1066, Not something to celebrate?

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Okay, I am a few months behind on this. The Norman Conquest of England occurred on October 14, 1066. The Battle of Hastings was fought between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy (who became King William I of England) and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II Godwinson, beginning the Norman conquest of England. That was 950 years ago. In 50 years from now, the year 2066, this historic even will celebrate its 1,000th anniversary. Will this be something to celebrate or not?

Maybe celebrate is not the correct word? How about honor…or even mark the date? No matter how you want to note this historic event the topic is very controversial. Even though this was a significant date that forever changed England’s entire culture, language and structure of society; this event helped shape England and the United Kingdom into what it is today. The truth is, this is the date when England was conquered and defeated and then occupied by a foreign power. Who wants to celebrate or honor that!?

However, is there anything positive that can be acknowledged on this anniversary? Without the Norman Conquest England would have developed very differently. Certainly the end result of this conquest, the by product of this invasion, is something to honor? The monarchy itself, although it did exist pre-1066, also was significantly changed and a descendant of William the Conqueror sits on the throne today. In fact, many people alive in Britain are descendants of William the Conqueror.

Much of this is speculative. In 50 years I will be 103 so chances are I will not be here, but you never know!? I am sure the occasion will be marked in someway and maybe a balance can be found and the good and the bad from this can be acknowledged.

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Kate Middleton? NO, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge!

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After more than five years of marriage to HRH The Duke of Cambridge, his wife, the former Kate Middleton, is still often called Kate Middleton or many other incorrect titles. Her correct title, simply is, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. I swear if by some unfortunate tragedy the Duke of Cambridge were to wake up tomorrow to find that he is the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain the press and others would still call his wife Kate Middleton!

She is a Princess of the United Kingdom via her marriage to HRH The Duke of Cambridge, but because she was not born a member of the royal family she is not entitled to be called Princess Catherine. That right is reserved for women who are the daughter of the sovereign or the granddaughter of the sovereign in the male line. (an exception has been made for little Princess Charlotte of Cambridge who is a great-granddaughter of the sovereign in the male line…more on that in another post).

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This was the same case/situation for the late Diana, Princess of Wales (her correct title after the divorce). While Diana was married to HRH The Princes of Wales her correct title was, again simply,  HRH The Princess of Wales. Since Diana was not born either as daughter of the sovereign or the granddaughter of the sovereign in the male line it was not correct to call her “Princess Diana.”

The press never got that right and that is why they and others flounder in what to call the wife of the Duke of Cambridge…Duchess Kate: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (this way of referring to her indicates she is divorced for that is how Diana was referred to after her divorce): Princess Catherine: Princess Kate and a combination of all the above. All are wrong. Her correct style is, Her Royal Highness, and her correct title is…The Duchess of Cambridge. That is it! If you have a peerage title you are known by that peerage title (along with the style His or Her Royal Highness in the case of the royal family members that hold peerage titles) and not your first name. If you are a wife of a peer you take the feminine form of your husband’s title…in the case of the lovely lady formerly known as Kate Middleton, the title is Duchess of Cambridge.

In the future HRH The Duchess of Cambridge will be known as HRH The Princess of Wales when her father-in-law (the current Prince of Wales) becomes king and eventually invests his son as Prince of Wales. Further in the future, and God willing, when the Duke of Cambridge becomes King, as King William V of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (assuming he doesn’t select another regnal name) and the simple correct way to refer to him will be, His Majesty the King, and his his wife’s correct style and tittle will be Her Majesty The Queen. So lets stop calling her Kate Middleton.

Maybe tomorrow or very soon I will write a post on the history of titles and their correct forms and usage.

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Royal Grief: Part IV

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Within seven months of the death of his mother, King Edward VII suffered the death of his sister, Victoria, Princess Royal, The Empress Frederick of Germany, eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Princess Victoria was born on 21 November 1840. She married Friedrich-Wilhelm of Prussia in 1858, a love match but also a dynastic alliance in the hope of helping liberalize Prussia. However, her father-in-law (Kaiser Wilhelm I) lived to be 90 and her husband was already terminally ill with throat cancer when he finally became Kaiser Friedrich III in March of 1888. Kaiser Friedrich III reigned for just 3 months and was succeeded by his eldest son Wilhelm II, a militaristic ruler in the mold of his grandfather. Victoria, who now styled her self The Empress Frederick,  and her son did not get along, and she was marginalized for the rest of her life, finally dying in 1901, a few months after Queen Victoria.
In the summer of 1900 Edward VII, then still Prince of Wales, spent much of the summer in Berlin with his sister, the Empress Frederick, as her health began to deteriorate. Edward VII had regular visits at the spa at Bad Homburg. He would not see his sister once again until February of 1901, a month after his succession to the throne. When he came to see his sister, it was not known how much longer she had to live. Edward brought with him his private secretary, Sir Frederick Ponsonby, and a couple of English doctors to help treat his sister.
Vicky did not have a great relationship with German doctors. She felt that they were partly responsible for the difficult delivery of her son, the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, and they mismanaged and treated her husbands (Kaiser Friedrich III) throat cancer. Indeed the Empress Frederick was kept in such pain because the German doctors gave her so little morphine for her pain. The English doctors were able to giver more pain relief much to the resentments of the German physicians in attendance.
When Kaiser Friedrich III died in 1888 his son, the new Kaiser Wilhelm II, surrounded the palace with his troops in order to secure any of his father’s documents and other writings and letters. It seemed history would repeat itself when the Empresses Frederick died. This was the main reason Sir Frederick Ponsonby was there. The letters and documents of the Empress Frederick were smuggled out of Germany in Ponsonby’s luggage and kept in his own private estates instead of the archives at Windsor in an attempt to out manouver the Kaiser.
The Empress Frederick died in Friedrichshof on 5 August 1901 ending a long illness that began in late 1898 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer that would eventually metastasize to her spine. She was buried next to her husband in the royal mausoleum of the Friedenskirche at Potsdam on 13 August 1901.
Edward VII and Vicky had been close all their lives. Altogether their parents had differing views of each child, Vicky was Prince Albert’s favorite child, while Bertie (Albert-Edward) was a great disappointment to his mother, this did not seem to affect their relationship.
This concludes the King’s year of grief…the loss of a nephew in 1899 then between July 30, 1900 to August 5, 1901 the King lost his brother, mother and sister. If we expand the time back ten years or so, the King lost his eldest son (Prince Albert-Victor, Duke of Clarence) in 1892 and another nephew, Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein in October of 1900. That is a lot of grief and loss for one person in that span of time.

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Royal Grief: Part III

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With the death of Prince Alfred, reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on July 30, 1900, his older brother, Prince Albert-Edward, The Prince of Wales, slipped into a depression over the death of his brother. Six months later would come an even larger and more life changing loss. On January 22, 1901 the Prince of Wales’ mother, Queen Victoria, passed away after a reign of 63 years  making him King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

I could find no recording of the grief he must have felt at the time. Was he conflicted? The new king, aged 59, had waited his entire life for this moment. On the one hand it was his mother that died. On the other hand he now could assume the role for which he was born into, which he had been waiting all of his life. I am sure the moment was bitter sweet.

Their relationship, mother and sun, was not easy. Queen Victoria had an almost worshipful view of her Husband, Prince Albert, and had hoped and expected that her son and heir would be a carbon copy of esteemed husband. She was very disappointed in him. In 1861, shortly before his death, Prince Albert confronted his son, the Prince of Wales, after his affair became public.

The Prince of Wales attended manoeuvres in Ireland, during which he conducted a three-day affair with actress, Nellie Clifden. Prince Albert, clealrly ill, was angered and disgusted with his sons behavior and visited Albert-Edward at Cambridge to reprimand him. Two weeks after the visit Albert died on December 14, 1861. Queen Victoria was inconsolable, wore mourning clothes for the rest of her life and blamed her son, Albert-Edward for his father’s death.  She wrote to her eldest daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, “I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder.”

Though relations did improve between mother and son, she was was very relieved when the Prince of Wales recovered from a bout of typhoid (which took the life of Prince Albert) in 1871, but she often refused to give her son proper work as heir to the throne feeling that he was not up to the task.

Upon succeeding to the throne Prince Albert-Edward chose to reign under the name Edward VII, instead of Albert Edward the name his mother had desired him to use. declaring that he did not wish to “undervalue the name of Albert” and diminish the status of his father with whom the “name should stand alone”.

Part IV tomorrow! I promise!!

 

Royal Grief: Part II

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In examining the grief born by the Prince of Wales-Edward VII from July 1900 to August of 1901 our story turns to the relationship he had with his brother, HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha.

HRH Prince Alfred Ernest Albert was born on August 6, 1844 and was the second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was created Duke of Edinburgh  by his mother in 1866 and he succeeded his paternal uncle Ernst II as the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the German Empire on August 22, 1893.

On 23 January 1874, the Duke of Edinburgh married Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, the second (and only surviving) daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and his wife Marie of Hesse and by Rhine (daughter of Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Wilhelmine of Baden) at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg. The marriage was not a happy one and the Duchess of Edinburgh was thought haughty by London Society. Perhaps there was great truth to this claim and it is evident by her displeasure when she learned that she had to yield precedence to the Princess of Wales and all of Queen Victoria’s daughters.

The Duchess of Edinburgh persistently insisted on taking precedence before the Princess of Wales (the future Queen Alexandra) because she  considered the Princess of Wales’ family (King Christian IX and the rest of the Danish Royal Family) as inferior to their own. The Duchess ‘ father,  Emperor Alexander II of Russia, shared this opinion. However, Queen Victoria refused this demand, yet in the end compromised with her daughter-in-law and granted her precedence immediately after the Princess of Wales.

To his credit, Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales did not allow this issue to dampen relations with his brother. In fact, shortly after the incident, The prince of Wales invited the Czarevitch (future Emperor Alexander III) and his family to Marlborough House, the London residence of the prince and Princess of Wales. During this visit he forged a close relationship with his nephew, the future Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. What I find interesting, and need to read more about this prejudice the Emperor Alexander II had toward the family of King Christian IX of Denmark, is that Alexander II’s own son, future Emperor Alexander III, was, like the prince of Wales, married to a daughter (Princess Dagmar) of King Christian IX of Denmark! Does this mean he didn’t approve of his own daughter-in-law?

I digress.

On the death of his uncle, Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on August 22, 1893, the duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, since The Prince of Wales had renounced his right to the succession before he married. Alfred thereupon surrendered his seats in the House of Lords and the Privy Council, but he retained Clarence House as his London residence. At first regarded with some coldness as a “foreigner”, he gradually gained popularity. By the time of his death in 1900, he had generally won the good opinion of his subjects.

Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha died of throat cancer on July 30, 1900. He was buried at the ducal family’s mausoleum in the Friedhof am Glockenberg (de) in Coburg.    Alfred was succeeded as the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by his nephew, Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany, the posthumous son of his youngest brother, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany because Alfred’s next brother, The Duke of Connaught, and his son, Prince Arthur of Connaught, had renounced their succession rights to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

The Prince of Wales attended his brother’s funeral and at that time learned that his sister, Victoria, the Princess Royal (Empress Frederick) was also suffering from spinal cancer and was in great pain. Upon his return to London and his Marlborough residence it was reported that the grief stricken Prince of Wales sunk into a “black depression.”

Part III next week!!

 

October 22…Royal History

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Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-01286,_Kaiserin_Auguste_Viktoria.jpgToday is my birthday!! So let’s see what royal related things happened on this day!!

1383 – The 1383–85 Crisis in Portugal: King Fernando dies without a male heir to the Portuguese throne, sparking a period of civil war and disorder.

1727 – George II and Caroline of Ansbach were crowned King and Queen of Great Britain.

1978 – Papal inauguration of Pope John Paul II.

Births:

1071 – William IX, Duke of Aquitaine (d. 1126)
1689 – John V of Portugal (d. 1750) (pictured below)
1701 – Maria Amalia of Austria (d. 1756)
1858 – Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein (d. 1921) Last German Empress, wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II of German, King of Prussia. (Pictured above)

Deaths:

741 – Charles Martel, King of the Franks (b. 688)
1383 – Ferdinand I of Portugal (b. 1345)
1751 – Willem IV, Prince of Orange (b. 1711)
1761 – Ludwig-Georg, Margrave of Baden-Baden (b. 1702)
2002 – Geraldine, Queen of Albania (b. 1915)

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8oo Year Anniversary of the Death of King John of England.

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On this day, 800 years ago, October 19, 1216 King John of England dies at Newark-on-Trent and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry III. King John has gone down in English history as one of England’s ineffective kings. Jim Bradbury, British historian specializing in the military history of the Middle Ages, states that the current consensus among historians was that John was a “hard-working administrator, an able man, an able general”, albeit,  with “distasteful, even dangerous personality traits”, including pettiness, spitefulness and cruelty.”

His cause of death at the age of 49 after a reign plagued with numerous battles was dysentery. A condition highly curable today but often fatal in the Middle Ages. Shortly after his death rumors began circulating that he had been killed by poisoned ale, poisoned plums or a “surfeit of peaches”.His body was buried in Worcester Cathedral in front of the altar of St Wulfstan.  A new sarcophagus with an effigy was made for him  in 1232 in which his remains now rest.

An interesting factoid is that during the reign of King John the title of the monarch officially changed from “King of the English” to “King of England.” The standard title for all monarchs from Æthelstan (924-927) until the time of King John was Rex Anglorum (King of the English). Canute II the Great, King of Denmark, was the first king to call himself “King of England”. In the Norman period Rex Anglorum (King of the English) remained standard, with occasional use of Rex Anglie (King of England).  From the time of King John onward all other titles were eschewed in favor of Rex or Regina Anglie .(King of England).

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Royal Grief…Part I

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With my interest in royalty I often peruse genealogy charts and biographies to look at the history and events in people’s lives to see if I can capture an accurate picture of who these people were and the times in which they lived. That is what I do when I wear the hat of an historian. I also have a background in psychology and despite having these high and lofty titles they are still human and can and do suffer all the ills associated with the human condition and that includes grief.

When I examine genealogy charts and notice that there are deaths that come close after one another I realize that certain royal family members may be caught up in grief. Often their biographies may detail their grief, as the case with Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, however, there are times when nothing is mentioned. This past July I noticed that King Edward VII of the United Kingdom went through many losses in one year. I envision that it may have been a very difficult time for him.

In 1892 he lost his eldest son and heir, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892) to pneumonia. It has been reported that Prince Albert Victor’s mother, Princess Alexandra, Princess of Wales (at that time) never fully recovered from her son’s death and kept the room in which he died as a shrine. This was typical of those in the Victorian era that made grief seem like an Olympic sport. I suspect that the future King Edward VII also never recovered from the death of his son…what parent ever truly recovers from such a tragedy?

However, it is the year 1899 that we turn to in examining the difficult year for Edward VII. On February 6, 1899 came the death of his nephew, HRH Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (October 15-February 9, 1899), the only son and  heir of HRH Prince Alfred, reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Duke of Edinburgh and brother of King Edward VII. The Hereditary Prince’s mother was, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia the fifth child and only surviving daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and his first wife Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine.

The Hereditary Prince was aged 24 and his death was under circumstances still not entirely clear.Was it due to health reasons such as consumption or was it suicide? He is alleged to have secretly married Lady Mabel Fitzgerald, granddaughter of the 4th Duke of Leinster, and it has been claimed that this caused friction between young Prince Alfred and his parents and was the cause of his suicide. One report is that Alfred shot himself with a revolver while the rest of the family was gathered for the anniversary celebration of his parents marriage, January 23rd 1899. Prince Alfred survived the initial self-inflicted gun shot and was taken to Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha for three days before being sent to the Martinnsbrunn Sanatorium in Gratsch in the South Tyrol (Austria, now part of Italy). Alfred died there at 4:15 pm on February 9, 1899.

Technically this part of the story belongs more to the grief of the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha than to Edward VII himself, after all, it wasn’t his son that died. I only relay this story here because it was the start of a string of deaths in the British Royal Family that would run from 1899 until August of 1901 that would have had an emotional impact on the future Edward VII.

In keeping my desire to have these posts be not too length and therefore easily digestible, I will stop here and post the next entry next Friday.

 

64 Years on the Throne

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Today HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland marks the 64th year on the throne. Her father, King George VI, died on this date, February 6, 1952. Last September 2015, Her Majesty became Britain’s longest ruling monarch when she surpassed her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria (1837-1901) who reigned for 63 years and seven months.

Her Majesty is also the oldest sovereign to reign. Queen Victoria also held that record. She was 82 when she passed away in 1901. At age 89 Her Majesty broke that record seven years ago. This April 21, Her Majesty will turn 90 and many celebrations are planned in Britain for this momentous milestone.

Almost 90 and having been queen for 64 years Her Majesty shows no sign of slowing down. Her calendar is full, although maybe not as full as years past for the Prince of Wales has taken over some of her work. Still, unless some heath crisis appears Her Majesty will continue to press forward.

Although today we mark the 64th year Her Majesty came to the throne, within the Royal Family itself these dates are rarely acknowledged publicly. For royal historians such as my self and other royal enthusiasts this is a special day, for Her Majesty this is the day her father died and that is something to be noted but not celebrated. What we will celebrate is the dedication and the long life of service to her country and long may she continue to reign.

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January, the Gloomy Month

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Yesterday, January 22nd, was the 115th anniversary of the Death of Queen Victoria. But did you know that January has been a month where many British royals have died? We start with King George III who died January 29, 1820. His son, HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, predeceased his father and died 6 days prior on January 23, 1820. His anniversary is today. His daughter, Queen Victoria, died on January 22, 1901. Her grandsons also died in January. The eldest son of the then Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII), Prince Albert-Victor, Duke of Clarence, died January 14, 1892. His brother, King George V, died on January 20, 1936. King George V’s sister, Princess Louise, The Princess Royal, died on January 10, 1931. HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria and brother of King Edward VII, died on January 16, 1942. The Duke of Connaught’s youngest daughter, HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught (Lady Patricia Ramsay) died on January 12, 1974. Lastly, HRH Princess Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, longest surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria died on January 3, 1981. I may have missed some But January is a gloomy month for the royal family.