Friday, July 10, 2015

Pavlos No Ordinary King by Nikos Politos

King Paul (Pavlos) was only 63 years old when he died in March 1964, leaving the throne to his only son, the inexperienced Crown Prince Constantine.   Known as 'good King Pavlos,' he was a sovereign genuinely mourned by many of his subjects.

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.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Royal Gatherings Volume II: 1919-1939 by Ilana Miller and Arturo E Beeche

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

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.

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 20s 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 ($48.95.)   The book is available though Amazon and

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.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Eurohistory subscriptions now on Amazon

EUROHISTORY 2015 USA subscriptions can now be purchased through AMAZON!
We are working on being able to list the subscription for international readers/subscribers!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury

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.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A few recomendations: Princesses on the Wards and two new Romanov books

Looking for something royal to read?  I am making my way through the pile of books on my cocktail table, and here are a few recommendations to read.
Acclaimed historian Coryne Hall has turned her attention to princesses who worked as nurses during war and revolutions, writing a book, Princesses on the Wards (The History Press: L6.99)about the lives of a diverse group of royal women.  It was calling of Florence Nightingale, who gave a brave and modern face to nursing that inspired two of Queen Victoria's daughters, Princess Alice and Princess Helena, to learn more about nursing.   

Nursing would bring new focus to the role of royal women as they rolled up their sleeves to take care of the sick and dying.  For several royal women, this calling allowed a deeper appreciation for the nursing profession, thus allowing for the creation of programs to educate and train nurses for the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The royal women included Queen Marie of Romania and her daughter, Ileana, who ran her own hospital in Romania until the Romanian royal family was forced into exile.  Other royal nurses include Princess Marie Jose of Belgium, Empress Alexandra of Russia, and my favorite, Princess Arthur of Connaught, a trained nurse, who ran her own nursing home.

Coryne Hall accessed a myriad of sources -- and each chapter is chock-a-block with footnotes, which adds to the book's excellent value.   For most of these royal women, the only real goals in life were marriage and motherhood (and consort), but their embracing of a new profession gave them  -- and the nursing profession - a new gravitas.  For the princesses, there were new, more important duties and an entirely different view of service. 

Kudos all around for an exceptional new, specialized royal book.

The American distributor for Princesses on the Wards is Trafalgar Square Publishing ($29.95)

Helen Azar, an American librarian, is a Romanov historian, focusing on the lives of the daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra.  Her first book, The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution, was published by Westholme Publishing in 2013. 

[Here is a link to my review:]

Since then, she has written two more books.  The first book, Russia's Last Romanovs In their Own Words, which co-written by Eva and Dan McDonald.  This paperbook offers a glimpse into the lives of the Russian Imperial family as seen through the memoirs of others, including the Captain of the Standart and Tatiana Botnik and correspondence and diaries of Nicholas, Alexandra and their children.

In one of Alexandra's final diary entries, which her final month of life before the entire family was murdered at Ekaterinburg, she wrote about the heat, and how the "honeysuckle foliage is beautiful, but, as usual, not-well groomed."  Ever the Empress.

Some of the material was only available in Russian, and translated into English for the first time, which gives the reader new details and insight into the lives of these young woman.

This is a valuable addition to the Romanov bibliography, another important source of information.  I do wish the authors had used an editor to help them produce a more complete book.

After completing work on Russia's Last Romanovs, Helen Azar began work on Maria and Anastasia The Youngest Romanov Grand Duchesses in  Their Own Words,  the companion to The Diary of Olga Romanov.

The first thing that struck me about this volume is the ordinary and the dullness of the lives of Maria and Anastasia.  They were Grand Duchesses, lived in palaces, and their father was the Emperor of Russia. Their own lives were so far removed from reality, even the reality that was the Imperial family. 

With their two older sisters and one young brother, the heir, Grand Duke Alexis,  Maria and Anastasia were largely isolated from meeting other people, and having a well-rounded education. It is suffice to say that the five imperial children were emotionally immature and insular.  But this does not mean the words of these young ladies are not important or worthy of publication. 

It is important to know (and read) the correspondence between the sisters and their parents and other relatives, including their aunt Grand Duchess Xenia.  They are the witnesses to their own final days before the family was murdered by the Bolsheviks. 

After their father's abdication, their lives changed inexorably.  In the first two years of the first world war, the grand duchesses were able to experience life outside the palace, visiting patients, learning how to nurse, but still seemingly oblivious to the reality of what was happening in Russia.  This was a country, drained by war, on the verge of a bloody revolution, but we see little of these events in the young women's words.

But what we do get is the poignancy of the final year of their life.  Maria, in one letter (September 1917), writes "we live in one room all 4, so it is not lonesome. Our windows  look over the street and we often look at the passers-by."

There are a few hints of what was to come. In March 1918, Anastasia wrote to an unnamed friend: "For the moment, thank God, we are living well.  A detachment of the Red Army men from Omsk, up until now they behaved themselves..." 

In the spring of 1918, the family was briefly separated, as Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and Alexis remained behind at Tobolsk, as Alexis had been to ill too travel, while the rest of the family was taken to Ekaterinburg.

The final letters are to friends,  In one, Maria writes of sending a food package, which was very generous as the Imperial family's own rations were limited.  Life became more difficult when everyone was reunited in Ekaterinburg.

"We miss the quiet and peaceful life in Tobolsk.  Here we have unpleasant surprises almost daily.  Just now the members of the regional committee were here and asked each of us how much money we had with us," Maria wrote less than two months before the family was killed.

The authors have enhanced the book by including excerpts from Nicholas and Alexandra's diaries.  One can feel the poignancy and the uncertainty in one of Nicholas' last entries, where he acknowledges Maria's birthday.  But there were also other things on his mind: "Spent an anxious night and stayed away and dressed ...All this was because the other day we received two letters, one after the other, which informed us to get ready to be kidnapped by some loyal people! But the days passed and nothing happened, and the anticipation and uncertainty were extremely tortuous."

The letters were more likely to be cruel ruses set up by their Bolshevik captors, already aware of what would happen in July 1918.

As with the previous book, Russia's Last Romanovs,  Maria and Anastasia could have used a good editor who might have caught a statement that got my attention right away - the first line of chapter one, where Archduke Franz Ferdinand (no hyphen) was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist.  Gavrilo Prinzip was a Bosnian Serb.  Big difference.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Princess Tatiana Metternich: Five Passports in a Shifting World

Some years ago I read a lovely book, Five Passports in a Shifting World, the memoirs of Princes Tatiana Metternich (1915-2006)

Princess Tatiana was born in St. Petersburg, the second daughter of Hilarion Sergue├»evitch Vassiltchikov and Princess Ldiya Vyazemskaya.   She and her younger sister, Marie (1917-1978)  known as Missie, became noted authors. 

I wrote to Princess Tatiana to say how much I enjoyed her book.  It remains one of the best royal memoirs ever written.  Her sister wrote  Berlin Diaries: 1940-1945, which provided an first hand account of the 1944 plot against Hitler.  This is also a very fine book, and recommended for royal libraries.

Princess Tatiana was married in 1941 to Prince Paul Alfons von Metternich-Winneburg (1917-1992.)  Their marriage was childless.

Princess Missy married Peter Harnden, a US Army Captain, who worked in military intelligence, in 1946.  They had four children: Marina, Anthony, Michael and Alexandra.