Not in Front of the Corgis Book Review

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.

Corgis Forever (source)
This chap looks pretty cute with his crown (source)

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!

The Queen and her corgis meet the New Zealand Rugby Team (source)
The Queen and her dogs meet the New Zealand Rugby Team (source)

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. 

William Tallon with the Queen's corgis (source)
William Tallon (a beloved member of the Queen Mother’s staff) with the Queen’s corgis (source)

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. 

Prince Charles with long time aide Michael Fawcett (source)
Prince Charles with long time aide Michael Fawcett (source)

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.

The Queen awards (source)
The Queen bestows a CBE to athlete Jessica Ennis at Buckingham Palace (source)

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’.

The Queen and Prince Philip at dinner during a visit to Rideau Hall, Ottawa in 1964 (source)
The Queen and Prince Philip at dinner during a visit to Rideau Hall, Ottawa in 1964 (source)

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!


The George VI Victorian Sapphire Tiara Suite

In honour of it being the last day of September, we thought we would focus on one of the newer sapphire tiaras belonging to HM Queen Elizabeth, the George VI Victorian Sapphire Tiara Suite. This post comes from our guest royal poster Sarah Taylor, who is quite the jewelry expert!!

Let’s dive in.

HM Queen Elizabeth had this tiara commissioned in 1963 to match a sapphire suite that was given to her as HRH Princess Elizabeth by her father HM King George VI on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947.  This set of sapphire jewels and tiara belongs to HM Queen Elizabeth’s personal jewelry collection.

The Sapphire Suite was created in 1850, and consisted of a long necklace of linked oblong sapphires surrounded by diamonds, and a pair of oblong sapphire earrings surrounded by diamonds in a chandelier style. In 1952 the Queen had the necklace shortened by removing the largest sapphire, and in 1959 she had that central sapphire made into a gorgeous sapphire pendant, which can also be worn as a brooch.

The Queen wore the necklace and earrings many times before she had the tiara commissioned.

Midnight Matinee, 1951

At the premiere of the film Rob Roy in 1953

The tiara and a matching bracelet were commissioned by Her Majesty in 1963 to complete the parure.

The tiara and bracelet was debuted in 1969 when the Queen wore them to a charity event with Prince Philip

It is believed that the tiara was constructed out of a necklace that the Queen bought in 1963 that originally belonged to Louise of Belgium, Princess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (daughter of King Leopold II).

Here is Louise wearing the necklace. If you look carefully you can see many similarities between the tiara and the necklace, specifically the floral motifs.

The Queen has also worn the George VI Sapphire Suite Tiara more recently, including memorably in 1994 when Bill Clinton was visiting London, prior to a banquet in honour of the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

What do you think of this tiara?

As promised, we have some posts on our recent visit to Kensington Palace to follow. See you then!

In the meantime, you may also like these other posts by Sarah Taylor:

The Emerald Parure of the Netherlands

Wessex Aquamarine and Diamond Tiara

Queen Juliana of the Netherlands Aquamarine Tiara and Parure


Three of the Top Ladies of the Land At Fortnum & Mason

The Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duchess of Cambridge all showed up today     at Fortnum & Mason decked out in varying shades of blue. No doubt there were some phone calls and emails between the royal staffers to coordinate that.

This is a bit of a tangent, but our favourite example of the Queen’s colour coordination was when she emerged onto the Buckingham Palace balcony in 1995 with the Queen Mum and Princess Margaret. Perfection! And obviously this made a great postcard.

But back to today. Kate chose a very classy looking M Missoni jacket that she may have bought in the Missoni outlet at Bicester Village in January of 2011 (side note: one royal poster paid a visit there in November and didn’t have the same luck).

She also had on her Links of London Hope earrings and underneath the jacket she had the blue Zara dress that first appeared when Kate and William were headed to their helicopter the day after their wedding. Today we got a peak of it here when Kate emerged from the car:

And here’s the first time we saw the dress:

It came out again under a different blue jacket for a service in honour of Prince Philip’s birthday.

We also love that she wasn’t fussing with a clutch bag, which is a first. Our favourite part of today’s outfit, though, are the daffodils she wore in honour of St. David’s Day. St. David is the patron saint of Wales and March 1st marks his death. Daffodils are the traditional flower of Wales and Kate’s wedding dress included them in a nod to the principality. Wonder if she thought of wearing them today herself or if it was suggested by someone in her office before she had the chance? Yes, this is the sort of thing I think about. In any case, we love that Kate is keen to keep up with these traditions, like she showed by wearing the maple leaf brooch and the four leaf clover brooch. each of the three ladies was presented with a bouquet of daffodils:

Camilla and the Queen both wore brooches instead of actual flowers.  Camilla’s brooch was a nod to St. David’s day as well, fitting since she is technically the Princess of Wales. The brooch, pinned to her Bruce Oldfield dress coat, was in the shape of a leek. The leek is another symbol of Wales which goes back many centuries. In Shakespear’s Henry V, King Henry tells Fluellen that he is wearing a leek “for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.” So there you go.

It’s pretty small in this shot of the three ladies receiving gift baskets of treats:

Here’s a bit of a closer look at it as they peruse a Jubilee cake:

The Queen wore a light blue military inspired suit and a flower brooch that looks like it might be a cluster of daffodils. If we track down more information on this particular brooch, we’ll update this post.

The Telegraph has a good video of the visit which you can see by clicking here. Our favourite part is when the Queen jokes about a hat that’s on sale. She seems to know that fascinators are the thing these days.

This St. David’s Day visit reminded us of St. David’s days of the past and in particular when Princess Diana took William on one of his first walk abouts on March 1, 1991 in Cardiff, Wales. I remember when those pictures came out and wonder if Kate saw them then, too. She must have…

Here is a short video of a speech that Diana gave that day extolling the virtues of Cardiff and Wales as a whole. Prince William is behind her for the whole thing with quite a cute bemused expression:

The visit to Fortnum & Mason today lasted a little over an hour so was pretty quick. Do you think the three ladies had lunch together afterwards back at the Palace or just went their separate ways? And do you think Princess Anne would have liked to have joined in today??

In any case it was a nice warm up for Kate who will be spending the day with the Queen and Prince Philip in Leicester next week. She seemed to keep closer to Camilla, and let Camilla and the Queen take more of a lead which was entirely appropriate. For example, Kate was the last to get out of the car when the trio arrived and the last to get in on the way back to Buckingham Palace.

Let us know your thoughts!

The Royal Wave: Part One

You’ve got to love a good royal wave! Let’s look at a few.

The Queen

The Queen has this DOWN. She has been doing this her whole life and is the master. Check her out here doing the side wave after her father’s coronation. It has a slight ‘screwing in a lightbulb’ turn to it:

…that she clearly learned from her dad, King George VI. That’s Prince Margaret standing to his left mimicking the same motion. What normal people wave like this? No one. That’s why it’s royal:

Here is the Queen standing in front of Camilla outside St. George’s Chapel after Peter Philips’ wedding to Autumn Kelly in May 2008. She’s got her signature side hand going here which is just so regal compared to Camilla’s open fingered (and ungloved) wave. We do love Camilla, but we’ve got to give the Queen this one:

Via Hello

Camilla is having more luck here:

Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana must have practiced this wave before the wedding. We imagine it was one of the things on the list, right up there with “How To Exit a Car Gracefully While Wearing a Skirt.” Fingers together, hand cupped, thumb tucked in, slight head nod…that’s just not something you instinctively do. Charles’ seems more natural here.

She kept it up for formal occassions

but also got more relaxed, too when the time was right. This to me is the signature Diana wave. Hand in front, head slightly bowed, eyes looking at the camera through lashes:

Prince Harry

Prince Harry is pretty easy going with his waving, much like his personality. No keeping fingers together for him! He’s always been that way, really. The picture on the left is Harry en route to Buckingham Palace after his brothers wedding, and then on the right we’ve got him practicing his royal wave on holiday in Spain with Spain’s royal family back in the ’80’s.

Via The Daily Mail


He’s really going for it here with William and Chelsy at the Concert for Diana, though I suppose it could be argued this is more of a dance than a wave:

Via Getty Images

Prince William

William also likes the open handed wave and always has. Here he is with Diana and Harry seeing Charles off on his helicopter. That’s Highgrove in the background, the country estate where the boys grew up:

Kate follows suit sometimes:


Ok, so I have to slip this in. If you ask me, Kate and William’s wedding wave bears a striking resemblance to the one at the end of the Christmas concert in Love Actually. Maybe it’s the whole “he’s more used to this than I am” thing going on…plus these two ladies look quite similar with their long brown hair. Is it just me??


Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Kate’s wave has really evolved. For her first official royal engagement there was a lot of this hand flapping/ finger curling going on (in Wales, below). To her credit she really took this whole royal engagement thing and made it fun. It must have been a relief; after years of photographers and people following her around, she could finally wave back:

On the day before her wedding, she gave the crowd this full on regal Queen Elizabeth side wave. That must have been seriously fun. We bet she practiced this wave with Pippa behind closed doors years ago and was just waiting to bust it out:

She’s got the formal, low wave going on here for her first Trooping the Colour carriage ride:

And even here, waving to Prince William as he flies overhead on Prince Edward Island during their Canadian tour, she’s not just flapping around. How cute is she with her camera out so she can take pictures. What a gal:

Princess Eugenie of York

Princess Eugenie could probably pick up some pointers from Kate. Not an especially regal wave, this:

Princess Beatrice

Let’s end on a good note. Beatrice really has this down. The hat, the head cocked to the side, that hat at a jaunty angle, the slight but confident wave. Pure princess perfection. Well done, Bea. Keep it up!

Ahhh there are SO MANY more Royal Waves. we might just have to do another post on this….

Royal Nicknames

Let’s take a moment to discuss royal nicknames, shall we? These names are a delightful contrast to the formality of the royal lives of the holders and just plain charming, we think.

Here are a few that we’ve picked up in our royal readings over the years. We’ll start with the eldest and work our way down:

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother

  • Christian names: Elizabeth Angela Marguerite
  • Known nickname(s): Cookie, Cake (‘Cookie’ was termed by the Duchess of Windsor;this may have been a bit of an insult. ‘Cake’was very much a term of endearment and was what the Mitford sisters called her. More on the Mitfords in another post!)

King George IV

  • Christian names: Albert Frederick Arthur George
  • Known nickname(s): Bertie
Queen Elizabeth II
  • Christian names: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary
  • Known nickname(s): Lillibet, since “Elizabeth” was a bit tough to pronounce
Prince Charles
  • Christian names: Charles Philip Arthur George
  • Known nickname(s): ‘Friend’ (by Deborah Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire)
Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Christian names: Diana Frances
  • Known nickname(s): Duch (by her sisters when she was young, short for ‘Duchess’ since evidently she was determined to become a Duchess at least)
  • When Diana was having doubts about marrying Charles, she later said that her sisters told her “Well, bad luck, Duch. Your face is on the tea towels so it’s too late to chicken out.”
Prince William
  • Christian names: William Arthur Philip Louis
  • Known nickname(s): Wombat (by his mother)
  • Prince William used this nickname himself while he was on his GAP year and volunteering with kids. He was teaching them a word game and when it was his turn he said, “I’m William and I’m a Wombat”
Which royal nicknames are we missing? Let us know in the comments!

Balmoral Style ~ Part Two

Balmoral. Picture Via The Telegraph.

Continuing on from our previous post on Balmoral style in the day time, let’s discuss evening wear, shall we? We love the notion of ‘dressing for dinner’ and would love to be two flies on the wall for dinner at Balmoral.

Because Balmoral is a private royal residence, we have few pictures of what the ladies wear to wear to dinner there. However, here are a few examples we could get our hands on.

Picture Via BBC

Here we have an example of Diana’s formal wear when she was HRH The Princess of Wales. We love how she’s embracing  tartan here! This number was made for her by Catherine Walker. (For our post on the Duchess of Cambridge’s Catherine Walker dress, click here.)

Picture Via The Telegraph

And here we have an example of The Queen’s formal Balmoral wear. This gown is by Norman Hartnell and is made of duchesse satin with beads and sequins. HM wore it to the Ghillies’ Ball at Balmoral, 1971. How lovely.

Here is a beautiful aerial shot of the event.

Picture Via the Royal Collection

And finally, a picture of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret on the same evening. We would love to see Princess William and the Duchess of Cambridge at a future Ghillies ball!

Via Getty Images