Thursday, December 31, 2015

I declare before you all, I dislike it when people quote that speech

You: What speech?

Me: The Queen's 21st Birthday Speech

You: Sacrilege! How can you possibly dislike a speech where a young woman declared her dedication to the nation? Have you no heart?

Okay, I have nothing against the speech itself. It is patriotic and who can argue with the sentiment? No, I dislike when other people repeat it. Especially now that the Queen is almost 90. Actions speak louder than words and since she spoke those words in 1947, she has more than proven her dedication to the point there is no question. Whatsoever. If you think you have a good reason to question it, you haven't been paying enough attention.

In recent years she has hit several milestones. In 2012 she celebrated her Diamond jubilee. In 2015 she became the longest reigning monarch in British history. In 2016, the Queen will turn 90. On that occasion we will no doubt hear this chestnut trotted out time and again by people who have only read about her in books or observed her from a distance. No doubt they have memorized the words so that when someone asks how the Queen has remained so dedicated throughout her reign they can say: "Well, in 1947 she said....'I declare before you all.."

The actual speech is much longer (835 words) but it is the following 34 words that people quote the most:

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

Good heavens! Even I'm doing it!

Yes she is dedicated. She has reiterated it a number of times over the years, most recently rededicating herself anew in 2012 during her Diamond Jubilee year. To be quite honest, I thought the last reminder to be completely unnecessary. A) Because she has proven it B) Because if you're on a roll, why jinx it?

The main reason I dislike quoting that speech is because it tends to ignore a crucial reality. The Queen is mortal and she will die. It makes no allowances for anything less than that. She is slowing down (regardless of whether people want to acknowledge it). Holding her to a speech she said at 21 is completely unrealistic in light of how old she is. Sometimes I wonder, if, for arguments sake. If the queen were to decide to retire/abdicate would people hold it against her? Mention the mere idea and you won't be allowed to complete the senten--

"It will NEVER happen! She said so herself...'I declare before you all...' and although I've never met her the very idea is an anathema to her..."

But she is getting older...if anyone deserves a break it is her?

"NO!..It will NEVER happen..."

As wonderful as it would be, the Queen cannot keep going. She has remarkable stamina for her age. Longevity is in her DNA. But the people who quote the speech at every milestone want her to keep going, regardless. As if the idea of her slowing down/taking a break (read: acknowledging her mortality) is wrong. When Pope Benedict XVI resigned and monarchs in Netherlands, Spain and Belgium abdicated because they knew their limits they were criticized as quitters. Instead of being seen as a prudent decision in light of their health or to make way for the new generation, it was seen as a negative.

Those families acknowledged reality while we maintained smug bragging rights.

"Well, they couldn't hack it but our queen..OUR Queen knows what dedication is.. Why, she said so herself in 1947: 'I declare..'"

Now, fast forward 10 years to her 100th birthday. Still reigning, dedicated and going strong.

Me: Maybe she should take a break? Step down?

"NO, NO...she said 'I declare before you all'

Fast forward to 2030. The Queen is 104 and although in sound mind she is frail and fading slowly. Maybe it is time to call it a day?

"Never! Remember when she said 'I declare before you all..."

As she gets older this will become more absurd. It's as if it is a point of pride for people. We are here to remind her that she must keep going - no. matter. what. It wouldn't surprise me if people quoted it on her deathbed. The Queen did not write the speech and privately she must have misgivings about being held to those words: 'Out of all of the things I have said since then, that is what people remember?' How many of us would want to be held to something we said when we were 21? Even if it was the most moral, righteous, perfect statement. It would be a lot to live up to for anyone.

Here's the thing. Those words do not represent her reign. They do not encapsulate who she is as a person. If she decides to step down tomorrow, it will not diminish her stellar duty and devotion. If anyone deserves a break, it's her! After her death, it will be a long time before we see anyone as dedicated as her again.

So the next time she has a bout of ill health or another monarch steps down, instead of quoting that speech, how about looking at her realistically and cutting her some slack instead?

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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 28, 2015

Royal Focus: Princess Mary 1914 Christmas Gift Tin

They were meant to bring comfort and boost morale to those fighting in the front line during the First World War. The Princess Mary Christmas tin from 1914 is possibly the best known wartime royal memento, but she was not the first royal to send a thoughtful item to the troops. Her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, had done something similar in 1900 during the Boer War.

Imperial War Museum © IWM (EPH 3347)
As a personal New Years gift, Queen Victoria sent tins filled with chocolate to British soldiers serving in South Africa. The chocolate was supplied by three British chocolate manufacturers: Cadbury's, Fry's and Rowntree's. The red, blue and gold tins were designed by Fry's and copied by the other companies. Although they vary in size, all feature a portrait of Queen Victoria with her royal monogram and South Africa 1900 written beside it. Below the portrait, written in cursive is 'I wish you a happy New Year' with her signature below it. As Quakers, the companies were reluctant to support the war effort because of their pacifism but loyalty to the Queen won out. Following Queen Victoria's example, in 1901 Queen Alexandra sent a Christmas gift to the Boer War troops in the form of 5,500 monogrammed silver mounted briar pipes.

In 1914, the same year of Princess Mary's gift tin, her grandmother, Queen Alexandra the Queen Mother, also sent a similar gilt-tin as a personal gift to members of Household regiments. These tins contained a card and 18 cigarettes, each printed with her name. Alexandra's tins were not as widely distributed as Princess Mary's making them rarer.

Imperial War Museum © IWM (EPH 2716)

However, it is the Princess Mary Christmas brass tin from 1914 which is the best known. Inspired by her hospital visits to wounded soldiers, Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, sent out a public appeal in national newspapers for the 'Sailor and Soldiers Christmas fund' to provide a Christmas gift for ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front'. In the first week the fund had received £12,000 in donations. The following week this amount had risen to £31,000. By the time the fund closed in 1920 it had raised £162,591.

Photo © Marilyn Braun

The embossed brass tin boxes were designed by Messrs Adshead and Ramsay. They feature a profile portrait of Princess Mary surrounded by laurel leaves with two Princess Mary 'M' monograms on either side. Inscribed on a cartouche at the top of the box are the words 'Imperium Britannicum', with a sword and scabbard on either side. In other cartouches around the edge and sides of the box are the names of Britain’s allies in the First World War; France, Russia, Belgium, Servia, Montenegro, and Japan. France and Russia are each superimposed on three furled flags. At the bottom is inscribed 'Christmas 1914.' flanked by the bows of battleships forging through a heavy sea.

There were challenges in producing the brass tin itself and its contents. Some items were considered luxuries and with metals being used to create munitions, brass was becoming harder to come by. Sheets of brass had to be ordered from the United States and a large quantity was lost in the 1915 tragic sinking of the US Lusitania. As metal shortages increased, many of the subsequent tins were made of cheap alloy metal. Despite the difficulties, the boxes were a success. The recipients were divided into three classes, and there were different variations in the contents, which you can read about here.

With over 2.5 million tins distributed, unlike Victoria and Alexandra's tins, Mary's are neither unique or rare. But they were no doubt cherished by appreciative recipients serving in the Great War.


Harewood: A Christmas Legacy Continues
Kinnethmont: The Princess Mary 1914 Christmas Gift
Australian War Memorial: Princess Mary's Christmas Gift 
National Army Museum: Queen Victoria's Gift Chocolate Box, 1900
Presentation Pipes with particular reference to the Queen Alexandra Pipe
 Museum Victoria Collections
Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra's tin images from Imperial War Museum

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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, December 01, 2015

National Novel Writing Month - Royal Style!

Yikes, it's been a while since I updated this blog!

Since I started this blog in 2005 I always envisioned it as a place to vent my frustration with royal coverage, to add my own satirical viewpoint to royal news and also to make informative posts that people would enjoy. Each year the amount of posts goes downhill. I feel guiltier and guiltier knowing that I am letting this blog languish. I make a vow each year to change that doesn't change.

What can I say? Life gets in the way.

There is always a nagging feeling that I should get back to it. For the most part I find royal news to be relatively uninspiring. I think that blogs like mine, which provide commentary are simply not interesting. Who wants to listen to someone rant? People prefer blogs that deal with royal clothes and jewels and that's OK. But I do find it frustrating at times and I feel as though I can't keep up.

I've been focusing more on writing fiction. I did a few blog posts featuring my work in progress 'The Kidnapping of Princess Alexandra'. I took the work down, mainly because I did not feel that the posts did the storyline justice, it was too distracting and after a while I didn't get the point of doing it any longer.

Instead, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). Each November, participants are challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you have never heard of it, here's a link. Let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. The idea is to simply write whatever you want, without editing yourself and see where the story takes you. Nothing is scarier than starting with a blank page. Even scarier is throwing most (if not all) of the work I had already written out the door and started from scratch. It forced me to focus on the story, take it in a different direction and all sorts of storylines started to pop up, things became clearer and also more confusing too. But I loved the challenge of NaNoWriMo and finished my 50K words ahead of schedule. Here's my Winner badge to prove it.

That's about all you get. Well, that and a PDF of a winner certificate to fill out. Oh yes, and bragging rights. Oh, and the satisfaction of having actually completed something. Which I would say is far better than winning money but that would be a lie.

Right now I have a 50K work in progress, multiple story-lines I didn't have before, a beginning, an ending but a very (very) disorganized middle. Instead of posting the work in progress here, I have started posting it on a site called Tablo.

Here is the link to the story: The Royal Correspondent

Feel free to follow along for the ride!

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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, September 09, 2015

Queen Elizabeth makes history, it's almost enough to make you want to become a monarchist

I've never made any secret that I'm not a monarchist. It is in the tagline for my blog. I do things which conflict with that. For instance, I avidly collect magazines and some memorabilia whenever a royal event happens. I also read articles and lurk on message royal message boards. Not to mention that I went to Britain for William and Catherine's wedding and hit royal landmarks during my recent trip.  

I'm a complicated individual. Don't judge me.

However, I also disagree with the monarchy. Not based on anything political but on principle. The idea of bowing down to someone because of an accident of their birth is an anathema to me. During twitter arguments I secretly rejoice when a republican has made a valid point and fume when a monarchist has shot it down with a predicable, yet valid, one. I have a hard time understanding monarchists who admire the royals for the sake of admiring them. Showing deference because they believe royals and those in authority are somehow 'better' than the rest of us. It is just not true.

On this occasion in particular, my republican leanings make me wonder what we are celebrating for. The Queen's longevity? She definitely has great genetics. Sure, her stellar sense of duty should be acknowledged but it also goes without saying. Yet people try. At the rate we are exhausting saccharine platitudes, will there be anything left to say in the future? Is it any wonder the republicans are vociferously presenting the other side? In all honesty, I think members of the Republican movement make themselves look bad when they try to argue against it. Railing against an 89 year old woman would make anyone look bad.

However, sometimes you can also have too much of a good thing. In the last four years we have had the royal wedding, Diamond jubilee, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, now this. Planning for her 90th birthday is underway and there is even speculation about her Platinum jubilee in 2022. Haven't we run out of cake yet?

Despite all of this, reading the coverage about Queen Elizabeth II becoming the longest serving monarch in British history, I can't help but feel a small sense of pride. She made it! Looking at photographs of her, I see her evolution, the growing respect. Her sense of duty is unquestionable and all in all, I would say she has been an asset to her realms. History will be kind to her. Because she has set the bar so high, the same cannot be said about those that come after her.

Based on this, getting off the fence has its appeal. Even if it only for one day. Despite this temptation, I know that I will never be a monarchist (nor a true republican), but I will always remain fascinated. 

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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, September 01, 2015

Will the Queen's legacy be in what she says or what she does?

As the Queen draws closer to breaking Queen Victoria's record for the longest reigning sovereign in British history, there will be much commentary about the significance of the moment. Much of it will be the inevitable saccharine tributes with the oft-quoted 21st birthday speech thrown in for good measure. But some of it will be critical as well. As in the case of David Starkey's comments that the Queen "has done and said nothing anybody will remember." Although I think that is a harsh assessment, when it comes to her actual reign, he raises a point.

Other than 1992's 'Annus horribilis' speech and her aside right before the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum for people to "think very carefully about the future," I genuinely can't think of anything that will provide history with the defining words to encapsulate her reign. The Queen is the embodiment of keep calm, carry on, and only respond if the problem doesn't immediately go away. On occasion it backfires and she is brought to heel for it. But moments like that are rare.

It could be said - and no doubt it will be - that it is not what she says, it is what she does. Or doesn't do. The Queen does not give sound bites. She does not give interviews. She does not pander to the public. She does not need to. She steers clear of controversy and remains neutral. It is one of the reasons why she is so well respected. She may not say much but, how can you argue with such a shining example of selfless duty?

In the last 63 years, had she expounded on every topic like Prince Charles, the media would stockpile the ammunition. Her public pronouncements have been limited to her annual Christmas speech and at the State Opening of Parliament. I can't think of anything memorable in either case. But then again, I'm not expecting to. I doubt anyone else is either. The times of looking to the royal family to set an example are long gone.

When the Queen dies and newscasts look back upon her reign, the images are likely to be filled with scenes from her coronation, along with public appearances of her waving and smiling throughout the decades. Commentators who have only observed her at distance will speak for her, using the word 'duty' over and over again to define her legacy and what she was really like as a person.

In the absence of her own words, she will leave us to draw the definitive conclusions.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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, August 30, 2015

18 Years Ago Today..The Death of Diana

Hard to believe that it has been 18 years since Diana's death. I will never forget where I was when I heard she had been in an accident.

Flipping through the channels late at night, the image of a car crashed in a tunnel appeared on my screen. The channel was MSNBC News with Brian Williams. Diana's name peaked my interest and I continued watching the awful scene with the crumpled car surrounded by police vehicles. As the details slowly emerged, Dodi and the driver were dead but Diana was miraculously still alive. There were few details about her exact condition but she was alive. Listening to updates about paparazzi involvement did not surprise me in the slightest.

On-lookers were being interviewed near the tunnel, some stating they had even taken photographs and I found myself disgusted by that. Note that this was before Facebook or Twitter or even Instagram, where nowadays, anything seems to go no matter how grossly inappropriate it may be. However, back then it was surprising.

It was hard to process what was happening but I found myself reaching for my books about Diana, looking at pictures of her and wondering if anything would ever be the same again. Would she live? If she did, what condition would she be in? I admit there was a part of me that thought, if she is too badly injured, maybe it would be better if she did not survive. Her life will be far more difficult and she would become an even bigger curiosity. This time for all of the wrong reasons.

Finally, the awful news. Brian Williams announcing that Diana was dead. This beautiful woman was gone from the world. Even worse, William and Harry no longer had their mother. Watching the boys walking behind their mother's coffin was heartbreaking.

The next morning I immediately went out and bought every newspaper I could find. Bells toiled on the radio and I broke down when I heard them. Throughout the week leading up to the funeral I bought every magazine in tribute to her. At the time I worked in a hospital which Diana had served as a patron. There was even a portrait of her there. The hospital had set out a condolence book and there was one very upset woman, who spent a lot of time writing in it. It really felt as though the world had stopped. I had the same feeling on September 11th, 2001.

Many years later, in 2003, I got the chance to go on 'my pilgrimage,' to Althorp. After viewing the exhibit on her life in the stables, I walked towards the oval island where she is buried. My thoughts were somewhat macabre. Was she really buried on that island? It didn't look nearly deep enough. A part of me still believes that she is buried in the small temple nearby. Say what you will about her brother, he created a beautiful, moving exhibit and everything about the estate is tastefully done.

From time to time I still look at my books about Diana. Marveling at her beauty and charisma and natural report with the public. The public reaction to Diana's death may have been over the top at times but it is not surprising. It is still hard to believe that she is gone.

RIP Diana.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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 14, 2015

Who creates the market for paparazzi photos of Prince George? We do!

Here we go again. Prince William and Catherine appealing to our better nature in the interests of protecting the privacy of their children. This morning Kensington Palace sent out a three-page press release to that effect . However, this time it provided more background on what goes into photos of Prince George between official appearances.

Sad to say, this will change nothing. We will decry the pursuit of Prince George on twitter and royal message boards. Royal correspondents will play devils advocate regarding whether the royals are entitled to privacy when in a public setting. And while this is a very complex problem which will continue to come up, one part of the press release is the most telling:

"...many people who read and enjoy the publications that fuel the market for unauthorised photos of children do not know about the unacceptable circumstances behind what are often lovely images.  The use of these photos is usually dressed up with fun, positive language about the 'cute', 'adorable' photos and happy write ups about the family.  We feel readers deserve to understand the tactics deployed to obtain these pictures."

Until now it was easier to turn a blind eye to that fact. After all, the pictures are adorable, no? When Prince William complained about press intrusion, it came across as petulance and wanting to have it both ways. Go on twitter and you will find complaints about censorship and how controlling the royals are when it comes to their coverage. It is very easy to say that when the royals are in public they are 'fair-game' and that it is entirely legal to photograph them. However, just reading paparazzi tactics and the potential threat they pose, makes it more difficult to justify it that way.

The very people who decry the pursuit of Prince George are the ones who contribute to the demand for them. Complain about how distasteful the pursuit is today, coo over how cute George looks in his crocs tomorrow. While you're at it, don't forget to pay lip-service to Diana's tragic death and you have covered your bases until the next time it happens.

When it does, just repeat and don't act surprised.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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, August 06, 2015

Royal Book Challenge: Diana Fashion Books - Part One

Within my collection, I have many books covering Diana's fashions throughout her royal life. Some of these books are short on text and follow a similar style so I have decided to divide the posts into parts, each post featuring a few books at a time. Just like her future daughter-in-law, Diana's fashions were covered just as avidly. Had the internet existed back then, Diana would definitely have had multiple blogs devoted to her style. There is no question that in the early years of her marriage, Diana was at her loveliest and most radiant. Her style choices may look dated today, but none of them take away from how dazzling she was in her early twenties.

From the Royal Heritage Series, the text for this book was written by Jane Owen. Published in 1983, it covers Diana's fashions primarily for the tour of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Her style evolution to date is discussed in detail and estimates for the cost of her tour wardrobe are not surprising (£1,500 a week!). Little did anyone know that Kate would spend far more than that on a single outfit.

Covering Diana's 'sensational' fashions during her April 1985 tour of Italy, the 'inaccurate' estimates for the cost the (17 day) tour wardrobe have increased  to £100,000. Each tour stop outfit is discussed in detail, along with appropriateness of it and whether or not she had worn it before. The date for one tour stop, May 2, 1985 is particularly poignant given that her granddaughter Princess Charlotte would be born on that day 30 years later. At the very end of the book there are some charming photographs of the prince and princess with William and baby Harry aboard the Britannia.

Diana Princess of Wales: The Book of Fashion

Out of the three books, this one has the most photographs and the most details. At the very end you will find an detailed list of each outfit Diana wore from the day her engagement was announced to October 1983. Interspersed amongst the photographs are charming bits of information. For instance, Diana had 'springs' sewn into the brims of her hats to keep them on. During one event on the Canadian tour, Diana's plain-clothed police woman detective, kept her gun down the front of her dress. Photographs of Diana with clenched fists are not 'a sign of frustrated anger,' but to cover her fingernail biting habit. Also, Diana celebrated her 22nd birthday in Canada and amongst her gifts was a 30lb piece of iceberg, which the princess was said to be 'delighted with.' 

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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 01, 2015

Royal Review: Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace

When I found out about this exhibit, I immediately put in on my list of must see things to do while I am in London. Having now visited it I can say that I am thoroughly disappointed. 

Covering royal fashion from the 1950s to the 1980s, the dresses featured in the exhibit were worn by The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales. I think the thing that most disappointed me about the exhibit is the amount of dresses featured, which I think amounted to 20. Having reached the end, I asked whether there were any other dresses and I was told that was it! 

I would think that few people would consider the present Queen to be a style icon. At least not in comparison to her sister, Princess Margaret. The Queen has her style moments but for the most part has played it safe throughout her life. Looking at her hairstyle, it has barely changed; short with petalled curls. The Queen has favoured the same designers, Hardy Amies, Norman Hartnell, whose work is on display here. Her dresses are made from the best fabrics, with ornate embroidery and beading and the workmanship is truly something to behold. 

Princess Margaret could afford to be more bold in her clothing choices, but other than one dress with a kaftan and turban, I did not see that reflected in the exhibit. Whether through lack of availability or permission to display them, I think this is a shame. It would have been nice to get a better sense of Princess Margaret's style choices.

Diana's dresses are at the end and mainly cover the mid-eighties to early nineties. Unlike the Queen, Diana did not play it safe with one designer and the dresses displayed include work by Zandra Rhodes, Jacques Azagury and Catherine Walker, whose work she favoured towards the end of her life. The dresses featured are from Diana's 1997 dress auction, which have changed hands since that point. I'm not certain if the Royal collection actually owns these dresses or not but if so, it is at least nice to have her reflected in the exhibit. Here are some photographs I took during my visit.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Royal Book Challenge: To tread on Royal toes by Ray Bellisario

Published 1972
140 Pages

I ordered this book (from Australia) to do research on how the paparazzi works. To tread on Royal toes did not disappoint in that respect. Ray Bellesarrio, dubbed the first paparazzo, has been alternatively known as 'The Peeping Tom the Royals dread,' 'notorious unofficial royal photographer,' 'Hammer of the House of Windsor,' or, as Princess Margaret referred to him: 'that bloody Bellisario!'

Ray Bellisario began photographing the royals at the age of 18 and continued doing so for three decades. To tread on Royal toes features 120 photographs of the royal family both on duty and off. He found himself in trouble over his candid pictures of the royals in bathing suits, waterskiing and on honeymoon. However, what was novel then is tame by comparison now. Through it all Bellisario remains defiant, delighting in infuriating the royals and palace officials. He also takes particular glee in taking swipes at another well known royal photographer, Lord Snowdon.

After To tread on Royal toes was published, Bellisario sent a specially bound copy to the Queen. It was returned with a note 'Her Majesty does not wish to accept the book and it is therefore being returned herewith.'  Little did she know the paparazzi would only get worse.

Bellisario auctioned his entire photographic archives in 2013 to raise money for his charity, Reach for Rights. Some of his royal photos can be seen here.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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 29, 2015

Royal Book Challenge: Royal Service by Stephen P. Barry

Published 1983
246 Pages

In the canon of royal tell-alls written by former staff members, Royal Service is rather tame. I would even go as far as to say it is somewhat dull.

Stephen P. Barry served as a valet to Prince Charles for 12 years. Published in 1983, Royal Service recounts his travels with the prince, maintaining his wardrobe, and looking after his day to day needs. 1970s era Prince Charles does not smoke, drink, go wild parties and hates chocolate pudding with nuts. He also loves polo, fishing, opera, a particular brand of honey and he is dedicated to his work (clearly very little has changed in 32 years). With so little material to work with, there are no scandals or juicy revelations that would make Royal Service more compelling to read. It reminded me of another, more famous royal tell-all, The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford, in both tone and old-fashioned level of discretion.

It is only when Barry delves into the princes personal relationships that things become somewhat more interesting. He writes about his friendships with Lady Tyron and Camilla Parker Bowles, and his various royal girlfriends, including Diana. Although Barry departed royal service after Charles and Diana married, he tries to make clear that his departure was voluntary and amicable. Barry was obviously fond of the prince, saying very little negative about him or any other member of the royal family. Although he portrays Diana positively, some of his anecdotes leave me with the impression that he was being diplomatic.

Barry followed up Royal Service with Royal Secrets: The View from Downstairs in 1985 (which I do not own and have not read). He died in in London in 1986 at the age of 37, reportedly from AIDS.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Royal Book Challenge: In Public View The Nation's Snapshots of The Royal Family

Published 1984
200 Pages

For a as long as the camera has been in existence, members of the public have taken photographs of the royal family. This book, published in 1984, harks back to a bygone era before selfies and delete buttons, where cameras used rolls of film instead of memory cards. When the roll came to an end, you needed to wind it while it was still in the camera, remove the roll, get into your car and drop it off at a store. Then, on top of all of that, you needed to wait a week for the film to be developed! Then you had to get back in your car and pick up the photos, wondering whether any of them had turned out. No doubt a suspenseful experience for people taking photographs of the royal family. How would this once in a lifetime moment turn out? Blurry? Fuzzy? Would your finger photo-bomb? Or would you have a proud photograph you could later submit for publication in this book?

In Public View - The Nation's Snapshots of The Royal Family, published in a association with The Sunday People features photographs by hundreds of amateur photographers capturing these special moments from the reign of King George V to members of the royal family circa 1984 - The Queen and Prince Philip, The Queen Mother, Charles and Diana, Princess Margaret, Princess Alexandra, Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Prince and Princess Michael, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips as well as a few of Lord Louis Mountbatten.  There is no special lighting, posing or flattering camera angles. They capture happy interactions with the public and there are even photos of Princess Anne smiling!

Click on this link to purchase  In Public View: Nation's Album of the Royal Family

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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 23, 2015

29 years ago today...A look back at Andrew and Sarah's wedding

There was such hope. A young couple so clearly in love.

I was 14 at the time of their engagement and I remember being very disappointed when I heard about it. I wondered, why hadn't he waited for me? What prince would I marry now?

This was the first royal wedding I had paid attention to. Charles and Diana's wedding was not on my radar in 1981 and I had a vague recollection of wondering what all of the fuss was about. Fast forward 5 years and I found myself staying up all night so that I could watch the wedding procession and ceremony. I even video-taped it so I could watch it again later.

Sarah was lovely. I was envious of her curly red hair but not the floral headdress she wore when she entered Westminster Abbey. I preferred the tiara she wore when she left. Little realizing the symbolism of the change. As Sarah herself stated:  'I had stepped up as the country girl; I would walk back as a princess.'

Her happiness was evident as she walked up the aisle, smiling and joking with her father. The creamy beauty of her wedding dress in its glory, holding her unusual 'S' shaped bouquet. There were charming moments during the ceremony, like Sarah mixing up the order of Andrew's names. And not so charming moments watching 4 year old Prince William, who served as a page boy, misbehaving with his cousin Laura Fellowes.

I watched as the royal couple and their attendants returned to Buckingham Palace. Leaving his carriage, Prince William affectionately greeted Prince Andrew. Here was a side of the royal family not normally shown to the world. Later on, as the couple departed for their honeymoon, Prince William ran towards the carriage and the Queen sprinted to stop him.  How many times have we seen the Queen run like that?

Here was a royal marriage that would last. Or so all of us thought at the time. After their divorce they have continued to live together and they seem comfortable and relaxed in each other's company. A part of me still hopes that they will get together again. Time will tell.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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 22, 2015

Happy Birthday, Prince George! Let's help him celebrate by leaving him alone

Hard to believe is was not that long ago that I stood in the Ottawa's Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, refreshing my twitter feed on my phone for updates about William and Kate's baby. Finally receiving the news that George had arrived and rushing out to the local drugstore for newspapers and magazines lauding his arrival. As he was overdue, I had brought my laptop with me on vacation but because there was no free Wi-Fi in the hotel I was staying at, it was very frustrating to not be able to blog about it as much as I would have liked. First world problems.

It has been two years of celebrating every rare public appearance, noting his outfits and his reaction to the birth of his younger sister, Princess Charlotte. By appearances he seems to be a regular toddler, taking joy in playing in the park with his mother or attending royal events such as Trooping the Color and his sister's christening, for the most part unaware of his extraordinary circumstances and predetermined role in royal history.

By the expression on his face in the photo above, I get the sense he is on the cusp of understanding he is of interest to others.  He may not be able to put it into words but I see it in his eyes. The wariness to strangers is multiplied by a million in his case. Every parent tries to protect their child from harm and his are no different. People complain that his parents don't release enough photos of him or that he is not seen in public enough. Paparazzi photos are slowly appearing, with the focus on what he is wearing instead of the obvious invasiveness. With the growing, apparently insatiable interest, I can't say I blame William and Kate for trying to shield their children to the best of their ability.

So happy birthday little prince, here's hoping the public allows you and your sister, to have a carefree and normal childhood.

Though somehow I doubt it.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

Royal Book Challenge: Alice - Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers

Book 62/500
Alice - Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers
477 Pages
Published 2000
ISBN: 0312302398

Born Princess Alice of Battenberg, she was the daughter of Victoria Marchioness of Milford Haven, sister of Queen Louise of Sweden  and a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Considered one of the most beautiful royals of her time, Princess Alice could have attempted to rely on her royal title to carry her through life. Instead, inspired by her aunt, Grand Duchess Ella, she chose to help those in greatest need, courageously hiding a Jewish family during the war and founding her own religious order. She faced uncertainty, tragedy, enforced exile, mental illness and the threat of her husband, Prince Andrew of Greece's execution. Along the way she had five children, four girls and one boy - the present Duke of Edinburgh.

Her life story tends to be defined by little more than her deafness, mental illness, eccentric habits and connection to others. Alice - Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers, provides a more well rounded picture of this fascinating, courageous and remarkable woman.

Click on the title to purchase Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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, July 19, 2015

Keep Calm, the Queen's track record speaks for itself

20 seconds of eight decade old film. You would think everything the Queen had accomplished in her lifetime would come crashing down as a result of it.

Truth be told, to our modern eyes, The Sun's footage featuring the seven year old Princess Elizabeth, her mother, the Duchess of York, Princess Margaret and their Uncle David, the future King Edward VIII, performing the Nazi salute is shocking.  Given what we know about Uncle David, it is no surprise. It is surprising and riveting to see the future Queen doing so. No doubt about it.

Buckingham Palace was quick to issue a statement in her defense. Tweets and articles defending the Queen followed suit, along with more politically correct wartime images to counter it. As if it would change anything.

The Queen's was a child in the footage and holding her to account for it is absurd. No one in their right mind would countenance the thought. The Sun itself recognizes this.

The next time someone rushes to defend her, they would be wise to remember that 20 seconds of old footage does not negate the Queen's unquestionable lifetime of dedicated service.

Come what may, her track record will always speak for itself.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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 17, 2015

Royal Book Challenge: Five Gold Rings - A Royal Wedding Souvenir Album

Five Gold Rings: A Royal Wedding Souvenir Album from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II
Published 2007
120 Pages

Next to royal jewels, one of my favorite subjects is royal weddings. In all honesty, I can't get enough of them. The beautiful wedding dresses, the flowers, the jewels, the official photographs, the sense of optimism for the newlyweds and the true pageantry is stunning.

Five Gold Rings was published to mark the Diamond wedding wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip and it accompanied the exhibit at Buckingham Palace, which no doubt would have provided lots of eye candy for royal watchers. For people like me, who cannot make it to the exhibits, I am grateful the Royal Collection publishes books such as this with highlights.

I have several books about royal weddings in my collection, but I would have to say that this is my favorite. Spanning 107 years of royal wedding history, it features 275 illustrations from five royal weddings: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (1840), King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra (1863), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (1923) and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip (1947).

Inside the book is a veritable feast of royal wedding lace, jewels, fashions, menus, diary entries, china, wedding gifts, pieces of wedding cake, letters, souvenirs, list of hymns from each royal wedding and some surprisingly sentimental items such as pressed roses the future King Edward VII received from his fiancĂ©e the day of their engagement. The highlights are the close up images of royal jewels as well as royal wedding dresses.

Out of all of these weddings, my favorites are Prince George, Duke of York and Princess May of Teck. I love Victorian fashion and everything about the era. Their successful marriage of a reserved couple brought together by the death of Princess May's original fiancĂ© and Prince George's older brother, Prince Albert Victor.

I also love the details from the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip. A beautiful bride and heiress to the throne, with her stunningly handsome groom, provided a much needed moment of glamour so soon after the war. I don't think the Queen has ever looked lovelier than on her wedding day. Lady Diana, Sarah Ferguson and Kate Middleton have nothing on her.

Five Gold Rings is a fantastic book and a must have for anyone interested in the subject.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Let's try this again - The Royal Book Challenge!

A few years ago I made a crazy New Years resolution to read every book in my royal collection, cover to cover, then write a blog post it. As with many new years resolutions, it fell by the wayside as I struggled to keep up. It was harder than I thought. Not that it stopped me from collecting more royal books! Since the resolution was made I think I have added another 100. Including the ones I have already read and reviewed (but not labeled as part of the challenge) I think I made it to 60 of 500 books.

Now, I have decided to revive the goal again to give myself something to blog about between major news stories. I can't guarantee I will be able to do it on a weekly basis, but I will try to work ahead so that it doesn't become overwhelming or compete with real world commitments.

I hope you enjoy an overview of each of my royal books and maybe even find something you enjoy enough to add to your own royal book collection.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

Royal Review: The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Published 2015
454 Pages

Based on the premise of The Royal We, one could be forgiven for presuming it is a fictional retelling of William and Kate's relationship. It definitely meets the criteria:

Checked box symbol A Prince (Nick) meets an American commoner (Rebecca Porter/Bex) at university/predictably breakup/make each other jealous while apart/inevitably get back together

Checked box symbol Prince Nick has a younger, sexy brother (Prince Freddie) with ginger hair who likes to party

Checked box symbol Bex has a sister (Lacey) who basks in her sister's limelight

Checked box symbol Bex comes from a self-made family which includes an ambitious mother

Checked box symbol Prince Nick has commitment issues due to what happened to his mother at the hands of the royal family and the press

Checked box symbol Prince Nick gives Bex a royal heirloom engagement ring last worn by his tragic mother

Checked box symbol Bex has numerous fashion blogs devoted to her appearance

Checked box symbol Most predicable of all, because every single fictional royal novel includes emotionally distant royals who disapprove of situations beyond their control. Despite changing the names of the main characters and creating a different royal house, the dynamic is still there.

The beginning of The Royal We finds the bride-to-be, Bex, at The Goring Hotel the night before the royal wedding. Given all of the similarities, it would be obvious to assume that there will be a happily ever after, right? Not necessarily.

Before we can get to Westminster Abbey, we need to get the similarities out of the way. This takes longer than expected as first we need to cover the predicable courtship and breakup, which lasts far longer than William and Kate's. Once they predictably break up, readers are led on a journey which include Bex partying and flirting with guys who could jeopardize her future. After Nick proposes, he ships off to sea, leaving Bex to fend for herself in regal  'shark infested waters.' Predictably, the pressure gets to her and she starts to feel sorry for herself after reading nasty stories on a website called The Royal Flush.  Although unrelenting at times, the pithy remarks from loyal friends provide welcome comic relief along the way.

It is only towards the end of the book - Part Five - where the story deviates from the predictability and becomes a page turner. I literally could not put it down. I think that the suspense of the twist could have been alluded to earlier and drawn out more. As it stands, the twist feels as though it has been dumped in the readers lap without preliminary. The Royal We ends just as the resulting conflict was starting to get unpredictably interesting.

If you have followed William and Kate's relationship from the beginning you will feel as though you have already read the majority of this book. Although fun and light, it is only when The Royal We finally deviates from the similarities and predictability that it becomes a compelling read.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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.