Monday, July 30, 2007

The Stages of Grief for Kate Middleton

For people who care to remember, April 13th, 2007 will go down in history as the day we heard that Prince William and Kate Middleton had broken up. Since then, we have mourned in our own way. Our experience might even mirror the K├╝bler-Ross model for grief and tragedy. Let's take a look.

Denial: Royal message boards and newspaper columnists blazed with speculation. "No, it can't be happening!"

Anger: Certainly we shared this feeling with Kate herself. We looked for ways to assign blame: It's the media's fault! Kate was too middle-class. William wasn't ready to settle down.

Bargaining: eBay sellers auction off the rare Woolworth commemorative china for the engagement that never was.

Depression: Who will save the monarchy now?

Acceptance: No, they're not getting back together. Maybe Prince Harry and Chelsy will get engaged?

But it didn't end there. Then we went through the stages again as reports indicated that they are back together.

Denial: They can't possibly be back together! I just sent him my phone number.

Anger: Did I pay too much for the Woolworth china?

Bargaining: Maybe they'll break up again and I can sell it for more than I paid for it.

Depression: Environmentalists cry: "Think of the trees!"

Acceptance: *Sigh* Here we go again.

If any of this applies to you, make sure you seek help immediately.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Is defending Camilla a lost cause?

I recently visited a message board that made a comment about my article The Camilla Non-issue, that said:

"it must be difficult defending lost causes, Marilyn?"

First off, I would just like to say that I welcome an open discussion of my articles from readers who don't hide behind the safety of a British royal message board. Especially when I'm addressed personally in the post.

After reading that, and posting a response, I started to think - is defending Camilla a lost cause? Shouldn't I just give up and go with all of the media reports that would have me believe that Camilla is evil, a home wrecker, and doesn't deserve happiness? I guess if I were someone who trusts the media to tell the truth, then maybe I should just spend my time living in the glory days of Charles and Diana's 1981 wedding when Camilla was described as a "trusted female confidante of Prince Charles".

At one point, if you'd asked me, say 10 years ago, about Camilla, I would have said that, while I don't hate her, she was a contributing factor in the break-up of Charles and Diana. I say contributing because each of the three parties had their own role to play in how the marriage ended. In hindsight, I haven't changed that opinion, but my view of Camilla as a person has evolved. If you'd asked me whether she would gain acceptance, I would have said, no way! To a degree, feeling this way, I felt I was extracting karmic revenge on behalf of Diana. When it was announced that Charles and Camilla were getting married, I thought I was hearing things. Even if they were meant to be together, I didn't think it was possible. I found myself being happy for them, and feeling as though I was betraying the memory of Diana by doing so. Media reports about the legal, constitutional, and religious issues of the situation made it seem as though, even if they were married, it wouldn't be legal. And that if it were legal, Charles couldn't be king. Ultimately these issues passed, only to be replaced by the non-issues in my recent article.

While I never expected myself to write positively about Camilla, the ultimate fact is, I don't know her. Does anyone really? And in order to be fair, I have to write about her in a balanced way. No one wants to hear about good/bad Camilla all the time. Not the saccharine reporting of quality royal magazines, nor the claw baring reporting of other publications. This blog is not in the same league but I can still do my part, if only for my own entertainment.

I don't believe in living in the past. I wish Charles and Diana could have had a happy ending, but they didn't. Maybe it was inevitable that they wouldn't. Today I can honestly say that I'm happy for Charles and Camilla. I didn't really have any pre-conceived notions but the fact that she's adapted so well to royal life is wonderful. For an outsider, it's not an easy thing to do.

Is defending Camilla a lost cause? No. That's my opinion. I would be interested in hearing other opinions though. Please feel free to have your say.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

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Friday, July 27, 2007

The Camilla Non-issue

It's almost predictable.At every major royal event, you could set your watch by it.

In the absence of any real news, the subject of Camilla is bound to come up. Camilla can't possibly have a 60th birthday without the issue of what her title will be once Charles becomes king. The upcoming Diana memorial needs an injection of Camilla in order to gain some type of momentum. Will she attend? Won't she attend? According to the media, Camilla is terrified and she should feel guilty about Diana. One thing is clear, if she attends or doesn't attend, the media won't let her win either way.

So far Prince Harry wisely defused the Camilla issue by stating that she's wonderful. Prince William has been seen kissing her and greeting her warmly. He also deftly announced that the older guard had been banned from attending the Concert for Diana - thus ending the issue of where to seat Charles, Camilla and the Queen, but inadvertently focusing us on Kate Middleton instead. The Queen has been seen smiling at Camilla and loaning her priceless jewels. Everyone of importance seems to like Camilla, why can't we let it drop?

While we can't change what the media will do, let's take a look at the cold, hard reality of these supposed Camilla issues:

Camilla's present title and her future title when Charles becomes king

This is the most popular non-issue for royal watchers. No doubt we will hear about this for some time and no amount of official clarification will change that. Camilla's present title is H.R.H. The Duchess of Cornwall. Yes, legally she is Princess of Wales but she has chosen to be known as Duchess of Cornwall instead. A wise move to appease people who choose to live in the past. But had she chosen to take the title, so what? The title of Princess of Wales did not die with Diana. If this were the case, the title should have died with one of the 8 women who held it before her.

When Charles becomes King, she's chosen to be known as H.R.H. The Princess Consort. Yes, once again, for traditionalists she will be Queen. But she doesn't want to be called that. It may be hard for us to accept, but that's our problem now isn't it?

The marriage of Charles, Diana and Camilla.

Yes, there were three people in the marriage of Charles and Diana. Regardless of when the affair started, whether it never ended, Camilla was the third person and we can't change that. Hasn't she been raked over the coals long enough?

Camilla and the family jewels

Yes, Camilla is starting to wear the family jewels. And why shouldn't she? She would look a tad under dressed at State Dinners otherwise. People look to this as a sign of acceptance, when it's a non-issue. Someone should wear them. Why should these jewels languish in the vaults to appease us?

Camilla's life as a royal.

Camilla is doing well in her new role and Charles looks happy, truly happy, for once in his life. We know very little about Camilla as a person, so how could we have predicted, one way or the other, how she would cope as a royal? She may not have the same glamour as Diana but there's no point comparing them. Let's give Camilla a chance to make her own mark as a royal.

The death of Diana

Diana is dead. Last time I checked, she is still dead. Charles and Camilla, and the rest of the royal family are not responsible for her death. There's no point in trying to make Charles and Camilla feel guilty or assign blame to anyone. Time to move on.

The discussion of these non-issues have become a sport akin to the non-issue of whether Charles should become king. Ultimately, can we really blame royal commentators for using these subjects to fill time during their coverage of royal events? Not really. There's more mileage in speculation than in the truth. We definitely haven't heard the last of these non-issues.

So when the next big royal event happens, set your watch.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Royal Profile: Tim Graham

Tim Graham has been photographing the royal family over 30 years. He may not be as well known a photographer as Patrick Lichfield or Snowdon . And you may not recognize him but, chances are, if you follow the royal family, you've seen his work.

He started his career working as an assistant in a Fleet Street picture agency and slowly started taking over photographic assignments, including the royal family. However, his career as a royal photographer got off to a shaky start when he covered the Queen Mother's arrival at an engagement. He had shown up early to get a prime position. and 'as she stepped from her car and I went to take the picture, I found to my dismay that my flash did not fire. My not-very-well-stifled grown alerted the Queen Mother and she stopped to ask if I would like to take another shot. I was eighteen years old, just started in the job, and it is an incident I have never forgotten.' He worked for several years on Fleet Street, and after three years as a staff photographer with the Daily Mail, he left to become a freelancer in 1978.

A love of travelling sparked his interest in photographing the royal family. In 1968 he covered the first of many royal tours, when the Queen and Princess Anne visited Austria. Since then he has traveled with the royal family to over a hundred countries. His photographs have appeared in every major magazine, newspaper, on stamps, TV documentaries, posters, and he has won on several occasions, the Martini award for best royal photograph of the year. Such is his reputation that he has been invited to take official photographs. In 1982 he took the official 18th birthday photographs of Prince Edward, and in 1983 the Prince and Princess of Wales chose him to photograph them with Prince William ahead of their Australian tour. In 1987 he took the official photograph's of Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip for their 40th wedding anniversary.

More recently he was invited by the Queen, in her Golden Jubilee year, to photograph her and the other six reigning monarchs of Europe at Windsor Castle. This photograph was historic as it is only the second time in a hundred years that such a gathering has taken place. He considers this photograph to be the most difficult he has ever taken: ‘Dreading the prospect of having to direct Your Majesty and His Majesty and Her Majesty, I was relieved to find that, having had such photographs taken on countless occasions during their reigns, the monarchs needed very little directing.'

He is the author of several books, including: On the Royal Road - A decade of photographing the Royal Family, Diana - H.R.H The Princess of Wales, In Private, In Public: The Prince and Princess of Wales, Jubilee - A Celebration of 50 years of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. His book Diana, Princess of Wales A Tribute and William to mark the Prince's 21st birthday have been on the best-seller lists.

He lives in London with his wife Eileen and his two children, Lucy and Tom.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Royal Review: Diana, An Amazing Life

In my quest to buy anything Diana related, this will be my year. In the 10th anniversary of her death, a deluge of books, magazines and events will commemorate her life and call my name. This book is one of them.

It beckoned me, but I have complaints. The slick silver cover shows finger prints easily. For someone who collects these types of books, having to wipe it clean after every perusal is frustrating. I've almost given up in trying. My second complaint is that the spine and the introduction erroneously say 'Princess Diana'. While I understand that referring to her as 'Princess Diana' is shorthand for her real title, it's still wrong. For the record, her title during her marriage was HRH The Princess of Wales. After her divorce it was Diana, Princess of Wales.

This 192 page volume spans the 16 years of Diana's royal life from 1981 to her death in 1997. Celebrating her life in 42 covers - the most appearances of anyone before or since. While this may sound impressive, you really need to remember that People is a weekly magazine, not a monthly one. She made the cover sometimes only once a year and averaging no more than twice a year. In 1985 she appears 4 times. In 1989 she doesn't appear at all. In 1992, the year of the separation, she appears a whopping 7 times. Overall the editors of People may want to look at the archives of the monthly Majesty magazine before they brag about this record.

Like most of these books, it shows her evolution from a shy, kindergarten teacher to royal superstar, in a varying degree of photogenic photos and as the fairy tale ended, suitably morose ones. Each issue is presented in a two page synopsis of the main points. The happily ever after pronouncements, birth of Prince William, apocalyptic royal feuds, glamorous fashions, the strain Diana causes on Princes Charles and the birth of Prince Harry. All in the first 53 pages. Having covered all of the real or imagined inter-family conflicts, People then moves to analysing the marriage itself. In sensational headlines, People reports on the coping, moping, Diana's mental stability, her lonliness, their separate lives, and the heartbreak as the fairy-tale ends. Should we have any doubt about the situation, the cover of the November 30th, 1992 issue proclaims 'It's Over', before the December 9th, 1992 official announcement. But it doesn't end there. People reports on Diana's daring new life as a strong, independant woman, her lovers, the battle for her boys and 'Di-vorce!' Her 1997 death earns another two covers.

According to the introduction, 'the goal of this book isn't to analyze her life, but to re-create...something of what those 16 years felt like'. In my opinion, it has suceeded. I couldn't help but be swept up in the happy events, mesmerized by her glamour, and given pause by her tragic ending. While this book is no different from any other commemorative magazine about Diana, I recommend it for any collector.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Click here to order Diana: An Amazing Life

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Royal Review: A Dress for Diana

Okay, I admit it. I have a mission to buy every book ever written about Diana. So when I read that this book was coming out, there was no way it wouldn't end up in my collection. I love royal weddings and I also love seeing behind the scenes. This book combines both, making it the ultimate look at the making of a fairytale.

A wedding dress is usually the centerpiece of any wedding and Diana's was no exception. Anyone who watched the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana will remember 'The Dress'. With its 25 foot train, still the longest on royal record, it is arguably the most famous royal wedding dress in history.

From Diana's tentative phone call to the designers, to her post-wedding thank you note, A Dress for Diana details the remarkable journey the unknown young designers, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, went through in order to produce it. Pictures of the process: the fresh faced designers, the inspirations, original sketches, hands embroidering fabric, the flowers, shoes and close-ups of the intricate details. It's all there courtesy of the Emanuel's archives.

While many designers of royal wedding dresses have experienced fleeting fame (Lindka Cierach, anyone?) the Emanuel's will always have a place in history. Not only for designing her wedding dress but also for creating the infamous strapless black dress that Diana wore to her first official evening engagement with Prince Charles. Beginning with these striking fashion statements, the Emanuel's would continue to make evening dresses for Diana throughout her official royal life.

Today, Diana's wedding dress can be seen on display at her ancestral home, Althorp. And it recently formed part of the Diana, A Celebration travelling exhibit. While nothing can compare to actually seeing the dress in person, this book is the next best thing.

Click on the link to order A Dress for Diana.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Like royal books? Visit Marilyn's Royal Bookstore!
Photo of the dress exhibit courtesy of the Althorp website

Friday, July 13, 2007

My quest to prove I'm not royal

Some may look at me and think I've got something special about me. A certain je ne sais quoi. While I do have a picture of a princess on my profile (Princess Grace of Monaco), most people wouldn't mistake me for royalty in real life. At least that's what I thought. Yet the rumours persist. I've been unlucky in having the burden of people think I'm royalty. It's hard, it really is.

I don't remember when it started. It's always been there. As a baby my ears protruded. Maybe I shouldn't have dressed up as a princess for Halloween. Wearing a tiara at my wedding and pretending to do the royal wave didn't help. To this day people comment on my blue veins. Lab technicians say it's normal. But yet people persist in seeing this as evidence of my blue blood. Rest assured, I put my pantyhose on one leg at a time.

So recently I found a lawyer who was only too happy to take on my case. I've had to go to court, to prove that, in fact, those pictures of Princess Margaret circa 1972 do not show me in utero. It's just some middle age girth. It's so tiring to prove, time after time, that no, I'm not royalty. I produced childhood pictures of me that she didn't take.I presented my birth certificate to prove those are the names of my real parents. The judge ended up throwing the case out of court due to overwhelming lack of evidence. My hope is that this post will, ultimately establish the truth.

You will not find me anywhere on the family tree. I've even gone to Buckingham Palace for help, but they refuse to officially deny it. I don't want money. I don't want to be in line for the throne. I don't want wills to be unsealed. Wearing some of the jewels might be nice on occasion but all I want is for the rumours to stop.

For the record, I'm not a member of the royal family and I've never claimed to be. Please stop this insanity before it gets out of hand. Before the press latch on to my story. Before I start to question my own sanity.


© Marilyn Braun 2007

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

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Royal Focus: The Spencer Family Tiara

Out of the almost 200 posts I've made on this blog, my article Jewels fit for a Queen is the most popular. In fact, anything on royal jewellery, particularly tiaras, seems to be a popular subject. Not a day goes by where someone doesn't find my site by searching for those terms.

Although worn by several Spencer women, this tiara is most associated with Diana, Princess of Wales. Worn most famously at her wedding in 1981 as her something borrowed. She also wore it all through her official life as a member of the royal family, for state banquets, openings of Parliament, and diplomatic receptions. Diana regarded this tiara as her 'spare', the other being the Lover's Knot Tiara, which she received as a wedding gift from the Queen.. Throughout the later part of her married life, she wore the Spencer tiara more often, taking pride in her Spencer heritage, and also because it wasn't as heavy as the Lover's Knot tiara.

Mounted in gold in the form of scrolling tulips and star shaped flowers, it is decorated with diamonds in silver settings. It has been reported that this tiara is a family heirloom from the eighteenth century, but this is a misconception. Instead, it is a composite of several elements. Of the entire tiara, only two elements at the end are old, and are said to have come from a tiara owned by Frances, Viscountess Montagu and left to Lady Sarah Spencer in 1875. The tiara is thought to have been made in 1767, but the style suggests the 1830s. The central element was a wedding gift from Lady Sarah Spencer to Cynthia, Viscountess Althorp (Diana's grandmother) in 1919. In the 20th century, it was remounted and four other elements were made to match it.

Along with Diana, some of the other brides to wear it on their wedding day include Diana's sister Lady Jane Fellowes in 1978, and Victoria Lockwood, the first wife of her brother Charles Spencer, in 1989.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Monday, July 09, 2007

For Sale: G.I. Wales

He's handsome, educated, and he's a prince. Whether it's pushing paperclips in London, repelling down a mountain, or defending his mother's honor, he's the action man, in touch with his emotions, for the new millenium.

And for $29.95 CDN he can be yours!

Waiting for your prince to come? Now you can buy one! Impress your friends, stun your family and earn curious looks with the ultimate royal collectors item.

Need a date for a wedding? no problem! Dress him up in a suit and he's ready to go. Portable, at 12-inches long, you can walk confidently into any social situation knowing that you're with the most handsome man in the room. Prop him up beside you at the bar and you're guaranteed to fend off unwanted attention.

A trendsetter since birth, he comes with chili-pepper swim trunks. Fun in the sun takes on a whole new meaning as you frolic on the beach with your prince. He also comes with a tweed suit, degree, and honorary medal.*

Do you like Royal Weddings? Hold your own with the Kate Middleton action figure. Or just pretend what could have been. This deal won't last!

Order now and we'll throw in the Matt Lauer action figure!

Operators are standing by!

* Polo horse, paperclips, Kate Middleton action figures sold separately.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Like royal books? Visit Marilyn's Royal Bookstore!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Will Kate Middleton become a royal footnote?

Recent reports indicate that Prince William and Kate Middleton are back together. Earlier in the year, speculation was rife that an engagement between the two was imminent and like pre-engagement Diana, Kate was hounded by the media. When the news broke on April 13th, 2007 that they were no longer an item, it sent shock waves through the media and royal message boards. There were many theories on why they broke-up, some of the reasons included: she wasn't aristocratic, the media pressure was too much, or that William wanted to concentrate on his military career and didn't want to settle down. Some even went as far as to theorize that they never broke up at all. That this was a clever ruse on their part to buy some time.

Despite this break-up, the media interest in Kate hasn't ended. And it's becoming increasingly apparent that, regardless of how she feels about it, Kate Middleton isn't going to join the royal-ex files anytime soon. But while Kate is hot now, will this always be the case? Looking at the romantic histories of royalty in the past century, some royal exes have been more famous, in their day, than others: Lilly Langtry, Alice Keppel (great-grandmother of Camilla), the actress Sarah Berhardt, Freda Dudley Ward, Lady Furness, Koo Stark, Roddy Llewellyn, and Peter Townsend. Ultimately, if Kate ends up there, she's in good company.

Included in this group are the ex-girlfriends of Prince Charles. In his heyday, Prince Charles was considered to be one of the most eligible bachelors in the world. He only had to stand beside a woman, or have a woman stand beside him, in order to be linked with her. The names of those he supposedly sowed his wild oats with seemed to go on and on: Sabrina Guinness, Lady Jane Welleslley, Anna Wallace, Camilla Shand (now his second wife), Amanda Knatchbull, Susan George, and Lady Sarah Spencer (sister of Diana, Princess of Wales). But unlike those other women, when Lady Diana Spencer showed up on the scene, the media fell in love with her - and so began our sixteen year love affair with her too. His previous girlfriends were summarily relegated to obscurity. With the exception of Camilla, where are they now?

Also regarded as one of the most eligible bachelors in the world, William doesn't seem to have had as many girlfriends, so Kate may have the advantage or disadvantage of being the first serious one. Ever since pictures of her appeared walking down a runway modelling a diaphanous outfit, she was news. During his university days, William and Kate were able to keep their relationship somewhat private. Certainly there were articles praising her fashion sense, Hello Magazine profiles, and photogenic pictures of her looking demure, yet with a knowing smile, but it was tame in comparison to what happened once they graduated.

So are they back together? What is so special about Kate? Why is she any more remarkable for her ordinariness than we are? Dating/Having dated a prince helps. But trying to pinpoint exactly what makes Kate unique is like trying to define ourselves in one word. Regardless of her future with William, does she have the staying power to become more than a royal footnote?

Time will tell.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Diana's Childhood

While I enjoyed the Concert for Diana, my absolute favorite moment came at the end, when footage of Diana as a child was played. This footage is also shown as you enter the Diana, A Celebration exhibit. Knowing how her story ends, this footage is very poignant.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Was the Concert for Diana about Diana?

On Sunday July 1st I sat, almost, rivited to the TV, watching the Concert for Diana. It looked like a great and wonderful event. But after a while I started to wonder.

What exactly is this concert about?

  • Is it about celebrating the life of Diana? Yes.

  • Is it about great music from people I've never heard of? Yes indeed.

  • Is it about raising money for the charities chosen by Prince William and Prince Harry. Yes, and good for them.

  • Is it about the chance for me to yell at my TV as the commentators got the royals mixed up? I always enjoy that but no.

  • Listening to the commentators after a while, I got the impression that, on the face of it, the first three were the main points. But one issue seemed to consume the reporters after a while. And that was the attendance of Kate Middleton. Despite the break-up, Kate put on a brave face and seemed to enjoy the show. Sometimes the camera caught her animatedly talking with her brother, sometimes it caught her looking serious as she watched people that, maybe she'd never heard about either. The important point was, she was there. What did it mean?

    Unlike Chelsy, who had pride of place beside Prince Harry, Kate did not sit with William, she sat about two or three rows back from him. This seating arrangement was poured over by reporters, who tried to imbue this with significance. How else to fill their time between sets? Every wistful or affectionate glance at the back of William's head. Every non-glance from William. Did they make eye-contact? Did they talk to each other? Why is she sitting so far from him? Are they back together? If so, is this just a ruse on their part to fool us? Unqualified to speculate and lucky to get anyone's name right, the CTV commentator managed to corrall the ubiquitous Ingrid Seward for help. A big fish to catch on his part. If anything, wouldn't she know something? Alas she could not shed any light on the meaning or lack of meaning of this turn of events. One wonders what they would have done had Kate not been there? Maybe that would have been significant to them too.

    Personally I was surprised to see her there. I was also surprised to see where she was seated. Her spot beside William filled by a far less attractive male friend. But there was no royal pecking order here. Sitting just behind a group of unfamiliar, homely girls - who must have won a contest in order to be there - yet in front of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Kate looked like she'd been left out in the cold. Sure she had her family with her, no doubt for moral support, but still. Couldn't William have made some sort of show of it. Perhaps a consolation prize placement, down the row, beside Peter Philips? Either way people would have talked, but Kate might have looked less forlorn. Everytime the camera focused on her, I felt for her, I truly did.

    So what do we make of this? What should we make of this? In the grand scheme of things does it really matter? So many rhetorical questions. But one real question comes to mind.

    Was the Concert for Diana about Diana? Yes, I guess it was about that too.

    © Marilyn Braun 2007

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