Friday, October 28, 2011

A King is a Queen is a Princess is a Prince

One of the problems (if you can call it that) with being American is that we really just don't "get" Royalty. Oh, I'm not denying that we enjoy what royalty (see, look at that, I don't even properly know whether to give it a capital "R") provides in the way of interesting drama and great castle-touring. Top notch stuff.

But it isn't deeply entrenched in our understanding of politics.

I read today that the succession rules for British monarchs have been modernized to a nice, egalitarian, "girls can play too" approach. That sounds awesome to me. The article I read on NPR online had a nice little piece about this, but once the piece launched into the "what if" section, playfully speculating on how this new rule would have affected world events, I glossed over.

I just can't keep this stuff straight. And I have a fairly decent working knowledge of British royalty and the chains of succession. That is, I brush up on it anyway prior to watching The Madness of King George, Young Victoria or The Tudors. But when I turn off the TV it evaporates, so when people talk about Queen Victoria's daughter and Kaiser Wilhelm the Second, I find that I can't keep it all straight.

Who did she marry again? And why were they German?

Its not that my American private school education was really that bad. I think chances are pretty good I was exposed to all of this both at high school and later at college, its just that these royal change events don't catch fire in my imagination. I don't have an intuitive grasp for when "we" switched from Tudors to Stuarts (or was it the other way 'round) or why.

Royalty to Americans is like the periodic table to non-Chemists. I am absolutely sure that it all makes sense and I'm even sure that it is potentially comprehensible and possibly useful. I'm just not sure it will ever come freely and naturally to me.

But good luck to all those future princesses. I know this will all be second nature to you.


  1. Queen Victoria (daughter of the fourth son of King George III), was known as the mother of royalty .... she had a large number of children and they begat many children of their own (as was the Victorian way). She was scrupulous in marrying them all off, and such was her influence that she could pick an choose from all the Royal houses of Europe (except maybe the Austrians who were inbred Habsburgs - look up 'the Hapsburg lip'!).

    As she was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover - her son and successor King Edward VII belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (from his father), so she had very strong German connection and one of her daughters (Victoria) married the German Kaiser Wilhelm (deposed after WWI).

    In fact, ignoring her grandchildren (who also married widely into European royal houses) - her own children married something like this:

    Victoria, German Empress
    Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse
    Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
    Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein
    Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll
    Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught
    Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany
    Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg

    This ignores her son King Edward VII (upstairs downstairs TV era) ... They all became 'Windsors' during WWI, because having strong German connections wasn't healthy for royalty! The British Royal house remains connected by family ties to all the European houses in one way or another ... she really defined her reign by these marriages.

    Hope that clears it all right up ... LOL!

  2. Ha, see what I mean, I glossed over almost immediately. ...No, just kidding. This is all extremely helpful and I had heard about Queen Victoria's story before - it just doesn't stick in the American brain -- but I was not aware of all her children's connections.

    Thanks for putting Edward in tv context for me (Upstairs Downstairs, funny). Love the Edwardian era.

    Anyway, back to Victoria, very interesting to think of her as the mother of royalty, defining her reign by the marriage connections she spawned - a reminder that there are many ways to have a profound effect on the world around you.

    thanks for your comment