Thursday, September 24, 2020

This book is not recommended


Several days ago I received a letter from the publisher, touting this book - and would  I be interested in reviewing it.   After all the author, who was described as a royal historian, has more than 225,000 Instagram followers.  The account was cited so I looked it ... pictures of royals (is the "author" paying copyright fees for the use of the photos?) but little else.  I don't have that many IG followers, but my other blog, Royal Musings, has had more than 15 million readers since 2008!

Having 225, 000 followers or living in London for a year does not make you a royal historian or an expert on British royalty.  Trust me, it takes years of research, reading, more research, writing, more reading ... I could go on because I am a royal historian.  

I have posted the photo of the book but this review will provide no information on the publisher or how to order.   Please do not buy this book.  

The publisher provided me with a copy of the book (which I downloaded).  I regret doing this, but at least, I can warn my readers to NOT BUY THIS BOOK.

I stopped reading the book because it is so awful.  I responded to the  Publicity department's email,  and pointed out the errors I found, which:

Queen Victoria was not married in 1837.   George III was not succeeded by William IV.  Antony Armstrong-Jones did not receive his peerage (Earl of Snowdon) on his wedding.  In fact he received it in October 1961, only a few weeks before Princess Margaret gave birth to their first child, David, now the second Earl of Snowdon.

Yes, Philip was naturalized citizen, but a royal historian would know that he did not need to go through the naturalization process due to the Sophia Naturalization Act (1707).   This act gave British nationality to Sophia's Protestant descendants in perpetuity ... well, until 1949, when the law was superseded by the British Nationality Act.  The SNA remains in effect for Sophia's Protestant descendants born before 1949.    In the same year that Philip went through the process, another descendant of Sophia, Prince Friedrich of Prussia, who married Lady Brigid Guinness, used the SNA to prove his British nationality.  In 1956,  Friedrich's first cousin, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, won his case for British nationality.  

And then there is the egregious error of confusing precedence and etiquette.  After the Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker-Bowles,  Queen Elizabeth II revised the Order of Precedence for women, according to one major British newspaper.  The new wife of the Prince of Wales was placed after Princess Alexandra.  Prior to this, the wife of the heir to the throne followed the Queen and the Queen Mother or the Queen Consort.   The writer then throws a spanner into the story, stating that Camilla and other wives would have to curtsey to the HRHS by birth.

This part of the article was incorrect. Period.  Full stop.  Curtseys and bows are not a part of precedence, but merely etiquette.  An HRH does not curtsy or bow to another HRH, whether they are born or have acquired the style by marriage.  A prince or princess of the blood and a princess or prince by marriage HAVE THE SAME RANK!!!!   They do not bob or bow up and down to each other.  But they all curtsy or bow to the sovereign.

Yet, the Instagram "Royal Historian" did not know this or have the wherewithal to check the facts.  An investment in Debrett's Correct Form might have helped the writer ... or not.  If you do not believe me, ask Dickie Arbiter, the Queen's former press secretary who has pointed out the same corrections to others.

I did not finish it.  I could not bear it. I am sure there are other mistakes, but I am not going to waste my time ... and please, do not waste your time in purchasing this book.  Do not waste bandwidth for downloading ... and no tree should have to die for this book. 

Dear, dear "author", a reminder:  Google is not always your friend. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Michael Romanov Brother of the Last Tsar Diaries and Letters 1916-1918

Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia was the youngest son of Alexander III and his Danish-born wife, Dagmar (Marie Feodorovna).  With two older brothers, Nicholas and George,  Michael was never expected to play a role in the succession. He was expected to marry well and have children, all of whom would have a supporting role in the Russian monarchy.

That's not how it turned out.  Nicholas succeeded his father in November 1894.  Alexander was only 49 when he succumbed to nephritis.  Three weeks after his father's death, Nicholas married Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine,   Nicholas' middle brother, Grand Duke George was the heir presumptive until his death from tuberculosis in 1899.   

Succession to the Russian throne was semi-Salic, meaning all of the eligible males preceded the females, including the Tsar's daughters.   By 1899,  Nicholas was the father of three daughters and no sons.  Following George's death, Michael became the heir presumptive until August 1904, when Empress Alexandra gave birth to the Tsarevitch, Alexis.

A healthy son would have allowed Grand Duke Michael to have his own life. However,  Alexis was hemophilic, which meant that he might not live to adulthood and Michael would succeed to the throne,

It is apparent that Michael, a dullard, was never able to step up as the spare-in-waiting.  He fell in love with his first cousin, Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh, but the marriage would not be approved by Nicholas.  He also pursued one of his sister's ladies-in-waiting and, finally, in 1912, he eloped with his mistress (and mother of his young son, George, Natalia Wulfert, to Vienna where they were married without Nicholas II's permission.  

Imperial punishment was swift.  Michael was stripped of his position as Regent-in-waiting and access to his appanage.  The family spent three years in exile, but in 1915, he begged his brother to be allowed to return to Russia to serve the county, then embroiled in the second year of the first world.  Although Natalia was never welcome at court,  young George was given the title Count Brasov.

Michael, however, was welcomed back into the imperial fold, where he divided his time with his wife and son at his country estate, Brasovo, and Gatchina.   

This is the first time that Michael's diaries have been published in English with an expert and critical translation by Helen Azar,  Nicholas Nicholson wrote the text and the supporting footnotes.

The diaries cover the period between December 1916 and June 1918, when Michael and his secretary Nicholas Johnson were executed in Perm.  

It must be acknowledged that Michael was an entitled Imperial prat. When the time came to stand up and be counted (the Grand Duke's Manifesto) he screwed up badly, thus ending any opportunity to save the throne,

The diaries open in December 1916 with Michael and his family in Livadia, where they learned of Rasputin's death.  They were back at Gatchina for the new year.  On January 7, 1917, Michael was deputized to meet Crown Prince Carol of Romania and bring him to the Winter Palace.

In the background, one can hear the inevitable time bomb clicking away, but for the protagonists in this diary were a bit oblivious to tick-tick-tick.

It must be noted that the diary entries are largely banal: weather, temperature, walking, going to the zoo, dinner guests, kids playing,  Michael doing gymnastics, Michael playing the guitar (he often played the guitar), day-to-day comings and goings.

Michael did not confide  recriminations or even concern for other family members, which means there is little insight into Michael's views on the political  This may be a calculated decision, perhaps knowing that his diaries could be read.  But it must be stressed that the Grand Duke was ill-suited for his position as heir presumptive. It was difficult to take Michael seriously as he had no real concept of duty.  

The Grand Duke did have a "talk" with his brother on February 10.  This comment is elaborated by a footnote that provides more details on this conversation.  It may not have ended well for Michael -- was he trying to convince Nicholas that the situation was serious.  Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, the Emperor's brother n law was also there, and he noted that his comments to the Empress were dismissed as she was oblivious to the forthcoming revolutionary tsunami.

He did agree to sign the Grand Duke's Manifesto along with Grand Duke Kirill and Grand Duke Paul.  The Grand Dukes wanted to save the throne for Nicholas.  Time was running out, however, as events moved with "horrifying speed."

Had the Manifesto been accepted by the Duma, and more, important, by Nicholas (and Alexandra), the monarchy might have been saved.  The political situation was rapidly snowballing but the situation quickly changed and the Manifesto could not be implemented.   Alexandra's wails were for naught. Nicholas was forced to abdicate for himself and his son.  300 years of Romanov rule was over.  

Michael had neither the power nor the authority to push the Manifesto's agenda.  A more persuasive attempt might have been made by Paul or Kirill.

As the monarchy crumbled and Nicholas and Alexandra and their family were under house arrest,  Michael stayed at Gatchina with his wife, their son, and Natasha's daughter from her earlier marriage.  During the next few months, Michael and his wife were able to go to the theatre, walk at the Zoo, meet with friends, and government officials. His secretary Nicholas Johnson was nearly always present as well.

There would be new arrests and investigations of other members of the Imperial Family.  The footnotes, which were provided by Nicholson, offer more insight into some of Michael's comments.  On June 2, Michael visited his cousin, Grand Duke Boris, who had recently been freed from house arrest, but as with other members of this family, no one would be granted an exit order to be allowed to leave the country.

In an entry dated August 1,  Michael mentions newspaper reports about Nicholas' departure.  He wrote of the departure: "but instead Tobolsk, it said Kostroma."  He did not elaborate further. Historians can only speculate on Michael's private thoughts based on who came to visit or who the Grand Duke met.  This is why the footnotes provide far more than a historical enhancement.

Michael was arrested in August 1917 for being a part of a conspiracy that did not exist. The stress of an increasing fear -- and even though Michael's entries are devoid of emotion, he certainly was under a lot of stress so it is no surprise that he developed an ulcer.  He and other Grand Dukes were released from their arrest, but this did not mean that they had true freedom of movement,

But Michael's grasp on freedom soon came to an end as the Bolsheviks took power.  By November 1917, his situation was becoming more acute "as soldiers from the Aviation School"  confiscated 80 bottles of wine and sugar.   Michael and his family were still able to travel between Gatchina and Petrograd, but returning to Brasovo was out of the question.

It was a false sense of security for Russia and for Michael.  The Bolsheviks had no intention of respecting the Constituent Assembly.  The Bolsheviks had only 24 percent of the seats but were able to take control and end Russia's hope for a democratic constitution.

Michael and his secretary Nicholas Johnson were arrested and sent to Perm, more than 1000 miles from Petrograd on March 11.  There are no diary entries from March 6 to  May 8

Natalia was desperate to have Michael released.  She made arrangements for their son to be smuggled out of Russia.  She received permission to spend Easter in Perm.  She left Perm on May 18, as noted in Michael's diary.  It was the last time they would see each other.  

In the final weeks of his life, Michael continued to have stomach problems.  Although he was not under arrest, he was not permitted to leave Perm.

The last diary entry is dated June 11, 1918.  He wrote to Natasha who had already returned to Gatchina.  In the middle of the night (June 12/13), three soldiers turned up with arrest warrants for Michael and Johnson.  They were "forcibly removed" and before sunrise on June 13, Grand Duke Michael and Nicholas Johnson were executed somewhere outside Perm.  Their bodies were never found.

This book is a welcomed addition -- a must-have, actually -- to the canon of Romanov books for serious historians.  Yes, the diary entries lack emotion or insight, yet remain important as a record of what Michael's life was like until the day before his death.

Helen Azar has done a superior job with the translation and Nicholas Nicholson, already an acknowledged art expert is now an accomplished  Russian historian. In writing the opening biographical sketch and the many footnotes, he consulted numerous original Russian language sources including Grand Duke Andrew's diaries. 

The book includes six pages of photos.  The photos are small, and it is difficult to read the captions.  Doubling the number of pages with 2 photos per page would have allowed the photos to be better presented. 

Michael Romanov Brother of the Last Tsar Diaries and Letters 1916-1918 was published in hardcover ($99.95) and paperback ($29.95) by Academic Press.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Finding Freedom ... Not even a Fine Whine


Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand's Finding Freedom (HarperCollins:$27.99) starts out on shaky ground with a fake Ralph Waldo Emerson quote.  The acclaimed American poet never wrote or said: Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

It is embarrassing that neither of these two authors nor their editors checked the veracity of the quote.

Before going any further, let me say that I like Harry and Meghan.  I have written and tweeted about the racist and xenophobic coverage of Meghan in the British press.  In all fairness, not every article was racist or xenophobic but it didn't take long for Meghan to become the British tabloid press' whipping boy.

[The whipping boy refers to "A scapegoat. One who is singled out for blame or punishment."   To learn more about the origin of the phrase, see this ]

 She was not the first royal bride to be subjective to negative articles. The late Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, Duchess of York were also subjected to nastiness by a certain element of the press.  The attacks on Sarah began soon after her marriage to Prince Andrew.  

It is wrong to say that Meghan was a breath of fresh air when she married Harry.  She was a royal bride, the wife of the younger son of the Prince of Wales. Meghan is well-educated, well-spoken, and a woman who is largely confident in her own skin.  She aced her royal engagements as she engaged with the crowds and the hosts.  

Prince Harry, who served in the front lines in Afghanistan, was beginning to carve out a role in the family, and he was in love with a gorgeous wife at his side.  But it appears that this was not enough for Harry.

Understandably, Harry would want to protect his wife and young son.  But this protection seems to have backfired.  The negative press coverage has not abated and privacy is largely non-existent in the United States once you walk outside your front door.  The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and little Archie would be a lot safer behind the fences in Windsor Great Park. 

This book has been subject to a lot of press on both sides of the Atlantic.  Some good, some bad.  Some not worth reading.

Finding Freedom is not a biography.  It isn't a hagiography either (as neither Harry nor Meghan are saints.)  What it is is a mishmash of love, romance, dinners, dresses, tours, more dresses, more food, and, oh, and the consistency of a not-so-fine whine.  The authors did not provide citations for their references to news articles nor did they include a bibliography. Most egregious is the lack of an index.

HarperCollins can afford to hire indexers.  It is difficult to take seriously a "biography" that does not include an index. Reviewers, journalists, and historians should not have to resort to using bookmarks to go back to when writing the review.

The authors claim that they did not talk to Harry or Meghan while writing this book, but they did talk to their friends, palace officials, past and present and others, and claim they verified each statement twice.   

I think Harry and Meghan would have become a powerful couple within the context of the royal family.   Yes, there were ruffled feathers between the Cambridges and the Sussexes.  Harry, however, had some nerve when he complained about William calling Meghan "that girl," when he referred to Angela Kelly, the Queen's dresser, as "this woman," when he complained, according to the book, in "heated" tones to the Queen.  Harry believed that Kelly was making it difficult for Meghan to get access to the tiara she would wear at her wedding.

Meghan's hairdresser had flown over from Paris to run through the hair design, so the bride and groom had hoped to borrow the tiara.  Harry had a hissy fit because he thought his fiancee was being slighted.  This was not the case.  Jewels are delivered to the bride closer to the wedding.  Catherine Middleton's hairdresser, Richard Ward, used a plastic tiara when he practiced Catherine's wedding hair design.

It is understandable that Harry and Meghan, given their popularity, wanted more of a say in their engagements.  Harry did not understand or want to accept that as the second son, his wants and desires were not paramount.  Popularity and precedence are two different things.  Popularity comes and goes, but precedence usually stays the same.

It was certainly time to break free of the Kensington Palace office, but they were disappointed when the Queen would not allow them to have their own office.   Although they had their own staff, the Sussexes' new office came under Buckingham Palace's umbrella.   The Queen's three younger children and her cousins' offices were also in Buckingham Palace.  

Perhaps the most honest chapter is the one that focuses on Thomas Markle's machinations as he dissolved from a loving father to an absolutely awful man, who showed no love for his younger daughter as he accepted blood money from the tabloids and betrayed her.  He was certainly encouraged and abetted by his odiferous elder daughter.   I cannot imagine how this affected Meghan in the days before her wedding.

She is also right to sue the Mail on Sunday for violating her copyright.  The recipient of a letter has the right to show the letter, but no one, including a newspaper, can publish the letter without permission of the copyright holder, which, in this case, is HRH The Duchess of Sussex.  

Harry and Meghan used surrogates to tell their story. There is no doubt in my mind that the sources, especially the friends, talked to the authors with the Sussexes'  approbation.  Unfortunately, the storytellers are not up to the task.  At one point, I felt like I was reading a Harlequin Romance, which moved to whines and grievances, never acknowledging that Harry and Meghan were also responsible for their situation.  (I am not talking about the racist articles.  The only ones responsible for those are the writers and their editors for allowing the articles to be published.)

Harry was the one who was looking for an out from being a working, first-string royal.  He is well aware of his popularity and he was keen to embrace a philanthropic life, which, I must add, is normal for a royal.  But I also think -- it becomes apparent in this book -- that Harry was the bull in the china shop.  He met a lovely well-educated woman, three years his senior, and quickly fell in love.   Hindsight being 20/20, Harry should have been circumspect and let Meghan learn about what her royal role would be.

It is a bit selfish for Meghan to say she gave everything up when she married Harry.  No, you gained the opportunity to do so many more things within the context of being royal.   

I have said several times that Meghan aced her engagements.   She was an asset whose soft power could have been harnessed and used, again within the context of being royal.  

both photos @Marlene A Eilers Koenig 

The press office should have been more vigilant in addressing the racist comments in the press.  It must be stressed that other royals, past and present, have been subjected to negative press, and just ignore it.  Harry is a bit too thin-skinned, in my view.  Digressing of course, but this becomes more apparent in the book, which acknowledges the differences but puts the blame firmly with Kensington Palace, Clarence House, Buckingham Palace, and never with Harry and Meghan.

Finding Freedom needed a good fact-checker as well  The authors say they fact-checked the quotes.  Perhaps they should have also fact-checked parts of their text.

The authors also do not mention that the Luce Guidelines, named for Lord Luce,  was offered to Harry and Meghan to be working royals and make money.  The guidelines were established in 2001 by the then Lord Chamberlain Lord Luce to allow the earl and countess of Wessex to combine royal duties with paid work.  Edward and Sophie decided to give up their careers and become fulltime working royals.  The Luce Guidelines remain extant but have never been implemented.  

Several news articles reported that the Luce Guidelines were offered to the duke and duchess.  It was also confirmed to me by someone who had full knowledge of the negotiations with Harry and Meghan.

Let's look at several examples where the authors missed out by not fact-checking. 

Page 110:   the authors refer to Meghan's first marriage in 2011 in Jamaica.   This was not a legal wedding.  Meghan and Trevor were married on August 16, 2011, most likely in Los Angeles, a month before the celebration in Jamaica.  The date of the marriage appears in Meghan's divorce application from her first marriage to Trevor Engelson. They divorced in 2013.

Page 151:  "Meghan was thrilled to finally be sharing a zip code, W8 4PY."   Zipcodes are for US addresses.  The British use postal codes.

Page 155:  "The rule that the monarch must approve marriage for the first six in line to the throne has existed since the Royal Marriages Act of 1772,  whose younger brother, the Duke of Cumberland, secretly married Lady Anne Horton, considered to be the disreputable widow of a commoner."  

George's brother, Prince Henry was the Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn.  For another,  the Royal Marriages Act did not limit the need for permission to the first six in line.  Far more people, royal, non-royal, were required to seek permission to marry: "That no descendant of the body of his late majesty King George the Second, male or female, (other than the issue of princesses who have married, or may hereafter marry, into foreign families) shall be capable of contracting matrimony without the previous consent of his Majesty, his heirs, or successors, signified under the great seal, and declared in council, (which consent, to preserve the memory thereof is hereby directed to be set out in the licence and register of marriage, and to be entered in the books of the privy council); and that every marriage, or matrimonial contract, of any such descendant, without such consent first had and obtained, shall be null and void, to all intents and purposes whatsoever."    

The Royal Marriages Act was superseded by the Succession to the Crown Act (2013), which limited permission to the first six in line.

Page 158:  "Meghan had fully expected Kate to reach out to her."   That is not how it works.  Meghan should have reached out to Catherine, as well as the Countess of Wessex, to ask the important questions.  "Could we get together as  I have so many things to learn and would love to talk with you for your guidance.  Lunch would be my treat."  

The burden was on Meghan, not the Duchess of Cambridge.   This is not a negative comment, just an observation of how things are done.

Page 201:  Alexandra Knatchbull is described as a family friend.  Her father Lord Brabourne (at the time, he is now the 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma) is said to have "fallen ill at the last minute," when Charles was asked to give Alexandra away at her wedding.   Lady Alexandra Hooper is a goddaughter of the late Diana Princess of Wales. Lord Brabourne's godfather was the Duke of Edinburgh.  His mother, Patricia, the 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, was one of Charles' godmothers and the Duke of Edinburgh's first cousin.

Family, not a family friend.  Lord Brabourne had been ill for some time and was being cared for on the Broadlands estate. He and his wife, Penny, a carriage driving partner of the Duke of Edinburgh, had been estranged for several years due to his infidelity.  Lord Brabourne is one of the Duke of Cambridge's godfathers.  The Duke of Edinburgh is his godfather.  A year older than the Prince of Wales, the former Norton Knatchbull was for many years a close friend as well as Charles' second cousin.

Page 221: "and though the Frogmore House setting -- a stately  230-year-old house once inhabited by King George III..." Work began on Frogmore House in 1680 (which makes it 340 years old.)   The first tenants were Anne Aldworth and Thomas May, the nephew of the architect, Hugh  May.   George III purchased the Greater Frogmore estate in 1792 for his wife,  Queen Charlotte.  He did not live Frogmore House.  Charlotte used the house as a retreat with her daughters.   At Queen Charlotte's death in 1818, the estate passed to her daughter, Princess Augusta.  In March 1841, the Crown purchased the estate from Princess Augusta's executors,  An Act of Parliament brought the property into the "royal domain at Windsor."    

[It helps to have a copy of Frogmore House's official guidebook and several books on British royal residences.]

Page 244.  The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester did not move out of Apartment 1 at Kensington Palace until September 2019, some months after the Sussexeses moved into Frogmore Cottage.  The 21 room apartment next to the Cambridges' Apartment 1A, was once the home of the first Duke of Sussex, a son of George III.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were given the apartment after the deaths of his older brother, Prince William, and his father, the duke of Gloucester, in August 1972 and June 1974, respectively.   Much needed renovations, including the roof, began even before Harry met Meghan, but it was not a secret that the empty-nester Gloucesters were going to downsize and move into the Old Stables on the Kensington Palace grounds.

Page 246: Yet again, why was Meghan depending on Catherine to reach out and "check on her during her most difficult times with the press."  The ball was in Meghan's court, not Catherine's. She should have taken the initiative to reach out and contact Catherine and seek her thoughts and guidance.  

Page 252: The late Diana, Princess of Wales never wore the Vladimir tiara.    

The authors are largely accurate about how the Queen offers jewels for use by other family members.  Tiaragate is a good example of why Meghan should have reached out to Catherine, who would have told her that her hairdresser used a plastic tiara for the hair trial.   Harry did not need to have yet another hissy fit and have a "heated" exchange with his grandmother about how he believed Kelly, who worked for and reported to the Queen, was ignoring Meghan.

Page 314-316: It is unfair to include Zara Phillips and her husband, Mike Tindall, as an example of not attending Christmas in 2017 as they are not royal.  Zara's mother is a Princess, but her children are not royal.  The Tindalls also don't often attend Trooping as it is not required for the children of a Princess.

The authors make it clear that Harry had an "urgent need" to change things for him and his wife, as they felt used.  This is where Harry comes off as someone who felt he and Meghan were more important than the monarchy itself.  Popularity comes and goes, but all members work for the Sovereign. They have a privilege that allows them to serve the country, not themselves.  

The use of Prince Michael is a poor example.  As a younger son of the late Duke of Kent, he knew that he would not have an official royal career.  He represented the queen abroad on five occasions, most recently in 1986, when he and his wife attended the coronation of King Mswati III of Swaziland.  As he did not have a private fortune, Michael had to earn a living first as a director of companies.

Prince Michael is a poor example to use to defend the Sussexes' decision to leave stop being working royals.  Michael was never a working royal and he had to earn a living.  Michael's working career has not always been a success due to poor judgment, bad and alleged shady deals.  

The Duke of Sussex is the younger son of the heir apparent, an entirely different situation than Prince Michael, whose father was a younger son of King George V.

Harry got his knickers in a twist because the Queen did not include a photo of the Sussexes and baby Archie in her 2019 Christmas speech,  Perhaps the authors should have looked back at photos of earlier Christmas speeches,   In the 1950s, the queen included photos of her children,   Did Margaret have a conniption fit when she watched the speech?  I doubt it.

On occasion, the Queen has included special events in her Christmas speech, such as Harry's wedding, but the usual display focuses on immediate family members, especially the heir and spare,   Someone's nose was out of joint and he decided to bolt.

Page 337:  Harry was devasted to "step down" from his military honors, but he has only himself to blame for this.  Did he expect that the Queen and the Prince of Wales would acquiesce to all of his demands?  The Crown always wins.  There is a bit of hubris in Meghan's comment to a friend: "...You can see how much he means to them, too.  So why?  The powers that be are unfortunately greater than me."  

Meghan was referring to the Queen and the monarchy.  Did she really think that as the wife of the second son of the heir to the throne that she had more power than the Queen?  I doubt she does, but it was a truly insensitive statement to make to a friend.  Did this friend provide the quote verbatim to Scobie or Durand?

Finding Freedom is not a great book, not even a good book.  The authors have done a disservice to their subjects.  The statement to Tom Brady last fall about no one asking how I was doing fell flat.  I do not believe Meghan is a narcissist, but I do wonder why the need to put the focus on herself.   

The Luce Guidelines would have allowed the couple to continue as working royals.   They also would have been allowed to earn money and do projects outside the royal world.   Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a damper on their plans.  As they have now settled into a real home of their own, the Sussexes with new projects and ideas.  Some will be a success, other ideas will not come to fruition.  That's life.

Life is not fair.  No one should expect or believe otherwise.  

The title,  Finding Freedom, is innocuous as the couple will never free.  Living in the United States will mean more press intrusion due to our limited privacy laws.  The British tabloid press will continue to write about the Sussexes as they are still members of the Royal family.  Prince Michael, a non-working royal, has been the recipient of numerous in-depth articles about his alleged questionable deals.  

I want them to succeed and be comfortable in their lives.  But their lives are now fair game, just as it was after Edward VIII abdicated and lived in exile as the Duke of Windsor.  But unlike the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's lives will have a purpose and they will do things that will benefit others.

It is up to you to decide whether you want to read Finding Freedom or not.  I glanced at Lady Colin Campbell's  Meghan and Harry: The Real Story.  A cat litter box liner book, and knew it would not be serious from the get-go as she claims right at the start that Meghan did not curtsey to the Queen at the wedding.  Everyone with a brain knows that this is a lie, that one of the producers erred by having the camera moved, thus missing the moment when the new Duchess curtseys to the Queens after the signing of the register.

I will also give a miss to Tom Quinn's Kensington Palace: An Intimate Memoir from Queen Mary to Meghan Markle.  If you read his salacious, error-filled "biography" of the late Duke of Westminster, you will understand why I will not read this book.

Finding Freedom is not a fine whine and it will not age well.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Stealing the Crown by T.P. Fielden

If you are looking for a good murder mystery that is set in 1941 London, with an interweaving theme that might mean protecting the Britsh crown, then I have a book for you. 

Stealing the Crown is not a psychological thriller, but an intellectual murder mystery that involves court officials, an East End burglar, Nazis and the Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of King George VI, and third in line to the throne.

Major Edgar Brampton is found dead in his office at Buckingham Palace.  The prevailing view (and the one pushed by courtiers) is that he committed suicide ... but he didn't.  He and the Queen were said to be close.

Fellow courtier Guy Hartford is given the assignment to find out how Brampton died.  It will be a difficult task for Guy to find the killer due to a few palatial roadblocks.  Why are certain courtiers making things difficult for Guy?

The journey won't be easy as he has to parse through the evidence ... which of course he has to find.

There will be a few red herrings along the way.  Just when you think he has found the killer,  you realize there are more than 100 pages to go.

There are a few bumps in the road as Guy carefully and methodically strips away the layers of clues and evidence with the help of friends including the very pretty burglar Rodie, whose particular skills come in handy, when Guy needed a boost.  

Now you may be wondering what Nazis and the Duke of Gloucester have to do with Brampton's murder.  Let me just remind you that this is 1941, and  Germany holds the advantage in the war.   There is a real threat of an invasion that might have meant a change in the succession.  The Duke of Gloucester was the senior male royal in the family after King George VI.

No more!  I do not want to give away any information that would spoil the ending except to say that I was truly surprised by the denouement.   I thought the murderer was someone else ... but in the end, it all made sense thanks to Guy's sometimes cerebral, sometimes lucky deciphering of the evidence.

Stealing the Crowd is the kind of book you will want to read at the pool (if your pool is open) or commuting to work (if you are back in the office).  If not, make a nice pot of tea, and cozy up on the couch with this excellent mystery.

It may take some time to get to the end, but stay with it ... you won't be disappointed.  I wasn't.

The book is published by Thomas & Mercer (£8.99 & $15.95)

T.P Fielden is the nom de plume for biographer and journalist Christopher Wilson.  

I look forward to Guy Harford's next assignment.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Rosvall Royal Books Summer sale

It's been four years since our last SUMMER SALE - but now we have one from June 15th to August 15th, 2020.

ALL our 18 Royal Photo albums are now SEK 200 each (around £ 16 or $ and € 20) plus postage. A unique opportunity to add to your Royal Library - at a uniquely low price.

Go to and hit "Our Books".

So many good books to chose from ... all are richly illustrated with superb photographs.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Michael Romanov: Brother of the Last Tsar, Diaries and Letters, 1916-1918

Update:  this book will be seen as scholarly achievement.  I had the privilege of reading a pre-published version of the book.  It is well worth the wait.  You can pre-order the book from   

I cannot wait for this book to be published by Academia Press, a Washington, D.C. based publisher.  The book is scheduled to be published on July 1.  It will be released in hard and softcover editions.   The hardcover will cost $99.00 and the paperback's price, I am told, will be between $25-$30. 

No British publisher at this time.

This book will appeal to historians and general readers who are interested in the Russian Imperial family.

From the Amazon listing: "In Michael Romanov: Brother of the Last Tsar, translator Helen Azar and Romanov historian Nicholas B. A. Nicholson present for the first time in English the annotated 1916-1918 diaries and letters of Russia's Grand Duke Michael, from the murder of the Siberian mystic Grigorii Rasputin through the Revolution of 1917, which dethroned the Romanov dynasty after Michael briefly found himself named Emperor when his brother Nicholas II abdicated. Michael's diaries provide rare insight into the fall of the Empire, the rise and fall of the Provisional Government and brief Russian republic, and the terrifying days of the February and October Revolutions after which Michael found himself a prisoner who would meet his end in the Siberian city of Perm. Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia (1878-1918) was born the youngest son of Tsar Alexander III, but with the death of his brother Grand Duke George in 1899, Michael was thrust into the spotlight and the role of Heir-Tsesarevich to Emperor Nicholas II, then the father of three girls. Even after the birth of an heir in 1904, Michael found himself pushed closer to the throne with each of the boy's bouts of hemophilia. By 1916 during World War I, Nicholas and Alexandra found themselves deeply unpopular not only in political circles but also with other members of the House of Romanov, who felt that the parlous times required drastic change. Michael found himself at the center of these events."

Friday, June 12, 2020

Books on Leopold II and the Congo.

Prince Laurent of Belgium suffers from foot in mouth disease.  Earlier today, in response to reports to remove statues of King Leopold II,  Laurent said:  "He never went to the Congo.   I do not see how he could have made people suffer on the ground.  You have to understand that there were many people who worked for Leopold II and those people really committed abuse that does not mean Leopold II did."

It is estimated that at least 10 million died during Belgium's brutal occupation of the Congo.

Let me recommend three books about Leopold II and the Congo: The King Incorporated by Neal Ascherson,  Leopold II of the Belgians King of Colonialism by Barbara E. Emerson and King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild.    The first choice is King Leopold's Ghost.