Friday, November 7, 2014

Check Please, Your Highness by Peter Buza

Archduke Ernst of Austria (1824-1899) never married or had children, at least according to the official story.   Ernst, a cousin of  Emperor Franz Josef, was the father of four children by a Hungarian noblewoman, Laura Skublics. 

But was this relationship a m├ęsalliance or did a marriage take place, which would have made the children legitimate, albeit non-dynasts to Austrian and Hungarian thrones.

After a first failed marriage, Laura fled a first marriage for a new life in Budapest, where she met and fell in love with Archduke Ernst.    But she was not of equal rank, which meant that there could not be a marriage ... at least that was the official story as genealogists and historians let the family slip into the mists of time.   It was American genealogist, Daniel Willlis, whose book, The Archduke's Secret Family, provided far more information about Ernst and Laura and their descendants.  

Now it is the turn of Hungarian historian Dr. Peter Buza, whose research delves deeper into Ernst and Laura's lives, and her family.

Check Please, Your Highness (Bygone Books: $18.99) is the story of Ernst and Laura's son. Erno von Wallburg, who worked as a headwaiter in a posh Budapest hotel.   Budza begins his story with a detailed account of Laura and her family, weaving the story to her second marriage and the births of her children, her death, and the eventual fight for recognition, not only by the emperor, but also by the courts.

After Laura's death, the children were largely abandoned by their father, although his brother, Archduke Rainer, provided minimal support.  The children and their maternal relatives lived in relative penury, and denied their rightful name and inheritance.

This book is a translation of the original Hungarian edition.   At times, the book's text can be confusing due to the straight translation, as the author dies not maintain a strict timeline.  He jumps from one topic to another, leaving the reader a little puzzled.  

I think the book would have been enhanced with family trees, a list of the main characters, and an index.  I would have included a bibliography of the sources consulted by Dr. Buza.

Today there are at least 200 descendants of Ernst and Laura.  Buza notes that there may be even more.  

The text can be a little confusing, especially with the original Hungarian names.  It is worth it, however, to stick it out to last page.  This romance has been largely a conundrum, and thanks to Dr. Buza's deft research (and access to previously inaccessible archives),  many of the puzzle pieces have been filled in.  

Don't rush through Check Please, Your Highness.  It does take time to savor and appreciate Dr. Buza's  years of hard work.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New Biography on the Prince of Wales due out in 2015

From Publisher's Weekly:  Henry Holt and Company has inked a deal to buy Time magazine editor-at-large Catherine Mayer’s new biography of longtime heir-apparent Charles, Prince of Wales. Mayer spent a year doing research for Born to Be King: Prince Charles on Planet Windsor, spending time with friends of Charles, palace insiders and the royal himself. The book will be slightly pared down from the U.K./international edition from WH Allen. Born to Be King “reveals Prince Charles in all his complexity,” according to Holt, giving “fresh and fascinating insights into the first marriage that did so much to define him”—with Princess Diana, who died in a car accident in 1997, as well as his current wife, Duchess Camilla. The biography is set to be published in February 2015.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Now Out Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna


 Now available from Amazon Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna .  (And if you order through this link, I earn a few pennies,  really a few pennies, so if many of my readers order this book from my link, I can earn a few dollars.)

The book will be reviewed in the not-to-distant future

Friday, October 17, 2014

Catching up: a mixed bag of books

It was the Plantagenet women who played important roles, as wives, mothers, political analysts, and consorts, but most historians have focused on the men, the princes, the kings, the warriors, and the kingmakers.

Thank goodness for Sarah Gristwood's Blood Sisters (Basic Books: $29.99).  Gristwood, a British biographer and historian,  turns the attention to seven women who were forced to take sides in the war of the Cousins the War of the Roses.

The seven women were: Marguerite of Anjou, consort of Henry VI; Cecily Neville (mother of Edward IV and Richard III); Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV; Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and consort of Henry VII; Margaret of Burgundy, daughter of Cecily Neville; Anne Neville, wife of Edward, Prince of Wales and consort of Richard III and Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII.

Each of these women had their role to play in the tapestry of that led to war between two branches of the family, ultimately brought together by the determined and forceful Margaret of Beaufort and the pragmatic former Queen Elizabeth, widow of Edward IV, arranging the marriage of their children|: Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York.

Gristwood weaves together a fascinating story that spans several generations and embraces these women's' histories.   They survived and played the political machinations games with varying degrees of success.  They were wives, mothers, lovers, friends and enemies.   These women come alive with Gristwood's delineation of their lives and the roles they played in the war of the Roses.

Blood Sisters is an excellent read.  One of best modern books on the distaff Plantagenets.   This book would make a great mini-series, far better than Showtime's trashy and historically inaccurate The White Queen.

It is a shame that most foreign language books on European royals rarely ever get translated into English.  Lothar Machtan's Prinz Max von Baden Der letze Kanzler des Kaisers  (Suhrkamp Verlag)  is a certainly a candidate for translation, perhaps by a British or American university Press.

This is a well-researched biography that covers Max's life, but Machtan is largely concerned with Max's political career.  He was the last Imperial Chancellor, who played a role in the dismantling of the Kaiser's final days.

Machtan's work must is a major accomplishment, offering a piece of an ever-increasing puzzle that was the life of Wilhelm II -- and the first world war.  In  October 1918, in the waning days of World War, as German defeat appeared certain, Wilhelm II appointed Max as chancellor, seeing an opportunity to save his throne.  But Max could not save the Germany that Wilhelm wanted to keep, and he was willing to negotiate with the socialists and others for the establishment of a republic, forcing Wilhelm II (and the other German sovereigns) to abdicate their thrones. 

Wilhelm was not expecting the final outcome.  He never believed he would lose his throne, and he blamed Max.

The collapse of the monarchy was quickly followed by the collapse of the close relationship between Max and Wilhelm II.  Max's wife, Marie Louise, was the sister of Prince Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick, who was married to the Kaiser's only daughter, Princess Viktoria Luise.

My only quibble is the limited number of photographs (which are buried in the book).  German publishers tend to economize on including photographs in books.

Professional translations are expensive, which makes foreign rights difficult for publishers, especially if the books are marked for a limited market.  This book is more than a royal biography.  It is a complex history that offers insight into the life of a prince, who tried to save Germany from itself and from the ego of a monarch whose time had long passed.

Prinz Max von Baden Der letze Kanzler des Kaiser is worth the translation.  World War I historians and scholars will appreciate the effort. The price is of the book is 29,95 Euros.


German historian Karin Feuerstein-Prasser has joined the Hannover anniversary (three hundred years since George I succeeded to the British throne) with the publication of Englands Koniginnen aus dem Hause of Hannover (1714-1901).   This slim paperback is a quick read into the lives of Sophia Dorothea Celle, Caroline of Ansbach, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Caroline of Brunswick, Adelheid of Saxe-Meiningen and Queen Victoria. 

The first five women were consorts of the Hannover Kings (George I,II, III, IV  William IV) and Victoria, a Queen Regnant.  Victoria is included because she was the last of the Hannover queens.

This book was published by Verlag Friedrich Pustet (14.95 Euros)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Now available: Princesses on the Wards by Coryne Hall

Coryne Hall's Princesses on the Wards is now available (History Press) ... official publication date in the UK is October 22.   The book will be available in the USA in December (from Amazon.)
From  Queens and princesses have always shown care and compassion, but many went much further. They were not afraid to roll up their sleeves, work in wards or help in field hospitals and operating theatres, despite their sheltered upbringings. Through wars and revolutions across Europe, their experiences were similar to those of thousands of other nurses, but this is the first time that their involvement in nursing and the extent of their influence on the profession has been detailed in full. Beginning with two daughters of Queen Victoria – Princess Alice and Princess Helena – this book looks at the difficulties these royals faced while carving a worthwhile role in an age when the place of a well-born woman was considered to be in the home. Empress Alexandra of Russia, Queen Marie of Romania, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, and Princess Alice of Greece (mother of the Duke of Edinburgh) were just a few of Queen Victoria’s relatives who set an example of service well beyond that considered necessary for their rank. Not all of them were fully trained nurses, but each made a positive contribution towards alleviating suffering which cannot be overestimated.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Royal Letters Mystery by Janet Cowland

I received a copy of The Royal Letters Mystery (Rydings Associates) from the author, Janet Cowlard, earlier today while on a visit to Bethesda, MD.   On the Metro from Bethesda to Gallery Place, changing for the Yellow Line to King Street, where I waited for the Blue Line to Franconia-Springfield (yes, one can change for the Blue Line at Metro Center, but it is a longer ride.)

I nearly missed my stop at Gallery Place because I was so engrossed with this excellent story.

Janet Cowlard is a detective-cum-researcher par excellence.    In the 1980s, her husband purchased an "unpopular lot" of 5 letters for £2.00.  The five handwritten letters were written at some point in the early 1920s by someone who was connected to the British court.  Four of the letters were written to the letter writer's mother, and one letter to her daughter.  The stationary was from Buckingham Palace, York Cottage,  Windsor Castle and Balmoral.

The letters were unsigned.  Each of the five letters referred to other people at court, to the royals themselves, but no real in-your-face clues as to the identity of the letter writer. 
Cowlard began her search with a letter to the Royal Archives (to no avail) in the early 1990s, but due to her own work as a Disability Trainer for Arthritis Care, a British charity, her research to find the identity was put on hold for several years.

The research was painstaking, but Janet, carefully and thoughtfully, peeled away layer by layer, filling in the blanks, identifying the people mentioned in the letters (mostly royals and members of the British aristocracy), and writing a story with a very interesting story with a twist at the end.

Because of that twist,  I am not going to reveal even the name of the letter writer except to say that it was an aristocratic woman with ties to the court.  The twist comes with learning about the letter writer's descendants.

Queen Mary, the Duchess of York, Duchess of Albany, Queen Emma of the Netherlands are among the many clues that lead Janet to finally learning who wrote the letters and her own family connections .. and that little twist at the end.

No, you cannot twist my arm.  I am not going to name the person.  Think of it as a murder mystery with the denouement coming near the end.  When you read the book  -- and you will want to read this book -- you will understand why I refuse to give anything away, except to say that Janet Cowlard is to be commended for the detailed research.  (And being an academic librarian, you know I LOVE good research.)

The Royal Letters Mystery is available from, and from the author's website.   The price of the book is £5.50 (postage extra).   This book is NOT available in bookstores or any other Amazon as the book is sold by the author.

 This book deserves wider exposure because it is a very good read.

The book is illustrated with photographs of the people and places mentioned in the letters and connected to the letter writer. (Thought I was going to name her ... wrong again!)

So if you want to find out who wrote the letters (and the intriguing twist at the end) you will need to order this book and read it yourself.  I refuse to  "fess" up. 

And, when you get the  book, don't turn to the end, and read the final pages.  Start at the beginning, and join Janet on her fascinating journey as she unravels the identities of the letter writer, and those named in the letters.  It's a super trip to be on.  You won't regret a single moment of The Royal Letters Mystery.

The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

Wow! Wow! Wow!   Philippa Gregory's The King's Curse (Touchstone: $28.99) is the best book so far in The Cousin's War series.  After the disappointment of her last historical novel, The White Princess, I was ready to be underwhelmed by The King's Curse, which focuses on Margaret Pole, the daughter of the Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville's, whose sister, Anne, was the primary character in Gregory's last but one book, The Kingmaker's Daughter.  (The Earl of Warwick, father of Isabel and Anne, was known as the King Maker.)

I loved The King's Curse.  Got comfy on my floatie and read it in the middle of the pool.  I could not put it down. 

Margaret, a first cousin to Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV, and consort of Henry VII, is fond (and loyal) to Elizabeth.  But she remains a threat to the Tudors, at least in the eyes of Henry VII's mother,  Margaret Beaufort (whose story was told in The Red Queen). 

Her brother, Edward, the Earl of Warwick, is arrested and sent to the Tower on the orders of Henry VII, the victor at Bosworth Field.   Warwick is only 10 years old when he is sent to the Tower.  He would spend the rest of his life as a prisoner, and was executed in 1499.

Margaret Beaufort arranged for Margaret's marriage to a Tudor loyalist, Sir John Pole, a minor nobleman.  The death of her husband left Margaret and her children in poverty.  She is forced to send one son, Reginald, to become a priest.

The death of her cousin brings Margaret Pole back to court. Her estates and her title, Countess of Salisbury, are restored, and she serves as the chief lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon, the wife of Arthur, the Prince of Wales.  Margaret's loyalty to Katherine is never doubted, and she remains close to her after Katherine is widowed and marries Henry VIII.

But Margaret's loyalty would be tested (and her family, too), when Henry VIII decides that he needs a new wife because Katherine could not give him a son.   This would lead to further tensions as Margaret was chief governess to Katherine and Henry's daughter, Mary.

Philippa Gregory knows how to tell a story, and she succeeds here with a breathtaking, page turning first rate historical saga as Margaret and her family are caught up in the growing maelstrom of Henry VIII's increasing tyrannical reign. 

Religion and politics make bad bedfellows, certainly during the reign of Henry VIII.  As the king went from marriage to marriage, seeking a woman who would bear him a healthy son, his reign degenerated into paranoia.

Henry VIII proceeded to eliminate people he perceived to be his rivals, just as his father ordered the death of the Earl of Warwick.

Margaret Salisbury and her several of her children were arrested and sent to the Tower on charges largely based on their ties and correspondence with Reginald Pole, once a devoted supporter of the King.  But Reginald, a devout Catholic, was determined to save the Church.  There were reports of plots orchestrated by Reginald, safe in Rome.  His family would suffer.  His brother, Henry, and other family members, were executed.  Another brother, Geoffrey, ratted on his mother and brothers, and was pardoned. 

Margaret was stripped of her property, and her peerage.  On May 27, 1541, at the age of 67, she was executed without ever having been tried.  She was the oldest of all of Henry's victim, and her death was particularly violent as the executioner botched the job, and "hacked her head and shoulder to pieces."

This is historical fiction at its very best.  Philippa Gregory is to be commended for the magnificent The King's Curse.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Prince Harry Brother Soldier Son by Penny Junor

Penny Junor has written a new biography of Prince Harry: Brother Soldier Son.

Grand Central Publishing, a Hatchette division, will publish the book on September 9 here in the USA.  The UK publisher, Hodder & Stoughton's release date is September 11.

The Daily Mail has offered its readers several excerpts from the book, throwing the Diana-Maniacs into a frenzied tizzy, but the excerpts have offered no new information.  Everything I have read so far appears in original news reports and other books.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport

Romanov scholarship, especially on Nicholas and Alexandra and their family, has certainly taken a giant leap since 1967 when Robert Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra was published.   Massie's seminal work has stood the test of time, in terms of a competent, well-researched biography.   It was one of the first royal books I read (I was 13 in 1967), and remains one of my favorites.

Massie wrote a biographical-history with relatively limited and largely English-language sources.    Soviet archives were closed to western historians, so biographers such as Massie, had to rely on largely secondary English-language sources, apart from a selection of Nicholas' diary and his correspondence with Wilhelm II.    Massie (and others) could only offer the insight into Nicholas and his family by what others said or perceived about them.

Fast forward several decades to the 1990s, after the fall of communism and the Soviet Union, when richness of material in the Russian archives became available.   There has been a plethora of material, from the diaries of Alexandra and her daughters to family  correspondence, including letters between Alix and her brother, Ernie.

British author Helen Rappaport, a former actress who retains a bit of the dramatic flare, reminds me of Alison Weir (another British historian, albeit one who specializes in the Plantagenets and Tudors) whose early books were good and competent.  Weir moved to the stratosphere of greatness with her breakthrough biography on Eleanor of Aquitaine, which was followed by an equally impressive biography on Katherine Swynford.  Two modern and awesome royal biographies.

There is no doubt that Rappaport is a decent biographer, who understands the concept of good research (and mining source material  beyond the familiar.)  She is fluent in Russian, and has made judicious use of material in  Russian archives.  Her first Romanov themed book, The Last Days of Romanovs Tragedy at Ekaterinburg (2007), focused, with intense detail, on the final weeks before Nicholas II and his family were assassinated  by the Bolsheviks.   

That book was not perfect, as Rappaport allowed a few piddly mistakes to sneak into her text (and not caught by her editor).  Twice (and in the index) she referred to Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, as Prince Edward, Duke of Clarence.  She also stated that Alix's older sister, Ella, converted to the Orthodox faith when she married Grand Duke Serge, when, in fact, Ella abjured her Lutheran faith several years after her marriage.

Helen has decided to continue the Romanov theme with The Romanov Sisters The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra (St. Martin's Press: $27.99), a book that offers flashes of brilliance, but often falls flat.   This does not mean the book is bad or should not be read -- it should -- but one has to eschew the fandom enthusiasm that followed the publication.  I have no interest in royal or Romanov fandom.  I am a historian, with a serious interest in royal history.  The Grand Duchesses and their younger brother were among the many victims of Bolshevik aggression. 

Rappaport is to be commended for accessing new Russian sources, as without the new material,  The Romanov Sisters would be another rehashing of the tragic lives of OTMA.  But she does ignore parts of the story as she barely mentions the relationship between the four grand duchesses and their only grandparent, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna.  It is all right to be biased toward your subjects, but the entire story also needs to be told.

It takes about a third of the book for the author to get to the meat of the story: the four girls.  I can understand the criticism toward this, but it is also important to understand that the four girls and their brother were the sum parts of their parents.

Let's just say Nicholas and Alexandra were ill-served as Emperor and consort, and as parents.  It went beyond over-protection.  As each year passed, the family grew further inward, closing themselves off from family.  Nicholas and Alexandra were very much in love, but it was a suffocating love, at times.   As with many converts to Orthodoxy,  Alix turned into a bigot and zealot.  Her view of her husband's role as Emperor was not rooted in reality.

Neither Nicholas nor Alexandra were able or willing to discern the real ills that plagued Russia, a massive, intense country, struggling to find a place in the 20th century.   Unlike western Europe, Russia never truly experienced the Reformation or the Age of Enlightenment (which can be seen even in today's Russia).

The birth of the Tsarevitch Alexey further exacerbated the family dynamics.  Alix, never a truly healthy woman, was physically and mentally worn out by five full term pregnancies.  Russia's succession was semi-Salic which meant that the four grand duchesses followed all of the eligible males in the Imperial family.  Thus, a direct male was imperative.   Unfortunately, the one son was born a hemophiliac, a then fatal disease that Alix brought to the family.  She was a carrier, as was her sister, Irene, and their mother who inherited the gene from her mother, Queen Victoria.  Alix's brother, Friedrich Wilhelm, suffered from the disease, and died as the result of a fall from a window.

Thus, Alexey's childhood was fraught with the fear that a bruise might kill him.  One can only imagine his mother's self-inflicted torture and pain knowing that she was responsible for her son's frailty.  Alix drew further inward, unable to be the consort that Nicholas (and Russia) needed. 

The four grand duchesses grew up in a largely confined atmosphere, with minimal connection with other family members, such a cousins.  There was no real opportunity for a chrysalis-like emergence into adulthood.

The girls were socially inexperienced.  When Olga and Tatiana made their first appearances at court balls, others noticed they were gauche and unable to make small talk.  Their diary entries focused on the mundane: the weather, Alix's declining health, going to religious services.

Faith certainly played a role in the lives of these four young women.  Alix reiterated over and over again that only God would save them.  (As a devout Lutheran, I could have told Alix that a strong belief in God is important, but, equally important, one has to listen to what God says.  Alix was unable to listen to anyone except perhaps Rasputin, who called himself a man of God.  He wasn't.)

In her previous book, The Last Days of the Romanovs,  Helen's painful eloquence is evident in her detailed accounting of the grand duchesses' final weeks of life.  It was must have been a pure hellacious torment to be held prisoner by brutish men whose sole intent was to kill the entire family.  I was brought to tears when I closed the book. 

The tears should have come this time, too.  It is in the final chapter where The Romanov Sisters falls flat.  The pathos, the pain and tragedy of their deaths,  even the details of Maria's discomfiture by her family should have been included here, too.  After all, this book is about Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.   The author (or anyone else) should never  assume that everyone who reads this book will have already read The Last Days of the Romanovs.   

For many, The Romanov Sisters may be a reader's first introduction to Nicholas and Alexandra and their family.  For others, it is just one of many books that we will read in our lifetimes about the Romanovs.

Rappaport is an excellent story teller.  Her writing style is fluid, never over arching. She captures the personalities of the main characters, giving OTMA voices largely ignored by others.   I think a good editor should have provided a little  massaging to have Helen introduce the girls earlier in the book. 

The book has its high points, and it will be a good source for future Romanov historians.   Largely due to the skimming of details in the final chapter, this book isn't Helen's breakthrough work.  She is certainly capable of a breakthrough biography, but she needs to move beyond the tried, true and comfortable:  Nicholas and Alexandra and their five children.    How about a new biography of Ella or see what other treasures in the Russian archives that are crying out -- I hear them -- to be translated.

Sadly, she still trips over the silly mistakes.  In the index, you will find Edward, Duke of Clarence.  You think Helen would have figured this out by now.  The eldest son of Edward VII was called Eddy by his family, but his official first name was Albert Victor.  She also writes that Prince Maurice of Teck, younger son of Princess Alice of Albany and Prince Alexander of Teck,  was a hemophiliac.  Maurice died at age 6 months, but he did not have hemophilia.  His older brother, Rupert, suffered from the disease.   In the 1980s, when I was writing the first edition of my book, Queen Victoria's Descendants,  I began a correspondence with Princess Alice's only daughter, Lady May Abel Smith, who confirmed that her younger brother, Maurice, did not have hemophilia.  He may have had an illness, or perhaps succumbed as the result of what we now call crib death.

The Romanov Sisters is a good book that will provide a stepping stone to more material coming out of Russia.  Surely, however, it is time to move on to writing biographies about other members of the dynasty. 

The Luxembourgs of Nassau Now Available from Amazon

The Luxembourgs of Nassau is published by  The authors are Kassandra and Sabrina Pollock.
If you order from my links, I earn a few pennies ...  just a few .   So the more books ordered (as well as anything else from Amazon or the more pennies I received.    Thanks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Royal Roundup - two newish books.

I have let my pile of books get too high, thus, creating a backlog of books to be reviewed. I am now on a tear to win the battle, and get through the ever dwindling pile of books.

British history professor Jane Ridley began work on her biography of King Edward VII in 2004.  She wanted to focus on the king's relationship with women, especially his wife, Queen Alexandra, and his mistresses.  She began her research at the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, delving into Edward's papers.  Jane Ridley spent five years at Windsor, the first biographer since Philip Magnus, whose biography of Edward VII was published in 1964, in more than fifty years to make use of the material.

 During that time, the Royal Archives obtained more of Edward's papers.  

Ridley was able to delve into Victoria's correspondence with her son, but what was missing was the correspondence between Edward and Alexandra.  In his will, Edward ordered all his correspondence be destroyed.  Alexandra did the same.  (This is why no comprehensive biography of Queen Alexandra, apart from the Georgina Battiscombe book, has ever been published.  A very small paper trail.)

She did come across a treasure trove of correspondence between Alexandra and her sister, Empress Marie of Russia in the Danish National Archives. Jane hired a translator and traveled to Copenhagen.  The letters written in Danish, offered new insight into Bertie's marriage and his relationship with Alexandra and others.

Bertie A Life of Edward VII was published by Chattos & Windus (£30.00).  Ridley has brought new life to Edward, offering a portrayal of a "party-going" prince who turned out to be an astute politician.  He was a philander with numerous mistresses (and at least one illegitimate child), for which Ridley provides detailed evidence.

This biography complements, but does not supersede Sir Philip Magnus' largely official biography, King Edward VII.  (Christopher Hibbert's Edward VII: The Last Victorian King is also a good biography.)

A definite must read, and put right next to Sir Philip's tome on your shelf.
Bertie A Life of Edward VII is a true historical treat.  The book is now available in the United States with the title The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince (Random House: $35.00)

Canada and the United States share a common history, traditions, and an open border.  But there are also numerous differences, too.  Canada has a single payer health care system, where no one is denied medical care, and Canada remains a monarchy.  Queen Elizabeth II is also the Queen of Canada.

Canadian journalist John Fraser has done the monarchy a great service with his new book, The Secret of the Crown (House of Ansani Press: $29.95C).  The subtitle of the book is Canada's Affair with the Monarchy.

This book offers readers a very good study of what the monarchy means and how it functions, as seen through the roles of the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor, as well as the continued popularity of the royal family.  I recommend that my American readers order this book to learn more about the country north of us, a true friend, with its own special charm and history. 

It in its own inimitable way, the monarchy has a role in Canada -- and that is something to celebrate.

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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kate: A Biography by Marcia Moody

It is easy to write about the Duchess of Cambridge.  She's attractive, she's well-educated, wears lovely clothes, and has a international reputation for two reason:  she is the wife of the Duke of Cambridge, second in line to the throne, and the mother of Prince George of Cambridge, third in line to the throne.  In others,  the former Catherine Middleton will be the consort of one king and the mother of another.

Marcia Moody, former royal correspondent for OK! Magazine, has written a competent, and useful biography of the Duchess of Cambridge: Kate A Biography (Michael O'Mara: £20.00 ).

It is far too early to write a comprehensive biography of the Duchess of Cambridge.  We know a lot about because she is famous.  She is famous because she is a member of the British royal family.

The Duchess is moving inexorably to a more prominent royal role. This is a good thing.  She needs to do more.  The recent trip Down Under proves once and for all that the Duchess of Cambridge is an asset to the royal family, and she needs to take on more duties.

Don't expect a major biography as Catherine  has not yet carved out a life worthy of a major biographical treatment.

 A few mistakes here and there that an editor should have caught.  Perhaps the most glaring (for me) error is on page 72, where Moody states Catherine went solo to the wedding of Peter and Autumn Phillips because William was heading to Africa as a guest at the wedding of Jessica Craig and Hugh  Crossley.  Jecca Craig broke off her engagement to Crossley.  William attended her brother, Batian's wedding.  (The mistake is also included in the Index, where Jecca is listed under Crossley.)  This is the type of fact that can be easily checked AND corrected before publication.  (Have all the editors and fact checkers died?)

Moody has accomplished what she set out to do:  write a competent resume (CV) of Catherine's life,  pad it with all the salient facts of Kate's life, and present an easily readable package.  Think of pulling out all the clips on Catherine's life and squeezing the information into one book .... with an index, which (from this librarian-cum-researcher-cum-writer's point of view) is a very good thing.  Moody's prose whets the appetite for the ever increasing interest in the Duchess of Cambridge.

This is a light-hearted read, without a hint of controversy, and one of the better books (so far) about Kate.  The standard remains Claudia Joseph's Kate Middleton: Princess in Waiting.  Writers will continue to churn out fluffyesque books about Catherine.

The Duchess of Cambridge is years away from the Sarah Bradford treatment of a true scholarly biography replete with footnotes.  That will come in time.

For now, enjoy this largely competent biography,which will appeal first and foremost to Kate's fans, none of whom are interested in controversial topics.

Trafalgar Square Publishing is distributing the paperback edition (also published by Michael O'Mara) in North America ($19.95/$21.95).  The British price is £12.99.

Kate: A Biography is also available in Kindle and has been translated into Spanish.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Highgrove: Garden Celebrated by HRH The Prince of Wales & Bunny Guinness

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Prince Michael of Prussia: Historian, Biographer

Prince Michael of Prussia, who died on April 3, was a biographer and historian.  Here are links to several of his books, all in German.   In 1989, he wrote a memoir, Ein Preussenprinz zu sein.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Apapa: King Christian IX and His Descendants

Apapa: King Christian IX of Denmark and His Descendants by Arturo Beeche and Coryne Hall will be published on March 28.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawskley

Oh what a dud!   Lucinda Hawksley's The Mystery of Princess Louise Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter has flashes of being readable, but when it comes to deciding if this is a good book, and worth adding to a collection, let me state categorically: no.  Deeply disappointing.

The book jacket blur describes Hawksley, a descendant of Charles Dickens, as an art lecturer.  Stick to art, Lucinda, because you are not a very good royal biographer.  I would use the word abysmal to describe your effort here.

Louise's paper trail is limited, as acknowledged by the Royal Archives. She was told that Louise's files were 'closed.'   One can assume there are not a lot of "files" because the only real documentation would be correspondence, photographs, diaries, and perhaps other papers.  It was not customary to maintain a historical record for future biographers.  It was not unusual to destroy correspondence, for all sorts of reasons.  Queen Alexandra destroyed the majority of her papers, including correspondence.  This has proved difficult for biographers, including Georgiana Battiscombe.

Louise was the sixth of nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  She was described as rebellious, as rebellious as a princess could be in the 19th century.

Queen Victoria was not an easy parent.  This is not news as other, more competent biographers have noted the same thing.  Victoria's poor parenting skills -- and she didn't have the best model in her own mother -- is evident, even in her correspondence with her eldest daughter, Vicky.

Hawskley is convinced that the reason for the secrecy in the Royal Archives is because Louise gave birth to an illegitimate son, circa 1866-1867.  The alleged son, Henry Locock, was adopted by Mary and Frederick Locock in December 1867.

It was Henry's grandson, Nick Locock, who grew up with the story that Princess Louise was his great-grandmother. 

The story has no merit on so many levels.  Henry Locock claimed that his "mother" had access to him during his childhood, and he played with his royal cousins at Osborne.  I think the Locock story to be without merit.  Louise was in her late teens, still chaperoned.  She continued to be present at royal events, and it would have been difficult to hide a pregnancy from so many people.

If ... Louise had become pregnant, she would not have remained at court.  Queen Victoria would have made arrangements to send Louise out of the country, perhaps to the south of France, during the pregnancy.  The baby would have been given up for adoption, most likely to a foreign couple, and Louise would have returned home to begin life anew.  She would not have been told about the adoptive parents, and there would not have been any contact with the child.  Period.

There are at least two documented cases of princesses getting knocked up out of wedlock, and being sent away to give birth.  In 1871, Princess Thyra fell in love with a Danish soldier, Vilhelm Marcher.  She became pregnant, and traveled to Greece, on the advice of her brother, King George, where she gave birth to a daughter.  The baby was adopted by a Danish couple.  Thyra never saw her child again, and her putative lover killed himself after a confrontation with Thyra's father, King Christian IX.

Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a granddaughter of Princess Augusta of Cambridge,  tossed out of the palace in 1898 after getting pregnant by a footman.  No parental support, but her grandmother, the Dowager Duchess Augusta, came to her support, provided assistance and made arrangements for the young woman to travel to France, where she gave birth.  Her child was adopted. Duchess Marie was not told about who adopted her child.

Queen Maria Sophie of Bourbon-Two-Sicilies had an affair with a papal guard, and became pregnant.  Her family arranged for her to travel to Germany, where she gave birth in 1862.  Her child was adopted by her lover's family.  She never saw her child again.

In other words, an enceinte Louise would been packed off to the Continent, and her child adopted, and she would not have had any contact with the child. 

There is no doubt that the artistically-inclined Louise sought sexual pleasure outside her marriage, as her husband, the Marquess of Lorne, was homosexual.  She had a sense of adventure as she traveled through the United States and Canada.

Hawskley hits all the right points when discussing the state and status of Louise's marriage to Lorne, heir to the Argyll dukedom. But this is not new information.  She took on charities and patronages, supported the arts and the artists themselves.  She sought love and passion, and was with sculptor Edgar Boehm when he died.  Literally.  This is backed up by orrespondence and memoirs from contemporary sources.

But it is difficult to treat this book as a major achievement or even a decent biography you would want to place on the shelves.  This is largely due to the dozens of mistakes that the author should have corrected before sending the final manuscript to the editor.

Sloppy. Queen Adelaide gave birth to four children, not two.   Hawskley has a very limited grasp of how hemophilia came into the royal family.  She repeats, for no apparent reason, the old canard that the duke of Kent was not Victoria's father.  For one thing, hemophilia passes through the female line, not the male.  For many years the prominent theory was a spontaneous mutation at the time of Victoria's conception.  A  more likely scenario is that the disease was already in her mother's family.  Victoria's maternal family tree shows a number of sons dying young. 

Hawskley makes a big deal about Louise being the first member of the royal family since 1515.  Excuse me?  Great Uncle Augustus, Duke of Sussex, married twice, to daughters of earls.  The marriages were in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act.

George III's brothers, the Dukes of Cumberland and Gloucester, married commoners, and both marriages were accepted, although Parliament passed the Royal Marriages Act to forbid further such marriages.  James II's first marriage was to Anne Hyde, another commoner.  Four of Henry VIII's six marriages were to non-royals, the last in 1547 to Catherine Parr.

No, Lucinda, Princess Beatrice did not introduce Battenberg cake to Britain.  Although some sources  say that it BATTENBURG cake was created in 1884 for the wedding of Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine and Prince Louis of Battenberg,  confectionary historians have proven that the cake first appeared in England in the late 1890s.

Louise may have traveled to South Africa with Princess Alice and Lord Athlone,  but Alice was the daughter of Louise's younger brother, Leopold, and not her older sister, Helena. On page 232, she referred several times to Arthur and his wife Marie.  Arthur was married to Louise Margaret.  His older brother, Alfred, was married to Marie. 

George V did not throw off "old Hanoverian associations."  Queen Victoria was the last of the Hanoverians.  George V was a Coburg, as was his father.

If you want to read a good biography of Princess Louise, I recommend Jehanne Wake's Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s Unconventional Daughter, published in 1988 by Harper Collins.  A definite must have, unlike Lucinda Hawksley's feeble book.  A true disappointment.

The Mystery of Princess Louise Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter (Chatto  Windus: £25.00)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Coburgs of Europe by Arturo Beeche

The Coburgs certainly knew how to network and create strong marital alliances that would essentially create a strong bond among European dynasts.  It is unlikely that Duke Franz Friedrich of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld (1750-1806) ever envisioned that his progeny, his descendants would sit on thrones throughout Europe.

The story begins with Franz Friedrich's second marriage to Countess Augusta zu Reuss-Ebersdorf.  They were the parents of nine children, seven of whom would make strong dynastic alliances.

At the time, Princess Juliane's marriage to Grand Duke Konstantin of Russia was considered to be a brilliant match, an arrangement between the daughter of a minor German duke and a member of the Russian Imperial family.  Although her own marriage was unhappy,  Juliane's position as a Grand Duchess afforded her own siblings a step up and a step out of tiny Coburg.

Juliane's marriage opened the door for her siblings, especially youngest brother, Prince Leopold, a charming, handsome man, who served in the Russian Imperial Army, fighting against Napoleon.  It was in London where he met Princess Charlotte of Wales, only child of the Prince Regent, eldest son of King George III.  Charlotte was the most eligible princess in Europe, as she was second in line to the throne. 

Many assumed Charlotte would marry Willem of Orange, but she decided she didn't want such a marriage, and rebelled against it.  She and Willem were guests at a reception at a London hotel for the visiting Emperor Alexander I of Russia, when she met one of his aide de camps.  The young man helped the Princess and her lady-in-waiting into their carriage.  Charlotte had seen the young man at several parties in honor of Emperor, and wondered why he had not presented himself to her.  All of the other princes had done.  Leopold apologized and introduced himself:  it was love at first sight.

It would not be easy for the young Princess Charlotte to convince her father and others that the penniless (but ambitious) Prince Leopold of Coburg was suitable.  She won the battle, and the marriage took place in May 1816.  

The young couple were popular.  Leopold, the youngest child of minor Duke, was now the husband of a future Queen Consort.  That was the plan.  But in November 1818,  Princess Charlotte died in childbirth.  Her son was stillborn.

The Coburgs were on the verge of dynastic greatness with Leopold's marriage.  Now he was a widower, left alone to his own devices.   He would prove to be the consummate networker.   Less than a year after the death of his wife,  Prince Leopold encouraged a marriage between his sister, Victoire, the widow of the Prince of Leiningen, and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III.  

The marriage between Victoire and Edward took place in May 1818.  A year later, on May 24,  at Kensington Palace, the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a daughter, Alexandrina Victoria, perhaps the most important player in the Coburg dynasty.  (Of course, I am biased toward Victoria and her descendants, but that's another story.)

Nearly three months after Victoria's birth,  Duchess Luise of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the young wife of Duke Ernst I, Victoire and Leopold's brother, gave birth to a second son, Albert.     Fast forward to February 1840, and Queen Victoria marries her first cousin, a dynastic (and a true love match) carefully engineered by dear Uncle Leopold, who had managed to secure a throne of his own, as the first King of the newly independent Belgium.

You must read Art Beeche's  The Coburgs of Europe: the Rise and Fall of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's European Family, a book that will truly become one of the definitive sources on Coburg dynasty.

The Coburgs were not confined to Great Britain and Belgium.   Leopold's eldest brother, Ernst I, inherited the duchy, which was inherited by his eldest son, Ernst II, who died without legitimate issue.  An arrangement was made to have the succession devolve on Victoria and Albert's second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, When his only son, young Affie, died, the next in line, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and his son, Prince Arthur, renounced their rights in favor of the young Duke of Albany, Charles Edward, who succeeded his uncle Alfred in 1900.   His grandson, Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, is the present head of the family.

Another brother, Prince Ferdinand, made a financially advantageous with a Hungarian noblewoman, Antoinette Kohary, an heiress.  Antoinette was Roman Catholic, thus leading to a Roman Catholic branch of the family, a branch that included Portugal and Bulgaria.   The eldest son, Ferdinand, married Queen Maria II of Portugal, sharing the throne, until her death in 1853.  The second son, Prince August, married the very formidable Princess Clementine of Orleans, a woman as cunning and ambitious as Uncle Leopold.   Her eldest son, Philipp, a most foul man, married Leopold's granddaughter, Princess Louise of Belgians, but Clementine's energies were largely expended on her youngest son, the effeminate Ferdinand, elected king of the Bulgarians.  

There also would be marriages with Braganzas, Hohenzollerns and Saxons, but of course the most successful marriage in spreading the Coburg genes was the marriage between Victoria and Albert. 

Their descendants would sit on the thrones of the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Romania and Yugoslavia.   These are the families we know a lot about,  but the Coburg destiny was not confined to Victoria and Albert's descendants.   The Belgians offer diversity and sadness, especially the life stories of the daughters of Leopold II.   His children, especially his elder daughters, suffered emotional abuse at his hands.  Neither Princess Louise nor Princess Stephanie were prepared for marriage, and neither could sustain successful marriages.  Leopold did  not consider Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the son of Prince August and Princess Clementine (daughter of  Louis Philippe) as a suitable spouse for his eldest daughter.

The family ties were close.  Clementine's older sister, Louise, was the second wife of Leopold I of the Belgians, widower of Princess Charlotte of Wales.  Prince August was the son of Prince Ferdinand and Princess Antonia Kohary, thus making him one of the Kohary heirs.  August and Leopold II were first cousins.     Clementine was determined to secure an advantageous match for her eldest son, and pushed him toward Louise. 

Leopold thought Louise was too young to marry her cousin, but eventually, he gave permission, and the couple were married.  Clementine considered it a great coup to have her son marry the King of Belgium's daughter.   It was  not a happy marriage.  Louise was willful and independent (and largely ignorant about sex) and Philipp was a brute.  The marriage largely collapsed after the birth of the couple's two children, Leopold and Dorothea.  

On paper, Stephanie's marriage was grand.  She married Archduke Rudolf, only son of Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.  Stephanie was ill-prepared for her new position and marriage.  It was not a love match.  Rudolf infected his wife with a venereal disease, which rendered the young archduchess infertile after the birth of their only child, Elisabeth.   Rudolf ended his life in a murder-suicide pact with his mistress at Mayerling in 1889.

Art Beeche moves effortlessly among the different branches as he weaves the stories into gripping yet historic tales of real people caught up in a genetic tsunami. 

Perhaps because I know a lot about Victoria's line, I was more interested in the other branches, especially the Kohary branch: the descendants of Prince Ferdinand and Princess Antonia.   The Coburg -Kohary line was perhaps the wealthiest of all the branches, although the fortune and many of the palatial residences were lost to bad economics, national socialism, and communism, especially the residences in Hungary.

The Kohary inheritance passed to Prince Philipp's middle brother, Prince Ludwig August, who married Princess Leopoldine of Brazil.  (The youngest brother, Ferdinand, became King of Bulgaria.  King Simeon is his grandson.)  Ludwig August married Archduchess Carolina of Austria, a member of the Tuscan branch of the family.  The family fortune eventually devolved from Prince Philipp to his nephew, Prince Philipp Josias, as the latter became the "universal heir to the inalienable estates protected by the Coburg and Kohary Fideikommis."   Prince Philipp's own estate was divided between Prince Philipp-Josias and his cousin, Prince Kyril of Bulgaria,

Family and legal disputes led to the financial devastation of Kohary Coburgs.  Czechoslovakia ended the practice of Fideikommis in 1924.  This action led to a further breakup of the family's Czech properties and more law suits  Prince Philipp's daughter, Princess Dorothea, the widow of Prince Ernst Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein, filed suit to gain a share of the fortune, thus creating another level of family discourse, 

The family lost money and lost property,  marriages ended in divorce,  but the saddest story for me was the tragic deaths of Prince Rainer (Philipp Josias's older brother) and their sister, Princess Marie Karoline.   Prince Rainer and his wife remained in Budapest during the second world war.  In 1945,  Rainer was arrested by the Communists, imprisoned, and never seen again.  The family assumes that Rainer was executed by the Communists. He was declared dead in 1961.

Rainer's sister, Marie Karoline, who was mentally handicapped, was gassed by the Nazis in the early years of the second world war.

Philipp-Josias's son, Prince Philipp-August, remains committed to rebuilding the family's Austrian estates.

King Leopold, Queen Victoria and Princess Clementine were the quintessential networkers,  using not always tacit negotiation skills to effect ways to further the scope of Coburg power.

Friedrich Franz, Duke of Saxe-Coburg, died in 1806, nearly a decade before his youngest son, Leopold's marriage to Princess Charlotte of Wales.   Although the marriage ended with Charlotte's death in childbirth, Leopold remained at the forefront, ensuring that his niece and nephew marry, thus establishing a new Coburg dynasty in Britain.

The Coburgs of Europe is an amazingly well-researched book.  Take a look at the impressive bibliography in the back of the book.  Art Beeche took his time to make sure he didn't miss a source.  If I had a few quibbles ... okay I have a few quibbles .. it would be to ask why the many quotes used in the text were not cited with footnotes.  This certainly would enhanced the book's scholarly achievement.  Historians, writers, biographers and others would be able to refer a quote to the original source, such as a memoir, biography, newspaper articles, etc.

One weird little thing: on page 293. Mr. Beeche writes that Princess Kalina was the only "one of King Simeon's children convert to Catholicism."  This is incorrect.   King Simeon II married Dona Margarita Gomez-Acebo y Cejuela, a Spanish noblewoman.  Queen Margarita is Roman Catholic.  It was decided at the time of the marriage that their first son would be baptized into the Orthodox faith.  Their three younger sons and only daughter were all baptized and raised as Roman Catholics.  Is it possible that Kalina converted to the Orthodox faith.  She was married according to the rites of the Roman Catholic church.  The marriage was also blessed by the Orthodox church.  Kalina's son, Simeon, born in Bulgaria, was baptized in the Orthodox church.

A word of caution.  You will find it takes time to read this book. (This is not necessarily a bad thing.)  There is so much information .. and the photographs!  Did I mention the photographs.  Hundreds of photographs, many of which will be seen for the first time in this book.

The Coburgs of Europe oozes with the history and personality of kings and dukes and queens and princesses.  There are two chapters shouting out the accomplishments of about a dozen Coburg women, including Queen Victoria's mother,  Victoire.  (Good thing she listened to her younger brother about that second marriage.)

The book is also visually stunning.  I won't be surprised if this book remains on coffee tables for some time to come, so you can pick it up and savor it again and again.  The Coburgs of Europe is a masterpiece, a true masterpiece, born out of a loving devotion to history.

Who needs social media when the Coburgs networked rather nicely without it!