Friday, September 30, 2005

Royal Profile: Princess Victoria Alexandra

Princess Victoria Alexandra Olga Mary, fourth child and second daughter of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) was born at Marlborough House on July 6, 1868. To distinguish her from the many relatives who bore the name Victoria, she was nicknamed 'Toria'.

On the insistence of their father, the children had a more relaxed, happy and carefree upbringing; however, it greatly lacked in discipline. Queen Victoria found the children to be "such ill-bred, ill-trained children, that I can't fancy them at all." Of the five unruly, mischievous Wales children, Victoria was considered to be the most intelligent. She was reported as very sharp, quick, merry, amusing, and at times exceedingly naughty. Their mother, Princess Alexandra wanted to keep them as children for as long as possible and they were isolated from other people, which resulted in the children forming a very tight unit. Victoria and her sisters, Princesses Louise and Maud (later Queen of Norway), were dressed alike and were known as the 'whispering Wales girls'.

As a baby with her parents & siblings in 1868
Victoria was a hypochondriac, had a sharp tongue and her childhood of running wild with her siblings lead her to have an inflated sense of her own importance. She never married, remaining as a companion to her mother, with whom she lived until Queen Alexandra's death in 1925. Although she played the dutiful daughter, the sacrifice to her happiness lead her to be extremely bitter. She had two romances but in those days, neither of her commoner suitors would have been acceptable as a spouse. When Princess May of Teck (later Queen Mary) married her favourite brother, George, she classified her sister-in-law as boring and took to apologizing to those who ended up sitting next to her at dinner. Envying her happy marriage, Toria made life difficult for Mary at every possible opportunity, claiming back items of furniture and jewellery she claimed belonged to her.

After her mother's death, she then set up her own household at Coppins, Iver, in Buckinghamshire, where she devoted herself to her main recreations of music, gardening and photography - an interest she inherited from her parents.

She was extremely close to her brother, King George V and they had daily telephone calls. "Every morning I rang up my sister at half past nine, just to have a chat. Of course we are not always too polite. One morning her telephone rang at the usual time, and she took up the receiver and said 'Hullo, you old fool' and the voice of the operator broke in, 'Beg your pardon, Your Royal Highness, His Majesty is not yet on the line.' "

When she died in December 1935 he was devastated. The loss of this favourite sister proved a blow from which he never recovered and he died just over a month later.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Royal Births

Doesn't everyone (who isn't the new parent who has to get up several times a night to tend to the newborn) love a baby? Aren't they (when they're not crying, fussing, tired, smelly) adorable? When a royal birth occurs, we get the best of the situation without actually having to get involved. Sure, some of us might knit a sweater or crochet a blanket for the royal arrival that will eventually be given away to charity, but for most royal watchers it will just be a reason to buy Majesty magazine or Hello. We might even go on to Internet boards and discuss the names, ask questions about line of succession, titles, but it will usually end there.

We get to see just enough photos of them without actually having to find a way to lie to the new parent about how pretty/handsome their baby looks. Valuable tip: since most babies are downright ugly, I've found saying "he/she/it's so clean!" is a good non-committal response. Thankfully most royal parents demand privacy for their newborn so we don't get inundated with photos we don't care about.

Some of us might heave a sigh of relief at not having to buy a shower, Christmas, birthday, gifts for the baby who will no doubt have everything they could possibly ever wish for. Or the pressure of choosing names those royal watchers will judge mercilessly - we have close relatives for that. However, even royal parents don't escape this, in Queen Victoria's time she had an edict; all girls and boys have Victoria or Albert amongst their given names. The future George VI was born on December 14 - the anniversary of the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's beloved consort. To mollify the Queen, the parents named him Albert and he was christened Albert Frederick Arthur George. His maternal grandmother did not like the name Albert and prophetically announced that she hoped the last name "may supplant the less favoured one". It eventually did when the prince unexpectedly became King George VI. When Prince Albert's second daughter, Princess Margaret, was born, he wanted to name her 'Ann Margaret' but King George V vetoed this and eventually she was called Margaret Rose.

Yes, the birth of a baby is truly a magical event.

Most royal births have taken place at home and it would have been unthinkable to do otherwise. In Queen Victoria's time, almost all of her children were born at Buckingham Palace. Quite a few of her grandchildren were born there or at Windsor Castle. The old Queen actually liked to be present at the birth's whenever possible. When her granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse gave birth to Princess Alice (mother of the present Duke of Edinburgh), the Queen made certain the baby was born in the same room and bed that Princess Victoria herself had been born. She motivated the labouring mother by telling her the reasons why she disliked the room they were in. When Princess Alexandra (later Queen Alexandra) delivered prematurely, the Queen thought that the princess was doing this deliberately to avoid her presence.

However, until Prince Charles was born in 1948, most royal mothers could not avoid the tradition of the birth being witnessed by a minister of the Crown. This custom had it's origins in the famous 'warming pan' plot of 1688, when it was believed that Mary of Modena, Queen Consort of James II, had had another woman's baby smuggled into her bed to pass off as the legitimate heir. Since then, to prevent any uncertainties of legitimacy, a government minister was present, albeit in an adjoining room. For the birth of the future Edward VIII in 1894, Queen Victoria decided that only one Cabinet minister would be required, and from then on the Home Secretary was called upon to attend. The birth of Princess Alexandra of Kent in 1936, was the last occasion where the Home Secretary was present; King George VI having directed that a minister need not be required to attend the birth of those not in direct line of succession.

King George V and Queen Mary's children were born at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate, with the exception of their first child, Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) who was born at White Lodge, Richmond Park. The present Queen was born in her maternal grandparents home, 17 Bruton Street, thus making her the only future monarch to be born in a location that had a door number. The building was eventually torn down but there is a plaque on the present building, marking it as the birthplace of the Queen. Princess Margaret had more illustrious surroundings for her birth, Glamis Castle, where according to legend, King Duncan was murdered by Macbeth in 1040. Three of the present Queen's children were born at Buckingham Palace, except for Princess Anne, who was born at Clarence House.

It is now the norm for British royal babies to be born in a hospital. Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie were born at the Portland Hospital. St. Mary's Paddington has been the location of several royal births; the first one in 1974 was Alexander, Earl of Ulster (son of the present Duke and Duchess of Gloucester). Most notably, Prince William's birth took place at St Mary's and he was the first direct heir to the throne to be born in a hospital. Diana was seen as a trailblazer by deciding on a hospital birth, despite at least five previous royal babies having been born at the same hospital. Although Diana had the best of modern medical technology and pain relief available, there are advantages to having a baby within the confines of a palace - privacy. Having to face the world media 21 hours after the birth must have been an exhausting moment for her. No new mother ever looks her best and she was no exception. The second time around she looked as though she could carry out a days worth of engagements after handing the baby off to a nanny.

An heir usually warrants a 41 guns salute and a gold-framed birth announcement on the gates of Buckingham Palace, everyone else normally gets a wood frame - although it's probably a good wood frame, not one from Walmart. For those of us who can't make the trip to London, there's the Internet or the quick, two-sentence blurb on CNN. For most of us, we have to make do with an announcement in the local newspaper.

Thankfully most heirs have been male so we don't have to re-ignite the debate or go through the trouble of changing the succession laws. Those poor, poor, people in Japan, Denmark and Spain! But that's another article in itself.

© Marilyn Braun

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Royal Profile: Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester

Out of the six children of King George V, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester seems to get the least amount of notice. Having been long overshadowed by his brothers, the dashing and handsome Prince George, Duke of Kent, King Edward VIII (the Duke of Windsor), King George VI and the abdication crisis.

Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, third son of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary), was born on March 31, 1900 at York Cottage, Sandringham. After his birth, his mother wrote: 'the children are so pleased with the baby who they think flew in at my window and had to have his wings cut off.' Prince Henry was christened in the private chapel of Windsor Castle on May 17, 1900. He was named Henry after Prince Henry of Battenberg (Princess Beatrice's husband who had recently died), William after Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Frederick after the famous Field-Marshall Lord Roberts and Albert, after the late-Prince Consort. His godparents were Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, Field Marshall Frederick, 1st Earl Roberts, Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria and Princess Thyra of Denmark (sister of his grandmother, Princess Alexandra).

Throughout his childhood he was dogged by bouts of severe colds and influenza and he was considered 'delicate'. He had a volatile temper and like his elder brother, Prince Albert (later King George VI) he suffered from knock knees which required him to wear painful splints.

Like his siblings, he received his early education at home, but in 1910 he became the first son of a British Sovereign to be sent to school, attending St. Peter's Court Preparatory School in Broadstairs, Kent. In 1913 he passed the entrance examination to Eton; where he made his mark but rarely excelled either academically or at sports. His father wanted him to join the royal navy, however Prince Henry had always wanted to be a soldier and he entered Sandhurst Royal Military Academy in 1918. After successfully passing out a year later, he spent one year at Trinity College, Cambridge.

He was created Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster and Baron Culloeden in 1928, titles that linked him with three of the four parts of the United Kingdom - England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. In 1934, his father, as King of Ireland, made him a Knight of St. Patrick - this was the last time the order was awarded. The following year he made his first important royal tour, visiting Japan to confer the Order of the Garter on Emperor Hirohito. In 1930 he represented the King in Ethiopia at the coronation of the Emperor Haile Selassie.

Prince Henry entered the military, and he was eventually commissioned to the King's Royal Rifle Corps. However, his career as a regimental officer came to an end in 1936 with the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII. Now third in line to the throne, the Duke became Regent Designate in case of the death of his brother, King George VI, before Princess Elizabeth (now the Queen) came of age. He also acted as a Counsellor of State in the King's absence abroad. In 1941 he ws promoted to Lieutenant-General and General in 1944; he became Field Marshall in 1955. From 1945-1947 he was Australia's first royal Governor-General. On his return he became a farmer at Barnwell Manor, Northamptonshire, which he had bought in 1938. His interests included hunting, shooting and polo. He also built up a collection of sporting prints and books.

On November 6, 1935 he married Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott. The ceremony was due to take place at Westminster Abbey, however the bride's father died a few weeks before the wedding day, and out of respect, it was decided to celebrate on a much smaller scale.The wedding was held in the private chapel in Buckingham Palace instead.

Their first child was born six years later in 1941, Prince William, who was one of the first royal children to be born outside of the home, and Prince Richard in 1944 (who is the husband of Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester). Prince William later died in a flying accident in 1972 and his younger son unexpectedly became heir to the dukedom. Not long afterwards, Prince Henry had a severe stroke that rendered him speechless, and he died in 1974; four months before the birth of his first grandchild, Alexander, Earl of Ulster. He is buried in the Frogmore burial grounds. His wife, Princess Alice, survived him by thirty years, eventually dying in 2004, two months short of her 103rd birthday. At the time of her death she was the oldest ever member of the royal family.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Spare and Camilla

Prince Harry recently celebrated his 21st birthday, and in right royal tradition, he marked it by giving an interview and releasing photos; shot by non other than photographer extraordinaire Mario Testino. The Queen, when she was Princess Elizabeth, celebrated her 21st birthday in South Africa. While there, she made a broadcast, her historic act of dedication. So far she's lived up to her words and hasn't disappointed us yet.

I'm not trying to minimize Prince Harry's big event by comparing it to his grandmother because there is no comparison. His grandmother was heiress presumptive to the throne, Harry is only the spare. You know, the one you hope you'll never have to use but take comfort it's there if you need it. Remember how difficult it was to change it last time, why would we want to go through the whole hassle all over again?

Prince Harry, in contrast, chose to set the record straight about his feelings for Camilla. Did we really expect any dedication from him? Unlike his grandmother, whose words still resonate 60 years on, Harry's 21st birthday interview will be remembered for his comments on Camilla. Of course he said other things: continuing his mother's work with AIDS, his relationship with his brother, how wonderful his girlfriend is, his military career, the Nazi incident; he covered a lot of territory. But back to Camilla.

I think a lot of us are happy that he addressed the Camilla issue. Someone on the inside track gave us some clarification and finally brought us some closure. However, for some people it raised more questions - was he coached? did he really mean what he said? Why should we trust the judgement of someone who in the past has clearly demonstrated a lack of it?

If he didn't mean it, we can then discuss his motivations behind making these statements. Scheming Harry, trying to draw attention away from the other things he's done. Does he really love her to bits? What does 'loving to bits' actually mean? Maybe we could discuss why we're still discussing this.

If he did mean it, then what are we going to talk about? What an upstanding young man he is to compliment his step-mother, stand behind her? No, that's not very interesting. What now? we'll have nothing! Prince Charles is happy, Camilla is striking the right fashion notes, Prince William is on the right track with his girlfriend. It was so much easier when Camilla was the "wicked step-mother". How could Harry do this to us?

Either way, can we all get on with our lives? After all, there are much more important things to talk about: Kate Moss, David and Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears' new baby, the Crown Princess of the Netherlands choice of hats. So, we're not at a complete loss.

The choice is ours to discuss.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Royal Profile Subjects

Occasionally I ask myself, (well, actually it was only this morning) why do I choose the subjects that I do for my royal profiles? After all, most people wouldn't go looking for Prince Michael of Kent or Princess Alice, Countess of Althone, or even David Linley for that matter - although some do, which is great. However, it seems that whenever someone is searching for information on a royal, it tends to be Diana, the Queen, Camilla, Charles, William, etc. Shouldn't I make my blog more informative and timely by writing seriously about these people?

Well, to focus exclusively on them would be a shame; it would be ignoring the personal history of the family. The royal family comes from a long line of fascinating people, and not to dismiss the ones BV (Before Victoria), but my main interest is in Queen Victoria's time to the present. I will occasionally mention (ok, more than occasionally) Charles, Camilla and Harry, especially when they've done something I can spoof but that's about it. I have my standards. Diana, of course, isn't doing much these days so if I do cover her, it's either for comparison purposes, or it's relevant, such as the recent anniversary of her death.

There are royals, such as the Duchess of Gloucester, who we rarely hear about and not much is known. The Princess Royal works very hard but because she's not glamorous, she's not given the notice she deserves. Some of the people I write about are relatively obscure but no less interesting. Princess Patricia was very popular in her day, and the circumstances that led to the end of Princess Marie Louise's marriage were considered scandalous in Victorian times.

I genuinely love writing about royalty and I try very hard to keep the profiles factual and stay away from rumour and conjecture. If I can't substantiate the information in some way, I don't include it in the article. So in conclusion, I hope you enjoy the royal profiles as much as I enjoy researching and writing them.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Royal Trivia

I love royal trivia, so from time to time I will include some in my postings. I hope you enjoy these little tidbits as much as I do.

Did you know...

  • In 1938, the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) was given the world's smallest watch as a gift from the people of France. She wore this watch almost daily, even to her wedding and coronation. She lost it in 1955. In 1957 when she made a State visit to France, she was presented with a replacement watch that was nearly as small.

  • When Prince Charles was born his father described him as a 'plum pudding' and for a time, the name stuck with the media

  • Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later the Queen Mother) turned down the proposal of Prince Albert (later King George VI) twice before accepting him

  • Princess Margaret was the first royal baby, so close in the line of succession, to be born in Scotland since Charles I in 1600.

  • Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was born on a dining room table

  • When Prince Andrew was born in 1960, he was the first baby born to a reigning monarch since 1857.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

Royal Profile: Princess Patricia of Connaught

Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth of Connaught was the youngest child of Queen Victoria's favourite son Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and his wife, Princess Luise Margarete (Louise Margaret), Duchess of Connaught. She was born on March 17, 1886 at Buckingham Palace. She was named Victoria after Queen Victoria; Patricia, after St. Patrick, the saint of her birthday, and Helena, in honour of her father's sister. Informally, she was known as Patsy.

She had two older siblings, Prince Arthur and Princess Margaret, the future Crown Princess of Sweden. Given the times, she and her sister were brought up more progressively than most of their royal contemporaries; holding views on the suffragette movement that shocked older relatives.

In her younger years she spent much of her time abroad, travelling with her parents during her father's military postings. Due to her mother's failing health she acted as his hostess during his tenure as Governor-General of Canada. While in Canada she endeared herself to the public with her love of Canadian games and outdoor sports. She worked with various charities such as the Red Cross and she was appointed 'Colonel-in-Chief' of Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, whose first color she personally embroidered. A gifted artist, she was an accomplished painter and had a studio at Clarence House (her father's home). Her works were regularly exhibited and she left behind some 600 works of art at the time of her death.

In her youth she was very popular with the press, who called her 'Princess Pat' and there was much speculation on who she would marry. On February 27, 1919 she married Captain the Hon. Alexander Ramsay, (later Admiral the Hon. Sir Alexander Ramsay) in Westminister Abbey; inadvertently setting a tradition for future marriages to be celebrated there. Although she was not required to do so, in order to bring her closer to the rank of her husband, she relinquished her royal titles, and upon her marriage became Lady Patricia Ramsay. Her decision to give up her titles was met with approval by the press, who said, 'with her wedding she has put aside the Princess - an act in the true tradition of British aristocracy, that has always scorned the mere empty parade of titles for titles' sake'. Their only child, Alexander, was born on December 21, 1919.

She held several honours: Lady of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, she was a member of the Royal Order of Victoria and Alberta and a Dame of Justice of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. She was also awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration in recognition of her services to the Canadian Army.

During her husband's military career, the family was posted around the world. For a time, the couple lived at Clarence House, but in 1942 they finally settled in Ribsden Holt, Windlesham; a home she inherited from her aunt, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll. She died there on January 12, 1974; the second last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. She and her husband are buried in the Frogmore Royal Burial grounds, Windsor.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Cinderella Story

As a child I enjoyed fairy tales and at Halloween I wanted nothing more than to dress up as a princess or Wonder Woman (of course I never got to do either but I'm not bitter about it). I loved reading Cinderella; so when the Disney version came out on video I looked forward to seeing it again. But watching it as an adult was completely different from when I was a child. Comparing it up to the animation of Beauty and the Beast, was I disappointed by the quality? the lack of extras that come with a DVD? Had my perspective changed?

In some ways no, when I was planning my wedding, I admit, I wanted the princess fantasy, the works, right down to the tiara. However, I decided against going with the whole glass slipper thing since I couldn't find real ones, they're not very practical and no one would see them anyways. Besides, did I really want to risk losing one?

I still believe in fairy tales, especially when a royal wedding occurs. Prince Frederik and Princess Mary, Prince Haakon and Princess Mette-Marit, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia, Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima, Prince Philipe and Princess Mathilde, Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, even Charles and Camilla, they're all part of that fantasy, capturing the imagination of hopeless romantics, newspaper editors and souvenir collectors. Women who found their prince in real life, despite obstacles of an out-of-wedlock child, a previous marriage, illicit affairs, and a father who was a government minister during an brutal Argentinian dictatorship. The road to happily ever after is no longer littered with evil step-mothers, pumpkins and glass slippers.

Many articles refer to the new Princesses as a 'Cinderella story come to life,' Princess Mary (Australian Cinderella), Mette-Marit (Cinderella of Kristiansand), Princess Letizia (Modern day Cinderella), but sometimes I wonder, how difficult is it to live up to such expectations? Relatively accomplished women, as in the case of Máxima, Letizia and Masako, subjugated to 'fairy princess' status. Cinderella didn't have an education! That isn't part of the fairy tale! If she was educated maybe it's a movie prequel? the directors cut? Cinderella couldn't payback her tuition loans so she took an entry level job as scullery maid? Obviously they kept that part out of the Disney version.

Out of all of the women, I would say that Princess Mette-Marit of Norway most closely resembles the Cinderella story, (well..the version with the convicted drug dealer and out-of-wedlock child ). Prior to her marriage, the tabloids had christened her 'repentant Cinderella'. Seemingly plucked from an obscure existence as a waitress and single mother, the maiden met her Prince Charming, moved in with him, and after the public uproar, insults and innuendo about her past, married him.

When did it become so hard to be a Princess in the 21st century? After all, princesses are flawlessly dressed, thin, smile all the time and are unfailingly gracious and polite. They don't have tempers, pms, bad hair days, or do any of the other things that make them human. The only person who ever did the role of 'fairy princess' justice was Princess Grace of Monaco; beautiful, elegant, refined, Oscar winner. She got the image right, without letting on about the reality. In her case, we could believe in happily ever after. But that was almost 50 years ago and times have changed. Today's Princesses have to work at it, and even then most of us are too cynical to believe it.

Will there be a happily ever after for these modern day Cinderella's? We'll have to wait and see. Regardless, I still believe in fairy tales.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Royal Profile: Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester

The former Birgitte Eva van Deurs, was born in Odense, Denmark, on June 20, 1946. She is the younger daughter of the late Asger Preben Wissing Henriksen, and the late Vivian van Deurs. When her parents separated she took her maternal grandparents surname, Van Deurs.

She was brought up in Demark before attending Brillantmont School in Lausanne and subsequently the Bell School of Languages, Cambridge, where in 1965, she met Prince Richard of Gloucester (now Duke of Gloucester). The following year she returned to Copenhagen, where she took a three-year diploma course in commerical and economic studies. Immediately before her marriage she worked at the Royal Danish Embassy in London.

In February 1972 her engagement was annnounced and the marriage took place at St. Andrew's Church, Barnwell Northamptonshire on July 8, 1972. Prince Richard was pursuing a full-time career in architecture and the couple had intended on living in London when, six weeks after their wedding, Prince Richard's elder brother, Prince William, was killed in a flying accident. In 1974, on the death of Prince Richard's father, the couple became the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

The Duchess received the Royal family order from the Queen in 1973. She was made a Dame of Justice of the Order of St John in 1974 and she was created a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian order in 1989. She is Sponsor of two Royal Navy ships: HMS Gloucester and HMS Sandown. She holds freedoms to the cities of London and Gloucester and holds honorary appointments and rank in the Armed Services. She is associated as Patron or President of a large number of organizations, mainly ones with medical and artistic associations.

The Duchess of Gloucester has frequently accompanied her husband on official visits overseas. Her visit was in 1973, when the couple represented The Queen at the 70th birthday celebrations of King Olav of Norway. Other visits that they have undertaken together include the Middle East, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Nepal, Australia, Spain, the United States, Japan, Gibraltar, New Zealand, Sweden, Luxembourg, Belgium, Portugal, Mexico, South Africa, Tunisia and China. She has also travelled to Germany and Cyprus in support of her own patronages.

The couple live in Kensington Palace and at Barnwell Manor, Northhamptonshire. They have three children, Alexander, Earl of Ulster, born 1974, Lady Davina Lewis (nee Windsor), born 1977, and Lady Rose Windsor, born 1980.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Recommended Royalty Sites

Not that long ago, I was asked what sites I go to for information on royalty. There are several that I check out and you may notice that I have a list of links on the bottom left hand side that include official and unofficial sites. If you would like very detailed information of members of a royal family and its history, the official sites are wonderful; I especially recommend the British, Danish and Dutch sites.
For the unofficial, there are many sites online, lots of them dedicated to Diana, William, Harry, Beatrice, Charles, etc; if you're a fan of a specific royal then these are great. I haven't included these sites in this posting, as some of them are a list in themselves. Most royalty webpage’s have lists of links and sometimes it can be difficult to gauge the sites and what information it offers. Although there are lots of sites for various royal families, my main interest is in British royalty, so I have compiled a list that includes descriptive information about the site. In no particular order:
World of Royalty - I confess I'm biased when it comes to this site since I visit it everyday. However, if you go on almost any royalty site and look in their links you will find it listed, which I think says a great deal about it. This site is a one stop shopping for any updates on world royalty, with individual pages for the various royal families. Each page gives some history of that royal family, helpfully including books on the subjects. Great message board. Listed in Burkes Peerage page of links. This site has it's own companion blog:
Mandy's British Royalty 'Bringing you the best in British Royalty'. Another site listed on almost all royalty website links. If you're interested exclusively in British royalty this is the site to go to. Lots of good profiles of the members of the royal family along with some very good articles on jewels, ceremonial events, royal residences, and speeches. Another site that also has it's own blog:
Etoile's Unofficial Royalty Pages - One thing that makes this site rather unique is that it has regular columnists who write about royalty subjects. The articles are informative, and thought provoking. Also has pages devoted specific royal families and it's own royal forum message board. This site is listed on Canadian Monarchist Online as the 'Web's premier royal news page.'
The Royal Archive: This site was down for about a month but thankfully it's back online. Another page I visit everyday. Instead of links, it takes the news of the day and puts it into detailed articles. Mainly covers British royalty news. Also has a very good message board.
Vivat Regina: While browsing for sites to put on this list I discovered this one and I think it's a gem. Not a news site but it does have nice sections on Elizabeth II's coronation, the ceremony, guests, detailed pictures of the coronation dress, along with biographies of the Queen, Queen Mother, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret.
If you can suggest other sites related to British royalty, please feel free to comment!
© Marilyn Braun 2005

Monday, September 12, 2005

Royal Profile: Princess Marie Louise

Sometimes a life story, regardless of how interesting, can be lost to the sands of time. And so it is with Princess Marie Louise, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein was born on August 12, 1872, at Cumberland Lodge, the fourth child and younger daughter of Princess Helena and her husband Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. She was christened Francisca Josepha Louise Augusta Marie Helene Christina. At first the family called her Louise, but later she chose to be known as Marie Louise. Her nickname in the family was 'Cousin Louie'.

On July 6, 1891 she married Prince Aribert of Anhalt but the marriage was unhappy and childless. For her husband the marriage had been one of convenience. She later wrote "As time went on, I became increasingly aware that my husband and I were drifting further and further apart. I had no share in his life" In 1900 her father-in-law, without warning, used his power as sovereign Prince Anhalt to annul the marriage, against her wishes. However, the Princess regarded her marriage vows as binding and never remarried. Of Princess Helena and Prince Christian's five children (one died in infancy), Marie Louise would be the only one to marry.

After her marriage ended she moved in with her sister, Helena Victoria, with whom she spent the last long years of her life in perfect contentment. Thereafter she devoted herself to charitable works, and patronage of the arts, especially music; she was also an intrepid traveller. Her greatest legacy will probably be her work in creating Queen Mary's dolls' house. Conceived as a gift for Queen Mary, this project was her inspiration and she was deeply involved in its creation.

In 1917, when members of the British Royal family relinquished all non-British titles, she ceased to be a Princess of Schleswig-Holstein. Although she was never formally given the title Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, King George V granted her the title of Her Highness Princess Marie Louise.

She was over eighty when, in 1953, she sat for Cecil Beaton, the famed photographer. He began by assuming that she must be 'an old gaga absurdity,' but by the end of the session he thought her 'absolutely enchanting.' She attended the coronations of four sovereigns, Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II. In November 1956 she published her memoirs, My Memories Of Six Reigns. She died in London a month later and is buried in the Frogmore burial grounds, Windsor.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Friday, September 09, 2005

Royal Profile: Sophie, Countess of Wessex

When she was younger she was once described as "someone you wouldn't notice in a crowd," this view has most certainly changed now that she is a member of the royal family. Sophie Helen, Countess of Wessex, the former Sophie Rhys Jones, was born on January 20, 1965. Her first name was chosen by chance, when her mother was pregnant she overheard another mother call out "Sophie!" to her little girl and decided that she liked the name. Her second name, Helen, comes from her father's sister who died in a riding accident 10 years before she was born.

She is the second child and only daughter of Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones, a retired tire salesman, and his wife, the late Mary O'Sullivan. She has an older brother named David. Her family moved to Kent and she started her education at Dulwich College Preparatory School. She then attended Kent College School for girls, before completing her education at West Kent College.

As a child she dreamed of being a ballerina and she took lessons until she was seventeen. When she was a teenager she joined the Cranbrook Operatic Society and during the audition she has to sing solo in front of a critical producer; 'It was,' she remembers, 'the worst moment of my life,' Although her voice was 'rather shaky,' her dancing and acting skills were not and she was offered a part in the chorus of My Fair Lady.

At the age of nineteen she moved to London and embarked on a career in Public Relations. In 1996 she opened her own PR firm, RJH Public Relations, which she worked at until 2002. Although no longer involved in the day- to-day aspects she still retains a small business connection.

Edward and Sophie met in 1993, purely by chance and they were able to pursue their relationship largely away from the public eye until Andrew Morton entered her office, walked to her desk and said: "Sophie Rhys-Jones, can I be the first person to call you Your Royal Highness?" After a five-year courtship, the engagement of Sophie to Prince Edward was announced in January 1999. They were married on June 19 of the same year at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. It was the last royal wedding of the millennium.

On November 8, 2003 the couple welcomed their first child, The Lady Louise Windsor. As a granddaughter of the sovereign in the male line, she is entitled to be called Her Royal Highness Princess Louise of Wessex. However, at the time of her parents marriage, it was decided that any children would not use HRH Prince/Princess but would carry courtesy titles as the children of an Earl. This was so they could avoid the full burden of royal titles and the responsiblity that comes with them.

The Countess of Wessex's hobbies and interests include skiing, horse-riding, carriage driving, sailing and gardening. She is patron of over 40 charities and organizations and occasionally accompanies her husband on engagements, traveling with him to various parts of the world in support of The Duke of Edinburgh International Awards Foundation. She also holds honorary military appointments as Colonel in Chief, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and Colonel in Chief, The Lincoln and Welland Regiment.

The couple live at Bagshot Park, Surrey.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Green Eyes and Jam

Finally, a member of the royal family has done something to write about! Thank god for undercover reporters who dress up as sheikhs to get minor royals to make controversial comments. He has entrapped a royal before, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, was his first unwitting victim. However, her indiscretions just pale in comparison to the revelations of Princess Michael of Kent.

Of all of the comments she has made, this one just has gone too far. After all of these years, does she still need to go for the jugular? Send yet another royal into a seething rage? You may now wonder, what she has she done this time?

She criticized Prince Charles' jam. Now it's personal.

Out of the many things I have done, there is one thing I would never do; dis someone's preserves. No matter how questionable something tastes or is made, you should never take it to a public forum and broadcast it to the world. Not only is it bad manners it's also not appropriate; let other people find out for themselves.

I don't want to rush to any judgement; to be fair I haven't tried either person's jam. Mainly because I probably couldn't afford it and also because I have plenty of homemade jam in my pantry. Although I'm not a huge fan of raspberries, if I did decide to choose between the two, in a blindfolded taste test I would probably go with the more homemade one. No doubt made with the loving care of underpaid servants. However, I might be lured by the feeling of the label to think that it's better quality; see here for yourself, doesn't it make your mouth water?

I don't see what the problem is; don't we all make snippy comments about our relatives when they've stayed too long at our house? Aren't we all offered homemade jam that we end up passing on to other people? Those ubiquitous 'sources' say that Prince Charles is 'furious' and will confront the Princess. I would buy tickets to that dressing down. Maybe he'll send her packing with a lifetime supply, that would fix her!

Until I started this blog I never really paid much attention to Princess Michael (wife of Prince Michael of Kent). While the other royals are behaving themselves, I appreciate her so much more. After all I can't keep writing informative royal profiles forever now can I?

This is not the first time she's made disparaging comments towards her family, so it's no surprise. We will never understand 'Princess Pushys' motives; is she naturally malicious? Green with envy? Misunderstood? Or just brutally honest?

One thing is for certain, she's always entertaining.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Royal Profile: Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

At the time of her death Princess Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline was the oldest ever member of the royal family, the longest lived princess of the blood royal, and she has the distinction of being the longest surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. She was born on February 25, 1883 at Windsor Castle, the daughter of Queen Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, and his wife, Helen, the Duchess of Albany. Her father had haemophilia and died when Alice was a little over a year old. She had one brother, Charles Edward, who was born four months after their father had died.

In February 1904 Princess Alice married His Serene Highness Prince Alexander of Teck, brother of Queen Mary. After her marriage she was known as HRH Princess Alexander of Teck. They had three children: May, Rupert and Maurice, who died while still an infant. Princess Alice inherited the haemophilia gene from her father and her eldest son Rupert suffered from it, eventually dying at age 21. In 1917 Prince Alexander gave up his German name and titles and was created Viscount Tremation and Earl of Athlone, adopting the name Cambridge. Princess Alice, however, was a princess of Great Britain and Ireland and a Royal Highness in her own right, and from 1917 until her death she was known as Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone.

Princess Alice was active in war work from 1914 to 1918 and later lived in South Africa and Canada during her husband's terms as Governor-General of each country. She was an expert gardener and during her husband's tenure in Ottawa, she designed and helped to build rock gardens. She overcame the restrictions of short summers and extreme winters by keeping five hothouses running in order to produce beautiful plants and flowers. Princess Alice was Honorary Commandant of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division), and president of the nursing division of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade.

After her husband's death in 1957 she lived in their home in Kensington Palace. During her lifetime she carried out many royal duties and she attended the coronations of four monarchs: Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II. Her pastimes included needlework, gardening and reading and in 1966 she published her memoirs, For My Grandchildren, giving an inside view of Queen Victoria and her family.

She died in January 1981, aged 97 years, 10 months and 9 days. She is buried beside her husband in the Frogmore burial grounds, Windsor.

© Marilyn Braun 2005