Thursday, October 29, 2015

I did it my way - memoirs of Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Don't forget to order through my links .... those few pennies help!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The House of Thurn und Taxis

Oh, this will be a must have, I believe. Expect more information after the book is published ... and a gentle reminder, if you order the book through the link in the post or through the search box, I earn a few pennies.   Princess Mariae Gloria of Thurn und Taxis is one of the authors.  Todd Eberle took the photos.   Skira Rizzoli is the publisher.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Maria Pia Queen of Portugal by Sabrina Pollock

Sabrina Pollock has been fascinated with Queen Maria Pia of Portugal for many years.  She found the consort of King Luis to be a "mass of contradictions," a woman with a temper, "extravagant as she was charitable."

Pollock turned this determined fascination into a large readable (and first English-language) biography, Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal ($43.95/£33.00).

There are not many sources in English on the queen, who was born Princess Maria Pia of Italy.  Certainly no primary sources.   Unlike other English-language writers,  Pollock went to the original sources, most of which are located in Portuguese and Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen archives, thus providing translations of letters and other documents.  I am not sure if Pollock used a professional translator for the material, rather than try to do it herself.

Access to primary sources allows a biographer to create an effusive biography. This means a more object accounting of the subject.   It should be noted that this is the first English-language biography on Queen Maria Pia.  

Her research led to her a more informed and well-rounded portrait of Maria Pia. She was widowed after 26 years of an arranged marriage.  She survived her husband's infidelities, the assassination of her elder son, King Carlos, and her grandson, Crown Prince Luis,  the abdication of her  younger grandson, King Manoel II, and exile.  She died a year after the collapse of the Portuguese monarchy.

She was devoted to her sons and fond of Carlos' wife, Amelia.  She was also extravagant, and thought of spending too money on frivolities.

Is this a great biography?  Not at all.  It is good read, sometimes, very good.

But .. but .. but!   Oh the spelling errors ... and mistakes.  Manoel II was born on November 15, 1889, not November 19, which makes the author's statement that Manoel was born exactly two months after the death of his grandfather as incorrect.

I cannot stress enough the importance of using professional editors and fact checkers for biographies.  A good editor would have worked with the writer to flesh out different parts of the text, for example.

There is a lack of consistency in Portuguese names of palaces and places.  It also looks like spell check changed correct words to incorrect words.  My favorite;  commensurate rather than commemorate when referring to Queen Victoria's jubilee.  I also think the index to have more details, and not merely providing what page a person can be found.  If I wanted to go directly to when Maria Pia met with someone, or married or when she gave birth, I am unable to find the information in the book's index.

The author has, however, provided excellent end notes to sources used in the text.

I also wish Mr. Beeche would take heed to my wish that he devote more time to real editing and working with writers, rather than take a manuscript, puff it up a bit with a nice epilogue, but neglect the little things: such as spelling and grammar, accuracy in accents, titles and dates.   More attention to detail would mean a lot less meh! from me.

The book includes 32 pages of photographs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Crown - a new royal magazine

A month or so ago (a little late), I received a complimentary copy of a new royal magazine, The Crown. The International Royal Magazine.  This is an English-language magazine published in the Netherlands.   The magazine is produced by the same team that publishes the Dutch-language magazine, Vorsten.   Justine Marcella, the editor-in-chief of Vorsten, wears the the same hat with The Crown.   She is correct in saying that The Crown is an ambitious project.

The magazine's market is the the Anglo-speaking world (USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand).

This is a glossy, slick larger size magazine (nearly 150) that offers readers a mixed bag of articles.  The cover is the Duchess of Cambridge, which, I am sure, was a concerted choice as who else to catch the attention of the Americans or the British.  I enjoyed Rick Evers's interview with Queen Margrethe II and the profile of the King and Queen of Bhutan.  

Queen Margrethe discussed numerous topics, including why she won't abdicate.  Rick Evers has another winner with the profile of Queens Rania and Noor discussing the real Islam.  (You won't this kind of article in Majesty Magazine.)

The articles in The Crown are translations of original articles in Vorsten, one of two monthly Dutch royal magazine.  The other magazine, Royalty, is edited by Marc van der Linden.   Both magazines focus on the Dutch royal family, but also cover the British and European royal families.

The Crown Magazine is visually stunning and well-produced.  I like the mixture of modern and historical pieces (Sisi's missing jewels and the romance between Napoleon and Josephine. There are also articles on royal fashions and jewels.

I enjoyed most of the articles, and the European perspective on royalty.   There are only three English language magazines available, and all are published in the United Kingdom.  Majesty is the doyenne of the publications, as it was first published in June 1980.  Royalty Magazine first appeared in 1981.  Royal Life is a more recent addition to the canon of royal magazines.  It publishes six times a year, and recently published its 17th issue.

Majesty is published twelve times a year. Royalty works the on the alleged 12 months a year schedule.  Both magazines cover British and European royalty, but neither with the same sophistication as the Crown Magazine.   Royal Life focuses solely on the British royals in what can only be described as pure sugar coverage.  I bought one issue, and was bored to tears,   Nice photos, but no substance.

This first issue has 107 different royals and 319 photographs,

The real question: who will buy this magazine?   The American market is not as big as some may think,  I have not seen Majesty's circulation rate in some time, but in the late 1990s, the magazine sold about 48,000 copies per month in the United States.

I am not sure how often The Crown will be published  -- and will there be original articles not previously published in Vorsten -- but the next issue is due out in January 2016.  The cover price is $20.99 (US), $23.99 (Canada) L8.50 (UK) $18.99 (Australia), $15.99 (New Zealand), and NE/BL 9.95 (Euros).   The price is a bit steep for a single issue, especially in North America.  Magazines in many U.S. states are included in the sales of periodicals, which means adding 4% to 8% to the cost of the magazine. Several states exempt books and periodicals from sales tax.

The magazine will be available later this month in the USA. There are very few places where you can purchase foreign publications.  Not at supermarkets or airports.  Barnes & Noble, the bookstore chain, carries some British magazine (fashion and royalty magazines.)  Copies can be ordered online.
Yes, there is a niche market for royal-related books and magazines in the United States, but most of these readers are interested solely in the British in general and William and especially Catherine.  A middle-aged American woman is unlikely to pick up a magazine with Queen Maxima on the cover,

(American women used to be interested in the Monegasque princely family because of Grace Kelly, but these interest receded after her death,)

The British media largely ignores European royal events.  No television coverage, and, perhaps a few paragraphs in one or two newspapers.  Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state of Canada, Australia and New Zealand (and a few other places, too.)  Australians have an interest in the Tasmanian-born Mary Donaldson, now Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, the wife of the heir apparent, Crown Prince Frederik.

I am not the average royal reader, and I would not purchase a magazine solely because the Duchess of Cambridge is on the cover.  There has been a dearth of coverage of the European royals, and now, The Crown can fill the void.

If you can't find a copy of The Crown at a bookstore or at other shops where magazines are sold,  take a risk and order a copy from their website.  UPDATE: The Crown is now on sale at Barnes & Noble.

The first issue of The Crown has a little fluff, a bit of glitz and glamour, and, happily, interesting and informative articles.

I look forward to the second issue of The Crown.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Go-Betweens for Hitler by Karina Urbach

It was not unusual for members of Europe's aristocrats and royals to act as go-betweens or spies for their governments or political foes.  By the late 1800s, the family ties among Europe's royal families led to the use of royal go-betweens during the first world war. Prince Max of F├╝rstenberg, a close confidante of Kaiser Wilhelm II, was an active go-between during the first world war,  due to his ties to Austria.  But by the end of the war, his abilities ceased to be of value.  

Another, and somewhat surprising, go-between in the first world war was the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia), who worked with Prince Max of Baden, and was seen as a "useful link" by the German Foreign Ministry.

Karina Urbach, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Historical Research, University of London, specializes in nineteenth and twentieth-century Anglo-German history.    Her newest book, Go-Betweens for Hitler (Oxford University of Press: $34.95) is a well-detailed study of the aristocrats and royals who were go-betweens and spies.

Urbach provides a good overall introduction to these go-betweens, first delving into World War I and the growth of Bolshevism leading to the ascent of National Socialism.  

German and other nobles saw Hitler (and the Nazi party) as the solution to Bolshevism.  The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was one of the Party's early supporters.   He was a British prince by birth, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who became heir to the Coburg dukedom after the death of his first cousin, Hereditary Prince Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (and his uncle the Duke of Connaught and his sons, Prince Arthur, renounced their rights).  He was at Eton when his life changed, and he and his mother, the widowed Duchess of Albany, and his older sister, Princess Alice, moved to Berlin so Charlie could be turned into a good German.   He became too good of German, embracing all the tenets of National Socialism.  He was, as Karina Urbach, points out, an employee of Adolf Hitler.

Charlie's own family, especially his sister, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, tried to whitewash his pre-war activities, but the historical documentation is loud and clear: he was a committed Nazi, and he was well aware of the atrocities.   His family ties (regained by the late 1920s) with the British cousins (King George V and Queen Mary) and others were exploited by Hitler and his associates.   His sister, who was Queen Mary's sister-in-law, allowed the duke to use her country home, Brantridge Park, to entertain his contacts.

Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador to Germany, and the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha were close friends, and able to exploit their connections among wealthy British aristocrats and newspapers owners, such as Lord Rothermere, who hired Princess Stephanie zu Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfurst, the divorced wife of a Austrian prince.  She was Jewish by birth, but this apparently did not matter as she moved though the ranks of Nazi connections, becoming an intimate of Adolf Hitler.

She, too, was an effective go-between, until she came to the US, where she was soon interned.  After the war,  Stephanie found new fame working for German media king Axel Springer.

The third of the World War II go-betweens was Prince Max Egon of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a member of the Catholic branch of the Langenburg family, who worked for Goring, and was involved with Princess Stephanie and Lord Rothermere.  The go-betweens permeated all levels of British political and social life.

Although Karina needs a few lessons in royal relationships -- no, Karina, the King of the Belgians was not Carl Eduard's nephew (she has a few other clangers, too) -- the book is a must-read for several reasons.

First of all, Urbach knows how to make use of research.  She mined all the sources, including new ones (Francisco Franco's papers, for example).  There are complaints about the lack of access to the Royal Archives, but there are other archives that are closed to researchers... the Coburg archives, for example.

Urbach provides compelling evidence of the Duke of Coburg's duplicity, which previous historians had largely dismissed,  including Briton Philip Ziegler, the official biographer of Edward VIII, who dismissed Edward's pro-Nazi beliefs and who had called the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as "absurd."  It was only after David's abdication (the family name for Edward) that he was finally able to meet Hitler in Germany, and his host was none other than his father's first cousin, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Eventually, Princess Stephanie's cover got blown, and she had to find new angles to acquire, provide and transmit information.

Go Betweens for Hitler is an eye-opening reading experience because Urbach challenges (and produces the facts) about the real-life experiences of Coburg and the other aristocratic go-betweens. 

Plenty of endnotes and cited sources, Go-Betweens for Hitler hits nearly all the right spots as an excellent book.  As I said earlier, I was disappointed by the numerous sloppy mistakes Urbach made regarding family relationships.  [This is when it becomes important for publishers to hire readers who can go through these manuscripts, and catch these mistakes as editors are not experts in royalty.]

These sort of mistakes irritate me because manuscripts can be checked before publication.  Urbach preferred to concentrate on the big picture: the history and the facts regarding the go-betweens and the insidious roles they played and carried out while working for Adolf Hitler.  The shadowy roles of these aristocrats cultivated by Hitler and other high-level Nazis have largely been overlooked by historians. 

Karina Urbach has brought the Duke of Coburg, Princess Stephanie of Hohenlohe and Prince Max Egon of Hohenlohe-Langenburg to justice.