William & Kate Visit Leicester

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge carried out two engagements in Leicester today – one to honor the victims from a recent local helicopter crash and the second to Leicester University. It also marked the couple’s first public appearance since last weekend’s news that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be decamping from Kensington Palace to Frogmore amidst rumors of familial tension.

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From Tudor to Stuart: When James I Arrived in England

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It is never easy to follow a popular monarch, even more so when the reign was a lengthy one. Such was the case when James I succeeded Elizabeth I in 1603, for Elizabeth’s brand of queenship was one marked by instinctually understanding the mood and needs of her people. Indeed, nationalism was a byword for her reign. Not only did Elizabeth oversee a period of immense growth and prestige, but she did it while defining herself as first and foremost an English native. She is hardly the only monarch in British history to do so, but she is certainly one of the most successful.

James, on the other hand, had no similar hands of cards to deal. Male, foreign and decidedly less sophisticated, on the face of it, he couldn’t have been more different from his Tudor cousin. Yet, there are some notable similarities between the two – both came from rather infamous parents and both, based on birth and legal hurdles, had little business sitting on the English throne at first glance.

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Maria Fitzherbert, George IV’s Catholic Wife

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Before George IV married Caroline of Brunswick and embarked on one of the most disastrous and humiliating royal matches in British history, he took another wife, one of his own choosing. The problem was that she was Catholic, and not of the Stuart variety, but rather a nice Englishwoman who was only noble adjacent. Neither her social position nor her financial situation made her a viable contender for a royal marriage, and the prince who fell in love with her was none other than the heir to the throne.

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Did Henry IV Repent?

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I think it’s safe to say that March became the month of Henry IV here. After covering the usurpation of 1399 and its implications in the Wars of the Roses compared to Edward III’s 1376 entail, today we’re going to skip forward to 1413, the year Henry IV died. The moment was captured most famously by William Shakespeare when young Prince Hal picks up his father’s crown before he’s dead, but the real King’s illness in his last years, his increasing isolation and hibernation and his tumultuous relationships with his sons – particularly the future Henry V – has long led to speculation that Henry grew to regret his actions against Richard II.

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A Household Divided

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I’ve stopped and started writing this post a few times over the past month, with a lovely combination of my schedule and actual news coming out of London wrinkling my focus. What started out as a closer look at the Oceania tour was to become a look at the Duchess of Sussex’s first six months within the BRF…which was then to cover projections that the Cambridges and Sussexes would divide their household in 2019.

And now: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will leave Kensington Palace next year for Frogmore Cottage (not to be confused with Frogmore House) at Windsor.

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The Almost Queen: Sophia of the Palatinate

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And so we turn now to one of my faves, Sophia of the Palatinate, a woman who, had she lived only a few weeks longer, would have succeeded Queen Anne on the throne. It is because of her that the House of Hanover was founded and she’s the line’s true matriarch, making her a direct ancestor to the current queen and the rest of today’s Royal Family.

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The Glorious Revolution

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In March 1688, Queen Mary Beatrice was six months pregnant, raising the possibility that she would produce a Catholic son and heir for her husband, James II. By then, James had sat on the throne for a little over three years, his Catholicism barely tolerated by the majority of his government and the English people on the grounds that his heir was his Protestant daughter, Mary, who was married to the equally Protestant Prince William of Orange.

Worried about what the birth of a prince would mean politically, three Englishmen – Arthur Herbert and William and Edward Russell – traveled to The Hague and proposed to William of Orange that he “invade” England and “rescue” the country from the threat of papacy. On June 10, the Queen delivered a healthy son and on June 30, Herbert again arrived in Holland, this time with the Earls of Devonshire, Danby and Shrewsbury, Richard Lumley, Edward Russell, Henry Sidney and Dr Compton, Bishop of London, to request that William “save” them.

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The Matriarch: Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

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One of my favorite figures from the Wars of the Roses is Cecily Neville, Duchess of York who came very close to becoming England’s queen through her husband and ended up mother to two, Edward IV and Richard III. She was grandmother to the Princes in the Tower, mother-in-law to Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville, mother to a Duchess of Burgundy and rival to Marguerite of Anjou. In short, she was something to almost everyone and while we know where she was and what she did more often than most women of her time, we know remarkably little about who she actually was.

If you’re familiar with her, it’s actually a bit astonishing given the wealth of information we have to parse through and the level of fame that her family achieved. We have flashes of activity over the course of several decades, but only two real moments of humanity shine through, both of which relate to her children. We know that she was beautiful, though it’s unclear to what extent that was exaggerated given her rank. We believe that she was religious based on her increasingly public piety and retirement to a convent. We assume she mourned the loss of her husband and children.

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A Tale of Two Duchesses

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The Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex are in the midst of a busy November – one that unfortunately I’m only able to circle in and out of here. As we speak (I type), both women are carrying out engagements in London, but before we get there, I want to catch up on the last seven days. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Duchesses”