Friday, June 17, 2011

Marlene's Royal Book Store

I have opened a Royal Book Store on Amazon. See the link on the right side of the blog. The books come from Amazon, and not from me, although I will get a (very) small percentage of the sales. I have not yet figured out if I can add books from the British, German and French Amazons, but I am looking into it. If you are planning to order a book or DVD from Amazon, please use the store .. and if you don't see a book in the store (but you know it's on Amazon), send me an email, and I will add it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Final Curtsey

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More information on the Hon. Margaret Rhode's autobiography, The Final Curtsey.  The book will be published by Calder Walker Associates (£17.99).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Four Graces by Ilana Miller

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We have a winner.  A real winner.   I read a lot of books.   I have read a lot of books about royalty.  The majority of books published in English are largely fluff.   Consider the number of books that have been published on Prince William's engagement and wedding and then think about how many well-researched, scholarly books you have read. 

I have been reviewing books since 1983, when I first started the print version of Royal Book News, then a bi-monthly newsletter.  I have read some good stuff -- Hugo Vickers' biography of Princess Alice comes to mind, as well as Greg King's biographies, and I have also forced myself to gorge on Kitty Kelley and Lady Colin Campbell, although Lady C was on to something because she, not Andrew Morton, was the first to write about Charles and Diana's marriage and Diana's psychological issues.

The James Pope-Hennesseys and Greg Kings are far and few between, and, sadly, the publishing industry is not willing to encourage major royal tomes.   Although the archives at Harewood House must be teaming with material, there has never been a serious biography on Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood.  Two hagiographies were published in the late 1920s, but nothing since then.  Princess Mary died in 1965 shortly after she learned that her elder son was the father of an illegitimate son.   The late Princess Royal is largely unknown in the United Kingdom.  She is the only child of George V who has not been subjected to a biographer's pen.   Even her youngest brother, the mentally challenged, epileptic Prince John, has had more biographical information published about him than Princess Mary has. 

It is a shame that no one has taken on Princess Mary.  I used to say the same thing about Princess Victoria of Hesse and By Rhine, the eldest child of Princess Alice, second daughter of Queen Victoria, and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and By Rhine.   There are biographies on Victoria's sisters, Ella and Alix, who married Grand Duke Serge and Nicholas II of Russia, respectively.  Victoria's only surviving  brother, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, wrote his memoirs, and was also the subject of a biography, both in German.

Victoria, who provided the center, the core, to her siblings,  featured in the biographies of her siblings and her daughters, Princess Alice, and Queen Louise, but she was never the star.  Until now.

Thanks to Ilana  Miller's The Four Graces ( $43.00),  Victoria's story has come to the fore in a meticulously, well-researched book.  Suffice to say, this is a superb book, and one of the best royal books I have read in a long time.  Miller breathes life into a princess, less known than her sisters, but far more important in many ways. 

The Four Graces refers to Victoria and her three younger sisters, Irene, Ella and Alix, although all three take a back seat to Victoria in this book. The three younger sisters  made spectacular dynastic marriages:  Irene married her first cousin, Prince Henry of Prussia; Ella wed Grand Duke Serge of Russia, who was assassinated in 1905; and Alix made the grandest marriage of all, when she married Nicholas II of Russia.  The princesses' maternal grandmother, Queen Victoria, made it clear that she did not approve of any of these marriages.  She did not believe that Alix did not have the right stuff to be the consort of the Tsar of Russia.  In this matter, Queen Victoria was proved right.  Although Nicholas and Alexandra were very much in love,  neither were ever prepared for the mammoth tasks.

Princess Victoria was very close to her grandmother.  She was born at Windsor Castle, and, despite her German title, Victoria was to spend most of her life in England.  She did not make a grand marriage.  She, too, married for love, and her husband was Prince Louis of Battenberg, her father's first cousin.   The marriage was  not considered equal, as Prince Louis was a morganaut, the son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and By Rhine and Julie von Hauke, who was created Princess of Battenberg.  

Victoria was content to stay in the background, support her husband in his naval career in the United Kingdom.  She rose among the many tragedies in her life.  Frittie's fall from the window in 1873.   Alice and May's deaths from diphtheria in 1878.  Ernie's divorce.  The death of his daughter, Elisabeth, in 1903.  Serge's assassination in 1905.  The regicide at Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk in 1918.  The air crash at Steene in 1937. George's death from cancer in 1938.

One can only imagine how strong Victoria had to be in order to provide support and comfort to others.   The day after the crash that killed her sister-in-law, Onor, her granddaughter, Cecile, and her nephew, Donatus, and their two sons, the pragmatic Victoria suggested that the marriage between Don's younger brother, Prince Ludwig, and the Hon. Margaret Geddes take place the next day, albeit quietly.  The family had been en route to London to attend the wedding.  Young Princes Alexander and Ludwig were to have been pages in the wedding. 

Ilana Miller, an Adjunct Professor of History at Pepperdine University spent an enormous amount of time working on this book.  She read the appropriate histories and biographies.  She was able to do research in Darmstadt, and she was given access to unpublished material, including Princess Victoria's and Grand Duke Dimitri's unpublished memoirs.  Copies of the former are at Southampton University and Darmstadt and Dimitri's diaries are at Harvard.  Ilana also met with Victoria's granddaughter, Lady Mountbatten, who was able to provide first hand information about Victoria.

In 1917,  Prince Louis of Battenberg renounced his German title and was created Marquess of Milford Haven.  Victoria, a Princess in her own right, could have retained her title, but she, too, chose to relinquish her grand ducal title, and became known as the Marchioness of Milford Haven.

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Victoria's life was far from ordinary.  She was the glue, the lynch pin, that kept her family together, even when divided by war.  She was close to her two daughters-in-law, Edwina, and Nada,  and she provided the stability for her young grandson, Prince Philip. 

Considering the vicissitudes of her own live - and the lives around her - Victoria was the ultimate survivor.  Considering her own family ties,  one can only imagine her joy on November 20, 1947, when she sat in Westminster Abbey to watch her grandson marry the future Queen of the United Kingdom.  No doubt Queen Victoria would have approved of this marriage.

Ilana  Miller is to be commended and complimented for The Four Graces, which is sure to become a well-thumbed reference work for future biographers and historians. 

The book is illustrated with eighty photos.

I would recommend that Eurohistory use a professional indexer in order to create a more detailed index based in names and places. This book deserves a detailed index.  

One more quibble:  the typeface is too small.  Older folks may require a magnifying glass in order to read the book.  I am not kidding.  

So invest in a magnifying glass if you have trouble with small print.  It's worth the investment.  The Four Graces is one of the best royal books that I have read in a long time.  This book is a true winner.  It is a must read, a definite need for your royal collections.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

William et Catherine by Philippe Delorme

We Americans are not the only foreigners who go gaga over the British royals.  The French, in spite of their decision to toss out their kings several times, also have a great interest in the British royal family.
The wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was front page news in France, and the French were glued to their TV sets, just as we were. 

Philippe Delorme is a French historian and journalist who covers royalty for Point de Vue, the French weekly magazine. He has written books on Henri IV and the Monaco Princely Family, which means he has an impressive range of royal history.

His most recent book, William et Catherine 150 de Noces Royales en Grand-Bretagne, (Express Roularta Editions: 15 Euros)  examines British royal marriages from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 to Prince William and Catherine Middleton's engagement.  

Delorme does not include all of the royal weddings since 1840; rather he offers a selection of what he feels are the most interesting and important weddings.  The weddings covered in this book are: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark, George V and Mary of Teck,  George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon,  Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson,  Elizabeth II and Prince Philip,  Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, Anne and Mark Phillips, Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and, surprisingly, Lady Helen Windsor and Tim Taylor.  The final chapter celebrates Prince William's romance and engagement.

The text is in French, and there are no plans for an English translation.  The English-speaking market is already over saturated with English-language books on William and Catherine, and more are expected to be published within the next few months.

This is a competent and well-researched book that will be appreciated and enjoyed for some years.  The title translates to William and Catherine: 150 years of British Royal Weddings.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prince Radu of Romania - a new biography

Prince Radu of Romania, the husband of Crown Princess Margarita, celebrates his 51st birthday today.   He was born on June 7,  1960 in Iasi, Romania.   This book was originally published in Romanian, and was translated into English to reach a wider market.

I met Prince Radu for the first time last September in Belgrade, as we were both guests at Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine's 25th anniversary celebrations.  I was struck by the Prince's erudition -- he is fluent in English --and his compassion and appreciation for Romania, its history and culture.

It is unlikely that the young Radu, growing up in Communist Romania, ever envisioned the life he now lives.  He is the son-in-law of former King Michael, and he plays an increasing public role - one of the positive faces of the Romanian royal family.  

The criticism leveled at the prince is undeserved.  He cares deeply about his country.  He believes in monarchy, and he and his wife, Crown Princess Margarita, are truly a cute couple.

Prince Radu of Romania explores the prince's life from his childhood through his decision to become an actor and his career in the theatre, through his first meeting with Margarita, their eventual marriage, and now their lives as a couple in Romania.

The authors of the biography are Vladimir Cretulescu and Corina Murafa.   Alistair Ian Blyth is responsible for the English translation.

The book was published in Romania  by Litera.

The authors, without any political bias, offer a fair, insightful and honest portrayal of the former Radu Duda.  Prince Radu of Romania is not available from Amazon or your local bookstore.  You can order it directly from Litera.

Prince Radu has written and translated numerous  books, including Queen Anne's memoirs,  Anne of Romania - A War, An Exile, a Life.

British Royal Weddings of the 20th Century

British Royal Weddings of the 20th Century is an excellent compilation produced by British Pathe.  The DVD includes more than three hours of footage largely based on newsreels covering royal weddings from 1919 through 1999.

The DVD includes footage from the weddings of Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles, Lord Louis Mountbatten and the Hon. Edwina Ashley, the Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece, the Duke of Gloucester and Lady Alice Scott, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, the Duke of Kent and Katharine Worsley,  Princess Alexandra and the Hon. Angus Ogilvy,  Prince Richard of Gloucester and Birgitte van Deurs, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips,  the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer,  Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.  There is also a bonus feature that includes footage from the wedding of Princess Patricia of Connaught and Alexander Ramsay, Lord Harewood and Marion Stein, Lady Pamela Mountbatten and David Hicks, and an alternative feature of Princess Margaret's wedding.

The coverage for the weddings of Prince Richard, Princess Patricia, Lord Harewood and Lady Pamela is for arrivals and departures of the newlyweds. 

This is an excellent DVD, a definite must have for royal collections.  It is available on both sides of the Pond in Region 1/NTSC and Region 2/Pal versions.   The US price is $15.99.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life

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An excerpt from a new biography of Prince Philip: Young Prince Philip, His Turbulent Early Life by Philip Eade  (Harper Press: £25.00)

This book has not yet been published in the US.