If you are a journalist who writes about European royal families, you probably have Carolyn Harris (MA’07, PhD’12) on speed dial.
Dr. Harris, a history lecturer at the University of Toronto and royal history blogger (www.royalhistorian.com), has established herself as one of top go-to experts for reporters who are looking for insight on the latest news about the royal family.
Dr. Harris regularly appears in national media outlets across Canada (including CBC’s The National, Toronto Star, National Post, CTV News Channel ) and recently wrote op-eds in the Globe and Mail , Toronto Sun and Ottawa Citizen.
Her reputation is spreading beyond Canadian borders as she shares her royal insights with the BBC, CNN, Australia News Network, The Independent (Britain), NBC News, ABC News, New York Post and Chicago Tribune.
Dr. Harris’s media career began in April of 2011 while writing her history PhD dissertation at Queen’s (comparing Queen Henrietta Maria of England and Queen Marie Antoinette of France). The university’s media relations department reached out to Dr. Harris to talk to reporters about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s upcoming wedding. Dr. Harris’s extensive knowledge impressed many reporters and led to more media interviews during William and Kate’s tour of Canada, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Kate’s pregnancy.
Q: When did your interest in royalty begin?
I have been interested in royalty since childhood. I particularly enjoyed visiting England, Scotland and France with my family when I was 17. We visited Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, Versailles and Edinburgh Castle. I’m fascinated by the history of all these palaces and the people who lived in them.
Q: Why do you think the public is fascinated with the monarchy?
The history of the monarchy is multifaceted. There is the monarchy’s political significance in the United Kingdom, Canada and 14 other commonwealth nations. There are the historic palaces, centuries old ceremonies and the royal collection of art. The public is also fascinated by the family saga. Each generation of royalty builds on the traditions established by previous monarchs and introduces their own innovations.
Q: Do you have a favourite king or queen?
There are many monarchs I find interesting. One of my favourites is Queen Elizabeth I. She navigated a difficult path to power and was a shrewd stateswoman. Her Stuart successors did not share her ability to navigate the various political and religious factions.
Q: There are some anti-monarchists in Canada. Will the British Monarchy still be a part of this country 200 years from now?
Yes, I believe that Canada will still be a constitutional monarchy 200 years from now. Of the top 15 countries listed in the United Nations human development index, more than half are constitutional monarchies. Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Canada with the Duke of Edinburgh in 2010, the wedding and Canadian tour of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 have all contributed to a revival of Canadian interest in the monarchy.
Q: How will history judge Queen Elizabeth? Is she one of Britain’s greatest royals?
I think future historians will admire Queen Elizabeth II. If she is still on the throne on Sept. 10, 2015, she will surpass Queen Victoria as the longest reigning British monarch. The Queen has presided over an unprecedented period of modernization. Through her extensive travels and public engagements, Elizabeth II has ensured that more people have personally engaged with royalty during her reign than any other period in history. The Queen is devoted to her role as Head of the Commonwealth and has fostered relationships between the various commonwealth nations.
Q: The British royal family gets most of the headlines. What other country’s royal family do you find interesting?I find the monarchy of the Netherlands fascinating. Queen Wilhelmina was a symbol of national unity and resistance to the Nazis during the Second World War. The residence of her daughter, the future Queen Juliana, in Ottawa during the war and Canadian liberation of the Netherlands contributed to lasting links between the Dutch and Canadian peoples. I recently wrote an article about the ascension of King Willem-Alexander for the Kingston Whig-Standard.
Note: Toronto-area alumni can sign up for Dr. Harris’s University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies history courses. She teaches “Canada and the Monarchy” in the fall of 2013 and “Women in Power” in the spring of 2014.