Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is Prince William a style icon?

We know that Kate Middleton is being lauded for her sense of style. But what about Prince William? Sure, he's good looking and when the occasion calls for it, he cleans up well in a bespoke suit, but is he really a style icon? Let's review the evidence.

Most recently we've watched Prince William pass out of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He was impressive in his uniform. But the question on the minds royal watchers and fashionista's alike: Did that black uniform do him justice? The answer is a resounding yes!Admirably showing off his toned waist, he decided to accessorize with a rifle, red sash and the Sovereign's banner.

Yes, black seems to be his color. He looked especially smart in his silk university graduation gown. But he doesn't shy away from brighter colors. Like his father before him, he has shown that from an early age, he can wear such classics as the 160 year old royal christening gown.

Although William looked great in his uniform, not everyone can pull this look off. William's height works to his advantage, but like the rest of us, he works with what he's got. However, that shiny token medal on his uniform can't detract from the thinning spot on the back of his head. He effortlessly drew attention away from this by wearing the mandatory hat. But let's face it, he can't do that forever. Luckily last year's trend continues and thanks to Howie Mandel, bald is still beautiful.

Despite this, he plays up his assets: flawless skin, good muscle definition and blue eyes; the color of two deep pools of Tide laundry detergent. You'll feel cleaner just staring into them. From his first appearance leaving the hospital as a blanket clad bundle in his mother's arms, to last summer's chili pepper swim shorts, William's outfits are always climate appropriate. Wearing military fatigues, his face covered in mud, he exudes an air of elegance.

One must be tempted to ask: where does he get his sense of style? It's inevitable that he will be compared to his father - who, in 1952, at the age of four, was voted one of the 'World's Ten Best Dressed Men'. It runs in the family. In 1929, his grandmother made the cover of Time Magazine by 'setting the babe fashion for yellow'. William himself used to set trends as a child, wearing his silk baby rompers and toddler snowsuit. More recently he made the Vanity Fair 2006 International Best Dressed list.

But while William may be in good company, he still stands out in a crowd. Unlike the rest of us, William is lucky, he has the fashion accessory everyone is talking about: Kate Middleton. Indeed, fashion wise he has yet to put a foot wrong. Things can only go up from here.

Verdict: Prince William is the style icon to watch for 2007.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Beautiful Kate?

A recent post on a message board that I frequent, asked the question: Why does everyone call Kate Middleton beautiful? Food for thought and I was about to reply on the site. Instead I decided to post my reply here.

There have been many comparisons made between Prince William's girlfriend Kate Middleton and his mother Diana. Regardless of who Prince William dates, this is inevitable. If this keeps William up at night, we'll never know. Should he worry about it, he's in good company. Prince Albert of Monaco, no doubt holds the same concern; his future wife will be compared to his mother, the late (and in her youth, impossibly beautiful) Princess Grace of Monaco. Whether this would be the case for William's wife or not, it's a tough act to follow.

The comparisons are mainly in looks and style. In all reality, Kate looks nothing like Diana. And neither is prettier than the other. Sophie is actually closer in appearance to Diana, yet the comparisons died quickly when it turned out she didn't have the same fashion sense or high profile to warrant it.

Since Diana died, my theory, is that the royal family needs a new 'star' and for the media, someone to sell newspapers. Not a star that will steal the thunder of the more senior royals, but someone who will bring glamour and interest back. Something the royals are severely lacking at the moment. Apologies to Princess Beatrice and Zara Philips.

Kate is being built up in the media. Sold to us, if you will. The anti-Diana, mentally stable, she's the one person that can save the monarchy. It's a lot to live up to. Ask Prince William, he should know all about it. If things don't work out for Kate, no need to worry, William's next girlfriend will save the day.

I tend to agree that Kate is pretty but not drop dead-gorgeous. At least not yet. She seems to have become more polished since entering the public eye. At this rate, the longer she remains Prince William's girlfriend (or should she become his wife), she'll be shinier than the Crown Jewels. But the same could be said for the other European crown princesses. Would we have looked twice at Mette-Marit of Norway were it not for her marriage to Prince Haakon? Or even Maxima of the Netherlands or Mary of Denmark? Out of all of them, I think Mathilde of Belgium is the most beautiful. Feel free to disagree with me on that.

When Diana came on the scene, people were surprised that Charles could be involved with someone so plain and unremarkable. Especially when he was previously dating stunning blondes. At the time we knew nothing about Camilla. Indeed, one early book describes Diana as 'handsome'. Other books, like Diana - A Portrait, mention her 'star quality', that special something that she always had. Looking at pictures of her before her marriage, I honestly don't see it. I think that Diana became beautiful because she was built up in the media, so then she started to believe it. Because of this, Diana had an image to maintain. Yes, she may have been vain but marrying someone with almost unlimited resources would make anyone become high maintenance.

So, whatever your thoughts on Kate Middleton or whether she becomes a member of the royal family, one thing is certain - to quote Benjamin Franklin:

Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion

© Marilyn Braun 2007

This article was inspired by a post on the World of Royalty message board.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Saying what's already been said

I have several drafts in the inbox where I weigh in about Kate Middleton and Prince William. I haven't been able to finish any of these drafts because sometimes I wonder whether I have anything new to add to the subject. Finding something to say that hasn't already been said about this issue is difficult. What angle should I take when there isn't one left?

The subject seems to have been beaten to death, with no end in sight. In the absence of an engagement ring, plenty of speculation and 'insider' reports take its place. The ghost of Diana makes its ubiquitous appeance. One can only wonder what the principal players in this media frenzy think. The royal family is no doubt used to this. But unlike his father with the young Lady Diana Spencer, Prince William seems to be protective of Kate Middleton. Or so the reports would have us believe. Has William ordered police protection for Kate? A chivalrous royal suitor rescuing his damsel in distress makes for a better story. William on his polo pony and Kate, a present day Cinderella, running the gaunlet of rabid press. Hounded while doing the most menial of tasks, arguments about Kate's privacy add a newsworthy dimension.

One thing is certain, both sides have to handle the situation carefully. Learning lessons from Diana's death, regardless of Kate's status, the royal family can't be seen to be insensitive. Kate, should she want to become the next royal bride, needs to be discreet while playing the waiting game. Should an announcement be forthcoming, we can only hope it will be worth it. Angle: Love conquers all.

But what does Kate think? Does she want to be a princess? What if things don't pan out? Book deals and appearances on Oprah follow. It could work out either way for her. Just look at Fergie.

Maybe I'll ponder these things while I'm thinking of something to write about.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Royal Profile: Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma

Rumoured to be a descendant of Pocohontas, she led a fashionable and priviledged life as one of London's leading socialites. But it wasn't until the Second World War that she became a woman of substance.

Edwina Cynthia Annette Ashley was born on November 28, 1901 at Broadlands, Romsey, Hampshire and named after her godfather, King Edward VII. She was the daughter of Amalia Mary Maud Cassel and Wilfred William Ashley, (later created Baron Mount Temple), the grandson of the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. She was also the granddaughter and co-heiress, with her younger sister Mary, of Sir Ernest Cassel the millionaire financier, friend and confidant of King Edward VII.

Her mother died when she was ten years old and she and her sister spent much of their time with their grandfather. She was sent to school in Eastborne and later to domestic science school in Suffolk. When she left school her grandfather, who adored her, arranged that she should come to live with him, and at the age of eighteen she became his hostess at his mansion London, Brook House.

She met Louis "Dickie" Mountbatten (son of Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven) in June 1921 and on February 14, 1922 Dickie proposed. They were married on July 18, 1922 at St. Margaret's Westminister, with the Prince of Wales as best man. For a wedding present, Edwina gave her new husband a 1919 Rolls Royce. They lived first at Brook House, Park Lane, London, the old home of Sir Ernest Cassel. After the death of her father in 1939, she inherited Broadlands near Romsey, Hamshire, which then became the family home of the Mountbatten's.

Early in their married life, the couple lived a rather glamourous lifestyle, with friends in the entertainment business such as Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin who wrote and directed a film as a wedding present called 'Nice and Easy'. This film starred Dickie, Edwina, Fairbanks, Pickford and Chaplin, who appeared in two roles - his normal self and as the little tramp.

Two years to the day of Dickie's proposal, on February 14, 1924 their first daughter Patricia was born at Brook House. Their second daughter, Pamela was born April 19, 1929 in more eventful circumstances when Edwina unexpectedly went into labour while in a hotel in Barcelona, Spain.

With the advent of the Second World War, Edwina joined the war effort via the St. John's Ambulance Brigade, touring shelters and designing and implementing a first aid course for civilians. In 1943 when her husband was appointed the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, she continued her efforts by visiting hospitals and camps throughout South East Asia. In 1947 her husband was appointed Viceroy of India. Once India and Pakistan gained independance in August 1947, Louis and Edwina or 'Lady Louis' as she was affectionately known, remained in India as Governor General, continuing their work with the poor and disadvantaged. In recognition of her efforts, Edwina was made Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1943, a Dame of the Royal Victorian Order (DCVO) in 1946 and was awarded the Imperial Order of the Crown of India (CI) in 1947.

Four days after the marriage of her second daughter, she went away on tour of the Far East on behalf of Save the Children Fund and as Superintendent-in-Chief of St. John. She died in her sleep on the 21st of February 1960 in Jesselton, North Borneo. At her request she was buried at sea off the coast of Portsmouth.

© Marilyn Braun 2007