The Feminization of History? Let’s Chat.

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Back in 2009, historian David Starkey gave an interview in which he said:

“One of the great problems has been that Henry, in a sense, has been absorbed by his wives. Which is bizarre. But it’s what you expect from feminised history, the fact that so many of the writers who write about this are women and so much of their audience is a female audience. Unhappy marriages are big box office.”

At first blush that statement may seem a bit offensive – a trivialization of female historians, efforts to shine a light on the role of women throughout history (including within the monarchy) and how women consume scholarship and literature. It was said in the midst of a still-ongoing debate about how seriously women writers are taken and a centuries-old side-eye with the “types” of books some women read.

The first time I came across that quote I saw it out of context, which is unfortunate. Starkey’s full point is actually much fairer and has more to do with historiography. But the issue with the specific “feminization” of the study of the British monarchy is not only the lens through which we view it in any given era, but also with how they choose to present themselves. The two are intertwined, but they also bear separating out to fully understand how we find ourselves, for example, in the recent saturation of history focused on women, particularly historical fiction.

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The Elder Daughters Who Could Have Ruled

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Recently we discussed changes to the succession laws in 2013 that allow the eldest child, not just the eldest male, to inherit the crown. Because the rules aren’t retroactive, Princess Charlotte is the female member of the British Royal Family to directly benefit from the rule change, meaning that even if she is followed up by a younger brother, he won’t trump her in the line of succession.

So, in honor of that, we’re going to go back and look at the elder daughters who could have ruled if absolute primogeniture had been in place from the get-go – well, from the Norman Conquest.

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A Word on History, Statues & the American Civil War

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Today we’re going to go a little off-topic here and address an issue that has nothing to do with England, the British Royal Family or its history. I say this to acknowledge that I am not an expert in the topic I’m about to delve into, save for the fact that I am American and I like to think have at least a baseline understanding for how we think, consider our own history and teach it in our schools. So, with that said, let’s turn to the debate over the presence of Confederate statues in the South.

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Style Transformation Part Two: The Duchess of Cambridge (2011-2017)

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Kate inspecting the shots from her British Vogue photo shoot in 2016

And so we dive into Kate Middleton’s style as Duchess of Cambridge. Now, as I should think will become abundantly apparent, I am not a fashion expert. I like clothes as much as the next girl, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them. I like what I like and what I am comfortable in, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. But I actually suspect that Kate is the same way – for all that she has become an arbiter of style, I don’t think she particularly cares that much.

Based on photos, I think she had slightly more fun with it in her 20s, and I think she enjoyed the novelty of dressing in the public eye the first two years of her marriage, but I believe that has tapered off since having children. She has a classic style, but isn’t too fussed about shoes or accessories. She is comfortable with a certain style of makeup and hair, and I think becomes markedly uncomfortable when she deviates from them. The crowd waiting for iconic fashion moments from Kate are going to be (and have been) disappointed. Her iconic looks are going to be her iconic looks because of who she is, but they certainly won’t be groundbreaking in and of themselves.

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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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