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NEW! Secrets of the Mary Rose revealed

Princess Margaret’s forbidden lover The whirlwind royal romance that left the Windsors in turmoil

Kings & Queens ✤ Dynasties Great Battles ✤ Heritage ✤ Relics

Seduced Sorcery

Ludwig II of Bavaria

Murder or Suicide?


How Eleanor Cobham’s rise to the throne was cut short

Investigating the mysterious death of Germany’s mad king


Also inside

House of Glücksburg Cnut’s Empire of the North

Actor Jared Harris on starring in Netflix’s new royal drama

Louis XVI the Revolution &

Alcázar of Segovia

Atop a granite pedestal sits Spain’s fairy tale palace

From starving peasants to marital discord, how the House of Bourbon met its bloody end No. 008 ISSN 2397-754X

9ISSUE 7 7 2008 397 754002


08 >

Discover the connection between Great Britain and Germany’s Royal Houses. To explore the fascinating royal connections between the two countries, why not travel in the footsteps of the crowned British monarchy in Germany? Visit our website to discover the splendid towns, castles & gardens as well as the intriguing history of our Royal Heritage Route. Find out more at:

royal welcome

Meersburg at Lake Constance (Bodensee) Š iStock


Welcome to

issue eight


ooming high on the Parisian landscape, the Bastille was more than just a symbol of terror and oppression – it was a grand declaration of the king’s power and authority over his people. By 14 July 1789 the French were fed up – driven to desperation by poverty and starvation, and infuriated by the opulence of their disengaged monarch, they lay siege to the Bastille, commandeering weapons and demanding ammunition. The French Revolution had begun. Turn to page 14 to find out what happened to Louis XVI as his people turned against him. Elsewhere this issue, we investigate the mysterious death of Ludwig II of Bavaria. His reclusive nature made him unpopular with his ministers, who plotted to have him declared insane and deposed – yet just hours later, the king was found face down in a lake. Find out more on page 56. With only weeks to go before The Crown airs on Netflix, we’ve spoken to none other than Jared Harris to find out what it was like to play George VI on page 94!

Philippa Grafton


TRAVEL INTO THE PAST w w w.histor yans

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Most Haunted Castles ● Scandal at Kew Gardens ● Mont-Saint-Michel GREAT STORIES






Print edition available at Digital edition available at Available on the following platforms

Contributors This issue’s featured historians include… Ann Marie Ackerman

WB Barlett

Former prosecutor Ann Marie lives in Germany, where she researches true crime, including Ludwig II’s demise.

The historian and author explores what it was about Cnut the Great that made his new Empire of the North so formidable.

● Unravel the mystery of Ludwig’s death on p54

● Turn to p72 to uncover the power of Cnut

Catherine Curzon

Jared Harris

Regular contributor Catherine explores the doomed romance of Princess Margaret and her dashing war hero, Peter Townsend.

History of Royals speaks to Jared Harris, who stars as King George VI in Netflix’s latest royal drama, The Crown, airing in November.

● Go to p32 to experience her heartbreak

● See what it was like to portray the king on p94

Peter Price

Dom ReseighLincoln

All About History and History of War’s Research Editor takes a look at the Glücksburg dynasty that ruled Greece for 100 years.

Freelancer and history enthusiast Dom tackles the tragic tale of King Louis XVI and the French Revolution.

● Head to p45 for more on the Greek monarchs

● Learn what happened in France on p14

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Production Editor Jen Neal Designer Hannah Haughy Assistant Designer Ryan Wells Picture Editor Tim Hunt Photographer James Sheppard Editor in Chief James Hoare Senior Art Editor Andy Downes Publishing Director Aaron Asadi Head of Design Ross Andrews Contributors Ann Marie Ackermann, Wayne Bartlett, Matt Bennett, Ben Biggs, Catherine Curzon, Jack Griffiths, Ross Hamilton, Carrie Mok, Peter Price, Dom Resleigh-Lincoln, Nick Soldinger, Jodie Tyley, June Woolerton

Images Alamy, Flickr, Getty Images, Mary Evans, Netfilx, Robert Venables, Romanov Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, Shutterstock, The Art Agency /Sandra Doyle, TopFoto, York Museums Trust (Yorkshire Museum). All copyrights and trademarks are recognised and respected.

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Nick Soldinger

June Woolerton

Regular contributor Nick returns this issue with an in-depth article on what led the French to revolt against their king.

Freelance journalist and broadcaster June delves into the mystical powers of witchcraft and the downfall of a duchess in the 15th century.

● Uproot the seeds of dissatisfaction on p24

● Explore the life of a would-be queen on p66

Get in touch Share your views and opinions online





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Disclaimer The publisher cannot accept responsibility for any unsolicited material lost or damaged in the post. All text and layout is the copyright of Imagine Publishing Ltd. Nothing in this magazine may be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the publisher. All copyrights are recognised and used specifically for the purpose of criticism and review. Although the magazine has endeavoured to ensure all information is correct at time of print, prices and availability may change. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to Imagine Publishing via post, email, social network or any other means, you grant Imagine Publishing an irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free licence to use the material across its entire portfolio, in print, online and digital, and to deliver the material to existing and future clients, including but not limited to international licensees for reproduction in international, licensed editions of Imagine products. Any material you submit is sent at your risk and, although every care is taken, neither Imagine Publishing nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for the loss or damage. © Imagine Publishing Ltd 2016

ISSN 2052-5870


Inside this issue Written by expert historians and brimming with specialist knowledge, our in-depth features delve into the stories behind history’s most fascinating figureheads



Louis XVI and the Revolution

From starving peasants to marital discord, how the House of Bourbon met its bloody end during the French Revolution

24 The origins of the French Revolution

Economic crisis, radicalism and gossip played their part in igniting the most dramatic event in European history

32 Princess Margaret's forbidden lover

The whirlwind royal romance that left the Windsors in turmoil

54 The mystery

of Ludwig II's demise Just hours after he was declared unfit to rule, Ludwig II of Bavaria was found dead in a lake – so what really happened?


66 Seduced by sorcery

How accusations of witchcraft cut down Eleanor Cobham’s rise to the throne

72 Emperor of the North

Nearly 1,000 years ago, a young Viking warrior became King of England – so what was it that made Cnut the Great’s reign so successful?

24 6



Inside every issue


Each issue of History Of Royals unveils the mysteries behind some of the best-known monarchs, from towering castles and palaces to the interwoven family trees

08 Royal history now

The latest news from around the world

45 Royal house: Glücksburg

Greece’s abolished line of monarchs

80 Royal residence: Alcázar of Segovia

What’s hidden behind the walls of Spain’s royal residence?

90 Reviews

The official History Of Royals verdict on new fiction and nonfiction


94 Interview

History of Royals speaks to actor Jared Harris on portraying King George VI in the brand-new royal series, The Crown, which will air soon on Netflix

98 Royal relic

Christmas offer!

The secret sentimental history of Elizabeth I’s locket ring


Royal galleries A showcase of incredible artwork, our royal galleries provide a snapshot of how monarchs were viewed, for better or worse

To make the most of our seasonal treat, turn to page 88



66 7




The skull of the Mary Rose carpenter

19 whetstones were found, two with wooden holders. Fourteen were found in or between the surgeons' and carpenters’ cabins


© Swansea University

© Swansea University

© Swansea University

© Stephen Foote

The inside of the starboard side of the Mary Rose within the Weston Ship Hall

Small octagonal mirror made of beech wood, one of only two found. Both are turned wooden discs, flat on one side with raised circular ridges on the other


© Mary Rose Trust

The starboard side of the Mary Rose generated from the archaeological surveys. The original extent of the complete ship is shown in outline

CAN YOU SOLVE THE MYSTERY OF THE MARY ROSE? New project reveals the reality of life aboard Henry VIII’s iconic flagship


ne of the most vivid displays of Tudor military might, the remains of the sunken Mary Rose have offered an unrivalled glimpse into Henry VIII’s war machine for visitors to Portsmouth Historic Dockyards. For the first time complete 3D scans of human remains and artefacts that were retrieved from the shipwreck are being made available on These models were created for a Swansea University research project based in the College of Engineering to assess whether photogrammetric can prove useful for researchers and historians in lieu of access to the originals. What makes access to these 3D scans absolutely vital is the simple fact that for all the tools and toys in the modern researcher’s arsenal, there’s still no substitute for the human eye. Sports and exercise biomechanist Nick Owen, of Swansea University said, “Sometimes for certain features a hand lens might be used but the majority of inspection or analysis is undertaken with the naked

eye. Osteologists are able to accurately estimate a number of human characteristics, for example, sex and ancestry, and identify certain diseases that the individual suffered from like rickets and scurvy. Generally, assessment of characteristics is more robust with a complete skeleton – however, there is much that can be derived from the analysis of a skull.” The site expects to host ten skulls in total, allowing researchers across the world to contribute to the study of life in service to the Tudor crown and perhaps even held solve the mystery of the ship’s sinking. The public section of the Virtual Tudors website shows the skull of one of Mary Rose’s carpenters and a selection of tools, allowing us to piece together vital clues about his role in battle and the lifestyle that he might have enjoyed – or endured. This unknown craftsman was in his midto-late 30s, stood just over 1.72 metres tall and was a powerfully built, muscular man. An abscess in his upper jaw meant that he could only chew on his right side, while his spine, ribs and left clavicle showed evidence of arthritis. Intriguingly, a lesion across his 9

right eyebrow may be the result of an older healed wound. Dr Alex Hildred, head of research and curator of human remains of the Mary Rose Trust, explained, “Excavating the cabin was like stepping into a deserted workshop – tools in baskets beneath a work-bench, halffinished projects, wood off-cuts – even the carpenter’s backgammon set. “Finding one of the carpenter’s second set of tools on the deck below allows us to look into the face of one of the most important members of the crew,” she adds, “and the ship comes alive.” The Mary Rose was launched in 1511 as a carrack-style warship. Boasting up to 91 guns and a crew of up to 759, the ship saw action against the French numerous times, before shockingly being sunk in July 1545 during the Battle of the Solent while King Henry VIII himself looked on in horror. Nobody could have predicted its end. The vessel was retrieved from the seabed in 1982 and has been subject to intensive conservation and study since, but the exact cause of its sinking still remains unknown to this day.

Royal Regalia Style tips from history’s royal trendsetters

James VI and I (circa 1610)

King of England, Scotland and Ireland 01 03





07 01 Hair

Worn in a bob and brushed straight back in the manner of the Elizabethans.

02 Doublet

Doublets, until around 1615, were generally tight fitting with a low waistline. Despite – or perhaps due to – variations in style, it remained firmly in fashion for 300 years.

03 Whisk

An ornate lace or scalloped fabric collar, or ‘whisk’, sticks out horizontally on wire. Incredibly uncomfortable, the whisk makes head movement difficult.

04 Cape

Hip-length capes were worn for style rather than necessity and were worn indoors, hence the rich lining and pearls – not exactly a cagoule is it?

05 Hose

Padded hose with strips of fabric covered the thighs, while fitted hose called ‘cannions’ ended just above the knee.

06 Order of the Garter

The St George medal signifies membership of the Order of the Garter, a chivalric order – membership is at the discretion of the crown.

07 Shoes

Pulled on like slippers and tightened with the straps, or ‘latchets’. Low heels, like these, were introduced in 1600 and usually painted red.

Hidden Gems: Stories From The Saleroom by Sarah HueWilliams and Raymond Sancroft-Baker is out now priced £35. More at www.


Princess Margaret’s wedding tiara Windsor style icon and sister to our beloved Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret (1930-2002) wore the Poltimore Tiara (named for its original owner, Lady Poltimore) at her 1960 wedding. Margaret bought the tiara – which can be broken down into a necklace and 11 brooches – for £5,500 from the Poltimore family. Her children made good on the investment in 2006 when it went for £926,400 at auction.



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Upcoming events

Royal Wedding Dresses

Three breathtaking jewels with a royal connection from new book Hidden Gems: Stories From The Saleroom

Until 12 March 2017 Nothing captures the imagination of a nation like a royal wedding and Stockholm’s Royal Palace have thrown open the wardrobe on their breathtaking collection in honour of the 40th wedding anniversary of King Carl Gustav and Queen Silvia on 19 June 1976. Her Majesty’s sleek long-sleeved white Dior is joined by more recent headline-grabbers like 2013’s flowering lace gown worn by the couple’s daughter Princess Madeleine at her wedding to American-English financier Christopher O’Neill. Adult tickets are 160 kroner (approx £15).

Henry III: Good King or Bad Ruler?

Until January 2017 Gloucester Museum re-examines the divisive medieval monarch, putting on display some of the artefacts discovered at the recent excavation of Gloucester Castle for the first time. Exhibits include a Bishop’s crozier decorated with gold and champlevé enamel; pennies of Henry minted in Gloucester; a portrait of the coronation by local artist, Fiona Field; and a holographic reproduction of the effigy of Henry III from his tomb in Westminster Abbey. The museum opens 10am until 5pm and admission costs £5 for adults.

Hélène’s wedding necklace This elegant necklace of Colombian emeralds was given to the French Princess Hélène of Orléans (18711951) on the occasion of her wedding to Italy’s Prince Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Aosta (1869-1931), on 25 June 1895. Hélène’s godfather, the Duke of Aumale, was a collector of jewels and it’s believed that the necklace came from his private collection.

Until 5 February 2017 The Paleis Het Loo in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, in collaboration with the Royal Archives celebrates 200 years of one of the Dutch royal family’s most provocative imports: Anna Pavlovna of Russia. The sister of Tsar Alexander I brought some of Russia’s imperious splendour to the Netherlands on her marriage to King William II, and some of these Romanov riches are on display here in the form of jewellery, furniture and tableware, some of which have never been exhibited to the public before. Admission is 16 euros (approximately £14) for adults.

Marie Antoinette’s diamonds This elegant canopy of diamonds was crafted around 1860 using six diamonds dating from the previous century – cannibalised like the pearl necklace, from jewels belonging to Marie Antoinette. Their original home is believed to have been a necklace worn by the Queen, but how they came to be in their new configuration is a mystery.


© Getty Images

Anna Pavlovna, Colourful Queen

A month in European history November 1716

Parliament vs the Jacobites

1 November, Scotland

Parliament passes the Disarming Act in the aftermath of the 1715 Jacobite Rising. This act prohibited anyone in the Highlands of Scotland from having “in his or their custody, use, or bear, broad sword or target, poignard, whinger, or durk, side pistol, gun, or other warlike weapon” unless authorised. A crude attempt to suppress supporters of the exiled ‘Old Pretender’ James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II and Catholic claimant to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland, is largely ineffectual.

Tragedy for the Princess of Wales 9 November, England

Caroline of Ansbach, Princess of Wales, gives birth to a stillborn son at St James’s Palace in London. The mother, too, comes close to death during the traumatic delivery. She had moved to England only two years earlier and her friend, the Countess of Bückeburg, places the blame squarely at the incompetence of English doctors.

Scottish romance with a Mediterranean twist


14 November, Italy Antonio Salvi and Carlo Francesco Pollarolo’s opera Ariodante opens at the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo in Venice. The tale of a foreign knight who woos a Scottish princess despite the machinations of the Albanian duke Polynexos is received with “maximum applause” and dedicated to the authors’ patron, Charles III Philip, Elector Palatine, Count of Palatinate-Neuburg, and Duke of Jülich and Berg Pfalz-Neuburg.




The Empire loses its heir 4 November, Austria

Why The Folio Society’s two latest history releases are fit for any palace library

Archduke Leopold Johann, the seven-month-old son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel dies of unknown causes. The imperial couple’s first child will be their only son and despite increasingly obsessive attempts to produce another prince, they have only three daughters and one of which will rule instead as Empress Marie Theresa.

he first name in collectible high-end hardbacks, The Folio Society have added two new titles to their winter catalogue with plenty of regal clout: The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars Of The Tudors by Desmond Seward (priced £44.95) and Memoirs From Beyond The Tomb by François-René de Chateaubriand (£38.95). Originally published in 2011, The Last White Rose proves that the Wars of the Roses didn’t end on Bosworth Field. “This is the first book to properly investigate not only the Yorkist underground forces, but just as importantly, it deals with Henry VII’s much-improved secret service,” explains Jim Rose, editor at The Folio Society. “It was this intelligence service that established the powers to change the nation’s religion and was effectively the forerunner of Elizabeth’s famous spy ring headed by Sir Francis Walsingham.” The autobiographical Memoirs From Beyond The Tomb first saw light in two volumes, published 1849 and 1850, telling the story of life against the backdrop of the French Revolution. “Despite being raised a member of the titled gentry, Chateaubriand was in fact initially sympathetic of the Revolution that shattered France in the 1790s, but became unimpressed by its violent excesses and was forced to flee France,” says Rose. “The Revolution shaped much of his life – not merely his political career, but also his personal life (his brother was guillotined and his mother and sister imprisoned).” To find out more, visit


Peter the Great plays kingmaker 3 November, Poland

Tsar Peter the Great’s preferred candidate for the throne of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Augustus II, Elector of Saxony, is confirmed in the Pacification Treaty of Poland. Against the backdrop of the Great Northern War (17001721), Russia’s tightening grip over Polish affairs signals the end of the Swedish Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, firmly reinventing Russia as a European power and its Tsar as a monarch to be reckoned with.

Wallachia’s nobles turn on their Prince 14 November, Romania Austrian troops aided rebellious Wallachian boyars (rural landlords) march into Bucharest during the Austro-Turkish War (17161718), taking the Ottoman Empire’s vassal ruler, Nicolae Mavrocordat, Hospodar of the Danubian Principalities, prisoner. The ultimate aim of Prince Eugene of Savoy, leader of the Austrian forces and statesman of the Holy Roman Empire, is the seizure of the strategically important towns of Belgrade in Serbia and Timisoara in Transylvania, but by opening a second front in Wallachia he pushes the Ottoman defences to breaking point.


Louis XVI & the Revolution Decades before, France had risen to become the centre of European culture, but as discontent grew among peasants, so too did the need for change Words DOM RESEIGH-LINCOLN ive la Nation! Vive la République!’ On 21 January 1793, the chant rang out across the Place de la Révolution, cried by a feverous crowd, hungry for royal blood. In the centre of the square loomed the scaffold, which bore the blood-drenched guillotine. Underneath the blade lay the crumpled, decapitated body of France’s executed king, surrounded by his executioners. One assistant thrust his hand into the air, grasping by its hair the severed head of King Louis XVI. The crowd roared, their chants reaching fever pitch. Long held by his people as a coward, King Louis XVI had met his fate with an unexpected courage – in his eyes, his was the ultimate sacrifice; he died a martyr to the French cause: “I die innocent of all the crimes for which I’ve been accused. I pardon the authors of my death, and I pray to God that the blood you’re about to spill will never fall on France,” he declared while drums were beaten to drown out his final words. For Louis XVI, the beginning of the end had been a long time coming. Once the cultural powerhouse of Europe, France was now in a state of perpetual chaos. The nation was caught in a maelstrom that was chipping away at the very fabric of society, with the divide between

peasant and nobility an ever-growing void. Food scarcity, seemingly endless bad harvests, excessive taxation and a distant, extravagant king only served to fan the flames of discontent among the emerging bourgeoisie until there was nothing left to do but to take action. Three years before, on 14 July 1789, a mob of armed rioters stormed the imposing prison known as The Bastille in Paris, which had been used to store a large proportion of arms and munitions in the wake of the riots. With something as symbolic as the Bastille battered by cannon fire, surrounded crowds of armed men and women, broken open and left to bare, that hysteria spread across the entire nation. The Revolution had begun and with it the nation was gripped by a tangible sense of chaos: the Great Fear. The Great Fear was an outburst, the first expulsion of frustrations that had welled for decades as taxes rose, harvests fell and the aristocracy lived in opulence while the majority of peasants starved on the very same soil. As more citizens joined the riots, swelling into mobs on every corner, those that had orchestrated much of their unhappiness became targets. The homes and possessions of tax collectors, landlords and more were burned down, while any attempts to stop the rioters were met with more violence. A large group of revolutionaries even went as far as naming itself the National Guard, a new stylised 14


Louis XVI

b.1754-d.1793 1774-1792

Louis was never meant to be king, yet his elder brother’s death in 1761 put him second in line to the throne. His father, Louis, Dauphin of France, died in 1765. Louis XV died in 1774, leaving a teen as king.


army to enforce the will of the people. The riots spread through the countryside as well, with revolutionaries seizing land across the board. This agrarian crisis was just one of many reactions by the people that proved the old forms of government and hierarchy still enforced in France were draconian and harmful to the general population. France was a kingdom built on the concept of feudalism, where the King held absolute control and governed his people by the ownership of land in exchange for service. It was a system that benefited those with status and titles, leaving the common folk to struggle on the outside. So on 4 August 1789, the National Assembly abolished feudalism outright, plunging the first blade of its upheaval into the flank of the ‘old ways’. With the old world in its death throes, the National Assembly was ready to usher in a new one. To do it, it unveiled its blueprint for a new, modern, energised France. That document was the ‘Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen’ (Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen), a statement of democratic principles grounded in the philosophical and political ideas of the Enlightenment. This way of thinking promoted the concept of reason above all else, built on the principle that society and forms of government could only be truly benefited by rational change. Unlike the end of the Civil War in England in the previous century, the King of France was not in a state of arrest. The King was free to move as he wished, but he was nonetheless watched closely, his attempts to retain the normality of his court slowly breaking apart as the Revolution grew. Paris was the hotbed of upheaval, but the King still remained nearly 19 kilometres away in Versailles. This was the home fashioned by his predecessors, once the cultural centre of Europe and the wider world, but now it was the isolated home of a monarchy fast running out of supporters and allies. And while the National Assembly had forced him to consent to certain legislative ideas, the King and his court were far more co-operative. The crown, much like the Church, still represented the highest seats of office in the land, making Louis XVI and his family the target of protests and angry mobs. On 5 October 1789, large groups of women began gathering at market places around Paris in protest to the continued food crisis and the King’s obstinance in the face of the National Assembly’s growing list of new policies. Within a few hours, over 7,000 women marched on Versailles to petition the King’s court in person, wielding rifles and cannon all the way to home of the royal

17 JUNE 1789

National Assembly formed

Representatives of the tiers état form a new National Assembly. In doing so, the members of the Assembly swear not to leave until a new constitution is established in the name of the people.

Jean Duplessis-Bertaux’s painting of the storming of the Tuileries Palace on 10 August 1792

23 JUNE 1789

12 JULY 1789

King refutes the resolutions

The National Guard is formed

King Louis XVI receives the resolutions drawn up by the members of the new National Assembly. He refutes them immediately and denounces any such changes French law.

With riots growing all over Paris and the rest of France, a group of 50,000 citizens arm themselves and create a new, people’s National Guard (la Garde Nationale), separate from the army.


14 JULY 1789

Armed citizens storm the Bastille

Following a brief siege, an armed mob enters the Bastille and forces its guards to surrender. The munitions and weapons are used to further arm the National Guard.


“Within a few hours, over 7,000 women marched on Versailles to petition the King’s court in person, wielding rifles and cannon all the way to home of the royal family”

17 JULY 1789

family. This was the time of the Revolution, and every man and woman on the street seemed to be armed in one fashion or another, so a throng of women pushing cannons into the courtyards of Versailles had become just one part of the new normal in a France beset by upheaval. Around 20,000 armed soldiers were called to keep order, but a handful of protesters broke through and stormed the palace, killing several guards in the process. However, rather than allowing the heated protest to spill into any further bloodshed, Louis XVI acquiesced to the protesters demands and relocated the royal seat back to Paris. And just like that, Versailles’ position of importance had been broken. With the publication of the Declaration on the 26 August 1789, the National Assembly – now known as the National Constituent Assembly – now had to face its biggest task to date. The writing of the Constitution and defining the architecture of the government itself. The King’s power was slowly being eroded away – a fact made all the more apparent when he attempted to flee with the royal family to the Austrian border and seek refuge in the commune of Varennes-en-Argonne. On 20 June 1791, Louis and his family made their way in secret to Varennes only to be recognised by revolutionaries the very next day. Escorted back to the capital, the King was now placed under armed guard along with Marie Antoinette and the rest of the royal cabal. Jacques Pierre Brissot, an outspoken member of the Assembly, raised a petition against the terms of the Constitution while a crowd of angry hardliners gathered outside the Champs de Mars to sign it, demanding a true end to the monarchy. As the crowds began to get more and more wild, the Assembly called the National Guard to preserve order. Stones and rocks flew at the soldiers while rifles were held menacingly in the air. Then in a matter of moments, everything went wild. Suddenly the National Guard was firing into the crowd as it surged towards them. The Champs de Mars had descended into anarchy. By the time the smoke had cleared between 15 and 50 revolutionaries were dead. Louis’ flight from the capital hurt his image with the people irrevocably. He was no longer the revered descendant of the Sun King, a leader of absolute power and resolution, but a man weakened by fear. With popular opinion turned against the monarchy like never before, the Assembly presented its first draft of the French Constitution on 3 September 1791. However, within the Assembly itself two sides had been waging their own battle – one that would decide the fate of the King and the future of the monarchy in France.

5-11 AUGUST 1789

National Assembly bans feudalism

‘The Great Fear’ begins

As riots and uprisings spread across France, the nobility are gripped by the ‘Great Fear’ as the common man begins to demand change, by any means necessary. Tensions grow to an all new high.

As the newly formed National Assembly continues to attempt to rewrite aspects of French law, it makes the bold move of outright abolishing feudalism, the medieval form of government.


26 AUGUST 1789

The Declaration is made

In a landmark for the Revolution sweeping the nation, the National Assembly passes The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, a crucial document on civil liberties; it states the rights of man are universal.

On one side, the hardliners were pushing for an outcome the English had followed at the end of their own civil conflict in the mid-1600s – namely the trial and potential execution of the King, followed by the creation of a brand new French republic. It was a drastic aim – one that didn’t last in England with the collapse of its own republic and the restoration of the monarchy – but one favoured by the extreme patriots of the Revolution. On the other side of the debate sat the moderates who favoured a constitutional monarchy above all else. When the Constitution was announced – a document that severely limited the King’s influence, granting him the power to veto laws and appoint ministers, but little else – it was met with a mixed reaction. The moderates were becoming outnumbered by the patriots and the crowds were screaming for a more absolute outcome. This compromise did not sit well with influential radicals such as Maximilien Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins A contemporary coloured engraving of the execution of Louis XVI


Church property is appropriated

As the Church is brought into line with the state, its huge land ownings (10 per cent of all land in France) are reappropriated by the National Assembly to be auctioned off later on.

13 FEBRUARY 1790

19 JUNE 1790

Suppression of religious views

Abolition of nobility and titles

As the de-Christianisation of the new France begins to gain speed, religious orders are closed down as the National Assembly attempts to break the hold of Roman Catholicism.

In one of the most significant moves to break down the class system that had bogged France down for so long, the National Assembly abolished nobility and the use of titles.


14 JULY 1790

Church is made subordinate

To make the Church an integrated part of the state, it is decreed that all members of the clergy are to be made employees of the state rather than a separate entity.


OPPOSITE TOP ‘The Arrest Of Louis XVI And His Family’ by Thomas Falcon Marshall

and Georges Danton, and all three began raising popular support for a more republican form of government and the trial of Louis XVI. The massacre outside the Champs de Mars severely damaged public confidence in the National Guard, but the Assembly moved ahead with the Constitution regardless. So, on 29 September 1791, the document was presented to Louis XVI, who struck a striking figure in front of his subjects, signing it without duress and writing: “I engage to maintain it at home, to defend it from all attacks from abroad, and to cause its execution by all the means it places at my disposal.” The crowds applauded and it seemed,

for a brief moment, the Revolution might come to an end now that France finally had a constitutional monarchy and a willing king. The reality couldn’t have been more different. The constitutional monarchy barely lasted a year. Despite the high hopes of a majority of the National Constituent Assembly (now dissolved and reborn as the Legislative Assembly), the relationship between king and the politicians had descended into a hotbed of nonco-operation and infighting. Within the Assembly itself there were 165 Feuillants (constitutional monarchists who supported the original Constitution) on the right, about 330 Girondists (liberal republicans

A coin bearing the likeness of Louis XVI in 1793

Revolution by numbers

From grisly statistics to gruesome figures, these are the facts of the Revolution


50 1 250 000

African slaves

freed during the Revolution


People were guillotined during the Reign of Terror

The fraction of a second it took for a blade to remove a head

73% 10,000 The majority vote that condemned King Louis XVI to execution





People per day that were executed at the height of the Revolution

30 JANUARY 1791

Comte de Mirabeau elected president of French Assembly

Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau is elected as the first president of the French Assembly. He serves as a key leader of the early Revolution.


Number of people imprisoned

15 MAY 1791

21 JUNE 1791

Equal rights for black slaves

King attempts to flee

As the anti-monarchs riot and lead the Revolution to new heights, King Louis XIV attempts to flee from the troubles with the help of royalist supporters, but is recognised and forcibly returned to Paris.

As part of the Revolution’s desire to spread equality throughout the land, it is decreed that all black slaves and citizens are to be freed and granted equal rights across the many French colonies.




This portrait of Ecce Custine was printedalongside lyrics from La Marseillaise

How many days were in one week on the French Republic Calendar implemented in October 1793

The number of prisoners inside the Bastille when it was stormed


King formally accepts Constitution

Back in the hands of the revolutionaries, King Louis XVI is forced to accept the terms of the new Constitution. By doing so formally and officially, it is effectively ratified as official.

who desired a peaceful transition to a republic) and for too long. France deserved a new future, even if royal Jacobins (radical revolutionaries who wanted the King blood had to spilt to make it a reality. put on trial) on the left, and 250 deputies unaffiliated The very next day the Convention announced the with either faction. abolition of the monarchy and the creation of a new By the summer of 1792, France’s slow-burning yet French republic. It was new dawn for the people of white-hot Revolution was once again a mass France – not a half measure that clung of broiling tension and contention. The to that corrupted its principles by King, once the image of control clinging to outdated traditions. The and grace when signing the Convention, charged with writing Constitution now refused to a brand new Constitution, co-operate, vetoing legislation wanted a clean slate for the after legislation while nation. In October 1793 appointing ministers with it adopted the French clear royalist leanings. In a Republican Calendar, year when the Legislative retrospectively beginning on Assembly attempted to 22 September 1792, the day rebuild the nation alongside the Republic was declared. the monarchy while riots For the Convention, continue to rage unabated, it dealing with the royal family was clear something had to give. was paramount. The King had The tipping point came on many an ally both domestically 10 August 1792, when a group of and across the French borders, revolutionaries from the radical Jacobin including his brother-in-law Holy party made a raid on the royal Parisian Roman Emperor Leopold II, Frederick In October 1793 a Republican palace. Killing guards and servants in William II of Prussia, and the his Calendar was introduced along with brother Charles-Philippe, comte d’Artois. their wake, the insurgents fought their a new clock. Each day featured ten way to the King, dragged him and the Dire consequences were threatened if hours, made up of 100 minutes, royal family from their residence and anything were to happen to the royal made up of 100 seconds placed them under arrest. The following bloodline, leading the Convention month, a group of insurrectionists massacred hundreds to suspect the King was conspiring to overthrow it. of Parisians believed to be counter-revolutionaries, the However, the Convention was not the Assemblies that bloodshed spilling across the streets like a crimson wave. preceded it, and it wouldn’t cower before kings anymore. France was gripped in a high chaos yet again. Louis’ trial took only two days, with 361 members of The Constitution was failing at a spectacular rate. the Convention voting for execution, 288 voting against The hopes and aims of the Revolution were far from the measure and further 72 voting to execute him subject complete – the economy was flatlining thanks to the to a set of conditions. Condemned for, “Conspiracy over issuance of paper money, which in turn caused against the public liberty and the general safety,” he was inflation to skyrocket. The money absorbed by the stripped of his royal status and simply given the title consumption of the Church’s lands was lost in the debt ‘Citoyen Louis Capet’ (Citizen Louis Capet). And so on the state had accrued over previous decades, and the 21 January 1793, it sent the man formerly known as King act of suppressing religious services alienated the pious Louis XVI of France to the guillotine, condemned to among the people. The Legislative Assembly had failed death for high treason and crimes against the state. As alongside the Constitution. the blade fell, and royal blood stained the stones of Place As the Assembly crumbled, a new body rose in de la Révolution, the sound reverberated around the its place. The National Convention, formed on the world. France had killed its King. 20 September 1792, was a far different beast to its France had been at war with its fellow European predecessor. Driven by a far more republican spirit, the nations, in one form or another, for centuries and such a Convention had little desire to continue down the rotten state had not abated during the years of the Revolution. path of a constitutional monarchy. The royal family was With the King’s blood barely dry, war on the new French a decaying symbol of a past that had held France down Republic had been redeclared with vigour. Despite

1 OCTOBER 1791

Legislative Assembly forms

Throughout the Revolution, the National Assembly took many forms. In large, the National Assembly operated as the Legislative Assembly, dealing with, updating and upholding French law.

22 AUGUST 1792

ABOVE ‘Marie Antoinette Being Taken To Her Execution’ by William Hamilton


Royalist uprising in Vendée

Royalist prisoners killed

Despite the strength of the Revolution, France still has vocal pockets of royalists. Considered counter-revolutionaries, a large force rebels against the Revolution in the Vendée region of France.


The clashes between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries continues. As a result, the decision to execute 1,200 royalist prisoners held in Paris is made in what is now referred to as the September Massacres.


Pierre Roch Vigneron’s portrait based on a pastel drawing of Robespierre, 1786

having executed their own king in 1649, Britain deplored the death of Louis and expelled the French ambassador from British soil. The Republic declared war on Britain on 1 February. Austria and Prussia broke ties and raised military action against revolutionary France, with Russia also ceasing diplomatic relations. The United States, a nation helped by France during the War of Independence, showed a restrained reaction, mourning Louis’ passing but failing to condemn the Republic. While many a nation rattled its sabres at France from afar, from within the dream of a bright republican future was beginning to crumble. Despite having the confidence and the resolve to try and execute the King, many felt the Convention was far from radical enough. Prices were on the rise, forcing families to starve or tear the country apart for food. The sans-culottes – poor labourers and radical Jacobins – were in full riot, and counterrevolutionaries were attacking the National Guard in


The monarchy is abolished

The Legislative Assembly votes to abolish the monarchy and establish the First Republic. It comes one year after Louis XVI reluctantly signed the Constitution, effectively robbing him of all power.

“With France in turmoil, the Jacobin ultranationalists seized power in the Convention” pockets across the country. The nation was in disarray and worsening fast. With France in turmoil, the Jacobin ultranationalists seized power in the Convention. The coup enabled them to rewrite its policies with a radical hunger, enforcing one of its most significant new pieces of legislation – the Law of the Maximum. The price of bread, which had become a currency all unto itself during the Revolution, was now set at a fixed price, while those deemed counterrevolutionary to the Republic were executed.

21 JANUARY 1793

25 FEBRUARY 1793

King Louis XVI executed

Food riots continue

Following a trial where the King is condemned to death following a majority vote of only 73 votes, Louis XVI is taken to Place de la Révolution and executed publicly by guillotine. He is the first French king to be beheaded.

Mass hunger served as one of the driving factors behind the Revolution, but the Revolution itself still hadn’t managed to solve the problem that they faced and food riots continue to break out all across France.


4 MAY 1793

Maximum bread price imposed

As a prelude to the Law of Suspects, the General Maximum law comes into effect, which imposes a maximum price on bread to limit inflation and increase the flow of food.

The Church versus the Revolution

As upheaval gripped France, the tide of change crashed against the rocks of the most established institution in the land Prior to the Revolution, the church remained the most powerful seat in the land – even monarchs had tread carefully around the watchful eyes of the clergy, such was the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. It was the largest landowner in the kingdom, and its coffers continued to run deep as it drew from the people, pauper or lord. It operated of its own volition, answering not to a domestic office but a distant seat far beyond French borders. So it should come as no surprise that the leaders of the Revolution in its earliest form looked upon the Church as a powerbase just as poisonous as the monarchy itself. However, executing one’s own royal family and stripping the crown of all its power was one thing, but challenging the church was a more dangerous prospect. With the devout Spain and the Holy Roman Empire so close, dismantling the influence of religion in France required a more tactical solution: politics. With the formation of the National Assembly in 1789, the leaders of the Revolution began the process of dismantling the Church’s

31 MAY-2 JUNE 1793

The Jacobin Coup d’État An armed crowd of sans-culottes organised by members of the Commune forces its way into the hall of the Convention and demands that it disbands. The attempt fails as the deputies resist.

influence. The Church attempted to move with the tide to begin with, joining the National Assembly in a hope to retain its position at the height of French society but by 4 August 1789, the Assembly took its first swing at the clergy, voting to remove the tithe (a form of tax that forced every French citizen to pay ten per cent of their earnings to the Church, usually in the form of crops). However, the National Assembly was about to appropriate an important possession of the Church – its substantial landholding. Prior to the Revolution, the clergy held a staggering 10 per cent of all land under French rule. By November 1789, the Assembly deemed all lands at the disposal of the state and began auctioning them off. The Assembly continued to dismantle the Church’s fiscal base, but it would be under Robespierre’s Reign of Terror that the Revolution would attempt to actively de-Christianise the nation. Churches were burned to the ground and priests hunted down and executed. It was a dark time, and one that broke the Church’s power in France forevermore.

With the radical element now in power, some of the Revolution’s most hardline individuals rose through the ranks to greater positions of power. Maximilien Robespierre was one such man. A lawyer and politician, he was a man of many contrasts. He opposed the use of the death penalty yet argued for the King’s execution. He helped round up his political enemies yet worked to abolish slavery in the colonies. He was a man of the people, and soon rose to the top of the newly created Committee of Public Safety – a branch of government that soon superseded the National Convention. With Robespierre now in a position of power, a tenmonth dark age descended over France – the Reign of Terror had begun. The Committee was a draconian beast that believed France had to be purged of its counter-revolutionary population. While it worked to

4-5 SEPTEMBER 1793


Riots across Paris

Reign of Terror begins

Despite attempts to change French law for the better and improve the near collapse of the economy, riots threaten to tear the nation apart as Revolution continues, with sections of Paris marching on the Convention.

The ‘Law of Suspects’ is passed, a law that marked a significant weakening of individual freedoms that led to the ‘revolutionary paranoia’. The Reign of Terror has begun, led by lawyer and politician Maximilien Robespierre.


16 OCTOBER 1793

Marie Antoinette is executed

Following a trial that only lasted for two days, Marie Antoinette is taken to Place de la Révolution and, much like her husband, is executed publicly by guillotine at 12.15pm.


eradicate Christianity from the face of the Republic, executing priests outright and burning places of worship to the ground, it turned the blades of the guillotines on its enemies. Citizens were rounded, trialled in the blink of an eye and separated from their heads one after the other. Thousands were dragged from their homes and taken to places of execution across Paris and the nation. Blood ran through the streets figuratively and literally. Robespierre enabled the Reign of Terror to spread like a witch-hunt, seeking out even the slightest hint of thoughts or inclinations against the Republic and severing it without mercy. Not every person executed was guilty, with the smokescreen of the Terror used to purge everyone from peasants to members of the Convention. The Girondins were ruthlessly purged during the Reign of Terror as Robespierre became dictator in all but

24 MARCH 1794

Robespierre essentially becomes dictator As the Reign of Terror gains pace, Robespierre effectively becomes the de facto dictator and is believed to be one of the architects of the era’s bloody acts.

18 MAY 1794

Further reading • C Hibbert, The French Revolution, Penguin 2001 • P McPhee, Liberty or Death: The French Revolution, Yale University Press 2016 • S Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle Of The French Revolution, Penguin 2004 • I Davidson, The French Revolution: From Enlightenment To Tyranny, Profile Books 2016

10 JUNE 1794

Supreme Being religion decreed

Mass trials and executions begin

While the use of the guillotine had become a common sight across France, Robespierre now signed off on the use of mass trials and mass executions to deal with large numbers of undesirables.

Robespierre decrees the Cult of the Supreme Being to be the new state religion of France, replacing Roman Catholicism. It was his attempt to break the Revolution’s godless motives.


27 JULY 1794

Robespierre’s Reign of Terror ends

The Convention calls for Robespierre’s arrest. He attempts a short-lived insurrection but it fails and he’s soon arrested and executed. With his death, the Reign of Terror comes to an end.

© Alamy; TopFoto

ABOVE The execution of Robespierre and his supporters on 28 July 1794 by an anonymous artist

name. He imposed universal male suffrage and ushered in a new state religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, attempting to reshape France in his own vision. Eventually the nation awoke from its bloodlust and a warrant for Robespierre’s arrest was issued. The Girondins had suffered a considerable cull of their number, but a reactionary group, the Thermidorian Reaction, hunted down Robespierre and had him executed on the 28 July 1794. His death marked the true end of the Reign of Terror, and the twilight of the Revolution. France had fallen into the hands of one man yet again and his power trip had damaged the nation. To prevent such a disaster happening again, executive power would now lie in the hands of a five-member Directory appointed by the National Convention. Royalists and Jacobins protested the new regime, but were swiftly silenced by the army – an army now containing a young and successful general who went by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The origins of the

FRENCH REVOLUTION Economic crisis, wars, failed harvests, radical ideas and gossip all played their part in igniting what remains arguably the most dramatic event in European history Words NICK SOLDINGER

‘The Tennis Court Oath’ by Auguste Couder, 1848



y the morning 1682 by Louis’ great-great-great grandfather of 14 July 1789, Louis XIV – the so-called Sun King. A there could be no baroque masterpiece, with sumptuous turning back. The colonnades and courtyards, majestic conversation among ballrooms, sweeping staircases, and endless Paris’ population about statues, fountains, and flower gardens, it was how to forge France’s also a powerful piece of theatre, intended future had escalated to both impress and to galvanise. It sent from passionate out a profound message to anyone who discourse into outright cries for regime was considering challenging Bourbon rule change. The country was in economic that its power was otherworldly, while also turmoil, the people were starving, and the bringing a sense of pride to what, by now, response of those who’d caused the crisis – was being described as French national life. King Louis XVI and his corrupt cronies – Since the Middle Ages, powerful had dismissed those voices calling for families describing themselves as change. Power was not to be shared noble had fought turf wars across was King Louis XVI’s position. Europe, grabbing increasing His lack of flexibility would amounts of land and cost him his kingdom and acquiring vast wealth in ultimately his life, altering the process. These estates the entire course of human eventually grew to include history in the process. entire ethno-linguistic Crowds in Paris had regions, which began to get already liberated thousands of spoken of – with pride – as muskets and cannon from the city’s nations. A nascent nationalism armouries. Armed with these and then began to replace chivalry as a new, heady ideology that spoke the dominant ideology which ‘Portrait of Louis XVI of freedom and equality, they now of France’ by Antoine- – along with various forms of François Callet needed just one more ingredient Christianity – bound the people to to bring about explosive change – each other and to the state. It was gunpowder – and they knew exactly where a political philosophy that was to chime right to get it: The Bastille. throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and This grim symbol of royal power stood its echo can still be very much heard today. in the centre of the city towering over the Profound population changes, along with tangle of streets below. Its reputation as technological innovation, newly discovered a place of terror was well founded. For trade routes and the colonial crusades centuries it had gobbled up royal opponents, they inspired, began to also transform who had either been imprisoned in its Europe’s economy. Feudalism was out and nightmarish dungeons, or tortured and capitalism – with its ideas about free trade executed behind its walls. The people were and waged labour – was in, giving rise to a terrified of it. And yet it was here – prompted new merchant class – the bourgeoisie to the by the battle cry of “To the Bastille!” French. By the time Louis Capet (the future – that Paris’ poor and disenfranchised Louis XVI) was born at Versailles 72 years now thundered. On their hats they worse after it’d been built, it’s safe to say that the cockades in colours that summed up their world beyond its vast, elegant windows had cause. Red and blue (the colours of Paris) changed immeasurably. divided by white (the colour of the ruling Not that anyone within the Royal House of Bourbon). France’s famous tricolore household was paying too much attention. had been born, and in flag form it would Versailles, 19 kilometres southwest of Paris’ soon be fluttering over Louis’ smouldering expanding slums, was a bling Xanadu kingdom, and eventually from the rooftop of for the super-privileged, and its deluded that extravagant monument to French royal inhabitants were detached enough from extravagance – the Palace of Versailles. reality to believe themselves untouchable. By the late 18th century, Versailles was After all, according to ancient lore, the more than just the royal residence – it French monarch had been appointed to rule was the capital of France, and home to by God himself. And who on earth would more than 10,000 courtiers, ministers and dare to challenge the power of the Almighty? servants. Deliberately located away from Just 15 years after Louis was born into Paris’ rowdy mobs, it had been completed in Versailles’ fantasy world he got married in it. 25

By now a bashful, bumbling teenager he was squeezed into a dandified costume, pinned into a powdered wig and shoved off down the aisle to exchange rings with a 14-year-old girl he barely knew – Habsburg archduchess Marie Antoinette. It was an arranged marriage born out of political manoeuvring: a union between Austria’s Habsburgs and the French Bourbons. The wedding marked the end of ancient rivalries between the two dynasties and the beginning of new alliances. That night – in a ceremony meant to encourage the conception of an heir – the awkward young couple were presented in bed together to the King’s courtiers. The assembled crowd was delighted and expectations were high. It would be many years before the couple produced their first offspring, however. And although the couple would eventually have four children, this fact would seriously undermine the Louis’ authority and the Marie Antoinette’s reputation. Four years after their extravagant wedding the teenage couple found themselves at another lavish ceremony – their coronation. Louis had still been a child when his father had died of tuberculosis, so when his grandfather, Louis XV, succumbed to smallpox, he unexpectedly inherited his kingdom. Unfortunately, for young Louis it was a land teetering on the brink. Of most concern was the economy, which was still reeling from the country’s 1763 defeat to Britain in the Seven Years’ War. Not only had the conflict left France’s coffers empty, but it’d cost the country all of its lucrative North American colonies, too. There was also huge pressure on France’s resources. With diseases like the plague now a distant memory, the country’s population was growing wildly, and while there were fewer people dying from disease, that meant that there were more of them left alive to go hungry. Louis was woefully unprepared to deal with the mess he’d inherited and he knew it. “Oh God!” he was heard to say on learning of his grandfather’s death, “We are too young to reign.” Within a year, his utter ineptitude would become all too apparent. The year 1775 witnessed the outbreak of the American War of Independence, as colonialists in North America – in part

spurred on by new revolutionary ideas about democracy – sought to free themselves from Britain’s Imperial clutches. Louis, keen to avenge his grandfather’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War waded in on the side of George Washington and the colonialists. It was a fight his already financially ravaged country could ill afford to get involved in. Although it ended in defeat for Britain, France – who’d played a major role in the victory – gained precious little from what proved to be a staggeringly costly venture. By the time it was over, French military intervention in the war had cost the country 1.3 billion livre (France’s prerevolutionary currency) the equivalent of £14 billion in today’s money – not that Louis had any intention of footing the bill for this extravagant act of vengeance. Nor would his fellow nobles or indeed the Clergy, all of whom were exempt from taxation by ancient privilege. No, responsibility for the government’s mounting debt repayments would be shouldered by the poorest people in the land. After all, they had no power to refuse. Or so the Louis arrogantly believed. While Louis was sending huge amounts of money and supplies across the Atlantic, his wife, Marie Antoinette, was busy racking up more debts at home. Days at Versailles passed in a surreal blur of frivolous opulence, structured around a never-ending cycle of bizarre and archaic rituals. There were ceremonies to mark the waking of their royal majesties, for dressing them, for feeding them and in the evening to see them back to bed again. In between, Marie Antoinette would amuse herself at court by gambling, gossiping, staging plays, and presiding over an increasingly camp fashion parade. She had giant gowns made of the finest fabrics featuring elaborate needlework; she spent a fortune on shoes, fans, and jewellery; while her towering hairdos – which would incorporate complex hidden frameworks – were often several feet high and decorated with fruit or trinkets. As she squandered a fortune, she acquired an amusing new nickname – Madam Deficit. Not that the people of France were laughing. Juvenile frivolity, sumptuous banquets, and grotesque waste may have been an everyday occurrence at Versailles, but,

“As the poorest citizens of France started to starve, their hunger soon turned to rage”


The Marble Court at the heart of Versailles is flanked by grand wings

beyond its shimmering brilliance, a darkness was creeping over the land. By the summer of 1788 France was a country rapidly descending into pandemonium and then, just when it seemed as if things couldn’t get any worse, they did. In July, freak weather conditions caused biblical hailstorms to destroy acres of crops. France experienced its worst harvest in 40 years, forcing up the price of wheat as the country was plunged into the coldest winter in living memory. By the 18th century, bread had become so cheap that it was the cornerstone of the French diet. Most ordinary people supplemented their meals with almost a kilo of it a day. Skyrocketing wheat prices sent the cost of bread through the stratosphere. Bakers were soon charging the equivalent of a day’s wages for a loaf of bread. As France’s poorest citizens started to starve, hunger turned to rage. As the economy went into free fall, unemployment and evictions grew. Bread riots began to break out across the country, homes were robbed, bakeries broken into and any baker suspected of hoarding bread was strung up by mobs of angry, starving people as a warning to others. Criticism was now openly being levelled against the monarchy as the political pressure for change gathered pace. “Do you know why there are so many needy people?” one lawyer named Maximilien Robespierre


Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun’s famous ‘Marie Antoinette And Her Children’ from 1787

‘Louis XVI Distributing Alms To The Poor Of Versailles During The Winter Of 1788’ painted by Louis Hersent

The royal secret

Why Louis and Marie Antoinette took so long to produce an heir Although Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette eventually had four children – two sons and two daughters – their first wasn’t born until seven years into their marriage. Their apparent inability to reproduce was hugely damaging to their public image, with malicious gossip casting doubt on Louis’ virility and Marie Antoinette’s fidelity. These rumours were amplified by popular pamphlets called libelles that had long played a subversive role in French society by attacking public figures. As France careered towards revolution, the tone of these libelles became increasingly disrespectful of the royals, and even pornographic in nature. “The King can’t do it!” one infamously declared, while others portrayed Marie Antoinette as a promiscuous foreigner who satisfied her lust with courtiers and servants. For years, historians tinkered with the notion that Louis had suffered from phimosis – a congenital narrowing of the foreskin that made sex painful. The theory was that he’d eventually consented to a circumcision to relieve it, after which he’d finally been able to engage in a fruitful sex life with his wife. However, there’s scant evidence of this and more


recent research by historian Simone Bertière reveals a more tragic truth. Louis was 15 and Marie Antoinette just 14 when they were married off – having met just two days prior. It’s not inconceivable that Marie Antoinette was pre-pubescent, while it’s clear Louis was essentially a timid schoolboy. Sexual immaturity, incompatibility, and external pressures are the more likely candidates for pair’s faltering love life. Bertière’s research, for example, uncovered a staggering letter from Austria’s Joseph II from 1777 which reads: “[Louis] had a well-conditioned, strong erection, introduced his member and stayed there for two minutes without moving, withdrew without ejaculation, then, still erect, wished his wife good night.” Before adding, “He should be whipped like a donkey to make him discharge in anger.” One can only speculate as to how the Austrian monarch knew about his little sister’s sex life in such depressingly intimate detail but of this we can be sure: this cosseted, immature and ill-matched royal couple was herded into a relationship that suited neither but would, one day, play a part in killing them both.

A hand-coloured engraving of revolutionaries grabbing arms before storming the Bastille

Liberté, egalité, fraternité! How a radical new philosophy helped to fuel the French Revolution The libertarian ideology that powered the French Revolution came about as a result of the Age of Enlightenment. This was an era when a new spirit of intellectualism provoked thinkers to question everything – and challenged others to do the same. For centuries, absolute monarchs had dominated European political power unchallenged due to an archaic belief in the divine right to rule – a king’s power had been granted to him by God. From the 17th century, this belief came under scrutiny thanks to the work of men like John Locke. Locke had challenged an English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes who’d asserted that people are evil and selfish, and therefore need ruling. Locke’s musings led him to conclude that people are born with three unalienable rights: the right to life, liberty and property. He insisted it was the government’s job to protect these from threat or violation. Locke’s work then prompted French thinker Montesquieu to argue that to ensure the government didn’t end up doing the threatening or violating, it should be separated into three equally powerful bodies – an executive, a legislature and judiciary – which could keep each other in check. Another philosopher, Rousseau, declared the relationship between a government and its people needed to be protected by a contract. This would ensure the people’s rights, while allowing them to make a new government in the event of the old one breaking the contract. The final thinker was Voltaire, who argued for a separation of Church and State. This would help to eradicate religious intolerance. More importantly, it would prevent the religious fanaticism that allowed a monarch to claim it was God’s will that he ruled, ensuring his power went unquestioned. It was no mindless mob that stormed the Bastille in 1789; they were people who knew exactly what they were doing – fighting for a fairer, more just future for all.

wrote of the King in open defiance. “It is because your luxurious existence devours in one day the substance of 1,000 men.” Robespierre would go on to play a pivotal role in events, but his voice was just one among a clamour for change that was coming not just from the poor, but from its new powerful bourgeoisie, too. Educated people who, having been exposed to the work of radical Enlightenment thinkers like Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire, were starting to question not just the King’s ability to rule, but the structure of society and the establishment that ran it – what they were calling the Ancien Régime (old regime). As the fiscal crisis deepened, Louis hired and fired a parade of experts – none of whom had the answer. Eventually he turned to a retired Swiss banker called Jacques Necker and appointed him finance minister. He, too, was an Enlightened thinker and in his writings had publicly taken the line that it was a government’s duty to make sure there is enough bread for everybody. His appointment was also to prove a fateful one.

In the Spring of 1789, Necker persuaded the King to call a meeting of France’s traditional representative body, the EstatesGeneral, to discuss the crisis and to ease the resentment. Much like the English Parliament, the EstatesGeneral had developed out of the King’s council during Medieval times. Unlike Parliament, which served as both an advisory body to the Crown and as a supreme court, the Estates-General had only an advisory role. It was made up of what was known as the three estates that represented what was then considered the three main forces in French society. The First Estate represented the Church, the Second the nobility, and the Third the masses. Although there were the same number of (elected) representatives for each estate, the system was clearly flawed. Not only did the first two estates represent only three per cent of the population, the ruling elite, they always joined forces to outvote the third. Because of this lack of functionality, the assembly was rarely called. It hadn’t met since 1615 – 175 years before – when its

“Rather than relieving pressure, Louis had unleashed the forces of democracy”



An anonymous oil painting of the capture of the Bastille

Realising Louis was trying to silence them, they moved to a tennis court where they declared themselves to be the new National Assembly – the true representatives of the people of France – and swore an oath promising to deliver a new constitution to the country and to serve the will of the people. The Tennis Court Oath was an act of revolutionary defiance, but wrestling power from the King would require more than just signing a simple proclamation. But it was Louis who now made the next fateful move. By 14 July, the King had assembled 30,000 troops around Paris and a showdown was now inevitable. But it would be the people, not the politicians, who would tip the balance. To defend themselves from Louis’ troops, thousands of Parisians had formed themselves into militias, declaring themselves a new National Guard. They’d raided Paris’ armouries and made off with over 28,000 muskets. Amid the rioting, news reached the people that the King had sacked his finance minister, the popular Jacques Necker, holding him responsible for the revolt of the Third Estate. Necker was seen by many as the one man who could persuade the King to see sense and perhaps prevent what now seemed inevitable. Cries of, “To the Bastille!” now rung around Paris’ streets. Merely 12 miles away, in Versailles, Louis was oblivious to the events unfolding in his 29

kingdom’s biggest city. Despite the fact that his country was in chaos, despite the fact people were starving, and despite the fact that he had been the architect of so much misery, the fate of his 26 million subjects was of little interest to him. In his diary under the date 14 July 1789 Louis simply wrote the word ‘rien’ (nothing). It was reference to his lack of luck bagging anything while out that day indulging in that most aristocratic of pastimes – hunting for the sport of it. Not long after he’d put his quill down, an aide came to him bringing news of what was going on beyond his Versailles bubble: Paris is in flames, he was told, and the Bastille has fallen to an armed mob. “Is it a revolt?” the King reportedly asked. “No sire,” came the aide’s grim response. “It is a revolution.”

Further reading • E Lever, Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen Of France, Piatkus 2006

• G Lefebvre, The Coming Of The French Revolution, Princeton University Press 1939 • J Israel, Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution And Human Rights 1750-1790, Oxford University Press 2013 • T Spawforth, Versailles: A Biography Of A Palace, Griffin 2010

© Alamy, Shutterstock

members had reached an impossible impasse precisely because of the voting structure. The same problem would now arise again, but with much more dramatic consequences. When The Estates-General convened at Versailles on 4 May 1789, Robespierre was among the Third Estate representatives. Brought up an orphan in provincial France, he had proved himself to be academically brilliant and had won a scholarship to the prestigious Lycée Louis-La-Grand in Paris. It was here where, as a boy, he’d met Louis and Marie Antoinette when they’d visited the college shortly after their coronation. He’d read out a Latin soliloquy in their honour. He would use those same oratorical skills to fight for a voice for the people he represented and to demand that both the nobility and clergy pay their fair share of taxes. Louis was spooked. It soon became clear to him that rather than relieving the pressure, allowing the Estates-General to meet meant he’d unleashed the forces of democracy. The proposed solutions being put forward by Robespierre and the Third Estate were way too radical. His position was being threatened, he decided, and after a six-week stand off between the three Estates, Louis ordered that the assembly be closed down. On the morning of 20 June Robespierre and his fellow deputies arrived at the debating chamber to discover a locked door.

A late-18th century print depicting the motto and symbols of the French Revolution



An engraving of ‘La Marseillaise’. Originally titled ‘Chant de Guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin’ (War Song for the Army of the Rhine), the song was written in one evening on he 24 April 1792, but became known as ‘La Marseillaise’ after it was enthusiastically received and sung by volunteers from Marseilles. Its use was adopted by revolutionaries across France, and by 14 July 1795 the Convention had accepted it as the national anthem of France. It was banned under Napoleon, Louis XVIII and Napoleon III.

Marche des Marseillois


Royal Gallery


Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon b.1930-d.2002

The Queen’s little sister lived through more than seven decades of drama, thrills and glamour. A dazzling beauty that revelled in her fashion icon status, her love life was as tumultuous as it was scandalous.

Princess Margaret as photographed by her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1959



Princess Margaret’s

FORBIDDEN LOVER Beautiful, wealthy and spoiled, Princess Margaret wanted for nothing – so why was her love for a dashing war hero doomed to fail? Words CATHERINE CURZON


nce upon a time, there lived a princess who had almost everything that a girl could dream of. Beautiful, privileged and the envy of everyone who knew her, all that was missing to complete the happy picture was a real-life prince charming. Who better to fulfil the role than a hero of the Royal Air Force who was as handsome as she was lovely; a man with a chestful of medals and the trust of the King himself? For the Princess and her Spitfire ace this should have been a fairy tale come true, yet the tangled, tragic love life of the late Princess Margaret never truly found its happy ending. Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret Rose was born in 1930 to Albert and Elizabeth, the quietly domesticated Duke and Duchess of York who shunned the social whirlwind she would later plunge into. Margaret’s elder sister was a young lady named Elizabeth, better known to us today as Queen Elizabeth II. To their parents, however, Margaret and Elizabeth were simply Margot and Lilibet, the daughters they adored.

During Princess Margaret’s idyllic childhood, there was no suggestion that she would one day be the daughter of a king, let alone the sister of the longest reigning monarch in British history. Fate, however, has a habit of moving in the most mysterious ways and, in 1936, romance brought scandal to the House of Windsor. Less than 11 months after he was crowned, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne. Passionately in love with American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, Edward was faced with a choice between romance and duty. The King famously chose to follow his heart, turning his back on royal privilege to be with the woman he adored. When Margaret faced the same decision years later, her conclusion was not so romantic. As Edward left for Australia to start his new life, the world changed forever for those he left behind. Margaret’s father was a timid, shy, man who famously struggled to control a debilitating stammer and certainly had no ambitions to rule as king. Yet he knew that he could not refuse the role that duty now demanded him


ABOVE King George VI photographed with his family for the official coronation programme

to take and, in December 1936, was enthroned as King George VI. At just six years old, Margaret Rose was no longer simply the daughter of a shy, unassuming duke. Now she was second in line to the throne itself and the quiet life she enjoyed at 145 Piccadilly was over. The royal family took up residence in Buckingham Palace, yet Elizabeth and Margaret, though suddenly catapulted to the forefront of public attention, found their lives little changed as the days went by. The new King and Queen did all they could to ensure that their daughters enjoyed as normal a childhood as possible. They attended Brownies and visited family, remaining safely out of the public eye. The girls were educated as young ladies and spoiled rotten by their doting parents, especially the King. While Elizabeth was prepared for the role that one day awaited her, Margaret had no such burden to bear and the world lay at her feet.

“They attended Brownies and visited family, remaining safely out of the public eye” 34

As Margaret blossomed into a young woman, she began to indulge her love of glamour and the finer things in life. Slender, graceful and as beautiful as any fairytale princess, she had a passion for fashion and whether sparkling on the red carpet or indulging in her beloved philanthropic events, she delighted in being the centre of attention. Margaret also had a keen intelligence and a sharp, biting wit; people longed to be part of her circle, and she was soon at the heart of society. Although she was not yet an adult, it was clear that Margaret would one day be a most eligible princess indeed. When Princess Margaret was 17, she accompanied her parents on an official visit to South Africa; it was to be fateful trip. For the duration of the visit, Margaret was chaperoned by Group Captain Peter Townsend, a 33-year-old former RAF officer who was one of the King’s most trusted equerries. Townsend was a bona fide war hero, a character cut from the mould of a matinee idol. Handsome, assured and urbane, he had won the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1940 for his heroic deeds. Townsend flew in the Battle of Britain, even surviving a ditch into the ocean. His career was glittering, and even wounds sustained in combat couldn’t stop him – just weeks after losing a big toe to the surgeon’s knife, the Group Captain was back in action, flying Spitfires into battle.


At the end of World War II, Townsend retired from the Royal Air Force and joined the Windsor household as an equerry of King George VI. He was a valued and trusted member of the King’s intimate circle and would later be appointed comptroller of the Queen Mother’s household, a mark of his high status. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the beautiful young princess and the handsome, experienced RAF officer fell in love. There could not be a happily ever after for the couple though, because Townsend wasn’t just dashing, brave and celebrated – he was also married. While Elizabeth married Prince Philip and settled into the role of wife, mother and Queen-inwaiting, Margaret’s own life was a whirlwind of social engagements, excitement and laughter. She had no shortage of admirers and even found time in her packed calendar to perform royal duties and support a range of charities. What really caught the eye of the press and public, however, was how much she liked to socialise, and she was always the belle of the ball. The world dealt Princess Margaret a shattering blow in 1952 when, on a bleak February day, lung cancer claimed the life of the 56-year-old King. George and Margaret had been devoted to one another, with the monarch always indulging his youngest child’s wishes and, some argued, helping to nurture that spoiled, entitled little rich girl that some claimed she had become. Now, with the death of her father, Margaret was left bereft. The woman who had been alive with happiness and joy sank deeper and deeper into despair, utterly overwhelmed by her grief. Without her father’s influence and support she was suddenly cut adrift. All that had seemed so set in her world had now been turned on its head. With Elizabeth now Queen, Margaret was also deprived of the good counsel of her sister and as the new monarch and her family moved into Buckingham Palace, Princess Margaret and her mother left for Clarence House. With them they took their new comptroller, a certain Group Captain Peter Townsend. Amid the emotional tumult, he was more than happy to lend Margaret a strong shoulder to cry on. In fact, the change of employment was not the only turning point in Townsend’s life. Like Margaret, he too was caught in a period of emotional turmoil thanks to his ongoing divorce. However, the story behind the breakdown of the Townsend’s marriage hints at scandal beneath the official explanation. In 1941, Townsend met Rosemary Pawle, and she was bowled over by the dashing young war hero. After just two weeks together the couple were married and over the next four years, two sons were born to the Townsends. Perhaps unsurprisingly given their fortnight of courtship, the marriage didn’t work out in the long term, but the official reasons for the split remain tantalisingly vague. Called away from home first by his military duties and then by his services to the King, Townsend was increasingly absent from his family. Tired of being married to a man she rarely saw, Rosemary sought

Crowds gather at 145 Piccadilly to catch a glimpse of George VI and their new royal family

A photograph of Margaret taken in the 1940s


The Princess photographed by Victor Blackman as she arrives back on English soil after travelling in Canada

Group Captain Peter Townsend

Meet the war hero who swept Margaret clean off her feet Group Captain Peter Townsend was born in 1914 and before he turned 20, was soaring through the clouds with the Royal Air Force. It was the start of a career that would be lauded as high-flying in more ways than one. Townsend’s celebrated World War II record is a role call of victories, near misses and heroic escapes, including one ditch in the ocean and even an amputated toe! When his injury kept him from flying he retained control of his squadron and was back in the air before a month had passed. Within six short months, Townsend had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar in recognition of his efforts. When the war ended, the celebrated Spitfire ace was welcomed into the royal household as a trusted equerry to the King. By the time Townsend met Princess Margaret in 1947, he had already been married for over five years and was the father of two children. His marriage ended in 1952, conspicuously just before his romance with Margaret and his proposal to her became public knowledge. In the years following the end of their affair, Peter Townsend was posted to Brussels as air attaché at the British Embassy. It was here in Belgium that he fell in love with his secretary, Marie-Luce Jamagne, a woman who would later be noted for her striking resemblance to his royal former lover. Townsend’s 1959 marriage to MarieLuce was a happy one. The couple had one daughter and were together until his death more than 40 years later. Later in life, Townsend became a writer specialising in military history, as well as penning a biography of George VI. In his own autobiography he shared precious few details of the tumultuous romance he had enjoyed with the Princess, preferring to keep those particular secrets to himself. Group Captain Peter Townsend died of stomach cancer at his home in France in 1995. He was 80 years old.

comfort elsewhere and began an affair with John de László, a dalliance that finally resulted in the couple’s divorce in 1952. Or so the papers believed. Rosemary and Townsend, however, remained tight-lipped even as the decades passed. No matter how much money the papers offered the former husband and wife to spill the beans, both understandably refused to offer any behind the scenes gossip about the breakdown of their marriage. In fact, when George VI died in 1952, Princess Margaret had never felt so alone, so utterly despairing, and in her grief she sought some measure of comfort from those she trusted. Not for her were the platitudes of her socialite friends nor the society gents who filled her dance cards, it was to Peter Townsend that she turned. Though there is no reliable evidence that the couple became lovers in 1952, it doesn’t take too much of a leap of faith to suppose that – even if they weren’t sexually intimate – their relationship had certainly moved beyond chaperone and chaperoned. By the time Townsend filed for divorce that November, he and Margaret were certainly closer than they had ever been and the stage was set for scandal and heartbreak. In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was still settling into her reign and preparing for a grand and glittering coronation. The last thing she needed was a domestic drama, yet when Peter Townsend asked Princess Margaret to marry him, drama was just what the new Queen was about to get. Of course, the excited young Princess was thrilled to receive Townsend’s proposal and hoped to accept, but she could not do so without the approval of her sister. Although it might seem strange that she had to request her sibling’s permission, the Georgians can be thanked for that particular loophole. 36


Margaret and Peter Townsend photographed during the Royal Tour of South Africa, 1947

“Margaret must have guessed what the answer would be even before she sought permission” The Royal Marriages Act, enshrined in law in 1772, set down the stringent rules under which members of the royal family could marry; its intention being to protect the integrity of the royal household. Central to its power was the clause that all members of the family must secure the official consent of the reigning monarch before they were permitted to marry. For those over 25 there was a very small get-out clause, however. In this case, so long as Parliament didn’t refuse the marriage, then the wedding could take place after one year, whether or not the monarch had given consent. So Margaret found her future decided by a rule that was almost 200 years old, and in Townsend she had found a far from perfect candidate. Not only was he much older than her, but he was also a divorcee. With the fate of Edward and the divorced Mrs Simpson fresh in her mind, Margaret must have guessed what the answer would be even before she sought permission. Even worse, the Church of England didn’t recognise the marriages of those who were divorced as legitimate unions, rendering the couple’s position even more precarious. BELOW Dated 18 October 1955, the Daily Mirror preoccupied its front page with the love life of the Princess


The letter that was never published

In anticipation of accepting Townsend’s proposal, a letter was drafted and ready to go On Friday 2 January 2004, the secrecy surrounding a series of classified documents finally expired. Among the files held at the National Archives Office in London was correspondence between Buckingham Palace and the Prime Minister’s Office regarding Princess Margaret’s very public love life. Filed with the official letters was one very startling piece of sentimental history: a drafted letter

written by Princess Margaret, which acknowledged her intention to marry Peter Townsend, and agreeing to relinquish her claim to the throne. Ultimately, however, Princess Margaret decided to follow her head and not her heart, and instead issued an announcement on the 31 October 1955 declaring that she would not go ahead with the marriage to Townsend. Her drafted letter of acceptance was never published.

“In a moment of domestic intimacy, she reached out to flick lint from Townsend’s jacket” In fact, the Queen didn’t immediately refuse the request but instead asked her sister to wait a little longer before she made a decision. This would give everyone a chance to cool off, let Elizabeth adjust to her new role and also mean that Margaret was 25, the age at which she could marry without her sibling’s permission. However, the news of the couple’s relationship leaked out following the Queen’s coronation, an occasion at which Margaret and Townsend appeared to have eyes for nobody but each other. In a moment of unguarded domestic intimacy unthinkable for the brittle, headscarfclad woman that Princess Margaret would become, she reached out to flick a piece of lint from Townsend’s jacket. The tabloids loved it and so did the British people, who wanted to see their Princess happy. With public opinion rallying behind Margaret, the Queen moved Townsend out of Clarence House and back to Buckingham Palace, yet Parliament had even more dramatic schemes in mind. The government flatly refused to sanction the marriage unless Margaret agreed to renounce her royal rights and privileges and gave up her right to the throne. Should she agree to abandon her place in the line of succession, then Margaret would be free to marry in a civil ceremony. Should she wish to retain her rights of succession, even though she was highly unlikely ever to be queen, then there was no way that Margaret could marry Townsend. A committed Christian, the choice was a stark one for the Princess and she knew that her decision might have

Peter Townsend photographed with his wife, Marie-Luce Jamagne, whose resemblance to Princess Margaret was uncanny



Princess Margaret as photographed on her wedding day


Princess Margaret and John ‘Biffo’ Bindon, whom she claimed never to have met, enjoy the Mustique sunshine

The princess and the gangster

Did MI5 really intervene to save Margaret from an embarrassing scandal? John Bindon, known as ‘Biffo’ on the streets, might as well have been from a different planet to Princess Margaret. Sometime actor, occasional murder suspect and long-time friend to some of the most notorious gangland names in London, he also claimed to have enjoyed some scandalous liaisons with the Princess. Biffo made his unlikely foray into high society thanks to a love affair with Vicki Hodge, the daughter of a baronet. At the hedonistic height of the 1960s, he claimed that Margaret had invited him to her Caribbean hideaway on Mustique, where they had enjoyed passionate encounters in the sand. Margaret flatly denied ever having met Biffo, wilfully ignoring the existence of a photograph taken of the couple on Mustique. Though they’re not the scandalous pictures rumoured to exist, Biffo’s t-shirt, emblazoned with the slogan ‘Enjoy Cocaine’, must have set off alarm bells among the powers that be. The story took another twist in 1971 when the Baker Street branch of Lloyds Bank was raided. Among the items rumoured to have been

“It has since been speculated that Margaret’s decision was driven not by Christian faith”

taken were saucy snaps of Biffo and the Princess that had been placed in a safely deposit box by a gangster known as Michael X. Yet as speculation reached fever pitch, the government issued an unexpected gagging order. There was to be no reporting of the robbery, no speculation of the notice and definitely no discussion of illicit, explicit photographs of members of the House of Windsor. As the years passed the rumours of the Princess, the gangster and the naughty pictures didn’t fade away, but only grew louder. Conspiracy theories emerged that claimed the robbery had been orchestrated by MI5, acting under orders from the highest echelons of government to retrieve and destroy the photos. With Michael X dead and nobody else willing to go on the record about the occurrence, it remains a tantalising speculation and has proved inspirational to writers and filmmakers. We will never know if the pictures existed or, if they did, what they showed. For Princess Margaret, however, it’s just one more chapter in her hedonistic story!

ramifications for the whole nation. She was separated from Townsend physically when the government had him posted to Brussels and, after long, agonising battles with her conscience, Princess Margaret made her decision. A letter uncovered in 2009 from Princess Margaret to the prime minister, Anthony Eden, reveals that she had entertained other doubts about the marriage and was struggling with her decision. In the crucible of the public eye and press attention, the young woman was determined to make the right choice, and make it alone, regardless of what anyone else might tell her. When she did make her statement renouncing Townsend, however, it was one that he had written for her, carefully setting down the words in a neat pencil script. Citing the church’s stance on the marital status of divorcees, as well as her duty to her sister’s subjects, Margaret took to the airwaves to inform the nation that she could not marry Peter Townsend. “Mindful 40


of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth,” she declared, the couple went their separate ways. Yet were these noble words heartfelt, or merely intended to cover up a more cynical motive? It has since been speculated that Margaret’s decision was driven not by Christian faith, but by her own love of pomp and ceremony, and the fact that she simply would not give up her royal lifestyle and privileges for love. Where her uncle had followed his heart, Margaret had, according to some, followed her ego. As the years passed by, Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend were never close again. Courted by eligible suitors from across the world, she never entertained another proposal until, in 1960, Townsend told Margaret that he was to remarry. The very next day, the Princess accepted an offer of marriage from photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones, later created Lord Snowdon. Once again Margaret had chosen a far from ideal candidate, but at least this time he was not a divorced father of two. As a social and fashion icon, Margaret’s life was never far from the headlines or from the whispered gossip of society salons. Her name was linked with lovers as diverse as Warren Beatty, David Niven and Robin Douglas-Home – who took his own life when their 41

Further reading • A de Courcy, Snowdon: The Biography, W&N 2009 • N Botham, Margaret: The Last Real Princess, Blake Publishing 2002 • P Townsend, Time and Chance: An Autobiography, HarperCollins 1978 • T Aronson, Princess Margaret, Thistle Publishing 2013

© Alamy, Getty Images, TopFoto

ABOVE Margaret with her husband, Lord Snowdon, and their two children in June 1964

romance ended. As she and Snowdon lived increasingly separate lives, Margaret began an affair with Roddy Llewellyn that reached heights of emotion that drove the Princess to attempt suicide. Around 17 years her junior, Llewellyn was a tabloid dream and just weeks after his romance with Margaret was splashed across the front page of the press, she and Snowdon publicly announced the end of their marriage. In 1978, the photographer and the Princess were divorced. Princess Margaret never remarried. Peter Townsend died in 1995 and she passed away in 2002. As the years sped past she became a symbol of snobbish grandeur, the hedonistic sister who grew bitter in the shadow of her sibling, yet once she had been the focus of goodwill from a public who believed she deserved to be happy. Later, her unheard of decision to divorce Snowdon catapulted the issue of royal marriage into the public eye. Her experience blazed a trail for those who would follow, ensuring that divorce became accepted in the royal household. No longer were members of the House of Windsor expected to suffer in silence and in the years that followed, several of her nieces and nephews followed her into the divorce courts. Although Townsend and Margaret occasionally exchanged letters, they did not meet again for almost four decades. Quite by chance, the former lovers encountered one another at a Kensington Palace luncheon. Time had healed whatever wounds their separation had wrought and the two made a beeline for each other. They spent the afternoon together, chatting like old friends and catching up on all that had happened over the years. Whether Princess Margaret’s decision to reject the proposal of Peter Townsend and turn her back on love in favour of title was inspired by snobbish self-importance or religious and dutiful adherence to protocol, we will never truly know. Townsend, however, had his suspicions and wrote in his autobiography that Margaret had not been prepared to give up “her position, her prestige, her privy purse.” His words are gently written, but scathing to interpret. Famed for her love of partying, her scandalous liaisons and her altogether Bohemian ways, whether Margaret would have been suited to life as the wife of a war hero is equally mysterious. She lived life to the full yet surely, sometimes, Princess Margaret Rose must have looked back on the road she didn’t take and wonder wistfully ‘what if’.


Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth – later Queen Elizabeth II – star in a Christmas production of Cinderella in Windsor. The younger princess takes on the titular role, while Elizabeth dons a Prince Charming costume. Between 1940 and 1944 the sisters performed a series of plays at Windsor Castle, each directed by the headmaster of the Royal School of Windsor, Hubert Tannar. Two scrapbooks filled with photographs and programmes surfaced in 2013 and were sold for £3,200 at auction.



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Royal House

Glücksburg 1863-1973

Stemming from the Danish Glücksburgs, this house ruled the turbulent nation of Greece for just a century before being abolished once and for all Words PETER PRICE

A second arms This coat of arms is the second crest to be used by the Glücksburgs, made for the restoration of George II in 1935. The first was made for the ascension of George I in 1863.

Colours of Greece The outer shield features the white cross on blue background of Greece. Inside that rests the arms of the Greek line of the House of Glücksburg, which itself holds the arms of Denmark.

Grecian heroes The two figures standing on either side of the crest, resplendent in the skin of a lion, represent Heracles, a mighty hero from the Heroic age of Greek antiquity.

Order of the Redeemer The crest is surrounded by a medal of the Order of the Redeemer, the highest and most prestigious award that someone can receive in modern Greece.

The house motto The Glücksburg’s dynastic motto is found at the bottom of the crest and reads ‘The people’s love, my strength’.





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Sophia of Prussia

Order of succession


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Constantine I

1913-1917 1920-1922


George b.1869-d.1957


George I





Known as ‘Greek Nicky’ to distinguish him from his cousin, Tsar Nicholas II, Nicholas was involved in the 1896 Olympic Games, the first games to be held since antiquity. His enthusiasm for sport shooting saw him sit on the Shooting SubCommittee during the event.


Prince Nicholas

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For little over 100 years the Glücksburgs clung to the throne of Greece, beset by brutal conflict and political upheaval


Olga b.1880-d.1880


Alice of Battenburg



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Olga Constantinovna of Russia

Being the fourth son of George I, Andrew’s succession chances were slim, so he endeavoured to pursue a military career. During the Greco-Turkish War of 1919, he disobeyed a direct order to attack an enemy position, believing it would lead to the unnecessary death of his men. This flagrant disregard for the chain of command reflected poorly on himself and his family after the war.


Prince Andrew



King Constantine I of Greece as photographed with his family


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George II b.1921-d.1993

Alexandra Born an illegitimate child of Alexander I and Aspasia Manos, Alexandra was later legitimised by Sophia of Prussia, her doting grandmother. She fell in love with Peter II of Yugoslavia in London, but alcoholism and a string of affairs made the marriage an unhappy one.

“Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is known throughout the world as the husband of Queen Elizabeth II”


Elisabeth of Romania

1922-1924 1935-1947


Turn to page 52


Aspasia Manos


Sophia’s marriage to Juan Carlos of Spain would see her become queen consort in 1975. Widely seen as a fashion icon, as a Catholic queen she has been permitted to wear a white veil and dress while in an audience with the pope, known as ‘the privilege of the white’.


Sophia of Spain

Turn to page 51



1917-1920 Katherine


Anne-Marie of Denmark

A German Princess, Frederica became engaged to Paul I during the 1936 Olympics in Germany. She took a great interest in politics with her husband, although her outlook has been labelled as ‘inherently undemocratic’. After the death of her husband, she renounced her duties, retiring to the country.


Frederica of Hanover



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Constantine II



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Helen of Romania



A somewhat controversial figure, Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is known throughout the world as the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Serving with the Royal Navy during World War II, he went on to renounce his Danish and Greek titles and became a British citizen after his marriage.


Prince Philip Mountbatten


A post-humous portrait of George I by Georgios Iakovidis in 1914

George I b.1845-d.1913


King of the Hellenes

eorge I of Greece was not born to be king. He began life as Prince Christian Vilhelm Ferdinand Adolf Georg of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-SonderburgGlücksburg, or Glücksburg for short. As part of the Danish royal family he seemed destined for a naval career, while his father was named heir to the childless King Frederik VII. This changed when the previous Greek monarch, Otto I, was deposed in 1862. The brother that Otto named as successor was outright rejected as the next ruler by the people of Greece, so a referendum was called. Out of the 240,000 votes cast, 95 per cent were for Prince Alfred of Great Britain to take the throne. Many of the Great Powers in Europe, and the Prince himself, had refused this request due to the stipulations of the London Conference held in 1832. This conference was an attempt to find a stable government for the newly formed Kingdom of Greece, which had just won its independence from the Ottoman Empire. None of the Great Powers, like Britain and Russia, could place their royalty on the throne of Greece; the voice of the Greek people had been silenced. Desperate to find a king, the vote was re-examined and Prince William, who had received six votes, emerged as the favourite. At the age of 17, he ascended the throne with the name George I, King of the Hellenes. His reign began well, and he seemed determined to make his mark on the fledgling country. He began by learning Greek, something Otto had not done, and by insisting a new constitution be drafted. With a combination of this, the sending home of his foreign advisors and his casual strolls through the city of Athens, he quickly endeared himself to the population of Greece. He first met Olga Constantinovna, his future wife, in 1863 and the couple quickly fell in love, marrying in 1867 and raising eight children. Queen Victoria once commented that the Glücksburgs were “loving parents and a very united, loving family. And this is a priceless blessing.” This close-knit and happy family unfortunately couldn’t help in the turmoil that gripped Greece during George I’s reign. With 21 different governments rising and falling within ten years, George’s reign was anything but stable. A major issue was the island of Crete, whose independence had not followed with the rest of the country and was still under Ottoman control. In 1897 a brief and brutal war was fought over the island, which saw Greece soundly defeated. The loss was catastrophic for his public opinion and he was seriously considering abdicating the throne. It took the near death of George and his daughter, Maria, at the hands of assassins to win


“The loss was catastrophic and he was seriously considering abdicating” back his public approval. While travelling in an opentopped coach riflemen opened fire, causing George I to shield his daughter from the fire. Although they were both unharmed, his bravery restored his image in the eyes of many of the Greeks. The first Balkan War of 1912 saw the countries of Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Greece fight against the Ottoman Empire. Unlike the 1897 conflict, the newly trained and equipped Greek army performed admirably and George I was met with cheering, victorious crowds as he visited Macedonia in the aftermath of victory. Not realising the danger, the King shunned his bodyguards and strolled around the city, as he was known to do. This time, however, a lone anarchist gunman fired at almost point blank range into his torso, killing him instantly. The gunman, named Alexandros Schinas, fell from a police station window shortly after, his death being ruled as a suicide. 48


Olga Constantinovna of Russia b.1851-d.1926

The benevolent queen orn a member of the Romanov dynasty, Olga spent much of her life away from Russia. She became queen at the age of 16, with her marriage to George I. Like her husband, she made great efforts to integrate with the population, wearing the Greek national colours and quickly learning the language. While her husband and larger family were often mired in political controversy, she attempted to shun politics and public opinion for most of her life. Instead, she spent much of her time in charitable pursuits, the first being to take over several patronages held by the previous queen and of several military hospitals, and helped establish the Annunciation Hospital in Athens. Under her guidance a Russian Hospital was also constructed in Piraeus, which served Russian soldiers and any other soldiers visiting Greece. During the GrecoTurkish War of 1897 she awarded the Royal


Queen Olga dedicated much of her life to helping the less fortunate, endearing herself to the people of Greece

Red Cross by Queen Victoria for her services to the wounded. Despite these good works, controversy still managed to follow the Queen. During the war she noticed that many of the wounded troops could not read The Bible, the edition Greece used being written in an archaic form of the language. Her modern translations were met with outrage and led to riots by students and members of the church. By the end of the year, eight people had died from the riots and all copies she’d commissioned were confiscated. After George’s death in 1913 she supported her children, even acting as regent after the death of Alexander I. She was the only member of the family to be allowed entry into Greece to treat the sick King. She remained popular and when she died in exile she was said to have been “embittered of late years by the numerous tragedies that has struck down her royal Herald family,” according to the Sarasota Herald.

Constantine I b.1868-d.1923

1913-1917, 1920-1922

Duke of Sparta he life of Constantine I was mostly dictated by warfare. While acting as the Crown Prince he was commander-inchief of the Greek forces in the Greco-Turkish war of 1897. The defeat saw popular support for the monarchy plummet, putting strains on his father, George I. While he was cast out of the armed forces, the new prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, who wanted to garner favour with the monarchy, reinstated him. During the Balkan war, Constantine was at the forefront of the action, winning victories on the Macedonian front. It was here that he first clashed with Venizelos, a trend that would rip the country apart. After arguing on the right military action, Venizelos, who outranked the Prince in these matters, famously rebuked him. Constantine said he would follow his own path unless forbidden; the replying telegram contained only three words: ‘I forbid you’.


The adulation the Greek nation felt after the Balkans victory was cut short with the beginning of WWI. Constantine, now King, was hesitant to commit Greece to the conflict. This move was seen as pro-German, but the King rebuked both the Kaiser and the Entente powers by staying neutral. Venizelos clashed with the King again in what was know as the National Schism. In 1916 an emergency republican government was formed that formally declared war on Germany, splitting the country into pro- and anti-royalists. The situation was untenable for Constantine, who fled the country and was replaced by his son, Alexander. His son’s sudden death heralded a referendum, which voted to have Constantine I return. It was a bittersweet victory, however, as the failing fortunes of the Greek military against the Ottomans once again forced the King to flee. His second exile was his last as in 1923 he passed away in Italy, never to see Greece again. 49

Constantine I pictured wearing a German field marshal uniform, a position granted to him by Kaiser Wilhelm II

King George II b.1890-d.1947

1922-1924, 1935-1947

The wandering monarch

hen World War I broke across Europe, Greece stayed neutral for the most part. This respite certainly didn’t help the Glücksburgs, however, as a young George had to follow his father into exile when the country fractured in 1917. This would not be the first time he would have to flee his own country, later quipping that, “the most important tool for a King of Greece is a suitcase.” Returning from exile, the Prince served his country as a major general in the Greco-Turkish War. In the aftermath of the conflict, his father was deposed and the Prince rose to become George II. The Greeks’ defeat at Turkish hands was widely blamed on the monarchy, and George II, barely a year into his reign, was asked to leave Greece by parliament so the nation could decide on a form of government. What happened next showed the seesaw public opinion of the population at the time, dominated by the influence of staunch republican Eleftherios Venizelos. A referendum held in 1924 ushered in the Second Hellenic Republic, abolishing the monarchy and forcing the royal family to flee to Romania and later Britain. While the dethroned George was living a life of luxury in Britain, Greece was enjoying a fairly stable government up until the Great Depression, when economic uncertainty once again turned the country into a political hotbed. A coup was attempted in 1935, aimed at deposing pro-royal sympathisers. The coup failed and saw the Venizelist elements of the armed forces, as well as the man himself, either purged or exiled. The mastermind behind the defeat of the coup was General Georgios Kondylis who had changed his republican views and now worked to restore the royal family. This changed the political landscape into one where the return of the monarchy was a real possibility. On 3 November 1935, another referendum was held to decide on the return of the king. A landslide victory was recorded with 97.9 per cent of voters approving the reinstatement of the crown, showing that the vote was almost certainly rigged. An issue of The Times stated, “A voter one could drop into the ballot box a blue vote for George II and please General George Kondylis, or one could cast a red ballot for the republic and get roughed up.” Despite this foul play, George II was allowed to return to Greek soil. After some political manoeuvring, helped by the untimely death of General Kondylis, a man named Ioannis Metaxas established a dictatorship, with the blessing of George II. The King hoped this move heralded in a ‘Third Hellenic Civilisation’, and secure lasting peace and stability. The Metaxas regime, while


Sophia’s argument with her brother grew so fierce that if his child died, he was willing to blame Sophia’s religious conversion

Sophia of Prussia b.1870-d.1932

The Prussian princess s the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and brother to Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, Sophia was born into the highest society in Europe. During her frequent visits to England she met the future Constantine I and despite Constantine not being thought of as very clever, Queen Victoria blessed the budding romance, saying, “A good heart and a good character… go far beyond cleverness.” The couple married on 27 October 1889. Possessing a compassionate heart, Sophia was passionate about improving the lifestyle of the Greek people both as Princess Consort and as Queen. Healthcare and hygiene improvements were a top priority and she oversaw the construction of hospitals and orphanages. Through arts projects she was also able to help women gain employment at a time


when female workers were looked down upon. Being brother to Kaiser Wilhelm also put a strain on Sophia’s life. In 1890 she made the decision to convert to Greek Orthodoxy and was told, rather bluntly, by Wilhelm’s wife that this would cause her to be barred entry into Germany. This family spat was resolved by their mother, who told Sophia to ignore her brother. After the death of her husband, Sophia spent her last years at her villa in Florence. She underwent cancer treatment in 1932, but complications meant that she passed away in Frankfurt. As befitted a queen, Sophia was buried alongside her husband in the Greek Orthodox Church in Florence. In November 1936, after the restoration of the monarchy, the remains of Sophia and Constantine I were transferred to Greece and laid to rest in the mausoleum at the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi Palace. 50


“His return was uncertain and another referendum was held” not as brutal as other dictatorships at the time, was not above censoring undesirable literary works and arresting political undesirables. Greece, and the rest of the world, was again plunged into the fires of war in 1939. Even though Metaxas had strong connections with the Axis powers, his defiance against Italian military aggression saw Greece turn to the allies for protection. George II was first moved to Cyprus, but soon continued on to British-held Egypt and finally Britain itself. Although he was still King, left-wing militia groups fighting the Axis powers in Greece had gained popular support. As the war drew to a close his return was uncertain and another referendum was held. George experienced another victory with just short of 70 per cent of the votes in his favour, but again there were cries of electoral fraud, though these were largely ignored. In 1946 he returned to Greece and found the country exhausted by war and near constant economic and political instability. It seemed that the King was also suffering, as on 1 April 1947, his body failed and he was found dead. This picture was taken of George II was taken in 1942, at a time when he would have taken up residence in London during WWII

Alexander I pictured c.1920, just before a seemingly harmless wound took his life

Alexander of Greece b.1893-d.1920


Greece’s puppet king ike all Glücksburgs, Alexander’s life and reign were fraught with controversy. He became King in less than ideal circumstances and, despite his best efforts, his royal power was curtailed so much that he effectively ruled in name only. His first exposure to the tabloids was when he married his childhood friend, the beautiful Aspasia Manos. She was the daughter of Constantine I’s stable master and in the eyes of the royal family, hardly a fitting bride for a European prince. The objection was so strong that their engagement had to be carried out in secret. Rising to the throne during the National Schism, the political landscape did not look favourable for the start of his reign. With the crowning ceremony attended by a handful of family members and with little public celebration, he knew what



little royal power remained still lay with his father, the political power now held by his prime minister, Venizelos. Little more than a figurehead, Alexander took it upon himself to make tours of Greek military garrisons in Macedonia and to raise morale now that they fought for the Allies in the WWI. He could do little else as much of the royal family had followed his father into exile and his formal duties were little more than rubber-stamping official documents. Any protests or ideas he had were simply ignored. His reign came to an end in the autumn of 1920. While strolling through the palace grounds he was set upon by a macaque. Not thinking anything of the bite wounds, he had them dressed and continued on. Unfortunately, the wounds went septic, but no one was willing to amputate on the monarch for fear of reprisals. On 25 October 1920, Alexander passed away from septicaemia.

Aspasia Manos b.1896-d.1972

The madame lthough she was married to a king, Aspasia Manos never held the title of Queen. Coming from non-royal stock, her engagement to Alexander I caused outrage in royal circles. After meeting, Alexander courted Manos until she agreed to marry. The engagement was held in secret and soon Aspasia became Alexander’s closest companion and confidant. They married in secret on 4 November 1919, but Aspasia was forced to flee to Paris for a time afterwards. Returning to Greece saw their marriage tragically cut short as Alexander succumbed to an infected bite from a monkey in late 1920. Her pregnancy had far-reaching consequences as it posed a large problem in the line of succession. As Alexander I had not sought either his father’s or the head of the church’s permission to marry, it was not technically legal. This also meant that the baby was considered illegitimate. With


Dated 1926, this picture was taken after Aspasia had managed to gain recognition for her marriage to Alexander I

mounting fears that the child would ascend the throne, the population was polarised in its support for the monarchy in this period. Queen Sophia had to step in and pass a law that allowed retroactive recognition of marriages to royal members by the King. In this way, both Aspasia and her child, Alexandra, would be better cared for as equals. Aspasia now carried the title of ‘Princess of Greece and Denmark’ and could style herself as Royal Highness. With Greece still in political upheaval, Aspasia chose to follow the Dowager Queen Sophia into exile, as she had grown very fond of her granddaughter. As war again raged in Europe they found sanctuary in Britain. After the war, Aspasia chose not to return to Greece and the contempt for the royal family there, instead making a modest living in Venice. In later life she was plagued with financial problems and was forced to sell her belongings to pay the bills. She passed away on 7 August 1972.

Paul I b.1901-d.1964


No ordinary king rince Paul’s early life differed from his relatives. After a naval education in Britain, he followed his father into exile during WWI. Staying in Greece for only three years (1920-1923) he again was forced to flee to England. Here he found employment in the burgeoning aircraft industry, and worked as an apprentice mechanic. While at the factory, he assembled planes under the alias Paul Beck and stayed until 1935. With the return of the monarchy, in 1938. Paul married Princess Frederica of Hanover, but the new family were driven again from Greece as German forces arrived in 1941. He spent the rest of the war in London, broadcasting to the people of Greece, encouraging them to fight for their country. Greece didn’t see a respite from the fighting though, as in 1946 civil war broke out between the Greek communist party and governmental forces. Many of the


communists had been guerrilla fighters during the war, and Britain and the USA threw support at the national government to stop the reds from gaining power. With the death of George II in 1947, Paul was now the reigning monarch and sought an end to the perpetual violence that had gripped the country for years. War wound down in 1949 and saw Greece ushered into the 1950s ready for prosperity and growth. Under his reign the agriculture and mining sectors were booming, and diplomatic relations with Turkey improved. He was the first Greek monarch to visit Turkey in 1952. Despite this prosperity and peace, both the King and his wife were criticised for their involvement in politics. Improved diplomatic relations meant more foreign travel, and resentment grew on the financial upkeep of the royal family. This lifestyle took its toll and Paul’s health had deteriorated. In 1964, after undergoing surgery for stomach cancer, Paul I passed away in Athens. 52

Some royal historians believe that if Paul I had reigned longer, he could have absolved much of the resentment held against the royal family


Styled as ‘King Constance’ during later life, Constantine II was the last king of Greece

Constantine II b.1940-present


The last king uch of Constantine’s early life was spent in exile in South Africa, where his family stayed for the duration of WWII. Returning with his father in 1946, it was here that he attended boarding school and “was at his best on the playing fields”. He was 23 when his father died in the early spring of 1964. His ascension to the throne was eagerly awaited by the people of Greece, who saw his youth and vibrancy as a catalyst for change. With the memory of the civil war still fresh in the nation’s psyche, and the divide between left and right-wing politics still strong, the people of Greece looked to Constantine II for strong and just leadership. Unfortunately his reign could not live up to these expectations. Constantine II did not work well alongside the government and caused a great scandal in 1965 in what is know as the ‘Royal Coup’ or ‘Apostasia’. With the resignation of the prime minister, Georgios Papendreou – who had clashed with the King – Constantine chose a new government of people loyal to him, which was seen as unconstitutional. Although he retained the throne, the King had upset the balance of power and paved the way for his own downfall. After a few years of more political instability, a military coup took place in anticipation of the upcoming elections, and a group of right-wing military leaders seized power. Constantine II, as commander and chief of the armed forces, stood in a position to use loyal military forces to crush the coup, but did not give the order, opting instead to save the lives of his subjects. He reconsidered this position and later that year attempted a counter coup. Travelling north, he mobilised military elements loyal to the crown but due to bureaucratic interference and an unwillingness to shed blood, the insurrection never got off the ground. In early December he and his family fled to Italy and he would never set foot on Greek soil as a reigning monarch again. He was King in name only until 1973, when after the military Junta was disbanded and a new democratic government elected, another referendum was held about the future of the monarchy. As with before, there were calls of a rigged election and Constantine himself was not allowed to return to the country to campaign for himself, having to make do with speaking from his residence in London. In a decisive vote, 69 per cent of the population rejected the King, many doing so because of his actions in 1965 and his willingness to swear in the Junta of 1969. For the final time, the monarchy of Greece was abolished, never to return. He lived most of his exile in London, where he socialised with his cousin, Prince Philip Mountbatten, husband to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

© Allan warren


“He insists that he has no political ambitions anymore” In recent years, Constantine II – who still styles himself as ‘King Constantine’, rather than using the ‘King of the Hellenes’ title – has come under financial difficulty. In 2006, he sold off the family silver, hoping to raise funds after his property in Greece was seized in 1994, which also stripped him of his citizenship. He became a member of the International Olympic Committee, himself having been a keen sportsman all his life. In 1960 he won Greece’s first gold medal in sailing since 1912. When he lost his citizenship, he was made an honorary member of the committee. In 2013, with many Greeks looking to emigrate due to the poor economic climate, he and his family moved back to the country, with a mind of settling permanently. While his presence is still controversial to many, he insists that he has no political ambitions anymore and that anyone who has been told otherwise has been ‘deliberately misinformed’. 53

Ludwig II of Bavaria b.1845-d.1886 1864-1886

Ludwig II’s architecture and patronage of Richard Wagner earned him the nicknames Märchenkönig (Fairytale King) and Swan King. His palaces are among Bavaria’s premier tourist attractions.

A colour printing of King Ludwig II of Bavaria based on an original portrait



The mysterious death of Ludwig II What happened to the mad King of Bavaria? Words ANN MARIE ACKERMANN


disturbing history swirls under the placid surface of Bavaria’s Lake Starnberg. King Ludwig II and a psychiatrist/expert witness met their untimely deaths in the waist-deep water of the lake in 1886, and no one knows exactly how. Some Bavarians say it was a suicide; some say it was an accident; others say murder. Over 130 later, we know a little more about Bavaria’s greatest unsolved mystery. Historians have rooted the archives and modern forensic analysis has dissected the evidence, so what can we now say about that fateful night of 13 June 1886? Ludwig’s downfall began in part with his character and in part with his debts. Even as a young prince, he withdrew into his own fantasies, and art, music, and architecture interested him far more than government ever could. Once he became King in 1864 at the age of 18, those character traits found their expression. Ludwig’s patronage of Richard Wagner likely saved the composer’s music career, while the crown jewels of Bavaria’s royal architecture were Ludwig’s legacy: he built Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, and Herrenchiemsee, now three of Germany’s most popular tourist

destinations, with the former cited as Walt Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle. He also planned three more palaces, but by 1885 he’d accumulated massive private debts, which his uncle, Luitpold – next in line to the throne – agonised about inheriting. Increasing doubts about Ludwig’s ability to rule focused on mismanagement of money, and his attempts to find additional funding crossed the line into criminal conduct. Never married, Ludwig became more and more isolated. Rather than meeting with his ministers in Munich, he much preferred living in his fairy-tale palaces, running the government by correspondence. By 1885, a crisis developed in Ludwig’s cabinet. Luitpold and the Bavarian ministers came to an agreement: Ludwig’s rule needed to end, and there was only one way to do it. The Bavarian constitution didn’t provide for a king’s impeachment based on mis-, mal-, or nonfeasance, but it allowed for a king’s removal if a disability lasting longer than a year prevented the performance of his duties. In March 1886, the cabinet asked Doctor Bernhard von Gudden, Germany’s most prominent psychiatry professor, to make a diagnosis and prognosis. It was the beginning of the end for both the 55

King and the doctor, although neither could have known it at the time. The medico-legal question Doctor Gudden addressed was not whether the King was insane, but whether he was capable of ruling – the two standards were very different. Under the Bavarian law, incapacity to act under private, civil law would have, of necessity, deemed a person unfit to rule. But the converse wasn’t true. Because ruling a country required special skills above and beyond daily living, the legal definition for incapacity to govern cast a wider net, which gave Doctor Gudden more latitude in making his diagnosis. The ministers collected witness statements and documentary evidence for Doctor Gudden to prove the King incompetent, but it was a one-sided affair. They even fished correspondence and orders from the King’s waste bin. On 8 June, without evaluating exculpatory evidence or examining the King, Doctor Gudden’s team diagnosed Ludwig with chronic paranoia that interfered with his ability to rule. Luitpold took the reins of the government as Prince Regent and ordered for Ludwig to be arrested and confined for medical treatment. In the early hours of 12 June 1886, a government commission seized Ludwig at Neuschwanstein and transported him to Castle Berg on the shores of Lake Starnberg. To prevent his escape, medical personnel removed the door handles from his room and barred the windows. Gendarmes patrolled the grounds. The adjacent town of Berg was put under martial law; the police forbade citizens to leave their homes after dark. Although Doctor Gudden acted as an expert witness, he and his team of doctors nevertheless developed a treatment plan emphasising rest, social contact, and regular exercise with walks. Ludwig offered no resistance and by all appearances was a co-operative patient. But that may well have been a ruse. When the clocks struck midnight in Munich that night, several soldiers and palace servants swore they saw a ghost flitting through both Ludwig’s place of confinement, which had been the traditional home of the Bavarian royal family in Munich, and through the ancestral portrait gallery in the Schleissheim Palace. According to legend, the palace spectre – a blackclad lady – was a messenger of death. It’s unclear whether either king or doctor had any inkling, but they now had only a few hours to live. Doctor Gudden and Ludwig’s first walk that morning, on 13 June, passed without incident. They strolled through the castle grounds along the lakeshore, followed by a male nurse for security. Around 6.30pm, they set off for another walk despite bad weather. It was the last either would ever take. This time, Doctor Gudden asked the nurse not to accompany them. His request puzzles historians today because it violated his own psychiatric standard of care.

When the King and physician didn’t return to Castle Berg as planned, the castle personnel and gendarmes launched a search. At 10.30pm, the party found Ludwig’s two overcoats and an umbrella between the path and the lake. Next, it found both their hats bobbing in the water on the shoreline. Fearing that the King and the doctor might be in the water, a doctor and the castle steward ran back to town to fetch a local fisherman to row them out to the scene. Between 20 to 25 paces from the shoreline, they found the bodies of Ludwig and Doctor Gudden floating next to each other face down in the water, their backs bobbing above the surface. The search party’s doctor started artificial resuscitation on the King as soon as the bodies were pulled aboard the boat. Once they’d paddled ashore he continued resuscitation until signs of rigor mortis set in. He pronounced both men dead at 11.35pm. Their bodies were laid out at Castle Berg overnight. Ludwig’s

“According to legend, the palace spectre – a black-clad lady – was a messenger of death”


ABOVE LEFT A coronation portrait of Ludwig II by Ferdinand von Piloty ABOVE RIGHT Linderhof Palace was built by Ludwig and was inspired by the Palace of Versailles


Was Ludwig II really insane?

Declared unfit to rule without a psychiatric evaluation, the king might not have been as mad as history made him out to be

Bernhard von Gudden was the doctor that declared that Ludwig II was incapable of ruling

Was the mad king of Bavaria as insane as he’s made out today? Probably not. There are three reasons why. First, Doctor Gudden’s expert opinion violated ethical standards. No psychiatrist may render a diagnosis without first examining the patient. A doctor must take care that evidence supporting a diagnosis is as objective as possible. Physicians followed those tenets already in 1886. In contrast, Doctor Gudden based his diagnosis on evidence gathered by Bavarian ministers opposed to Ludwig and didn’t take contradictory opinions into account. Second, some of the evidence put forth for Ludwig’s insanity in 1886 wouldn’t meet psychiatric standards today. His dream of building a flying machine proved realistic within two decades of his death. Had Ludwig lived another 17 years, he would have seen that dream realised in the Wright brothers’ aeronautical experiments. Photographs of Ludwig contradict Doctor Gudden’s claims of small brain and head sizes, which 19th-century scientists took as evidence of mental deficiency. Ludwig’s head size appears normal in photographs, a modern


physician says. Post-mortem dehydration would account for the slightly smaller-than-average brain size found at autopsy. Third, a German psychiatry professor reviewed the evidence and disagrees with Doctor Gudden. Doctor Heinz Häfner says Ludwig II was fit to rule. He managed his administrative and political duties until the day he was deposed. Häfner did find evidence of a narcissistic personality, which, he claims, is common among royals, but the disorder wouldn’t have interfered with Ludwig’s ability to rule. A bout of meningitis in Ludwig’s infancy likely caused the spot of calcified scar tissue found in the membranes covering his cerebrum in autopsy. That scarring probably produced his headaches, insomnia, and an altered sleep schedule, but cannot be seen as evidence of psychiatric illness. Another autopsy finding concerned a lack of teeth. Ludwig was missing all his upper teeth and most of his lower. He wore dentures, which would’ve made speaking and eating uncomfortable, Doctor Häfner claims, and would have accounted for the King’s social withdrawal toward the end of his life.

The theories of Ludwig’s death

Four theories were put forward to explain the king and his doctor’s death BLACK FOOTSTEPS The investigating magistrate’s death scene inspection the morning after the deaths revealed a double set of footprints leading from the shore and converging at the end of the gravel bed, marked in black. After that point, drag marks from the bodies’ feet indicate the direction in which the bodies floated.



Prussian diplomat Philipp, Prince of Eulenburg inspected the scene the morning after the deaths. The blue lines show the footprints he found and the prints indicated a fight. He claimed the prints dropped off the deep end of the lake, but such a drop-off doesn’t actually exist.

A secondary-school student named Schleussinger visited the scene by boat the morning after the deaths. The red lines show the prints he found, along with a conglomeration of prints, which indicated a fight.


GREEN FOOTSTEPS The green lines show the sketch made by Franz Xaver Haertinger, a district engineer who inspected the scene two days after the King’s death. Haertinger noted the locations of the bodies, clothing, and umbrellas. His sketch showed footprints and continuous drag lines made by the floating corpses’ feet.



ABOVE Ludwig upon the day of his death, imagined with Doctor von Gudden

pocket watch had stopped at 6.54pm and Doctor the first. While some spectators held official roles in the Gudden’s at 8.06pm. investigation of the deaths, others did not, and a visiting An autopsy performed on Ludwig two days later Prussian diplomat and a school student also described didn’t reveal the cause of death – aside from a what they thought were the King’s footprints. scrape on the knee, the body had no visible Each came up with a different scenario. injuries, and his lungs contained no water. The value of the crime scene sketches is No autopsy was performed on Doctor questionable. Wind, wave action, and the Gudden, but physicians who made footprints of onlookers and investigators might have compromised the scene. It’s an external examination of his body also curious that the witnesses claim to found a lump above his right eye and have found trails crossing the gravelly scratches on his nose. Doctor Gudden lakebed on the shoreline, when in reality was also missing part of a fingernail the size of the gravel makes it hard to that an investigating magistrate later leave any mark. found on Ludwig’s overcoat. Those injuries, However, no other aspect of the investigation the magistrate concluded, pointed to a fight has spurred so many conspiracy theories between the King and the doctor. Ludwig II as photographed as the oaths the witnesses had to take. The Police made no attempt to cordon off while at Hohenschwangau Bavarian government asked those involved the death scene from onlookers. Over the Castle, Bavaria in the events of the night of 13 June to swear following days, curious spectators descended never to reveal what they witnessed, not even to a priest. on the shore of Lake Starnberg from both land and So how do Germans explain the deaths? They water, looking for footprints and other clues to shed pose four credible theories. The first – the official some light. One of them found a second umbrella near 60


ABOVE The recovering of Ludwig II’s body from the lake, dated 1886

government version – is suicide-homicide. According to this theory, Ludwig, despondent over his deposition, took advantage of his and Doctor Gudden’s isolation on the castle grounds. Ludwig broke away from Doctor Gudden and dashed into the water to drown himself. Gudden chased and caught Ludwig, trying to stop him. A struggle ensued in which the stronger and larger King overpowered the smaller and older doctor and killed him. Ludwig then waded out into deeper water and let himself drown. Both bodies drifted back to shore. There are several problems with this theory. First, Ludwig’s pocket watch stopped 72 minutes before Doctor Gudden’s did. That suggests that the King died before the doctor. The significance of those times and

“Chloroform poisoning could have caused either man to collapse and dry-drown” 61

the factors that might have influenced the watches’ machinery belong to the most controversial aspects of the case. In an experiment conducted by a watchmaker with a replica of a period watch, the watch’s machinery didn’t even hold out for a minute once it was placed in water. But might the watches’ individual craftsmanship have played a role? Furthermore, Ludwig was wearing only a vest when he died and Doctor Gudden both a vest and overcoat. It would have taken longer for the water to saturate his clothing and reach his pocket watch. Doctor Gudden’s death mask shows a markedly swollen left eye and scratches on the nose. Assuming Doctor Gudden sustained those injuries in a fight with Ludwig, the lump over his eye suggests he survived for some time following the blow. After all, bruises occurring at the time of death cause little to no swelling, but bruises occurring before death do. Another problem with the official theory is the autopsy results: the doctors found no water in Ludwig’s lungs. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Ludwig didn’t drown; in a rare form of drowning called dry drowning, a laryngeal spasm suffocates the victim without any aspiration of water. The victim then floats – just like Ludwig and Doctor Gudden did – instead of sinking. According to an investigator with the Missouri Water Patrol, however, dry drowning accounts for only 10-15 per cent of all drowning cases. It’s uncommon enough that he recommends that police rule other causes of death, such as accident or homicide, for a freshly dead floating body. The urgency of his admonition becomes deafening for two floating bodies. Indeed, accident and homicide are the other theories. An accidental death could have taken several forms. It’s possible one or both men died from a heart attack upon entering the cold water. If they fought each other, one or both could have fainted or suffered circulatory failure. Doctor Gudden might have carried chloroform as means to subdue his patient if necessary. Chloroform poisoning could have caused either man to collapse and dry-drown. One witness claimed Ludwig’s body smelled like ether. And what of the witness oaths? There’s no need to cover up a suicide or accident. The most hotly debated theories involve just the kind of thing you’d expect to see covered up: murder and manslaughter. According to the murder theory, Ludwig fell victim to political intrigue and Doctor Gudden was silenced as a witness. Two men involved in the recovery of the bodies later claimed, in a diary and deathbed confession respectively, that someone shot the King. One was the fisherman who helped find the bodies. He claimed that he’d tried to help the King escape – Ludwig had fled to his waiting boat and was shot in the back as he climbed in. The fisherman pushed the body back into the water and paddled away to save his own life, only to help in the search later. The other man was one of the doctors who had examined the body on the night of 13 June. He’d told his daughter on his deathbed that he couldn’t leave the Earth without exposing the lie he’d lived with for many years: Ludwig had been shot. The drowning story was a cover-up.

Guglmänner hold signs that read “Es war Mord” – it was murder

Who are the Guglmänner?

An ancient society lives on to preserve the memory of Ludwig II Imagine a Bavarian version of the Richard III Society, focused on King Ludwig II, but much older and incognito. Then you’ll have a good idea of the Guglmänner. The Guglmänner (‘hooded men’ in their native German) are members of a secret medieval knighthood. Originally tasked with carrying plague victims to their graves, they probably maintained secrecy to avoid societal ostracism for having handled the dead. They base their organisation on a 1037 statute, the Constitutio de Feudis, which regulated the German knighthood. When the Guglmänner appear in public, they wear their traditional clothing: black robes and hoods with eye slits. This outfit was supposed to have protected them from disease during the plague and dates back to the funeral of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa in 1190. Throughout the centuries, the Guglmänner traditionally participated in royal Bavarian funerals, decked out in their hoods and robes. Their customary place is behind the archbishop and just in front of the funeral carriage, where they march

silently with two burning white candles crossed in front of their chests. Even their motto is about death – ‘Media in vita in morte sumus’ – ‘In the midst of life, we are surrounded by death’. With the demise of the Bavarian monarchy at the end of World War I, the group has emerged with a new focus: the Guglmänner believe that King Ludwig II was murdered. They protest against instances of lèse-majesté (injured majesty) and collect evidence to prove their murder theory. The Guglmänner seek the answers to many of the issues posed in this article and have been pushing for the exhumation of Ludwig’s body to clarify the cause of death. The Guglmänner’s latest public appearance was at the 130th anniversary of Ludwig’s death in June 2016. Attired in their black hoods, two members boated out to the cross in Lake Starnberg that marks the spot where the King died. There they placed a huge, upright picture of Ludwig’s face with the upper half poking above the surface. On the King’s forehead, a message read: “It was murder.”

“The physicians’ failure to find a cause of death suggests they at least they were honest” One of Ludwig’s relatives claimed to have possessed the coat he wore that night – she even showed bullet holes in the back to several of her houseguests. Another witness sketched Ludwig’s dead face at Castle Berg and depicted a dark fluid dribbling from the King’s mouth. It was blood, posits a Bavarian art historian, who made a copy of the picture when he appraised it. He says that points to murder. The problem with this evidence is that it’s so ephemeral. The coat disappeared in a house fire and the diary disappeared at the fisherman’s death (although he allegedly gave the critical page to a local historian before he died, and the historian published it). A medical examiner says that the dark fluid wasn’t necessarily 62


BELOW A German newspaper reports the news of Ludwig’s passing. Dated Monday 14 June 1886

blood. Drowning victims – even dry drowning victims – develop foam around their mouths and noses consisting of air and mucous. This plume, as it dissipates, can take on a darker colour, which could have been the substance in the sketch. On the other hand, the physician who attempted artificial resuscitation on the King on the bank of Lake Starnberg probably removed any mucous airway obstruction first. Because the sketch was made after the resuscitation efforts, the exact nature of the fluid remains unclear. A variant of the murder theory is manslaughter. Armed gendarmes were patrolling the castle grounds that evening to prevent the King’s escape and keep others out. If Ludwig and Doctor Gudden fought each other in the water, one of the gendarmes might have not recognised them in the wind and rain and shot them as intruders. Embarrassed about its failure to properly handle the King’s confinement, the Bavarian government might have ordered a cover-up. According to this theory, the doctors performing the autopsy falsified the results: they didn’t report the bullet wounds. But why not then falsify the autopsy report all the way around? 63

They could have gone a step further and claimed to have found water in Ludwig’s lungs, supporting the official suicide-drowning theory. The physicians’ failure to find a cause of death suggests they at least they were honest. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of King Ludwig’s death is how elegantly the evidence skips and hops atop the divide separating the watershed theories of suicide, accident, and homicide. Even now, historians still don’t know what happened. Ludwig II once wrote that he hoped his life would present an eternal enigma to the world – the circumstances of his death more than fulfilled his wishes.

Further reading • C McIntosh, The Swan King: Ludwig II of Bavaria, I B Tauris & Co 2003 • P Glowasz, Wurde Ludwig II Erschossen?, Glowasz Verlag 1991 • H Häfner, Ein König Wird Besetigt: Ludwig II Von Bayern, Verlag C.H. Beck 2008

© Alamy, Getty Images, Mary Evans

ABOVE Ludwig II lying in wake in his sarcophagus, in 1886



Royal Gallery 1885/86

Held by the Museum of Carriages and Sleighs (Marstallmuseum) in Nymphenburg Palace, Munich, this painting by R Wenig depicts the notorious fantasist King Ludwig II of Bavaria taking a night-time ride in one of his sleighs. Among the other highlights in the museum’s collection are several ornate sleighs commissioned by the King.


Š Alamy

Ludwig II on a Nighttime Sleigh Ride

Downfall Duchess OF A

Eleanor Cobham was almost Queen of England, but accusations of witchcraft left her publicly humiliated and locked up for life Words JUNE WOOLERTON

s the cold winter days of November turned into the icy nights of December 1441, one of the most famous royal women in Europe faced up to a life sentence in jail. The prisoner – Eleanor of Gloucester – had already had to deal with public humiliation and she knew she would die behind bars. Yet, just six months earlier she had been a royal duchess and wife of the heir to the throne, only one step away from being Queen of England. That very proximity to the crown may well have led to the accusations of witchcraft, which had put her in prison – claims that were the downfall of a duchess. Her conviction for witchcraft caused shock waves across Europe and it would change the way England was governed. The Duchess of Gloucester was among the most important people in the country when she was arrested and tried for using magic to try and bring about the death of King Henry VI, her nephew by marriage. Her fall from grace through the summer and autumn of 1441 was almost surreal in its drama. In just a few months, Eleanor went from being a leader of society to an outcast. In October 1441, she was found guilty of using witchcraft to cause the demise of the monarch and within days she was forced to recant very publicly of her

sins. Eleanor was known for her love of luxury, yet in wet and windy conditions, the former first lady of the royal court was made to walk barefoot and wearing nothing but a simple shift in front of huge crowds as she carried a lighted taper to the church of St Paul Cross in the City of London to offer prayers of repentance. The walk was long and arduous. Her prayers offered, the royal wife-turnedoutcast returned to her prison for a few days rest before repeating the process all over again. Eleanor made three pilgrimages of penitence in total. Following that first visit to St Paul Cross on 13 November 1441, Eleanor walked from London Bridge to Christ Church in Aldgate on the eastern fringes of London two days later. There she offered another candle and more prayers. The final penance took place on 17 November when Eleanor walked – again barefoot and in just her shift – from Queenhithe to St Michaels in Cornhill. The penances were intended to serve as a warning to others not to make the same mistakes and so took place on the busiest days in London: market days. Eleanor’s routes took her close to some of the most famous and bustling trading spots in the capital. In later years, these events were represented almost romantically by painters but the reality was very different. This was a dirty, painful and degrading experience and it was meant to be. After all, Eleanor’s trial was all about breaking the power of her and her husband, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. 66

James William Edmund Doyle’s depiction of the Duchess’ penance, painted in 1864


Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester b.1400-d.1452

Born in obscurity in Kent, Eleanor Cobham married into the highest echelons of royalty, but with her controversial past and clear ambition she made enemies in court. She fell from grace in 1441, accused of using magic to try to make herself queen.


That’s not to say that a fear of the occult wasn’t The Duchess of Gloucester was far from an ideal part of the plan to bring Eleanor Cobham to trial. In royal bride. She had been born in Kent around 1400 to the middle of the 15th century there was a growing Sir Reginald Cobham, who was also known as Baron suspicion of witchcraft and in the 1430s and 1440s there Sterborough, and his wife, Eleanor Culpeper. They were sporadic persecutions, mainly of women, in were hardly regal beginnings and Eleanor would parts of Europe including Italy and Switzerland. have been considered lucky when, as a young At a time when science couldn’t explain the woman, she won a place as lady in waiting in mysteries of everyday life, many people royal circles. She was appointed to the looked to magic, to wise women and household of the heiress, Jacqueline to astrology for help. However, the of Hainaut, who came to the court of powerful Church still had scope for Henry V looking for help to secure punishing those who transgressed, her inheritance. Jacqueline married while the royal house of Lancaster had Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the been diligent in striking out heresies youngest brother of Henry V, and they including Lollardy under the rule of Henry had gone overseas to win control of her VI’s father, Henry V. Dissent from the religious lands. Humphrey soon returned to England, norms of the time was a serious matter. however, and his wife was captured and ‘Jacqueline of Hainaut’ by Ever since her marriage to Humphrey, imprisoned soon afterwards. Rumours Anonymous. The first wife of Eleanor had been at the heart of the court grew that the Duke of Gloucester had Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester built by her husband, which attracted taken Eleanor as his mistress. When some of the brightest and best minds on the continent, the Pope annulled their marriage in 1428, Humphrey but there were continuous rumours that Humphrey and promptly married his duchess’ servant, Eleanor. his wife were anything but conservative in their beliefs. Suddenly, the knight’s daughter from Kent was a Even before the whispers of witchcraft came to light, royal duchess and among the most important people there were plenty who were willing to believe the worst in the land, but the fact that she had been a mistress of Eleanor. before a wife went against her. When her husband built A miniature of Humphrey and Eleanor taken from the ‘Liber Benefactorum’ of St Albans by Thomas Walsingham

The Palace of Placentia was built by Humphrey on the bank of the Thames in 1443 and was later demolished by Charles II

A late-18th century depiction of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester during the reign of Henry VI



History’s royal witches

Eleanor Cobham wasn’t the first – or last – royal woman to be accused of using witchcraft

Isabella of Angoulême

Joanna of Navarre



Isabella of Angoulême was accused of bewitching her husband, King John, so that he neglected his royal duties. The claims were made by a monk, Roger of Wendover, who said she used her powers of witchcraft or sorcery to stop John defending his lands in France and so plunging the King’s reign into crisis. Isabella was much younger than her husband who was clearly smitten with her. In an age of suspicion, his lust was seen by some as the result of his queen using magic.

Joanna had been queen consort of Henry IV, but following his death she was accused of using witchcraft against her stepson-in-law, Henry V. He was much admired for famous military victories including Agincourt and had been close to his step mother. However, as queen dowager she had a healthy income, which was seen as a possible source of revenue for the already expensive wars in France.

Punishment None at the time, although Isabella’s reputation was clouded with suspicion from then on.

Punishment Joanna was imprisoned in Pevensey Castle, while her fortune went to the crown. As Henry V lay dying, he asked for her to be freed and soon she was released and her estates returned to her.

Jacquetta of Luxembourg

Elizabeth Woodville

b.1415-d.1472 Jacquetta saw her daughter become Queen of England when Elizabeth Woodville married Edward IV. When his House of York tumbled briefly from power in 1469, Jacquetta faced a court on charges of witchcraft. She was accused of using magic to bring about Elizabeth and Edward’s marriage. Her trial was shown a small model of a man she was said to have made to perform witchcraft, while one witness said he saw two images to represent the couple.

Elizabeth was accused of using magic to make Edward IV of York marry her. They had met, legend says, beneath a tree close to her home and wed in secret, causing huge controversy. After Edward’s death, his brother, Richard III, claimed his crown and declared Elizabeth’s children illegitimate partly because she had used witchcraft to get Edward to marry her. He also claimed she used magic to cause him physical distress.


Punishment Jacquetta of Luxembourg was acquitted of all charges as the Wars of the Roses turned in her son-in-law’s favour again.


Punishment Elizabeth lived in sanctuary for much of Richard III’s reign and lost two of her sons, the Princes in the Tower. After Richard III’s death she saw her eldest child, Elizabeth, crowned queen consort.

The fate of condemned witches If found guilty, women could suffer agonising deaths, but repentance might save a life It’s widely believed that witches were burned at the stake, but that gruesome punishment had actually only become a possibility some 40 years before Eleanor’s case. Her fatherin-law, Henry IV, had passed the law known as De Heretico Comburendo in 1401, which authorised execution by burning for those convicted of heresy with a treasonable intent. Witchcraft was heresy, an action that went against the established religious customs of the time, and judged by ecclesiastical courts. But Henry V brought in the 1414 Suppression of Heresy Act which gave secular officials the power to arrest those suspected of dissension and hand them over to the Church so that they could then sentence them accordingly. There were a wide range of punishments: heretics in the 15th century could lose their land, their wealth and all their possessions but if they recanted then they might well live to see another day. Repeat offenders, like Margery Jourdemayne, were condemned to death – the 1414 Act says they should be hanged and their gallows then destroyed by fire. Actual burning at the stake wasn’t widespread in England at the time, but it had become more common on the continent throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. Perhaps the best known use of the punishment was the death of Joan of Arc in 1431 after her capture by the English. Henry VIII brought in the first act, which characterised witchcraft as a secular crime. The 1542 Witchcraft Act demanded execution for those convicted with the condemned losing all their money and possessions. Elizabeth I was more lenient towards those named as witches – perhaps because her own mother, Anne Boleyn, had experienced accusations. The 1563 Witchcraft Act only permitted execution when harm had been caused to another. In 1604, under James I, a new act extended the crime to those who invoked evil spirits and the witch hunts of the early-17th century would see many women hanged as a result of that.

a fabulous palace in Greenwich, known as Bella Court or La Pleasaunce, Eleanor of Gloucester had her own glittering court to command, and according to chronicles of the time she enjoyed her royal position being described by some as ambitious and arrogant. By now Henry V was dead and his baby son had become Henry VI. Eleanor’s husband was Lord Protector with considerable power, but while his charm and love of learning made him a hugely popular figure, in the corridors of power he was beginning to accumulate enemies. Humphrey, who had fought alongside his famous warrior king brother at the Battle of Agincourt, was determined to continue the campaign to secure the throne of France for his family, but others now found that war too expensive. Among them was his great uncle, Cardinal Henry Beaufort, and the two took up increasingly polarised positions. In 1435, Humphrey became even more important when his brother, John, Duke of Bedford died. The Duke of Gloucester was now heir presumtive to the throne and Eleanor was next in line to be queen. The following summer she was made a Lady of the Garter. She walked into the splendour of Windsor Castle wanting for just one thing – an heir. For despite eight years of marriage, Eleanor had yet to produce a child. Her husband had two illegitimate offspring, but there is little evidence to suggest Eleanor was their mother. A baby, especially a boy, would make the Duchess of Gloucester unassailable. As she approached the age of 40, however, she remained childless. Her husband had already shown he could

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey was to be Eleanor’s prison from 1449 until her death in 1452



change his mind quite easily when it suited him, and there was nothing to say his need for an heir might not lead to an alteration in Eleanor’s circumstances again. At the height of the controversy that surrounded her in 1441, Eleanor admitted dabbling in witchcraft, but she always claimed it was only to try and have a baby. There were plenty who didn’t believe her, and the accusations against her – which were many and varied – were played out with a real sense of theatre. The first inkling of trouble came as she sat down to dine on the eve of the feast of St Peter and St Paul, 24 June 1441. As Eleanor entertained a retinue at an inn in the City of London she was told that two members of her household, Roger Bolingbroke and Thomas Southwell, had been arrested on suspicion of trying to harm the King after another close associate, John Hume, had claimed they were using sorcery against Henry VI. When Roger Bolingbroke was brought before the Royal Council he implicated Eleanor, saying that the Duchess of Gloucester had first given him the ideas that had got him into so much trouble. Those ideas caused shock waves. The first was to cast a horoscope for Eleanor herself. Astrology wasn’t illegal and it was accepted that casting charts was a fashionable pastime in some parts of society. However, a chart looking at the future of the Duchess of Gloucester brought with it the question of whether she would ever be queen and that implied an interest in the death of the present king, Henry VI. But Bolingbroke and Southwell were also accused of casting a horoscope for Henry himself, one that predicted he would suffer serious illness or worse in the summer of 1441. They were charged with treasonable necromancy and being a traitor meant almost certain execution. Eleanor fled into sanctuary at Westminster but she was accused by an ecclesiastical court, not a secular one, and the tradition of safety for crime suspects didn’t count when it was the Church judging them. Eleanor was taken to Leeds Castle in Kent while investigations continued. There were also claims that Eleanor had used the services of Margery Jourdemayne, who had been convicted of witchcraft a decade earlier and released on condition she never use it again. Jourdemayne was also under arrest and, like Bolingbroke, implicated the Duchess. The accusations got worse, with claims that Margery Jourdemayne had made a wax figure to represent the King with the aim of hurting it to harm Henry himself. This type of image magic was widely feared. Eleanor and Margery claimed it was merely to help the Duchess of Gloucester conceive. On 26 October 1441, Thomas Southwell died in the Tower of London. The official explanation was that his shame had overcome him, but there were rumours he had taken his own life before he could be condemned

to death. The following day, Margery Jourdemayne was burned at the stake at Smithfield Market before a huge crowd. On 18 November, Roger Bolingbroke was found guilty of treasonable necromancy and hanged, drawn and quartered. By then, Eleanor was a broken woman. She herself had admitted buying potions from Margery Jourdemayne to enchant her husband into marrying her and so an application was made to the Pope for the royal marriage to be annulled. It was granted on 6 November 1441. Eleanor lost her royal husband, her royal title and any chance of escaping with little more than a scolding. Within a week, her penances had begun, but by then she might have counted herself lucky to be alive. Her enemies had made sure her shame was complete and by disgracing Eleanor, they tarnished Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, too. The Duke had been conspicuous by his absence throughout the whole saga, disappearing into the shadows while his nemesis, Cardinal Beaufort, rose in power. After Eleanor’s conviction, Humphrey all but retired from public life, leaving the government of England to others. In 1447 he, too, was accused of treason, dying just days after his arrest, leading to speculation he had been poisoned. Eleanor spent the rest of her life in prison. Her first jail was Chester Castle, but she was soon moved to Kenilworth then to Peel Castle on the Isle of Man. Her final years were spent at Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey Island, hundreds of miles from the glamourous London life that had made her famous and proved her undoing. Eleanor Cobham died there on 7 July 1452, but the court she had once commanded took little notice. By then, Henry VI was in his 30s with a strong-willed queen, Margaret of Anjou, and in the middle of increasingly angry arguments over power, which would turn into the Wars of the Roses. Eleanor was largely forgotten and appeared only as a footnote in royal history as an almost stereotypical wicked witch. She wasn’t the only royal woman to dabble in magic, but she was one of those who suffered the most as a consequence. Whether she was trying to become a mother or a queen is perhaps only truly known to her, but her attempts to secure her royal role led to the spectacular and dramatic downfall of a duchess.

“Her penances had begun, but by then she might have counted herself lucky to be alive”


Further reading • A Weir, Lancaster And York: The Wars Of The Roses, Random House 1995 • M Griffith, The Witch Of Eye, Accent Press Ltd, 2016 • P Gregory, The Women Of The Cousins’ War, Simon & Schuster 2011

© Alamy

King Henry VI by an unknown artist, painted c.1540

Emperor of the North 1,000 years ago, a young Viking warrior became King of England. No one at the time can have expected how remarkable his reign would be… Words WB BARTLETT

ost famous now for his futile efforts to turn back the encroaching tide on the seashore, the life of Cnut was extraordinary. As well as being a strong, reliable supporter of the Church, he was also an archetypal Viking raider. Forming part of a dynamic marital alliance with his wife, Emma, he was also accused of the murder of his brother-in-law, Ulf. As well as ruling England and Denmark, he was also for a short time King of Norway. His government of what has been called an ‘Empire of the North’ was a unique achievement, setting Cnut apart as a remarkable man and an outstanding ruler. Cnut’s roots were in Denmark. His great-grandfather, Gorm the Old, was the founder-figure of the Jelling Dynasty in Jutland. Gorm was a formidable pagan warrior, but his son, Harald Bluetooth, became an enthusiastic Christian ruler. Harald was involved in a bitter civil war with his own son, the renowned Sweyn Forkbeard, a conflict that ended with him fleeing the country and dying shortly afterwards in exile. Sweyn took over and won a reputation as a ruthless and ferocious Viking raider, frequently launching attacks on Britain and Ireland and elsewhere. 72


Cnut the Great

b.995-d.1035 1016-1035 (England)

Cnut reigned as King of England from 1016 to 1035, also becoming King of Denmark and Norway. The son of a mighty Viking, his reign was one of peace and stability compared to what had gone before.


Cnut, the son of Sweyn Forkbeard, was probably born in around 995, though no one knows that for sure. The chronicles of the time are equally silent about the first 18 years of Cnut’s life and it is not until 1013 that we find him first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. But in that year he accompanied Sweyn on what was supposed to be the climactic campaign in the battle to conquer England. After several decades of raiding, increasing in scale all the time and often only ended by the payment of what later became known as ‘Danegeld’, Sweyn sensed that England was fatally wounded and, like a hungry predator, moved in for the kill. He found support for his ambitions from the region of the Danelaw (around the East Midlands of modern England), and Northumbria also soon submitted to him. Moving into southern England, the defence against his forces quickly collapsed. The English king, Æthelred II (‘the Unready’) soon after fled the country with his wife Emma and their children, Edward and Alfred. England, it seemed, had fallen. King Æthelred would later be painted as something of a pantomime villain, incompetent and cowardly in equal measure. It was a very harsh assessment given the enormous challenges that he had faced,but it could not be doubted that his reign had apparently ended in spectacular failure. But just then, as if by a miracle, Sweyn died before he had been made king. Cnut was not with him at the time, having stayed in the Danelaw while Sweyn had moved into southern England. Shortly after, Cnut was badly caught out by a surprise attack on his camp launched by English forces. Æthelred returned from exile and Cnut, barely escaping with his life, fled to Denmark. Before departing, he left behind him a group of hostages minus their ears and noses. This was Cnut the Viking in action. England’s respite, though, was short-lived. In 1015, Cnut was back with 200 ships sailing via the ‘mouth of the Frome’ into Dorset. This saw the beginning of a brutal war for the control of England between Cnut and Edmund Ironside, the son of the now-dying King Æthelred. Both were very young warriors, in their early 20s, and the fighting that followed through several battles at Penselwood, Sherston and Otford was bloody and violent. Cnut also laid siege to London and it was a brutal contest that was fought out over a period of a year and more. The last decisive battle took place at Ashingdon (or Assandun), Essex, in October 1016. It ended in a crushing victory for Cnut. Edmund survived the battle and a deal was struck that left him with Wessex but Cnut with the rest of England. The deal did not survive for long because on 30 November 1016 Edmund very conveniently died, leaving Cnut as the undisputed King of all England. At the time, it was likely that the people of England were filled with trepidation at these developments. Given

An illustration of Cnut taken from ‘History of England’ by Hume, Smollett and Jones

the ruthless nature of Viking raids on the country, there was a real chance that the new King would milk England for all it was worth, and early signs did little to dispel that impression. Within a year, Cnut was ruthlessly removing those who he felt were plotting against him including Eadric Streona, Earl of Mercia, whose treachery to the old regime had become a byword for duplicity and untrustworthiness. Then in 1018 he raised the highest Danegeld payment yet; £10,500 from London and £72,000 from the rest of England, massive amounts in the context of the times. But there was a sub-text to this move. Cnut’s intention was to use the money to pay off Viking raiders that he no longer had a use for now that the war had been won. This would allow him to govern as he wanted to. The first sign that there was something to this young man other than the attributes of a rip-roaring Viking raider occurred at around the same time. At a Parliament at Oxford, Cnut adopted the laws of the late King Edgar, seen as one of the greatest of all English monarchs. Edgar’s reign was perceived as a Golden

“The last decisive battle in October 1016 ended in a crushing victory for Cnut”



The Anglo-Danish warriors of Cnut’s reign, shown wearing the traditional dress of the time

An illustration from ‘British Costume During XIX Centuries’ by Mrs Charles H Ashdown of Cnut and his second wife, Emma

Age, a time of peace and prosperity. This was a canny move by Cnut. It followed another notable step when he married Emma, widow of the late king Æthelred. Emma had two children from her first marriage; Edward (later King Edward the Confessor) and Alfred. Cnut also had two children from a previous relationship with Ælfgifu of Northampton, named Sweyn and Harold (later Harold Harefoot, King of England). Emma soon after her marriage to Cnut gave birth to another son, Harthacnut. The death, soon after, of Cnut’s childless elder brother, Harald, left Denmark open and Cnut soon installed himself as king there, seemingly with little opposition. Cnut, at around the same time, strengthened his hold on England by the judicious appointment of strong supporters in positions of authority in the country. Most prominent among these was Earl Godwin, who Cnut appointed as his representative in the crucial subkingdom of Wessex. Godwin would marry the sister of Cnut’s brother-in-law. They would have a number of children, including Harold, who would himself become King of England and end his life, allegedly, with an arrow in his eye, at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Norway too had once been part of the empire of Sweyn Forkbeard, Cnut’s father. However, it had not remained so for long before a rebellion there threw off Danish rule. The beneficiary of that uprising and the current King of Norway was a man named Olaf Haraldsson. Olaf allied himself with the King of Sweden and together they raised an army with a view to attacking Denmark. Cnut got together an army of his own to face up to the threat. The two forces clashed in southern Sweden at the Battle of Holy River. It was an indecisive confrontation, but Cnut succeeded in hanging on to Denmark. Shortly after the ruthless elimination of his brotherin-law, Ulf, in Roskilde Cathedral, which followed on soon after, Cnut undertook perhaps the greatest mission of his life when he journeyed to Rome to be present at the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad II. To be in attendance at this ceremony was a great mark of recognition for a man who was effectively a Viking king. It made a great impression on many European statesmen as well as Cnut’s own people. Perhaps the most significant part of Cnut’s reign was the way in which he built close relationships with the church. He was a generous patron of a number of religious establishments in both England and Denmark. He also appointed allies into key positions of influence in the church, such as when Æthelnoth was made archbishop of Canterbury in 1020. This helped to build his influence and his reputation and further strengthen his position. However, the question of Norway was unfinished business as far as Cnut was concerned. Following his return from the indecisive battle at Holy River, King Olaf’s position had become increasingly fragile back 75

The new Roskilde cathedral that stands on the site of Ulf’s death

Murder in the cathedral Cnut’s involvement in the elimination of his brother-in-law Ulf

Although Cnut proved himself to be a strong and successful king, on several occasions during his reign he found himself at odds with his supporters, even members of his extended family. Ulf was Cnut’s brother-in-law, married to his sister Estrid. In the lead-up to the Battle of Holy River, there were suggestions that Ulf’s loyalty was suspect. Cnut’s young son, Harthacnut, was in Denmark as its nominal ruler and it seems that Ulf tried to dominate political affairs there in the absence of a powerful king resident in the country. Nevertheless, Ulf appears to have been with Cnut when he took part in the hardfought battle at Holy River. After, they returned to Denmark together to the royal capital, Roskilde. There was soon a family squabble, according to some accounts over something as trivial as a chess game. It may though have been something less insignificant such as a breakdown in trust between the two that led to Cnut’s next action. Clearly angered by something that had taken place, Cnut sent men to eliminate Ulf once and for all. They found him inside Roskilde Cathedral (though some accounts say Ulf was on the royal farm), not the imposing building that one sees now with the tombs of many of Denmark’s later monarchs but a much humbler wooden ‘stave’ church of simple design and intimate size. While some men hesitated to carry out orders given the sacred nature of the place, one of them, Ivar White, had no such scruples and struck Ulf dead. This un-Christian act must have created alarm and as Cnut was able to survive this incident with his reputation relatively intact speaks highly of his political skills. However, it would seem that his own sister was not prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and her son Sweyn was sent into protective exile for the remainder of Cnut’s life. Cnut paid large sums of money to Estrid to allow her to build a grander structure at Roskilde perhaps as a way of salving a guilty conscience.

A cooperplate engraving of Cnut fighting Edmund Ironside, published in 1773

“It made Cnut a ‘modern’ ruler, one who could sit at the high table of European politics” in Norway. It was then a very fragmented country with a number of regions, especially those positioned in the wild north that were virtually ungovernable. Cnut took advantage of the significant wealth of England to make gifts to disaffected nobles in Norway. When he arrived with a massive army, the position of Olaf quickly collapsed totally. Olaf was forced to flee for his life. He returned soon after in a vain attempt to reclaim the country. At his side was his half-brother Harald, who later – as Harald Hardrada (‘the Ruthless’) – was to become one of the most famous of all Vikings and would meet his end in a cataclysmic encounter at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire in 1066. Olaf lost his life in the battle at Stiklestad. Olaf was a staunch Christian ruler and soon after his death was canonised. Saint Olaf would prove much more successful in death than King Olaf ever was in life. But Cnut did not prove a success as King of Norway. He appointed his first wife, Ælfgifu, as his regent in the country along with their son, Sweyn. However, a disastrous famine undermined their position; this was a time of great suffering across much of the continent and not just in Scandinavia. Their rule was allegedly very 76

harsh and there were a number of revolts that led to the collapse of Cnut’s regime there. Olaf’s son, Magnus, soon became king in his stead. Norway was only ever a temporary part of Cnut’s ‘empire’. Perhaps the dispersed nature of the territories that Cnut ruled made them inherently hard to govern. Certainly the diversity of his subjects, and the relative ‘newness’ of all three core countries in it – England, Denmark and Norway – presented him with great challenges. It was a tough act for anyone to pull off and certainly there were indications that some of those around him, especially the sons who would have to run his territories after his death – and to a significant extent would be expected to do so when he was alive – were not up to the task, though there were as yet but young. Cnut certainly had imperial pretensions. His visit to Rome made a great impact on him. He was so impressed at the grandeur and magnificence of the great Imperial Crown that Conrad II wore at his coronation that he had a replica made for himself. Letters back to England soon afterwards included several implicit imperial references, for example when Cnut ostentatiously described himself as ‘King of England, Denmark, Norway [not at the time conquered] and part of Sweden’. There was little doubt that Cnut had seen something of the magnificence and associated power that came from being an Emperor that he took to modelling himself on one to a certain extent. Yet, paradoxically, Cnut also became renowned for his humility. His great generosity to the Christian church has already been mentioned but his actions also won respect. On a visit to the north of England late in his reign he walked five miles barefoot to visit the tomb of the revered St Cuthbert in Durham. Chroniclers of the time wrote of a man who was more monk than king. Although these attributes may have been exaggerated, as was common with the chroniclers of the time, this suggests a man who wanted to make a strong impression for his Christian acts. This was an approach that was perhaps based as much on the political advantages that came from it as from any deeply-held personal convictions. It made Cnut a ‘modern’ ruler, one who could sit at the high table of European politics as an equal rather than be regarded with suspicion by his fellow rulers as a potential raider. This brought him great political benefits. Perhaps the most significant was his alliance with Conrad II. Denmark and the Holy Roman Empire shared a border – one which had been porous and problematic – but the alliance brought stability, enabling Cnut to concentrate his efforts on his unfinished business in Norway. Conrad’s son married Cnut’s daughter, Gunhilda, a sign of the great importance of Cnut in European affairs. Alongside this, Cnut appeared to retain other more ‘Viking’ characteristics. From what we know, he was a lover of the sagas every bit as much as more traditional Scandinavian rulers had been before him. He himself appears in Viking sagas though reflecting these extraordinary changing times the heroes here were now typically Christian rather than followers of Odin or Thor.


Turning back the tide The most-remembered event of Cnut’s reign Cnut is often remembered for the famous incident in which he sat on the sea-shore and commanded the tide to retreat with a predictable lack of success. But there is no contemporary reference to this event ever taking place. It was not until a century later that the tale appeared in the writings of the chronicler Henry of Huntingdon. However, there was something about his account that gripped the imagination of his readers and seemingly continued to do so into more recent times. The story then is apocryphal though several places have laid claim to the events associated with it.

Southampton was one claimant – there is still a Canute Road there – and Thorney Island is another. Bosham in West Sussex is also linked with the legend; it was also said that here a daughter of Cnut was buried. In the story Cnut sat on his throne on the seashore and spoke to the sea in imperious tones, demanding that the tide retreat before his supreme earthly power. Of course it did no such thing, after which Cnut told his courtiers “the power of kings is empty and worthless, and there is no king worthy of the name save Him by whose will heaven, earth and sea obey eternal laws.”

Rather than being a mark of an arrogant king, the story came to be interpreted as an example of a ruler who realised that his power was finite compared to the omnipotence of God. Cnut, in this interpretation, knew exactly what would happen when he sat down in front of the advancing tide and undertook these actions to demonstrate the limits of his power to a group of sycophantic courtiers. So greatly impressed was he by this experience that it was said that he afterwards stopped wearing a crown. It is a good story, though we will never know whether or not these events actually took place.

A coloured etching of Cnut convincing his courtiers that he cannot stem the tide


“Cnut lived a very active life and it seems to have taken its toll”

England’s Viking overlords Discover the lineage of England’s Viking rulers

This was a sure sign that the world was changing rapidly, 1013-1014 though some parts of Scandinavia would stay stubbornly Sweyn pagan well beyond the period covered by Cnut’s reign. Forkbeard For example, Uppsala in Sweden was long a centre of b.960-d.1014 worship for the old gods and half a century after Cnut’s death the Christian writer Adam of Hamburg-Bremen was writing of the horrific rites of animal and human sacrifice that were still practised there. However, Cnut lived a very active life and it seems Estrid Ulf Jarl Svendsdatter to have taken its toll. There are a few hints that he b.c.993-d.1027 b.c.990-d.c.1057 was suffering from some illness that was wearing him down. On 12 November 1035 Cnut breathed 1016-1035 his last at Shaftesbury in Dorset. The place of his death is symbolically interesting as the tomb of the Cnut the Ælfgifu of martyred English king and saint, Edward resided there. Northumberland Great b.990-d.c.1040 b.c.995-d.1035 Throughout his life, Cnut had acted with great respect towards the English royal family that he had replaced. He, as we have seen, emphasised his appreciation of the late, great Edgar by adopting his laws. He even visited the tomb of Edmund Ironside at Glastonbury Abbey where he left behind a splendid gift of cloak adorned with peacock feathers, a symbol of both Imperial Sweyn Byzantine grandeur and also Christian resurrection. Knutsson His magnanimity marked him out as a wise man, b.c.1016-d.1035 able to build bridges with the people that he had 1035-1040 1040-1042 conquered. Although he taxed his people heavily, they, for their part, seem to have accepted his right to rule Harold Harthacnut them; he did at least give them peace and security, a b.c.1018-d.1042 Harefoot welcome contrast to the four decades that preceded his b.1016-d.1040 reign. He was generally regarded by them with respect rather than love. But it was a welcome breathing space after the trauma of the reign of Æthelred ‘the Unready’. The obverse (front) were gathered together and placed in the mortuary Cnut was buried in the great Anglo-Saxon royal of a silver penny of chests once more, but by this time they were mausoleum in Winchester. Here he metaphorically King Cnut, dated hopelessly jumbled up; no one knew who went rubbed shoulders with other English kings and c.1017-1023 where. At the time of writing, a temporary saints. In its own way it was another sign of a laboratory has been set up in Winchester king who wished to assimilate rather than Cathedral to try and match the right dictate to his English subjects. Ironically bones with the right mortuary chests Cnut’s bones were not to find peace in so that Cnut and Emma can once death. In the 16th century, his remains, more rest side by side in peace. and those of his wife Emma, were The greatness of Cnut’s packed together into a mortuary chest achievements in building an extended and placed high in the presbytery of kingdom that encompassed both Winchester Cathedral. England and Scandinavia can perhaps best When Winchester Cathedral was entered by be demonstrated by how quickly his Parliamentarian forces in the great Civil King Harthacnut, son of Cnut and ‘empire’ began to fall apart after his War of the 17th century, anti-monarchist Emma of Normandy, King of England death. Without his great energy and soldiers broke open the chests and used from 1040-1042 vision and drive his successors were the leg-bones to break the splendid incapable of keeping it intact. Harold Harefoot, his stained glass of the West Window. Following the son from his union with Ælfgifu of Northampton, and restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, the bones 78


A stained glass image of Cnut from Canterbury Cathedral

“Cnut was the only king to ever rule both England and Denmark. He managed England’s great wealth to full advantage” 978-1013 1014-1016

Emma of Normandy

Æthelred the Unready








Edward the Confessor

Edmund Ironside



Harthacnut, from his marriage with Emma, both became king in due course. But neither lasted for very long, nor gave any indication that, had they lived, they would have been very successful monarchs. Harold became sole King of England after Cnut’s death but died himself soon after. Harthacnut then became king. He too did not survive very long, dying after over-indulging at a wedding feast. With none of Cnut’s sons now living, in 1042 the throne reverted back to the Anglo-Saxon bloodline when Edward ‘the Confessor’ became king. He traced his ancestry back to the line of Cerdic of Wessex, a 6th Century ruler who claimed descent from both Adam of biblical fame and the Germanic/Norse god Woden/Odin. In a somewhat diluted form, after several diversions across the centuries, traces of that bloodline still remain in the British royal family. 79

Cnut was the only king to ever rule both England and Denmark (if we were to exclude the short reign of Harthacnut). He capably governed both, dextrously managing England’s great wealth to full advantage and emulating some of the most significant elements of her government to build a strong nation-state in Denmark. He used English churchmen to help build the young church in Denmark as well as using more practical tools such as the employment of English moneyers to develop Danish coinage. It would be true to say that the practical results of King Cnut’s reign were more deeply-felt in the longrun in Denmark rather than England but his reign was nonetheless a fascinating period in English and European history and a remarkable achievement in its own right.

Further reading • A Rumble (ed.), The Reign Of Cnut: King Of England, Denmark And Norway, Leicester University Press 1999 • H O’Brien, Queen Emma And The Vikings, Bloomsbury 2006 • MK Lawson, Cnut: The Danes In England In The Early Eleventh Century, Longman 1993 • T Bolton, The Empire Of Cnut The Great: Conquest And The Consolidation Of Power In Northern Europe In The Early Eleventh Century, Brill 2009 • WB Bartlett, King Cnut And The Viking Conquest Of England, Amberley Publishing 2016

© Alamy, Getty Images, Mary Evans, TopFoto

Gunhilda of Denmark

Royal Residence

Alcรกzar of Segovia Beautiful and formidable, this Spanish palace cuts an imposing figure on its granite pedestal Words ROSS HAMILTON



Alcázar of Segovia » Year built: 1587 (final additions) » Time to build: 400 years » Number of rooms: 12 open to public » Style: Spanish Gothic » Location: Segovia, Castile and León


An etching of the Alcázar of Segovia from ‘Through Spain: A Narrative Of Travel And Adventure Illustrated’

Timeline 12TH CENTURY Humble beginnings

A fort is erected on the foundations of an old Roman outpost by the Arab Almoravid dynasty. Upon Segovia’s return to Christianity, the Alcázar is expanded significantly by Alfonso VIII.

1258 The court moves in

A cave-in sparks extensive renovations at the Alcázar. King Alfonso X spearheads the work and soon after the palace’s newly constructed Hall of Kings becomes the seat of the royal court.

1400s The new tower

John II of Castile leaves his mark when he commissions the Alcázar’s most distinctive architectural addition – the impressive tower that today bears his name.

1474 A queen rises

Following the death of Henry IV, Isabella I is proclaimed Queen of Castile and León at the palace. The young monarch had spent much of her youth in Segovia.

1762 A place of learning

The Alcázar is used for a number of purposes (including as a prison) after the royal court moves to Madrid, before becoming the home of Charles III’s Royal Artillery School.

1862 Ravaged by fire

The castle lies in ruin after a devastating fire rips through it, destroying much of the interior and destroying the existing turrets. The renovations take time.

1896 By royal decree

After years of restoration the Alcázar is given a new function when Alfonso XIII orders that it be employed as a military college by the Ministry of War.

1951 A beacon of culture

A board of trustees is created to safeguard the Alcázar, transforming it into a hugely popular tourist destination and ensuring that its heritage is preserved for all.


here’s something vaguely biblical in the way the Alcázar of Segovia juts out over the Castilian landscape – a majestic stone ark seemingly deposited on its peak by a great flood or other act of God. But while the reality of the castle’s construction is somewhat less miraculous, it remains a truly divine example of medieval Spanish architecture. For more than a millennium there has been a fortress overlooking the fertile land between the rivers Eresma and Clamores. The Romans recognised the potential of the site, and they built the first structure atop the granite crag, before it was expanded upon during the Moorish occupation of Spain in the subsequent centuries. As an almost impregnable fort, the Alcázar, as it would become known in the 12th century, was of no small strategic value. But upon the region’s transition to Christianity it began to take on an even greater 82

significance. Generations of Castilian royals made it their favoured home, holding court and contributing to the castle’s melting pot of architectural styles, quirks and alterations. Though many of their additions would perish in a savage 19th-century fire, the Alcázar that exists today is an astonishingly faithful renovation. After falling out of favour as a royal residence, with post-medieval monarchs drawn increasingly to the burgeoning metropolis of Madrid, the Alcázar struggled for a purpose. For a time, it served as a prison, but this was hardly fitting of one of Spain’s most majestic buildings. More recent rulers sought to rectify this injustice, and in doing so they managed to link the palace’s contemporary significance with its martial past. For almost 200 years the Alcázar housed first the Royal Artillery School, then a military college. Today it is the home of the General Military Archive.


Inside the Alcázar of Segovia Key 1. Ajimeces Room 2. Fireplace Room 3. Throne Room 4. Galley Room 5. Hall of the Pine Cones 6. King’s Chambers 7. Hall of Kings 8. Cordon Room 9. The Chapel 10. The Armoury 11. Royal Artillery College 12. The Weapons Courtyard 13. John II tower 14. The Clock Courtyard



12 14




9 7






Sheltered courtyards Internal and external spaces complement each other beautifully Prior to Segovia’s capture by Alfonso VI during the Reconquista, the Alcázar was an Arab fort built by the Almoravid dynasty. And though the bulk of the castle we see today remains in the Spanish Gothic style, there are a number of architectural elements that hark back to its time as a Moorish installation. Foremost among these are its archways and courtyards. The Alcázar plays home to two. The Weapons Courtyard (Patio de Armas) is flanked on three sides

by arcades, and blends the Moorish elements with later Gothic and Renaissance additions, while the Patio de Reloj (The Clock Courtyard) is thinner and more secluded, surrounded by the walls of several of the castle’s highest towers. These architectural nods aren’t the only legacy of Segovia’s time as a Muslim city during the Middle Ages either – the very word Alcázar is derived directly from the Arabic ‘al-qasr’, meaning fort or castle.

A towering achievement The Alcázar’s highest point offers breathtaking views of the landscape Centuries of monarchs, both Castilian and later Spanish, have left their mark on Segovia’s iconic castle in one way or another. But none of their contributions stand quite as proudly as that of John II. Built during the first half of the 15th century, the tower that bears his name dominates the Alcázar’s southwestern façade, its obstinately angular form setting it quite apart from the tapered spires that rise around it. For anyone who is willing to ascend the tower’s 156 steep stairs the payoff is truly tremendous. As the pinnacle of a palace already built on a lofty peak, it’s no surprise that the tower is a source of some stunning vistas. With an unparalleled view from the battlements of the city, the John II tower is best place to take in Segovia’s other impressive sights, including its spectacular Gothic cathedral and the incredibly preserved Roman aqueduct running through Segovia’s centre.

The Weapons Courtyard at the Alcázar of Segovia, which leads to the Royal Artillery College


Hall of Kings Walk in to the Hall of Kings and you’ll feel the gaze of more than 100 eyes upon you. The ghosts of generations of Spanish rulers haunt one of the Alcázar’s most spectacular rooms, each of them given form as one of dozens of richly realised friezes enthroned along the top of its four walls. Running clockwise, they tell a wordless history of the kingdoms that would come to constitute modern Spain, beginning in the 8th century with Pelagius of Asturias and running for more than 800 years before ending, rather ominously, with Joanna ‘the Mad’ of Castile. A relic of the period when Segovia was the royal and political centre of Castile and León under the auspicious rule of Alfonso X, the hall was originally constructed to house the Castilian court. But while it played a significant role as a conduit for courtly intrigue throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, the hall’s current lavish appearance owes itself to the 16th-century designs of Philip II. The Alcázar was already a more peripheral residence at this point following the court’s relocation to Madrid. However, Philip’s renovations ensured that Hall of Kings, and the palace as a whole, remained one of the kingdom’s most spectacular. Once again, the Moorish artistic influence is evident, particularly in the room’s ceiling. One of many stunning examples throughout the Alcázar, it features a dazzling pattern of interlocking hexagons, each of them gold inlaid with a deep turquoise.



Throne room As with much of the Alcázar’s décor, the throne room exhibits a melange of styles. It owes its construction to the monarchs of the Trastámara dynasty, and was one of the major additions to the castle during the 15th century. The captivating octagonal domed ceiling was completed by the Moorish master Xadel Alcalde around this time, but it was badly damaged in the fire of 1862. The one on show today is a flawless replica completed soon after in Valladolid. The coat of arms of Castile and León still adorns the hanging behind the two ceremonial thrones, though they date from a more recent period in Spanish history, being commissioned for Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenie in 1908 to mark the centenary of the Dos de Mayo Uprising.

Hall of the Pine Cones The ceilings throughout the Alcázar of Segovia are magnificent – you need only tilt your head up in almost any of the palace’s halls to have your breath snatched away – but even among such lofty company this room stands apart. The Hall of the Pine Cones (Sala de las Piñas) was another of the additions built on the orders of John II during the early 15th century and it’s not difficult to see where it gets its name. Descending from the lavishly gilded ceiling are 392 individually carved pinecones, themselves displaying a vivid golden sheen. The effect is dazzling, creating a mesmerising and slightly disorienting sense of depth.


The Ajimeces Room Wandering between rooms in the Alcázar can mean jumping hundreds of years in time in just a few steps, and nowhere is that more apparent than when moving from the Galley Room to the Ajimeces Room – also known as the Hall of the Old Palace. As name suggests, the hall is one of the castle’s earliest constructed rooms, dating from the 13th century and the reign of Alfonso X. Today it houses some of the museum’s most treasured pieces of medieval armour. The room’s sumptuous Romanesque windows are hard to miss, though they have lost some of their lustre since the Galley Room sprang up to block their exterior view.

Castle chapel While the Alcázar is a commanding structure in almost every respect – sheer walls, lofty ceilings and decadent ornamentations – its most hallowed room feels decidedly intimate. Much of this has to with the lighting, which dapples the interior through a series of elevated stainedglass windows. As one of the oldest rooms in the castle, the chapel was mainly used for private worship, with Segovia’s magnificent cathedral being a more fitting locale for significant ceremonies. However, its quietude and seclusion made it ideal for the most sacred of royal occasions: in 1570 the chapel played host to the nuptial veiling ceremony of Philip II and his niece, Anna of Austria.



The Galley Room If the exterior of the Alcázar of Segovia resembles a great landlocked ship, then the Galley Room sought to internalise that motif within the palace. Built in 1412 as a gift from Catherine of Lancaster to her young son, the aforementioned John II of Castile, the hall’s lofted ceiling was meant to resemble the cavernous hull of a ship, hence its name. Once again it’s this ceiling that immediately draws the eye, rife as it is with glittering muqarnas, geometric tiling, and other gold and crimson Moorish detailing. Lower your gaze and you’ll find friezes encircling the room, sporting Castilian heraldic symbols interspersed with more abstract latticed patterns. Look closely and you’ll see words woven between them – the upper band of characters relates a string of medieval prayers written in Latin, while the lower band lists the names of the Trastámara royals who commissioned it. Visitors to the Alcázar will rightly focus on the Galley Room’s interior, but it also offers one of the most stunning external views available from the castle from its modest balcony. Facing northwest, on a clear day the view reveals miles of rolling, stunning countryside, the foothills of the region’s Guadarrama mountains. Those with a keen eye should also be able to pick out the Monastery of Santa María del Parral – itself a medieval gem nestled in the Spanish hinterland and worth a visit after the Alcázar.

» Entry fees: €8 (Adults) €3.50 (Concessions) » Opening hours: April – September: 10am – 7.30pm October – March: 10am – 6.30pm Open every day except 1 and 6 January, 24 June and 25 December


© Shuttetstock, Alamy

Visit Alcázar of Segovia



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The Countess: The Scandalous Life Of Frances Villiers, Countess Of Jersey by Tim Clarke A famous paramour portrayed as a bore Publisher Amberley Publishing Price £20 Release Out now

For a woman known as one of the ‘great beauties’ of her time, a detailed account of the life of Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey has been surprisingly non-existent. That is until Tim Clarke finally pieced together his thorough biography of the Countess and her life as a mother of ten, a grandmother at the age of 40 and as one of King George IV’s most infamous mistresses. It’s taken Clarke over ten years to collect material on the Countess’ life, so to call it an intensive labour of love is an understatement. Through various letters sent by her peers and husband, and the few sent by herself, Clarke gains comprehension of the Countess that arguably has been absent from many history books. Unfortunately, and perhaps through no fault of Clarke’s, it’s difficult to gauge who the Countess actually was due to

The Countess of Jersey served as the senior mistresses of King George IV while he was Prince of Wales up until 1807

the many sources – and it seems like Clarke himself is unsure of her identity as she is called “charming”, “fascinating” and “kind”, but he explains that she is also capable of great cruelty with the treatment of her husband, Lord Jersey, for example. Perhaps there are just too many members of the Countess’ inner circle to consider for Clarke, but there is a real lack of command over the source material for the first half of the book. Frequently, entire passages are referenced, when only one sentence seems to be of any use to the point that is being made, which makes it difficult to be invested in the subject matter. Instead of simply paraphrasing, there is also the tendency for Clarke to refer to irrelevant events and facts that don’t add to the immersion at all. If her life is so scandalous as the book title suggests, it shouldn’t be this easy to become disinterested in her story. Clarke also makes assumptions of the reader, inserting French segments without explaining them for those less familiar with the language. We’re not talking about liberal uses of ‘déjà vu’ in the book either, but rather a chain of sentences that would take more than a quick online translation to make sense of. There’s also the use of specialist terminology requiring a lot of definition that comes at odds with the plain lexicon that is also employed at times. We can’t help but wonder if some sentences could have been improved by merely using synonyms. The early chapters don’t seem to bookend the Countess’ life either, and instead serve as breaks in a long one-part dissertation that was forced into many smaller chapters for the sake of being segmented. Instead of 90

a tight, well-written biography, the result is a rather loose narrative that only picks up speed once you get halfway through. Here, the chapters on the Countess’ jealousy of her lover Prince George’s wife, Princess Caroline, seem part of a different book altogether – being focused and exciting, never once losing direction. It’s almost as if Clarke’s main concern was with the royal affair, with little attentive care paid to the rest of the writing. For all of its faults though, The Countess is certainly well researched with the extent of Clarke’s painstaking examination evident throughout the text. It’s just a shame that The Countess is not as engaging as its subject seemed to have been with her many lovers.


Nicholas And Alexandra by Robert K Massie

The last Russian Tsar is given the biography treatment Publisher Head of Zeus Price £12.99 Release Out now

Russian history isn’t short on compelling characters, but in Nicholas and Alexandra it also has a fascinating romance. A tragic tale shot through with a touch of the Gothic, owing to Rasputin, is a gift to biographers and historians, whom Massie describes in no uncertain terms as “one of the most extraordinary and enigmatic men to appear on earth… an overwhelming personality and a superbly convincing actor.” Rasputin looms large in this account of the last Tsar and his Tsarina – the medical ‘miracles’ he appeared to perform gave him considerable influence, not least with Alexandra, whom he influenced. Massie paints a picture of Nicholas as a gentle soul and his relationship with his wife is revealed as a loving one. Alexandra’s letters to the Tsar were frequently marked

by “romantic passion”, but her letters show that she could also cajole her husband to act against his innately soft nature: “You know you are too kind and gentle – sometimes a good loud voice can do wonders.” Massie uses the Tsarina’s fondness for gushing letters (“Alexandra wrote to all of her intimate friends in this florid, emotional style”) as an indication that potentially incriminating correspondence to Rasputin, which itself may not even be genuine, is evidence of nothing in terms of the persistent suggestions that “the Empress was Rasputin’s lover.” The brutal murder of the entire family is described by Massie in matter-of-fact but full detail, and is especially poignant after reading a book in which these figures are brought so vividly to life. Highly recommended for royalists.

The Middle Ages Unlocked by Gillian Polack & Katrin Kania What Medieval life was really like Publisher Amberley Price £9.99 Release Out now

The period between the Roman Empire and the Tudors perhaps gets a lot less attention than it should. The interest it does receive is often based on half-baked stories that are based on imagery created by popular culture like Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones. Medieval historian Gillian Polack and archaeologist Katrin Kania have written a book that seeks to dispel this notion. Released 950 years after the Battle of Hastings, The Middle Ages Unlocked has almost everything you need to know piled into 400 focused pages. All the major topics from the era – warfare, town life, technology, leisure – are all included as no stone is left unturned. Polack and Kania do an outstanding job of telling the reader how it really was. The book is easy to follow and factoids like the Early Middle Ages wasn’t actually a society based on warfare and that domesticated

animals like cattle look very different how they are now, keep the book going. The chapters on the military and Medieval love and romance are among the most engaging but the main draw is discovering just how different the Middle Ages was to both modern life and how it’s portrayed in the media. Its factual nature makes it a release that is best dipped in and out of rather than read from cover to cover. The headers that break up the text prevent the book from maintaining any real momentum and it is therefore best used as a reference point for everything Medieval. It can get a little bit heavy going at times and the lack of a central character stops it from ever becoming fully engrossing but that isn’t really Polack and Kania’s aim. If you want a realistic and to the point portrayal of England in the Middle Ages, this is the book you need. 91

Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was by Sean Cunningham Henry VIII I’m not Publisher Amberley Price £20 Release Out now

A favourite game that historians and, indeed, many people like to play is the ‘what if’. It’s a simple idea: you propose a historical event, detail the circumstances, imagine that it had happened in a different way or hadn’t happened at all, then explore how that would have affected the many permutations along the timeline. What if the Nazis hadn’t invaded Poland? What if Germany won the war? And so on. Sean Cunningham doesn’t go that far into such flights of fancy, but in exploring the life story of Henry VII’s eldest son and heir to the Tudor throne, Prince Arthur, he all but asks the question – and lets the reader’s imagination do the rest. While young Henry VIII was being mollycoddled at his father’s palace, the future king of England had been sent away

to the Welsh borders where he was groomed for power. Matched to the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon, the dynastic future of the Tudors seemed assured. Henry VII had bet the throne on Arthur as Prince Henry was a contingency only by his bloodline and no serious prospect. So when King Henry was awoken one morning and told of his eldest son’s untimely death, he had not only lost a child, but an enormous investment that now, somehow, had to be recouped by fasttracking the new heir to power. It’s a curious topic and Sean Cunningham’s biography is an effortless read, moving from the royal relationships that put the dynasty before a functional family and by proxy, some insight into how Arthur’s younger brother, Henry VIII, turned out the way he did.

Æethelred The Unready by Levi Roach An unfairly lampooned king?

Publisher Yale University Press Price £30 Release Out Now

It is always refreshing to find a new biography of an Anglo-Saxon king, especially if said king usually gets a bad rep in historical circles. General thinking on Æethelred’s reign has been less than flattering, with Viking raids and internal strife seemingly making him one of the worst monarchs in English history. But does he really deserve his sour reputation? Doctor Levi Roach has set out to challenge this view, and his background in Medieval Britain makes him an excellent mouthpiece for the cause. Roach sets out to paint Æethelred not as a ‘successful’ or even ‘good’ king, but as someone who faced fierce threats both internally and externally that were almost inevitable. Sources have a part to play in our demonisation of Æethelred, and Roach does his bit to explain away some of the misconceptions that have arisen. By comparing Æethelred with more celebrated 92

monarchs like Alfred the Great, we begin to see how different circumstances merit a re-evaluation of the King. Simply told, his inability to stop the Viking onslaught cannot be laid solely at his feet. What is also interesting is that major events in his reign, namely the Battle of Maldon and the St Brice’s Day Massacre, are shown to have some religious context; something that is not often mentioned but is essential when taking Æethelred’s actions into context. For those who are new to the AngloSaxon world the book features a list of abbreviations, maps of territories and family trees to help get through some of the unknown characters and terms. Coupled with an extensive bibliography, these show the vast levels of research that Roach has sunk into the book. However, while the work is a refreshing piece of revisionism, the price tag will undoubtedly keep all but the hardcore enthusiasts away.


Queen Victoria And The European Empires by John Van der Kiste The political minefield Publisher Fonthill Media Price £18.99 Release Out Now

By the end of her life, Queen Victoria had garnered the nickname ‘the grandmother of Europe’. Her blood was dispersed through the royal dynasties across the continent, from the lone isles of Great Britain to the furthest lands of Russia and it wove through most monarchies in between. Unsurprisingly she took great interest in the state of her relatives’ nations, advising, criticising and condemning where she deemed fit. From the historical biographer John Van der Kiste comes the latest exploration of Victoria’s relationship with her European counterparts. Having previously written extensively on monarchies during the 19th century – particularly Victoria and her British descendants – it’s easy to assume that Queen Victoria And The European Empires would be crammed full of research, political terminology and any resulting intricate inter-dynastical drama, and for that you’d partially be right. Yes, the pages of the book are devoted to exploring the complex relationships between the European ruling dynasties and the impact on familial relations on maintaining these ties, but these issues are nowhere near as convoluted as you’d expect. Instead, Van der Kiste presents an accessible, humorous and hugely insightful snapshot of Victoria’s involvement across Europe’s monarchies. The constant here is Victoria and her own heirs, and from here Van der Kiste delves into their relationship with the extended family, from the scandalous meeting of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, with his Russian uncle, Grand Duke Nicholas in 1878 at the peak of anti-Russian sentiment in Britain, to Victoria’s own tumultuous relationship

with her grandson and German Emperor, Wilhelm II. Queen Victoria And The European Empires makes liberal use of personal letters from Victoria and her extended family, as well as diary entries. A 32-page section devoted to portraits of Victoria and her descendants provides a companion to the text, presenting a much more intimate and personal aspect of the European powerhouses. However, one thing that’s perhaps lacking – and likely due to the sheer complexity of such an undertaking – is a family tree to illustrate the bonds between the families. Van der Kiste’s latest endeavour to shed light on Victoria’s personal and political relationships is a resounding success, and the exploration of dynastic dynamics certainly doesn’t compromise at all on the consideration of the intimate familial aspect.

“ It’s an accessible, humorous and hugely insightful snapshot” 93

Queen Victoria surrounded by her family in Coburg in 1894 at the wedding of her granddaughter, Princess Victoria Melita to Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse


Wearing the Crown

Jared Harris reveals how he tackled Peter Morgan’s George VI for Netflix’s new royal drama that explores the early years of Elizabeth II

There are flashbacks in the show – how far back in time do you go? Episode three starts to deal with Edward VIII and the abdication because again that had consequences – not just for George and the feeling that he cut his life short by taking on responsibility that he didn’t want and he wasn’t really temperamentally suited for – but it also affected [Princess] Margaret [and her relationship with Peter Townsend], and in fact, it was even an issue when Charles wanted to marry Camilla, so the abdication had a tremendous effect. It’s been 80 years since the abdication crisis. Where does George VI fit in with that narrative? I think you could say that George VI and his father, George V, created the template for the modern monarchy. They needed to readdress how the monarch was going to interact with the public and also with the political functioning of the state, and George V was extremely concerned they were going to get thrown out because it was happening all across Europe [toward the end of World War I]. That was the reason why he changed the name to Windsor during the war. I think that George VI observed his father and used him as an example – essentially that one’s job was to be

the ‘first family’ in the way that the American president’s family is today – you’re expected to lead by example, which he did incredibly well during World War II. He was a tremendous source of inspiration to the public and certainly [Winston] Churchill saw the King as an ally in maintaining the morale of the country. Did you know much about George VI before you took on this role? I had a superficial understanding but now I have tremendous respect for what he did. One of the things that interested me was the idea that his father refused sanctuary in Britain to Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra, which directly led to their assassination, because they wouldn’t have been in Russia. But when that situation arises during World War II George VI says ‘yes, come here’, and about four or five heads of royal families were all staying at Buckingham Palace! It wasn’t swanky at the time, either; it was crawling with mice and rats, you couldn’t turn the lights on [and] it was freezing cold. Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt have a very funny diary entry about coming to the Palace and being horrified about the conditions because [the Windsors] insisted they lived the same way as everyone else in the country, so there were lines on the bathtub showing how much water you could use, and they were on the same rations as everyone else. It must be intimidating knowing that you’re playing the current Queen’s father. Have you given any thought to how she might feel to see it? I didn’t think about it. It’s an empathetic portrayal of the royal family – it’s not sanitised, but they are treated with respect and as human beings with deep, deep relationships. From that point of view, anyone should be satisfied, but on the other hand, they have specific personal memories of these events and I imagine if you were watching it having lived it, you’d think ‘that didn’t happen’ [or] ‘they didn’t say that’! 94

© Netflix

You’re playing the duty-bound George VI towards the end of his reign: where is he emotionally? Emotionally you find him quite distressed because the family unit he’s protected all his life – his wife and two daughters – is about to be ripped apart because his daughter has fallen in love and wants to marry Philip, and despite his best efforts, it’s going to happen. It’s fairly accepted wisdom the trip to South Africa they took [in 1947] was an attempt to distract her and see if her head could be turned by someone else, but she was absolutely determined. The Crown starts at a point where his happy home is about to be broken up forever, so he’s not particularly happy.

A young Queen Elizabeth II is played by Claire Foy


Peter Morgan’s career highlights All ten episodes of The Crown will stream on Friday 4 November 2016, exclusively on Netflix.

Henry VIII

Release 2003 This ITV two-parter written by Peter Morgan starred Ray Winstone as Henry VIII and Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn

BELOW Jared Harris portrays the wellknown George VI

The Queen

Release 2006 Morgan’s first brush with Elizabeth II, the film netted two BAFTAs (Best Film and Best Actress) and one Oscar (Best Actress)

The Other Boleyn Girl Release 2008

Adapted by Morgan from Philippa Gregory’s bestseller, the movie got a drubbing for its historical inaccuracy


On Sale 24 Nov

Anastasia? What happened to

For decades, the mystery of the missing Grand Duchess enthralled conspiracy theorists and enticed imposters

Charles II of Spain

Moritzburg Castle

How generations of incest was the Inside Germany’s glorious downfall of the House of Habsburg Baroque royal residence

Lord of Misrule

The medieval tradition that was relished by Edward VI

PLUS House of Hanover The Saint of Serbia Mary, Queen of Scots 96

Š Romanov Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Next Issue

Queen Victoria’s personal and political relationships with the Emperors of France, Germany, Russia and Austria, and their families. 978-1-78155-550-7 $ £18.99 Hardback $ 234 x 156 mm $ 208 pages $ 47 b/w photographs



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Royal Relic

Elizabeth’s Chequers Ring This remarkable locket ring prised from the finger of Queen Elizabeth I hides a very sentimental secret

© Alamy


The locket ring features two miniature portraits, one of Elizabeth herself, and another portrait of a woman assumed to be her mother, Anne Boleyn

n the early hours of 24 March 1603, Queen Elizabeth I slipped into a deep sleep – one from which she never woke up. Decked in the finest clothing and jewels, one very significant ring was resting on her hand – a locket ring, which housed two miniature portraits. Its secret soon fell open to her court. Tucked behind its ornate façade – made of mother of pearl, six diamonds, enamel and rubies – sits two intricate portraits, one of Elizabeth herself aged about 40, and another of an anonymous young woman dressed in a French hood and the favourite garb of Henry VIII’s court. With the auburn hair reminiscent of a near-contemporary portrait of Anne Boleyn, it’s thought that this unnamed woman is Elizabeth’s executed mother. 98

Elizabeth was only two when Anne Boleyn was beheaded, and the former queen’s name and reputation was tarnished at court. Acknowledgement of the disgraced woman became taboo; Elizabeth I rarely mentioned her mother. By wearing her locket ring, Elizabeth found a way to cherish her memory, keeping her with her at all times. Some historians question the certainty that it is Anne Boleyn, with some suggesting that the portrait is of a younger Elizabeth, while another idea is that this anonymous women is actually Catherine Parr, Elizabeth’s final stepmother to whom she was close. Comparing the likeness of the portrait with the known image of Parr, however, throws shade on the latter idea. Where the ring comes from is disputed, as no record of it exist in any inventories of Elizabeth’s jewellery. Some claim that the Queen had the ring commissioned herself, while others argue that the ring was a gift from an intimate friend or family member that recognised Elizabeth’s secret sentimentality. The ring now rests in a collection at the British prime minister’s countryside residence at Chequers, from which the ring gets its name.

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    

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  

GUERNSEY & ALDERNEY ROYAL STAMPS Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th Birthday

Guernsey Post has issued its own stamps since 1969 and during this time we have produced many unusual and innovative designs. The beautiful Bailiwick of Guernsey continually provides inspiration for creating memorable and collectable stamp issues. We occasionally produce more unusual items for collectors - if you are looking for something different, then look no further! For a full list of our collectables why not browse our website, go online today!

Prestige Booklet: £1 4.80

Celebrating the ninetieth birthday of Her Majesty The Queen



ur the Colo



2015 B


Alderney - Her Majesty: The Longest-Reigning Monarch Limited Edition Souvenir Folder £95


90th BIRTHDAY Parade


2014 Tr


2013 Bi







ay Parade




2012 Birthd







2011 Trooping the Colour





Y 2016 MA




y Para



9th September 2015


Set of 6 Stamps: £3.70

There are other products available for these Royal stamp issues, including: First Day Covers, Presentation Packs, Sheets of 10 and a £10 Definitive Stamp. Please check our website for details.

Alderney - The First Birthday of HRH Prince George

Se-tenant pair: £1.10

Limited Edition Souvenir Folder of 350 contains limited edition imperforate sheets of 5 and a mint uncirculated £20 Diamond Jubilee Guernsey banknote.

order today @ Order Guernsey & Alderney stamps online or by telephone on +44 (0) 1481 716486

History of Royals  
History of Royals