There are certain institutions of which every person who hopes to be considered educated and cultured should have

a basic understanding. One of these is the British royal family. Today’s topic is the history of that gang since 1901. Why 1901? Because that is when Queen Victoria, very conveniently for our purposes here, died. Because she died at the beginning of the century in which most of us have lived much of our lives, we need not deal at length here with the Victorian era, which was very long, which was Victoria’s fault because it was named for her and she ruled from 1837 to 1901 and that long interval is called the Victorian era for obvious reasons, unless you are a little dense and don’t pick up on these things very quickly. Before she died, Victoria gave birth to several children. That is to say, she gave birth well before she died and to only one child at a time, as far as I know. She had several children, many of them daughters. I won’t go into the daughters here because I have to move along to Victoria’s son Edward VII and also because I don’t really know very much about Victoria’s daughters except that there were quite a few of them and that of them one was the mom of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany who ended up in Holland after losing WWI and was Edward’s nephew. I know that because in magazines writers are always saying that Wilhelm was related to Edward in some way or other that is not correct and later some historian or well read reader writes in to say that no, no Edward was Wilhelm’s uncle. Anyway, with Victoria conveniently dead and mourned by her people and other people’s people to some extent, Edward assumed the throne. At least I am assuming that he assumed the throne. He may have ascended to it--or both. The terminology of royalty is hard for Americans and other non-Britons to master. That is why this essay will be so valuable to you. Edward was king from 1901-1910 and stopped being king when he died, except in the history books. The Edwardian era was much shorter than the Victorian era. That is because Edward had bad health habits and Victoria did not. Edward drank, smoked, ate and philandered too much, which of course was all his mother’s fault--go figure. But he spoke French quite well, which endeared him to the French, thereby helping to cause WWI. So it is a good thing that President Bush doesn’t speak French. Neither do I, so maybe I shall be president someday. Edward was succeeded by his son George V who reigned from 1910-1936. Edward might have been succeeded by his eldest son Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale but Eddy, as he was known (to really confuse people the British royal family calls some of its members by names different from what historians call them after they are dead—the royal family members, not the historians—although, on second thought, I don’t think that the royal family does this to confuse people on purpose or even inadvertently—I should have said to confuse matters, which they also don’t do on purpose, only inadvertently—Edward VII being called Bertie and George’s son Edward being called David), had died years earlier. I mention the Duke of Clarence because there are nutsy theories that he was Jack the Ripper. That’s a bunch of hooey. But I mention the

Jack the Ripper thing because people who do a Google search on Jack the Ripper (which is a potentially large number of people, as people are interested in gruesome subjects) will come across this blog, to which I hope to attract millions of readers someday soon although not necessarily the kind of people who like reading about Jack the Ripper. Anyway, George V was a very stern father, very much like his grandmother Victoria who wasn't a father but who was stern. That made it hard for his sons such as Edward VIII who became king and who had the bad taste to fall hopelessly in love with an American, which might have been okay, maybe, kind of, except that she was a divorced American which was a double no no (actually a triple no no because she had been divorced twice from two different men--actually only once from each--although being divorced twice from the same man probably wouldn’t have been acceptable to Edward's relatives either or to the Church of England), so Edward had to give up being king and spent a lot of time thereafter being the Duke of Windsor in France and the Bahamas and other places. His brother succeeded to the throne and reigned as George VI 1936-1952. You have been very patient up to this point. We have almost made it to the juicy parts in our grave and somber survey of the British monarchy in the last roughly 104 years. George VI was the father of the present Queen of England Elizabeth (and of her sister and that was it, as far I know), who is roughly my mom’s age and we both admire Queen Elizabeth, as she seems like a lady who takes duty very seriously, as does my mom. George VI was a very gentle, decent man and his wife, the Queen Mum (the sweet looking pudgy lady in all those photographs) lived a long, long time as did Victoria and as Elizabeth II seems set to do, which is why there’s all this talk of Charles never getting to be king at least not for very long and maybe even deferring to his son William who is a cute blond and doesn’t have all that baggage of a turbulent marriage at least not so far, being single. George VI died in 1952 and Elizabeth became queen as a very young woman. She’s married. But her husband is not the king of England and there isn’t one right now or of the rest of Britain for that matter. Elizabeth’s hubbikins is known as the Duke of Edinburgh and is Prince of the United Kingdom but known mostly as the Duke of Edinburgh and is a royal highness, which I am sometimes called when people think I am putting on airs. There are quite a few dukes in the royal family and some of them are also royal highnesses. Maybe all of them. Charles’ younger sister Anne is a royal highness and a princess royal but is obviously not a duke. I think most women, even hardcore feminists, have thought about how nice it would be to be princesses. I think I would prefer to be a countess, as you would have more privacy and maybe more money. A countess is married to an earl, apparently. I know that because Queen Elizabeth’s son Edward is the Earl of Essex and his wife is the Countess of Essex (or maybe Wessex). Actually, I know that because I read it not because of to whom the queen’s son is married.

We now are dealing with the royals whom most of us who go to the dentist are familiar with: Queen Elizabeth, her husband who is not king (not that she has other husbands) and their son Charles, Prince of Wales (which is a part of Britain in which people are proud of being Welsh but where most people do not speak Welsh but English--sometimes, all the time for some of them--with a charming Welsh accent) who is very busy doing worthwhile things like not gloating that his complaints about how ugly modern architecture is are now generally considered to have been prescient and waiting to be king and hoping that the British public will slowly accept the lady he apparently wished to have married years ago with the delightfully upper crusty name of Camilla Parker Bowles (“Hey, Camilla! Wanna hoist a few after work?”). Actually, he probably would have wanted to marry her even if she had been called something else. His sons are William and Harry, who are hunky and set hearts aflutter in dental office waiting rooms in America and probably elsewhere. Those of you who have spent time in dental waiting rooms elsewhere in the world can report here on the situations there. Getting back to the queen, who is the grandmother of Harry and William and of their various cousins (Andrew has kids and probably Anne, who also has a temper), she has one of the best art collections in the world and is regarded as highly intelligent by people who work for her--though they would hardly be likely to suggest to interviewers that she is dumb, now would they? I have read that she didn’t care much for Margaret Thatcher, which isn’t too surprising when two women who wield quite a lot of power (in Thatcher’s case) and influence (in the queen’s) have to deal with each other women being what they are. And there is also the fact that Thatcher is a blonde and the queen a brunette. Bound to be tensions there, seems to me. The queen works very hard, so I for one would prefer to be a countess and not a queen. She, apparently, is most proud of her role in commonwealth affairs, the commonwealth being a whole bunch of countries that used to be ruled by Britain but which aren’t now except for the US which was but isn’t and some other countries which were but aren’t. The queen puts a lot of time into this and if I ever I meet her I will compliment her on her ability to keep all of this straight and also on her hair, which is very pretty, as is Thatcher’s. Things seem to have settled down for the royal family. But then I haven’t been to the dentist lately, so I am not up on the latest.