Friday, January 31, 2014

Moments in Royal History - January 31

1606 - Execution of Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes, as depicted in the 1840's
     During the trial at Westminster Hall for Fawkes and the other Gunpowder Plot co-conspirators (which was attended in secret by King James and his family), Fawkes declared that he was not guilty. However, the outcome was not in serious doubt: not only had Fawkes been found guarding the deadly gunpowder with a fuse in his pocket, but he and a fellow co-conspirator had confessed to the crime in their adjacent prison cells, and this was picked by a government spy. With the overwhelming evidence mounted against him, Fawkes was found guilty of treason. 

     On the day in question, he and three other co-conspirators were dragged by horse from the Tower of London to the Old Palace Yard opposite of the Houses of Parliament. Fawkes was the last to face his ultimate fate, and on the scaffold, he begged for forgiveness from the King and the state, and performed a brief Catholic ritual. He managed to avoid the agony of his sentence by falling and breaking his neck, but nevertheless, his body was hanged and quartered, and its pieces were distributed throughout the kingdom to warn of the fate for those who commit treachery.

1788 - The passing of the Young Pretender

Charles Stuart, the Young Pretender as he appeared in his later years
     Charles Edward Stuart was the elder son of James Francis Edward Stuart (the Old Pretender), who in turn was the only son of James VII & II, the last Catholic monarch of Britain, who was deposed during the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 and replaced by his Protestant son-in-law William and daughter Mary.

     Stuart attempted to regain the British throne in the name of his father and grandfather during the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. By this time, the throne had been occupied by the Hanoverians - the German Protestant cousins of the Stuarts - for 30 years, and now they and Britain were at war with France over the issue of Austrian Succession. There were rumblings of dissatisfaction with the Hanoverian regime, and Stuart, with the backing of Louis XV of France, believed that it was the right time to retake the throne, especially with many British soldiers preoccupied with the war on the Continent. He landed in Scotland, and made some gains on his road to London, but the campaign ended in a crushing defeat at the Battle of Culloden, which was the last battle fought on British soil and effectively ended the active pursuit of the throne by the Stuarts and their descendant Jacobite claimants.

     Charles Stuart - known to history as Bonnie Prince Charlie - lived the rest of life in Rome at the grace and favor of the pope. Upon his death, he had no living legitimate children and his claims to the throne were vested in his younger brother, Henry Benedict Stuart, who was cardinal in the Church and therefore also died without an heir, thereby ending the Royal House of Stuart.

Royal Docket for January 31, 2014

HRH The Prince of Wales

     Prince Charles, Prince of Wales will be in Shobdon, Herefordshire to visit the Church of St John the Evangelist. 

     He will also be in Powys for two engagements. In Presteigne, the Prince of Wales will pay a visit to the Judge's Lodging - a lodging house and shire hall that was once used by judges, but is now a converted museum that offers a view into the Victorian world. At Hay-on-Wye, he will stop by the Maesyronnen Chapel as Patron of the Landmark Trust, a conservation charity that rescues buildings of architectural and/or historical merit and which administers the cottage attached to the Chapel.

HRH The Duchess of Gloucester

     Birgette, Duchess of Gloucester is in the United States. As Honorary President of the Lawn Tennis Association, she will be attending the Davis Cup - the premier international tournament for men's tennis - in San Diego, California through the weekend. Today is Day 1 of the first round.

Photo Credit: Victoria Johnson via Flickr cc and Richard Gough via Flickr cc

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Royal Moments in History - January 30

1649 - Execution of Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland

A German depiction of the execution.

     Four days earlier, the High Court of Justice in England had declared Charles I guilty of treason and sentenced him to death, and the King was informed of his fate at a public session the following day. His death warrant, signed and sealed by 59 of the tribunal commissioners, listed him as Charles Steuart, King of England, and it required that he be beheaded in the "open street before Whitehall [Palace]" on the 30th of January.

     On the day in question, Charles walked under guard from St. James's Palace to the Palace of Whitehall. His only children still living in the country, Elizabeth and Henry, had visited him the day before, and his last meal on the morning of the execution consisted of a glass of claret (red Bordeaux wine) and some bread. It was a bitterly cold day, and Charles wore two shirts to prevent him from shivering, lest it taken be as a sign of fear.

     Upon arriving at Whitehall, he was led to a specially constructed balcony outside of the Banqueting House, the building that been erected by his father, James VI & I. There, he gave his final speech before the crowds on the street below, but since a rank of soldiers kept a distance between the King and the spectators, this farewell address was only heard by those on the platform. "I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be," said the King. He defended his actions - stating that by attempting to protect his own rights and liberties, he was also protecting the rights and liberties of his people, and this fitted well with Charles's belief in the divine right of kings, under which he was appointed by God and answered only to God (on behalf of his people) and to no other authority, not even Parliament.

     Charles then removed the Garter Jewel of St. George from his neck, and handed to his chaplain, Bishop William Juxon, with the instruction that it be handed to his son Charles Stuart, Prince of Wales (the future Charles II), and with the one word: "Remember."

     At around 2:00 PM, the King said a small prayer, placed his head on the block, and signaled that he was ready. Charles was executed with a single clean stroke, and his head was raised before the crowd by the executioner, whose identity has never been positively identified because his face was masked.

     The head was sewn back onto the body, which was embalmed and placed in a lead coffin, which was then hastily deposited into the vault containing the coffins of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour under the choir at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on February 9th.

     Charles I remains to this day, the only British monarch to be tried, convicted, and executed by his people.

1661 - Execution of Oliver Cromwell

The scene of the execution of Cromwell and other regicides.

     Cromwell was a leading general of the New Model Army that had defeated Charles I in the 1640's, and he was the third man to sign the King's death warrant in 1649. He later went on to become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland - the republic that had been set up after the execution of Charles I, and which Cromwell ruled as a dictator, with all of the trappings of kingship except the title. Upon his death in 1658, the Commonwealth failed and the monarchy was eventually restored under Charles II in 1660.

     12 years to the day after the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell's body - which had been exhumed from its burial place in Westminster Abbey - was posthumously hanged and beheaded at Tyburn in London. His head was placed on a pike at Westminster Hall (the site of the Charles I's trial) until 1685, and is now buried on the grounds of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. The body was supposed to have been thrown into a pit at Tyburn, but conspiracy theories still abound as to its true location.

Royal Docket for January 30, 2014

HRH The Prince of Wales

     Prince Charles, Prince of Wales will be hosting a reception for NHS (National Health Service) Commissioners at Clarence House, as well as a dinner for the Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards at Buckingham Palace. The Prince is attending the dinner in his role as the Patron of the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, under which Prince William is currently taking courses for agricultural management.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall

     Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will attend a reception for 'Diamond Champion' volunteers at Lancaster House in London as President of the Royal Voluntary Service, which is an organization dedicated to helping to improve the lives of older people by taking care of everyday needs such as making a run to the supermarket. It also provides emergency teams during crisis events such as the Lockerbie bombing.

HRH The Countess of Wessex

     Sophie, Countess of Wessex is going to be in Cheshire for the day. 

     She will visit the David Lewis Center - a foundation of which she is Patron that provides accommodation, health, and education services to people with epilepsy, autism, and other disorders. The Countess will also spend time at the Peace Center to visit the Tim Parry-Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace - which provides services such as peer mediation and leadership development programs to young people - and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) Service Center, of which she is Patron.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester

     Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester is visiting British troops in Bielefield, Germany. As Deputy Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Logistic Corps, he will inspect the 24 Regiment Disbandment Parade at the Catterick Barracks.

HRH The Duke of Kent

     Prince Edward, Duke of Kent will be paying a visit to the Imperial War Museum in London, as President of the Board of Trustees.

Photo Credit: Victoria Johnson via Flickr cc, JosĂ© Cruz/AgĂȘncia Brasil via Wikimedia Commons cc, Holger Motzkau via Wikimedia Commons cc, Charlie Dave via Flickr cc 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Moments in Royal History: January 29

1820 - George III of the United Kingdom dies at Windsor, and his son becomes King

George III

     In the last decade of his reign, George III had slipped into a permanent state of apparent mental illness. During his Golden Jubilee year of 1810, his youngest and favorite daughter Princess Amelia had died, and this caused the King much grief. In 1811, the Regency Act was passed, which made the King's son and heir, George, Princes of Wales the Regent of the United Kingdom - with the powers but not the status of a king. By the end of that year, it was clear that George III has became permanently incapacitated, and he lived in seclusion at a small apartment in Windsor Castle for the rest of his life.

     Eventually becoming blind and deaf, and also suffering from dementia, George was unable to comprehend that his prime minister, Spencer Percival had been assassinated in 1812 (the only British Prime Minister to be murdered in office), that he had been upgraded to the status of king in Hanover following the Congress of Vienna in 1814, or that his beloved wife Charlotte had died in 1818. He had essentially become dead to the world, and spent hours thumping on an old harpsichord, as well as speaking nonsense. In his last few weeks, he was unable to walk, and his fourth-eldest son, Edward, Duke of Kent died. Six days after Edward's death, George III passed away on January 29th at 8:38 PM with his second-eldest son, Frederick, Duke of York at his side, and he was buried on February 16th in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. 

     At the age of 81, and having been king for over 59 years, he was the longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch in British history. Though having been overtaken by Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II in those categories, he remains Britain's longest-lived and longest-reigning king.

George IV in Highland attire.

     On that same day, the Prince Regent succeeded his father as George IV of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Had been exercising his father's powers for nearly ten years, so his moment of accession meant no significant change in his status except for that fact that he was now King in authority and name.

1856 - Creation of the Victoria Cross

Obverse containing the insignia of the Cross

     This military decoration was established by Queen Victoria in response to the fact that there was no official system of recognition of gallantry in the British Armed Forces, aside from honors such as the Order of the Bath, which was mostly the purview of high-ranking and long-serving officers. In the 1850's, the Crimean War resulted in many acts of extraordinary bravery by British soldiers being reported William Howard Russell, one of the first modern war correspondents, and public pressure mounted to create a new award to recognize servicemen for their exploits in battle and not simply for their length of service.

     With this in mind, the Victoria Cross was created in 1856 as the highest military award for "most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy" to members of the armed forces in countries throughout the British Empire and later, the Commonwealth. In the later 20th Century, some Commonwealth countries developed their own honors systems independent of the British/Imperial orders, and it became necessary to create new awards and decorations that were the equivalent of the ones issued from the UK. Canada, New Zealand, and Australia now have their own versions of the Victoria Cross. 

     Since its creation, there have been over 1,350 recipients of the Cross, and it is usually presented by the British monarch to the recipient or the next of kin at an investiture at Buckingham Palace.

Photo Credit: Richard Harvey via Wikimedia Commons cc

Royal Docket for January 29, 2014

TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall

     Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will be in the county of Essex to carry out three engagements.

     They will visit the Palace Theatre in Westcliff-on-Sea as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, as well as the Royal Opera House - of which the Prince is Patron - in Purfleet to observe Bob and Tamar Manoukian Set Production workshop.

     In Purliegh, the Prince and Duchess will visit the Bell Pub for an event featuring Pub Is The Hub, an organization of which the Prince is Patron and which promotes the use of pubs as centers for providing community services.

HRH The Countess of Wessex

     Sophie, Countess of Wessex is going to launch the Women's Network Forum of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award at Buckingham Palace as Chair of the Women in Business Group.

     In the evening, she will be at the Royal Automobile Club in London to attend a dinner marking the 90th birthday of actor Lord Brian Rix, who has been an advocate for people with disabilities, especially through Mencap, a charity of which the Countess is Patron.

HRH The Princess Royal

     Princess Anne, Princess Royal will attend an annual Supporters' Reception as Patron of Sense - The National Deafblind and Rubella Association. The reception offers those in attendance insights into the work of the organization, and how they can support it.

     As Patron NIACE (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education), she will attend a seminar entitled Family Learning Works in Schools: how learning in families contributes to raising children's achievement at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester

     Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, as an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, will attend a lectured entitled Innovative Partnerships in Flood Risk Management at the Institution of Civil Engineers Headquarters in London.

Photo Credit: via Flickr cc, Holger Motzkau via Wikimedia Commons cc, Northern Ireland Office via Flickr cc, Charlie Dave via Flickr cc

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The State of the Union vs the State Opening of Parliament

President Obama delivering the State of the Union address in 2011.
     Tonight, President Barack Obama gave his 5th State of the Union address to Congress, where he outlined the agenda of his Administration for the coming year. 

Elizabeth II delivering the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament in 2013.

     In the United Kingdom, the closest equivalent is the annual State Opening of Parliament, where the Queen officially commences a new session of Parliament, and addresses Parliament with a speech from the throne which spells out the priorities of the elected government of the day.

     Here, is a basic point-by-point outline of the how the two ceremonies - both of them full of pomp and pageantry - compare and contrast.

When and where are these state occasions held?
  • The State of the Union is held at night in either late January or early February in the lower house of the United States Congress, the House of Representatives, with members of both the House and Senate, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, and the military in attendance.
  • The State Opening of Parliament is held during the day in early May in the upper house of the United Kingdom Parliament, the House of Lords, with members of the Lords and the House of Commons in attendance (though the Commons members stand in the back of the chamber).

What happens before the speech?
  • Before the State of the Union, Members of Congress from both houses assemble in the House chamber before the President arrives. The Supreme Court justices, top military brass, members of the Cabinet, and the Vice President are introduced before the President walks down the center aisle to the dais.
  • Before the State Opening of Parliament, members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons assemble in their respective chambers before the Queen arrives. When the Queen sits in the throne in the Lords chamber, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod (usually only known as Black Rod) is sent to request the attendance of members of the Commons (including the Prime Minister) to the proceedings.

What happens during the proceedings?
  • During the State of the Union, the President stands at a rostrum before the assembled Congress to read a speech written by him and his adviser's which spells out the legislative and policy priorities of the Administration for the coming year.
  • During the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen sits in a throne before the assembled Parliament to read a speech (the Queen's Speech) written by the Prime Minister and his office, which outlines the Government's program for the new Parliamentary term.

What happens afterward?
  • After the State of the Union, the President returns to the White House and an elected official from the opposition party gives a response to the address given by the President.
  • After the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen returns to Buckingham Palace and the Prime Minister answers questions from members of the House of Commons regarding the Government's agenda.

Photo Credit: Blatant World via Flickr cc

Royal Moments in History - January 28

1457 - Birth of Henry VII of England

Henry VII holding the Tudor Rose.

     Henry Tudor was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales to Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond and Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was only thirteen years old at the time she gave birth. During this period, the Wars of the Roses between the House of Lancaster and the House of York was two years old. The Tudor's were descended from the ruling Lancastrian's, and Edmund - who was twice the age of his wife - was captured by Yorkist forces and died of illness while in captivity before Henry was born. When the Yorkists seized the throne under Edward IV, Henry Tudor was sent to live in France for his own safety. 

     Eventually, Henry would return to England to defeat Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and become Henry VII, the first monarch of the House of Tudor. His 24 year reign was known for its restoration of political stability following the Wars of the Roses, but also for Henry's avarice and financial greed toward its end. He was peacefully succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Henry VIII in 1509.

1547 - Death of Henry VIII and the accession of Edward VI

Henry VIII of England and Ireland

     90 years following the birth of his father, Henry VIII died aged 55 at the Palace of Whitehall in London. The King had become obese in his later years, especially after a jousting accident in 1536 which resulted in a festering leg wound that robbed him of much physical activity. His last words were allegedly, "Monks! Mocks! Monks!", which may have been a reference to the monks he had evicted during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry was interred next to his third wife Jane Seymour at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

Edward Tudor, Prince of Wales in a portrait taken in the year before his accession.

     On that same day, Henry's only legitimate son succeeded to the throne as Edward VI at the age of nine. During his reign, the Church of England took on a firmly Protestant identity as the Mass, celibacy, and other Catholic traditions were abolished. As such, Edward was England's first Protestant king, for though his father had broken with Rome, he remained Catholic and never renounced Catholic doctrine (except for papal supremacy) and ceremony. Edward's authority as monarch was exercised by a regency council throughout his reign since he never came of age, and he died at the age of fifteen in 1553.

Royal Docket for January 28, 2014

HRH The Princess Royal

     Princess Anne, Princess Royal, will be in London to host a dinner for Opportunity International (OI) at St. James's Palace. OI provides small business loans and financial education for people in the developing world, so that they can work their way out of poverty, and the Princess is the Patron of the UK branch which oversees fundraising efforts.

HRH The Duchess of Gloucester

     Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester will attend an event at 10 Downing Street as Patron of the Royal London Society for Blind People, which for over 175 years, has helped to improve the lives of blind individuals in London and southeast Britain through a blend of techniques. The event is being hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Photo Credit: Northern Ireland Office via Flickr cc, Richard Gough via Flickr cc

Monday, January 27, 2014

False Criticisms

     In the last couple of days, there have some comments that have created a bit of controversy regarding the monarchy.

     On Thursday, Christopher Lee, a former correspondent for the BBC on defense affairs, said that there was “nothing exciting about” the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In his book, Monarchy Past, Present . . . .  And Future?, Lee also stated that he would place the couple on the same level of David and Victoria Beckham as celebrities with nothing substantive about them, and suggested that their desire to bend down and talk to people is not in line with the “glamorous and imperial air” that has been associated with the monarchy. He went further by saying that he did not believe that Prince George would become King, though he also stated his view about Prince Charles potentially being a “much better King than any of us believe.”

Princess Michael of Kent

     The second controversial comment came from Princess Michael of Kent, the wife of Prince Michael – a first cousin of the Queen. In an interview to promote her new book, The Queen of Four Kingdoms, she remarked that the “older generation are a bit boring for most people.

     First, it is interesting to note the range of opinion regarding the different generations of members of the royal family. Indeed, similar opinions have been aired in the past, and can be found throughout Britain and the world. Believe me, I’ve read the comments sections of many news websites and Facebook pages.

     However, both of these views are at best, overly-simplistic and at worse, flat-out wrong.

     The comments about the older generation – such as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh – are frivolous because they are based on nothing more than age and not on any substantive issues, and  because they suggests that the older generation have nothing to offer to the people of Britain and the Commonwealth.

     This ignores the tremendous amount of service that they have given to their country, stretching back to World War II. In addition to the Queen and Prince Philip – the Duke of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent, Prince Charles, and other older members have served in the military, and have since been traveling around the UK and the world to represent Queen and Country. Most people do not this boring in the least, and that kind service cannot be discounted. Perhaps this is why millions of people turned out for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, because they sense an air of timelessness with regard to the older generation, who have done so much.

The Queen and Prince Philip have given much service to their country.

     In addition, such comments also forgets the value of age and experience, in which older members have long memories, and are able to remember faces and events, which can come in handy during certain engagements and occasions. This wealth of experience is also helpful to the younger generation, who can be given guidance on how to handle themselves in the public sphere.

     It’s understandable that some people are gravitated toward the younger generation like William, Kate, and Harry, for they are more photogenic and appear to have more energy and interesting lives. However, this is merely an example of style over substance.

Prince Charles is beginning to step his role as heir to the throne.

     It lends to the flippant belief that Prince Charles ought to give up his inheritance to the throne in favor of Prince William. Never mind that this flies in the face of the heart of a hereditary monarchy – a fixed and known line of succession – but it also ignores the fact that the Prince of Wales has been training to be king for decades, and has a wealth of experience in preparation for his future role. He has worked hard to bring attention to issues that are important to him, but which get little coverage by the political and media class, such as crisis in the inner cities, lack of opportunities for young people, environmental and health problems, architectural preservation, and so on. With regard to such issues, he has put his money where his mouth is, and has gone out of his way to help people through his various organizations. In addition, he has represented the Queen on several occasions in the UK and abroad, and has preformed several duties in her name. He is ready for kingship, and William will be ready in time.

     On the other hand, saying that William and Kate are not interesting is also without basis in reality. They have helped to provide a resurgence of interest in the monarchy for future generations, and will be at the heart of carrying on the work of the ancient institution.  This year, they (along with Prince George, possibly) will be representing the Queen on a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. As time passes and they become accustomed to the affairs of state, we should expect them to grow firmly into their roles within the royal family. More formal duties will come their way, which will take care of the issues of them not be being substantive and not being much more than mere “celebrities.”

     In addition, the idea of having members of the royal family being more in touch with people and having casual conversations with them is a positive development, in my opinion. It signals – however symbolically – that the royal family cares and has an interest in what goes on in the lives of their people. Of course, this does have to be balanced with the need to preserve some if the mysticism and magic of the monarchy, and not letting everything hang out in the open for all to see and hear. However, with the time and experience accumulated by previous generations of the royal family, they will have plenty of guidance and example on how best to achieve that balance.

William and Kate will be ready in due time.

     If we know anything to be absolutely true about the monarchy, it is that it has the ability to re-invent itself time and time again and to adapt to changing times, so such comments about the inability of the younger generation to adequately fill the shoes of the older generation are likely to be false in the course of time.

     Both of these polar opposite views – about William and Kate being “dull” and the older generation being “boring” – do not bear any fruit because they are based on standards set by popular culture and by oversimplifications without any justification. The monarchy is not a popularity contest. It is a venerable institution that encapsulates all that Britain has through in its history, and therefore is much larger and more consequential that a petty popularity contest, which will do more to undermine the monarchy than its foes. As time moves forward, so will the monarchy, and the older and younger generations will work together to make it work and be relevant in the future.