Musings on the Monarchy: Victoria Season 2, Episode 5 (Spoiler Alert)
By: Ellen LeCompte
In this latest episode of Victoria, Her Majesty escapes to Scotland with Albert and they enjoy a taste of anonymity when venturing away from their court to explore the countryside on their own. Scotland remains a respite for the monarchy even to this day. Bonnie Scotland is dear to the Royal family – though that was not always the case. The union of England and Scotland was one more of wary tolerance and necessity – liberally seasoned with bloodshed.
The 13th and 14th centuries were embroiled in the Wars of Scottish Independence. You may recall a humble Lowland Knight named William Wallace, famously depicted in Braveheart. Following the killing of an English sheriff by William Wallace, revolts broke out in Scotland and at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, where Wallace defeated English forces led by John de Warenne.
In the 15th Century, the Wars of the Roses were a series of bloody civil wars for the throne of England between two competing royal families: the House of York and the House of Lancaster, both members of the age-old royal Plantagenet family. Waged between 1455 and 1485, the Wars of the Roses earned its flowery name because the white rose was the badge of the Yorks, and the red rose was the badge of the Lancastrians. After 30 years of political manipulation, horrific carnage and brief periods of peace, the wars ended and a new royal dynasty emerged. Henry VII, having successfully come out on top of the Wars of the Roses, in an attempt to use diplomacy as a solution, married his eldest daughter, Margaret, off to King James IV of Scotland. Not that this stopped the Scottish king from fighting the English anyway, getting himself killed in battle and leaving his English wife regent of his son, young James V.
Moving to the 16th Century, the trials and tribulations Elizabeth I had with her cousin Mary Queen of Scots’ constant plots against her ended with an executioner’s axe.The Scottish questioned the legitimacy of Elizabeth’s rule and thought Mary to be the rightful Queen of England.
In the 17th Century, when James II of England was exiled to make way for William and Mary, his son (Old Pretender) and grandson (Young Pretender) kept things stirred up north of the border. The Hanover kings George I and II used a combination of ruthless military campaigns, bribery, and eviction to brutally put down the Jacobite movement so that by the time George IV came to the throne first acting as a Regent for his insane father, George III, Scotland had been essentially colonized by the English. Thanks to the writings of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, it became very romantic, inspiring George IV to restore the right to wear plaid, even having a portrait painted of himself in a kilt. (Victoria and Albert adored tartan, too and decorated Balmoral Castle from top to bottom with it which The Queen has kept to this day.
From Victoria to Elizabeth II, Scotland has provided a peaceful refuge for each generation of the royal family every August and September. This bond was underscored by marriages – Victoria’s daughter Louise married the Scottish Duke of Argyll, Marquis of Lorne and a granddaughter married Scotland’s Duke of Fife. Most famously, the future George VI married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore.
More recently, Princess Margaret was born at Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland and Princess Anne wed her second husband, Timothy Lawrence at the local Crathie Kirk church which serves as the place of worship for the royal family to this day when they visit Balmoral. The well-known Balmoral is not the only castle the royal family owns in Scotland, however. Nearby Birkhall was purchased by Prince Albert for his son Prince Edward and now belongs to Prince Charles, having inherited it from his grandmother. Seeking privacy in her widowhood, the Queen Mother purchased her own Scottish refuge, the Castle of Mey on the northern coast. A highlight of the royal family’s summer cruises on The Britannia around the northern isles was calling in to see “granny” for lunch.
Aside from the rolling countryside, one of the attractions of Scotland has always been the fishing. The Queen Mother adored it, a hobby she shared with her son-in-law, Prince Phillip, and she taught Prince Charles who famously took Lady Diana Spencer on outings along the River Dee. William and Harry still bond with their father while casting line across the water.
Regardless of the tumultuous history between Scotland and England, the royal family welcomes the opportunity to visit the majestic setting of the Highlands, where the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla) are known as Duke and Duchess of Rothesay and Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge carry the titles of Earl and Countess of Strathearn. How does one keep track of all their titles?
Tune in next Sunday, February 18 for Episode 6 of Victoria Season 2 on Masterpiece. And, return for more Musings on the Monarchy.
About Ellen LeCompte
As the President Emeritus of the Richmond Branch of the English-Speaking Union, Ellen LeCompte is more than just an anglophile who has spent the last 50 years traveling from Virginia to the UK, attended British boarding school, studied at Cambridge and has a 17th century cottage in the Cotswolds. Since 2003 she has been recognized by Travel + Leisure magazine as their UK expert. A graduate of the College of William and Mary with a degree in international economics, Ellen started LeCompte Travel in 2001 organizing small, customized special interest tours and private itineraries featuring special access exclusive experiences with personalized themes such as Masterpiece Theatre, historic events, decorative arts, gardens, and architecture. And yes, she has met The Queen! Twice.
About the English-Speaking Union
The Central Virginia Branch of the English-Speaking Union (ESU) is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to strengthen and broaden ties among the worldwide English-speaking community. Recognizing that English is a shared language that fosters global accord and goodwill by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and members, the ESU is linked to over 70 ESU branches in the United States, as well as a network of branches in over 50 countries. The Central Virginia Branch is committed to supporting the English language in the Richmond area by providing scholarships to teachers for summer study in the UK as well as sponsoring Richmond's 'Bardathon,' a platform for high school students to experience the plays of William Shakespeare.