It’s a big week for the Royal Family with the Queen in Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales on his annual trek to Wales, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex making their first trip to Forfar, Scotland. In a slight break from the Cambridges and Sussexes, I thought we’d check in with the other members of the family and get out of England for a quick minute.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – or the Earl and Countess of Strathearn as they are known in Scotland – carried out engagements in Dundee today, not too far from their alma mater, St Andrew’s University. The couple last visited the city in 2015, but today’s primary purpose was the opening of a new V&A museum – the first design museum in Scotland – of which Kate became patron last year.
The Queen, accompanied by her two eldest children, attended this year’s Braemar Gathering at the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park in Braemar, Aberdeenshire. The event has the regular attendance of the monarch ever since Queen Victoria first showed up in 1848, and, held on the first Saturday of September, it coincides perfectly with when the sovereign is in residence at Balmoral Castle.
Joan of the Tower has a storybook-sounding name and her eventual status as queen consort of Scotland would indicate that she did fairly well for herself as a Medieval princess. Instead, Joan’s life was in keeping with many members of her immediate family – much promise and status, little reward.
The Queen Mother is a figure who we probably haven’t spent enough time on. In the past she’s primarily popped up in relation to the Abdication Crisis, or in her capacity as George VI’s wife or Elizabeth II’s mother, but I’ve been remiss in covering her on her own, save a post from last year focused on her courtship with her future husband. Today we’re going to take a look at her upbringing and the years preceding her marriage.
Long before England and Scotland were “united” under the rule of James Stuart, and even before the more famous match of James IV and Margaret Tudor, there was another alliance between these two countries that provided an important dynastic link…though not necessarily in a helpful way. In 1424, James I of Scotland married Joan Beaufort, a non-royal Englishwoman, but one whose family was critical to physically restoring her husband to his throne. The union, while successful, did little to help diplomatic ties with England.
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.
Everything about today pales in light of this: Cruachan IV has returned. Long-time readers may well remember this Shetland pony’s foray into the limelight last summer when he entered into a feud with none other than Queen Elizabeth herself, first by trying to eat a bouquet of flowers out of her hands and then by neighing at her a few days later, prompting a sharp retort of, “We know where you are.” I adore Cruachan and am thrilled he’s returned, particularly since he earned an Honorable Mention in last year’s BRF review.
Perhaps The Crown’s second season’s most memorable episode was that which showed the drama surrounding Prince Charles beginning boarding school in Scotland in 1962. The show doesn’t offer a merry depiction of Gordonstoun, instead offering Charles’s attendance there as a paternal failure stemming from Prince Philip’s own psychological wounds. The question as to whether the episode is “true” has prompted many a headline in the weeks since it aired, but strictly in regards to the issue of Prince Charles at the school, I think that’s more difficult to answer than a simple “yes” or “no.” There were inaccuracies in the episode. There was also some over-dramatization. But it did strike on something real.
I’ve been putting off writing this post because it’s a big one, but I have a feeling November and December are going to be busy months so if not now then when? Even so, we might return to Darnley’s murder and get more into the weeds of various theories later on. Today we’re going to take a look at the marriage of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Mary, rather famously, spent the middle of the 16th century engaged in a venomous rivalry with her cousin, Elizabeth I, which ended in her execution in 1587. Before that, however, her second marriage resulted in Darnley’s suspicious death and her forced abdication in favor of their son, James. And James, of course, would eventually succeed Elizabeth on the English throne, uniting England and Scotland under one rule.