06 June 2021

A New Lilibet


Queen Elizabeth II as a toddler, from the cover of Time Magazine in 1029
The original Lilbet: Princess Elizabeth of York on
the cover of Time Magazine in 1929. Today she is
better known as Queen Elizabeth II.

As the original Lilibet enjoys her twilight years, it seemed the royal nickname would soon cease to exist. Indeed, when Prince Philip died earlier this year the name was already declared dead by some media outlets. Following the deaths of her mother, sister, and husband, it was incorrectly assumed that no one remained to call Queen Elizabeth II by her lifelong nickname. The authors and editors of these articles were apparently forgetting or unaware that Her Majesty has nieces, nephews, and first cousins who have always called her Lilibet and that extended members of the family have also used the name, as demonstrated by King Felipe of Spain's published condolence to "Aunt Lilibet" on the death of his "dear Uncle Philip". (Technically, Felipe is second cousin twice removed to Philip and third cousin once removed to Elizabeth.)

Just when it looked like the name would be lost to history, The Queen's grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan resurrected it for their baby girl, naming the infant Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor. The announcement, which came two days after the baby's June 4th birth in Santa Barbara, California, also revealed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to call their daughter Lili. The second name honoring Harry's late mother Diana Princess of Wales surprised no one, but nearly everyone was surprised by Lilibet as a first name. In fact, this may be the first time anyone anywhere has actually used it as a given name. (If you know of anyone else actually named Lilibet, I would love to know about it.)

However, no one should be surprised that they would choose to honor Harry's grandmother. Despite a recent interview in which he indicated that he thought The Queen had been a poor parent to his father, Harry and Meghan have often spoken of their admiration for Her Majesty. The use of a nickname and an untraditional name is also not surprising. After all, the couple named their first child Archie, which is also a nickname and an untraditional royal name. (See my post, Strange Royal Baby Names.)

The name Lilibet emerged when The Queen was first learning to speak. Like all infants, she did not emerge with perfect enunciation and was unable to properly pronounce her own name. The family started calling her Lilibet after hearing her attempts to say Elizabeth. The name quickly stuck, probably because her mother was also named Elizabeth making a nickname something of a necessity in the family. By the time her little sister Margaret was born four years later, her father was writing notes "dictated by Lilibet" back to his wife. Many published examples exist of The Queen signing personal messages as Lilibet, including her condolence card to her mother on the death of her father.

Some have criticized Meghan and Harry for their unconventional name choices but it's important to note that many of The Queen's descendants have un-royal names. Her first granddaughter is named Zara. Her 11 great-grandchildren include Savannah, Isla, Mia, Lena, and Lucas. The Queen herself shook up royal naming conventions. She was the first female descendant of Queen Victoria NOT to have Victoria among her names, which are Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. She stunned many by choosing the "Scottish" name Charles for her firstborn, a child destined to be King when the only Kings named Charles in Britain were from the Scottish House of Stuart. The first King Charles was beheaded in the English Civil War. The second, his son, restored the monarchy, knew how to have raucous good time, and left many children but had no direct heirs. More controversially, "King Charles III" or Bonnie Prince Charlie sparked a rebellion against the Hanoverians to try to regain the throne that was abandoned by (or stolen from, depending on your point of view) his grandfather King James II and VII in the Glorious Revolution. The Queen even introduced a "new" name into the British Royal Family when she named her second son Prince Andrew after her father-in-law, who had been Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. The name had not been used among British royals before that day in 1960. If The Queen can use surprising and untraditional names for her own children, it is not shocking that her children and grandchildren would, too.

The announcement of Lili's arrival did not include any reference to her title. Brother Archie's announcement specified that he would be known simply as "Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor", eschewing his right to use his father's secondary title of Earl of Dumbarton, a long-seated tradition among the Peerage. As the daughter of a Duke and as confirmed by the 1917 Letters Patent, Harry's daughter is entitled to be styled as Lady Lili. It appears, however, that she will simply be called Miss Lili Mountbatten-Windsor.

One last note: Many have incorrectly stated that it was Prince Philip who began calling his wife Lilibet as a pet name. For the record, his romantic pet name for her was Cabbage. 

Long live the Lilibets! (Both Cabbage and Baby Lili!)

As of publication time, no photos of Lili Mountbatten-Windsor have been released.

09 April 2021

Prince Philip and Women He Loved

Just two months short of his 100th birthday, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh passed away on April 9, 2021 at his home at Windsor Castle. Born a Prince of Greece and Denmark, he was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, the youngest child but only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. He was the longest-lived descendant of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (his great-great-grandmother) and of King Christian IX of Denmark (his great-grandfather) and of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia (his great-great grandfather). He was the third longest-lived member of the British Royal Family, after his wife's aunt Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester and his mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Before he was two, in the tumult that was the Greek monarchy, his father was charged with treason and sentenced to death. His uncle, King Constantine II, was exiled (again). The British helped get Andrew's sentence commuted and sent a warship to rescue him and his family. As the story goes, an orange crate was used as an improvised cradle. After that, his parents eventually went their separate ways with his father living an essentially bachelor lifestyle and his mother undergoing psychotherapy, and for a time, being committed to an asylum. Young Philip became something like a royal foster kid, bouncing around among his much older sisters, his many royal aunts and uncles, and his maternal grandmother, Victoria Marchioness of Milford Haven, who was the older sister of the Empress Alexandra and Grand Duchess Serge of Russia, both of whom had been murdered by the Bolsheviks just a few years before Philip was born. 

Philip started school in Paris then went to Germany before being enrolled at Gordonstoun in Scotland at age 12. When he was 17, he went to the British naval academy at Dartmouth, and then joined the British Royal Navy just after the start of World War II. He served with distinction, but spent much of his leave time back in England, where his long acquaintance with a distant cousin was turning into something else.

The future Queen Elizabeth II spent her adolescence at Windsor Castle, referred to as an undisclosed location in the countryside, during the war. Philip was an occasional guest. They became penpals while both she and some members of his family hoped this would prove a royal match. After the war, Philip remained in the Royal Navy while a romance blossomed. The couple were engaged in 1947 after he surrendered his Greek titles and citizenship. With no realm surname of his own, he adopted the one used by his mother's British family: Mountbatten. For a brief time before his future father-in-law King George VI created him Duke of Edinburgh and a British Royal Highness, he was known simply as Lt. Philip Mountbatten, R.N. (Read my post about their romance The Moonstruck Princess and Her Greek God.)

Elizabeth and Philip were married at Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947. They spent much of their early marriage in Malta where he was posted with the Navy. By the time she unexpectedly became Queen on the early death of her father, their first two children, Charles and Anne, had been born. Her accession brought his naval career to an end, and Philip struggled for a bit trying to figure out what exactly the job of the Queen's husband was supposed to be. Within a decade, he had settled into and/or created his role leading to a more stable period in his marriage, which resulted in the births of two more children, Andrew and Edward.

He remained a loyal supporter to his wife, while adding his own stamp on things -- creating the Duke of Edinburgh awards, modernizing the royal homes and the royal operations. Along the way, he received much criticism for his sometimes brash manner or insensitive remarks, but he also received much praise for his dedication to service, to the nation, and to his wife. In November 2020, they celebrated 73 years of marriage. He is survived by his wife, four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

I had been planning a series of posts in honor of his 100th birthday focused on the Women He Loved. I am now launching the series two months too soon. Please come back to read about the women who shared Prince Philip's life, including:

Princess Alice of Battenberg, mother
Princess Victoria of Hesse, grandmother
Grand Duchess Olga Constantinova of Russia, grandmother
Princess Margarita of Greece, sister
Princess Theodora of Greece, sister
Princess Cecile of Greece, sister
Princess Sophie of Greece, sister
Princess Marie Bonaparte, aunt
Countess Nadejda de Torby, aunt
Edwina Ashley, aunt
Queen Elizabeth II, wife
Princess Anne Princess Royal, daughter
Princess Beatrice of York, granddaughter
Princess Eugenie of York, granddaughter
Zara Phillips Tindall, granddaughter
Lady Louise Windsor, granddaughter

28 February 2021

Birthplace of a Queen

Princess Elizabeth of York
from Time Magazine via Wikimedia Commons
Once upon a time in a rather unremarkable townhome, the future Queen of England was born in the middle of the night. Although it was indeed a royal birth -- Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks was officially in attendance to ensure no changeling was smuggled in to replace the royal baby -- but no one expected this child to inherit the throne. This was the child of the Duke of York, second son of King George V. His older brother was certainly father the heir. When the newborn turned out to be a girl, her distance from the throne seemed even further in an era when younger brothers would supersede older sisters in the Line of Succession. The royal parents even opted not to include Victoria among their daughter's names, breaking a royal tradition for all of the previous descendants of Queen Victoria. King George made note of it in his diary only to declare that it probably didn't matter. 

But, fate has a funny way of doing what it will. And so it was that 25 years later, when this baby girl became Queen Elizabeth II, she also became the first British monarch not to be born in a palace or on a royal estate since King George came over from Hanover two centuries earlier.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born at 2 a.m. by Caesarean section on the 21st of April in 1926 in her maternal grandparents home located at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. (See my post about her birth, A Princess Is Born.) Although her parents, Prince Albert The Duke of York and the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, were less than week from celebrating their third anniversary, the couple was still essentially homeless. They had been offered White Lodge in Richmond Park but declined it. Originally a hunting lodge built for King George II, its previous royal residents included his daughter Princess Amelia, George III's daughter Princess Mary Duchess of Gloucester, and George III's granddaughter Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. Mary Adelaide raised her own family there, including her daughter Mary, who had married King George VI and was therefore Princess Elizabeth of York's paternal grandmother. Unfortunately, the house had not been updated in decades and was a bit of a wreck when the Yorks decided against living there. Instead they had bounced around from rental to rental in search of their "forever home". As the Duchess prepared for the birth of her first child, she longed to be somewhere more familiar than a temporary rental or a stodgy royal palace. She opted instead to have her baby in her parents' London home.

The Duchess of York, better known to posterity as the long-lived Queen Mother, was the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Nina Cavendish-Bentinck. Their ancestral home was Glamis Castle (of Macbeth fame) in Angus, Scotland. They also had an English estate at St. Paul's Walden Bury in Hertfordshire. Both of those homes had been in the Bowes-Lyon family for centuries. Number 17 Bruton Street, however, had no ancestral connections. The Earl had acquired the house less than five years earlier to serve as the family's base during the London social season. Although located in tawny Mayfair between Regent Street and Berkeley Street, the house was fairly typical of the neighborhood. A five-story 18th Century house large enough for the extensive Bowes-Lyon family (Elizabeth was one of 10 siblings) and their servants.

By the time they moved to Bruton Street from previously rented London addresses, their daughter Elizabeth had already made her society debut and had earned herself many suitors. The more serious young men were outpaced by the Prince, not because he was more handsome or more charming, and definitely not because he was royal. He had to propose three times before Elizabeth finally said yes during a weekend visit to St. Paul's Walden Bury. That Monday, he drove her to 17 Bruton Street before taking her to lunch at sister Princess Mary's London home, Chesterfield House, where they were joined by their older brother, the Prince of Wales. Prince Albert, or Bertie as he was called, returned Elizabeth to Bruton Street while he dashed off to Sandringham House to see his delighted parents. The Bowes-Lyon home was then besieged by telephone calls from "hundreds of reporters clamouring!" she wrote, "Last day of peace I suppose."

Embed from Getty Images

A few months later, the eyes of the world were on Bruton Street as the "commoner" royal bride departed for her wedding as Westminster Abbey. It was a cold rainy day in the middle of economic troubles that would soon erupt into strikes, but the tiny little Lady was a ray of sunshine for the crowd that had gathered. On her father's arm, Lady Elizabeth departed the town home at 11:12 a.m. in a state landau escorted by Metropolitan Police on horseback. 

Three years later, Bertie and Elizabeth moved into 17 Bruton Street ahead of their child's arrival. Queen Mary longed to be present for the birth, but feared her arrival would draw attention from the press, writing to her son, that's "the last thing one wants is for any inkling of this to appear in the papers, so I hope you will both understand & will not think me a heartless wretch." Elizabeth own mother was ill at the time and so could not be in the room either. Queen Mary recommended that they send for Elizabeth's older sister, Rose Countess Granville, because having someone who has been through childbirth already is "such a comfort."

Elizabeth undoubtedly needed such comfort. It was a long a difficult labor. The doctors had anticipated a breech birth and knew that the petite duchess might struggle to deliver the baby. They planned ahead for the caesarean delivery, but the procedure was still considered risky. It was also thought that it could hinder future pregnancies and deliveries. The Duke and Duchess decided that it was worth the risk. If one child was all they had, they would be content. 

So, while the Duke paced the entire house, the Home Secretary waited patiently, the little princess finally emerged by a "certain line of treatment", as the official bulletin stated. The King and Queen were awakened at 4 a.m. to hear the news. Later that day, they drove up from Windsor to meet their first granddaughter, whom Queen Mary "too sweet & pretty." Grandmother and granddaughter would develop a very close relationship over the years.

By Spudgun67 via Wikimedia Commons
The York family remained in residence at 17 Bruton Street for several more weeks as the Duchess recovered from the birth. The future Queen didn't visit a royal palace for the first several weeks of her life, finally being taken to Buckingham Palace for her christening on May 29 by the Anglican Archbishop of York before being whisked back to Bruton Street.

Today, a Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant stands at 17 Bruton Street in the heart of a bustling commercial district. Although some reports say the old house was destroyed in the London Blitz other say it and the neighboring home were actually taken down in 1937. Whatever the fate of the house itself, a blue plaque at Hakkasan restaurant now reads, "On the site stood the townhouse of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne where Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, later to become Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was born on 21 April 1926."

Works Consulted

"A Look at 17 Bruton Street." The Royal Post. 16 November 2014. theroyalpost.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/a-look-at-17-bruton-street/ Accessed 18 January 2021.

Bradford, Sarah. Elizabeth. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1996.

Johnstone, Anna. "The Queen's SURPRISING birthplace is now a Chinese takeaway." Hello! 26 March 2019, www.hellomagazine.com/cuisine/2019032671328/queen-elizabeth-birthplace-mayfair-hakkasan-chinese-restaurant/. Accessed 18 January 2021.

Murphy, Victoria. "Homes fit for a Queen: From her birthplace to her current Royal residence of Buckingham Palace," The Daily Mirror,  10 June 2016. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/homes-fit-queen-birthplace-current-8145399 Accessed 18 January 2021.

Shawcross, William. The Queen Mother: The Official Biography. Vintage Books, 2009.

Timms, Elizabeth Jane. "The Queen's London Birthplace: 17 Bruton St." Royal Central. 20 April 2017, royalcentral.co.uk/uk/queen/the-queens-london-birthplace-17-bruton-st-59298/ Accessed 18 January 2021.

Williams, Kate. Young Elizabeth: The Making of a Queen. Pegasus Books, 2015.