Did Katherine of Aragon really come to her second marriage a virgin?

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After the wedding celebrations of Katherine of Aragon to Arthur, Prince of Wales, the teenage couple was ‘put to bed’ in keeping with the Tudor custom.  What happened that night would later become an issue of great controversy.  In this post we explore whether Katherine’s claim that the marriage was never consummated stands up to scrutiny.

As a trusting kind of person, I’m always inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Given that Katherine of Aragon went to her death insisting that when she entered her second marriage to King Henry VIII, she did so as a virgin despite the fact she had briefly been married to his brother, I’ve always tended to believed her.

Of course, given that this (intensely personal) issue was at the heart of her husband claiming a legitimate case to divorce her, perhaps Katherine had little choice but to insist on her pre-marital purity.  Certainly a good batch of historians seem to think so.

So I decided to #DigALittleDeeper and I have to confess that – with all the usual caveats around how we can never truly know – I’m still inclined to side with Katherine, although it’s something I’d like to discuss in more depth in the future.  To start with, I’m not satisfied that the arguments against her really stack up.  Let’s explore.

  • There was an assumption , upon her first husband Arthur’s death, that the marriage was consummatedThis is based on the fact that they waited a few months before declaring the future Henry VIII, ‘Prince of Wales’ on the basis that Katherine might be pregnant.  Similarly, when going through the process of arranging Katherine’s second marriage, her mother was keen to ensure that the Pope granted dispensation for the marriage regardless of the whether the first union had been consummated.

These arguments are sensible enough, but in reality no one probably asked Katherine much about the wedding night.  Her mother, Queen Isabella of Castile, wasn’t keen for this clause because she suspected that her daughter had been enjoying the fruits of young love; it was a sensible precaution by a wise and worldly woman who wanted to protect her daughter and the alliance with England, from any future attempts to undermine her second marriage.  The fact that even with it, this is exactly what happened, demonstrates what incredible foresight the infamous Queen of Castile must have possessed.

  • Prince Arthur seemed to think there had been intimacy – Friends of the 15 year old groom were later to tell of the young prince’s claims the morning after the wedding that marriage was ‘thirsty work’ and that he had spent the night in the ‘midst of Spain.’  There is no reason to think that these friends of Arthur’s were lying, but you really don’t need to be a historian to deduce that this is likely to have been youthful bragging; you just need to have been, or to have ever met, a teenage boy.
  • Katherine had a motive to lie – Yes, she did.  David Starkey very cleverly argues that given her upbringing in the court of her parents, the Spanish Kings, she was more than aware of the real politick of the Royal marriage market and would have done all she could to advance her country by becoming Queen of England.  I have a great deal of time for this argument.  However, Alison Weir argues that she would never have continued this lie to her death bed.  Given Katherine’s clear devotion to her faith and the fact she would have wanted to meet her maker with a clear conscience, we must conclude that this is the superior argument.  What’s more, Katherine seemed rather confident in challenging Henry, that he knew full well that she came to him as a maid.  Without wanting to be graphic, if this is true then there would have been ways the King might have noticed it at the time; a daring challenge for her to make if she didn’t know it to be true.

There are other arguments too.  When Katherine did declare that her first marriage had been unconsummated, people believed it.  Sex in teenage marriages was often not encouraged as it was thought to be dangerous.  We know Margaret Beaufort, based on her own bitter experience, intervened to try and protect her granddaughter from teenage intercourse.  Could she have done the same for her granddaughter in law (this last point is a bit far-fetched but has given me a great idea for a #WildCard)?

As I said, we can never know.  Fundamentally, for me, it comes down to who do you trust more out of Katherine and Henry?  Both had reason to lie, but if Henry really did believe his wife did not come to him a virgin, then he was fundamentally unbothered by it for over a decade of his marriage.  The change of heart only occurred when he became desperate for both a son and another woman.  The rest of Henry’s reign also shows us how he was very comfortable with either lying to others or, more likely, deceiving himself about the true facts of a situation when it suited him to do so.  Katherine however, would gain an almost saintly reputation, going to her death bed declaring that Henry was the only man to ever know her.

For me, the jury has come in on this issue and it has declared, at least for now, for Katherine of Aragon.

Could Edward IV have been illegitimate?

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The great Tudor rose.  Red for Lancaster and white for York.  A symbol that good King Henry had united the waring houses and brought stability to England.

And of course it wasn’t just a piece of empty imagery; it was a symbol of success.  He had infused his Lancastrian blood with the rival genepool of Elizabeth of York, thanks to an alliance between their respective mothers, giving birth in turn to a host of young Yorkcastrians, better known to us as the Tudors.

But what if there was a break somewhere in the chain?  What if instead of uniting his line with the descendants of Richard, Duke of York, Henry had inadvertently hooked up with the heir to a little-known French archer?  According to rumours, he had done just that.

The story goes that when they were both in France, Cecily, Duchess of York and her husband the Duke were temporarily estranged due to his military commitments.  During this separation, she succumbed to the advances of an archer named Blaybourne and fell pregnant with the child that would one day become Edward IV, hero of the house of York and father to the first Tudor Queen.

Most damagingly, it is claimed the story originates with Cecily herself.  As even the most casual observer of this era will be aware, Edward’s marriage to the low-born Elizabeth Woodville (whose family were both known as Lancastrian sympathisers and fierce social climbers) was immensely controversial.  Apparently, so enraged was she with her son, that she threatened to confess that he was illegitimate and deprive him of the throne.

It’s a serious accusation but one we should be cautious about taking at face value.  There is no record of the rumour before 1483 when it emerged in the pages of Dominic Mancini, an Italian scholar dispatched to England to serve as the eyes and ears of a continental Bishop.  It must be remembered that at this point, Richard III and his cronies were putting it about that Edward IV was a bastard, in order to bolster his younger brother’s claim for the throne.  It is likely therefore that this rumour crops up for the first time in 1483 and probably didn’t spring from Cecily’s lips.

Without being able to depend on this fundamental plank of evidence, the rest of the arguments fall down somewhat.  Let’s explore them.

  • The absence of the Duke of York at the time of conception – When you look at Edward’s birthdate (in late April 1442) and work backwards, it appears as if the Duke of York was away from home at the time of conception, but the truth is, we just don’t have enough evidence to read too much into it.  The couple resided in France at the time and while the Duke was away, he wasn’t so far that the Duchess couldn’t have joined him for some of this time.  Of course, the future King could also have been slightly premature or even a little late – there isn’t much time in it.  All of these seem more likely than the Duchess secretly ‘liaised’ with a man of such lower rank, that tongues would surely have been set wagging.  We should remember that no rumours of Edward’s paternity are recorded before a time when they were politically advantageous to someone.
  • A low-key baptism – It has been suggested that Edward’s low-key baptism (in the corner of the church), which contrasted a year later with a more lavish christening for his younger brother, indicate that the Duke of York was not going to splash out for a baby that he didn’t think was his.  However, this is counter-intuitive; if the Duke of York had decided to raise this child as his heir, even if he was suspicious of paternity, surely he would have gone out of his way to maintain a pretence of legitimacy rather give the world a sign that his wife had so embarrassingly betrayed him.  Besides, the Duke and Duchess had previously had a son who died very soon after birth; their decision to go for a low-key baptism was probably a sign that they had concerns for his health and wanted to make sure he was dedicated to God before anything went wrong.  Incidentally, this somewhat backs up the suggestion that he was premature.
  • A lack of physical resemblance between father and son – This is a bit of a non-starter.  Yes, Edward was tall and strapping (which his father was not) but there are plenty of obvious people in his blood line (on both mother and father’s side) where he could have got this from.  Family resemblance is tricky and for those of us analysing today, we don’t have an awful lot to go on.
  • Both his brothers accused him of being a bastard – Yes they did.  Both had a political motive for doing so.  Others made such accusations as well, but not until long after he was born and crowned.  Besides, when a noble was born in another country, away from the glare of the commentators of the day, rumours often surrounded the circumstances of their birth.  John of Gaunt is an example of this.

Aside from all the above there are other points worth mentioning.  Cecily was outraged by such rumours (suggesting, again, that she didn’t start them) and it seems hugely out of character for her to have committed adultery, especially with someone of low-birth.  I think it is also reasonable to assume that Richard, Duke of York believed that Edward was his; he is unlikely to have claimed the throne for his descendants and willingly passed it on to another man’s son.

All this said, I have only had chance to #digalittledeeper into this topic.  One day I would love to research it more thoroughly and am certainly open to changing my mind.

Why did George V shrink the Royal family in 1917?

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The reasons that the legendary King George V decided to abandon all German names, titles and distinctions in 1917 are well known.   And let’s face it, kind of obvious.  The proud but down-to-earth emperor was dismayed by comments that he presided over an ‘uninspiring and alien court’ to which he famously responded that he may be uninspiring but he’d be damned if he was alien!  Thus, against such peculiar circumstances, was the house of Windsor born.

What is less know (well, unless you’re a super call Royal-watcher like me) is that just a few months later, George took the opportunity to shrink the Royal family, restricting the title of Prince and Princess and virtually abolishing the style of Highness.

On 30 November 1917,of 1917, letters patent were issued declaring that henceforth only the children of the sovereign, sons of sons of the sovereign and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales would be entitles to the style of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince of Princess.  Hitherto, male-line great-grandchildren of a sovereign could also call themselves Prince or Princess with the style of Highness.

Despite my obsession with Royalty in general and Royal titles in particular, I have never come by much in terms of a reason for the King’s decisions.  This is no doubt mainly down to the fact that I so far limited my search to the internet; I have never yet had the chance to trawl through many of the excellent biographies of the war-time King, something I would love to do when time allows.  But it might also be because the King’s own thoughts on the matter were fairly guarded.

Nonetheless I thought whacking out some #QuickFireThoughts on the subject would make a compelling blog post.  I have three (all entirely speculative) theories as to why he felt the title stripping necessary.  The first two I think are quite credible; the third more of a #WildCard:

  • George V wanted to start a fresh with the Royal family –  It is quite believable that the earlier decision to Anglicise the house of Saxe-Coburgh-Gotha reminded everybody just how far flung the Royal family had become and just how intwined they were with continental (especially Germanic) Royalty.  Perhaps the King also didn’t fancy the thought of a host of deposed demi-Royals from the continent fleeing to Britain and claiming Royal status as descendants of Queen Victoria for the next few years.  This declaration would have limited Royalty almost (although not entirely) to those already domicile in the UK, largely eliminating that problem.
  • In the wake of monarchies falling, the time seemed right to shrink down the family-firm – Everywhere you looked European monarchies were crumbling.  The Russian Tsar had been forced to abdicate earlier that year, and it was pretty obvious that others weren’t far behind.  So, perhaps the British monarchy did what it does best; modernise to survive!  We know that George V was keen to pump a bit more British blood into the veins of the house of Windsor and would allow his children to take local spouses; this whole project would be easier if there were less potential Royals to marry off.  Also, perhaps he felt that the new house of Windsor really needed a fresh start and should be contained, primarily to his descendants.  Regardless of his motivation, the move boasted incredible foresight; had he not made this change, Britain today would be positively littered with Princes and Princesses.
  • It was a personal vendetta against the Connaughts – Before I get into this, let me reiterate that this point firmly fits into the #WildCard category.  But anyway, here we go!  Although the 1917 letters patent but the ky-bosh on a number of continental royals potentially falling back on British titles once stripped of others, there was only one person who was actually affected by it at the time: Alastair, Earl of Macduff who prior to the LPs has been known as His Highness Prince Alastair of Connaught.  I remember once reading somewhere (and I really can’t remember where) that George V had some kind of grudge against his Connaught cousins.  Could it be that he wanted to alienate them from the Royal family.  After all, young Alastair’s aunt, Princess Patricia of Connaught mysteriously ‘volunteered’ to give up her Royal style when she married in 1919.  Perhaps this was no coincidence…

Anyway, perhaps one day I will have chance to read more about this and return to the subject.  Until then, if anyone know more or has any views, I would be very grateful to hear them!

Three things the ‘White Queen’ got wrong

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Fierce debate rages amongst super-cool Royal history geeks as to the merits of high-profile historical fiction.  On the one hand, it sparks interest within the general population; on the flip side, it encourages severe inaccuracies to flow through the popular consciousness.

Generally, I’m in the ‘pro’ camp.  If interest is sparked, there is a greater opportunity for misconceptions to be corrected.  Besides, I really like reading and watching it all.

So when I heard that the ‘White Queen’ would enjoy a sequel in America – although not in Britain – I thought this was good news.  The BBC series in 2013 sparked interest in the Wars of the Roses and the matriarchs of the Tudor dynasty more than anything I’ve ever known.

But…but, but, but, but, but…the inaccuracies were of epic proportions, to a much greater extent than the Philippa Gregory books on which they were based.  It’s so important that this is realised.

Let me start by trying to tidy up a few bits.  Primarily I want to say what I think was wrong with the portrayals of the three main heroines, Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville:

Elizabeth Woodville – Beautiful, heroic and tragic.  All of these were true, but unlike in the book, her negative qualities just did not come across.  True, she was vengeful toward those who hurt her family (though later, unconvincingly, forgave brother-in-law George), but where was the ambition, the vindictiveness, the ruthlessness and the spite?  The entire court loathed Elizabeth and her kin.  They must have had some kind of reason and their savagely ambitious personalities were a part of this.  In one sense Elizabeth is no hero at all, but very much a medieval woman on the make.  This was just not clear enough.

Margaret Beaufort – I’m sorry, but no.  Yes, Margaret had blood and marital connections to Lancaster (and no doubt preferred Henry VI to Edward IV), but she was no blind fanatic to the cause of the Red Rose.  Yes, she had dramatic loyalty to her son, but never in his tender years did she expect him to be King.  It is well documented that she was a pious woman, but she was no crazed fundamentalist and let’s be clear – nor was she a sinister child killer.  The Margaret that I have researched was a cautious pragmatist that would one day take a huge gamble that ultimately paid off.  I’m also not sure why they decided to ruin her marriage to Henry Stafford, the relationship which was probably the happiest of her life.

If people are interested in a more balanced picture of Margaret Beaufort’s life and character, check out our content from Margaret Beaufort week.

Anne Neville – It wasn’t so much that they got Anne Neville’s character wrong; the problem was that they actually gave her one.  Anne Neville, through the manipulations of her father and two fateful marriages to key players in the political scene, would have seen a lot.  However, there is very little evidence to suggest that she herself ever inputted much.  I really don’t think she helped to mastermind Lancaster’s military strategy in 1470; neither do I think she pressured her husband to do away with her nephews.

If the book is anything to go by, the new series of ‘The White Princess’ is also going to require some correcting.  Never fear though geeks…that is a post for another time!

Could the Queen Mother really have been the daughter of a French cook?

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It’s amazing what you learn from popular culture.  Up until the recent series of ‘I’m a celebrity…’ I had never heard of Lady Colin Campbell, a writer who married into (and divorced out of) the British aristocracy and went on to pen ‘tell all’ books about Diana and the Queen Mother.

Until recently I had never heard her theory that Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (better known to us as Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother) was not the daughter of her legal mother, but in fact the result of a ‘surrogacy’ arrangement between her father, the future Earl of Strathmore and Kingmore, and Marguerite Rodiere, a French cook who worked at one of their residences.

It’s an absurd theory.  What makes me really angry is that Lady Colin must be aware of that.

The story goes that after eight successful pregnancies, Celia, Lady Glamis (the future Countess) was unable to bear any more children.  Therefore, in an early version of surrogacy, they approached a member of their household to help them get two further children by proxy: Elizabeth and her little brother David.  The following arguments are given in evidence:

  • The Queen Mother’s middle name was Marguerite – a sure sign (apparently) of her real parentage
  • The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the Queen Mother’s brother and sister-in-law) used to refer to her behind her back as ‘cookie,’ an innuendo as to her origin
  • The story is apparently ‘widely known’ in aristocratic circles

None of this even begins to stack up.  Firstly, choosing a middle name is not usually seen as a practice of identifying maternity.  It might well be that the Strathmores were fond of their cook and decided to honour her in their daughter’s name, or possibly more likely, through her they became aware of the name and just decided they liked it.  It could of course, just be a coincidence.

The snub of the Windsors also adds no weight to this case.  They are widely understood to have used this nickname because the then Duchess of York, with her soft and plump appearance, reminded them of a Scottish Cook.  More than anything else, they were just looking to be derogatory.

As to whether this story was ‘doing the rounds’ in aristocratic circles, I cannot say.  I do not myself mix in them.  However, I would caution everyone to be wary of any historian who makes an argument based on sources that very few people have access to.  Just because something happens to be the subject of gossip doesn’t make it true; gossip often is, after all, exactly that!

Anyway, this theory begs some even more obvious questions.  After bearing eight healthy children, would the couple really be so desperate to have another two that they would go to such extremes?  Would the proud and high-born coupling of Bowes-Lyon and Cavendish really be so prepared to contaminate their blood line?

The real reason this suggestion is so ludicrous, is the striking physical resemblance between Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and her own mother.  While I appreciate that this isn’t the most scientific approach in the world, let’s just stand back a minute and take a look at some pictures.  I genuinely don’t believe anyone can look at these pictures and honestly take alternative theories about the Queen Mother’s parentage seriously.  I can only conclude that Lady Colin Campbell’s desire to sell books far out weighted her determination to tell the truth.

This makes me very angry indeed.

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Okay geeks…what do you think?  Am I being too harsh?  Should I give Lady C the benefit of the doubt?  Or are you as angry about this as I am?

Valentine’s day special: Were Victoria and Albert really a love match?

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As a Valentine’s day special, we will take a step back and decide whether Royalty’s greatest love story was really the great romance many of us have always believed it to be…

Studying Royal History is never boring, but it can be intense.  Brother against brother, father killing son, wife betraying husband and cousin rising up against cousin.  Sometimes, you need a bit of light relief.

For me, it was always the love story of Victoria and Albert that gave me that a-plenty.  Two young adults who, however dynastically convenient, fell head over heels in love.  In the innocent throws of passion that followed, they created an idyllic set of children that would serve as a timeless model of exactly what a Royal family should look like.

Such tales don’t just make easy reading; if the modern reader is able to overlook the fact that the two lovers were first-cousins, it is essentially a tale of romance that we can all either relate or aspire to.

But lately, as I’ve been conducting some – albeit fairly light – research around the ‘happy couple,’ I’ve noticed that there’s now a narrative circulating that perhaps all was not as it seemed.  This is something I don’t remember coming across as a teenager, but certainly seems to have been doing the rounds in recent years.

Don’t get me wrong, very little that I read suggests that the conventional view is dead in the water,  but there is a sense that the young Coburgs were not the love story we have been led to believe.  Were much of Victoria’s later platitudes to Albert a product of guilt?  Were they both really the victims of an arranged marriage?  Was it the case that plain Victoria felt a hormonal passion for her striking new husband, but he was more disappointed in his plump, immature and unintelligent bride?

Having decided to #DigALittleDeeper I have concluded that the following observations certainly seem fair:

  • Victoria and Albert’s match was certainly one arranged (or strongly, strongly encouraged) by their family. Their uncle Leopold, had once been in prime position to become Prince Consort of Britain; it was almost certainly his belief that this ambition should be fulfilled by the next generation of his kin.
  • After Albert’s death it does seem the case that Victoria looked back at their marriage through rose-tinted spectacles. Contemporary letters and other sources suggest their marriage could be quite tempestuous and a strain on both parties.
  • It does seem that whatever Victoria’s pleasures, Albert experienced a degree of melancholy in the marriage, particularly in the early years.

However, is any of this really enough to take away from the more romantic tales that have come down to us?  Yes, their marriage was somewhat ‘arranged,’ but this would always be the case for the woman ruling the most powerful Kingdom in Europe.  It should be noted that some of the other potential matches for her were more favourable to other stakeholders, including the UK government.  Victoria and Albert’s personal chemistry was part of what made the match achievable.

It is almost inevitable that following Albert’s untimely death, Victoria would always remember her marriage with more romance than accuracy, but that doesn’t mean she rewrote history.  Were there elements of guilt for the times that she didn’t think herself a good wife?  Probably, but that’s hardly untypical in situations of grief.  While evidence does suggest that there were many tempestuous moments in their marriage, perhaps in a marriage dominated by passion, this shouldn’t surprise us.

As for what was going on in Albert’s head and indeed, his heart, we can of course never truly know.  If indeed his passion did not match that of his wife’s, we would be wise not to draw too much from that.  Victoria was in her own country, her own surroundings and occupied an established role in society.  Not only did Albert not have the security of a well-worn constitutional role, he also had to adapt to leaving all his friends, family and the country he had grown up in.  If he was battling with aspects of mild depression from time to time, it does not make sense to attribute that to how he felt about his marriage.

Besides, there is evidence that suggests his marriage to Victoria was something that excited him on every level.  The love letters he sent to his future bride, testify to a man excited about forthcoming nuptials and everything that this would entail.  Throughout the 1840s, Victoria was rarely free from pregnancy.  True, they both felt a duty to create a new and idyllic Royal family after the scandals of the Hanoverian years, but it’s difficult to think that this scale of reproduction was the product of duty alone.

As with so many things, this is something I would like to research further.  Based on what I can see so far, I won’t be abandoning the romantic notions of this Royal coupling that I have found so comforting over the years.  For once, this is a tale of romance that is rooted in reality.

What titles will Harry’s wife and children have?

Image: Surtsicna – This file was derived fromPrince Harry Trooping the Colour.JPG:, CC BY-SA 3.0,

As regular readers know, as a historian I see myself as an amateur; but when it comes to questions of Royal titles – ah now that’s quite different.  Here I consider myself an expert.

On this subject, people trust my knowledge.  On this subject, I often get asked questions – questions I am only too happy to answer.  Once question I’ve been asked a bit lately (okay only once.  And I was the one that asked it.  To myself.  Even though I already knew the answer) is “when Prince Harry gets married, what title will his wife received and how will any eventual children of the marriage be styled?”

The answer, as ever, isn’t entirely straightforward.  But as I like a challenge, I’ll wade in and answer it, making a few qualifications along the way.

If Prince Harry married NOW and there was no intervention from the Queen…

Than his lucky bride would be known as HRH Princess Henry of Wales.

“SAY WHAAAAT?!”  I hear you cry.  “That sounds weird at the best of times and who the heck is ‘Henry of Wales.’”

Okay, bear with, bear with.  First of all we need to be clear on one thing.  Despite  the fact he is almost universally known as ‘Harry’ (I believe at his late mother’s request) William’s younger brother is technically called ‘Henry’ and on official documents is styled as such.  Thanks to Letters Patent issued by his great-great-grandfather in 1917, as a son of a son of the sovereign he is entitled to the style of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince before his christian name. By custom, he takes the territorial designation from his father’s title (in this case ‘Wales’) and uses it as sort of surname with an ‘of’ in front of it.

In the British system, a wife literally feminises her husband’s style.  So the wife of Mr Joe Bloggs is technically Mrs Joe Bloggs rather than Mrs Jane Bloggs, even if the latter is now more common social practice.  Hence why Harry’s wife would rather clunkily be ‘HRH Princess Henry of Wales.’

As for the children?  Well, let’s just suppose that in the lifetime of the Queen, Harry and his wife have two children and for sake of argument we’ll call them Andrew (after his uncle) and Catherine (after his sister in law).  They would be known respectively as Lord Andrew Mountbatten-Windsor and Lady Catherine Mountbatten-Windsor.

“Hold the phone!” I can sense you shout out loud as your coffee drops to the floor.  “Mountbatten?  What’s that about?  And why on God’s earth aren’t these two fictitious young Royals a Prince and Princess.”

<Sigh.>  I knew it would get to this.  Okay, I’ll tell ya.

The Royal family are known as the ‘House and family of Windsor.’  There was some question mark over this when the Queen ascended (married women tend to take their husband’s name and Philip had adopted the surname of Mountbatten in 1947) but the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill made it crystal clear.  However a few years later, the Queen, no doubt wanting to recognise her husband, decreed that her and Philip’s male-line descendants who do NOT bear the style Royal Highness would carry the name ‘Mountbatten-Windsor.’

As far as their lack of Royal titles?  The Letters Patent of 1917 (mentioned above) restricted the use of the Royal style so that male line great-grandchildren of a sovereign were no longer entitled to it (with the exception of the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.  In fact the Queen had to intervene to ensure that Charlotte was born a Princess).  Instead, it made provisions for them to have the same titles as the children of Dukes – the right to prefix their Christian name with the title ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady.’

HOWEVER, when Charles ascends the throne, everything changes.  Now, these two offspring would be male-line grandchildren of a sovereign and would be bumped up to HRH with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess.  And Harry’s title would change too – he would lose ‘Wales’ and gain the definite article, becoming HRH The Prince Henry, with his wife upgrading to HRH The Princess Henry.

But in reality, there would probably be some intervention from the Queen

When Harry marries he will probably be given a peerage most likely a Dukedom, but potentially an Earldom like Prince Edward.  Even if this doesn’t happen on marriage, it is highly likely to take place once Charles ascends.  If then he is created (let’s say) ‘Duke of Sussex’ (the title he is rumoured to desire) than it’s good news for his wife.  She would then be styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.

It is also possible that a change will be made with the children.  Given that they will one day be grandchildren of a sovereign and entitled to the Princely style, the Queen might decide to bring that day forward and give it to them straight away.  She has that power.

But more worryingly, there is a third alternative.  We hear much talk of Charles wanting to ‘shrink’ the Royal family.  While this would be disastrous for Royal watchers like me, there is a chance that he may further restrict HRH to those in direct line of succession – freeing his other descendants from the burden or privilege (depending how you see it) of Royal titles.  As such Harry’s children may never be technically considered Royal – although this is entirely speculation.

Well there you go.  That was an adventure, wasn’t it?  Stay tuned for more super-coolness just around the corner.

What did we make to Dan Jones on Margaret Beaufort?

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Well we’ve come to the end of Margaret Beaufort week, and let’s be clear – it rocked beyond all expectations.

This week of tribute to the Tudor matriarch was triggered  in anticipation of the final episode of Dan Jones’s ‘Britain’s Bloody Crown’ – which carried a promised focus on the formidable mother of Henry VII.  We wanted to join in with the fun.

And of course, at the beginning of the week I promised I would chip in my two cents worth and review the episode.  Margaret has been subject to some pretty dodgy portrayals in recent years, and as Alison Weir hasn’t got time to devote a book to her until 2021 at the earliest, I regularly panic that today’s society will never have the chance to accurately glimpse the Countess’s character.

So I’m over the moon to report that Dan Jones passed the test with flying colours and I recommend that everyone checks out the Channel 5 series which is (at the time of writing) available to view online.

What did I like about it?  Well, I’ll tell ya:

  • It portrayed Margaret as a woman of tremendous strength without making her out to be a savage deviant blamed for crimes that she could never have committed.
  • He didn’t over do the ‘Margaret was the heir to the throne’ narrative that historical fiction writers love but isn’t grounded in an awful lot.
  • She was portrayed as a pragmatist rather than a fanatic. Yes her preferred loyalty in the War of the Roses was to Henry VI and Lancaster, but she would play the game with whoever she needed to.

While Margaret’s Lancastrian credentials tend to be overdone in other portrayals, if I was to be critical of one thing it would be that this was dialed down too much in the programme.  It seemed to suggest that her connection to Henry VI was that she had been married to his half-brother.  She was of course his cousin in her own right and a descendant of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.  Not exactly a major player in the ruling dynasty, but certainly a second division member of the house of Lancaster.  But of course, TV as a medium doesn’t always lend itself to getting these subtler messages across.

Anyway, I’m sure Margaret Beaufort will continue to be revisited on this site. I’ve certainly had a blast with this spotlight on the great lady – I hope you guys have found it almost as enjoyable as me.