Interviews

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Interviews by celebrities great and minor is a business for many magazines and talk shows. It brings viewers or readers and it boost attention to a person with a public profile. It’s good PR if you know how to spin the message. The following is based on my own observation and experience while in the Foreign Service over 35 years.

The Canadian and British Royal Family knows how to spin a good tale and the Palace has a team of experts who always present the right message or image to the public.

Nothing new really, if you want to be a popular King, Queen, Emperor or Prince you need to justify your existence every day, this is what Lord Louis Mountbatten the uncle of Prince Charles use to tell him.

Queen Victoria cultivated the image of the happy housewife and mother, she had 9 kids. Then when her husband Price Albert died in 1861, she transformed herself into a professional widow supported by her children. Most of it was rubbish but the public lapped it up. The government cultivated that image, so that by the end of her life, she had become an iconic image of mother of the Empire. An image that had been carefully fabricated and endures.

Examples of Kings who did not care much for public opinion, King Charles I of England who lost his head to a rebellious Parliament under Oliver Cromwell. Louis XV of France who was an old débauché who had to be secretly buried when he died in 1774.

King Georges VI who became king after his brother renounced the Throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, he was keenly aware that the public was not happy with the Royal Family and during the time of his reign did all he could to build up his image with the public, staying in London during the raids on the City and then visiting neighbourhoods after bombings to speak with the people and show solidarity during the war years. His daughters Elizabeth and Margaret were encouraged to also give this example of service to the Nation. Again the government and the Palace cultivated this image carefully.

Since the early 1980’s the Queen and Prince Philip have cultivated a less formal image of Royalty, Palace advisors were keen to present the Royal Family as modern and not as museum exhibits.

Last week Prince Harry, the younger son of Diana Princess of Wales and Prince Charles, gave an interview to Newsweek. It made a sensation, he too is being groomed to give interviews at various moments in his life to show that as a young man now 33 yrs old, he can be approachable and almost a normal person, whatever that means for a Prince.

His brother William who one day will be King is groomed differently because he is closer to the Throne and because of his destiny. Their father Prince Charles now 68 belongs to another generation and his image has been cast a long time ago. He never fully recovered from the damage the accidental death of his first wife Diana and the ensuing media frenzy created. Though the Queen at the time was seen as unfeeling or even mean, this image was pure fabrication by the media and Prime Minister Tony Blair who wanted to increase his own image with the public, calling Diana the People’s Princess. In many ways Diana created her own problems, she forgot that when you marry the Heir to the Throne you have to play the part no matter what happens. Her first duty and that of Charles was to produce an Heir, the second duty was to keep up appearances so as not to damage the image of the Sovereign or the Royal Family. Yes Charles had a long time mistress Camilla and that was known in Royal Circles, he certainly was not the first Prince or Heir to have a mistress, many before him had mistresses and were also married with children and everyone played the game. Diana thought she could use the media against the Royals and win. If she was still alive today, she would probably be discredited and living abroad with some lover pensioned off. Instead she is no more than a distant memory, Tony Blair is discredited and the Queen is celebrating the first ever Sapphire Jubilee in British history. Prince Charles married the Princess Consort Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and obtained for her titles never given to Diana,  the two boys William and Harry have lives of their own.

What often the public fails to see is that the Royal Family is not at our level and they live in a world totally removed from ours. A world difficult to imagine, where everything is choreographed and scripted to the last detail. What you wear everyday, the honours you receive, your salary, how people address you, where you will live, your daily program of activities every day of the year, what you say, even private family functions are programmed completely. You don’t have to think, everything is done ahead of time all prepared by advisors and counsellors, just follow the instructions. Much of it is controlled by the Queen and her advisors, she decides who gets the helicopter, there is only one, what car will be put at your disposal, what honours and titles she will bestow upon you, what apartment you will get at this or that Palace, all of it based on rank in the family.

Per example Prince Harry like many Royals lives at Kensington Palace, he has a small flat, nothing fancy but quite nice. His brother William who is married and has children and being that he will succeed Charles one day as King, gets a much nicer living space befitting his station in life, he also has a Duchy with a generous revenue. Same for Prince Charles who has Heir gets to have his own palace in London on the Mall, Clarence House.

Can you imagine living like that all of your life, you can’t quit and you cannot tell the Sovereign who happens to be your grandmother off.

The interview in Newsweek was very interesting in how it re-enforced stereotypes and myths about the Royal Family. Prince Harry said the wished for a life other than the one he has now. This is a nice thing to say because it gives the people the impression that he wants to be just like all the other commoners.

He then went on to say he wanted to do his own shopping and live his life as normally as possible. I had a good laugh on that one, again it is exactly what the media wants to hear. You see he is a normal bloke and he like his mother wants to escape. In reality that is nonsense, the only life he knows is that of the Palace, with all the privileges which comes with being the grandson of the Sovereign and a Prince of the United Kingdom.

He went on to say that no one wants to be King or Queen, but we will all do our duties. Well yes, he is a decorated Officer in Her Majesty’s Army and he owes allegiance to the Queen as his Sovereign. His life is one of service to the Crown and duty is what governs his life. It is also treason to say that you would like to be king or that someone else should be, saying this would imply you wish for the death of the Monarch.

Currently he is still single, but apparently he could marry this TV model Meghan Markle, really? Even that question is controlled and governed by his grandmother.  It is very unlikely that permission would be given at this time. The big concern for the Queen and the Palace advisors is if Ms Markle is suitable, no one wants another blow-up like the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson or another Diana. Other events that could play are the old age of Prince Philip at 96 or the death of the Queen and Charles becoming King, any and all family events can have an impact on him and on all other members of the Royal Family, Brexit may also be another factor.

Eventually as years go by Prince Harry will be so far from the succession line that no one will care who he marries or his shacked up with, the Palace will focus their attention on Prince William, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and his children George and Charlotte. Harry is destined to be like Princess Margaret (1930-2002) in the shadow of his sibling William. Let’s hope he does not start drinking and carousing. Let’s hope that Palace advisors find a role for him which is meaningful but that is not likely given the history of the family.

So yes Harry is a nice guy and has a nice public image and the press and the public love those interviews, they are so much fun and in the end gives a good image of the Royal Family.

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This week

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It was  a busy week both at the Art Gallery and in general, we were invited to attend a fundraising cocktail at the home of the Premier of PEI. It was all very informal, the food was prepared by the our Premier Wade MacLauchlan, he is a very good cook. The drinks or special cocktails were very good, one made with gin and the other with bourbon. He and his husband Duncan MacIntosh have a beautiful home on the beach. The scenery is spectacular and so peaceful.

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Here we are at Covehead with our friends Blake and Alex. The Sunset in the West over the Gulf was amazing in its brilliance. Alex is the President of Pride PEI and Blake is the top hairstylist in Charlottetown. Will is enjoying one of the special cocktails.

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The Art Gallery was also very busy this week, lots of visitors, with the end of June suddenly the tourist appear. We had the big opening night and now it is regular Summer traffic.

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We were told by Robert Houle, the new commissioned canvass for the 150th Anniversary of Confederation.  Beside it is the famous and celebrated canvass by Jean-Paul Lemieux, Charlottetown Revisited, created in 1964 for the opening of the Art Gallery.

All the various canvasses on Canada and Confederation have a political message to them, my job is to steer clear of it and speak solely about the art itself and the artist.

Today is June 24 and is the National day of all of us French Canadians across Canada, originally called Saint Jean-Baptiste Day. From this old celebration comes the Canadian National Anthem O’Canada, with original lyrics in French by Adolphe-Basile Routhier and music by Calixa Lavallée. It was originally commissioned by Lieutenant-Governor of Québec, Théodore Robitaille in 1880. Like everything else in Canada, the original French version is very different in its wording from the English version composed many years later.


Ô Canada ! Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux !
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix !
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Sous l’œil de Dieu, près du fleuve géant,
Le Canadien grandit en espérant.
Il est né d’une race fière,
Béni fut son berceau.
Le ciel a marqué sa carrière
Dans ce monde nouveau.
Toujours guidé par sa lumière,
Il gardera l’honneur de son drapeau,
Il gardera l’honneur de son drapeau.
De son patron, précurseur du vrai Dieu,
Il porte au front l’auréole de feu.
Ennemi de la tyrannie
Mais plein de loyauté,
Il veut garder dans l’harmonie,
Sa fière liberté.
Et par l’effort de son génie,
Sur notre sol asseoir la vérité,
Sur notre sol asseoir la vérité.
Amour sacré du trône et de l’autel,
Remplis nos cœurs de ton souffle immortel !
Parmi les races étrangères,
Notre guide est la loi :
Sachons être un peuple de frères,
Sous le joug de la foi.
Et répétons, comme nos pères,
Le cri vainqueur : « Pour le Christ et le roi ! »
Le cri vainqueur : « Pour le Christ et le roi ! ».

Next week on Friday 1 July is Canada Day, in Charlottetown the tall ships are sailing in at 9am. Hopefully it will be a nice clear day, to watch this spectacle.

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We will be able to observe them from our house and it will make the harbour look as it was in 1900.

This week Earle Macdonald who has a blog on Facebook about old Charlottetown published a photo of what the city was like before 1989 showing the rail yards across the street from our home. The waterfront which today has been reclaimed and turned into parkland was then a very industrial area.

In this photo you can see, barely, our house, hidden by trees.

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The big round house for locomotives and the rail cars refurbishment buildings with other Canadian National Railway buildings. Only the Brass shop and what is now called Founder’s Hall remain today the rest is parkland. The cruise ships dock at the end of the wharf now Prince Street.

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The old Brass shop, still standing and completely renovated housing today Receiver Coffee Co. and John’s Bread Works.

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Today the Brass Shop c.1876 much improved.

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Founder’s Hall today, to be soon re-developed into a market 

Opening and closing

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This morning the Queen went to Parliament to read what is called the Queen Speech or the Throne Speech as we say in Canada. Because Prince Philip who is 96 is unwell with what appears to be a recurring bladder infection in hospital, it was the Prince of Wales and Heir to the Throne accompanied her.

They arrived by car taking a different route following Birdcage Walk Rd unto Great George Street bringing them directly to Parliament instead of following Pall Mall down through Admiralty Arch.  It is just a 3 minute drive and it was certainly not the leisurely procession by carriage and horse mounted escort seen on such an occasion.

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The Queen entered Westminster Palace through the Sovereign’s Entrance greeted by David Cholmondeley, KCVO, Lord Great Chamberlain who is an Officer of the Royal House.

She was not wearing the Robes of State, or the Imperial State Crown as is customary. Prince Charles was in morning dress.

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The Crown which arrived in its own late model Rolls Royce, placed on a cushion and carried by one of the Great Officers of the Royal Household, it was placed on the right hand of the Sovereign.  It all had the look of a hurry up event, this scaled back version is the first one since 1974. In fact when the Gentleman of the Black Rod was sent from the House of Peers to the House of Commons to summon the members to attend the Queen, one veteran member of the Labour Party Dennis Skinner said quite loudly, put on your skates, meaning that someone was in a hurry to go to Ascot for the races. Everyone laughed.  It is understood he meant the Queen. The Queen read the speech with no great enthusiasm, going through the paces but trying not to give anything away. This is the Westminster parliamentary system and PM May does have to show that she can govern and given the chance to prove it. It is the same thing in Canada, as long as a Prime Minister has the confidence of the House, he or she can stay in Office.

From the speech it is clear that the current government of Theresa May will not last very long it was a hollow speech with nothing of significance in it. I expect a vote of no confidence and either the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will be asked to form a government or there will be fresh elections. Not a good start to the Brexit talks this week.

In the meantime in Canada, Parliament could go into recess today Wednesday or tomorrow Thursday depending on what the Senate will do with the Budget bill. Much protest by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Senators trying to delay or question the content of the bill and the part relating to the Infrastructure Bank. This is all too strange, it is the Constitutional duty of the Senate to examine and raise question. The Government representative in the Senate, Peter Harder even went so far as too say that it was costing money to delay passage of the Budget bill. As if he was suggesting we could have democracy only if it was on the cheap. In an unheard of move, some government member and Minister Bardish Chaggar, Liberal House Leader even came to the Senate Chamber and stood at the bar to observe the vote of the Senators. This was seen by the Conservatives Senators as an intimidation gesture. What was also strange was the tabling of 4 new bills by the Government, on important matters. Obviously they will not be debated until the House returns in the Fall. There are also rumours of a Cabinet shuffle by PM Trudeau and a possible prorogation of Parliament in the Fall which would see all unfinished business abandoned unless the Government decided to re-table the same bills. It has also been announced that the Governor General David Johnston’s mandate will expire in September. So who will be the new Governor General?  At any rate Members of Parliament are in a rush to go on vacation for the Summer.

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The Senate Chamber in Parliament in Ottawa.

 

Wunderschön

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I have been following the rebuilding of the Berlin City Palace located on the museum island in the centre of the City at the end of Unter den Linden avenue in Berlin. The palace which stood on the site from 1443 was the official residence of the Kings of Prussia and then the Emperors of Germany. The baroque style building was fire bombed during the second world war and totally demolished by the Communist East German Government in the 1950’s.

Through private and public financing it has been rebuilt and will be inaugurated in 2019, now serving as a museum, library, conference centre as part of the Humboldt University.

The reconstruction of the outside walls is faithful to the original. Here are some photos of the finished product in its soft pale yellow colour, as the scaffolding comes down.

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All the decorative elements in stone had to be re-carved from drawings and photos of the original.

On this day 19 June 1917

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The First World War was raging and Canadians were fighting for King and Country against the German Kaiser.

In London, the King Emperor George V who was himself a German Prince and first cousin of Wilhelm II decided in the face of mounting criticism to change the family name from Saxe-Cobourg Gotha to Windsor and renounce all his titles and possessions in Germany. Other family members inherited land and holdings which they hold to this day in Hanover and Hesse.

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Nasty Sushi Parasite On The Rise In Western Countries

An important article, is you like Suschi eat it only in well established restaurants not from your supermarket.

Buying Seafood

Sushi, ceviche, crudo, poke…all of them seem crazy popular right now from what I see online and I understand why. Raw or “acid cooked” fish tastes great, looks great, and if prepared correctly, has no ill-health effects. However as I talked about in my post about sushi grade fish, if the products are not stored and handled properly you can have a big problem with parasites. One particular parasite known in Japan, which infects a few thousand people per year, is now being seen much more in the West, where sushi is now sold at supermarkets, run-down food courts at the mall, and gas stations.

It is known as Anisakis simplex and there is no medication for an infection of this nematode. In rare cases, the parasite has to be removed from a patient’s stomach using endoscopy. The range of symptoms include pain, nausea, chronic ulcers and even life-threatening…

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Art Weekend

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This has been a busy weekend with the Opening of the Summer Theatre Festival at the Confederation Centre of the Arts and then on the next night the Opening of the Summer Exhibit at the Art Gallery. In both cases it brought out the whose who of PEI Society from the Lieutenant-Governor to Members of Parliament, Senators, Chief Justice and many others actors on our social scene.

The Opening play is Million Dollar Quartet which tells the story of the meeting at Sun Records in December of 1956 of four greats of the Rock and Roll scene, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins in Memphis.

The reception before and after was a lot of fun with a live orchestra and great food by the new Chef of Mavor’s Miguel Cervantes.

The next night was the opening of the Summer Exhibit of the Art Gallery of the Confederation Centre. This being the 150th Anniversary of Confederation, the exhibit highlights the Collection of the Art Gallery, the best pieces of our 17,000 works of Art by great Canadian artists. The Art Gallery is mandated to show only Canadian Art since the Centre is a Memorial to the Fathers of Confederation.

We also unveiled a new giant painting by Canadian Native Artist Robert Houle Aka Blue Thunder who is a  from St-Boniface, Manitoba. It joins the other great canvasses on the same theme by Jean-Paul Lemieux, John Fox, Jane Ash Poitras, Yvon Gallant, Wanda Koop, Jack Shadbolt.

Robert Houle, Blue Thunder (born 1947) is a Saulteaux First Nation Canadian artist, curator, critic, and educator. Houle has had an active curatorial and artistic practice since the mid-1970s. He played an important role in bridging the gap between contemporary First Nations artists and the broader Canadian art scene through his writing and involvement in early important high-profile exhibitions such as Land, Spirit, Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, 1992). As an artist, Houle has shown both nationally and internationally. He is predominately a painter working in the tradition of Abstraction, yet he has also embraced a pop sensibility by incorporating everyday images and text into his works.

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We were told or ‘O-ween du muh waun’ by Robert Houle, 2017

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Me and the artist

This great canvas represents the Delaware in the classical pose from the celebrated propaganda painting of Benjamin West, The Death of General Wolfe which is in the National Gallery of Canada.

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The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West, 1770. The Official story as told is of Wolfe dying on the Plains of Abraham in September 1759 during the famous battle against French General Montcalm. This scene was pure fantasy but it was necessary for propaganda purpose in England to raise taxes to pay for the Seven Year War, the tax raise led a few years later to the American Revolution.

In his painting Houle presents a different narrative, he rejects the fantasy painting of West and presents not a battle scene, stating that who won the battle is not really important and should not be celebrated. For Houle on this anniversary we should celebrate today’s Canada. Further being from the Saulteaux First Nation the idea of 150 years does not apply to his people since they have lived in North America for 15,000 years.

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I also got a very nice gift this weekend, I often give tours to school children aged 8 to 12.

Once class sent me several thank you notes designed and written by the students. IMG_2667.jpg

Each card as a personal message addressed to me as a thank you from a student. I am very proud of this gift and happy that for some kids the day at the Art Gallery meant something.

 

Some photos

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I have not posted anything for a few days, have been quit busy in the last few days. Here is an illustrated story of life on the Island.

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Water Street freshly repaved, this is part of the upgrades the City is doing on its main streets to beautify the overall look of Charlottetown. It took 3 weeks to re-do the street which included landscaping and sidewalks.

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The Gardens at The Dunes Art Gallery and Café at Brackley Beach, just 15 minutes from our home. We went to the opening of the Dunes which has been in operations for 25 years. A spectacular place, art gallery, jewellery, pottery, fashion, furniture and sculpture from Asia. All on the beach. The food at the Café is wonderful and the menu is very original and elegant. Love the place.

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Will bought this art work, showing Indian Head Light House at Summerside, one of the more famous lighthouse on the Island. The artist is Wayne Barrett.

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After years of being blocked the great windows of the Art Gallery are open again to daylight.  It is so nice to see natural light into the Museum.

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Province House, the 1847 seat of the Provincial Legislature of PEI, renovations are in full swing. In 2020 the Legislature will return to the building once all the work is done.  The project is complex and at this time a special steel footing is being installed all around the old building. Eventually a steel skeleton will lift and hold up the building interior structure while the outside stone walls are dismantled and repaired stone by stone and then all put back together. This building is a National Treasure and highly significant in the history of Canada. The interior are all original to 1847, quite beautiful.

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The New Glasgow Church Suppers since 1958, an institution and a great meal by the River Clyde just 25 minutes from our home in a magnificent setting of rolling hills near the sea.

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The price on the menu may seem high but what is not said, it’s all you can eat. I did not want lobster, so I had a pale of mussels to eat which our waitress would refill on demand. Same for soup, salad, desserts and coffee, all is made on the premises and it is quite good, we will return with our friends, it is that good.

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Just out my living room window, installing new transformers to supply electricity to Receiver Coffee Co. and John’s Bread Works, the bread ovens and the coffee roasters need a lot of electricity. These are two companies we patronize, the coffee is wonderful and the bread from John is the way bread is meant to be.

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The Receiver Coffee Co. is moving into the old Brass shop of the now defunct railroad system. A red sand stone building from 1890.

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A Constable or Turner sky, you choose. We often get those as Sunset.

 

Reading

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I have been reading the latest biography on Queen Victoria by Julia Baird.  A very different biography, written from the Queen’s journals, those the author could gain access to, much has been destroyed by family members and the rest is under lock and key, Queen Elizabeth II wishes to preserve some secrets. The author also used correspondence and journals of her close family and Prime Ministers who served in her time.

This is not the Official saccharine version presented constantly in stories about that era but a much more unvarnished portrait of her family and her life.

Victoria was born in 1819 and baptized Alexandrina Victoria, the grand-daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte, both were Germans and the entire British Royal Family is in fact of German origin with very close Family ties to the German Imperial Family.  Her eldest daughter will marry German Emperor Frederick III and Victoria’s favourite grandson was Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1942).

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Grandmama Victoria and grand son Wilhelm 

Victoria’s father was Prince Edward who will die young when Victoria was a small child. Her uncles King George IV and King William IV did not like her much and will make all manner of difficulties for her and her mother German Princess Victoria of Saxe-Cobourg-Saalfeld.  The reason being that they did not have children of their own and this created a succession crisis. Victoria had 2 step-siblings from her mother’s first marriage, Princess Feodora and Prince Carl, both lived in Germany and they visited each other often.

Victoria spoke fluent German and had an accent when she spoke English. At home life was in German and governess and personal attendants were also Germans. She had a sad childhood, which she describes as one of melancholy. She was very emotional, frivolous, obstinate, selfish, mean spirited, a conservative not in favour of greater democratic rights for her subjects, she often berated her Prime Ministers and tried to undermine her own Ministers. She reigned in an age when the role of the Monarchy was rapidly changing, responsible government was taking root and a greater proportion of men will be able to vote thanks to Prime Minister Gladstone many reforms. She also opposed voting rights for women and self-rule for Ireland.

In February 1840 she married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha at the suggestion of her uncle King Leopold of the Belgium. Victoria and Albert had daily strenuous sexual relations, of their union 9 children will be born and 7 will live into adulthood. This is were the hemophilia gene enters the story and how it spread to other Royal families in Europe through her daughters. Little was known at the time about this disease and how it was communicated through the female line.

It appears from the biography of Baird, that what is known as the Victorian Era was in fact a creation of Albert’s influence. Victoria had many pregnancies and she was unable to attend to State Affairs, Albert was happy to take care of everything, assuming the role of King, though he was in Law only a Consort with no authority. He came from a broken dysfunctional family and had strict puritanical attitudes and imposed a harsh moral code at Court. He was a cold intellectual and made people feel stupid when he spoke on any topic, had strong anti-semitic views which shocked people in Britain. He also had misogynist views on women and their role. Much correspondence exist on this topic between him and his brother.  Victoria in her diaries and in correspondence after a few years of marriage to Albert started to show a lack of confidence in herself, she will say I cannot make my mind up about anything without his guidance.  The Family spoke German in private and Victoria had to be reminded by her Prime Ministers to be careful to only use English in public. There was much resentment and mistrust of Prince Albert as he was seen as a foreign influence on Victoria.

Albert dies in December 1861 of what is believed nowadays to have been Crohn’s disease. Victoria enters into a 10 year period of very deep mourning and disappeared from view. Living away from London, refusing to open Parliament or do any public duty. She developed a system were a cohort of medical expert would present ”Doctor’s notes” to explain her absence or inability to do her duty to the Prime Minister and the Press.  The Press and the public criticized her for her absence and questions were raised about the role of the Royal family, why do we need them, she kept her adult children including the heir, the Prince of Wales, her eldest son Edward from any Royal duty. The image of the Royal family suffered during that period only to improve slightly towards the end of her life.

Her mental health after the death of Albert deteriorated so much that many feared she was going mad like her Grandfather King George III. In reading this biography, you see Victoria as indulged and weak and then as temperamental and emotional, much weeping about everything. Her children marry, they will move away and she feels always very depressed at every wedding. These marriages will also increase the prestige of Britain, connecting her family with other Royal Houses, like Denmark, Russia, Germany, Romania, Greece. She will offer asylum to French Emperor Napoleon III and his family in 1870 after his overthrow. She will also put Chancellor Bismarck in his place during a meeting in 1888 over the succession in Germany.

As for her relationship with the Scottish oaf John Brown, there is a strong suspicion that she had an affair with him for many years, he was a substitute for the dead Albert. Baird does bring a lot of context to this book and it helps the reader understand the dynamics of the time and destroy some myths about Victoria.

 

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Painting of Victoria and Albert with 5 of the children in 1846 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter