No One Wants to Be King & That’s Not a Big Deal

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Predictably, the major takeaway from Newsweek’s profile on Prince Harry was his statement that no one in the Royal Family had much desire to be king or queen. Specifically, he said:

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

Read one way and that means no one wants to be the monarch, but, le sigh, duty calls and one will just get on with it. And apparently this is how a great many people read it based on the moral outrage that’s poured out over the interview in the last few days.

Except…that’s sort of missing the point.

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Prince Harry’s Newsweek Profile

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Oh my, we have another live one. American magazine Newsweek has been given access to Prince Harry over the course of the “best part of the past year” and yesterday published a lengthy profile on him, covering topics from the death of his mother, his “transformation” and the future of the monarchy. Harry has had a bit of a turnaround over the last few years, most dramatically in the last 12 to 18 months. The three things that jump to my mind as particularly pivotal are the press release Kensington Palace issued on his behalf regarding his relationship with American actress Meghan Markle, his incredibly candid interview with The Telegraph podcast released in April and the nature of his charity work, which I believe can be viewed as picking up the mantle of the late Princess of Wales.

This year started off in an uncertain place for the Royal Family. Or, more specifically, it wasn’t clear what exactly they were all doing. The KP press release was a complete 180 from the frigid and terse statements usually released when commenting (or rather, not commenting) on the personal lives of members of the family. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had spent the second half of 2015 and 2016 receiving their first wave of serious criticism about their lack of accessibility and relatively low engagement numbers. Meanwhile, the Queen had just celebrated her 90th birthday and there seemed to be a complete disconnect between the older and younger generations.

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Edward, Sophie & the Wessex Family

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With the exception of one post when the Countess of Wessex attended a royal birthday party in Norway and a handful of mentions, I’ve rarely discussed the Wessex family, but their stock is rising within the Royal Family and today actually marks the couple’s 18th wedding anniversary. That their star, Sophie’s in particular, is waxing and not waning as the Queen grows older may be a bit counterintuitive; after all, while the Earl of Wessex is now the monarch’s son, he’ll eventually be the monarch’s brother and then his uncle – his profile, significance and responsibility will likely decrease over the years.

But the Wessexes are a unique example within the House of Windsor, perhaps because they are the most traditional family unit within it – indeed, it could be argued Prince Edward was the only one of Queen Elizabeth’s children who followed the model she would have expected all of her children to have done.

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Sophie of Prussia: The German Queen of the Hellenes

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Today, in 1870, Victoria, Crown Princess of Prussia gave birth to her sixth child, Sophie, at the New Palace in Potsdam. Victoria, or “Vicky,” was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of Crown Prince Frederick “Fritz.” The new baby joined three older brothers and two older sisters – a fourth brother, Sigismund, had died from meningitis at the age of two.

More importantly, Sophie was born as the Franco-Prussian war broke out. Her christening was attended by Prussia’s highest-ranking men in full military dress, including her father and the political thorn in his side, Otto von Bismarck. By the next year, the war was over and Prussia reigned supreme – her grandfather, Wilhelm I, was duly anointed Emperor of a unified Germany and Europe was never the same.

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Victoria Eugenie: The English Queen of Spain

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In honor of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia’s upcoming trip to the UK for an official state visit at the invitation of the Queen. In preparation we’re taking a beat to take a look at the ties between the two royal families, of which there are a few. While French and German blood have permeated the English line far and above everything else, there have been a few notable Anglo-Spanish alliances over the course of history.

The first was that of Eleanor of Castile to Edward I in 1254. Then there was the famous union of Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, cemented in 1509. Finally, there was the inauspicious marriage of their daughter, Mary I, to Philip II of Spain in 1554. These were supplemented by the reverse, too – English princess who became Castilian or Spanish queen consorts. Henry II’s daughter, Eleanor, married Alfonso VIII in 1177. And Edward III’s granddaughter, Katherine of Lancaster, ended a civil war by marrying  Henry III in 1388.

The last of these matches worth noting was not between an “English princess,” per se, but she was an Englishwoman all the same, and one with deep-rooted familial ties to the Houses of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Windsor. Her name was Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg and she was the only daughter of Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. She was born on October 24, 1887 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the same year her grandmother was celebrating 50 years on the throne. Victoria referred to her as “my little Jubilee grandchild.”

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The Duke & Duchess of Windsor’s Wedding 80 Years Later

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It was a modest affair. The bride, for her third trip down the aisle, wore blue crepe. The only note of ostentation was a large diamond and sapphire brooch. Though perhaps the other note was the groom himself, the Duke of Windsor, eldest son of King George V and Mary of Teck, the former King Edward VIII.

The couple were wed at the Chateau De Cande in Monts, France, a glamorous setting by anyone’s standards except, perhaps, their own. It was a far cry from the pomp and ceremony of Westminster Abbey, the setting they would likely have chosen were they any other royal pair. But Edward was less than six months away from having abdicated the throne, an unprecedented act to have undertaken by choice, and one to which he was driven by the simple fact that Britain would never have accepted Wallis Simpson as queen.

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The Royal Family & All That Disclosure

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Back in January I wrote a post about the Royal Family’s relationship with their public personas – about how the younger generation was better-positioned to use interest in their personal lives effectively. I argued that in humanizing themselves, in today’s climate, they had a better chance of effectively reaching people. At the time I pointed to Prince Harry as an example of one Royal already doing so, though it was three months before his watershed interview with The Telegraph was published. I also noted that while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, particularly William, have flirted with private anecdotes, they had spent the first five/six years of their marriage focused on guarding their own privacy, particularly as they brought up their young children.

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Peter Phillips, Autumn Kelly & Hello Magazine

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As we quickly approach Pippa Middleton’s wedding this coming Saturday, let’s take a moment to appreciate yet another royal-adjacent union, one which actually celebrates its nine-year anniversary today. Back in 2008, the Queen’s eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, married a Canadian Roman Catholic named Autumn Kelly who most people had never heard about until the couple announced their engagement.

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Philip’s Grandmother: Victoria of Hesse, Marchioness of Milford Haven

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There was consternation when Princess Elizabeth announced her engagement to Prince Philip in 1947 due to his German relations. All of his sisters were married to German men, three of whom had Nazi connections, while his father was a member of the Greek royal family which had been ousted between the world wars. In short, he was foreign, but he also had strong ties to the British Royal Family. His mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, who had been born at Windsor Castle, named for her grandmother, Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, third child of Queen Victoria.

When the first Princess Alice died in 1878 – the first of the Queen’s children to do so – Victoria took up the mantle of offering her grandchildren motherly guidance. They spent considerable time in England and Scotland in their youths, and while two of the siblings would marry Russians, three of them married cousins from the extended BRF. The eldest, Victoria, who would become Philip’s grandmother, was one such sibling.

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What Prince Philip’s Retirement Means for Everyone Else

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This past week Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Philip will be retiring from public duties at the end of August. While he will remain patron of his 700+ charities, he will not carry out engagements unless he so chooses and he has left the door open for the organizations to choose a successor – a member of the Royal Family or not – if they wish. The Queen, the Palace stressed, will continue working as usual, though in the past few years she has scaled back certain duties by relying more heavily on her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, and curtailing overseas travel.

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