Thursday, April 17, 2014

Highgrove: Garden Celebrated by HRH The Prince of Wales & Bunny Guinness

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Prince Michael of Prussia: Historian, Biographer

Prince Michael of Prussia, who died on April 3, was a biographer and historian.  Here are links to several of his books, all in German.   In 1989, he wrote a memoir, Ein Preussenprinz zu sein.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Apapa: King Christian IX and His Descendants

Apapa: King Christian IX of Denmark and His Descendants by Arturo Beeche and Coryne Hall will be published on March 28.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawskley

Oh what a dud!   Lucinda Hawksley's The Mystery of Princess Louise Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter has flashes of being readable, but when it comes to deciding if this is a good book, and worth adding to a collection, let me state categorically: no.  Deeply disappointing.

The book jacket blur describes Hawksley, a descendant of Charles Dickens, as an art lecturer.  Stick to art, Lucinda, because you are not a very good royal biographer.  I would use the word abysmal to describe your effort here.

Louise's paper trail is limited, as acknowledged by the Royal Archives. She was told that Louise's files were 'closed.'   One can assume there are not a lot of "files" because the only real documentation would be correspondence, photographs, diaries, and perhaps other papers.  It was not customary to maintain a historical record for future biographers.  It was not unusual to destroy correspondence, for all sorts of reasons.  Queen Alexandra destroyed the majority of her papers, including correspondence.  This has proved difficult for biographers, including Georgiana Battiscombe.

Louise was the sixth of nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  She was described as rebellious, as rebellious as a princess could be in the 19th century.

Queen Victoria was not an easy parent.  This is not news as other, more competent biographers have noted the same thing.  Victoria's poor parenting skills -- and she didn't have the best model in her own mother -- is evident, even in her correspondence with her eldest daughter, Vicky.

Hawskley is convinced that the reason for the secrecy in the Royal Archives is because Louise gave birth to an illegitimate son, circa 1866-1867.  The alleged son, Henry Locock, was adopted by Mary and Frederick Locock in December 1867.

It was Henry's grandson, Nick Locock, who grew up with the story that Princess Louise was his great-grandmother. 

The story has no merit on so many levels.  Henry Locock claimed that his "mother" had access to him during his childhood, and he played with his royal cousins at Osborne.  I think the Locock story to be without merit.  Louise was in her late teens, still chaperoned.  She continued to be present at royal events, and it would have been difficult to hide a pregnancy from so many people.

If ... Louise had become pregnant, she would not have remained at court.  Queen Victoria would have made arrangements to send Louise out of the country, perhaps to the south of France, during the pregnancy.  The baby would have been given up for adoption, most likely to a foreign couple, and Louise would have returned home to begin life anew.  She would not have been told about the adoptive parents, and there would not have been any contact with the child.  Period.

There are at least two documented cases of princesses getting knocked up out of wedlock, and being sent away to give birth.  In 1871, Princess Thyra fell in love with a Danish soldier, Vilhelm Marcher.  She became pregnant, and traveled to Greece, on the advice of her brother, King George, where she gave birth to a daughter.  The baby was adopted by a Danish couple.  Thyra never saw her child again, and her putative lover killed himself after a confrontation with Thyra's father, King Christian IX.

Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a granddaughter of Princess Augusta of Cambridge,  tossed out of the palace in 1898 after getting pregnant by a footman.  No parental support, but her grandmother, the Dowager Duchess Augusta, came to her support, provided assistance and made arrangements for the young woman to travel to France, where she gave birth.  Her child was adopted. Duchess Marie was not told about who adopted her child.

Queen Maria Sophie of Bourbon-Two-Sicilies had an affair with a papal guard, and became pregnant.  Her family arranged for her to travel to Germany, where she gave birth in 1862.  Her child was adopted by her lover's family.  She never saw her child again.

In other words, an enceinte Louise would been packed off to the Continent, and her child adopted, and she would not have had any contact with the child. 

There is no doubt that the artistically-inclined Louise sought sexual pleasure outside her marriage, as her husband, the Marquess of Lorne, was homosexual.  She had a sense of adventure as she traveled through the United States and Canada.

Hawskley hits all the right points when discussing the state and status of Louise's marriage to Lorne, heir to the Argyll dukedom. But this is not new information.  She took on charities and patronages, supported the arts and the artists themselves.  She sought love and passion, and was with sculptor Edgar Boehm when he died.  Literally.  This is backed up by orrespondence and memoirs from contemporary sources.

But it is difficult to treat this book as a major achievement or even a decent biography you would want to place on the shelves.  This is largely due to the dozens of mistakes that the author should have corrected before sending the final manuscript to the editor.

Sloppy. Queen Adelaide gave birth to four children, not two.   Hawskley has a very limited grasp of how hemophilia came into the royal family.  She repeats, for no apparent reason, the old canard that the duke of Kent was not Victoria's father.  For one thing, hemophilia passes through the female line, not the male.  For many years the prominent theory was a spontaneous mutation at the time of Victoria's conception.  A  more likely scenario is that the disease was already in her mother's family.  Victoria's maternal family tree shows a number of sons dying young. 

Hawskley makes a big deal about Louise being the first member of the royal family since 1515.  Excuse me?  Great Uncle Augustus, Duke of Sussex, married twice, to daughters of earls.  The marriages were in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act.

George III's brothers, the Dukes of Cumberland and Gloucester, married commoners, and both marriages were accepted, although Parliament passed the Royal Marriages Act to forbid further such marriages.  James II's first marriage was to Anne Hyde, another commoner.  Four of Henry VIII's six marriages were to non-royals, the last in 1547 to Catherine Parr.

No, Lucinda, Princess Beatrice did not introduce Battenberg cake to Britain.  Although some sources  say that it BATTENBURG cake was created in 1884 for the wedding of Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine and Prince Louis of Battenberg,  confectionary historians have proven that the cake first appeared in England in the late 1890s.

Louise may have traveled to South Africa with Princess Alice and Lord Athlone,  but Alice was the daughter of Louise's younger brother, Leopold, and not her older sister, Helena. On page 232, she referred several times to Arthur and his wife Marie.  Arthur was married to Louise Margaret.  His older brother, Alfred, was married to Marie. 

George V did not throw off "old Hanoverian associations."  Queen Victoria was the last of the Hanoverians.  George V was a Coburg, as was his father.

If you want to read a good biography of Princess Louise, I recommend Jehanne Wake's Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s Unconventional Daughter, published in 1988 by Harper Collins.  A definite must have, unlike Lucinda Hawksley's feeble book.  A true disappointment.

The Mystery of Princess Louise Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter (Chatto  Windus: £25.00)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Coburgs of Europe by Arturo Beeche

The Coburgs certainly knew how to network and create strong marital alliances that would essentially create a strong bond among European dynasts.  It is unlikely that Duke Franz Friedrich of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld (1750-1806) ever envisioned that his progeny, his descendants would sit on thrones throughout Europe.

The story begins with Franz Friedrich's second marriage to Countess Augusta zu Reuss-Ebersdorf.  They were the parents of nine children, seven of whom would make strong dynastic alliances.

At the time, Princess Juliane's marriage to Grand Duke Konstantin of Russia was considered to be a brilliant match, an arrangement between the daughter of a minor German duke and a member of the Russian Imperial family.  Although her own marriage was unhappy,  Juliane's position as a Grand Duchess afforded her own siblings a step up and a step out of tiny Coburg.

Juliane's marriage opened the door for her siblings, especially youngest brother, Prince Leopold, a charming, handsome man, who served in the Russian Imperial Army, fighting against Napoleon.  It was in London where he met Princess Charlotte of Wales, only child of the Prince Regent, eldest son of King George III.  Charlotte was the most eligible princess in Europe, as she was second in line to the throne. 

Many assumed Charlotte would marry Willem of Orange, but she decided she didn't want such a marriage, and rebelled against it.  She and Willem were guests at a reception at a London hotel for the visiting Emperor Alexander I of Russia, when she met one of his aide de camps.  The young man helped the Princess and her lady-in-waiting into their carriage.  Charlotte had seen the young man at several parties in honor of Emperor, and wondered why he had not presented himself to her.  All of the other princes had done.  Leopold apologized and introduced himself:  it was love at first sight.

It would not be easy for the young Princess Charlotte to convince her father and others that the penniless (but ambitious) Prince Leopold of Coburg was suitable.  She won the battle, and the marriage took place in May 1816.  

The young couple were popular.  Leopold, the youngest child of minor Duke, was now the husband of a future Queen Consort.  That was the plan.  But in November 1818,  Princess Charlotte died in childbirth.  Her son was stillborn.

The Coburgs were on the verge of dynastic greatness with Leopold's marriage.  Now he was a widower, left alone to his own devices.   He would prove to be the consummate networker.   Less than a year after the death of his wife,  Prince Leopold encouraged a marriage between his sister, Victoire, the widow of the Prince of Leiningen, and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III.  

The marriage between Victoire and Edward took place in May 1818.  A year later, on May 24,  at Kensington Palace, the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a daughter, Alexandrina Victoria, perhaps the most important player in the Coburg dynasty.  (Of course, I am biased toward Victoria and her descendants, but that's another story.)

Nearly three months after Victoria's birth,  Duchess Luise of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the young wife of Duke Ernst I, Victoire and Leopold's brother, gave birth to a second son, Albert.     Fast forward to February 1840, and Queen Victoria marries her first cousin, a dynastic (and a true love match) carefully engineered by dear Uncle Leopold, who had managed to secure a throne of his own, as the first King of the newly independent Belgium.

You must read Art Beeche's  The Coburgs of Europe: the Rise and Fall of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's European Family, a book that will truly become one of the definitive sources on Coburg dynasty.

The Coburgs were not confined to Great Britain and Belgium.   Leopold's eldest brother, Ernst I, inherited the duchy, which was inherited by his eldest son, Ernst II, who died without legitimate issue.  An arrangement was made to have the succession devolve on Victoria and Albert's second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, When his only son, young Affie, died, the next in line, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and his son, Prince Arthur, renounced their rights in favor of the young Duke of Albany, Charles Edward, who succeeded his uncle Alfred in 1900.   His grandson, Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, is the present head of the family.

Another brother, Prince Ferdinand, made a financially advantageous with a Hungarian noblewoman, Antoinette Kohary, an heiress.  Antoinette was Roman Catholic, thus leading to a Roman Catholic branch of the family, a branch that included Portugal and Bulgaria.   The eldest son, Ferdinand, married Queen Maria II of Portugal, sharing the throne, until her death in 1853.  The second son, Prince August, married the very formidable Princess Clementine of Orleans, a woman as cunning and ambitious as Uncle Leopold.   Her eldest son, Philipp, a most foul man, married Leopold's granddaughter, Princess Louise of Belgians, but Clementine's energies were largely expended on her youngest son, the effeminate Ferdinand, elected king of the Bulgarians.  

There also would be marriages with Braganzas, Hohenzollerns and Saxons, but of course the most successful marriage in spreading the Coburg genes was the marriage between Victoria and Albert. 

Their descendants would sit on the thrones of the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Romania and Yugoslavia.   These are the families we know a lot about,  but the Coburg destiny was not confined to Victoria and Albert's descendants.   The Belgians offer diversity and sadness, especially the life stories of the daughters of Leopold II.   His children, especially his elder daughters, suffered emotional abuse at his hands.  Neither Princess Louise nor Princess Stephanie were prepared for marriage, and neither could sustain successful marriages.  Leopold did  not consider Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the son of Prince August and Princess Clementine (daughter of  Louis Philippe) as a suitable spouse for his eldest daughter.

The family ties were close.  Clementine's older sister, Louise, was the second wife of Leopold I of the Belgians, widower of Princess Charlotte of Wales.  Prince August was the son of Prince Ferdinand and Princess Antonia Kohary, thus making him one of the Kohary heirs.  August and Leopold II were first cousins.     Clementine was determined to secure an advantageous match for her eldest son, and pushed him toward Louise. 

Leopold thought Louise was too young to marry her cousin, but eventually, he gave permission, and the couple were married.  Clementine considered it a great coup to have her son marry the King of Belgium's daughter.   It was  not a happy marriage.  Louise was willful and independent (and largely ignorant about sex) and Philipp was a brute.  The marriage largely collapsed after the birth of the couple's two children, Leopold and Dorothea.  

On paper, Stephanie's marriage was grand.  She married Archduke Rudolf, only son of Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.  Stephanie was ill-prepared for her new position and marriage.  It was not a love match.  Rudolf infected his wife with a venereal disease, which rendered the young archduchess infertile after the birth of their only child, Elisabeth.   Rudolf ended his life in a murder-suicide pact with his mistress at Mayerling in 1889.

Art Beeche moves effortlessly among the different branches as he weaves the stories into gripping yet historic tales of real people caught up in a genetic tsunami. 

Perhaps because I know a lot about Victoria's line, I was more interested in the other branches, especially the Kohary branch: the descendants of Prince Ferdinand and Princess Antonia.   The Coburg -Kohary line was perhaps the wealthiest of all the branches, although the fortune and many of the palatial residences were lost to bad economics, national socialism, and communism, especially the residences in Hungary.

The Kohary inheritance passed to Prince Philipp's middle brother, Prince Ludwig August, who married Princess Leopoldine of Brazil.  (The youngest brother, Ferdinand, became King of Bulgaria.  King Simeon is his grandson.)  Ludwig August married Archduchess Carolina of Austria, a member of the Tuscan branch of the family.  The family fortune eventually devolved from Prince Philipp to his nephew, Prince Philipp Josias, as the latter became the "universal heir to the inalienable estates protected by the Coburg and Kohary Fideikommis."   Prince Philipp's own estate was divided between Prince Philipp-Josias and his cousin, Prince Kyril of Bulgaria,

Family and legal disputes led to the financial devastation of Kohary Coburgs.  Czechoslovakia ended the practice of Fideikommis in 1924.  This action led to a further breakup of the family's Czech properties and more law suits  Prince Philipp's daughter, Princess Dorothea, the widow of Prince Ernst Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein, filed suit to gain a share of the fortune, thus creating another level of family discourse, 

The family lost money and lost property,  marriages ended in divorce,  but the saddest story for me was the tragic deaths of Prince Rainer (Philipp Josias's older brother) and their sister, Princess Marie Karoline.   Prince Rainer and his wife remained in Budapest during the second world war.  In 1945,  Rainer was arrested by the Communists, imprisoned, and never seen again.  The family assumes that Rainer was executed by the Communists. He was declared dead in 1961.

Rainer's sister, Marie Karoline, who was mentally handicapped, was gassed by the Nazis in the early years of the second world war.

Philipp-Josias's son, Prince Philipp-August, remains committed to rebuilding the family's Austrian estates.

King Leopold, Queen Victoria and Princess Clementine were the quintessential networkers,  using not always tacit negotiation skills to effect ways to further the scope of Coburg power.

Friedrich Franz, Duke of Saxe-Coburg, died in 1806, nearly a decade before his youngest son, Leopold's marriage to Princess Charlotte of Wales.   Although the marriage ended with Charlotte's death in childbirth, Leopold remained at the forefront, ensuring that his niece and nephew marry, thus establishing a new Coburg dynasty in Britain.

The Coburgs of Europe is an amazingly well-researched book.  Take a look at the impressive bibliography in the back of the book.  Art Beeche took his time to make sure he didn't miss a source.  If I had a few quibbles ... okay I have a few quibbles .. it would be to ask why the many quotes used in the text were not cited with footnotes.  This certainly would enhanced the book's scholarly achievement.  Historians, writers, biographers and others would be able to refer a quote to the original source, such as a memoir, biography, newspaper articles, etc.

One weird little thing: on page 293. Mr. Beeche writes that Princess Kalina was the only "one of King Simeon's children convert to Catholicism."  This is incorrect.   King Simeon II married Dona Margarita Gomez-Acebo y Cejuela, a Spanish noblewoman.  Queen Margarita is Roman Catholic.  It was decided at the time of the marriage that their first son would be baptized into the Orthodox faith.  Their three younger sons and only daughter were all baptized and raised as Roman Catholics.  Is it possible that Kalina converted to the Orthodox faith.  She was married according to the rites of the Roman Catholic church.  The marriage was also blessed by the Orthodox church.  Kalina's son, Simeon, born in Bulgaria, was baptized in the Orthodox church.

A word of caution.  You will find it takes time to read this book. (This is not necessarily a bad thing.)  There is so much information .. and the photographs!  Did I mention the photographs.  Hundreds of photographs, many of which will be seen for the first time in this book.

The Coburgs of Europe oozes with the history and personality of kings and dukes and queens and princesses.  There are two chapters shouting out the accomplishments of about a dozen Coburg women, including Queen Victoria's mother,  Victoire.  (Good thing she listened to her younger brother about that second marriage.)

The book is also visually stunning.  I won't be surprised if this book remains on coffee tables for some time to come, so you can pick it up and savor it again and again.  The Coburgs of Europe is a masterpiece, a true masterpiece, born out of a loving devotion to history.

Who needs social media when the Coburgs networked rather nicely without it!

A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography

Opening February 4, 2014 at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography. The exhibit runs through June 8. Los Angeles is a bit too far to pop over to see the exhibit.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Anne Portrait of the Queen by HRH Prince Radu of Romania

It is a good thing when I say that there is a proliferation of books about the Romanian royal family published in Romania.  Books about King Michael and his family can be found in bookstores throughout the country,  This is a good thing.

Prince Radu, the husband of Crown Princess Margarita, is the author of several very books on the royal house.  His most recent book is Anne Portrait of the Queen/Ana Portretul Reginei (Curtea Veche: 41 Leis), which was published to commemorate Queen Anne's 90th birthday last September.

The text is in English and in Romanian, which allows the book to be marketed outside Romania, thus reaching a wider audience.

Prince Radu is correct when he writes that the "text of this book should make room for the photographs to take their rightful place."

Queen Anne was born at Paris on September 18, 1923, one of four children (and only daughter) of Prince Rene of Bourbon-Parma and Princess Margrethe of Denmark.  In November 1947, she took the train from Paris to London to visit her parents, who were guests at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth.  It was in London where she met King Michael, a guest at the wedding.  Much to the dismay of the new communist overlords in Romania,  the young and popular king returned to Bucharest, determined to save his throne, and marry Princess Anne.   The Communists would have nothing of a royal romance (they knew the reaction among the Romanian people would have been positive, something the Communists would not approve).

The Russians had already decided that the King must go, and the monarchy abolished.  Wedding or no wedding, Michael was forced to abdicate on December 30, 1947.  Two weeks after Michael arrived in Lausanne, he was reunited with Princess Anne.  They were married in June 1948.

I cannot imagine the pain that King Michael suffered in the early weeks after the loss of his throne.   Queen Anne has been his soul mate, his support, and his confident for more 65 years.

Anne Portrait of the Queen features black and white and color photos of Queen from childhood to the present.  Many of these photographs were published for the first time, including a selection of wedding photographs, and private family photos from the 1950s and 1960s with the King and Queen's five children.

I only wish bookstores, such as Hoogstraten, would take the initiative and stock Anne Portrait of the Queen and other royal books published in Romania.  Trust me, there is a market for these titles.  A small market, but a market nonetheless.

I want to thank Crown Princess Margarita and Prince Radu for sending me this wonderful book.