Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Buckingham Palace The Interiors by Ashley Hicks

As Ashley Hicks celebrates the birth of his second son, Horatio,  let the rest of us celebrate, cheer, or gaze in awe of the fabulous photos of Buckingham Palace in Ashley's latest book, Buckingham Palace The Interiors (Rizzoli: $55.00)


Hicks, the son of the late interior designer David Hicks and Lady Pamela Mountbatten, certainly has the connections to take his camera inside Buckingham Palace.   His mother is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh's first cousin, so it is not a surprise that the Duke is Ashley's godfather.

This book has stunning visuals, superb photography of the Palace's rooms and art objects.   A no.ted interior designer in his own right,  Hicks focuses on the history of the Palace's interior design and artworks - from paintings to sculpture.

The photos are superb with detailed close-ups of objets d'art, painting, tapestries,  as well as full views of many of the palace's staterooms.

The Queen gave her permission for this book and the Prince of Wales wrote the foreward.  He wrote that is exactly fifty years since the publication of John Harris, Geoffrey de Bellaigue and Oliver Millar's "magisterial tome."  Charles adds that he was "delighted that Ashley Hicks has now brought his informed perspective and creativity to respond to these rooms, marvellously captured in atmospheric photography, and supplemented by a fresh history of the Palace."

The photos evoke the imposing, stately history that fills Buckingham Palace from its origins from the Queen's House to Buckingham Palace, the residence of Britain's sovereigns from George IV to Elizabeth II.

Hicks wrote the informative and descriptive text, as well as taking the photographs.

Buckingham Palace The Interiors is fabulous .. a great book that you will want on your cocktail table to pick up every few days and marvel at Hicks' resplendent photography.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Carolina of Orange Nassau by Moniek Bloks

Sometimes the best things come in little packages -- or in the case of Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau -- the best things are under 100 pages.

Carolina of Orange-Nassau (Chronos Books) is Dutch historian Moniek Bloks' first book.  She does not disappoint.

Princess Carolina (1743-1787) was the eldest surviving child of Willem IV, Prince of Orange and Anne, Princess Royal, who was the eldest daughter of King George II

Pregnancy was difficult for Princess Anne, as she had several unsuccessful pregnancies before giving birth to Carolina, named for her maternal grandmother, Queen Caroline.  The succession laws for the seven united stadtholders in the Netherlands, headed by Carolina's father, was made hereditary for the house of Orange.  Female succession was also approved, thus Carolina remained in line for the succession, even after Anne gave birth to a son, Willem, in 1748.

Carolina's descendants remain in line to the Dutch throne until 1922 when the Netherlands government promulgated a new constitution.

A marriage was arranged with Prince Carl Christian of Nassau-Weilburg, a German prince.  The early years of the marriage were spent in the Netherlands as Carolina's position as in the succession remained important when her brother was a minor and unmarried.

Bloks offers her readers diligent research with access in the Dutch royal archives (with the permission of King Willem-Alexander), where Carolina's papers are located.  Unfortunately,  the collection of Carolina's letters is not complete, as Bloks acknowledged.

Carolina was very much a bluestocking, well-educated and well-read,  She was also a connoisseur of music. She met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he was nine years old. The Princess of Weilburg had heard about the child prodigy and wanted to meet him.  When her younger brother, Willem, attained his majority at age 18, Carolina asked Mozart to compose music in honor of the occasion.

In 1778,  Mozart came to the Weilburg court, which Carolina considered a "crowning moment" for her husband's principality.

The Princess of Nassau-Weilburg was only 44 years old when she died after a brief illness.

Moniek Bloks packs a lot into a little book, which is an informative study of an exceptional woman who never forgot that she was Dutch.

Carolina of Orange-Nassau is available in a paperback edition.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Princess by Jane Dismore

When I first heard about Jane Dismore's Princess (The Early Life of Queen Elizabeth II) I hoped it would complement Philip Eade's Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life.  The Eade biographical was a masterful study that provided a lot of new and comprehensive information about the young Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.

 Dismore's book is well-researched with plenty of endnotes and an excellent bibliography.  She certainly did her homework with a conscientious and precise culling of facts from diverse sources.

I was pleased to see that Dismore corresponded with Lady Butter (Myra Werhner) as I want to see more biographers and historians acknowledge that Philip and Elizabeth grew up other together, were in the same small social circle that included Myra and her siblings, Georgina and Alex.

At times,  Princess is a compelling read, although  I found Dismore's writing style a bit dismal. The premise is good: focusing on Elizabeth's early life before she succeeded to the throne, but I would have preferred a book where I did not have to force myself to finish reading it.

It is a good read, well-researched, but not in the same league as Philip Eade's superb book on Prince Philip's early years.

The book has been published in the United States by Lyons Press: $26.95

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Three Books on Danish monarchs

"She might not be as pretty as your Olga, but she is smart, and she can turn the whole house upside,"  Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark wrote to his younger, brother, King George of the Hellenes, after the announcement of Frederik's engagement to Princess Louise of Sweden and Norway.

This was a dynastic alliance, not a love match.  Louise quickly learned Danish but never got on well with her in-laws, King Christian IX and Queen Louise thought her "boring and introverted."

Birgitte Louise Peiter Rosenheigh is the author of Frederik  VIII and Queen Lovisa, a 60-page English language biography, one of three books published by Danish Royal Collection.

There have been very few English-language on Danish royals, so it is a joy to be able to acquire these books.  The other two books are  Christian X and Queen Alexandrine and Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid and both were written by Jens Gunni Busck.

The format is the same for all three books.  A brief, concise biography of the three kings and their consorts complemented by a good selection of historical selection of photographs from the Danish royal archives.

After the German invasion of Denmark,  Crown Prince Frederik, who had to stand in for his father, who had been severely injured in a riding accident, had to officially support the new regime, but privately he maintained contact with the Danish resistance.  With the assistance of the national hospital, he staged a fake bout of appendicitis to avoid a trip to Germany to avoid meeting Hitler.

All three kings predeceased their spouses.  Alexandrine and Ingrid eschewed the title Dowager Queen, preferring to remain styled as Queen with the permission of the sovereign.

The writers provide a lot of detail  -- the facts, just the facts, but well-sourced facts --in 60 pages.  I enjoyed all three books even though I knew I was not reading a complete biography.  Each book has a bibliography, although all the sources are in Danish, as expected.

The books are available for sale at the palaces in Copenhagen, but you won't have to travel to Denmark to purchase them.   Amazon offers all three books, usually with a timeframe for delivery.   Christian X and Queen Alexandrine was scheduled to arrive between late December and mid-January. It arrived in mid-December, much to my surprise.

These books are definite needs for serious royal libraries.  Not wants, but needs.

I consider these books to be handy for quick reference. 

Amazon is also now offering Christian IX and Queen Louise, which I hope to add to my library in a few weeks.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Alix an Gretchen (Aix and Gretchen)

In 2002,  Alix and Gretchen (Briefe der Zarin Alexandra Feodorowna aus den Jahren 1891-1914 an Freiin Margarethe von Fabrice) was published in Darmstadt.  This book included letters between Alix and Gretchen until the outbreak of the first world war and family photos that belonged to Gretchen's granddaughter, Rottraut von Prittwitz and other family members.  The book was privately printed with limited distribution.

Fast forward to 2018.  Darmstadt publisher Justus von Liebig Verlag has published the book a hardcover edition with more text and images, again from Gretchen's family's personal collection.

Gretchen was a special lady-in-waiting to Princess Alix of Hesse and By Rhine. Ten years Alix's senior, Gretchen was also a good friend to the young princess. This friendship continued after Alix's marriage to Nicholas II.

The correspondence flourished with letters, postcards, and telegrams.  New photos of the two women's growing families were sometimes also included in the letters.

The outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914 led to an abrupt break in the correspondence.  For Alix, who had made few friends in Russia, the loss of her friend Gretchen, must have been difficult to cope with especially as Gretchen was someone who understood her.

The new edition also has a new introduction by German historian Thomas Aufleger, who specializes in the Hesse and by Rhine grand ducal family, and Rotraut von Prittwitz's original forward.

The book is in German and there are no plans for an English translation.   Personally, I think an English translation is warranted because the correspondence offers a different insight, a softer impression of Empress Alexandra,  a royal whose personality and demeanor were ill-suited to be the consort of the Russian emperor, who was equally unprepared to be Emperor.

Alix's connection to Gretchen maintained a line to her past in Darmstadt where life was more simple and without the pressure of the Russian court.

This book is available solely through the publisher. The price is 24.80 Euros.  Postage is extra.  For postal prices outside Germany, please contact the publisher at info@liebig-verlag.de.

The book is not available through Amazon.  I think the publisher should consider investing in a better distribution system for this book because it is warranted.  I also think that an English translation would not be too costly for the publisher.

Justus von Liebig should be able to do more to get Alix an Gretchen out beyond Darmstadt.  It is a disservice to do otherwise.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Carolina of Orange-Nassau: Ancestress of the Royal Houses of Europe by Moniek Bloks

Dutch writer Moniek Bloks' first book, Carolina of Orange-Nassau, Ancestress of the Royal Houses is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

From Amazon:  "Carolina of Orange-Nassau (1743 – 1787) was born the daughter of William IV, Prince of Orange, and Anne, Princess Royal and was thus the granddaughter of King George II. It was upon the King's orders that she was named after his wife, Caroline of Ansbach. She was the first of Anne and William's children to survive to adulthood. When her father was at last made stadtholder of all seven united provinces, Carolina was included in the line of succession, in the event she had no brothers. A brother was eventually born, but due to his weak health, she remained an important figure. Carolina married Charles Christian of Nassau-Weilburg and suffered the loss of half her children, either in childbirth or infancy. Despite this, she acted as regent for her minor brother while heavily pregnant and remained devoted to him and the Dutch republic. Her children married well and her descendants sit upon the royal thrones of Europe, truly making her a grandmother of Europe."

The book will be published in paperback by Chronos Books.
The UK's release date is January 25, 2019. The US release date is February 5, 2019.

Miss Bloks lives in the Netherlands.  She runs the History of Royal Women blog.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Kenneth Rose's diaries to be published in November

Kenneth Rose (1924-2014)  was the author of the acclaimed biography, King George V. 

His diaries will be published the UK in November  in two volumes.   The first volume will be released in the US on December 18.

If you are looking to get me a Christmas present,  please look no further.  I would love to add the two volumes to my library.