Wednesday, January 13, 2021

HRH so many thoughts on royal style by Elizabeth Holmes

Royal fashion is popular with writers, bloggers, and photographers, but it is not normally a subject that does not catch my attention.  HRH so many thoughts on royal style is different.  This is a book about how fashion plays a role for four women: Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duchess of Sussex.

Veteran style reporter Elizabeth Holmes, who now writes for Town & Country, is the author of HRH so many thoughts on royal style.  She knows the subject well.

This is not a book about what the royals wear, but a book that offers thoughts (and facts) on the hows and whys of royal fashion. 

These four women -- all royal women for that matter -- do dress for success, as what they wear is important.  There are reasons why they wear a certain color or longer hems when visiting another country.  Holmes writes that the Queen's wardrobe  is "about function, not fashion."   The Queen is not a slave to fashion. She dresses to be seen and her clothes reflect her role. 

The late Diana, Princess of Wales took fashion to a new level.  As she became more comfortable in her role, she moved from the fussy lace and prints, adopting a bolder style after her divorce. 

Holmes also discusses the importance of the tiaras that Diana wore, including the Spencer tiara.  She is wrong, however, when she writes that the tiara "has not been worn publicly since her passing."  Her niece, Celia McCorquodale, wore the Spencer tiara in 2018 when she married George Woodhouse.

Catherine's royal style has evolved since her marriage as Holmes noted that her wardrobe had gained a "noticeable vibe in the autumn of 2018."

Meghan's fashion style was firmly established even before she married Prince Harry.   She used fashion to empower and celebrate designers from all over the world and was not afraid to use unheralded designers.   For Meghan, it was easy to combine the traditional with a new bold look.

HRH is not a glossy coffee table book that gets only a few glimpses, never to be opened again.  It is a largely well-researched book, complemented by superb photographs of the four royal women.

Elizabeth Holmes' thoughts evolve into a truly brilliant and refreshing style of writing that offers readers a tantalizing avenue into an exceptional study of royal fashion.

A few quibbles, though.  Why HRH as a title?  The Queen is Her Majesty.   The late Diana, Princess of Wales was not stripped of her HRH.  It was not HER HRH.  It came with the marriage.  In Britain, a woman takes her husband's rank and title, unless her rank was higher.  Diana was HRH by marriage.  She had no right to it after the divorce.   The Queen confirmed in a Letters Patent that former wives of HRHs cease to have the style.

That said, I must add that HRH is a fabulous book that will appear to fans of royal fashion and historians who will appreciate Holmes' research.  

HRH was published by Celadon Books.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Princess Mary: The First Modern Princess


This is a book I am looking forward to reading.    Elisabeth Basford has been working on this biography of Princess Mary, the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary.

The book will be published in the UK on February 5 by the History Press.

Acclaimed biographer Hugo Vickers describes the book: "At last a biography of Princess Mary, the Queen’s aunt – and a good one ... She has long deserved a full study and in Elisabeth Basford, she has found a dedicated and sympathetic biographer, who has done her full justice."

The book can be ordered from Amazon UK.  Princess Mary will also be listed on the US Amazon, but it is not currently available.

Let's just say I am giddy with excitement about this book.  Except for two hagiographies written in the 1920s, this is the first real biography of Princess Mary.

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Windsor Diaries (1940-45) by Alathea Fitzalan Howard

At the start of the second world war the Hon. Alathea Alys Gwendolen Mary Fitzalan Howard, the elder daughter of the second and last Viscount Fitzalan of Derwent,  was sent to live with her grandfather, Lord Fitzalan at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park.  King George V offered Cumberland Lodge (formerly the residence of Princess Helena and Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein) to the viscount, an elder statesman, and a devout Catholic.  If she had born a boy, Alathea would have succeeded her uncle Bernard as Duke of Norfolk.

Alathea's parents were estranged and her mother had a limited role in her life, and this often discussed by Alathea in her diaries as she sought (and found) emotional comfort from others.

Although life at Cumberland Lodge could be staid and dreary -- the rosary was said every night -- as Alathea lived with her elderly grandfather and his spinster sister, but as she was two and a half years older than Princess Elizabeth, she was often invited to Windsor Castle where Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret lived for the duration of the war.

It was at Cumberland Lodge when Alathea began to confide her thoughts in a diary.  She continued that tradition until 2001.  The diaries for 1940-1945 were published by Hodder & Stoughton with the title The Windsor Diaries.   Atria will publish a U.S. edition in May 2021.   I ordered the UK paperback edition from Amazon.

 She married the Hon. Edward Ward, younger son of the 2nd Earl of Dudley in 1953.  As her marriage was childless, she left her diaries to her nephew, Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland, Bt.  His wife, Lady Isabella, who edited the diaries, wrote: "the diaries were Alathea's greatest friend.  She confided in them completely ... a perfect confidante."

Her friendship with Queen Elizabeth II continued until she died in 2001.    

Alathea's diaries offer new insight into the lives of the two princesses during the war and their relationship with their parents and their social circle. Alathea was very much a part of this circle, often spending time with the princesses at French lessons and dancing classes.  There were also invitations to tea and movies at Windsor.  She also joined the princesses in their Christmas pantomimes.

She was very much conscious of her social position and had often dreamed of a grand marriage.  She had a distant relationship with her parents and rarely saw her younger sister, Elizabeth Anne, who was ten years her junior.  

What makes The Windsor Diaries so special is Alathea's observation of the people and events around her.   She relished the familial feeling that she experienced when she was with the Royal Family.  She had a crush on Hugh Euston (the earl of Euston), the heir to the Duke of Fitzroy.  On May 24, 1941, she wrote: "I saw my darling Hugh E.  After tea, the Q, the princesses and I played racing demon in her sitting room.  I'm so blissfully happy in the Court Circle and I would gladly die for that family if there were a Revolution."

Alathea's mother told her that "my royal friendship is not only utterly valueless but also a menace as it 'keeps me back.'  She also told me I should give up looking for impoverished men like H."

When she reached her eighteenth birthday,  Alathea began her war work with the Red Cross with other young women in her social circle.   Romance and marriage were often on her mind, not just her own marriage, but that of the Princess Elizabeth.  January 4, 1944: "Had a letter from Mummy, who told me PE is 'keen' on David Milford Haven, who is in love with Bridget Elliot, and trying his best to escape PE, whom he thinks deadly...Personally, I doubt that PE does like David MH in that way and I certainly think Prince Philip would suit her far better."

Lady Isabella's seamless editing brings Alathea's voice and views to the fore allowing us -- the readers -- to feel that we are standing next to Alathea.  We are given a front-row seat, an entry into the private lives of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and the two princesses, especially Princess Elizabeth.   

She was refreshingly honest as well.  On March 15, 1945, she wrote: "Biked to the Castle for drawing-- PE  was wearing her ATS  battle dress, which consists of trousers and I thought  she looked awful and that  it is shockingly bad for her to be seen about in them."

A few days before,  she had tea with Crawfie, confiding to her diary: "...We had long discussions on everything and everybody. She said she regretted PE had no taste at all but she wanted them to be so perfect so she was inclined to be disappointed..."

and there is that young Prince Philip.  "Afterwards I tidied in PE's room today and notice a large photo of Prince Philip on her mantelpiece, although it was unsigned," she wrote on July 12, 1945.

The Windsor Diaries is a book that will be appreciated by historians and biographers, seeking new perspectives into the queen's life during the war years.  When Alathea wrote her diaries, she never expected that they would be published, certainly not in the 1940s, but thankfully, she provided a window, allowing us a peek into her life - and those who came into her life in the second world war, especially the future Queen Elizabeth II.

What a radiant read!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

New books to savor

I have been trying to catch up with the books piled high on my cocktail table, some to read, some to read and review.   Here are three books that will -- I hope -- appeal to my readers.

The first is David Carpenter's Henry III The Rise to Power and Personal Rule 1207-1258, the first volume of what can only be described as groundbreaking and first-rate scholarly achievement.

David Carpenter is a Professor of Medieval History at King's College in London.  The life and reign of Henry III have been his life's work.  He was the son of King John and Isabella of Angouleme and was only nine years old when he succeeded his father.  

We are treated to nearly 800 pages of pure scholarship and research into Henry's life and reign that delves into his life and the roles of politics and religion during his reign.

This book is a master class in scholarly writing and research.  Every modern royal biographer should read Henry III to see how a true biographer tackles his subject.

Henry III The Rise to Power and Personal Rule was published by Yale University Press.  This is the first of 2 volumes in Yale's English Monarch Series.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bryan Kozlowski's Long Live the Queen, which has the subtitle 23 Rules of Living from Britain's Longest  Reigning Monarch.  You might be thinking that this is a humorous book.  It isn't.    Kozlowski has written a detailed, fascinating book about Queen Elizabeth, her life, and her relationship with other people, including family members and politicians.

The book is also impeccably researched -- source notes and citations.   My favorite rule is 21 "Jubilee Me  Life Gets Better after 80."   You might think that this chapter is about jubilees, but it is not.  The author focuses on the tradition in the life of the sovereign, a tradition that can include jubilee and other celebratory events.

It is believed that "London Bridge is down" will be the statement that will let the Prime Minister know that the queen is dead.  Kozlowski writes that the Queen's funeral will be the bridge that connects us all to the next royal adventure."  

This book was so engrossing, so enjoyable, steeped with history and wit, that I could not put it down and read it in one sitting.  

Turner Publishing has published the book in hardcover and paperback editions.

French royal genealogist Thierry LeHete is a noted expert of the Capét dynasty.  His newest achievement is La dynastie capétienne VIII - XXI siecle.  Tome 1 La descendance Légitime, is a study of the main and collateral branches of the Bourbons - the Spanish,  French, Luxembourg, and numerous noble lines.  He also includes the16 quartiers for the sovereigns and heads of the royal branches, including France, Spain, Luxembourg, Bourbon-Two-Sicilies, and Bourbon-Parma.

This book includes more than 300 pages of genealogical tables and historical data on the different branches of the Bourbon dynasty.

La dynastie capétienne VIII - XXI siecle can be ordered directly from the Genenet

or from the author at  4 rue Louis Ruel 76350 OISSEL SUR SEINE - FRANCE

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Long awaited memoirs Recollections by Victoria Marchioness of Milford Haven


Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven, was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, daughter of Princess Alice and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine.  Eldest sister of   Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Russia,  Princess Heinrich (Irene), Empress Alexandra of Russia and Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and By Rhine, wife of Prince Louis of Battenberg (1st Marquess of Milford Haven), mother of Princess Alice (Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark),  Queen Louise of Sweden,  George, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven and Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, grandmother of Princesses Margarita, Theodora, Cecile, Sophie and Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark,  Lady Tatiana Mountbatten and David, 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven, and Patricia, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma and Lady Pamela Hicks.

The book is available from Amazon, but not (yet) from

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Becoming Queen Mary Vol 1 (1867-1892) by Kori Roff-Lawrence

I am happy to announce the publication of Kori Roff-Lawrence's first book, Becoming Queen Mary.  This is the first volume that focuses on Mary's life from her birth in 1867 until her first engagement to Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence in 1892.

I had the pleasure to read the book before publication and I think you will enjoy it.  

Becoming Queen Mary is available in a softcover edition from Amazon's Kindle Publishing. It will not be offered digitally for Kindle readers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Romanian Buffet of Books


When I was in Bucharest in January for H.M. Margareta's 30th anniversary of her first visit to Romania,  the Romanian-language edition of Margareta Three Decades of the Crown.   The English-language edition was released in the early summer by Romanian publisher Curtea Veche.  

The first section of the book features family photos of Her Majesty, from infancy to boarding the plane with Princess Sophie in January 1990 for their first trip to Romania.  This is followed by 30 facts about Margareta and then individual chapters on each year - from 1990 to 2019 -- as the family is allowed to live in Romania.  

The Princess Margareta Foundation was established in  August 1990 and is now one of the leading charitable organizations in Romania.

This book offers highlights of the first 30 years of Margareta's work with details on her engagements, photos of her work (as well as with the family and other dignitaries).     Margareta's role, first as her father's primary support, then as heir, and now as Custodian of the Crown, has evolved into a functioning monarchy in a republic.

Margareta Three Decades of the Crown is the definitive book on Her Majesty's work as the Custodian of the Crown.  Plenty of photos and details about her engagements and travels on behalf of the Crown.

Sandra Gatejeanu-Gheorghe, a long-time confidante of Margareta, is the author of the book.  The English-translation was done by Jean Harris.

The book is available from the publisher.  The price is 95 Lei, which is about $23.00 plus postage. Although the site is in Romanian, it is easy to order the book.  
 By the way, postage is not prohibitive.

Prince Radu is the author of Povestea Castelului Peles, which was published in 2017 by Curtea Veche.  This is a 300-page book on Castle Peles in Sinaia.  The castle was built privately by King Carol I and inherited by his nephew, King Ferdinand who left the property to his grandson King Michael.  

Peles and Pelisor were returned to King Michael in 2006.  The Romanian royal family leases the castles to the Romanian government.  Unfortunately, the book is in Romanian only but do not be dissuaded as the photographs, historical and modern, more than makeup for the lack of an English text.

The book is currently priced at 78 leis.  A bargain.

Curtea is also the publisher of Săvârșin. Detaliul, co-authored by Margareta, Custodian of the Crown, and Prince Radu.  This is a 202-page book published in 2015 about the Romanian Royal Family's country home, Săvârșin, which King Michael purchased in the 1940s.   

This book was published following restoration work that began in 2007 and ended in 2015.  

Wonderful photographs by Christian Coposesc.

The Prince of Wales wrote the foreward for Lumea Majestății Sale. Jubileul Custodelui Coroanei Române,  a Romanian-language celebration of  Margareta's first thirty years in Romania.  The book was written by Alexandru Muraru and Daniel Sandru.

The book includes 20 pages of photographs.

This book was published in a paperback edition by Corint, which has no plans to translate the book into English.   Charles' foreward is in English and Romanian.