England’s Most Awkward Dinner Party

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On July 9, 1936 King Edward VIII hosted his second official dinner at his residence, Fort Belvedere. In attendance were his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of York, Winston Churchill, and his long-time “companion,” Mrs. Wallis Simpson sans her husband, Mr. Ernest Simpson. The event was published in the Court Circular, which caused a bit of a stir because it made it appear as though, by socializing with them, the Yorks were condoning Edward’s relationship with Wallis.

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Victoria Recap: I Am So Vexed I Could Scream

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Same, Victoria, same. Well, it’s happened. In the span of one episode Albert went from her rude, dull first cousin to our favorite British queen’s fiance. This episode also served as a good reminder of why I really don’t like Prince Albert, so, in that sense, well done Victoria – you’ve captured his essence perfectly.

Let’s get into it, shall we? Episode 4, “The Clockwork Prince,” begins where the last one left off, in the drawing room with Prince Albert walking up to the Queen to turn the page of her piano music for her. Dash immediately starts barking to which I say, good for Dash. He is a rival for Victoria’s affection and maybe also a tyrant. Dogs are never wrong. Anyway, Victoria isn’t feeling it, so when it’s suggested that she show Albert and his brother, Ernest, around she uses Lord Melbourne to get out of it with some urgent dispatches that require her “full attention.” I like this excuse. I’m going to use it going forward.

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William & the Press: A Bad Romance

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It’s become part of Prince William’s narrative that he hates the press. Now, William has never publicly said, “I hate the press,” so this is not a statement of fact. It is, however, a fairly safe assumption based on, you know, his behavior and that of his office. But from where does it stem?

The obvious answer, of course, is the death of his mother in 1997 and the role that paparazzi are believed to have played in that fatal car accident. Then there is the blatant intrusion that they have caused in his life – speculating about his parents’ marriage in the ’90s, his and his brother’s antics throughout their respective teens and 20s and his own relationship with Kate Middleton.

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Statue of Diana, Princess of Wales to Be Erected at Kensington Palace

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Kensington Palace announced today that a statue of the late Diana, Princess of Wales will be erected on the Palace grounds at the request of her sons, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry. The statue will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, which occurred on August 31, 1997.

The following statement was released on William and Harry’s behalf:

“It has been twenty years since our mother’s death and the time is right to recognise her positive impact in the UK and around the world with a permanent statue.”

It is hoped it will be completed and unveiled by the end of 2017.

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Margaret Beaufort & the Birth of Henry Tudor

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Margaret Beaufort later in life

On January 28, 1457 the future King Henry VII was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales, but the real star of the show was his mother, the Countess of Richmond. In fact, at the time of his birth it couldn’t have seemed less likely that the infant would one day ascend the English throne and it certainly wasn’t seen as an event of national importance. His father was Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, the younger half-brother of King Henry VI, through the second marriage of their mother, Katherine of Valois.

But unlike Henry VI, who was fathered by the celebrated Henry V, Edmund and his siblings were fathered by a Welshman attached to Queen Katherine’s household, Owen Tudor. For political reasons, the relationship was conducted under the radar and it wouldn’t be until the early 1450s that Edmund and his younger brother, Jasper, were transitioned from a legally grey area to members of the peerage as the Earls of Richmond and Pembroke, respectively.

Because of these circumstances, the infant Henry Tudor born in 1457 had a better claim to the French crown than the English, if you disregard the Salic Law, barring inheritance of the throne through a woman (a pesky byproduct of the Hundred Years’ War).

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Style Transformation Part One: From Kate Middleton to Duchess of Cambridge (2002 – 2011)

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One thing that should really be appreciated about the Duchess of Cambridge is that she’s been in the public consciousness since she was 20 years old and, 15 years later, she’s remarkably light on having put a foot wrong. All things considered, she’s been discreet, good-natured and respectful of not only William, but his family and her own. To be honest, of all of her traits, that’s the one I find the most impressive. I cannot emphasize enough how glad I am that there’s not an extensive digital footprint of my own college or early 20s phase (untagged Facebook photos aside).

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Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Britishness (And Left Arm)

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On January 27, 1859 Queen’s Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria, gave birth to her first child at the Crown Prince’s Palace in Berlin. The birth was difficult: There was a delay in alerting doctors that the princess was in labor, doctors were hesitant to physically examine her and the baby was in breach. After a long and complicated labor, during which the lives of both mother and child were in danger, a son was delivered.

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the baby’s left arm had been badly injured at birth due to Erb’s palsy, a condition that causes paralysis from nerve  damage. Victoria, known as “Vicky” to her family, and her husband, Prince Frederick of Prussia, “Fritz,” were horrified – delivering a less than physically perfect heir to the Prussian throne was viewed as a personal failure by Vicky and raised concerns about the ability of their son to thrive in a masculine, militant court atmosphere.

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Critical Math: The Birth Order of the Woodville Children

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The Woodville coat of arms
Ohhh, the Woodvilles. For those that have never heard of them, here’s a quick download: An English widow named Elizabeth Grey (née Woodville) married Edward IV, the first king in the House of York, sometime in 1464. England was in the middle of what would become known as the Wars of the Roses and Edward was in his early 20s, had only been on the throne for about three years and stood to benefit (massively) from the foreign alliance that marrying abroad would bring him. He instead married for love, or lust, a Lancastrian widow who was older than him and the daughter of a mere baron.

Upon marriage, Elizabeth brought with her to court her parents and a plethora of unmarried brothers and sisters, all of whom needed positions befitting the family of the queen. Edward and Elizabeth’s two eldest sons would become the famed “Princes in the Tower,” and were likely murdered during the reign of their uncle, Richard III, while their eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, would marry Henry VII and help found the House of Tudor.

For those that are familiar with the period, then you will know that the Woodvilles have warranted refreshed appraisal in the last few years, which makes sense given the amount of recent scholarship that has been published on the Wars of the Roses, particularly its women. Almost always villainized, Elizabeth’s family are usually peripheral characters in the study or dramatization of the greater figures of Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. Elizabeth, herself, is depicted as a cold ice queen, a social-climbing upstart or a witch dabbling in black magic – sometimes all three at once. Perhaps she was lucky – her Lancastrian counterpart, Marguerite of Anjou, is usually portrayed as a promiscuous, violent, foreign “she-wolf.”

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