Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1854
Royal weddings today are all about the beautiful dress, the surprising hats, the ride in the carriage, the flowers, and the kiss on the balcony. Even before television and cell phones, the public nature of a royal wedding captured the attention of people all over the world. But did it matter after the grand celebration was over?
At certain points in history, the marriages of royal family members shifted the course of the monarchy and strengthened its place. Historian and author Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger, former manager of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library, examines four marriages that influenced the evolution and existence of English and British monarchy, from the 14th century to today.
10–11:15 a.m. Edward III and Philippa of Hainault: A Great Marriage of the Middle Ages
The union between Edward, heir to the English throne, and Philippa, daughter of European Count Hainault, was a financial necessity at the time. The English monarchy was in disarray after the controversies of Edward II’s reign. Prince Edward came to the throne at age 14 following a coup led by his mother. Explore how Edward and Philippa turned a political marriage between strangers into one of the most popular and successful marriages of the Middle Ages.
11:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York: Establishing the Tudor Dynasty
Henry Tudor came to the throne by defeating Richard III on the battlefield. With a disputed claim to the crown, he needed the support of Yorkists and an alliance with the Yorkist heir. Lloyd-Stanger considers how Henry’s marriage to Elizabeth of York evolved from a political match into a genuinely happy marriage, and how together they established one of the most important dynasties of English history.
12:45–1:15 p.m. Break
1:15–2:30 p.m. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert: The International Power Couple
Victoria came to the throne in June 1837 at just 18 years old and married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha less than three years later. She was certainly in love with Albert, and when he died in December 1861, she was devastated. Trace the long-term impact of this union as Victoria continued to implement Albert’s plan to create an empire of family marriages across Europe and much of the world.
2:45–4 p.m. Bertie and Elizabeth: The Family and the Future of the Monarchy
King Edward VIII had many affairs with married women while Prince of Wales, and by the time he became king was unwilling to give up his current love, the married Wallis Simpson. Ultimately, he abdicated the throne, plunging the monarchy into chaos.
Lloyd-Stanger contrasts Edward VIII’s reputation with that of his brother, who as King George VI restored the reputation of the monarchy with the help of his wife Queen Elizabeth and their two young daughters. She also looks at how George and Elizabeth led the nation through World War II and made the monarchy more popular than ever before.