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The incredibly lavish events that marked Prince Pavlos of Greece’s wedding to Marie-Chantal Miller deserve a place in the history books. Last week we recapped the wedding festivites (click here for a refresher) and today we’re taking a close look at the bride’s couture wedding dress.
Since the couple became engaged during the Christmas 1994 holiday and the wedding took place on July 1 of 1995, there were just 6 months to pull everything together. Marie-Chantal chose Valentino to design the dress and according to Vogue, it took more than 25 seamstresses to complete the £140,000 ivory silk gown. Twelve different types of lace reportedly were included in the dress and with a high neck, fitted bodice, and long sleeves Marie-Chantal wanted quite a traditional and modest silhouette. The bodice and sleeves are made of floral lace (much like Grace Kelly’s iconic wedding dress) and the lace extends to the empire line of the dress.
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It’s a beautiful gown but even with all the attention to detail it is not a favorite of mine- overall it just seems rather heavy – but I do love the lustre of the ivory silk and the detail on the skirt is gorgeous.
In fact, the lace appliqué on the skirt is somewhat reminiscent of Kate Middletown’s Alexander McQueen wedding gown. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marie-Chantals’ gown was an inspirational reference for her. Check out both of the gowns on display below to see the similar affect they both have:
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Different and yet so similar – can you see it, too?
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I think what really takes the heaviness factor over the top is the chantilly lace veil; there’s just so much going on and those scallops are not dainty. I think a more diaphanous veil may have done the trick. Regardless, the veil extended beyond the length of the dress which was quite stunning, though.
Along with her intricate veil Marie-Chantal wore a diamond and pearl encrusted tiara. This particular tiara is known as the Antique Corsage Tiara and it was on loan from her mother-in-law Queen Anne-Marie of Greece.
Queen Anne-Marie received it on her 18th birthday (gotta love the 18th birthday tiara tradition) and it has quite an extraordinary history. The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor – a fantastic blog- has a great post on this tiara here. Marie-Chantal wore the tiara at other occasions after the wedding, though nowadays she seems to prefer wearing three other tiaras at her disposal (perhaps they should be the subject of another post!).
In choosing Valentino, Marie-Chantal started something of a trend among royal brides including Maxima, shown here at her 2002 wedding to Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Maxima’s gown was made of silk mikado and has a similar silhouette to Marie-Chantal’s.
as did Prince Amadeo of Belgium’s bride Elisabetta Rosboch Von Wolkenstein in 2014.
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Marie-Chantal remained friends with Valentino over the years and loaned her dress to be exhibited for Valentino: Master of Couture. This exhibit was held at Somerset House in London from November 2012 – March 2013 which gives us a great look at the detail of the dress. Here’s a better look at the train – it is separate from the skirt and extends from the waist.
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Marie-Chantal and Valentino posed in front of the dress at a private viewing before the exhibit opened which is quite sweet.
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The King and Queen of Greece showed up as well, and Marie-Chantal brought along her oldest child and only daughter Princess Olympia (more on her here).
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Marie-Chantal still wears Valentino and they seem quite chummy; she shared this instagram picture with the design legend en route to Princess Madeleine’s wedding.
So what are your thoughts on this wedding gown – too ornate and heavy or perfectly pretty and just right?
We’ve had a week full of royal birthday girls, so let’s dive in.
The Countess of Wessex celebrated her 51st birthday on January 20th (the photo below is from her 50th birthday last year).
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Queen Mathilde of Belgium celebrated her 43rd birthday on the same day and she spent it at the World Economic Forum in Davos, like all serious Queens should.
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Acouple of days later on the 22nd, the King and Queen of Belgium met up with the Dutch King and Queen for a sparklier event – an opening concert in Brussels for the Dutch presidency of the European Union council.
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They got the best seats in the house, natch and everyone looked like a million bucks.
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Also, Nicole Kidman has been spotted in the same Nina Ricci dress that Maxima chose. Who wore it better? My vote goes to Max.
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Back to royal birthdays, Princess Ingrid of Norway turned 12 on January 21st and some more new photos were released for the occasion. Clearly Ingrid has a thing or to to teach us about hair braiding – or do you think her mom Crown Princess Mette-Marit does it?
Mette-Marit recently shared that the family starts birthdays the best possible breakfast, cake:
“The whole family brings homemade cake and gifts to the bed – it’s the loveliest start to the day,” Crown Princess Mette-Marit told the Norwegian Radio station NRK P3 about the family’s traditional birthday celebration. [People]
Also, The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor has some great insights into the heirloom necklace that Ingrid is wearing here.
Meanwhile, Princess Athena (daughter of Prince Joachim and Princess Marie of Denmark) turned four on January 24 and this new picture was shared for the occasion:
In other news, Lord Frederick Windsor and his wife Sophie (their wedding pic is below) announced earlier this week that they welcomed their second child on January 16th. Isabelle May joins big sister Maude. [Hello!]
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To round our our recap, Princess Charlene and Prince Albert had an audience with Pope Francis and the internet suddenly became very interested in the privilege du blanc.
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Hope you all have a great rest of your weekend – back tomorrow for a chat on Princess Marie-Chantal’s wedding dress.
In our last post, we recapped the speculation around Prince Harry and Princess Olympia of Greece and how closely linked the two royal families are (click here for a refresher). Basically, it’s wishful thinking for the time being on the part of the media but it really would make an incredible story. Case in point: let’s talk about that time Prince Pavlos married Marie-Chantal Miller in July 1995.
The Engagement & Ring
Prince Pavlos and Marie-Chantal were set up by a mutual friend, Alecko Papamarkou at a dinner party in New Orleans where he arranged that they’d be seated next to each other. As Mary-Chantal later told Vanity Fair
I knew it was a big matchup, because Alecko had been telling me for weeks that he knew the perfect person for me. And I didn’t feel comfortable being set up. I tried to get out of it, but Alecko never returned my phone calls and we had arranged to meet at the airport. So I ended up going. I borrowed a navy-blue Chanel couture suit from my mother and looked like a million bucks.”
Pavlos’ take was very decided: “The moment I saw Marie-Chantal, I said, Well, this is what I’ve been looking for. Alecko was right.”
Over the next couple of years, Pavlos graduated from Georgetown (his cousin Crown Prince Felipe of Spain was a roommate) and Marie-Chantal moved to Washington to be nearby and to study at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. During Christmas 1994, Pavlos proposed on a ski lift in Gstaad, where the Miller family has a ski lodge.
He had a dainty cabochon sapphire and diamond ring made for M-C that had a lot of meaning. The sapphire came from his mother Queen Anne-Marie’s collection and he added a heart-shaped diamond to the side as a personal touch.
They set the wedding date for July 1, 1995 and the celebrations took place over several days (after everything was said and done, the bride’s parents took off for a relaxing yacht trip to recover).
The pre-wedding festivities included two parties hosted by Queens: Queen Elizabeth II hosted a tea party at Claridges and Queen Margarethe of Denmark, Prince Pavlos’ aunt, also hosted a luncheon for 100 on board the Royal yacht Dannebrog. She had travelled to London on board the yacht which was moored on the River Thames for the duration of the festivities which is a pretty great way to travel (the Danish Royal Family also arrived for the 2012 London Olympics this way).
Here she is aboard the yacht with Prince Henrik in 2006.
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And here it is ready to set sale in Copenhagen:
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Two nights before the wedding, the bride’s parents hosted dinner for the 1,300 wedding guests at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire.
The decor included thousands of Ecuadorian roses (a nod to Marie-Chantals Ecuadorian mother), large marquees made to look like the Parthenon, an antique carousel, and lots of dancing. This little anecdote from one of the event planners Robert Isabell gives a good indication of the scale of this party:
Called in at the last minute to advise on the Miller-Pavlos nuptials — there was a potentially catastrophic snafu involving miscalculated tent fabric — Isabell tells Miller’s mother he can save the event. “Could he come right away?” she asks. Isabell, Bond-like, responds: “I’ll take the Concorde and be there tomorrow. Get me a room at Claridge’s, and we’ll put this thing together.” [Wall Street Journal]
You can check out a picture of the Pavlos and M-C’s families all dolled up for the bash here. It all ended in a champagne breakfast in the wee hours of the morning and many of the guests left was the sun was rising.
The Wedding Ceremony
The wedding ceremony took place on July 1, 1995. The bride converted to the Greek Orthodox Church prior to the wedding, and the service was held at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in London. The Cathedral held 450 guests and an additional 850 guests watched the wedding ceremony on large screens set up at Hampton Court Palace where the reception also took place (among those guests was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother).
Here’s the bride with her father Robert Miller. Note that Marie-Cantal chose not to wear any eye makeup (in keeping with the tradition that true ladies don’t wear any).
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The ceremony can be seen in the Greek video below. If you want to skip ahead for some glimpses, Marie Chantal appears 15 minutes in and numerous royals can be seen on the steps of the Cathedral at 1:15. Interestingly, neither the bride or groom said a single word during the entire ceremony.
At the time, the media remarked that this wedding brought together more royals in London than Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding had. King Hussein of Jordan can be seen outside the Cathedral with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
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And here she is with Queen Silvia of Spain.
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As a side note, check out the sketch by Hardie Ames showing the outfit worn by Queen Elizabeth for the occasion.
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Other royal guests included the Prince of Wales, the King and Queen of Denmark, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Queen Noor of Jordan, and the King and Queen of Spain along with Prince Filipe and Infanta Cristina. Check them out gathered together for the portrait below taken at Hampton Court Palace (M-C shared this particular shot on her Instagram page). Patrick Litchfield was the official wedding photographer and he was also the official photographer for Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding. Also of note – Pavlos and M-C’s monogram in flowers behind them all.
A large floral monogram was also visible outside the cathedral. M-C and Pavlos still use this monogram- check out this photo of the tags on the christmas presents that she shared on her Instagram page this past holiday.
The Bridal Party
There were four bridesmaids: Prince Pavlos’ young sister Princess Theodora, The Honorable Alexandra Knatchbull (goddaughter of Diana, Princess of Wales), Miss Marietta Chandris, and 19 month old Isabel Getty (daughter of Marie Chantal’s sister Pia).
Prince Philippos of Greece (Pavlos’ brother), Anthony Chandris, Sebastian Flick and Christian Robbs were the groomsmen.
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So all in all this is certainly a wedding that has gone down in history.
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What a shingding, am I right? Next up, a closer look at the wedding gown and tiara!
In the last few days, Princess Maria-Olympia has been in the news thanks to some highly speculative reports that she and Prince Harry are dating. Let’s discuss.
Simply called Olympia by her parents, she is the only daughter of Prince Pavlos and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece. Pavlos is the oldest son of the King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece while Marie-Chantal one of the ‘Miller Sisters‘; her parents are Duty Free Shoppers entrepreneur Robert Miller and his wife María Clara Pesantes Becerra. Pavlos and M-C are below, dolled up for the pre-wedding dinner hosted by The Queen on the eve of William and Kate’s wedding (love M-C’s dress!).
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The monarchy was abolished in Greece in 1973 and the family has been living in exile but they still uses their titles. However, the King and Queen of Greece are also Prince and Princess of Denmark. The Queen of Greece is the younger sister of Queen Margarethe II of Denmark and King Constantine descends from Christian IX of Denmark.
So Olympia is technically Princess Olympia of Greece and Denmark and she is the oldest child with four younger brothers: Constantine (Tino to family), Achileas (Achi), Odysseus, and Aristides. The photograph below was taken during the wedding celebrations Prince Nikolaus’ wedding to Tatiana Blatnik in August 2010 (Nikolaus is Pavlos’ younger brother).
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Olympia was born in New York but moved to London with her family in 2002; M-C and Pavlos wanted their children to be educated in Europe and also to be closer to Pavlos’ parents who live in London. She’s now 19 and has returned to New York for University (her courses began this past September) and she seems to very much enjoy the social scene.
She joined her parents for the ARK Gala dinner in June 2011, which was also the first public event attended by the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge after their wedding. The photograph below shows Olympia arriving with her parents.
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That’s the night that Kate looked AH-MAZING in her sparkly Jenny Packham gown.
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She’s also been spotted at Paris Fashion week; this particular photo was taken with her mom and maternal grandmother.
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More recently, she turned out to a gala at the Guggenheim in New York in November 2015.
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She’s also been on the cover of Tatler and Spain’s Vanity Fair and was also featured in W.
Her Instagram account @OlympiaGreece currently has over 60 thousand followers and she’s regularly shares her adventures. Her recent winter break from school has included Christmas at their home in the Bahamas followed by time in Los Angeles and then onto England.
Meanwhile Harry is 31 and based in London.
Overall, I think it is wishful thinking on the part of the media who want to make this a thing, and there have been numerous denials from ‘inside sources’ backing this up. It is true though that their families have a ton of connections so who knows what could happen down the road. Let’s break it down.
First of all, Olympia and Harry share a common ancestor in Queen Victoria so they are distant cousins. As well, Harry’s grandfather Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (The Queen and Prince Philip also share Queen Victoria as a common ancestor).
The Greek and British royal families have spent quite a bit of time together over the years. In August of 1990 Diana, Charles, William, and Harry were invited by the King of Spain to spend time on his yacht. The King and Queen of Greece joined in as well with their youngest daughter Theodora (Olympia’s aunt).
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Here’s another shot of them all.
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When M-C and Pavlos got married in London in 1995, Queen Elizabeth II threw them a tea party at Claridges, and she attended the wedding along with Prince Philip and Prince Charles. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh can be seen below on the steps outside the church after the ceremony.
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When Olympia was born in 1997, Prince Charles was asked to be godfather and he accepted. They also asked Prince William to be Olympia’s younger brother Constantine’s godfather in 1999. Here he is at the christening, with a broken arm and all.
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This was especially poignant since one of Prince William’s godfather’s is King Constantine and he was there for Prince William’s confirmation at Windsor Castle in March 1997 (he’s the fellow in glasses behind Diana below).
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Interestingly, just Prince Pavlos, Princess Marie-Chantal, and Prince Constantine were invited to William and Kate’s wedding, so Olympia and her other brothers had to stay at home. Here they are arriving at Westminster Abbey for the ceremony:
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They can be spotted here as well:
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They weren’t invited to the evening reception at Buckingham Palace, though but they made the most of it and threw a bash for the other uninvited folks at their home. Attendees included Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Michael of Kent (check out more on that here at the Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor).
In 2010, The Queen attended a 70th birthday party for King Constantine. It was also held at Pavlos and Marie-Chantal’s London home. Love her soft blue dress!
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When she arrived, Prince Pavlos was there to greet her:
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And here she is saying goodbye to the King:
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In 2012, Princess Marie-Chantal’s wedding dress was included in the Valentino: Master of Couture exhibit that was held in London. She brought along Olympia for the event, and she had her picture taken with Princes Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
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That same year, Queen Elizabeth II held a reception for reigning sovereigns at Windsor Castle and Harry and Kate caught up with the King and Queen of Greece.
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In 2013, Beatrice and Olympia were photographed together at a photography event in London.
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So in a nutshell it’s very possible that Harry and Olympia have met and it’s likely that their paths will keep crossing, but anything beyond that seems unlikely for the time being. It would be fun though, right? I mean, Olympia already has access to several tiaras!
This has all all got me thinking it’s about time for a post on Marie-Chantal and Pavlos’ wedding so that will be sure next post. In the meantime, click here for more on Marie-Chantal and her sisters.
On Christmas morning I was very lucky to discover a delightful royal book in my stocking. It’s called Not In Front of the Corgis: Secrets of Life Behind the Royal Curtains. Written by Brian Hoey, the book gathers all sorts of Royal Household ‘insider secrets’. Royal watchers may recognize Brian’s name for the numerous royal books he has written over the years.
The title alludes to the Royal Household’s understanding that if you hear the corgis walking along, Her Majesty must be close by so now is not the time to gossip!
Here are a few nuggets to whet your appetite -we definitely think it’s worth picking up a copy which you can do here!
On what the Queen does with her clothes once she no longer wishes to wear them:
…She will hand it to one of her dressers, who can either wear it or sell it, with on proviso, all labels must be removed and anything that could possibly identify it as having come from royalty obliterated. One frock found itself to a jumble sale near Sandringham, but in spite of its obvious quality, it failed to sell.
On how the Royal Family addresses staff:
Edward addresses his police officers, pages, and chauffeurs by their surname. Younger staff – footmen, valets, and housemaids- are called by their Christian names. This is a system used by most members of the Royal Family; one former police officer, who had served The Queen for over 20 years without once being addressed by his Christian name, was invited to shoot with the Duke of Edinburgh at Balmoral when he retired. He said that the only difference was that, as a guest, The Queen and Prince Philip used his Christian name.
On an award ceremony mishap:
The attention to detail is meticulous. No mistakes are permitted.Though there was one hilarious occasion when someone dropped a cushion holding a number of awards during an investiture ceremony in the State Ballroom. The Queen solved the problem saying “I’ll give them anything and you can sort it out afterwards.” So a gentleman, who was expected to become a Commander of the British Empire, found that for a few minutes at least, he had been demoted to a mere MBE.
On quirks of the Royal Household:
The Household is still a world where liveried servants wait on other servants, where everything stops for Afternoon Tea, though, by tradition, no one sits down in the Equerries Withdrawing Room as they sip their Earl Grey and nibble on cucumber sandwiches. It must surely be the only place left in the world which boasts a Coffee Room Maid, or where a supply of black-edged writing paper and envelopes is kept in case there is a death in the family and the court goes into mourning. Or which employs a young man one of whose duties is to replace a sheet of black blotting paper on the Queen’s desk every morning before she sits down, so that no one could possible read her writing by holding the pad up to a mirror. He then has the responsibility of destroying the blotting paper, just to make sure.
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On dinner conversation:
When Prince Philip gives a private dinner party, he likes to decide the subject for conversation. One lady was dismayed to find she was expected to contribute on the subject of ‘deciduous trees’, about which she knew absolutely nothing…apparently the secret is to contact his office beforehand and find out his pet topics of the moment and learn just enough to be able to contribute intelligently, but not to upstate the host. Otherwise he can become ‘less than pleased’.
There are many other fun snippets you will enjoy in the book, including all sorts of information regarding the Queen’s children’s country homes. Prince Edward’s leased home Bagshot Park, Princess Anne’s home Gatcombe Park, and Prince Charles’ home Highgrove are all discussed in detail. There is even more information on Nottingham Cottage, the Kensington Palace home that William and Kate moved into shortly after their wedding before being given the run of Apartment 1A.
Any particular royal snippets you’ve picked up over the years that you’d like to share in the comments? Do tell!
Let’s jump right into a round up of royal happenings and news this week:
Queen Mathilde of Belgium welcomed Queen Rania of Jordan at the Royal Palace of Brussels earlier this week. Over a private lunch the two Queens discussed how to help the Syrian refugee crisis. On a completely frivolous note, did no one offer to take Queen Rainia’s coat and bag? [hello!]
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King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway will be celebrating 25 years on the throne on Sunday, January 17th. They will be marking the day with many events including a church service and family friendly winter events in the Palace Square. Bonus: they have invited the King and Queen of Sweden and King and Queen Margarethe and Prince Henrik of Denmark as their special guests for the weekend festivities. [The Royal Court of Norway]
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The Royal Family also released new portraits in connection with the 25th anniversary. They were taken by Jørgen Gomnæs and include one of the current King Harald and his two direct heirs: Crown Prince Haakon and future Queen Princess Ingrid. Such a cute dress on Princess Ingrid! [Royal Court of Norway]
Annie Leibowitz opened up about her 2007 portrait session with The Queen and revealed a few tidbits: she did her own hair and makeup and referred to her ceremonial robe as a “cape thing”. [Express]
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The Duchess of Cambridge will be welcoming editors to Kensington Palace in mid February when she serves as Guest Editor of Huffington Post UK for a day. The opportunity will be used to highlight the the importance of children’s mental health. As a Kensington Palace spokesperson explained, “The Duchess will be commissioning contributions from a number of leading figures in the mental health sector as well as from young people, parents, and teachers.” So that’s a new way to have a royal engagement! [BBC]
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And for anyone lucky enough to find themselves in London this February, Fashion Rules: Dress from the Collections of HM the Queen , Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales will be opening on February 11 at Kensington Palace. The exhibit includes 21 couture dresses; the Queen’s gowns are from the ’50s, Princess Margaret’s from the ’60’s and ’70’s and Diana’s are from the ’80’s. Click here for more. We won’t be in London, but we did get to see Diana: Glimpses of a Modern Princess back in 2012 and it was all caps FUN.
This was the first Jacques Azagury gown Diana ever wore. She chose it for a 1985 visit to Florence and it is one of the gowns that will be on display.
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Programming Note: We’re also working on updating the site, so please excuse any glitches that may occur over the coming days. We hope to be up and running normally toute de suite. Have a wonderful weekend!
Thanks to Leslie Field who wrote The Queen’s Jewels: The Personal Collection of Elizabeth II (aka the definitive book on the Queen’s massive jewelry collection), we have all sorts of information about when and how the Queen acquired many of her pieces. It was published in 1987, and Field was assisted by the Queen’s Household in her research which is pretty incredible; it must have been such a fun project to work on.
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We know that the Queen loves her pearls; she often wears her pearl and diamond stud earrings (inherited from her grandmother Queen Mary) and on any given day might have two or three strings of pearls around her neck. So let’s dive into the pearl section of the Queen’s jewelry box, and in particular how it all began.
The Queen was give her first pearls when she was born, which was actually a family tradition begun by Queen Victoria. Here is an excerpt explaining how it came to be:
Queen Victoria started a family tradition by giving each of her five daughters two fine pearls a year from birth, so that when they were grown-up they would have enough for a necklace. However, by 1866, when she was also buying pearls for a growing number of granddaughters, Queen Victoria asked her eldest daughter, Vicky, married to the Prussian Crown Prince, to explain to her sisters that with the price of a pearl having risen to between 30 pounds and 40 pounds she had to cut back and could only provide on a year for their daughters, since she was still making up the necklaces for her own two youngest daughters, Louise and Beatrice.
This family tradition continued with King George VI, who gave his daughter Princess Elizabeth (the present Queen) a thin chain to which two pears were added on each birthday. Here she is wearing it in 1929 when she was three years old.
It seems that Anne did not receive her own thin chain and two pearls when she was born; according to Field, Princess Anne is wearing the Queen’s childhood pearl necklace in the portrait below.
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I wonder if the necklace is still with the Queen or if it was truly a gift to Princess Anne. If it was, she may have passed it along to Zara and Zara’s daughter Mia. I’ve scoured the internet but can’t find any photos of Zara or Maya in the necklace; I’ll have to keep on the lookout!
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By the same token, I wonder if we will see Princess Charlotte in a similar necklace. I’m sure Kate would be all over a tradition like that what with how she likes dressing Prince George in vintage children’s styles and Prince William’s own baby clothes.
The next pearls that the Queen received were for the occasion of King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. The Queen received 3 rows of pearls and Princess Margaret received two rows since she was younger.
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Both princesses wore the necklaces for their parent’s coronation in 1938.
The pearls necklaces on the two princesses can be better seen in this 1940 portrait. Cute that Princess Margaret’s necklace is all twisted up.
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And here with a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
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This was taken at Balmoral in 1952.
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This photograph of the Queen with Princess Anne was taken in 1960 at Windsor Castle.
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This is another great photograph
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Jumping ahead many years, The Queen chose this necklace in March, 1981. This was the day her private council consented to Lady Diana and Prince Charles’ engagement, shown here together at Buckingham Palace.
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here she is wearing the same necklace in 1997.
The Queen also chose to wear the three-stand necklace to the funeral service for the Princess of Wales in 1997.
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The necklace is still in the Queen’s regular rotation. It is shown here in Scotland in 2015.
In our last post, we dove into Ken Wharfe’s account of his time with Diana in his book Diana: Closely Guarded Secret and how she took a secret trip to Italy that included a midnight tour of Venice. Click here if you missed it or would like a refresher. Among many other illuminating insights (the book is truly worth a read!), the book reveals another undercover trip – a jaunt to Paris in May 1993.
Diana had travelled to Paris on a solo visit the year prior, in November 1992 (with her sister Sarah as a Lady in Waiting), and now she wanted to go on an easy, quiet trip with friends during which she hoped she wouldn’t attract any attention from the media.
Here’s Lady Sara with the Princess on that official trip (feel free to check out our post on Ladies in Waiting here if you’re in the mood (when you see that post, you’ll notice that it appears that Diana and Sarah wore the same outfits for engagements in 1992 and 1994, just with different accessories).
In a bid “to be normal” she asked Ken Wharfe to arrange the security needed for the private trip. She and two friends, Lady Palumbo and Lucia Flecha de Lima, decided to take the trip together. They flew to Paris on a private jet Lady Palumbo had access to and stayed at the Palumbo’s Parisian home, both of which helped them achieve this undercover trip. Here is his account of the trip.
I had arranged the hire of a plain Renault Espace people carrier at Le Bourget airport, and in that we headed straight for Paris’ high-fashion quarter, where Lady Palumbo had arranged for Diana to have a private viewing at Chanel…before we went on to some other boutiques in the area…their purchases included an Hermes tie for me!…and we then headed to the Palmbo’s award winning house in the exclusive district of Neuilly, close to the Bois de Boulogne, where we were to stay.
So far, no one had any idea we were there, and I had taken the decision not to ask for help from local police this time for fear of leaks to the press. Next day…she was almost skipping along as we approach the chic Marius et Jeanette restaurant.
As I followed our party in, my heart sank. There, sitting on his scooter outside the restaurant was one man and his lens- Jean-Paul Dousset, who at that time worked with the notorious paparazzo Daniel Angelli. The year before, they had together exposed the Duchess of York’s love affair with John Brian with those infamous toe-sucking photographs….Luckily Diana didn’t spot him and so remained oblivious to the fact that we had been found out. Then I realized that we hadn’t. For in the corner of the restaurant sat the actor Gerard Depardieu, one of France’s most celebrated sex symbols, and the reason why Dousset had been waiting outside…
Depardieu recognized the Princess at once, and like the perfect French gentleman he is, came over immediately to stand by her table, talking of her great beauty and what a privilege it was for France, for Paris and for him personally that he could be there. She was putty in his hands. And we were all putty in the hands of the freelance photographer outside, who must already have been working out exactly how much he was going to make by selling a set of pictures….I decided to act immediately…knowing that he was not a [security] threat, I offered him a deal. If he kept a discreet distance so that the Princess did not know he was watching her, I would not interfere with his job. In return, he would not release the pictures until we were safely out of France, so that she would not be mobbed and thus have her short break ruined, and her security put at increased risk. He agreed, and was as good as his word. For the rest of the day Jean-Paul trailed us, but always at a distance and never too close to alert the Princess. True to our deal, he dispatched his pictures only after we had left Paris…
Through my secret deal- for I never told the princess – I had kept the number of paparazzi to the smallest number possible -one- and Diana was able to enjoy a trouble-free break.
These are some of those photos. They show the Princess out and about enjoying the sights, including outside of Notre Dame Cathedral. Ken Wharfe can be spotted in both set of photographs. You can see him to the left of the Princess in the long photograph below – perhaps they were picking up some wine or, if it were me, snacks for the flight home!
Ken Wharfe is also pictured standing behind the Princess in the top left photograph and to the right of the Princess in the middle photograph on the bottom below. Note that the Princess isn’t wearing any sort of disguise and yet she was able to walk around with ease. She also appears to be carrying a quilted black leather Chanel bag; I wonder if she had just bought it in the boutique the day before.
Unfortunately, Wharfe resigned from his post later that year when he felt that for a number of reasons related to his relationship with the Princess he was no longer able to do his job effectively. To his credit, in my opinion he doesn’t sound bitter or vindictive; he comes across as evenhanded and excellent at his job. I highly Diana: Closely Guarded Secretsuggest picking up the book to have a good read yourself – you might just find yourself still reading in the early hours of the morning like I was.
I recently stayed up waaay too late reading a copy of Diana: Closely Guarded Secret which is full of interesting insights. Written by her longtime Personal Protection Officer (PPO) Ken Wharfe (with Robert Jobson), the book seems to me to be an even handed account unto what daily life was like working for the Princess of Wales. It is available on Amazon, and we highly recommend picking up a copy.
The book isn’t a new one- it came out in 2002- and it covers the story of how Wharfe worked for Scotland Yard and was eventually hired to protect Princes William and Harry in 1986 (he’d accompany Prince William during his school day at Wetherby Prep School, for example) before moving onto the team protecting Princess Diana the following year.
This post will give particular attention to a particularly interesting account in the book – an undercover trip to Italy that Diana managed to take with Wharfe’s help. Wharfe reveals how the Princess loved Italy and particularly enjoyed a visit to Villa Rizzardi with her mother Frances Shand Kydd. They were guests of Contessa Maria Christina Guerrieri-Rizzardi aka ‘The Countess of Verona’, a longtime family friend.
The plane tickets were booked under ‘Mr. and Mr. Hargreaves’ which evidently was their pseudonym of choice for many trips. It was a short 3-day visit and on the final night the party went to see Pavarotti perform at a nearby concert. They had a marvelous time despite the fact that the concert was cancelled before the end due to a torrential rainstorm.
Diana, her mum, and the Countess had been spotted by Pavarotti in the crowd and he invited them backstage which they were all excited about. Afterwards, Diana was so thrilled that they had managed not to attract media attention that she asked Ken to arrange for them to drive to Venice- 70 miles away- that very night. Not seeing any security reasons not to, Wharf agreed to help facilitate this request. Here is a snippet of his account of the midnight visit:
Diana jumped out of the Contessa’s car and start[ed] kicking the puddles, as if she were Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. The Venice Carabinieri then arranged for two motor boats to take us off to enjoy the astonishing beauty of Venice by moonlight…
There was no one else around. For the next hour we saw Venice as few have ever been privileged to do. We sailed along the Grand Canal, with the ancient city silhouetted against a stormy sky pierced by a full moon. Armed with a flat of coffee and a bottle of chilled Pinot Grigio, from which Diana would take the occasional swig as we had no glasses, we were midnight tourists in an empty city. She then announced that she wanted to walk through Saint Mark’s Square. The Italian police, who by now had embraced the mood, agreed. We docked our launches at the Hotel Danieli and, still with the tarpaulin over our sodden heads since it had started to rain again, walked towards Saint Mark’s Cathedral at the end of the square. It was an enchanting, if almost unreal experience. The, from nowhere, Sergeant Dave Sharpe appeared with a tray of hot croissants and small loaves of freshly cooked break which earned him a round of applause from the by now ecstatic Princess.
They left shortly afterwards, before tourists started to mill about again, and the Princess was able to catch a couple of hours of sleep at the Villa before returning home to London that day. Doesn’t that sound delightful? It’s fun to hear about her spontaneous, bubbly side.
Diana did have two other public trips to Venice. One was with Prince Charles in May 1985. The couple arrived with great fanfare on the Royal Yacht Brittania. The footage below is from a BBC news broadcast and you can spy Diana on the deck of the yacht as it arrives in Venice, with her binoculars at the ready to see the city.
Upon spotting a can of hair spray floating along in the canal during a ride in a gondola, Diana was said to have remarked that it appeared her hairdresser had fallen in – ha!
Diana returned in 1995 and attended a dinner in aid of the Serpentine Gallery wearing a red beaded cocktail dress by Jacques Azagury. Pictures from that evening were splashed around the world.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of the book for yourself, it can be found here. But we’re not done with this great book yet – next up we have a look at Wharfe’s account of Diana’s undercover visit to Paris with friends during the spring of 1992. Are you charmed that she was able to have a midnight adventure in Venice, too?