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


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


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


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.