Interview with Carolyn Harris
Canadian Women’s Responses to Royal Tours from the Eighteenth Century to the Present
Dr. Carolyn Harris is a historian, author and royal commentator. She obtained her PhD in history at Queen’s University at Kingston and is currently teaching history at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies.Carolyn is the author of several successful books and articles. Her most recent book is Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting. She is also a prolific guest lecturer and works as a historical consultant, writer, presenter and contributor to television, radio, print and online media. Carolyn is the winner of the first CCCU Book Prize on which occasion we published another interview with her on our blog.
RSJ Blog: Welcome Carolyn and thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with us.
Carolyn: Thank you, I am delighted to discuss the long and interesting history of Canadian women’s responses to royal tours.
RSJ Blog: You have written a very fascinating article highlighting Canadian woman’s reactions and points of view regarding British royal presence in their country over a period of about 200 years.In your opinion, how much personal impact did those royal visitors and representatives have on swaying Canadian women’s impressions and views on British Monarchy and rule?
Carolyn: The presence of members of the royal family in Canada, especially for extended periods of residence, contributed to the perception of the monarchy as distinctly Canadian. Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (the father of Queen Victoria) gave his name to Prince Edward Island and was one of the first public figures to describe both French and English inhabitants of British North America as Canadians. Princess Louise, along with her husband Lord Lorne was instrumental to the founding of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Her niece Princess Patricia of Connaught became honourary Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry. Long before the 1931 Statute of Westminster laid the groundwork for a Canadian Crown that was politically distinct from the British Crown, the Canadian monarchy was already culturally distinct from the British monarchy because of the presence of royalty in Canada for extended periods of residence as well as shorter tours.
For Canadian women, royal tours of Canada were not only rare opportunities to catch a glimpse of members of the royal family but opportunities to express their concerns and seek patronage for philanthropic institutions that benefit women’s health, education and professional development. When the future King William IV visited what is now the province of Newfoundland in the late 18thcentury both men and women brought their grievances to his attention and sought legal redress. When Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise arrived in Canada as vice regal consort in 1878, one of the first requests that she received was to become the patron of the Montreal Ladies’ Educational Association. Louise’s sister-in-law the Duchess of Connaught was the patron of the first solo exhibition by the Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton in 1912.
The association of female members of the royal family withcauses benefiting women continues to the present day. When William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited British Columbia and the Yukon in 2016, their itinerary included a visit to Sheway, an organization that benefits vulnerable mothers in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, attracted particular attention in Canadian media because Meghan had resided in Toronto for a number of years during her career as an actress and was involved in local charities such as World Vision Canada. The Duchess of Sussex describes herself as a feminist and has a long history of speaking up for women’s equality, which will shape her philanthropic endeavours in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth.
RSJ Blog: Despite the differences between the portrayal of women’s participation in Canada and the USA, the romantic notion is apparent on both sides. Would it be too big a cliché to say that women just liked that aspect very much?
Carolyn: There are distinctive differences between Canadian and American press coverage of royal tours that have remained constant from the 19thcentury to the present day. Royal tours of Canada often prompt discussions of the future of the constitutional monarchy in Canada and the involvement of members of the royal family in Canadian philanthropy and institutions in addition to coverage of royalty as famous people and leaders of fashion. In the United States, however, the celebrity aspect of the royal family’s public image dominates the press coverage. In 1860, when Queen Victoria’s son Albert Edward toured British North America and the United States, there was some acknowledgement of the political significance of King George III’s great-grandson enjoying a successful American tour but the majority of commentary, especially coverage intended for women readers emphasized the fairy tale aspect of the presence of a Prince on American soil, dancing with American women at balls in his honour. American women were encouraged to view the Prince as a romantic figure rather than a political personage.
In his landmark work The English Constitution, Walter Bagehot assumed that the spectacle of royal weddings was of more interest to women than the political role of the constitutional monarch, noting that “The women — one half of the human race at least — care fifty times more for a marriage than a ministry.” Bagehot’s analysis ignores the wider social context for the intense scrutiny by 19thcentury women of royal weddings and other events in the life cycle of the royal family. The wedding of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the future Edward VII, which Bagehot singled out as a particular focus of women’s’ interest, meant the arrival of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, a young woman who would become the second most prominent female member of the royal family after her wedding. Alexandra’s interests, friendships, background and approach to public engagements, especially at a time when Queen Victoria was living in comparative seclusion as a widow, would influence which charities benefiting women would receive royal patronage and which women would be appointed to the royal household. The new Princess of Wales was not simply being welcomed as a fashionable young princess but as one of the most prominent women in the United Kingdom at a time when roles for women in public life were becoming increasingly circumscribed.
RSJ Blog: You are mentioning that the 1791 Constitutional Act provided an unusual amount of political autonomy for property-owning women. Could you perhaps elaborate on the origin of this Act and why it was later abolished? Did the personal, more conservative views of Queen Victoria have any influence?
Carolyn: Prior to the nineteenth century, there were individual examples of propertied women voting throughout the English-speaking world. These women were generally unmarried women or widows as until the married women’s property acts of the 19thcentury, the property of married women was owned and controlled by their husbands and they therefore did not meet the requirements for the franchise. The position of married women in propertied households differed under the Coutume de Paris, which had formed the basis of the law in New France. Property was jointly owned by both spouses under the administration of the husband, circumstances that allowed married women in propertied households to be voters in theory if not always in practice. Under the Quebec Act of 1774, French civil law continued to be in force in Lower Canada (modern day Quebec) following the British conquest of New France. Women voted in 15 districts of Lower Canada between 1791 and 1854, when a specific law was passed prohibiting female suffrage in all circumstances. A similar process had occurred under English common law where the rare cases of widows and single women voting were proscribed by law in the 19thcentury. The prohibition of all forms of women’s suffrage at the same time as the expansion of the male franchise provided an impetus for the late 19thand early 20thcentury campaign for women’s suffrage.
Queen Victoria served a role model for women seeking a greater role in public life, including the Canadian suffragist Nellie McClung, but the Queen did not support women’s suffrage. Her daughters were more interested in increased roles for women outside the home. Princess Helena supported the professionalization of nursing as a career for women while Princess Louise encouraged education and vocational training for women of all social backgrounds. Louise’s sister-in-law supported women’s suffrage publicly and Louise met privately with suffragists but did not champion their cause in the public arena out of respect for the views of her mother Queen Victoria.
RSJ Blog: For some, Princess Louise as viceregal consort and daughter of the ruling monarch signified too much royal presence in Canada. What was the reaction of Canadian women to this particular criticism? Did it have any importance at all?
Carolyn: Louise became viceregal consort in 1878, just eleven years after Canadian Confederation at a time when Canada was defining its place in the world in comparison to Britain and the United States. Canadians prided themselves on their loyalty to the monarchy as this was a key political and cultural trait that differentiated them from Americans. Queen Victoria’s birthday was a popular holiday and it remains a statutory holiday and the monarch’s official birthday in Canada today. Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, wrote about how images of Queen Victoria were displayed at home and the Queen was viewed as a role model for young women to emulate. A number of her literary heroines express admiration for royal women. Queen Victoria’s public image emphasized her role as a loving wife then a grieving widow and the mother of nine children. She was frequently photographed in comparatively simple attire, wearing a bonnet instead of a crown, even on grand occasions such as her Golden Jubilee in 1887. This domestic image allowed women from a variety of social backgrounds to view the Queen as a woman with a great deal in common with themselves as well as the sovereign.
Although Queen Victoria was held in high personal regard in Canada and loyalty to the monarchy was a key aspect of Canadian culture during her reign, royalty who visited Canada, especially those who resided there for extended periods of time were expected to behave differently than they did in the United Kingdom. Royalty in Canada were expected to cultivate an approachable manner toward people of a variety of social backgrounds and relax the customary court etiquette. The news that Princess Louise would reside in Canada prompted concerns that Canadians would be expected to wear court dress in her presence or back out of rooms when royalty was present. Louise’s refusal to insist on ceremony in this manner attracted widespread approval in Canada. Like previous viceregal couples, Lord Lorne and Princess Louise were also expected to embrace Canadian pastimes, especially outdoor activities. The couple were praised in the newspapers for taking up skating, curling, tobogganing and sleigh riding in the winter and camping and fishing in the summer.
RSJ Blog: What was the reaction among Canadian women to Princess Louise’s philanthropic engagements especially concerning her progressive views? Did they generally embrace them or were there any critical voices?
Carolyn: There is circumstantial evidence that Princess Louise received some quiet disapproval from certain members of the English Canadian elite in Canada. There were persistent rumors of feud between the Princess and the Canadian Prime Minister’s wife, Lady Macdonald. Both women were bothered by these rumors and were determined to present a show of unity in public and express their regard for one another. During the term of the previous Governor General, Lord Dufferin, English and French-Canadian high society often socialized separately but Louise, who spoke fluent French, befriended French Canadians and these friendships attracted comment within English Canadian society who expected the Princess to socialize within their own ranks rather than branching out in this manner.
Louise’s philanthropy and views regarding women’s place in society received a variety of responses. In her role as viceregal consort, she was expected to become patron of charities that benefited women. Louise’s encouragement of women pursuing professional careers as artists certainly stood out at a time when art for women was often viewed as a feminine accomplishment rather than a professional endeavor. In her promotion of women’s education, however, some of Louise’s views were considered not progressive enough in certain circles. In her patronage of the Montreal Ladies’ Educational Association, she emphasized the importance of domestic science and vocational training, which disappointed some women who hoped that she would champion higher academic standards in women’s education.
The majority of the criticism concerning Princess Louise’s time as vice regal consort, however, concerned her extended absences from Canada during her husband Lord Lorne’s time in office. Louise was injured in a sleigh accident in 1880, which prevented her attendance at the inaugural Royal Canadian Academy of Arts exhibition, which eventually formed the basis for the National Gallery of Canada. Lorne minimized the extent of Louise’s injuries and so her extended periods of convalescence in Europe and Bermuda attracted widespread speculation. There were rumours that she disliked Canada or that her marriage was in jeopardy. The perception that Louise neglected her duties because of her lengthy absences continues to be the most prominent critique of her time as viceregal consort.
RSJ Blog: Thank you very much for this deeper insight into your topic. What other projects are you pursuing at the moment? Are you perhaps working on a new book?
Carolyn: I am currently writing articles for a variety of publications including the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia and the BBC History Magazine. Links to my writing are available on my website royalhistorian.com
Regarding my next book project, I am co-editing a forthcoming four volume book series, English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty with Joanna Laynesmith, Danna Messer, Aidan Norrie, and Elena Woodcare as part of the Palgrave Macmillan Queenship and Power series. The English Consorts series aims to provide short, focused, well-researched, and refereed biographies of all of the English consorts since the Conquest.
The Call for Contributors for English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynastyis available here.
Interview with Barbara J. Messamore
George VI’s 1939 Royal Tour of Canada: Context and the Constitution
Barbara J. Messamore holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh and is an associate professor at the University of the Fraser Valley in Canada. She specializes in Canadian political, constitutional and migration history. Barbara is also on the board of directors at the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada at Massey College, University of Toronto. Read the full article in the Royal Studies Journal. A list of her publications and other projects can be found on her homepage.
RSJ Blog: Good day Barbara and thank you for doing this interview with us.
Barbara: Thanks for your interest. It’s my pleasure.
RSJ Blog: You mention that the 1939 Royal Visit to Canada was the first by a ruling Monarch. Could you sum up the national and international circumstances that eventually led to it?
Barbara: Yes, I’d be happy to. Incidentally, it’s a subtle point, but I think it is better to say “reigning—rather than ruling– monarch” in the era I’m describing. The genesis of the 1939 tour seems to have been a 1936 meeting between Edward VIII and Canada’s prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. But after Edward VIII’s abdication and George VI’s accession to the throne, circumstances made a successful tour even more important. There are a few reasons for that. One was directly tied to the institution of the monarchy. It had arguably been damaged by the abdication crisis. A tour could restore the image of the royal family and strengthen Canadian ties to the Commonwealth. And Canada’s position within the Commonwealth had also recently changed with the 1931 Statute of Westminster, as had that of other Dominions. The tour would be a chance to demonstrate that, while Canada was autonomous, the tie to the monarch was still strong. The tour organizers arranged to have the King conspicuously carry out some of the duties of the Crown while in Ottawa, duties that were normally carried out by the governor general, such as giving royal assent to legislation. It was a chance to show that Dominion autonomy did not sever the link to the Crown.
Perhaps paradoxically, given this focus on George VI’s role as King of Canada, an even more important aspect of the tour was its function in bolstering Canada’s tie to Britain. This is the thing that made the tour especially urgent in 1939. There was every reason to believe that war with Germany was on the horizon, and Canadians had given little assurance that they would lend support. Canada’s Mackenzie King had been unwilling to make any commitments at the 1937 Imperial Conference and was deeply sensitive to isolationist sentiments in Canada; Quebec’s opposition to European entanglements was clear, as was that of a new and rising socialist party in Canada, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. The British were mindful of this political pressure on King and, if it could be demonstrated that love for and loyalty to the mother country was strong in Canada, King could be swayed.
RSJ Blog: Are Royal Visits to Canada significant in comparison to visits to other parts of the commonwealth or the dominions?
Barbara: I think the essentialobjective is common to each. How such a tour is going to be received is likely to be a function of the circumstances of the moment. So, for example, the article touches on the fact that the 1964 Canadian tour, coming at a time of resurgent Quebecois nationalism, was fraught with difficulty. Similarly, while there had been a durbar in Delhi in 1911 to mark George V’s coronation, the atmosphere of Indian nationalism in 1937 when George VI came to the throne made the accession contentious, so it was thought better not to risk it.
In the particular context of the 1939 tour, a chance to enhance Canada’s loyalty was especially valuable. Cultivating a better tie with Mackenzie King might pay dividends in case of war and Canada’s prime minister would have a chance to observe that many Canadian subjects felt that sense of loyalty. It would show him that it would be impolitic to turn his back on Britain in their hour of need. Spending time in Quebec was also an important part of the tour for that same reason. The brief visit across the border to the United States was not in itself going to shift American isolationist sentiment, but it certainly provided a vital human connection that gave a face to the British struggle to confront Nazi aggression. And while Roosevelt was faced with an intransigent Congress, he did wish to offer what help he could.
RSJ Blog: And they needed all the help they could get. How would you describe the relation between the legal constitutional position of Canada within the Commonwealth and the representation of said position by Canadian politicians especially towards the Royal Family?
Barbara: The 1931 Statute of Westminster made Canada’s role in the Commonwealth with respect to the Crown more explicit, but I’ll readily concede that it’s far from simple. It had gradually evolved that the dominions had autonomy in foreign as well as domestic matters, and in reality, the 1926 Balfour Report and the 1931 Statute of Westminster only recognized that evolved state of things. In both the UK and the dominions, it was well understood that the Crown would act on the advice of responsible ministers—hence, my preference for the term “reign” over “rule.” There were—and are—still reserve powers that might be exercised by the Crown in emergency situations, for example, if a head of government attempts to hang on to power when faced with a loss of Parliament’s confidence. Because Mackenzie King had had a famous clash with a previous governor general, Lord Byng, in 1926, he was acutely sensitive about the role of the Crown and about any potential encroachment on Canada’s self-governing status. By this time, though, it had been long established that the governor general was not dictated to by British authorities; he carried out his duties entirely with reference to Canada. Mackenzie King had an unfounded suspicion that British partiality to the Conservative party had informed the governor general’s actions in 1926. But Mackenzie King also had a kind of reverence for the Crown and was deeply drawn to the royal family. The challenge for George VI was to demonstrate that he was not in Canada as the “British” monarch, but as king of Canada, one of his most important dominions, and that there was no wish to curtail Canada’s autonomy. I think this is why the symbolic gesture of him carrying out the sovereign’s duties in Ottawa, using Canada’s royal seal, was so important. He was acting, not as the British king visiting Canada, but as the king of Canada. Having said this, George VI would have certainly been mindful of the fact that, for Britain, Canadian support would be essential to a successful war effort and I’m sure his British cabinet looked at the tour in that light. So, this vital British objective could hardly have been absent from his mind. For many Canadians, the king represented a British empire to which they still felt a keen personal loyalty.
RSJ Blog: Talking about loyalty, what significance did the filming of the event have at that time and was it rather exceptional or already a usual procedure to have British royal visits accompanied by a camera team? Where were these films broadcasted to?
Barbara: I think in any royal tour, commemoration was a given. Books commissioned to depict the tours were a standard way to do this, as were photographs. For example, there are some great photographs and sketches of the Prince of Wales’s 1860 visit to Canada, including one of him riding a timber slide. The commemoration would take the form available in the day. In 1939, the daily radio broadcasts and a commemorative film provided a way to both broaden the reach of the tour and to preserve it. The 1939 film was produced by Canada’s National Film Board, so it would be widely circulated, and it really provides a way to frame the narrative in an optimal way. The film is meant to convey a message of loyalty to the Crown, including among French Canadians, aboriginal Canadians, and veterans of the Great War. Military inspections are featured prominently in the film.
RSJ Blog: Thank you very much for deepening our insight into the topic! What other project are you pursuing at the moment?
Barbara: I’m happy to share these thoughts with you. My newest project is a study of Canada’s pre-Confederation upper house. We have perennial debates in Canada about whether our appointed Senate should be elected or eliminated altogether. But few Canadians know that we actually had an elected upper house between 1856 and 1867, so I’m investigating the reasons why that short-lived experiment was abandoned.
RSJ Blog: A very opportune question concerning the actual debate. We are looking forward to reading about your results!
Interview with Jock Phillips
Māori and Royal Visits, 1869-2015: From Rotorua to Waitangi
Jock Phillips is a free-lance professional historian. Until 2014 he was the General Editor of Te Ara, the Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand in the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. He was previously New Zealand’s Chief Historian following 16 years teaching American and New Zealand History at Victoria University of Wellington. He was also the founding Director of the Stout Research Centre for the study of New Zealand society, history and culture; and was the Conceptual Leader for the History exhibitions at Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand. He has published fifteen books on New Zealand history, of which the best known is A Man’s Country: The image of the Pakeha male – a history. His latest book, To The Memory, is a comprehensive illustrated history of New Zealand war memorials. Read his article on the Maori and royal tours in the Royal Studies Journal.
RSJ Blog: Hello, Jock! Thanks for participating. We often see think-pieces about the “cult of celebrity” or “celebrity worship.” Does our modern interest in celebrity provide rivals to royalty or do they benefit from our fascination? Both?
Jock: At least since the coming of mass media with newspapers, there have always been celebrities who have been rivals in popular interest for royalty. In New Zealand’s case significant indications of this have been ‘tours’ by people other than royalty; and it is revealing to list some of the tours by non-Royals which made a powerful impression. In the 19th century tours by authors such as Mark Twain, Anthony Trollope and (a bit later) Rudyard Kipling were big news; in the early 20th century there were major tours by heroes of the British Empire such as Robert Falcon Scott and Baden Powell. In the mid 20th century sporting heroes were much feted – there were huge crowds in Wellington to welcome the MCC ‘bodyline’ cricket team in 1933, not to mention tours by local heroes such as the 1925 Invincible All Black rugby team and the runner Jack Lovelock. In the 1960s there were huge crowds in the streets to welcome The Beatles and The Rolling Stones; and a bit later the numbers were repeated (along with a few protestors) for the American President LBJ. Some may argue that the plethora of mass media now – television, film and the internet besides the printed page – have increased the number of non-royal competitors for celebrity; but they have long been there.
RSJ Blog: Why might indigenous people see the monarch as their benefactor (or “benefactress” as they termed Queen Victoria)?
Jock: I can only really talk with any authority about the case of Maori. For Maori the Queen was seen in positive terms because she was the other signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi; and subsequently Maori saw her as providing a protection against local white governments whom they felt had disregarded the terms of the treaty.
RSJ Blog: A number of the articles talk about “race patriotism” or “British race patriotism.” How has the British monarchy both supported and challenged these ideas?
Jock: Most members of the British Empire regarded the monarch as the symbolic head of the Empire and therefore the purest expression of the values of the British race. Interestingly even some Maori accepted this because it was argued that Maori were ‘honorary whites’, an Aryan people, who shared the racial characteristics of the Anglo-Saxons. But of course this was purely symbolic, because all the evidence is that some members of the royal family, most notably Edward, the Prince of Wales, during his 1920 tour, were appallingly racist towards indigenous people, especially Maori.
RSJ Blog: It seems that the monarch and the white colonizers of New Zealand saw the Maori in a more positive light than the monarch and the white colonizers of Australia saw the Indigenous Australians. Is this an accurate impression? If so, why might that be? Is it due to the Treaty of Waitangi (1840)?
Jock: I think the main reason that white colonial powers in New Zealand including the British monarch, regarded Maori more positively and treated them with more respect than the treatment of indigenous Australians is that Maori had been very effective militarily. From about 1500 when there was a growing Maori population and a competition for resources, a strong tradition of military achievement developed in Aotearoa. Iwi or tribes developed who built thousands of fortified pa around the country and a cult of military prowess emerged. In the early 19th century Maori very quickly gained access to guns and through fights between iwi developed a remarkable skill in the new warfare – indeed some have argued that Maori were the first to really develop trench warfare as a response to guns. When white people arrived they quickly found that Maori were no push-over militarily, and indeed in both the 1840s and 1860s wars Maori very nearly defeated the colonizers who had to call for professional assistance from the Imperial army. In this context the only way white people could establish a foothold in the country was to negotiate – hence they were forced into negotiating the Treaty of Waitangi. So in my view respect for Maori came out of the barrel of a gun. The Treaty was a consequence of this respect, not the cause of it. In Australia we now know that there was more armed resistance than once believed, but it was never on the scale of Maori resistance.
RSJ Blog: How similar and different is the relationship of the British monarchs with the indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand?
Jock: I think the existence of a treaty in which the monarch was the other signatory did make a big difference. Maori put enormous energy in the 19th and early 20th centuries into appealing to the British monarch – through elaborate welcomes when royalty toured and through numerous attempts to travel to England in order to petition the monarch. It was also true that because of their military strength Maori had to be given a place in the local political scene (Maori could vote on the same terms as Europeans from the beginning and from 1867 there were Maori seats in parliament). This allowed them access to the local political authorities who were controlling royal tours and relations with the monarch, which indigenous Australians did not have.
RSJ Blog: Since monarchs are now generally supposed to be above politics, how can the royal family help indigenous people in their pursuit of justice?
Jock: To be honest in 2018 I do not see the royal family having much impact on the politics of member states of the Commonwealth. However if members of the royal family respect indigenous culture and give it appropriate time and recognition, this may have some impact on local perceptions.
RSJ Blog: What is the new nationalism in late-twentieth century Australia? Was there a new nationalism in New Zealand around this time as well?
Jock: As both Australia and New Zealand emerged out of the British Empire from the 1960s, a similar new nationalism emerged. In New Zealand’s case the old nationalism saw New Zealand as a ‘better Britain’, a country which had all the values of the British race but none of the social problems. New Zealanders thought of themselves as the ‘most loyal’ dominion of all. From the 1960s this view came under attack, and a new nationalism emerged which positioned New Zealand as an independent South Pacific country. Maori and Pacific culture became more important to the identity; and in place of a role as a loyal territorial of the Anglo-American Empire, the country pushed values of international peace and regarded its anti-nuclear position as central to identity.
RSJ Blog:Thank you for your time! How are things progressing with your work on war memorials?
Jock: I have worked for over 30 years on studying the history of war memorials and my book on the subject, To the Memory, was finished last year; but I continue to follow up side-issues and give talks on this subject especially with the centenary of the armistice upon us. I have now just completed a memoir about my life as a historian, Living History, which I expect to be published next year.