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 – 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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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…)

Richard III’s Facial Reconstruction Unveiled

Today, the Richard III Society officially unveiled the facial reconstruction of Richard III by the University of Dundee craniofacial identification team. The finished result is perhaps most amazing in one aspect – just how much it looks like the portraits of the late King.

The facial reconstruction (left) and a non-contemporary portrait of Richard III (right)

The facial reconstruction (left) and a non-contemporary portrait of Richard III (right)

The facial reconstruction is highly significant because there are no surviving contemporary portraits of Richard III. The reconstructed face has a slightly arched nose and prominent chin, quite similar to the portraits that were appeared years and centuries after Richard III’s death. According to Dr Ashdown-Hill, the fact most of the surviving portraits of the King are so alike in every detail (not to mention resemble the reconstructions), suggests all of them were based on a single contemporary portrait painted in the King’s lifetime.

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DNA tests confirm remains found in a Leicester car park belong to Richard III

Forensic test results announced on Monday confirmed the skeleton that had been found in a Leicester car park does indeed belong to Richard III who died in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: “Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.”

Philippa Langley in one of the trenches where the remains were found

Philippa Langley in one of the trenches where the remains were found

Series of tests were carried out to determine whether the bones found buried under the floor of a medieval church belonged to the late King. The tests, along with DNA results and the collective decision of the experts, conclusively proved that the remains are indeed those of Richard III. Scientists have compared DNA sample from the bones with the mitochondrial DNA of Michael Ibsen, a Canadian-born carpenter who currently resides in Britain. Mitochondrial DNA can be inherited solely down the maternal line, and Ibsen is a direct matrilineal descendant of Anne of York, Richard III’s sister.

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Richard III: A Villain or a Victim of a Successful Propaganda?

On Monday, scientists from the University of Leicester are to finally reveal the results of DNA that will tell us whether the bones discovered in a Leicester car park last year belong to Richard III. But while we are waiting for the results, perhaps we could have another look at the King and reassess his reign and personality.

And indeed, what do we know about the last Plantagenet Monarch? And what of we know is accurate or just a plain character assassination? Was he a monster depicted in Shakespeare’s famous play? Did he kill his young nephews and usurp the Throne? Why did he lose the Battle of Bosworth Field and how did he die? Unfortunately, none of those questions could actually be answered conclusively but I will try to draw as unbiased a portrait as possible.

Richard III and his wife, Anne Neville

Richard III and his wife, Anne Neville

Richard was born as the eighth and youngest child of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville both of whom had strong claims to the Throne of England. From an early age, Richard was a staunch supporter of his brother’s quest to claim the Crown. After Edward finally ascended to the English Throne (for the first time) in 1461, Richard was named the Duke of Gloucester.

Of all their siblings, it is indisputable Edward IV had the most trust in his youngest sibling, and the latter never disappointed him; throughout Edward’s reign, he was a loyal, caring and dedicated brother. Perhaps even more importantly, he proved to be an able commander; Richard played crucial roles in the battles of Tewkesbury and Barnet that resulted in Edward reclaiming the Throne from Henry VI.

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Day in History – January 23: James Stewart is Murderd in the First Recorded Assassination by a Firearm

James Stewart, Earl of Moray

James Stewart, Earl of Moray

On January 23, 1570 the first recorded assassination by a firearm took place. The victim was James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray – the Regent for the infant James VI of Scotland.

James Moray was born in 1531 as the illegitimate son of James V of Scotland and his favourite mistress, Lady Margaret Erskine. Acknowledging out-of-wedlock children and granting them peerage titles was pretty common in the Scottish court of the time; indeed, one of James V’s half-brothers (the illegitimate son of James IV and Janet Kennedy) had held the title Earl of Moray in its 1st creation until his death in 1544. It wasn’t James V who granted his son titles though; Moray was created Earl of Moray and Earl of Mar in 1562 by his half-sister Mary, Queen of Scots.

Moray’s relationship with Mary was a complicated one. At first, they were reasonably close; James was fond of his sister and held a prominent place in the court. He also attended Mary’s first wedding to the Dauphin of France in 1559. However, James was a keen supporter of the Scottish Reformation while Mary was a devoted Catholic. At first, they managed to overcome those difficulties and Moray even became Mary’s chief advisor after her return from France in 1561. (more…)

Day in History – January 18: 800 Years Since The Death of Queen Tamar of Georgia

Queen Tamar and King George III of Georgia

Queen Tamar and King George III of Georgia

One of the greatest and most beloved Monarchs in Georgian history died on January 18, 1213.  Her reign saw the Golden Age of Georgia when the Kingdom prospered and became the foremost power in the Caucasus, successfully repelling many foreign attacks. Tamar’s titles during her lifetime were “By the will of God, King of the Abkhazians, Kartvelians, Arranians, Kakhetians and Armenians, King of Kings and Queen of Queens of all the East and West, Glory of the World and Faith, Champion of the Messiah”.

Tamar was born in 1160 to George III and his wife, Queen Burdukhan (daughter of the King Khuddan of Alania). The couple had only two daughters, Tamar and Rusudan (who married Manuel Komnenos and whose sons founded the Empire of Trebizond). Tamar’s name is of Hebrew origin; the House of Bagrationi claimed direct descent from the biblical King David and Hebrew names were often used. (more…)