Wednesday 31 July 2013

Royal birth media appearances

Global interest in the recent royal birth exceeded that even of last year's Diamond Jubilee. During the week of the Royal birth I was interviewed by media from as far afield as Lithuania, Colombia and Jamaica. There can be little doubt that the increase in interest owes a great deal to the rise of social media and 24-hour "rolling news". My British "rolling news" appearances included breaking the news of Prince George's birth on LBC Radio, London's leading talk radio network:

And reviewing the newspapers on Sky News the morning after HRH's birth (watch via link below):

Monday 29 July 2013

Sign of "The Times"? A Princely Catalogue of Errors

Below is a letter I wrote to the editor of The Times to complain about the large number of errors that had appeared in the newspaper during its coverage of the birth of HRH Prince George of Cambridge:

"Dear Sir,

As the country's pre-eminent newspaper of record, The Times has the burdensome duty of maintaining the highest standard of accuracy. Arguably nowhere is this more important than in its reporting of great national and royal events. 

Hitherto, had I been asked to rate the quality of the output of The Times in the style of a credit-rating agency, I would have automatically rated it: AAA. I was therefore saddened to stumble upon a series of basic and quite inexcusable errors in your paper this week in relation to the birth of HRH Prince George of Cambridge. 

One article published on Wednesday 24 July ("Guessing games let the bookies name their price", p.5) stated that the son of The Duke of Cambridge was "already the Prince of Cambridge" -- this is incorrect. The young prince is no more "the Prince of Cambridge" than HRH Prince Harry of Wales is "the Prince of Wales". Both princes take their territorial designation from their fathers. I accept that the lack of a Christian name complicated matters, but there were numerous other options for referring to the baby prince. 

A day later, the name of Prince George was announced and, to illustrate an article about previous royal Georges, The Times mistakenly published an image of King William IV rather than the intended King George IV (the error subsequently noted and corrected in the following day's edition). In that same article, The Times stated that our young Prince George Alexander Louis could choose to reign as King Alexander I, whereas in reality he would probably need to be King Alexander IV given that there have been three Scottish kings named Alexander and a convention has been established for the regnal number of the British sovereign to follow the higher of the existing English, Scottish or British regnal numbers (which is why the Elizabeth I-less Scots were able to accept an Elizabeth "II"). 

Now, reading today's paper (Friday, July 26), I am dismayed to see the publication of a wholly incorrect letter to the editor in which the author states that should The Prince of Wales predecease his mother, The Queen will be succeeded by her next son, The Duke of York, rather than by her eldest grandson, The Duke of Cambridge. What nonsense.

The succession to the throne is based upon primogeniture and it operates according to a system of inheritance similar to the "depth-first search" algorithm by which one starts at the root to explore all options before backtracking. According to this system, the descendants of deceased elder siblings (in this case, the Prince of Wales's sons) take precedence over living elder siblings (i.e. the Duke of York). A cursory glance at the Order of Succession would have substantiated this fact. This week's catalogue of errors is worrying. Is The Times Style & Usage Guide no longer in use? Does The Times no longer have a royal fact checker? I fear it may be time to consider putting The Times's AAA rating on "Negative Watch".


Rafe Heydel-Mankoo"

Saturday 27 July 2013

Interview on BBC News following the first public appearance of HRH Prince George of Cambridge

Following the birth and naming of HRH Prince George of Cambridge, the media storm has subsided considerably, affording me the opportunity to update my blog. The past few days have been extremely busy for me, with various appearances on NBC, SKY, BBC, FOX, SUN (Canada) and other networks.

On Wednesday I was honoured to break the news of the birth of our new royal prince live on air on London's LBC Radio, where I remained on air for 5 hours to provide running commentary as London, the UK and the Commonwealth erupted in jubilation at the happy news. A truly memorable day.

Here is part of my interview with BBC World News on Thursday immediately following the first public appearance of HRH Prince George of Cambridge, upon his departure from the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington:

Thursday 18 July 2013

Can an Unborn Royal Baby Inherit the Throne?

Can an unborn royal baby inherit the throne? 

When I was asked this question today, I remembered that I had written about this subject several years ago. The scenario is one which we in this country shall hopefully never face; nevertheless, it raises some interesting issues and I therefore post the question and my response:

Q: Can an unborn baby inherit the throne? e.g. the King dies while his wife is pregnant with their son. Will that unborn son inherit or eventually inherit the throne?

A: As with all such questions, one must first look to the law of succession applicable to the state / house in question. Unfortunately, in the case of our own Monarchy, there is no clear answer.

We must therefore turn to history for guidance. Whilst our Monarchy has never dealt with this scenario, there have been examples on the continent.

Louis X's queen, Clemence d'Anjou, was pregnant at the time of his death in 1316. In what laid the foundation for Salic succesion, Louis' living daughter was passed over and Louis' brother was named regent. 5 months later Clemence gave birth to a boy, who immediately succeeded to the throne as King Jean I. He died a few days later and the regent succeeded as King. Had Clemence given birth to a daughter, the regent, as heir presumptive, would have been named Sovereign retroactively to the date of his brother's death. Something similar occurred a few years later, also in France, with Philip VI's succession to Charles IV in 1328, although Philip's relationship was more distant.

A less ancient case occurred in Spain in 1885, where the law of succession was similar to our own. Upon the death of King Alfonso XII his pregnant queen was appointed regent. Her child was proclaimed King upon birth. We might expect a similar scenario in the case of our own monarchy, although this cannot be guaranteed as the Regency Act permits the establishment of a regency only where a sovereign exists.

Unfortunately we cannot look to any UK legislation for advice as none deals with this specific event. Whilst any answer must therefore be speculative, our own history provides us with one possible solution. Queen Adelaide, William IV's widow, was still of child-bearing age upon his death in 1837. Consequently Victoria was proclaimed queen "saving the rights of any issue of his late Majesty's consort". This proclamation may provide some indication of the manner in which the matter might be handled -- although it is our law-makers who shall have final say.

Monday 15 July 2013

"HM The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans!"

Swan Uppers Toasting "HM The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans"
Whilst we all await the eagerly anticipated royal birth, we should not forget that it is very much "business as usual" for the Royal Calendar.  Today marks the start of the ancient ceremony of Swan Upping. Dating back to the 12th century, the ceremony involves the Crown claiming ownership of all unmarked mute swans on the open waterways. Although no longer eaten, historically swans were a prized delicacy (both for meat and for feather quills) and thus reserved for the Monarch and the aristocracy. Since the 15th century the Crown has shared ownership of the swans with two ancient Livery Companies of the City of London: The Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers.

The annual Swan Upping Ceremony takes place over five days in the third week of July. The ceremony has The Queen's Swan Marker, the Royal Swan Uppers and the Swan Uppers of the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers travel up the river Thames in six traditional rowing skiffs. The Queen's Swan Uppers are dressed in scarlet uniforms with historic flags flying from the boats. The Swan Uppers of the livery companies wear blazers and white trousers.

When the Swan Uppers sight a brood of cygnets they cry "All up!" and steer the boats into position. The cygnets are then weighed, marked, measured and, after a health check by The Queen's Swan Warden, released.

Upon passing Windsor Castle, all of the rowers stand to attention in their boats and salute "Her Majesty The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans".

In 2009 The Queen, as "Seigneur of the Swans" attended the Swan Upping ceremony. This was the first time a Sovereign had attended in several centuries.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

The Royal Baby's Official Title & Styles -- Plus other relevant Title FAQs.

A few days ago, several news sources were quick to proclaim the "breaking news" that the official title of the royal baby had been formally announced as "The Prince/Princess of Cambridge".

No it hadn't. 

As the misleading reports continue unabated, I would like to settle this issue and also deal with some related questions which often arise in connection with the confusing subject of royal styles and titles. I hope this guide will provide some clarity.


Q1:  If the child of a Duke and Duchess is a Prince(ss) will he/she outrank the parents?

Answer:  NO.

The Duke of Cambridge is also a prince and a Royal Highness and therefore the child will not outrank the parents. Children and wives normally take their status from their father/husband. Consequently, the title borne by the child will reflect his/her status as the child of Prince William: "Prince(ss) X of Cambridge".

Traditionally, the child of a "Prince of the Blood Royal" would automatically become a prince or princess upon birth, irrespective of whether his/her father is a royal duke. A royal dukedom is a substantive peerage title whereas "prince" is a titular dignity -- they are very different creatures.

In 1917, King George V issued Letters Patent which regulated who was entitled to be styled as a "prince" or "princess" and be called "His/Her Royal Highness". Those so entitled included the children of the Sovereign, the children of the sons of the Sovereign, and the eldest living son of the son of the Prince of Wales. Importantly, this last category would have applied to a son of Prince William but not to a daughter.

Consequently, in December 2012, to accommodate the possibility of the birth of a daughter to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, The Queen declared that the 1917 LP would be amended so that all children of the son of the Prince of Wales would be granted the dignity of "prince" or "princess" and be called "Royal Highness". [This was not the first such amendment: In 1948 our Queen's father, King George VI, amended the 1917 LP to include the children of Princess Elizabeth (who would otherwise have been denied the status of "HRH Prince/Princess)]. 

The royal child will be "Prince(ss) X of Cambridge" and *not* "Prince(ss) of Cambridge" as this latter style implies they are holders of substantive titles. Many of the media reports of the past few days have been disappointing -- we have known how the baby would be styled for months, if not years. This is not news. The title follows the standard format for royal babies and has long-established precedence.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester
HRH The Duke of Kent
Q2: Will the child of the Duke of Cambridge bear a courtesy title (a junior title held by the father)?

Answer: NO.

The status of "HRH Prince" trumps a courtesy title (such as that borne by the son of a non-royal Duke) and that is why the royal baby would be known as "Prince(ss) X of Cambridge".

Royal Dukes outrank noble Dukes. Although a non-royal Duke would permit his son to style himself with a courtesy title, this is not the case for Royal Dukes as their princely status is deemed higher than a courtesy title of Marquess, Earl, Viscount or Baron. For example, when their fathers were alive, the current Dukes of Gloucester and Kent were not known by the courtesy titles that would have been appropriate had they been noble, rather than royal, dukes (respectively Earl of Ulster and Earl of St. Andrews). Instead they were styled "HRH Prince Richard of Gloucester" and "HRH Prince Edward of Kent". Similarly, when George VI was Duke of York, his daughter, our current Queen, was known as  "HRH Princess Elizabeth of York" -- and so it shall be with the issue of the Duke of Cambridge.

By virtue of the 1917 Letters Patent, Gloucester and Kent will cease to be royal dukedoms in the next generation. Consequently, as the sons of the current Duke of Kent and Duke of Gloucester are not Royal Highnesses or princes they bear the courtesy titles one would expect for future noble dukes: Earl of St. Andrews (Kent) and Earl of Ulster (Gloucester).

The Earl of Ulster
The Earl of St. Andrews

Q3: So does a Royal Duke outrank a Prince?

Answer: The practical reality is that Royal Dukes do not necessarily outrank Princes. The official precedence of royals in the UK is determined by the closeness of the relationship with the Sovereign. Thus Royal Dukes do not impact upon ranking in the table of precedence. With one exception: the grandsons of the Sovereign who are royal dukes outrank their non royal duke cousins. This is why the Duke of Kent and Duke of Gloucester are ranked above HRH Prince Michael of Kent. 

HRH Prince Michael of Kent
Q4. Will Prince William succeed to his father's titles upon Prince Charles' accession to the throne as Sovereign?

Answer: YES and NO.

When Prince Charles becomes King, Prince William will automatically succeed to the titles of Duke of Cornwall (to be used as the superior title outside Scotland) and Duke of Rothesay (to be used as the superior title within Scotland). He will not automatically become Prince of Wales.

Q5. Will Prince William use "Duke of Cambridge" after he also becomes Duke of Cornwall but before he is installed as Prince of Wales?.

Answer: This will be a matter of choice (as is now so often the case with royal titles!). George III was known as "Duke of Edinburgh" in the short period between his father's death and becoming Prince of Wales. In contrast, as he was already Duke of York upon becoming heir apparent, George V was known as "Duke of Cornwall and York".

Wednesday 3 July 2013

HM Albert II, King of the Belgians to Announce his Abdication

HM Albert II, King of the Belgians, will address the Belgian nation today at 5pm BST (4pm GMT) to announce his intention to abdicate. His Majesty's abdication will take effect on Belgium's national day, 21 July.

The Belgian media has reported that King Albert informed his cabinet of the decision earlier today. The Belgian Prime Minister will address the nation after the King.

In a country with strong internal divisions, it is often jokingly said that there is only one Belgian: The King. Certainly, during Belgium's recent political crises in 2010-2011, during which it effectively had no active government, His Majesty played an important role as mediator.

The 79 year-old King Albert II succeeded to the throne 20 years ago, upon the death of his much-loved brother King Baudoin in July 1993. I was in Belgium at the time and I was struck by the degree to which the nation mourned King Baudoin and supported the Monarchy. Shop windows were dressed in black crepe, people wore black armbands and every possible flag was lowered to half mast (which is quite a sight in Belgium, a country rich with civic flags and heraldry).

King Albert will be succeeded by his son Prince Philippe, HRH The Duke of Brabant. Prince Philippe is married to Princess Mathilde, HRH The Duchess of Brabant. Princess Mathilde is half-Polish: her mother was born Countess Anna Maria Komorowska and her maternal grandmother was HSH Princess Zofia Sapieha.

The Future King & Queen of the Belgians with Queen Fabiola.
Princess Mathilde and Prince Philippe, TRH The Duke and Duchess of Brabant,
are wearing the Grand Cross ribands of the
Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland
With the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar and now King Albert II of the Belgians, 2013 may well be regarded as the Year of Abdication.