Well, that’s a weird title, but I think it hits the highlights. Where to begin with the last few days? Let’s start outside the UK where the Danish Royal Family has been dominating headlines. Denmark’s monarch, Queen Margrethe II has reigned for 45 years, is enormously popular and is supported by her two sons and plethora of grandchildren. That support does not, apparently, extend to her husband, Prince Henrik, a Frenchman to whom she has been married since 1967.
Henrik boldly stated that he had no desire to be buried alongside his wife at Roskilde, the traditional resting place for Danish monarchs and their spouses, because he had never been granted the title of “king.” His argument is that his prevention from receiving the title is 1) his wife’s fault and 2) sexist, because female consorts are given the title “queen.”
Well, well, well, I wasn’t expecting to post today in preparation for all the activity planned later this week, but here we are. Today is Commonwealth Day, held annually on the second Monday in March, on which the 52 Commonwealth countries celebrate their unity and diversity. It’s also one of the most significant events on the Queen’s calendar each year, marking her honor for the “family of nations.” Today she launched a relay race from Buckingham Palace before moving to a multi-faith ceremony at Westminster Abbey attended by various members of the Royal Family including the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex and Prince Harry.
You know who wasn’t there? The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. And that’s fine; they weren’t necessarily expected to be. But you know where they also weren’t expected? A ski holiday. Look, I really don’t want to write this post and, frankly, I’m getting 2016 flashbacks, but here we are.
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?
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.