Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Young Victoria by Deirdre Murphy

I have read a great many books about Queen Victoria and I have my favorites.  And now I can add one more book to the "favorites" list.

The Young Victoria (Yale University Press) offers a refreshing new view of Queen Victoria before she succeeded to the throne.

The author is Deirdre Murphy, the late Senior Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and the Curator of the fabulous Victoria Revealed exhibit at Kensington Palace, which closed earlier this year to make way for two new exhibits commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria.

Tragically, Deirdre died on May 28, 2018, of breast cancer. She was 42 years old.  The new exhibitions at Kensington Palace and this book are her legacies.

The Young Victoria offers a tantalizing and new insight into Victoria's life.  Sheltered by her dominating mother (who was in turn dominated by her Comptroller John Conroy), both of whom hoped to control Victoria when she succeeded to the throne, especially, if William IV died before Victoria reached her majority.

As we know, William IV died on June 20, 1837, nearly a month after  Victoria celebrated her 18th birthday on May 24th.

This book serves as a semi-catalog to the new exhibitions as there is no official catalog.  The Duchess of Kent was determined to keep her younger daughter in the public eye even though she was equally determined to keep her away from King William and Queen Adelaide.   The Kensington System was designed to keep the princess under the control of her mother and Conroy, as well as her governess Baroness Lehzen.  Victoria, however, could be a willful and determined little girl, much to the disappointment of her mother and tutors.

Lehzen was the "benchmark by which Victoria would measure all her companions throughout her long life," according to Murphy.  Victoria wrote: "She devoted her life to me, from my fifth to my eighteenth year, with most self-abnegation, never taking one day's leave."

Murphy delved deep into Victoria's young life, dipping into diaries, papers, and other materials, focusing on those who were close to her, including her older sister, Princess Feodora.

The Kensington System, established by the Duchess of Kent and Conroy, was set up to control Victoria but keep her in the public eye.   In 1830, when William IV succeeded his brother, George IV, as king, Victoria slipped into the heiress presumptive position, and her mother and Conroy chose to go on the road, presenting the 11-year-old princess to the nation.   William and his wife, Queen Adelaide, were keen on maintaining contact with the young princess.  The king went so far as to suggest that Victoria's name be changed to Charlotte or Elizabeth.

This book is a labor of love, a detailed breakdown of Victoria's "melancholy childhood" that shows Deirdre Murphy's devotion to her subject.

The detail is precise, a front-row glimpse into Victoria's early years.

Most of the illustrations are from the Royal Collection.   The Young Victoria is a true classic that will be appreciated and savored for generations. 

Deirdre Murphy deserves all the praise, all the honors, for writing a truly great book that provided inspiration for the new Victoria exhibits.

The Young Victoria will be appreciated by historians and general readers alike.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Two books about Cumberland Lodge

During my recent visit to the UK (and Windsor Great Park),  I talked my way -- with my friend, Katrina, into Cumberland Lodge, once the residence of Prince and Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.  Princess Christian was Queen Victoria's 5th child - Princess Helena.

The Lodge is no longer a royal residence, but is leased to a charitable foundation.

The history of the estate is fascinating.  Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough lived in the original house, when she was the Ranger of Windsor Great Park.  The current building is named for Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, second son of King George II.

Helene Hudson's Cumberland Lodge: A House Throughout History offers a comprehensive accounting of the Lodge and its residents through the present day.

Sarah Robinson's  Glorious Seclusion: Cumberland Lodge and Windsor Great Park in the Life in the Nation Paperback, which I bought from the receptionist at Cumberland Lodge, is a more concise history of the house.

It was at Cumberland Lodge where in 1936 King Edward VIII's Private Secretary, Alexander Hardinge, met with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin to discuss the plans for the abdication.

Both books are well-illustrated nd offer insight into residents of Cumberland Lodge, especially Prince Christian and Princess Helena and their family.

I have added both books to my library.

Cumberland Lodge is located in Windsor Great Park, south of the statue of George III.

We walked from Savill Garden through the Cumberland Gate to the Lodge, and around to the back as well, then headed down to the Prince Albert Statue, past Smith's Lawn and the Guards Polo Club to the Cumberland Obelisk and back to Savill Garden parking lot where we left the car.

You may wonder what the distance is from the Copper Horse statue of George III, which is the northern end of the Long Walk to Windsor Castle.  The distance is 2.65 miles.  Thus, Cumberland Lodge is located approximately three miles from Windsor Castle.

Purchasing through my Amazon links (not just books) or clicking on adverts helps  me earn a few pennies.  I use the monthly profits to pay my cell phone bill.  Thanks. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ira The Life and Times of a Princess by Nicholas Foulkes

HSH Princess Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina zu Fürstenberg is the epitome of an It girl, a true socialite,  made the cover of Life magazine, when she was only 16.  This cover story was about her marriage to Prince Alfonso zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg. 

Virginia, who has always been known as Ira, was close to her cousin, Count Rudi of Schönburg-Glauchau, a close friend of Prince Alfonso (the two were major founders of the Marbella Club).  Rudi told her about Alfonso's romance with Princess Christina of Hesse, a niece of Prince Philip, and they were about to announce their engagement. 

Then the 31-year-old Alfonso met the sloe-eyed Ira, and he was smitten.  Christina was pushed aside and Alfonso and Ira became engaged.  Ira's parents, Prince Tassilo and Clara Agnelli, were divorced.  Agnelli, a member of the Fiat family, had run off with an Italian actor, leaving Ira and her two brothers, Egon and Sebastian, torn between warring parents.

The marriage between Alfonso and Ira was a social coup - but one wonders how Ira's parents allowed for their very attractive 16-year-old daughter marry a 31-year-old man.   Their honeymoon was very much a press adventure.  Ira soon became pregnant.  In November 1956, she gave birth to her first son, Christian.  A second son, Hubertus, was born in 1959. 

Ira admitted that she was not a good mother.  She found motherhood to be "isolating and lonely." This is not a surprise.  Ira was very much a part of the rich and famous, but she was not prepared to be wife or a mother.

The marriage was over within months of Hubertus' birth.  They divorced in 1960.  A year later, she ran off with a Brazilian industrialist,  Francisco "Baby" Pignatari.  Ira met Baby Pignatari while skiing in Italy in late 1959.   Alfonso filed charges of adultery against Baby and was obtained custody of the two boys.

Ira's second marriage lasted for only three years.  She  never remarried, although she has had numerous lovers.  After the death of Princess Grace, Ira became the companion of her second cousin, Prince Rainier III of Monaco (they share a common great-grandmother, Lady Mary Douglas) , and there were numerous reports that they would marry, thus making Ira the Princess of Monaco.  The reports were a bit premature. The couple remained close friends.

The very essence of her  life  has been  captured in the sumptuous Ira The Life and Times of a Princess, which a visually stunning and well laid out tome, that comes with a slip cover for easy placement on a shelf or a cocktail table.

Princess Ira is certainly a social creature who has parlayed her beauty and personality into a fulfillment of being true to herself.  She appeared in B movies in the 60s, became the It Woman for fashion designers including Karl Lagerfeld.

As a "prominent European socialite,"  Ira moved in all the right circles, knew all the right people.  London remains a favorite habitat, but Ira feels at home in numerous countries.   She never needed to marry money as she is wealthy in her own right, thanks to her mother's Agnelli inheritance.

She is a free spirit, unfettered by the norms of society.  Nicholas Foulkes describes her as a woman with "charisma, an endearing personality," with an appetite for the good life.

Ira herself says "My life is colourful... I lived on the spot.  I lived day by day. My plan was to enjoy life..."   Her life has been  a full color palette that she has fully embraced,  and no doubt, she has more to do, more life to embrace.

Princess Ira never got to be a consort, but she remains one of the elegant queens of the international jet set.

Ira The Life and Times of a Princess  was published by Harper Collins  with the support and approval of Princess Ira.  Nicholas Foulkes wrote the text.  The photos of the Princess from infancy to present day are from her own collection as well as agency photos.   A dazzling display of biographical images.

Nicholas Foulkes likes in London.

Monday, July 1, 2019

50th anniversary of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales

Embed from Getty Images 

 Here is a selection of  monographs and other items that commemorated the Investiture of the Prince of Wales on July 1, 1969.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

20th anniversary of the wedding of the Earl and Countess of Wessex

Prince Edward, now Earl of Wessex, married Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones on June 19, 1999 at St. George's Chapel.  Today is the their 20th anniversary. 

Here is a small selection of commemorative books still available.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Windsor Castle: A thousand Years of a Royal Palace

I had a chance to browse this book, Windsor Castle: a Thousand Years of a Royal Palace, which is said to be the definitive history of Queen Elizabeth II's favorite home.

The book is massive and would have put me over the approved weight allowance for my suitcase.

From Amazon:  "When we envision the British monarchy, one of the first things that comes to mind is Buckingham Palace, with its gilded gates and changing of the guard. But it is Windsor Castle that can claim pride of place as the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, dating to the earliest days of the monarchy, a symbol of strength and magnificence over a nearly thousand-year history of sieges and soirées alike. Witness to both great moments in the country’s history and those that threatened to destroy it, the castle has become a symbol of English culture and architecture. Throughout England’s history, Windsor Castle has stood fast and evolved, much like the monarchy that inhabits it to this day.

The magisterial Windsor Castle: A Thousand Years of a Royal Palace illuminates the castle’s past using evidence from archaeological investigation and documentary sources, and is illustrated with paintings, drawings, and both historical and specially commissioned contemporary photographs, as well as stunning reconstructions of the castle’s past appearance which bring this essential piece of English history to life. "

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Two Royal Journals that you should read

Royalty Digest and are quarterly royal history journals that are published in Sweden and the USA respectively.

Neither journal is available electronically.  The only way to read them is to subscribe.

In full transparency, I write for both journals.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Modern Monarchy by Chris Jackson

Are you looking for a new book to put on your cocktail table, a book that looks nice and will also appeal to your guests when they sit down on the couch.

I have a recommendation for you.  Modern Monarchy The British Royal Family.  The text and photographs are by Chris Jackson.

Yes, the name Chris Jackson is familiar to you.  He is the guy with the very expensive cameras who shows up a lot at royal events in the UK and on tour.   For the last 15 years, Jackson has been Getty Images Royal Photographer.   Great job.

Terrific book.  Just take your time, turning page after page of superb photos of members of the British royal family at official events as well as official photos and at relaxing.  More than 250 pages of color photos.

A lovely, lovely book.

Modern Monarchy was published by Rizzoli.

Matilda Empress Queen Warrior by Catherine Hanley

Oh, I do I love a good scholarly biography.  By good, I mean a well-researched, well-documented and eminently readable biography by a biographer who has immersed herself into her subject matter.

Catherine Hanley's Matilda Empress Queen Warrier is a superb book.  I could not put it down.  Matilda (1102-1167) was the daughter of King Henry I of England.  As a young child, she married the future Henry V, Holy Roman emperor.  The emperor died in 1125.  The young childless widow returned to Normandy where her father arranged for her to marry Count Geoffrey of Anjou.

Five years before Matilda's only legitimate brother, William was among three hundred passengers, who died in the White Ship disaster.  Henry wanted Matilda to succeed him.   There were no laws that would prevent female succession, but the situation was far more complicated.   There were other candidates.  Henry I's eldest brother, Robert Curthose, had a son William, who was a possible candidate, as was another first cousin, Stephen, the daughter of Henry I's sister, Adela and her husband Stephen of Blois.

On two separate occasions, Stephen swore to uphold Matilda's claim to the throne, but when Henry died in 1135, Stephen broke his promise and with the support of the English church claimed the throne.

During the next few decades, Stephen's reign suffered through challenges from church, the French and family members including Matilda and her husband and her half brother, Robert of Gloucester, who led a rebellion against Stephen.

The skirmishes and rebellions led to a civil war with Stephen and Matilda jockeying for power.

But Stephen was a "natural follower rather than a leader," and this lack of true leadership would lead to his downfall.  Matilda was far more successful in compromise and seen as the "voice of reason."    When Stephen died in 1154, he was succeeded by Matilda's son, Henry, who reigned as Henry II.

She was a formidable woman and took an active role "in the military aspects" if the campaign to win the throne.    Hanley writes that is Matilda "had not doggedly pursued and fought for her rights," the succession of the English throne might have looked very different. Without Matilda's determination, there would not have been a Plantagenet dynasty.  Or Tudors. Or Stuarts. Or. Hanovers. Or Windsors.

Matilda was also a "politically active queen mother," a role that was enthusiastically shared by her daughter-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine.   She also provided that precedent proving that female inheritance was legitimate.

As "the master of her fate and the agent of her own destiny,"  Catherine Hanley's final statement notes that Matilda "deserves to be remembered.

I will say the same thing about Hanley's book.   Matilda Empress Queen Warrior deserves to be read.  This is a consummate study of a woman whose right to the throne was usurped by others, yet she remained determined to be a warrior for her family, especially, her son, Henry.   She may not have won her rightful crown, but she lived long enough to see her son succeed to the English throne.

Matilda Empress Queen Warrior was published by Yale University Press.

80th anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth's visit to North America

In May 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were the first British sovereigns to visit Canada and the United States. Here is a selection of books about the visit.

The Mistresses of Cliveden By Natalie Livingstone

Some months ago, while waiting in the checkout line I spotted The Mistresses of Cliveden  on the sale table, which is right by the checkout line. I am sure the store has placed this table near the checkout for a reason.    I rarely spot anything of interest in the books on the sale table, but this book caught my eye because I visited Cliveden in May 2018.

Only five miles from Windsor Castle,  Cliveden is a stately home and estate.  The home is now a five- star hotel and the estate is owned by the National Trust.  It is one of the most popular National Trust properties. 

Cliveden has been the home of several families and members of the royal family.  Natalie Livingtone, a Cambridge-educated journalist, is married to billionaire property developer, Ian Livingstone, whose  company owns Cliveden's hotel lease.

Cliveden's history during the reign of Charles II when the Duke of Buckingham had an affair with Anna Maria, the Countess of Shrewsbury.  Anna Maria was a former prostitute.  As one's cuckolded husband was wont to do,  Lord Shrewsbury challenged the Duke to a duel.  Lord Shrewsbury was killed.

There have been several houses on the estate. The present day house was built in 1851 after the previous mansion had been destroyed by fire.   In 1893, Cliveden was purchased by William Waldorf Astor, an American millionaire, who became a British citizen and created Viscount Astor.  He gave the estate to his son, Waldorf, on the occasion of his marriage to Nancy Langhorne.

Lord and Lady Astor gave the estate to the National Trust in 1942.  They remained in the house until 1968.

Anna Maria was the first mistress of Cliveden.  The other women, Elizabeth, the Countess of Orkney, who was the mistress of William III:  the Princess of Wales (Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg), the wife, then widow, of Frederick, the Prince of Wales (parents of George III), Harriet, the Duchess of Sutherland , who mixed society with her interest in politics; and Viscountess Astor, the American-born Nancy Langhorne.

Sex and politics were at the forefront of much of Cliveden's history.  In 1961, Christine Keeler was taking a swim in Cliveden's pool, as she was a guest at a summer party hosted by Lord Astor. Keeler was only 19-years-old and reported to be the mistress of a Russian spy.  It as at this party where she met John Profumo, the Conservative Secretary of State for War.  Profumo was a married man but that did not stop him from embarking on an affair with Keeler, who was also sleeping with a Soviet naval attache.

When I visited Cliveden, I saw an small exhibition on the Cliveden women.  I have been fascinating with Nancy Langhorne for many years as she is an American and she was born in Danville, Virginia.

 The Mistresses of Cliveden brings alive the stories of these women, all of whom played important  roles within their society's hierarchy.  And yes, several women used sex to achieve or advance their goals.  They made history as well. Nancy Astor was first woman to take her seat in the British Parliament.

I would describe this book as a well-researched, detailed bodice-ripper-cum-serious-social history.

The Mistresses of Cliveden was published in 2015, but copies (hardcover and paperback) are available.

Schloss Cumberland Die Welfen am Traunsee & Herzog und Kaisertochter

May 24, 2019, was the 200th birthday of Queen Victoria.  Three days later, May 27, was the 200th birthday of Victoria's first cousin, Prince George of Cumberland, the only child of the Duke of and Duchess of Cumberland.

Victoria succeeded her uncle, William IV, in June 1837.  William was also King of Hanover, where the succession was based on Salic law (males only.)  The next in line was Victoria's uncle, Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, who remained the heir presumptive to the British throne until November 1840 when Victoria gave birth to her first child.

So it was Uncle Cumberland who succeeded to the Hanover throne and George became the Crown Prince.  King Ernst August died in 1851.  Georg V was king until 1866 when Prussia took vengeance of Hanover as the King had thrown his support to Austria in its war with Prussia.

Prussia annexed the tiny kingdom as another Prussian province.  King Georg V and his family went into exile in Gmunden, Austria, where the king owned property.

Gmunden-am-Traunsee became the seat of the Hanover royal family.  King George V died in 1878.  Thew de jure king was his only son, Ernst August, who chose to be styled by his British peerage, the Duke of Cumberland.   He was married to Princess Thyra of Denmark, the younger sister of Queen Alexandra, Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia, King Frederik VIII of Denmark and King George I of the Hellenes.

The family's primary residence Königvilla was a bit too small for the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland and their growing family which meant that a new home was needed.  Between 1882 and 1886, Schloss Cumberland was designed by an architect and built, thus offering a new primary residence for the head of the House of Hanover.

The Duke of Cumberland's son, Ernst August, married Princess Victoria Luise of Prussia, only daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II.  Their marriage brought about a reconciliation between the two families.

Ernst August and Viktoria Luise became the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick and spent more time in Germany than in Gmunden. In 1930, the Schloss became a family museum.  During the second world war, the castle was appropriated by the Nazis and served as a military hospital until 1945.    Today the Schloss is owned by the state of Upper Austria and is now a residence/long term care for people with mental health issues.

Schloss Cumberland Die Welfen am Traunsee is a history and celebration of the Hanover (Welfen) Royal Family in Gmunden.  This 152-page book was written by Heinz Schiesser.

The focus is on the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland and the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick and their families in Gmunden.  Many of the photographs have never been published and come from the family's archives.

Herzog and Kaisertochter Ernst August von Hannover und Victoria Luise von Preussen, which was written by Peter Steckhan, complements Schloss Cumberland, as it focuses on the Duke of Cumberland's son, Ernst August, who succeeded as Duke of Brunswick in 1918 and his wife, Princess Victoria Luise. 

The title translates to Duke and the Kaiser's daughter.

Steckhan provides historical and biographical details on the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick from their childhood, the circumstances of their meeting through their marriage, the first world war, the end of the monarchy, the rise of National Socialism, the second world war and up through the 1950s following the death of the Duke of Brunswick in 1953.

Most of the photos in this book were new to me and come from the family's personal collection.

Both books were published by Matrix Media, a publishing house owned by Prince Heinrich of Hannover, a grandson of the Duke and Duchess.

The format for both books is the same: paperback, German text, and many previously unseen photographs. You do not need to understand German to enjoy these two books, which were published in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

My family comes from the Hanover area so I have a special fondness for the Welfen.  I have written articles on the Prussian-Hanover wedding,  Princess Frederica of Hannover (sister of the Duke of Cumberland),  the Cumberland Princesses (the daughters of the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland) and Ernst August vs Ernst August (the issues between the present head of the House and his son.)

I heartily recommend both books.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Hitler and the Habsburgs by James Longo

I am of two minds about James Longo's new book, Hitler and the Habsburgs (Diversion Books).    I like the idea of a book about Hitler's personal vendetta against the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, whose assassination was a catalyst for the start of the first world war.  But I was driven crazy by the incorrect use of titles and a few factual errors, all of which could have been corrected by an experienced editor.

Franz Ferdinand's three children,  Max, Ernst, and Sophie, were not Habsburgs, but Hohenbergs.  The archduke's marriage to Countess Sophie Chotek was morganatic.  She was created Duchess of Hohenberg and her children had their mother's title and rank.  The children were excluded from court functions, even after their parents' deaths in June 1914.

The Hohenberg children were outsiders but this did not prevent Hitler, who loathed the idea of a multi-cultural empire, turned his wrath toward Franz Ferdinand's sons.  All three of his children were anti-Nazi, and they made their views known.

The children were raised by Sophie's family.   Their beloved family home, Konopiste, was appropriated by the newly Czechoslovakia, which has passed a law that allowed for the confiscation of Habsburg properties.  Konopiste had was inherited by Franz Ferdinand's children, who were not Habsburgs.

Maximilian and Ernst were arrested after the start of the second world war and both were imprisoned in concentration camps, including Dachau.  Their resistance to Hitler and National Socialism was based not only on their political and historical upbringing but also their deeply held Catholic faith.

Longo has done extensive research, digging deep into archives in Europe and the United States.  He also talked with Max, Ernst and Sophie's children and grandchildren, thus adding another layer of personal introspect.

But Longo trips - and trips a lot with the improper use of titles and a few glaring errors. He repeats several times the canard that women did not have succession rights to the throne.    Austria's succession law was semi-Salic, which meant that all the eligible archdukes were ahead of the archduchesses, who, traditionally, renounced their rights prior to their weddings.  These renouncement ceremonies were in the presence of the Emperor.

He describes Franz Ferdinand's half-sisters as his stepsisters.  (They shared a common parent, their father, which made them half-siblings).  Longo has serious problems with how to write titles.  He calls the mother of Max's wife, Countess Elisabeth Waldburg-Wolfegg as Princess Marie Lobkowicz Waldburg-Wolfegg.   He describes Napoleon's second wife as Empress Marie Louise Habsburg.   She was born an Archduchess of Austria, but she was Empress of France.

Waldburg-Wolfegg is also incorrect. The correct way to state the name is von Waldburg zu Wolfegg und Waldsee.  Elisabeth's father was not Maximilian IV. but the 4th Prince of von Waldburg zu Wolfegg und Waldsee.
George V and Mary were the King and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, not  England.  Longo made this mistake several times.

My favorite mistake is Count Gutsverwaltung Nostitz-Rieneck, a grandson of Princess Sophie of Hohenberg,  Archduke Franz Ferdinand's daughter, who spoke to Longo about his memories of his grandmother.   One would have thought that Longo would have known that the Count's first name was Friedrich, not Gutsverwaltung, which is a German word for the administration office.

Now that I have vented about the sloppy parts, let me add that Hitler and the Habsburgs is worth reading,  Concentrate on the history and the subject matter and not the titles.

Adolf Hitler held onto his hate for Franz Ferdinand's family until he had the power to release his vendetta on the family.  They survived.  He didn't.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Tudors to Windsors British Royal Portraits

I spent Thanksgiving with my friend Susan and her husband and their cats in Austin, Texas.  I had a lovely time seeing the sites in Austin.  The main reason for the trip was to see the Tudors to Windsors British Royal Portraits exhibit at the Museum of the Fine Arts in Houston.

Most of the portraits, paintings, photographs, and artwork are from Britain's National Portrait Gallery.

I have visited the NPG on numerous occasions and most of the portraits were familiar to me .. several modern ones were new to me, so it was a delight to see them.

A late addition to the exhibition was an ink-jet photograph of the newly married Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The eponymous catalog was written by historian David Cannadine.  

It was a fabulous exhibit.  I am glad I got to see many of these portraits again as I know I won't have a chance when I am in London in June.  I will visit the NPG but the portraits won't be there as the exhibit is now in Australia at the Bendigo Art Gallery at Bendigo, Victoria.

The exhibit runs through July 14, 2019, after which everything is carefully packed up and returned to the National Portrait Gallery.

Not everyone gets to travel to London and see these portraits.  The catalog includes every portrait from the exhibit with historical commentary.  Full color. 240 pages.   This book should be kept on the cocktail table in the living room.  You never know when you want to peruse a portrait of Queen Anne.

Historic Homes in the USA

Embed from Getty Images

I love visiting the United Kingdom to visit stately homes and palaces.  Here in the US, we also have historic stately homes and several palaces as well.

Agecroft Hall in Richmond, Virginia, is a special favorite, as it is Tudor home that was torn down in England, and the house was rebuilt on the banks of the James River.

Agecroft Hall is a true gem.

Winterthur, a DuPont Mansion in Delaware, and the Gilded Age Mansions in Newport, Rhode Island,  were on my bucket list, but now crossed off.

I visited Winterhur and Longwood Gardens last July and I spent a long weekend in Newport in March.  I recommend visiting both.   I understand summer in Newport is super-crowded.  However, all of the homes are open.

When I went in mid-March, only three of the houses were open.  Thankfully, the three houses are the Elms, Marble House and, the granddaddy of all, the Breakers.  Yowsa.

So much to see and do.  I tried to get past the guard to see the exterior of Rough Point, once the home of Nancy Leeds (and later Doris Duke.)

The guide books, Winterhur and the Newport Mansions, are excellent, thanks to the photography and the historical text.

One of the current exhibits at Winterthur is "Costuming the Crown," costumes from the Netflix series, The Crown.

The Breakers was the home of Cornelius Vanderbilt.  Marble House was owned by William K. Vanderbilt and his wife, Alva.  Their daughter, Consuelo, was the best known of all the dollar princesses.  She married the Duke of Marlborough.

So what is now at the top of my bucket list?   Biltmore, the largest home in the USA, which is located in Asheville, North Carolina.  Biltmore is still owned by descendants of George Vanderbilt.

A Romanovs Roundup

Greg King and Penny Wilson have churned another good book on the Romanovs.  This latest success is titled Romanovs Adrift 1913-1919.  The time period refers to the final years of the Romanov Dynasty -- from the tercentenary of the Romanov reign in 1913 through the first world war, the revolution, the murders of Nicholas II and his family and numerous to the survivors in exile.

The authors focus on 80 members of the Imperial family, Nicholas II and his family, the six Grand Ducal branches, the Oldenburgs, Leuchtenberg, Mecklenburgs and five Grand Duchesses who married into foreign royal families.

The book has 10 chapters, which allows the authors to focus individually on each family group, offering honest and historical portrayals of the Romanov family, but do not expect new information.  The authors have made use of a lot of sources.

The afterward, A Russian Exile: the Romanovs in the Urals and Siberia, was written by Katrina Warne, based on her visits to the area.  

Romanovs Adrift offers readers insight into the lives of the different branches of the Romanov family.  It is an easy read, written in the popular historian style, less scholarly, but chock full of information.    

The bibliography is a great source to delve further into the lives of many of the varied personalities of the Romanov dynasty.

Romanovs Adrift was published by  Illustrated -- make that well-illustrated with photographs from the Eurohistory collection.

Another Romanov book that should whet your appetite is Imperial Crimea: Estates, Enchantments & The Last of the Romanovs.   In the 1980s and 1990s, Greg King published Atlantis Magazine, a royal history magazine that focused largely on the Romanovs, the Hesse and By Rhine family and other royal houses.  

The magazine's Crimean issue was Atlantis' most popular.  Greg received numerous request for copies of the Crimean issue.  This is not a surprise as the four-volume series is regarded as the most comprehensive source for information on the Imperial Family and their lives in the Crimea.   Nearly all of the branches of the family had holiday homes in the Crimea, due to the temperate climate.

It was in the Crimea that the surviving members of the Imperial family gathered after escaping from St. Petersburg.  It was where the Dowager Empress and other members of the family were rescued in early 1919.

Imperial Crimea includes essays by noted Romanov scholars Coryne Hall, Greg King, Penny Wilson, and Sue Woolmans.

The book runs nearly 800 pages and is available in a trade paperback edition through Amazon.  

Helen Rappaport's The Race to Save the Romanovs was published in June 2018.  Although I have a few quibbles about silly mistakes,  I must say that Helen honed in on her research.  She delved into archives in the UK, the US, Spain, and Russia, honing in on untapped resources.  The request for British help did not end with the Government turning down the Provisional Government's recommendation for the British to send a ship to bring the Imperial Family to the UK.  

The end of the story does not change, but Helen brought new insight and research into the diverse reports of plans for a rescue that never came to fruition.

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Daughters of the Winter Queen by Nancy Gladstone

I expect most people will not know who was the Winter Queen.  Princess Elizabeth was the daughter of James I, who married Friedrich Heinrich, Count Palatine of the Rhine.   A marriage with the King of England's daughter was seen as a strong alliance that would have brought James' support for the count's position as heir to Bohemia.

James' duplicitous actions was a  betrayal for the new king and queen. Their reign lasted for one winter, hence, the name, as they fled into exile in the Netherlands and Europe was plunged into the Thirty Years War.  Elizabeth and Friedrich had 13 children,  nine of whom survived childhood.

Nancy Goldstone is the author of Daughters of the Winter Queen. 

The focus of this amazing biography is Elizabeth and her four surviving daughters, Elizabeth, Louise Hollandine,  Henrietta and Sophia, who was the 12th of the 13 children.

Elizabeth was widowed at an early age.  Money was a major problem although there was some support from the Dutch and German relatives.  The primary desire was to regain the Palatinate for her eldest son, but Elizabeth was also determined to find good husbands for her daughters.  This proved to be a difficult task, especially after Elizabeth's brother, Charles I, lost his throne (and then his head) and the royal family fled to France and the Netherlands. 

Charles I's daughter, Mary, was married to William II, Prince of Orange.

Elizabeth's four daughters were all well-educated, prepared for marriage, devout Protestants, standard-bearers to fight Catholicism.  Finding husbands proved far more difficult.  The financial situation, living in exile,  as well as politics, all of which affected Elizabeth's hopes for her daughters.

The ties to her Stuart family remained strong as several sons, including Prince Rupert joined their first cousin, Charles II's battle to regain his throne. The Stuart Restoration was finally achieved in 1660.

The eldest daughter Princess Elizabeth formed friendships with Rene Descartes and William Penn.  As the years went by and no prince came forward,  Elizabeth, a devout, open-minded Calvinist who became an Abbess of a Lutheran abbey. Louise Hollandine was a gifted artist, a woman of great faith, who, much to her mother's dismay, converted to Catholicism.  She quickly moved up the ranks at  Maubuisson, to become the abbess.  This accelerated promotion was due to her brother, Edward's marriage to Anne de Gonzaga, a member of a prominent Catholic family.  The Winter Queen turned against Edward when he converted as well.

Henrietta Maria, who was named for Charles I's wife, did find a husband, Sigismund Rákóczi, brother of the Prince of Transylvania.  Only five months after marriage,  Henrietta Marie, at the age of 25.

It was Sophia who did marry well.  Her husband was Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the first elector of Hanover.

After the Restoration, the Winter Queen returned to England to live.  She died in 1665.  Charles II did not have any legitimate issue so when he died the throne passed to his brother, James II, who had two daughters by his first wife.  His elder daughter, Mary, was married to her first cousin, William III, Prince of Orange.  Her younger sister,  Anne, was married to George of Denmark.  James II converted to Catholicism, thus setting up a battle between the king and Parliament.  He and his second wife, and their infant son fled to France.  Parliament offered the throne to Mary and her husband, William.  As their marriage was childless,  Mary's younger sister, Anne, was the heir.

The Winter Queen's children were never far from the throne.  Her son, Rupert, created Duke of Cumberland, by Charles II, was seen as a possible dynast, but he died in 1682.   Charles' daughter, Charlotte, converted to Catholicism when she married as his second wife, Philippe, Duke of Orléans. (His first wife was Charles II's sister, Henriette).   Edward's line was not eligible as they were Catholics.

So this brings us to the 12th child and youngest daughter,  Sophia, Electress of Hanover.  William III died in 1702 and was succeeded by his sister-in-law, Anne.  She had given birth to 16 children, none of whom survived, leaving a succession crisis.   The Catholic descendants of Charles II's youngest sister, Henriette Anne, were ineligible for the succession.  This meant going back one generation to the Protestant descendants of Elizabeth, the Winter Queen.

In 1701, Parliament passed the Act of Settlement, which established Sophia and her Protestant descendants as the heir to the thrones of England and Scotland.  Six years later, an Act of Union created the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Although acutely aware of her family's destiny, Sophia maintained relations with British government officials although Queen Anne was not keen on the Hanoverian succession.

Sophia died in June 1714, several months before Queen Anne.  The succession passed to Sophia's son, Georg Ludwig (King George I), the grandson of the Winter Queen.

This is one of the best royal biographies that I have read in a long time. It is a serious, well-researched and eminently readable book.  I have read several biographies on the Winter Queen and the Electress Sophia but none of them are as good as Daughters of the Winter Queen.  

The Princesses Elizabeth, Louise Hollandine, Henrietta Maria and Sophia were all erudite, all blue-stockings, all of whom would have excelled as consorts.  Three of the four princesses remained faithful to their Protestant faith.  When Sophia visited Louise at her abbey in France,  she was not receptive to Louise Hollandine's overt discussion that was aimed at having Sophia convert to the Roman Catholic faith.

There was nothing Louise Hollandine could do to persuade her sister to abjure her faith and join the Catholic church.

Sophia had her eyes on a bigger prize.

Gladstone skillfully allows a portrayal of five women, a mother, and her daughters, the granddaughter and great-granddaughters of Mary, Queen of Scots, offering a study of marriage, politics, the arts, and religion.  I could not put this book down.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The best books about Prince Philip

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Now that Prince Philip is the longest living descendant of Queen Victoria,  it is a good time to recommend a few biographies of Philip - the ones that I think are the best.

Tim Heald's  Philip: Portrait of the Duke of Edinburgh is perhaps the closest to an official biography that will be published in Prince Philip's lifetime.   The early life of Prince Philip was eloquently portrayed in Philip Eades's Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life and Basil Boothroyd's Prince Philip An Informal Biography, which included conversations with the Queen's consort.  Boothroyd's book was published in 1971.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Coming out in soon : Ira: The Life and Times of a Princess

I am looking forward to this book,  Ira: The Life and Times of a Princess, an authorized biography by Nicholas Foulkes. I look forward to reading and reviewing it after the book is published the UK in mid-June.  The US publication date is mid-June  It is now available for pre-order.

HarperCollins is publishing the book in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

HSH Princess Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina of Fürstenberg was born in 1940, one of three children of Princess Tassilo of Fürstenberg and Clara Agnelli, daughter of Eduardo Agneli, an Italian businessman.

The Princess has always been called Ira.   Her paternal grandparents were Prince Karl Emil of Fürstenberg and Countess Mária Matild Georgina Festetics de Tolna, a member of a Hungarian noble family.  Maria's mother was Lady  Mary Victoria Douglas-Hamilton, whose first marriage to Prince Albert of Monaco, son of Charles III, ended in divorce, They had one son,  Louis II, Prince of Monaco.

Lady Mary was the daughter of William,11th Duke of Hamilton and Princess Marie of Baden.  Her marriage to Prince Albert was annulled before he succeeded to the Monegasque throne.

After the death of Princess Grace,  Princess Ira was often the companion of Prince Rainier, who was her second cousin as Lady Mary was their great-grandmother.  Rainier was the grandson of Prince Louis II and Ira was the granddaughter of Countess Maria.

 Ira's brother, Prince Egon, was married to the designer Diane von Fürstenberg.