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Showing posts from June, 2013

A glorious name...is the House of Windsor about to get a new Princess Elizabeth?

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We all know that royal families like a bit of tradition when it comes to naming heirs.  No real alarms or surprises among European royal families for future kings and queens although Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden caused a bit of a stir by choosing Estelle for her first born who will one day be Queen.  So it's likely that the name chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for their baby - due in less than two weeks - will already have been used for a king or queen of England.  I'm looking this week at the names our queens have already had for inspiration - and continuing with the ones used for both regnants and consorts brings us to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth It's the name of two regnants and three consorts making it the second most used in royal history for queens.  And it's one of the bookies' favourites, at 8-1, for a possible Cambridge princess.  All royal houses have names that dominate proceedings and Elizabeth is definitely a Windsor name. 
At the heart of th…

Queenly inspiration for a royal baby

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Less than two weeks to go until the due date for baby Cambridge and while reports state that the Duke and Duchess don't know the sex of the child, there seems to be a general leaning towards a little girl.  Maybe it was the disputed comment from Kate a few months ago - is this for my d.....?  Maybe it was the baby pink outfit she wore on her last official outing before baby arrives at the Trooping of the Colour two weeks ago.  Either way, a quick scan of most bookies' websites have lots of odds for girls' names and not so many for little boys.

And while the royal couple are modern and forward thinking, let's face it, the Royals do like a bit of an historical connection when it comes to naming their children.  There aren't too many surprises, especially with the first born of an heir to the throne.  The bookies might have tipped George as the name of Charles and Diana's first born but William was hardly a bolt from the blue.  It's not like they called him Mo…

Queens married to a psychopath

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New research published today probably wouldn't hold too many surprises for Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard.  The two cousins who lost their heads after stealing Henry VIII's heart would most likely agree with the modern expert who believes their shared royal husband to have been a psychopath.

Professor Kevin Dutton looked at ten of the most famous British people of all time and ranked them for psychopathic traits.  Only Henry VIII scored highly enough to be classed as a psychopath.  Professor Dutton ranked people on traits such as persuasiveness, being calm under pressure and physical fearlessness.  And truly dangerous psychopaths needed to score highly when it came to ruthlessness (chopping off two of your wives' heads is always going to up the score for that one) and cold emotional detachment (ditto).  Add in a strong streak of Machiavellian self interest - and we know that Henry's adviser, Thomas Cromwell, spoke highly of The Prince when it was publishe…

Naming future queens

According to the poll results so far, picking a name for a future Queen of England is harder than choosing for a king.  For the boys, bookies' favourite George is taking an early lead but all the ballots so far for a girl's name are for something other than the favourites, Elizabeth and Diana.  So I've started a message board for more discussion on which names the Cambridges might go for if they have a little princess. 

Looking back, other Queen Consorts of England haven't had the same dilemma as future queen Kate.  After all, she's the first woman in British royal history to know that a daughter will definitely inherit the throne so choosing a name for a little girl has perhaps more weight than ever before.

Past queens of England named girls knowing they probably wouldn't be queen.  And there were protocols - set by the royal family they had married into.  It usually meant selecting an already royal name.  All our past queens, except two, had daughters named …

Baby names...

TIme for a new poll and this time, I thought I'd join the general fun of trying to guess the royal baby's name.  I think I can get away with it because Kate Middleton will be Queen of England one day and if she has a girl we all know by now that the law change means she's guaranteed to be Queen as well - though she'll have to find another site to get talked about on cos she'll be a regnant not a consort!

So pick your favourite for the royal baby name....personally, I'm going for Matilda or Adelaide for a girl and Henry or George for a boy.  I do hope they surprise us...a couple as modern as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could set amazing trends for royalty and the rest of us with the name they choose.



More power as a queen than as a mother?

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Today marks the anniversary of the death of George IV, at one time Prince Regent, and best known for his love of extravagant clothes and his hatred of his extravagant wife, Queen Caroline.  Caroline is a marvellous Queen of England.  On paper, she had nothing going for her at all.  But she ended up far more popular than her husband and she's one of the most recognizable of all the English consorts.

Caroline was hardly romantic queen material.  She wasn't a looker and let's face it, the pretty princesses always seem to be more popular than their uglier royal sisters.  She was reported to have a distant relationship with her bathroom and rarely changed her clothes.  Not keen on education or culture, she had little conversation.  And just like her husband, she seemed to prefer the charms of people she wasn't married to.

The Prince got married because Parliament wouldn't give him any more money unless he found a wife.  And nabbing the heir to the throne of England was…

A nursery full of princesses

The next episode of The White Queen should see the arrival of a son for Elizabeth and Edward.  But although the royal couple did produce three boys in the end, their royal nursery was dominated by girls.  It was an age old problem for queens consort - what to do with a gaggle of girls needing wealthy husbands and good marriages?

One of the main duties of being a queen was to have babies and as many boys as possible.  Girls were a bit of a problem but did provide currency in the big trade off between royal houses - the marriage game.  Need a foothold in a foreign country?  Find a daughter to marry one of their sons and heirs.  Got a problem with a pesky rival king or lord?  Marry a child off to one of theirs and they have to stay friendly for the honeymoon period at least.  Elizabeth, like all the queen consorts of England before her, expected pretty big royal weddings for her girls.  Unlike the others, she had to fight for them.

Using daughters as power tools was an established routin…

How to do a century in less than 60 seconds

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I was wondering before part two of the White Queen whether there would be a bit more history and how they would tell the part of the story that involves Elizabeth not providing an heir for almost six years.  The answer to both questions was - quickly.

First, the history part.  Last week's episode was very light on fact and detail.  This week they tried to make up for it but instead ended up galloping through decades of one of the most complex periods in England's past in about twenty minutes and leaving no one any the wiser for it.  There were very vague allusions to treaties with Burgundy and France and a couple of mentions of nasty battles here and there but no detail, no substance and no real understanding on what on earth was going on.  We know there are two sides in this war, mostly because of some very clunky dialogue involving references to Lancaster and York, but that's about it.  No hint of why so many people thought they could and should be king of England and ce…

Pushy relatives

Tonight on The White Queen we'll see Elizabeth Woodville's family start to reap the rewards of having a sister on the throne of England.  It was one of the reasons Elizabeth never really won the hearts of her people - they saw the whole family as making far too much out of the whole marriage.

She wasn't the first queen to face the accusation but it seemed to stick to her far more.  Eleanor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile were both accused of bringing friends and relations to court in unreasonable numbers and rewarding them with things like titles, land and money that should have gone to other, older families.

But they both had the advantage of being royal - even if they were members of foreign ruling families.  Elizabeth Woodville's family were seen as the ultimate leeches because they relied totally on their royal connections for their advancement.  The same criticisms were leveled at the families of other commoner queens - the Boleyns, the Seymours and the Howards…
Tomorrow night on the White Queen we head towards coronations and christenings.  Being gorgeous and landing a king is one thing, hanging on to him is another however much in love he might be.

Rule number one for any queen was to start producing babies.  It had been a big problem for the English royals in the century before Elizabeth and Edward took over.  Richard II had ruled for twenty two years and married twice but there was no one to succeed him and his cousin, Henry IV, stole his throne.  Henry had a stable of sons and daughters but his eldest boy, Henry V, had had just one son before his early death.  And that child, Henry VI, had just one son as well, Edward.

All Elizabeth had to do was produce boys and lots of them and she would hold all the cards.  It will be interesting to see how The White Queen tackles this because it took the new queen almost two years to have a baby - not helped by hubby being away on a regular basis fighting to keep his throne - and it was a girl.   She…
Have a look at the new website - Queens of England.  It'll grow every day - please let me know what you think...what works, what doesn't and what you'd like to see...

https://sites.google.com/site/englandsroyalwomen/
Episode two of the White Queen on Sunday - and we should be heading to the proper history part of the story.  Once Elizabeth landed at court her every move was documented and to keep something secret was a day's work in itself.  We had a hint of some of the controversy she caused at the end of episode one - she was a commoner queen after all.  But was she? 

The bare facts tell little.  Elizabeth was born in Grafton Regis in Northamptonshire around 1437.  Some historians place her birth in autumn that year, around October, but the exact date isn't known. She grew up in Grafton (I've spent an idyllic day there, it really is very lovely in a very English way with endless tufty green trees and rolling fields) and turned into a beautiful young woman, called by some the prettiest in England.  The history books tells a simple story after that.  At the age of 15 she married John Grey, a knight of about the same social standing as he father.  They had two sons but as the Wars of t…
And we're off!  I can't remember the last time I was so looking forward to a new TV drama and even being in the middle of a house move didn't stop me counting down the minutes to the start of #TheWhiteQueen last night.

And I wasn't disappointed.  I wasn't totally overwhelmed either, but it was fun, watchable and had enough of the romance of the story of Edward IV and Elizabeth to make up for the fact it seemed to have forgotten most of the history.

It all started with a horrible dream which inspired Elizabeth to try and meet the York king who had killed her first husband and swiftly moved to a dreamy vision of the Northamptonshire in which she lived and where that meeting actually took place.  There were lots more scenes in forests and beneath trees as the lovers' hearts and lives entwined with the occasional reference to the Wars of the Roses. 

The actual fighting took place off camera in this episode as we spent a lot of time with Elizabeth and her Woodville…
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Just over 24 hours to go until BBC One's big production of #TheWhiteQueen and the excitement mounts.  Can they really do justice to the story of Elizabeth Woodville and Philippa Gregory's excellent telling of her tale?  I hope so, it's such a cracking yarn that it's hard to see how a TV production with lots of money, talent and lush locations thrown at it can go wrong.  Elizabeth looks gorgeous, Edward looks suitably young, handsome and lascivious and how can we not love this version of Jacquetta, the uber ambitious mother of the king?

Some critics have called it history lite...but who wants treaties and charters when we've got a stroppy commoner holding out for a crown, a king so desperate for a woman he risks his throne for her and a woman who makes tiger mums look like kittens?

The White Queen - roll on Sunday night...

And to celebrate the start of a summer of sizzling, saucy history, tomorrow I start my week of looking at the life of Elizabeth Woodville..please…

Queens of England

I've always been fascinated by the Queens of England. Not just the six women who have worn the Crown in their own right but the women who have played the part of consort to a king. 

Their stories are nearly always more interesting to me than those of the men who gave them power, wealth and prestige beyond anything they'd known before.  From the princesses used as pawns in power games to the ambitious women who won hearts and snatched a crown in the process, their tales have always seemed to be more human and more alive. 

Through the tales of lives lived in dusty palaces or cramped castles, I always gained more of a sense of how the struggles for supremacy and the political manoeuvring that changed the lives of individuals and nations actually played out.

That will become clear, I'm sure, this Sunday, with the start of the major TV adaptation of The White Queen.  The stories of Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville are at the heart of England's bloodies…