Sixty-five years ago today, Great Britain’s King George VI died at the age of 56. The King is dead, long live the Queen.
George VI’s daughter became Queen Elizabeth II. My mother clipped and saved newspaper articles about those events. These are just a few from her scrapbooks. Click on the images for a larger view.
From George VI to Elizabeth II
In Canada, as in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth, changes had to be made.
And there were tributes to the late King. The photo below is of one in Tillsonburg ON. My grandparents, Charley and Minnie Burwell, are there – at the bottom left.
Three Queens and a King
When George VI died, Elizabeth became the only reigning monarch. But she was one of three women in England called Queen. The others were Queen Elizabeth, widow of King George VI, and Queen Mary, his mother and widow of George V.
Present also was a king of Great Britain, one who abdicated. The Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward VIII, attended the funeral of his brother and successor. (See The King and Us Feb 16, 2011)
What didn’t happen
George VI had made plans for a “health cruise” to South Africa. His daughter Elizabeth was to represent him on a planned tour to Australia and New Zealand. While they were gone, his younger brother Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester would take care of royal matters at home. But none of it happened, due to the King’s death.Another might-have-been in the Duke’s family was a Royal wedding. His niece, Princess Margaret, and his wife’s nephew were an item for a time. But it didn’t happen.
Happy anniversary, Elizabeth and Philip. November 20th marks 69 years since their wedding. Four children, 8 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren. Three heirs apparent to the British throne – son, grandson, great-grandson.
On November 20, 1947 a Princess married her prince. Her prince was a Royal Navy Lieutenant and somewhere in line for the shaky throne of Greece. She was heir to the British throne.
So that Philip would have British royal credentials, the bride’s father conferred HRH status on him, then titles. On his wedding day, Philip became HRH Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. In 1957 his wife, then Queen, made him a Prince of the United Kingdom.
Their wedding was the first big royal event after World War II. Six years of war had exhausted the British people and British resources. A news clipping (CP Nov. 19, 1947) my mother kept says British china manufacturers “can’t spare the time or the materials” to make wedding collectibles. The Royals and government knew, however, that after years of privation the nation wanted to enjoy something beautiful. So lavish, but not too lavish.
Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding scrapbook
Every step of the wedding planning was reported. Everyone, I imagine, followed along as if they were in the wedding party. My mother did. She made a scrapbook called “Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding”. I took the clippings here from it.
At the time, she lived in a farmhouse north of Belmont in southwestern Ontario. Dad drove a milk truck and installed glass. Mom looked after two small children. The people who owned the farm and their animals provided her only regular company. Dad worked long hours. Mom was home alone a lot.
So in 1947 Mom spent a lot of time, I think, reading about the upcoming wedding. Dad would have been interested too. He had a soft spot for Princess Elizabeth. She had signed up for service during the war, she knew how to strip down an engine and rebuild it – that meant a lot to him. A mechanic in the RCEME, he worked on those same engines in the UK at the same time.
Elizabeth and Philip had five years of what passes as ordinary life for royals. He continued in the Navy. They had two babies. Then five years later, her father died. Everything changed for her and Philip.
She became Queen Elizabeth II. He became first and foremost the Queen’s husband. Two more children. Nearly seven decades after that wedding, Elizabeth and Philip are still cutting ribbons and unveiling plaques. They are the foundation of a Royal Family that, despite predictions of its demise and its own drama and trauma, seems to be going strong. Long may they live.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb are pen name mysteries by famous authors I’ve never read. Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rawling of Harry Potter fame and J. D. Robb is the romance writer Nora Roberts. Both books, I think, are excellent.
The Cuckoo’s Calling introduces Cormoran Strike, private investigator. He has had a recent run of bad luck in business and love. Then he gets a new case. It promises to pay well, but seems to him to be more a matter of reassuring his client than of investigating a murder. It looks like an open and shut case of a London celebrity suicide. But is it? Or is a murderer hiding in plain sight? With his office temp, Robin, he gets drawn into a sad, tangled story of fame and envy, money and family.
Despite the sadness of Cuckoo’s central story, you still feel cozy in Cormoran’s office looking out on a wet and wintry London. Despite the nastiness of some of the characters, you feel sympathy toward them.
In Devoted in Death, you never feel cozy nor inclined toward understanding the reasons for murder. You see right off the bat who dun it, and why. You then follow the action and the thinking by police lieutenant Eve Dallas and her detectives as they figure it out. The plot is grisly and twisted enough to make a good episode of Criminal Minds.
It takes place in New York City in 2061. I’m not a big science fiction fan, but this setting is ok. There are some technologies that we, to my knowledge, do not have at the present time. And that is kind of neat to think about. But it doesn’t get in the way of the story.
Some aspects of American society maybe are eternal, one being the disconnect between NYC and the ‘flyover zone’. An Arkansas deputy in the city for the first time expresses his awe: “That kicks the cow in the ass.” That line alone made the book worth reading.
The edition that I have is labelled ‘romantic suspense’. I don’t know why. There is suspense but no more ‘romance’ than in any other genre mystery. The book includes the protagonists’ lives outside the investigation, but not overwhelmingly so. The book is suspenseful, yes, but romantic, no.
In their different ways, English versus American most obviously, both books engaged me right from the start. I may now seek out books written under the authors’ real names to see how they differ. For sure I want to read more of their pen name mysteries.
Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday today. My mother, two years older, grew up with the Queen. From her teen years to adulthood, Mom kept scrapbooks about the Queen’s life. Clippings carefully pasted in, over-filling the large pages. There was a lot of news about the Royals. Thanks to Mom, I have a pretty good record of their lives.
Mom’s scrapbooks weren’t purpose-built for a Royalty collection. But there were those, I discovered in a second-hand shop in Sussex. Scrapbooks exactly like Mom’s but with a full-page image of the Queen on the cover. Mom wasn’t the only person with the mission of keeping a record of the Queen’s life.
Probably mainly young women, entranced by the fairy tale aspects of Elizabeth and Margaret, the two beautiful young princesses. Princesses who as children had thought they’d always be in the choir of the royal family, not among the soloists.
That changed in 1936, when their Uncle David abdicated. Their father, the next eldest son, went from Duke of York to King George VI. Princess Elizabeth, being his first born, would wear the crown after him – in time, many years down the road.
In the meantime, she could have a life a bit outside the limelight. She married at the age of 21, two years after World War II ended, and had children. Her naval officer husband was stationed in Malta, so they lived there for a time.
Her life had parallels with the lives of women like my mother. A WWII veteran husband, two baby boom children, making a new home while keeping close with parents and family. In the magazines, you saw a beautiful young woman, impish children, handsome husband, a dog or two. A privileged version of the post-war, post-Depression life shared, or aspired to, by many.
It all changed, too soon, for her. George VI died in 1952 at the age of 56. Three bereaved Queens shrouded in black – mother, wife and daughter. The daughter now the reigning monarch.
For 64 years now, she has been Queen. We still see photographs of her and her family in magazines and social media. We know quite a lot of detail about the lives of her children and grandchildren, but we actually know very little about Queen Elizabeth. Her life has been such a part of our history and our geography that she is familiar to us. We feel like we know her, much the same, I think, as my mother felt about her when they were both young girls.
Among the bodies found after Titanic sank was that of a woman, clinging to the body of a Great Dane. Ann Elizabeth Isham had a seat in a lifeboat but was told her dog was too big to come with her. So she jumped back on board the ship. They drowned together.
This is one of the stories told in a current exhibit about the people and dogs of Titanic at the Widener University Art Gallery in Chester PA. There were at least twelve dogs on board. Three survived. Small dogs, they were carried in bags or wrapped in blankets and, held on laps, they didn’t take extra space. Astonishingly, a Pomeranian was refused entry on the rescue ship Carpathia. That, after he and his mistress had survived the night on a lifeboat. Mrs. Martin Rothschild raised such a fuss that her little dog was allowed to board.
Dogs were 1st class passengers while cats were crew, on mousing detail. There is a story that one cat saved a man as well as herself and her kittens. She was on board from Belfast to Southampton where she disembarked, carrying her kittens off one by one. A man, debating whether to seek continued work on the ship’s journey, saw the cat leave and decided he too should stay ashore.
The tale of the Titanic is filled with happenstance, loyalty and sacrifice. Ida Straus was in a lifeboat when she realized her octogenarian husband wasn’t allowed on. “Where he goes, I go” she said and stepped back on the ship. They died together.
Quebec Shamrock hockey player Quigg Baxter was on board with his mother and sister and, without their knowledge, so was his girlfriend Berthe Mayné, a Belgian cabaret singer. He introduced Berthe to his mother and sister as he put her in the lifeboat with them. He drowned. Berthe later returned to Belgium and told stories of her doomed Canadian beau but nobody in her family believed her. After her death, they found a small box filled with photos of Quigg and his love letters to her.
A Canadian businessman, Capt. Arthur Peuchen, survived but later wished he hadn’t. A yachtsman, he got on a lifeboat with women and children to safely row it away. Back in Toronto, he was scorned for having survived. He retreated to a logging camp and horse farm in Alberta, haunted by survivor guilt. He died in 1929, a double survivor I think; of Titanic, then of societal opprobrium.
Titanic 100 years later
The Titanic specials for the 100th anniversary taught me a lot about the ship and our folklore about her. The hubris believed to be shown by the claim that she was unsinkable: the Captain and ship designers never said that, only the media did. The image of frivolity we see in the band playing as the ship listed and sunk: those musicians willingly gave their lives, knowing the value of music to keep others calm and provide solace for those facing death. Engineers accepted death to stay below trying to save the ship, then just to delay the sinking to save as many other lives as possible. The Captain hadn’t run her at full speed. He knew the danger of icebergs. On his final voyage before retirement, he went down with his ship.
Unfortunate timing of events coupled with miscommunication led to the disaster. The errors were not having enough lifeboats and not enough practice at loading those they had. But, faced with disaster, people did the best they could. I hope Titanic is protected effectively now and left as the burial ground she is. Let her remain a testament to the power of the sea and the sacrifice of so many.
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Apr. 19, 2012 (2 comments below)
My hanging out in Manchester buddy died yesterday. Tony Warren, creator of Coronation Street and my accidental tour guide, died at the age of 79.
One day, a long time ago, Tony Warren and I walked from Granada Studios to the city centre of Manchester. He took me around his city. It wasn’t planned. We went to a nearby shop for cigarettes and just kept going.
I was interviewing him for a radio documentary on Coronation Street. We sat on a bench in the lobby of Granada House. I had my tape recorder running and he told me about the beginning of the show. It was a tale he’d told before, but he made it fresh-sounding and interesting. Great for radio.
As I listened, in my head I was intercutting what he was saying with an earlier interview I’d done with original Coronation Street producer Harry Elton. I knew the two voices, both good at storytelling and telling the same story, would play beautifully off each other. Tony liked that idea, putting together the two founding fathers of a British institution. Both had often told the story of the show’s start in 1960 and both referenced the other, of course. But with one in England and the other in Canada, the two halves were not often in the same telling.
We sat in the lobby way longer than the half hour he had allotted me. Granada closed for the day, with only a security guard there to let us out. We had smoked almost all the cigarettes we had between us, so he said let’s go, there’s a shop just up the road.
Out to the main road and back toward the city. We stopped at a corner store and stocked up on smokes, then kept walking. A pub stop, more walking, then dinner at a Chinese restaurant where signed photos of Coronation Street stars decorated the walls and staff greeted Tony like a long-time family friend.
Talk about the early days of the show, and about the years he spent trying to get away from it. In Amsterdam, turning on the tv and Coronation Street being on. Turning the tv off. On a London bus, overhearing the passengers in front of him talking about what had happened in last night’s episode. Trying to read analyses of Coronation Street that gave it social significance he had not imagined possible. “You’re not doing one of those, are you?” He wouldn’t tell me which books, but I’d hazard a guess at some he was talking about.
He’d moved into novel writing, about Manchester and entertainment. The same topics he’d loved since he was a young man, starting a writing career. He’d also come to terms to being defined by Coronation Street, and he was justifiably proud of the city he’d created within his city. Thank you, Tony Warren.
There is a Burwell family in southwestern Ontario and one in Virginia. No one is sure if they’re related. I wonder if the link might be through Burwells in Connecticut.
The Ontario Burwells are United Empire Loyalists. Fighting for the losing side in the American Revolution, they fled New Jersey north to still-British Canada. The Virginia Burwells fought on the American side. In the War of 1812, the two again fought on opposite sides. In the American Civil War, the Virginia Burwells, plantation owners, fought on the Confederate side.
An obituary of James Burwell of Fingal says he was grandson to John Burwell “who removed from James Town, Virginia, in the year 1721, a relative of the extensive family of Burwells in that county.” A relative. Speculation has been that John Burwell was the son of Lewis Burwell Jr. and Martha Lear.
I suggest that John and Lewis Jr. were 3rd cousins twice removed, related through two cousins in England. One cousin, John’s great-great-grandfather, came to Connecticut. The other died in England but his widow and son Lewis (Sr.) moved to Virginia. Molly’s Burwell Family webpage has Samuel Burwell of Connecticut as John’s father. From this, I found what seems like a feasible line back to England and thus to the Virginia line.
The story of the Virginia Burwells is like Gone with the Wind with spin-offs. There are two Burwells I will write more about. They are on the bottom right side of my chart.
Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell Puller is descended from Lewis Burwell V. Nicknamed Chesty, he was the most-decorated Marine in US history. Wikipedia says he is a distant cousin of Gen. George S. Patton. I haven’t looked into that, but it sounds like they were spiritual kin if not actual. A quote attributed to Lt. Gen. Chesty is: “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem.” The Marine Corps Bulldog mascot is named after him.
George “William” Kirkland is a descendant of Armistead Burwell, Lewis’ brother. First known as “Garland’s George,” he enlisted as “William Kirkland” in the Union Army during the Civil War. He died in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri. He was born into slavery, son of Elizabeth Keckley. She was owned and fathered by Armistead Burwell. She was later given to Anne, Armistead’s legitimate daughter, who married Hugh Garland of North Carolina. Andrew Kirkland, friend of the Garlands, fathered Elizabeth’s son George. Elizabeth bought emancipation for herself and her son. She then set up a dressmaking business in Washington DC and became friends with Mary Todd Lincoln. She wrote a memoir entitled Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in The White House.
Comments, corrections and additional information are welcome.
The first British royal Charlotte was George III’s queen. She is best known as the founder of London’s Kew Gardens and for perhaps having black ancestry. Born in Germany in 1744, fifteen generations back in her family tree is King Alfonso III of Portugal and his mistress Madragana of Faro in Algarve, described as a “Moor”.
Charlotte and George III had fifteen children. Their fourth child was Charlotte Augusta Matilda, Princess Royal. She married Prince Frederick of Württemberg and in 1806 became Queen of Württemberg.
Their eldest, and heir, was George. At age 23, he secretly married a Catholic widow, Maria Fitzherbert. The marriage was not legal. He had children with her and other women, but none could be his heir.
Princess Charlotte, heir to the throne
A “suitable” wife, Caroline of Brunswick, was chosen for him. An heir, Princess Charlotte Augusta, was born in 1796. George and Caroline separated soon after. George became Prince Regent in 1810, taking over from his father whose mental illness had incapacitated him.
Seven years later, at the age of 21, Princess Charlotte died in childbirth.* George III and Queen Charlotte had many other grandchildren but all were illegitimate. With the Prince Regent unable to divorce and unwilling to share a bed with wife Caroline, he would have no more legitimate heirs. His brothers were hurriedly married off so there might be an heir and some spares.
George, Prince Regent became George IV in 1820. Next in line was his brother William, Duke of Clarence. But William lived with an actress Dorothy Jordan and their ten children. In return for his debts being paid and the promise of the throne, however, William agreed to leave his Fitzclarence kids and their mother.
He married Adelaide of Saxe-Meingenen. Their first daughter, Charlotte Augusta, lived only one day. A second daughter lived four days. William IV reigned seven years, until 1837. His heir was Princess Victoria, daughter of the next eldest brother, the late Edward Duke of Kent, and his wife Victoria of Saxe-Coburg.
When Victoria was born in 1819, the Prince Regent said no to the names Charlotte, Augusta and Georgiana, all closely associated with the crown. He agreed to Alexandrina, after her godfather Tsar Alexander I, and Victoria, after her mother.
Victoria became queen one month after turning 18. After three kings in three decades, she reigned for 63 years. She named one of her five daughters Augusta, but none Charlotte.
Victoria’s younger cousin got all the royal names, however. Princess Augusta Caroline Charlotte Elizabeth Mary Sophia Louisa of Cambridge was the daughter of George III’s seventh son Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. The title passed to Augusta’s brother George, the last to hold it until the present Prince William. Princess Augusta died in 1916 aged 94. During preparations for Edward VII’s coronation in 1902, she was called upon for advice. She was the only person in royal circles who could remember not only Queen Victoria’s coronation but also King William IV’s.
*Charlotte’s widower, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, later married Louise-Marie, daughter of the future King Louis-Phillippe of France. They named their first daughter Charlotte in honour of Leopold’s first wife. She became Empress Carlota, married to Maximillian of Mexico. Her brother became Leopold II of Belgium, inheriting the throne from his father.
May 8th 1945, Victory in Europe Day, marked the end of one part of World War II. War with Japan continued until two atomic bombs were dropped in July. Japan signed a formal surrender on September 2nd.
My mother was on Dundas Street East in London Ont. on VE Day. She said when the news spread, everyone ran into the street screaming, laughing, hugging anyone at hand. They stayed outside for hours, revelling in the knowledge that the war was over. Bluebirds were flying over the white cliffs of Dover, the boys were coming home.
VE Day meant coming home
Coming home took time. Dad’s official discharge papers are stamped November 28th 1945, Wolseley Barracks, London Ontario. My mother and her parents met him. My 3½ year old brother was in his grandpa’s arms. He didn’t know the man they all were hugging and kissing and crying over. But he connected the name with the daddy he’d been told about. He slithered, Mom said, across from Grandpa’s arms to Dad’s.
My parents knew they had been luckier than others in the war and the post-war adjustment. Mom was happy to stop restaurant and factory work and stay home with her child. Dad had spent his war working on army vehicles in England and Scotland. At home, he worked on civilian vehicles. They made their contribution to the Baby Boom. The war receded into the background, never forgotten but not active in their lives.
Decades later, Mom found an undeveloped film in a drawer. It wasn’t one of hers. From the printing on it, she saw it was from the UK. She realized it was Dad’s from the war. So she was a bit nervous about getting it developed. So was he, I think. What would be on the pictures? Soldiers. Some of them he hadn’t seen since.
VJ Day – war is over
My parents-in-law survived it too. They had to wait until VJ Day for it to be over. Bill was a pilot in the US Army Airforce. A blast to his eardrum during training put an end to his hopes to be a fighter pilot. Instead he flew transport planes, cargo and people. Some of his passengers, near the end of the war, were survivors from POW camps and Buchenwald, a concentration camp.
He came home to Kentucky in August 1945. He brought gifts from Paris for a girl he had met when home on leave in 1944. One was a gold sequinned Juliet cap. She wore it at their wedding three months later.
Today marks a bizarre incident in Canadian history. Irish-Americans invaded Canada, planning to hold it hostage as leverage to end British rule in Ireland. My family’s farmhouse was smack-dab in the middle of what became known as the Battle of Ridgeway. Reading about it, the threads I picked up led far into North American and Anglo-British political and cultural history.
June 2, 1866, soldiers of the US-based Fenian Brotherhood met Canadian militia at a limestone ridge near Ridgeway west of Fort Erie, Ontario. It was a kind of “who’s on first?” fight. The Canadians had no horses to pull ammunition wagons so only had what they could carry. The Fenians had dumped much of their ammunition because it had got too heavy after a day of carrying it all. Information and communication on both sides were misinterpreted, resulting in costly mistakes.
The Fenians were American Civil War veterans, straight from battle. The Canadians were volunteer part-time militia who had never seen action. Due to budget constraints, many had never fired a live round.
At the end of the day, both sides had dead and wounded. The Fenians, who wanted to move west, were pushed back east to Fort Erie. But then the Canadians retreated. The Fenians celebrated their victory and planned their next move. And then they saw US gunboats in the Niagara River pointed at them. American and Canadian authorities picked them up and imprisoned them briefly.
“We are the Fenian Brotherhood, skilled in the arts of war. And we’re going to fight for Ireland, the land we adore. Many battles we have won, along with the boys in blue. And we’ll go and capture Canada, for we’ve nothing else to do.”
Their marching song pretty much explains the Fenians. They had finished fighting in the Union Army just a year before. While the country tried to pick up the pieces after the devastation of the Civil War and President Lincoln’s assassination, the Irish-Americans were looking at the troubles in the homeland they had been forced to leave. The US government knew the Fenian plan but ignored it until the last minute. Their action might provide leverage for US negotiations with Britain as well. Indeed, on June 6, Britain paid the US $15 million for war damages caused by its commerce with the Confederacy and the US enacted laws to stop acts of aggression from within its borders.
In Britain, they downplayed it because technically it was a British military loss to the Irish, the first in over 100 years. In Ireland, they celebrated it for the same reason. Fifty years later in Ireland, the name of the Fenian Brotherhood’s invading force was resurrected: the Irish Republican Army.
In Canada, the government downplayed the battle because it was a military loss with significant casualties. At the same time, they were debating confederation of the four provinces. That spring’s Fenian campaign of raids (in New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario) convinced enough people that, individually, each was more vulnerable than if they united. In 1867 the vote was for Confederation. That same year, Alexander Muir, a veteran of Ridgeway wrote The Maple Leaf Forever, long an unofficial anthem.
The date of the battle was chosen in 1890 as Decoration Day, commemorating Canada’s war dead. That stood until 1931 when November 11th replaced it as Remembrance Day. The date and story of the Battle of Ridgeway faded into obscurity.
The Anger house, at the corner of Ridge and Bertie roads, holds its memories of that day. The shed that served as a field hospital still stands and the brickwork of the house is scarred by bullet holes.
For more, see Peter Vronsky’sRidgeway (left), or an introduction by him at fenians.org. Other good accounts are: