• Royal Authors: William Kuhn

    Prince Harry BoyAuthor William Kuhn gives us a sneak-peek at his new novel, Prince Harry: Boy to Man. The book focuses on Harry’s raucous adventures and his personal growth while in the military.

    The year is 2007, Harry’s twenty-three and he has problems he can’t handle alone. The army considers him a risk. The media thinks he’s a brat. Girls like him because he’s a prince. He just wants to be normal. He hopes his approaching deployment to Afghanistan will help him prove himself. Instead it proves a comic coming of age he definitely didn’t see coming.

    Kuhn’s writing is witty with a warmly personal aspect, making the reader feel as though they are there sharing the characters’ experiences and excitement. Below is an excerpt from Prince Harry: Boy to Man. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this book!

    Frances de Mornay sat alone in her one-room cottage. Her small roller bag was packed. She wasn’t taking very much. A change of clothes. A fleece for cold weather. A pair of plimsolls. She already had a headscarf tied over her white hair. She sat by the window looking out on the street, waiting for the coach from the church. She wanted a drink. There was a travel-sized bottle of whisky in the top pouch of her bag, but she wasn’t giving into that. No she wasn’t. Not yet. It was five o’clock in the morning. Good Lord save me from that, she said to herself silently. She could have said it aloud if she wanted. She was the only one there. As with the whisky, she’d tried to limit the time she spent talking aloud to herself, even though it made her feel less alone.

    It was the whisky that’d got her there in the first place. She’d decided to move to a village on the west coast of Scotland, not too far from the railway at Oban. It was less expensive there. She had enough money at first for a small house with a garden. People left her alone. The Scots were like that, bless them. They didn’t care who you were, or once had been. They gave you your privacy. Then she’d probably had a bit too much privacy. She was just an old lady who’d been unlucky in love. Was that so bad? Who could blame her for taking some comfort from drink? That was the problem, though. Nobody blamed her, because she spoke to no one. The privacy was endless.

    She had an accident in her car. No one was hurt, but it was expensive. The court appearance was costly too. The judge’s taking away her driving license was a nuisance. She lost track of her money. There were lottery tickets and occasional visits to the betting shop. She liked the horse races, it had to be said. Then there had been the ludicrous agreement she’d signed with her husband. What did she know? She’d only been eighteen when she married him. When he left her, she barely had enough to cover the rental of a flat in Kings Lynn. And no training. Women of her generation didn’t. They weren’t expected to work. If a friend of her mother’s hadn’t swept her up and arranged for a place in the Wales’s household where would she have been? That was absurd too. She didn’t know how to be a nanny. She was already in her forties when she started. She had no children of her own. Her only experience was to have lived, while still married, in a house that had an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It had attracted every child in the neighborhood. She had been a field marshal of several regiments of under-twelves in their swimming costumes.

    Still, she’d rubbed along. She’d managed. She’d made mistakes. And she’d looked after those boys. She’d grown to love them. That was why it had been such a cruel joke when she’d been given the sack. The excuse was the drink. Their mother had made sure to let that out to her friends in the papers, but Frances put it down to jealousy. She’d seen how much the boys loved her. There was no appeal of course. Frances had gone to Scotland afterwards to control expenses, to hide, and perhaps, just a little, to hang her head in shame.

    Before she knew it, some people from the local church were picking her up off the floor and helping her sell the house. She’d moved into this tiny accommodation that was all she could afford now. They’d been so kind to her about everything. They’d helped. She was so grateful. They’d even allowed her to get involved at the church, to help in local cases of need, not unlike her own.

    That was the first thing in a long time that was more powerful than drink. She felt down near the bottom. Helping someone else who was down there too made her feel good. It was a deep sense of well-being, deeper than the anesthetic of the whisky. It didn’t take much. Delivering a hot meal at lunchtime to a shut-in. Going to wipe up the sick off an old man’s jumper who’d been too drunk to get out of his wheelchair. Cleaning out the loo of a local girl who had five children and all of them down with the flu. That was how she could help. Down on her knees in the loo. Yes, Lord. Down on my knees swilling out the bowl. That’s my prayer and that’s my thanksgiving. She was pretty sure she had helped, and the girl with the sick children had helped her, too.

    They’d let her become a regular part of the church team, seven days a week. It was the one thing that was now hopeful about her life. They’d grown to trust her. She was now sixty-eight, but she still had good bones, good teeth, good hair. Her being in the papers had been forgotten about, or the people who worked at the church pretended not to know. The priest knew, but he hadn’t told anyone. He could see how much good the helping was doing her. He’d asked her to join an interfaith church group that was to travel part way with a Scottish regiment that was going to Afghanistan. Fly to London with them. Take them coffee or Cokes. Give them some small bags with treats they wouldn’t be able to get out there. Listen to the ones that were scared. Squeeze their hands if they wanted that. They were only going as far as Heathrow. Give them all a kiss and a hug and a warm send-off, and then back to Scotland. That was the plan. Church van to Glasgow Airport. Fly to London Airport. Overnight in a church hall somewhere near Staines. Then fly back to Glasgow late the next evening with another Scottish regiment just returning from Kabul. It was only forty-eight hours, but it would keep her busy, keep her occupied.

    “Stop it now!” This she did say aloud to herself. She abhorred self-pity. Self-pity was what led her to the bottle. She had to choke it off before it went that far. At that moment she saw a pair of headlights on the dark street. A battered van drew up in front of her door. She went to go and move her roller bag toward the door. There was a double knock. Then a heavy-set woman with white hair like hers, wearing an anorak, and a pair of oily Nikes put her head inside the door.

    “All right, Francie?”

    Frances hated being called “Francie.” She also hated when people opened her front door before she could open it for them. It went with the territory, she knew. She was regarded as one of the parish’s more hopeless cases. They all expected to find her sprawled drunkenly in the middle of the floor when she didn’t turn up somewhere she was supposed to be. Allowing them the freedom to come through the door when they wanted was one of the prices she’d had to pay for their having looked after her as kindly and patiently as they had. With an effort she swallowed back the resentment that swelled up from her loss of dignity and independence.

    “Good morning! Yes, I’m fine thank you.”

    “Did you get any sleep last night? I was all keyed up. About London, you know? Didn’t sleep a wink.”

    Frances switched off the lights and rolled the bag out on to the doorstep. “I slept like a log.”

    “Well, you see. I’ve never been before. To London, I mean.”

    The unworldliness of the others who worked in the church’s charity group always surprised her. “Well, the airport is hardly London. And Staines is the suburbs. Pretty grim. It’s not London either.”

    “Oh Francie! You’ve been to all parts, haven’t you? Won’t you sit next to me on the coach and tell me about it? How it really is.”

    Frances didn’t like the woman, particularly. Sitting next to her for any length of time she regarded as a punishment not far removed from what Our Lord suffered on the cross. She’d had comfort from her conversion, but Frances’s view of religion was not without criticism or irony. She reminded herself to be grateful. “Of course I will. What fun.”

    The driver took her bag and stowed it in a compartment in the van’s undercarriage. “Mornin’ Francie!” He winked at her.

    “Good morning, Frank!” Now Frances did like him. His wink made her feel as if she were about thirty-five again. She mugged for him. She went up on one toe and held her waist like a showgirl. “You rogue. I want you to keep your eyes on the road the whole way to Glasgow Airport.”

    He gave her an exaggerated salute. “Ma’am!”

    “That’s it. That’s the right stuff,” she muttered, audible to him, as she climbed the steps into the van. She said hello to the eight or nine others, all of whom she knew. They had all seen her at her worst. There was no pretending with any of them. She said “Good morning, good morning,” to all of them, though it was still dark out and no sign of morning or goodness, but their warmth to one another. Several of the women who’d been kind to her reached out their hands to her. She held their hands briefly, one by one, with a look in the eye to each. She came to an empty pair of seats near the back. She slid in and down on to the velour seat, her sciatica giving her a twinge in the lower back as she did so. She winced.

    “All right, darling?” The woman who’d come to her front door slid in next to her. She saw the wince.

    “I’m all right. Nothing but a few old lady aches and pains.”

    “I’ve got a pill for that.”

    “No thank you. I’ll be all right.”

    “Tell me about London then.”

    The van pulled away from Frances’s cottage. They had at least a couple of hours’ journey to Glasgow Airport, where they’d join forces with aid workers from some other churches. Their first duty was passing out sandwiches to the soldiers whom they’d meet in a staging area adjacent to the airport.

    “Oh, it’s a long time since I’ve lived there,” said Frances.

    “There are millions of people. In London, I mean. Millions. I wonder what it looks like in the dark. All aglow. In the night sky.”

    Frances reflected on the sinister anti-crime lights of dozens and dozens of sulphur-colored street lamps. She thought of the reassuring rattle of taxis with their glowing “For Hire” signs. She thought of the candlelit dining rooms where once upon a time she’d been welcome. “Yes. It can be pretty. Isn’t always.”

    “You have family there?” The woman had been worried by Frances’s having no evident family in the village. She was an incomer and no family ever visited her, at least so far as the woman knew, they hadn’t. Frances had an English voice. She sounded like the BBC from during the war, or maybe even before that. Before she fell on hard times, she must have had money too.

    “Not exactly.”

    The other woman laughed gently. “Families can be like that, now. You had children?”

    “No,” Frances said cautiously. She had a low profile. She wanted to keep it that way. On the other hand, there was a certain confessional ease that came from simply telling the truth. Something about the dark, and the woman’s kind, uncritical interest in her made her more willing to speak than usual.

    “I looked after two little boys. For a little while. As their minder. That’s the closest I ever came. Don’t see them anymore, though. I fell out with their parents.”

    The woman left a tactful pause before she put in, “You must miss them, though.”

    “Yes, I did. For a while. No, that’s wrong. I do. I still do.”

    Then she reached over to the woman sitting next to her. Frances slipped her hand into the crook of the woman’s arm. No, she wasn’t her favorite woman in the church group, but she had a beating heart. Of that there could be no doubt. “And I’m so pleased you wanted to sit next to me. To keep me company. Thank you.”

    William Kuhn is a novelist, biographer, historian, and a self-described scribbler and dabbler. His first novel, Mrs. Queen Takes The Train, became a national bestseller. Kuhn has also written non-fiction on America’s royalty, Jackie Kennedy Onassis in Reading Jackie. His other works include Henry and Mary Ponsonby, and on Benjamin Disraeli in The Politics of Pleasure

  • Girls’ Education Gets A Boost In Bhutan

    raven

    A raven mask. The raven represents one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    Bhutan is an amazing country, a fact I discovered while doing research for my recent article. It is beautiful and mysterious; it’s a treasure for any traveler. It is also difficult to get to, but it’s absolutely worth the journey.

    One woman decided to take that trip – not once, but twice – and she plans on returning for a third time. Krista Waddell, an American now living in Australia, decided to join a group of ladies planning a trek to Bhutan in 2012 to support girls’ education.

    After learning that the students were lacking basic school supplies – even furniture for their classrooms – the women decided to act by raising funds and getting many of the supplies there personally.  I asked Krista what it was like, and why she decided to take part in the journey.

    What inspired you to be a part of this charitable cause?

    When I first moved to Australia, I met some amazing women in a hiking group who were going to Bhutan (2012) and doing some fundraising. New to the country, I thought it would be a wonderful way to get involved in the community, even though I wasn’t going on the trip. After a month, the ladies invited me to join them for the adventure. I was thrilled! One trip and I was hooked. RENEW, the NGO established by Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, is dedicated to helping women and children in domestic violence situations. The organization focuses on education scholarships, vocational training, and shelters.

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    Trekking through snowy terrain [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    How did you prepare for such a physical challenge?

    Hiking at altitude is extremely rigorous. To prepare, Heather [McNeice] and I do our best to over-train. We believe that if we minimize the issues with muscular soreness we are then able to focus on our breathing. Some of the schools we visit are a week’s walk from the nearest road, forcing us to cross several high passes (in excess of 5000m) along the way.

    What did your family and friends think when you told them you were going to do this?

    Everyone has been extremely supportive. Last year (2013), when we set off on the Snowman Trek, everyone was slightly worried due to the extreme conditions. My husband just asked that I keep in touch via satellite phone.

    What was the toughest part of the trek?

    Trekking at altitude is the hardest aspect, simply because you can’t train for it and you never know how your body will respond. Altitude sickness isn’t predictable, one year you could be fine and the next you find yourself sick. We’ve even had our crew end up asking us for medicine.

    What was your favorite part of the journey, aside from the joy of giving the children their much-needed supplies?

    Of course, seeing the children are on the top of the list, but personally, I love the ability to lose myself and clear my mind. Being in the majesty of the Himalayas make you realize how small you actually are. It’s important to remember that.

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    Heather McNeice (left) and Krista Waddell distribute supplies [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    How are the children progressing with their schooling now that they have their supplies?

    They seem to be doing well. We’ve received school newsletters from a couple of the larger schools and next year we will be revisiting schools from the past trip. I’m excited to see the difference. In January, the Australian Himalayan Foundation will start a pilot program in Lingshi which will mirror a program already established in Nepal. The four-prong approach will include scholarships, teacher training, materials, and community outreach.

    The culture must be vastly different up in the mountains of Bhutan. What was the biggest culture shock? Was there anything that seemed to be universal?

    People are essentially the same all over the world. It’s wasn’t so much a shock, as a relief to see how truly happy most people are in the villages. People work as a community; women weave in their front yard and watch the children tend the yaks and other animals. Everyone is working to live, not living to work. Of course, there are still issues in the land of “Gross National Happiness”. Queen Mother Ashi Choden Sangay Wangchuck is working to mold the culture to expose the problems so they can be addressed.

    What was it like meeting Queen Mother Ashi Choden Sangay Wangchuck?

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    Heather McNeice and Krista Waddell with the Queen Mother [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    The queen is a beautiful woman both inside and out. Speaking to her I could sense her passion for the projects that she has undertaken. Having trekked through Bhutan herself, she explained to me her motivation. Apparently, a number of women spoke to her during her visits about [the problem of] domestic violence. Having not been exposed to that type of upbringing, she was appalled and realized something needed to be done.

    After chatting about the program, Her Majesty chatted about her shopping day in Sydney. She is amazingly down to Earth. Honestly, it was like talking to an old friend.

    Many thanks to Krista for her insights and her photos from her journey. You can help support girls’ education in Bhutan by visiting Bhutan Girls 2014 fundraising page or directly through the Australian Himalayan Foundation.

  • The Way of the Dragon: Bhutan’s Royal World

    Emblem of Bhutan

    Emblem of Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Bhutan’s history is vibrant, but turbulent. In 2006, after centuries of warlords, a theocracy, and an absolute monarchy, one king made a seismic decision that would change everything. Six years ago today, his son would take the reins of his father’s dreams and drive Bhutan to a more democratic future.

    Royal Roots

    Bhutan’s monarchy is comparatively young, beginning in 1907 with Ugyen Wangchuck. He ruled with support from the ever-expanding British Empire, just around the corner in neighboring India.

    The British were influential friends to have and governed Bhutan’s foreign affairs, but they remained outside of the country’s internal affairs. The two nations even signed a treaty to that effect. This lack of interference was mostly thanks to Bhutan’s geographical location within the Himalayas. It was nearly impossible to colonize, and as a result, British and other foreign influence were slim.

    Bhutanese are proud of their royals and their culture. They have the distinction of being one of the last Buddhist monarchies in the world. To retain their way of life, former King Jigme Singye and Bhutan’s leaders only recently allowed things like television and tourists within the last twenty-five years. The king felt it was time to integrate Bhutan, but swore to uphold Bhutanese culture. Cautiously optimistic, he opened the doors to the world.

    Continue Reading…

  • Happy Post-Halloween!

    No show today folks. I’m sorry!

    After suffering through a bad cold all week, then participating in Halloween with a toddler (with some singing and dancing) my voice feels shot.

    So I hope you will all pardon me while I recover. This is a bummer. On the bright side, it will give me a little more time to finish up my super-amazing royal posts coming up.

    Cheers! x

    Mandy

  • The Queen Tweets, Makes History

    The Queen Tweets, Makes Digital History

    Sent by HM herself. I wonder what Queen Victoria would make of that!

  • Singapore State Visit, Kate Amazingly Well Again

    Kate looks amazingly well. Hypermesis Gravidarum has made the Duchess of Cambridge horribly ill for weeks now, but it now looks as though it hasn’t made one dent in her spirits. It’s incredible.

    This state visit is a big event, and no one thought Kate would be well enough to attend. Happily, she pulled through just in time.

    Tony Tan Keng Yam is the first president of Singapore to make an official state visit to the UK.  He is Singapore’s former deputy Prime Minister, elected as the nation’s seventh president in 2011.

    This visit highlights the UK’s increasing economic ties to Southeast Asia.

     

  • Cambridges To Welcome Royal Baby #2 in April!

    William and Kate are expecting their second royal baby next April.

    April 29th, 2015 will mark the Cambridges’ fourth wedding anniversary. This baby will be a good wedding anniversary gift! When my daughter was born last September, we put a little gold bow on her and said she was our fifth wedding anniversary gift. Her birthday comes just one week prior to our anniversary date in October.

    What better way to celebrate than have a new baby in the family? Lots of good wishes to the Cambridges, the Middletons, and the whole Royal Family.

  • Book Review: The King’s Deception

    The King’s Deception
    By Steve Berry

    Cotton Malone just wants to live a quiet life running his bookstore in Denmark, but politics and his past have other ideas.

    Doing what he thinks is one last favor for his old boss at the Justice Department, former agent Malone agrees to find and return a young Irish street urchin named Ian Dunne, a potential witness to the murder of an agent in London.

    kings decept
    After locating Ian, Malone is instructed to return him to England where he is to be picked up by other agents. Malone expects to continue to Copenhagen with his fifteen-year-old son, Gary.

    Quiet in Copenhagen will have to wait. Gary and Ian are kidnapped when devious operatives intercept them at Heathrow. Malone, Ian, and Gary fight for their lives amid blackmail, politics, and the turmoil over the legitimacy of the British monarchy.

    America and Scotland are banging heads over Scotland’s announcement to release a Libyan terrorist convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103. How will they bargain with their Atlantic neighbors to stop it? Treacherous CIA operative Blake Antrim knows. He’s after a royal secret that could destroy the United Kingdom’s claim on Northern Ireland. The British government is in a panic – its potential revelation may be the bargaining chip America needs to stop the release of the terrorist. The secret will call the monarchy’s legitimacy into question, unraveling hundreds of years of laws and traditions.

    Antrim also holds a secret over the heads of the Malone family in which the innocent Gary is a pawn. Not only must Malone save Gary and Ian from Antrim, but he must stop the royal revelation to keep international relations intact.

    With only a small clutch of people in whom they can trust, our heroes uncover the all-too-ugly things that happen behind the scenes in the CIA and world politics. Will the trio survive it all?

    Steve Berry does an amazing job of weaving fiction together with historical facts. Berry loves and appreciates history, which is apparent in this book. The excitement rapidly escalates along with puzzles and questions that are sometimes right up front, other times, you work at figuring it out as hard as Malone does.

    Berry is actively involved in promoting the study and preservation of historical landmarks through his organization History Matters. The organization “assists communities around the world with historic restoration and preservation“.

    His other books include The Jefferson Key, The Devil’s Gold, and The Tudor Plot. For more about Steve Berry and his books, visit SteveBerry.org.

  • The Royal W.E. Unique Glimpses of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor

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    Below is an excerpt from “The Royal W.E. Unique Glimpses of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor” by Victoria Martínez. The title of each of the eight chapters is part of a quote that not only nicely sums up the subject of the chapter, but also casts light on the way The Duke and Duchess have been perceived throughout history. The following is the first part of the chapter entitled Frequent Kicks and Blows, which is from a quote from “The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson” by Greg King, who wrote the foreword to “The Royal W.E.”

    I may not be a fan, but I will readily concede that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’s lot is not an easy one. Like most partners of royalty, everyone who has an opinion considers her fair game, and she has been constantly placed under the microscope by the media machine and public opinion. But, unlike most partners of royalty who frequently have the advantage of entering the relationship with a clean slate, the nature of Camilla’s long relationship with Charles and her role as the third person in the “love triangle” that was the Wales’ marriage have made her the object of scorn and dislike almost since the moment she publicly entered the picture. To add insult to injury, she’s never been the most aesthetically pleasing person, especially in a direct comparison to Diana, who (as we all undoubtedly remember) called her nemesis “the Rottweiler.”

    In short, as a controversial public figure, Camilla not only has little chance of ever being judged by the standards of a private figure, but will probably never find that anything said about her is taken with a grain of salt. Every tidbit of information – whether founded in fact or fiction – will be considered, evaluated, perpetuated… all to the point of creating a figure that is a caricature of the actual person. Her simple virtues extolled, her shortcomings exaggerated. The testimonials of her dearest friends snickered at, the rantings of her personal enemies rapaciously consumed. Not a fate most of us would choose for ourselves.

    But if Camilla requires any comfort, she need only look to the Duchess of Windsor. At first glance, it’s quite easy to draw superficial or critical parallels between the two women. Superficially, both women were at one time mistresses of a Prince of Wales, divorced women perceived as home wreckers, and widely viewed as unattractive. More critically, both women exceeded the limits of a “socially acceptable” mistress and provoked fear that “such a woman” could be so dangerously close to the Crown or, for that matter, possibly even covet the position of queen consort for herself. Fortunately for Camilla, most views of her rarely stray from these relatively mild accusations.

    The Duchess of Windsor was not so lucky. In a time when the propriety of a woman could be put into question simply by an unchaperoned encounter with a man who was not her husband or immediate male relative, Wallis Simpson was seen as the worst of all kind of women, an “adventuress.” Not only that, she was a divorced American adventuress who had designs on the popular and charming Prince of Wales. Naturally, it was Wallis, not Edward VIII, who took the fall when he abdicated in 1936. And things only got worse for her after that.

    What surprises me is that, despite all the information we now have access to, the Duchess of Windsor is still vilified as the ugly American divorcée whose designs to be queen consort led to the downfall of a once-promising British prince. As if that weren’t enough, she’s accused of having been a dominatrix, a hermaphrodite and a Nazi sympathizer. Did I mention that Camilla has it easy? And while Camilla has had the benefit of excellent spin-doctors and a camp of loyal supporters, Wallis had little support in her corner of the ring. In fact, she had quite the opposite, as everyone needed a scapegoat for the abdication and no one wanted that scapegoat to be a member of the Royal Family.

    To be sure, plenty of mud has been slung over the years regarding the Duke of Windsor, although, amazingly, it has done little to reverse the negative perception of the Duchess. Almost everything that was said of her beginning in 1936 still comprises the bulk of general knowledge about her. Except among a small group of her supporters, she is still the unworthy woman who seduced King Edward VIII away from his duty, while he is the man who gave it all up for love. An anonymous letter sent to a friend of Wallis in 1937 very effectively sums it up: “Edward VIII is regarded as the victim of a bold, domineering adventuress, a woman without heart, scruples or principles, whose scandalous efforts to gain the title of ‘Queen of England’ jeopardised the very existence of the British monarchy.” Personally, it has always been my belief that this type of theory is too simple and one-sided to believe and, accordingly, the subject has always been one of my favorites where royalty is concerned.

    To read the rest of Frequent Kicks and Blows, download a copy of “The Royal W.E. Unique Glimpses of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor” by Victoria Martínez, available for Kindle, Nook and other eReaders, as well as in PDF form, at the following links (you don’t even need an eReader since Kindle and Nook can be downloaded on most devices for free).

    Find it on: Amazon || Barnes and Noble || Who Dares Wins Publishing

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