Day in History: 130 years since the birth of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

Since Prince Philip became the oldest-ever British male royal yesterday, it is only appropriate we shall dedicate a post to a woman who was the longest-lived British Princess by blood.

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

At her death, Princess Alice was 97 years and 313 days old. Apart from being oldest British Princess by blood, she was also the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. The Princess had lived through six reigns: born during the reign of her grandmother, Queen Victoria, she also saw five other Monarchs – Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II – on the Throne.

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Prince Philip becomes the longest-lived male member of the British Royal Family

The Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh

On 24 February 2013, Prince Philip became the oldest-ever British male royal.

The Duke of Edinburgh was born on  10 June 1921 and will turn 92 this year. His parents were the Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark. His mother, born Princess Alice of Battenberg, was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of the United Kingdom. His father was a grandson of Christian IX of Denmark and a great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. He had a distinguished naval career, including active service during World War II, before marrying Princess Elizabeth (now Elizabeth II) in 1947.

Prince Philip is also the longest serving royal consort in history, as well as the oldest spouse of a reigning British Monarch in history.

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Lord and Lady Frederick Windsor to Welcome First Child in August

Lord and Lady Frederick Windsor

Lord and Lady Frederick Windsor

According to reports, Lord and Lady Fredrick Windsor will welcome their first child in August of this year. The couple are said to be “overjoyed” about the impending addition to their family.

Lord Frederick Windsor is the son of the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and great-grandson of George V. Lady Frederick Windsor, nee Sophie Winkleman, is a successful actress whose credits include stage, film and television roles. The couple married at Hampton Court on 12 September 2009, after having previously received the Queen’s consent (as is currently required under Royal Marriages Act 1772).

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Nepal’s former Crown Prince in critical but stable condition

Paras, Crown Prince of Nepal

Paras, Crown Prince of Nepal

The condition of Paras, Crown Prince of Nepal shows slight improvements, according to a statement released by his doctors. The statement further informs that the doctors were able to stop internal bleeding in the Prince’s abdomen, although his blood pressure remains dangerously low. Paras is yet to regain conciousness following his hospitalisation. The doctors found internal bleeding yesterday and although they succeeded in stopping it, the Crown Princess overall condition is given as “critical but stable”.

On February 19, the Crown Prince was admitted to Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital in Bangkok after he suffered a heart attack. This is his second hospitalisation; in 2007, Paras was admitted to the Norvic International Hospital in Kathmandu after suffering a mild heart attack. Back then, he underwent a 50-minute balloon angioplasty to clear a blocked artery. This time, the Prince’s condition appears to be much more serious.

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Famous Stones: Dresden Green Diamond

We continue our Famous Stones Series with another breathtaking gem – the Dresden Green Diamond.

Dresden Green Diamond

Dresden Green Diamond

The Dresden Green Diamond is one of the most famous and extraordinary stones out there. The pear-shaped stone of exceptional quality weighs 40.7 carats and is the largest and finest natural green diamond ever found. The diamond derives its name from Dresden, the capital city of Saxony in Germany. King Frederick Augustus II bought the diamond in 1741 and the stone remained in Dresden for most of its history.

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Day in History – 20 February: Coronation of Edward VI

On 20 February 1547, the Coronation Ceremony of Edward VI took place in Westminster Abbey. The nine year old King was the only son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. Edward VI’s coronation featured many new and unique aspects created or adapted specifically for him.

Edward VI of England

Edward VI of England

The pre-ceremonies actually started the day before. On the afternoon of Saturday the 19th February, the boy King processed out of the Tower of London. He was dressed in white velvet embroidered with silver thread and decorated with lovers’ knots made from pearls, diamonds and rubies. Even the horse he was riding was decorated: it was in crimson satin adorned with pearls. The procession consisted of the King’s messengers, the King’s gentlemen, his trumpeters, his chaplains and esquires of the body, all walking. Then came the nobility and members of the council along with foreign diplomats, followed by gentlemen ushers and Henry Grey, the Marquis of Dorset (the Constable of England) bearing the sword of state. Finally, there was the boy King himself escorted by the Duke of Somerset and followed by the Sir Anthony Browne (the King’s master of the horse), the henchmen, the Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, the pensioners and the guard.

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Famous Stones: The Timur Ruby

Normally, I write jewellery-related articles on my other blog, Artemisia’s Royal Jewels. However, this entry – like the one of the Cullinan Diamond – is different simply because 99% of it is pure history.

The Timur Ruby

The Timur Ruby

The Timur Ruby is one of the most historically significant jewels the Queen owns. It weighs whooping 352.5-carats and until 1851, it was regarded as the largest known ruby in the world. Then it was discovered to be a spinel, and not a ruby (not unlike another famous stone – the Black Prince’s “Ruby”) and is currently ranked as second in size behind the 398.72 carat spinel in the Imperial Russian Crown. The stone, or the necklace it is currently mounted into, has never actually been worn by any British Royal. Nevertheless, it is one of the greatest heirlooms of the Monarchy.

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Day in History – February 13: William and Mary are declared co-regnant Monarchs

On 13 February 1689, the Prince and Princess of Orange formally became the new King and Queen Regnant of England. Their official titles and styles upon accession were “By the Grace of God, King and Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Stadholther of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau, Defenders of the Faith, etc.”

William and Mary’s reign is unique because they were both co-regnant Monarchs with equal powers and prerogatives, and not a Monarch and his/her Consort. Before 1689, the closest precedent in England for such an unusual arrangement was the joint reign of Mary I of England and Philip of Spain. Back then, Mary I’s husband had been declared King of England with almost all the powers and prerogatives of a Monarch; it was actually an act of treason to deny his authority. William III also derived his powers from his wife and reigned jure uxoris (in right of the wife). However, there were important differences between William and Philip’s situation.

William III and Mary II of England, Scotland and Ireland

William III and Mary II of England, Scotland and Ireland

Philip could only reign for the duration of his wife’s reign: in case of her death or a divorce, his reign ended (he stopped being a King of England as soon as Mary I died and Elizabeth I ascended to the Throne). William was a reigning Monarch in his own right and would continue to rule until his death. The other difference was that Philip was not in command of the English Army; according to the marriage treaties, England was not bound to provide assistance for Philip’s wars (a condition that was quite futile because Mary I always supported her husband’s campaigns which eventually cost England the port Calais). William had all the powers and prerogatives an English Monarch could have. Perhaps more crucially, in the event Mary II predeceased him, his children from a possible subsequent marriage were given succession rights.

Now, a little information on how things came to that in the first place.

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Pope Benedict XVI to Resign on February 28

Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28.  Shortly after news surfaced, Vatican released Papal Declaration announcing Benedict XVI’s decision.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

Full text of Pope’s declaration

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.


From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

Unusual as the announcement may seem, Papal resignations are actually nothing new. It is part of the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Easter Churches. The only condition is that the decision must be made freely and be manifested in a proper way. There are plenty of precedents too.

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Leicester Now Virtually Certain to be Richard III’s Burial Place

The question on Richard III’s final resting place seems to have been resolved after York withdrew its candidacy, leaving Leicester as the only serious contender for the honour.

Although Leicester had always been the frontrunner, support for York has been steadily growing. Over 11,000 people had signed a petition to bring King Richard’s remains to York. After all, Richard III was a representative of the House of York (the branch of the House of Plantagenet) and he was extremely popular there. When news of his death reached York, the city elders recorded how the King who had “mercifully” reigned over them was “piteously slain and murdered to the great heaviness of the city”.

Many also objected to Leicester’s candidacy on the basis that it was never a “resting” place for Richard. Although he was buried there for over 500 years, it was the site where he was humiliated and buried without any honours befitting a Monarch.

Richard III

Richard III

A statement on York Minster’s website read: “The Chapter of York understands the strong feeling of some people in York and Yorkshire that Richard III is significant to the history of the county and that therefore his body ought to be returned. However, the recent verification of the identity of his remains follows a significant period in which Leicester and Leicestershire gained a sense of Richard belonging there, at least in death. It was Leicester Franciscans who gave him burial, and the cathedral has a major memorial to his memory at its heart.” (more…)