Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Lilibet!

So far in the month of April, I have not blogged about April Fool's Day (1st), the income tax payment deadline (15th), or Paul Revere's ride in 1775 (18th). But since I am a devout Anglophile, which is a big word meaning I admire all things British, let me take this opportunity to wish Elizabeth II, Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and head of the British Commonwealth of Nations, a very happy 82nd birthday! The British, being a very strange people, celebrate her birthday in June when the weather is better.

Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, in London, the first child of Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She had little prospect of becoming queen until her uncle, Edward VIII (who had been called Prince David when he was the Prince of Wales), abdicated in December 1936. Her father became George VI and she became first in line to the throne. Whether she was an heiress-apparent or an heiress-presumptive is something only English people care about.

Elizabeth's full name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor-Mountbatten. As a child, she was called Lilibet. Lilibet and her little sister, Princess Margaret Rose (who will never be a Kappa Kappa Gamma*), were pretty much raised and educated by their governess, Mrs. Crawford, or as the royal family called her, “Crawfie.” The British royals have this thing about names. Elizabeth's oldest child, the Prince of Wales, is named Charles Philip Arthur George (at his marriage to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, Diana reversed the order of his second and third names in her vows; perhaps her fingers were crossed also). Charles's younger sister is named Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise. Their younger brothers are Andrew Christian David (the Duke of York, who used to be married to Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York) and Edward something-or-other (whose wife's name is Sophie). If Charles ever becomes king, he may be called Charles III or George VII or something else. Maybe even King Arthur. In the names department, none of them can hold a candle to Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary, who was married to George V. Her full name was Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes.

Elizabeth II (try singing the following to the tune of “Tea for Two”: “E II R and R II E, and me for her and her for me”) ascended to the throne in February, 1952, upon the death of her father, King George VI. She has now been Regina D. G. (Queen by the grace of God), as the coins say, for 56 years. Only two British monarchs have reigned longer: George III for sixty years (1760-1820) and Victoria for sixty-four years (1837-1901). I believe Louis XIV in France reigned for seventy-two years, but we're not talking about the French right now.

The current House of Windsor-Mountbatten was formerly just the House of Windsor (Elizabeth added the hyphen and her husband Philip's last name, Mountbatten). Before that it was called the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha because Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother, Victoria, married Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha; and before that it was called the House of Hanover all the way back to 1714, when the House of Hanover came to power following the death of Queen Anne, the last monarch of the House of Orange. (Before the House of Orange there was the House of Stuart, whose first monarch was called James I of England and James VI of Scotland and happened to be the son of Mary, Queen of Scots; and before the House of Stuart there was the House of Tudor, which included Henry VIII and Elizabeth I; and before the House of Tudor there were the Houses of Lancaster and York, who fought the War of the Roses; and before them there was the House of Plantagenet; and on and on it goes, almost ad infinitum and certainly ad nauseam, back for more than 1200 years to around the year 800 A.D., and if a real King Arthur ever existed, he must have lived in the dawn of British history.) The name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was changed to Windsor, after Windsor Castle, around the time of World War I (1914-1918) because Saxe-Coburg-Gotha sounded too German and Britain happened to be fighting the Germans at the time.

*In a long-ago book entitled, A Southern Belle Primer, or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be A Kappa Kappa Gamma, it was revealed that the princess smoked cigarettes in public, thus disqualifying herself from the company of proper young ladies of the day, many of whom, apparently, belonged to the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Also, she's dead.

As proof of my devout Anglophile-hood, or maybe that should be Anglophilia, I have written this entire post without referring to any reference material whatsoever. You'll just have to take my word for it.

2 comments:

Yellow Swordfish said...

I hate to disappoint... but at heart I am a republican! That is, of course, an English republican not an American republican.
But... I did know all of this!

rhymeswithplague said...

Hey, yellow!

I guess it just proves that you can take the republican out of the monarchy, but you can't take the monarchy out of the republican....