Welcome to 'Lost in the Myths of History'

It often seems that many prominent people of the past are wronged by often-repeated descriptions, which in time are taken as truth. The same is also true of events, which are frequently presented in a particular way when there might be many alternative viewpoints. This blog is intended to present a different perspective on those who have often been lost in the myths of history.

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Wealth of Kings

Recently, I left a comment on a beautiful YouTube video of original footage of Tsar Nicholas and his family visiting a Cathedral. A reply to my comment read something to the effect of: and did the starving masses view this event as beautiful?

There is a huge myth around the wealth of kings, and more particular the royalties of the past couple of centuries and I think this myth was born out of a combination of the extravagances of certain members of royal and imperial families and envy. The majority of kings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries actually lived quite frugal and simple lives and though they lived in palaces they saw themselves as custodians of those places and, within them, their own rooms were often simply furnished and not very much different from those of non-royal custodians who inhabit stately homes and palaces today. No one objects to the modern custodians, but somehow blame is laid at the feet of kings and emperors for fulfilling their role to the best of their abilities.

It is very interesting to think – particularly when people speak of the wealth of kings as though this deprives everyone else of their fair share – that if all the wealth of a royal family were shared out among the people of the country, we would each end up being something like one penny better off. I would prefer to enjoy the beautiful stateliness of those who are born as guardians of ancient traditions and also have the wellbeing of their people at heart.

More interesting, though, is the extent to which those 19th/20th century royalties took a personal and active part in what is misleadingly called ‘charity work’ but was/is, in fact, a means of raising people to all they can be. Throughout the horrendous wars of the past century, princesses and queens personally assisted in surgical operations, tended the wounded and participated in the most horrendous procedures. The Tsarina of Russia, for example, spent many hours writing personal letters from wounded soldiers to their families after hours of working in operating theatres. I have yet to see a politician or dictator participating in such activities. This, however, was not confined to war time. There are countless examples of royalties, who had dedicated their lives to their people, carrying out all kinds of amazing work to raise people up and inspire them. In recent times, for example, when Diana, Princess of Wales, visited a local hospice, I was told by someone who was there on that day that the patients were so much happier and so delighted by the time she spent with each of them. There is a mystique of royalty and it is churlish to deny it when it does so much good.

On a personal level, too, the ‘good’ done by individual 19th century royalties is often overlooked. The Victorian Age is seen as very judgemental and yet it is fascinating that, when unmarried mothers or so-called ‘fallen women’ were being treated with such disdain by other members of society, the royalties were among the most understanding. Queen Victoria encouraged the Duchess of York to be seen in public with one such unfortunate cousin and her daughter, Princess Alice, like many others founded safe houses and spent time speaking with those who were seen as outcasts, in order to help them. Here is a very interesting article, too, about the children who were adopted by royal families:

Royalties Who Adopted Children

 I wonder, “Did Lenin or Stalin nurse the sick? Did Hitler take time to write letters to the families of his wounded soldiers? Would you rather that the figurehead of your nation was someone who really loved your country and its people, or really love himself? Would you like to do away with all the pageantry, the sense of unity we feel at jubilees or royal weddings, in order to gain one penny?

Funny, isn't it, that Stalin murdered his wife and Hitler killed his niece and politicians and bankers have created such a financial mess for so many people,  but people still believe that Nicholas II was a tyrant and somehow other royalties deprive their people of their true wealth?  


Matterhorn said...

What a lovely article! I find it very distressing to see the kind of spiteful, short-sighted prejudices against royalty that you mention. People forget that so many of them saw their role in a sacrificial light.

And thank you for including that beautiful photograph of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians!!

Christina said...

Thank you, Matterhorn. You surely know I found the lovely photo of Queen Elizabeth on your site :-)I hope it's alright that I copied it.

Matterhorn said...

Yes, I am delighted! I think it is one of the best of her.

Gem said...

This is a very insightful article, Christina, thank you! Since I am living in a country with republic as a form government, I always hear negative comments about royalty. I remember that time when the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was the buzz of every local tv and radio station, newspapers, and magazines here. While I was excited to watch the live telecast, many people here were ambivalent and indifferent about the whole royal wedding. They were saying things like, "We don't care" or "Many people are dying of starvation and they're wasting money just for a wedding." Some don't even know the royal pair, and some went so far as to say that in modern times royalty has "no more place in our society". It's heartbreaking for me to hear such negative comments about royalty. I've read so much about the lives of royal people, and I can really say that despite their position, the splendor, the glitter of their courts, they are still human beings after all and they all have their own struggles in life. It's something that people from republic countries can't understand or refuse to understand.

Christina said...

Thank you, Matterhorn :-)

Thank you, too, Gem for your very interesting comment. It is interesting to see how monarchies are viewed from different places, and I appreciate why people might think that they are an exoensive waste of money. I heard a very interesting quotation: "You cannot become poor enough to make anyone else rich, just as you cannot become sick enough to make anyone else well."
In countries which were founded as republics, I think it might seem odd that we keep our monarchy, but here and in some other countries with monarchs, the royal family is part of the fabric of who we are and we would be so much poorer culturally without them...And what's more, for the undemonstrative English, nothing brings us together like a royal wedding or a jubilee...2012 and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is going to be wonderful!!
Thank you for you very interesting comment! :-)

Elisa said...

I wish such coverage of charity work would be seen more often than in "Majesty" and "Royalty" magazines. Unless something REALLY happens then it'll get in the papers.
Instead of constantly focusing on the British royals, why not other world royals who have done the same get their moment?

Christina said...

Thank you for commenting, Elisa.
I focus mainly on British royalties because I am mostly interested in Queen Victoria's family (though that includes many other European royalties) and because I am English. I don't know why world newspapers/magazines focus more on this royal family than others...
It's clear though that royal families throughout the world have devoted themselves to their people far more diligently than self-seeking politicians have done.
Thank you for commenting :-)

Val said...

What a beautiful way to present royalty, Christina! It's easy for people to forget, or brush aside the wonderful things these people have done for their country and for their fellow human beings. Living in the States, there are many here who do not fully appreciate the traditions of a monarchy.

Someone recently told me they thought all members of the monarchy were simply rich snobs doing their best to stay away from the common man. When I told them that the Tsarina of Russia and her 2 eldest daughters became nurses, set up a hospital, and nursed soldiers during WWI, they were speechless. This is only one example of such charity work - one could list so much more!

Thank you for taking your time to show us this side of the Royals! Beautiful pictures, as well....

Christina said...

Val, thank you :-) And today Prince William works alongside his fellow officers rescuing people who are lost at sea or in the mountains in very dangerous conditions, with no special treatment as the heir presumptive....And who else, at 85 years old (as the Queen is) or 90 (the Duke of Edinburgh) continues to carry out their duties, flying across the world and greeting people in Australia or some new building in some obscure English town, and attending ceremonies when they might prefer to be relaxing by the fireside? :-)
Thank you, Val :-)

Matterhorn said...

Here is the US, I also encounter negative attitudes to monarchy. Some seem almost to feel that they have to be hostile to kings and queens everywhere in order to be loyal to the American regime. They do not seem to realize that republics work in some places, and monarchies work in others. They also seem unable to conceive of the idea that a special kind of goodness and nobility can develop in hereditary royalty, raised from childhood with a deep sense of responsibility for their country.

Christina said...

This is fascinating because the vision of America's Founding Fathers is so wonderful and appeals to me so deeply. What America was founded upon by people like Jefferson and Franklin was individual freedom and the the awareness that anyone could achieve anything regardless of class or status or where you came from. For many years this was the case...I think of the thousands of European emigrants who went to the 'New World' and succeeded in ways that would have been impossible 'at home'.
Europe was filled with ancient monarchies, developed from old Feudal systems and it seems the very antithesis of all America stood for (after all, the Pilgrim Fathers set sail to escape our constant feuding and their sense of oppression, and the War of Independence was like cutting the apron strings once and for all - and quite rightly so).
Today...the world is a very different place. The monarchies that are left in Europe are very different now from how they were in those days and for the past hundred years and more, they have adapted and yet remained anchors to an identity here. The individual kings, queens and princes have played their part most nobly, with a few exceptions (like Edward VIII!!) and spent their lives in service to their people.
America, too, it seems, has changed but the American people are still born of 'the land of the free' and I admire that spirit so deeply and, as Christmas draws nigh, I trust that all our nations - not only in America and Europe but right across the globe, will be able to uphold their beautiful traditions and live in respectful harmony with, and appreciation of, each other...free of any tyrants (in the form of international bankers, political tyrants or any other form of control)so that people of all nations can enjoy our heritage, our similarities and our uniqueness :-)
God bless America! God bless Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and all their lovely peoples! :-)

Val said...

Christina and Matterhorn - I couldn't agree more with both of you!

The way the English continue to uphold their traditional system is really an inspiration to me. The way the majority of those in the Royal Family continue to perform their duties up until they are simply no longer to is a lesson to us all. Do you think many of us would be up to task? Don't know that I would....they deserve a lot of credit for carrying their country through very difficult times! "Keep Calm and Carry On"....

Happy Holidays to all here!

Christina said...

Thank you, Val!
And a Very Merry Christmas to everyone here from me, too!