venerdì 26 luglio 2013

The New Prince George!

Of course by now everyone will have heard the news of the Royal Baby's birth, its sex, weight and all manners of other vital statistics, no matter how remote the corner of the world you happen to live in!

In fact, there's even no need to call him the "Royal Baby" anymore, as his name was officially announced on Wednesday, just two days after his birth, as HRH Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

Daily Mail.
So I will bore you no further with details you can read for yourself (and almost certainly have read already), like who designed the cornflower blue polka dot dress the Duchess was wearing when leaving the hospital (Jenny Packham, in fact, in case you weren't paying attention when watching tv!), and go ahead and tell you a bit more about the legacy of previous royal Georges.

I'll admit that I was a little taken aback at first, as I'd really believed the bookmakers predictions and had been hoping for a girl and a future Queen - as, most definitely, had the unfortunate manufacturers of these thousands of "Royal Princess" pink commemorative plates, which are still available to buy here, plus there was an eBay auction whose whole proceeds went to charity - a splendid occasion to bag yourself an original souvenir while doing good!

Blunder: These plates were made by a company which couldn't wait to find out the sex of the royal baby
Daily Mail.
I wasn't even a particularly huge fan of the name "George",to begin with (I'll tell you just that my bets had firmly been placed on the baby being called James Philip Charles George...), and I'd like some proper royal watcher to explain to me why the baby only got three names instead of the usual four given to male members of the Royal Family...but never mind all that, Prince George is here to stay and, as he'll probably be the last reigning British monarch I'll have a chance to see in my lifetime, I can just as well delve a bit deeper in the ancestry of his first name. So here's what I found out!
George I (1660-1727)
George I was born in Hanover, as Duke George Ludwig of Brunswick-Lüneburg. His mother, the Electress Sophia of Hanover, was a granddaugheter of the British King James I and as such had been declared heiress presumptive to Queen Anne of England and Ireland, whose children had all died in infancy, by the Act of Settlement 1701, to this day one of the cornerstones of constitutional law in Britain and the Commonwealth.
After his mother's death in May 1714, followed a few months later by that of Queen Anne, George was forced to depart for London with his family to be proclaimed King and crowned in Westminster Abbey. He was the first of the Hanoverians.
Not exceptionally popular with his subjects (he could speak only little English and was at the centre of a huge family scandal as he had his wife locked away in a remote castle for the last thirty years of her life to punish her for her alleged extra-marital affairs...), he eventually died during a trip back home in Hanover and was buried there, in the chapel of Leine Castle and was succeded by his son, George Augustus, who took the throne as...
George II (1683-1760)
The last British monarch to be born outside Britain, he was created Prince of Wales in 1714, upon his father's accession to the British throne. He did not enjoy a particulary easy relationship with his father, who mistrusted him and at one point even took his children away to be placed in his care.
Upon his father's death he was crowned king in 1727 (the anthem Zadok the Priest, which remains famous to this day, was composed by Handel especially for the occasion). He was the last British sovereign to fight alongside his own soldiers, seeing active service in Germany in the 1743 Battle of Dettingen against the French. One of George's sons, Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, fought in the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the last pitched battle fought on British soil, between the British and the Scottish Jacobites.
George II reigned in a time of political turmoil and hostility between Britain and France over the colonization of North America. He was king at the time of the Seven Years' War, and also when British forces conquered Québec.
At the time of his death, at the age of 77 of aortic aneurysm, he had lived longer than any of his other predecessors. As his eldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, had predeceased him, the throne was inherited by George's grandson, George William Frederick, who ascendede the throne as...
George III (1738-1820)
George III reigned during a hugely interesting historical and political time: his was the time of the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, of Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars, of Lord Byron, Walter Scott and Jane Austen (I had to put my favourite novelist in here somewhere!).
He was the first Hanoverian who spoke English as his first language and never actually visited Hanover, unlike his predecessors. He was popular among his subjects: during his reign Britain won the Seven Years' War, which had begun under his grandfather, and began to acquire what was to become the bulk of the British colonial empire. Unfortunately, he is most famous nowadays for his mental health issues (he apparently suffered from the disease porphyria, combined in his later years with dementia), which earned him the nickname "Mad King George" and meant that a regency had to be established (hence the famous "Regency" period in British history), under George's eldest son, himself George, Prince of Wales.
George III died at Windsor Castle, having reigned almost 60 years, and was buried there, in St George's Chapel; both his life and his reign were longer than any of his predecessors. Upon his death, his son the Prince of Wales, who had been Prince Regent for nine years, acceded the throne as...
George IV (1762-1830)
George IV was 57 when he became king and his reign was not to last very long, just ten years, in fact.
He had been a flamboyant Prince Regent who enjoyed gambling, eating and drinking and by the time he ascended the throne in 1820 he was obese and possibly addicted to laudanum. He spent lavishly on the renovations of Buckingham Palace, which took most of its present form during his reign.
Moreover, he had a colourful personal life: he was estranged from his wife Caroline of Brunswick, who led a bohemian lifestyle travelling around Europe, and refused to recognise her as queen, going as far as having her name omitted from church liturgies. He had a string of mistresses, but only one legitimate child, the well-loved Princess Charlotte of Wales, who died in childbirth when George IV was still Regent, thus paving the way for the throne to pass first to George IV's uncle, who became King William IV, than to the latter's niece, Queen Victoria, and from her to her son, Edward VII, and subsequently to the next king...
George V (1865-1936)
With a gap of more than 80 years since the last King George, and much closer to us in terms of historical times (on a personal note, both my paternal grandparents were born during his reign), George V was the present Queen's grandfather, and was in fact not expected to become king, as he was the second son of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), His elder brother's untimely death of pneumonia in 1891, though, meant that the then Duke of York became second in the line of succession, directly behind the Prince of Wales.
He acceded the throne in 1910, after the death of his father, and reigned in a time of extreme political turbulence, through the First World War, the Ireland Home Rule turmoil and the Russian Revolution, during which his first cousin Tsar Nicholas II and his family were assassinated, the National Strike of 1926 and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany.
He doted on his granddaughter Princess Elizabeth, was a keen stamp collector and liked country pursuits, like game shooting. He died at the age of 70 over the Christmas holidays at Sandringham, having celebrated a Silver Jubilee. During his lying in state at Westminster Hall his sons mounted the guard for some time: it was the first Vigil of the Princes ever.
George V was succeded by his eldest son, who became King Edward VIII and of course famously abdicated to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson, then by his second son the Duke of York, who became King...
George VI (1895-1952)
The father of the present Queen Elizabeth, George VI, like his own father before him, didn't seem destined to become king in the first place, but had to step in after his brother's traumatic abdication.
Apparently ill-suited for a life in the public eye (he was shy and had a serious stammer), he was nonetheless a great sovereign in times of national crisis during the Second World War.
He was rarely seen out of uniform during the war years, refusing to leave London and, in fact, never tiring to visit bomb sites and munitions factories with the Queen and going abroad to visit his troops a number of times.
In 1947, he and his family embarked on the famous Southern Africa tour with his whole family, the first time a reigning monarch had ever done so. He was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth.
He is of course succeded by the present Queen, who just last year celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, and will one day (probably, if the monarchy holds, but I bet it will!) be succeded by his great-great-grandson, the baby Prince George, who will be George VII.
Probably, that is, because the Prince of Wales has said on one occasion that he's considering taking is grandfather's name (which is also one of his own four names) when he eventually becomes king, given the less-than-remarkable track record that kings named Charles have had in British history so far. So, the baby might indeed become George VIII - or even choose one of his other names and become a King Alexander (which has a nice ring to it, I'll say!) or a King Louis (not so great, that one, if you think of French kings...).
One thing's for sure, I hope to be still around when that time comes, so I can see with my own eyes!

domenica 21 luglio 2013

The New Belgian King and Queen

Today was a day of celebration in Belgium in more ways than one.

The former King, Albert II, in fact abdicated this morning, on Belgium's National Day, in favour of his eldest son, Prince Philippe.
So we now have a brand new Belgian King and Queen, Philippe and Mathilde.

Mathilde used to be one of my favourite European princesses, in terms of style, so I'm much looking forward to her new royal role.

Extended family: The new King and Queen are joined on the balcony by the former King and Queen
The extended Belgian Royal family, with Queen Fabiola on the left and the former royal couple, King Albert II and Queen Paola, on the right.
Royal family: The new King Philippe and Queen Mathilde have four children

Royal wave: King Philippe of Belgium and Queen Mathilde exchange a kiss as they wave to the crowd from the balcony of the Royal Palace
A rather stiff-looking balcony kiss.

Belgio in festa, Alberto II lascia il trono: è Filippo il nuovo re
 Belgio in festa, Alberto II lascia il trono: è Filippo il nuovo re

Belgio in festa, Alberto II lascia il trono: è Filippo il nuovo re
The former King and Queen waving to the crowd.

Belgio in festa, Alberto II lascia il trono: è Filippo il nuovo re
An emotional moment for Queen Paola.
I must say on this particular occasion I wasn't a huge fan of Princess Mathilde's choice of headwear. She wore an iridescent beige silk creation by Belgian milliner (and Belgian Royal Warrant holder) Fabienne Delvigne, named "Envolée", and indeed, as the name suggests, the hat's shape and sense of movement are reminiscent of a bird about to fly away.

But I find the hat to be too pale, in certain pictures in looks almost as if it's blending with her own hair colour, a bit...blah! We've seen much prettier Delvigne creations gracing Princess Mathilde's head in the past, most notably at the recent Dutch coronation, and while I understand that a wide brimmed hat like the one she sported on that occasion wouldn't have been suitable for today's events, I feel something more striking than this quartz-coloured sort-of turban could have been provided.

I don't know, I was hoping for something lightweight and flowery, maybe adorned with Swarovski crystals, in a nod to the Belgian tradition for flower carpets!

Back view of the turban-shaped atrocity.

OK, having provided my totally irrelevant opinion on this matter, I'll go on to say that I found Princess Mathilde's dress very pretty: it was a dress by Belgian couturier Natan, white with a brocade design and elegant detail to add interest at the back.

Princess Mathilde Princess Mathilde of Belgium  is seen in front of the Cathedral of St Michael and Saint Gudula prior to the Abdication Of King Albert II Of Belgium, & Inauguration Of King Philippe on July 21, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.
I'll leave you with a charming photo of the new royal couple - and what are your views on today's royal fashion choices, are they as strong as mine or did you like the hat? Be sure to leave a comment below and let me know!


giovedì 18 luglio 2013

The Greville Honeycomb Tiara

While we wait for Baby Cambridge to make its much longed-for appearance (and it's been a long wait so far, poised to get even longer if the baby turns out to indeed be a Leo, as rumored, as we won't enter that astrological sign until 23rd July...agh!), let's try to distract ourselves with a look at the Greville Honeycomb tiara, one of those most frequently worn by the Duchess of Cornwall, who turned 66 yesterday.

Made in 1921 by French jewellery house Boucheron for the Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville, one of the great society hostesses of her day and the flamboyant mistress of Polesden Lacey in Surrey, it was part of a larger suite of magnificent jewels that Mrs. Greville, being childless, choose to bequeath upon her death in 1942 (rather generously, if I may say so!), to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).

A Young Margaret Greville.
Mrs. Greville did like her diamonds, apparently, as the bequeath, apart from the tiara, comprises the extravagantly large Greville bow brooch, the Greville chandelier earrings (among the wedding presents that Princess Elizabeth received from the King and Queen), a scroll brooch with pearls, the magnificent Greville festoon necklace (currently on loan to the Duchess of Cornwall together with the tiara), a pair of ivy-leaf diamond clips and the Greville peardrop earrings.

But back to the tiara now - it is a very modern piece for its time, with a strong geometrical honeycomb design. In its original, 1921-form, the tiara lacked the diamond accents on top, so the design looked much more like that of a basketweave.
Below you can see the Queen Mother wearing the tiara in its original form in the late 1940s:

In 1953, she sent the tiara to Cartier, to increase its height by rearranging the clusters of brilliants at the top into triangles, adding a marquise-cut diamond as a centrepiece.
The tiara was one of the most frequently worn by the Queen Mother; upon her death in 2002, it was inherited by the Queen, who has since loaned it to her daughter-in-law the Duchess of Cornwall.


Not diamond shy herself, the Duchess has sometimes worn the tiara along with the magnificent Greville festoon necklace in its complete, five-row version:

The Greville honeycomb tiara is probably the piece worn most often by the Duchess of Cornwall, who seems to prefer it to the, apparently heavier, Delhi Durbar tiara.
Camilla dressed the part of a queen-in-waiting in a sparkling tiara that has been in the royal family for over 90 years
At the 2013 State Opening of Parliament, the Duchess' first.

All jewellery information is from the book "The Queen's Jewels" by Hugh Roberts, published by The Royal Collection.

domenica 14 luglio 2013

Team Pink or Team Blue?

The anticipation is killing me.
Boy or girl? Future King or future Queen? Argh!
Come along soon, Baby Cambridge!!

sabato 13 luglio 2013

Royal Baby Fever

It is now Day 13 of the Official Royal Baby Watch, and the day most widely rumored to be Baby Cambridge's due date, so what better day than today to have a look at some of my favourites Royal Baby souvenirs already in the making?

Besides the usual (china mugs and plates) and the less usual (nail polish), about which more can be found here, here is an array of other Royal Baby-branded products:

Royal Baby Limited Edition Jan Constantine Cushion, £65.00, available for pre-order here.

Royal Baby Dish Tea Towel (which will be produced in either the pink or blue colourway - shown here - once the baby's sex is know), £8.80, available for pre-order from Etsy shop mountainlodge.

"Keep Calm the Royal Baby is on the Way" Necklace, £4.08, available from Etsy shop jennspendants.

Royal Baby-themed Onesies, £11.99, from Etsy shop Babytronic (other wording available). 

Not technically Royal Baby-themed, but too funny to pass by nonetheless, "Prince of Wails" Babygro, £10.18, from Etsy shop FunnyBabyOnesie.

Personalised Royal Baby Biscuit Tin, £43.50, available from Biscuiteers.

Handmade Mini Knitted Crown, £45.00, from Etsy shop TheMiniatureKnitShop.

Yummy Ma'am Mug, £8.50, from McLaggan Smith Mugs Ltd.

The Royal Baby Range from Milly Green, complete with gift bags and wrapping paper, available from the Milly Green website.

London's Heathrow Airport will also be celebrating the Royal Baby birth by handing out specially commissioned purple t-shirts emblazoned with a tiny crown and the words: "Celebrating a very special arrival" to the first 1,000 passengers arriving in each of the airport's five terminals on the actual day of the birth! Oh gosh, I'd love one of those :)

But what I'm most eagerly waiting for is the official Royal Collection baby range, which will be release once the baby is born. It's the first such range of merchandise to be officialy released, as at the time of past royal baby births the Royal Collection hadn't been set up yet.

So, what will they have in store to celebrate this momentous historical occasion?
Stay tuned, we'll know very soon!

giovedì 11 luglio 2013

Bridal Tiaras in the British Royal Family, Part III

Today brings us to the last instalment in our recent post series about tiaras worn by British royal brides in the past century or so.

So, after finishing last Monday with a look at the Countess of Wessex's wedding tiara, let's pick up where we left, with a closer look at the next royal bride, Autumn Phillips née Kelly.

The blonde Canadian married the Queen's eldest grandchild, Peter Phillips, in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on 17 May 2008. The bride chose a relatively simple gown (at least by royal standards. The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendour tells us that the dress reportedly costed about £ 2,500) and borrowed the Festoon tiara from her mother-in-law, the Princess Royal.

It is quite a dainty and delicate piece, and I was somewhat surprised to learn it's relatively modern, having been a gift to Princess Anne from the World Wide Shipping Company when she christened one of their ships in 1973 (more on the tiara itself can be found here).

Alas, it is not a particular favourite of mine, too spiky for my taste!

Next, of course, are the big guns, the tiara (and indeed the wedding!) that absolutely everyone will remember: that of Catherine Middleton to Prince William, on (do I even need to remind you of the date?) 29 April 2011.

As is widely known by now, the Duchess wore Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's Halo tiara.

The marvellous "The Queen's Diamonds" book by Hugh Roberts has some background information on it: it's a piece by Cartier, which was purchesed by the Duke of York on 18 November 1936 as a present for the Duchess of York, who was to become Queen just a few weeks later. In fact, she first wore it in public while still Duchess of York.

It is made up of 16 graduated scrolls with a large brilliant cut diamond at the centre.

The tiara was then given to Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday in 1944. The Queen has since loaned it to Princess Margaret and Princess Anne.

At the time of Catherine Middleton's wedding, it was reported in the press that the Queen had offered her a choice of tiaras to choose from; the Duchess' choice, reportedly the most simple among those on offer, is of course now widely recognized (and replicated!) the world over.

Later that same year, the tiara took centre stage at an exhibithion of the wedding dress and jewellery
at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace.

A few months later, on 30 July 2011, it was Zara Phillips' turn to wed Mike Tindall in Edinburgh, so another splendid opportunity for some tiara-watching!

Zara borrowed from her mother the Princess Royal a piece which had been in her great-grandmother possession, the Meander tiara.

It has a Greek key design, with diamonds in the shape of a laurel wreath as a centrepiece. I have to say I was not a fan of this style on Zara, maybe her hair should have been dressed differently, but as it was the tiara looked as though it were sitting on top of her head without particular purpose (it didn't even serve to keep her veil in place).

Much prettier when worn by Princess Anne, who has much bigger hair and so suits the tiara best, in my opinion!

So, now we've gone through all the most significant recent royal Weddings, if I were to rank my favourites, first would be Princess Diana's Spencer tiara, followed by Sarah Ferguson's tiara and Princess Margaret's Poltimore tiara! Special mention to the Strathmore tiara, which isn't tecnically a bridal tiara, as the Duchess of York didn't wear it on her wedding day, but made it on this list as it's a special favourite of mine!

Least favourites? The Meander tiara as worn by Zara Phillips, the Countess of Wessex's tiara and Autumn Phillips' Festoon tiara.

Have you got a special favourite yourself? Or a piece you utterly dislike and don't want to see out in public ever again? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know!