Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why ? Why? Why few English language books on foreign royals

In 1983, I started RBN Royal Book News, a bi-monthly newsletter, where I reviewed English and non-English books on royalty.  I published the newsletter until about a decade ago, due to the rising international postage.    This blog is the newsletter's successor - where I can reach even more readers without having to raise postage.

[RBN was never a money spinner, never made a profit, but I didn't do the newsletter to pay the rent.]

In the last 34 years, I have written numerous times about the dearth of non-British royal books published in English.  There are several reasons for this.

The first reason is no market.  Let me repeat this, as sad as it sounds to those of us who are interested in royalty, the Anglo-market is largely  non-existent.    Anglo-American publishers are not going to invest money in a book about Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden or King Felipe V of Spain because the books won't make money.  Sad.  But true.

The second reason is translation costs.  Yes, there are books in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg (lovely books published in Luxembourg), Spain, Liechtenstein (okay, few books available on the princely family), Monaco (many books in English on Princess Grace and her family), the Netherlands (Wilhelmina's memoirs were translated into English), as well as the non-European monarchies.

Translations are expensive.  Publishers hire professional translators, and the cost for these services are  expensive.   A good translator is well worth the price.   The cost for the translation is built into the cost of publishing the book.     A publisher has to recoup the publishing costs.  This means the book has to make money. Royal books rarely make the best sellers list.

The text for the annual Swedish royal year book, Det Kungliga aret, is in Swedish and English.

http://www.kungligaaret.se/


A scholarly biography is more likely to be translated in English.  John Rohl's massive three-volumed biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II was translated into English by Cambridge University Press.  However, this is a seminal and masterful achievement, and not a book about what Crown Princess Mary of Denmark wears.

[A review from last year, which includes my frequent lament about lack of translations .http://royalbooknews.blogspot.com/2016/06/wilhelm-ii-und-seine-geswischer-by.html ]


A third reason is source material.  If you are writing an authoritative, well-researched book on the Spanish royal family, you need to speak Spanish and be able to access those sources.    John van der Kiste writes competent and interesting books on non-British royals, but admits he is hampered in his research because he is limited to English-language sources.

This has been a major problem for most Anglo-American royal biographers who have written about non-British royals.  If you do not read Danish, you cannot write about the Danes because you cannot access primary or even secondary sources,

The publisher of the Dutch royalty magazine, Vorsten, made an attempt to break into the Anglo market with The Crown, a quarterly journal that included Vorsten articles translated into English.  Unfortunately, the magazine ceased publication after two issues.


http://royalbooknews.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-crown-new-royal-magazine.html

Money is the fourth reason.   Most published authors do not make a lot of money.  Bestsellers of course make money for authors and publishers.  Authors need literary agents who negotiate a decent contract with a publisher - who then sells foreign rights, which means more money for a writer.

A writer who does not have an agent will make less money. However,  literary agents charge fees, which are paid by the author out of the author's advance and royalties.

http://writersrelief.com/blog/2014/02/standard-commission-practices-payments-literary-agents/

A good publisher might give the writer an advance on royalties.   A writer won't get further payments from the publisher if the publisher does not make money on the book.  Royalties are paid only after the publishing company has earned back the money paid to the writer.  Only after this will royalties be paid.

From The Business of  Publishing: "Typically, an author can expect to receive the following royalties: Hardback edition: 10% of the retail price on the first 5,000 copies; 12.5% for the next 5,000 copies sold, then 15% for all further copies sold. Paperback: 8% of retail price on the first 150,000 copies sold, then 10% thereafter."

This statement usually applies to the larger houses.  A smaller house will probably pay less.

A book on Crown Princess Victoria in English is unlikely to sell 5000 copies, which means a publisher is unlikely to sign a contract to publish the book.  Why?  No profit.

Of course, a writer could go the vanity press (self-publishing) route.   Numerous caveats here.  No one checks a manuscript for veracity.  The owners of vanity presses will pay authors even less than the legitimate publishing house.

The  number of English-language British royal books being published has gone down in the past several years.  Books about William and Catherine do not sell .. and we do not need more books on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.    Far fewer scholarly royal biographies are being published, certainly on  post Georgian royals.  The Tudors remain popular, both for biographies and historical fiction.  

I would love to see a new biography on Queen Alexandra, the consort of Edward VII.   The most recent biography was written by Georgina Battiscombe and published in 1969.  There is unlikely to be another.  Why?   Queen Alexandra did not leave a paper trail.  She destroyed her correspondence and other papers.

And the final reason:  living royals are works in progress so difficult to write competent and authoritative books about them,  It is easy to write books that do not have footnotes and a lot of photographs, but these books are largely fluff and cannot be taken seriously.

I have been reviewing and writing about royal books for more than 35 years -- and I am a published author and I write about royal for several magazines  -- so I feel competent to make these comments.

It also should be noted that most books on the British royals, past and present, have not been translated in other languages.

In conclusion,  a royal watcher might say that  I would love to read a book in English about Crown Princess Mette Marit    Publishers need thousands of these readers.  

I love reading and writing about royalty, and I admit my standards are high.  I do not care who designed the Duchess of Cambridge's shoes or that Crown Princess Victoria wore the same jacket to three different events.  That is not royal writing.

A writer who specializes in royalty needs to know history, access sources (called research), and should be able parse and disseminate the role of the royal within the context of social, familial and political events.   If you want to write about a  non-British royal with authority,  you need to be able to read foreign languages.   I cannot write a good article about Crown Princess Victoria's life because I do not understand Swedish,

In conclusion, don't expect to see British or American publishers seeking  out writers to produce books on living non-British royals.




Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Romanovs Royal Collections Volume II by Coryne Hall & Arturo Beeche




Yes, of course you are asking yourself the question:  Do you need, really need another
 book of  photographs of the Romanov Family?    Well, the answer is yes,  you need to have The Romanovs, which is the second volume in Eurohistory.com's Royal Collection Series.
So what to we have here?   For starters, the book has nearly 300 pages of photographs from Art  Beeche's Eurohistory archives,  In the past few decades, Art has acquired an impressive array of royal photos through auctions, acquisition and gifts.   One of the more important collections that Art has acquired came from the late Grand Duchess Helen of Russia, who married Prince Nicholas of Greece.

The book is separated into 10 chapters:  the  Romanov Dynasty, Alexander II, Alexander III (& three of his younger children: George. Michael and Alexandra), Nicholas II, the Senior Grand Dukes Vladimir, Alexei, Sergei. and Paul and their families; Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaievich and the Konstantinovichi Grand Dukes;  Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaievich and his descendants; Grand Duke Michael Nikolaievich and his descendants; Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna and the dukes of Leuchtenberg, and Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich and his descendants.

Yes, the entire Romanov clan - from formal group shots and formal portraits to family snaps, such as a rare image of Nicholas II wearing mufti.   Many of the more informal photos come from Grand Duchess Helen's albums.  Family dynamics aside, Grand Duchess Helen tried to maintain a cordial relationship with Nicholas and Alexandra.  This was difficult as Helen's brother, Kirill, was married to Princess Victoria  Melita of Edinburgh, whose first husband, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and By Rhine, was Alexandra's older brother.   A precarious situation as Ducky had been Alix's sister-in-law, but was also her first cousin.

Most photo books focus solely on Nicholas and Alexandra, with the familiar and oft-used photos.This book offers a photograph record of every branch of the Romanov dynasty from 1845 until 1917 -- the end of the Romanov dynasty.  This book includes many unpublished photos.  A real treat.

One of my favorite photos is on page 143, a full page group photo of Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, widow of Grand Duke Vladimir with her children and their families.  The photo was taken in 1912.   Marie's five granddaughters are featured prominently, all dressed in white, several clutching dolls.

A lot more care has been shown in the editing and layout of this book, which is a good thing, as I tend to whine about such things.,

What makes this book special, however, is the care paid to each branch of the Imperial Family.  Nicholas and Alexandra and OTMAA  usually get star attention.    In The Romanovs, we get to meet all of the family, the aunts, the uncles, first cousins, second cousins, thanks to Eurohistory's impressive photo archives.

British biographer Coryne Hall and Arturo  Beeche are the co-authors of The Romanovs.   Coryne has written several books on Romanovs, including a biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna, and she knows her subjects  well.

Do I recommend this book?   Yes, absolutely!   This is a history of a once proud dynasty, brought down by revolution and hubris seen through the eyes of a camera lens.

Don't rush through this book.  Take your time.  Relish and appreciate the portraits and the family snaps.

You will not regret purchasing this book.




Monday, May 1, 2017

Castelul Bran by Diana Mandache



Romanian royal historian Diana Mandache has a new book out entitled  Castelul Bran which is about Bran Castle, once Queen Marie's residence, and then the home of her youngest daughter, Princess Ileana, and now owned by Ileana's younger son, Archduke Dominic.

I just ordered a copy of the book from the publisher, Curtea Veche.  The price of the book is 49 Lei + 51 Lei for international postage.    Total cost: just under $24.00.
http://www.curteaveche.ro/balcicul-reginei-maria-diana-mandache.html


The text is Romanian.  I expect Diana will have included many photographs, always a good thing.

This is her third palace book.  The first two were about Cotroceni and Balcicul.

http://www.curteaveche.ro/carti/noi-aparitii/castelul-bran.html


http://www.curteaveche.ro/cotroceniul-regal-diana-mandache.html

It is easy and safe to order online.    If you are using Google, hit the translate into English (right click with your mouse) and the pages are translated into English.

The payment page had a button to translate into English.  Easy peasy.

Your orders should have in 2 - 3 weeks!

I have not seen this book -- just ordered it a few minutes ago -- but I am sure it will be very good as Diana is a historian par excellence.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Books about Greece by Arthur Gould Lee

When I was checking Amazon earlier today for books about Queen Frederica, I noticed a copy of Arthur Gould Lee's biography of Queen Helen of Romania for sale for under $20.00.  Seriously?

This book is rare, and copies have sold for a lot more than $20.00  I paid more than $20 for the book.
The book is also available from Amazon.co.uk.

Gould Lee's bio of King Michael of Romania (Helen's son) is also available, starting at $36.00.  Yes, a relative bargain.

If  you have been looking for these titles, here is a chance to get both for decent prices.  Frankly, there not that many copies exant, as neither book was a bestseller, and both books were published in limited editions in the United Kingdom.

Of course, if you do order, please use the links here.   Thanks.


Books: Queen Frederica of the Hellenes (1917-1981)

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of HRH Princess Friederike of Hannover, third of five children (and only daughter) of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Brunswick-L√ľneburg (nee HRH Princes Viktoria Luise of Prussia).

Friederike was born at Blankenburg on April 18, 1917.  She died at Madrid on February 6, 1981.

Here is a selection of books by and about Frederica, King Paul I and the Greek royal family.




Please note: I make a few pennies if you purchase any of these books or anything from Amazon by clicking on the links or using the search boxes on Royal Book News or Royal Musings.

http://royalmusingsblogspotcom.blogspot.com/2017/04/queen-frederica-of-hellenes-born-100.html

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Kaiser's Confidante Mary Lee, the First American-born Princess



Richard Jay Hutto included Mary Lee in his book, Crowning Glory: American Wives of Princes and Dukes (2008), and noted that her entry ran for only three pages.  He remained fascinated by the American woman, whose two marriages brought her great wealth and great connections at the Prussian court. This fascination led to further research and discovery of papers and other documents relating to Mary's live

Mary Esther Lee was born on October 3, 1837, the youngest child of David Lee, a New York merchant, and Ann Phillips.  Lee died in 1852, leaving a large fortune to his widow and five children.  Ann took her family to Europe, where her daughters would find noble husbands.  Mary was living in Paris with her sister, Josephine, the wife of Baron August von Waechter, the King of Wurttemberg's ambassador to Napoleon III, when she met Prince Friedrich of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (1800-1865).

Friedrich was the the third child of  Friedrich Christian II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, and Princess Louise of Denmark. His elder brother, Christian, renounced his rights in favor of his son, Friedrich, who married Princerss Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a niece oof Queen Victoria.  This couple's eldest daughter, Auguste Viktoria, was the wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

One of Friedrich's nephews, Prince Christian, was married to Princess Helena, third daughter of Queen Victoria.

Friedrich was  nearly 37 years Mary's senior.  She had numerous suitors, but it was the Prince was smitten by her "charm and beauty."  He also appreciated that she was unconventional -- for the mid-1800s.   Nor did he need to marry her for her bank account.  He was immensely wealthy in his own right.

The marriage did not receive the approbation from Friedrich's family.   As the marriage would be morganatic,  Friedrich renounced his princely titles (which he would not have been able to share with Mary), and was created Prince of Noer by Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, a good friend.     Mary would be the Princess of Noer.

The couple were on an extended honeymoon, when in Beirut, eight months later, Friedrich became ill and died.   Mary became a very wealthy widow, inheriting the modern day equivalent of $60 million, from her husband's estate.   She remained a widow for nearly eight years, until April 1874, when she married Count Alfred von Waldersee.

Devoutly religious, Mary used her wealthy for largely philanthropic purposes.  She also had developed friendships with Friedrich III of Germany and his British wife, Victoria, whose sister, Helena, was married to Mary's late husband's nephew, Prince Christian.   During this time, Mary became a mentor to her great-niece, Auguste Viktoria, the daughter of the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein.   In 1881, Auguste Viktoria married Kaiser Wilhelm II, the son of Friedrich III.

The American-born Mary became one of the Empress' closest confidantes, although Mary preferred to be in the background.

Richard Hutto's research led him to Lee family papers, diaries and correspondence that provided the majority of the research.

I enjoyed The Kaiser's Confidante very much, although I though the book could have had a better editor.  A few times, Hutto writes the same thing twice, separated by several paragraphs.

This little quibble should not deter anyone.  The Kaiser's Confidante is excellent reading, and well-worth the price  -- and most important, a book you will want to add to your royal book collection.

Mary Lee,  Princess Noer,  Countess von Waldersee, was certainly known to her contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic, but her personality, her friendships, her philanthropy, her conservative religious beliefs, have been largely shunted aside.  Her mentoring of Princess Auguste Viktoria, easing the way toward marriage with Wilhelm II, led her into the inner sanctum of the Imperial Court.

It is the research that stands out which makes this book fascinating reading.  After finishing this book, I thought about how unique Mary was  -- to be a rich American woman, married into the German aristocracy, who had the ear (and friendship) of the  German Emperor and Empress.

The Kaiser's Confidante is published by McFarland ($35.00)



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Now out: The Romanovs by Coryne Hall and Arturo Beeche








From Amazon:

"This is an illustrated history of the Russian Imperial Family between 1845-1917. The book's selection of photographs, 621 images in total, handsomely spread over 296 pages, ends immediately after the fall of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917. This work is unique in that it chronicles all branches of the Romanov dynasty, including some of the female lines that did not settle abroad. Using several photographic collections previously owned by various Romanovs, the authors took special interest in providing the reader with an amazing pictorial history of the famed Russian Imperial Family. All branches of the family are covered: the descendants of Tsar Alexander II, the descendants of Grand Dukes Nicholas, Konstantin and Michael Nikolaievich, as well as the descendants of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich and his niece Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna, Duchess of Leuchtenberg. Many of the images used by the authors have not been used in any of our prior books. The vignettes and text included in every chapter provide the reader with a keen and insightful microscope into the lost world of the Romanovs! With over 620 images!"


Currently available from Amazon.  Soon to be available on Amazon.uk

Hope to be reviewing it soon.

[Please use this link to order the book. It will help provide me with a few pennies per order!]