Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My Royal Collection

When Charles and Camilla's wedding date was changed from April 8, 2005 to April 9, 2005, I decided to see if I could get a mug/tankard with the original date. I ordered this item on the official Royal Collection shop, and waited. Finally my order arrived and when I opened it up, voila! I had a tankard with the old date. I was completely overjoyed by this. But included in this delivery, was a letter from the Royal Collection shop apologizing for sending one with the old date and to let them know whether I wanted one with April 9th.

"Are you kidding?"

"No way!" I said, to no one in particular. My husband looked at me curiously, as he is wont to do on a more frequent basis.

Now, I must admit, usually, if I buy something for my collection, I want it to be perfect - no scratches, dents, anything. If it's possible I will return it because it mars my enjoyment. But in this case, I made an exception. Think of the collectors value of such an item! At the time columnists negated buying these souvenirs in the hope that they would increase in value. However, on eBay I located 2 tankards for US$111.82. Recently, some items with the wrong date were auctioned off, raising £5,000 for charity. So, I have no regrets with my purchase.

I mainly collect books, but from time to time I will buy a plate, stamps, coins, and mugs/tankards. I'm so into collecting that I even made fun of it in the article Royal Support Group. If I find a book, provided its still readable, I will buy it regardless of its condition. Occasionally it will be incribed, which I think is equivalent to defacing public property. Sometimes an incription will be charming - Christmas 1905, but for the most part it won't. I shake my fist at such people. Didn't Aunt Tina, who gave the book to Charlie for Christmas 1973 realize the potential value of such an item?

My collection can't be compared to the Royal Collection at Buckingham palace, but for me these items are priceless. The oldest book in my collection is from 1897 and I have books from every reign up to the present Queen. I don't collect these to sell them. They never lose their value to me and they have no price tag.

So, wrong date or not, I'm hanging on to my commemorative mug.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

Royal Profile: Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven

Princess Victoria Alberta Elisabeth Mathilde Marie of Hesse, was born at Windsor Castle on April 5, 1863, the eldest daughter of Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Alice, the second daughter of Queen Victoria. She was one of seven children, her siblings included Alix, the ill-fated Tsarina Alexandra of Russia, and Ella, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feoderovna of Russia, both of whom were murdered; they were later cannonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1866, the family moved to the Neu Palais in Darmstadt. She spoke German first, reading it well by the age of six, and English by the age of seven. She was smart and an avid reader, taking the Oxford exams for younger girls. In her life she was to weather many tragedies: her youngest brother, Friedrich died in 1873. In December 1878, diphtheria claimed the lives of her mother and her youngest sister, Marie. In 1937, a plane crash would claim the lives of five members of her family.

In 1884, she married her first cousin, once removed, Prince Louis of Battenberg (son of Princess Battenberg). The couple had four children, Princess Alice, (mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh), Princess Louise (later Queen Louise of Sweden), Prince George (2nd Marquess of Milford Haven), and Prince Louis (later Earl Mountbatten of Burma).

In 1917, the family renounced its German name and titles and anglicized the family name to Mountbatten. Her husband gave up his title of Prince Louis and became the Marquess of Milford Haven. Thus Princess Victoria became Marchioness of Milford Haven.

Victoria was admired for her 'lack of vanity, her firm handshake, her direct, sometimes abrupt manner which gave an almost masculine impression.' Her interests included painting, archaeology and philosphy, and she was well known for her socialist, egalitarian beliefs. After her husband's death in 1921, she lived in Kensington Palace until her death on September 24, 1950 at the age of eighty-seven.

She is buried at Wippingham Churchyard on the Isle of Wight.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Royal Profile: Princess Battenberg

Julie (or Julia) von Hauke, Princess Battenberg, was born on November 12, 1825 in Warsaw, Poland. Although she was greatly admired, her marriage to Prince Alexander of Hesse-Darmstadt, was considered to be one of the great scandals in the 19th century.

She was the daughter of John Maurice von Hauke, and Sophie la Fontaine. Her father was German and a professional military man, fighting in Napoleon's army. He then switched sides and fought for the Russians. In recognition of this, Tsar Nicholas I, made him a Count, as as well as Deputy Minister of War of Congress Poland.

In 1830, at the age of 5, she was orphaned and made a ward of the Tsar. When she was older she served as a lady-in-waiting to the wife of Tsar Alexander II. In the course of her court duties at St. Petersburg she met Prince Alexander of Hesse-Darmstadt; brother to the Tsarina.

Countess Julie von Hauke and Prince Alexander fell in love, but they faced opposition. At the time, it was considered unthinkable for a member of a ruling house to marry a mere countess and the Tsar forbade the couple to marry. Without seeking the permission of the Tsar, they eloped and married on October 28, 1851. As Julie was of insufficient rank to her husband, their marriage was regarded as morganatic.*

While her husband retained the title of prince, her brother-in-law, Grand Duke Ludwig III, granted Julie,a week after her marriage, the title, style, and surname, Illustrous Highness, Countess of Battenberg. In 1858, she was elevated to Her Serene Highness, Princess of Battenberg (a 'non-royal' title). As a result of this elevation, their children were also elevated to the title of His/Her Serene Highness Prince/Princess Battenberg, although they would have no claim to the ducal throne of Hesse-Darmstadt. The couple had five children, each of whom inherited their mother's surname of Battenberg. Thus the house of Battenberg was founded.

Although Prince Alexander was considered to be the black sheep of the Grand Ducal Hesse family, three of his descendants became consorts to European sovereigns in the 20th century: Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain, Queen Louise of Sweden, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The family eventually settled in Darmstadt, raising their family, primarily at Heiligenberg Castle, near Jugenheim, in southern Hesse. Julie spoke German, Russian, Polish and French. She read Dante in Italian and Shakespeare in English. It was also said that Bismark was afraid of her. She converted from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism in 1875.

Julie died at Schloss Heiligenberg in Germany, on September 19, 1895 at the age of 70.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

* A morganatic marriage is a match between a person of 'high rank' and one of 'low rank'. The 'low rank' partner does not take the title of the higher ranking spouse, nor do their children.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Royal Wedding Dresses

As I mentioned in my article on Royal weddings, the dress is the centerpiece of the day. I covered some history regarding the dress, however I did not go into details regarding some of the specific dreses. There have been some lovely bridal gowns. Royal wedding gowns have set trends, influenced bridal fashion. Much speculation goes into the making of these dresses, with the various designers having to take extreme measures to protect it, from white washing the windows, guarding it, locking the seamstress in a room to work on it, to burning any extra scraps of material. The dresses of Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah, Duchess of York, have been reported in great detail, so this article covers some of the lesser known ones. These are just a few of the spectacular dresses worn in the last century:

The Queen Mother's dress - 1923 - At the time, her dress was described as 'the simplest ever made for a royal wedding to date'. It was made of chiffon moire, dyed to match the colour of the point de Flanders lace veil lent by Queen Mary. It was made by the court dressmakers, Mme Handley Seymour. Almost medieval in its style, the dress had two trains, the first one attached at the waist, and extended 10 inches beyond the hem and spread 80 inches wide. The second one, made of tulle, which was fastened from the shoulders. Vogue described it as 'a medieval Italian gown". The veil was secured by a simple wreath of white heather, myrtle leaves, with knots of white roses - the emblem of the County of York - appropriate for the new Duchess of York.

Princess Elizabeth's dress - 1947. At the time the dress was made the war had just ended, but coupon rationing was still in effect. Concerned that the Princess would not have enough to make her dress, women across the country sent their coupons in; which was illegal. This dress was made by Norman Hartnell, whose design house was to make the majority of the Queen's clothing. Although he had been given less than three months to make the dress, it did not disappoint. Hartnell found his inspiration for the dress in an image of Primavera by Bottacelli. The dress was made of satin, in the princess style and the silk came from China, since using Japanese and Italian silkworms would have been unpratriotic so soon after the war. At the shoulder there were three covered loops to attach the 15 foot full court train to the shoulders. This dress had exquisite embroidery, which embodied some royal or patriotic significance.

Princess Margaret's dress - 1960- was very different from any dress that had been created before and it was stunning in it's simplicity. It was also designed by Norman Hartnell. It was made of silk organza and instead of a separate court train, the dress itself was trained. Later on, in 1999, when her son, David Linley married Serena Stanhope, her new daughter-in-law paid her a compliment by choosing a dress similar to the one worn in 1960.

Princess Anne - 1973 - Her dress was in a medieval, Tudor style, made of white silk, highnecked and pintucked to show off her tiny waist. Princess Anne conceived the design herself, wanting to get away from more traditional gowns that would have been expected of her. The dress was made by Maureen Baker, chief designer for Susan Small and remained a closely guarded secret until the wedding. The 15 girls who worked on the dress were each given one small piece to make and had no idea what the finished dress would look like. The main feature of the dress was the huge trumpet sleeves, tucked into the elbow and flared out over fine chiffon. Sleeves were a big feature of the seventies, but comparing this dress to current bridal fashion, these sleeves give the dress a somewhat dated look. The neckline and shoulders were embroidered with pearls, and pearls of silver thread picked out a design of flowers on the long, pure silk gauze train.

Avoiding comparison with other royal brides, Sophie Rhys-Jones wore a sleek panelled long dress-coat. and an ivory silk train. It was made from hand-dyed silk organza and hand-dyed silk crepe, embroidered with a total of 325,000 cut-glass and pearl beads. It was designed by Samantha Shaw, previously unknown up to that point. The dress has a medieval feel and it is V-necked and corseted. The veil was also sewn with beads, and was longer than the train itself.

Camilla is the only royal bride, at least in recent history, to wear two dresses on her wedding day. Both dressses were designed by Robinson Valentine.

Her first dress for the civil ceremony was an elegant, oyster silk embroidered coat, over a chiffon dress of the same color, embroidered, stylish and very age appropriate. Unlike other royal brides, Camilla wore a hat to her ceremony.

To the blessing, she wore a full length porcelain blue silk dress with a hand painted designs, and embroidered with gold thread work. Her headdress consisted of gold leafed feathers tipped with Swarovski Diamonds

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Royal Engagement Rings

"Diamonds are a girl's best friend", and so the song goes. But royal engagement rings are somewhat different. Despite some fabulous diamonds in the royal collection, the traditional diamond is not necessarily the rock of choice for royal engagement rings.

Symbolizing love and purity, sapphire is probably the most popular stone chosen by royal brides and this choice is somewhat of a tradition in the family. Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and Princess Alexandra of Kent who wears an oval star sapphire ring inherited from her mother. Princess Anne, the present Duchess of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent, also had sapphire rings for their engagements. When the Queen Mother became engaged in 1923, she was originally given a sapphire ring, which, in her only interview, she told reporters that it was her favourite stone. In the 1950's she switched to a large pearl ring surrounded by diamonds, similar to a ring worn by Queen Mary until her death.

The Queen wears many priceless jewels, but her favorite is her diamond engagement ring. The diamonds on her ring came from a tiara that had belonged to Prince Philip's mother. Prince Philip was involved in the design and the platinum ring was set with eleven diamonds, a 3 carat solitaire and five smaller stones set on each shoulder. When the engagement was announced, the ring was too big and had to be re sized 2 days before the official photo call. A bit of trivia: it is said that if the Queen is annoyed about anything she will start to twist the ring round and round.

Diana's ring was a large, striking oval sapphire surrounded by fourteen brilliant cut diamonds, set in 18 carat white gold. It has been reported that Diana was offered a tray of rings and she chose this one because it was the biggest. This particular ring inspired copies the world over and at the time the it was estimated to have cost £28,500. She is shown wearing the ring on the day her divorce became final. Prince Harry inherited the ring after his mother's death. At the time of her death it was valued at £250,000.

Sarah's ring has an oval Burma ruby, surrounded by a cluster of 10 drop diamonds. The stone was chosen to compliment her red hair. Prince Andrew had originally wanted an emerald ring, but Sarah didn't, so the couple chose a ruby instead. Prince Andrew helped to design it. It is set in eighteen carat yellow and has a white gold band and at the time it was valued at £25,000. In photographs, she can still occasionally be seen wearing the ring. The ruby stone is not chosen for rings very often, because, like opals, in the past the royal family has had superstitions regarding them. Queen Alexandra had a very strong aversion to opals, believing that the brought bad luck. The only other bride to have chosen a ruby engagement ring, in recent history, is the late Princess Margaret.

Sophie's ring features a 2.05-carat oval diamond, flanked by two smaller heart shaped gems, set in 18 carat white gold. Made by the Crown Jewellers, Aspry and estimated at £105,000, it is said to be the most expensive royal engagement ring in history.

Second to the provenance of diamonds in Queen Elizabeth II's engagement ring, Camilla's probably has the most history and sentimental value. The ring is considered to be a family heirloom, and there are estimated values of £100,000. It is in an art deco style, set in platinum, and composed of a emerald cut central diamond flanked by three diamond baguettes on either side. It originally belonged to the Queen Mother, who was given the ring in in 1926 upon the birth of the present Queen.

© Marilyn Braun

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

For Sale: Royal Memorabilia

With the vast array of royal memorabilia for sale on eBay: books, magazines, lunches with Paul Burrell, and Range Rovers, I've decided to sell my own piece of royal history. This is a special item, not available in any store or on eBay as of yet. So my friends, right out of the royal horse's mouth, I'm offering it here.

You, lucky reader, you could own Prince Philip's dentures! You heard it here first. You may be wondering, why am I parting with such a personal item? Well, I still have my original teeth, they don't fit in my mother's mouth, and...well..I've decided to cash in.

We're all self conscious about some part of our body and Prince Philip is no exception, as the photo shows. Good dental care is very important. But, had he looked after his teeth in the first place, I wouldn't be able to offer you this special item. A wonderful and unique piece to cherish and pass down from generation to generation.

However, you may have your doubts, wondering what use could you possibly have for this item? Too many to count! Such an amazing conversation piece! The holidays are coming up, what a fantastic stocking stuffer! Not to mention, replete with royal dna, you could even make your own Prince Philip. How can you not buy it?

There's some wear and tear but otherwise they're in good condition. I've included a picture of Prince Philip wearing them to prove to you, that these are in fact his real dentures. What a nice smile and they look so real. Buy now and it could be yours!

For confidentiality reasons I can't disclose how I came to own this item or where it came from. But, I'm sure you still have your doubts, you're wondering, can these possibly be Prince Philip's REAL dentures? Why wouldn't he keep them for himself? Shouldn't he have a backup pair? If I were in your shoes I would have questions too, so to remove all doubt from your mind, here's a Certificate of Authenticity:

Act now and I'll even throw in a box of Polident!

This deal won't last long! Buy today!

Serious inquiries only.

© Marilyn Braun

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Royal Profile: Patrick Lichfield

Patrick Lichfield was probably best known as a cousin of the Queen and the photographer who took the portraits for the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. However, there was more to Patrick Lichfield than his proximity to the royal family.

Thomas Patrick John Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield, was born on the 25th of April 1939. His parents were William, Viscount Anson and Princess Georg of Denmark, the former Anne Bowes-Lyon, daughter of John Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother's brother. Although he bore the title of the Earl of Lichfield, a title inherited from his grandfather, when he was working he preferred to be called plain 'Patrick'.

Educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, he served as a lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards before becoming a photographer. Early in his career, he found an increasing demand for editorial work in national newspapers and various magazines, including Life during the Vietnam war, although not in the war zone. His biggest break came when the legendary Diana Vreeland gave him a 5-year contract with Vogue magazine. He worked in numerous advertising campaigns including, from 1978, the prestigious Unipart calendar.

He took up photography at the age of six, taking his first picture of the Queen when he was playing in a cricket match against Eton. Unfortunately, these pictures will never be published as the headmaster confiscated his camera shortly afterwards. Undeterred, his first official royal sitting was with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1967, thus beginning a working relationship with the royal family.

His royal portfolio ranged from the 1971 group photograph of 26 members of the royal family, the Silver Wedding portrait of the Queen and Prince Philip, to an intimate photograph of Prince Charles with his young cousin Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones at Balmoral. His most recent commission was a portrait of the Queen for her Golden Jubilee in 2002. He published numerous books on photography and his work has been exhibited worldwide. He was awarded Fellowships from the British Institute of Professional Photographers and The Royal Photographic Society.

Before his photographic career took off he came close to springboard diving for Britain, but missed out on a place on the Olympic team. He loved swimming and in the 1980's he became a qualified underwater diver, spending much of his free time doing so on the Carribean island of Mustique where he had a home. His other hobbies included sky-diving, cricket, and riding motorcycle.

Patrick Lichfield married Lady Leonora Mary Grosvenor, who was the eldest daughter of the 5th Duke of Westminster. They were divorced in 1986. The marriage produced three children, Lady Rose (born 1976), Thomas, Viscount Anson (born 1978), and Lady Eloise (born 1981).

On November 10th, 2005 he suffered a stroke and was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he died the following morning.

© Marilyn Braun

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ask Marilyn

I LOVE to write about royalty!

I also LOVE to answer questions on royalty! Not as much as writing articles on royalty, but it's pretty close.

So, I've decided to change the format of my webpage to a question and answer theme. If you have a question on royalty, I will do my best to answer it.

So go ahead Ask Marilyn

Monday, November 07, 2005

Queens Regnant

Definition: A queen regnant is a female ruler who reigns in her own right. Unlike a queen consort who is the spouse of the reigning king, with no official role of her own, a queen regnant rules with all monarchical powers that a king would have, regardless of gender.
Currently there are three European queens regnant: Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, Queen Margarethe II of Denmark, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Prior to their accession, these women were regarded as Heiress Presumptive, (the presumption being that a male might be born to replace them). The history of queens regnant in each country is very different. Denmark has had one Queen Regnant prior to Margarethe II; she was Queen Margarethe I (1387-1412) although she acted as regent until her son came of age. England has had six queens regnant. In the Netherlands, Queen's ruled the 20th century and when Beatrix's son, Willem-Alexander, succeeds he will be the first male monarch in over a century.

Despite having an illustrious history of female monarchs, the United Kingdom, like Denmark, still follows male primogeniture. However, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Belgium have changed their succession laws to allow the firstborn to succeed regardless of gender.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

Of the three queens regnant, Elizabeth II has reigned the longest. She is the oldest queen, but at the age of 25 she was the youngest to come to the throne. At the time of her birth, she was third in line and her chances of becoming queen were remote. It wasn't until her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, that she became heiress presumptive. She had one younger sister, the late Princess Margaret. In 1947 she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and they have four children: Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales (born 1948), the Princess Royal (born 1950), Prince Andrew, Duke of York (born 1960), and Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, (born 1964).

Queen Margarethe II of Denmark

Although she was the eldest child of the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark, when Queen Margarethe was born, women did not have rights to inherit the throne at all. Her uncle was next in line until a 1953 referendum made Princess Margarethe heiress presumptive. When her father died in 1972, she became the first Queen regnant under the new Act of succession. Queen Margarethe is considered to be the most intellectual monarch - studying at no fewer than five universities. She is also extremely accomplished as an artist and writer. Queen Margarethe is regarded as Europe's most modern and progressive monarchs; openly granting interviews and making herself easily accessible to her subjects. The Queen has two younger sisters, Princess Benedikte and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. In 1967 she married French diplomat, Count Henri deLaborde de Monpezat (Prince Henrik upon marriage). They have two sons: Crown Prince Frederik (born 1968), and Prince Joachim (born 1969).

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

Queen Beatrix is the fourth successive female sovereign in the Netherlands. She was the first of four daughters born to Queen Julianna and Prince Bernhard. She has three younger sisters - Princess Irene, Princess Margriet, and Princess Christina.

Like Queen Margarethe, Queen Beatrix is academically well educated, studying international and European law and international relations. She earned a law degree in 1961.

Unlike Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Margarethe II who succeeded upon the deaths of their fathers, Beatrix succeeded upon the abdication of her mother, Queen Juliana, in 1980. At 42 she was the oldest of the three to ascend the throne. In the Netherlands, abdication has become something of a tradition, although it is unknown whether she will choose to do so in favour of her eldest son.

In 1966, she married a German diplomat, Claus von Amsberg (upon marriage he became Prince Claus). They had three sons: Crown Prince Willem-Alexander (born 1967), Prince Johan Frisco (born 1968), and Prince Constantijn (born 1969). Prince Claus died in 2002.

The future

With the changes in succession laws, allowing for the first born to succeed regardless of gender, in the future we will see queens regnant on the thrones of Belgium (Princess Elisabeth), Norway (Princess Ingrid Alexandra), the Netherlands (Princess Catharina-Amalia), and Sweden (Crown Princess Victoria). If the succession rules are changed we might even see Princess Aiko as Empress of the Chrysanthemum throne, and the newborn Infanta Leonor as the first Queen of Spain in over 150 years.

God save the Queens

© Marilyn Braun

For more information check out the Official British, Danish and Dutch sites.