Sunday 10 July 2011

"William & Catheine Usher in New Informal Era for the Monarchy"

Royals’ informality puts ‘human face’ on monarchy 
From jeans to foosball, Will and Kate show they’re not so different

TORONTO — Picture the Queen wearing jeans. Or Prince Charles getting sprayed in the face while gamely paddling a dragon boat.
Can’t do it? No wonder. This royal tour has been like no other.

"It’s been the most informal royal tour in history," said Rafal Heydel-Mankoo, a royal commentator and historian. "It should be noted that the Royal Family isn’t quite as stuffy and formal as some people may think. The problem is we have an aging Royal Family and it’s been quite a long time since we’ve actually seen any young people visiting Canada."

William and Kate got their hands dirty making lobster souffle. William tried his hand at foosball, or tabletop soccer. They took a soaking in a dragon boat race, hiked in the Rockies, gamely donned Canadian Rangers hoodie sweatshirt and full western wear including cowboy hats and boots for the Calgary Stampede.

Princess Elizabeth & Prince Philip
Square Dancing in Ottawa, 1951
There have been some moments of informality on royal tours in the past. In fact, the Queen — when she was Princess Elizabeth — and Prince Philip in 1951 square danced at Rideau Hall, Heydel-Mankoo said. Philip wore jeans and a checked shirt, while the Queen wore a "country skirt" and plaid blouse.

In 1939 the Queen Mother and King George VI pioneered the royal walkabout, said royalty expert Carolyn Harris. In 1983 William’s mother Diana broke with protocol and bent down to talk to children, she added.

But no other royal tour before has embraced such a degree of informality throughout, which is a very deliberate attempt to keep the monarchy relevant for younger Canadians, Heydel-Mankoo said.
"The essence of this royal tour is essentially to refashion the monarchy into a 21st-century institution in order to reconnect on a deeply personal way with the next generation of Canadians," he said.
"We’re seeing a change in the whole structure of the British monarchy. The monarchy itself is becoming less formal, the monarchy that no longer is a stickler for protocol."

Hardly anyone seemed to bow or curtsy to the couple and they seemed to joke and laugh easily with the thousands of people who came out to see them. The couple fell behind the tightly regimented schedule most days as they tried to meet with as many Canadians as possible.

Throwing the staid royal tradition and rules out the window is a theme in William and Kate’s lives, so it makes sense that it would carry over to their first official tour, Harris said. In their private lives they are active and independent, doing household chores themselves, she said.

"A lot of the athletic events (of the tour), like the dragon boat racing or the street hockey, really demonstrate both of them are sporty people with a great love of the outdoors," said Harris, a PhD candidate at Queen’s University who specializes in royal history. "The Queen has dropped the puck ceremonially at an NHL game, but you could never imagine her actually picking up a stick and participating."

The past two royal tours to Canada — from the Queen and Prince Philip in 2010 and Prince Charles and Camilla in 2009 — had a much higher degree of formality. Those tours involved much more of the royals observing ceremonies rather than taking part in activities. Those tours also involved little public contact between the royal couple, which contrasts with the physical affection William and Kate showed each other on this tour.

"They’re trying to put a human face on the monarchy and by engaging with people and getting into a dragon boat and having a race, by trying to cook lobster they’re showing that they really aren’t that different from everybody else," Heydel-Mankoo said.

Friday 8 July 2011

Royal Tour Revives the Monarchy & Launches William and Catherine

An excellent article syndicated nationally by "The Canadian Press" on the success of the Royal Tour (I'm quoted a fair amount too).

Toronto— The Canadian Press
Published Friday, Jul. 08, 2011 6:07PM EDT

The unwritten agenda for Prince William and Kate's inaugural tour was every bit as onerous as the official nine-day itinerary, and royal observers say the couple's unspoken triumphs may be even more impressive than their obvious public success. 
Historians and commentators said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's cross-country travels were driven by three main goals — establish themselves as modern representatives of the monarchy, revive popularity for the institution and bring positive publicity to Canada.
In all three areas, they said, the newlyweds surpassed all expectations.
Royal commentator Rafal Heydel-Mankoo said from London that the couple's status as A-list celebrities was established from their first moments on Canadian soil.
Footage aired around the world showed the prince and his bride reacting with awe to the adoring throngs of fans who turned out to welcome them on the trip that was intended to usher them onto the world stage, he said. Tour organizers likely would have empathized with their surprise, he added.
The royal couple's procession through the streets of Ottawa on Canada Day provided enduring images of the tour's success, he said.
“Nobody thought they would get the rapturous reception that they received. It's exceeded all of their expectations,” Mr. Heydel-Mankoo said. “That's evident from the look on Prince William's face when he was blushing as a beet root when they were chanting, ‘Will and Kate! Will and Kate!“’
Mr. Heydel-Mankoo said a second key objective would have been to revitalize the image of the monarchy and strengthen Canada's ties with an institution that hasn't always been held in high esteem.
Carolyn Harris, a royal historian with Queen's University, agreed. The enthusiastic crowds that welcomed William and Kate in locales as diverse as the nation's capital, the heart of francophone culture and the land of the midnight sun speak to the couple's success in achieving that goal, she said.
“There have been concerns about Canada's ongoing relationship with the constitutional monarchy,” she said. “The degree of popularity that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge enjoy really shows that the institution really has a popular and viable future in Canada.”
Catherine Ellis, a professor of British history at Ryerson University, said the royal couple went to great lengths to show a more modern face of the monarchy.
While she questioned how long the afterglow of the visit would be able to sustain renewed interest in the monarchy, she said William and Kate undoubtedly succeeded in refreshing the image of rigid royal tours of yore.
“The focus has been on the couple's success — their willingness to meet ordinary people, to change their itinerary, to arrive late, to create a less formal, more approachable image for the royal family,” she said. “It certainly hasn't damaged relations with the monarchy at all.”
Canada's global image was entrusted to the royal newlyweds as they worked their way from coast to coast with a massive cadre of foreign media in tow.
Mr. Heydel-Mankoo said scenes of Canada's diverse geographical and cultural attractions, coupled with uplifting images of its residents interacting with the royal couple, represent the best sort of publicity.
“Ignorance about Canadian cities and institutions and geography is abysmal in parts of Europe, so this has been a week-long video for the Canadian tourist board,” he said.
Ellis questioned whether the largely stereotypical images of Mounties in Ottawa, hockey games in Yellowknife and cowboys at the Calgary Stampede would satisfy Canadians who may wish to project a less colonial image to their royal visitors and their global observers.
“I don't know that they've seen a particularly modern face of Canada. They've seen popular images of Canada,” she said. “If it was intended to portray Canada in that light to encourage tourism, it certainly might have worked. But as far as the image to the world, it may not be the image that Canadians want to be top of mind.”
Ms. Harris said such conventional scenes were offset by visits to a Calgary research lab, as well as the more informal sporting events — such as dragon boating in Prince Edward Island — undertaken by the royals.
The organizers' balanced approach to tradition and modernity was reflected in the tour itinerary as well as the way in which the royals engaged with the Canadians they met, she said.
The couple themselves appeared to enjoy the trip, a fact confirmed Thursday in Calgary during William's final speech.
“In 1939, my great grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, said of her first Tour of Canada with her husband, King George VI: ‘Canada made us'. Catherine and I now know very well what she meant,” he said while sporting jeans and a white cowboy hat.
“Canada has far surpassed all that we were promised. Our promise to Canada is that we shall return.”
Mr. Heydel-Mankoo said the royal couple's evident enjoyment of the visit was the crowning glory on a trip that satisfied all but the most staunch opponents of the monarchy.
“The only people who are going to be upset about this tour are republicans, who must be fuming,” he said.

Thursday 7 July 2011

London - The Defiant City

On this anniversary of the horrific London bombings of 7/7 2005 I post, in tribute, some inspirational passages from the speeches made by Sir Winston Churchill during the height of the Blitz, when London was a blaze and much of the city in ruins. We defeated that foe but we must now stand firm against our current enemies, whose methods are different but whose aim is the same. Churchill's words are as applicable today as they were 70 years ago:  "London Can Take It!"

Sir Winston Churchill on London:

"London is so is like a pre-historic monster into whose armoured hide showers of arrows may be shot in vain." (During the Blitz)

"We shall defend every village, every town and every city. The vast mass of London itself, fought street by street, could easily devour an entire hostile army; and we would rather see London laid in ruins and ashes than that it should be tamely and abjectly enslaved." 14 July 1940

" These cruel, wanton, indiscriminate bombings of London are, of course, a part of Hitler’s invasion plans. He hopes, by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorise and cow the people of this mighty imperial city... Little does he know the spirit of the British nation, or the tough fibre of the Londoners, whose forbears played a leading part in the establishment of Parliamentary institutions and who have been bred to value freedom far above their lives. 
"This wicked man, the repository and embodiment of many forms of soul-destroying hatred, this monstrous product of former wrongs and shame, has now resolved to try to break our famous island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction.
"What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed. He has lighted a fire which will burn with a steady and consuming flame until the last vestiges of Nazi tyranny have been burnt out of Europe, and until the Old World—and the New—can join hands to rebuild the temples of man’s freedom and man’s honour, upon foundations which will not soon or easily be overthrown.
"This is a time for everyone to stand together, and hold firm, as they are doing ... All the world that is still free marvels at the composure and fortitude with which the citizens of London are facing and surmounting the great ordeal to which they are subjected, the end of which or the severity of which cannot yet be foreseen.
"Our fighting Forces ...  know that they have behind them a people who will not flinch or weary of the struggle—hard and protracted though it will be; but that we shall rather draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival, and of a victory won not only for ourselves but for all; a victory on not only for our own time, but for the long and better days that are to come." 11 September 1940

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Royals revive love affair with monarchy: experts

I was interviewed in the following article syndicated by the Canadian Press, Wednesday, July 6th 2011

Royals revive love affair with monarchy: experts

TORONTO It had barely begun before royal observers were declaring Prince William and Kate’s inaugural tour an unqualified success. Now that it’s half over, they’re calling it the spark that’s rekindling Canada’s love affair with the monarchy.
Nearly every aspect of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s travels through the country has been broadcast around the world, from their rapturous reception at public events to their more candid moments during unscripted walkabouts.
The tour has dominated newscasts across the United Kingdom, a marked departure from previous royal visits, which “are lucky to get 30 seconds on the evening news,” said royal observer and historian Rafal Heydel-Mankoo.
Praise for the modern royal couple and the warm reception they’ve received from Canada has been universal, and the hands-on approach of the newlyweds has played a key role in the tour’s success, Heydel-Mankoo said from London.
“It’s an injection of youth and vitality, and in this royal tour particularly, you’re seeing a very real face of monarchy,” he said.
“You’re seeing a couple who are down to earth, who can relate to the common people, and that’s being reciprocated. The ability to forge that new connection is what’s going to make the monarchy more relevant to 21st century Canadians.”
That may even include those who have traditionally given the cold shoulder to the Royal Family.
Previous royal stops in Quebec have been greeted with everything from indifference to open hostility, but William and Kate’s recent visits to Montreal and Quebec City suggest the tide is turning, Heydel-Mankoo said. Anti-monarchist protesters were significantly outnumbered by well-wishers offering flowers and friendly greetings.
“It was very brave, I think, to have the duke and duchess go to Montreal and Quebec on their first visit,” he said.
“The fact that they had such a positive and warm reception really shows how the monarchy has managed to evolve and adapt itself into something which is acceptable, even to a large portion of the country, which before would have been completely ambivalent.”
Younger Canadians, another demographic that has historically been slow to embrace royal visitors, also seem to have been won over by William and Kate, said Matthew Rowe of the Monarchist League of Canada.
At Tuesday’s stop in Yellowknife, a 20-year-old man turned up at 4 a.m. to be the first to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. In the old days, polls suggested he and his contemporaries would have been decidedly less enthusiastic.
An unconventional itinerary that has included dragon boat races, beachside barbecues and even the spectacle of William flying a helicopter have helped to boost the royal couple’s popularity among young people, said Rowe.
“This isn’t your grandma’s royal visit,” he said. “It’s not ship christenings and ribbon cuttings. They’re doing really fun and interesting activities.”
The success of the tour hinges on a handful of subtle but innovative changes that have helped make the prince and his wife more accessible to Canadians, said royal tour historian Garry Toffoli.
Walkabouts are a long-standing tradition dating back to William’s great-grandmother, but the newlyweds have put their own spin on it by holding longer, more substantive conversations with the people they meet, he said.
The same holds true of their more scripted encounters, giving the impression that the royal couple sincerely wants to engage with Canadians.
The tour has also maintained a fine balance between time-honoured traditions and modern demands, he said, citing events like William getting behind the controls of a Sea King chopper and practising an emergency landing procedure.
“Doing military training isn’t new; doing it publicly in a royal tour was,” Rowe said. “That was, I think, the genius of this tour and the organizers.”
Historians agree, however, that the scheduling innovations only enhance the natural star quality of the royal couple themselves, who are the main reasons the tour has been a success.
Heydel-Mankoo called William and Kate a “wonderful double act” who have eclipsed all expectations of how they would fare on the international stage.
Rowe said the couple’s philanthropic efforts and commitment to being responsible public figures play as much a part in their popularity as their more obvious glamour and celebrity appeal.
“We love the razzle-dazzle, we love the fairy tale, that’s part of monarchy. You can’t get rid of that, that’s part of its charm,” he said.
“But I think it’s the deeper message, the idea of service, that really appeals to this generation, who is much more interested in the difference they’re making as opposed to just material rewards.”
The Canadian Press - Link to original article

Monday 4 July 2011

The Uncrowned Emperor -- Otto von Habsburg (1912-2011). RIP

Abiit ad maiores -- His Imperial and Royal Highness Crown Prince Otto of Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, Grand Master of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Austria), titular Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia (20 Nov 1912 - 4 July 2011). R.I.P.

Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate 60 years as Head of the Royal House of Windsor next year. HIRH Crown Prince Otto was Head of the Austrian Royal & Imperial House of Habsburg for an almost unbelievable 89 years.

HIRH Crown Prince Otto with his parents Their Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesties Blessed Karl I & IV and Zita, the last Emperor and Empress of Austria

Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius Habsburg-Lothringen was the son of His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty Blessed Karl I & IV, Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavnoia and Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria, King of Jerusalem, Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Krakow, Duke of Lorraine and of Salzburg, of Styria, of Carinthia, of Carniola and of the Bukovina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia, Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastall, of Auschwitz and Zator, of Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca, Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg, Lord of Trieste, of Cattaro and in the Windic March; Grand Voivode of the Voivodship of Serbia by his consort Her Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty Empress Zita (nee Bourbon-Parma) of Austria, Apostlic Queen of Hungary and Queen of Bohemia. 

HIRH Otto at his family home Schonbrunn in Vienna
HIRH was Grand Master of the Most Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece (Austria)

Amongst his numerous honours he was a:

Knight of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
Knight of the Royal Order of San Gennaro
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Vicosa
Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III
Grand Cross of the Order of St. Grergory the Great with Star
Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Recipient of the Order of Merit of Bavaria
Order of St. Stephen of Hungary
Recipient of the Saxe-Ernestine House Order
Grand Cross of the Order of St. Hubert of Bavaria
Grand Cross of the Order of the Golden Lion of the House of Nassau (Luxembourg)
Grand Cross of the Grand Order of King Dmitar Zvonimir (Croatia)
Order of the Cross of Terra Marian (Estonia)
Grand Cross of Merit of the Republic of Hungary
Commander of the Legion of Honour of France
Grand Cross of St. Agatha of San Marino
Grand Cross of the Order of the Three Stars of Latvia
Honorary Knight of the Teutonic Order

Friday 1 July 2011

Ottawa - Canada's Royal Capital

By virtue of its status as the national capital, Ottawa can lay claim to more royal connections than any other Canadian city. Indeed, Ottawa (originally named Bytown, after Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers) was chosen to be Canada's capital city by none other than the Queen-Empress Victoria herself (the great decision is commemorated in Ottawa's coat of arms by the inclusion of a representation of St. Edward's Crown). 

Yesterday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge laid wreaths at Canada's National War Memorial. Did you know that every member of the Royal Family always lays a wreath at the memorial when they are in Ottawa? 

The memorial was unveiled by Prince William's great-grandparents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) in May 1939 to honour the fallen of the First World War -- no one knew that the Second World War would start just over 3 months later. The unveiling of the National War Memorial was also the occasion of the first ever Royal Walkabout. Queen Elizabeth, having heard Scottish voices in the crowd, broke with protocol and walked over to the adoring spectators to converse. And so Ottawa can claim to be the birthplace of one of the greatest of royal traditions. 

When Prince William attends the Canada Day celebrations later today on Parliament Hill (which, coincidentally, will also be the 50th anniversary of his mother's birth) he will be sitting on a stage in front of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, the original cornerstone of which was laid by his g-g-g-grandfather, King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales, and after whom the major thoroughfare of King Edward Avenue is named). To his far right will be a statue of his g-g-g-g-grandmother Queen Victoria and to his far left will be a statue of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II (upon her favourite horse, Centennial, a gift from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). 

Were HRH to venture into the Centre Block he would find another statue of Queen Victoria (as a young queen) in the library as well as a brand new "Diamond Jubilee" stained glass window honouring both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II and a carved corbel also honouring his grandmother. Outside the entrance to the Senate (with its royal thrones, which have been occupied by his grandparents and great-grandparents) HRH would find portraits of all of the Canadian Monarchs since Confederation and in the nearby Francophonie room are portraits of all of the French Monarchs of Canada -- to whom HRH can also lay claim to some relationship (however distant).

Tonight and tomorrow night Prince William will be sleeping at Canada's Government House (Rideau Hall). There too he will find paintings of his grandparents and great-grandparents and a stained glass window honouring his grandmother. HRH will be sleeping in a building in which a great many of his ancestors and relations have also slept, dined and partied. Aside from all of his immediate family (parents, aunts, uncles, grand-parents) we can also mention his great-grandfather King George VI, his great-grand-uncle King Edward VIII and his great-great-grandfather King George V, along with various other great-aunts and great-uncles too numerous to mention.

Ottawa, a city of gothic towers once known as "Westminster in the Wilderness", is a city with a proud royal heritage. Indeed, although a small city by global standards (1 million metro), Ottawa's traditions make it arguably the city most similar, or perhaps familiar, to ceremonial London and, therefore, a city which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could regard as a home away from home.The Canadian Grenadier Guards and the Governor General's Foot Guards mount ceremonial duties in Ottawa, including the Changing of the Guard. Wearing their bearskins and red tunics, these guards might easily be mistaken for the guards who perform the same function for the Sovereign in London. The House of Commons and the Senate are modelled almost exactly on the British House of Commons and House of Lords, and the architecture, traditions and ceremonies are clearly adapted from the Mother of Parliaments. 

"Royal" is a designation that may only be granted with the permission of the Sovereign. Ottawa is home to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Royal Ottawa Hospital, the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada and the Royal Ottawa Golf Club to name a few.

Ottawa is a dynamic and youthful city, which can lay claim to the second highest quality of life in North America. Yet it is also a city steeped in tradition and history. The city and the royal couple would seem to make a perfect fit.