Sunday, July 28, 2013

The British Golden Summer of 2013

Sidenote: Although this is primarily a blog concerning the monarchy, from time to time, there will be postings about people, situations, and events throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth that have an effect on the monarchy, or have a relation to it. This is one of them.     

     Throughout the summer of 2013, the people of the United Kingdom have had much reason to celebrate.  Back in June, Justin Rose won the U.S. Open golf tournament.

Justin Rose, winner of the 2013 U.S. Open.

With his spectacular victory, Andy Murray broke the 77 year British drought at Wimbledon. The trophy was presented to him by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth and President of the All-England Lawn, Tennis, and Croquet Club.

     In this month, Andy Murray became the first British man to win at Wimbledon in 77 years, the British and Irish Lions defeated Australia in their first rugby series victory in 16 tears, Chris Froome became the second consecutive – and second ever – British winner of the Tour de France, and (as of this writing) the English cricket team appears to be on its way to defeating the Australians in the Ashes tournament. After a seemingly prolonged winter season, real summer finally arrived in the UK with temperatures soaring to 90°F (32°C) in some areas.  And to top it all off, there was the arrival of Prince George of Cambridge, who will one day be king of the United Kingdom.

Chris Froome follows in the footsteps of a fellow Brit, Bradley Wiggins, to win the 2013 Tour de France.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince George
     So it has been another golden summer for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, coming on the heels of the success emanating from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics in London last year. And with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year, there will another summer for the Brits to feel a sense of patriotism and be proud of themselves. Although British athletes will be competing under separate English, Northern Irish, Scottish, and Welsh teams, it is hoped that residents of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales will support their fellow country men and women from other parts of the UK against non-UK teams.

These games bring the 2 billion people across the far-flung Commonwealth together.

     But then again, these are the Commonwealth Games where there are historical, cultural, and familial bonds and connections between the people of Britain, and people from places like Canada, Australia, India, and New Zealand. It is conceivable that some Scots will support an Australian team over an English team, or for some English people to support a Canadian team over a Welsh team. Indeed, some people within the British Indian community may be inclined to support an Indian team over any of the hometown British teams in Glasgow. For Queen Elizabeth II, who is the symbolic Head of the Commonwealth and monarch of 16 Commonwealth countries, there must also be conflicting loyalties.
The Commonwealth of Nations. The countries in red represent the members of the Commonwealth that are realms that share the British monarch as head of state. The countries in blue represent the members of the Commonwealth that either have their own monarchies, or are republics.
     Regardless of these anomalies however, the Games are an opportunity for Commonwealth countries to come together and celebrate what ties them together, while engaging in competitive sportsmanship. With the wind at their backs from the last two years, British athletes in particular ought to be feeling good about making the summer of 2014 another golden one for British sports. Meanwhile, the monarchy, with its newest member, should feel relatively good about its position going forward as well. For the public, these events over the past two years (along with the great weather) have made them feel good about themselves and proud to be British.

     But while these events have brought much to celebrate, the same cannot be said about the UK economy. The Conservative (Tory)-led coalition government under David Cameron has presided over an economy which has basically flat-lined over the past three years, with austerity being at the heart of the government’s economic policy. In many ways, events such as Murray’s win at Wimbledon and the birth of Prince George provide a dash of color and good news against the gray backdrop of economic malaise. There has been a slight uptick as of late, but the reality is that the economy (whether under the policies of the Tory Pary, Labour Party, or another coalition with the Liberal Democrats) must improve substantially throughout the entire United Kingdom, or else I fear that even royal and sporting events will not be enough to lift people’s spirits. Intangible feeling can only go so far, for at the end of the day, it is all about the realities of the pocketbook and wallet.

Photo Credit: Christopher Johnson via Flickr cc, Keith Allison via Flickr cc, Christophe Badoux via Wikimedia Commons cc, Christopher Neve via Photopin cc, Thomas Nugent via Geograph cc

Friday, July 26, 2013

What's In A Royal Name?

     George Alexander Louis Mountbatten-Windsor. That’s the name of the future king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

HRH Prince George of Cambridge
     As a titled member of the royal family with the status of Royal Highness however, he will not use his surname of Mountbatten-Windsor except perhaps for documents like his birth certificate and the marriage register. Instead, he is titled and styled as His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, based on the territorial designation of his father Prince William’s dukedom of Cambridge. Eventually, he may be commonly known as George Cambridge, just as his father is known as William Wales in the military (as well as when he was in school), based on the territorial designation of his father Prince Charles’s principality of Wales. (Before he became Duke of Cambridge, William was titled and styled as Prince William of Wales). But since William is also Earl of Strathearn (Scottish title) and Baron Carrickfergus (Northern Irish title), it may also be possible that George could be known by those territorial designations when appropriate. 

     But titles aside, the choice of George Alexander Louis, in my opinion, is an effective attempt to satisfy history, tradition, family heritage, and geopolitics. 

Story Behind the Names 


     The first name of George is significant for a couple of reasons. For one thing, St. George was the Christian martyr who became the patron saint of many countries, including England, and was also legendarily famous for the tale of him slaying a dragon. In Shakespeare's play about King Henry V of England, at the Battle of Agincourt, during which Henry led his army to victory over the French, his soldiers were rallied to the cry of, "For God, Harry, England, and St. George!"

King George I of Great Britain and Ireland,
seen in a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller.
George II of Great Britain and Ireland,
by Thomas Hudson.

     But the name is more significant for being the names of six previous British kings, beginning with George I. In fact, despite St. George being England’s patron saint, the name “George” did not become commonly used in England or throughout Britain until George succeeded his cousin Queen Anne in 1714. He was not a popular king because he was a German who did not speak English and because of his treatment toward his wife (due to an affair she had with a Swedish soldier). His son George II is best known as being the last British monarch to lead his troops personally into battle in a victory over the French at Dettingen.

George III of the United Kingdom,
by Allan Ramsay.
     King George III succeeded his grandfather George II in 1760, beginning a 59 ½ year long reign, which to this day makes him the longest reigning king in British history. Aside from this factoid, he is known today for his interests in farming (earning the nickname “Farmer George”), being the “king who lost America” and for his bouts of mental illness, immortalized by Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George. When George was declared unfit to rule in 1811, his son – also named George – became Prince Regent (with all of the powers, but not the status, of a king) for the last decade of his father’s reign.
George IV of the United Kingdom,
by Thomas Lawrence.
He himself became George IV upon the death of his father in 1820. This King George was known for his debauchery and extravagant lifestyle, which included copious quantities of food, alcohol, financial expenditure, and women. But he was also a great patron of the arts and a barometer of fashion (for dispensing with powdered wigs and popularizing the wearing of trousers). In 1822, he became the first reigning monarch to visit Scotland since Charles II was crowned there in 1651, and along with Sir Walter Scott, is credited for reestablishing a solid relationship between Scotland and the monarchy.

     George V (the present Queen’s grandfather) presided over some of the most tumultuous periods of modern British history, including World War I and the Great Depression.
George V, King of the United Kingdom
and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India,
in his coronation portrait by Sir Luke Fildes.
It was because of anti-German sentiment during the war that George renamed his royal house from the German-sounding Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the more British-sounding Windsor, which it remains to this day. He also reformed the honors system to give recognition those whose achievements the old honors ignored, especially those who performed voluntary services to their communities. The apex of these new honors was the Order of British Empire, which today has a membership of over 100,000 people. It was also George V (along with Queen Mary) who brought the monarchy closer to the people by, among other things, visiting industrial sites (including going down mine shafts), expanding Palace guest lists to include more common people, and delivering radio broadcasts (including the first of the annual Christmas broadcasts) to Britain and the Empire.

     When George V died in 1936, he was succeeded by his eldest son, who became Edward VIII. But Edward would abdicate in disgrace before the year was out due to his determination to marry a twice-divorced American woman – Wallis Simpson. He was succeeded in turn by his brother Albert (the present Queen’s father, who was known as “Bertie” in the family) who chose to reign as George VI to emphasize the stable continuity from his father. In 
George VI, the last Emperor of India and
the first Head of the Commonwealth, who
became known for overcoming his stuttering issues.
the lead-up to World War II, George became the first reigning monarch to visit the United States, where he and Queen Elizabeth were the guests of President and Mrs. Roosevelt.
With Winston Churchill as his prime minister, he led Britain and the Empire through the war, and endeared himself to his people by staying in Buckingham Palace through much of Blitz - barely escaping death when the Palace took a direct hit from the Nazi’s - and visiting bombed-out sites throughout Britain. George suffered from stammering for much of his life, but he was able to improve his public speaking abilities with the help of the Australian speech therapist Lionel Louge, and this was featured in the 2010 Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech.

     George is also one of Prince Charles’s middle names (Charles Philip Arthur George) and he has allegedly said that he may want to be crowned as George VII instead of Charles III when he comes to the throne because of the relative stability associated with that name.

     So George has historical meaning and on a personal level, it may be a tribute to the Queen’s beloved father. 


     When one thinks of Alexander, it is easy to think of Alexander the Great of ancient times. But the first middle name of the new prince may have its meaning in more modern history and geopolitics. 

Statue of King Alexander III of Scotland on the West Door of St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh.
     There have been three kings of Scotland named Alexander, with Alexander III being one of Scotland’s most illustrious rulers. He is best remembered for claiming the Western Isles from Norway, and then defeating the Norwegians led by their king, Haakon IV, at the Battle of Largs in 1263 for control of the Isles. In more recent memory, William and Kate met at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. With the Scottish independence referendum coming up in September of next year, the choice of Alexander may well be a way of showing the royal family’s commitment to Scotland within the United Kingdom (for if anything, it can be argued that they themselves are more Scottish than English, but that is for another article).

Queen Alexandra, by Sir Luke Fildes.
The Queen's full name is
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary




     On a more personal and family level, Alexander may be a clever tribute to the Queen, because it is the masculine form of her own first middle name of Alexandra (which itself was a tribute to her great-grandmother Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII). 


     Whereas George and Alexander appear to have several meanings that can be applied to them, the new prince’s second middle name has a clear and direct reference: Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Admiral of the Fleet,
Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Lord Mountbatten (known as “Dickie” to family and friends) enjoyed a distinguished career as a naval officer and statesman, best known for being the last Viceroy of India, First Sea Lord, Chief of the Defense Staff, and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee. He was an uncle to Prince Philip (the Queen's husband), and encouraged Philip to join the Royal Navy, as well as – allegedly – to court the then-Princess Elizabeth. Mountbatten was a confidant to the royal family in general and a mentor to Prince Charles in particular. His assassination by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1979 was a blow to Charles, who revered his great-uncle. When Prince William was born, he received “Louis” as his third middle name (William Arthur Philip Louis) in honor of Mountbatten. Now William’s son carries this name of a person of great importance to Charles, as well as Prince Philip. 

Change of name? 

     It is worth mentioning that despite the fact that his first name is George, this new prince will be under no obligation to use it when he becomes king. If he does use it, he will be known as King George VII (or George VIII if Charles decides to use the name). But if Prince George decides to follow the lead of his great-great-grandfather George VI, he could use one of his middle names. If Alexander is chosen – and assuming Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, he will be known as King Alexander IV, based on Alexander having a higher ordinal number in Scotland (like the Queen being Elizabeth II based on Elizabeth having a higher ordinal number in England). If however it is Louis, then he will simply be King Louis, since there has not been a reigning king named Louis in British history.

     But regardless of whatever name he chooses to go by when he accedes to the throne, George Alexander Louis is a traditional and solid name that attempts to pay tribute to several constituencies. It accomplishes that job effectively and as a result, is a name which everyone can enjoy.

As a postscript, I should say that I take a bit of personal pride in the child’s first name being George, for my home state of Georgia in the United States is named after his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, King George II of Great Britain and Ireland.

Photo Credit: Kim Traynor via Wikimedia Commons cc

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The World Meets Baby Cambridge

It was as though time had stood still. 

The world waited and anticipated for this moment - the moment when it got its first look at the future King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (United Kingdom, UK, Great Britain, or Britain for short).

     Throughout the day, is wasn't at all clear if the Cambridges were leaving yesterday or today. But the official celebrations of the birth continued with the traditional 62-gun salute at the Tower of London (21 for a normal salute, 20 for taking place at a royal palace, and 21 marking the loyalty of London to the monarchy), 41-gun salute by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park (21 for a normal salute, 20 for taking place in a royal park), and the peeling of bells at Westminster Abbey. The Band of the Scots Guards also played the song "Congratulations" during the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Similar gun salutes and tributes occurred in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and other realms and territories.

Carole and Michael Middleton leaving the hospital upon visiting their daughter and baby grandson.
It was the Prince of Wales who may have inadvertently let it slip that the Cambridges and the baby were coming out soon.

     Eventually, events started to pick up pace at St. Mary's Hospital. First, Kate's parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, arrived at the hospital in a taxicab. They visited for a few minutes and later chatted with the media before leaving the area. Later, Prince Charles and Camilla paid their own visit (having flown in by helicopter after completing engagements in Yorkshire), after which the Prince told the public that they would see the baby soon. Kensington Palace then released a statement stating that the William, Kate, and their boy would in fact be departing the hospital later that evening. For the next few hours, cameras were trained directly on the door of the hospital, with crowds expressing cheers and then disappointment whenever the doors opened, only to reveal people other than William, Kate, and the baby.

     Finally, with the hospital staff lined up by the railings, it was clear the moment was soon coming. A few minutes later, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came outside of hospital, with Kate holding the baby. As they did so, a huge roar went up, and the couple legitimately appeared to be overwhelmed by enormous crowds that had gathered there. As they made their way down the steps, the new prince raised his hands, appearing to wave. Kate then handed him over to William, and they walked across the street to give their remarks and to take some questions from the media, which is another example of breaking new ground for the monarchy. Among other things, William teased the press about their long wait, stated that he and Kate were still working on the boys name, and the remarked that the baby had more hair than him. Kate talked about the experience they had which was shared by other new parents around the nation and world. The two of them also bantered with each other about changing diapers and over from whom the baby took his looks. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with the newest member of the royal family

     The couple headed back inside the hospital for a brief period before emerging again with William carrying the baby in a carrier/car seat. He placed the child in the back seat of a Land Rover with Kate, and then he himself (with a royal protection officer in the passenger seat) got into the driver's seat and drove off to the small cottage in which he and Kate live on the grounds of Kensington Palace, another break with protocol and an attempt to show William and Kate as a modern royal couple.

     All in all, it was an exciting day with tradition and modernity mixing neatly together. Now is time for the new family to have their time alone. William has two weeks of official paternity leave before he returns to his RAF search and rescue base in Wales, and since renovations to their 21 room apartment in Kensington Palace (formerly occupied by the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret) are not yet complete, it appears likely Kate and William will spend some time at her parent's home in Bucklebury, Berkshire. It is equally likely that this baby will not have another formal appearance until his christening, which may not be until September or October when the Queen returns from her annual summer holiday (vacation, as we call it in the States) in Scotland. Today, the Queen did pay a half-hour visit to Kensington Palace to see her third great-grandchild and third generation heir to the throne (and soon afterward, Kate and William headed to Bucklebury to visit her parents).

      When the Queen met him, she must have taken some comfort in knowing that the monarchy is secure for the rest of this century and possibly into the next. Of course, the boy will be reign for several decades, but that doesn't seem to matter. His birth alone has delighted the people of the UK, the Commonwealth, and world. Only the most cynical could not find something to be happy about with the arrival of this child who will one day preside over one of the oldest and most storied institutions of the world. 

     Let us all wish him a happy and long life.

Photo Credit: Christopher Neve via Photopin cc, Steve Rhodes via Photopin cc

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tradition Celebrated as the UK Weclomes Baby Boy Cambridge

The official notice of the birth of "Baby Cambridge" on display outside Buckingham Palace

     If you're a monarchist, it does not get better than events such as this. In many ways, words cannot be found to express the joy of this occasion.

     One thing for certain is that there has been a huge sigh of relief and exultation's of celebration. After nine months of waiting (including a month-long build-up of public and media frenzy), Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, and Baroness Carrickfergus was safely delivered of a son at 4:24 PM BST (11:24 AM EDT) on July 22, 2013 after about 10 hours of labor. According to the Kensington Palace press release, Prince William was at his wife's side in the delivery room, following in the footsteps of his father Prince Charles (though not his grandfather Prince Philip, who was playing squash at the time when then-Princess Elizabeth gave birth to Charles). The press release also stated that boy weighs 8 lbs, 6 oz, and that he and his mother are doing well. There has been speculation over whether there were complications with regard to the delivery, for there was a four hour gap between the time of the birth and the time of the announcement, but I believe that William and Kate wanted a period of time to savor the moment for themselves. In my earlier post, I said that although this was an event of international significance, there ought to be ample time for the families to have their moment of solitude before the glare of camera's changes everything. I for one, am happy that this is happening.

Crowds outside of Buckingham Palace following the announcement of Baby Cambridge.

     While the Duke and Duchess got to know their child, the world waited anxiously for news. At around 3:30 PM EDT, the Kensington Palace press release was issued. Soon after that, the Duke and Duchess's press secretary took the medical bulletin (containing the baby's gender and time of birth) to a Palace courtier, who then drove it to Buckingham Place. There, it was handed to a royal military aid, who then carried it into the Palace so that it could be framed. Finally, it was brought out by the Queen's press secretary and a footman of the Royal Household who placed on the easel just behind the gates so that the teeming crowds could see it. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, it's rather nice to witness the continuance of this tradition. It was also interesting to see another tradition in the form of the London town crier making his own announcement on the steps of the hospital. After days of stunts by royal lookalikes, many in the press corp were initially unimpressed by this display and were shouting him down. But by the end, it was realized that this man was literally performing his public duty as a town crier and was cheered on by the crowds as he finished. Indeed, this is what makes the United Kingdom special to me. The British people retain their traditions and are reluctant give up on them, no matter how old, archaic, or anachronistic they may be. The tradition of monarchy is remains popular in part because it connects to the history of Britain like no other institution.

The fountains at Trafalgar Square were lit in blue to mark the occasion of the birth

     Indeed, history has been made. For the first time since 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria, there are now three generations of heirs in the direct line of succession: Charles, Prince of Wales, William, Duke of Cambridge, and now the recently-born boy, who will be titled "His Royal Highness Prince [NAME] of Cambridge." But this child will not only be King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but also of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, The Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda. He will also be Supreme Governor of the Church of England, head of the Armed Forces, and possibly head of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations.

The Commonwealth of Nations. The countries in red represent the members of the Commonwealth that are realms that share the British monarch as head of state. The countries in blue represent the members of the Commonwealth that either have their own monarchies, or are republics.

      It is in part because of this international role that the monarchy retains its luster throughout the world - especially in United States - in a way the remaining monarchies of the world do not. Thanks to the fact that the British Empire once covered over 25% of the world's surface and contained nearly as much of its population, there is near-universal respect and affection for the monarchy. The Queen has been exemplary in her duties as the face of this ancient institution through the 20th and 21st centuries, and now she has three heirs to secure the monarchy into the 22nd Century. Some people have talked about the possibility of a line of silver (and potentially bald) haired monarchs succeeding to the throne at advanced ages because the Queen has reigned for so long (and may reign longer given the longevity of her mother who passed away in 2002 at the age of 101). Charles will be 65 by the end of the year and William is already 31, which means that this child will not likely reign until the after the midpoint of this century, and there are thoughts that old monarchs will not prove to be as popular as younger ones at the start of their reigns. I believe that the public will be receptive to older monarchs because of perceived wisdom and wit that comes with age and a prolonged "apprenticeship." It also potentially removes some pressure from the younger generations, so that they may have a more private and normal life, resulting in being more equipped to assume the pressures of kingship. This is all the more reason why the Queen should not, and will not, abdicate. Don't underestimate the ability of the monarchy to reinvent itself as a modernizing institution with age and experience at the helm.

Not wanting to be left out, Niagara Falls were also lit in blue to commemorate the birth of the boy who will one day be King of Canada.

     At any rate, there is cause for great celebration because of what this boy represents for the future of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, which is continuity and stability. While everything else changes at a rapid pace, the order of succession is solidly in place, and there is comfort in knowing who the next head of state is going to be, as well as having a monarchy to represent the whole nation and not a political party or faction. Now the child's name is next topic for discussion. Personally, I prefer James, since it has not been used for a British king since 1689 when James VII of Scotland & II of England and Ireland was deposed. In contrast, George has been used six times since 1714 with the accession of George I of Great Britain. But regardless of the name, this boy is already known around the world, and like William, we'll be watching him grow up to eventually fulfill his destiny.

Photo Credit: David Hart & David Hart via flickr cc, Philip Stevens via Wikimedia Commons cc