The British royal family and the colonial empire from the Georgians to Prince George
in Crowns and colonies
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There has been a recent surge of interest amongst historians in the relationship between the British monarchy and the empire. Despite its novelty, however, this new historiography rests on some familiar foundations, tending to see the imperial monarchy as an exercise in spectacle and 'invented tradition', and a product of the 'new imperialism', c. 1870–1914. This chapter places the topic of crown and colonies in a different, longer-term perspective. It argues that the English (then British) Crown, much like its continental counterparts, had a significant influence over the expansion of empire from the sixteenth century onwards. By the nineteenth century, the royal prerogative over the church and army in the colonies had extended as dominion grew, and the court and royal family exercised influence over colonial administration. One reason for this was the extent of indigenous forms of kingship and native monarchy in many parts of the empire. Especially as a female monarch, Queen Victoria was seen as offering the cloak of protection, exemplified here by case-studies drawn from New Zealand and India. When rival European empires consolidated their realms after 1860 -- notably Italy and Germany -- Queen Victoria and her advisors attempted to do the same for the overseas colonial empire. By focusing so much on charting the origins of the modern twentieth century Commonwealth, historians have overlooked the deeper roots of Britain's monarchical empire before 1870.

Crowns and colonies

European monarchies and overseas empires

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