Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 royal news can best be illustrated by the following GIF...

Gosh it has been a long time since I updated this blog. So much so that I even forgot my login information.


Yes I have been neglectful of my royal blog. I am currently a full-time student and well, for whatever crazy reason, have decided to focus on my studies. Good grades? What's up with that?

With a short Christmas break between semesters, I have decided to end 2016 with a blog post. Although I have been focusing on my studies, I still find the time to check twitter to keep up to date with what is going on in the royal world. 2016 did not disappoint as it has been filled with a variety of stories that can best be illustrated by the following GIF. Good heavens, it hurts just to look at it.


In no particular order:

Why does Kate wear plasters on her fingers - Have we finally run out of topics that we need to write an article about this? Honestly, it is amazing that plasters (otherwise known as Bandaids) haven't sold out yet. That people have not written articles detailing different plaster styles and how Kate has made them cool in some way. How wearing them humanizes her and we can relate to her more because she bleeds just like us! Who would have thought?

William and Kate are lazy - One of several types of articles that rears its head throughout the year. Emboldened by numbers it is a favorite topic on twitter for royal watchers to discuss ad nauseam and come to no particular resolution other than to agree to disagree.

I personally feel that William and Kate did increase their royal duties, taking on high profile visits to India, Bhutan and Canada. Even if people disagree with the numbers. In any rate, Kate must be doing something right because she has upped her fashion game and her wardrobe was more expensive this year.

Prince Harry's year was notable for his work with the Invictus games, tour of the Caribbean and promoting HIV awareness in South Africa. He even found time to make Rhianna pregnant despite confirming his relationship with actress Meghan Markle and *gasp* daring to ask for people to respect her privacy. Engagement speculation inevitably ensued. According to this article, they could be engaged before 2017. With one day left in 2016 anything is possible. Can Harry and Meghan survive this onslaught of media attention? We will find out in 2017 or, if Harry is follows William's example, 2026.

Not to be outdone, Prince Andrew released a statement setting the record straight about his daughters, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie and reported family rifts. According to various royal commentators, he just made things worse when should have just left 'well enough alone.' Geez, can't a father defend his daughters? Apparently not!

As many royal watchers know, 2016 has ended on a sad note. Zara Phillips suffered a miscarriage. The Queen reminded us of her mortality and age by handing off some duties to Charles and giving up a handful of her charities. Most worrisome for the media and public the Queen and Prince Philip are both suffering from colds. Cue the obituary articles.

2017 looks to be a year of the media chasing royal ambulances, potential future wives away, pregnancy rumours, more significant milestones and endless twitter discussions about William and Kate's lackluster workload.

Barring any major royal tragedy, I predict we will begin 2018 on the same note.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

 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 14, 2016

Be afraid of Princess Charlotte, be very afraid

No official confirmation but some media outlets are reporting that Prince George and Princess Charlotte will indeed accompany their parents on their tour of Canada next month. At present, the true reason for this tour seems to be unclear. However, there have been rumbling there might be a bigger purpose to George and Charlotte's arrival than first thought. A recent poll suggests that Canadian's are divided over the future of the monarchy once the Queen goes to that palatial country house in the sky.

Oh, what to do?

In 2014 Prince George went to Australia and New Zealand with his parents and reportedly did wonders slaying the republican movement. What better way to reduce pesky anti-monarchy sentiment in Canada than by utilizing their latest adorable republican slayer.

Upon Charlotte's arrival the doubting Canadians will be rendered utterly powerless as they fall under her spell. Critical thinking skills will go by the wayside. Republic? What republic? For the duration of the royal tour, doubters will frolic through the Canadian wilderness in an ether of royal nostalgia wearing standard issue Princess Charlotte limited edition rose colored glasses that are mandatory apparel for any royal charm offensive tour. Now that the spell has worn off, Australians are selling their own Prince George versions on eBay. (Update: Too late they've sold out!)

Charlotte is cute so resistance will be futile. Unfortunately for the royals, the effects are not permanent.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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 29, 2016

Has anyone been pregnant more often than Kate?

Other than Jennifer Aniston and Gwen Stefani, has any woman in the public eye been pregnant more often than Kate? If Kate had been pregnant as many times as 'reported' she would have 10 children by now. Maybe even more if you count any rumours prior to their engagement.

I was in London when they married and recall watching a Royal correspondent on television who said "soon two will become three". The ink was barely dry on the wedding register and there was already speculation about when they would get pregnant!

Kate is rumoured to want another baby. Will the tabloids stop with these stories after the third baby? How about a fourth? I guess it is better for them to write about pregnancies instead of their other favourite topic. Divorce.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

 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 28, 2016

A Brief History of Royal families in Canada

Whenever William and Catherine head out on tour one of the first questions royal watchers want answered is whether Prince George and Princess Charlotte will accompany them. Since they took George on their 2014 tour of Australia and New Zealand a precedent has been set for the family. Now, instead of assuming the children will stay home, people are more likely to expect them to join their parents.

Although the excitement is understandable, royal tour itineraries are said to be demanding and grueling for all those involved. Something hard not only on adults but small children too. It is possibly for this reason that royal parents wait until their children are much older to bring them along.

Duke and Duchess of Connaught and Princess Patricia in Canada, 1912

The earliest British royal parent and child arrival in Canada occurred in 1911. Queen Victoria's favorite son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught arrived with his wife and their popular daughter, twenty-five year old Princess Patricia to be sworn in as the tenth Governor General of Canada. The family resided at Rideau Hall from 1911-1916. Princess Patricia was popular with the public and her portrait appeared on a Dominion of Canada one-dollar note in 1917.  Princess Patricia's association with Canada continues through The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry.

During his tenure as Governor General of Canada, Lord Athlone and his wife, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone welcomed various members of foreign royal families with children seeking refuge during the Second World War. Amongst these visitors were their own grandchildren, Richard, Elizabeth and Anne Abel-Smith. In 1954 Canada welcomed a visit from the Duchess of Kent and her daughter, Princess Alexandra.

It would not be until the 1970s that Canada would see another visit including parents and children. Between 1970 and 1978, during four official visits, the Queen was accompanied at various times by Prince Charles and Princess Anne (1970, 1971) and Prince Andrew and Prince Edward travelled with their parents in 1978.  In 1976, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew (aged 16) and Prince Edward (aged 12) travelled to Canada during an official visit to watch Princess Anne compete in the Montreal Olympics.

In July 1981, three generations of the royal family were in Toronto at the same time. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret's separate visits intersected in Toronto. Princess Margaret and her daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones, were photographed with the Queen Mother prior to a dinner she was attending at the Royal York Hotel.

The arrival as a family would not be repeated until Charles, Diana, William (age 9) and Harry (age 7) visited Ontario in 1991. To date, Prince Harry is the youngest British royal to visit Canada.

In 1998, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry would visit Canada on a private holiday in Whistler British Columbia. The last time the royals have visited as a family.

Not counting Prince Andrew in utero during the Queen's 1959 Canadian tour, should Prince George and Princess Charlotte accompany their parents this Fall, Princess Charlotte (aged around 18 months by that point) will become the youngest British royal to step foot on Canadian soil.


The Government of Canada Canadian Heritage Website
Canada's Queen: Elizabeth II: A Celebration of Her Majesty's Friendship with the People of Canada
Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family in Canada: Golden Jubilee Edition
Royal Canada
Young Royals on Tour: William & Catherine in Canada
Royal Tours 1786-2010: Home to Canada

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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 27, 2016

Get your selfie sticks ready, William and Catherine are coming to Canada

Have you heard the news? William and Catherine are coming to Canada again, in Fall 2016 (or Autumn as the Brits would call it).

Yes, once again we will welcome members of the royal family to our fine country. So far it has been officially announced that the Cambridges are visiting British Columbia and the Yukon territory, locales they missed during their last visit. No doubt to the chagrin of the other provinces and territories who are wondering what on earth they did wrong during their last visit in 2011. Is it something we said?  Don't worry, Stephen Harper is gone now. In his place is Justin Trudeau, a telegenic politician only too happy to take selfies and make a good impression. 

Many many royal watchers are hoping George and Charlotte come along. No doubt Trudeau is too. With three children of his own, it could possibly become the most expensive playdate in Canadian history. But just think about how wonderful the photos will be!

Forgive me if I am cynical about this. Looking at their recent tour of India and Bhutan, which appeared to be nothing more than a fashion show and photo opportunity. If this particular tour is meant to serve any purpose it will be overshadowed by coverage of Catherine's clothes and accessories. Whatever cause or small town it is meant to highlight and booster will be quickly forgotten. I fear that this visit will become nothing more than a fashion show we will have to pay for. William and Catherine will watch as we smile and wave, acting like we are grateful for the privilege of doing so.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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 20, 2016

Media media go away, come back on Pippa's wedding day

Huzzah Pippa Middleton, the one with the famous rear-end, the one that royal watchers enjoy denigrating at every turn for her unsuccessful endeavors and lack of career goals, the one people can't seem to move on from, no matter how hard they might haphazardly try, is engaged to be married to Hedge-Fund beau with a tragic past, James Matthews.

Snooze you lose, Harry!

Even when the engagement was just an unfounded rumor, the speculation began...

Will Prince Harry or the Queen attend the wedding?
Will George and Charlotte be part of the wedding party?
Is Pippa's gigantic engagement ring bigger and more valuable than Kate's haunted engagement ring?
What type of dress will Pippa wear?
Will there be photos of the big day in Hello!? (Pippa, answer the door. They're outside as we speak)

The breathless speculative questions are endless. It's as if she is royal and this is of some sort of significance. Unless she is marrying Prince Harry (even then), it isn't headline news. Especially not when there are greater things to focus on. Like how Larry, 'Chief Mouser' of Downing Street is doing after things came to a vicious head with Palmerston, the Foreign office's Chief Mouser.

Riveting stuff. Have we already run out of legitimate news stories?

The wedding is reportedly set for August 2017. I predict we will be treated to a blow by blow of what her dress might look like, her flowers, cake and venue options to choose from, maybe even a mashup of what her future children's faces will look like. No doubt we will also see a geological diagram of just how distantly related the engaged couple are and how they are both related to a long dead royal. How DO genealogists do it?

I understand that there is interest in what she does, I get being happy for someone (even if you don't know that someone personally). I get wanting to share good news when it seems there is so little of it at the moment. But enough with the daily Pippa updates. Is it too much to ask to leave her alone until her wedding day?

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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 18, 2016

To curtsy or not to curtsy? There should be no question

In case you missed the tag line for my blog, I'm not a monarchist. I don't believe that the royals are better than me. For all of my fascination, I disagree with the monarchy on principle. I don't think privilege by birthright has any place in this day and age, particularly when it comes to the position of Head of State.

When it comes to royal protocol, few things irk me more than the idea that people should bow and curtsy to the royals. Some view it as a mark of respect, particularly with the Queen. While I can appreciate showing respect, you should not have to diminish yourself in the process. To me, bending at the knee is demeaning. It may be a personal choice but there is something incredibly absurd when I see someone other than a poesy wielding child doing so. Unlike an adult, the small child doesn't know any better.

While the royals are said to be flexible when it comes to bowing/curtsying, (but not when it comes to their own family members. I guess someone has to show the world how it is done), curtsying is viewed as default etiquette. It may no longer be expected but it has become such a ubiquitous tradition that to do otherwise is viewed as a sign of disrespect.

Woe-betide those who don't. The media gleefully gets in on the act when a republican is placed into a position where they can (literally) be brought to heel. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not kneel before the Queen. Cherie Blair, wife of former UK PM Tony Blair, was criticized for not curtsying.When former Australian PM Julia Gillard chose to bow instead, it was viewed as 'rude and impolite' and she was put into a position where she had to defend her choice. The newest UK Prime Minister Theresa May chose to curtsy to the Queen (and kissed the Royal hand). When in Rome. However I believe that if Theresa May hadn't done either she would have been roasted in the media like Julia Gillard and Cherie Blair. So much for respecting personal choice.

 I hope for the day when obsequious bows and curtsys will be relegated to the past. When people can meet the Queen (or any other member of the royal family) with a firm handshake (like Angela Merkel above), human being to human being, neither one raised or diminished in the process. That is the ultimate form of respect.

No question about it.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

 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 14, 2016

Maybe there is hope for the young royals just yet..

In the last few years it seems that the royals have become nothing more than fodder for celebrity magazines and fashion blogs. The royals are in a high profile position to make a difference in the charities they support, yet many times that effort is overshadowed by the focus on what Kate is wearing. Once the royal visit is over we will know more about Kate's accessories and where to buy them than the purpose of the visit. At times, it seems like a wasted opportunity.

The Cambridge's have taken a lot of flak for their work ethic. Some of this criticism is warranted. As the Queen and Prince Philip get older and Charles and Camilla take on more responsibilities, it stands to reason that all hands should be on deck. Yet many times it doesn't seem to be the case and the free pass the Cambridge's received at their wedding is one that should have expired two years ago. The Cambridge's were becoming known more for what they didn't do.

But the signs are good that this is about to change. William, Kate and Harry have joined forces to end the stigma surrounding mental health. William has been vocal in condemning bullying and homophobia, becoming the first royal to appear on the cover of Attitude, a UK gay magazine.

Harry in particular has emerged as a superstar with the charisma of his mother and dedication to some of her causes, including her work in the fight against AIDS. One of the most memorable moments in Diana's royal life occurred in 1987 when she shook an HIV positive patient's hand without wearing gloves. Doing her part in breaking the stigma that AIDS can be spread by hand to hand contact.

Today Harry had his own memorable moment when he took an HIV test streamed live on social media. In attempting to reduce the stigma of HIV testing, Harry put his own reputation on the line had his test turned out to be positive. I can only imagine the media field day that would have ensued as a result of that. Diana would have been proud of him regardless.

In taking a stand on bullying, homophobia, AIDs and mental health, William, Kate and Harry are charting a new course in how to be royal. Showing the public the potential for what the royals can do instead of what they don't do.

Maybe there is hope for the young royals just yet.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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, June 15, 2016

Royal Profile: Cornelia James

What do the Queen, Madonna and characters from Star Wars have in common? They have all worn gloves by Cornelia James.

Cornelia James was born Cornelia Katz on March 11, 1917 in Vienna. The eldest of seven children born to Jewish parents. She studied at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts (the same college that turned down Adolf Hitler). In 1939, as the Nazi's approached, Cornelia fled first to Paris then to England with the clothes on her back and a suitcase full of colored leather. She supported herself by scrubbing floors and during the Second World War she put her knowledge of art and design to good use as an occupational therapist teaching glove-making to wounded soldiers.

She founded her high end glove-making company in 1946 and came to the attention of royal family designer, Norman Hartnell. Her relationship with the royal family began in 1947 after Hartnell asked her to make the gloves for Princess Elizabeth's wedding and going away outfits. In 1979, Cornelia James' company was awarded the Royal Warrant as glove-maker to the Queen. An accolade the company still holds. Along with the Queen, royal clients include the late Queen Mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, Princess Anne, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Beatrice, Lady Helen Taylor and the Empress of Japan. Other non-royal clients include Kate Moss, Taylor Swift, Rhianna, Madonna. The company has also designed gloves for theatre, film and television productions such as Downton Abbey, Mamma Mia, Wicked, Moulin Rouge, Pride and Prejudice and Australia.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s there was a shortage of colored fabrics so she dyed her own gloves in over 100 different colors. In 1956 she was christened 'The Color Queen of England' by the fashion accessories industry. She was a member of the National Association of Glove Manufacturers and the Worshipful Company of Glovers. In 1989 she received the Freedom of the City of London. Active in various charities, she donated gloves and scarves for charity events in Hove and Sussex. At the peak of her career in the 1950s Cornelia James had 500 people working at her Brighton factory. As the popularity of gloves waned, company branched out into other fashion items. The company now has three sewers working with her daughter Genevieve and her husband Andrew Lawson to make luxury gloves and fashion accessories known for their handmade high quality.

Affectionately known as "Nellie,' she loved entertaining and was a perfect hostess. Cornelia married Jack Burnett James in 1940, six weeks after they met. They had two children, Peter, a bestselling writer of crime fiction whose characters frequently wear Cornelia James gloves. Her daughter Genevieve Lawson, continues to run the company their mother built. Her husband James died in 1986. Cornelia died in Hove, East Sussex on December 10, 1999.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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.


The Independent: Cornelia James Obituary
Cornelia James - About us
Fashion Model directory - Designers Cornelia James
New York Times - Gloves fit for a Queen
The Telegraph: Royal glove-maker - Those gloves take a beating'
Mother Love - Peter James and his mother Cornelia James
Cornelia James - Wikipedia
The Royal Shopping Guide by Nina Grunfeld,1984

Friday, April 22, 2016

Royal Review: Elizabeth at 90 - A Family Tribute

Elizabeth at 90 is a special tribute to Queen Elizabeth on her 90th birthday. Featuring rarely seen footage of the Queen through her childhood to being a young mother and monarch, Elizabeth at 90 provides a personal glimpse of the Queen through her family. Various members of the royal family contributed to the special, including the Prince of Wales, Prince William, Prince Harry, Lady Sarah Chatto, the Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra, Queen Margarethe of Denmark, the Queen's first cousin, Margaret Rhodes and most significantly, the Queen herself. In her entire reign, she has never given an interview, so it is a rare treat to listen to her asides about the footage.

A very enjoyable special. Make sure you enjoy it while it is still online!

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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, April 21, 2016

A Royal Birthday is like Christmas for fans and critics alike

Happy 90th Birthday Your Majesty!

On par with royal weddings, births and deaths, a significant birthday is like Christmas for fans and critics alike. The perfect occasion for royal correspondents and armchair royal experts to provide best wishes and uncritical commentary. For critics it is a valuable opportunity to get their point across on a high profile scale. For politicians a chance to provide loyal addresses to be quoted in future. In between the saccharine greetings and parade raining tweets, I would like to take a moment to reflect on this occasion.

Along with holding records for the longest reign and marriage, she also holds the record for oldest British monarch. Today she has become the first monarch to ever reach the age of 90. At this rate, if she keeps going, she will be sending herself a 100th birthday card. The Queen can comfortably rest on these laurels, safe in the knowledge that no one will ever come close to surpassing her. To the Queen it seems to be business as usual. Unveiling plaques, lighting beacons and cutting cakes is just another day at the office for her. When she surpassed Queen Victoria, she put the occasion into perspective:

"Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones - my own is no exception - but I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness."

The Queen will no doubt express the same sentiment today and people will laud her all the more for it. With her unquestioned dedication, the Queen has more than earned the respect she is given. No matter how valid their opinions may be, critics cannot dampen the Queen's universal appeal without making themselves look bad. As the Queen well knows, it is easy to get caught up in the occasion. Best to wait until the hyperbole has died down before making a comment that won't fall on deaf ears.

Unless you want your message to get drowned out, today, (April 21, 2016) is not the day to talk about how the monarchy is wrong in principle and has no place in the modern age. How undemocratic the system is and how there is no guarantee that the monarchy is safe and secure for the foreseeable future. Be patient and wait until the bunting has cleared. Your time will come.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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 12, 2016

The enduring fascination with Catherine Cambridge's skirt

Never in the history of royal watching have we ever been so fascinated by another woman's skirt. Yes, we talk about the length and color of Catherine's clothes, marveling when the outfits sell out. We also discuss what we seen/don't see when said skirt get blown up in the wind. As was the case with Catherine as she stood with Prince William at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the war memorial in New Delhi.

*Clutches pearls*

Catherine's skirt has blown up! Let's write articles and dissect the moment. Let's keep a running tally while we're at it. Use it as another example of Catherine's seeming stubborn refusal to invest in wind defying skirts that are chic, affordable and stylish for the rest of us. Why can't she weigh her hems down? Is she an exhibitionist? Let's speculate on that too. Forget the purpose of the solemn moment or the visit in general. It all boils down to how Catherine looks and what she is wearing. That's a completely different article altogether.

Were it any other woman: mother, daughter, sister, close friend, co-worker, we would likely be sympathetic. It happens to the best of us at some point, no? We would not dare to make comments on a public forum when it comes to those closest to us. That would be inappropriate and bitchy. There is no way to positively spin shaming another woman. No way. There is nothing constructive about it, it does not add value and doing so will not lead to the greater good of women everywhere. As a matter of fact it will to the opposite.

So the next time another woman has a public wardrobe malfunction, show some respect. You will be grateful for that response when it happens to you.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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 24, 2016

Royal Review: Pocket Giants - Queen Elizabeth II by Victoria Arbiter

Picture it. You find yourself on in a life or death situation where you have no access to Wikipedia and need to know everything there is to know about Queen Elizabeth II to ensure your survival. (Yes, it could happen).

Sure you could wade through the latest tabloid or the dozens of biographies of Queen Elizabeth II, some with varying degrees of factual accuracy, but that would be a waste of precious time. No. You need a solution. Stat!

Enter Queen Elizabeth II (pocket GIANTS) by noted royal commentator, Victoria Arbiter. Published by History Press, Pocket Giants is a series of 128-page short biographies of notable individuals including John Paul II, Henry V, Winston Churchill, John Lennon, Nelson Mandela, Henry Ford, Buddha and many more. It was only a matter of time before the well respected Queen Elizabeth II joined the ranks.

It is a challenge to condense the life of someone who has lived as long as the Queen has. While we may have glimpses of her officially, we will never truly know what makes her tick on a personal level. The Queen's life, from her birth to the present day has largely been distilled for the public by unofficial biographers. As the author herself writes: 'her likes, dislikes, opinions and political leanings can only be speculated upon'.

This biography is a condensed version of the Queen's life to date. If you follow her life in any detail, all of the significant moments are covered with no surprises or controversial revelations. My only criticism would be that the author spends too much time on the death of Diana. Diana's life deserves a Pocket Giant of its own - if it doesn't have one already. (Note to self: Pitch to History Press).

Queen Elizabeth II is a nice book to pass the time at airports and is chock full of information sure to impress your dinner guests. It may even save your life (but probably not).

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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 23, 2016

Royal Review: In Defense of the Princess by Jerramy Fine

Jerramy Fine has an unerring knack for provoking skeptical questions. Such as..

Did she really go to London to find her prince?

Can holding your fork the wrong way ruin your chances of finding happily ever after in London?

Is it possible to settle for just ONE eligible royal?

With her fourth book, In Defense of the Princess: How Plastic Tiaras and Fairytale Dreams Can Inspire Smart, Strong Women
she has done it again. Now the question is: Can fairy-tale dreams empower women? On the surface, it is easy to dismiss the question. According to the author, the princess dream is innate, since the beginning of time and should be celebrated. To do otherwise is to deny an crucial element deep down inside of yourself. Every woman, royal or not, can be a princess. Interwoven with examples of real and animated princesses it is easy to buy into it.

I liked Jerramy's previous books and I think she has a compelling and entertaining writing style. In Defense of the Princess, she tenaciously takes on the 'anti-princess brigade' with gusto. She makes detailed arguments for common criticisms associated with the princess phenomenon. Starting with the most prevalent criticism of all: Disney Princesses.

For some parents, the Disney princess is something to protect your child from. According to the author, if you peel back the marketing and downplay the negative aspects of their stories (Giving up your voice. Allowing yourself to be held captive. Running away from your problems and becoming a recluse) you will find progressive, resourceful women. As long as you focus on the positive elements your child could choose far worse role models. It is all in how you choose to look at it.

The message is spun relentlessly positive. Plastic tiaras are not just toys, they represent divinity, believing in fairy-tales is about embracing your truest self, acknowledging your inner princess is about aiming high and never settling for less than you deserve, princess-critics are people who have repressed their deepest fairytale desires. While the author makes compelling arguments, elements of them border on reaching.

If you are looking for permission to embrace your inner princess (along with arguments to defend yourself), you will definitely find it in this book. For naysayers, the verdict will still be out.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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 09, 2016

Well played William and Catherine, well played

Dear William and Catherine,

I must say I am flattered. You have taken a page from my previous post offering you advice on how to quell criticism and released photos of your family. William, you provided an aside about Charlotte (step 3) and now you have released adorable photos of the four of you on a skiing trip.

Goodness! at this rate you will spoil us.

There will be critics of this approach. Sure, sure it shows you on a skiing trip at a luxury resort most can only dream about going to. Some would even accuse you of neglecting your duties, work schedule and question whether you really want to be...OH LOOK BABIES!!

Bringing the kids along was a smart move. It is also a wise move that you chose to go to a cold luxury locale. You wouldn't want to make the commoners jealous seeing you in a luxury tropical locale, now would we? May I suggest for your next PR photo that you feature some kittens, stray dogs, an endangered animal?  Even an elderly person will do. Always good to cover ALL bases.

You did show a lot of nerve releasing these photos after you returned from your jaunt. How dare you want to vacation in private? Sheesh, William don't you know that everything you do is of public interest? Going forward, please provide all of us with a detailed itinerary of your meal times, bathroom breaks and what you are wearing.

Back to the photos. In the absence of anything else to do, this BEGS to be overanalyzed. In no particular order.

Playing in the snow

There are two other photos in this series. One looks like you are dancing in the snow. (Hey, some like it cold. Who am I to judge?) The other one, you are standing together looking away from the camera. Possibly at your kids playing with the nanny? You did bring the nanny with you, didn't you?

It is this one that caught my eye because both of you look so happy and relaxed and has the potential for controversy. Catherine is wearing the same skiing outfit from previous ski trips (You know, the one where you missed the 10th anniversary of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret's Memorial Service in 2012? Oh never mind). Anyways, you look like you enjoy each others company, at least during photo opportunities. However, Catherine is throwing snow at you. We could look upon this as a playful moment between the two of you. OR is Kate blinding you from the cost of her clothes bill? Safety experts could weigh in on the dangers of throwing snow. Oh the potential tabloid headlines!

William holding Charlotte

I have read some kvetching that you have never been photographed holding Charlotte. Not true, you held her in her car seat when you left the hospital with her. Isn't Charlotte just so adorable? Just like you once were! Adorbs! I smell a potential story about Charlotte's dental development too. Perfect for those slow news days.

The family of four

We've seen all four of you in Summer, Autumn and Winter. Now we just need a Spring photo.  All of you are looking at in the same direction. William, you must stop teaching George to look suspiciously at the cameras. Plenty of miserable looking people in your family already.

The family of four (again)

Seriously William? This pose is SO last Autumn!

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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, February 23, 2016

Behold! Top 10 solutions for William and Catherine's current publicity woes

Dear William and Catherine,

It must be difficult to watch as one media outlet after another gleefully roasts both of you. The honeymoon is clearly over, you are no longer the 15 year old boy who can play the Diana card to deflect. In all honesty, it was inevitable and it is only surprising it didn't happen sooner. As the old guard get even older, did you really think you could get away with playing at normal indefinitely? Truth be told, this was a long time in coming and you only have yourselves to blame for this turn of events.

What to do?

As we speak, your PR people are no doubt cowering in fear as you rage on, denying your role in this situation. Not conducive to finding a solution, now is it? Thankfully, I'm an armchair PR expert so I've come up with some solutions for you.

In no particular order:

  1. Deploy your children. Release pictures of George and Charlotte. Or more importantly Charlotte. We already know what George looks like. There is nothing like a picture of a rarely seen baby to distract from your willingness to be a future King.
  2. Get pregnant. Err, I mean Catherine, not you William. Place the focus on the future, not the present. Also, now we can't say you do nothing behind the scenes.
  3. Have Catherine change her hair color. Or cut it some of it off. It doesn't have to be much. Planck length should suffice. Trust me, people will notice and it may even set a trend!
  4. Have Catherine wear a tiara or dig something out of the royal jewel vault that no one expects. Imagine the kerfuffle if she wore St. Edward's Crown? True, Charles will be ticked but oh well. At least Historic Royal Palaces shop will be thrilled with the extra sales.
  5. At your next engagement, give some type of exclusive aside about Charlotte. Is she eating solid foods and reading Shakespeare? Fantastic! If not, make something up. As your grandmother knows, a well chosen comment can do wonders.
  6. Cooperate with the media. Share information with them and look moderately pleasant. Have Catherine make eye contact with the camera and smile. It is not that difficult. Or is it?
  7. Leave the pilot gig behind. Yes, I know you will probably miss the gold sticky stars the media gives you when they make you sound as if you single handedly rescued people. Don't worry, there are plenty of unearned consolation prizes to replace those gold stars.
  8. Fire your PR staff and hire new ones. Or actually listen to the sensible ones if there is anyone left after the purge.
  9. Give up your place in the line of succession and leave it all behind. You do want to be 'normal' don't you?
  10. Do nothing. People will get bored of roasting you eventually. We are also fickle and have short memories. Just look at Charles and Camilla!
Bonus solution: Take a page from your aunt Anne and grandfather, Prince Philip, and just get on with it.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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, January 06, 2016

Royal Focus: Royal Family Order

Since the reign of King George IV, most sovereigns have created a form of royal family order for members of the royal family, usually female, to wear on formal occasions. Two monarchs who did not create orders (as we know them today) are William IV and Edward VIII. Edward abdicated before he could do so and William IV's order consisted of two square crowned buckles with the ciphers of him and his consort, Queen Adelaide.

William IV & Queen Adelaide Family Order
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

The order as we know it today features a portrait of the sovereign surrounded by diamonds and suspended from a silk bow which changes color upon each new reign. Some versions vary in size depending on the recipient. For instance, King Edward VII gave his wife Queen Alexandra a larger and more elaborate version of his order. Lesser versions of these orders exist for Mistresses of Robes and Ladies-in-waiting.

Orders are normally worn with evening dress, and if more than one order is worn, they are layered with the more recent order is at the top. They are usually pinned to the left shoulder but there have been some exceptions to this. In C.R. Leslie's painting, The Christening of Victoria, The Princess Royal, Queen Adelaide, the Duchess of Kent and the Duchess of Gloucester can be seen wearing the George IV order on their right shoulder.  In the past, family orders have been worn by royal brides (Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent), funerals, coronations, day-time events and State Openings of Parliament. Since King George IV's time, the appearance of the order has changed and evolved:

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

King George IV regarded his order as a personal memento rather than a state decoration. His order is made of gold and silver and features diamond frame of oak leaves and acorns. The King is depicted in his Field Marshal's uniform, Golden Fleece, stars of Garter, Holy Spirit, Black Eagle and St Andrew on a dark background with a white, fringed bow.

Sovereign's badge of the Order of Victoria & Albert
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Unlike King George IV, Queen Victoria did not create an royal family order. Instead, she created her own Victoria and Albert order. The order began as a family token given to her elder daughters at their confirmations. However, after Prince Albert's death, as a way to honor his memory, Victoria established the order on February 10, 1862, her twenty-second wedding anniversary.

Unlike other sovereign family orders, both the Queen and Prince Albert appear on the cameo badge. The badge is made of white on brown onyx, silver gilt, enamel, diamonds, rubies and emeralds on a white silk ribbon. The Queen's own badge features Prince Albert's head above her own. For recipients, the Queen's head is in front of Prince Albert's.

The order was divided into four classes and was granted to the Queen's daughters, daughters-in-law, grand-daughters who were British princesses and other European Queens. Classes were in a descending order for members of the Royal Family and Royal Household and the design varied depending on the Class. The second class featured a shell cameo instead of stone and set with pearls rather than diamonds. The First Class order was given to her daughter in law, Princess Alexandra (future Queen Alexandra), the day before her 1863 wedding and she wore it on her wedding dress the following day. Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary) also wore the Victoria and Albert badge, along with the Order of the Crown of India, on her wedding day in 1893.

 Although there was no official register, a list of known recipients by class is here. The last holder of this order, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria, died in 1981.

King Edward VII Family Order
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

King Edward VII's family order was maintained as an informal family gift rather than an official order. It depicts the King wearing a Field Marshal's uniform with Garter sash and Bath badge on a brown background. The badge is suspended on a blue, yellow and red striped ribbon - the King's racing colors. His portrait is painted on enamel and this is the form it the badge has taken ever since. Queen Alexandra, his daughter's, daughter-in-law and his sisters were amongst the recipients.

Order of Queen Alexandra
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

His wife, Queen Alexandra had her own unofficial order given to family members and those in her service. The design of the badge is inspired by a miniature portrait of King Christian IX and Queen Louise given out to mark their Silver Wedding anniversary. Like Alexandra's, it is set in an oval frame of pearls and diamond crosses set with diamond chips and suspended from a red and white bow. Alexandra's own version (above) has Edward VII in Field Marshal's uniform with Garter sash and ribbons in front of Queen Alexandra who wears a white dress, pearl choker and crown. Alexandra's Danish heritage is also reflected in the red and white ribbon; the colors of the Danish flag.

In the image above, the Queen wears the orders of her father, King George VI and her grandfather, King George V. The King George V order was established in 1911 and came in four sizes, the largest for Queen Mary and smaller badges for his sisters, aunts, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. The King is wearing the uniform of the Admiral of the Fleet and he wears the Star and Riband of the Garter and the Royal Victorian Chain. His miniature is surrounded by brilliant cut diamonds and surmounted by a diamond imperial crown, which has a crimson enameled cap of maintenance. The pale blue silk ribbon is the same color as King George IV's. The Queen is the only surviving recipient of King George V's family order.

The King George VI family order was established in 1937. Like his father, the King wears the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet, the Star and Riband of the Garter and the Royal Victorian Chain. King George VI's riband color is pale pink. The Queen and Princess Alexandra (received in 1951) are the only surviving recipients of this order.

Queen Elizabeth II's family order was established in 1952 and given to several royal ladies on Christmas day of that year. Her miniature portrait is based on a photograph by Dorothy Wilding and bordered by baguette and brilliant cut diamonds and surmounted by a Tudor Crown in diamonds on a red enamel cushion. Her riband bow is chartreuse yellow. The Queen is wearing the King George IV State Diadem and the Star and Riband of the Garter. The jewels she is wearing are the Nizam of Hyderabad diamond necklace and her diamond and pearl drop earrings; a wedding gift from the Sheikh of Bahrain. The Queen never wears her own order. The queen has lesser versions of her order, given to her Mistress of the Robes and Ladies-in-waiting.

Given at the discretion of the sovereign, there is no specific timeline for when a royal lady receives the royal family order, nor is it automatic for those marrying into the royal family. There is also no specific age for recipients and even children have received it. In 1826, at the age of seven, Princess Victoria, (future Queen Victoria), received the order from her uncle, George IV. The present Queen received the orders of her grandfather, King George V and her father, King George VI as a child and can be seen wearing them at her parent's coronation in 1937.

Princess Anne received her mother's order in 1969, the Duchess of Gloucester in 1973, Katharine, the Duchess of Kent, reportedly not long after her marriage in 1961 and Sophie Wessex in 2004 (five years after her marriage). Despite marrying the Queen's (reportedly) favorite son, Sarah Ferguson never received the order nor has Princess Michael of Kent.

As it is never announced in advance, it is difficult to know exactly when an order is given. Therefore, we have to go by when it was worn in public for the first time. Despite being a senior royal, Diana did not wear a royal order when she attended her first or second State Opening of Parliament in November 4th, 1981 and November 3rd, 1982 respectively. Diana wore the order a few weeks later, for the first time on November 18, 1982 (16 months after her marriage) at a banquet honoring Queen Beatrix at Hampton Court palace.

Camilla Parker Bowles married Prince Charles in April 2005 and attended her first state banquet in October of the same year. She is not wearing the order at that event, instead she wore something more striking, the Delhi Durbar tiara. She reportedly received the order two years after her marriage and can be seen wearing it in October 2007. This was widely interpreted as a visible sign of acceptance by the Queen.

At present, there is speculation about whether Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge has received the order. Rumors abounded that she would wear it at the October 2015 banquet to mark the Chinese State visit but this turned out to be false. Should Catherine wear it in the near future, it will likely provoke some deeper scrutiny by the media and royal watching community, with various possible interpretations. Could Catherine having the order be seen as a sign of approval and support of the current status quo of her not being a full-time royal? Or could it be the Queen's form of a 'nudge' to finally step up to the plate? We will only learn when we see her in public wearing it.

© Marilyn Braun 2016

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.


Royal Orders by Hugo Vickers
Royal Insignia in The Royal Collection
The Royal Encyclopedia
The official website of the British Monarchy
The Royal Collection Website
The Queen's Jewels
Project Gutenberg
Victoria & Albert in Love
Five Gold Rings: A Royal Wedding Souvenir Album