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