Königin Victoria.

From Dinah Birch’s TLS review (subscribers only) of A. N. Wilson’s Victoria: A Life:

But it was marriage to her high-minded cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which transformed her life. Her letters and journals leave no doubt that she was deeply in love with him, and the union was never simply a matter of political expediency. One reason for her passionate attachment was her sense of kinship with Albert as a German. Victoria’s mother was German, with imperfect English. Her father was half-German. Albert was a handsome prince from another land, but he made her feel at home. In 1874, long after Albert’s death, a visitor to Osborne House noted with surprise that the royal family spoke German to each other in the privacy of their home. Victoria, who has come to seem the quintessence of Englishness, was in many ways scarcely English at all.

I knew the family was of German origin, of course, but I had no idea Victoria and her family spoke German to each other at home.

Comments

  1. Sir JCass says:

    I knew this because I remember reading that Victoria and Albert spoke German with Felix Mendelssohn, their favourite composer.

    I also found out recently that she wasn’t really a “Hanoverian”. Because Salic law still applied in Hanover, Victoria, as a woman, could not inherit the throne there, so it went to her uncle Ernest instead.

  2. And a Good Thing Too. It would have been damned embarrassing if George V had been both King-Emperor and King of Hanover during WWI, even nominally (the Kingdom had been abolished by the Prussians in 1866). Bad enough that the Hanoverian pretender was legitimately Duke of Cumberland throughout the war (and was deprived of his British titles in 1919); his descendants are still in line for the British throne, though pretty far along. The current pretender still calls himself “Royal Prince of Great Britain and Ireland”.

  3. Sir JCass says:

    Actually, the counterfactual I was wondering about was what if Victoria had been “Queen of Hanover” when Bismarck was busy uniting Germany in the 1860s and 70s? Prussia went to war with Denmark, Austria and France, but would it have taken on Britain?

  4. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    It’s the sort of thing royal families would prefer their loyal subjects not to know about. I don’t know if Prince Philip speaks Greek, or if he ever did, but I read years ago that right up until the end of the Greek monarchy the everyday language in the royal palace was English.

  5. David Eddyshaw says:

    I can fairly readily imagine Victoria as German-speaking; Bertie, Prince of Wales, not so easily. (Assuming that the “royal family [who] spoke German to each other in the privacy of their home” in 1874 included the eldest son.)

    This may well simply be hurtful stereotyping, both of Germans and indeed of the Prince. Much is to be forgiven a man who had Charles Kingsley as a tutor. (I shudder here with post-traumatic “Water Babies” trauma. Ugh.)

  6. David Eddyshaw says:

    For some reason I am reminded of Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald.”

  7. I liked The Water-Babies and still do. “A Study in Emerald”, now that’s shuddersome.

  8. Sir JCass says:

    George I had to talk with his British politicians in French.

    George II was luckier. He had Lord Carteret to chat with in German. Carteret was exceptionally unusual in learning the language at that time. I like Wikipedia’s comment: “To [Robert] Walpole, who looked upon every able colleague or subordinate as an enemy to be removed, Carteret was exceptionally odious. His capacity to speak German with the King would alone have made Sir Robert detest him.” Boo!

  9. “the quintessence of Englishness”? Hardly! For me, naturally enough as a Norman, “la Bouonnefemme-Reine” was Duke of Normandy. And the break with Hanover is very visible with the loss of the white horse of Hanover from the Royal coat of arms on public buildings from the date of Victoria’s accession. And whether she spoke German or English at home or not, the important thing in some of her realms at least was that she was constitutionally and nominally a French-speaker. The British Empire was and, to the extent it still exists, a multilingual enterprise, and given the dynastic intermarriages among European royal houses, it would hardly be surprising that multilingualism was a feature, not a bug, among the marriageable and married in European courts of the C19th.

  10. Jean de Carteret (John Carteret), being a Jerseyman, would no doubt have had a linguistic headstart in conversing with his (Hanoverian) Duke of Normandy!

  11. she was constitutionally and nominally a French-speaker

    The Queen in Right of Quebec still is. Although when she visited her province personally back in 1964, her subjects booed and turned their backs. She flew into Gatineau in 2002 and AFAICT hasn’t been back since.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    She does speak quite good French, though.

  13. Etienne says:

    David: Indeed, her French is quite good, much better than most Canadian anglophone politicians’ or journalists’ (not that the latter groups set all that high a bar, truth be told).

    John Cowan: ironically, despite its earlier hostility and present-day utter indifference to the monarchy, Quebec is a major reason why Queen Elizabeth II remains the Queen of Canada today. It was revealed a few years ago that, in the late nineties, the federal government (Chretien’s Liberals, for Canadian hatters) seriously considered passing legislation that would have put Canada on the path to becoming a Parliamentary Republic and eliminated the monarchy. The government ultimately decided against even proposing such legislation when they realized that they would have to face the combined opposition of conservative anglophone Canadians and Quebec separatists (Yes, politics makes strange bedfellows). The latter, you see, are no fans of the monarchy, but realized that there would be a serious conflict between their political goal and pledging allegiance to whatever Canadian figurehead/institution would take the place of the British monarchy. Whereas as it now stands, swearing allegiance to her majesty Queen Elizabeth II is quite compatible with wishing to see Quebec separate from Canada.

  14. Queen Victoria’s mother was German, so she learned German as a child. She also spoke excellent French, and she could read and write Urdu as well as Latin and Greek. (She had a lot of Indian servants.) Later in her life, when she got involved with John Brown, she also studied Scottish Gaelic. I believe that makes her the only British monarch to know any Gaelic. (I’m not totally sure about James VI and I.)

    Edward VII spoke German and French fluently. His wife was Danish but I see no reference to his ever speaking Danish.

    Kaiser Wilhelm II spoke excellent English. His mother was English — Queen Victoria’s daughter Victoria, Princess Royal.

  15. Sir JCass says:

    I’m not totally sure about James VI and I

    Probably not. As far as I remember, James IV was the last Scottish monarch to speak Gaelic.

  16. The Hohenzollerns also learnt Polish, as they were Grand Dukes of Poznan – a fact that really surprised me when I first learnt it, taking into account the anti-Polish nationalism in vogue in the Wilhelminian Empire.

  17. Yes, that is surprising; the Romanovs certainly didn’t learn Polish, and they ruled a lot more Poles.

  18. The last known to speak it. We just can’t tell about James V’s linguistic accomplishments, though they surely included French.

  19. Sir JCass says:

    the Romanovs certainly didn’t learn Polish, and they ruled a lot more Poles.

    Not true for some of the earlier Romanovs. According to Adam Zamoyskl, “[Polish] was widely spoken in Muscovy, and in the 1680s under Peter the Great’s half-sister, the regent Sofia, it became the court language of the Kremlin, since it represented a life-line to other nations. In 1697, for instance, Boris Sheremetev’s embassy to Vienna conducted its negotiations with the Austrians exclusively in Polish.”

  20. Yes, I should have been clearer: I meant the nineteenth-century Romanovs (although that is implied by “they ruled a lot more Poles”). In the seventeenth century, the Poles were a powerful rival with an advanced civilization, not a subject people, and that makes a difference in terms of language-learning.

    [Edit: Not true, Alex II did speak Polish! Hat tip to Alexei K. below.]

  21. Braden Your Mind says:

    The current Crown Princess of Denmark is a native English speaker. Her small children are presumably bilingual, which will open up an interesting situation when they grow up become the parents of all future Danish royals.

  22. J. W. Brewer says:

    Historically I think royal parents have been busy enough with other matters that the vast bulk of their childrearing has been outsourced to nannies/tutors/etc/etc, so one would not necessarily expect whatever language the parents (both not infrequently multilingual but with different L1’s) default to when speaking to each other in private to be the children’s L1. And even if future Danish royals were to grow up speaking English to their own parents in private settings, it will presumably be thought expedient for reasons of state to make sure they are able to function in Danish without anyone being able to hear any difference from the fluency one would expect of Danish children who speak only Danish in a household context.

    Here in the U.S. our only non-L1-Anglophone President (van Buren) may well have spoken in private with his wife in their mutual L1 (Dutch), but he was alas widowed before he made it to the White House. I don’t think we’ve ever had a First Lady who was not an L1 Anglophone, although stay tuned to see what happens with the ambitions of Columba Bush’s husband.

  23. native English speaker

    From Australia at that.

    open up an interesting situation

    Especially if the elite-dominant form of English in Denmark becomes Ozite!

  24. @J. W. Brewer: We came somewhat close in 2004 with Teresa Heinz Kerry, who natively speaks Portuguese (and was born in colonial Mozambique).

  25. J. W. Brewer says:

    Come to think of it, if Donald Trump were to be thought of as a legitimate presidential candidate, his present wife (the third Mrs. Trump) was born and raised in Slovenia and presumably had the corresponding L1 . . . (His first wife was an L1 Czech-speaker, although the intervening one may have been boringly Anglophone.)

  26. Etienne says:

    J.W. Brewer, Lazar: As long as we are looking at historical near-misses…In 1988 the United States came close to having its second President whose L1 was not English, and indeed I understand Dukakis’ command of his third language (Spanish) was quite impressive.. he likewise would have been its second non-Protestant Commander in Chief. Odd, now that I think about it, that both he and the first and only non-Protestant U.S. President both hailed from the same State, with its intensely Protestant (Puritan) heritage.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    would have been its second non-Protestant Commander in Chief

    You’re counting at minimum the Deist Jefferson as Protestant.

  28. J. W. Brewer says:

    Well, Protestant is an ethnocultural category in the U.S. context as well a theological classification. If you get strict enough about the theology you can exclude quite a lot of Presidents (although since many of those suspected of lax or unorthodox personal beliefs found it more politic to be vague about exactly what their beliefs were it’s hard to be categorical).

  29. Was English Dukakis’s second language or his third? Presumably Greek was the language of his home, but he may have picked up Aromanian there too.

  30. Wikipedia conveniently offers a list of the multilingual prowess of US Presidents. Hoover was fluent in Mandarin? Who knew!

    The period marked by English+Latin+Greek is quite distinct, lasting from John Tyler to Chester Arthur, and incidentally covering the bulk of America’s most obscure POTI.

  31. J. W. Brewer says:

    For some reason I am reminded of the tale (said alas by those wet blankets at wikipedia to be of dubious historicity and first recorded many centuries after the alleged event) that the future Edward II was first proclaimed Prince of Wales with one of his qualifications for the position being that he was not only Welsh-born but spoke not a word of English (although also not a word of Welsh, being a baby at the time).

  32. fisheyed says:

    I had never heard that V could read and write in Urdu and was not prepared for this torrid story. It seems her learning was at the beginning stages though, so I don’t know if “read and write Urdu” is quite correct.

  33. The last tzar’s family have spoken German among themselves as well. Romanov’s were also thoroughly Germanized and Russia even had a German by birth for a ruler (Sophie Friederike Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst) later than Britain. In a sense, British royal family is still Hanoverian given that the main qualification is to be a descendant of Electress Sophia.

  34. fisheyed: There are some specimens of Queen Victoria’s writing in Urdu available online but I am not competent to evaluate them. I suspect that she was rather a beginning student though. But she did take her role as Empress of India seriously.

    She dispatched Bertie to India on a fact-finding mission, and he came up with some rather good recommendations, mostly having to do with letting Indians have more say in the government, which were of course totally ignored. Despite Bertie being something of the ultimate aristocrat, he had some advanced ideas on racial equality for his time.

    D.O.: There was a question raised about the famous Willie-Nicky telegrams as to what language they were in. I have yet to find a definitive answer, but the consensus seems to be that they were in French. That was the lingua franca among the European elite at that time. And Language Hat has often given examples of the use of French among the Russian upper classes.

    One of the questions about the Anastasia claimant was that she couldn’t speak Russian, only German, but some people said that this was expected. Although I think DNA analysis has ruled her out now.

    I don’t believe Queen Victoria ever made all that much progress in Gaelic either.

  35. I’ve always heard that the Willy-Nicky telegrams were in English (as mentioned here, for example).

  36. I’ve always heard that the Willy-Nicky telegrams were in English

    Me too. D.O., what’s your evidence that the family spoke German among themselves?

  37. fisheyed says:

    There are some specimens of Queen Victoria’s writing in Urdu available online but I am not competent to evaluate them. I suspect that she was rather a beginning student though.

    Yes, I saw. They have a cute, child-like neatness.

  38. OK. I think, I mixed up the second Nicolai and Alexandra with the first one. And I don’t remember where I read about the earlier tzar’s family either. I simply remember my surprise that the language of the royal family was not the same that the language of the aristocracy.

  39. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Well, what explains the 18th and 19th century for marrying German petty royals of all stripes and sizes? And, for that matter, for electing them as king for countries in need of one, as with Greece and Romania?

  40. @Greg Pandatshang: I always assumed it was just a matter of numbers; prior to unification, there were a whole slew of German principalities and so a lot of German royals floating around.

  41. @Greg @Brett It was a class thing. If you didn’t marry a member of the right class, your children were not eligible to inherit the rule in your principality. The Georges and William IV had to marry according to the rules because they were also kings of Hannover where the rules applied. When looking for wives, the British weren’t overly careful, but when looking for husbands for the heiresses (Charlotte and Victoria) they were very particular—the chosen prince had to belong to a house that was unlikely to embarrass the British government by getting involved in a war, and also had to be very intelligent and have the right personality for a prince consort. Leopold and Albert worked out very well.

    In Rumania, the Hohenzollerns had an opportunity to get rid of the senior branch of the family (embarrassingly, the German Emperor belonged to a junior branch of the family).

    In Bulgaria, the throne went to another Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, since they had worked out so well in the UK and Belgium.

    Greece was a mess from the beginning.

  42. Speaking of dynastic branches, I remember being surprised when I learned that the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian empires weren’t ruled by “real” Habsburgs, but rather by the successor house of Habsburg-Lorraine.

  43. As AJP (I think) pointed out, it’s rather sexist to consider people who have a female link in their ancestry to not be “real” members of the family. (My own mother’s matriline ran heavily to daughters, and so changed all its names in each generation.) In any case, Maria Theresa wouldn’t have been the last of the Hapsburgs herself if it weren’t for the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and the War of the Austrian Succession.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    embarrassingly, the German Emperor belonged to a junior branch of the family

    Huh. How did that happen?

  45. Religion, dynastic politics, Poland, and blind luck, the same reasons everything happens in Germany. 🙂 In (fairly) short:

    The original House of H[*] split sometime before the 15C. The senior branch, which was Catholic, continued to rule the original H lands in Swabia until 1850, when it was assimilated by the Borg. The Borg Kings in turn traced back their inheritance to the junior and Protestant branch of H, which had become Margraves and Electors of Brandenburg in 1415. They acquired the Duchy of Prussia in 1618 by marriage to the last descendant of the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, and held it in personal union (under technical Polish suzerainty) until 1701, when they united it with Brandenburg into the Kingdom of Prussia.

    Now because feudal subordinates of the Emperor couldn’t take titles of the form King of X, the H ruler of the day took the title King in Prussia, meaning that he was to be addressed as King only in Prussia proper, which was outside the Empire. The Borg changed the title unilaterally to King of Prussia in 1772, when they no longer had much reason to care about the Emperor’s butt-hurt, and to German Emperor even more unilaterally in 1871. But nothing could change the fact that the H emperors were the junior branch of H and so listed in the Almanach de Gotha and suchlike places.

    In 1892, Willy tried to get his title changed from German Emperor to Emperor of Germany in imitation of his ancestor Charlemagne, but my tocayo Woldemar of Lippe told him off. When he referred to the assembled monarchs as his vassals, Woldemar replied: “No, Sire, we are not your vassals! Your allies, if you like.”[**] And that was that.

    [*] “No charge, Governor. Damned if I’m going to write down both asafoedita and Hickenlooper for a lousy dime.”

    [**] I haven’t been able to find a German version; this story may be apocryphal.

  46. The story can be traced back to Walter Littlefield, and I regret to say I do not have high regard for the devotion to fact of American journalists of the turn of the twentieth century (and not much higher regard for that of their contemporary equivalents, come to that).

  47. Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

  48. Jawohl!

  49. J. W. Brewer says:

    One of my great-great-grandfathers was born a subject of the senior H line in Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen circa 1830 but when the revolutions of 1848 came along he decided he wanted neither to be conscripted to defend the old order nor to take up arms to promote an alternative but would rather hop on a ship headed across the Atlantic (he ended up running a bakery in upstate New York and marrying a woman who’d emigrated from Ulster). After he skipped town, the consolidation took place and Sigmaringen fell under the rule of the junior branch, so when he was eventually naturalized as a U.S. citizen he had to renounce and abjure his allegiance to the King of Prussia, to whom he had never owed allegiance when still in Europe.

  50. Stewart AJP Stuart says:

    As AJP (I think) pointed out, it’s rather sexist to consider people who have a female link in their ancestry to not be “real” members of the family.

    I hope it was me, especially because I was just thinking about D.O.’s comment: In a sense, British royal family is still Hanoverian given that the main qualification is to be a descendant of Electress Sophia. I mean this Sophia of Hanover was heiress to the British throne by virtue of being the twelfth of thirteen children of Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I (Elizabeth was therefore the granddaughter of Mary Queen of Scots). Elizabeth married Frederick, the Elector Palatinate (they were King & Queen of Bohemia for a year until the Battle of the White Mountain). It’s initially through Elizabeth that (according to Wiki) the kingdoms of Spain, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as the former kingdoms of Greece, Romania, Germany, and Russia, are related.

    So it’s not only kinda sexist to consider the female line to be less valid than the male, it also ignores the most important European royal link of the last 400 years, namely a female Stuart, rather than her daughter who married the Elector of Hanover. Feminist readings of European history will vindicate this conclusion.*

    *(Possibly.)

  51. The Elizabeth/Palatinate thing was discussed briefly in this LH post (whose thread turned into a remarkably interesting and informative discussion of the history of the term “Yoruba”).

  52. J. W. Brewer says:

    One of the things that made European history complicated is that different monarchies had different rules of succession, varying not least on whether descent via a female counted at all and if so for how much under what circumstances. So, e.g., the British and Hanoverian rules yielded the same answer despite different algorithms for several iterations, but then they didn’t. And of course from time to time for pragmatic reasons different factions wanted to argue for different rules (or applications of ambiguous rules to particular situations) for the same monarchy, thus yielding different candidates for the same throne.

  53. David Eddyshaw says:

    Japan has had the occasional regnant Empress (well, regnant to whatever degree Japanese emperors are) until Meiji, when it was felt that female succession was insufficiently modern in the Western way. Prussian way, at any rate.

    This is the background to the fairly recent dispute over whether Aiko, sole (and female) child of the current Crown Prince, could succeed to the throne, which was effectively terminated (fortunately or not, as you may think) by the birth of her male cousin Hisahito.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_succession_controversy

    China has of course only ever had one woman with the – er, guts – to actually assume the title of Emperor, the altogether remarkable Wu Zetian, detested by orthodox Confucian historians but seemingly really rather competent.

  54. Just one universe away, things went a bit differently:

    On Saisei 53 Gogaçu 2 (June 6, 2004), the former emperor abdicated in favor of his granddaughter, beginning the Gacudai era. This created a succession crisis in Kanawiki [e.g. Hawaii, which was never unified but which had been taken by Japan from Russia in the Russo-Japanese War], as Kanawiki law did not provide for abdication or female succession. The position of high king was merged with that of viceroy at the beginning of 2005.

    On Gacudai Gannen, Jùitxigaçu 4 (December 7, 2004), Amendment IV to the Constitution was ratified, renouncing Japan’s claims to Kanawiki and reorganizing Japan, reorganizing the seven regions into a new kingdom of Yamato (大和), formerly a semi-official name but not a legal constituent.

    On August 28, 2006, while in Lyons-sur-Mizouri, Louisianne, Empress Gacudai was assassinated along with First President Jean-François Young, by assassins unknown. She was succeeded by her infant son, the present emperor.

    The Empire of Japan Japan at present consists of the kingdoms of Yamato, Corea, Lùquiù (Okinawa Prefecture, basically), and the Republic of Ezo (Hokkaido), all in personal union. It also includes two condominium territories: Meidji-dò, shared with Alta California, and Gaimanxù (Outer Manchuria), shared with the Republic of Primorye, a federal subject of the Russian Federation. The former is our Ft. Ross, Sonoma County, California; the latter is the area around the city of Caisanuai/Vladivostok.

  55. David Marjanović says:

    When he referred to the assembled monarchs as his vassals

    That totally sounds like him.

  56. That totally sounds like him.

    It totally does, but what would have been the point of inventing an anecdote that didn’t sound like him?

  57. AJP Crowne says:

    The Yoruba post is great, some very knowledgeable people. What happened to zaelic, I wonder?

  58. David Marjanović says:

    Usually invented anecdotes are exaggerated. With this one, Poe’s law strikes.

  59. What happened to zaelic, I wonder?

    He’s still around and comments from time to time, but he’s busy traveling the world and playing music in many languages!

  60. The question is, does it sound like Woldemar of Lippe? (If it were me, you can be sure it would be totes authentic.)

  61. marie-lucie says:

    JC, Which universe is are you are referring to? (where Kanawiki, etc exist(ed) ?)

  62. Ill Bethisad ‘the universe’ in Brito-Romance (ultimately < Gk baptizein). This is the same one I’ve talked about before, in which the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth elected Napoleon as its king (and Polish is also displaced by a Romance language). It first separated from our own time line when the Roman Empire decided to solve the problem of the Jews by flooding Judaea with immigrants from all over the Roman world.

  63. Peter’s well-educated, reform-minded older half-brother, Tsar Fyodor, spoke Polish, as did (likely) his first wife. But Fyodor died aged 20, and that was in 1682 anyway.

    Nicholas I made sure that his first son, Alexander II, learned at least some Polish. (Nicholas himself had been the third in line to the throne and inherited it largely by accident so his own education had been far from stellar, although his French was probably quite fluent.) The Liberator could read and write Polish and spoke the language passably. His heir apparent, Nicholas, may have studied Polish as well, but he died at 22. The title went to Alexander III, whose education had been of a military character (like that of Nicholas I) and who only took a crash course in humanities at 20. Why Nicholas II, who seemed to be good at languages and even spoke Danish, failed to learn Polish is a puzzle to me.

  64. Nicholas I made sure that his first son, Alexander II, learned at least some Polish. … The Liberator could read and write Polish and spoke the language passably.

    I did not know that! Thanks, and I withdraw my ignorant statement above.

  65. One can’t omit to mention the episode of Blackadder Goes Forth in which Captain Blackadder, assigned to find a spy, takes the opportunity to torment his rival Captain Darling.

    “I’m not a spy! I’m as British as Queen Victoria!”

    “So, your mother’s German, your father’s half-German and you married a German?”

  66. … I do not have high regard for the devotion to fact of American journalists of the turn of the twentieth century (and not much higher regard for that of their contemporary equivalents, come to that).

    Who were their contemporary equivalents if not themselves?

  67. A hit, a palpable hit! I should have said “their modern equivalents.”

  68. June 22, 2015 at 2:21 am

    Edward VII spoke German and French fluently. His wife was Danish but I see no reference to his ever speaking Danish.

    Question is whether Alexandra even spoke Danish. She was already eight when her dad was elected crown prince.

  69. The whole idea of rulers being expected to speak the language of their subjects must be a fairly modern one; I wonder when and where it got started?

  70. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson’s Imagined Communities had something to say about this, connected with the rise of official (i.e. regime-sponsored) nationalism in the 19C. Of course, “rulers speaking the language of their subjects” was probably the basal position: what other language would big men or even kings in Oceania, for example, speak? Henry IV of England gave the first English-language coronation speech since the Conquest in 1399, though several of his predecessors had surely been bilingual, and perhaps English-L1.

  71. Of course, “rulers speaking the language of their subjects” was probably the basal position: what other language would big men or even kings in Oceania, for example, speak?

    Of course, but that’s not really what I was talking about; I said “being expected to speak” for a reason. Nobody thought it at all odd that William the Conqueror didn’t speak English; a sovereign’s linguistic accomplishments were utterly irrelevant. Nowadays a ruler of England who didn’t speak English would be unthinkable.

  72. J. W. Brewer says:

    Speaking of Oceania, the present monarch whose various domains encompass England is concurrently Queen of, inter alia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu. I doubt she speaks the L1 of any significant number of her subjects in those particular realms and no one expects her to (although her L1 may be an L2 for some of those subjects and may be a co-official language).

  73. Nowadays a ruler of England who didn’t speak English would be unthinkable.
    As long as you look at the ideal modern nation state with one national language, yes, a ruler is expected to speak the language of its subjects. But that model breaks down when you look at empires with many languages or nation-states with significant minorities. As we have seen, even in th 19th century monarchs went to some lengths to learn at least some minority languages, but OTOH I’m quite sure that e.g. Ms. Merkel doesn’t speak Sorbian, Frisian, or Danish (the “classical” minority languages in Germany), or many of the languages of the German citizens with an immigration background. Or take many post-colonial nation states, where the rulers speak pehaps one of the dozens or hundreds of languages of their subjetcs, plus the former colonial language which is still the language of administration (as in JWB’s Oceania example). So I think this has to be seen in the wider context that in the modern nation state, there is supposed to be one official language of communication, supposed to be the native language of that nation (even if, historically, it’s only the native language of a certain group or region), and this language has to be spoken by ruler and ruled alike, but even there is often a qite big gulf btween that ideal and the facts on the ground.

  74. Sure, that’s why I’m wondering when the ideal started. (I think the Sorbs and Frisians are a red herring; of course a ruler can’t speak every language spoken in their realm, and nobody would expect that.)

  75. Are there other cases like Chris Deschene’s being disqualified from the Navajo Nation Presidential Election last year?

  76. Sure, that’s why I’m wondering when the ideal started. (I think the Sorbs and Frisians are a red herring; of course a ruler can’t speak every language spoken in their realm, and nobody would expect that.)
    That’s why I assume it started with two ideas – that there is something like a national language that everyone would speak and with the idea that a ruler should be accountable to and therefore able to communicate with the entire nation (and not just to a subset like the aristocracy). I’d date the first idea to the 18th century, the second is older at least in parts of Europe (Scandinavia, England), but really won traction only in the 19th century. And while there still were imported rulers in the 19th century, AFAIK they normally tried to learn the official language of the country they ruled.

  77. An exception being Otto of Greece (1832-62), who despite being an apparently sincere hellenophile spoke only his native Barvarian. Here’s Nick Nicholas reimagining his arrival in his new country:

    When King Otto arrived in Greece in 1833, an honour guard of veterans was set up to fire off a 21 gun salute. When the appointed time came, the designated officer walked up, and proudly shouted, in the only form of Greek worthy of the occasion:

    OFFICER #1: … Ignis! [Πῦρ!]

    VETERANS: ….

    OFFICER #1: … Ignis! [Πῦρ!]

    VETERANS: ….

    OFFICER #1: … Ignis? [Πῦρ;]

    VETERANS: … (Who the hell’s this Innis guy he keeps calling out for?) (Nay, nay, you see, he’s addressing his Majesty in his native Barvarian.)

    OFFICER #2 (BILINGUAL IN ANCIENT AND MODERN GREEK): [from the crowd] … *FIRE*, damn your hides! [Φωτιά, πανάθεμά σας!]

    VETERANS: … Oh! *bang bang bang* (See, told you! That’s Sgt Innis right there.)

    When I read this, I thought to myself (in Greek): what does setting things on fire (φωτιά) have to do with shooting guns (πυρά)?

    Then I translated both words into English.

    Then I was sore amused.

    There’s a simple metaphor in many a language between setting things on fire and shooting guns. Hence, gunfire, and fire!. Saying fire! in Ancient Greek at the barracks did not succeed in reviving the ancient Greek word for setting things on fire.

    But it did succeed in destroying the metaphoric link: the Ancient Greek word for ‘fire’ is the only word now used for ‘fire’ in a military context—that is, gunfire. The Modern Greek word for ‘fire’ is the only word now used for ‘fire’ in any other context. And modern speakers do a double-take, to realise that gunfire has something to do with burning.

    Not what people in 1833 had in mind…

  78. Stefan Holm says:

    Ye all may bear in mind, that the concept ’nation’ had no or little meaning to the pre-WWI European aristocracy. They saw themselves as parts of the same class, by heredity and the mercy of God destined to rule over whatever territories and peoples they could conquer from each other in ‘noble’ battle. Their subjects were only of interest as work force, tax payers and cannon fodder, whatever language they might speak.

    In the army of king Gustav II Adolf during the 30 years war there were very few Swedes. They had no immunity against dysentery, so the king could only see them literally shit themselves to death. Instead of those useless northern peasants he hired mercenaries – from Croatia to Scotland – to be killed in his heroic deeds. During the 18th c. French was the language spoken at the royal Swedish court (as in most other European ones). Our present king is a (male) descendant of one of Napoleon’s generals, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte (the only remaining Napoleonic royal line in Europe). Historians have shown, that it’s not until the late 19th c. that Swedes started to refer to themselves as ‘Swedes’.

    After a battle between the nobles it was common that they (the kings and their higher officers) had a party eating, drinking and discussing the battle as had it been a game of chess. The concept ‘nation’ (or religion) was only of interest to them as a propaganda weapon to make the pawns line up.

    As you probably know the British king, the German kaiser and the Russian czar at the outbreak of WWI were all cousins. In fact the whole European aristocracy was inbreeded. So I think queen Victoria didn’t give a damn about what her subjects thought about her using German at the court. After all she was not one of them but of a special blue-blooded breed, belonging to something much more elevated than a simple ‘nation’.

    Addendum: Our present king’s (Carl XVI Gustaf) wife (Silvia Sommerlath, of non-aristocratic German breed) gave birth to two daughters before delivering a son. So the Swedish parliament decided to change the constitution in order to allow for female succession. Thus the next regent of Sweden would be – Queen Victoria.

  79. The concept ‘nation’ (or religion) was only of interest to them as a propaganda weapon to make the pawns line up.

    This is still the case, as it has ever been (said the old anarchist).

  80. SFReader says:

    -Speaking of dynastic branches, I remember being surprised when I learned that the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian empires weren’t ruled by “real” Habsburgs, but rather by the successor house of Habsburg-Lorraine.

    Russia wasn’t ruled by real Romanovs either.

    Male line of Romanovs died out in 1730 and since 1796 Russia was ruled by House of Oldenburg

  81. Addendum: Our present king’s (Carl XVI Gustaf) wife (Silvia Sommerlath, of non-aristocratic German breed) gave birth to two daughters before delivering a son.

    Ahegm

    King Carl Gustav and Queen Silvia have three children and three grandchildren:

    Crown Princess Victoria, Duchess of Västergötland (born 14 July 1977). On 19 June 2010, she married Daniel Westling, now Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland. The couple have a daughter, Princess Estelle, Duchess of Östergötland (born 23 February 2012).

    Prince Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland (born 13 May 1979). Crown Prince in 1979. On 13 June 2015, he married Sofia Hellqvist, now Princess Sofia, Duchess of Värmland.

    Princess Madeleine, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland (born 10 June 1982). On 8 June 2013, she married Christopher O’Neill, who has no royal title. The couple have a daughter, Princess Leonore, Duchess of Gotland (born 20 February 2014), and a son, Prince Nicolas, Duke of Ångermanland (born 15 June 2015).

    Prince Carl Philip was born the heir apparent. However, a constitutional reform, which was already under way at the time of his birth, made his older sister, Victoria, the heir apparent and Crown Princess of Sweden on 1 January 1980, according to the principles of absolute primogeniture, which Sweden was the first recognized monarchy to adopt.[12] King Carl Gustaf objected after the reform, not to the succession by females but to the fact that his son lost the position and title which he had had since birth.[13]

  82. Stefan Holm says:

    Of course Hat it’s still the case. Modern financial capital knows of no borders, other than e.g. by the exaction of tributes, where a nation, like Greece, can be singled out.

    Thanks, Sili, for your correction. Although being their subject I keep no records of those guys. The only thing I recently noted was that the prince is a good racing car driver – in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship (STCC) – and won his first race a week ago. There he however is not called ‘prince’ – just Carl Philip Bernadotte. He was meant to be Carl XVII (the first six of the hitherto sixteen Carls are mythical though).

  83. Mmm, that’s not what Anderson says. There was a definite shift expressed by titles like King of the French and German Emperor (as opposed to King of France or Emperor of Germany) that expressed the idea that Louis-Philippe and Willy the Two were the most important members of the French and German nations respectively, and not merely dynastic monarchs who might in principle rule any nation. The earlier shift from Holy Roman Emperor to Austro-Hungarian Emperor expresses this even more forcibly, the more so because Austria-Hungary remained a multinational state to the end.

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