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Showing posts from July, 2013

A queen remembers her lost love

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A moving photo from today's service to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of King Baudouin of the Belgians.  His widow, Fabiola, now in her eighties was wheeled past a large photo of the king showing him as a much younger man.  And in that little smile that is starting to show on her lips, there is a glimpse of the memories, of the love and the long life shared in special circumstances.  Queens lose their loves as well and while a nation remembered a figurehead, just for a moment a wife remembered a husband.

A smile that crosses years - Fabiola remembers her husband, Baudouin, on the 20th anniversary of his death

A new princess challenges for headlines

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The latest installment of Philippa Gregory's books on the women of the Wars of the Roses is out today.  It focuses on Elizabeth of York - the girl who could have been Queen Regnant of England but who let her own claim to the throne go to become Queen Consort.  But in so doing she seemingly wrote herself out of history.  She may have been the wife of Henry VII and the mother of Henry VIII but she very little is known about her.


Elizabeth of York was queen of England not that you'd know it without a good search - she was all but erased from history and a lot of the whitewashing came from her own family
The Tudors basically erased her from history.  They could do PR better than anyone and for some reason, Elizabeth didn't make the grade. She comes down to us from them as a pretty face, a perfect mother, a much loved wife but not much more.  There's little flesh on these historical bones and hardly anything to tell us what kind of person she was.  For the Tudors, her role w…

Belgian King and Queen's first duties

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One of the first duties the new Belgian King and Queen have performed is to remember a predecessor.  Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of King Baudouin and at the memorial service, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde led the royal family publicly for the first time since the swearing in of July 21st 2013 that made them monarchs.


Queen Mathilde and King Philippe of the Belgians lead the royal family in the memorial to King Baudouin held in Brussels today on the 20th anniversary of his death Next to the new king was the Queen Dowager, Fabiola, who was married to Baudouin for 33 years.  Albert II and Queen Paola were there too but for the first time since his brother's death in July 1993, Albert was able to attend first and foremost as a sibling rather than as a head of state leading official tributes.   King Albert II pays tribute to his brother, Baudouin, flanked by Queen Paola and Dowager Queen Fabiola

Confused by The White Queen

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I've watched episode seven of The White Queen twice now and I still don't get it.  Not the history.  That was well done and managed to pare the details down to make them understandable without losing too much of what really happened.  The bit I don't get is why we are expected to believe anything about Elizabeth Woodville in this interpretation of her story.  The Philippa Gregory novels on which this TV spectacular are based are far more mysterious and interesting when it comes to bringing this queen consort to life.  In this series, the first commoner to wear the crown of England is nothing more than a beautiful bystander to the Wars of the Roses rather than one of its causes.  And that leaves massive holes in the story that can't be filled by longing looks alone.

The White Queen - yes, she was lovely to look at but as well as beauty beyond compare her ambition was pretty unmatchable as well This week we reached the soap opera part of Edward IV's reign with more fa…

The prince who used to be third in line to the British throne

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The latest addition to the British Royal Family was never going to be called Alfie.  It's one of the most used boys' names in the UK at the moment and with Alfie Moon on TV four times a week in EastEnders it was just too in use to make it into the exclusive club of future kings' names. 


It was never going to be all about Alfie..the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge present HRH Prince George to the world on July 23rd 2013 (photo Christopher Neve)
But today marks the anniversary of the death of a Prince Alfie who, for almost twenty years, was number two in line to the British throne.  Alfred Ernest Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was Queen Victoria's second son and for the best part of two decades he played the part of spare to the future Edward VII's heir.  The arrival of Edward and Alexandra's first son in 1864 sent him tumbling down the pecking order to number three but to make up for it, he succeeded his uncle as Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as his own big brother had re…

A future queen consort pays her respects

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The official funeral service for the 79 people killed in the train crash at Santiago de Compostela has taken place.  The Prince and Princess of Asturias and the Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo attended the service and offered their condolences to those who lost loved ones afterwards.

The heir to the throne of Spain, Felipe, leads mourners at the official funeral service for those who died in the Santiago train crash.  He was accompanied by his wife, Letizia, and his sister, Elena. (photo Casa S.M. el Rey/ Borja) The sad duty of the future king and queen was shared by Elena - like Santiago, Lugo is in Galicia and the infanta has a long relationship with the area. The official funeral service was held at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela (photo Casa S.M. el Rey/ Borja) 

Paying to keep queens' memory alive

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The Heritage Lottery Fund is giving £47 million to six historical tourism sites in England and Wales to help improve facilities and draw in more visitors.

Winchester Cathedral has been the setting for just one monarchical marriage.  It will now get over 10 million pounds of Lottery funding to bring in more tourists. (photo Magnus Manske)
Included on the list is the cathedral at that former royal seat of just about everything, Winchester.  It might be a nice stop on a historical tour of England now but in the Middle Ages it was a regular haunt of kings, queen, princes and wannabes.  It was the birthplace of Henry III and the spot where three royals who should have ruled but didn't entered the world.  The heirs of Henry I and Henry VII were born there but both William Adelin and Arthur, Prince of Wales died before they could become king.  And it was also, reputedly, the birthplace of the first woman who could and should have ruled England in her own right.  Henry I's daughter, Mat…

Heartbreaking duty for a future queen consort

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Letizia, Princess of Asturias has many detractors.  That may be one of the reasons that, according to the poll, she is the royal woman being given the toughest time by the press.  More on that later this week but today it didn't seem appropriate to discuss such things as this future queen takes on a sad and onerous task.

Later today, Letizia will accompany her husband, Felipe, and his sister, Elena, to the special service being held in honour of those killed in last week's train crash at Santiago de Compostela.  Seventy nine people lost their lives and the royal couple and the Duchess of Lugo will offer comfort to those left behind.

Royals continue to represent their country in many ways and this is one of the saddest. 

Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia on their visit to Santiago last week to meet those injured and those who helped when a train crashed near the station, killing 79 people and leaving many more injured

A fatal royal marriage

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Many royal marriages have been described as tragic but not many end with both participants suffering violent deaths after plots and intrigue.  The wedding which took place almost 450 years ago today proved to be the most tragic decision that both bride and groom ever made.  But it did lead to the birth of the king who brought together the crowns of England and Scotland. 

Mary, Queen of Scots in a portrait held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Mary was a bride on this day in 1565 but her wedding had a very unhappy ending for both husband and queen. Mary, Queen of Scots became a bride for the second time on July 29th 1565.  She was 22 years old and had already packed more into her short life and long reign than many of her contemporary monarchs.  The crown, or crowns, rested heavily on Mary's head from virtually the first moment of her life.  Queen of the Scots at the age of six days and queen consort of France at the age of sixteen when her first husband became Francis…

A busy year for Queen Mathilde

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After the hectic days of the abdication and accession at the weekend, it's no surprise that the new queen of the Belgians has taken her children on holiday.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde posed for photographers at the beginning of a break on l'Ile d'Yeu off western France where they and the new royal family are taking a summer break.  The princes ran around the rocks, the girls ran along the sand and the whole family clustered together for a group shot at the end.


Blue is the colour - for the second time this week a high profile royal family choose blue for an appearance...the Cambridges on Tuesday and on Thursday, the new king and queen of the Belgians

But while the sun might be shining on their holidays now, in just a few weeks the work of being queen hits home for Mathilde.  The new monarchs will tour their country in September and October to introduce themselves all over again to their fellow Belgians, now they are King and Queen.  Their neighbours in the Netherlands…

Queen Elizabeth and strange baby name choices

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While most queen consorts have stuck to pretty traditional methods of picking their first son's name, two have gone completely off message.  One went against the grain quite possibly because of her hatred of one of her husband's former friends while the other went all strange and used a name from myth and legend in the hope of starting a new dynasty.  And both of these queens were called Elizabeth.  In fact, the third queen consort called Elizabeth caused a stir with her choice of name for her firstborn but she had a little girl, also called Elizabeth.  It wasn't particularly royal name at the time but the successful reign of that baby, now Elizabeth II, have changed all that.


Queen Elizabeth II - her parents choice of name for her was considered by some to be rather daring
It's not really a surprise that the first to go against the grain was Elizabeth Woodville.  She'd started as she meant to go on by switching sides in the Wars of the Roses after seducing the youn…

Royal baby is Prince George

George it is.  Future Queen Consort, Kate Middleton, has named her son George Alexander Louis.  The future king has a regal name - of course he doesn't have to use it to rule.  But it's a good, solid Windsor name.  The name of the founder of the house, the name of his son who took over from the king who abdicated and saved the monarchy in the process.  And the name of the dashing Duke of Kent who died a hero in World War Two. 


George VI, the last king to bear the name, became king at a crucial time for the English monarchy but left the throne secure.  His great, great grandson now shares his name.  Kate also becomes the first English queen consort to name her first born son George.  George VI's mother was born in Kensington Palace but he wasn't a first born and George wasn't his first name.  But the other first born Georges all had German mothers.  The name itself wasn't a royal name until the 18th century - used very briefly by the York dynasty in the late 15…

The royal baby's name is....

William and Kate no doubt have that rather hungover feeling that new parents get.  It's not too much champagne to wet the baby's head, it's not enough sleep. Even by day two the tiredness is so extreme that even if they have picked a name for the baby, summoning up enough brain power to remember it and say it out loud could be beyond them.  With everything focussed on looking after their new son, choosing how he will be called in the history books might be the furthest things from their minds.  But then past queen consorts could help them make the decision.

Most women who mothered kings kept to a pretty safe pattern.  They named their first born son after his paternal grandfather.  Matilda of Flanders got things going by giving number one son the same name as her husband's father.  Robert never became King of England but he did get granddaddy's Duchy of Normandy so life didn't turn out too bad.  Through the House of Norman to the House of Windsor, using the dad…

Is the White Queen losing her power?

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Elizabeth Woodville was queen consort of England for 19 years and according to the history books kept her power for that whole time.  So influential was she that according to some versions of England in the 15th century, her brother in law Richard snatched her two sons who became the Princes in the Tower because he feared her ruling the country through them after the death of Edward IV.  So it was strange to see this fascinating queen reduced to a simpering bystander in last night's edition of The White Queen.

Elizabeth had a lot to deal with but did most of her coping in slow motion with fuzzy edges.  From finding hubby in bed with his mistress to watching her mother die, events rather overtook this feisty woman and turned her from medieval powerhouse to subject of a problem page.  There was none of the steel and grit that makes Elizabeth one of the most mysterious and admirable women in British history.  And none of the scheming and hard edges that let her survive this most turb…