By Patricia Treble - Friday, May 10, 2013 - 0 Comments
Six cities in seven days—Prince Harry’s whistle stop tour of the United States may not leave much time for princely touristing, or partying (insert naked Las Vegas joke here). For one thing, this trip is dripping in serious events, such as a visit to Arlington Cemetery and meeting wounded soldiers (an itinerary is at the bottom of this post). So it’s Harry at his most solemn and most charming, not revealing the most skin.
“He is a soldiers’ soldier and will bring a spotlight on what’s being done to help these outstanding men and women,” said Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Harry’s private secretary during the pre-tour media briefing. There will certainly be no shenanigans on Lowther-Pinkerton’s watch—the ex-SAS officer is known for being very close to Harry, as well as William and Kate, and for running a very efficient, very photogenic royal tour (see Harry’s 2012 Jamaica trip—JLP is the man in the check shirt sitting beside Harry—and William & Kate’s Canadian adventure from 2011). Even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got in on the act, saying, “Believe me, nobody’s going to get naked if I’m spending the entire day with Prince Harry” inspecting areas hit by hurricane Sandy.
By Patricia Treble - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 2:21 PM - 0 Comments
Call the royal household what you will–prim and a tad proper are common descriptors–but don’t call it inefficient or methodical.
Merely a day after Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen would not attend the upcoming Commonwealth leaders summit in November and Prince Charles would go in her place, the monarch and heir were together at the State Opening of Parliament in London. When the joint appearance was announced a few weeks ago, it caused only a murmur among royal watchers, since the Prince of Wales hasn’t attended the annual event since 1996. Now it’s clear that yesterday’s announcement and today’s appearance at Parliament were part of a greater scheme. As the Daily Mail stated, “Charles’ presence at Parliament today suggests it is also part of the carefully-choreographed plan to share the burden of responsibility.”
But don’t think that this shift means there will be co-monarchs or it’s a sign that “after more than 60 years, the Elizabethan era is drawing to a close, and the Charlesian age is dawning” as Time intoned. That’s jumping the gun. The Queen is firmly in control. Instead, it’s a recognition that Elizabeth, 87, and her husband, Philip, 92 in June, can’t continue their crushing schedule of 300-400 engagements a year without help. As the Independent said, “But–taken together–the moves highlight the increasingly high-profile role that Prince Charles is expected to take supporting his mother in state affairs in the coming months and years. It will involve increasing co-ordination between the diaries of senior royals–with the duke and duchess of Cambridge taking on many more official duties.” The Windsors rarely do anything quickly or in haste. Instead, incremental–even glacial–change is their preferred modus operandi. Charles has been taking on more and more of the Queen’s duties for years, including holding investitures (as does Princess Anne).
Even Camilla got into the supporting act, wearing a fabulous Boucheron tiara and a rather regal looking white gown (royal women only wear white to this event). Though Charles has officially stated that she’ll have the title of “Princess Consort” when he accedes the throne, in part to dampen anger left over from the Diana years, there seems to be a slow shift in perception that Camilla will actually take the title of queen. As the Daily Mail caption stated, “Camilla dressed the part of a queen-in-waiting in a sparkling tiara that has been in the royal family for over 90 years.”
Still, given the Queen’s good health–even with the occasional gastro bug–it could still be more than a decade before we see a King Charles III on the throne.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
She’s visited her northern realm 23 times, including her last visit in 2010. But in a clear sign that Queen Elizabeth II is seriously scaling down overseas visits, she’s bowed out of the Commonwealth leaders conference scheduled for November in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.
“I can confirm that the Queen will be represented by the Prince of Wales,” a palace spokesman told the media today. ”The reason is that we are reviewing the amount of long-haul travel that is taken by the Queen.” They are also dropping strong hints that long-distance foreign visits are a thing of the past, which is bad news to realms such as Australia and New Zealand.
For the Queen, who is deeply committed to the Commonwealth, not to attend the conference is a sign that she’s finally heeding her advisers and easing up on a schedule that would exhaust someone half her age. She’s now 87 and though she undertook 425 engagements last year, all were in Britain. During 2012, the royal household hit upon a clever idea: she and Philip stayed in Britain while the rest of the Windsors were sent to the Commonwealth to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 11:12 AM - 0 Comments
Anyone watching the coverage of the abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the investiture of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, as the nation’s first king in 123 years was struck by the cozy flavour of the day’s proceedings. Though it was an elaborate affair (the royal website has an exhaustive timetable of events) there was no doubt that, at its heart, this was a transfer within a family firm from a beloved mother to a loving son.
Amid the kisses, hugs and hand squeezes were some teary moments, especially when Beatrix signed away the throne. “Wherever the path leads, your wisdom and your warmth I carry with me,” said her son. “Thank you for the many wonderful years in which we were allowed to have you as our queen. She stood for the values anchored in the constitution. Dear mother, you were queen in full knowledge of the duties you had you were also a wife and mother, and you were fully aware of your duties there too. You were a great support to us all.”
It’s also a joyous moment. The Dutch monarchs have a long standing tradition of abdicating when the time is right. And Beatrix, a widow of 75, is clearly ready to pass on the torch to her son, his wife Máxima and their three daughters. And they did it on Queen’s Day (now King’s Day), a national holiday when the entire nation is drenched in orange, to honour the royal house of Orange.
By Patricia Treble - Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
That everything Kate, duchess of Cambridge, wears is an instant retail hit has been such a long-proved commercial reality that it’s got its own moniker, the “Kate effect.”
Now the fairy dust that rubs off on everything Kate touches is doing more than just boost corporate profits. It’s benefitting charities as well.Organizations lucky to have her as a patron report big increases in interest.
By Patricia Treble - Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 3:34 PM - 0 Comments
He’s been the colonel-in-chief of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment since 1953, so when the RCRs wanted to replace its Colours from 1973, the duke of Edinburgh hopped on a plane for Toronto. On Saturday morning he oversaw the presentation of the new Colours–a ceremonial flag embroidered with the battalion’s battle honours that soldiers used to follow in combat–in front of Queen’s Park, the provincial legislature in Toronto. The Royal Canadian Regiment is the country’s senior infantry regiment. Formed in 1883, it’s been involved in every large conflict since then. The 3rd Battalion is based in Petawawa, Ont.
And given it’s a royal event, the temperamental spring weather was as well behaved as the crowds, with only a nip in the air to remind everyone they were outside, in April, in Canada. Until the sun started generating a bit of heat the only people who looked properly dressed were soldiers who took part in a “military capability” demonstration for the prince and Lieutenant-Governor David Onley. The snipers, who looked a bit like Star Wars Wookies in their camoflague outfits, appeared downright cozy. Yet though they were in full combat gear, surrounded by officers in formal red wool uniforms, the fashion contest was won by Philip, who wore a perfectly tailored blue suit, his medals and a spiffy straw fedora.
By Patricia Treble - Friday, April 26, 2013 at 4:43 PM - 0 Comments
On Tuesday, the Netherlands gets a new monarch when Willem-Alexander exchanges his current title of crown prince for that of king. His mother, Beatrix, 75, is abdicating after 23 years on the throne.
On Queen’s Day (Apr. 30), a formal investiture will be held in Amsterdam, where the prince swears allegiance to the nation’s charter and constitution. It’s going to be a day packed with pageantry and pomp. But for all the excitement over getting its first king in 123 years, what a lot of people want to see is his new queen, Máxima. She’ll be the first queen from Argentina and comes with baggage. Daddy was a cabinet minister when a military junta ruthlessly ruled the South American country. Though he’s denied knowing about the torture and disappearances under the junta, he was barred from his daughter’s wedding and will watch the investiture on the telly. And the events keep haunting Máxima.
Máxima herself is immensely popular in the Netherlands. She’s vivacious, beautiful and has a knack for making ordinary folk feel comfortable. And she’s completely fluent in Dutch, which isn’t one of the easiest languages to learn. She’s also got a rather eclectic dress sense. There are times when she’s beautifully turned out, and times when she looks like she woke up late and ran out the door in a panic.
One thing is sure: she’ll be wearing one of the royal family’s tiaras—they have an unbelievable collection. The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor has a great listing of all the ones she’s worn, and those of the family (scroll down on this link to the Netherlands section, then get ready to ooh and ahh).
She’s the first of a new generation of modern, fashionable queen consorts about to flood onto European thrones. Coming in the upcoming years are: Denmark’s Mary, originally from Australia; Letizia of Spain; Mette-Marit of Norway and Mathilde of Belgium. And of course Victoria of Sweden who will one day be upgraded to queen in her own right. Sure, some of their clothes choices are questionable (Mette-Marit: step right up) but they’re not afraid to be stylishly adventurous, and mix traditional designers with high street fashions.
So brace yourself, because Tuesday marks a whole new era for royal Europe.
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 3:25 PM - 0 Comments
So after weeks of being consigned to the bargain basement of possible royal baby names, Alexandra has surged in recent days from 10:1 odds to a 2:1 favourite. (Even “Barack” makes an appearance, at 200:1, mind you.)
Well, way back in December–when the pregnancy was initially announced–everyone was plumping for Elizabeth, or possibly Diana.
Here was the list from Ladbrokes, the betting agency:
Yet, within hours of the news that Kate was in hospital with acute morning sickness, I’d created a list of my favourite names for the future monarch—five for a girl and the same number for a boy, along with my reasonings. The first choice? Alexandra (Philip was my top pick for a boy).
While no one is going to know who’s right and who’s wrong until the baby is born—Kate recently said it’s due mid-July—it’s kinda nice to think the world is coming around to my way of thinking. At least in Britain’s gambling shops.
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
Recently the health of the older generation of royals has been under a microscope. First the Queen all but disappeared from view after she was admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis on March 4. Big public engagements were cancelled, including a trip to Italy, though she did continue with those that were in the safe confines of royal residences.
Finally, on Wednesday, she moved back into the limelight, going to the Baker Street Station of the London Underground for the 150th anniversary of the oldest subway system in the world.
Then today, Buckingham Palace confirmed that her cousin, HRH Prince Edward, duke of Kent, was admitted to hospital. He’d suffered a minor stroke, sources said. All of his engagements have been cancelled.
And that brings up a demographic time bomb placed at the heart of the Windsor team. For, according to Tim O’Donovan’s meticulous accounting of annual royal duties, members of the family undertook 4,470 engagements in 2012. And of those, 25 per cent were done by Windsors over the age of 76, including the Queen, Prince Philip, the duke of Kent and his sister, Princess Alexandra. Extend the group of royals to those age 60 and older and the number jumps to 3,019 or 67 per cent.
By Patricia Treble - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 12:25 PM - 0 Comments
Royalty have a lot of fussy rules governing etiquette—for example they should start a conversation, not the person being introduced to them—but there are times when having those traditions makes sense. One is that royal families always travel with black clothes in their luggage, just in case someone dies and they have to show respect by wearing the colour of mourning.
When Diana’s father died while the Waleses were on a skiing trip to the Alps, they hastily dug out their black clothes and then got on a plane back for England. And when the Queen’s father died while she and Philip were looking at wild animals in Kenya–far away from their base and their luggage–the accompanying cameramen stood on the road, with their cameras down at their sides, to show they were respecting her privacy and wouldn’t take a picture until the royals were wearing black. Even Downton Abbey has an episode of mourning this season.
And it isn’t just royals who observe such rituals, it’s part of diplomatic life for every head of state. You either pack mourning wear or be prepared to quickly buy something suitable.
Yet the Turkish president and his wife clearly didn’t get a briefing on the topic. That’s really the only explanation for what happened this week in Sweden. On Sunday, March 10, Princess Lilian, 97, died and the nation went into mourning. So it wasn’t a surprise that the king, queen and rest of the family wore black when they greeted the president of Turkey, Abdullah Gül and his wife, Hayrünnisa, at the start of their state visit on Monday.
What is surprising is that Hayrünnisa Gul, a religiously conservative (and ultra fashionable) woman wore such a bright blue outfit. But perhaps she was travelling when word of the death reached her. Then, that evening at a glittering royal dinner, she again wore a dramatic dress—a shiny silver number complete with crystals—while the royals were all in black, though with glittery diamonds and tiaras since anything “white” is also acceptable. Crown Princess Victoria wore a broach given by Lilian. Even if she didn’t have black clothes, she could have pulled out her most subdued outfit from her luggage.
It must have taken a while for word to reach them that they should, perhaps, be a bit more respectful. On day 2 she wore a black outfit but a red head scarf. On day 3, as they left, the Turkish couple were finally in head-to-toe dark clothes.
Princess Lilian’s funeral is on Saturday. Don’t expect to see any bright colours.
By Patricia Treble - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 10:36 AM - 0 Comments
If there was ever a bittersweet royal love story it was that of Lilian and Bertil of Sweden. Born Lillian Davies in 1915, the daughter of a coalminer, the Welsh beauty dropped the second “l” from her name and set off to London for a career in showbusiness. She paid the bills through modelling and small movie roles. Then in 1943, she met the dashing Prince Bertil of Sweden. Amid the dangers of wartime London they fell in love. “He was so handsome my prince. Especially in uniform. So charming and thoughtful. And so funny. Oh how we laughed together,” Lilian recounted in her memoir. But she was married. And a commoner. Though she got a divorce, those were two obstacles that would take decades to overcome. The first problem was a dearth of eligible male princes in Sweden. Two of his brothers had renounced their rights to the throne to marry commoners, while his eldest brother, the heir, died in a airplane crash in 1947, leaving his one-year-old son, Carl Gustaf, as the future of the Swedish monarchy. Given Carl Gustaf’s age, it was likely Bertil’s father would die before he reached his majority. So Bertil would need to be regent. And he couldn’t do that if he married Lilian. With the future of the monarchy on the line, Bertil and Lilian put aside their own desire to be married.
By Patricia Treble - Friday, March 8, 2013 at 5:04 PM - 0 Comments
Did Kate spill the beans that she’s expecting a daughter? For all those not following the kerfuffle, a recap. During a visit earlier this week to Grimsby earlier, Kate was handed a teddy and thanked the lady for the gift.
A woman who overheard the exchange told reporters that Kate said, “Thank you, I will take that for my d…” Speculation flew that Kate meant “daughter,” accidently revealing that she was carrying the future queen regnant. Then, as people examined video of the incident frame by frame, doubts set in. Did she mean “dog”—her young cocker spaniel Lupo—but stopped because it would be rude to say she was going to use the gift as a canine chew toy?
Now the Daily Mail claims to have have the definitive answer to the vexing question—and a video taken of the exchange that the London tabloid says backs up their claim. Here’s their money paragraph:
By Patricia Treble - Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 12:58 PM - 0 Comments
For the first time in a decade, the Queen is in hospital, felled by a tummy bug. In its usual terse manner, Buckingham Palace announced:
“The Queen is being assessed at the King Edward VII Hospital, London, after experiencing symptoms of gastroenteritis. As a precaution, all official engagements for this week will regrettably be either postponed or cancelled.”
The statement comes three days after the palace revealed the Queen was cancelling Saturday’s visit to Wales to present leeks to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Welsh regiment on St. David’s Day. That announcement was the first indication she had a stomach bug: The Queen will no longer visit Swansea tomorrow as she is experiencing symptoms of gastroenteritis. She will be assessed in the coming days. Her Majesty is currently spending the weekend at Windsor, as usual.” The ancient castle has been her weekend home for the last 60 years.
For anyone who has had an elderly relative felled by gastroenteritis knows this isn’t something to be trifled with. According to the Centres for Disease Control, “Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting or diarrhea. It is often called the ‘stomach flu,’ although it is not caused by the influenza viruses.” It can start suddenly and is highly contagious–noroviruses notoriously turn cruise ships into medical disaster zones. While gastroenteritis isn’t serious for most, it can be for those who can’t drink enough fluids to replace what is being lost. For those, recovery involves a stay in hospital so they don’t become dehydrated.
The Queen, who turns 87 on April 21, isn’t one given to cancelling engagements just because she’s a bit under the weather. It has to be something major, such as a flare up of chronic back trouble that caused her to hand over duties at an investiture to Prince Charles last October rather than spend hours on her feet, leaning over to pin medals on recipients. Indeed, in 2012, her Diamond Jubilee year, she fulfilled 425 engagements and it was the bad health of Prince Philip–three hospital admissions in eight months including one for heart trouble–that had everyone concerned.
For the Queen, this current illness was serious enough that she was admitted to hospital, but not clearly bad enough that she couldn’t travel from Windsor Castle into London to the royal family’s favourite medical centre, King Edward VII Hospital. Still, her official visit to Italy that was set to start on March 6 is off. And that may not be a bad thing. She could not have been looking forward to landing in the middle of the chaos gripping Italy–its politics are being roiled by an inconclusive election (“Send in the clowns,” is a cover line on The Economist) and Rome is fixated by the upcoming election of a new pope. Though given Prince Philip’s propensity for colourful quips (here and here), it would have been a headline-generating visit.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 11:17 AM - 0 Comments
Be honest: how many of you knew something awful was going to happen to Matthew the moment the dowager countess crowed about the happiness of the Crawley family? I wasn’t sure the dastardly deed was going to strike, then he got into a fast convertible and I knew it would be an accident. And since in this season Downton Abbey creator and writer Julian Fellowes was incapable of making anyone take the blame for anything, it was the winding road, not Matthew’s reckless speeding that seemingly was the guilty party in the crash. And that wishy-washy attitude was why this was a was a dud season devoid of soap opera angst and tension. I love Downton and enjoyed moments and vignettes from this season. But the problem is no Downton fan I’ve talked to has enjoyed the entire season.
So here are some suggestions from a concerned fan:
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 8:16 AM - 0 Comments
“Her eyes are dead.” “She appears precision-made, machine made.” “Designed to breed in some manners.” Those are a few of the harsh comments directed at Kate, duchess of Cambridge by Hilary Mantel, who’s won two Booker prizes for instalments of her popular Thomas Cromwell series. They come from a biting lecture, “Royal Bodies,” delivered on Feb. 4 but just noticed by the press, at the British Museum for a London Review of Books series. While the lecture covers the baby-making qualities of everyone from Anne Boleyn to Marie Antoinette and Diana, princess of Wales, Mantel’s criticisms of Kate are its heart.
“Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung. In those days she was a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore. These days she is a mother-to-be, and draped in another set of threadbare attributions…Kate seems to have been selected for her role of princess because she was irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character. She appears precision-made, machine-made, so different from Diana whose human awkwardness and emotional incontinence showed in her every gesture. Diana was capable of transforming herself from galumphing schoolgirl to ice queen, from wraith to Amazon. Kate seems capable of going from perfect bride to perfect mother, with no messy deviation.”
Even Prime Minister David Cameron stepped into the controversy, calling Mantel’s comments “completely misguided and completely wrong.” The tabloids, needless to say, have gone ballistic. And, for them, the timing couldn’t be better, for they could juxtapose Mantel’s biting works with new pictures of Kate. Tuesday, she appeared at her first engagement in two months. Showing off her baby bump in a close-fitting wrap dress, she visited one of her charities, Hope House, an addiction recovery centre foe women in London.
Though seemingly harsh for the sake gaining attention when it comes to Kate, Mantel’s lecture is also a rollickingly good read, especially when she highlights the regal gilded cage–”everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage”— in which the Windsors live:
“I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at? Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage.”
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:27 PM - 0 Comments
Oh boy, here we go again. Five months after Italian tabloid Chi and a bunch of other rags published topless photos of the duchess of Cambridge, while vacationing at a secluded villa with her husband in Provence, they’re at it again. This time Chi has photos of Kate on a vacation with her husband and family on the private island of Mustique in the Caribbean. She’s apparently visibly pregnant and wearing a bikini.
No reaction yet from palace officials, but given Prince William’s fury at the last invasion of his wife’s privacy, you’ve got to bet that they’re consulting lawyers again. Interestingly, while the London tabloids are covering the story, they are also blacking out the relevant photo when they reproduce the Chi cover.
Still, everyone was expecting the photos. Kate is the hottest commodity in the paparazzi world, and no one has yet caught images of her expanding tummy. And lest we forget, Diana was also snapped in a bikini on a Caribbean vacation while pregnant with William. (This pinterest page has links to the snaps, or see below.) Back then, the Queen and household officials roundly criticized the invasion of what was clearly a private vacation. It’s 30 years later, and nothing really has changed.
UPDATE: From the palace via the BBC
The palace said it was “a clear breach of the couple’s right to privacy”. A St James’s Palace spokesman said: “We are disappointed that photographs of the Duke and Duchess on a private holiday look likely to be published overseas.”
By Patricia Treble - Monday, February 11, 2013 at 3:34 PM - 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 - 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 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 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!)