Thursday, June 2, 2022

Jubilee: Queen and family watch fly-past from Buckingham Palace balcony

First Glimpse of the Queen as She Steps Onto Royal Balcony

Platinum Jubilee LIVE: The Queen's Birthday Parade

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Audacious Queen Anna of France

 

Statue of Anna at the Royal Abbey of St Vincent in Senlis

The official Twitter accounts of Ukraine and Russia had a spat about the historical origins of Anna of Kyiv in 2017 after Putin referred to her in a speech as 'Russian Ani'. Both Russians and Ukrainians claim this much-loved queen as their own, but Anna was not a queen in either country. Anna actually became the first queen of France when she married King Henry I.

Young and beautiful, Anna was one of the daughters of Yaroslav the 'Wise',  the Grand Prince of Kyiv 958 -1074 A.D.) and his wife Irina. They were strong believers in education, even for girls, so their daughters all studied maths, astronomy and Latin. Anna spoke several languages, and Henry was 'enchanted by her accomplishments'.

Legend has it that when Henry came to see Anna after her father accepted his second proposal on her behalf, she said, 'I hope that you're the king of France,' when he kissed her! The couple arrived in Paris in May, 1051. Everyone wants to be in Paris in springtime, except ... Anna, who was extremely disappointed by the town after her cosmopolitan and advanced hometown. She found Paris muddy and dirty with sewage in the streets! It also shocked Anna that the people didn't even know about stoves, and their dwellings were filled with smoke. Education was sadly lacking - Anna set about improving this by making the French literate, and the people had 'appalling customs'. Apparently, they didn't wash, and Anna is thought to have started the custom of bathing. She considered the French to be 'barbaric'.

Unfortunately, Anna's marriage was reputedly unhappy, and Henry was often away extending his kingdom. Anna performed administrative duties, signing important documents, and playing a powerful role in governance while Henry was away.

Anna named her son, the heir to the throne, Philip, a Greek name new to the kingdom. Her other children were Robert, Hugh and Emma. When Henry died, Anna was only 28 and she had to continue in her administrative role and also give advice because her young son was only nine. She really acted as Regent. Pope Nicholas II praised Anna for 'fullfilling royal duties with enviable fervour and remarkable intelligence'. Anna found time for romance, however.

While staying at Senlis castle, she met Count Raoul de Crespy de Valois who was also walking in the forest. The couple soon fell in love, and the count kidnapped her, and married her. But he was already married, and his wife complained to Pope Alexander II who excommunicated him, and ordered them to live apart. However, they refused to do that. The couple travelled with Philip, and advised him on his royal duties.

Anna founded the Royal Abbey of St Vincent of Senlis, probably to atone for her sins. She was a very pious woman so her unlawful marriage must have upset her. There is a statue of Anna placed there by the people of France who loved her very much. Now there is even a centre devoted to her, and to relations between Ukraine and France.




Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Queen's 2021 Christmas Speech

The Queen's Christmas Message

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The Lion and The Tiger. Magnificent Queen Marie at the Peace Conference of 1919

 


Unidentified photographer http://www.tkinter.org/QueenMarie/Gallery/Marie83.htm


Stunned by Queen Marie of Romania’s golden-haired beauty, graciousness and charming manner, the French author Colette wrote that she ‘carried light within her’, after meeting her on the train when the Queen arrived in Paris. Queen Marie had travelled to Paris to meet the leaders of the 1919 Peace Conference in Paris, hoping to persuade them to honour the Treaty of 1916, and Romania’s territorial claims. Colette murmured after interviewing Queen Marie: ‘Happy the city of Paris, Majesty, who can welcome such a beautiful Queen,’ as she left Queen Marie’s train carriage.[i]

It has been a long hard road even for Queen Marie to arrive at this point. Romania suffered great privation because of the devastation of the Great War. Even the well-off struggled to survive, and famine afflicted the country. ‘We are now burning dried corncobs, and files of old newspapers in order to keep warm,’ the naval commander’s wife said. ‘We are reduced to living principally on beans, and musty cornmeal porridge’.[ii]


Prime Minister Bratianu ordered Romanian troops to occupy Transylvania, Bessarabia, Bukovina and the Dobruja, because he feared that the Allies would not honour the Treaty of 1916, which gave Romania all these territories. He wanted quick relief from the Allies. Unfortunately, the acquisition of these lands only meant that Romania obtained several more millions to feed, and made the country more susceptible to Communism, and revolution.

Warm-hearted, kindly Queen Marie, upset by the poverty stalking the country, visited destitute villages after the Armistice with food, and clothing. Sometimes her young relation Grand Duchess Marie joined her. She wrote that the pair often ‘came home long after dark, cold and wet’.[iii]

Romania’s problem with wanting the secret Treaty of 1916 with the Allies honoured was that it had been forced to arrange a separate peace with Germany. The PM also irritated the leaders of the conference by ‘playing them off each other’.[iv]Bratianu’s demands fell on deaf ears, and the Supreme Council rejected them. Also, Romania was only allowed two delegates to the Council, when some other smaller countries had three. The British PM, David Lloyd George asked: ‘Where the hell is that place (Transylvania) and why is Romania so anxious to get it?’

Seeing the bleak prospects for Romania, the French diplomat Saint Aulaire suggested that the Queen go to the conference, and the King agreed that her warm personality might impress the leaders there. Queen Marie was extremely anxious about her mission, but enthusiastic, and motivated to do her best. The Queen didn’t know what she was in for!

Staying at the luxurious Paris Ritz, Queen Marie impressed the French press who flocked to see her by offering to shake all their hands! Her next ordeal was a meeting with French PM Clemenceau, ‘the Tiger’. He immediately asked her about Romania’s agreement with Germany, and Queen Marie explained that the Allies even ‘encircled Romania, and that the country was‘treated like game’by both the Allies and the Entente. The fierce leader said that he liked her ‘speaking up’. When she told him that Romania wanted the whole Banat as part of its claims, he said that ‘it’s the lion’s share!’ Queen Marie said that that was why she came to ‘see his first cousin, the Tiger’, and laughed.[v] Bratianu admitted that the Queen had done more in a few days than he had in a month, or six weeks.

Queen Marie also visited England to make her case, hoping to receive support from her old beau, King George V, who had once been very keen on her. She managed to charm the press there as well, and Lord Curzon, acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs held an official dinner for her, so that she could plead her cause. Her old friend Winston Churchill was very sympathetic.

Back in France, she wanted to see President Wilson. Unfortunately, she didn’t ‘hit it off’ with him on her first visit, shocking him by talking about free love in Russia, but Mrs Wilson was impressed with her charm, and invited her to lunch. The President berated the Queen about pogroms in Romania, and she annoyed him by mentioning the ‘Negro’ and Japanese question in the U.S. These two were never going to become good friends!

Romania doubled in size, becoming the fifth largest country in Europe, largely due to the charming Queen’s efforts.

 

 



[i] Pakula, Hannah. The Last Romantic, Simon & Schuster, 2017.

[ii] Ibid., pl 297

[iii] Ibid., pl 299

[iv] Pakula, Hannah. The Last Romantic, Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. 303

 

 

[v] Ibid., p.312

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