudes toward the monarchy in Canada, and The Crown series on Netflix with Courtney Shea at Reader’s Digest Canada.

Click here to read “In Conversation with Royal Historian Carolyn Harris”

Illustration by Aimée Van Drimmelen

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Huffington Post Interview: How Meghan Markle And Prince Harry’s Wedding Differed From The Last Royal Nuptials

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their wedding on April 29, 2011.

I compared the weddings of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) in an interview with the Huffington Post, along with Marlene Koenig at Royal Musings Here is an excerpt from the interview:

“At the last royal wedding, things went a little more by the book, with Michael Francis Middleton walking his daughter, the soon-to-be Duchess of Cambridge, down the aisle to meet Prince William.

There is royal precedent for close relatives stepping in to handle escort duty. Queen Victoria, whose father died when she was an infant, was walked down the aisle by one of her uncles when she married Prince Albert, said Carolyn Harris, the author of Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette.”

Click here to read “How Meghan Markle And Prince Harry’s Wedding Differed From The Last Royal Nuptials” in the Huffington Post

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Today Interview: How will Meghan Markle’s life change after marrying Prince Harry?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

I discussed the future for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with Eun Kim at Today.com including public engagements, the end of Meghan’s acting career and Commonwealth tours

Click here to read “How will Meghan Markle’s life change after marrying Prince Harry?”

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Books I’ve Read This Week: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and the Modern Monarchy

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 18: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and The Modern Monarchy: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married on May 19 in a wedding that combined royal traditions with modern innovations, which reflected the personalities and interests of the royal couple. I have spent the week discussing the history of royal weddings with the media and reading about the royal couple and the modern monarchy. My recent book choices include three recent biographies of Harry and Meghan as well as biographies of royal women both current (Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Sophie, Countess of Wessex) and past (Queen Mary, whose tiara Meghan wore on her wedding day, and Queen Victoria’s descendants, who married into most of Europe’s royal houses) Here are this week’s reviews:

#120 of 365 American Princess: The Love Story of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry by Leslie Carroll

Genre: Royal Biography

Dates Listened: May 10-12, 2018

Format: Audiobook, 7 hours and 25 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Review: A light and breezy joint biography of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Only the last few chapters are about Harry and Meghan as a couple and the plans for their wedding. The book covers a lot of familiar ground including Charles and Diana’s divorce, Harry’s military career and his past relationships with Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas as well as Meghan’s acting career and lifestyle blog and the charity work undertaken by both Harry and Meghan. The author memorably refers to Harry as “A Rebel with Many Causes.”

The chapters about Meghan’s early life, growing up in California are more interesting because her life is less well known than Harry’s. The book was published before the wedding and therefore concludes with speculation concerning which title the royal couple would receive on their wedding day. The author discusses the precedents for the couple becoming Duke and Duchess of Clarence, Sussex or Buckingham. An fun read but provides little new information and is already outdated following Harry and Meghan’s wedding and new titles.

#121 of 365 The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown by Penny Junor

Genre: Royal Biography

Format: Audiobook, 12 hours and 39 minutes

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Dates Listened: May 12-12, 2018

Review: I enjoyed the early chapters of this book, which provide an excellent overview of Camilla’s upbringing, worldview and the culture of her social background and times, which included limited education for women and close proximity to the royal family and the rhythms of royal life. The later chapters, from Camilla’s marriage to Charles until the end of the book are also very interesting as they discuss the challenges of her transition to royal life at the age of 57 including overcoming her fear of flying to undertake Commonwealth tours as Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla’s charitable work also receives extensive analysis in the later chapters.

The middle of the book, however, is dominated by the conflicts between Charles and Diana, which are well known from other sources, as well as conflicts among courtiers. Junor is also interested in the tense relationship between the royal family and the press. The author has a clear bias toward Charles in her analysis of his marriage to Diana and emphasizes her own proximity to royalty. These sections become repetitive. The book is at its best when the focus is on Camilla’s life and work. The audiobook is well read and engaging.

#122 of 365 Grandmama of Europe: The Crowned Descendants of Queen Victoria by Theo Aronson

Genre: Royal History

Dates Read: May 12-14, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Amazon.ca

Format: Paperback, 678 pages

Review: A royal history classic! Theo Aronson examines the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria who married into Europe’s royal houses. The book was first published in the 1970s and there are some sections of the book, especially the chapters concerning the Russian Imperial family, which are rather dated, but Aronson provides an excellent account of how princesses with British upbringings experienced the courts of Russia, Romania, Greece, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Aronson’s favourite among of Queen Victoria’s descendants is clearly Queen Marie of Romania, who is described in glowing terms throughout the book. Aronson argues that the the connections between Europe’s royal houses were of limited political importance as the frequent family gatherings of the early 20th century did not prevent the First World War but these marriages still had a profound cultural influence as British customs and conceptions of royal duties spread across the continent. Well worth reading, especially in conjunction with more recent works. 

#123 of 365 Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor by Anne Edwards

Genre: Royal History

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Format: Audiobook, 16 hours and 35 minutes

Dates Read: May 13-15, 2018

Review: Despite her profound influence on the monarchy, including the upbringing of her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II, there are few in depth of biographies of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. The most famous and comprehensive is the 1959 book by James Pope-Hennessey. Anne Edwards, who has written books about numerous public figures, wrote her biography of Queen Mary in the 1980s, a period of increased interest in the monarchy with the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and the births of Prince William and Prince Harry.

Edwards’s biography of Queen Mary excels in certain respects but is curiously incomplete in other ways. Edwards incorporates a variety of primary sources including Queen Mary’s correspondence and diaries as well as newspaper reports of the time. There is a great deal of attention devoted to Mary’s family life including her often distant relationship with her children and their experiences growing up in the royal family. Mary’s various homes and her intellectual interests are also discussed. Mary was far better educated than George and she read aloud to her husband and helped him practice his French and German. There are also whole chapters about wider European events that affected Mary and her family.

In contrast, the book summarizes Mary’s childhood very quickly, even though her background as a the child of a morganatic marriage – but also a close relative of Queen Victoria – is essential to understanding her character and outlook on the monarchy. The 1901 world tour is also summarized quickly with little discussion of how she was received in Canada or Australia. Her visits to India receive more attention. There are frequent references to public engagements and visits to hospitals in wartime but I would have liked more detail about her charities and her interactions with the people she met as a public figure. The author also mentions Britain and England interchangeably, which is inaccurate and distracting.

The audiobook is read in a suitably stately fashion by Corrie James.

#124 of 365 Harry: Life, Loss and Love by Katie Nicholl

Genre: Royal History

Dates Read: May 15-16, 2018

Acquired: Purchased from Audible.com

Format: Audiobook, 8 hours and 31 minutes

Review: My favourite one of the recently published biographies of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In contrast to past biographies of Harry that often recount all the details of Charles and Diana’s marriage and divorce, Nicholl keeps the focus firmly on Harry and his experiences. Nicholl discusses Harry’s family life and the loss of his mother, how he gained a reputation as a party prince in his youth, his military career, passion for endangered species conservation and spending time in Botswana, humanitarian work, and relationships, including his engagement to Meghan Markle. Well worth reading in the aftermath of the royal wedding.

#125 of 365 Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton

Genre: Royal Biography

Acquired: Purchased from Indigo Books

Format: Hardcover, 272 pages

Date Read: May 19, 2018

Review: Morton’s biography of Meghan Markle, clearly written in anticipation of the royal wedding, contains some interesting facts. Meghan, now Duchess of Sussex, once took part in a USO holiday tour and appeared in a school play with Scarlett Johansson. The tone of the book is sometimes judgmental though, with references to Meghan having a love of selfies or having a reputation as a “thirsty socialite.” There are interviews with people who only knew Meghan in passing (such as Deal or No Deal co-stars) or clearly have an axe to grind (such as her half brother Thomas Markle Jr.). The book was clearly written in haste and the photographs are out of order with later photos preceding earlier ones. The book did not meet my expectations.

#126 of 365 Sophie’s Kiss: The True Love Story of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones by Garth Gibbs and Sean Smith

Genre: Royal Biography

Format: Paperback, 268 pages

Acquired: Purchased from Willow Books, Toronto

Date Read: May 20, 2018

Review: I found this 1999 joint biography of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones (now the Earl and Countess of Wessex) in a secondhand bookstore and it is an interesting read in light of the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Like Harry and Meghan, Edward and Sophie enjoyed cooking together while they were dating and dealt with the intrusive behaviour of the media. The authors clearly admire Sophie and describe her as “a delightful girl.” The tone of the book, however, is very gossipy and occasionally in poor taste. There are some patronizing generalizations about women and relationships. I enjoyed the subject matter of this biography but not the authors’ approach to the material.

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CBC News Interview: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Why it’s more than just a wedding

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Earlier in the week, I discussed the significance of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with Janet Davison at CBC News, including the role of the marriage in the 21st century public image of the royal family and the history of popular responses to royal weddings, including Walter Bagehot’s 1867 work, The English Constitution.

Click here to read Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Why it’s more than just a wedding at CBC News

 

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National Public Radio Interview: Getting Ready For The Royal Wedding

Prince Harry

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married today in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Prince Harry received the title His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. Harry and Meghan are now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

I discussed the historical and cultural context for the royal wedding on National Public radio earlier this week, along with Daisy Goodwin, the creator and primary writer of the Victoria series on PBS and Chioma Nnadi, the fashion and news director at Vogue.com Click here to listen to Getting Ready For The Royal Wedding on NPR’s On Point

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