Royals in uniform
Any fellow-bloggers who followed yesterday's State Opening of Parliament on television with sufficiently rapt attention might have been struck by the appearance in the midst of all the weird ceremonial of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal and daughter of the Queen, in an ornate uniform and waving a yellow rod of some description. It turns out that Her Royal Highness is the (honorary, I assume) Colonel of the Blues and Royals, one of the regiments of the Household Cavalry, and that this already onerous position automatically also makes her something called "Gold Stick in Waiting": hence her bit part, in full costume, at the State Opening. A similarly useless piece of supporting information from a website devoted to the wife of the heir to the throne, Camilla, Princess of Wales (who prefers to shelter behind the title "Duchess of Cornwall", for reasons best known to her husband) tells us that in the 1970s Camilla's first husband, Andrew Parker-Bowles, was –
Colonel Commanding the Household Cavalry and Silver Stick in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II. And was [sic] ADC to Lord Soames, when he was Governor-General of Southern Rhodesia in 1979. Silver Stick is merely the title that comes with being the Colonel Commanding the Household Cavalry. Silver Stick in Waiting is the assistant to Gold Stick in Waiting. These court titles date back to Tudor times, when two army officers were placed near the Sovereign to protect him or her from danger. Their name derives from their staffs of office, which have a gold or a silver head.
The same website quotes an anonymous 'friend' as saying that Andrew Parker-Bowles is –
an ex-boyfriend of Princess Anne, and the late Queen Mother saw him as one of her favourites.
So Camilla's former husband once held the office of assistant to an office of state now occupied by the lady who is now her sister-in-law and a former girl-friend of the same former husband. I hope that's clear?
It's important not to confuse the Princess Royal's costume when she is in her Gold Stick role with the naval uniform (possibly that of an admiral or more likely some slightly lower rank — see below, and please be patient) which she tends to wear on out-of-doors occasions such as the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on the nearest Sunday to 11 November, anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. Although Princess Anne (once again according to Wikipedia ) is Colonel-in-Chief of some 20 army regiments, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand, she quite understandably seems to find that naval rig suits her best, relying no doubt on her position as 'Rear Admiral and Chief Commandant for women, Royal Navy'. Nor should we forget that —
In 2002, she made history by being the first non-reigning woman to wear military uniform at a funeral, when she wore a Royal Navy uniform at the funeral of her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
The Princess is not the only royal personage to don slightly surprising military uniform on ceremonial occasions. Those watching the recent Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph may have wondered about the identity of the youngish-looking man in military uniform viewing the proceedings from a Foreign Office balcony with other non-participating royals. Surely, we thought, this couldn't be HRH the Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, whose career in the Royal Marines came to an embarrassingly premature end after only three months when the Royal Marines decided that the Prince was not for them, and he sensibly decided that the Royal Marines were right? For a man whose military career had been so short-lived now to appear in public in some form of military uniform might seem just a little — well, insensitive. But the next day's Court Circular solved the mystery. Yes, it was indeed Prince Edward on the balcony, in his role and uniform of — wait for it — "Royal Honorary Colonel, The Royal Wessex Yeomanry", a unit of the Territorial Army. As a footnote, it's reassuring to see from the accompanying illustration (right) of the Royal Earl inspecting his royal yeomen that he sports a number of medals, perhaps including a medal for bravery when he risked his father's wrath by deciding to call it a day with the Royal Marines.
We have Wikipedia once again to thank for the following further tantalising titbits:
The Earl of Wessex is mostly famous for his television production and presenting career and his brief service with the Royal Marines. In connection with the television production, he has used the names Edward Windsor and, later, Edward Wessex, leading The Guardian, for one, to refer to him as "the Edward formerly known as Prince". … In 1994, the leaders of Estonia's Royalist Party, with 10 percent of the seats in the Estonian National Parliament, wrote to Prince Edward indicating that they would, if they came into power, like to offer him the position of King of Estonia. In their letter, they said that they wanted Edward as King because of their admiration "for him, Britain, its monarchy, democracy and culture". It is unknown how, or even if, the Earl of Wessex responded, but he obviously has yet to assume the throne of this Baltic State.
Imagination quails at the thought of the uniforms His Royal Highness (potential Majesty) could wear if only he were to decide to accept that Estonian offer.