Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Lest we forget Diana

Author's collection
Today is the eighth anniversary of Diana's death.

Now that I've reminded you of this, you probably fall into one of these categories:

  • You're completely indifferent
  • You believe her death was a tragic accident
  • You believe that her death was a conspiracy of impressive, strategic proportions - a mission that switched gears effortlessly upon the whim of it's targets - and you won't rest until the truth is revealed.
  • You're undecided, weighing the pros and cons of the investigation, not jumping to any conclusions until all of the evidence has been reviewed.
According to Mohammed Al Fayed's website: 94% of Daily Express Readers believe that she was murdered, so there is some peer pressure to withstand. Everyone else who reads the Daily Express has made up their minds, why haven't you? You would have to be totally cold-blooded, or a well-adjusted individual who doesn't bend to peer pressure, to just say no.

Regardless of how you feel, it's okay to admit it. Beneath the layer of fashionable denial, you know the truth. Personally my feelings vacillate on any given anniversary of her death. Here is my progression:
  • On the 1st anniversary I was disappointed there wasn't more coverage
  • On the 2nd, I was further disappointed but realized that yes, life does go on
  • on the 3rd, I almost forgot but then I looked at the calendar
  • on the 4th, and 5th I don't remember what I did
  • On the 6th, I made my pilgrimage to Althorp to visit her grave, buy souvenirs, and to say I'd done it
  • On the 7th, I don't remember what I did
  • On the 8th, I'm writing this article
So you see, we all deal with grief in our own way. At the moment I have no plans for the 9th but that could change. Maybe once August 31, 2007 rolls around I will finally have decided once and for all. Until that point I await the official commemorative books, china, dolls, stamps and newspaper articles to add to my collection.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Royal Profile: David Linley

David Linley could arguably be considered the most successful royal of his generation. Unlike some of his cousins who are expected to perform royal duties, he has created his own successful business, by his own effort, talent, and on his own terms.

David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley of Nymans, was born on November 3, 1961 at Clarence House. His parents were the late Princess Margaret, sister of the Queen, and Antony Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon. He has a younger sister, Lady Sarah Chatto (nee Armstrong-Jones) born in 1964. He also has two half-siblings, Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones, born in 1979 and Jasper William Oliver Cable-Alexander, born in 1998.

He bears a striking resemblance to his father, the renowned photographer who goes by the name Snowdon, and he has taken after him by pursuing an artistic career. Although he and his sister grew up within the shadow of Buckingham Palace, unlike their cousins, they enjoyed comparative freedom from the press and public eye. Princess Margaret said of them: 'my children are not royal, they just happen to have the Queen for an aunt.' David's parents separated in 1976 and after the divorce, custody was given to Princess Margaret. However, both children were on equally good terms with both parents.

At first David was educated, along with his cousins at the schoolroom in Buckingham Palace. He went on to a London day school and then a preparatory school. He did not distinguish himself academically and along with his sister, was then sent to a progressive co-educational school, Bedales in Hampshire. David excelled at school in art and woodworking and he went on to the John Makepeace School for Craftsmen in Dorset. He made his cousin Prince Charles, a dining-room table as a wedding present in 1981. In 1982, he and a partner set up their own cabinet-making business. Within three years he had proved successful enough to open a shop, David Linley Furniture Limited now known as Linley. Today, he is a manufacturer of furniture, upholstery and interior design products. He also opened a restaurant called Deals and within a few years he opened a second restaurant. He has written three books and lectured around the world at various prestigious venues.

In 1993 he married the Honourable Serena Stanhope, daughter of a wealthy landowner. They have two children - the Honourable Charles Armstrong-Jones born in 1999, and the Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones born in 2002.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Friday, August 26, 2005

Royal Profile: Prince Michael of Kent

Prince Michael George Charles Franklin was born on July 4, 1942 at the family home, Coppins, near Iver in Buckinghamshire. The last name was in honour of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a close friend and one of the baby's godfathers. His father was Prince George, Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary, and his mother was Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark.

One of the guests living with the family at the time noted that 'the Duke seems to love this tiny infant. Every evening, he leaves the table shortly after ten o'clock and carries his youngest son to the nursery and lays him in his cot and stands watching and watching. Nannie told me that each night she discreetly leaves the room, but she can hear the Duke talking softly to him. Perhaps he is unconsciously preparing him for the future.'

Seven weeks after his birth, his father was killed in a plane crash while on active service. After his father's death, his mother raised him, his brother - Edward, the current Duke of Kent and sister, Princess Alexandra, quietly at Coppins.

Like his father, cars and anything mechanical fascinated him. He showed an interest in geography and he was musical, playing the tambourine in the school percussion band. His childhood ambition, however, was to join the fire brigade. In 1951 he was sent to Sunningdale preparatory school, and in 1955 he entered Eton. From there he entered the Army and went to Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy in 1961.

During his time in the Army he proved himself to be an able linguist. In 1966 he became the first member of the Royal Family to learn Russian and he qualified as a Russian Military interpreter. He joined the Ministry of Defence in 1968, looking after Foreign Defence Attaches in London. He was part of the United Nations Force in Cyprus in 1971, and from 1974-1981 worked in the Ministry of Defence, in the Defence Intelligence Service. Eventually he attained the rank of Major in the Royal Hussars. He has most recently been promoted to Honorary Rear Admiral in the Royal Naval Reserve.

When he retired from the Army in 1981, he began to work full time and he has served on the boards of various companies. In his day-to-day business, he is chairman of his own private consultancy company. Due to his work, the Prince travels extensively on business and has led delegations of British businessmen to China as well as Russia.

Although he acted as a page at the wedding of his cousins, Princess Elizabeth (now the Queen) to Prince Philip in 1947, he does not take part in royal events very often. Unlike his siblings, he does not receive a parliamentary allowance and it was clear from the beginning, and as the second son of a Duke, that he was one royal who would have to earn his own living. However, he has represented The Queen on a number of occasions, including at the State funerals of the Presidents of India and Cyprus in 1977, the signing of the Treaty of Friendship with Brunei in 1979, the Independence Day celebrations in Belize in 1981, and most recently in 2004, for the 150th Anniversary of the Crimean War in the Ukraine. He also regularly attends charity functions.

Prince Michael attracted a lot of publicity when in June 1978 he married Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, a Catholic and a divorcee. The marriage, although finally approved by the Queen, required him to relinquish his place in the line of succession to the throne, and at first the Catholic Church, because of Princess Michael’s divorce, did not recognize it. As such they could not marry in the church and they had a civil ceremony instead. The Princess was granted an annulment of her first marriage and in 1983 the Pope gave them permission to marry in the Roman Catholic rite; the ceremony took place in the Cardinal's private chapel, Westminister Cathedral. The couple have two children, Lord Frederick Windsor, born in 1979 and Lady Gabriella Windsor, born 1981. Both have been raised in the Church of England and are therefore still eligible to succeed.

A keen sportsman, he enjoys rowing, hunting and squash. He has also represented Great Britain as a bobsleigh driver and was a reserve for the 1972 Olympics. He is a vintage car enthusiast, a competitive rally driver, and he is also a qualified pilot of both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

At present Prince Michael and his family live in Kensington Palace.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Royal Profile: The Princess Royal

On a regular basis I will profile a member of the royal family, past or present, which may not necessarily receive as much notice as the higher profile, glamorous, members. Despite her hard work and tireless efforts, Princess Anne could certainly fit into that description. In the past her caustic attitude, mainly towards the media, has overshadowed her charity work. However, as the years have passed, some now regard her as the monarchy's most valuable asset, after the Queen.

Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise was born on August 15, 1950 at Clarence House. On the day of her birth, her father, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy. At the time, her mother was Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and heiress presumptive to the throne.

When she was 18 months old, her mother became Queen and the family moved to Buckingham Palace. Here she grew up with her older brother, Prince Charles, now the Prince of Wales. The popular images of her as a child show a little girl with blonde curls, blue eyes and gentle looks that belied the reality she was a tomboy, preferring to climb trees than playing with dolls. As she grew older, although the public expected it, she could not fill the role of fairytale princess, preferring to maintain her individuality and regarding clothes as simply a requirement to her position.

She was educated first at home in the palace, then at the age of thirteen she was sent to a girl's boarding school, Benenden, in Kent. She started official duties when she was 18 years old and in 1969 joined her parent in Austria for her first State visit.

At the age of two she was taught to ride by her mother and horses have played a very important part of her life. Through her own ability she is internationally known as an accomplished sportswoman. She herself has admitted, 'It's the one thing I can do well and can be seen to do well.' As a teenager she started to complete in show jumping and dressage events. She has won a number of trophies for her skill as a horsewoman, including the Individual Woman's European Championship in 1971. In 1973 she competed in the European Championships in Kiev and again in West Germany in 1975, where she won silver medals both as an individual and as a member of the British team. She competed in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal on Great Britain's riding team.

In 1973 she married Captain Mark Philips in Westminster Abbey. They had two children, Peter in 1977 and Zara in 1981. In her desire for them to have as normal a life as possible, neither of her children holds royal titles. Her marriage to Captain Mark Philips ended in 1992 and she married Commander Timothy Laurence the same year.

In June 1987 she received the title of Princess Royal from the Queen. She is the seventh holder of this title. In 1994 The Queen appointed The Princess a Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter and in 2000, in recognition of her work for charities and to mark her 50th birthday, she was appointed to the Order of the Thistle.

In 2004 the Princess Royal carried out some 599 engagements both in the UK and overseas. She has visited over 70 countries. Much of her travel abroad has been in her capacity as President of Save the Children fund, of which she has been president since 1970. She is associated with over 200 organizations in an official capacity and she also holds honorary rank and appointments in a number of regiments of the Armed Services.

Princess Anne has garnered a few 'firsts'; along with being the first daughter of a Sovereign to attend boarding school, she is also the first to compete in the Olympics, and the first member of the royal family since King Charles I (for treason), to face criminal charges. Her charges, however, were much less serious; speeding and a fine for when her dog attacked two children.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Here comes the bride..

The hunt for a bride for Prince William has begun! The top contender at the moment seems to be his present girlfriend, Kate Middleton. They seem so happy and so young and so in love and depending on which report you read they plan on getting married. Despite all of the speculation, one must note that William is only 23 years old; merely a pup, and he no doubt would like to 'sow his wild oats'. So, I'm sure we will see a bevy of lovely ladies photographed in close proximity to him, whether he wants them in the frame or not. We will never know the true status of the relationship as royal prince's are not usually photographed touching their girlfriend, so the first we are likely to know about an engagement is when it's announced.

When the time comes for him to choose a wife to bear his children, she will probably be from the upper classes, wealthy, aristocratic and well bred. The options for marrying in his status level are limited. Unlike the good old interbred days, royalty no longer seems to marry royalty. Today people would gasp in horror if he took off with his cousin, Lady Gabriella Windsor, gorgeous as she is. So should things not work out with Kate, I have compiled a list of potential candidates. In no particular order:

Britney Spears - just thought I'd throw her in there since they supposedly emailed each other. Unfortunately, now that she's married, she out of the running. Of course if she happens to be divorced by the time William seriously considers settling down, she may once again be a consideration. Princess Britney does have a nice Barbie doll ring to it.

Christina Aguilera - her version of God Save the Queen would blow the corgis right out of the room

Mary Kate or Ashley Oslen - Maybe they could sub for each other when they're ill. When Prince William does walkabouts he would have one for each side of the street.

Hillary Duff - Didn't she recently play a princess in a movie? What better preparation than that? A modern day Grace Kelly with her own clothing line.

Princess Theodora of Greece - not a bad looking girl and already familiar with the ins and outs of royalty.

Princess Madeleine of Sweden - Beautiful girl, maybe too beautiful. They would be so dazzling together we wouldn't know whom to look at.

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden - the royal power couple of the century.

Charlotte Casiraghi - daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco. Beautiful but Catholic. Maybe she would consider converting to the Church of England for him.

Princess Leia - He might even get his own action figure.

Chelsy Davy - Prince Harry's girlfriend. The royals do have a precedent of a bride marrying the brother when her fiancé unexpectedly dies.

For versatility, this list can also be used should something unfortunate happen to Prince William. Just change out Chelsy Davy's name with Kate Middleton's.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Makeover of Camilla

Seeing recent photos of Camilla, I have to say I'm speechless. Once again, the transformation of Camilla is striking; she looks lovelier the more I see of her. For her birthday she was granted her own coat of arms. Search online and you will even find Camilla impersonators; the ultimate compliment. You know you've made it when you have an impersonator. The unflattering photos, clothes, and the rotweiler comments are now history.

We are no longer throwing bread rolls at her; we are breaking bread with her.

But regardless of how she looks, the fact remains is that the royal family needed Camilla. Would we really be paying attention to Charles' engagements if it weren't for her? Instead of being threatened by the attention on his wife, maybe Charles now realizes her value. President John F. Kennedy realized and even acknowledged it: "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it". *Sigh* if only Charles had taken this attitude during his marriage to Diana. Had there been no Camilla, the stamps and souvenirs for Charles' coronation would have looked slightly off. Do we really want a commemorative mug with Charles' mug on it? At the time of his mother's coronation, she had the advantage of youth to hold her own on the china. If the handsome Prince Philip appeared with her it was even better. Charles doesn't have that, if he ever did. Camilla, like Diana, generates an interest, a "what is she going to wear" curiosity. Still finding her legs as the newest recruit, Camilla has a down to earth quality that people seem to like and appreciate.

The makeover of Camilla did not happen overnight. From 1999, when she made her first public appearance with the Prince of Wales to the present, it occurred gradually, under the radar, while people were distracted by the comparisons to Diana. It was complete by the time their engagement was announced. Now she is being complimented and lauded for her fashion sense and naturalness. Camilla positively glowed with happiness and I admit that until the wedding, that was the most beautiful I'd ever seen her.

It really is too bad that it took so long for people to notice. Seeing photos of Camilla in her debutante phase she was a very pleasant looking young woman; not particularly remarkable but attractive in her own way. Now as the wife of the heir to the throne, she is regarded differently. She did not have the benefit, like Diana did, of having youth on her side or the lack of a 'past', a Cinderella story in real life. But before she became a princess, Diana herself could not have been considered to be classically beautiful. She was attractive in a dewy, youthful kind of way, but there was no indication of just how glamorous she would become. In his bachelor days Prince Charles seemed to have a preference for gorgeous blondes and Diana simply didn't fill that mould when she appeared on the scene as a gauche 19 year old. The media helped make her beautiful before we and even she believed it.

Renowned for her beauty, her glamour and royal wife or not, Diana would have fought off the inevitable aging process with all of the botox ammunition at her disposal. According to her brother, turning 40 would have been traumatic for her. She too would have made her 40's and beyond look great, but at the cost of high maintenance. Now Camilla, stepping on to the world stage in her fifties, has the advantage. No retrospective of youthful photos to live up to. She doesn't need to hide her wrinkles; she's earned them. Broken in, so to speak, she appeals to the mature demographic of women once relegated to ads for Geritol, Freedom 55, and anti-wrinkle serum. She isn't a threat and she makes being (almost) 60 look great. One has to wonder though, if Diana were still alive, would we be saying all of this good stuff? Clarence House regards Camilla as a trump card with the potential to fill the Queen Mother's vacant pumps. Probably a relief to Camilla, and already half way there age wise.

We do have double standards for women - in our youth we are prized for our looks but once we get older we are not prized for our experience. This article isn't meant to go into those details but I think that's particularly true in Camilla's case. People wonder what Charles could possibly see in Camilla, how he could have traded Diana in for an 'older model'. In our own cases would we be able to stand up to such minute scrutiny? I'm sure we're far less kind to ourselves when we look in the mirror. Once again, she could appeal to the women out there comfortable in their own skin; Princess Everywoman. But makeover or not, eventually we will see the formal airbrushed photo of her wearing the tiara, priceless jewels and full evening gown. It's only a matter of time.

© Marilyn Braun 2005