Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dear Ellen - due out this weekend .. watch this space

I will be offering Dear Ellen for sale by the end of the week.  You will be able to order through me (Royalwriter) on  I will also provide a link here and on Royal Musings, which you can click to order the book.

It is going to be a very lovely book, which is based on the photographs from the albums of the late Grand Duchess Helen Vladimirovna of Russia, Princess Nicholas of Greece.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The bookshop at Harewood House

A very interesting new second hand bookshop at Harewood House, near Leeds.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

How to watch a British DVD in the USA?

Most American and Canadian DVD players are not compatible with foreign DVDS.   The US and Canada is in Region 1 (and we use the NTSC system.)  The United Kingdom and Western Europe are Region 2 (and use PAL.)  The systems are not compatible. 

I own a Phillips DVD Player/Recorder that is all-region, code-free, and converts PAL to NTSC. 

Amazon has a nice selection of DVD players for several for sale.  Definitely worth the investment if you want to watch British and foreign DVDs at home.  But do your research first.  You won't find these players in big box stores, including Best Buy. 

New Books and DVD on the Duchess of Cambridge

This book will be published in August by Carlton Books.

Carlton Books is also the publisher for this book, which due out in April in the UK.

New books and DVDS on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and the former Kate Middleton.

New Royal DVDs (PAL- Region 2)

This DVDS are Region 2 (PAL), which means they are not compatible with most U.S. and Canadian DVD players.  Code Free all region DVD players with a PAL converter are available from EBAY and other sources.

Books about Prince Albert

Albert by Jules Stewart

I am not sure what to make of Jules Stewart's Albert (I.B. Tauris: $28:00).  The premise is a great idea: a new examination of Queen Victoria's husband, published in connection with the 150th anniversary of Albert's death.  Unfortunately not all ideas turn out to be great ones. 

Queen Victoria has been the subject of many biographies.  But the body of literature on Prince Albert is a lot smaller, even though he was fascinating, and played a far more important role in the growth of the modern Britain.  The German-born Albert, who married Queen Victoria in 1840, championed the 1851 Great Exhibition that led to British manufacturing becoming a dominant force in the world.  As Chancellor of Cambridge University, Prince Albert encouraged the inclusion of a more well-rounded curriculum.  

All of this is well-documented by Stewart, a historian.  He provides an excellent bibliography and source notes, which will allow the reader to delve further into Albert's unique life.  He was a devoted husband, a strict but loving father.  He abhorred his eldest son's lack of curiosity, and was devoted to his eldest daughter, Vicky, helping to arrange a marriage with the future Friedrich III.    Prince Albert envisioned a Germany ruled by liberalism, not by authoritarianism.

Stewart is on firm ground when he offers the talking points of Albert's life.  He celebrates the accomplishments, as well as the failures.  He also does a great job in detailing in providing the details that led to Prince Albert's marriage to Queen Victoria.  It was not a surprise that Victoria would wed her first cousin, as their family had been hoping and planning since Albert was born in August 1819,  three months after Victoria.

But the book also has problems as Stewart's grasp on titles, names and family connections, starts to slip.  He could have used a royal expert to set him straight and help him.   He describes one of Victoria's suitors as the Prussian Duke William of Brunswick.

He describes Prince Albert's lifelong friend, Prince William of Lowenstein-Wertheim, as the future Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.  He referred to Victoria as Queen of England several times.  Albert and Victoria's eldest son was Albert Edward, not Edward Albert.

From my perspective, this is sloppy and does the book a disservice.  Stewart does well with the polemics of Albert's life, his contribution to British society, and the move toward a more modern royal family (by mid-19th century standards.)  But it is hard to weigh the satisfaction with the reality of Albert's life, and a writer (and his editor) who could not take the time to check basic facts.

I expected more from Tauris, a publisher with a scholarly bent.   Albert is a good book, but it does not soar to the heights reached by Daphne Bennett's King Without a Crown or  Stanley Weintraub's Albert: Uncrowned King.  

This is a book you read once, and reach for something more substantial.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Kamehameha's Crown a history of the Hawaiian Monarchy by Stephen R. Bunford

One word: Wow.   Briton Stephen R. Bunford has written a comprehensive and honest history of Hawaii's monarchy, Kamehameha's Crown that is a must read.

Hawaii is now an integral part of the United States, a paradise of unparalleled beauty, but before Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959, before Pearl Harbor,  before the United States sought to annex the islands, Hawaii was an independent country, a monarchy.

Not a western monarchy, but a monarchy nonetheless.  The islands have a history going back thousands of years, but the written history, as we know it, did not begin until after the arrival of American and Britons, bringing religion, business, new political ideas, and largely upsetting the traditional balance, the traditional way of life.  

It must be said that many Hawaiians embraced the new world.  Members of the royal family converted to Christianity.  There were marriages with the haoles, the Westerners.

Bunford notes that Hawaii's written history began with the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778.  Hawaii, as a monarchy and an independent nation, ceased to exist in 1893, when the country was annexed by the United States. (In 1993, the US officially apologized for its mistakes in regard to the original annexation.)

This book is written in the style of a doctoral thesis, and it is packed with history, romance and Hawaiian and culture. As the western world quickly engulfed and encroached into paradise,  Hawaiians learned to embrace western ways. Greed and ambition became the norm for Hawaiians and Americans. 

King Kamehameha I united the islands into one nation, an action that would lead to modernization - and major changes for Hawaii.   For the next eighty three years, the Hawaiian monarchy was largely impacted by the arrival of the Americans and Britons, by the introduction of Christianity, and the effect of western culture on Hawaiian life.  The monarchy ended with the reign of the very complicated  Queen Liluokalani, a woman devoted to the Hawaiian people, but unsure of her own power.

Liluokalani was unable to maintain her control, and her world collapsed as the United States became the prominent power.

In 1898, Hawaii was formally became a territory of the United States.  But this did not end the interest in members of the former royal family and their devotion to the islands.   Perhaps the most famous princess was the half-Scots Princess Kaiulani (1875-1899), who was seen as Liluokalani's heir, but whose life was torn between the West and Hawaii.

As Hawaii moved into the western sphere, members of the royal family became friends with European royals, especially with Queen Victoria and other British royals.   The Hawaiian royals were invited to several major British royal events.

But in the end, the Hawaiians were unable to maintain one foot in the old world, and another at the court of Queen Victoria.  The Hawaiian-born Sanford Dole emerged as President of the new republic. He believed the monarchy should have been restored, but within five years, independence melted into full annexation by the United States.  

Kamehameha's Crown is a compelling and well-written history of the turbulent and passionate time between 1810 and 1893, an epoch-making time for the Hawaiian island. Bunford also includes several chapters on the family since 1893.

Stephen Bunford is to be commended and complimented on writing such an  exact history.  He brings alive the personalities of the kings and queens and their families, and he also possesses a more than competent knowledge of Hawaiian culture.

Read it!  You won't be disappointed.  Now I want to go to Hawaii to see the Iolani palace.

Kamehameha's Crown a history of the Hawaiian monarchy was published by Wordclay ($18.00).  Available from Amazon and