Day in History – May 1: Acts of Union 1707

The Acts of Union 1707 took effect on 1 May 1707, finally uniting the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into one, united country – Kingdom of Great Britain.

The Flag of Great Britain. Created by James VI and I, it symbolised the union of England and Scotland first under one Crown, and then as one country

The Flag of Great Britain. Created by James VI and I, it symbolised the union of England and Scotland first under one Crown, and then as one country

The counties were at the point de facto united for over a century, ever since James VI of Scotland ascended to the English Throne as James I on 24 March 1603, after the death of Elizabeth I. However, back then, the two countries merely entered into a Personal Union of Crowns – a situation when two or more countries share the same Monarch, while remaining, separate, sovereign states (not unlike, say, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom now).

There had been previous attempts at unification through the 17th century. Indeed, when James VI became King of England, he announced his intention to unite the two Kingdoms so that he wouldn’t be “guilty of bigamy”. He styled himself as King of Great Britain and declared the country should be viewed as “presently united, and as one realm and kingdom, and the subjects of both realms as one people’.

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Day in History – March 24: James VI of Scotland Ascends to the English Throne

March 24 was a pivotal day in English and British monarchical history. Exactly 410 years ago, in 1603, Elizabeth I died and James VI of Scotland ascended to the English Throne as James I, creating Personal Union of Crowns of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland. A century later, on 1 May 1707, the Acts of Union were signed, officially uniting the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain. The question of James VI’s accession will be discussed in this article, while the Act of Union – in a separate one to be published on May 1.

James VI and I of Scotland and England

James VI and I of Scotland and England

Elizabeth I’s death in 1603 marked the end of the House of Tudor which had ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms for 118 years, since Henry Tudor (Henry VII) defeated Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Elizabeth was childless and the last of Henry VIII’s legitimate children, so the line ended with her. She named as her successor her closest surviving male relative, James VI of Scotland. James VI was her second cousin once removed as both were descendants of Henry VII Tudor: Elizabeth was Henry VII’s granddaughter (Henry VII -> Henry VIII -> Elizabeth I), while James was his great-great-grandson through two lines (Henry VII -> Margaret Tudor -> James V of Scotland -> Mary, Queen of Scots -> James VI, and Henry VII -> Margaret Tudor -> Margaret Douglas -> Lord Darnley – James VI). James VI’s accession to the English Throne as James I met virtually no resistance, yet the interesting thins is the fact he wasn’t legally an Heir to the English Throne at all.

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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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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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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…)

Date Announced for the State Funeral for King Peter II, Queen Alexandra, Queen Maria and Prince Andrej of Yugoslavia

The official website of the Serbian Royal Family announced today that the state funeral for King Peter II, Queen Alexandra, Queen Maria and Prince Andrej will take place on May 26 of this year.

Queen Maria (left), Peter II (second left), Prince Andrej (second right), and Queen Alexandra (right)

Queen Maria (left), Peter II (second left), Prince Andrej (second right), and Queen Alexandra (right)

The late Yugoslavian Royals are to be re-buried in the Royal Family Mausoleum in Oplenac. Before the reburial, they will lay in the Royal Chapel of the Royal Palace in Belgrade. The surprising news that the two Yugoslavian Queens and Prince Andrej are to be reburied as well was officially announced only today, along with the announcement of the date.

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Queen Alexandra, Queen Maria and Prince Andrej to be reburied in Serbia together with Peter II

It was announced today that the remains of Queen Maria and Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia will be moved to Serbia. The State Funeral for the two Queens as well as Peter II of Yugoslavia will take place on May 26, 2013.

All three will be reburied in St George’s Church in Oplenac. It’s a somewhat surprising development because although the reburial of King Peter has been known for quite some time now, there were only unconfirmed reports about the reuburial for the other members of the Royal Family: back in January, adviser to President Nikolic confirmed that the delay with Peter II’s reburial was in connection with the expected transfer of the remains of of three more family members, all to be buried with the King.   (more…)