Monday, June 18, 2018

The Quest for Queen Mary edited by Hugo Vickers

James Pope-Hennessy's Queen Mary, is arguably the gold standard for royal biographies.   The commission came from Sir Owen Moreshead. the Royal Librarian, on the recommendation of Lady Cynthia Colville, the late Queen's long-serving lady-in-waiting, some months after the death of King George V's consort in 1953.

It would not be an easy task for the experienced biographer to bring to fruition the  resplendent life of May of Teck.   Few Queen consorts have an official biographer.  But Queen Mary, daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a first cousin of Queen Victoria, and Duke Franz of Teck, a morganatic scion of the house of Württemberg, was certainly worthy of the attention.

Writing an official biography allows the biographer to have access to personal papers and to people involved in the subject's life.  Pope-Hennessy met and talked with people who knew Mary in her various stages of life - from Württemberg cousins to courtiers and her surviving children, including the Duke of Windsor.  This journey - to homes in the UK and abroad - became the quest to learn more about Queen Mary.   Pope-Hennessy embarked on a massive project, sifting through all of the conversations, all of the papers, to write what is a comprehensive, yet very open biography of Queen Mary.

Mary's personality was largely formed by her own interactions with her family and with travel and life experiences.   Pope-Hennessy was perfectly placed to write an insightful and in-depth profile of the formidable queen.

This was achieved through Pope-Hennessy's interviews and copious notes.   Not everything made the final version of the biography.  His notes and papers for the biography were not allowed to be published for 50 years. 

The interviews were considered  "confidential."  Pope-Hennessy believed that the interviews were a "not interesting study of moral psychology as it was and as it largely remains today."

It would take a skilled biographer in his own right to sift through and offer a contemporary perspective on Pope-Hennessy's conversations in his quest to find the real Mary.    Acclaimed biographer Hugo Vickers is the perfect person to take on the challenge of bringing Pope-Hennessy's quest to our time,  60 years after the book's publication.

Hugo separates The Quest for Queen Mary  into two sections:  The Commission and Interviews.  The former was written by Hugo while the interviews were conducted and written by Pope-Hennessy.

Hugo provides extensive footnotes for all the interviews, which will prove helpful to new readers who are unfamiliar with many of the references to events and other people mentioned in the interviews.

The interviews offer further insight and history, and a but of humor, too.  The Queen's niece, The Duchess of Beaufort told Pope-Hennessy that May was "very proud of her legs and ankles.  As a girl she would jump on a sofa at games so people could see them."

The Duchess also noted that Mary was "fundamentally very very German."

According to her third son, Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, Queen Mary loathed Balmoral. "Hated it.  She had nothing to do in Scotland," he said.

The Quest for Queen Mary is one of the best royal books in the last few years.  One caveat.  Please do not read this book unless you have read Queen Mary at least one time.   A further appreciation for this biography will come after reading The Quest for Queen Mary.

It is rare for a biographer to share his research after the publication the book.  The Quest for Queen Mary is a historical treat. Savor it.   After reading this book, you will have a further appreciation for the magnificence that is James Pope-Hennessy's Queen Mary.

Hugo Vickers and James Pope-Hennessy have allowed us - the readers and historians and biographers - to be be the flies on the wall. 

The Quest for Queen Mary was published by Zuleika  Books.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Books about Friedrich III

Friedrich III, German Emperor and King of Prussia, died  on June 15, 1888.

Here are several recommended books about his life.   Patricia Kollander's book, albeit pricey. is the best of these books.  Highly recommended.

If you order any of these titles through my links, I make a few pennies ... you can also use the search boxes on the right to order from Amazon ... not just books.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Harry & Meghan Royal wedding books and magaznes

There are already a selection of royal wedding publications -- and there will be more.   This post provides the  links to books and magazines available on Amazon and  If you click on the links and order from these links -- or use the search box on the right -- I make a few pennies per sale ... seriously, a few pennies, but it does add up.   When I reach £25.00 in earnings from, I receive a £25.00 gift card.  It takes a few years to reach this amount.

You can order whatever you want from Amazon, but please use the search boxes to start your searches and purchases, as this is how I earn pennies ... the search boxes or the direct links on Royal Books or Royal Musings.   Thanks and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Crown from the Crowd Now available.

"Commissioned by Photobox, Europe’s largest photographic community, The Crown from the Crowd is a ground-breaking project to create a unique photographic biography and picture archive of the Royal Family - as seen exclusively through the camera lens of the Great British Public over the last century.

Jennie Bond, who served as the BBC’s Royal Correspondent during 14 of the most turbulent years the monarchy has endured, led a nationwide search to plunder the people’s archive of unseen photographs of the Royal Family taken at any one of the estimated 50,000 royal engagements since the Second World War.

The public response was overwhelming with over 2000 photographs submitted dating back to pictures of Queen Victoria taken in the 1890s. The book features over 250 images across eight chapters ranging from Country Life to Pomp & Ceremony, each with a fascinating introduction by best-selling author and social historian Dominic Sandbrook.

Created to commemorate the forthcoming Royal Wedding, the first edition of The Crown from the Crowd will be presented to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as a ‘gift from the people', ahead of their big day on Saturday 19th May.

The Crowd from the Crowd is available to buy from Tuesday 8th May for £25 with 100% of the profit donated to Help for Heroes.

The book is not available in stores.  The only way to order it is through the publisher.  Postage is higher outside the UK.    On top right is the tab My Photobox.  Click on that and then click, Join Now.  You need to have an account to order the book.

The book was inspired by Karen Anvil's marvelous photo of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Sandringham.

@Rose O'Brien

@Paul Ratcliffe

@David Butler 

@Marlene Koenig

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Harry & Meghan Love Story Coloring Book and Harry and Meghan Paper Dolls

It is no surprise that book and magazine publishers are rushing out Harry and Meghan royal wedding publications.  Royal Book News will try to report and review on what I find here in the USA and in May in England.  Yes, I will be in Windsor for the wedding.

So far my favorites are Harry and Meghan A Love Story Coloring Book ($9.99) and Harry and Meghan Paper Dolls ($9.99) from Dover Publications, which has been publishing paper doll books for decades.  I remember getting the Charles and Diana Paper dolls book back in 1981.

Dover has paid attention to detail with both publications.  The paper dolls are a delight.  Immaculate detail has been paid to Harry and Meghan's outfits.

Eileen Rudisill Miller has drawn 14 outfits including Meghan's engagement dress, her Christmas dress, the coat and dress that she wore in Nottingham and Henry's Blues and Royals uniform.  Each costume includes the designer information and where it was worn.

Oh, I wish I were a little girl!   The adult in me, however, says it is better to display the Paper Doll book as the drawings are so good.

I am glancing at the coloring book and wondering ... where are my crayons?

Little girls and ... yes, we big girls will enjoy the paper dolls and the coloring book.  Seriously, I need crayons.

Kudos to Dover!!

Dover is offering readers of Royal Book News and Royal Musings a 25% discount on orders.  Please use the code WDBD when you order  -- and you must use the link below for this special promotion.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dynasty by Christina Oxenberg

Christina Oxenberg visited Serbia for the first time in 2014.  This visit offered a profound change in her life that would lead to an inspired introduction to her own heritage - half American, half royal.

Christina is the younger daughter of the late Howard Oxenberg and Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, herself the daughter of the late Prince Paul of Yugoslavia and Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark.

While her older sister, Catherine, focused on an acting career,  Christina became a writer and published several books, including Taxi and Royal Blue.   Now living in Key West, Florida,  she has taken her wanderlust to a new dimension in her latest book, Dynasty (Quartet Books: £20.00), a delightful tale, combined with the history of the Karageorgevich family and Christina's own life.

Prince Paul was the only child of Prince Arsene Karageoregivich and Countess Aurora Demidova, a Russian heiress.  Prince Paul inherited his mother's fortune, including property in Italy.   Arsene and Aurora's marriage soon collapsed and both parents largely abandoned their son and Paul was raised by the future King Peter I of Serbia, the father of Alexander III.

Arsene and his male-line descendants, however, do not have dynastic rights, according to the house law, established in the early 1930s.

Paul studied in Britain,  became friends with members of the British royal family and aristocracy.  He was a noted art collector and he was pro-British.  He married a Greek princess, Olga, whose younger sister, Marina married the Duke of Kent, thus furthering the ties between the two royal houses.

In Serbia,  Alexander married Princess Marie (Mignon) of Romania, the second daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie, a British princess by birth.  Paul's life changed inexorably in 1934 when Alexander was assassinated during a state visit to Marseilles.  Alexander had prepared for the possibility that he could die before his eldest son, Peter, reached his majority, and, in his will, named Paul as one of three regents for Peter.

This is not a straightforward history of the Serbian royal house.  Christina Oxenberg is taking readers through her journey as she learns about her family's history, embracing it with such delight.

At times, Christina repeats herself -- telling the same story in separate chapters -- and also leaves us hanging with a reference to Queen Marie's relationship with her eldest son without further elaboration.

I love that Christina quotes from her grandmother Princess Olga's diaries. [Christina, have you thought of editing your grandmother's diaries for publication?]

Paul's Regency ended abruptly when Peter, approaching his majority, took control.  Within days the Germans marched in Yugoslavia and the royal family went into exile. In 1945,  Marshal Tito ended the monarchy.    The British government turned on Paul. He spent the war under house arrest in Kenya and South Africa.   It took a lot of persuading for the British government to allow Olga to come to England to spend time with Marina after the death of the Duke of Kent in an air crash in 1942.

Thanks to the valiant fight of Christina's mother, Princess Elizabeth,   Prince Paul's good name was restored.

I wish Christina had included footnotes for the many names in her book.  I know who Lady Zia Werhner was, but will the average reader.  The publisher should have made sure that the book was indexed allowing researchers to go straight back to a reference without having to spend time turning pages to find what the reference.

There are a few silly mistakes including saying Queen Marie was born in Bucharest.  She was born in Gotha, where her mother, then Crown Princess Marie of Romania, was staying as she had been a naughty girl and King Carol had banished her from the court.

That said,  Dynasty is fascinating and an enjoyable read.  I have been to Serbia three times as the guest of Crown Prince Alexander, who was very helpful to Christina as she embraced her own Serbian heritage.  I appreciate Christina's inquisitive nature to learn more about Serbia, a stunningly beautiful country, and embrace her family's role as members of the royal family.  She has no better advocate than her mother, Princess Elizabeth, who was the first to return to live in the country, and now lives in her parents' villa, which was returned to her several years ago.  Elizabeth worked tirelessly for years to bring out the truth about her father, fighting to open British government records. 

It suffices to say that Winston Churchill and others were rather open about smearing Paul's good name.  Elizabeth succeeded in making this public and proving the British were wrong.

You will enjoy Christina's delightful journey, infused with history and family stories.  May I recommend that readers continue your own journey to learn more about the Serbian royal family. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Royalty Digest quarterly - yes you must subscribe

RDQ 1/2018 is being printed as we speak. This is a particularly fascinating issue, which you don't want to miss (so, please check the status of your subscription) Apart from Charlotte Zeepvat's family album, NORWAY this time, there is also an article about the Viceroys of Norwayd 1814-1891 by Trond Norén Isaksen.;Marlene A. Eilers Koenig writes about Grand Duke Kirill of Russia, while Elizabeth Jane Timms tells the story of Princess Alix of Hesse's visit to Harrogate, prior to her wedding to the Tsar of Russia. Infanta Beatriz of Spain - the elder daughter of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Ena - is the subject of an initiated biography by Datiu F. Salvia Ocaña and in the series "Little-Known Royals", Princess Dagmar (Jr) of Denmark is portrayed by Coryne Hall. Finally, and regrettably, we have to say goodbye to John Wimble's and David Horbury's magnificent series of Romanian Royal letters.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Darling Queen Dear old Bones

You have heard me complain ... many times ... about the lack of books on foreign royals in English.  I am talking about books published in languages other in English - and not translated into English.

There is a simple reason for this:  the market is not large -- not a  massive amount of readers - and good translations are expensive.  

Imagine my delight with the news of the publication of the correspondence of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her governess Miss Saxton Winter: Darling Queen Dear Old Bones.

The book was published by Amsterdam University Press and edited by Emerentia van Heuven-van Nes.  Vivien Collingwood did the translation.

Saxton Elizabeth Winter was 30 years old when she was appointed as the governess in January 1886 to Princess Wilhelmina, heiress to the throne.  

The correspondence began in 1886 and continued until November 10, 1935, when Wilhelmina, addressing her letter to "My dear old Friend."   Saxon Winter was in England living with her sister in Saffron Walden.   

The queen offered news of her family, visitors and winter sports, ending her letter "with a hug ever your true old friend."   It was the last letter she wrote to her former governess,  Saxon Winter died at the age of 78  on January 29, 1936.

Wilhelmina's first letters to her governess where while Saxton was on holiday visiting her family in England,   The young princess always wrote in English.

Saxon Winter was a stabilizing influence on Wilhelmina, who succeeded to the throne in 1890 at the age of 10.   She remained with Wilhelmina until the latter turned 16 years old.   The book includes a lovely letter from Wilhelmina's paternal aunt, Sophie, Princess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.  

She wrote: "Let me tell you my deep sense of gratitude for all you did in the true interest of my niece."   

After Winter's dismissal,  Wilhelmina wrote long, loving letters to her former governess with news about her trips to her family in Germany and elsewhere.

[One of Wilhelmina's first cousins was Princess Alice of Albany, as their mothers were sisters.]

Queen Emma served as regent until Wilhelmina's 18th birthday in August 1898.  Saxon Winter was preparing to accept a new position as governess to Prince Carol and Princess Elisabetha of Romania.  [This new position was not satisfying for Saxon Winter, who did not get along with the children's mother, Crown Princess Marie, who blamed the governess for spreading gossip about her.]

When Wilhelmina became engaged to Duke Heinrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1900, she wrote to Miss Winter:  "Oh Darling, you cannot even faintly imagine how franticly (sic) happy I am and how much joy, and sunshine  has come upon my path."

With the exception of two letters,  there are no copies of correspondence between Wilhelmina between 1903 and 1921, which means we miss Wilhelmina's miscarriages and, finally, in 1909, the birth of Princess Juliana, the queen's only child, and the growing problems in her marriage.

Saxton Winter continued to correspond with Queen Emma, who often filled her about Wilhelmina in with more detailed correspondence.

Wilhelmina's relationship with her governess was based on friendship and love. Miss Winter offered unconditional support even after she left the Netherlands.  Her support provided the confidence that the lonely Wilhelmina needed.  An only child, a monarch at age 10, raised by a formidable, strict mother, who at times, was overwhelmed by the combination of duties as regent and mother, Wilhelmina learned from her governess the importance of duty in her life, a responsibility and dedication that she passed to her daughter, Queen Juliana, and granddaughter, Queen Beatrix.

Darling Queen Dear old Bones is an important book in the scholarly study of the Dutch monarchy.  There are so few books in English about the monarchy ... we need to cherish and applaud the decision to publish this book in an English-language edition as the correspondence was in English.  A Dutch language translation was published several years ago.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The five best royal biographies

according to historian Frank Proschaska

Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy tops my list.  I loved Lady Longford's biography of Queen Victoria, but Cecil Woodham's Smith's first volume of a planned two volume biography of Queen Victoria, is pure perfection.   Woodham-Smith died before completing the second volume.  The first volume ends with Albert's death.

I also think Hugo Vickers' biography of the Queen Mother surpasses Shawcross' work.  In fact, the two biographies complement each other.

Monday, February 19, 2018

New Romanov Books

If you want to write confidently and assuredly about the Romanovs, it helps to be proficient in Russian.  Seriously.  The primary sources are in Russian so it makes sense to be able to read and write the language.

Two of the modern Romanov historians are Margarita Nelipa and Helen Azar, both of whom are of Russian heritage.  Nelipa's parents were Russian-born World War II refugees who settled in Australia in 1948.  Azar was born Odessa in Ukraine.  In the 1970s, her family emigrated to the United States.  She now lives in New South Wales.

Margarita Nelipa has written a corker of a book, Killing Rasputin The Murder that Ended the Russian Empire (Wildblue Press), which takes a long and exhaustive look at the events and evidence that lead to Gregorii Rasputin's murder in December 1916.

What makes this book an excellent read is the Nelipa's gift to tell a story and peel away every layer of the story from Rasputin's early life, his introduction to the imperial family and the mesmerizing power that he had over Empress Alexandra.   It suffices to say that enraged and angered not only other members of the Imperial family, who believed that Rasputin was a dangerous influence but also politicians and religious leaders.

Nicholas II's response to the calls for action led to acts that further exacerbated his family, who were largely united in their determination to marginalize Alexandra and try to keep Nicholas on the throne.

In the end, it was all nought.  Rasputin was murdered, a death -- one of the factors -- that would bring about the end of 300 years of the Romanov dynasty.

Nelipa is a  former medical scientist.  She uses her expertise and knowledge to break down and rebuild the evidence and the facts concerning Rasputin and the who was who in the who was involved in the planning, the death, and the aftermath.

Killing Rasputin offers readers an opportunity to rethink and reexamine the myths and the legends that rose up after Rasputin's death.  This is not a biography of Rasputin, but a literary forensic exercise that answers some questions but brings forth new questions, as well.


Helen Azar is the author-cum-editor of 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna (Create Space).  The third of the four daughters of Nicholas II,  Maria, who celebrated her 14th birthday in June 1913,  wrote as a teenager with no real historical perspective.

The diary is in itself a historical record, but if you are looking for Maria's thoughts on her parents, her siblings, even her views of the world around her, you won't find it here in her 1913 diary.

Maria had lessons,  she had tea with her family. She went to church.  She prayed.  Breakfast on the couch with her mother.  Lessons.  Sledding in the winter.  Swimming in the summer.

I wish Azar had provided more detailed footnotes, which, I feel, would have fleshed out the diary, with more background information about the names mentioned by Maria.  I would have culled information from other biographies, diaries, newspapers account on the events of the day. 

We don't get to know what Maria ate at breakfast or what she talked about at dinner with Anastasia and Alexei.  The diary is more I did this or did that. I went here with Papa or had tea with Aunt Olga.  But what is missing from this diary is emotion.  We do know that the Nicholas' children led a largely regimented life, but Maria does not let us know how she felt about herself, her family or even the celebrations of the 300th anniversary.

This is not the fault of the editor, but of the Grand Duchess herself.  We read the entries, but we never get to meet Maria.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Twilight of Empire by Greg King and Penny Wilson

I am clapping my hands in approbation of Greg King and Penny Wilson's masterful study Twilight of Empire (St. Martin's Press: $27.99).   Why?   Well, the authors have carefully and meticulously -- and indeed judiciously -- taken apart, examined (and re-examined) the events that led to Mayerling, where Archduke Rudolf, heir apparent to Austro-Hungarian throne, and his mistress, the young Marie Vetsera.

Mayerling has inspired biographers, historians, filmmakers and others, leading to a myriad of accounts - some accurate and some not.  Rumors lead to whispers which lead to more rumors.

King and Wilson take their time in presenting the denouement.  Archduke Rudolf was the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth.  It is suffice to say that Rudolf's childhood was tarnished by parental indifference, bad tutors, and far too many opportunities to fall down the rabbit hole.  A marriage was arranged with Princess Stephanie of Belgium, daughter of King Leopold II.  Stephanie's sister,  Louise, was married to Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was one of Rudolf's closest friends.

Politics also plays a role in the final chapter as Rudolf, whose liberal leanings and concern for Hungary led to conflict with his father, who preferred a more iron hand.  Unfortunately, for Rudolf, he suffered from far too many ailments, physical and mental, and he was wreaked by so many health issues.   He contracted gonorrhea, which he transmitted to his wife, rendering her sterile.

The couple had one daughter, Elisabeth, but no son.  Rudolf and Stephanie were ill-matched and she was unable to provide emotional support to her husband.  Her in-laws considered her useless as well.

Rudolf had many lovers, but the most infamous is, of course, Marie Vetsera, a teenager girl from a minor noble family.  She and her mother were ambitious, to say the least.  Marie lived in a fantasy world, believing that Rudolf would marry her.

Twilight of Empire is divided into four sections.  The first section sets the scene: events leading up to January 28, 1889.  In the second section, the authors provide a "straightforward account of the tragedy" and the immediate aftermath.  The third section focuses on the conspiracy theories that have plagued historians and biographies for more than 100 years.  In the final section, the authors provide the context and set the tone for the facts of what happened in the wee hours of January 30.

The authors have given readers a compelling and well-grounded study that shines a light (not always a new light) on the Mayerling.   This is not one story or one fact, but many stories that have multi-levels, and King and Wilson have stripped away each level with careful examination, before putting the levels back again, this time arranged in a fluid yet precise manner.

There are some facts we will never know ... unless Count Taafe's files are found -- but King and Wilson have written a compelling book that will stand for some time as the standard for the events that led to Mayerling,  the events at Mayerling and the aftermath.

Twilight of Empire is a compelling read.  Take the time to read it, to digest all that the authors have provided.   When you have put the book down after the first turning the final page, you will understand, appreciate and respect the work of true historians.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

80th wedding anniversary of King Paul and Queen Frederika of the Hellenes -

On January 9, 1938 in Athens,  Crown Prince Paul of the Hellenes married Princess Friederike of Hanover.

Here is a selection of memoirs and biographies about Queen Frederica and King Paul.  Unfortunately, copies of Pavlos No Ordinary King by Nikos Politos are not available.  Only 1000 copies were printed.  I have number 233.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Quest for Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy

This will be a great resource.  James Pope-Hennessy's Queen Mary is (to quote a friend) the "gold standard for royal biographies.  The Quest for Queen Mary will be published in February by Zuleika.  The price is £20.00.

From the publisher's website:

Queen Mary, the widow of George V, and grandmother of the Queen, died at Marlborough House on 24 March 1953, a few months before the Coronation. She was eighty-five years old.

Unusually for a Queen consort, an official biography was commissioned. The last similar such exercise was the life of the Prince Consort, commissioned by Queen Victoria. The task was entrusted to James Pope-Hennessy.

 Pope-Hennessy embarked on his three year quest for Queen Mary. It was to take him to many royal courts and to the lunch and tea tables of retired courtiers and Ladies-in-Waiting. He had access to a great number of private documents. He was shown royal residences both in England and in Europe. Part of the time he lived at the Gasthaus zu Scharfen Eck, Hagnau, Bodensee, in Germany, where the cost of living was cheaper and he was able to write quietly. As he went along, he kept notes of what he saw.

Pope-Hennessy had not intended the notes of his royal interviews to be published for fifty years (i.e. until 2009). He described them as follows: “To supplement the manuscript and printed sources I kept a private and confidential file recording in considerable detail the conversations I had both with Queen Mary’s immediate descendants, related German, Danish and Norwegian royalty and with surviving members of the Court of King George V and Queen Mary. None of these interviews have been published, nor could they be until a lapse of fifty years. They are strictly confidential and form, I believe, a not uninteresting study of royal psycholology as it was and as it largely remains today."

In THE QUEST FOR QUEEN MARY Hugo Vickers introduces the figures that Pope- Hennessy interviewed, and adds footnotes to place certain figures and events in context.

The book is now available from as well as from the publisher. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Hoogstraten bookstore in The Hague will close in February

 On 1 February, Booksellers van Hoogstraten will close down the shop on Noordeinde, The Hague after more than 136 years. However, we will continue our webshop for all the beautiful Royal history books and continue participating in the Royal Gathering conferences. Our online selection is just as good as in the shop!