Happy Easter! The Duchess of Cambridge gifted us a surprise appearance this morning by joining the Royal Family for an Easter service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. She and the Duke joined the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Peter and Autumn Phillips, the Wessexes, the Princess Royal and Timothy Laurence for what became quite the family affair.
A few odds and ends from the week:
- The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh took part in the Maundy Thursday service at Leicester Cathederal yesterday. Queen, as per tradition dating back to the 13th century, distributed alms. This year, the “Maundy money” was handed out to 91 men and 91 women representing the Queen’s age. Back in the day, the celebration included the monarch washing members’ of public feet in addition to the alms, but that fell by the wayside starting with James II in the 17th century. This year each pensioner, as per custom, was handed a white and red purse. One of the recipients told reporters:
“It’s been such a wonderful occasion – she’s amazing because she smiled at every single person and then spoke to the children at the end. I thought ‘She’s just incredible, a wonderful woman.'”
Today in 1471 the Battle of Barnet was fought in England between the House of York’s Edward IV and the House of Lancaster’s Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. The battle resulted in Lancaster’s defeat and Warwick, the “Kingmaker,” was killed while attempting to escape the field. At the time of the battle, Edward IV had recently been deposed thanks to Warwick’s betrayal when he defected to the Lancastrian cause, turning his back on the House and family on which he had built his career.
As I mentioned last week, I have been making my way through Sally Bedell Smith’s latest biography on the Prince of Wales. I haven’t gotten too far, but far enough that I’ve come through the other side of the 1980s and all that that entails. Not too much about the Waleses’ marriage could possibly be new to us at this point, but it’s been a few years since I’ve sat down and waded my way through a biography of one of them and it was interesting to do so, particularly the early years in light of how the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are currently perceived.
One bit of irony I’ve always enjoyed about those taking pride in claiming descent from the Conquest is that doing so essentially means that you’re both French and once swore fealty to a bastard. All of today’s monarchy, in fact, can be traced back to an illegitimate French duke who was scrappier than he was “to the manor born.”
William the Conqueror, otherwise known as William I or William the Bastard, was the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy and a mistress, usually known simply Herleva. The daughter of a tanner, she may have met the duke as a member of his household, but she certainly wasn’t lofty enough to marry him and become duchess. Her son, however, was a different story, which underlines the general flexibility of succession back in the day. Yes, a legitimate eldest son was generally considered the heir, but in the absence of one, all sorts of back bends could be accomplished.
Yesterday, Kensington Palace confirmed that the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews would go forward on May 20th at St. Mark’s Church, Englefield and will be attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, with Prince George and Princess Charlotte acting as a page boy and bridesmaid, respectively.
This was an interesting announcement for a couple reasons. For one, the logistical details have already been widely reported, as has speculation about the attendance of members of the Royal Family. Secondly, Pippa, as Kate’s younger sister, is not actually a member of the RF. Thus, her wedding is a private event and no one would have raised an eyebrow had KP and the Cambridges treated it as such and declined to comment on both their attendance and their children’s participation in the ceremony.
Last week the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall undertook a brief tour of Italy, covering primarily Florence with brief stops in Rome and the Holy See. While there, Charles as able to delve into several of his passion projects, sustainable agriculture and support for vulnerable youths to name two. He was also able to tour programs that highlighted his long-held interest in the arts, classical music and history, three pursuits that he has not only always cultivated, but that he has seen as overlapping.
Charles is the definition of a “big picture” thinker, as we might put it today. He thinks unbelievably broadly and seeks to make connections between what others might consider disparate thoughts or fields. To him, there is always a point of intersection; there is always a broader purpose. Some of us (myself included) like to be able to see the forest through the trees; Charles likes to put everything in the context of nothing short of the world.
The simplest answer as to what Henry wanted from women may be the most obvious: a son. But a rational response to desiring and not receiving a legitimate male heir, even in the 16th century, wasn’t to form your own religion or behead your wife. Furthermore, Henry went through three more wives after his son, the future Edward VI, was born in 1537. Clearly “a son” wasn’t the only factor at play in Henry’s motivations for taking and discarding wives. So, what was going on?
Today the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry joined their father, the Prince of Wales, in northern France to commemorate the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Earlier, the Queen issued a public message honoring the Canadian soldiers who “stood far from home together with their allies in defense of peace and freedom.”
Later today the Prince of Wales is due in France to honor of the centennial of World War I’s Battle of Vimy Ridge with the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry. But it’s also his 12-year wedding anniversary with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall – a wedding that was unprecedented, wholly modern, and paved a grey area that won’t be fully formed until Charles ascends the throne.
Charles and Camilla’s engagement was announced in February 2005 with a wedding date initially set for April 8th. It was further announced that the ceremony would be a civil service followed by a religious prayer, a necessary specification because of Charles’s future role as the Head of the Church of England, and the fact that this would be a “remarriage,” the couple having divorced their first spouses. Even so, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed their full support for what was a controversial union.