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

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Meeting Royalty and Nobility

Some people may wonder, what should I do if I meet a member of the royal family? Unless you’re in England, it’s unlikely to happen, but what if? You really don't want to resort to "Hi there" or "Do I know you?" Of course you could say absolutely nothing, a polite handshake and then afterwards wonder who you've just met. But why not be prepared? These instructions are so easy you can even write them on your hand. Just make sure your palms aren't sweaty otherwise you'll get ink all over the Queen's glove.

In comparison to meeting nobility it's far more straightforward than you may think. Note that when you meet royalty, it is optional to bow or curtsey, although some traditionalists still hold to this form of deference. When in doubt, err on the side of formality.

For future reference, I’ve included ways to address them all so that you need not worry about making a faux pas:

The Queen: Your Majesty and thereafter: Ma’am (rhymes with lamb)

The Duke of Edinburgh: Your Royal Highness, and thereafter: Sir

The Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex: Your Royal Highness, and thereafter: Sir

Prince William and Prince Harry: Your Royal Highness, and thereafter: Sir

The Princess Royal: Your Royal Highness, and thereafter: Ma'am

Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Princess Michael, Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Kent, the Duchess of Gloucester: Your Royal Highness, and thereafter: Ma’am

Fairly straightforward, wouldn’t you agree?

Now, onto nobility. Here it becomes a bit more complicated. A veritable mine-field of potential offence. After all, what exactly are you supposed to do? Royalty is fairly recognizable, and you may know Earl Spencer (Diana, Princess of Wales' brother) but would you be able to pick out the Duke of Wesminster in a crowd? Once again, when in doubt, err on the side of caution. Especially if no one is wearing a name tag.

There are five forms of Peerage: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron.

Duke: Your/His Grace

Marquess: My Lord

Earl: My Lord

Viscount: My Lord

Baron: My Lord

There you go! Now, when meeting royalty and nobility, you no longer have to worry about any embarrassing situations.

However, if you happen to run into them, tell Lilibet and Phil I said 'Hi!'

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006

Camilla The Good

In the best tradition of women in the British monarchy, Camilla is a class act.

You may dispute that but it's true.

Putting aside all that has happened in the past relating to Diana, Camilla is an asset to the monarchy, just as much as the Queen and the Queen Mother.


Because she knows how to keep her mouth shut.

Unlike Diana, Camilla has maintained a respectful silence. In 30 years she's had more than enough provocation to defend herself, yet she never has. What little we do know of her is from Diana's point of view. We don't know the other side of the story, and maybe we never will.

You may argue, but the evidence suggests that royal class is equated with silence, with going about duty without complaint, earning their keep. The Duchess of Gloucester, the Duchess of Kent, Princess Alexandra, we can't help but see dedication there. No comment can be made when no information is given. We can speculate all we like. Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and even Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, all class acts, who did not complain about their lot. Who understood duty. Of course we looked at royals with far more deference then, there wasn't the same amout of media interest, no papparazzi to invade their privacy. If they had lived in today's day and age, would there be the same respect?

Princess Michael, although stylish and elegant, is not regarded as a class act. Why? because she talks to the media, writes books and in general sells her wares. It also doesn't help that she makes honest and occassionally unkind remarks about other royals. We don't seem to like royals who have opinions, just look at Prince Charles and his diaries. However, you just can't help but get the feeling that Princess Michael, unrepentant, enjoys all of the attention.

The Queen is respected, mainly because she personifies duty, never having put a foot wrong in all of the years on the throne. Sure, she didn't respond to Diana's death the way we would have liked her to, but she was only doing what she had been trained to do. In 80 years, how much do we really know about the Queen? How much should we know? The Queen does not owe us a public confession. Neither does Camilla.

It's interesting to note that the Queen, her father, grandfather, grandmother and so on, never gave an interview. The Queen Mother was an exception. In 1923, just after her engagement, she gave a brief interview to a newspaper. King George V, her future father-in-law, disapproved and she never made the mistake again. Charles and Diana, Andrew and Sarah, and Edward and Sophie, may have given engagement and pre-wedding interviews, but not Charles and Camilla. Maybe Charles was trying to avoid saying something that would haunt him later. Smart move on Charles' part.

Nowadays we expect our public figures to give us sound bites. After all, we can't live on official photos alone. And slow on the uptake, the royal family is becoming increasingly media savvy. But as Camilla seems to have observed, sometimes it's sensible to keep things to oneself. She may have learnt, to quote part of an old proverb, 'Speech is silver and silence is golden'.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Diana Investigation: Is it really over?

Although this hasn't been posted on the official inquest site, it has been announced that Diana's death has been ruled an accident. Two days before this news I became inspired to write about all of the unanswered questions surrounding Diana's death. I can't really do that now can I? Couldn't everyone have waited until I could post a timely article? I guess I thought I had more time, you know how these things tend to drag out. Too bad, it was going to be a thought provoking yet satirical article if I'd gotten around to writing it.

Personally if the inquest is truly over, I'm glad. Not that I was paying much attention to begin with. I admit to being somewhat intrigued by the grisly details, and the possible pregnancy rumors, but the Prince Philip and Prince Charles conspiracy theories are ridiculous. Then: Prince Charles was way too busy wooing Camilla and making copies of his infamous Chinese diaries. Now: Married to Camilla, he's too busy trying to prevent their publication. Then: Prince Philip was too busy telling Charles off about something to worry about Diana and her lover. Now: he's too busy telling Prince Charles off about his diaries to care about the results.

So here's as far as I'd gotten with my draft, where I ask questions which are now quite redundant. Other than spending a lot of money and wringing every last drop out of Diana's memory, what did all of this really accomplish? Okay, maybe that's the only real thought provoking question I wanted to ask. But I did have other filler questions: Does this honor the memory of the victims? Will Mohammed Al Fayed take down his tacky statue of Dodi and the semi-clad Diana? Will someone please ask him to? Will people stop writing tell-all books, magazine articles, and making made-for-TV movies? The answer to most of these questions is No.

Despite the findings, I'm certain that people will continue to think that her death was more than an accident. After all, she was supposed to grow old gracefully and continue her charity work. Diana would have been proud at William's wedding and holding her first grandchild. She would have looked glamorous and regal at his Coronation. Later on, revered as unofficial Queen Mother, she would have died of extreme old age in luxurious surroundings. How could a drunk driver and not wearing a seat-belt kill her?

Like the Kennedy assassination, there will always be speculation; the Warren Commission findings did not end the questions. The Diana investigation will not end the questions either. Was Henri Paul drunk? Was he part of the French Secret Service? Were his blood samples switched? Was Diana murdered?.....

With misinformation and conflicting reports, we'll never know.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Monday, March 06, 2006

When a kiss isn't just a kiss

Sometimes a kiss just isn't a kiss. The royals are rather circumspect in their displays of affection, so when they do touch each other it becomes incredibly significant. Not only that, it's seen as a barometer of the status of royal relationships. Of course we've seen the polo match kisses, which is nothing more than a chivalrous brushing of the Queen's gloved hand. We would expect to see the queen greeting her Danish, Norwegian and Spanish cousins warmly. However there are other more memorable moments. So, a brief history of royal kisses and physical contact:

1953: Princess Margaret lighly brushes some lint from Peter Townsend's uniform and a firestorm of controversy ensues. Read: He should have used a lint brush.

1957: After months of being away, and amid rumours of marital problems, Prince Philip returns from his solo tour and reunites with the Queen. We don't know whether they actually kissed each other, but Prince Andrew was seen as a 'happy by-product' of their reunion. Read: Let's assume they did.

1981: Casting protocol aside, and with Mummy's permission, Charles and Diana historically lock lips on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day, in front of millions of people. Seemingly the first time anyone had kissed on the balcony. Read: if you're going to break precedent go all the way.

1986: Not to be outdone, Andrew and Fergie kiss on the balcony after their wedding. Not as big a deal but it's been the last public royal wedding kiss. Read: What do you think that means?

1992: The infamous kiss-off in Pakistan. Charles went to kiss Diana and she moved her head away. Read: Extreme marital problems

2001: Charles and Camilla made their first public appearance in 1999, but we had to wait two years to see their first public kiss. Read: True confirmation that they're a couple.

2005: William and Harry kiss Camilla after a polo match. Read: Confirmation that they like their step-mother

2006: Now the Queen kisses Camilla and it's seen as a sure sign that Camilla has finally gained acceptance! Forget the wedding, the tiara, the coat of arms, and now the regiment. Read: The Queen tolerates Camilla

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Masako Problem

It has been reported in the Japanese media, normally so deferential to the royal family, that Crown Princess Masako wants to divorce Crown Prince Naruhito. Whether this turns out to be true or not, I take exception to the last sentence in the article:

"Her withdrawal from the imperial family would certainly solve a lot of problems."

By way of background: Crown Princess Masako married into the Japanese royal family 13 years ago. Educated, and accomplished, she gave up a promising career as a diplomat in order to do so. Since then she has been stifled and under pressure to produce a male heir to the Chrysanthemum throne. After eight years of marriage, and one miscarriage, she did have a child. Instead of it being the much wanted male, it was a girl. Somewhat disappointing as females cannot inherit the throne and no male has been born into the royal family in 40 years.

It should have been a happy event, the birth of a healthy baby, but it just put more pressure on Masako. As a result, she suffered what has been referred to as an 'adjustment disorder' and she has rarely been seen in public. It is highly unlikely that the Crown couple will have another child, and therefore a succession crisis has ensued, debating whether the laws should be changed to allow their only child, Princess Aiko, to inherit the throne.

Now, unless things have changed, the last time I checked, it was the male who determines the sex of the child. Females have nothing to do with it. Feel free to correct me on this. Do we see the Crown Prince being blamed for the lack of a male heir? Nope! Even though it could be said that he is more to 'blame' than she is. So why would it 'her departure solve a lot of problems'?

Marrying into the royal family might have been more than she anticipated, and departing might be best for her. Note that I said for her. Not for the royal family, not for the public. For her. Using Diana and Fergie as examples, it's difficult to marry into a royal family, especially the British royal family. But looking at the recent commoners who have married into the royal houses of Denmark Norway, the Netherlands, and Spain, some make the transition better than others. Why is this? These royal courts are far less restrictive than the Japanese one, the desire for a male child is not as crucial, and having the support of a loving husband seems to help. If nothing else, Masako seems to have the support of her spouse, but this might not be enough.

Should she divorce, Masako would become persona non grata in the Japanese court. Literally. Late last year, when her sister in law, Princess Sayako married a commoner, she gave up her royal status and her family. Masako was not born royal, but she too would effectively cease to exist, and there would be no going back. It's very likely that she would lose her child as well. Would that solve a lot of problems?

In light of the recent announcement that Princess Kiko, wife of the Emperor's second son, is expecting, this may take some of the pressure off Masako. Or it may not. Some may even think of it as a disappointment - 'Masako failed in her duty.' If this child is a boy, the traditionalists will be pleased and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. Let future generations deal with succession issues! Should this child be a girl, the debate would only be postponed by nine months.

Will that be Masako's problem? We'll have to wait until September to find out.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Royal Profile: Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale

Invariably labeled 'slow', 'backward' and a 'lunatic', his memory is destined to be clouded by mystery. Considered unsuitable for the throne, his death has even been regarded as a stroke of luck for the royal family. To this day there are rumours that he was a drug addict, homosexual, had fathered an illegitimate child, and, although never a formal suspect, the notorious Jack the Ripper.

Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, was born on January 8, 1864 at Frogmore House. Due in March, he was originally supposed to be born at Marlborough House but his mother, Princess Alexandra, went into labour while watching her husband, the future King Edward VII, play ice hockey. Instead, he was born prematurely at Frogmore House, weighing less than 4 pounds. Against the wishes of his parents, Queen Victoria chose the names Albert Victor, after her late husband and herself. He was informally known to his family as 'Eddy' but due to the circumstances of his birth, society had a different name for him: "All-but on the ice".

As an infant with his mother
Although he was regarded as 'apathetic' and 'backward', there was another side to the prince, he was by accounts, sweet natured, gentle, and close to his mother and three sisters: Princess Louise, Princess Victoria Alexandra, and Princess Maud, the future Queen of Norway. He was also very close to his brother, Prince George, the future King George V, and they were educated together by a tutor, Reverend John Dalton. The brothers were devoted to each other, but very different in character. Regarded as the more intelligent of the two, Prince George was destined for a career in the navy, while Queen Victoria wanted Eddy to be sent to a public school. But George brought out the best in Eddy and their tutor recommended that the brothers not be separated. When George began his naval career it was decided that Eddy should join him, and in 1877, Eddy and his brother joined the training ship, Britannia. In 1879, accompanied by his brother and tutor, he set out on a three-year world tour on the HMS Bacchante, visiting Australia, the Far East and Japan.

Unlike his brother, Eddy showed no aptitude or interest in the Navy. His father then decided a formal education might be more beneficial and in 1883 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. He did not excel academically but he was eventually granted an honorary degree in 1888. In 1885 he joined the Army, and was commissioned into the 10th Hussars Calvalry Regiment. In 1889-90 he made his first solo tour to India and upon his return, Queen Victoria granted him the dukedoms of Clarence and Avondale, and the title Earl of Athlone.

As a potential King, his parents and Queen Victoria became concerned with Prince Albert Victor's increasingly desolute lifestyle. Rumoured to be frequenting homosexual brothels, it was thought that a good marriage would set him straight and Queen Victoria set about finding a bride for him. The Prince had a habit of falling in love easily with unsuitable women. At one point he was secretly engaged to the unsuitably Catholic Princess Hélène of Orléans, daughter of the pretender to the French throne. His parents and the Queen eventually chose the suitable and sensible Princess May of Teck, the future Queen Mary. It was not a love match but Prince Albert Victor duly proposed to her in December 1891 and their wedding was set for February 27, 1892.

One month before their marriage, while at Sandringham, he fell ill with influenza. Within days he developed pneumonia and died on January 14. He is buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

© Marilyn Braun 2006