In Praise of Prince Philip – The Unsung Hero of the House of Windsor

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is no stranger to bad press.  Thanks, in large part, to his unfortunate habit of saying the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time, the Queen’s husband has gained an unenviable reputation for being gaffe-prone, culturally insensitive and out of touch with reality.  Indeed, the more sensationalist of the tabloid newspapers have even gone so far as to accuse him of being a perpetual embarrassment to the Queen.

The reality, however, could not be more different.  Far from being the slightly ridiculous court jester of legend, the Duke of Edinburgh is, in fact, the glue that holds the House of Windsor together.  Ever since Her Majesty’s coronation sixty years ago, when he swore an oath to be her ‘liege man of life and limb’, the Duke has rarely left the Queen’s side, steadfastly supporting her on a ceaseless round of royal engagements and state visits.  Indeed, his self-effacing, no-nonsense approach to this life of duty has made it easy for us to forget the difficulties of his early life and the very great sacrifices he has made in service to our Queen and to this country.

Birth in Corfu

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Princess Margaret – The Forgotten Casualty of Edward VIII’s Abdication

Much has been written about the devastating effect Edward VIII’s shock abdication had upon the House of Windsor: his mother, Queen Mary, found it extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that her eldest son had abandoned his Crown in order to marry an American divorcee; while Bertie, his younger brother, having been forced onto the throne in Edward’s place, was so overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility thrust so unexpectedly upon his shoulders that many believe it hastened his early demise.  And, of course, there was the ten-year-old Princess Elizabeth, who suddenly found herself occupying the unenviable position of heiress presumptive.

But there was another, often-overlooked, member of the Windsor household who suffered greatly as a result of Edward’s renunciation of the throne – Princess Elizabeth’s younger sister, Princess Margaret Rose.

Born on 21 August 1930 at Glamis Castle in Scotland, the ancestral home of her mother’s family (and which is also famous for being the fictional home of the eponymous character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth), Princess Margaret Rose was the second daughter of Bertie, the Duke of York and his wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.  From a very young age, it was obvious that Margaret Rose, headstrong and unruly, was markedly different in temperament to her more dutiful and obedient older sister.  But despite her naughtiness, or perhaps because of it, Margaret Rose was the apple of her father’s eye, and grew used to being the centre of attention within the close-knit household.

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Prince Charles – The Man Who Would Be King

It is hardly surprising that all eyes are on Queen Elizabeth II in this, her Diamond Jubilee year.  Sixty years on the throne is a remarkable achievement, one which is only surpassed by Queen Victoria, who reigned for a total of 63 years and 216 days, until her death in 1901 (a record Elizabeth is expected to exceed on 10 September 2015).

However, the Queen is not the only member of the current Royal Family who has clocked up impressive statistics – her son, Prince Charles, has also reached a significant milestone recently.  Last year, on 20 April 2011, the Prince of Wales attained the rather dubious honour of becoming Britain’s longest-serving heir apparent, surpassing the record of his great-great-grandfather, Edward VII, who occupied the position for 59 years, 2 months and 13 days.

The Heir Apparent

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Edward VIII – a brief summary

Prince Edward, the future Edward VIII, was the eldest child of King George V and his wife, Queen Mary of Teck.  Born on 23 June 1894 at White Lodge in Richmond Park, Surrey, he was baptized three weeks later, on 16 July, by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  His given names were Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David – but he was known to his family simply as ‘David’.

Edward was educated at home until he was 13, and then spent two years at Osborne Naval College on the Isle of Wight, before progressing to Dartmouth Naval College.  He did not, however, complete his two-year course at Dartmouth – he left in 1910 when he became Prince of Wales after his father’s ascension to the throne (although his official investiture did not take place on 13 July 1911).   Nonetheless, he did serve as a staff officer in the Grenadier Guards during World War I.

As Prince of Wales (pictured here in 1919), he enjoyed widespread popularity, thanks in large part to his numerous visits to economically deprived areas of the country and his successful trips overseas.  He was also the first in a long line of royals to become a qualified pilot.

However, David had little patience for protocol and the formality of royal occasions greatly bored him, a fact which greatly upset his father.

Edward and Mrs Simpson

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Queen Elizabeth II – Timeline


17 July: The House of Windsor (previously the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) is created by Royal Proclamation


18 January: Prince Albert (Bertie), the Duke of York, announces his engagement to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore

26 April: Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth are married in Westminster Abbey, the first senior royal to do so since 1382


21 April: Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor is born at 2.40 a.m. at her parent’s home in 17 Bruton Street

29 May: The young princess is christened. She cries throughout the ceremony


21 August: Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret Rose, is born


20 January: George V (‘Grandpa England’) dies. Edward VIII becomes king

10 December: Edward VIII signs the Instrument of Abdication

11 December: Bertie, the Duke of York, is formally proclaimed King George VI. Princess Elizabeth is now heiress presumptive


12 May: Coronation of George VI at Westminster Abbey


21 April: Princess Elizabeth celebrates her thirteenth birthday, and soon begins a demanding course of study under the Vice-Provost of Eton College

22 July: Princes Elizabeth meets and falls in love with Cadet Captain Philip of Greece at the Royal Dartmouth Naval College

3 September: Britain declares war on Germany


4 March: Princess Elizabeth joins the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)

8 May: VE Day


10 July: Buckingham Palace officially announces the engagement of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten

20 November: Elizabeth marries Philip (now known as the Duke of Edinburgh) at Westminster Abbey


14 November: Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, is born


15 August: Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, is born

31 January: Elizabeth and Philip leave for a tour of East Africa, Australia and New Zealand


6 February: George VI (pictured) dies and Elizabeth II succeeds to the throne

15 February: Funeral of George VI at St George’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey

7 April: Proclamation issued declaring that the family’s dynastic surname would remain ‘Windsor’


2 June: Coronation of Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey

24 November: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh embark on a tour of the Commonwealth


15 May: The royal couple return to England, after six months abroad


31 October: Princess Margaret releases a statement confirming that she will not marry Group Captain Peter Townsend


19 February: Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is born


10 March: Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, is born


21 June: First broadcast of the Royal Family documentary


7 June: The queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrates her twenty-five years on the throne


27 August: Lord Louis Mountbatten is killed by an IRA bomb off the coast of Sligo in the west of Ireland


24 February: Elizabeth’s eldest son, Prince Charles, announces his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer

29 July: Charles and Diana marry in St Paul’s Cathedral


21 June: Diana gives birth to Prince William


15 September: Diana gives birth to Prince Harry


7 June: The first instalment of the serialisation of Andrew Motion’s book, Diana: Her True Story, appears in the The Sunday Times

20 November: Windsor Castle is partly destroyed by fire

9 December:    Prime Minister John Major announces in the House of Commons that Charles and Diana are to separate


28 August: Charles and Diana’s marriage is dissolved in the High Court


31 August: Diana dies in a car crash in Paris


9 Feb: Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, dies

30 March: Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother dies

30 April: Elizabeth officially launches her Golden Jubilee celebrations with a speech to both houses of parliament


9 Apr: Elizabeth’s eldest son, Prince Charles, marries his second wife, Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony at the Guildhall in the town of Windsor. Despite initial opposition to the relationship, the Queen has since come to accept her new daughter-in-law, and was in attendance at the service of blessing held for the couple at St George’s Chapel.


21 April: Elizabeth celebrates her eightieth birthday.


29 April: Prince William, Elizabeth’s grandson and second in line to the throne, marries Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey.


6 Feb: The 60th anniversary of the death of George VI and of Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne.

2 – 5 Jun: Various events take place throughout the United Kingdom to celebrate Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.

Read about the Queen in The Queen: History In An Hour by Sinead Fitzgibbon, published by Harper Press and available in various digital formats.

If you would like to amend or add to this timeline, please contact us with your suggestions.

The Best Laid Schemes (of Royal Men) Often Go Awry

She was never meant to be Queen.  Indeed, with the line of succession expected to pass to her father’s brother, David, and subsequently to his future children. Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the eldest daughter of the Duke of York and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, was destined, it seemed, to live a rather unspectacular life in relative royal obscurity.

But, to use a sentiment from the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, the best laid plans often go awry…

When George V died on 20 January 1936, he was succeeded by his eldest son, David, the erstwhile Prince of Wales, who chose to take the regnal name of King Edward VIII (pictured).  As Prince of Wales, David had lived the life of a pleasure-seeking playboy prince.  Weak-willed, petulant yet endlessly charming, he was bored senseless by royal protocol and showed little interest in affairs of state, preferring instead to absorb himself in a number of adulterous liaisons with married women.  Hardly surprising then, that the old king had predicted “after I’m dead, the boy will ruin himself in twelve months”,

And how prophetic those words would prove to be – in the event, it would take just eleven months for George’s wayward son to bring about his own spectacular fall from grace.

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The House of Windsor – A Phoenix from the Ashes of World War One

In the first twenty years of the 20th century, the British Royal Family had undergone a period of profound change.  The death of Queen Victoria in 1901, after a 63-year reign, marked the end of an era for her subjects. But while her passing left many feeling bereft, others were hopeful that the accession of her son, Edward VII, to the throne would re-invigorate a monarchy which had stagnated in the latter decades of his mother’s reign.

And indeed Edward VII (pictured left) did prove himself willing to embrace change.  In what seemed to some to be indecent haste, the new king enthusiastically set about banishing the lingering cobwebs of his mother’s long rule.  In addition to ordering a dramatic refurbishment of the royal residences, he also devised a number of spectacular ceremonies, including the Trooping of the Colour, with the aim of injecting some much-needed pomp and pageantry into the monarchy.

George V

However, Edward VII’s reign was not destined to be a long one – when he died just nine years after becoming king, the Crown passed to his son, George V.  And, although the serious-minded and conservative George was diametrically opposite in temperament to his more liberal-leaning and gregarious father, it was during his reign that the British monarchy overcame the most difficult challenge it had faced in centuries.

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The Queen’s 90th birthday: Royal Trivia

Today, 21 April 2016, is Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday.

Did you know …

… Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s official residences, is the oldest, continually-inhabited castle in the world?

William the Conqueror built the original castle as a motte and bailey after his defeat of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  Over the centuries, the early wooden structure gave way to the imposing stone edifice we know today.  Henry II built the famous Round Tower and the surrounding stone wall in the 10th century, while the 13th century king, Henry III, was the first monarch to introduce an element of luxury by building comfortable accommodation within the castle walls.  The imposing St George’s Hall was the brainchild of Edward III, who built it in the 1370s.

Following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Charles II restored and improved the castle, while both George III and George IV invested vast sums of money into building and furnishing the lavish State Apartments which are still in existence today.

… The House of Windsor is less than 100 years old?

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