Several British journalists got it wrong when they wrote that a female royals and shamrock presentations.
Yes, Queen Alexandra was the first member of the Royal Family to present Shamrocks to the Irish Guards, but no, a thousand times no, the shamrocks have not been presented annually by a female member of the Royal family since 1901.
In 1902, Queen Alexandra did present the shamrocks, according to the Devon and Exeter Gazette.
In 1904, from the Manchester Courier:
|© IWM (Q 67391)|
In 1904-1905, the Earl Roberts of Kandahar and Pretoria presented the shamrocks, [Lord Roberts died in 1914, and was succeeded by his elder daughter, Aileen (1870-1944), as a special remainder had been created for his viscountcy and earldom, allowing for female succession, as his only son was killed in action in 1899 in the Boer War, The titles became extinct in 1955 following the death of the third countess, Edwina, Aileen's younger sister.]
In March 1905, the Sphere published "Lord Roberts presented the Queen's shamrock to the Irish Guards on St. Patrick's Day." He repeated this in 1907, as reported by The Bystander.
Lord Roberts was the first Colonel of the Irish Guards.
In 1906, the shamrocks were presented by Colonel Cooper.
Queen Alexandra attended the 1908 presentation.
In 1911, Colonel Nugent presented the shamrock on behalf of Queen Alexandra.
Using The Times database and Nexis, as well as several other reference sources, I learned that the female royals who have presented the Shamrocks included Queen Alexandra, Princess Mary (the Princess Royal from 1931), Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Princess Anne (the Princess Royal) and the Duchess of Cambridge. A careful examination showed that the tradition has not been attended annually by a member of the Royal Family. There were breaks during the first and second world war, when a royal presentation was impossible.
From the Devon and Exeter Daily Gazette (March 18, 1909). Queen Alexandra was not present.
Queen Alexandra "sent down shamrock to the Irish Guard at Aldershot," in March 1910, according to press reports. In other words, she was not present.
In 1912: Alexandra provided the shamrock, but was not present. She also sent the shamrock in 1914, but did not attend.
|Nottingham Evening Post, March 17, 1916|
In 1917, it was Lord French who did the presentation.
Queen Mary also presented the Shamrock in 1918, "the gift of Queen Alexandra." It appears that Lord Cavan did the presentation in 1919.
It appears that Princess Mary, the Princess Royal (1897-1965) succeeded her grandmother as the presenter. But her record is neither straightforward or consistent. In 1928, the Duchess of York carried out the presentation. A year later, the Court Circular noted that the Princess Royal was unable to make the presentation so she sent the Countess Roberts to represent her. Lady Roberts, a peeress in her own right, also represented the Princess at the presentation on St.. Patrick's Day in 1933.
In 1926, the Shamrock was presented by the Countess of Cavan.
|Citizen, March 17, 1926|
|Evening Telegraph and Post, March 17, 1927|
The Princess Royal was back in action in 1930.
|Citizen, Mrach 17, 1930|
The Earl of Cavan, who became Colonel of the Irish Guards in 1925, presented the shamrocks in 1931, 1932, 1936 and 1940. In 1941 and 1942, the Times noted, that the Princess Royal arranged for the shamrocks to be presented.
Lord Cavan represented the Princess Royal. From the Courier and Advertiser (Dundee, Scotland) on March 18, 1931.
Quoting the Irish Guards Quarterly: "1949 March 17 ST. PATRICK’s DAY.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade took place in Barracks at 0930 hours. The BRIGADE Commander, Brigadier G.F. JOHNSON, DSO, presented the Battalion with the Shamrock. After the parade the Battalion marched to the Cathedral for the St. Patrick’s Day Service."
In 1950, King George VI presented the shamrocks. He was accompanied by his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and their eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth. This was the 50th anniversary of the Irish Guards, which made sense for the King to take care of the presentation.
Earl Alexander of Tunis, the 5th Colonel of the Irish Guards, handled the presentation on several occasions. In 1944, he presented the shamrocks to the 1st Battalion, then serving in Cassino, Italy.
In 1953, the 1st Battalion was in Dusseldorf, Germany. The Princess Royal did not attend the ceremony. Lord Alexander of Tunis, then Britain's Defense Minister, handled the presentation.
He also carried out the presentations in 1960 and 1966.
In 1953, Countess Roberts presented the Shamrock. She was the late Lord Robert's younger daughter, Edwina.
In 1955, the Princess Royal did the presentation in Caterham
In 1957: the Princess Royal did present the shamrock.
In 1959. the Countess Alexander of Tunis had the honor to present the shamrock, representing the Princess Royal.
In 1961, the Princess Royal resumed her presentation.
In 1964, the Princess Royal traveled to Hubbelrath, Germany, where the 1st Battalion was based, for the presentation of the shamrock.
Some sources say that the Queen Mother took over the presentation in 1965 following the death of the Princess Royal. This is incorrect, as the Princess Royal died on March 28, 1965. Earlier in the month, she had represented the Queen at the funeral of Queen Louise of Sweden.
The Court Circular did not include information about the shamrock presentation in 1965. On March 17th, the Princess Royal visited the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at the London Clinic, where the former king was recovering from eye surgery. She also had one official engagement on that day.
The Queen Mother did not have an engagement on St. Patrick's Day in 1965.
The Court Circular did not mention the Queen Mother doing the presentation in 1966. She was preparing for a trip to Australia and New Zealand. Or 1967.
The first Court Circular reference was in 1968.
She carried out the duty for the rest of her life, with two exceptions. In 1989, the Irish Guards were in Belize, so the Queen Mother asked the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, who served with the Irish Guards during World War II, if he could present the shamrocks. One could forgive the queen mother for asking the Grand Duke, 20 years her junior, to undertake the engagement. The Queen Mother was 88 years old at the time.
The Queen Mother's final shamrock presentation was on March 17, 2001. A year later, she was too ill to carry out the much loved engagement, and her grandson, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, stepped in for her.
Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, did the presentations from 2003-2011, and was succeeded by the Duchess of Cambridge in 2012.
I do think the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge need to take on more royal engagements and patronages. Although the Duke is second in line to the throne, and has no constitutional role, he and his wife represent the future of the monarchy. Most of Britain's working royals are senior citizens.
I expect most of the people who were disappointment by the announcement that the Duchess was not going to appear this year are the people who are interested in what Catherine would be wearing.
According to the Daily Express' Royal Correspondent, Richard Palmer, "aides said that the Duchess had enjoyed the duty in previous years and would undoubtedly do it again in future but did not want the public to think that she was taking on the responsibility annually."
I am not sure that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge aides helped the situation with their statement to the press.
The Duchess of Cambridge certainly showed enthusiasm during her presentations, and she could have taken a few hours out of her day tomorrow to continue what many saw as a permanent royal engagement. At least, we won't have to worry about about she is wearing.
It should be noted that the Duke of Cambridge is the first royal Colonel of the Irish Guards, and it is rare for more than one member of the Royal Family to attend the ceremony.
Far too many articles were plonked out with incorrect information that distaff members of the British Royal Family have been doing the shamrock presentations annually since 1901. I have provided examples and citations to show that this statement is far from true. It was not until the late 1960s when the Queen Mother succeeded the Princess Royal that the presentation became a true annual royal engagement. She made it her own, and she was loved and respected by members of the Irish Guard.