By Patricia Treble - Monday, February 11, 2013 - 0 Comments
In a season full of weird episodes, this was one of the strangest—look Mr. Bates is released from prison! Lady Edith has yet another inappropriate suitor! Everyone is just fine with Sybil’s baby being christened a Catholic and Thomas’s homosexuality! Indeed, the only common element in the episode was the cast’s mourning clothes. Yup, there was so much black, grey and purple that Downton Abbey could have been mistaken for a Goth convention, minus the tattoos and piercing.
The Crawleys were grieving for Lady Sybil, who died in childbirth. While tears were repressed—so not the British way—they could show their distress by wearing a lot of dark, dismal colours. Mourning rituals had grown increasingly elaborate during the Victorian era. As Helen Rappaport wrote in A Magnificent Obsession, her wonderful book about the Queen’s over-the-top reaction to Albert’s early death, “Mourning protocols then current in Britain demanded 12 months of black for a parent or child (with only a retreat to half-mourning in the final three months); six months for a sibling, three months for an aunt or uncle; and six weeks for a first cousin.” Victoria extended and codified them for her court, and thus huge swathes of her nation. Full mourning started by wearing dull crape—the fabric version of tightly pleated crepe paper—before shifting to shinier black satins and silks. After that half mourning colours of grey, white or the newer shades of lilac, mauve and purple could be worn. So when Princess Alice, Victoria’s daughter, married a year after Albert’s death, all her honeymoon dresses were black. The rules applied to everything. Houses were draped in black cloth and mirrors were covered. All jewellery had to be black or white (jet or diamonds and pearls). There was such a trade that the trade in jet, centred around Whitby on the coast, expanded from 35 workers in the 1830s to more than 1,000 skilled workers in the 1870s.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 2:26 PM - 0 Comments
After a six-week Christmas break at the private royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk, the Queen undertook her first public engagement of 2013 where she normally starts her year in front of the cameras: in nearby King’s Lynn. On Tuesday, Feb. 5 Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a new MRI unit at the hospital. The engagement, which comes a day before the 61st anniversary of her father’s death and her own accession to the throne, was a typically low key event. But that doesn’t hide the fact that this monarch is unstoppable. Anyone who thinks she’s going to quietly slip away into retirement like the abdicating Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, just has to look at the numbers.
Every New Year, retired insurance executive Tim O’Donovan publishes his tally of the royal family’s engagements for the previous year in the Times of London. He’s been doing unofficial statistical work since 1980 after wondering exactly how much work members of the house of Windsor actually did. The answer is a lot. Last year the Queen undertook 425 engagements in Britain, an increase of 15 per cent over her domestic and foreign duties of 2011. (In her Diamond Jubilee year, she undertook no foreign duties at all, leaving that to the rest of her family). That’s an amazing increase considering this is a woman about to celebrate her 87th birthday on April 21.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 10:07 AM - 0 Comments
Josephine Tey’s 1951 detective novel ignited a fascination for the ‘poisonous bunch-back’d toad’
So it was him after all. It was always likely that the bones of a man unearthed last September from beneath a parking lot in the English Midlands city of Leicester would be those of King Richard III. The most notorious monarch in English history—thanks to Shakespeare’s excoriating portrait of him as the man who murdered his young nephews and seized the throne—died at nearby Bosworth Field in 1485, the last English king to be killed in battle. The man under the concrete was found, more or less, where tradition said he would be. His skull was cleaved by something like an axe and there was a barbed arrowhead between two vertebrae; as well, he had severe scoliosis—just like Shakespeare’s “poisonous bunch-back’d toad.” On Feb. 4, archaeologists announced the promising indicators had been confirmed by DNA comparison with Michael Ibsen, the Canadian-born descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne of York. The bones belonged to Richard III.
By Ken MacQueen, Patricia Treble, and Emily Senger - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 2:45 PM - 0 Comments
Tiger’s new squeeze, snowboarding’s Canadian star, and what Pauline Marois was doing in Scotland
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois visited Scotland this week. Possibly Edinburgh is lovely this time of year, but interestingly Scotland is led by the Scottish National Party, which hopes to gain independence from the U.K. in a referendum next year. The Parti Québécois leader’s meeting with First Minister Alex Salmond was thus subject to much anticipation, even if it turned out to be a relatively low-key, private affair. “It’s purely a courtesy event—‘very nice to meet you,’ ” a Scottish civil servant assured the Guardian. The two exchanged gifts and committed to keep in touch, but Salmond didn’t appear with the premier afterwards. All the same, Marois came away inspired. “It is encouraging,” she said, “because when you see people [such] as the Scottish population, which has such a long history, to decide to ask the question on their future in a referendum, I think it is hope for us.”
Old Dogs, nice trick
A bunch of the boys from the Old Dogs old-timers hockey team were having a few beers at a Kamloops, B.C., riverfront locale when they witnessed Kathryn Easton plunge through the ice of the Thompson River. She was trying to rescue two dogs she was walking that had wandered onto the ice and fallen in. Team members formed a human chain stretching into the river, and wisely used a flagpole to reach out to Easton. She and the two dogs were plucked from the river, freezing but unharmed. “I missed the Polar Bear Swim,” Old Dog Bert Kant told the Kamloops Daily News. “We can laugh because everything is okay.” Like Don Cherry says, it’s all about keeping your stick on the ice.
There are hills in Saskatchewan?
Don McMorris may be Saskatchewan’s highways minister but these days he’s better known as dad to 19-year-old snowboard superstar Mark McMorris. Mark won both silver and gold medals at the X Games in Aspen, Colo., last weekend. What was to have been an slopestyle showdown with the legendary Shaun White wasn’t even close. White crashed out in two of three runs while McMorris recorded the highest score in the event’s X Games history. Among his jumps is the triple cork 1440: three off-axis spins while rotating four times over 15 to 18 m of air. No hockey rink in the McMorris yard. “Ours had a drop-in with a down rail and a box,” dad told Snowboarder Magazine.
Lies and misplaced loyalty
The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal of bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat’s nine-year sentence for perjury. Reyat built the bombs that killed 329 people aboard a June 1985 Air India flight from Canada and another that killed two baggage handlers in Japan. He was at best a foot soldier in the Sikh separatist conspiracy, but he pays a heavy price. His life has been a series of trials, appeals and jail cells for more than two decades. He remains the only person convicted in the terrorist attack. In 2011, Justice Mark McEwan convicted Reyat of repeated lying during the trials of his co-accused Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri. His perjury sentence is believed to be the longest in Canadian history.
Queen Bea no more
The Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix, 75, announced this week that she’s handing over the throne to her 45-year-old son, Willem-Alexander. Beatrix, who was schooled in Ottawa during the Second World War, says she’s abdicating “out of conviction that the responsibility for our nation should now rest in the hands of a new generation.” Willem-Alexander’s accession is set for April 30. He’ll be a male blip in recent monarchical history—since the last Dutch king died in 1890, the country’s monarchs have all been women—and next in line is his eldest daughter Catharina-Amalia.
Talk about male Bonding
“Rumor has it,” as the great Adele is known to sing, that the Academy Awards show on Feb. 24, will bring together for the first time all six men who have played Bond, James Bond. What would one call that? A six-pack of Bonds sounds too plebeian; a bevy of Bonds too girly. A 006 of Bonds, perhaps? The reason, of course, is the 50th anniversary of the bullets, booze and babes movie franchise. And the 006 007s would be: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. One thing is a dead certainty: Adele is confirmed to be singing her nominated song Skyfall during the broadcast.
Humble? Well, maybe.
Toronto was spared a multi-million-dollar by-election after Mayor Rob Ford won an appeal of his conflict of interest conviction last week. Ford, elected mayor two years ago, holds onto his office and Torontonians keep their front-row seats on the circus that is city hall. Ford called the trial and the appeal court ruling “a very, very humbling experience.” That said, he pledged to continue his attack on municipal waste and to seek re-election in 2014. “The job is not finished yet, and I plan to spend the next six years on getting the job done.”
Talk about first-class postage
Ann Weiszmann has an understandable fascination with Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews by giving them doctored identity papers called “shutz-passes.” After all, her mother, then known as Judith Kopstein, was one of those Wallenberg saved. So when Canada issued a stamp in January honouring the great man, Weiszmann bought several booklets in Toronto. When she gave the stamps a close look she was stunned to see a photo of her mother as a 14-year-old, staring back. Canada Post has used a copy of Judith’s 1944 schutz-pass as the stamp’s background. Judith Weiszmann, 83, a retired structural engineer living in Winnipeg, is honoured to be linked with one of her heroes, she told the National Post. She and her mother were stopped by the Hungarian Gestapo. “Those papers saved our lives.”
Tiger takes a mulligan
Anyone who has witnessed Olympic gold medallist Lindsey Vonn attack a ski run knows she is absolutely fearless. This may explain why she has apparently plunged into a romance with golf great Tiger Woods. Star magazine reports the two have dated since November. Vonn, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Woods’s deeply aggrieved ex, Elin Nordegren, has reportedly been teaching his kids, Sam and Charlie, to ski. If anyone can keep Woods—who captured his 75th PGA Tour victory with a win at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines this week—out of the rough and on the straight and narrow it’s Vonn, who has ski poles and knows how to use them.
An angry young man with nukes
Don’t let North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s baby face fool you: he may prove more warlike than either his late dad or grandpa. Last week a defence communiqué pledged the country’s missile and nuclear programs “will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.” A day later another statement threatened to take “physical countermeasures” against South Korea if it helps enforce United Nations penalties against the outlaw regime. “Sanctions mean a war and a declaration of war against us,” it warned. Such rhetoric bodes ill for the South’s incoming president Park Geun-hye. Her election platform included dismantling the North’s nuclear program and working toward reconciliation.
Zimbabwe goes bust
Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti announced this week that his government had only $217 in the bank. That’s all that was left in government coffers after civil servants were paid. Biti warned that the government doesn’t have enough to fund this year’s presidential election. That leaves the government with no choice: “We will be approaching the international community,” he said. Whether donor countries pay up is an open question. President Robert Mugabe, 88, who’s led—and ruined—Zimbabwe since 1980, has announced he is running again.
Third time unlucky
French judges believe there is evidence suggesting Dominique Strauss-Kahn played a key role in a prostitution ring and should stand trial. In a decision leaked to French newspaper Le Figaro last week, a panel of judges said Strauss-Kahn had “effective and crucial participation in acts of pimping.” Though the former IMF chief has managed to dodge a sexual assault charge in New York in 2011, then a gang rape charge relating to sex parties he attended, it seems he may have to face justice after all, and faces up to 20 years in prison.
By Patricia Treble - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 1:59 PM - 0 Comments
There hasn’t been a Dutch king since 1890, when William III died, leaving his 10-year-old daughter Wilhelmina as monarch. Since then there have been two traditions for Dutch monarchs: they’ve all been woman and they’ve all abdicated. But that tradition ended today when Queen Beatrix announced she is abdicating in favour of her heir and oldest son, Willem-Alexander, age 45. In a televised address, she told her country, “Responsibility for our country must now lie in the hands of a new generation.” His coronation will be on April 30, the nation’s holiday.
While this transition would spark a national crisis in most other monarchies—”abdication” is a verbotem term in Britain because of the crisis caused when Edward VIII gave up the throne—it has become standard operating procedure in the Netherlands, where the throne is a largely ceremonial post. Beatrix, who will turn 75 on Thursday, has been monarch since 1980, when her mother Juliana abdicated at age 70 after 31 years on the throne. Before that, Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 at the age of 68.
By Patricia Treble - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 6:40 PM - 0 Comments
Being really, really close to the platform at the Capitol as President Barack Obama was sworn in was certainly a moving event. It’s also quite familiar to someone who follows the royal family closely. As I tweeted, “It’s really the U.S. version of the Diamond Jubilee service: pomp, military precision, stirring music, good sermon and it’s over in an hour.”
Going head-of-state to head-of-state, how do the big ceremonies compare?
Pomp: The Marines are impressive, the venue in Washington is spectacular, but when it comes to making a spectacle (in a good way), no one does it better than the British. The entire four-day weekend was organized to an inch of its life, and pulled off superbly. The Household Calvary riding down the Mall in London is a sight nearly impossible to beat. Winner: The Queen
Timing: Both the main swearing in ceremony in Washington and the service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral took just over an hour each. Never drag out blockbusters, a maxim that Steven Spielberg would do well to remember. Winner: Tie
By Patricia Treble - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 7:24 AM - 0 Comments
The cast’s costumes are ever-evolving, on set and off
In an episode that screams “set up for future dramas,” I found myself drifting away from the plot–oh, why was Lady Sybil talking in code on the phone?–to look at the clothes worn by the characters. If Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey, is considered a leading character for its sheer beauty and imposing grandeur, then the clothes deserve equal billing.
They are sumptuous.
And ever-evolving. While Season 1 featured restrictive pre-First World War costumes–long dresses, elaborate designs and tightly bound construction–and Season 2 highlighted utilitarian wartime clothing, Season 3 is back to full-on luxury. Reflecting, but not mimicking the era, the fashion is that of fluid silks, sinuous satins and light wool crepes. Everything flows and gathers. Waistlines are loose and hemlines are inching up. (Check out this Pinterest page by Simone James featuring Downton characters.) Sure, some have been used on other period dramas. This isn’t a big budget Hollywood movie but a TV production. Yet no one can accuse them of skimping when it counts. Lady Mary’s wedding dress was exquisite, made by hand and carried a $6,000 price tag.
By Patricia Treble - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 5:26 AM - 0 Comments
It’s inauguration day and here’s a list of what to watch and when (all…
It’s inauguration day and here’s a list of what to watch and when (all times approximate):
1. The swearing in
Mandated to be in January by the Constitution, it’s really happening twice.
a) Sunday, Jan. 20 at noon: President Obama took the oath of office using the family bible of his wife’s family.
Chief Justice John Roberts led the President through the oath without a hint of the linguistic mangling that occurred four years ago. After Michelle congratulated her husband, Barack responds, “Thank you, sweetie.” Malia said, “I’m so happy, yay!,” while Sasha tells him, “Good job, Dad.” He responded, “I did it” to which she retorted. “You didn’t mess up.”
b) Monday, Jan. 21 at 11:55 a.m. EST: Oath of office No. 2. This time outside with all the usual spectacles. He’ll use two bibles–one from Abraham Lincoln and one from Martin Luther King Jr. Continue…
By Patricia Treble - Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
Why doesn’t the Canadian Prime Minister warrant the hooplah being lavished on Barack Obama…
Why doesn’t the Canadian Prime Minister warrant the hooplah being lavished on Barack Obama when he’s sworn into office? Surely becoming PM is worth a Mountie escorted carriage ride through Ottawa so he can wave to Canadians lining the procession route. At the very least he should get high school marching bands from all 10 provinces and three territories.
Oh right. Stephen Harper heads the government, not the nation. That’s the job of Queen Elizabeth II and her representative in Canada, Governor General David Johnston. Harper gets the power, but not the pomp–that modestly comes when a new GG is picked and then on a grand scale for the coronation of a new monarch, something that hasn’t happened in 60 years. Drat. Indeed, this is what the Governor General’s website says about the swearing in:
By Patricia Treble - Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
Photo gallery: Planners of the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States have left nothing to chance
Walking around the tourist, and government, parts of Washington is increasingly difficult these days. Roads are suddenly blocked off and incredibly tall sturdy security fencing is being erected everywhere President Barack Obama is going to be passing. When planning a huge event like the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States, nothing is left to chance. So four days before the big day, there are already hundreds of portable toilets lined up in perfect rows, waiting for their own big day in the sun.
By Patricia Treble - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 2:40 PM - 0 Comments
Oh poor Edith! She just can’t get married. First she falls for Patrick Crawley (the first heir and Mary’s fiancé who dies in the Titanic), then John Drake, the unacceptable farmer (married and not of her class) during the war. And her timing is awful: so many men were slaughtered in the battlefields of the First World War that women outnumbered men by nearly two million in the 1921 census. And those men who survived were often horribly scarred. But Edith isn’t one to give up. She goes after Sir Anthony Strallan a second time (older sis Mary nastily dashed their first romance). Who cares if he’s older by a decade or two and has an arm crippled by the war? She gets her man to propose so she can, for once, be the centre of attention. Of course it ends in disaster. (For a traditional recap of the episode, read Michael Hogan’s fun piece on the Huffington Post.)
While the episode itself was a mess—wasn’t it amazing that Lavinia saved the Crawley home by forgiving Matthew, in writing no less, on her deathbed!—it’s full of the best feature of Downton Abbey: clothes and especially jewellery. This time, we get a second viewing of the family tiara, last worn by Mary at her wedding. Then, helpfully, we get a third when she tries to rip it out of her hair after Strallan dumps her at the altar and a fourth when Anna, the maid, nearly steps on it while trying to console Edith. This isn’t just any headpiece but a “beautiful garland of leaves and cloral clusters, pavé set with old-cut diamonds,” states The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, that has been “worn by numerous Crawley brides in the years since its creation in 1830.” In reality, the headpiece is a loaner from Bentley & Skinner of Piccadilly in London, which has royal warrants from the Queen and Prince Charles.
By Patricia Treble - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
Today the National Portrait Gallery in London unveiled what is sure to be the first in a long line of portraits painted of Kate, duchess of Cambridge. It’s a huge 45 3/8 inch by 38 inch oil on canvas by the South African artist Paul Emsley. There’s no tiara, no formal gown, just a tight close-up of her face and glossy, flowing locks. And it’s controversial from the beginning. While Kate, who, as patron of the NPG and a history of fine art grad, saw it with Prince William and her family, approved—”It’s just amazing, I thought it was brilliant”—others unleashed a torrent of vitriol on artist Paul Emsley.
“If Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of North Korea, had a portrait painted of himself in a similar idiom, we’d all be crowing from the rafters about the pitiful taste of foreign despots,” intoned Mark Hudson of the Telegraph. “The misty eyes, the minxish puckering around the mouth, the coils of dark auburn hair are all rendered with a painful literalness—these are features the artist believes the mainstream viewer wants to see, captured in a ‘style’ he believes they will like. There’s no real light, no real form, no real structure in this painting.” Continue…
By Patricia Treble - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 5:21 PM - 0 Comments
When the birthday girl is already living a fairytale, figuring out how to mark her 31st birthday must be a nightmare.
But not for the Queen. She didn’t shop online for a nice cashmere scarf to hide Kate’s baby bump or a gift certificate for a new pair of platform shoes. No, that’s just too, well, ordinary. Her Majesty used her position–monarch, head of state, you get the drift–to declare that all of William and Kate’s children will be given two titles: the first is “prince” or “princess” before their Christian name and the second is the HRH honorific.
Here’s the rather spartan official announcement in the London Gazette:
By Jaime Weinman, Jonathon Gatehouse, Ken MacQueen, and Patricia Treble - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
Sarah Polley, Justin Bieber, a millionaire street cleaner … and an unlikely Toronto mayor
Talking back to the crowd
AC Milan midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng has inspired a spirited debate over how to deal with the growing problem of racist taunts by soccer fans. Boateng, a German-born Ghanaian, led his visiting team off the field during a “friendly” match last week with Pro Patria in northern Italy, to protest racist epithets being hurled from a group of home-team supporters. His decision to “run away” was criticized by Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, the sport’s governing body. But Boateng was applauded by his coach, many fellow players and by AC Milan president and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. “This is an uncivilized problem that needs to be stopped,” said Berlusconi, enjoying a rare moment on moral high ground. Such boorish behaviour is “giving Italy a negative image,” he said. Continue…
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
Maybe, but there’s still plenty that the third season has to offer (here’s looking at you, Mrs. Patmore)
For those who haven’t been counting down the days, the gossipy, aristocratic soap opera Downton Abbey starts its third season on Jan. 6, 2013 on PBS’s Masterpiece. The American series has stripped all the commercials out of the original ITV installment, and is presenting it in seven very long episodes. I’ve seen the first six and while I wouldn’t dream of giving away major plot points, there are a few things I need to mention.
Firstly—and sadly—this isn’t a great season. The plots are increasingly unbelievable (the very accepting 21st century reactions to two sex scandals involving below stairs staff seem totally out of time and place); new characters pop up and then vanish, while others are just plain annoying (the new blond footman especially) and standbys like the dowager Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith) get wheeled out the minute a story line needs bumping up. It’s as if creator Julian Fellowes frittered away his writing schedule on other things, then, panicked, threw everything against a wall to see what would stick. The actors do their best, but it’s a bit of a slog, albeit one with fabulous sets and wondrous costumes. And there’s one point in particular that had me realize that yes, even Downton can jump the shark. Sniff.
Here are five things to look out for:
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 7:30 AM - 0 Comments
There’s bound to be unexpected surprises in 2013 for the two dozen-odd royal families around the world. After all, who could have predicted that women everywhere would spend so much time analyzing Prince Harry’s derriere from his Las Vegas romp.
Here are five stories guaranteed to make headlines in 2013:
1. The bump: So much attention has already been paid on the pregnancy of Kate, duchess of Cambridge, that a purple-eyed alien from outer space could be forgiven for wondering if the newborn will one day be leader of the Earth. Kate and William will be under an intense spotlight until she delivers, expected to be in July. Every twinge, every smile or frown will be scrutinized. Poor dears.
2. The BIG wedding: Princess Madeleine of Sweden, a.k.a. the most beautiful princess in Europe, is getting married to Anglo-American financier Chris O’Neill. And that means tiaras, long gowns and lots and lots of fashionable royalty. Just feast your eyes on what happened when big sis Victoria got married in 2010. BONUS POINTS: Sweden will be doubly excited given it will happen in time for her father’s ruby jubilee (that’s 40 years on the throne.)
3. Prince Charles turns 65: He’s been heir to the throne for so long that he’s–take a deep breath–grown up, went to university, had a naval career, married Lady Diana Spencer, had two kids before the marriage implode in monumentally spectacular fashion, got divorced, then widowed, then spent eight years with his mistress, Camilla, before they married in 2005, and then spent another eight years together until now, his 65th birthday. It’s so long that he’s been in fashion, then out of fashion (when everyone thought he was a kooky enviro gardening artisto who hated all modernity) before coming back into fashion as the rest of the world realizes that, in this time of global warming and an out of touch elite, that a man born to his position who spends a huge amount of time trying to save the planet (without all of us having to plow a furrow) while getting young people off government aid and into jobs, might be allright.
4. William’s career change: The second in the line to the throne has a big decision to make–renew for another five-year stint with the RAF as a helicopter pilot or go into another military posting, such as the Household Calvary, that will allow him to carry out more royal duties now that his 91-year-old grandfather, Prince Philip, is having to slow down because of bad heath. William loves being a helicopter pilot, able to spend huge amounts of time out of the public eye. But he’s also a Windsor. And that means duty is encoded into his DNA. A true dilemma.
5. Runner-up weddings: Once Andrea Casiraghi’s fiancee gives birth, the second in line to the Monaco throne is supposed to marry heiress Tatiana Santo Domingo. Because of the family’s propensity for sleaze and scandal, expect most top royals to avoid the wedding like a plague. (“Oh so sorry, but that’s the weekend we always clean cobwebs in the turret rooms.”). And mere months after big brother Guillaume got married, Prince Felix of Luxembourg got engaged, giving us a second grand duchy wedding. And unlike Monaco, this will be packed with all the “right sort” of dignitaries.
By Patricia Treble - Monday, December 24, 2012 at 7:10 PM - 0 Comments
1. Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith: Okay, the title is just fun. And so was the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s reign. It started on Feb. 6—though that’s not “celebrated” as it’s the day her father, King George VI, died—and went right through into December. Canada got a nice stamp, an even nicer stained glass window for Parliament Hill, 60,000 Diamond Jubilee medals, with accompanying paper personally signed by Governor General David Johnston, and a visit by Prince Charles and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall. The world got a four-day extravaganza in London. Not even the pouring rain on the Thames River pageant could drown the enthusiasm of millions. Hundreds of thousands turned out for a huge concert in front of Buckingham Palace with millions more showing up the next day for the main event—a service of thanksgiving in St. Paul’s Cathedral followed by a carriage ride through London and the traditional balcony scene back home. Only the hospitalization of Prince Philip (see also below) put a damper on events.
2. Wedding of Prince Guillaume, hereditary grand duke of Luxembourg, and Countess Stéphanie de Lannoy: Oooh, a royal wedding. Luxembourg might be tiny—population 520,000—but it more than made up for its geographic deficiencies by throwing a spectacular wedding. And that involved inviting tons of royalty who dressed up in spectacular gowns and tiaras for two days of events. (The fabulous Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor website has a complete rundown on all the fashion hits and misses.) Best of all, the bride wore a spectacular Elie Saab dress with her family tiara (to have a family tiara!)
By Patricia Treble - Monday, December 17, 2012 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
Want to dress like a queen? Then Dressing the Queen: the Jubilee Wardrobe is a must-have guide. And before anyone asks, the 86-year-old monarch isn’t shown getting a fitting and no, it doesn’t reveal her measurements. This is an authorized peak behind palace walls revealing how Elizabeth II’s wardrobe is created.
The book, published to mark the Queen’s 60th year on the throne, was written by and stars Angela Kelly, who started at Buckingham Palace as one of the Queen’s dressers in 1994 and is now her “personal assistant, adviser and curator, responsible for the Queen’s wardrobe, jewellery and insignia.” She isn’t the only one working on the Queen’s wardrobe. There are assistant dressers, dressmakers, a milliner and so many more. The attention to detail is mind boggling for those of us who struggle in the morning to find an ironed shirt that matches a skirt. But then the Queen doesn’t have an ordinary job. And with 300-plus engagements each year, she’s always the centre of attention. So every time a hat or coat is worn, the particulars of each event is recorded in a spreadsheet so the next time she visits a city or an organization, the Queen doesn’t wear the same outfits or colour range.
While other royals buy couture in salons, the Queen never goes shopping. Everything comes to her. And in recent years, Kelly and her team have set up their own design salon in the palace, to cut costs and avoid the faux pas of someone else wearing the Queen’s outfit to the same event. For the Diamond Jubilee year, Kelly went trawling through a stock room stuffed with fabrics either given as gifts or bought on overseas visits. Some date back to 1961.
Special events demand special clothing. The Queen’s evening gown for her historic visit to theRepublic of Ireland in 2011 featured more than 2,000 silk shamrocks, sewn on by hand. And Mi’kmaq women hand-beaded a gold two-piece outfit the Queen wore during her 2010 tour of Canada.
By Patricia Treble - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
William and Kate have to pick a baby name that will be both modern and historic. No pressure then.
The minute the pregnancy was announced, bookmakers started taking bets on what name William and Kate would choose. Since this baby will eventually carry the title of “Queen” or “King,” a few names can be immediately nixed. The traditionalist couple won’t pick anything celebrity-like, so no Peaches or Apple or Blue Ivy for the Windsors. And though Diana will likely be honoured as a secondary name if it’s a girl—Charles and William each have four given names—her public campaign to stop Charles from becoming monarch makes it unlikely she’ll get top billing. Though William adores his granny, Elizabeth is probably out for two reasons: there have already been two British Queen Elizabeths in the last century: the current monarch and her mother. Furthermore, the Belgian heirs snagged the name for their future queen. So here are some early guesses. Continue…
By Patricia Treble - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 11:26 AM - 0 Comments
Today’s announcement from St. James’s Palace was terse:
Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby. The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both families are delighted with the news.
The Duchess was admitted this afternoon to King Edward VII Hospital in Central London with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
As the pregnancy is in its very early stages, Her Royal Highness is expected to stay in hospital for several days and will require a period of rest thereafter.
Fyi: Hyperemesis gravidarum is a fancy term for acute morning sickness.
The announcement ends speculation that started April 29, 2011—William and Kate’s wedding day. Last week she was wearing noticeably looser clothes. Well, looser for a woman known for form-fitting outfits. As I said last week— “Is Kate pregnant? Check out her belts.”
By Patricia Treble - Friday, November 30, 2012 at 11:39 AM - 0 Comments
“Is she pregnant?”
There’s no need to even ID “her” as Kate, duchess of Cambridge, in the question I’m asked at least once a day. Every time she adopts the normal “Kate pose”—her hands (and often a purse) clutched defensively in front of her stomach, the questions would come fast and thick. Until this weekend my standard response was: “The world will know when William and Kate announces it. I’m not going to guess.”
Well, now I’m guessing. There are three reasons for my change of heart—a red belt, a green one and a beige one, plus a plaid outfit.
First the background: this is a woman who likes formfitting outfits. And who is fond of tight belts (also, here and here), and tightly belts her coats. That’s why I didn’t think anything was odd when I first noted she wore a red coat to a rugby match on Saturday. It was an L.K. Bennett creation that she’s worn before and there appeared to be a belt. Nothing new, I thought.
By Jaime Weinman, Chris Sorensen, Aaron Wherry, Kate Lunau, Patricia Treble, and Emily Senger - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 5:30 AM - 0 Comments
Hobbits on a plane, Rob Ford’s transit trouble and No Doubt’s native controversy
The pop music group No Doubt is in trouble for playing the old game of cowboys and Indians. The video for the band’s new song, Looking Hot, featured lead singer Gwen Stefani dressed up in Native American garb and dancing around a teepee, playing a sexy Pocahontas-like princess who gets rescued from two menacing cowboys. The video received so many complaints from Native American groups objecting to the appropriation of their culture that the band pulled the video and apologized. Their intention was “never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people, their culture or their history,” the band said.
An American first
Rochelle Ballantyne’s grandma taught her how to play chess when she was in the third grade. Now, the 17-year-old is on track to become the first African-American female chess master. Ballantyne, a graduate of Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, where more than 60 per cent of students live below the poverty line, is heading into the National K-12 Championship in Florida, which opens Nov. 30. Ballantyne, who is often seen listening to her iPod while playing chess, says her grandma, now deceased, remains her motivation. “She introduced me to the idea of being the first African-American female chess master,” Ballantyne told Teen Vogue. “I really have to reach that goal for her.” Continue…
By Jaime Weinman, Patricia Treble, Chris Sorensen, Emily Senger, Kate Lunau, and Emma Teitel - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6:30 AM - 0 Comments
An open letter to Ann Coulter, a book for Pippa Middleton, and Berlusconi’s very bad week
And she’s the published author?
John Franklin Stephens didn’t take kindly to conservative author Ann Coulter’s use of the word “retard” in an insult hurled at President Barack Obama, so he did something about it. Stephens, 30, a Special Olympics athlete with Down syndrome, wrote an eloquent open letter to Coulter. “After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.” He added that someone described using the “R-word” is likely bullied in school, struggles “with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means [being] dumb and shallow,” and is “likely to receive bad health care, live in low-grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.” It’s not the first time Stephens has spoken up for people with intellectual disabilities. He penned an editorial for the Denver Post, speaking against the film Tropic Thunder, which repeatedly used the term “retard” as an insult. Continue…
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Princess Madeleine of Sweden is engaged to her prince charming. Today, the Swedish royal court announced the engagement of Madeleine to Chris O’Neill, a British financier based in New York. Along with new photos of the couple taken by Mario Testino, was a softball Q&A:
Where did you meet the first time?
Princess Madeleine: We met through mutual friends. For me it started with a great friendship. We share the same humor and we have a lot of fun together. Christopher opened up my heart, he is my soul mate.
Christopher, when did you know Princess Madeleine was the right one?
From the very outset, I immediately felt something special with Madeleine.
This isn’t the first time Madeleine has accepted a marriage proposal. Known as the “most beautiful princess” in Europe, Madeleine’s looks didn’t help her when her previous engagement crashed and burned in spectacular fashion in the summer of 2010, just before her older sister, Crown Princess Victoria was to go down the aisle. Madeleine had been engaged to blond Swedish lawyer Jonas Bergstrom after seven years together. Then came revelations in the tabloids from a 21-year-old student named Tora Uppstrom Berg about a torrid affair—”I had a one-night stand with the groom.”
In quick succession, Bergstrom was gone, the engagement was off and Madeleine fled to New York where she washed her old life right out of her hair. Literally. She changed her hair colour from blond to brunette, got serious about philanthropy and met O’Neill—who matched her new hair colour.
So now the ring is on her finger and the bride-to-be is planning for a wedding next summer in Sweden. The tabloids went digging but apparently didn’t find anything worthy of being splashed on a front page.
But that doesn’t mean the media has given up on the Swedish royals. There’s always Madeleine’s brother, Prince Carl Philip. Known as a wild child, he’s currently dating a former model, famous for, as the Daily Mail explained, “her participation in the sex and alcohol-fuelled reality show Paradise Hotel, kissing pornstar Jenna Jameson and topless appearances in the Swedish mens magazines.”
By Jaime Weinman, Emily Senger, Jonathon Gatehouse, Patricia Treble, Aaron Wherry, and Mika Rekai - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 5:30 AM - 0 Comments
Danielle Smith’s offal tweet, Fidel Castro reappears (it seems), and Roberto Luongo a Leaf?
Let them eat steak
The Alberta Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith took a grilling this week when she suggested this week that recalled meat from Alberta’s XL food plant be fed to “the hungry.” Millions of kilograms of recalled XL meat is being destroyed due to an E. coli outbreak. “What a waste,” Smith tweeted. “We all know thorough cooking kills E. coli,” she added, endorsing another tweet suggesting that the meat instead be fed to those in need. When her comments sparked outrage, Smith was forced to backtrack: she did not mean that poor people should eat tainted meat, but if the meat could actually be salvaged, even she would buy it. Twitter had little sympathy—some suggested she feed it to members of Wildrose instead.
As the NHL lockout drags on into its second month, all hockey fans are hurting. But there might be some good news for the longest-suffering among them—the members of “Leafs Nation.” Reports surfaced last week that Toronto and the Vancouver Canucks have worked out a deal that will see mercurial goalie Roberto Luongo and his massive contract land in Hogtown when play ﬁnally resumes. Both sides deny that any agreement has been ﬁnalized (technically they can’t make a trade during the labour dispute), but there’s plenty of smoke. And at the very least it gives Leafs fans something else to obsess over: whether they’re getting the guy who backstopped Team Canada to gold in 2010, or the one who couldn’t stop a beach ball last season.
TV is so déclassé
“Stop this bourgeois priggishness!” cried Conrad Black, baron of Crossharbour and scourge of the bourgeoisie. The man who brought on Black’s outburst was BBC host Jeremy Paxman, who sat down with him for a TV interview. After Paxman called him a “criminal,” Black angrily dismissed his fraud conviction and prison sentence as a product of the U.S. justice system—“The whole system is a fraudulent, fascistic conveyor belt”—and commended himself for not “smashing your face in.” During the same round of interviews, Black appeared with Sky News host Adam Boulton, derided his questions and asked at one point, “What’s your name again?” Black has no time to learn the names of bourgeois prigs.