Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ruler of rulers

It's a boy!!!!!

On Monday December 11, 2006 at 8:48 pm my son Eric Michael was born. He weighed 9lbs 7oz and was 22.5 inches long. Eric is actually the first boy born into both sides of the family in several years. On my side, a boy hasn't been born into the family in over 60 years. My husband was the last boy born into his side of the family in 30 years. Regardless we are very happy to have a healthy baby.

Depending on which source you check, the name Eric is Scandanavian and means "Ruler of rulers" or "Ever ruling". I've liked this name for quite a while so the regal meaning is just an added bonus for me.

Right now I'm busy with the baby and with a toddler who is adjusting to the baby, so I may not be able to post for a while. I do have articles in the works but it's hard to type with a bottle in one hand and a newborn in the other - I'm just not that talented! But I will be back, hopefully in the New Year.

In the interim, I hope you will enjoy this article on Royal Christmas Broadcasts.

Seasons Greetings to you and your family.

Thanks for visiting!

Marilyn :o)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Great Royal Reveal

I'll be the first to admit that I don't really like surprises. I have an unerring ability, through no real effort of my own, to find out what my birthday and Christmas gifts will be. I also, quite by accident, found out the sex of my first born. My seeming desire to spoil surprises for myself includes wanting, deliberately this time, to find out the sex of my second child. Yes, I only have to wait a few more weeks, but in the interim I could have been deciding on names, color schemes and buying the right clothes. Unfortunately, I was foiled as the ultrasound technician, who for whatever reason, did not write down the sex.

Anyways, I was very happy when I read that the Crown Prince of Spain would reveal the sex of his second child prior to its birth. Today we've learned that the couple's second child is a girl, thus continuing the possibility that their first daughter, the adorable Infanta Leonor, could become the next Queen of Spain. No longer do we have to wait on tender hooks until May 2007, when this second child is due to arrive, to find out whether the laws might be changed to allow for female succession. Who would want to deny Leonor the right to the throne based on her sex? Many people, as we've seen in Japan with the recent birth of a male heir to the throne to displace the daughter and only child of the Crown Prince and Princess.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to know, in advance, what the sex of each expected royal child? Especially when so much is riding on it? We could have been knitting blue booties and baby blankets to send to Japan months ago. The traditionalists could have kicked back and relaxed. Princess Masako could have prepared herself for the onslaught of unfair comparisons to her sister-in-law for producing a male heir instead of her own. No such surprise awaited the arrival of the first born heirs to the Norwegian, Dutch and Belgian thrones. As they've already changed their laws, we could concentrate on the new arrivals (all girls), being healthy instead of on their sex.

Ultrasound technology for gynecological use has been around since the late 1950's, early 1960's. In 1971 we could have known the sex of Princess Märtha Louise, eldest child of the then, Crown Prince and Princess of Norway, who was displaced in the line of succession by the birth of her younger brother, the present Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. Or in 1977 when the now Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, the first born child of the King and Queen of Sweden was born. Could the laws have been changed way back then? We'll never know. But today we could be looking at Crown Princess Märtha Louise and Victoria could have had her right to the throne acknowledged early on instead of having to displace her younger brother when the law was eventually changed in 1980. Diana, Princess of Wales knew the sex of Prince William, probably one of the most anticipated royal arrivals until the births of Prince Christian of Denmark and the new Prince Hisahito of Japan. Had Diana announced she was expecting a boy in advance, we could have all breathed a sigh of relief at maintaining the status quo or made plans for change.

Regardless of the sex of her siblings, my personal preference would be for Leonor to maintain her right to the throne and to not be displaced because she's a girl. Women have shown they are just as capable of being great leaders as men and no law can change that fact.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Royal Profile: Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll

Princess Louise was born on March 18, 1848 at Buckingham Palace, the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was named Louise Caroline Alberta by her father. Louise after her father's mother. Caroline, after Prince Albert's step-grandmother, the dowager duchess of Gotha. And Alberta after himself. During her early childhood she was called "Loo-Loo".

Of Queen Victoria's five daughters she was considered the prettiest, the wittiest, and the best-dressed. She was also the most independent-minded and tempermental.

She was educated by governess at Windsor Castle in arithmetic, history, geography, grammar, as well as the art of court etiquette. She did well in French but not in German. She was considered to be the most artistic of the Queen's daughters and her mother, recognizing her undeniable talent, reluctantly allowed her to attend the Kensington National Art Training School in 1868, becoming the first monarch's daughter to be publicly educated. She eventually became an accomplished sculptor, writer and artist, designing a marble sculpture of her mother which stands at Kensington Palace overlooking the Round Pond and a monument in St. Paul's Cathedral to the fallen of the Boer War of 1899-1902.

Despite her talent, in her mother's eyes, her first duty was to marry. Instead of a foreign princeling, Queen Victoria looked to aristocratic circles. A non-royal match was considered rather novel at the time and had not occurred in the royal family in over 350 years. She married John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Marquess of Lorne and heir to the Dukedom of Argyll on March 21, 1871 in St. George's Chapel, Windsor. He was known as Ian when he was younger but was called Lorne, after the courtesy title be bore, and he belonged to one of the oldest and most prominent families in the kingdom. The public looked forward to the wedding, Louise being called "The Maiden All for Lorne," and a London perfumer created a scent for the occasion called "Love-Lorne." The couple spent part of their honeymoon at Claremont House near Windsor and then took a tour of the Continent. She became Duchess of Argyll when her husband succeeded to the dukedom in 1900. The couple would have no children.

In 1878 Lorne was offered the governor-generalship of Canada. In addition to their official duties, the couple hosted sledding, sleighing, skating parties at Rideau Hall, and went canoeing and salmon-fishing expeditions. Princess Louise set up her own art studio at Rideau Hall, and encouraged the foundation of the Canadian Academy of Arts in 1880. During her husband's tenure as Governor General of Canada, regiments such as Princess Louise's Dragoon Guards, Quebec's Louise Embankment, Lake Louise in Banff National Park, and the province of Alberta were named after her.

Always interested in women's rights she founded the Ladies' Work Society, where women learned crafts of needlework, embroidery, thus enabling them to earn wages. She also sponsored an "Education Parliament" which became the Girls' Public School Day Company, where middle-class parents were given financial assistance to educate their daughters.

Her husband died in 1914 and she lived at Kensington Palace until her death on December 3, 1939 at the age of ninety-one. She was cremated and her ashes are buried in the Frogmore burial grounds.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More interesting royal trivia

Did you know...

  • Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is worshipped as a divine figure by the Iounhanan tribe on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, in the South Pacific. He has never visited the island but upon hearing of his status, he sent a signed picture which is minded by an official guardian. As well, the Duke of Edinburgh Stone is an integral part of the tribe's daily life.

  • The first member of the Royal Family to ride in a motor car was Queen Victoria's son, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII)

  • The longest serving royal consort is Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, from their marriage on 9 September 1761 until her death at the age of 74 on 17 November 1818, almost 57 years in total. The longest serving husband of a reigning queen is the Duke of Edinburgh.

  • The only monarch to be born and die at Buckingham Palace was King Edward VII. He was born at the palace in 1841 and died there in 1910.

  • The Queen does not own the Royal Palaces, works of art from the Royal Collection or the Crown Jewels. These are held by Her Majesty as Sovereign and must be passed to her successor in due course.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Royal Profile: Cecil Beaton

When Cecil Beaton visited a clairvoyant in 1926, she told him that he would have a lot to do with royalty. At the time he could not have realized just how prophetic that statement would be.

Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton was born in London on January 14, 1904, the grandson of a blacksmith, and the eldest son of a prosperous timber merchant. He had three siblings: Reginald (Reggie) born 1905, Nancy (born 1909) and Barbara (Baba) born 1912. When he was 11, his grandmother bought him his first camera, which he taught himself the basics of photography, using his mother and sisters as his first models. When he became more proficient he sent his photographs off to London society magazines, writing under a pen name but recommending the work of 'Beaton'.

Raised in Hampstead, he attended Heath Mount School, London where he felt like an outsider much of the time. It wasn't until he attended Harrow School that he hit his stride and involved himself in the theatre, designing sets, sewing costumes and performing. Although not academically inclined, to please his parents he attended St. Thomas' College, Cambridge, studying history, art and architecture. He continued to work on his photography in his homemade studio, sending photographs to the major fashion magazines. Through his university contacts he was commissioned to photograph the Duchess of Amalfi. The photograph, bought and printed by Vogue, gave him his first ever published work.

In 1925 he left Cambridge without a degree and his father gave him a job in his office as a clerk. He lasted eight days. Bringing along his camera, he spent his time attending society parties, taking photographs of the elite and London glitterati. These photographs formed his first exhibition in 1927. Shortly afterwards he set up his own studio, establishing himself as London's definative society photographer. As his success grew he set his sights on the glamour of Hollywood, eventually photographing Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Greta Garbo, amongst others.

During the Second World War he worked for the British government and military as official photographer and his images of the devastation were later published in the book Winged Squadrons (1942). In addition to his flourishing photographic career, he wrote several books, worked as an illustrator and set designer for various theatrical productions; winning four Tony awards. For his work in film, he won two Academy Awards for costume design for Gigi in 1958 and My Fair Lady in 1964. His black and white costumes for My Fair Lady were inspired by the 1910 Black Ascot following the death of King Edward VII.

He would photograph the royal family for fifty years, starting in 1930 with Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria. In his royal photographs he was greatly inspired by painters Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Thomas Gainsborough and used blow-ups of their paintings as backdrops for some of his most successful and romantic portraits of Queen Elizabeth and the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. These portraits did much to restore the image of the monarchy after the Abdication in 1936, particularly transforming the image of Elizabeth, Duchess of York from minor royal into regal personage when she became Queen. Some of his most notable photographs included the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1937, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, as well as the first official photos of the infants Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Beaton was also influenced by photographers Marcus Adams and Bertram Park and in the 1950's and 1960's his photographs took on a more informal style, inspired by Irving Penn and Richard Avedon.

In 1957 he was became a Commander, Order of the British Empire, in 1960 he was made a Chevalier, Legion of Honor, and he was knighted in 1972. He suffered a stroke in 1974, and although one side of his body would be permanently paralyzed, he taught himself to write and draw with his left hand and had his cameras adapted. However his health would remain damaged and he died in Broadchalke, Wiltshire, 18 January 1980.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Diana the hero?

Diana, Princess of Wales has recently been named on Time Europe magazine's issue 60 Years of Heroes. Personally I was quite surprised at her inclusion as I don't think she belongs anywhere on a list like this.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Diana. I collected all of the books and magazines and I grieved in my own way when she died. But to add her (along with Sophia Loren and The Beatles) to a list of heroes which include Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Margaret Thatcher, Bob Geldof, and Mother Teresa, is obviously going for the popular vote from people who would otherwise not read this list. Ah, names I recognize and can (somewhat) relate to! In Diana's case, if only for the fact that she was female, a mother, unhappily married who found her voice, coming out sadder and wiser in the end by bucking a system that holds the future for her children. But the comparisons to reality end there with a supposed reluctant celebrity who knew how to use her beauty to her advantage when it suited her. But honestly, in her position, would she have really been kept down for very long? What did she really and truly have to lose?

During her marriage she walked a line between fashion plate and trying to find a purpose. She took on the issue of AIDS, shaking the hand of a patient while gloveless. She went public with her eating disorder. Toured slums, touched lepers, took children into her arms and knelt by the wheelchairs of the elderly. All while dressed in designer clothes. Once freed from the binds of her royal marriage, Diana found a new sense of purpose when she took on the anti-landmines campaign, becoming almost a global, humanitarian ambassador; a role no one had conferred upon her. She did not invent anything in her lifetime, did not earn the Nobel Peace Prize, did not climb over any fences, and was not imprisoned. Had she not been beautiful, or died tragically, it's questionable how much we would really remember or revere her today.

For royalty to make a difference, boost morale and bring attention to important issues is not a new concept. Early in her reign, the Queen toured leper colonies too and just look at Princess Anne with her work with Save the Children. Unlike Diana, neither of them are young and beautiful, so we don't look.

Are we just under the spell of hero worship? No more so than when we elevate a celebrity for doing nothing more than donating to charity, giving face time on a telethon or adopting a child?

Maybe my definition of what makes a hero is different, because in this case I tend to think we are.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Camilla's jewels?

Just when we thought that things were smooth sailing for Camilla, controversy has reared its head yet again. This time its about jewelry.

It seems that Camilla wearing jewels is big news. Her engagement ring came from the collection of the late Queen Mother. She wears tiaras from the collection of Her Majesty Elizabeth II and stop the presses! One would think that the only thing to top her wearing these tiaras is if she were granted the Royal Family order, which is at the personal discretion of the sovereign.

I've mentioned in a previous blog posting that I think wearing jewellery previously owned is bad luck. Just my personal picadillo. I might however revise that notion if I were lent some of the fabulous royal jewels of priceless provenance. However, Camilla is in a different situation than I am. As the wife of the sovereign she will be entitled to wear whatever happens to be in the royal collection, including pieces formerly worn by Diana herself. As the wife of the heir to the throne, she needs to look the part. As the wife of the Prince of Wales, shouldn't she, of all people, wear a jewel with the Prince of Wales feathers?

The original owner of the jewel in question, was Queen Alexandra, who as Princess Alexandra, wife of the future King Edward VII, received this pendant as a wedding gift in 1863. Now admittedly Queen Alexandra was a much beloved figure. Did we see people up in arms when the piece was worn after her death by Diana? No, because it was entirely appropriate for her to wear it. As is the case with Camilla.

When will people stop seeing Camilla as encroaching on the memory of Diana? Or stop denying Camilla a legitimate place in the royal family?

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Royal look-alikes

You've seen them on the street and probably snickered. You know them, the couple who wear identical jogging suits, and think they look cute, when they look anything but. It's even been said that when a couple has been together long enough they even start to look like each other. Sometimes it's blissful symmetry, other times it's just plain awful. Sarah and Andrew and more recently Charles and Camilla have been seen in matching kilts, however this is not the first time we've seen a royal couple look alike. Royalty may not have jogging suits, or at least not wear them in public, but at least they dress alike in style.

Before it all went awry. I'm sure no one laughed at them when this picture came out but where did Charles end and Diana begin? Was this the first sign of trouble?

Sometimes they even do matching pained expressions, proving that if a couple is together long enough they will start to look like each other or their pets.

When they work together they wear matching uniforms. Quick, count who has more medals!

And if they don't dress alike, they're mannerisms are curiously...curious...

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Royal Baby Boom

It has just been announced that Princess Letizia of Spain and Princess Maxima of the Netherlands are expecting new arrivals in Spring 2007. This will be the second child for Letizia and the third for Maxima.

In 2005 we had a royal baby boom when it was announced within a week of each other, that Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, and Letizia were expecting new arrivals in October. Also expecting in 2005 were Maxima, Mathilde of Belgium, and Mette-Marit of Norway. The birth of a royal baby is always a joyous event but when these events occur in such quick succession one has to wonder whether there's something in the palace water.

There hasn't been a birth in the British royal family since 2004 when the family welcomed Estella Taylor, the youngest child of Lady Helen Taylor. It seems that they are lagging behind, but in the past they have had their share of baby booms. The first one in 1817 after the death of Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the future King George IV, and her son in childbirth. Surprisingly enough, amongst the 15 children of King George III, once Princess Charlotte died, not a legitimate grandchild existed. A race ensued to produce a legitimate heir to the throne, his middle aged sons forgoing their mistresses and illegitimate offspring to marry suitable brides. Eventually this effort culminated with the birth of Princess Victoria of Kent who as Queen Victoria would become the longest reigning sovereign in British history.

The second baby boom occurred in 1964 when the Queen, Princess Alexandra, Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Kent were all expecting at the same time. Princess Alexandra delivered her son James first, followed by the Queen with Prince Edward, the Duchess of Kent delivered Lady Helen Taylor (nee Windsor), and finally in May, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, daughter of Princess Margaret arrived. It is said that the four ladies made quite a sight waddling together. No succession crisis provoked these arrivals. Maybe there was something in the water?

This year Japan welcomed it's first male heir to the throne in 40 years, and a new baby princess arrived in the Italian royal family. As well, the youngest son of Queen Beatrix had his third child and another princess in the Dutch royal house is expecting a baby in November. I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if Princess Mary of Denmark announced an impending arrival. She and her husband welcomed Prince Christian in October 2005 and have made no secret of wanting more children.

Regardless, let us hope that these future children arrive safely and are happy and healthy.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Postscript: It was announced on October 26th that Crown Princess Mary of Denmark is expecting her second child in May. Am I psychic or what? ;)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Blogs Royal

Recently it seems that people are searching for royal blogs, blogs on British royalty, or blogs about specific royalty. I originally posted this on my other blog, The Royal Chronicles so I thought it would be relevant to post it again, this time updated with more blogs.

When I started Marilyn’s Royal Blog, I didn’t know whether other royal blogs existed. Blogger didn’t seem to have a very good searching option to find blogs by theme, so I didn’t have a clue where to look for them. Since then I’ve located several blogs which are either devoted to, have sections on royalty, or have a royal theme. In no particular order:

World of Royalty Blog

The Royal Journal & August Annotations

Royal Anecdotes & Aristocracy Anecdotes

Monarchio (In Italian)

The Monarchist

Swedish Royalty Insight

Danish Royal Watchers

Eke’s Royalty Blog

Royal Jewels of the World & Royal Jewels of the World 2 (Interesting sites but these haven't been updated in a while)

Celebrity Baby Blog - Royalty

The Princely Family of Monaco (Mainly in French)

King Nicholas and the Copeman Empire - Blog by ‘Englands other monarch’

If you know of any other royalty blogs, feel free to add them in your comment!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is Princess Aiko's loss Japan's gain?

National rejoicing greeted the birth of a male heir to the Japanese Chrysanthemum throne today. The first male born to the family since 1965. The birth of the unnamed prince effectively ends any move to revise the succession laws to allow Princess Aiko, the only child of the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan to succeed. Of course it is certainly politically correct for politicians to say that the debate will continue, paying lip service to the female population of Japan, who today had further confirmation of the inequality of their sex. However, tradition trumps change and progress.

When Princess Aiko was born in 2001, eight years after the marriage of her parents, it sparked a succession crisis which seemed inevitable until it was announced in February that Princess Kiko, wife of the second son of the Emperor was pregnant with her third child. Princess Aiko as a female could not, according to the present succession laws, succeed to the throne.

Thankfully Aiko, at four years old, is too young to fully realize what she's lost. The opportunity to make a change. To be a symbol of equality to Japanese women. Her parents may be relieved that she doesn't have to shoulder the burden of such a lofty position, but as the first and only child of the Crown Prince and Princess she has been deprived of a birthright otherwise denied to her because of her sex.

Should this new child have been a girl, Aiko might still have had a chance. Now we can only wonder what might have been. The new prince is now third in line to the throne, behind his uncle, the Crown Prince and his father. The status quo has been maintained and traditionalists can breathe a sigh of relief until the next generation. One thing is for certain, we have not heard the last of this issue.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Royal Profile: Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood

She was born on April 25, 1897 in Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee year. Queen Victoria called her "My dear little Jubilee baby" and her grandfather, the Prince of Wales suggested calling her Diamond. Instead she was christened Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary, however, she was always known as Mary, after her maternal grandmother Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck.

She was born at York Cottage, on the Sandringham estate, the third child and only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, the future King George V and Queen Mary. Her siblings were Prince Edward (later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor, Albert (later King George VI), Henry, Duke of Gloucester , Prince George, Duke of Kent and Prince John. Her christening took place on June 7, 1897 at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate. Her godparents included Queen Victoria, King George I of Greece, the Dowager Empress of Russia, the Prince and Princess of Wales, Princess Victoria of Wales, Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck and Prince Francis of Teck.

She was extremely shy but she was her father's favourite child. Cooking was a favourite pastime and she enjoyed working the model dairy that her grandmother Queen Alexandra had set up at Sandringham, milking the cows, churning the milk, and making little pats of butter for her father's breakfast. She had her own school room, sharing her lessons with the younger daughters of the Duke of Devonshire. She studied piano and singing and shared drill classes with her brothers. Quick and intelligent, she was an excellent rider, and a good linguist, fluent in French and German.

During the First World War she was active in welfare organizations, particularly involved in projects to provide comfort to troops. This concern led to the creation of the Princess Mary gift box which was sent out to troops in Christmas 1914. These boxes contained one ounce of pipe tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a pipe, a tinder lighter, a Christmas card from the King and Queen and a photograph of Princess Mary. Non-smokers received a box containing a packet of acid tablets, a khaki writing case containing pencil, paper and envelopes together with the Christmas card and photograph. Princess Mary also took a nursing course and in 1918 went to work at the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

In 1922 she married Henry, Viscount Lascelles, a man 15 years her senior at Wesminster Abbey. At first they made their home at Goldsborough Hall, near Knaresborough. Seven years after their wedding, Lord Lascelles succeeded his father as the sixth Earl of Harewood and they moved into Harewood House. Princess Mary loved Yorkshire and she was known as the 'Yorkshire Princess'. They had two sons, George the present Earl of Harewood, born in 1922 and Gerald born in 1923.

Her public duties reflected a particular concern with nursing, the Women's Services and the Girl Guide movement. She was appointed Commandant in Chief of the British Red Cross Detachments in 1926 and she also became Colonel-in-chief' of a number of regiments. Following the death of her aunt, Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife, she was created Princess Royal by her father on January 1, 1932.

At the outbreak of World War II, the Princess Royal became chief controller and later controller commandant of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS, renamed the Women's Royal Army Corp in 1949). In that capacity she travelled Britain visiting its units, as well as wartime canteens and other welfare organizations.

After her husband's death in 1947, she continued to live at Harewood house with her son and his family. She became Chancellor of Leeds University in 1951, and continued to carry out many duties at home and abroad, representing the Queen at the independence celebrations of Trinidad in 1962 and Zambia in 1964. During a trip to Canada in 1962 she became the first woman to be installed as an honorary bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Upon receiving this honor she said 'I have not been a great lawyer, but I'm fast becoming one'. One of her last official engagements was to represent the Queen at the funeral of Queen Louise of Sweden in early March 1965.

She died suddenly of a heart attack on March 28, 1965 while walking in the garden with her eldest son and his family. She is buried on the Harewood estate.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Royal Gastronomy

Royalty have their image on stamps and commemorative items. Some more notable royals have buildings, docks, and streets that bear their names. At one point it was even fashionable to honor royalty, by naming a food dish after them. Although some of the stories behind the names of these items are unsubstantiated, here are some examples I've located:

Many dishes are named for Queen Victoria: Victoria Pea, Victoria Plum, Victoria Apple, including sole, eggs, salad, a garnish, several sauces, a cherry spice cake, a bombe, and small tarts. The Victoria sponge cake (or Victorian Sandwich, Victorian Cake) was so named because the Queen was known to enjoy a slice with her afternoon tea.

Prince Albert: Albert Sauce, Filet of Beef Prince Albert, Prince Albert Pea, Cobourg Loaf and the Prince Albert Apple. The Apple, thought to have originated in Berkhampstead, Herts, raised by Mr Thomas Squire, as a cross between Russet Nonpareil and Dumelow's Seedling and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who reputedly visited Berkhampstead on the very day that Mr Squire planted his seedling in his garden. He initially named the apple tree Victoria and Albert. However it was renamed Prince Albert some time later when it was grown commercially.

Like his parents, Edward VII had several foods named for him: Poularde Eduoard VII, King Edward VII Potato, and the King Edward VII Apple. Possibly the most famous example is Crepes Suzette. Said to have been created for then-Prince of Wales Edward VII on 31 January, 1896, at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo. When the prince ordered a special dessert for himself and a young female companion, Henri Charpentier, produced the flaming crepe dish. Edward reportedly asked that the dessert be named after his companion Suzette (reportedly the daughter of a friend) rather than himself.

Battenburg Cake: Supposedly named in honor of the marriage of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse-Darmstadt to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. A two colored, chequered sponge cake, four quarters of sponge honour the four Battenberg princes, Louis, Alexander, Henry and Francis. During the war with Germany the family decided it should anglicize its name in the face of anti-German feeling and the Battenberg family name was changed to Mountbatten, thankfully the cake kept its original Battenberg name.

Pizza Margherita: This pizza is dedicated to Queen Margherita of Savoy. She was interested in the popular dish that her French chefs could not prepare so the famous "pizzaiolo" Raffaele Esposito was invited to court and suggested three pizzas, this one reflecting the colours of the Italian Sabauda flag, the Marinara and a white cheese pizza. Garlic, considered improper for the delicate palate of the Queen was avoided. So on the 11th June 1889 Pizza became a dish fit for Royalty.

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother: Queen Mother's Cake. The story is that Jan Smeterlin, the eminent Polish pianist, loved to cook. And he collected recipes. This is one that was given to him on a concert tour in Austria.When the Queen Mother was invited to tea at the home of the Smeterlins, the hostess baked the cake according to Smeterlin's recipe. The Queen Mother loved it and asked for the recipe. Then--as the story goes--she served it often at her royal parties. Including the time she invited the Smeterlins to her home.

Some other examples of food named for royalty:

Queen Alexandra: Gâteau Alexandra, consommé Alexandra, soup, sole, chicken quail

Consommé Princess Alice: Named for Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters.

Christian IX (of Denmark) cheese: also called Danbo. Named after the "Grandfather of Europe"

Queen Charlotte (wife of George III): Apple Charlotte, named in her honor because she was a supporter of apple growers.

Queen of Sheba Cake (or Reine de Saba)

Consommé Marie Stuart: Named after Mary, Queen of Scots

Queen Mary (consort of King George V): Twinings Queen Mary tea

Prince of Wales Twinings tea

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Royal Baby Names

I'm expecting my second child in early December (when I'll have time to update this blog, and look after a toddler and newborn is something I have to figure out, but I digress) and one of the most important things to consider is the name of the baby. You may not have guessed yet but I'm a bit of a royalty buff and I named my first child after a princess. She happened to have been born on the same day as Princess Grace Patricia of Monaco so, with my husband suggesting the name Grace (just because he liked it), I decided to add Patricia for good measure - it will make a nice story and maybe some of my fascination with royalty will rub off on her.

I don't actually know the sex of my baby but I've been considering some regal names. Hoping it's another girl I have Elizabeth, Alexandra, Diana, Alice, Beatrice and Victoria on my list. With the exception of Elizabeth, none of these names currently exist in my husband's family or my own. I could be like royalty and simply choose all of these names, not completly unheard of (see Royal Christenings), but it might not fit very easily on a birth certificate or cross stitch sampler. And also my daughter might get jealous (Why does my sister have six names and I only have two?). Yes, best to just limit it to two.

As for a boy, my choices are somewhat more limited. William and Harry are current family names. I'm not a huge fan of Albert, or Edward and Charles Braun might invite comparisons to Charlie Brown. I haven't considered Philip or Andrew but now that I think about it, they're not bad names at all. Right now I'm leaning towards Erik (my husband likes Eric) - a good, solid Scandinavian name with Danish royal connections - it also happens to mean 'All-Ruler'.

Unlike royalty, I'm not constricted by historical precedent (see The Christian Tradition Continues) or having to please someone like Queen Victoria, whose edict was for all of her decendents to have Victoria or Albert amongst their given names. Of the names I've chosen, only Elizabeth has conflicts; it's the name of my mother-in-law. She goes by Betty, but it didn't stop her from suggesting it the first time. Would she be capable of telling people the baby was named after the Queen and not her? I doubt it.

Unfortunately, my husband doesn't like names with more than two syllables, names that can be misspelled, have multiple spellings, or can be abbreviated, so most of the female royal names are out of the question unless I wear him down between now and December. Maybe after the baby comes, a lack of sleep might just do the trick and I'll get Erik or Elizabeth Alexandra.

Fingers crossed.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Royal Profile: Marcus Adams

His name may not be as well known as Cecil Beaton, Patrick Lichfield, or Snowdon, but as a photographer Marcus Adams did his part in contributing to royal iconography.

Marcus Adams was born in 1875, the seventh child of Walton Adams, a pioneer photographer in the 1860s. His studio in Reading was renowned for its portraits of English and European royalty and he could count amongst his clientele Queen Victoria and General Charles Gordon. Marcus came from an artistic family, his elder brother Christopher was a portrait painter and distinguished minaturist, and his sister Lilian was a well-known painter.

Marcus left school in 1890 and joined the Wesleyan Church, becoming attached to the Methodist religion. By day he worked in a solicitor's office copying documents. He was trained in art at Reading Art College and later in Paris. In 1892 he apprenticed at his father's Reading studio, polishing the floor and brass, preparing negatives for proofing, eventually graduating to proofing and retouching. He was also commissioned to take photographs and assisted in producing illustrations. His first royal photography was a commission of a visit by King George V to the Sutton seed factory.

During his years in his father's studio, he gained a reputation for portrait photography. However, Marcus had a particular talent for photographing children, possessing an affinity and rapport with children rare at the time in photographers. In 1911 his first portraits were accepted by the London Salon of Photography and two of his studies were published in Photograms. During the First World War, when business photographing children was slow, he photographed men in the services, as well as drawing and painting aircraft in battle.

In 1919 he decided to leave his father's studio and with Bertram Park, and his wife Yvonne Gregory, formed the "Three Photographer's" Studio in London. While Bertram Park concentrated on photographs of society beauties, Marcus' Nursery Studio focused on children.

Although he would gain some reknown as a photographer of royal children, he refused one of his earliest royal commissions. When the Countess of Strathmore, mother of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon asked him to photograph her daughter, he declined because she was over sixteen. But, he said "if she marries and has children then I should be delighted to photograph her with her children." In 1926 he would take the first official photographs of Princess Elizabeth with the Duchess of York. His portraits of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were reproduced throughout the world in magazines, stamps and commemorative items. His career as a royal photographer would last thirty years and span four generations, ending with portraits of Princess Anne in 1956.

He and his wife, Lily Maud, had a son named Gilbert, born in 1906, who would become successful in his own right as a photographer, specializing in photographing the ballet. Gilbert would also direct the lighting in Westminster Abbey for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

He travelled extensively with his wife and sometimes with his brother Chris. Gardening was a passion, he planned and landscaped gardens and planted tress wherever he lived, and won prizes for his sweet peas. He had a studio workshop where he would manufacture his own woodwork tools and he carved, sculpted stone, painted in oil, watercolor and pastel. He had an interest in phrenology and palmistry, as well as psychology, something which was particularly helpful in working with his young subjects. In his later years he spent many hours at his home, Lavender Cottage, near Wargrave, Berkshire, designing pictures made from his collection of wildflowers and grasses.

He died at the age of eighty-four in 1959.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

For examples of his work visit The Royal Collection and the National Portrait Gallery.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Royal It Girl

Ahhh...the first blush of youth. Enviable and uncapturable once gone.

A recent photo of Princess Beatrice, released to celebrate her 18th birthday, shows her in all of her youthful, stunning glory. Not since the coming of age of her grandmother and late great-aunt Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, has there been such wonderful potential on the horizon. For unlike male royals, it's hard to resist a beautiful princess. After all, how many fairy tale books are written about Prince Charming? One has only to look at Hello magazine in order to see the appeal of a beautiful and glamourous princess (something I wrote about in Royal Glamour Girls).

You might notice that royalty that doesn't have this asset doesn't get nearly the same amount of media attention. Were it not for the succession crisis in Japan, or that Nepal's ruling family were murdered several years ago, would we pay much attention? For the less superficial royal watchers, it's possible. But yet nothing competes with beauty (or even an 18 year old). Dedication and stoicism simply aren't sexy and don't sell newspapers.

Since the departure of Princess Diana, the position of royal glamour girl has been vacant and Princess Beatrice could indeed fill the void. However, unlike her grandmother (who was heir when she came of age in the 1940's), as fifth in line to the throne Princess Beatrice's profile may not be nearly as high and therefore the attention may not nearly be nearly as great, but for now she's the one. Every royal generation seems to have an "It" girl: Princess Margaret (1950's), Princess Alexandra of Kent (1960's), Princess Anne (1970's), Diana and Fergie, Lady Helen Taylor (nee Windsor) (1980's), Diana (1990's), Lady Gabriella Windsor, Zara Philips, Princess Beatrice (2000's). Whether they take up the mantle is another question.

Unlike other 18 year olds, Princess Beatrice exhudes class. Unlike Paris Hilton, Princess Beatrice will not simply fade away. She may get less attention as she gets older, or until Prince William marries, but like previous royal "It" girls, her place in the family tree of the world's best known royal family is assured.

So dear Bea, enjoy your time in the spotlight. Kate Middleton might be waiting to take your place.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Royal Profile: Sir Norman Hartnell

In honor of the Queen's 80th birthday, an exhibit of 80 evening dresses is on display at Buckingham Palace. Foremost amongst these designs is the intricate, detailed work of Sir Norman Hartnell.

Norman Bishop Hartnell was born on June 12, 1901 in London, and early on showed an apptitude for drawing and design. It was while he was studying at Magdalen College, Cambridge that he became interested in designing clothes. After University began his fashion career as an assistant to the Court Dressmaker, Mme. Désiré. In 1923 he opened his own salon at No. 10 Bruton Street and in 1927 had his first Paris showing. By 1939 he was making 2000 gowns a year for private clients, and would dress the elite of society for five decades. Some of his clientele included Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Cartland, and Vivien Leigh.

Hartnell's background at Cambridge was in theatre productions and many of his designs leant towards costume. He was inspired by French and Italian paintings and for some of his royal commissions, by Winterhalter portraits. Along with designing for society and royalty, he would also work in theatre productions, films and television shows. During the Second World War he designed uniforms for the British Red Cross and in 1969 he was asked to design new uniforms for the Women's Division of the City Police force.

His first royal commission came in 1935 with a request to design the wedding gown for Lady Alice Montague Douglas Scott (wife of Henry, Duke of Gloucester), along with the bridesmaid dresses for Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. One of his most famous commissions came in 1938 when he had to redesign Queen Elizabeth's (later the Queen Mother's) entire wardrobe for the State visit to France. Her mother had died five days before the start of the tour and as black was inappropriate for the occasion, he had to remake everything in white; historically an alternate royal mourning color. Although daunted at first, he accomplished this task in three weeks and it became known as the White Wardrobe. This was the first of many such commissions and he continued to design clothing for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, the royal wedding dresses of Princess Elizabeth (the present Queen) in 1947 and Princess Margaret in 1960. Undoubtably his most well known commission is the present Queen's Coronation gown in 1953.

Hartnell never married. He published two books, his autobiography in 1955 titled "Silver and Gold" and "Royal Courts of Fashion" in 1971. He was appointed MBE in 1953 and was knighted by the Queen in 1977, the first courtier to receive a knighthood.

He died on June 8, 1979 in Windsor, Berkshire.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

In happier times...

I haven't seen this clip in a long time so I thought I'd share it with you!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Royal Dontopedalogy

"Dontopedalogy is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it, a science I have practiced for a good many years." Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

More so than any other member of the royal family, Prince Philip has perfected the art of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He has even coined the word 'dontopedalogy' (putting the foot in the mouth) for some of his more well reporterd gaffes. From the inane to the politically incorrect, to the borderline racist, I present just a few of Prince Philip's more memorable sayings*:

"British women can't cook" (1966)

On a visit to Australia in 1992, when asked if he'd like to stroke a koala, Australia's national symbol, he said: "No, I might get some ghastly disease."

In Kenya, when offered a gift by a woman in native dress: "You ARE a woman, aren't you?" (1984)

"Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world." (in 1991, in Thailand, after accepting a conservation award)

"We didn't have counsellors rushing around every time somebody let off a gun, asking 'Are you all right? Are you sure you don't have a ghastly problem?' You just got on with it." (commenting in 1995 on modern stress counselling for servicemen)

To pupils at Queen Anne's School in Berkshire, who wear blood-red uniforms, in 1998: "It makes you all look like Dracula's daughters."

Still throwing spears? (Question put to an Australian Aborigine during a visit in March 2002)

"If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?" (in 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting)

"Bloody silly fool!" (in 1997, referring to a Cambridge University car park attendant who failed to recognise him)

"If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it." (at a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting)

"It looks as if it was put in by an Indian." (in 1999, referring to an old-fashioned fuse box in a factory near Edinburgh)

Speaking to a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, he asked: "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?".

And no list is complete without the most famous of them:

During a state visit to China in 1986, he famously told a group of British students: "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed".

© Marilyn Braun 2006

*For more information on royal dontopedalogy, see the book: Duke of Hazard - The wit and wisdom of Prince Philip.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Marilyn's Royal Forum!

I've always wanted to create a royal forum, but I was never quite certain how to go about it until now. So here it is: Marilyn's Royal Forum. Tah Dah!!!!!

I hope this will be a place where you can feel free to come by and discuss British royalty or any other royalty for that matter. The forum is a work in progress at the moment but hopefully it will take shape after a while and a become an interesting place to come. So feel free to drop by and don't forget to introduce yourself in the welcome area!

Marilyn :o)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Canadian Royal Trivia

  • Prince William, the future King William IV, was the first member of the royal family to visit Canada in 1786. He came as part of a naval contingent serving in North America and the West Indies. Upon arriving in Canada he labelled it "truly deplorable".

  • The province of Prince Edward Island is named after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria.

  • The province of Alberta was named after Princess Louise, one of Queen Victoria's daughters. Her full name was Louise Caroline Alberta. In the same province, Lake Louise was also named after her.

  • During his visit to Canada in 1860, Prince Albert Edward, the future King Edward VII, watched Charles Blondin walk across Niagara Falls on a tight-rope. Afterwards he volunteered to be taken across the falls in Blondin's wheelbarrow until stopped by one of his minders.

  • Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, was the first royal Governor General of Canada. He served from 1911-1916. Other members of the royal family who have served in this capacity: the Marquess of Lorne (husband of Princess Louise) from 1878-1883, Lord Athlone (husband of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone from 1940-1946.

  • In 1901, the Duke and Duchess of York, the future King George V and Queen Mary, toured Canada coast to coast. The Duke recorded that he shook hands with 24,855 people at official receptions alone, laid 21 foundation stones, received 544 addresses, presented 4,329 medals, gave almost a hundred speeches, and distributed 140 titles.

  • In 1939, King George VI, accompanied by Queen Elizabeth, became the first reigning sovereign to step foot on Canadian soil.

© Marilyn Braun

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Royal Profile: Princess Victoria Melita

Queen Victoria had many granddaughters named after her, but few stand out more than Princess Victoria Melita, who was to create a scandal in the royal courts of Europe with her divorce and remarriage.

Princess Victoria Melita was born on November 25, 1876 in the San Antonio Palace in Malta, where her father, an officer in the British Royal navy, had been temporarily stationed. She was the third child of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and son of Queen Victoria, and Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She was named Victoria after her grandmother and Melita after her birthplace, but to her family she was known as “Ducky”. She had four siblings: Alfred, Marie (later Queen of Romania), Alexandra, and Beatrice. Her early years were spent in England, where the family lived at Clarence House in London. When she was nine, her father was stationed in Malta, where the family was to remain for three years. While there Victoria learnt to ride and horse riding would become a passion she shared with her sister Marie.

When her father became heir to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg, the family moved to Coburg, Germany in 1889. She was confirmed on May 15th 1891 in the village church of Oeslau, near Scholl Roseau. On a trip to Russia later that year, Victoria Melita met Grand Duke Kyril Vladimirovich, a cousin on her mother’s side. Although there was a mutual attraction, the Russian Orthodox Church disallowed marriage between first cousins. Instead Queen Victoria steered Victoria Melita towards her cousin, Prince Ernst Ludwig (Ernie), Grand Duke of Hesse (brother of Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven). Other than the same birthday, the cousins shared little in common and were incompatible. Despite this the couple bowed to pressure from Queen Victoria and the family and was married on April 9, 1894 at Schloss Ehrenburg, in Coburg. The marriage produced two children, Elisabeth born in 1895, and a stillborn son in 1900. Their daughter was to die of typhoid at the age of eight in 1903.

With Prince Ernst Ludwig rumored to be bisexual, and Victoria Melita in love with another man, the marriage became increasingly untenable. They made attempts to make it work for the sake of appearances, but the marriage was finally dissolved on December 21, 1901 by the Supreme Court of Hesse on the grounds of “invincible mutual antipathy”.

After her divorce, Victoria Melita went to live with her mother. Victoria Melita resumed her relationship with Kyril, something which caused a scandal in the Russian courts as Empress Alexandra was the sister of Prince Ernst Ludwig. In 1902 Kyril was exiled to the Far East by Nicholas II. In 1904, Kyril returned to Moscow and the Tsar gave him permission to leave Russia to be with Victoria Melita. They were married in secret on October 8, 1905 in Tegernsee. As a result of their marriage, the Tsar stripped Kyril of his rank, decorations and privileges and the couple went into exile in Paris. The couple would have three children, Maria (born 1907), Kira (born 1909), and Vladimir (born 1917).

After several deaths in the Russian royal family made Kyril third in line to the throne, Nicholas II allowed the couple to return to Russia in 1909 and granted Victoria Melita the title of Grand Duchess.

In 1917, during the Russian revolution, the couple and their children fled to Finland. They spent some time in Coburg, Germany before eventually settling in France.

Victoria Melita died in Amobach on March 1 1936 and is buried in the family mausoleum in Germany.

© Marilyn Braun

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Royal Profile: The Earl of Snowdon

The announcement that Antony Armstrong-Jones would marry Princess Margaret took people by surprise. Although people were happy for the Princess, especially after the Peter Townsend affair, many felt a "bohemian" photographer, who worked for a living, had no place in the royal family.

Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones was born on March 7th 1930 in Eaton Terrace, London. He was the only son, and second child of Ronald Owen Lloyd Armstrong-Jones and his first wife Anne Messel, who later became the Countess of Rosse. His parents divorced in 1934 and as a result of his parent's subsequent marriages, he has three half-brothers.

He was educated at Sandroyd preparatory school then he went on to Eton. An attack of polio left him in a wheel-chair for a year, severely interrupting his education, and would leave him with one leg slightly shorter than the other. He eventually attended Jesus College Cambridge, first studying natural sciences and then switching to architecture. Neither subject stimulated his interest so he decided to pursue photography, a hobby he'd had since boyhood. His first shots appeared in an undergraduate newspaper and he then progressed to taking photos for various society magazines, which brought him professional status. While at Cambridge he coxed the college rowing team, and in 1950 he led the Cambridge Eight to victory. Having failed the architecture exams, he left Cambridge without a degree and joined the studio of the photographer Baron, who had taken the wedding photographs of the Queen and Prince Philip. After six months he set up his own studio and soon established himself as one of London's most successful photographers in the fields of fashion, design and theatre.

His career as a royal portraitist began in 1956 when he was comissioned to photograph the young Duke of Kent. The following year he photographed the Queen's children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, and then the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh themselves. He has continued to photograph the royal family, taking the engagement photos of Charles and Diana, the first official photos of the infant Prince's William and Harry and more recently, a portrait of the Queen for her 80th birthday.

He met Princess Margaret at a dinner party on February 20, 1958. Their relationship was kept from the public eye and when their engagement was announced on February 26, 1960, it took many by surprise. They were married on May 6, 1960 in Westminster Abbey. The couple were very popular in the 1960's, regarded as the epitome of glamour and modernity. They moved in showbiz, artistic, and fashion circles befriending the Beatles and Peter Sellers.

With the announcement that the Princess was pregnant with her first child, Antony was created the 1st Earl of Snowdon, Viscount Linley of Nymans, a title with centuries old royal associations and an acknowledgement of his Welsh ancestry. It was thought that this child, as the grandchild of a sovereign, should not go without a title. Their son, David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley was born on November 3, 1961. A daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones was born on May 1st 1964.

Following his marriage to Princess Margaret, Lord Snowdon continued his work as a photographer and as a design consultant. His work included designing an aviary at London Zoo in 1965 and in his role as Constable of Caernarvon Castle, he played a significant part in the design preparations for the investiture ceremony for the Prince of Wales in 1969. He has done a great deal of work for disabled people. In 1972 he designed the Chairmobile, a motorised platform intended to give greater mobility to those suffering from physical handicaps. As the reknowned photographer 'Snowdon', he had had several international exhibitions, and his work has appeared in over a dozen books. He has also made several television films, which have earned him international awards, including two Emmy's.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon announced their separation in March 1976 and the marriage ended on May 24 1978. On December 15 1978 Lord Showdon married Lucy Mary Lindsay-Hogg and their daughter, Lady Frances, was born on July 17, 1979. They divorced two decades later when it was revealed that Snowdon was having an affair with another woman, Melanie Cable-Alexander, with whom he fathered an out-of-wedlock child, Jasper William Oliver Cable-Alexander, born on April 30, 1998.

He was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Victorian order in 1969 and in 1999 he was created Baron Armstrong-Jones.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Royal Trivia

Did you know...

  • Buckingham Palace does not have air conditioning

  • King Edward VIII, while Prince of Wales, was the first member of the royal family to make a public broadcast on October 7, 1922.

  • The Queen does not vote

  • The Queen does not require a drivers licence

  • The Duke of Edinburgh is currently the oldest member of the royal family.

  • The Queen received 20,000 birthday cards and 17,000 emails on her recent 80th birthday.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Royal Profile: Frances Shand Kydd

Two significant events occurred on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk on January 20, 1936. King George V died and The Honorable Frances Ruth Burke Roche was born. The Fermoys had long been friends of King George V and Queen Mary and it is said that Queen Mary was able to tell the King the news of her birth before he died. Frances was the younger daughter of Edmund Maurice Burke Roche, 4th Lord Fermoy, and Ruth Silvia Gill, an accomplished concert pianist and later lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Frances had an elder sister, Cynthia (or Mary), and a younger brother, Edmund.

She was educated at home in the schoolroom of Park House under a governess by the name of Miss Gertrude Allen, who would later teach Frances' own children. When Frances and her sister graduated from the schoolroom they went to Downham, in Hertfordshire. Frances did exceptionally well, leaving at the age of sixteen as head girl and captain of cricket, netball, lacrosse and tennis. She became a good tennis player and qualified for a national school's tournament, however appendicitis sidelined her chance to play at Wimbledon.

When she left school in 1952 to met John 'Johnny' Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer). Like the Fermoy's, the Spencer's had long associations with the royal family and Johnny was equerry to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. On June 1, 1954 she married Johnny at Westminster Abbey. This wedding was touted as the society wedding of the year, attended by the queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Frances at eighteen, was the youngest royal bride to be married in the Abbey in the 20th century. Like her daughter Diana, she married a man 12 years her senior.

The Althorps began their married life in Gloucestershire where Johnny was a student in a farming course at the Royal Agricultural College. They would have five children: Sarah (b 1955), Jane (b 1957), John (born 1960, and died within 10 hours of his birth), and Diana (born 1961). After the death of their son and the birth of Diana, the marriage was increasingly marred by pressure to produce a male heir to continue the Spencer title. Frances was sent to various doctors to evaluate her failure to produce a boy. In 1964, their son Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer was born.

Increasingly unhappy in her marriage, Frances caused a scandal by having an affair with a married, wealthy businessman, Peter Shand Kydd. Lord and Lady Althorp separated in 1967 and divorced in April 1969. As a result of her affair, and having been named as 'the other woman' in the Shand Kydd's divorce, Frances lost custody of her children. One month later, Frances married Peter on May 2, 1969 in a quiet register office ceremony. In 1972 the Shand Kydd's bought a 1,000 acre farm on the isle of Seil, south of Oban in Argyllshire.

The Shand Kydd's led a quiet life until Diana married into the royal family and the media turned their attention on the family. Peter and Frances separated in June 1988 after he had an affair with a younger woman. She continued to live on the island, and she was respected and known for taking long walks and for her love of fishing. She converted to Catholicism and was well known for her charity work. She died on June 3, 2004, in her home after a long illness at the age of 68.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Royal Profile: Queen Louise of Sweden

Louise Alexandra Marie Irene was born on July 13, 1889 at the Heiligenberg in Darmstadt. Her parents were Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven, and Prince Louis of Battenberg, son of Princess Battenberg.

She was the second of four children: Alice (mother of the present Duke of Edinburgh), George Milford Haven, and Louis (Earl Mountbatten of Burma). She was born prematurely and in her memoirs, her mother described her as 'a rather miserable little object, and the nickname "shrimp" which Louis then gave her remained attached to her during her childhood.' As a result of her premature birth she would suffer frail health for most of her life. She was christened at the Heiliegenberg on August 9, 1889 and confirmed on May 16, 1905.

Like her sister, Louise became a nurse during the Balkan War in Nevers, France. While there she met a Scottish artist named Alexander Stuart-Hill, who Louise's family nickhamed Shakespeare because of a resemblance. She was briefly engaged to him but the plans came to nothing when it was discovered that he was homosexual. With the end of this engagement, Louise, at twenty-five, resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood.

On July 14, 1917, her parents renounced their German titles and Louise became Lady Louise Mountbatten. In 1923, at the age of thirty-four, Louise became engaged to the widowed Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden who had five children. They were married in the Chapel Royal in London on November 3, 1923. The couple had one child, a stillborn daughter born on May 30th 1925. Despite this tragedy, their marriage was a happy one.

She became Queen of Sweden on October 29 1950. She took to this role with modesty, 'I just can't get over people calling me your majesty.' At the funeral of King George VI, the Queen of Sweden's car was announced and Louise did not recognize it was for her. When she went shopping in London, in case she was run over and nobody knew who she was, she placed a card in her purse announcing: 'I am the Queen of Sweden.'

In December 1964 she suffered a heart attack, recovered but died on March 7th 1965 after an operation to remove a blot clot in the main artery of her heart. She is buried in the Royal graveyard at Haga.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Royal Review: Official Royal Websites

Most people may get their royalty news from tabloids, legitimate media or unofficial royal sites, but one of the best sources for information are the official sites. The details may not be juicy but they're a fantastic resource. Nearly all royal families realize the value of having a website for announcements, and general information. Over time, some of the sites have added multi-media features such as virtual tours, music, audio and occassional videos. Although there are many official sites out there, I've decided to review just a few of them. Note, links to these sites are available on the sidebar to the left.

The Official Site of the British Monarchy. One of the best sites out there, comprehensive, it can answer almost any question that you have regarding the family, its traditions, and ceremonies. It has a monthly on-line news magazine, with some of the questions rumoured to be answered by the Duke of York himself. Not to mention access to the Royal Collection with an impressive e-gallery. Has a children's section. Updated frequently it is always up to the minute in terms of the information offered.

The Greek Royal family Site: Greek and English. This site seems to be under construction and some of the information is disappointing. An improvement from its previous incarnation, but it still has a ways to go. For one there is a complete lack of history of the Greek royal family and the site seems to be more of a press release for ex-King Constantine regarding his legal issues.

The Danish Monarchy: English and Danish. Clean and stylish, this site is proof that you don't need multi-media to make a site interesting.The bio's are very informative, but it has limited information regarding the activities of the family. It would be nice if there was more information on previous Danish sovereigns other than a chronological list. Also, some of the information has yet to be updated, such as the bios of the Crown Prince and Princess, which say nothing about the birth of their son Prince Christian.

The Official Site of the Prince's Palace of Monaco: English and French. At one point this site was practically non-existent in terms of information about the current royal family. It has since been redesigned, however it doesn't seem to have much history regarding the Grimaldi family. Information for the Sovereign Prince reads like a resume but otherwise the bio's for the current family are fairly comprehensive. Although the site is bilingual, if you select press releases they will come up in French. I'm not certain whether this is a glitch or not but I've found this frustrating on more than one occassion.

The Dutch Royal House: English and Dutch. This site has been redesigned so it's much easier to use and navigate. One of the few sites to have a children's section, which includes some charming letters and drawings. A photo section allows downloading for personal use. Some of the photos are very casual, a welcome departure from some of the more formal poses released by other royal families. Unlike other royal sites, reading the biographies in the 'Who's Who" section, and especially seeing the photos, one gets a sense of family as opposed to a Royal House. Public engagements, news, photos of current activities and important announcements are only available on the Dutch version of this site. If an important event occurs, such as the birth of the Crown Prince and Princess's younger daughter, the visitor is left to decipher the announcement. Offers 'virtual tours' of the palaces, but some of the tours are slow to load. The history section is not nearly as comprehensive as the British site.

The Belgian Monarchy: English, Dutch, French and German. The only sections that are not available in English are the recent royal births, engagements and archives of individual members. Informative and easy to navigate, the site has some nice sections, the birth Princess Elisabeth is a sweet example, with video of the newborn Princess with her parents.

The Royal House of Norway: Norwegian and English. Some nice biographies of the members of the royal house. A more detailed history of previous monarchs would be nice. Some of the announcements are rather limited and brief, and I've found that some important updates are not in English. Photos are available in the Norwegian section of the site. Has a family tree, showing the relationship between the royal houses of Britain, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. if you click on various people will come up with short biographies of the person. In comparison to some of the other royal sites, this appears a bit basic. I could not locate a site map or any contact information in English.

The Swedish Royal Court: Swedish and English. This site has also been recent redesigned and it's much easier to navigate. Second only to the British site in terms of being comprehensive, it has the option to listen to the site. Unlike the Monagasque site, the language feature is consistent - if you select English, the entire site appears in English. In reviewing, I found a discrepancy in Princess Victoria's birthdate and when I contacted the webmaster I was given an unexpected personalized response.

The Imperial Household Agency Homepage (Japanese Royalty): Japanese and English. Overall I think this is one of the worst sites, aesthetically outdated and difficult to navigate. Has a wealth of information but it's not presented in a very impressive fashion. Unlike other sites, it has some interviews with members of the royal family. Awkwardly laid out, some of the characters in the personal histories don't translate properly. Contact information is limited to an email address.

The Royal Household of His Majesty the King (The Royal House of Spain): Spanish and English. Recently redesigned but still being worked on. It's an improvement on its previous incarnation, which you can see if you click on the link to it. Despite selecting English, some of the sections still come up in Spanish. I didn't find this site particularly easy to navigate. If there is a history of the monarchy I couldn't find it. Has information on the various palaces, including virtual tours.

King Abdullah II of Jordan's website: Arabic and English. One of the few sites to have music! For some reason the King and Queen have separate websites. The Queen's site is actually wonderful, focusing on her initiatives with women and empowerment. Great information about the couple's separate initiatives.

The Princely House of Liechtenstein: German and English. Although I'm not particularly familar with this royalty, should I want to learn more the information is here in this rather sparse site. Has information each reigning Prince since 1608, the history of the Princely House, the Constitution, Titles, Orders and Decorations, and a link to the Princely Collection. Very limited information about the current family aside from names and dates of birth. Also has a link to the LGT group, which provides financial services to the royal family, as well as anyone else who might be interested, which I think is a bit unusual.

Serbian Royalty: Style wise I found this site to be inconsistent and a bit busy, particularly the history page. On the front page, if you mouse over the members of the family it will highlight the person and fade the other members. Has movies , radio interviews, and information about the history, flags, and a nice page about the Royal Palaces.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Royal Focus: The Poltimore Tiara

It isn't very often that British royal jewellery goes to auction. The 1987 Sotheby's sale of the Duchess of Windsor's collection could be considered to be the last significant auction. However, in June another sale will be taking place when Christie's International auctions off over 800 items of the late Princess Margaret's jewellery and works of art collection. And if you are the lucky bidder, you could own a memorable piece of royal history.

Amongst the beautiful jewels that Princess Margaret wore in her lifetime, the Poltimore tiara was unquestionably the most striking. She wore it many times throughout her life, but it was most famously worn for her wedding in 1960. The Princess made a stunning bride in her silk organza dress. Unlike other royal wedding dresses it was simple in its design and this simplicity was underlined by the Poltimore tiara.

It is interesting to note that this particular tiara did not come from the royal vaults; but it was acquired specifically for Princess Margaret in 1959. Sold at Sotheby's by the fourth Baron Poltimore's daughter, the Hon. Lady Stucley, it is rumoured to have cost ₤5000.

This neo-classical tiara, was made by Garrard in the 1870's for Florence, the wife of the Second Baron Poltimore, treasurer to Queen Victoria's household. The Diadem features scrolls, leaves and flower clusters and is set on a row of small diamond collets.

The versatile Poltimore can also be worn as a small circlet, necklace and it can be taken apart to form two large corsage brooches. Perfect for those of us who don't have many opportunities to wear tiaras.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Royal Review: Philip and Elizabeth - Portrait of a Royal Marriage by Gyles Brandreth

I don't normally buy biographies of royal subjects and I rarely read them. Mainly because they tend to have too many sensationalized details already written about in dozens of other books. For the most part it's the same story, different dustjacket. If it does deviate from chronological biography, the books tend to be a forum for the onesided and venemous viewpoints of the author (example: Charles - Victim or Villain by Penny Junor).

Claiming to know his subjects personally and with the promise of no unnamed sources, I decided to read Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage. Ultimately the title 'Portrait of a Marriage' is a bit deceptive, as the book becomes more about Prince Philip than it does on his relationship with the Queen (see list of Prince Philip's Achievements at the end of the book). In this case, it's not much different from Basil Boothroyd's Philip: An Informal Biography. Of course that was 35 years ago, so 'Philip and Elizabeth' continues where Boothroyd left off.

The book begins with the life stories of Prince Philip and the Queen, but none of the information is unique; it can be found in any biography. The story of their romance and courtship comes across as seemingly one-sided. As the Queen does not give interviews, we are left with Philip's unsentimental and pragmatic view of the relationship . Prince Philip is quoted in the book as saying "I suppose one thing led to another, it was sort of fixed up. That's what really happened." Considering that this book is supposed to be a 'Portrait of a Marriage' we are left with little to go on regarding its genesis. We are reminded several times throughout the book that Philip is not inclinded to introspection, nor recollection, which becomes tiresome after a while and makes it frustrating to get an accurate picture.

Any juicy information is prefaced by the author ("Although it's really none of your business..." or "Of course we don't need to know. It's none of our business..."). True but then why write a book in the first place? With only one half co-operating with the author, we are left with friends and relatives of the couple to fill in the blanks. To understand his subject better, the author resorts to some misguided psychoanalysis of Prince Philip, but with no clear insight.

Their relationship with their children has its own chapter, and other than Prince Charles' side of the story in his own book by Johnathan Dimbleby, we are left with the impression that, given the circumstances of their lives, the children had a fairly normal and pleasant upbringing. "We did the best we could" is Prince Philip's reply. Although the media would have us believe that the Queen and Prince Philip are distant and cold parents, they come across as anything but. Understanding and sympathetic, these qualities are particularly evident in their relationship with Diana.

Rumours about their married lives and Philip's affairs are addressed. The author makes a valiant attempt to dispel notions by interviewing friends, relatives, some of the women in question and the Prince himself, with rather unsatisfying results. It's hard to take the conclusions at face value when these women are referred to as Prince Philip's "play-mates".

Despite this, I believe the author has maintained an objective viewpoint of his subject. He does not sensationalize any aspect of their lives. But it is only towards the end of the book that the portrait comes into its own. After almost 60 years of marriage, the Queen and Prince Philip are revealed to be a couple who are different, yet friends. Happy, they respect, understand, and complement each other.

And with their share of ups and downs, following the path towards this conclusion makes this book enjoyable to read.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Royal Profile: Marion Crawford

Marion Crawford was the governess of the Queen and Princess Margaret when they were children. But she is more famous for being one of the first insiders to write an intimate account of royal life by publishing The Little Princesses.

She was born on June 5, 1909 in Woodside Cottage near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. The daughter of a mechanical engineer's clerk, her father died when she was a year old. Her mother remarried when she was six and the family then moved to Dundermline in Scotland.

She trained as a teacher at Moray House Training College in Edinburgh, (now part of Edinburgh University) and she had originally intended to become a child psychologist. While on leave from her studies, she worked as a temporary governess to the children of Lord Elgin and tutored the daughter of Lady Rose Leveson Gower; the sister of Elizabeth, Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother). Two weeks after meeting the Duke and Duchess, she was asked to take on the education of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, who were five and two at the time. She joined the royal household in 1933 and stayed for sixteen years. Affectionately named 'Crawfie' by her royal charges, she taught Bible, History Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography, Literature, Poetry, Music, Drawing, Writing and Composition.

She became engaged to George Buthlay, a divorced Major from Aberdeen. Fifteen years her senior, he had served in the Middle East during the war. They were married on September 16, 1947 in Dunfermline Abbey. She retired in 1949 to a grace and favour residence, Nottingham Cottage, at Kensington Palace and was made a Commander of the Victorian Order in January 1949 by King George VI.

At the time royal servants were paid very little and it was thought that serving royalty was its own reward. Convinced by her husband that she was being taken advantage of, she went against Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother's) wishes by writing The Little Princesses. As a result, she was shunned by the royal family and their circle. She went on to publish a life of Queen Mary (The Queen Mother) in 1951. In 1952 and 1953, she sold her name to a series of articles: Queen Elizabeth II, Happy and Glorious and Princess Margaret. She also had her own weekly column 'Crawfie's Column' but her career as a royal columnist ended when, on June 16, 1955, Woman's Own published her personal accounts of the Trooping the Colour and Royal Ascot; events which had been cancelled due to the National Rail Strike.

Her husband died in 1977 and she spent her remaining years in seclusion in Aberdeen, making one suicide attempt in old age. She died at Hawkhill House, an Aberdeen nursing home on February 11, 1988. No member of the royal family attended or sent condolences.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Here's More Royal Trivia!

Did you know....

  • King Edward VIII, as Prince of Wales, was the first member of the royal family to fly. He learned in France during the first World War and later went on to become a skilful pilot. He also founded the King's Flight in 1936 to provide royal air transportation for official duties.

  • King George VI, as Prince Albert was the first monarch to be a qualified pilot. He gained his pilot's licence in 1919.

  • In 1911, King George V, accompanied by Queen Mary, was the only King-Emperor to visit India and be installed as Emperor at a Delhi-Durbar.

  • King George VI was the first British monarch to visit the United States and Canada

  • Prince Albert Edward (the future King Edward VII) was heir apparent to the throne longer than anyone else in British history. The son of Queen Victoria, he inherited the throne at the age of 59.

  • Queen Elizabeth II has visited countries which no other British monarch has ever visited. She was the first reigning monarch to make State visits to Russia in October 1994, Korea in 1999 and to Brunei and Malaysia in 1998.

  • The Queen does not have or need a passport.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spouse of the Year

Camilla has been granted a new title. No, it's not Princess of Wales, and the verdict is still out on the Queen Camilla thing. Noooo...this is special and one you would least expect. She's been named 'Spouse of the Year' at the Oldie of the Year awards. Considering what she's been called in the past, she would probably welcome this. But what would the award be for such an honor. Yes, it's great that she's been given this honor but shouldn't she have something to show for it? A conversation piece that people can admire? The Oscars have, well, a gold plated man, the Grammy's have a gramaphone, the Razzies, have raspberries, shouldn't Camilla have something to show for being elected the most famous hausfrau in the world? Here are some ideas I've come up with:

The bane of most spouses, cleaning supplies are a sure symbol of the sacrifice and hard work involved in being a spouse. She can choose between a lifetime supply or a vacuum

A Spa Day - Yes, truly appreciated but the facial scrub glow and french manicure only lasts for so long. Warning: Do not stare at the photo for too long, it might be disturbing.

Children - Cute huh? sure you can't gold plate them, but if they make you proud that could be a great, long lasting reward. Choose more than one and it could be an endless (really endless) conversation piece.

Station Wagon - She'll need something to haul the kids around in.
Who needs a mini-van when you can have this? Just don't let them ride in the back - there are laws about that now.

A set of ginsu knives - why settle for anything less. Multi-functional: cut tomatos, shoes and even trees! Choose this option and we'll throw in a free steak knife.

Appliances - Not just a default wedding gift. Functional, practical and unsentimental, modern appliances are a must have. They can't live on love alone, they've got to eat. She could be the envy of all her neighbors too.

Jewellery - Nothing says "I don't appreciate you enough, but here's something to make up for it" better than a ring or necklace. Besides she can't keep borrowing from her mother in law forever.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Camilla's Humanity

Charles and Camilla recently toured a Sikh temple where they watched a traditional martial arts sword demonstration. During part of this display, Camilla covered her eyes when a blindfolded swordsman sliced a watermelon in half on another man's stomach. No doubt a fairly routine engagement for the world-weary Prince, but for the Duchess it was a new experience.

With ancestors who led troops into bloody battles, it's not surprising to see Prince Charles unfazed. He's not alone: the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, are practiced in the art of the 'stiff upper lip' whatever the occassion. When Diana died, the royal family experienced some grief over this lack of emotion. So it's a wonder that Camilla, covering her eyes and instinctively flinching, is the focus of attention for..well..being human.

Unfortunately, this quality will go by the wayside once Camilla becomes more royal. She will learn how not to betray her feelings, even in the most dire of circumstances: Queen Victoria survived several assasination attempts, Princess Anne was brave during a kidnapping attempt in 1974. In 1981 the present Queen, most famously during the Trooping the Color when six blank shots were fired at her. In 1982, when Michael Fagan broke into the palace and found the Queen in her bedroom, we were told that the Queen was calm until help arrived. In these instances, the royal family has been lauded for their bravery. How could Camilla recoil from a mere sword?

With headlines that included 'Camilla's hide and Sikh', 'Scaredy-Cat Camilla Covers Her Eyes', 'Duchess of Cornwall Shook by Sikh Swordsman', and 'Charles and Camilla make hair-raising visit to Sikh temple', she paid for it the next day. Well, she can be forgiven for still being on the learning curve. But eventually Camilla will learn to sit impassively through these types of demonstrations, politely applauding afterwards. She will be capable of making small talk with terminally ill patients and in the same day look suitably concerned while visiting the aftermath of devastation and tragedy.

So, trembling with nerves on her wedding day, nervously waving to the crowds and press during the US tour, recoiling from swords....

Enjoy it while it lasts.

© Marilyn Braun 2006