Richard Shannon

Richard Shannon is Professor of Modern History at Swansea. The first volume of his biography of Gladstone has recently been reissued in paperback.

The Coburg Connection

Richard Shannon, 5 April 1984

There have been only four consorts (counting the present incumbent) of reigning English queens. The role is awkward: a ‘lot high and brilliant’, as Prince Albert himself put it, ‘but also plentifully strewn with thorns’. Other states make (or made) sensible provision either to avoid the inherent difficulties or to accommodate them. Most dynasties adopted the so-called ‘Salic’ law of succession among males only. There have been no reigning French queens. The effort by the German Emperor Charles VI, the last male Habsburg, to arrange for his younger daughter to succeed to his hereditary lands led to Europe’s a being turned upside down. Others – the Iberians notably – allowed female succession and fulfilled the logic by granting male consorts equal title and status. The English, characteristically, dodged the issue and defied all logic. The English system consists in essence of allowing female succession (in preference indeed to agnate males) but of hoping against hope that there will be no occasions of it. The first two occasions offered dismal precedents. Mary I’s consort, King Philip of Spain, was dangerously powerful in his own right, and only Mary’s barrenness saved England from becoming yet another component of the Habsburg Empire. Her half-sister, Elizabeth I, avoided the problem by avoiding matrimony altogether. Anne’s consort, the dim Prince George of Denmark, confined himself largely to trying (and failing) to provide a successor to the Stuart crown.–

Nearly everyone is happy with the Press Complaints Commission except people with complaints about the press. Governments like it because it provides them with a handy bolthole whenever demands to...

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Prime Ministers’ Pets

Robert Blake, 10 January 1983

In reviewing the Gladstone Diaries and the Disraeli Letters I must declare an interest. I am chairman of the committee which superintends the publication of the former and one of the research...

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