domenica 5 febbraio 2017

The Queen's Sapphire Jubilee

February 6th 2017 marks the Queen's Sapphire Jubilee, or 65 years since her accession to the throne.

As the longest reigning monarch in British history, the Queen is, of course, the first to reach such a momentous milestone.
It is expected she will spend the day privately at Sandringham, as she often does, prior to returning to London later in the week. As her former press secretary Dickie Arbiter, has remarked: "She has always made it clear that her long reign is a consequence of her father's early death and so it is not a day for celebration".

As is widely known, Princess Elizabeth became Queen in Kenya, quite possibly as she was sitting on a viewing platform photographing wildlife at Treetops Hotel in the Aberdare National Park (incidentally, the Treetops is still in business and very proud of its royal connection: you can walk in the Queen's footsteps at the lodge, with prices starting at an eminently reasonable 274 USD for a double room; other notable guests include Joan Crawford, Lord Mountbatten, Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts movement, and the Beatles).

The Treetops then and now: the original lodge, built in 1932, was burnt down during the Mau Mau uprising in 1954. However, it was rebuilt in the same location, allowing the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to make a repeat visit in November 1983 (below):

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were in Kenya on the first stage of a tour of the Commonwealth that was due to last months and take the couple to Australia and New Zealand as well. The King, by then gravely ill with lung cancer and other ailments, was unable to undertake long-haul travel but had seemed in good enough health in the days leading up to his daughter's departure.

In fact, on 30 January 1952, the night before the Princess and the Duke were due to fly off on their tour, the King had been well enough to go the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, to attend a performance of South Pacific, a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, with the rest of the family (including Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend):

The following morning, 31 January, despite his doctors' advice, the King was at London Airport (now Heathrow Airport) to see Elizabeth off. It was the last time he was seen in public:


Those first few days in Kenya were a mixture of official engagements, like a visit to the Princess Elizabeth Hospital (now the University of Nairobi Dental School) in Nairobi (below left), and more relaxed occasions, including watching a polo match in Nyeri, near the Treetops Hotel (below right):

The couple were based at Sagana Lodge on the foothills of Mount Kenya. The lodge had been a wedding present to Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947. It is now one of the official residences of the President of Kenya and used for entertaining and Government summits:

Princess Elizabeth walking through the grounds:

In the early hours of 6 February 1952, the King died suddenly in his sleep at Sandringham, at the same time as Elizabeth and Philip were perched up in the branches of a giant wild fig tree to watch the animals, having gone to spend the night at the Treetops Hotel specifically to admire the wildlife.

It is well known that news of the King's death took several hours to reach the new Queen. Sir Edward Ford, the late King's assistant private secretary, believed that this was due to the Palace telegram bearing the news being misplaced along the way: it is possible, Sir Edward speculated, that the telegraphist took the agreed code for the King's death, "Hyde Park Corner", as the address and not the message.

In the end, it was Martin Charteris, Princess Elizabeth's private secretary, who got wind of the news, thanks to a chance encounter with a journalist at the Outspan Hotel in Nyeri, where he had gone for lunch.
Charteris alerted Michael Parker, Prince Philip's private secretary, who in turn relayed the news to his boss. It was 2.45 pm local time, 11.45 am in London, when Princess Elizabeth was told she had become Queen.

There survives a photo of the new Queen walking in the grounds of Sagana Lodge with Kenya Governor Sir Philip Mitchell in those early hours after hearing of the death of her father, wearing a light-coloured patterned dress. That was because the majority of her tour wardrobe, including the mourning clothes Royals always travel with, had been sent ahead to Mombasa, to be embarked on the SS Gothic for New Zealand and Australia.

Therefore the Queen flew from Nanyuki to Entebbe, Uganda, where she was reunited with the rest of her clothes and was finally able to change. By mid-afternoon on the following day, the royal party was back on British soil. At Heathrow Airport to receive the Queen were her uncle the Duke of Gloucester, the Mountbattens, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other senior politicians, and one of the Duke of Edinburgh's equerries, Beresford Horsley, who carried a note from Queen Mary to the new Queen.

As she arrived back in England, the Queen wore the Flame Lily brooch, a 21st birthday present from the schoolchildren of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The brooch had been made by a Johannesburg jeweller with stones supplied by De Beers, in the form of a flame lily (Gloriosa superba), the national flower of Zimbabwe, and had been presented to the Princess during the Royal Family's tour of Southern Africa in 1947.

It is among the most impressive brooches in the Queen's collection, measuring 8.2 x 3.8 cm. There are two more almost identical brooches of this design, presented to the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret in June 1953 in Bulawayo, on Queen Elizabeth's first Commonwealth tour as Queen Mother. Incidentally, you can also get a perfect replica for yourself from the Royal Collection Shop.

After the coronation, the Queen resumed the Commonwealth tour she had been forced to cut short due to the death of her father, and embarked on a mammoth 174-day tour from November 1953 to May 1954, touching Bermuda, Jamaica, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia (below, on board HMAS Australia in March 1954), the Cocos Islands, Ceylon, Aden, Uganda, Malta and Gibraltar:

Historic Royal Palaces has a section dedicated to the Sappire Jubilee on their website, with a selection of themed souvenirs. Will you be getting a memento for yourself? I'll admit my eye has been caught by those fab sapphire Christmas tree decorations!

venerdì 20 gennaio 2017

Going to Great Lenghts to Obtain a RepliKate You Love

I'm sure it has happened to most of us replikaters to set our hearts on that particular item you just have to have! And since the early days of the Kate-mania, when replikates didn't sell out quite so fast and you could even get some great bargains, are long gone (heck, I got my Natalie clutch in the L.K. Bennett end of season sale months after Kate was first photographed carrying it. Current favourite Nina didn't make the winter sale but remains available at full price), nowadays a bit more sleuthing is usually required.

That's just what I set out to do when the Duchess was photographed going to church on the second Sunday of the year in a new piece by L.K. Bennett.

Twitter was awash with suggestions on Sunday afternoon as to which style exactly she was wearing, as there were several in the same print:

The main contenders were the "Sammi" blue silk scarf, which you can see in the tweet above, and the "Cami" printed bow blouse, although there were also a dress and even a skirt in the same print.

A close-up of the print:

Both the scarf and the shirt are 100% silk chiffon (the blouse, being very lightweight, is doubled at the front for modesty, which I've tried to show in the photo below). The print is described on the L.K. Bennett website as "a delicate dot print in hothouse hues", with a "seventies appeal that nods to AW16's retro revival".

This shows how sheer the back is. It's single-layer, as are the sleeves:

I thought the blouse would tie in very well with my existing working wardrobe, so set off looking for one in my size. I knew it wouldn't be easy as both the scarf and the blouse were sale items, already sold out online at L.K. Bennett when the IDs were confirmed.
After much messaging to and fro with some friends in the Kate community, I was able to locate one at Irish retailer Brown Thomas (remains available in UK size 16 at time of writing). The catch? Their shipping options are limited to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. With no way of having one forwarded to Italy, I continued with my search. 

I went over the list of L.K. Bennett European stockists with a fine tooth comb until I finally got lucky at Dutch department store de Bijenkorf. After all, what's the minor inconvenience of shopping at a Dutch-language-only website compared to getting the replikate item you're lusting after? Reduced from €235 to €115, there was just one remaining in my size (it remains available in EU size 38, equivalent to a UK 10), so I hurried to snap it up. De Bijenkorf is a chain of high-end department stores belonging to the same group that owns Selfridges and Brown Thomas, but they only offer shipping within the Netherlands and Belgium.

So, what's the resourceful replikater gotta do? Sign up for an account at FedEx Border Crossing, of course! It's one of very few parcel forwarding services that will provide you with a Belgian shipping address (this sort of service is usually limited to the US and UK, with few exceptions). By the way, a word of warning: I found the customer service at FedEx in this instance jokingly inefficient, although the actual shipping and delivery were fairly straightforward (took 3 working days from Belgium to Italy), with prices in line with companies that provide similar services (i.e.: not cheap! Shipping for the shirt was just under €50. I do wish stores would just provide worldwide shipping as standard, and we could get rid of the middleman!).

My experience at de Bijenkorf, on the other end, was superb: ordering was easy despite the language barrier and the shirt, shipped on Tuesday late evening, was delivered to my Brussels mailbox the following morning by 12 noon.

The blouse has branded mother of pearl buttons at the cuffs:

As you can see from the close-up, the fabric weave is quite visible, much like that of the "Addison" dress by the same brand. A label attached to the blouse explains that the garment has been digitally printed, "a process that involves the deposit of a pigment or dye onto the surface of the fabric". This makes the blouse rather delicate, as the yarns are liable to twist, showing the paler, non-dyed reverse, something that wouldn't happen with yarn-dyed fabrics. Again, it's the same technique used for the "Addison" dress.

Having seen the blouse in person, I'll admit I'm still very much on the fence as to whether Kate owns this or the scarf. Ultimately, after much comparing, I think she has the blouse: in real life the ties are very long, making the bow is very floppy when just hanging down, whereas in some of the pictures she seems to be wearing something that has quite a bit of volume to it. Then I came across this photo on WKW, and from that angle it looks decidedly like she's wearing the blouse, maybe with the bow tied double for added oomph. My conclusion is that the extra volume is probably due to the wind catching the bow, although we won't know for sure until she wears the garment again, which she hopefully will do in the future!

However, last night I came across an interesting viewpoint on Instagram: user sanddunesandpinetrees has come to the conclusion that Kate was wearing both items to church, and was photographed first without the scarf, then with it. I must say this latest theory would provide a very neat explanation for the visible differences in the pictures, so I like to think it may be correct!

So, what's your opinion on the matter? Do you think Kate has the scarf or the blouse, or indeed both? Did you get to buy either of them for your replikate collection?

giovedì 5 gennaio 2017

The Duchess Dictionary: Daffodil

The national flower of Wales, it's worn on St David's Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, on 1 March each year.
As Catherine will in due course become Princess of Wales, the daffodil was always bound to play a significant symbolic role in her style choices.
The lace on her wedding dress,  hand-made by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace using the traditional Charrickmacross lace-making tecnique, details a rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock, the floral emblems of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively:

The main wedding cake, an eight-tiered creation by Fiona Cairns, featured those same four flowers rendered in sugar paste on the penultimate tier:

A daffodil also appeared in the bottom right-hand corner of the tins containing slices of the wedding cake that were given to guests:

On a visit to London department store Fortnum & Mason on St David's Day 2012 with the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall, Catherine wore a daffodil corsage as a nod to the occasion:

The three royal ladies were presented with daffodil bouquets. It's worth mentioning that the Duchess of Cornwall was also sporting a Welsh-related brooch, in the form of a diamond badge representing a leek, another well-known symbol of Wales:

For the Duchess's first-ever video message, recorded in April 2013 in support of children's hospices network EACH, of which she is patron, a large bunch of daffodils had pride of place on the side table, alongside one of the official wedding photos and a photo of the Queen Mother in a silver frame:

Incidentally, a daffodil also appears in the logo of cancer charity Marie Curie.

Attending the first garden party of the year at Buckingham Palace on 23 May 2013, it was reported that the Duchess got chatting to Marie Curie nurse Susan Bradley, who said afterwards: "She recognised my uniform and told me she has great admiration for the work the charity does, because our staff cared for her grandfather when he was terminally ill".

Prince George, who will of course one day become Prince of Wales in his own right, had none other than a daffodil named in his honour at the 2014 edition of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The new variety, aptly named "Georgie Boy" in honour of the little Prince, was unveiled by Walkers Bulbs and has white overlapping petals surrounding a bright yellow corona:

The Duchess Dictionary: Berkshire

The county of Catherine's birth, Berkshire is located in south-east England. It's a county of historic origin and has been known as the Royal County of Berkshire since at least the 19th century, due to the presence of Windsor Castle (Eton and the Ascot racecourse are also located within the county).

Berkshire shown within England.

The future Duchess of Cambridge was born on 9 January 1982 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, as were both her siblings. At the time of Catherine's birth, her parents lived in a semi-detached Victorian house in Bradfield Southend, near Reading.

Baby Catherine was christened at St Andrew's Bradfield, near Reading, on 20 June 1982:

After a two-year stay in Jordan, where her parents worked for British Airways, Catherine was enrolled as a day pupil at St Andrew's School, near Pangbourne, Berkshire. St Andrew's is an independent, coeducational day and boarding preparatory school. Catherine's sister Pippa was also a pupil, as was in earlier years John Le Carré, the spy fiction writer. Fees nowadays start at £4,900 per term for Years 3 & 4 and go up to £5,400 per terms for Years 5 - 8. Catherine was a pupil there from 1986 to 1995.

School colours are green and white, and its motto is Altiora Petimus, or "We seek higher things". The school boasts a 54-acre park and is very big on sports and outdoor activities.
The undated photo below shows Catherine (front row, centre) and the rest of the school's hockey team:

During her time at Pangbourne, Kate appeared in a school production of My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle. A charming video of her singing in a cockney accent survives! Her co-star in the musical was Andrew Alexander, who went on to make acting his profession and has appeared in Downton Abbey as Sir John Bullock, a one-time love interest of Lady Rose.
Catherine returned to St Andrew's as a Duchess, on 25 November 2012, when she joined pupils for a day of activities (including a spot of hockey) to mark St Andrew's Day. It was her last public engagement before her first pregnancy was officially announced.

After attending girls' only Downe House School in Berkshire for just two terms as a day girl, Catherine moved on to Marlborough College, a co-ed school in Wiltshire, as a boarder.

At the time of the Royal Wedding, the couple's choice of anti-bullying charity Beatbullying as one of those guests and well-wishers could donate money to lead to widespread press reports claiming that Catherine's move to Marlborough had been due to bullying (Daily Telegraph article here; one of many Daily Mail articles here; Richard Palmer for the Daily Express article here).

Catherine's parents, Carole and Michael, who have lived for years in Bucklebury, Berkshire, bought a grand seven-bedroom Georgian mansion in the village in 2012, to afford them (and the Cambridges, who are frequent visitors) more privacy than their former, smaller property: