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Messages - mcdnab

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Just a few more thoughts:

Though I suspect that all sides will never really agree.

I would say one thing that I think we should all really accept - Nicholas II was the arbiter of his own fate and as the situation worsened he failed to listen or to act on the advice of some of those closest to him in order to save his country and his dynasty from the abyss.

Of course the ultimate responsibility for his death lies with the men who killed him and his fellow countrymen who allowed it to happen and blaming George V won't change it - it also seems rather unfair given the long list of other reigning relatives who escape criticism despite doing nothing much either.

Nicholas II was a nice chap called to do a job he wasn't really suited for made worse by his choice of wife.

To respond to this:

"It's MHO that one of the foremost duties of a consititutional monarch, as George V was, is to set a moral example to his nation. It is thus also my opinion that George V, by refusing to give aid to his kin,  initiated the British Royal family's descent to its present insignificance."

No the duty of a constitutional monarch is to preserve the constitution, the state and its institutions - to do your duty and to uphold your coronation oath and to serve your country to the best of your abilities - the morality comes from doing that well.
Unlike many of his own family and many of his foreign royal relations he actually proved himself pretty capable of getting on with most of his government ministers of all political persuasions despite some of their views and opinions being anathema to a staunch traditionalist like George. George V did give a great deal of aid to many of those relations that lost out in the aftermath of the First World War including financial support to the exiled Queen of Spain and to the mother and sister of Nicholas II for example (all of which continued long after his death).

It is probably true that had he taken in the Romanovs it was unlikely he would have been toppled in some socialist revolution - but it might have dented his popularity or more importantly the popularity of the institution that is the British Monarchy.
And maintaining that wasn't about his vanity it was about surviving as a constitutional monarch during a war that was going badly against countries that were ruled by your close relatives - if you are not seen as doing a good job, caring for your subjects etc when you have virtually no political power people will of course ask what is the point of them or are they really on our side.
Duty to the state, to the monarchy, before his personal feelings was his mantra if you like and the reason why his wife found their son's decision to abdicate to pursue his personal desires completely shocking.

The moral monarchy idea is a bit of a 19th/ 20th century myth based largely on the rather dull and respectable family life of Victoria, George V and his second son George VI as compared to the rather more flashy lifestyles of Edward VII and Edward VIII - it is also in part an inherited approach based on Prince Albert's view that the monarchy's best chances of survival were a) exporting British liberalism and ideas through the marriages of his daughters especially that of the Princess Royal (which of course failed) and b) Respectability, a happy family life (whether real or not) aping the so-called respectable behaviour of the growing British middle class in contrast to the rather more louche behaviour of the aristocracy.

George's morality effectively meant he was faithful to his wife and led a rather quiet private life - that is what he was admired for by many of his subjects.

How a decision he made that was largely hidden from the public for decades could have prompted his family and descendants "decline into insignificance" is rather beyond me and of course ignores the fact that his son George VI and his consort gave incredible leadership (in his case at great personal cost) throughout their lives and that his granddaughter remains highly regarded and hugely popular. If anything George V was the man that prompted the monarchy to adapt in order to survive in a changing world.

He changed his mind based on his own (and more importantly Stamfordham's) assessment of the situation and even if he had not changed his mind the chances of the family actually getting out of Russia (given the situation facing the provisional government) was still pretty remote and again I would remind everyone that the existing documentation is pretty clear that the King's cold feet were pretty much matched by the cold feet of the provisional government.

A final point - George V's post-death reputation has suffered by and large because we now all know that in private he was an extremely difficult individual in terms of his relationship with his sons, he was a bit of a domestic tyrant, very badly educated and rigid in his opinions and views - in private not I suspect a very likable man and therefore an easy target for blame. His public reputation however was pretty good because he was seen as a "good" King.

Did he show any remorse or regret it - well publicly there is little to state either way though I am sure privately he may have been as upset at what happened as we know his mother and sister were we simply can't know - but ultimately Nicholas II was not his responsibility and I am sure he could justify his decision to him self.

I have responded to this kind of discussion before so apologies for any repetition.
It is useful to remember that Nicholas II and his wife made little real effort themselves to leave Russia and showed little desire to do so - worse, in my opinion, is that they refused offers to take the children out of the country via Finland in the granted brief window it might have been possible. We know that Nicholas II was warned not to return to the capital after his abdication and to travel abroad immediately for example.
It is also worth noting that the reality was that the Provisional Government also did very little to aid in the family leaving Russia or to make efforts to find a solution of what to do with the former Emperor.

The British offer of asylum was made by the UK Government of Lloyd George AT THE REQUEST of the Provisional Government. Lloyd George believed that he was acting in the best interests of the allies. It is important to note that the British Government was not acting out of loyalty to a former ally (the Emperor) but trying to appease and help the Russian provisional government.
Most allied governments welcomed the Czar's abdication - his poor credentials to the "liberal" governments of Western Europe as a "despot" had been compounded as he failed to control his rapidly collapsing government. Ironically the Republican French press was kinder to him after his fall than the British.
Britain was fiercely anti Russian throughout the 19th Century - despite the personal family ties between the two royal families - British politicians had a notoriously anti russian streak - mainly because Russia was seen as a threat to British interests in the Eastern Med and to her Indian Empire and many welcomed the collapse of the Russian Empire because it removed a stumbling block to Britain's imperial interests. That made the offer of sanctuary politically even more sensitive.

Also whilst George's personal relationship with his Russian cousins was good even he however was less tolerant of the Empress recording in his diary that she had been "very foolish".

In 1917 George V was facing a press and left wing politicians that widely welcomed his cousin's abdication - the Labour Party and the trade unions were celebrating the fall of "bloody Nicholas" and his "german Empress" and were protesting at any offer of asylum - in fact the Coalition Government had to deny that any offer had been made in Parliament.  The timing was appalling for George on a personal level - he and his government were aware that events in Russia had given hope to numerous groups in the UK who wanted to see more radical change in British political and social life. Because the British Throne is always seen as relatively safe we tend to assume that George might have worried unnecessarily about the threat to his own position of being too closely linked to his cousin but he had to do so and to not do so would have been a dereliction of his Coronation Oath.

Kerensky's own comments on the offer made in exile have always had the air of a man equally keen to absolve himself of any guilt for their ultimate fate preferring instead to blame Lloyd George.

The key for me is that the Provisional Government failed to act to facilitate the family leaving Russia before the British offer began to wither on the vine and was withdrawn. If Kerensky was so desperate to save them then why not request asylum from Sweden or Denmark - both neutral - and much easier to get to during war conditions. If he'd been that desperate he could have sent them to Finland where they could have easily crossed into Sweden.

Here's the communication between official channels:
18 March 1917 Asylum for Imperial Family in enquiry to British Government from the Russian Foreign Minister
21 March 1917 Kings telegram offering asylum
22 March 1917 War cabinet approval of offer is confirmed
23 March 1917  Telegram concerning the provisional invitation to the Tsar to come to England
24 March 1917  Telegram concerning request to Russian government to give Tsar safe conduct for departure to England
26th March 1917 Foreign Office learnt that  King's telegram not delivered to Tsar through fear of misinterpretation
28th March 1917 Thanks conveyed from Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs at being asked to cancel King's telegram

Letters from the King's private secretary expressing concern at the invitation begin at the end of March by the 17th April he was expressing a strong view the invitation to the Czar not be taken up, by the 22nd of April there is relief from the King that the matter has been dropped.
Lets also remember that the Provisional Government were under pressure to keep Nicholas in Russia as Maurice Paleologue noted in his diary..
Saturday, March 24, 1917.
The Soviet has heard that the King of England is offering the Emperor and Empress the hospitality of British territory. At the bidding of the "Maximalists" the Provisional Government has had to pledge its word to keep the fallen sovereigns in Russia. The Soviet has gone further and appointed a commissary to "supervise the detention of the imperial family."
The Soviet had also criticised the government for not detaining the Dowager Empress and others.

The Czar's family went to the Urals in August 1917 on Kerensky's orders to try and ensure their safety (or so he always maintained) - of course in April and May 1918 they were moved to Ekaterinburg where they were killed in the July.  

George V was a constitutional or more correctly a parliamentary monarch (something incidentally derided by both his autocratic cousins Nicholas II and William II).  He decided in 1917 without the benefit of hindsight to stick to his own coronation oath and put the safety of his own country and own throne before personal and family considerations.  Its that decision that lead him in the same year to reject his german names and titles and also more reluctantly to sign the Titles Deprivation Act which he personally wasn't that happy about and the effect it had on other cousins who before the war he had a warm relationship with.

I don't really think people fully appreciate what a disaster for George V intervening to bring his cousin to England might have been. The last state visit by a British Monarch to Russia was Edward VII's in 1908 when he hosted the Imperial Family on the royal yacht. Ramsey MacDonald, labour leader at the time and a future PM, called the Tsar a common murder and accussed the King of hobnobbing with a blood stained killer. That view was common not just on the left but in the Liberal Party as well. George V had pretty good instincts when he got cold feet about the offer.

Having Fun! / Re: Things that annoy you because you're a Romanov fan
« on: April 05, 2016, 10:42:52 AM »
I wonder if it is a translation mistake - older first cousins once or twice removed were i read often referred to as Aunt or Uncle - for example Olga Alexandrovna referred to the Queen of Greece (Olga Constantinovna) as Aunt though she was also her godmother (and first cousin of her father Alexander III)

She first came to tv prominence because she was curator of historic royal palaces and was responsible for the massive refurbishment of the royal apartments at Kensington Palace.
Numerous tv shows followed - she is currently one of a handful of presenters that are the go to for this kind of series for a reason - she is entertaining and informative without being over technical - in other words the programmes are easy to watch if you have very little or no knowledge. They are designed for those kind of people. The stuff on the early Romanov's perhaps skirted the subject but for most Western viewers the real interest is Peter, Catherine and the end of the dynasty - and I thought the Peter stuff was rather well done - the beard pulling was an easy way to illustrate the europeanisation Peter wanted.

I watched the first one and enjoyed it but it is clearly intended as an introduction to the subject - will be more interested in the Catherine the Great one which to be fair probably will offer more given the mass of surviving buildings and art from her reign.
On the german issue - to be honest the Romanov's themselves were rather reluctant to have their germanness emphasised - didn't the Gotha go to the Alexander Palace every year for corrections with the dynasty styled correctly as Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov and was returned with the Holstein-Gottorp crossed out only to be reinserted by the Gotha.

The Windsors / Re: Duke and Duchess of Windsor Part 2
« on: October 14, 2015, 08:41:23 AM »
I have never thought much of the allegations - Edward in particular was far more concerned with keeping up appearances and the status of his wife and as he grew older denigrating his British relations who he blamed for the idle and rather boring life he was forced to live and what he viewed as their calculated and deliberate slurs heaped upon his wife.

During the mid 1930s a significant proportion of British society were sympathetic to Hitler for a number of reasons 1) a genuine horror of a second war particularly as many had seen action or lost friends and relatives 2) a politically naive view of Hitler as a man dragging his country back from the brink 3) a fear however groundless of the threat of communism 4) people who genuinely thought Germany had been given a raw deal at Versailles

There were of course those who were also attracted by the anti-semitism of the Nazi's and those who loathed him but were so strongly anti-war they would tolerate almost anything.

Many of those people were part of the society that circled around both the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of York (who were exceptionally pro-appeasement a point often ignored)

Edward in particular had seen some of the horrors of the trenches as Prince of Wales during WWI and he had very happy memories of his visit to Germany shortly before the war when he stayed with his mother's relatives in Mecklenburg Strelitz. He was well known as someone committed to peace and was considered pro-German (which is not necessarily the same as pro-Nazi)

Mrs Simpson had the ear of the Prince of Wales and later the King - she was therefore much in demand in society and because of that unique access was naturally the recipient of overtures and flattery from all sorts of diplomats including people like Von Ribbentrop.

After the abdication Edward found himself cut off from those who might have been able to protect him from making blunders and to be fair some of those (including his disastrous trip to Germany) were also aimed at upsetting his family in England as his resentment of them grew. Naturally such actions made the relationship impossible on both sides.

His actions in World War II, particularly his departure from Paris which infuriated Churchill (who had been a loyal supporter of Edward VIII), and the dubious characters he befriended have not helped his reputation and have added to the view that he and his wife were pro Nazi when in reality everything was always about feeding his need for approval and his need to feel important.

Of course the pro-nazi line is useful for historians keen to explain the abdication as an establishment conspiracy to get rid of a King who was far too nice to the workers (which in itself was odd given how his something must be done comment as widely reported in the press was followed by inaction and spending lavishly on Wallis)

Marie Feodorovna / Re: Marie Feodorovna -  Your Opinion
« on: June 09, 2015, 01:19:28 AM »
Michael's marriage did occupy her and I believe she was not opposed to him marrying Beatrice of Edinburgh - that was down to Nicholas II who absolutely refused permission (as they were first cousins).
I think that was really the last time Michael himself attempted a "suitable match".
Her occupation with the matter also caused a minor scandal when her and Queen Alexandra's gossip on the matter leaked and some papers linked Michael and Princess Patricia of Connaught as on the brink of an engagement (Buckingham Palace had to do the unthinkable and issue a formal denial).

The Windsors / Re: Prince Henry/Prince Harry of Wales
« on: November 24, 2014, 06:16:28 AM »
Yes Clarence does have an unfortunate history attached to it.

Duke of Suffolk was last created in 1551 for Henry Grey son in law of Charles Brandon and father of Lady Jane Grey.
The current Earldom of Suffolk was created for the branch of the Howard family in 1603 and is still extant - it is unlikely that you would in the modern world create a dukedom with the same territorial designation as an existing other title unless it were for the same person.

The title you are thinking of is Sussex i suspect which I mentioned above.

The Windsors / Re: Prince Henry/Prince Harry of Wales
« on: November 24, 2014, 01:40:43 AM »
If Harry marries and has children before the death of his grandmother the Queen then it is likely she will issue Letters Patent stating they will be Prince or Princess of Great Britain etc - (as the eventual grandchildren of a sovereign they will eventually be entitled to that anyway as has been pointed out) - she issued patents stating that all the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would be HRH and Prince or Princess of Great Britain etc - as the 1917 patent only created the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales HRH and if Prince George had been a girl she would merely have been Lady.

The modern habit of creating younger prince's Royal dukes on marriage is in part to avoid their largely non-royal wives having awkward titles and styles or being mis-titled by the press - HRH Princess Edward of GB (HRH The Countess of Wessex), HRH Princess Andrew (HRH The Duchess of York) etc - without the title the press and most of the public would have gone with Princess Sophie or Princess Sarah just as they went with Princess Diana instead of The Princess of Wales.

Title wise there is a bit of a dearth of traditional ones left now - the Earl of Wessex has been promised Edin on his parents death, Gloucester, Kent, Cambridge and York are all in use with only York likely to become extinct but not for several decades.
Of the historical titles y Clarence (which has no strong association with a place) is free and it was last used along with Avondale for Edward VII's eldest son.
Cumberland and Albany are technically available given they are suspended titles but are unlikely on those grounds
Sussex used for one of the son's of George III is free

The Tudors / Re: Richard III remains found & identified
« on: August 05, 2014, 06:05:18 AM »
Hi Janet

My original point was in answer to a post suggesting Richard's northern connections were due to his father's title which of course is not the case.
My other point probably badly expressed is that as a northerner (in fact I live in York) I dislike that the arguement has become a typical north v south exercise.
I find it a bit pointless and negative to be honest and I have no desire to claim Richard as either a northerner/southerner or midlander.
He was an English-man with a strong connection to the north due to a mixture of family connections and where he was based in service to his brother.
Use of a modern phrase such as "born and bred" is simply not applicable for most nobles or royals of the period as they led peripatetic lives and we do not know much about their childhood and infancy.
His parents as you point out had strong northern connections - his mother was probably largely based at Raby during her infancy - but given her parents considerable wealth would have moved around from great castle to great castle throughout her childhood.
His father Richard Duke of York - certainly spent a great deal of his youth in Yorkshire but it is arguable whether he was based at Raby given his guardianship was not awarded to Neville (who had his wardship) and his guardian was based largely in what is now West Yorkshire and he opted to make his principal homes and residences in areas closer to the bulk of his landholdings or where he was needed in service to the crown.

I just dislike because it isn't based on anything other than guess work attributing personal feelings to individuals long-dead particularly given the sparcity of evidence and whilst your response was factual many of the arguements about this issue have devolved into doing just that.
Absolutely he spent much of his adult life in the area and York was the largest civic and religious centre of the area at that period - but the language of grants, favours and patronage that survive use the effusive language of the period which hardly give an indication of someone's real feelings.
I admit showing particular favour to a city or area may well be a sign of affection as you say but it is also a sign of exercising patronage for strategic political purpose especially given the area's previous loyalties.

Richard may well have considered himself "at home" in an area he spent much of his adult life in and seems to have gained local respect in an area without a strong record of support for the House of York but whilst that explains the regard some in the north have for him even today it doesn't give any indication of where he would have wanted himself laid to rest.

No-one disputes Richard is largely seen as a "northern" King but equally I don't think that is a justification for arguing he should not have been reinterred in Leicester close to where he fell.
He buried his wife in Westminster Abbey for example and we don't know where he buried his son though he died at Middleham.
His plans for York Minster are on a par with other endowments he planned elsewhere (specifically at Barnard Castle and at Middleham) so I don't think you can take that as any indication of his personal desires for his own burial.

The Tudors / Re: Richard III remains found & identified
« on: July 22, 2014, 03:13:10 AM »

Few points

Richard was born in the Midlands and spent much of his earlier life following the traditional progression around his parents many estates.
On his brother's accession to the throne he was probably housed with his brother George in and around London - he did not move into Neville's care until the mid 1460s when he was a teenager (almost an adult by the standards of the time)
After the Neville's fall from favour his marriage meant he took control of the Neville's northern holdings and spent much of the 1470s acting as the main focus of Royal power in the North.
Although his father was Duke of York - York itself and much of the area was strongly Lancastrian though the Wars of the Roses and it was only Richard's influence in the 1470s as the main focus of power and patronage in the area that saw it switch its loyalties.
Given his brother's household was largely dominated by people based in the Midlands and South on his accession Richard was forced to rely very heavily on his northern supporters who were already in receipt of his patronage - which gives the added impression of Richard as a "northern" king but in that he had little choice. Had his reign lasted and people came to terms with his rule it is more likely that his household would have become very different over time and less reliant on a small section of geographic support.

As to his funeral and burial
1) York Minster's dean and chapter have made it absolutely clear it did not want to be drawn into the arguements over the burial and had the University of Leicester asked them the likely answer would have been no.
2) Royal burials had been at Westminster until Henry V's in 1422. Edward IV had rebuilt St George's Chapel at Windsor and clearly intended it as his resting place (where he and his wife were both interred). There is no evidence that Richard intended to be buried at York (despite his chantry chapel plans) - he might have preferred St George's or the family's memorial (to their father) chapel at Fotheringhay.
3) Traditionally deposed monarchs or those killed in a battle (as Richard was) were usually buried in a nearby religious institution (as he was given Leiceister didn't have a cathedral at the time).

My own view on this is that at the time of Michael's marriage she might well have thought his behaviour and his timing was inappropriate. My own view is that when commenting in the 1950s when it was more than apparent the relationship had lasted until the revolution and Michael's death whilst retaining her disapproval was acceptable to try and give the impression as she did that she had never even met Michael's wife was a downright lie given there is plenty of photographic evidence that she did and freqeuntly before the marriage.
Xenia seemed more forgiving and perhaps more understanding.

Defender of Faith was granted to Henry VIII by the Papacy for his affirmation of the faith against the teachings of Luther in the early 1520s
It was of course defunct when he was excommunicated after he split from Rome.
The current title is the one granted to the crown in perpetuity by the English Parliament in the 1540s and of course now refers to them as defender of the reformed religion - it is not usually used outside the British Isles (Although I think Canada have retained it within the Canadian royal styles).

A future King or Queen does not just have to be "in communion" with the Church of England they also have by law to swear to preserve and protect the protestant reformed religion on their accession (this oath now only applies to the United Kingdom) the Oath is not always included in the Coronation service (but must happen and usually takes place at the first accession council)

In terms of religion - the main aim of the Act of Settlement was to avoid having a monarch who was spiritually answerable to a higher power on earth (ie the Papacy). It was not just framed through religious prejudice and distrust but tries to answer some problems that even now would affect a Roman Catholic who succeeded to the British throne if they were permitted by law to do so.

The Tudors / Re: Richard III remains found & identified
« on: September 19, 2013, 11:35:51 AM »
It is awful isn't it - and big for a monarch who only ruled for a few years.
Personally i favoured the black slab (it is more in keeping with recent royal burials).
This looks a bit theme park medieval for my tastes

And even if they knew the exact location Westminster Abbey is what is known as a Royal Peculiar unlike most Anglican Cathedrals The Dean is directly answerable to the Sovereign and as in the recent past consent to open tombs (particularly Royal ones) is usually refused.


Very true Lisa
Both the empress and the queen to be honest infantilised their children long into adulthood probably a combination of their devotion to them the pain of losing children young making the surviving ones more precious and both were more devoted to their sons than their daughters - queen Victoria with no sense of irony  given how she treated her daughters was often concerned that Alix and Bertie were reluctant to find husbands for their girls.
Marie F was extremely reluctant to allow Xenia's marriage and Olga's marriage was designed to keep her at Marie's side.
As to Michael the Patsy rumour was apparently the result of Marie and Alix having an indiscreet discussion I think from memory it was after Beatrice was ruled out because of Nicholas saying no  - in fact the rumour ended up being reported as fact prompting formal denials.

I noted in the brief bio I wrote of MA many years ago (for the Alexander Palace Time Machine) that blame must be put on Dagmar in her actions or lack thereof when it came to the marriages of her children. This was also true to an extent with her sister Alexandra, The Princess of Wales. Neither seemed to perform this most important duty of royal mothers, to find suitable mates for her children. In Dagmar's case:

Nicholas - his parents opposed his chosen mate, Alix of Hesse, and after Alexander III's death, their relationship remained chilly. this had a detrimental effect on the monarchy.
George - I'll give her a pass on him, as his illness made marriage an impossibility for him.
Xenia - her mother had nothing to do with arranging her marriage to Sandro.
Michael - she should have arranged his marriage after the death of George in 1899. His romantic history from here on out is evidence of this.
Olga - the only marriage she arranged was to someone she didn't know and had no affinity with

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