Dr Anna Whitelock, Department of History, has recently featured on Sky News, BBC Radio, LBC Radio, BBC World at One and in multiple newspapers, providing opinion and expertise on the decision made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to step back from their roles as senior royals. We recently caught up with Anna to find out more about this coverage and her research interests.
1. Could you tell us about yourself and your role within the Department of History?
I am Head of the Department of History and a Reader in Early Modern History. I am also co-director of the new Centre for the Study of Modern Monarchy which has just been established at Royal Holloway.
2. You have recently featured in a number of different publications providing opinion and expertise on the decision made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to step back from their roles as senior royals. Could you tell us more about this?
Following the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s announcement on Instagram that they were to step back as senior royals, there has been a great media storm of interest in the royal family, and what, if anything, this means for the monarchy. As a royal historian I have been called upon to provide context and commentary on the story and its wider implications.
3. Can you tell us more about your research interests?
My research interests are focused on the monarchy and in particular in the early modern period, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I have written on the Tudors – Mary I and Elizabeth I- and am finishing a book called Succession which charts the transition from Tudor to Stuart rule with the accession of James I. My interest in the monarchy has increasingly led to me being called upon as a media commentator on modern monarchy using my historical knowledge to inform an understanding of this century’s old institution in the modern world.
4. Are you currently working on any new projects or research?
I am developing a major research project on the current queen’s reign in the nine Caribbean countries that retain her as head of state (like New Zealand, Canada and Australia) which have been neglected both by scholars and public commentators. With a team of researchers and partner institutions both in the UK and Caribbean, we shall be combining interviews, archive work, polling and media analysis to reflect on the queens’ role over the last six decades, the importance of her royal tours, if and why she remains so popular and what might the future hold for the monarchy in these realms.
5. What do you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway and within the Department of History?
From the time of its foundation, Royal Holloway has always been a proud, radical and reforming institution, notable for its ambition and success, first in offering education to women, now in providing opportunities for all those who have drive and determination to learn, to ask the big questions and to be active and engaged in the modern world. It is this approach that we foster in the history department and are ambitious for ourselves and our students. History is not just about the past but provides a very necessary perspective on the present and future. We welcome students who see education as activism, who want to challenge and to question. We are proud of our department as being a supportive community of scholars at various stages in their studies, but all with common purpose and passion.
6. What do you enjoy doing with your time outside of work?
I like to run. It clears my head, gives me perspective and supports both my physical and my mental health. I listen to lots of podcasts too and enjoy a very varied mix of television programmes, some intellectually stimulating, some entirely and refreshingly not!