Even from over there, you, our American friends, may have noticed that the Sceptered Isle has had a tumultuous few months lately. There’s been Brexit; Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation and the accession of Teresa May, but media attention has somewhat shifted from politics to matters of royalty in recent days. If there’s one thing that can unite a fractured nation filled with resentful Remain voters and uncertain Leave victors, it’s our mutual affection for our royal family.
The British public does love the royals, both current and former. We came together recently to raise funds for the Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, thus preventing it from being sold overseas. The Art Fund and Royal Museums Greenwich launched an appeal that raised over £1.5 million (that’s just under $2 million) with over 8,000 donations. The generosity of the British public secured a grant of £7.4 million ($9.6 million) from the Heritage Lottery Fund, raising over £10 million (approximately $13 million). These astronomical figures have brought the painting into public ownership for the first time.
It shows how much we adore the royal family—they are historic yet present, bringing together the past, the present and the future, and providing us with a sense of binding patriotism and national loyalty that is—we feel—incomparable.
The Armada Portrait, one of the most renowned of Queen Elizabeth I, was commissioned by Tudor politician and sea captain Sir Francis Drake. The painting commemorates the failed attempts by the Spanish naval fleet to invade England in 1588. The beloved queen is portrayed with her back to the storm, sitting in her imperial majesty with her hand resting upon a globe, reiterating England’s supremacy over land and seas.
Queen Elizabeth I, like the Tudors before her, relied heavily on symbolic propaganda throughout her reign. Having succeeded to the throne following the bloody reign of her Roman Catholic sister, Queen Mary I, Elizabeth quickly needed to unite her people politically and religiously, and, before TV, portraiture was the way of projecting her image across a torn and disparate England.
And she desperately needed the support. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded by Henry VIII under charges of incest, witchcraft, adultery and conspiracy—which didn't help her popularity. Luckily, the Virgin Queen inherited her father's gift for PR; she would certainly be pleased to learn she’s still so revered that her image will be exhibited at her birthplace, Greenwich Palace, later this year.
From past members of the royal family to today’s lesser-known royals, Princess Beatrice of York, daughter of Prince Andrew Duke of York and his former wife Sarah Ferguson, ended her decade-long relationship with boyfriend Dave Clark this past week. Speculation is rife in the UK media that the relationship broke down due to the pair’s failure to get engaged, despite the fact that Princess Beatrice, at only 28 years of age, is hardly a spinster. The British media is already guessing who her next squeeze might be, with one favored contender being US oil heir Michael Hess with whom she recently celebrated her birthday.
Interestingly, Beatrice’s position on matters of marriage was significantly altered last year with the birth of Princess Charlotte in May 2015. Britain’s Succession of Crown Act 2013 radically changed the British royal family’s laws of succession. Under the aforementioned act, primogeniture with male preference was replaced with absolute primogeniture, meaning that members of the royal family born after the Act will succeed the throne in order of age and regardless of gender.
This means Princess Charlotte is now fourth in line to the British Throne (following her paternal grandfather, father and elder brother, Prince George), and she’s pushed her cousin Beatrice down to seventh place, which is a magic number. Beatrice no longer needs the Queen’s permission in order to marry. That is a necessity reserved for the first six persons in line to the Throne.
The Succession to the Crown Act also terminated the disqualification from the line of succession for any member of the royal family who marries a Roman Catholic. Interestingly, members of the royal family have always been allowed to marry Muslims, Jews or Hindus; the Act of Settlement (passed in 1701) stated that any royal who married a Roman Catholic would be disqualified from the line of succession.
Princess Beatrice and Dave Clark were no aliens to media attention in the UK, being regularly pictured on luxury holidays. Dave works for Uber in the US and it is widely thought that Beatrice’s life choices have been swayed by her former boyfriend’s career. She enrolled in a finance course in San Francisco before securing employment in Manhattan, where Dave lives. Both Dave and Princess Beatrice have yet to comment publicly on the speculation.
Of course, it is not unlikely that young Beatrice has just chosen to pursue her life in America in order to escape the scrutiny of the media. The British tabloids have, for a long time, pestered the royals. Being able to stroll down Fifth Ave unmolested by intrusive paparazzi is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the young woman’s move abroad. Please note that The Daily Mail actually referred to her as "Brave Bea" in a headline simply for celebrating her birthday, post-breakup. What young woman wouldn't want to get away from that type of attention? And in the same vein, the tabloids broke into hysteria over the weekend, claiming Beatrice's younger sister, Princess Eugenie, is engaged to boyfriend nightclub manager Jack Brooksbank. However, their mother was quick to deny claims: "This story is absolutely not true," said a spokesman for the Duchess of York. Will Eugenie follow her sister's footsteps and break away to the USA to escape unwelcome tabloid attention? We hope not.
Five rooms (The Lancaster Room, The Morning room, The Library, The Dining Room and The Garden Room) are all available for public viewing, but for an additional £35 ($45), guests can access the Cornwall Room - where the walls are decorated with The Prince of Wales’ personal watercolor collection - and enjoy a glass of champagne and a view of the gardens. It’s your chance to live like the crown prince, if only for an afternoon.
Clarence House is a Grade I-listed property and was built between 1825 and 1827. The building was commissioned by the Duke of Clarence, who in 1930 became King William IV of Great Britain and Ireland. The residence has been home over the years to Queen Elizabeth and to Princes William and Harry, but previously to King William IV’s sister Princess Augusta Sophia and Queen Victoria’s mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
It was a shocking week for the royals as Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster (and, with an estimated fortune of over ten billion dollars, one of the wealthiest people in the UK) died on Tuesday at 64 years old. Compared to Britain's laws of primogeniture regarding inheritance of the Crown, those concerning the inheritance of a dukedom are actually much less progressive--a fact possibly surprising to Americans. Primogeniture dictates that the title The Duke of Westminster will pass by Cavendish’s two oldest children—Lady Tamara, 36, and Lady Edwina, 34—and will be bestowed upon his third child and son, Hugh, age 25. If The Equality (Title) Bill, which was inspired by The Succession of Crown Act, had passed in 2013, then it would be Lady Tamara inheriting the title instead of her younger brother. However, the bill—colloquially called “The Downton Abbey law” in honor of Lady Mary’s struggles—never made it further than the committee stage in Parliament. Therefore, daughters of hereditary peers are still not able to inherit, just as in 1912.
And so, young Hugh Grosvenor is now the 7th Duke of Westminster--and the third richest man in the UK. He’s already been deemed the country’s most eligible bachelor by many of the tabloids, even while he’s still mourning for his father. It’s only a matter of time before they try to romantically link him to Princess Beatrice.
And as the UK calmly glides into the final weeks of the summer, there is much to look forward to in terms of points of historical interest. The aftermath of Brexit continues, Princess Eugenie (younger sister of Princess Beatrice) has broken her silence by engaging with the media in next month's issue of Harper’s Bazaar, and the Armada portrait will be installed in Greenwich Palace, where, starting in October, it can be seen by locals and tourists alike—including you, the next time you visit the UK—thanks to the generosity of the British people and the love the royal family inspires in them.