Sunday, June 29, 2014

Apapa: King Christian IX of Denmark and His Descendants by Arturo Beeche and Coryne Hall

I have been looking forward to reading Apapa King Christian IX of Denmark and His Descendants ($48.95)  which is the latest book to be produced by Art Beeche.  In the fairness of transparency, I must add that I am a regular writer for Art's journal, European Royal History.  But Art knows that I will say in print how I feel about one of this books, in spite of our friendship.

He does not have to worry.  Apapa is one of the best books ever published by  This is largely due to the addition of British royal author, Coryne Hall, whose expertise in Danish royal history is on full view here.

In 1976, the late biographer, Theo Aronson, wrote the highly regarded A Family of Kings, which focused on King Christian IX and his descendants.  A must read (and difficult to find, as it was published only in the United Kingdom.)

Now make room on your shelf for Apapa: King Christian IX of Denmark and His Descendants, which takes the story of the Danish King - the Grandfather of Europe - and many lines of his progeny's descendants.

The first chapter focuses on the lives of King Christian, the minor German prince whose marriage to Princess Louise of Hesse-Cassel gave him the edge for succession to the Danish throne following the demise of the previous line without male issue.

This marriage produced six children: Frederik, Alexandra, Wilhelm, Dagmar, Thyra and Valdemar.   Denmark may have been a small, provincial country with little international clout, but Christian and Louise managed to marry their two eldest daughters off to the future sovereigns of the United Kingdom and Russia.  Frederik succeeded his father as king, while Wilhelm, then only 17, was elected King of the Hellenes several months before his father succeeded to the Danish throne.

The youngest daughter, Thyra, married Prince Ernst August of Hanover, whose father was a first cousin of Queen Victoria, while the youngest son, Valdemar, married the eccentric Princess Marie of Orleans.  

The book is divided into seven chapters.  The first chapter offers an introduction Christian and Louise.  Each of the six children and their descendants have a separate chapter, filled with a cornucopia of historical and biographical data complemented with photographs from Mr. Beeche's collection.

Apapa is not meant to be the final word on the lives of these kings and queens, empresses and duchesses, and commoners, too.  The authors provide an extensive bibliography-cum-reading list in the back of the book.  But what Beeche and Hall do so well is to weave together a story of six siblings, who shared the happiness and supported each other when tragedy struck (the assassinations of George I of the Hellenes and Emperor Nicholas II and his family).

There would be family gatherings in Denmark and Germany where the cousins - British, Greek, Russian, Danish - grew up together, and established friendships.  The cousins grew up, married, had children of their own - and Christian's family tree branched out into Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Luxembourg,  Yugoslavia, Romania and Italy, as well as the German royal and princely houses.

The book is well-produced and has an easy-to-read layout.  I offer the same quibble that I made for Art Beeche's book, The Coburg of Europe:  please, please cite the quoted material.  Footnotes or endnotes would definitely enhance the scholarly achievement.

The lack of footnotes is my only criticism.   This book offers an entry to the world and lives of divers and complex personalities.  Don't be worried if you cannot read this book in one seating.  I recommend delving into Apapa, spending time with one chapter, relishing and savoring all the photos and information, before turning the page to the next chapter.  It takes time to truly appreciate this book, which is on its way to become a true classic.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Books on the Spanish royal family

Unfortunately, most books on the Spanish royal family are not translated into English.

Here is a selection of book that are available in English:

An interview with Helen Rappaport

From the Canadian magazine Macleans:

Helen's book, The Romanov Sisters: the Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, is scheduled for release in the United States this week.  The American publisher is St. Martin's Press.

Harry: A Biography by Marcia Moody

Memo to Michael O'Mara Books:  please hire good editors and fact checkers.  Heck, I offer my expertise (and you can afford my hourly rate.)

After reading Marcia Moody's Kate: A Biography, which I enjoyed, I picked up Moody's next book, Harry: A Biography (Michael O'Mara), expecting another success.

This book is an utter disappointment.  I knew I was not on surer ground when on page 24, Moody writes: "Diana discovered she was pregnant again in January 1984, when William was seven months old."

Whaaaat?    I am not good in math, but William was not seven months old when Diana became pregnant in January 1984.   Prince William was born in June 1982.  Harry was born in September 1984, which makes William two years older than his brother.

So, where was the editor and the red pencil?    Harry was not christened at Windsor Castle (page 28).  The ceremony took place at St. George's Chapel, but not Windsor Castle.  Some may call this semantics, but  I say: get the facts right.  Would Moody have said the Earl and Countess of Wessex were married at Windsor Castle?  I hope not.

Lord Mountbatten was not Charles' "beloved uncle," but his great uncle.  Lord Mountbatten's older sister, Alice, was the mother of Prince Philip, Charles' father, which means Lord Mountbatten was Philip's uncle.  

If Charles and Diana's separation was announced in December 1992, it would have been impossible to divvy up possessions in the winter of 1992.  Winter of 1993, yes, not 1992.

When Moody writes about the Queen taking the princes to Sunday service, she falls into the same trap as other writers by mentioning that Diana's name was not mentioned during the service..  This is true, but most writers ignore the fact that the Church of Scotland does not offer prayers for the deceased.  The prayers were for the survivors, the living.

I felt I was reading daily news clips from tabloid newspapers, rather than a competent biography of the Prince of Wales' younger son.  However, it must be said that Prince Harry, who will celebrate his 30th birthday, has not accomplished enough in life to warrant a good, serious biography, replete with footnotes and citations.

A good editor could have massaged this book into a readable account  of Harry's life so far.  Instead, we are treated to a truly disappointing rehashing, largely based on news clips, and little else.

In time, someone will write a competent biography.  Give this one a miss -- you won't learn anything knew -- and wait for someone to take the time to write a decent account of Prince Harry's life.