Hauntings at Kensington Palace

Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!

This weekend one Royal Poster was lucky to join one of Kensington Palace’s first ‘Eerie Evening Tours of Enchanted Palace’. There are four tours scheduled on each night between Friday Oct 28th and Monday October 31st this year. This was the first time they’ve done these tours but it may become a regular feature in the future,  this time of year. Tickets sold out quickly, and if you are planning on visiting London next fall, we highly recommend this tour!

The tour stated at 6:45, after we were met in the dark by guides with torches at the side gate. We started in Apartment 1A, in what used to be Lord Snowdon’s study (Lord Snowdon married Princess Margaret in 1960; they were divorced in 1978), which now has some of his pictures of Princess Margaret on the walls, including the one below.

From that point on, the rest of the tour was in the dark, with low lighting and tea lights. which was a unique way to see the Palace. It certainly had a different atmosphere from the daytime tours!

Stories were expertly told by the guides of past occupants, including princess, Kings and Queens, and their tragedies. There were a lot of stories of palace staff members seeing ghosts, including that of Peter the Wild, a feral child who was taken in by King George I, who has been seen running up the King’s staircase.

Peter the Wild Boy

Another memorable tale was that of Princess Sophia, daughter of George III, who had a tragic life and has been seen in her old apartment, 1A, by staff. When Princess Margaret was asked about the rumours of the hauntings at Kensington Palace she famously said, ‘There is only one princess who lives at this house and that’s me‘.

Princess Sophia

There was, respectfully, no mention of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who lived in the Palace from 1981 until her death. Princes William and Harry spend their early years living in the palace (Charles and Diana had apartments 8 and 9). Here’s a picture of them there, below:

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge live on the Kensington Palace grounds in a cottage. (Please stay tuned for our post on the cottage coming shortly.) Other current inhabitants of Kensington Palace are Prince and Princess Micheal of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

On that note, here’s a picture of Kate and Pippa Middleton on October 31, 2007, dressed up for Halloween celebrations at Mahiki nightclub in London. Kate appears to be a witch while Pippa got into the spirit of Halloween colours

Happy Halloween!

Via JustJared

The Spencer Tiaras

While she was Princess of Wales, Diana Spencer was often seen wearing her family’s Spencer tiara, and we were fascinated to learn a few years ago that the Spencer family owns another tiara in addition to this famous piece.

The Spencer Tiara

Here’s the Spencer tiara that we all know well. It joined the Spencer family when Lady Sarah Spencer gave it to Lady Cynthia Hamilton on Lady Cynthia’s marriage to Viscount Spencer (Albert) in 1919. In 1922 Viscount Spencer inherited the earldom (he was the 7th Earl Spencer) and The Earl and Countess lived at the family seat, Althorp. They had two children, one of whom became the father of Diana who would later marry Prince Charles.

Here’s a picture of Lady Cynthia on the left (portrait by by John Singer Sargent), and her granddaughter Lady Diana on the right. We can sure see the family resemblance!

As is well known, the Spencer family has a long lasting relationship with the British royal family. Countess Spencer served as a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth from 1937 to her death in 1972.

Later, Andrew Morton wrote in Diana: Her True Story that Diana, “believes that her grandmother looks after her in the spirit world.”

Anyway, back to the tiaras!

This tiara is made of gold that has been formed into tulip and star-like flowers,and is decorated with dozens of diamonds in silver settings. Diana famously wore this piece on her wedding day and at many formal events afterwards. How nice to be able to wear your own family’s tiara when marrying the heir to the throne!

This tiara has appeared at many Spencer weddings. Here is Diana’s sister Sarah at her wedding:

And here is sister Lady Jane as well. That’s Diana as a bridesmaid.

Victoria Lockwood, Diana’s brother’s first wife, kept the tradition alive at their wedding:

Here’s another shot of that day…it reminds us of that wonderful scene at the end of the most recent film version of Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet:

Some savvy folks over at Tiara Town created a replica of the Spencer tiara. Check it out here!


And, up next we have tiara number two…

The Honeysuckle Tiara

It’s not quite as fairy tale princess as the other Spencer tiara. The older of the two tiaras, it has been in the Spencer family since at least 1885. It looks heavy, and the feather motif along the top seems a bit, well spike-y, while the bottom is quite angular and harsh and doesn’t quite ‘go’ with the top. It almost seems like two tiaras, doesn’t it? All in all, we can see why Diana chose the other tiara to wear at the wedding and at later ‘tiara events’. The other tiara just looks more wearable.

Here’s another view of the tiara before it was altered to its current state:

In the picture above, there are large round diamonds along the bottom which  are not in the first picture at the top. The piece has been altered to have the bottom diamonds removed and the centre ‘splash’ at the front added.  The feather motifs were raised, more were added to the sides, and the angular design at the bottom was carried across the front. Interesting!

Here is a picture of the wife of the 5th Earl Spencer, Lady Charlotte Seymour, wearing the tiara in 1885. This is the earliest picture we have been able to find.

Countess Spencer, 1885

Lady Cynthia (who we discussed above) wore this tiara to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Hmm…perhaps the alteration took place after this event. This is the most recent picture of the piece being worn publicly as far as we know. Do let us know if we are wrong about that. 

Countess Spencer, 1953
On display at Diana: A Celebration

Diana never wore this tiara (at least not publicly) but here is a doctored photo of what she would have looked like wearing it:

What do you think of this piece?

Updated: Kate’s First Solo Engagement

Another day, another Kate announcement! Last night the Duchess of Cambridge had her first solo engagement. As reported in the Daily Mail, she was filling in for Prince Charles who was in Saudia Arabia after the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’s recent death. Pretty significant that she was able to step in like that on the fly!

On the Duke and Duchess’ website a palace spokesman has said, ‘She was so pleased that her first solo engagement was for the Prince of Wales, who has shown her so much support over the years.’ How nice.

We also can’t help but wonder if Kate is still trying to make up from her comments to coworkers back in April 2007 when she and William had broken up. At that time a work colleague by the name of Philiip Higgs told the Daily Mirror,

“She had about 10 people asking if she was all right and I think she just lost her rag. She said ‘It’s because of his daddy’. Everyone raised their eyebrows but didn’t want to push her. Normally, Kate doesn’t talk about anything. She’s very quiet. But it was as if she’d reached boiling point from one sympathetic question too many. She’d been trying to keep it together and hide her real feelings. But she got a bit angry about it all and momentarily lost her cool.That happens sometimes when people are being nice to you and you’re upset.”

Well, since we weren’t there we don’t know for sure if that happened, but that’s all water under the bridge at this point. It would have been seriously embarrasing for Kate! The spokesman’s comment helps to brush that little blip even more under the rug. For more of our favourite Kate Quotes, click here.

The attendees of the event were no doubt tickled that they were hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge in the end.

Via The Daily Mail
The event had about 30 people, and was in support of In Kind Direct, which Prince Charles founded in 1996. Robin Boles, the chief executive of In Kind Direct, said: ‘We were delighted that the Duchess was able to step in at such short notice after our founder was unexpectedly called away. ‘The Duchess hosted a very special evening with absolute professionalism and charm.’ Kate certainly looks like she really pulled it off:

Leila Tannaz over on the What Kate Wore facebook page identified this dress as vintage Amanda Wakely. Impressive! Kate has worn Amanda Wakely several times, most recently at the Royal Marsden hospital . This gown is another likely example of Kate readying her Royal Wardrobe during her relationship with William; maybe she wore it to an event at Highgrove in the past! It certainly has a but of a J.Lo/Marchesa vibe to it, which can go either way, but overall we think she looks stunning. Love seeing her in this colour and the darts of the skirt really make it – so floaty and ethereal looking. She’s certainly stuck to her favourite silhouette that we have seen over and over again at other formal evening events: long and lean.

Kate brought out her bling for the event; she appears to be wearing the same diamond earrings she wore on Canada Day and at Zara’s wedding, along with a diamond bracelet. These peices appear to have been given to Catherine around the time of the wedding. Perhaps from William? The pieces look rather vintage to us…

A sneak peak at the bracelet also worn that day:

Kate also wore the bracelet at the BAFTA event in Los Angeles (on her right arm):

Also interesting that Kate appears to be carrying a glass of water rather than the champagne flutes the other guests are carrying. This could simply be because she wants to be in top form on her first solo engagement, especially since she is representing Prince Charles. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Overall, it looks like a successful first engagement for Kate. It was well executed, and fortunate that there was no public prelude to this event, and that it was a relatively small in terms of attendence. It was also a nice touch that she was able to help Charles by stepping in for him at the last minute. Definitely a nice surprise today for all of us!

Earlier in the week, Kate was seen at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbride, the  Victoria & Albert museum in South Kensington and Starbucks in Chelsea. We wonder if she will be in London this weekend? On Saturday we are going to the Haunted Tour at Kensington Palace so we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled!

Also, it was announced today that:

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will attend a St James’s Palace dinner for the National Memorial Arboretum Appeal on November 10.

William and Kate Support Unicef Famine Relief

Via St James’s Palace, by Chris Jackson/ Getty
On November 2 William and Kate will be in Copenhagen to visit a Unicef distribution center for famine relief in East Africa. St James Palace announced today on twitter:

Duke & Duchess of Cambridge will visit @unicef_uk emergency distribution centre for #EastAfrica famine in Copenhagen

They will join The Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark. (Click here to read about how Princess Mary and Prince Frederick met.)

Read more at the Unicef page here. They also explain how to make donations to this humanitarian crisis.

William and Kate both have a strong connection to Africa and William in particular has spent a considerable amount of time there.

The Danish royal family  website states that prior to the visit at Unicef, the Crown Prince will host a private lunch for the Duke and Duchess of Frederik VIII’s Palace, Amalienborg.

Richard Palmer (@RoyalReporter) reports on his twitter that it was William and Kate’s idea to take this trip and raise awareness of this very important issue. We’ll do a full report on November 2nd!

(Side note – it’s nice t o see the full length version of this official picture of William and Kate that was originally released as a headshot in the leadup to the Canadian tour. The original picture is shown below. They seem to have posed inside and outside that day; Kate looks like she’s squinting a bit in the picture below.)

Grace Kelly & Howell Conant: Part One

If you haven’t read Remembering Grace 25 Years Later with Photographs by Howell Conant (published by LIFE), we highly recommend that you do! It’s a beautiful book that recounts Grace’s friendship with Howell Conant, her favourite photographer.

Howell followed his father, a portrait photographer, into the family business and over a period of 27 years he took most, if not all, of the iconic photographs of Grace Kelly. Basically, if you can think of any photographs of Grace Kelly from 1955 on, chances are he took it.

It all started when Grace was 25 and Howell was assigned to photograph her for the cover of what was then a very popular movie magazine called Photoplay. At this point Grace was a star but she hadn’t yet won her Oscar. Suffice to say this first shoot didn’t go all that well; basically Howell was intimidated by Grace’s stardom and beauty, so she ended up getting rather fed up and gave him direction for the shoot (“This is my good side. Now light it as you know how, and we’ll be done with it”). Afterwards, Grace had an interview booked with Earl Wilson who was THE gossip columnist of his day. As the story goes, she asked Howell if she could borrow a headband for the interview and he agreed if she came back to return it herself. This turned out to be a real turning point because when she did, she noticed some of the photographs that he had out and realized how talented he was.

Shortly after that, Howell landed another job with Grace. This time he was hired to shoot her for the weekly magazine Colliers. For this shoot, she suggested that he come along for part of the vacation she had planned in Jamaica with her sister Peggy. Evidently she was tired and figured this would kill two birds with one stone.

This idea ended up working out extremely well; the picture of Grace emerging from the water  (the one at the very top of this post) was taken during that holiday. Originally, Grace was all decked out in scuba gear but thankfully they got rid of that and the results are flawless. It is our favourite photo of Grace of all time (confession: we’ve tried to recreate it numerous times but….it’s a tall order, what can we say?!).  The photo was chosen for the cover of Colliers and became one of the most iconic photos of Grace. If you aren’t familiar with the picture yet, take a good, long look at it. There’s even a small drop of water about to fall off her ear just like an earring. Perfection. Here it is in black and white:

Here are some more shots that were taken in Jamaica:

Grace sure knew how to pose for the camera:

Another favourite:

You can see how relaxed Grace has gotten with Howell here. She’s so playful and animated.

Of these photos also taken on the trip Howell said, “When Grace began playing with the pillow I started shooting. Grace was so myopic she couldn’t see ten feet in front of her, so she followed the sound of my voice as I directed her. ‘Beautiful,’ I said over and over again.”

After this trip to Jamaica, Conant became a close friend and confidant of Grace’s. Once again, no doubt at Grace’s suggestion, he was hired by Colliers to capture her while filming The Swan.

More fun behind the scenes:

Howell described his experience watching Grace on the set by saying “She remained remote on the set; quiet, pensive. Wrapped in a camel’s hair overcoat, she stood next to this incongruous stage light and I snapped away. For me, this was a new side of Grace, a hardworking actress.”

Howell also took these beautiful photographs of Grace. They were taken at a home in Hollywood she was renting during the filming of The Swan. They certainly show the “ice queen” side of Grace, so different from the playful holiday photos.

The above photo of Grace in a black dress peaking through the white curtains was taken the same day as the red dress photo. As you can see, this photograph was used as a Vanity Fair cover AND a slightly different one was used the cover of the LIFE book (above). No wonder; it still looks totally au currant.

Here is a nice, clean version of it:

Until next time, we’ll leave you with this delightful and somewhat whistful shot from the Jamaica shoot:

In Part Two, we’ll take a look at the photographs Howell took when Prince Rainier came on the scene. Hope to see you then. Ciao!

Kate’s London ~ Restaurants Part One

A few of you have emailed asking about places Kate has frequented in London. If you’re planning a trip to London, or if you live here and would like to try some new restaurants, here are some that she has been to.

Tom Aiken’s Restaurant
Kate went to Tom Aikens with her family on her 26th birthday back in January 2008.  The restaurant is in Chelsea, on 943 Elystan Street,  just off the King’s Road where Kate and Pippa are often seen. (We haven’t been to this restaurant yet, but it’s on the list! We’ll let you know what we think.) Here’s a pic of Kate and Pippa leaving the restaurant (Kate is in her famous Reiss coat):

Tom’s Kitchen

Tom’s Kitchen (another restaurant by Tom Aikens) is a few steps away from Tom Aikens, and is on 27 Cale Street. (Cale Street is also home to the London Collette Dinnegan store – where Kate’s champagne coloured lace dress and red lace dress are from). William and Kate had lunch at Tom’s Kitchen in March 2009.
We’ve been to Tom’s Kitchen for dinner and brunch (highly recommend the french toast). It’s a loud, busy, casual type of place and the food is good and straightforward. We’re impressed that Will and Kate ventured there knowing that they’d be recognized.
Kate has been known to frequent Bluebird Restaurant several times over the last few years. Located on 350 Kings Road, this place is right in the Kate and Pippa neighbourhood! Here are Kate, Pippa and Carole having lunch on the patio, circa 2008 (we think!). Kate’s wearing the see-through Issa ‘Lucky’ dress (for more on the Issa Lucky dresses that Kate and Pippa have click here):
We went to Bluebird for dinner back in 2008, with high expectations. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown. We didn’t have great service (it seemed we were forgotten about for about an hour) and the food wasn’t memorable. However, it’s definitely a ‘scene’ and we might try it again! Maybe it was just an ‘off’ night.
Anyway, Kate also attended the opening of the Bluebird store (underneath the restaurant), in June 2006. The Bluebird store is owned by Belle Robinson, who also owns Jigsaw where Kate worked part-time starting in December 2006. For more on Kate and Jigsaw check out our post here. Kate’s business relationship with Belle Robinson began in around 2005/2006.
As Robinson said in an interview in 2008:

Some people asked us if we were happy for Kate and William to go and stay in our holiday house in Mustique with some friends. They’re not allowed to pay for it but in return they would make a donation to the local hospital. And I said: ‘Yeah, fine.’ Through that, as a thank-you to us, Kate supported a couple of Jigsaw events we did.’ Then she rang me up one day and said: ‘Could I come and talk to you about work?’  (For the full interview click here.)

It’s interesting that Kate, as a private citizen, was already using her ‘star power’ to help friends and acquaintances. It’s a fine line to walk. Here is one such event that Kate supported – the opening of Belle’ Bluebird store. We’re guessing she’s also wearing a Jigsaw dress from the summer 2006 collection. This a rare picture of her in bangs! She grew those out pretty quickly.
In November 2007 Kate supported another event at the Bluebird store, called Time to Reflect. It was an exhibition of celebrity photographs by Alistair Morrison to raise money for Unicef. At the time, it was reported that it was Kate’s idea to put on the exhibition for Unicef. William attended, along with the Middleton family.

Photographer Alistair Morrison and Kate Middleton
Click here for Kate’s London ~ Restaurants Part Two!

Celebrating One Year Since William and Kate’s Engagement in Kenya

Well, it’s been one year since William and Kate were secretly engaged at a remote cabin in Kenya.  As has been widely reported, William and Kate were engaged while on holiday with friends.

As Kate later said in the November 16th official engagement interview,“We were out there with friends and things, so I really didn’t expect it at all.” 

For 24 hours, William and Kate left the group and went by helicopter to Rutundu Log Cabins where William proposed. Here is a picture of the cabin:

Based on the guestbook that they signed, the engagement would have taken place on October 20th.

In the guestbook, dated October 21 2010, William wrote:

William and Kate's notes in the guestbook at the cabin in Kenya where William proposed

“Such fun to be back! Brought more warm clothes this time! Looked after so well, thank you guys! Look forward to next time, soon I hope. William”

Kate added,

“Thank you for such a wonderful 24 hours! Sadly no fish to be found but we had great fun trying. I love the warm fires and candlelights — so romantic! Hope to be back again soon. Catherine Middleton.”

Kate’s comment about not catching any fish reminds of Diana’s funny comment at Balmoral when she didn’t catch any fish and said, ‘It’s alright. I’ve already caught the biggest fish!’.

The cabin was rustic and without electricity – here are a few pictures:

While at the cabin, William and Kate were helped by a safari guide, an attendant and a chef.

They were next seen publicly just a few days later on October 23rd at the wedding of friends Harry Mead and Rosie Bradford in the village of Northleach. There was a flurry of speculation that an engagement announcement was imminent since it was unusual for them to be pictured together arriving at an event.

The next big hint that an engagement announcement was imminent was when these pictures emerged of Carole and Michael Middleton hunting on the Birkhall Estate – Charles’ Scottish residence – as guests of Prince Charles.

Kate referenced this trip in the November 16th engagement interview when she said:

‘I think as any mother would be she was absolutely over the moon. And actually we had quite an awkward situation because I knew and I knew that William had asked my father but I didn’t know if my mother knew. So I came back from Scotland and my mother didn’t make it clear to me whether she knew or not so both of us were there sort of looking at each other and feeling quite awkward about it.’

William and Kate intended to make the official announcement of their engagement sooner than November 16th, but pushed it back a few days when Kate’s grandfather sadly died on November 2nd. His funeral was held on Friday, November 12th. (Interestingly Peter Middleton met Prince Philip in 1962 – read more about that here).

We’ll leave you with this enjoyable quote from William in the November 16th engagement interview:

‘…it is just really easy being with each other, it is really fun and I’m extremely funny and she loves that so it’s been good.’

Royal Round Up: Oct 14 – 20 & Some Jewelry Talk…

Another eventful Royal week! Just a head’s up – we seem to be getting distracted by jewelry this week. You’ll see what we mean in a couple of the posts below.

October 16: The 136th Birthday of the last Hawaiian Royal would have been today

Crown Princess Victoria Ka’iulani was remembered in a Waikiki ceremony on October 16th. This day would have been her 136th birthday (she was born in 1875). The Crown Princess had Hawaiian ancestry from her mother and Scottish ancestry from her father and was the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She was educated in Britain and spoke Hawaiian, English, French and German. When the Hawaiian Monarchy was overthrown in in 1893, she appealed to the American government saying,

“Four years ago, at the request of Mr. Thurston, then a Hawaiian Cabinet Minister, I was sent away to England to be educated privately and fitted to the position which by the constitution of Hawaii I was to inherit. For all these years, I have patiently and in exile striven to fit myself for my return this year to my native country. I am now told that Mr. Thurston will be in Washington asking you to take away my flag and my throne. No one tells me even this officially. Have I done anything wrong that this wrong should be done to me and my people? I am coming to Washington to plead for my throne, my nation and my flag. Will not the great American people hear me?”

The Princess returned to Hawaii and passed away in 1899 at the age of 23. Her story was turned into a movie in 2010 titled Princess Ka’iulani. You can learn more about the Princess by clicking here.

October 17: Kate’s letter to young Cancer Patient Fabian Bate is revealed

During Kate and William’s visit to the Royal Marsden Hospital, Kate promised young Fabian Bate that she would leave a message on his blog. In the end, she wrote him an encouraging letter dated October 13 (the same date of the gala at St. James Palace, so she and William must have been busy getting some office work done). It’s a sweet note that Fabian’s family says has been very encouraging for him.

Here’s Fabian with Kate during the visit:

And the letter:

Ok, can we just take a moment to discuss Catherine’s cypher? Wonder what she made of getting to have paper made up with a ‘C’ and coronet as the letterhead. That must have been seriously fun. And we know she has a ‘C’ bracelet as well…our guess is this was a gift from Charles who also gave Camilla a ‘C’ (despite reports that Camilla gave Catherine the ‘C’). Charles has given a charm bracelet to Camilla, and he also gave one to Diana… Thoughts?

Here’s Kate wearing the bracelet at Wimbledon:

October 19: The Queen & Prince Philip arrived in Australia

The Queen and Prince Philip arrived in Australia for an 11 day tour. Not too shabby for an 85 year old Queen and a 90 year old Prince. They are looking pretty sprightly here considering this was after such a long flight.

Again, we’re distracted by jewelry, this time the brooch that the Queen chose for her arrival. The brooch the Queen wore is known as the ‘Wattle Brooch.’ It was gifted to the Queen by the government and people of Australia during a visit there in 1954. These pictures were taken during that trip and you can see the brooch on the Queen’s lapel in the top one:

The brooch consists of a spray of wattle, mimosa leaves, and tea tree blossoms made out of yellow and white diamonds. Love that it’s someone’s job to keep track of all these things and make sure that the meaningful jewelry comes out at the right time, just like how Kate wore the Maple Leaf brooch during the Canadian tour.

Here’s another look at the brooch as the Queen was being driven off. The driver sure looks delighted to be at the wheel.

Happy weekend, everyone!