Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Peter Phillips

When they were married - four years and a day prior to the birth of their eldest child and only son - Princess Anne and then-Lieutenant (now Captain) Mark Phillips gave modern Britain its first real-life example of what was by then a rather creaky old fairy-tale; the notion of a Princess and a Palace guardsman swept up in a romance defied everything Britons had grown up thinking about class miscegenation...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe Queen's oldest grandchild, then, by right ought to be royal, but isn't. It was said to be at Princess Anne's insistence that Mark Phillips was to be given no titles save for the ones he would one day earn; there are two just as plausible other reasons why he wasn't...

The first states that Princes cannot be created, only Princesses - a rule broken at least once before in the creation of Prince Philip, who was at least a Greek and Danish Prince prior to his marriage in November 1947, just not an English one, and was after all marrying a woman who would one day become Queen. The second is simply that the Palace, eager not to arouse Republican sentiment in the more egalitarian times of the 1970s by tinkering with well-established precedent, refused to remake Mark Phillips as Prince Mark and foisted the blame for it on Anne*.

Since Princess Margaret's husband Antony Armstrong-Jones had been given a peerage upon their marriage in 1960 (at which time he was made Earl of Snowdon) there was a precedent for that; then again, Princess Margaret was both the child and sibling of sovereigns (and known to be royaller than royal as well), not merely the child of a monarch as is Princess Anne who - despite being said to never let you forget who you're talking to when talking to her - is nevertheless obviously far less uptight about rank than her aunt.

And so Peter Phillips (born on this day in 1977) has grown up with the comfortable life and access to the finer things in education and social set that are the prerogative of royalty without the crashing dullness of working for the Civil List; now eleventh in line for the throne - he was fifth at birth - he was also the first commoner in the succession for more than 500 years.

Employed by the Royal Bank of Scotland since September 2006, in May 2008 he married Autumn Kelly, a native of Montreal; shortly after the announcement of their engagement came a controversy... Under the terms of the Act of Settlement (1701) in order for him to marry Kelly (who was baptised Roman Catholic) either she would have to give up her religion or he would have to give up his claim to the throne. Since she is not, by her own admission, particularly religious (in a similar way, presumably, that he is not particularly royal) it could have gone either way; as it is Ms. Kelly was welcomed into the Church of England prior to their nuptials. Another controversy arose over the sale of the couple's engagement and wedding pictures to Hello magazine - for a reported £500,000 - which embroiled senior members of the royal family in the sort of situation they prefer to avoid; sadly, the happy (and comely) couple is keeping the honeymoon photos to themselves.

Close to his cousin Prince William (especially since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in August 1997) Peter Phillips may yet find himself on the receiving end of royal largesse, title-wise; only time will tell...

*A third theory, held only by me it seems, states that the only way someone can be legitimately called Prince Mark is if he's a rapper.

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