Monday, May 21, 2018

The Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The most anticipated royal event of 2018 took place on Saturday, as His Royal Highness Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales tied the knot with Miss Rachel Meghan Markle at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, in a ceremony watched by a television audience of over 18 million in the UK, 29 million in the bride's homeland of the United States, and a global audience estimated in the hundreds of millions. Over 100,000 people jammed the streets of the small town of Windsor, dominated by the ancient 1000-year-old Windsor Castle, to catch a glimpse of the bridal couple. It was a ceremony lauded by the press as "modern" and "groundbreaking", with nods to both the "old world" traditions of Harry's background and the "new world", multicultural, and Hollywood side brought by Meghan. 

Drama unfolded in the days before the ceremony concerning Meghan's father, who eventually decided not to attend, but this did not place a damper on the overall events. It was a spectacularly sunny day as the 36-year-old bride, renowned for her acting career on the TV legal drama Suits, rode by car alongside her mother, Doria Ragland, from Cliveden House to Windsor Castle. The groom and his brother, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, entered St. George's Chapel after the arrivals of the extended members of the Royal Family. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived at 11:52 AM, while the Duchess of Cambridge arrived by car with the pages and bridesmaids; chief among them being her children Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Miss Markle arrived at St. George's Chapel and made her way up the steps on her own. She was greeted by her future father-in-law, the Prince of Wales, who offered to walk her down the aisle after her father announced he would not be attending. Presiding over the ceremony was David Conner, Dean of Windsor, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, performing the marriage ceremony. Harry's maternal aunt, Jane Fellowes, one of the sisters of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, gave a reading, while the Most Reverend Michael Curry, the primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States (the American branch of the Anglican Church), delivered a rousing fourteen-minute sermon. In a break with royal tradition, both the bride and groom exchanged rings, rather than just the bride receiving a ring as has been customary. Following the signing of the wedding registry, the newlyweds made their way back down the aisle and emerged at the steps of St. George's to rapturous applause. They boarded a landau and treated the spectators lining the streets of Windsor to a carriage procession, which culminated with a gorgeous ride down the famous "long walk" leading up to the George IV gateway of Windsor Castle. A luncheon was given at the castle by Her Majesty the Queen, while the Prince of Wales hosted a reception for close friends and family later that evening at Frogmore House on the Windsor estate.

Earlier that day, the Queen announced that Prince Harry was being created Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton, and Baron Kilkeel, titles that Meghan also holds since becoming his wife. The newlyweds are now officially known as Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The Duchess of Sussex wore a gown from the designer house of Givenchy, with a sixteen-foot veil trailing her, embroidered with floral emblems of all fifty-three countries of the Commonwealth, and anchored by Queen Mary's diamond bandeau tiara. The tiara was made in 1932, with its centerpiece being a spectacular brooch dating back to 1893 when it was presented as a wedding gift to the Duke of Sussex's great-great-grandmother, Princess Mary of Teck, for her marriage to the Duke of York (later King George V).

Being sixth in line to the throne, the wedding of the Duke of Sussex did not hold as much significance for the state and the dynasty as the 2011 nuptials of his brother, the Duke of Cambridge. For these reasons, foreign leaders were not invited, and neither did any members of European royal families attend. Nevertheless, the prince's popularity and his role as a senior member of the Royal Family, being that he is a son of the future king, meant that public interest would be high. It must be said that of all the guests at the wedding, the one who put on the most admirable displays of gallantry was the groom's father, the Prince of Wales. His decision to escort the bride down the aisle in the absence of her father was gentlemanly all on its own, and this was emphasized to an even greater extent with the way he treated Meghan's mother. When he and Miss Ragland accompanied the bridal couple to sign the wedding registry, the Prince gallantly held out his hand and escorted her out of her seat, and then offered his arm to Miss Ragland as the congregation made their way out on the steps of St. George's following the conclusion of the ceremony. If there has ever been any doubt about the manners and kindness of the Prince of Wales, then the behavior of His Royal Highness towards his new in-laws on Saturday should dispel any such notions. He deserves widespread admiration for the manner in which he conducted himself on his son's special day.

We here at About Royalty wish the Duke and Duchess of Sussex many years of happiness and the hopes that they will create a happy and healthy family together.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Cinco de Mayo - Reflecting on Mexico's Ill-fated Experiments with Monarchy

Today, May 5th, a.k.a. Cinco de Mayo, is renowned in parts of Mexico, and especially in the United States, as a celebration of Mexican culture, Mexican food, and, perhaps most notably, Mexican liquor. The fascinating story behind the historic events of Cinco de Mayo correlates with one of the two attempts at monarchy that Mexico experimented with in the 19th century. 
Archduke Maximilian of Austria, later Emperor of Mexico

Cinco de Mayo became a holiday to commemorate the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862. This marked a surprise victory for Mexico against the invading army of France sent by Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, in what turned out to be a cynical and disastrous attempt to extend French imperialism. The whole skirmish began in 1861, when Benito Juarez, President of Mexico, defaulted on his country's massive foreign debts to various European powers. Incensed by Mexico's failure to pay, Emperor Napoleon III sent a task force along with troops from Great Britain and Spain to land at Veracruz, Mexico, to force the Mexican government into honoring its debts. While the British and Spanish drew up an agreement with Juarez and subsequently left the country alone, Napoleon III decided to further his involvement in Mexico as an opportunity to expand French imperial influence. More French troops arrived in Mexico and began pushing inland. 

On May 5, 1862, General Ignacio Zaragoza led his troops into battle near the town of Puebla de Los Angeles and scored a surprise victory against a larger, better-trained French battalion. While the Battle of Puebla was not a decisive one, news of the Mexican victory spread across the country and rallied feelings of patriotism against the foreign invaders. Four days later, President Juarez declared that May 5 would be celebrated as a holiday to commemorate the victory achieved by Mexico on that day. The commemoration continues to this day, despite it being admittedly more popular in the United States than in Mexico itself. 

Maximilian and Charlotte depart from Europe for Mexico.
Yet there is more to the story beyond Cinco de Mayo. In fact, the success of May 5, 1862 proved to be a short-lived one. The French ultimately succeeded in overrunning Mexico and the following year Napoleon's scheme went into effect. The Archduke Maximilian of Austria was approached with an offer to become Emperor of Mexico. A small faction of wealthy, conservative, and landowning Mexican elites presented the offer to the archduke, believing that the creation of a monarchy would lend support to an aristocratic class which they would make up. Maximilian, the brother of Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria, was encouraged by Napoleon III to accept the crown with French military support to help secure his newly-minted throne. 

Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte, daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium, made their way from Europe to Veracruz, arriving with great pomp as well as French troops guarding them on the way to the capital. The new Emperor and Empress installed themselves at Chapultepec Castle, atop a hill overlooking Mexico City. While the imperial couple were sincere in their desire to serve the Mexican people, their subjects were deeply unhappy with the foreign monarchy that had been imposed upon them. The presence of French troops was the only element preserving Maximilian's shaky throne, as uprisings and Franco-Mexican clashes frequently erupted all across the country. 

Mexico's northern neighbor, the United States, had been too distracted by its own bloody civil war to get involved. Once the war ended, however, the American government made clear to Napoleon III their strong opposition to a monarchy imposed by foreign powers so close to their shores. In 1866, responding to American pressure as well as the cost of maintaining a military presence there, Napoleon III withdrew French troops from Mexico. Emperor Maximilian now stood as a vulnerable figure, with defeat inevitable. The French emperor advised him to flee back to Europe, but Maximilian refused, delusional in his belief that he owed his life to the service of Mexico. Empress Charlotte raced across the Atlantic to appeal directly to Napoleon, begging him not to withdraw military support for her husband's throne. Charlotte's requests were refused, and at an audience with the Pope she went hysterical and slipped towards a nervous collapse. Sadly for the empress, all of her efforts to save her husband failed, and she would never see her beloved Maximilian again. On May 16, 1867, Maximilian was captured by Mexican forces and sentenced to death. President Juarez had admired Maximilian as a person, but denounced his involvement in the foreign invasion of his country and refused appeals from European heads of state to spare the emperor's life. On June 19, 1867, Maximilian von Habsburg, Emperor of Mexico was executed by firing squad in the town of Queretaro, thus ending the short-lived Second Mexican Empire. 
Execution of Emperor Maximilian

This bizarre and disastrous affair was not the first time that Mexico tried its hand at monarchy, however. The First Mexican Empire had briefly existed some forty years before. 

Augustin de Iturbide
After Mexico broke free from the Spanish crown in 1821, the country declared itself to be the independent Mexican Empire. King Ferdinand VII of Span was actually invited through this initial declaration to resume his position as monarch of Mexico albeit ruling it as a separate nation entirely independent of his throne in Spain. If he did not want the crown, he could offer it to a member of the Spanish royal family of his choosing, but Spain's refusal to recognize Mexico's independence at all led to a full severance of any ties with the former motherland. Instead, the Mexican Empire would be ruled over by General Augustin de Iturbide, who had been instrumental in leading Mexico's final push towards victory against the Spanish army during the wars of independence. He was proclaimed Emperor Augustin I on May 19, 1822, and crowned on July 21 at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City. Augustin's wife, Ana Maria de Huarte, was likewise crowned as his empress consort. 

The reign of Augustin I proved short and unstable. Severe economic strain, the withholding of political recognition from a number of foreign powers, and competing factions within the country made life difficult for the emperor. After less than a year on the throne, Emperor Augustin decided to abdicate on March 19, 1823. The imperial family went into exile, but the following year Augustin returned and unsuccessfully attempted to retake control of Mexico. He was captured and executed on July 19, 1824.