Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Young Victoria by Deirdre Murphy

I have read a great many books about Queen Victoria and I have my favorites.  And now I can add one more book to the "favorites" list.

The Young Victoria (Yale University Press) offers a refreshing new view of Queen Victoria before she succeeded to the throne.

The author is Deirdre Murphy, the late Senior Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and the Curator of the fabulous Victoria Revealed exhibit at Kensington Palace, which closed earlier this year to make way for two new exhibits commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria.

Tragically, Deirdre died on May 28, 2018, of breast cancer. She was 42 years old.  The new exhibitions at Kensington Palace and this book are her legacies.

The Young Victoria offers a tantalizing and new insight into Victoria's life.  Sheltered by her dominating mother (who was in turn dominated by her Comptroller John Conroy), both of whom hoped to control Victoria when she succeeded to the throne, especially, if William IV died before Victoria reached her majority.

As we know, William IV died on June 20, 1837, nearly a month after  Victoria celebrated her 18th birthday on May 24th.

This book serves as a semi-catalog to the new exhibitions as there is no official catalog.  The Duchess of Kent was determined to keep her younger daughter in the public eye even though she was equally determined to keep her away from King William and Queen Adelaide.   The Kensington System was designed to keep the princess under the control of her mother and Conroy, as well as her governess Baroness Lehzen.  Victoria, however, could be a willful and determined little girl, much to the disappointment of her mother and tutors.

Lehzen was the "benchmark by which Victoria would measure all her companions throughout her long life," according to Murphy.  Victoria wrote: "She devoted her life to me, from my fifth to my eighteenth year, with most self-abnegation, never taking one day's leave."

Murphy delved deep into Victoria's young life, dipping into diaries, papers, and other materials, focusing on those who were close to her, including her older sister, Princess Feodora.

The Kensington System, established by the Duchess of Kent and Conroy, was set up to control Victoria but keep her in the public eye.   In 1830, when William IV succeeded his brother, George IV, as king, Victoria slipped into the heiress presumptive position, and her mother and Conroy chose to go on the road, presenting the 11-year-old princess to the nation.   William and his wife, Queen Adelaide, were keen on maintaining contact with the young princess.  The king went so far as to suggest that Victoria's name be changed to Charlotte or Elizabeth.

This book is a labor of love, a detailed breakdown of Victoria's "melancholy childhood" that shows Deirdre Murphy's devotion to her subject.

The detail is precise, a front-row glimpse into Victoria's early years.

Most of the illustrations are from the Royal Collection.   The Young Victoria is a true classic that will be appreciated and savored for generations. 

Deirdre Murphy deserves all the praise, all the honors, for writing a truly great book that provided inspiration for the new Victoria exhibits.

The Young Victoria will be appreciated by historians and general readers alike.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Two books about Cumberland Lodge

During my recent visit to the UK (and Windsor Great Park),  I talked my way -- with my friend, Katrina, into Cumberland Lodge, once the residence of Prince and Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.  Princess Christian was Queen Victoria's 5th child - Princess Helena.

The Lodge is no longer a royal residence, but is leased to a charitable foundation.

The history of the estate is fascinating.  Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough lived in the original house, when she was the Ranger of Windsor Great Park.  The current building is named for Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, second son of King George II.

Helene Hudson's Cumberland Lodge: A House Throughout History offers a comprehensive accounting of the Lodge and its residents through the present day.

Sarah Robinson's  Glorious Seclusion: Cumberland Lodge and Windsor Great Park in the Life in the Nation Paperback, which I bought from the receptionist at Cumberland Lodge, is a more concise history of the house.

It was at Cumberland Lodge where in 1936 King Edward VIII's Private Secretary, Alexander Hardinge, met with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin to discuss the plans for the abdication.

Both books are well-illustrated nd offer insight into residents of Cumberland Lodge, especially Prince Christian and Princess Helena and their family.

I have added both books to my library.

Cumberland Lodge is located in Windsor Great Park, south of the statue of George III.

We walked from Savill Garden through the Cumberland Gate to the Lodge, and around to the back as well, then headed down to the Prince Albert Statue, past Smith's Lawn and the Guards Polo Club to the Cumberland Obelisk and back to Savill Garden parking lot where we left the car.

You may wonder what the distance is from the Copper Horse statue of George III, which is the northern end of the Long Walk to Windsor Castle.  The distance is 2.65 miles.  Thus, Cumberland Lodge is located approximately three miles from Windsor Castle.

Purchasing through my Amazon links (not just books) or clicking on adverts helps  me earn a few pennies.  I use the monthly profits to pay my cell phone bill.  Thanks. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ira The Life and Times of a Princess by Nicholas Foulkes

HSH Princess Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina zu Fürstenberg is the epitome of an It girl, a true socialite,  made the cover of Life magazine, when she was only 16.  This cover story was about her marriage to Prince Alfonso zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg. 

Virginia, who has always been known as Ira, was close to her cousin, Count Rudi of Schönburg-Glauchau, a close friend of Prince Alfonso (the two were major founders of the Marbella Club).  Rudi told her about Alfonso's romance with Princess Christina of Hesse, a niece of Prince Philip, and they were about to announce their engagement. 

Then the 31-year-old Alfonso met the sloe-eyed Ira, and he was smitten.  Christina was pushed aside and Alfonso and Ira became engaged.  Ira's parents, Prince Tassilo and Clara Agnelli, were divorced.  Agnelli, a member of the Fiat family, had run off with an Italian actor, leaving Ira and her two brothers, Egon and Sebastian, torn between warring parents.

The marriage between Alfonso and Ira was a social coup - but one wonders how Ira's parents allowed for their very attractive 16-year-old daughter marry a 31-year-old man.   Their honeymoon was very much a press adventure.  Ira soon became pregnant.  In November 1956, she gave birth to her first son, Christian.  A second son, Hubertus, was born in 1959. 

Ira admitted that she was not a good mother.  She found motherhood to be "isolating and lonely." This is not a surprise.  Ira was very much a part of the rich and famous, but she was not prepared to be wife or a mother.

The marriage was over within months of Hubertus' birth.  They divorced in 1960.  A year later, she ran off with a Brazilian industrialist,  Francisco "Baby" Pignatari.  Ira met Baby Pignatari while skiing in Italy in late 1959.   Alfonso filed charges of adultery against Baby and was obtained custody of the two boys.

Ira's second marriage lasted for only three years.  She  never remarried, although she has had numerous lovers.  After the death of Princess Grace, Ira became the companion of her second cousin, Prince Rainier III of Monaco (they share a common great-grandmother, Lady Mary Douglas) , and there were numerous reports that they would marry, thus making Ira the Princess of Monaco.  The reports were a bit premature. The couple remained close friends.

The very essence of her  life  has been  captured in the sumptuous Ira The Life and Times of a Princess, which a visually stunning and well laid out tome, that comes with a slip cover for easy placement on a shelf or a cocktail table.

Princess Ira is certainly a social creature who has parlayed her beauty and personality into a fulfillment of being true to herself.  She appeared in B movies in the 60s, became the It Woman for fashion designers including Karl Lagerfeld.

As a "prominent European socialite,"  Ira moved in all the right circles, knew all the right people.  London remains a favorite habitat, but Ira feels at home in numerous countries.   She never needed to marry money as she is wealthy in her own right, thanks to her mother's Agnelli inheritance.

She is a free spirit, unfettered by the norms of society.  Nicholas Foulkes describes her as a woman with "charisma, an endearing personality," with an appetite for the good life.

Ira herself says "My life is colourful... I lived on the spot.  I lived day by day. My plan was to enjoy life..."   Her life has been  a full color palette that she has fully embraced,  and no doubt, she has more to do, more life to embrace.

Princess Ira never got to be a consort, but she remains one of the elegant queens of the international jet set.

Ira The Life and Times of a Princess  was published by Harper Collins  with the support and approval of Princess Ira.  Nicholas Foulkes wrote the text.  The photos of the Princess from infancy to present day are from her own collection as well as agency photos.   A dazzling display of biographical images.

Nicholas Foulkes likes in London.

Monday, July 1, 2019

50th anniversary of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales

Embed from Getty Images 

 Here is a selection of  monographs and other items that commemorated the Investiture of the Prince of Wales on July 1, 1969.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

20th anniversary of the wedding of the Earl and Countess of Wessex

Prince Edward, now Earl of Wessex, married Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones on June 19, 1999 at St. George's Chapel.  Today is the their 20th anniversary. 

Here is a small selection of commemorative books still available.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Windsor Castle: A thousand Years of a Royal Palace

I had a chance to browse this book, Windsor Castle: a Thousand Years of a Royal Palace, which is said to be the definitive history of Queen Elizabeth II's favorite home.

The book is massive and would have put me over the approved weight allowance for my suitcase.

From Amazon:  "When we envision the British monarchy, one of the first things that comes to mind is Buckingham Palace, with its gilded gates and changing of the guard. But it is Windsor Castle that can claim pride of place as the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, dating to the earliest days of the monarchy, a symbol of strength and magnificence over a nearly thousand-year history of sieges and soirées alike. Witness to both great moments in the country’s history and those that threatened to destroy it, the castle has become a symbol of English culture and architecture. Throughout England’s history, Windsor Castle has stood fast and evolved, much like the monarchy that inhabits it to this day.

The magisterial Windsor Castle: A Thousand Years of a Royal Palace illuminates the castle’s past using evidence from archaeological investigation and documentary sources, and is illustrated with paintings, drawings, and both historical and specially commissioned contemporary photographs, as well as stunning reconstructions of the castle’s past appearance which bring this essential piece of English history to life. "

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Two Royal Journals that you should read

Royalty Digest and are quarterly royal history journals that are published in Sweden and the USA respectively.

Neither journal is available electronically.  The only way to read them is to subscribe.

In full transparency, I write for both journals.