William, Kate and Harry Make Joint Speech for Heads Together

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry made a joint speech on behalf of their charitable endeavor, Heads Together, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, outlining their objectives and opening up the initiative to the public with concrete ways they can become involved.

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Harry, Kate and William in London on 1/17/17

Specifically, in the lead up to the Virgin Money London Marathon, scheduled in April, the project, currently focused on de-stigmatizing mental health issues, will showcase the personal stories of people whom have benefited from simply talking about their problems. Using the hashtag, #thereforme, the goal is to show how straight forward getting help can be.

Announced last year, the Heads Together efforts has brought together eight charities associated with mental health support. At its launch, William, Kate and Harry said they were beginning a listening and learning tour to gauge how they could best be of use. And while since then there’s been some speculation as to what exactly the three royals were planning on doing with the effort, I think today’s announcement was well-done and a laudable first step towards harnessing this initiative into a concrete, defining issue for all three.

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Victoria Recap: Have You Come to Give Me a Lesson in Government?

On Sunday night, the first two episodes of Victoria, “Doll 123” and “Ladies in Waiting,” premiered on PBS, filling the time slot left over when Downton Abbey ended last year. And it makes sense – both are British period dramas centered around a young, beautiful brunette who has no problem telling off the men that surround her. Only here, the main character is based on the very real Queen Victoria and not the fictional Lady Mary Crawley.

There’s been renewed interest in the early days of Queen Victoria’s reign, which began in 1837, most notably  2009’s The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt. These depictions seek to humanize a figure that has become best-known for being an overweight senior citizen shrouded in black, and whose reign has become synonymous with prudishness, longevity and the expansion of the British Empire in ways we now find politically and racially uncomfortable.

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But, as these depictions want to remind us, before she was a grandmother and a widow, she was an 18-year-old girl who left an overly sheltered existence as a princess in Kensington Palace to become the British queen, expected to go head-to-head with prime ministers, run a royal household and embody the institution of the monarchy. She was also – though the show hasn’t gotten there yet – a young woman desperately in love with her husband, who had a complicated relationship with motherhood. She was also jealous, domineering, stubborn and passionate. A lot to unpack there, and it’s not difficult to see why it’s tempting to want to take another look at her through a 21st-century lens.

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Queen Victoria’s Third Son: Arthur, Duke of Connaught

On January 16, in 1942, Arthur, Duke of Connaught died at Bagshot Park in Surrey, the current home of Edward, Earl of Wessex and his family. Arthur was the third son, seventh child of Queen Victoria and her husband, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Prince Consort. As a member of the British royal family and the British Army, he held a number of posts throughout the Empire, most notably as the Governor General of Canada from 1911-1916, covering the first two years of World War I.

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Prince Arthur with his younger brother, Leopold, the future Duke of Albany

Arthur was born at Buckingham Palace in London on May 1, 1850. At the time of his birth his parents had been married for 10 years and his mother had been queen for 13. During his childhood, the royal family established a familiar domestic routine, moving between Buckingham Palace in London, Osborne House on the Isle Wight and Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. In 1866 he enrolled at the Royal Military College at Woolwich, from which he graduated two years later, before moving on to the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Rifle Brigade. As an army officer, he would go on to serve throughout the Empire, including stints in South Africa, India, Canada, Egypt and Ireland.

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He was promoted to the honorary rank of Colonel in 1871, Lieutenant-Colonel in 1876, Colonel in 1880 and General in 1893. From 1886 to 1890, he served as Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay army. Notably, in 1870, while working in Canada, he made a visit to the United States, meeting President Ulysses S. Grant in Washington, D.C.

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January 15: The Coronation of Elizabeth I

Today, on January 15, in 1559, Elizabeth I was crowned queen of England at Westminster Abbey in London. To commemorate the event, History Today has re-published an article from A.L. Rowse first released in May 1953 in honor of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s worth a read.

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The coronation of Elizabeth I, at the age of 25, was pivotal in the history of England. Not only was her reign one of the country’s most successful, but it also oversaw the segue of England from the uncertain days of the early Reformation to the religious sentiment that the Stuarts oversaw in the 17th century. Coming on the heels of the reign of her half-sister, Mary I, which had made martyrs of an estimated 300 Protestants and brought England back into the fold of the Catholic Church, religious sensitivity was at an all-time high and those of the Reformed faith were eager to do away with Catholicism altogether.

But Elizabeth’s crowning was also a personal victory, which could easily have gone sideways any number of times, from when she was declared illegitimate by her father at the age of two-and-a-half to when Mary I imprisoned her in the Tower of London for her supposed participation in Wyatt’s Rebellion of 1554. At various points in her formative years, it seemed that Elizabeth had everything working against her – her mother, Anne Boleyn, had been publicly hated, divorced and executed; she spent several years labeled the bastard daughter of Henry VIII; and even when she was included back into the line of succession, she came after her younger brother, the future Edward VI, and Mary I, both of whom it could be reasonably expected would marry and produce heirs.

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Duke & Duchess of Cambridge Set to Move to London

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2017 appears poised to be a big year for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Towards the end of last year it was reported that Prince George was enrolled to begin at Wetherby School, William’s alma mater, in Notting Hill, sparking theories that the Cambridge family was preparing to move back to London after spending the last few years primarily at Anmer House in Norfolk. Now, news has come out that William will be leaving his job as a pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance to take up full-time duties as a  member of the royal family.

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The Wedding of Richard II & Anne of Bohemia

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On this day, January 14, in 1382, Richard II, King of England and his first wife, Anne of Bohemia, were married at Westminster Abbey in London. The wedding was the fifth royal wedding to take place in the Abbey and, coincidentally, the last until Lady Helena Cambridge, a niece of Queen Mary, was married to Major John Gibbs in 1919.

At the time of the wedding, Richard II was 15-years-old and had been king since the death of his grandfather, Edward III, five years before. Due to his minority, however, he only held power nominally, governing being led by various councilors, marked by growing unpopularity that culminated in the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Richard II emerged from the Revolt defiant and ready to rule, and one of his first acts was to marry Anne of Bohemia, the 15-year-old daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife, Elizabeth of Pomerania.

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The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge Carry Out Their First Engagement of 2017

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On Wednesday, January 11, William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, visited Child Bereavement UK in Stratford. It marks the couple’s first joint engagement of 2017 and followed an earlier visit that Kate made to the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, one of her patronages. Compared to previous years since the couple’s 2011 wedding, it was an earlier-than-usual scheduled appearance in a new year, with January historically being a slow month for royal engagements.

Notably, both events come on the heels of the annual compilation of end-of-year engagement numbers for the royal family. For better or for worse, members of the House of Windsor, from the Queen to the Dukes and Duchesses of Kent and Gloucester, are ranked based on how many engagements they carried out over the course of the previous calendar year and it naturally leads to a fair bit of press attention and commentary.  Most years, including 2016, the Queen and her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, are rightly praised for their work ethic, as are the Princess Royal and Charles, Prince of Wales. Indeed, for most members it’s a fairly non-controversial turn of events – unless, of course, you are William, Kate, Harry or the York girls.

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The Royal Marriage Race of 1818

The series of royal weddings that took place in 1818 illustrates one of the more undignified showings of family duty the House of Hanover ever put forth – which is really saying something. The year was precipitated by the death of Princess Charlotte of Wales in childbirth on November 6, 1817. She left behind a widower, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, no children, and a plethora of middle-aged uncles.

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Princess Charlotte of Wales

Charlotte was the only offspring to result from the disastrous union of her parents, George, Prince of Wales and his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. The couple famously despised each other, living together only long enough to secure the succession through the birth of one child and separating when Charlotte was an infant. Her father, the eldest son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had been first in line for the throne since birth and by 1817 was ruling as Prince Regent due the King’s mental health issues.

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The tomb of Princess Charlotte at Windsor Castle

However, with the Prince Regent at 55 and his only child dead, the 11 other children of George III and Queen Charlotte still living found themselves of renewed dynastic importance. The royal couple’s attitudes towards the personal lives of their children was abnormal at best. Their sons were largely left to their own devices once they reached maturity, which saw most of them join the military, take up mistresses and embroil themselves in society scandals. With the exception of the Prince of Wales who, for obvious reasons, was expected to marry and beget legitimate heirs, the other royal Hanoverian brothers showed little interest in marrying until their pocket books dictated a need for a dowry or an increased Parliamentary allowance.

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The Motivation of Richard, Duke of York

Of everything that came out of the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton in the Leicester parking lot, one clear benefit was renewed debate over the reputation of the king outside of the usual cast of historians. Hearing the man’s complicated and lengthy career summed up for the purposes of pithy synopses, I was struck again by the symmetry in the stories of Richard III and his father. Both grew up with fathers deemed traitors by the English government; both had a long track record for ability; both claimed the throne when other men sat on it. You could make the argument that both men were known for loyalty up until the 11th hour, but that is a trickier argument when discussing Richard, Duke of York.

On October 10, 1460 York entered Parliament, held at Westminster, and walked directly to the empty throne where he placed his hand on it, laying claim. After more than a decade of insisting his protests against the rule of his cousin, Henry VI, were based out of a desire for reform and not ambition, this severely undermine the purity of the Yorkist cause. It is also a critical intersection of two ways of looking at the Wars of the Roses: were the wars fought over a dynastic struggle or a response to mismanagement? Likely, it began as the latter and turned into the former. But still, at what point did York begin fighting to name himself king instead of closest councilor?

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Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

The Beginning

Richard was born on September 21, 1411 to Richard, Earl of Cambridge and his wife, Anne Mortimer. His father was the younger brother to the childless Edward, Duke of York and both men were the grandsons of King Edward III through his fourth surviving son, Edward, Duke of York. Richard’s mother, Anne, was the granddaughter of Philippa Plantagenet, only daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, second surviving son of Edward III.

Put more simply: Richard had an excellent claim to the throne, being descended from Edward III through both his parents.

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The Death of Katherine of Aragon

On this day, January 7, in 1536, Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, died at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. Her body was buried in the nearby Peterborough Castle with all the honors accorded to a Dowager Princess of Wales, as the widow of long-dead Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, and, markedly, not as a queen consort.

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Katherine’s signature: “Katherine the Queen”

In the last days of December 1535, Katherine wrote her will and one last letter to Henry VIII that read:

My most dear lord, king and husband,

The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles. For my part, I pardon you everything, and I wish to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.
Katharine the Quene.

News of her death reached Henry VIII and the royal court the next day. According to certain chroniclers, Henry and his second wife donned yellow, which was viewed by some as a disrespectful sign of celebration, and by others as a respectful nod to yellow as a traditional color of mourning. Regardless, on the day of Katherine’s funeral, Anne suffered a miscarriage and four months later she would be arrested, charged with treason, divorced and beheaded on Tower Hill.

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