Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Royal Review: Style and Splendor

It's only been in the last 10 years or so that I've developed a true appreciation for royal fashion. Prior to that, I thought that they were just overpriced outfits and gowns. However after seeing the the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001, and in 2002 the Elite Elegance haute couture exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, I changed my mind. The sheer craftsmanship of these gowns is breathtaking to see up-close, and one can only wonder just how the wearer felt in them.

Style and Splendor - The Wardrobe of Queen Maud of Norway by Anne Kjellberg and Susan North covers outfits, accessories and gowns that she wore both as a princess and later as the Queen of Norway from 1896 to 1938.

The mother of King Olav V and the sister of Prince Albert Victor and Princess Victoria Alexandra , Princess Maud of Wales was not destined to be Queen. It was only when the Norwegians had a referendum in 1905 that the country elected to have a monarchy. As a result, Princess Maud and her husband Prince Carl of Denmark came to the throne as King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway.

Unlike her sister-in-law Queen Mary, who for the majority of her life seemed stuck in a fashion time-warp pre-1914, Queen Maud wore the latest designs up until her death in 1938. This book showcases her fashions: coronation gown, day outfits, accessories, and gorgeous evening dresses in striking detail with beautiful photos, descriptions and information the designer.

I bought this book shortly after it came out and I was somewhat disappointed at how small it was. The contents definitely make up for any shortcomings in that area. And the book is well worth the price if you're interested in fashion from the period or royal fashion in general.

© Marilyn Braun 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Royal Review: Kate Middleton: Princess in Waiting by Claudia Joseph

Until Kate - Kate Middleton: Princess in Waiting was published, the only other book about her was Robert Jobson's William's Princess. I was looking forward to reading Claudia Joseph's biography if only to see whether one could be written that does Kate justice. This book does just that. From the first page it is very clear that Joseph has done her homework - unlike Jobson.

Starting with her great-great-great-great grandparents, the author traces Kate's paternal and materal lives back to Queen Victoria's time. Her ancestry continuously running parallel to that of the royal family. But it's difficult to compare backgrounds with the royals. Anyone, including Kate's family will always come up short. They will always appear humble and common, making them no more remarkable than yours or mine.

Yet the comparisons do not end there as the lives of Kate's maternal and paternal ancestry is reviewed. One thing that I had a hard time with is just as I was getting into the maternal life story, it ended and the next chapter moved on to the paternal side. Constantly going back and forth between families was distracting. Just as you feel as though one side has moved further away from their humble backgrounds, you are returned to the other side still working on achieving that goal.

But the details are extraordinary. Joseph doesn't just write that Kate's family worked in coal mines, she actually describes their lives filled with hardship, illness, death. Making it far more interesting than the brief glimpses of the comparative glittering royal existence, which only serves to highlight the hardships. This is unnecessary; Kate's humble beginnings stand on their own. However, they're constantly portrayed as social climbers for simply wanting a better existence.

Eventually both sides rise in status and we are brought to the lives of Kate's parents, glossing over their current backgrounds and Kate's early life. The book then switches to the relevant history of William and Kate's relationship, making it little different from Jobson's. It also occasionally deviates into romance novel territory, just phrased differently.

Without an engagement I think both books are somewhat premature, although should one be announced, Joseph's could serve as a good primer for Kate's early family history. Ultimately neither one reveals anything new in William and Kate's relationship that can't and hasn't be read elsewhere.

© Marilyn Braun 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Royal Review: William's Princess by Robert Jobson

I’ve had a hard time finding something nice to say about William's Princess by Robert Jobson. All I could come up with is that it has nice photos and at some point it must have had the potential to be better.

For people outside of the UK, the name Kate Middleton may mean absolutely nothing. But her name means a lot to royal watchers, with reactions ranging from idolatry to downright hatred. In case you’re wondering, Kate Middleton is the girlfriend of Prince William, the son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Wills and Kate have been dating for seven or eight years and when it comes to their relationship, there is no middle ground.

The book starts off with Robert Jobson getting an exclusive tip to a big story: the engagement of Charles and Camilla. Is he trying to prove his credentials? The “About the Author” covers his award winning career as a commentator. His first book was Diana: Closely Guarded Secret, co-written with Ken Wharfe (which I actually enjoyed). So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way we can focus on Kate, right?


Considering the title: William’s Princess. You’d think the focus would be on Kate. Well, indirectly it does. It starts with rehashing Charles’s love history, then Diana’s. I guess trying to predict William’s attitude towards marriage, so that when Jobson finally gets around to William, we’re primed and ready. William ‘has fallen in love young’, is ‘determined to not throw it away’, but ‘will not be bullied into marrying one of his own’. So now that we’ve established that William has a mind of his own, we can focus on Kate, right?


Ultimately, this book has next to nothing to do with Kate. Possibly because so little is on record about her. She’s ultimately portrayed as an attractive, confident, tolerant accessory in William’s life. Published prior to their April 2007 split, to Jobson, it’s a foregone conclusion that Kate will be William’s bride. Kate’s middle-class background is focused on, with a rather weak attempt to include some royal links in her family history. The importance of finding a suitable bride is covered in detail. But sometimes the book reads like a romance novel. Case in point:

…the turquoise waters of the Caribbean glimmered and gave way to emeralds, pinks and reds as the sun dipped towards the sea on the horizon. The sky glowed they sat in the cocktail bar..sipping their exotic drinks and absorbed in each other’s company…

If that doesn’t make you squirm then speculation on Kate’s virginity is sure to:

..the delicate matter of whether her virginity is still intact may not be an issue yet tackled…


If you’re interested in reading about speculation on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s relationship, then this is the book for you.

Just don't expect to find much about Kate herself in it.

© Marilyn Braun 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Royal Report for Sunday December 20, 2009 - The Royal year in review

On this episode: Did any of the predictions I made in 2008 come true? Which minor royal had a baby and married this year? Do the Queen and Prince Philip Twitter? Is Prince Andrew the next Tiger Woods?

Listen to this episode to find out!

Resources used for this episode:

World of Royalty Website
World of Royalty Blog
Royal News Blog
Netty's Royalty Pages
The Kate Middleton Report

My gratuitous article mention!

The Globe and Mail - I'm a Royal Bibliomaniac

Publications mentioned

Hello! Canada Weekly no 153 7 December 2009
Hello! Canada Weekly no 154 14 December 2009
Hello! Canada Weekly no 155 21 December 2009

The show will be on hiatus during the holiday season. The Royal Report will return LIVE on Sunday January 11th, 2010 9:00 PM EST.

Topic to be determined

© Marilyn Braun 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Royal Profile: Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck

The final arrival in the royal marriage race that began with the death of Princess Charlotte in 1817, she was a first cousin of Queen Victoria and the mother of Queen Mary.

Princess Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth, the second daughter of Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, was born in Hanover on November 27th, 1833. Her father was the youngest and favorite son of King George III and her mother was Princess Augusta, youngest daughter of the Landgrave Frederick of Hesse. Princess Mary was christened on January 9, 1834 and named after her godparents: Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (her father's favorite sister), Queen Adelaide, King William IV, and Princess Elizabeth, the Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg. She had one sister, Princess Augusta and a brother, Prince George, born three days after Queen Victoria.

Her early years were spent at the Viceregal Palace and Villa Montbrilliant. At the age of three she was taken to England with her mother and they stayed at Windsor Castle. William IV was fond of his god-child and gave her a gold chain and locket containing his hair. In 1837 the family moved to England first living in Cambridge House Piccadilly, and then Cambridge Cottage in Kew. Princess Mary Adelaide, her sister Princess Augusta and their parents attended the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 and later her wedding in 1840.

At the age of seven she began her education, being taught by a governess at home. She took lessons in Latin, Scripture history, and Italian, along with lessons in dancing, and music. She had a particular interest in history and geography. When she was fourteen, her mother later took over her education. Mary was an excellent mimic, had a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice and enjoyed the opera and theatre. She was tall, with ash-blonde, wavy hair, dark blue eyes and a good complexion. But Mary Adelaide had problems with her size. While she had been a striking child with pretty blonde curls, later on she was known rather unflatteringly as 'Fat Mary' or 'Mary the mountain' yet despite her size she moved with a natural grace. She was confirmed on December 19, 1850.

She spent her childhood days at Kew. Her father died in 1850 when she was seventeen-years-old. She and her mother moved from Cambridge Cottage to St. James Palace. At the time it was thought that she should find a husband of wealth and standing. Queen Victoria, intrigued by match-making, joined in the hunt. Her suitors were restricted to the royal blood, and members of the British aristocracy were not considered.

In 1866, through Bertie and Alexandra (the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) she met Prince Francis of Teck - as a serene highness he was of lower rank, four years younger and had no money. On April 6th they became engaged during a stroll in the Rhododendron Walk in Kew Gardens and the couple were married on June 12, 1866 in the little church on Kew Green. Because of the differences in their ranks, the marriage was morganatic and their children were 'Serene Highnesses' instead of 'Royal Highnesses'. The newlyweds were given the apartments at Kensington Palace that Queen Victoria had lived in as a child. Their first child, the future Queen Mary was born on May 26th, 1867, in the same room that Queen Victoria herself had been born. They had three more children - Adolphus (Dolly) on August 13, 1868, Francis (Frank) on January 9, 1870 and Alexander (Alge) on April 14th, 1874.

Mary Adelaide inherited the trait of her 'wicked uncles' the sons of George III. Money had no meaning to her and she believed the the British public should support its royals. She was generous beyond her means in the field of charity, her main extravagance was entertaining. To avoid her creditors, in 1883 she and her family fled to Florence Italy. They returned in 1885 and she managed to get permission to have White Lodge, a grace and favor residence in Richmond Park, as a rural retreat.

In 1891 her daughter Princess Mary became engaged to Prince Albert Victor . Shortly before their wedding he died and a year later she became engaged to his brother, Prince George, the future King George V.

Princess Mary Adelaide died 27 October 1897 at White Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey, and was buried in the royal vault at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

© Marilyn Braun 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Question: Courtesy titles

If the daughter of a duke or marquess or earl who bore the courtesy title "Lady Mary Smith," married Mr. John Jones who was subsequently knighted by the Queen, would she continued to be called "Lady Mary Jones" or would she be called "Lady Jones" by virtue of her husband's being Sir John Jones?
With courtesy titles there is a difference between those who possess the title birth and those who acquire it by marriage.

I will offer Lady Helen Windsor as an example. As the daughter of the Duke of Kent, she is entitled to the courtesy title of 'Lady'. When she married Timothy Taylor, she took his surname and became Lady Helen Taylor. Now if Timothy Taylor were to receive a knighthood, she would still be Lady Helen Taylor because her courtesy title as the daughter of a Duke, outranks her husband's knighthood.

Another example would be the late Diana, Princess of Wales' sister, Lady Jane Fellowes. When she was born, her father was Viscount Althorp and she was known as The Honorable Cynthia Jane Spencer. Upon her father becoming Earl Spencer in 1975, she became The Lady Cynthia Jane Spencer (though she prefers to use her middle name). When she married, she took her husband's surname and became Lady Jane Fellowes. Her husband, Robert Fellowes, was knighted, but this did not change her title, as the daughter of an Earl, this again outranked his knighthood.

However, in 1999, Sir Robert Fellowes was granted a Life Peerage and became Baron Fellowes, of Shotesham in the County of Norfolk. When this happened Lady Jane took the style Baroness Fellowes, or more informally Lady Fellowes, which, believe it or not, is actually a demotion as Baron is the lowest rank of the peerage and Lady Jane is the daughter of an Earl - one of the top three peerages.

Now, in the reverse, when the husband is given a knighthood, the wife is entitled to be known as Lady (husband's surname). An example of this would be Paul McCartney. When he was knighted, his wife took the courtesy title Lady McCartney - at the time this was Heather Mills McCartney. She could not be known as Lady Heather McCartney because she took the title from her husband instead of her father. Unlike Lady Helen Taylor, who takes the title from her father instead of her husband.

© Marilyn Braun 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Royal Review: The Young Victoria

I'll admit. Were it not for Sarah Ferguson's, (Duchess of York) involvement in this film I would have more than likely dismissed it as just another straight to DVD royal movie. Nice to eventually loan from the library but not something I would rush out to see otherwise.

However, with Sarah Ferguson's involvement I was somewhat intrigued by the idea. When I think of Queen Victoria I think of her later in life: the mournful, unsmiling, imposing, matriarch of a large extended inter-married royal family. I don't think of her as young, passionate and inexperienced. I also don't think of her as beautiful when portraits of her were said to be far more flattering than what she actually looked like in person.

Covering the period of her early teens and touching on the death of Prince Albert (sorry if I've given away the ending) The Young Victoria shows a princess under the thumb of her mother and advisor Sir John Conroy who want Victoria to sign a regency on her sickbed to put her mother in charge and Conroy the power behind the throne. However, Victoria is no docile princess. She is spirited and defiant and once she becomes Queen, Conroy and her mother are immediately jettisoned from her court.

But they're not the only ones with an agenda as politicians dismiss Victoria as too young and inexperienced, and Lord Melborne portraying himself as her protector and confidant. Then there's the King of the Belgians desire to infiltrate the court via his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Yet while Prince Albert initially does what's required of him, no one predicted that the new Queen and Prince Albert would actually develop feelings for each other. This makes those with agendas jealous, especially when the couple's loyalty to one another excludes them.

Although they are passionate, they are not without their disagreements. As Prince Albert struggles to find a meaningful role, Victoria becomes threatened by any interference to her power. After this fight, the couple go for a carriage ride and an assassination attempt is made on Victoria. Albert shields her with his body and is shot, suffering grievous injuries. He survives and Victoria realizes how important Albert is to her and gives him a more important role, illustrated by moving his desk next to hers and jettisoning her longtime servant and confidant, Baroness Lehzen.

Emily Blunt, (The Devil Wears Prada) portrays Queen Victoria in the bloom of her youth, as human and passionate - two qualities you wouldn't normally associate with her. Prince Albert is portrayed by the handsome Rupert Friend. Like Victoria, his looks may not be historically accurate, but using such photogenic actors makes their passion much more convincing. Mark Strong plays the glowering Sir John Conroy, Jim Broadbent is wonderful, hamming it up as Victoria's uncle, King William IV, Paul Bettany plays the charming, paternal and influential Lord Melborne and Victoria's great-great-great-great granddaughter Princess Beatrice has a minor cameo during the coronation scene.

Ultimately this film offers no great revelations but it's enjoyable and a good movie to watch if you'd like to see a side of Queen Victoria that most of us may be unfamiliar with.

© Marilyn Braun 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Royal Report for Sunday December 6, 2009 - A look back at the Queen and Prince Philip's 62 years of marriage

On this episode, which royal will not be going into outer space? What does the Lord Chamberlains office think of William and Kate's wedding planner? Why do I have a bone to pick with Hello! Canada?

Listen to this episode to find out.

Publications mentioned

Hello! Canada Weekly No 153 7 December 2009

The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen's Childhood by Marion Crawford


60 Diamond Wedding Anniversary Facts

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

Five Gold Rings - A Royal Wedding Souvenir Album from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II by Jane Roberts

There will be no episode next week but The Royal Report will return on Sunday December 20th, 2009 at 9:00PM EST.

Topic to be determined.

© Marilyn Braun 2009