What a Thing to Say To The Queen Book Review

Happy New Year, Royal Posters! I hope you’ve enjoyed a happy holiday season. It’s hard to believe that we started this blog in 2011 so are already into our 6th year.

To kick off this New Year on The Royal Post, I’d like to share some snippets from a delightful book on the British Royals. Just published in November of 2015, it’s called What a Thing To Say to The Queen: A Collection of Royal Anecdotes from the House of Windsor by Thomas Blaikie. Lucky me – I was given a copy for Christmas.

Perfect to read with a cup of tea (source)
Perfect to read with a cup of tea (source)

Mr. Blaikie has compiled a fun collection of witty quips and (very) short stories, many never published, that give insight into the goings on of the Royal Family.   It’s not too saccharine and is the perfect book to pick up and read snippets of here and there. It also has accompanying illustrations that give it some extra flavor.

Here are a few of my favorites to give you a taste.

In a chapter titled “No Airs and Graces’:

At Highclere, better knows as Downton Abbey, a farm worker was wedged under a broken-down trailer when he heard a familiar voice asking, “Can I help?’ It was the Queen, in a headscarf, out walking with a dog. She is on of those guests who wants to make a contribution.

The Queen at a polo match at Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey (source)
The Queen at a polo match at Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey (source)

The Queen had an adventure getting to a private party in London recently. ‘We were coming across the Park’, she told friends, ‘when a policemen stepped in front of the car and made us wait while a big procession of vehicles passed by with blue flashing lights. It must have been a very important ruler.’

In the Chapter titled Staff:

While Prince Charles and Lady Diana were announcing their engagement to the world’s press on the lawn of Buckingham Palace on 24 February 1981, two people were twitching their curtains, hoping not to be seen, in the windows behind them: the Prince’s valet and the Queen.

Charles & Diana on the grounds of Buckingham Palace (Source). Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images
Charles & Diana on the grounds of Buckingham Palace (Source). Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images

The Queen granted fifteen sittings to the artist Lucian Freud between May 2000 and December 200, not in the usual grand palace drawing room but in an art restoration studios in St. James’s Palace. He wanted the Queen in the royal diadem but with a blue day suit, not the usual state dress. The finished portrait was disliked by many who were unfamiliar with the artist’s approach. Because of the value of the diadem, protection officers had to be present, but Freud found them distracting and the Queen asked them to go outside. One of the men, the Queen said, she knew quite well. While picking up birds at a shoot on a friend’s estate, a cock pheasant had hurtled out of a hedge and knocked her over. There was blood. The officer rushed up and, hurling himself upon her, began administering the kiss of life. He thought she had been shot. The Queen was impressed and engaged him in her own protection squad. 

Lucian Freud portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (source; The Royal Collection)
Lucian Freud portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (source: The Royal Collection)

In the Chapter titled Our Eye for Details:

The Queen annotated the program for a state visit of the King and Queen go Thailand in the 1960’s. ‘Tell the band leader under no circumstances to play excerpts from the King and I.’

HM Queen Elizabeth II with HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in 1960 (source)
HM Queen Elizabeth II with HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in 1960 (source)

In the Chapter titled Mother:

The Queen Mother wished to name her second daughter Anne, but George VI wouldn’t have it. She had to settle for Margaret, the King’s preference, which she considered a maid’s name. Curious that when her time came, the present Queen called her first daughter Anne. 

Margaret, Elizabeth, & Anne (source)
Margaret, Elizabeth, & Anne (source)

In a chapter titled Wild Side:

The Queen was greatly excited about Ginny Airlie’s  70th birthday party at Annabel’s in February 2003. She hadn’t been to a nightclub, she said, since she was first married. On an engagement the following day at St. Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire, the Dean asked her if she knew Robert Salisbury, also present. ‘Oh yes’, she said, ‘Robert and I were in a nightclub last night until half past one.’ 

There are plenty more anecdotes in the book and I highly recommend picking up a copy!

All best wishes for a happy 2016.

 

 

The Queen Mum's Lotus Flower Tiara

I do enjoy taking a good look at every tiara royal tiara out there, and I know many of you do, too! This post focuses on one of the Queen Mum’s tiaras, the Lotus Flower Tiara (this beauty also  goes by the name Papyrus Leaf Tiara sometimes, too).

Photograph from Tiaras: A History of Splendour
Photograph from Tiaras: A History of Splendour

As we know, Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon did not choose to wear a tiara on her wedding day though she already had at least two at her disposal. She decided to keep things simple, and go for flowers instead which was more in vogue at the time.

Honestly, I think she really missed a great tiara wearing opportunity here. I mean, come on!!

Via Royal Musings
Via Royal Musings

Side Note Fun fact: James Pryce, Kate Middleton’s hairdresser for her wedding day, has confirmed that Kate did originally plan to wear flowers in her hair but by February had switched to a tiara.

However, after the wedding, she started to get her tiaras out and the Lotus Flower Tiara became one of her go-to’s in the early years. According to the fabulous book Tiaras, A History of Splendour by Geoffrey C. Munn, Queen Elizabeth let it be known that this tiara was originally owned by Queen Mary.

It may very well have been made from the diamonds and pearls of this necklace and was said to have been made by William Davis of E. Wolff & Co., who were suppliers to Garrard.

Via Royal Fandom
Via Royal Fandom

George Munn describes it as being “one of the prettiest of Queen Elizabeth’s tiaras…was Egyptian in inspiration, arranged as a band of stylized lotus flowers and overreaching arches, with the graduated pinnacles surmounted by a single pearl…The lotus flower tiara was given to Queen Elizabeth by Queen Mary.”

The then Duchess of York sat for a series of portraits in 1927 which were taken to mark her tour of Australia that year. As you can see, she chose to wear it low on the forehead as was the fashion at that time. (Check out our posts on Tiaras worn in Untraditional Ways for more, here, here, and here).

The Duchess of York c. 1925 (via Royal Dish)
The Duchess of York photographed by Vandyk in 1927 (via Royal Dish)

Apparently, she also took the tiara to Canada on her trip there in 1939 and wore it for the Opening of Parliament. Still hunting for a picture, and will post one if or when it is unearthed!

Later, the Queen Mum gifted the tiara to Princess Margaret, who wore it on numerous occasions, and with great aplomb.

via Colored Diamond Info
via Colored Diamond Info

Margaret also chose to wear it when she sat for this portrait by John Gilroy. The portrait is owned by The National Portrait Gallery:

The National Portrait Gallery, London
The National Portrait Gallery, London

Later, Princess Margaret’s daughter-in-law the Hon. Serena Stanhope wore it on her wedding day, which unfortunately is the last time it was actually seen on top of anyone’s head (at least in public!). She also wore a wedding gown that was inspired by Princess Margaret’s wedding dress.

via MSN.com
via MSN.com

It seems to still be owned by the family since this tiara was not included in the action of Princess Margaret’s personal effects after her death, so here’s to hoping we see it out again soon.

I think that this tiara is a real treasure because of it’s history (it started out as Queen Mary’s necklace!) and it’s appearance at key events over many decades. Plus, it’s elegant and does well with many different hair do’s (total bonus!). What do you think of this taira?

UPDATED December 2013: Kate was photographed wearing this tiara to a ball at Buckingham Palace. Hurrah! This is only Kate’s second tiara appearance and it’s a fabulous choice of tiara for her, don’t you think? Check out our post on Kate and this tiara here.

Kate in the Lotus Flower Tiara en route to Buckingham Palace on December 3, 2013 (via Daily Mail)
Kate in the Lotus Flower Tiara en route to Buckingham Palace on December 3, 2013 (via Daily Mail)

Royal Designer Norman Hartnell Part Four: Princess Margaret’s Wedding Dress

Before we get too busy with all of the upcoming Jubilee events later this week, we thought we’d finally get to our fourth post on royal designer Norman Hartnell. Today, we’re all about Princess Margaret’s wedding dress. If you missed our past posts on Mr. Hartnell, click here to catch up! He’s quite a gem in our books.

Naturally, there was much anticipation and fanfare ahead of the May 6, 1960 wedding of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones. Norman Hartnell was commissioned to design the bride’s wedding dress, and it was to be his last significant gown for a State occasion.

The bride knew that she wanted clean and simple lines, and originally the dress wasn’t going to have the full skirt that she ended up with. Several layers of tulle created this fullness, and a lot of technical work was done by the Hartnell seamstresses to make it flow ‘just so.’ The result was a sophisticated gown that was a great choice for the petite Margaret. We think that this dress still looks amazing over forty years later, and chose this gown as one of our top ten royal wedding dresses ever. Click here to check out that post.

Notably, Hartnell designed the dress to split at the back of the skirt, so that the Princess wouldn’t crush it too badly while she was riding to Westminster Abbey. Too bad the Emmanuel’s didn’t think of that when they designed Lady Diana’s dress, which was famously crushed in the carriage en route to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Princess Margaret was accompanied to the chuch by her brother-in-law Prince Philip, who gave her away.We get a good look at the Poltmore Tiara in this photograph. And, yes, that’s Prince Philip even though it doesn’t really look like him here:

Looks like that skirt opening came in handy here, too:

Lovely family photo:

Decades later, Princess Margaret’s daughter-in-law Serena Stanhope used this dress as inspiration for her own wedding gown. She married Viscount Linley on October 8, 1993. The silhouette, neckline, and long sleeves are all very reminiscent of Margaret’s dress:

She also kept the 1960’s big hair:

We also have an upcoming post featuring Princess Alexandra of Denmark’s 1995 wedding dress, which seems to have taken some cues from Princess Margaret’s gown as well. Stay tuned for that!

Margeret’s dress has been on display over the years so fortunately we have some more great photos of it:

So, what do you think of this Norman Hartnell dress? Has it held the test of time?

Our other Norman Hartnell posts inspired by the book Be Dazzled! Norman Hartnell 60 Years of Glamour and Flash can be found below, and if you’d liked to pick up a copy of the book, it can be found here.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Dress

Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding Dress

Norman Hartnell’s Career

Kate and William’s Future Kensington Palace Apartment

As we discussed in Part Two of A Tale of Two Cottages: The Homes of William and Kate, the couple currently lives in Nottingham Cottage, or ‘Nott Cott’ on the palace grounds. When it was originally announced that William and Kate would be moving there it was said that they only planned to live there for a couple of years until something larger could be found and prepared.

Well, we now have more details on their next, more permanent London base. An apartment is being renovated at Kensington Palace to accommodate them and their ‘household’ – that is their office and staff. A spokesman for St. James’ Palace said, ‘It is expected that the apartment will not be ready for occupation until at least the middle of 2013.” The exact apartment that the couple will be moving into is apartment 1A, the old home of Princess Margaret. Here is an excellent picture from the Daily Mail:

Via The Daily Mail

This is tremendously exciting for us, since we have been in this apartment! As we reported in our post, ‘Hauntings at Kensington Palace‘, one of us royal posters went on the Halloween haunted tour at Kensington Palace. The tour began and ended in Lord Snowdon’s study (the husband of Prince Margaret). We were met on the private road next to the Palace by the tour guides, since the park was closed at that time if night (the tour started at 6:45pm). Because of this, we entered the palace by a side door, not the regular public entry way for tours.

The side door we entered by passed a small, private garden into what was once a reception room in Princess Margaret’s apartment. This reception room is off Margaret’s famous rose garden in the courtyard, and has wall-to-ceiling windows looking into the garden. We believe this was Princess Margaret’s ‘garden room’. It was dark when we were rushed through this room, but it would have lovely natural light during the day time. It also has a gorgeous fireplace and mantle. The lights were off when we went through this room, but the palace staff had placed several battery powered tea light candles into the fireplace which was a nice touch. At the end of the tour we exited from the same reception room to the outside and I tried to walk as slowly as I could on the way out to see as much as possible in the dark.

Garden off 1A

Anyway, after coming in through this dark reception room we entered Lord Snowdon’s study, which is where the 20 people on the sold-out tour could put there coats and bags for the next hour or so. The study had  creaky hardwood floors and crown moldings. A window looked out into front of the palace. Next we entered what looks to be a grand foyer, with a bathroom off of it. This foyer connects to the upstairs (we were on the ground floor) and we suspect, also to one or two other rooms on the main floor. It is also where a ghost has been seen several times by palace staff, as we reported in our previous post.

Ground Floor Foyer at 1A
Another view of the foyer

At the end of the tour to get back to the study we walked through hallways in this apartment that were in the midst of being refurbished, with new carpeting (dark red) and floor protecters and boards everywhere. It also had the smell of fresh paint. We were advised to watch our step. Interestingly, this refurbishment was not for William and Kate but rather for the offices and use of the Historic Royal Palaces staff, who have had the use of the space in the year’s since Princess Margaret’s death in 2002. The Daily Mail reports that Historic Royal Palaces uses the apartment ‘for offices, classrooms, storage and exhibitions.’

Princess Margaret in her Drawing Room. Via The Daily Mail.

In order for William and Kate to move in, Historic Royal Palaces had to hand this space back to the Royal Household, who have spent a lot of funds getting the space refurbished to be used for their purposes. It is reported that the Queen and Prince Charles have been involved so that this transfer could take place, and Historic Royal Palaces will be reimbursed for the costs of the refurbishment that they will not get to use. Too bad they didn’t have the foresight before this all went down!

The Daily Mail reports that an exhibition has been planned for the apartment in 2012 which will still take place. (We don’t yet know what this exhibition is but if it’s open to the public we’l be attending and will do a full report here at The Royal Post!).

Updated October 2012: Both Royal Posters were able to check out the 2012 exhibits: One was Diana: Glimpses of a Modern Princess and the other was Victoria Revealed. Both were a lot of fun.

After the exhibition, the apartment will handed over to William and Kate in September 2012 to be renovated. The offices of Historic Royal Palaces will be relocated a new area within the Palace.The offices of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will also be located at Kensington Palace and moved from their current location at St.James’ Palace.

 

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon’s Kitchen. Via Historic Royal Palaces
Princess Margaret’s Drawing Rooms

Updated July 24, 2013: William and Kate’s announcement that they had named Baby Cambridge George Alexander Louis was issued from Kensington Palace instead of St. James’ Palace. This is a first!

Here are a few more pictures of the apartment. Once William and Kate take over, it’s unlikely that photos of the interior will be made public, so we might as well enjoy these!

Updated October 3, 2013: 

Well, Us Weekly is reporting that Kate & William’s apartment features:

  • 3 main bedrooms
  • A master bedroom with his and her’s bathrooms
  • A day nursery and night nursery, which will eventually be converted to a playroom
  • 5 reception rooms

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

British Royal Family Christening Gowns

Today we discuss a different type of gown – Christening gowns.

Since 1841 most members of the Royal family have has worn the same ancient christening gown made for Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria. The gown is believed to have been made from the same silk and Honiton lace as Queen Victoria’s wedding gown.

The gown been carefully preserved over the years. Here’s a glimpse of the gown some of the members of the Royal Family that has worn it:

Princess Elizabeth of York, 1926

Prince Charles, 1948

Princess Anne, 1950

Here is some old news footage of the event:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYtcid46vF4&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLDF6EC4BB0232BFFD]

Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones, 1964

Peter Philips, December 1977

It’s a bit of a mystery, but in the footage for Zara’s christening, Princess Anne mentions that Peter didn’t wear the gown. If anyone knows more about why that would be, please let us know in the comments! The Queen sure looks sweet here regardless:

Zara Philips, 1981

Here is the footage of the photocall after Zara’s christening. It’s a great peak into the Royal Family. At 2:30, you will hear Princess Anne talking about the christening gown. She says that Zara is wearing the same gown that she and the Queen both wore. She says Peter didn’t wear it because “he’s a boy.”  It’s worth a look:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-_Tg3MjF4s]

Prince William of Wales, 1982

A nice picture of Baby Wales in the traditional gown. He wailed for much of the photos, and Princess Diana later told Andrew Morton that she hadn’t been consulted on what part of the day would be a good time for the christening in terms of William’s schedule. Turned out it was the worst time! Interestingly, Prince William was christened on the Queen Mother’s birthday (August 4th):

Check out some footage of a wailing William at the photo call after his christening here:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_zEl9fSFr4]

Prince Harry of Wales, 1984

Absolutely the best royal christening photo ever!

And here’s some footage of the photo call for Prince Harry. In it, Prince Charles talks about all the other royals who have worn the gown. They all appreciate the history, it seems. Funny how he says, “it must get so incredibly hot inside there.” And then the Queen teaches Zara and Peter about the meaning of the word ‘dash’ and that they can use it when they are cross. LOVE it:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPJQvQX7X9I]

Princess Beatrice of York, 1988

Princess Eugenie of York, 1990

Eugenie’s Christening took place on December 23rd, at Sandringham, Norfolk, where the Royal Family spends Christmas. Is the a young Peter Phillips we spy, sticking a straw of sorts in Fergie’s face? Oh dear.

Lady Louise, 2004

Lady Louise, above, was the last royal baby to be christened in the original gown. At the christening of Prince Edward and Sophie’s son James, Viscount Severn, a replica of the gown was first used.

James, Viscount Severn, 2008

Savannah Philips, 2011

The most recent royal baby to use this gown was Savannah Phillips, daughter of Peter and Autumn Phillips, and granddaughter of Princess Anne. The gown is shown in it’s full glory, below.

So, the big question is, who will be the next royal baby to wear the gown?

Updated July 2013: We may have an answer to that question! Peter and Autumn Philips’ second daughter, Isla Elizabeth was christened in the same church as her older sister. The christening took place on July 1, 2012. However, we didn’t get a photo of Isla wearing THE gown, just a quick snap of her in this blue one:

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Perhaps she wore the gown inside the church, and they changed her out of it in order to keep it preserved? Here’s to hoping. I mean, that blue dress is cute and all, but come on.

And now Prince George of Cambridge will be next!

Updated Oct 2013: For our post on Prince George’s christening, click here.