Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Royal Womb With A View

Is Baby Cambridge a boy?

Is Baby Cambridge a girl?

Will the baby have red hair?

Is he/she alone in there?

If only we could see inside the royal womb and discover these answers ahead of time. Like his/her father, this fetus - no larger than the size of a lime - is not cooperating. Doesn't he/she realize that people expect these answers because it is in the public interest to know?

The interest in the royal baby to be is understandable. But like everything else to do with Baby Cambridge's parents, there is a gross sense of entitlement to know everything, no matter how mundane. Just look at the furore over not knowing the name of the family dog, Lupo. What was the couple hiding? After all, they can't have it both ways, now can they? Catherine finally put reporters out of their misery by revealing the dog's name. How long will the couple be allowed to keep the baby's name to themselves before they're accused of not playing nicely?

Much like the Queen allowing her coronation to be televised, the birth of this baby could set a precedent. The media may have missed the conception but there are other firsts to be had. The first future monarch to have their #royalbirth live tweeted. Imagine if William and Catherine allowed cameras into the delivery room! Royal commentators in hushed tones providing live updates through each contraction. Just picture it.

Commentator: Just how far along is she?

Midwife guest: Well, it's hard to tell how many centimetres dilated she is from our vantage point, but labor seems to be progressing rather slowly. We could be here a while.

Commentator: Is is normal for women to make so much noise during childbirth?

Midwife guest: Yes, some women make more, some less...

Commentator: OK, while we're waiting, do you think Catherine will breastfeed?..

Midwife guest: Well...

Too much information? Or not enough? This is a future monarch we're dealing with. Who draws the line in the sand for Baby Cambridge's privacy?  The media? The parents?

If Baby Cambridge is overdue, the speculation may be one of the reasons why.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, December 03, 2012

Catherine Cambridge is pregnant! Geneologists, doulas and ravenous media, oh my!


Catherine Cambridge is finally pregnant. For real this time. Is it a boy? Girl? Yes, one of them. Twins? Triplets? Too early to tell. One thing is for certain. It is now open season on Royal Baby Cambridge.

As any expectant parent can attest to, there is no shortage of people willing and eager to offer unsolicited advice. Now magnify this unsolicited advice by a thousand and you have Catherine's pregnancy, where genealogists, authors, astrologers, ravenous media, midwives and doulas will all weigh in at one point or another about every aspect of her pregnancy. It has already started with news of Catherine's hospitalization for hyperemesis gravidarum (aka severe morning sickness). The hospital is reportedly surrounded by the worlds media eager for any scrap of news to report on, regardless of how minor it might be to the rest of the world.

In the months to come we will get medical reports, we will hear about Kate's stylish maternity fashions, the effect of the pregnancy on her physical appearance will be used to predict the sex. Is she carrying high or low? Will she have a home birth? Cesarean? Natural childbirth? Will William be present at the birth or will duty call him away? Will she breastfeed? (Cue the disapproving experts if she doesn't) How will she decorate the nursery? Will she suffer from postnatal depression? Not to mention the speculation about royal baby's future name and title. Mark my words, every angle of this pregnancy will be wrung for all it is worth.

They may not realize it yet but yesterday was the very last day of privacy for Royal baby Cambridge. We can only hope that William and Catherine made the most of it.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, October 31, 2012

Royal Review: Celebrate by Pippa Middleton

As the sister of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Pippa Middleton is in an unenviable situation. In many ways, she cannot win and it is unfortunate that to some, she will always be known as the only maid of honor to ever wear a flattering dress. Never judged on her own efforts, but on the media and public perception of her. Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends, is her attempt to change that.

Given her low profile prior to the royal wedding, Celebrate could be viewed as a premature effort. However, she's not the first person to jump on the bandwagon of her own notoriety nor will she be the last. To Pippa's credit, she acknowledges this in the introduction to Celebrate. She has the opportunity and she's taking advantage of it. By admitting this she makes it redundant for those who scoff at her efforts. Now who is being unoriginal?

Several reviews for this book have criticized Pippa for stating the obvious: 'ice goes great with drinks', 'a turkey at Christmas time is good for large gatherings'. Yes it's true, but let's be honest, even Martha Stewart falls back on 'Pumpkins add to the festive atmosphere of Halloween', 'Hearts make perfect Valentines' and 'Easter egg hunts are fun'. What Pippa does add to the field is her youth. Like her sister, she makes going the extra mile fashionable. Thus giving twenty-somethings options other than beer, wine, tortilla chips and brie cheese trays for their own parties.

Divided by seasons, Pippa presents crafts, recipes, nostalgic/traditional games and charming tidbits of trivia appropriate to the occasion. She offers small glimpses into how her family marked events like Easter and Mothers Day. While her tips for building bonfires may not apply to most of her readers,  her game instructions are occasionally hard to follow (Conker fights?) and hanging donuts from trees may be an attempt for the brave, her instructions for creating Christmas decorations and place settings using simple items can be for those willing to make the effort. Very reassuring for craft-challenged people like me.

With Celebrate, Pippa Middleton is not reinventing the wheel for entertaining. Instead her book is a fine attempt at reinterpreting it.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, October 17, 2012

Prince Charles: Putting nails in the coffin for the future of the monarchy, one letter at a time?

Sometimes I wonder about the future of the monarchy.

With the old guard of dedicated, hardworking royals slowly fading away, they are replaced with a newer generation whose work ethic leaves much to be desired. Prince Charles is rumoured to be in favor of a 'slimmed down' monarchy. The rest of the minor royals/royals by proximity, have to find their own way in life. With the exception of William and Harry, the rest of the Queen's grandchildren, including ones with royal titles (Beatrice and Eugenie) can look forward to an existence unbound by the obligations of duty while maintaining the bragging rights.

But while paring down the monarchy makes sense, the attitudes of the remaining royals leaves the future of the monarchy on shaky ground. What with the foibles and celebrification of Prince Harry and Catherine and more worrying, William's reluctance to take on full-time royal duties because of a deluded desire to be 'normal'. These young royals seem to want to have it both ways - royal trappings without working towards earning them. With Catherine's willingness to abet the media in dumbing her down, when she finally rolls up the crisp white sleeves of her shirt (by Ralph Lauren), she has an uphill battle to be taken seriously. That is, if she ever does.

Yes, let's line up the nails for the coffin.  The young royals will supply the hammer.

When compared to the dedication of the Queen, her dignity, her ability to remain impartial, the rest of the royals look diminished in comparison. The Queen will always be a tough act to follow, but not an impossible one. Just look at Queen Victoria and her heir, King Edward VII. Unlike the present Queen, Victoria did not have a reputation for remaining impartial, but her sheer longevity earns her respect. For all of his accomplishments as a 'Peace-maker', King Edward VII's reputation as a bon vivant and arbiter of fashion take precedence. In that respect, Charles shares something in common with his great-great grandfather. Any good deeds he does are overshadowed by his personal life. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the present young royals. The Queen is indeed, the last of her kind.

Prince Charles is in a unique position to help.  And he should be lauded for the work that he has done. He walks his talk. But while he has the freedom to do this while Prince of Wales, it will be different once/if he becomes king. Like his mother, he will be expected to remain impartial and above politics. So far the signs are not good. Prince Charles does not have a reputation for being impartial nor does he cultivate one. Looking at the controversy surrounding letters he has written to politicians and the antics of the younger royals, it raises questions about the future of the monarchy. Questions we won't know the answer to until Charles becomes king. If he becomes king.

Yes, it really does make me wonder. 

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Royal Review: Dress Up Kate

Since Kate's engagement announcement dozens of websites and blogs have have popped up ready to dissect every detail about her fashion choices. Frustratingly, your only option was to pass judgement in the various comments sections. Until now. Finally a sticker book has come along called  Dress Up Kate, allowing you to take matters into your own hands and play stylist to Kate. 


Poker faced minion

From her wedding day, to her honeymoon, royal engagements, Jubilee parties and red-carpet events you can choose from a variety of sedate outfits and accessories to match the occasion or throw caution to the wind. Corgi bedroom slippers to Garden parties? Wedding dress to a Lifeboat launch? Use your imagination!

Is that a telephoto lens
in the distance?
Replete with poker faced minions who appear to view Kate's state of undress as a matter of course, the only thing missing from these stickers are the paparazzi and chastened magazine editors. Although in light of recent news, Catherine may appear *ahem* a tad overdressed for the 'Home Alone' pages, no?

Look but don't play with it. One day
 this will be a collectors item.
Certain to appeal to all age groups, including my eight year old daughter, who would have had far more fun had I let her play with the stickers. With Dress Up Kate, 'Copy-Kate's' no longer have an excuse to continue venting their frustrations about her fashion choices. With 350 stickers, you can indulge your fashion fantasies to your heart's content. Don't like her shoes? Choose new ones! Floral bouquet clashes with the Queen's hat? Change it! The choice is now yours.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, September 17, 2012

Who is ultimately to blame for the Catherine Cambridge topless photos? We are

For the last few days I've read plenty of articles deploring the coverage of Catherine Cambridge's topless photos. Some vehemently blame the photographer and the publication, others blame Catherine for daring to sunbathe topless. I have yet to see an article blaming us too.

Now a lawsuit from William and Catherine for invasion of privacy because they feel that they had a 'reasonable expectation of privacy'.  Yes, they do have an expectation of privacy. They deserve it. But it's unfortunate that with the level of media interest in Kate and the fact that there are cameras everywhere, that expectation has become naive at best. 

Should she have kept her top on? Yes. If you're in a sanctimonious mood, you could say she she is a future queen and it's undignified. Point taken. Catherine does not lead the life she did before and she's fooling herself to think otherwise. Neither William nor Catherine can afford to become complacent. Given that any vacation they've taken, including their honeymoon, has been invaded by a photographer's lens, they should know better. It was inevitable that this vacation would be too. But the photographs from the other vacations seem to be OK. Justified in some way because they were in public, because what they do is of interest. Yet, these same arguments do not apply to this instance. Why? Because Catherine is topless.  If she wasn't topless, there would be no uproar. In fact, we'd probably be discussing designer of the bathing suit she was wearing and where we can buy it. Then it would be OK. Even though it is the same location, same photographer and same camera lens used.

I don't condone the topless photos. I don't condone any photos of Catherine taken outside of her royal duties. Why? Because if she deserves privacy sunbathing topless, she should also deserve it when she walks her dog, strolls on the beach, gets her hair done or shops for groceries. Justify those instances and we have created a slippery slope that leads to these photos.

This situation has been compared to the harassment Diana endured until her death. Why? Because those of us around at the time wanted more. Even going on a private vacation didn't deter photographers. Did she deserve privacy? Yes, she was no longer royal. Cut free from the expectations of royal duty, she no longer owed us anything. But we still wanted it, in one form or another until the we strangled the golden goose with our insatiable interest. Blame the drunk driver, but who was he trying to escape from? Our desire for Diana's image. 15 years later, the only thing that has changed is the subject.

The interest in Catherine is understandable, but it has consequences. The photographer would not have taken those photos, the publications would not buy or publish them if there wasn't interest. Make a story out of what she buys for dinner or a scar on her head, or the shoes she wears and it creates an insatiable appetite for more. Who wants more? We do.

Continue to blame the photographer, the publication and Catherine. We deserve some of the blame too. 

 © Marilyn Braun 2012

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, September 14, 2012

Catherine Cambridge shouldn't be shocked, she should be resigned

Oh dear!

Topless photos of Kate Middleton/Catherine Cambridge have been published!

Shock, horror and the royal couple are 'saddened and disappointed'.

Seriously, I'm starting to get tired of the complaining.

I didn't always think this way. I used to get just as incensed as the next person about the prying eyes of the paparazzi. Now I'm no longer surprised. And in all honesty, Kate shouldn't be surprised either.

Much like putting up with  being called Kate Middleton for the rest of her life, photos taken in private moments seem to be inevitable. Honeymoon, holidays, walking on the beach, it's all fodder for what she does and what she wears. She signed up for a life of being in the public eye. She just saw what happened to Prince Harry and his photos. Regardless of whether it invaded his privacy, the nude photos became a story for a few days until Harry magically became a hero by stepping on a plane to Afghanistan. Catherine take note.

Catherine is holding her head high and putting on her brave face. What choice does she have? Shying away doesn't change anything.  She may even get an award for it. Since her marriage, people are  interested in every single aspect of her life. From her pantyhose, to her hair, to the groceries she buys, to drinking water instead of wine, to her shoes, to a scar on her head. No detail is too minute to feed an insatiable appetite. Would media outlets really publish these photos if there wasn't some sort of demand for them?

It's very clear that the media has learnt absolutely nothing from what happened to Diana. Nothing has changed and with cameras at every turn, it's only going to get worse. Catherine would be naive to think otherwise.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

 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 27, 2012

Thank God for naked princes in Las Vegas!

Finally, something to discuss other than the Duchess of Cambridge's clothes and the Duke of Edinburgh's death watch! This is quite possibly the biggest story to hit royal watchers since Catherine reignited the debate on pantyhose vs no pantyhose.

A naked prince allows us to focus on what really matters in the world of royalty. Upon seeing photographs of said naked prince (see explanation below), you've probably had one of six possible reactions.

1) You've sighed dramatically and fallen into a dead-faint. Currently waiting for someone to revive you with smelling salts.

2) You've indulged in sanctimonious preaching and proclaimed yourself an armchair arbiter of royal behavior.

3) Dying of curiosity, you've openly wished Harry had removed his hand.

4) Dying of curiosity, you've secretly wished Harry had removed his hand.

5) You've spent the last few days composing a blog post before the story inevitably dies out.

6) You don`t care or understand what all of the fuss is about.

Whichever reaction you`ve experienced, I applaud you for reading this jump on the bandwagon blog post.

Yes, Prince Harry was photographed. In  Las Vegas, naked, playing strip billiards, in the privacy of his hotel suite. Now that these photographs have come to light, Harry is supposedly 'no longer a role model', he has behaved in a 'disgraceful manner', he has 'brought disrepute on the British royal family' and 'someone needs to drum some sense into him before it's too late'. What a shame, if only Harry had known he had to set an example in the privacy of his hotel room. The family firm isn't supposed to take a day off, is it?

The fact that Prince Harry parties is nothing new. Young, virile and single, we expect it of him. Why are people suddenly appalled and offended now that there's photographic proof of it?  Should Harry have known better than to invite strangers into his private suite? Let that be a lesson to you Harry. In the future, choose your naked friends more carefully.

Unfortunately for Harry, he is a senior royal by accident of birth rather than choice. Along with his brother and sister-in-law, he is expected to shore up the Firm and carry the royal flag forward. It's a losing battle. Unlike in previous generations when royalty set the tone for society, deference is dead and gone. The Queen, her husband and first cousins are a dying breed and times have changed. Holding Harry to the same standards of royal behavior is unrealistic. For Harry, and for people who continue to expect it from any member of the new royal generation.

For now Harry would be wise to keep his head down and his pants on. Oh, and while at it, learn how to play billiards for next time.

The public is watching and waiting.

 © Marilyn Braun 2012

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 08, 2012

Royal Review: The Regal Rules for Girls by Jerramy Fine

The Regal Rules for Girls by Jerramy Fine
320 Pages
Published August 2012
ISBN: 978-0425247648

While reading The Regal Rules for Girls, I found myself incredibly impressed with the wealth of information within its pages. I couldn't help but wonder - what isn't The Regal Rules for Girls? Is it a self-help book? Etiquette guide? Career counselling? Educational brochure? Travel guide? Dating advice from a wise friend? Party planning guide?

In a brief, it is a manual for any American girl who has ever dreamed of moving to the United Kingdom in search of her prince.

Basing Regal Rules for Girls on her own experience,which she wrote about in her wonderfully entertaining memoir Someday My Prince Will Come, Jerramy offers a guide for other plucky American women to pursue their own prince charming. However, unlike other self-help books filled with inspirational platitudes, this one offers a pragmatic and calculated approach towards achieving happily ever after. Call it a reality check for would be Cinderellas. If you want the glass slipper, you're going to have to work for it.

Forget dreaming about your prince, you'll have to single-mindedly hunt him down in his natural environment.  Jerramy offers tips on how to spot your prey based on physical characteristics and educational background, and recommends the best 'Regal Hunting Grounds' (Polo matches, sailing, skiing in the Alps) with accompanying websites. Should the need arise, essential survival skills are provided: the full lyrics to God Save the Queen, classic martini recipe, diagram for how to properly tie a bow tie, sailing lingo to impress your nautical suitor, and a pronunciation guide so you don't unwittingly become a social pariah when you just want to relax on the couch sofa.

All sorts of unromantic territory is covered: government visas, finding an apartment flat-share, gaining employment, finding proper dental care, and the best place to purchase American food staples. Buying the plane ticket is the easy part. If navigating the unspoken minefield of British social intricacies doesn't dissuade you, nothing else will.

Following these rules to the letter you will have no excuse for not being successful in your pursuit. The Regal Rules for Girls offers all of the tips you'll need to get there. Happily ever after is now up to you.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, July 18, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: Happy and Glorious! by Marion Crawford

28/500
Happy and glorious! by Marion Crawford
Published 1953
93 Pages
ASIN: B001GF6UM0

Nowadays, it is very rare for me to walk into a used bookstore and find a book about the royal family that I do not already own. So when I came upon Happy and Glorious! I was delighted. Having enjoyed Marion Crawford's previous publication The Little Princesses, I was thoroughly looking forward to reading this as well.

Marion Crawford was the Queen and Princess Margaret's governess for seventeen years. When she wrote The Little Princesses, the royal family saw this, understandably, as a betrayal. Having become a pariah, Crawford had nothing to lose by milking her royal connection. Not that she offers any dirty secrets. The appeal of Happy and Glorious! is that it is written by someone who holds affection for the Queen, offering a true insight into the character in a respectful, informative and insightful way.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, July 17, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: Princess by Robert Lacey

27/500
Princess by Robert Lacey
Published 1982
128 Pages
ISBN: 978-0812963298

 Princess by Robert Lacey covers the period from Diana's engagement to the early months of her pregnancy with Prince William. Much like other books, it contains typical photographs of Diana at her loveliest, showing her burgeoning sense of style. The photographs offer few hints of the glamorous princess she would become. Nor do they offer any clues to the marital and personal troubles behind the smiles.

Many comparisons have been made between Catherine and Diana in terms of how they have adapted to royal life. The text offers some striking similarities between the two women. Notably Mr Lacey questions the adulation heaped upon Diana for doing nothing more than marrying into the royal family. By that point she had said and done very little of substance to warrant it. One passage about Diana is just applicable to Kate 30 years later.

'Our admiration, of course, derives from other things: her freshness, her royal status, the yet more royal status awaiting her in the future, her youth, her beauty - and her dress sense. She looks like a princess, groomed, elegant and clad in garments which are familiar to any woman but which, somehow have been dusted with an extra glamour..'

Mr Lacey offers a nice portrait of a princess on the verge of something greater. Given all of the troubles that would occur later, it's nice to read about a more innocent, younger Diana, with a glittering future in front of her.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, July 14, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison

26/500

Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison
Originally published in 1975
368 Pages
ISBN: 9780143120865

Capitalizing on the success of the television series Downton Abbey, publishers are rushing to release books about the lives of servants in Edwardian times. Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison, is one of them. 

Rosina (Rose) Harrison was born in Yorkshire with a desire to see the world. Destined to a life of service, she became a lady's maid, joining the service of Lady Astor in 1925.There she would remain for the next 35 years, until her ladyship's death. 

Lady Astor was one of the most interesting women of her time, being the first woman to take a seat as a Member of Parliament. This book does not give an idea of just how remarkable Lady Astor was because that side of her is barely depicted. Instead Rose focuses on her experience as Lady Astor's dresser for some of these important events. Though Rose obviously holds affection for her, Lady Astor could be a demanding and mercurial employer.

While it's interesting to read, at first, there's a repetitiveness to this memoir. Rose travelled all over the world with Lady Astor, resulting in endless rounds of packing and unpacking. Rose experiences stresses with Lady Astor's jewels and grumbles about travelling about too many of Lady Astor's hats. She does not glamorize her work but it is difficult to gain any insight into the experiences of a true Edwardian servant, who were not nearly as fortunate in the positions they held.

Other than Rose being on the receiving end of 'Shut up, Rose' from Lady Astor on more than one occasion, there's little conflict between the two. The description reads that Lady Astor has 'met her match', but any battle of the wills is anticlimactic at best.

Although Rose does not come across as a prude,  towards the end she opines on religion, raising children, alcohol and the excesses of wealth, offering nothing controversial or juicy in the process. If you want to get an idea of the experience of a servant who travelled the world first class, packing and unpacking clothing, with a wry observation thrown in for good measure, then this book is for you.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, July 13, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: Elizabeth: Reigning in Style by Jane Eastoe

25/500
Elizabeth: Reigning in Style by Jane Eastoe
Published 2012
112 Pages
ISBN: 978-1862059481

As mentioned in a previous post about Robert Lacey's new book, A Queen a Life in Brief, I am concerned that there will be nothing new to add about the Queen's life once she heads to that great, palace in the sky.

In this respect, Elizabeth: Reigning in Style stands out. While she was beautiful  and stylish when younger, referring to the Queen has a fashion icon stretches it - in my opinion. If anything, the author at least offers a (somewhat) new perspective on her life. We may not know her true opinion on politics or anything else for that matter, but at least we now know who designed her clothing and footwear and who is responsible for some of the atrocious hats she has worn throughout her life.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: The Queen: A Life in Brief by Robert Lacey

24/500
The Queen: A Life in Brief by Robert Lacey
Published 2012
166 Pages
ISBN: 9780062124463

In the introduction, noted author  Robert Lacey writes, 'this little book is intended to distill and reshape what I've learned into one pleasant afternoon's reading.'

And so it does. Even if it took me more than an afternoon to read it.

Despite being written by the well respected and noted royal historian Robert Lacey, I was skeptical. Could a book about the Queen, the second longest serving monarch in British history, ever be brief yet do justice to her at the same time? With book-a-zines, documentaries and a dozen or more new books attempting to offer fresh perspectives on Queen Elizabeth's life and reign, The Queen: A Life in Brief, is just another book amongst them.

So far, none have offered any new insights or revelations that haven't already been published before. This book breaks no ground in this respect either. It just offers the Queen's life story in a more condensed fashion. Which is very appealing considering the weighty, repetitive books competing with it.

The amount of releases marking her Diamond Jubilee makes me wonder whether there will be anything new left to say when she dies. Other than updating these publications with the date of her death, my prediction is that there won't.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, July 11, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: Marrying Up by Wendy Holden

23/500

Marrying Up by Wendy Holden
Published 2012
384 Pages
ISBN: 0755342631

Marrying Up revolves around the destinies of three women, Polly, an archaeologist, the beautiful but clueless Lady Florence (Florrie) Trevorigus-Whyske-Cleethorpe and Allison Donald, who will do anything to become rich, famous and marry well. Including changing everything from her name to her appearance.

Allison Donald, who changes her name to Alexa MacDonald, will do anything to marry well. Love is a secondary consideration to titles and money. Accompanied by her equally ambitious and irrepressible sidekick, Barney van Hoosier, from auctions to funerals, no opportunity to find a titled and wealthy husband is passed up. Her scheming becomes so pathetic, it's a cautionary tale in the making.

Polly is the opposite, an accomplished archaeologist with a broken heart, marrying well is not on her radar when she falls in love with Max, a veterinarian and unbeknownst to her, Crown Prince of Sedona. A reluctant royal, Max must leave Polly behind in England, and return to Sedona to marry and secure the royal line. Unaware of his destiny, Polly finds out he's a prince and goes to find him, for entirely different reasons than Alexa.

Lady Florrie is a clueless yet stunningly beautiful aristocrat whirling from one party to another, her ambitious mother Lady Annabel schemes to have her daughter marry into the royal family. Polly, Alexa and Lady Florrie, eventually end up in Sedona, two as potential brides for Prince Max.

Marrying Up has several unexpected plot turns. At times in it's a bit heavy handed with the royal title satire: Ancient Order of the Norwegian Reindeer Smokers, Royal Swedish Order of the Golden Cod, (OK I get it, the titles are ridiculous) it is otherwise a fun read.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, June 19, 2012

30 Facts about Prince William, Duke of Cambridge

In honor of Prince William's 30th birthday on June 21st, here are 30 facts about him.

1) Prince William was born on June 21st, 1982 at 9:03 PM at St. Mary's Hospital Paddington. He weighed 7lbs 1 1/2 oz.

2) Prince William is the first direct heir to the throne to be born in hospital

3) He was christened William Arthur Philip Louis on August 4, 1982, his great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother's 82nd birthday.

4) According to genealogists, William was born the most British heir to the throne since King James I.

5) He was nine months old when he accompanied his parents on their tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1983, becoming the first royal baby to be included on an official visit.

6) Prince William was the first royal prince to attend an ordinary nursery school, rather than be educated at home.

7) During his childhood he was affectionately known as 'Wombat'

8) Just before his fourth birthday, he was made the six-millionth member of the Automobile Association and given an AA lifetime membership.

9) He started learning to ride a horse at the age of four.

10) On June 3, 1991 he was accidentally hit on the head with a golf club. To this day he retains a mark on his forehead, which he has referred to as his 'Harry Potter scar'.

11) He carried out his first official public engagement on March 1, 1991 when he accompanied his parent on a visit to Wales to celebrate St David's Day.

12) The 1997 Christie's auction of his mother's dresses was his idea.

13) He was confirmed on March 9, 1997 at St George's Chapel, Windsor

14) He passed his driving test on July 27th, 1999, just five weeks after his seventeenth birthday.

15) In 2000, on his 18th birthday, he was granted his own Coat of Arms. The design includes elements from the Spencer Coat of Arms from his mother's side of the family.

16) William has stated that his favorite part of his gap year was year was spent working as a farm labourer on a dairy farm in England with an hourly wage of £3.20, rising before dawn to milk cows and “performing mucky jobs” along with everyone else.

17) In 2003 he celebrated his 21st birthday with an African themed party hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle.

18) He is godfather to Prince Konstantine Alexios of Greece, the son of the Greek Crown Prince and Princess Pavlos. Prince William's own godfather is the former King Constantine II of Greece, Prince Konstantine's grandfather.

19) Owned a black Labrador named Widgeon.

20)  He met his future wife, Catherine Middleton, while they were both students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

21) On June 23rd, 2005, William graduated from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland with a 2:1 Master of Arts in Geography.

22) He has a rose named after him - Royal William

23) He is left-handed

24) He entered Royal Sandhurst Military Academy in 2006 as an officer cadet. He was commissioned as an army officer in December 2006 and joined the Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals) as a Second Lieutenant in January 2006.

25) On 11th April 2008, Prince William received his RAF wings from his father The Prince of Wales, becoming the fourth successive generation of the monarchy to become an RAF pilot.

26) As a child William was given a specially modified, electrically powered, bright red Jaguar XJS Cabriolet miniature sports car. A gift from the manufacturers.

27) He was appointed a Royal Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter on April 23rd, 2008. He is the 1000th knight in the register. 

28) He is a keen sportsman and has participated in many sporting activities: swimming, water polo, skiing,  rugby, polo, football, basketball, cross country running and clay pigeon shooting.

29) On the day of his wedding, April 29, 2011, the Queen granted William the titles Duke of Cambridge, The Earl of Strathearn and The Baron of Carrickfergus.

30) On 29th May 2012, The Duke of Cambridge was conferred to the Order of the Thistle in the year of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Royal Review: The Great Survivors by Peter Conradi

The Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made It into the Twenty-First Century by Peter Conradi
Published 2012
384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1846882159

In 1948, King Farouk of Egypt is reportedly quoted as stating: 

"The whole world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five Kings left--the King of England, the King of Spades, The King of Clubs, the King of Hearts, and the King of Diamonds."

He was incorrect. While the House of Windsor is, by far, the most media prominent, it isn't even remotely the only one left. Excluding their Asian, African and Middle Eastern counterparts, six other European countries are monarchies: Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, and the Netherlands. Not to mention the royal rulers in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and principalities of Monaco and Liechtenstein. These are The Great Survivors. How they survived when other royal houses tumbled and continue to endure in the twenty-first century is something Peter Conradi (co-author of The King's Speech) tackles in his new book.

The author compares and contrasts the royal houses, covering territory on how they're funded, their controversies and scandals, succession, political power, and grudging love-hate relationship with the media. Clearly, there's more to the relationship between many of these royal houses than their link to Queen Victoria. But researching this information in any depth would require consulting several sources. Now it can be found in one.  For someone like myself, with a passing interest in these monarchies but lacking the energy to delve into individual details, this book is a valuable and fascinating resource. A must have for any royal book collection.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, May 22, 2012

Video: The Firm: The Fairy Story of the English Royal Family and Princess Diana

A new take on the story of Diana and the royal family





© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, May 09, 2012

Mmmmmm....Cupcake Queen

What recipe calls for over 50kg of Regal-Ice, 50kg of Royal Icing, 20kg of Marzipan and over 40 tubes of Gel Food Colours? …what else? A  celebration cake fit for a Queen!

To celebrate the Queen's 60 years on the throne, Dr. Oetker teamed up with food artist extraordinaire, Prudence Staite, to recreate a 6m² ‘Cupcake Queen’ portrait of Her Majesty with over 2,012 hand-decorated cupcakes.

The edible artwork used ten cans of Gold and Silver Shimmer Spray, 60,000 Silver and Gold Soft Sugar Pearls and over 140 white Wafer Daisies from the Dr. Oetker baking range to adorn the King George IV State Diadem featured in the original iconic image taken by Dorothy Wilding in 1952.

The ‘Cupcake Queen’ was built in Prudence’ studio in Pamington, Gloucestershire and also featured 20kg of Plain and Milk Chocolate Chips and 30kg of Easy Swirl Cupcake Icing, which were used to define the Queen’s face.

Delicious!


Here's a time lapse video of the making of the Cupcake Queen.



Thanks to Yasir Alani for the heads up!

© Marilyn Braun 2012 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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Video: Scenes from London April 28th & 29th 2011

In honor of William and Catherine's first wedding anniversary, some video I shot while I was in London for the event!

video


© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, April 27, 2012

Can Catherine Cambridge walk on water?

Looking at the saccharine media coverage about Catherine and you would definitely think so. But the comment section in articles and on royal message boards belies that view. Even if people choose to dismiss and ignore it.

Regardless of their personal viewpoint, William and Catherine are the fairytale couple. Perfection, beauty and happiness personified. Catherine by her sheer newness, ability to dress well and look attentive around small children, has reportedly won every heart that has ever come into contact with her. Not to mention sympathy for the incessant comparison to a dead iconic mother-in-law. She is also on par with the Queen in immunity from criticism. Compare her to Princess Anne or Mother Theresa and Catherine will win hands down. Not because of what she has or hasn't done but because she is better looking.

We have been repeatedly reminded that Catherine has not 'put a foot wrong'. It's difficult to do when little has been expected of her. Easing her into her royal position has been an agonizing process for people who would like to see her do something other than smile and sell clothes; no matter how good it may be for British industry. She is capable of more than that. After a year, she has reportedly graduated to a fully-fledged royal. Here's hoping Royal Year-Two brings a more realistic viewpoint of her skills and dedication. For her sake as well as ours.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, April 23, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: The Royals by Leslie Carroll

22/500

The Royals the Lives and Loves of the British Monarchs by Leslie Carroll
Published 2011
175 Pages
ISBN: 9781435136205

I found out about The Royals via @onechicgeek on twitter. I was intrigued, mainly because it features 'rare memorabilia'. At the time I bought it, it was exclusively available through Barnes and Noble. Now it has finally come to Amazon!

The Royals is entertaining and the memorabilia is interesting, though the handwriting is impossible to read. Namely Princess Elizabeth (Future Queen Elizabeth I) letter to her half-sister Queen Mary begging her for an audience. Luckily the author gives transcriptions of these documents, otherwise you'd miss out on the point of them.

Reproductions of memorabilia include the execution warrant for Mary, Queen of Scots, William and Catherine's wedding invitation, the Instrument of Abdication, a ticket to Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee ball, as well as a 1901 funeral card for her. Also included is a reproduction of Charles and Diana's Official 1981 Wedding Programme, which, when compared to the original, is nicely done.

My main problem with this book is that there is some gossipy information that seems to be stated as fact: The Queen and Princess Margaret were conceived by artificial insemination. Prince Philip had numerous affairs. Yes, there are rumors about these things, but neither have been proven. So why perpetuate them? I'm not familiar with royal history beyond Queen Victoria, so I can't judge whether there are any other factual errors. Though one review seems to think there are several in the Tudors section of the book.

Were it not for the memorabilia inserts I probably would not have bought The Royals. In all honesty, while this book is a fun read, it would be unremarkable without them.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, April 17, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: A Hundred Years of Royal Style by Colin McDowell

21/500

A Hundred Years of Royal Style by Colin McDowell
192 Pages
Published 1985
ISBN: 0584110715

I learnt about this book via the @royaltybookfan twitter-feed. It's a fantastic feed to find out about more obscure publications in ebook format. My ereader is seriously close to smoking from the amount I've downloaded since I started following.

Books relating to royal style tend to focus on Diana. As if there were no other trend setters prior to her existence. A Hundred Years of Royal Style is different in that it covers fashions of royal ladies, even those, such as Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who would not be considered particularly stylish to begin with.

The author discusses the role of royal clothing as well as how, in absence of any real royal news, it has been portrayed in the media. A focus on Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII, reveals a woman who enjoyed clothing and took enjoyment in developing her own look.  In comparison to many of the other royal ladies, like the Queen who, despite having the resources to have fun with fashion, view clothing from nothing more than a practical standpoint.

The book includes interesting details about clothes as well as sketches of outfits for the Queen and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. There's an interesting breakdown of royal warrant-holders for Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the present Queen from 1901 to 1984. If you need to know who supplied Queen Alexandra with perfume in 1914, then this book is definately the one for you.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, April 09, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: Frances by Max Riddington and Gavan Naden

20/500

Frances: The Remarkable Story of Princess Diana's Mother by Max Ridddington
Published 2003
256 Pages
ISBN: 1843170434

Frances is unique amongst royal-by-proximity biographies in that it actually has input from its subject. Had it not done so, it would have been culled from what is already in the public domain and Diana's own recollections. This would have made for a sad and incomplete portrait of Frances Shand Kydd, who died in 2004.

It's unfortunate but inevitable that Diana's family will be overshadowed by their association with her. Their individual stories becoming mere anecdotal footnotes in her life story. But Diana would not have become the person she was were it not for her parents - Frances Shand Kydd  and Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer.

Before Diana and the global fame associated with her there was Frances. And her story is a worthy read in order to find out more about someone who was a fascinating individual in her own right.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: The Royal Tombs Of Great Britain by Aidan Dodson

19/500

The Royal Tombs of Great Britain by Aidan Dodson
Published 2004
248 Pages
ISBN: 9780715633106

I've always had a fascination with royal death. With the addition of this book, I now own five on the topic. For some reason The Royal Tombs Of Great Britain is listed for exorbitant prices on Amazon, eBay and Alibris. Looking at the actual book there is no reason for it to cost that much. It is not written in gold script and it isn't even old (published in 2004). It took a while but I finally found a copy in good condition that I felt (at the time) was reasonably priced. If you're interested in buying a copy for yourself do not spend more than $100 on it. Unless you really want to own it I would even say that is too much.

My interest in royal death may sound macabre but death it is truly the great leveller. It happens to everyone, including royalty. But as this book reveals just because someone is a king or queen, does not necessarily mean their remains are treated with dignity or left to rest in peace.

The author details the burial places of sovereigns from the early English Kingdoms all the way to King George VI. There is some fascinating information about the various royal vaults and monuments along with photographs and illustrations. There is detailed information about embalming and the condition of corpses and skeletons which is interesting but I definately wouldn't advise reading about it while eating!

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Royal and The Clueless - Episode 21



Location: Clarence House

Staff member #1: We must find something more to do with Her Royal Highness. She's getting bored of the dog.

Staff member #2: Right, we must utilize her. I hear there's a $1000 toast rack for sale. If Catherine is seen using it then it will fly off the shelves!

Staff member #1: Maybe she could wear the Harris Tweed and kill two birds with one stone!

Prince William: I think we should leave the hunting out of it. Too much multi-tasking.

Catherine: Maybe I could do more duties?

Prince William and the others seem to notice Catherine for the first time

Prince William: Oh darling, you're back from getting your hair done?

Catherine: I...I..I've been sitting here all along..

Prince William (to his staff): What is she wearing?

Staff member #1 (consults his notes): Marc Jacobs scoop-neck peach and lilac silk blend dress with woven poppy pattern and contrasting ecru side panels

Catherine: Why is that important? I'm more than just a fashion plate, you know.  I did some research and found these causes..

Catherine holds up some papers. Staff member #2 gets up and gently takes them from her.

Prince William: Careful darling, we don't want you to get a paper cut

Catherine (angry): And what if I did? Would be far better than what I'm doing now!

Prince William (soothingly): Darling, I'm back now. We are so proud of your speech. You're taking to all of this so well. What was it Edward said? Like a 'duck to water.' But you must be exhausted so I have a surprise for you! We're going skiing!

Catherine: But, isn't there a memorial service coming up for the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret?

Prince William: We'll just tell people we have a 'prior committment'. Everyone will understand. Won't they?

The staff members nod in agreement.

Catherine: But what if they don't? Won't it look bad?

Staff member #2: Sir, maybe we could book an engagement upon your return?

Prince William: Yes something involving small children or maybe some baby animals. Catherine make sure you wear something brand new.

Catherine: I don't believe this!

Catherine sobs and runs out of the room.

Will Catherine get a paper-cut? Will she wear something new? Where is Enrique? Find out on the next episode of The Royal & The Clueless.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, March 26, 2012

Stop treating Catherine Cambridge like she's made of china

Fresh off my post encouraging Catherine to develop her royal role sooner rather than later, imagine my chagrin when discovering an article in the Express. Her father-in-law, the Prince of Wales, has reportedly requested that Catherine use her influence to increase a global brand of tweed.

Not the economic crisis or hunger. Clothing. Not to diminish the cause. All charities think they are worthwhile and important and deserve attention. But it makes me wonder whether Clarence House is underestimating Catherine's ability to be more than just a fashion plate or a part of their arsenal to promote their own interests.

It's obvious that Clarence House is trying to ease her into royal life. There's no denying it's a major adjustment and so far she hasn't put a foot wrong. This is because she isn't allowed to. But are they being too careful with her? Much as been said of Catherine's age, and how this will help her cope with the demands of royal life. When are they going to expose her to those demands? It seems as though Clarence House has her on an extremely short leash. If I were Catherine I would be quite frustrated by this.

Catherine will not shatter into a million pieces if she is given more to do. If she has to shake more hands, give more speeches, take on more causes, glue and paint with more small children. No one is expecting her to compete with Princess Anne in the number of engagements. No one is allowing her to even try. So far her duties have required little of her. This is a mistake. Like with any job, the only way you learn is by doing it. Then challenging yourself to do more. The royal family, of all institutions, should know better than to do otherwise.

I for one believe that Catherine is capable of more than this. One day I hope she will start to believe it too.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, March 23, 2012

Fumbling towards Republicanism

I'm thinking of becoming a republican. Or whatever you're called when you disagree with an institution that hold themselves above others, expects deference and rules by birthright rather than having earned their positions.

I'm not planning on signing a petition or becoming a card carrying member of the republican party. Not planning to make a donation, buy a mug or go door to door to spread the word. Nor do I have any interest in going toe-to-toe with a die-hard monarchist to argue whether the monarchy is relevant or not. It's just a slow leaning I've had over time. Getting stronger as the Diamond Jubilee approaches and people bend over backwards to commemorate it.

Case in point. This morning I learned that members of the British parliament are considering renaming the tower commonly referred to as Big Ben to the Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is the name of the bell within the tower, which is more accurately called the Clock Tower. Unimaginative? Maybe, but why change the guidebooks unnecessarily?
The Diamond Jubilee stained glass window in Westminster Hall
Via British Monarchy Flickr

I'm not against commemorating the Diamond Jubilee. But I'm wondering whether her subjects have already done enough. Plans include a concert, service at St Paul's Cathedral, a pageant of 1000 boats on the Thames, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Jubilee windows, coins, medals and stamps to mark the occasion. Not to mention all of the plaudits in Commonwealth countries where she is head of state. Considering all of those things I tend to wonder whether people are going overboard with this too.

Royal Visit to Ottawa, Canada
Via British Monarchy Flickr
But would the Queen appreciate yet another Jubilee gift? Looking at photographs of the Queen, notice the lack of enthusiasm as she unveils yet another window, school or plaque with her name on it. Why add to it? It's quite possible that the Queen does not remember all of the things named in her honor. And why should she? Isn't it just another day at work for her?

A plaque unveiled by The Earl and Countess of Wessex commemorating the Diamond Jubilee
Via British Monarchy Flickr
I'm in Canada and Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada. It would stand to reason that I should support the monarchy. I should be unquestioningly loyal. When it was announced that the government of Canada would be putting aside $7.5 million to celebrate the jubilee, I thought it was appalling. Not to be a party-pooper, but when there are cut-backs left, right and center, I have a hard time with putting this amount towards the Jubilee. Not that the Queen isn't worth it. There's no arguing with the Queen's dedication. It's undeniable and admirable. When she's gone, we will not see her like again.

The jubilee, like the royal wedding, is a time to celebrate. To do the same job well for 60 years is an accomplishment that should not be ignored. It's an event that may make people forget their problems but ultimately watching privileged people, with unimaginable wealth, celebrate on a lavish scale is not something people struggling can put in the bank or on the dinner table. I have a difficultly reconciling this.

Embracing republicanism could be problematic. I've never made any secret that I'm not a monarchist. It's in the tag-line of this blog. I've never been able to reconcile my interest in them with my indifference towards the institution itself. (Do Americans have this dilemma?) Previously I couldn't care one way or the other. Now I seem to be caring more and more. And it took a historic event to take a hard look at it. But questions linger. Will I be able to collect books? Stamps and coins? What will I do with my commemorative china? Can I go to England and enjoy the royal landmarks? Will I need to turn off television specials? Avert my eyes from pomp and pageantry?  I'll cross that bridge when I make a final decision.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Catherine Cambride has style, but does she have substance?

Catherine has mastered the royal wave. She can graciously accept flowers from small children and present shamrocks with √©lan. Her ability to sell people on pantyhose is par none. She's photogenic and has injected the royal family with much needed glamour. By appearances and demeanor she is born to be royal. Respectful, deferential and silent, minus the field hockey skills, she would fit in well with the Japanese royal house. High upon the pedestal we've placed her, she can do no wrong. For now.

March 19th will mark a milestone occasion for the duchess. She will be making her first speech. Almost a year after her marriage, it has been a long time in coming. Diana made her first speech three months after her wedding on October 29, 1981, when she received the Freedom of the City of Cardiff. Adding some words of Welsh to her acceptance, it was an appropriate touch for the Princess of Wales.

Like Catherine's wedding dress, there is a great deal riding on this appearance. Aside from her engagement interview, wedding vows and some awkward remarks in Denmark, she has said very little in public. This occasion will be a chance to prove herself. Will her voice be a Jacqueline Kennedy whisper? Or will she deliver her words with confidence and conviction? This voice will set the tone for her future role and it is important to get it right.

Until recently, Catherine has had to do little more than stay two steps behind the royal-in-laws and gaze in admiration at everything Prince William does. When her patronages were announced in early January, it was a step in the right direction. Counting the royal tour of Canada, she has carried out more joint engagements than solo.  Now it's time to kick off the training wheels. She's shown she can look the part but now comes the hard work. Like royals before her, Catherine will need to carve out a unique role for herself. Become more than just a fashion plate and someone who supports her husband in his duties. If that's all she is, it is going to be a long, superficial, boring 20 or 30 year wait for the throne.

The choice is now up to her.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, March 12, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford

18/500

The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen's Childhood by her Governess, Marion Crawford
Published 1950
314 Pages
ISBN: 0312312156

As royal biographies go The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford is arguably the most famous and also the most maligned. But in comparison to today's revelations it is actually quite tame. I have yet to find a biography that doesn't mention this book, which is often referred to as the definitive version of the Queen and Princess Margaret's childhood.

Covering the period from 1933 until the birth of Prince Charles in 1948, The Little Princesses is a charming and sentimental, account of the early lives of the Queen and Princess Margaret. But reading it was bittersweet. Knowing the trust the royal family gave her, the unparalleled access she had to the royal family, it's easy to see why this was a betrayal. Nonetheless, it's an enjoyable read, offering an insiders account of the Abdication, the war years and a behind the scenes view of Princess Elizabeth's wedding.

Having learnt the royal stiff upper lip from her grandmother Queen Mary, we are never given an idea of Princess Elizabeth's true thoughts. One gets the impression that Princess Elizabeth is the more favored, and that Princess Margaret is the naughty one. A description that would continue throughout Princess Margaret's life.

Aside from their rarefied circumstances, Crawford conveys the two princesse as ordinary little girls in extraordinary surroundings. The writing style harks back to a more innocent, deferential time with a lack of sensationalism. In this day and age of royal tell-alls, the Windsor's didn't realize how good they had it.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, March 07, 2012

Royal Book Challenge The Royal 100 by Alan Hamilton

17/500

The Royal One Hundred: A Who's Who of the First 100 People in Line of Succession to the British Throne by Alan Hamilton
Published 1986
130 pages
ISBN: 0907516939

If you're ever in a royal trivia smack down and need to know who was 57th in line to the British throne, circa 1986, then this is the book for you. Otherwise the charm of The Royal 100 lies in the biographies of those relations who cannot coast on their birthright and keep it real by working for a living. Some who are far down the list even downplay their proximity. As if they have any other choice.

While the first four positions are still currently unchanged, the last 26 years have drastically altered the top 100.  Case in point. The 100th person in this book, Princess Marie Cecile of Prussia, is now, according to some lists, in position 217.

Covering the descendants from King Edward VII to Elizabeth II, the entries are interesting and occasionally humorous. The author touches on Queen Victoria but does not cover all of her descendants. As a result, the reader misses out on the Swedish, Belgian, Spanish, Greek and Danish royals who extend beyond the scope of the list. With almost 6000 people currently in line, it's understandable that the author limited the list to 100.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, March 06, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: From a Clear Blue Sky by Timothy Knatchbull

16/500

From a Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb by Timothy Knatchbull
418 Pages
Published 2009
ISBN: 9780091931469

For many royal watchers, the death of Lord Louis Mountbatten, 'Honorary Grandfather' to Prince Charles, may only exist as a tragic circumstance for the Windsor family. A royal footnote in history and nothing more. But From a Clear Blue Sky makes it very clear that this was anything but that for those on the boat.

In 1979 Lord Louis Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA when a bomb planted on his fishing boat exploded. Also on board were his daughter Patricia, her mother-in-law, husband John Bradbourne, twin sons Nicholas and Timothy Knatchbull and a local boy named Paul Maxwell. The only survivors of the explosion would be Patricia, her husband, and Timothy.

Timothy Knatchbull recounts in harrowing and at times graphic details the aftermath of the explosion and the recovery process for his family. The author doesn't hold back in his recollections and at times I felt like an intruder. Otherwise From a Clear Blue Sky is a moving and personal account of his journey towards healing.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, February 29, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: Undoubted Queen


15/500

Undoubted Queen by Harry Tatlock Miller & Loudon Sainthill
255 Pages
Published 1958
ASIN: B001X6A36Q

There is no actual year of publication listed, nor an ISBN so I've taken the information from Amazon. Judging by the photos of the Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, I would say that 1957/1958 time frame would be accurate.

Undoubted Queen takes its title from a phrase in the Order of Coronation. And like that event, the overall feel is reverential. Other than captions to identify locations, there is very little text outside of the bibliography. Comprised of photographs of Elizabeth II throughout her (short) life, the glamorous young queen is primarily presented in the line of duty, on ceremonial occasions and on her travels around the world. Not all of the photographs are particularly flattering, there are some out of focus pictures and grainy closeups. On her travels to Nigeria and Australia, photos of tribesmen and aboriginals add a National Geographic feel.

It is hard to tell what the point of Undoubted Queen is. It has very few words and the photographs are mainly from her coronation and travels during the early years of her reign. Beside illustrations of previous queens regnant, the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about the new queen and her place in royal history.

Little could the authors have known just how significant that place would be.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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, February 24, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: William and Kate: A Royal Love Story by Christopher Andersen

14/500

William and Kate: A Royal Love Story by Christopher Andersen
Published 2011
312 Pages
ISBN: 9781451621457

When I went to the store to buy this book, the display it was on had a sign that said: 'The truth is always a good read'.

I'm sure it is. Whether you find much of it in this book is debatable.

I was skeptical from the start. Claims that Diana, suffering from severe post-partum depression, had an affair with James Hewitt three months after Prince William's birth seem rather far-fetched. According to this book, after William's christening, Diana 'washed down a handful of pills and half a bottle of Scotch' and had to be rushed to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. The most famous woman in the world having an event like that 'magically kept out of the press?' Are you kidding me?

Some of the revelations, such as Kate travelling to New York to meet with Mario Testino have turned out to be untrue. Turns out that until she went to Los Angeles with Prince William, Kate had never travelled to North America. I'm no royal insider but when the bibliography features a comprehensive list of other royal tell-alls, it makes you wonder about the accuracy of the rest of his sources.

Any non-fiction book that requires you to suspend your belief in reality is in the wrong category.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another future Queen is born!

On February 23rd, 2012 a future queen, Princess Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary, was born in Sweden. Counting her mother, Crown Princess Victoria, who is currently the only female heir-apparent in the world, this brings the total number of future queens regnant to five. The others are Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands and Princess Elisabeth of Belgium. If the Crown Prince and Princess of Spain do not have a son their elder daughter, Infanta Leonor, would make it six.

Barring any unforseen tragedy or abolishing the monarchy, these little girls are changing history. Other countries have had queens regnant before but Princess Elisabeth will be Belgium's first. Should Sweden's little princess inherit the throne from her mother, this will be one of the few times, outside of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, when the Queen of a European throne has been succeeded by another woman. Monarchies are no longer a boys only club. Should William and Catherine have a firstborn daughter, Prince Christian of Denmark will be further outnumbered by his female contemporaries.

Princess Estelle, who cannot be usurped by a male sibling, owes her position to her mother. When Sweden changed their rules of succession in 1980 from agnatic to equal primogeniture, Victoria became Crown Princess despite having a younger brother. Other monarchies followed suit, Norway in 1990, Belgium 1991, Denmark in 2009 and Luxembourg in 2011. The Netherlands, with their own history of Queens, made the change in 1983. Women have ruled the country for so long that when Crown Prince Willem-Alexander succeeds his mother Queen Beatrix, he will be the first king of the Netherlands since 1890. Although Britain has five Queens Regnant, they are currently in the process of changing the rules. If William and Catherine's firstborn is a girl, she will be the beneficiary of this change. If the fates are kind, she may eventually take her place amongst her illustrious predecessors in British history.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Article amended to add the name of the princess.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr

13/500

Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di by Kris Waldherr
Published 2008
176 Pages
ISBN: 9780767928991

I own several books about royal death. Out of all of them, hands down, this one is the funniest. I'll go as far as saying that this is one of the best books in my collection.

In 2009 I wrote a review for Doomed Queens, so I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say that anyone who can take a macabre topic and combine it with gleeful humor, deserves some type of award in the best book about royal death category.

Heads off!..err hats off..to you Ms Waldherr!

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Royal Book Challenge: The Royal Baby Book by Phoebe Hichens

12/500

The Royal Baby Book by Phoebe Hichens
Published 1984
64 Pages
ISBN: 0517454661

My interest in the royal family began the day Prince William was born, June 21st, 1982. I've always loved looking at baby pictures and combined with  royalty, this book is right up my alley.

The Royal Baby Book is about royal children from Edward VIII to Prince Harry. Each royal child has his/her own page with their birth date, astrological sign, short biography along with the significance of their position in the royal family. Along with some delightful photos of the various children, there are some surprising errors in the birth dates of Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince William. To be fair, this was before Wikipedia could be used to double-check these things.

Looking through the book it's clear that, despite covering almost 100 years of royal babies, the fascination with royal infants, their births and the way they are raised, doesn't change. In fact, the desire for more information about the minute of their upbringing has grown. There is no doubt that William and Catherine can expect the same reaction upon the arrival of their own children.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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.