Britain's Channel 4's documentary on the late Prince William of Gloucester (1941-1972) brings the need for a post on books about the prince, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, and his family.
Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucesters, memoirs are delight ... two different volumes. Noble Frankland's biography on Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, is dry, with an intense snore factor. Readers need to fight their way through the book, as it is interesting. Difficult to spice up the life of a dull, military-minded prince.
Giles St. Aubyn's Pioneer Prince was commissioned by the family after the death of Prince William in a plane crash. Lisa Sheridan's Prince William of Gloucester (published in 1945) is currently unavailable (on Amazon or Amazon.uk). There are copies available from dealers (www.addall.com) Use the out of print search box.
Friday, August 28, 2015
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Romanian historian and biographer Diana Mandache is worthy of a bigger (international) audience. She has written several English language books, but the majority of her work is in Romanian.
Earlier this year, I reviewed Diana's previous book, Balcicul Reginei Maria, which was about Queen Marie's beloved summer palace, now in Bulgaria.
Following the success of the earlier book, Diana turns her attention to the palace of Cotroceni. This new book, Cotroceniul Regal, is a truly competent, well-researched study of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie's family home.
During the eighteenth century, Cotroceni was the home of Serban Cantacuzino and other Romanian aristocrats before being acquired by King Carol I shortly after his arrival in Romanian. The palace became the primary residence for Carol's heir, his nephew, Ferdinand, and his British-born wife, Princess Marie of Edinburgh, and their growing family.
It was during this period that Cotroceni became King Ferdinand and Queen Marie's official residence. The palace was also used by Kings Carol II and Michael, but Cotroceni's hay day was during the reign of King Ferdinand, when the palace was modernized.
Communist governments largely destroyed the interior of the palace, as furniture and library books were destroyed. An earthquake in 1977 caused further damage to the palace's exterior. It was only after Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu returned from an official visit to Buckingham Palace that restoration work on the palace.
Don't be put off by the Romanian text. Yes, it would be nice --- actually awesome -- if Curtea Veche would publish the book with a Romanian and English text, thus reaching a larger market. Diana is an excellent historian, so I am absolutely sure that this text is informative and historically accurate.
The photos remain the reason to purchase this book. The majority of the photos come from the Romanian National Archives, Kent State and Mrs. Mandache's private collection. Queen Marie was fond of posing for photographs in the palace gardens. All of the photographs are black and white.
The primary focus is on Ferdinand and Marie, but Diana Mandache offers a complete history of the palace's royal residences from Carol I and Elisabeth to King Michael.
The price of book is 50 Lei (under $13.00). Curtea Veche's site is secure. Use your browser's translation button to order the book. Postage brings the cost of the book to about $25.00. A real bargain. A must have.
At this time, Amazon is not selling this title, although one can order Balcicul Reginei Maria.
Come on Curtea Veche, you can publish these books with Romanian and English texts ... you will sell more copies. Seriously. Think about it as Diana Mandache, a respected historian, needs a wider audience.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 11:25 PM
Friday, July 10, 2015
Thus, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death, Greek filmmaker Nikos Politos released a documentary, Pavlos No Ordinary King, which took three years to complete.
The premiere took place at the Gennadios Library in Kolonaki on March 5, 2014 in the presence of King Constantine, Queen Anne Marie, Queen Sofia and other members of the Greek and Spanish royal families. King Simeon of Bulgaria, Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia, Princess Alexandra of Hannover (who died last month) and Archduchess Helen of Austria were also present. Alexander and Helen's mothers were Greek princesses by birth. Princess Alexandra was the late Queen Frederika's sister-in-law.
Politis told the assembled crowd: "For us, there is nothing more noble than searching for the truth. Except one thing. The restoration of it."
The documentary was released as a DVD and is included in the eponymous softcover companion book.
Pavlos No Ordinary King has 255 pages celebrating King Pavlos' life from his birth through several exiles, marriage and parenthood and the growing political tensions between the king and Greek premier Karamanlis, and the king's death from stomach cancer.
This book offers readers insight into Pavlos' life (from the monarchists' point of view) with a biographical text and a diverse selection of historical photographs from Pavlos' childhood to death. The photos were chosen from several Greek archives and other sources. Much to my delight, the book includes a very clear photo of Joyce Brittan Jones, King George II's companion.
The text of the book is bi-lingual: Greek and English. The publisher has also included a series of color photos of the Greek royals at the premiere of the documentary.
A DVD of the 2.5 hour documentary will be found in a slipcase in the inside back cover. It is a Region 2 DVD, which means it can only be played on European DVD players, unless you own a code-region free DVD players with a PAL converter. (North America uses NTSC as its television system. PAL and NTSC are not compatible.
No Ordinary King offers new insight into the life and reign of King Pavlos of the Hellenes.
Only 1000 copies of the book were published.. It can be ordered through Amazon. Dutch bookstore van Hoogstraten also has copies in stock. The cost is 55 Euros. The Amazon price is $58.00. The publisher is MP productions.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 12:12 AM
Thursday, July 9, 2015
Royal Gatherings (Who is in the Picture) has been a popular feature of European Royal History Journal for several years now. The first volume covered the 1859-1914 time period, thus leading to the first world war.
This second volume picks up where the first volume left off in 1914, ending in 1939, thus covering a heady time in European royal history. This book is divided into 36 chapters, opening with the familiar group photo of the Russian Imperial Family's visit with the Romanian royal family at Constanza in mid-June 1914, only two weeks before Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination at Sarajevo. The final group photo is from the wedding of the Duke of Spoleto and Princess Irene of Greece.
The purpose of Royal Gatherings is to provide biographical details, anecdotes and historical information about the people in the group photos. The publisher includes more photos from his own collection (and the newly acquired collection of the late William Mead Lalor) to flesh out the stories of these weddings, funerals and family gatherings. Bill Lalor had a superb collection of royal images, so I expect to see further books using these photos.
I think my most favorite group photo is of the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and her three Spanish grandsons sitting on a bench outside the Dolder Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916. Princes Alvaro, Alonso and Ataulfo were the sons of the Duchess' youngest daughter, Beatrice, married to Infante Don Alfonso of Orleans-Borbon, a first cousin of King Alfonso XIII. (Bee was the first cousin of King Alfonso's wife, Queen Ena.)
Baby Bee is one of my favorites, as are her descendants, all of whom are lovely and helpful people.
Some of the group photos are familiar to many readers, including the weddings of Princess Margarethe of Denmark and Prince Rene of Bourbon-Parma, King Alexander of Serbia and Princess Marie of Romania, 70th birthday of Prince Carl of Sweden, 70th birthday of Grand Duchess Maria Anna of Luxembourg, the wedding of Prince Carl Gustaf of Sweden and Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and the wedding of the Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece,
There are also some gems, too: the Habsburgs of Teschen, the family of Infante Don Carlos of Spain, the funeral of Kaiserin Auguste, the wedding of Princess Barbara of Two-Sicilies and Count Franz Xavier of Stolberg-Wernigerode, the Heinrichs of Prussia. and the Hessian Tragedy, the funeral of the Grand Ducal Family.
This is the kind of book that you will dip into many times, Don't rush through the photos or the text. Sit back and enjoy the traveling back to a time, edging toward a world-changing war that affected the lives of both commoners and royals. The 1920s were a time of rebirth, new challenges, and then the madness of an collapsed economic system leading to the most deadly of dictatorships, hurling toward a second world war.
Royal Gatherings Volume II is published by Eurohistory.com ($48.95.) The book is available though Amazon and Amazon.co.uk.
I reiterate the same complaint that I made about the first volume. The authors have not included a bibliography nor do they cite the quotes they use in the text. It would help other writers and researchers to do know the source material - and to see where the quotes come from. The addition of a bibliography and citations would only enhance this book's worth.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 9:38 PM
Monday, June 15, 2015
Friday, May 29, 2015
Monday, May 25, 2015
Deborah Cadbury certainly mined a lot of sources while researching Princes at War (Public Affairs: $28.99) a largely excellent book about the British royal family during the second world war.
The book opens with the abdication of Edward VIII and the accession of his younger brother, the stuttering and untested George VI. It ends with George VI's death in 1952.
The British Royal Family did not escape the from the demands of the second world war. The former Edward VIII, now the Duke of Windsor, and his American wife, Wallis Warfield Simpson, were not to be trusted as both were Nazi sympathizers, as official British and American documents have shown.
The Duke of Kent, married to the attractive Princess Marina of Greece, was on active duty during the war, and killed in a plane accident, less than a month after the birth of their third child, Prince Michael.
Shortly before the war, the Duke of Gloucester was named as Governor General, but his acceptance was put on hold until after the war. He provided important support to his brother, who sent him to war zones in the British Empire.
The true burden of the war was felt by George and his family, as the bombs rained down on London. The king proved an effective monarch, able to advise and discuss with his ministers, including Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Cadbury is to be commended for concentrating on a specific historical period within the confines of British royal history. This was a difficult period for the United Kingdom - and for the monarchy as the King and other members of the royal family grappled with personal feelings and public demeanor. The king's two daughters, Elizabeth, heiress presumptive, and Margaret, spent most of the war at Windsor Castle, protected and safe from the war. It was Elizabeth, as she approached womanhood, who managed to carve out her own war role as a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
As German troops marched through Europe, invading, and taking control of most of Western Europe, several sovereigns and their families fled, and ended up at Buckingham Palace, including Queen Wilhelmina of Netherlands. England became the safe haven for European royals and governments in exile.
I was impressed with the depth of Cadbury's research that led to a largely well-written and effective book.
But I was saddened by the lack of attention to details about the royal family and their relatives.
Page 60: impossible for the Duke of Kent and his brothers to have relatives on the throne in Hungary as Hungary was a part of the dual Empire with Austria, and the connection to the Habsburgs was light. The Austro-Hungary monarchy ceased to exist in 1917.
Page 61: Princes Philipp and Christoph were members of the Princely family of Hesse-Cassel. Empress Alexandra was not the "most famous descendant" of this family. She was a member of the Grand Ducal Family of Hesse and By Rhine.
Page 178: Prince Paul was one of three Regents for King (not Prince) Peter of Yugoslavia, who was approaching his majority. On this page, Cadbury described Peter as Paul's nephew. Peter was the son of King Alexander who was Paul's first cousin. Cadbury does get it right on page 190, when she described King Peter as the son of Paul's cousin.
Page 208: It would have been impossible for Queen Elizabeth "preparing for her usual Sunday routine" on December 7, 1941, when she heard the news of the Japanese attack on the wireless. The attack was not announced on the radio on the US East Coast until nearly 3 p.m., which means the king and queen would not have learned about it until that evening, as London is five hours ahead of the U.S. coast..
Page 249: It would have been difficult to strip Prince Philipp (by then the Landgrave of Hesse) of his titles because he did not have a legal title. In 1919, the new republic of Germany passed a law, abolishing all titles, but allowed the former royals to use their titles as surnames. Thus, in law, Philipp was not a royal highness, and prince but Philipp Prinz von Hessen. (Socially, titles were still used.)
Page 250: I am not sure I would describe Mafalda as Philipp's beloved wife. This marriage was largely an arrangement that was beneficial to husband and wife. Philipp was bi-sexual, and his homosexual relations continued after the marriage. After the wedding and honeymoon, Mafalda preferred to spend more time with her family in Italy than in Germany.
Page 266: King Michael (not Prince) of Romania. His mother, Helen, was known as Sitta (for sisters) and not Zitta. Paul of Yugoslavia may have become depressed over events in Yugoslavia, but it must be noted that he, although a regent for the minor King Peter, did not himself have dynastic rights.
279: Kaiser Wilhelm's eldest son was Wilhelm (not Friedrich Wilhelm). He was styled as Crown Prince Wilhelm. One sentence on this page is totally confusing. "Their destination was Schloss Friedrichhof, a magnificent castle in Kronberg once owned by the George VI's aunt, Princess Victoria, which had passed to the Hesse family."
Huh. Schloss Friedrichshof was owned by Empress Friedrich, widow of Friedrich III of Germany (parents of Kaiser Wilhelm II). Empress Friedrich was a British princess by birth, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. She was George VI's great aunt. Empress Friedrich left Friedrichshof to her youngest daughter, Margarete, who married Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, Landgrave of Hesse (and the parents of Philipp and Christoph).
279: Cadbury jumps the gun by stated that the Princes of Hanover were related by marriage to the Danish, Greek and Spanish thrones. Prince Ernst August of Hanover (1914), head of the family, was the grandson of Princess Thyra of Denmark, and the son of the last Duke of Brunswick and Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia (the Kaiser's only daughter.) Thyra's brother was King George I of the Hellenes.
Ernst August was not related by marriage to these families. He was related by blood. His sister, Frederika, married King Paul I of the Hellenes, a grandson of King George I, and their daughter, Sofia, married the future King Juan Carlos of Spain. This marriage did not take place until 1962, some years after the second world war.
288: Although the Red Army played a major role in liberating Belgrade, Stalin removed his troops from Yugoslavia in 1944. It was Tito's government that appropriated royal properties and possessions.
These mistakes can be easily corrected in a new edition (or when the paperback is published.)
Although I found these errors to be irritating, the average reader probably won't. What is more important is the scope of Cadbury's impeccable research, which focuses on the lives of the British royals and their roles in the second world war. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor do not come off well, but this does not come as a surprise as there is a growing body of historical documentation about their treacherous behavior.
The abdication was an emotional and political upheaval that put the monarchy into question. King George VI and his family emerged from the dark days of the second world war, stronger, and more popular, and this is made clear by Cadbury's proficient text.
Britain was lucky to have George VI as their king during the war.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 12:27 AM