Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Royal Report for Sunday August 28, 2011 - Do the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge deserve privacy?

Since their marriage Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been the focus of intense scrutiny. Recent photos of the couple show the couple holding hands on what should be a private moment.

Do William and Catherine deserve privacy? Given their positions on the public stage, Is it too much to expect?

Publications mentioned

People Special Fashion Issue - Kate's Style Secrets

Hello! Canada Weekly No 228 22 August 2011

Hello! Canada Weekly No 229 29 August 2011

Song mentioned

Everyone watched the wedding - Jim Cuddy

From My Royal Collection

Chronicle of the Royal Family

Tune in to the next episode of The Royal Report on Sunday September 11, 2011 at 9:00PM EST.

Topic to be determined

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Royal Souvenirs and Collectibles

Royal Weddings, Births, Deaths, Coronations, Jubilees all inspire new souvenirs and collectibles. From books, to china, figurines, glassware, clothing, you name it. But what are souvenir items. They are, of course a way of making money, but at one point they were also used as a way of showing support for the monarchy. This is very evident in items relating to Jubilees; the earliest known English commemorative items date from the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.
The tradition of selling commemorative items to mark special royal occasions didn’t really catch on until Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Because very few of the people even knew what the Queen looked like, items adorning her likeness became very popular and started a tradition. Royal events past and present have been marked by coins, stamps and ceramics, glassware to name a few. With the arrival of new manufacturing methods in the last 250 years, commemorative items are now more affordable to the general public.
In the last few years there have even been some recent auctions of undergarments owned by Queen Victoria. In 2008, a pair of Queen Victoria's monogrammed cotton underwear dating from the 1890s, sold for £4,500 at an auction in Derby, attracting bids from Brazil, Russia, Hong Kong and New York. At the same auction, a chemise sold for £3,800, while one of Queen Victoria's nightdresses sold for £5,200 to an American collector. These items are considered valuable because they are so rare. One of the most valuable pieces of royal memorabilia is a Meissen teapot decorated with the coat of arms of Sophie of Hanover, the mother of King George I, which dates from 1713-14, is considered the earliest surviving date-able piece of Meissen porcelain, and has an estimated value of £200,000-£300,000. A few years back someone was trying to sell letters Prince Charles had written for 20 or $30,000 on eBay. Not including shipping.

Having royal items fetch these prices is the exception rather than the rule. The sheer volume of memorabilia means that so much of what is made has little to no resale value. So much so that you have to go back to Queen Victoria taking the throne in 1837 to find objects that have increased in value.

 In the case of William and Kate’s wedding the range of items has increased. After all it is big business, to the tune of £40m. The items are eclectic - some traditional are traditional, like china, others are unusual and imaginative, such as souvenir condoms. There’s also replica engagement rings, salt and pepper shakers, life sized cutouts, nail polish, beer, pies, coins, stamps, the list is endless.

The Royal family may have rejected approval for t-shirts, towels and aprons but this doesn’t stop people from producing items. Buckingham Palace has issued rules on what souvenir manufacturers can produce in terms of William and Kate wedding merchandise. Items must be permanent and significant – tea towels, t-shirts and aprons are out, whereas mugs, china plates and biscuit jars are in. While this may be the official rule, manufacturers still tried to get in on the act. The Royal Family doesn’t trademark itself, so anyone is free to produce merchandise bearing their names or likenesses, which means there is no real distinction between licensed and unlicensed merchandise – an important distinction in the world of collecting. Many of these items produced will be sold in the thousands, and thus not hold any long term value.

Not to say that modern items are completely worthless. Royal items designed by Eric Rav-il-ilous are collectible. One sold last year for close to £2,000. The ugly and the unusual also tend to sell better. Maybe it’s worth taking a look at that Royal Mint coin that looks nothing like William and Kate?

There are some things that might have a good chance of holding their value:

Official china – mugs, tankards, plates, pill boxes. For fine bone china, there are items from the Aynsley collection. Including a hand-painted highly sought after 4 piece set including an engagement plate, loving cup with two handles, tankard mug and coaster. Though they are currently affordable, they’re likely to go up in price as the supply dwindles.

Commemorative coins are another good investment when it comes to Royal wedding memorabilia. They will be embossed with the important dates and will increase in value over the years to come especially if they are made from silver or gold or are part of a limited edition run.

Stamps are a very popular item and because the various Commonwealth countries will produce their own, there will be a lot to choose from.

Some pointers for collecting:

  • Don’t buy anything that is not of a high quality. Protect your investment by buying from a reputable company.
  • Try and acquire an extensive and themed collection.
  • Ensure you store your collection well to keep it in mint condition. Keep anything boxed or packaged as is.
  • Look out for fine bone china pieces as they hold their value. High quality china as well as hand painted versions are the ones to collect – see the Aynsley collection above.
  • Cups and mugs with portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are likely to become collectors pieces.
  • Commemorative plates are another good option and will be available both before and long after the wedding to mark such events as anniversaries or the birth of their children. Those with portraits of the couple will be the most desirable.
  • Portraits are the key to the future popularity of an item.

Having said this, any increase in value is not likely to be seen for another 30-40 years, so just hope that your children and grandchildren will appreciate these items as much as you do having taken the time and care to collect them.

And even if they do not retain their value, one of the best quotes is on the British Royal Family website: it is the meaning and memories associated with the souvenirs which give them their value.

© Marilyn Braun 2011 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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Royal Marriages - It's not all doom and gloom

The House of Windsor’s marital history is well documented with a focus on the failures - Charles and Diana, Andrew and Fergie and Anne and Mark Philips. When Willliam and Catherine married these examples were brought up as a warning, as if it is a foregone conclusion that their marriage will end the same way. It also highlights the pressure the couple are under to not only make it work but also to make up for the past; which neither one had control over. If anything, the positive aspects of royal marriages have all but been ignored. But there have been some success stories.

Yes, believe it or not royal couples can get along and stay married. It’s rare now but it does happen. Prior to Charles and Diana it would have been unthinkable to divorce, too scandalous. Better to stay married and save face. The reason for royal marriages have also changed over time. They used to be arranged, negotiations beginning for some couples while they were still in the cradle. Arranging royal marriages was done for a variety of reasons, to make political alliances or even to prevent them in some cases, to join royal houses, to secure the succession – Henry VIII married six times in an effort to have a son to succeed him, later on King George III’s sons gave up their mistresses and married in order to produce an heir.  If they happened to fall in love then that was an unexpected bonus. The planning of royal marriages was very strategic and a pragmatic approach was taken to choosing the right spouse. Despite this, sometimes they didn’t even meet each other until the wedding day! Sometimes neither attended the wedding ceremony and they married by proxy.

King George III and Queen Charlotte

Inn 1759, the future King George III was in love with another woman, Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond. But he was advised against the marriage and so he gave up any thoughts of it. He is quoted as saying: "I am born for the happiness or misery of a great nation," he wrote, "and consequently must often act contrary to my passionssomething that many royal bridegrooms can relate to. He became King in 1760 and had to find a suitable Queen. One candidate was seventeen year old Princess Charlotte Mecklenburg-Strelitz. A minor princess who, though intelligent was not particularly attractive but the king announced his intention to marry her in July 1761. Princess Charlotte arrived in London on September 7, 1761 and met the King and the royal family. The next day, September 8th, they were married. Their marriage was successful, and rare for the time; King George III did not take any mistresses during their marriage. They had 15 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood.  At the time of her death in 1818, they had been married for 57 years.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 at the age of 18, she was not thinking of marriage. She was young and she was enjoying freedom for the first time in her life after years of being overprotected. Prior to this she had slept in the same room as her mother and whenever she went down a set of stairs, someone held her hand.

Prince Albert was her first cousin, and when the first met neither made much of an impression on the other. But in 1839 when Victoria had become Queen, she felt differently about him: falling in love with him and proposing marriage, they were married in February 1840. After her wedding night, Victoria wrote in her diary:

"I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert ... his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! ... to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!"

Their marriage would be a happy one and they would have nine children, most of whom would marry into the royal houses of Europe, thus giving Queen Victoria the nickname – Grandmother of Europe. Prince Albert did not live to become the grandfather of Europe as he died in December 1861. The Queen was devastated and mourned him, wearing black for the rest of her life until her death in 1901. They were married for 21 years.

King George V and Queen Mary

In the early 1890s, Princess May of Teck was in an unenviable position. Due to her father’s morganatic birth, it was thought she would have a hard time finding a husband. Too royal to marry beneath her and not royal enough to marry above her station. She also wasn’t getting any younger either – 26 at the time of her marriage. Luckily Queen Victoria saw past her morganatic background and she became engaged to the elder son of the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert Victor.

It wasn’t a love match, the prince was in actually in love with another woman, Helene, the daughter of the Comte de Paris. Unfortunately, Prince Albert Victor died a month before the intended wedding. Queen Victoria felt that Princess May was too good a bride to slip away so a year later May married Prince Albert Victor’s brother, Prince George. This is not the first time a sibling has married another’s intended. King Henry VIII married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon in 1509.

Theirs was not a love match. Prince George had a purely platonic attitude towards May. But there was affection between them. May wrote to him:

I am very sorry that I am still so shy with you. I tried not to be but failed. I was angry with myself! It is so stupid to be so stiff together and really there is nothing I would not tell you, except that I love you more than anybody in the world, and this I cannot tell you myself so I write it to relieve my feelings.

He wrote back:

Thank God we both understand each other, and I really think it unnecessary for me to tell you how deep my love for you, my darling, is and I feel it growing strong and stronger every time I see you – although I may appear shy and cold..’

George and May were married in July 1893 and were married for almost 47 years. They had six children, one of whom would have a happy marriage himself: Prince Albert, the future King George VI.

King George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon

Prince Albert did not have a lot going for him He was shy, awkward, he had a stammer and he was overshadowed by his older and more glamorous brother, David. When he met Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon he was quite smitten with her but too shy to do anything about directly. She was fond of him but not impressed, especially when he proposed through an intermediary. He would propose twice, and on the third try she accepted. They were married on April 26, 1923 and came to the throne in 1936 upon the abdication of his older brother, David. The King died in his sleep in 1952. Had he lived, the couple would have marked 29 years of marriage in April of that year. Their elder daughter would go on to mark a historic royal wedding anniversary.

Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip 1947

Out of all of the marriages, theirs is the most remarkable. Though to have Prince Philip tell it, their decision to get married wasn’t necessarily romantic. He having claimed it was ‘fixed up’. We’ll never know her true thoughts about that but she became smitten with the 18 year old Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark when her family visited Dartmouth royal naval college 1939, where he was a cadet. This was their first photographed meeting. It is said that they’d met at the wedding of Princess Marina to the Duke of Kent. Though Princess Elizabeth was only 8 at the time. Prince Philip was assigned to escort her and her sister around the college and it is said that the Queen never looked at another man afterwards. After the war, her parents thought she was too young to get engaged. They wanted her to meet other eligible men but Elizabeth was determined. The King asked her to wait before announcing an engagement and the family went on a three month tour of South Africa in 1947. The king finally relented to an engagement and it was announced in July 1947 with the couple being married in November of that year. They had four children and in 2007 marked 60 years of marriage. A first for any British monarch in history.

Prince and Princess Michael of Kent

Prince Michael of Kent married Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz in 1978. Marie Christine had a complicated background, her father had been a Nazi party member and she had been previous married (which would be annulled by the Pope in 1978). The biggest strike against her was that she was a devout Catholic. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement, Prince Michael could not marry a Catholic and keep his place in the line of succession, where he was sixteenth at the time. Another obstacle was that due to the Royal Marriages act of 1772, no member of the royal family could marry without the sovereigns consent. Prince Michael and Marie Christine were unsure whether the Queen would give her consent. They turned to Lord Mountbatten, who approached the Queen, who did consent to the marriage, which took place in July 1978. They have two children and this year will celebrate 33 years of marriage.

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles

After a 30 year love affair and an inconvenient first husband and wife, Charles and Camilla were finally able to marry in 2005. Many people thought it would never happen, nor whether it was even possible. The last Prince of Wales paid a high price for marrying a divorced woman. The late Queen Mother was said to be against Camilla. After she died in 2002 the way was paved for the couple to get married. Though it would take three more years for it to happen. Much to the shock and amazement of many, their engagement was announced in February 2005 and they married in April 2005. Upon her marriage she became Princess of Wales, however, in deference to the memory of Diana, Camilla took the title Duchess of Cornwall instead. It is still unclear what title she will take when Charles becomes king. By most accounts, theirs is a happy marriage, they are compatible and Prince Charles seems to be happier and more content.

Princess Anne and Timothy Laurence

Princess Anne was originally married in 1973 to Captain Mark Philips, who had been unfaithful to his wife during their marriage. They had two children but the marriage ended in 1992.  Six months later she married Commander Timothy Laurence in Scotland in a very low-key ceremony. Anne became the first Royal divorcĂ©e to remarry since Princess Victoria Melita did so in 1905.

Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys Jones

Prince Edward, the youngest son of the Queen and Prince Philip, is the only one of her children to stay married, a remarkable feat by today’s royal standards. Edward and Sophie had met in 1993 at a charity tennis tournament and began their relationship soon afterwards. Until Prince William’s courtship of Kate Middleton, theirs had been one of the longest royal courtships. They had dated for six years until they announced their engagement in 1999. They were married in June of that year and now have two children. In June they celebrated 12 years of marriage. 

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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, August 15, 2011

Royal Wedding Dress Designers

What do Norman Hartnell, David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, Lindka Cierach, Molyneux, Mainbocher, and Mme Handley Seymour have in common? All of them designed memorable royal wedding dresses. With Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress, Sarah Burton from the House of Alexander McQueen joined those illustrious ranks.

Royal wedding dresses conjure up images of fairy tales and happily ever after. Each designer is called upon not only to create a personal statement for the bride but also to redefine the fantasy image of the ultimate fairytale princess – Cinderella.

Some designs retain a timeless quality to them, such as Princess Margaret’s 1960 dress. Some are a product of their time – such as Princess Anne’s 1973 Tudor style sleeves or Lady Diana’s Spencer’s meringue creation from 1981.  Some are classic, such as Grace Kelly’s. Many have set trends. Queen Victoria set the ultimate trend, which continues to this day, of choosing a white dress for her wedding. Prior to this, brides had not always worn white. Roman brides wore yellow. 16th and 17th pale green was a popular choice – because of their association with fertility. But most brides wore their best clothes, wearing the dress she could afford. Now, wearing anything other than a dress within the white range of color, especially for a royal bride would be inconceivable. Though it has happened, the Duchess of Windsor’s dress, by American designer Mainbocher was pale blue. Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott’s dress was of a deep ivory that it had a blush pink hue.

Princess Alexandra,
Princess of Wales
Queen Victoria wore white silk satin court dress for her wedding in 1840. Made by Mary Bettans it used materials of British manufacture. Using British materials and even British designers is a custom that continues to this day. In 1863, her daughter in law, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, was given a beautiful dress of Brussels lace by King Leopold of the Belgians as a wedding gift, but as it was not British, it was considered inappropriate to use as a wedding dress. Instead, a dress of English silk was made by Mrs James, a favored dressmaker in London.

Like Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra, Princess May of Teck’s 1893 wedding dress also used materials of English manufacture and was made by an English dressmaker, Linton and Curtis. In 1923, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon’s ivory chiffon dress was made by Madame Handley Seymour, a court dressmaker to Queen Mary, who not only made her wedding dress but the dress she wore for her Coronation too.

Looking back at these gowns and the designers who made them it’s a shame that their names have been, in effect, lost to the sands of time. Royal Wedding dresses tended to be made by royal dressmakers who did not get the same attention as designers do today.

The next royal bride, Princess Marina of Denmark would choose Edward Molyneux, Known for his elegant silhouettes, he was a couturier to society and the stars. He was a perfect choice for Princess Marina who was known for her chic and poised style.

Then there would be Norman Hartnell, a court dressmaker to the Queen Mother and to the Queen for many years. He was also well known for designing fashion costumes for films. He designed wedding dresses for Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott. Princess Elizabeth – the present Queen, whose dress was inspired by the image of Flora by Botticelli and had intricate embroidery. By contrast, his dress for Princess Margaret in 1960 was striking in its simplicity, as was Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester’s dress in 1972. He also designed the present Queen’s coronation dress and robes.

Some lesser known designers have included John Cavanaugh, who started his career working for Molyneux, designed the wedding dresses of both Katharine Worsley, Duchess of Kent in 1961 and her sister in law, Princess Alexandra of Kent in 1963. In 1973 Princess Anne would choose a relatively unknown Maureen Baker, chief designer at the firm Susan Small to make her wedding gown. Maureen Baker was not a household name but had been making clothing for the princess for several years.

Out of all of the royal wedding dress designers, up until 1981, none were more famous or well known than David and Elizabeth Emanuel. And 3 decades later they remain famous. They too were relatively unknown, having only graduated from the Royal College of Art only four years before Lady Diana Spencer approached them to create her iconic wedding dress.  Beating out more established designers such as Hardy Amies, dressmaker to the Queen, and the front runner Bellville Sassoon.

The Emanuel’s creation, with its record 25 foot train, is remarkable in its excess, though it reflected the fashions of the time it is also seen as the ultimate fairytale dress, setting many trends in the process. Most royal wedding dresses since 1981, including Catherine’s have been compared to it and no doubt will continue to be compared to it.

Wedding dress designers that followed would not gain the same level of fame or notoriety. Though they created beautiful dresses, few would be as familiar with the designer names Linka Cierach, who made Sarah Ferguson’s dress or Samantha Shaw who designed Sophie Rhys Jones’ wedding gown.

After William and Catherine’s engagement was announced, speculation began on who would design Catherine’s dress. Unlike other royal brides, she did not announce the name of her designer, preferring to keep everyone in suspense until the big day. Names of possible designers included Bruce Oldfield, a favorite of Diana, Issa who had made many clothes for Catherine, including her engagement dress, Sophie Cranston, and Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen.

On the day itself the design and the designer were revealed as Sarah Burton. According to the press release for the dress:

Miss Middleton chose British brand Alexander McQueen for the beauty of its craftsmanship and its respect for traditional workmanship and the technical construction of clothing. Miss Middleton wished for her dress to combine tradition and modernity with the artistic vision that characterises Alexander McQueen’s work. Miss Middleton worked closely with Sarah Burton in formulating the design of her dress.
Burton started as a personal assistant to Alexander McQueen in 1997. She was appointed as Head of Womens wear in 2000, with clients including Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, and Gwyneth Paltrow. After McQueen’s death she was named as the creative director of the company in 2010. Though her name was mentioned as a contender for designing the dress she denied any involvement. Though she almost gave the game away when she was seen arriving at the Goring hotel. Up until the day of the wedding no one knew for sure who the designer was, just as Catherine wanted it to be. Will other royal brides follow suit in keeping the names of their designers a secret? We’ll have to wait and see!

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Royal Visits to Canada - A Brief History

Image: Chris Jackson/St James's Palace
When Prince William and his new wife Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently toured Canada, their visit highlighted the long association that the royal family has with Canada. A relationship that began back in 1786 with another Prince William.

The first visit by a British royal took place in 1786 when the future King William IV, came to Canada as part of a naval contingent. Since then there have been royal visits by many members of the royal family, included amongst them, several future monarchs. Many came as part of military service, some for personal visits, and some became Governor Generals of Canada. Most have come for official visits and to mark significant national events.

Normally royal visitors are accompanied by their spouse. Although they have been infrequent, there have been some visits that have been family affairs. In 1927 when Edward, Prince of Wales and his brother, Prince George visited Canada to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Confederation. In 1970 the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne came to tour the Arctic. There would be another family visit in 1976 when the Queen came to open the Olympic Games in Montreal, which Princess Anne was competing in the equestrian event. She was watched by her parents and her three brothers, the only time the entire royal family has been abroad in one place. In 1977, during a visit to Alberta, Prince Charles was joined by Prince Andrew to watch the Calgary Stampede. The last official family visit occurred in 1991 Prince William and Prince Harry joined their parents in Ontario. In 1998, Prince Charles made a personal visit to Vancouver accompanied by Prince William and Prince Harry. The most recent sibling visit was in 2009 when Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie of York attended the Toronto International Film Festival.

Queen Victoria was said to be rather fond of Canada, though she never visited it. The first visit by a reigning sovereign took place in 1939 when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stepped foot on Canadian soil, in Quebec, and began a six-week coast to coast tour from Quebec to Vancouver and back to Halifax, 9,000 miles, in 40 days.

The present Queen first visited Canada as a princess in 1951. She was 25 at the time. Young, glamorous, with a handsome husband, they were the equivalent of Charles and Diana. Such was the interest in her visit that any little detail was made into news, such as one headline in the Globe and Mail titled “Princess Bringing Crinolines!” The tour was five weeks long and they received a rapturous welcome, having 13,000 school children sing O Canada for them and it is estimated that 200,000 people saw the royal couple.

Since that first visit, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have travelled through every province and territory in Canada. Visiting for many significant national events. In 1957 she became the first monarch to open parliament in Ottawa. Wearing her coronation gown for the event, she quoted the words of the first Elizabeth: ‘Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my Crown that I have reined with your love.” During this visit another historic event occurred when the Queen made her first televised broadcast, a precursor to the televised Christmas speech the same year.

During the 1959 visit the Queen, along with President Dwight Eisenhower, opened the St. Lawrence Seaway. She was in the early stages of her pregnancy with Prince Andrew and it was reported that she looked ‘rather off color’ at times. This pregnancy wasn’t revealed until after the tour was completed. The tour lasted 45 days and the royal couple visited every province and territory. A remarkable feat for someone in the early stages of pregnancy. It is rather apt that this child, Prince Andrew, would himself, later be closely associated with Canada when he attended Lakefield College for six months in the 1970s.

The Queen's next visit would occur in 1964, a few months after the birth of Prince Edward. And this time her arrival would not be so rapturously greeted, as she was met by demonstrators chanting and singing demands for a Quebec independent of the Canadian confederation. The Queen, however, was praised for her bravery in visiting despite these protests.

In July 1967 the Queen and Prince Philip would visit to mark Canada’s centennial celebration of Confederation. The Queen cut into a giant cake, the majority of which was plywood with icing on it. Prince Philip incidentally, is the most frequent visitor, having visited Canada 43 times, including 22 trips with the Queen.

The Queen made what was one of her most significant visits in 1982 both for herself as monarch and for Canada itself when she signed the act proclaiming the Canadian constitution and Canada’s independence from Britain.

Another significant visit that the Queen would make would be in 1992 when she celebrated Canada’s 125th birthday and the 40th anniversary of her accession. In 2002 she would visit in her Golden Jubilee year, where Canadian’s turned out in record numbers to celebrate right along with her. She visited in 2005 and most recently in 2010. There has been some speculation that these might be her last visits. But health permitting she is reportedly planning return in 2012 to mark 60 years on the throne.

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Royal Review: Untold Story - A Novel by Monica Ali

Can a novel about the Princess of Wales leaving her life behind and starting over be plausible? The premise is interesting but it's not an original idea, having been tackled before by the book Royal Escape. Unlike that title, which covers the Princess of Wales in the run up to escaping the confines of her royal existence, Untold Story: A Novel deals with the aftermath of that decision.

Like Royal Escape, there are thinly veiled versions of Diana. Although it's glaringly obvious, neither author identifies her by name. Instead choosing to give this 'fictional' princess a new name while using biographical information from Diana's life. In her acknowledgements, Monica Ali even recognizes the authors of notable Diana biographies in assisting her research. Something which serves to emphasize the author's lack of originality in creating the Lydia character.

Basing Lydia on Diana is a blatant ploy capitalizing on our continuing fascination. A truly original, fictional princess isn't nearly as compelling as the real person. Fourteen years after her death, Diana still continues to intrigue. The draw of the novel is the curiosity of what could have been had the choice belonged to her.

The other characters are predictable. Like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City, Lydia's group of loyal female friends include the cynical friend, the naive friend, and the understanding yet frazzled friend. Her male suitor provides the perfect amount of emotional distance, taking his cues from Lydia's needs instead of his own. Only Lawrence Standing, Lydia's former private-secretary, with his dignity and stoicism and the conflicting motives of John Grabowski, the photojournalist, provides depth. Though Grabowski devolves into parody towards the end.

Despite being in the presence of the most famous woman in the world no one recognizes Lydia for who she really is. The effortless star quality she possessed as a royal is suddenly non-existent, making the reader wonder just how much of this remarkable quality was a media invention versus a natural gift. The author attempts to mask this intangible quality by altering Lydia's appearance with cosmetic surgery, voice lessons, long brown hair, brown contact lenses and a reticent personality. The beloved princess has been transformed into a non-descript,unremarkable woman living in the small town of Kensington in the United States. 

As Lydia tries not to dwell on the past, we have the 1998 diaries of her private secretary, Lawrence Standing, to provide background information about how her escape was accomplished. But by 2007, ten years into her new life, it's clear that Lydia has not completely left the past behind, buying magazines hoping to find photos of herself and following the lives of her now full-grown sons. After Lawrence dies, Lydia writes therapeutic letters to him and these serve to mark her progress adapting from royal superstar to an anonymous, mundane existence.

Although Lydia has come to terms with her new life, there is always the risk of someone discovering her true identity. After ten years of living under a new identity, Lydia decides it's safe to stop wearing the contacts, which proves to threaten her new lifestyle when a photojournalist, John Grabowski, recognizes her 'amazing ultramarine eyes'. Grabowski, who photographed the Princess of Wales many times, is, by coincidence, on a short visit to Kensington. After seeing Lydia's eyes and comparing them to old photos of the princess, he makes the connection and decides to go public with the story. And thankfully that development occurs because Lydia's new existence is rather dull. Curiosity about how the other half lives becomes less interesting when they join us.

There are a few implausible points. Having the most famous woman in the world transition to an ordinary existence seems too easy. Occasionally the context of the characters comments/actions is unexplained. But the major flaw is her justification for leaving her children. Renowned for her dedication to her boys, it's implausible for her to leave with just a  superficial backwards glance. Regardless of explanation, it comes across as a selfish and unsympathetic choice. But she pays for it with an existence of constantly looking over her shoulder suspiciously. In the end she seems to have lost more than she gained.

Untold Story is an intriguing mixture of chick-lit and thriller, making it a compelling and enjoyable read.

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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, August 08, 2011

Catherine Cambridge, use your fashion powers wisely

Dear Catherine, err Your Royal Highness:

It was with great alarm that I read the title of the following article 'Kate Middleton made us a nation of nude-ists'. My first thought is that you had set another trend, this time for going without clothes. While you can pull this off and some would regard this as "liberating," I feel that you might be abusing your fashion power over us.

Imagine my relief when I realized this article was about your shoes. However looking at the bigger picture I can't help but wonder whether we are headed in this direction. This concerns me. Many trends that have laid dormant for years should not be brought back (the corset, platform shoes, polyester pant-suits, anything from the 1970s/ early 1980s). No matter how much fashion designers lack inspiration. It is one thing to recycle ideas in the film industry; few films have the ability to embarrass the collective consciousness. Whereas what we wear/don't wear could adversely affect our job prospects. You don't have to worry about this so it is of no concern to you as you recklessly change fashions at whim with no thought for the rest of us.

Take for instance your hats. Persist with this and we could become a nation of people wearing over sized potato chips/satellite dishes on our heads. The chaos that could ensue at baseball games and the movies is a frightening thought. Skinny jeans or hot pants on the wrong figure is a horrifying image. Depending on the season/climate pantyhose, no matter how sheer, is simply irresponsible.

I fear for the future and where this could lead. What's next? Leggings? Popped collars? Shoulder-pads? Crimped hair? I almost fear you taking this as a challenge when you're bored in Anglesey.

Whatever you do, keep your clothes on. People will thank you for it, myself included.

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Royal Report for Sunday August 7, 2011 - 4th Anniversary Show

August 6th, 2011 marks the 4th anniversary of The Royal Report. On this episode a look back at the history of the show, along with an encore performance of the very first episode from August 6, 2007.

You can listen to the episode here: The Royal Report 4th Anniversary episode

The Royal Report is on hiatus for 2 weeks. Tune in to the next episode of The Royal Report on Sunday August 28, 2011 at 9:00PM EST (North America).

The topic will be: Do William and Catherine deserve privacy?

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The World According to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Forget President Obama or Queen Elizabeth, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge is the most influential person on the planet.

Don't believe me?

No other woman can be said to influence everything from pantyhose to the economy. Her wedding even affected the environment. That's how powerful she is. Is it any accident that after her break-up with William in April 2007 that by July, Venus and Saturn were in conjunction? Coincidence? I think not.

We may think that her impact is limited to frivolous fashion choices. Not so! The Media, Hair & Beauty, Technology, Health Care, Travel and Food industries have all experienced the Kate-effect. Who else could change the landscape of the automotive industry by increasing the value of a 2001 Volkswagen Golf?

Clearly a one woman juggernaut of global influence.

However, not everything she touches turns to gold. Case in point, her royal wedding affected the mating patterns of red grouse. The UK economy also took a hit. As well, invoking the royal wedding couldn't even revive Jerry Seinfeld's career. You win some, you lose some.

Luckily she uses her powers for good; raising awareness about affordable flights between Edinburgh and Manchester. The proper etiquette for returning shopping trolleys. As well as highlighting the dangers of putting a maid of honor in a flattering dress.

Catherine's reach is so powerful it even extends into other galaxies! Maybe UFO's are trying to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon.

When they come to a conclusion let's hope they return so they can explain it to us.

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

How long will it take before we kill this royal golden goose?

You would think that we would have learned. Looking back on Diana, we have the benefit of hindsight to see where it went wrong. This time, it is supposed to be different.

It started out harmlessly enough. With the engagement announcement and the lead up to the royal wedding, it is understandable that we would want to read about Catherine and speculate on the details. Now that the wedding is over the scrutiny has only increased. We're focusing on her weight, on the minute details of what she wears, and whether she has a baby bump or not.

There's almost a sense of deja vu.

Newly married and adjusting to her royal life, in November 1981 Diana was photographed in Tetbury buying sweets, much like Catherine's recent trip to the supermarket. These ordinary details fascinate whether they deserve to be captured or not.

The comparisons may grow tiring but Catherine is expected to meet or exceed the benchmarks set by Diana. To be the perfect princess and provide a male heir in a timely fashion. She is also expected to avoid the pitfalls that come with the public interest. Don't overshadow Prince William or the royal family at important events. As if she has any control over this to begin with.

We can vow it will be different, Catherine won't suffer the same fate as Diana. The good intention is there but struck by the novelty of having a bone-fide royal superstar. It's been 14 years since Diana's death, best on hold tight lest Catherine disappear too.

Bemoan and decry the paparazzi for invading her privacy, at least we know what she wears to the supermarket and that she doesn't use cloth bags. Take note she flies economy, as long as she doesn't make slumming a habit. Pictures of her in a bikini on expensive vacations are far more interesting.  All of the glitz and glamor come at the price of our fickle expectations.

Should we succeed in killing this goose, we'll be innocent because we can't help ourselves. It will be Catherine's fault for not realizing that in the first place.

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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.