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Monarchy Monday: More of the Crown, coming soon

With The Crown Season 2 coming in December, I will be finishing up my Behind the Crown series here on my blog.  But, for now, here’s a look at the next season of the show…

Monarchy Monday: Oldest Royal Video

I’m crazy busy today, so I’ll give you this little tidbit.  It’s the oldest known footage of the British royal family, and also includes footage of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra.  Filmed in 1896, it shows the Tsar’s visit to the UK.

Without further ado, I give you…Queen Victoria on video.

Monarchy Monday: This Post is Unspeakable in Thailand

Ananda Mahidol, also known as King Rama VIII, is a controversial and mysterious figure in Thailand, even now, over 70 years after his death.  He became King as a young boy, living in Switzerland to study, and did not come to live in Thailand until after World War II.  In June of 1946, his death by gunshot wound shocked everyone — even to this day, it has not been determined who fired the fatal shot.

Initially, it was thought that the King shot himself by accident, perhaps when cleaning his gun.  However, it was later determined that his death was either murder or suicide.  It appears that suicide is unlikely — the gun was found in the King’s non-dominant hand.  However, there are many theories as to who may have murdered the 20-year-old monarch.  Even the possibility that the King was accidentally — or deliberately — shot by his younger brother has been put forward.

I don’t know what I believe to be true.

However, what we do know is that even 70+ years later, it is not something that can be openly discussed in Thailand, even after so many years — and after three men were executed (perhaps unjustly) for the murder.

 

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ananda-Mahidol

https://pediaview.com/openpedia/Ananda_Mahidol#Aftermath

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andrew-macgregor-marshall/thailands-saddest-secret/566797063339637

http://www.zenjournalist.com/2012/03/king-rama-viii-death-case-the-first-verdict/

Monarchy Monday: Why Japan’s Princess Mako is Giving Up Her Title

Princess Mako of Japan will be giving up her title when she marries a commoner.  That much, the media has correct.  But what the Western media hasn’t covered, and probably isn’t even aware of, is that there is virtually no way for a Japanese princess to marry and retain her title.

Prior to the end of WWII and the Imperial Household Law of 1947, the Japanese Imperial Family was much larger.  They, like the British royals, had a large extended family who could inherit the throne and also a large aristocracy.  Back then, if a princess were to marry a nobleman, she would remain a princess.  However, after the war, the nobility was abolished and the Imperial Household streamlined.  Now, there are no nobles to marry, and no way for a princess to retain her title.

In Princess Mako’s case, however, her fiance is not part of the former nobility, and she would have lost her title either way.

Sources:
http://core.ecu.edu/hist/tuckerjo/1947law.html

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a9866665/japans-princess-mako-engagement/

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Princess-Mako-to-lose-royal-title-for-Komuro’s-love-40770.html

Monarchy Monday: Behind the Crown, Season 1, Episode 2

And so the examination of the accuracy of Netflix’s hit show The Crown begins again with the second episode, “Hide Park Corner.”

As always, SPOILERS  abound in this post.  Spoilers for later episodes will be marked with further warnings.

Note: I will refer to the Queen as “Princess Elizabeth” when referencing events before she ascended to the throne.

This episode is stuffed full of historical detail, and most of it is quite accurate.  I really do applaud the writers of The Crown for just how close to the mark they are.

TRUE:

-The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) really did have to take her ailing father’s place on the Commonwealth Tour.  And her father really did brave the cold to see her off, and some say that this contributed to his death, just five days later.

-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip really did stay at a treehouse hotel in Kenya, and she was there when she became Queen.  A big game hunter wrote in his log book, “for the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into the tree as a princess and climbed down as a queen.”

-The red government dispatch boxes are real.  And Churchill really did dictate from the bathtub — his secretary really did sit just outside the closed door.

-The King was discovered dead in bed by a servant.

-The episode’s title “Hide Park Corner” really was the secret government code to spread word of the King’s death.

-Churchill and Queen Mary were the first people outside of Sandringham House (the estate where the King died) and the royal household staff to be notified.

-Princess Elizabeth really was a mechanic during the war (although I’ve never seen any claims that she had to repair a Jeep in Kenya).

-The new Queen really was difficult to contact, due to the remote nature of Treetops.  Word is relayed to Sagana Lodge, and Prince Philip breaks the news to his wife.

-The Queen really was asked what name she would take as Queen.

-The new Queen returned to England immediately after finding out about her father’s passing, as seen in the above video.

-SPOILERS FOR LATER EPISODES in the article. The Queen really did want to keep the private secretary who had served her before her ascension, but was discouraged from doing so for political reasons.

-Churchill’s speech eulogizing the King is a bit summarized and a few words are changed, but is largely accurate, with direct quotes used in the show.

FALSE:

-SPOILERS FOR LATER EPISODES in the article.  Venetia Scott is a completely fictional character.

-There is no evidence that Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip got so very close to charging elephants or that they were ever any danger from the Kenya wildlife.  I’m filing this under “false” instead of “unknown,” because it appears to have been made up for the sake of drama on the show.

MIXED:

-The King went shooting the day before he died with his friend Lord Fermoy, not with his doctor.  He spent the day playing with Prince Charles and Princess Anne and had dinner with Princess Margaret.  There’s no evidence of him singing while she played piano, however.

-There were concerns about Churchill’s age and ability to govern. It is unclear how soon these concerns became widespread within the Conservative Party, however.

UNKNOWN:

-The exact nature of the King’s conversations with his doctors is, of course, unknown.  Did the doctor dismiss any concern about the King’s health as being just due to “age” rather than lung cancer, etc?  Or was he bluntly honest with his patient about the coughing and any other symptoms?  No one knows.

-The exact details of events at Sandringham after the King’s death are unknown.  I HIGHLY doubt that Princess Margaret was present of part of the embalming, however.

-Speaking of Princess Margaret, it is also unknown when her relationship with Peter Townsend began.  There is no known evidence of them sneaking around at Sandringham at this time, but it did add drama to the episode.

-The letter from Queen Mary to her granddaughter, the new Queen Elizabeth, is likely fictionalized or entirely fabricated.

-Queen Mary’s dramatic curtsy at the end of the episode may or may not have occured.

BONUS READING:

-Front page news and primary source articles on the King’s death:

New York Times

The Sunday Graphic

BBC

Monarchy Monday: Behind THE CROWN Episode 1

This is the first in a series about The Crown on Netflix.

It is an impressive show, and an entertaining one at that.  But how accurate it is?

This series will go through Season 1 of The Crown, episode by episode, and talk about the details.  What’s true?  What’s false?  What’s completely unknown?

And so, we begin with Episode 1: Wolferton Splash.

Of course, spoilers will abound.

TRUE:

-The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and Prince Phillip were really very much in love, and got married a good deal of sentiment against him in royal circles.  For more about this, Netflix has a great documentary about Phillip, called “Prince Phillip: The Plot to Make a King.”  However, for all Louis Mountbatten’s scheming, they did really fall in love.

-King George VI was a heavy smoker, made worse by the stress of the war, and he really was diagnosed with a tumor in 1951.  And yes, he really did have an operation in Buckingham Palace.  His eldest daughter did have to take his place on the Commonwealth Tour.  He really did go to the airport to see her off, as seen in the video below.

-The King’s stammer, dramatized in The King’s Speech, was a very real thing.

-The King’s love of dirty limericks was also a very real thing.  The actual ones used in The Crown, however, were chosen by the production staff.

-Prince Phillip really did have to give up his Greek and Danish titles to marry Princess Elizabeth.  He was given the title Duke of Edinburgh but was no longer, properly speaking, a prince — at least not until Elizabeth gave him the title of Prince after she became queen.

FALSE:

-Prince Charles and Princess Anne are shown in Malta with their parents while their father was stationed there.  In reality, they remained in the UK with their grandparents.  Here are some photos and info about Princess Elizabeth visiting her husband at his post.

UNKNOWN:

-Was the King really coughing up blood as early as 1947?  Probably false, but I’m being nice and putting this in the unknown category.

-I can’t find any confirmation of his wearing makeup to meet with Churchill, either.

-It’s also unknown when various people became aware of the true nature of the King’s illness, etc.  Of course, the writers need to fill in these gaps for the audience and so it should not be considered an inaccuracy, but rather a needed fabrication in order to have a detailed show that flows properly.

-Similarly, while we know that Princess Margaret met Peter Townsend when she was a teenager, we aren’t sure when their affair began.  We do know that it became public AFTER Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, but more on that later.

-And, of course, much remains unknown about the relationship between the King and his son-in-law.

BONUS READING:

-Here’s an article about the great pains that were taken to keep the show as accurate as possible.

Monarchy Monday: HIH Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich

On 30 July 1904, the prayers of millions across the Russian empire were answered with the birth of His Imperial Highness, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

However, this blessing came with a secret curse — that of the hereditary and deadly disease known as hemophilia.  The young heir’s blood would not clot, and he ran a constant risk of deadly internal hemorrhage.  This illness was treated as a state secret, but there were often rumors about the boy’s health.

His hemophilia shaped his entire childhood.  While the disease itself caused him much suffering, it also changed the way he was raised. His parents were, by necessity, extremely careful that he not injure himself in anyway, and even had two sailors follow him around to protect him from the bumps and bruises inherent to being a lively boy.  This extra protection led to him being a bit spoiled, but he was still known to be a happy boy and he was often a prankster.  His tutor, Pierre Gilliard, did eventually convince his parents to give him a bit more autonomy and to learn self-control.

However, it wasn’t just his childhood that was defined by his illness — the destiny of the entire empire was at stake.  When Alexei’s condition worsened and he nearly died at Spala in Poland, his mother turned to the faith healer (often incorrectly called a monk) Gregory Rasputin.  Rasputin seemed to be able to comfort the boy and slow the internal bleeding that threatened to kill the young Tsarevich.  How, or even if, this worked is still not understood to this day, although some have suggested that it was a kind of hypnosis.

The focus that the Empress had to give to her son’s illness, as well as the questionable influence of Rasputin, played not a small role in the breakdown of the empire itself.  The strain of ensuring the heir’s survival ended up being part of the demise of the entire imperial system, though of course it is an over-simplification to imply that it was the only factor.

Outside of the ravages of his illness, Alexei was an enthusiastic boy with a love of all things military.  He accompanied his father to Stavka, the military headquarters, during the First World War.  He enjoyed his time there, living and eating like a soldier.

During the family’s captivity after the revolution, Alexei’s condition worsened.  By 1918, he was unable to walk, and, the night of the shooting, his father had to carry him down into the cellar where their lives were to end.

Alexei only lived to be thirteen — he was killed alongside his family in Yekaterinburg in 1918.  The only survivor of the shooting was Alexei’s spaniel, Joy, pictured below.

Nota Bene: This is the fifth in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

Sources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna

anastasiaHer Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, the fourth and youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 5 June, 1901.  Her name means “resurrection,” something that was often pointed out in conjunction with legends of her survival.

Her birth was a bit of a disappointment to her parents and relatives — everyone had hoped that the Tsar’s fourth child would (finally) be the longed-for son and heir.  Because Russian laws differed from laws of other monarchies (such as England), the Tsar’s daughters would never be allowed to inherit the throne and producing a son was of paramount importance.  Upon finding out that his wife had given birth to yet another daughter, Nicholas had to go for a walk to compose himself before seeing the Empress and newborn Grand Duchess Anastasia.  But compose himself he did — Nicholas was a loving father who adored all of his daughters, despite the succession issue.

anastasiaselfie

The prankster of the family, Anastasia was often called “shvibzik,” meaning “imp.”  She would often refuse to come out of trees that she had climbed or play pranks on her tutors and family members.  Anastasia is often credited as having taken the first “mirror selfie,” but the reality is that there is no way to know who came up with this idea first (and there are examples older than Anastasia’s).  Even so, the picture — indicative of her personality and of the family’s love of photography — is shown here.  It proves, if nothing else, that there is nothing new under the sun.

Like her sister Maria, Anastasia was too young to be a nurse during the war.  However, she went with Marie to visit soldiers, play games, write letters, and otherwise cheer them up.  She also had a cheering effect on her family during their captivity with her sunny personality.  Even the guards described her cheerfulness.

Because of the well-known impostor who went by the name of Anna Anderson and the media surrounding that woman’s decades-long claim to be Anastasia, the youngest Grand Duchess is the most famous, especially in the West.  In fact, I discovered the Romanov family via the (very inaccurate) 1997 animated film, Anastasia, as did many other Romanov followers I know.  The real Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna was killed along side her family in 1918, but many people still believe in the myths of survival.  Some people still believe Anna Anderson’s claims, despite DNA evidence to the contrary and despite the discovery of Anastasia’s remains.

Nota Bene: This is the fourth in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

anastasiachildSources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

The Fate of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson

The Resurrection of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna

marieHer Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, the third child of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 14 June 1899.  Sometimes, especially in English language publications, she is referred to as “Marie,” the French form of her name, but this is not accurate in terms of Russian naming. (Although she sometimes went by Marie as well as the more traditional Russian nickname “Masha.”  Perhaps this had something to do with the Imperial Russian love of all things French.)

Considered very beautiful, Maria had light brown hair and striking blue eyes.  However, her sisters often called her “fat little bow wow,” especially when she went through what we would call a “chubby” phase during her growth.

Together with her younger sister, Anastasia, Maria was half of the so-called “little pair.”  She and Anastasia shared a room and often wore similar clothing.  However, kind Maria was often overruled by her impish prankster of a sister.

Maria1914

Maria was considered too young to be a nurse during the war, but she did go and visit soldiers and help them write letters home to their loved ones.  She was spared some of the more disturbing sights that her older sisters experienced, but was still able to help the war effort in a way more fitting to her age (only 15 when the war began).

Often a flirt, Maria’s lifelong dream was to be a wife and mother, and she often had crushes on the soliders she visited.  She said that if she were not a member of the imperial family she would have wanted to marry a solider and have lots of children.  While all of the Tsar’s daughters were expected to marry and have children, Maria seems to have daydreamed about this more than her sisters.  At least one man was very taken with her — Louis Mountbatten.  In fact, he kept a picture of her by his bedside as a memento of his childhood crush on her until the day he died.

Some people believed that Maria was a symptomatic carrier of hemophilia, the bleeding disease her younger brother, Alexei, suffered from.  When Maria had her tonsils out in 1914, she hemorrhaged, which could be an indication of hemophilia since some carriers do bleed more readily than the average unaffected person.  After the bodies of the Imperial family were discovered and tested, it was found that one of the girls in the main grave was a hemophilia carrier — but who she was depends on who is right about the identities of the various sisters in the graves, which is a mystery unlikely to ever be fully solved.

maria childNota Bene: This is the third in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

Sources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

The Fate of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna

Tatiana_Nikolaevna Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna, the second child of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 29 May 1897.

The younger half of the so-called “Big Pair,” she shared a room with her older sister, Olga. The girls were very close, and adored each other.  When Olga was ill with Typhoid fever, Tatiana was inconsolable, terrified because she did not recognize that sick little girl in bed as her sister.

Tatiana was a leader among her siblings, and they called her “The Governess.”  While she lacked her older sister’s natural talent in the schoolroom, she was a harder worker, more likely to follow through until a project was completed.

In many ways, she was a lot like her her mother — both in looks and temperament.  She was also the daughter who was the most bonded to their mother.  While all of Empress Alexandra’s children loved her, Tatiana seemed to be her kindred spirit.  Of all the girls, Tatiana was also the most dedicated to their friend Rasputin, recording his sayings in a little notebook.  She was the most devout of the children, frequently reading The Bible and other religious books.

Tall, slender, and regal — many people considered Tatiana the most elegant of the Tsar’s daughters. She enjoyed dressing her mother’s hair and had a flair for style and fashion.  It would have been interesting to see what she would have done with the styles of the 1920’s and beyond.

tatiana child

Tatiana was devoted to her duties as a wartime nurse, and her only complaint about nursing was that she was not allowed, due to her age, to do even more.  She also appeared in public more than her sisters, chairing committees and attending events.  However, she was nervous about speaking in public and naturally shy, perhaps due to her sheltered upbringing.  Duty was paramount, though, and even nerves could not stop her from doing what she believed her country needed.

Her natural sense of responsibility was a comfort to her mother during their captivity.  When the Tsar was to be moved from Tobolsk, the Empress was willing to accompany her husband despite her son’s illness and inability to be moved only because Tatiana was able to stay behind and manage things.  However, the reduced circumstances of their imprisonment was hard on Tatiana, and she clung to her dignity via a haughty demeanor.  It is difficult to view her harshly for this, though, because she was a young woman adrift from all she was raised to expect from life.  The very position she was born and raised to hold was gone, and with it the very world she was meant to inhabit.

On 17 July 1918, Tatiana was shot along with the rest of her immediate family.

tatiana2Nota Bene: This is the second in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

Sources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova