Monday, June 3, 2019

Queen Victoria Wearing Sunglasses And Smiling

Rare film of Queen Victoria

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Prince Albert and the Courage of Sir Robert Peel

Angry eyes turned to watch Prince Albert as he sat down in the public gallery of the House of Commons with a flourish. The day had finally arrived! The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, was about to call for the repeal of the Corn Laws, after many long years of hardship and deprivation for the poorer classes. As he got up to speak, Sir Robert knew that this would mean the end of his stellar career…

George Bentinck, the leader of the protectionists and a dilettante aristocrat who had hardly ever spoken in Parliament in eighteen years, was especially livid by the audacity of the German Prince in involving himself in politics. He stated firmly that the Prince’s presence gave ‘the semblance of a personal sanction of Her Majesty to a measure which be it for good or for evil, a great majority, at least of the landed aristocracy…imagine fraught with deep injury, if not ruin, to them’.

The Corn Laws
The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 meant that corn could easily be brought in again from Europe, a prospect which most landowners and farmers welcomed. They demanded the introduction of Corn Laws by the Tory government which restricted the amount of foreign gran which could be imported. These laws only permitted the import of duty-free wheat when the domestic price reached ’80 shillings per quarter,’ an extremely high price. Parliament had to be surrounded by bayonet-carrying soldiers when the Bill was passed, due to the incredible anger on the streets.

The Corn Laws kept the price of bread artificially high, making life difficult for tenant farmers, farm workers, labourers and other poor people. This caused riots, demonstrations and even led to the horrific Peterloo Massacre.  Eventually, the horrors of the laws would create the Irish Famine.

The Anti-Corn Law League

The Anti-Corn Law League, formed by Richard Cobden and John Bright, was mostly financed by Lancashire textile-owners, leading to accusations by protectionists that they wanted to import corn to help their buyers, drive down wages and maximize profits. Cobden and Bright, however, were idealistic men, who argued that the laws entrenched aristocratic misrule and class privilege, and harmed the economy by keeping wages down and stifling progress.  The League grew into a strong organisation, conducting research, publishing many books and placing great pressure on politicians.

There were many entrenched forces, however, who most certainly did not want to see the repeal of the Corn Laws. They even included the Church of England. Many of the clergy benefited from the oppressive laws because they were tied to the collection of tithes. Tithes had been converted into payments of so many quarters of corn, or their value, so the Established Church profited from keeping the laws.

Portrait of Sir Robert Peel

The Repeal of the Corn Laws

Prince Albert summed up Peel’s attitude towards protectionism in his memorandum about his conversation withPeel in December, 1845. Although Peel had supported the Corn Laws for a long time, he had become influenced by the arguments of the Anti-Corn Law League, and he saw that the promotion of free trade in other areas had increased prosperity and helped to create jobs. 1. However, the terrible situation caused by the potato blight in Ireland was the final straw. Although the government set up a commission to find solutions for the blight, and Sir Robert offered to give away any chemical which would cure it, no answer was found.

Sir Robert, supported by Prince Alfred, knew what he had to do. Suffering from gout and sleep-deprivation, he made his big speech on 27 January, 1846. He was on his feet for three and a half hours.

The repeal of the Corn Laws led to the resignation of Sir Robert Peel and the splitting of the Conservative Party. Prince Albert, chastened by Bentinck, never appeared at the House of Commons again.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Prince Charles Turns 70!

A belated Happy Birthday to Prince Charles who turned seventy on November 14!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Duchess of Sussex Pregnant

The Palace announced the Duchess of Sussex's pregnancy after she and Prinse Harry arrived in
Australia for their tour.

Prince Harry was delighted to share the news with his old friend Daphne, and Duchess Meghan also
spent a long time chatting to her.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Princess Eugenie Marries

Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank today at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. The BBC has
excellent coverage.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Devon’s Beautiful Princess

Humphrey Bolton / Tiverton Castle - The south-east tower (Wikimedia Commons)

Did Princess Katherine remember fleeing to sanctuary at Westminster Abbey at the tender age of four when her uncle, Richard, claimed the throne? Was she haunted by the disappearance of her brothers, the ‘Princes of the Tower’?  It must have been a traumatic childhood for the young girl, the youngest daughter of King Edward IV. Luckily, she would have a happier life in later years.

Born in 1479, Princess Katherine Plantagenet may have married a king if her brother had taken his rightful place on the throne, but it was not to be. The family were lucky to be let out of sanctuary by her uncle, King Richard III, who promised to arrange suitable marriages for Katherine and her sisters and give them each a valuable estate if they accepted his rule and guidance. She was only five when they left the Abbey to live at court.

Edward IV had arranged for Katherine to the son of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, Juan, but Edward died before it could take place, and the marriage was cancelled. A later marriage was arranged by Henry VII with the son of the Scottish King, but this fell through as well.  Even though she was stunningly beautiful, according to legend, Katherine could not marry for love, but had to wait for her elders to find her a suitable marriage partner. They eventually made a good choice, although the marriage was not especially prestigious.


When she was sixteen, Katherine married William Courtenay, a man from a powerful Lancastrian Devon family, who Polydore Vergil described as ‘intelligent and virile.’  The family owned several estates in Devon and Katherine and William probably enjoyed a luxurious country lifestyle. They had three children, Edward, Henry and Margaret. Katherine’s sister Elizabeth of York became Queen to Henry VII, so the couple also spent much time at court.

Unfortunately, trouble lay ahead.  When Henry VII discovered that William was corresponding with Edmund de la Pole, who claimed the throne, he threw him into the Tower of London. Katherine’s sister helped her during William’s time in prison, but William’s title as Earl of Devon was taken away from him.  Katherine probably feared for her husband’s life and relied heavily on her sister’s influence with the King.

There is a tale that Katherine was Henry VIII’s favourite aunt because he remembered playing with her when he was little, and she was kind to him.  He was also extremely fond of his mother.  He returned the couple to favour and began the process of formally restoring the earldom. William was so highly regarded by the King that he even carried the sword of state at his coronation. He tragically died a month after this, however, before the investiture of the title. However, he was buried with the full honours of an earl by the King’s orders.


Katherine was left a widow at only thirty-two, but she had no desire to marry again. Soon after William died, she took a vow of chastity before the Bishop of London. This seems an odd thing to do today, but there may have been pressure on her to marry someone unsuitable, otherwise, and thoughts of protecting the children’s inheritance probably crossed her mind as well.  She led a busy life attending to her several estates, including the castle at Tiverton and estates in Devon and Topsham, with the help of her large staff. Pious and kind, she distributed alms and she helped her servants. For example, she paid for her maid’s wedding and even her wedding dress and ring. The Devon princess owned many books, including four printed mass books, a Book of Matins, a law book and a Latin/ English dictionary.

Much loved by the Devon people, Katherine had an elaborate funeral in St Peter’s at Tiverton. Her coffin was covered in cloth of gold with a cross and coat of arms of silver tissue. Brought to the church in procession, it lay in state overnight. The next morning a requiem mass was sung for her by the Abbot of Montacute. Several dignitaries attended, including the Mayor of Exeter.
This daughter of a king, sister of a king, and aunt of a king still has a special place in the hearts of the Devon people.

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