Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee : new books

From the Royal Collection:

and due to be published in February

Albert & Charlene of Monaco: New books on the wedding

There are (at least) three new books on the July wedding of the Prince of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock.

Albert et Charlene: Mariage princier a Monaco was published by Paris-based Editions Didier Carpentier. 

Albert et Charlene: Mariage Princier 1er et 2 Julliet 2011 by Michel Dagnino
and Stéphane Bern's L'Histoire du Mariage Princier were published by Monaco by Editions du Rocher.

All three books are also available from Amazon.fr.    Stéphane Bern's book is also available from van Hoogstraten. 

Book of the Year: Dearest Missy

I read a lot of royal books, naturally.  Some are good, some are terrific, and there are always a few duds. 

And then there is the book that rises right to the top, a book that soars above all the other titles, a book that richly deserves the title: best book of the year.

That book is Dearest Missy, a compilation of the letters of Marie Alexandrovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, Duchess of Edinburgh, and of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and of her daughter, Marie, Crown Princess of Romania (1879-1900.)

The letters were edited by Diana Mandache, a Bucharest-based expert on Romanian royal history.  The letters are held at Romania's National Archives, where Diana was given full access to the material.

The nearly 500 pages covers the period from 1879 thorough 1900.   If this book sells well,  Diana (and Rosvall Royal Books) will be able to publish the second volume.

The correspondence offers the reader an insight into the relationship between the proud Russian-born mother and her eldest daughter, married at seventeen, to Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, a man she barely knew. 

Marie, known as Missy, had a limited education, despite being a British princess.  She was headstrong, naive, and knew little of the world when she was married off at age seventeen to a man she barely knew.

Crown Princess Marie's first years in Romania were difficult due to the tension-fraught relationship with der Onkel, King Carol I.   Missy's mother was often called upon to act as a mediator between the headstrong Missy and her husband's uncle.

The letters also offer a perspective into Missy's relationship with her sister, Victoria Melita, known as Ducky.  The two were very close, often shared confidences, regarding their own marital problems.  

Ducky's marriage to her first cousin, Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and By Rhine, was also a frequent topic between Missy and her mother,  especially as the marriage disintegrated so quickly.    In a letter to Missy on January 19, 1898,  Duchess Marie wrote:  "Ducky writes seldom and says very little, I am not at all happy about her, though Ernie writes that they are intensely happy now!  I don't see it at all in her letters.  He is a curious man one cannot get hold of him in any way he seems always pleased and in the best spirits."

Marie also acknowledged that her son-in-law was  not interested in sex with women.  It is unlikely that Marie or Missy would have ever thought that their private letters would be published and read by the general public.  Think of this book as a bit of royal eavesdropping.  Mama knew how to dispense the advice -- and the family news with alacrity.

Mother and daughter provide family news to each other,  Missy was anxious to move into her new home, Cotroceni Palace, with her husband and her growing her family, and away from the cruelty of King Carol I.

Missy's older brother, Prince Alfred, was also a topic of contention. 

"I am very unhappy about Alfred, he seems completely done up morally and physically looks like an old man.  I never saw him  in such a state before, he hardly utters, feels weak and depressed and I feel ashamed of him..." Marie wrote to Missy on September 7, 1898.

Marie was troubled by young Affie's behavior, his mistresses, his gambling, his illnesses (syphilis), under arrest in Berlin.  In the fall of 1898,  young Affie visited his sister in Bucharest, making it virtually impossible for him to have met a teenage girl, Mabel Fitzgerald, who lived in Ireland, and married her.  In early December 1898, Marie wrote "our despair at the moment is Alfred....it is naturally also the effect of his nasty illness, which has attacked the brain..." 

One month later, young Affie was dead, a suicide.   Affie's tragic death was soon followed a new scandal for Missy.  Her children's nanny, Miss Winter,  had spied on Missy, and told everyone about Missy's affair's affair with a Romanian officer, Zizi Cantacuzino. 

One again, Marie intervened on behalf of her daughter against Ferdinand who was supported by King Carol.  She suggested that Missy leave the country permanently with her son.  "You ought to insist upon taking the boy with you and leave the country altogether, renouncing, if possible  completely in his name the Romanian succession."   The Duchess also had a "fierce correspondence" with Ferdinand and King Carol,  and pushed for Missy to give birth in Coburg.  

Ferdinand took some of the blame for his wife's affair.  Both he and Missy believed that her child was his, and they both wanted a reconciliation.    The Duchess also chastised Miss Winter "But your sin, the sin of a person in charge of young souls is ten times greater, than the fault of a young woman who may repent it her whole life and keep her position amongst her relations as solid and friendly as before? ... My daughter has greatly sinned, and I have no excuses for her, but  I have no words of blame strong enough for those who are payed  to spy upon her, to denounce her daily and hourly and who spread the scandal around the world."

Diana Mandache has done a wonderful job in editing the book with footnotes and translations of French and German words.  Marie and Missy wrote to each other in English,  but often added a French or German word when an English world would  not do.  She has done an amazing job, and deserves all the fulsome praise she has received so far. 

Dearest Missy will be a great success.  Many copies will be sold, and Diana will be able to complete the second volume. 
Duchess Marie may not have been the perfect daughter-in-law for Queen Victoria, but she certainly went to bat more often for her children.

Dearest Missy was published by Rosvall Royal Books.    Ted's books are available from Van Hoogstraten in the Hague and Majesty Magazine.  No bookstore in North America carries Ted's books, which is why I am distributing his books through Amazon.

This is a must have. a superb read, an entry into the very personal lives of Crown Princess Marie and her family -- and, yes, mother and daughter do talk about (gasp!)  sex!

(Diana, when you have finished the second volume, could you do a book of letters between Missy and Ducky?)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Memo to Thailand - respect free speech

Thai-born American citizen Joe Gordon remains in a Thai prison.  He was found guilty of lese-majeste, or insulting King Bhumipol, the aged and ill king of Thailand.

And what is the insult:  While living in Colorado, Gordon uploaded excerpts of Paul Handley's excellent biography, The King Never Smiles.   The excerpts were translated into Thai.    Handley's book has never been published in Thailand.   The King and his minions prefer fictionalized accounts of the king's life.  

Gordon's blog was on an American server, just as mine is. He was arrested after he traveled to Thailand for medical treatments.   The "crime" occured in the United States, not Thailand.

Thailand government officials prefer hagiographies to facts when it concerns biographies of their not-so-benevolent king.

My view:  the King of Thailand is not fit to be called a king.  He does not deserve respect.  He is not worthy of the role. 

It is time for the U.S. government, including Gordon's congressman, to speak up and speak out against the tyranny in Thailand, and remind them that Gordon is an American citizen, who posted the translations in the United States, and did not violate any US law.

Lese-majeste indeed.  More likely Lousy Majesty!

Free Joe Gordon now!  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shame on the Thai King --The King Never Smiles - FREE JOE GORDON

The King Never Smiles is a very honest and illuminating biography of King Bhumibol of Thailand.  The book was written by Paul Handley and published by Yale University Press in 2008.

Unfortunately, the Thai government does not see the book in a positive light, and considers it an insult on the King.  

An American citizen, who was born in Thailand,  Joe Gordon was recently convicted of lese-majeste, or insulting the king.  According to the BBC, " Gordon, 55, reportedly translated parts of the widely available biography, The King Never Smiles by Paul Handley, several years ago and posted them on a blog while he was living in the US." 

I read the book shortly after it was published, and can state that the book is honest, well-researched, and an excellent accounting of the life of the longest reigning monarch, and the only monarch to be born in the United States of America.

Shame on Thailand and the Thai justice system.  King Bhumipol is far from being a constitutional monarch.    He needs to speak out about the right of free expression.  His "court" system violated the rights of an American who posted a translation of excerpts of Handley's book on an American blog.  The postings were done in the United States, which means the Thai court violated US law.  Shame on the king  for allowing censorship and the right of free expression.

 Free Joe Gordon now!     All the king needs to do is say an injustice was done, apologize to Mr. Gordon, an American citizen.

Mr. Gordon is protected by US law, thanks to the "Securing the Protection of our
Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act.  The Thai justice system and their king, are violating the rights of an American citizen, whose postings were on an American-based blog, like mine. 

It is time for the King of Thailand to act like a real monarch, and not someone who allows his government to stamp out free speech.  


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Haakon og Mette-Marit i ti år

On August 25, 2001, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway married the woman he loved, Norwegian commoner, Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby.   The path to the altar was paved with obstacles, starting with Mette-Marit's background.

It did not matter that she was a commoner.  Haakon's mother was Miss Sonja Haraldsen when she married Crown Prince Harald in 1968.  Harald and Sonja had to wait ten years before King Olav would give his permission for the marriage to take place.

Sonja, the daughter of a draper, did not have Mette-Marit's problems.  Before meeting Crown Prince Haakon,  Mette-Marit moved in a circle that favored hard partying, drugs and alcohol.  She bore a child out of wedlock.

In spite of Mette-Marit's background,  Haakon fell in love with her and wanted to marry her.  His parents took their time in making their decision regarding Mette-Marit, but they realized that their only son loved Mette-Marit and wanted to marry her.  King Harald V and Queen Sonja came around, and gave their son and his girlfriend the support they needed.

It also took time for the Norwegian people to accept Haakon's choice.

Fast forward ten years to 2011.  Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary.  They have two children,  Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus.  As Ingrid is the eldest, she will succeed her father and grandfather as Norway's sovereign.

Norwegian journalist Liv Berit Tessem is the author of Haakon og Mette-Marit i t år (Schibsted).  The title translates to Ten years with Haakon & Mette-Marit.  The book is divided into eleven chapters, one for each year from the marriage through June 2011, two months before the book was published.

Tessem, a former court correspondent for the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten,  offers insight and perspective into the lives of Norway's future King and Queen.

It is also apparent that Mette-Marit, the former party girl, has evolved into a professional Crown Princess, respected, and perhaps, even loved by the Norwegian people.  

Do not be put off by the Norwegian text.   The 184-page book includes nearly 100 color photos of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess from their wedding to recent photos with their children. 

Haaakon and Mette-Marit are hands-on parents, and are devoted to their children.  Lots of affection, hugs and kisses, but one wonders, with a smile, how Ingrid Alexandra will react when she is older when she sees how she behaved at her younger brother, Sverre's baptism.  A priceless photo.

Each chapter also includes a month- by-month list of engagements, official trips and other events for that particular year.

The price of  Haakon og Mette-Marit  I ti  år is 199 Norwegian kroners.

Norli is a Norwegian bookstore.   The book also can be ordered from the publisher, Schibsted.