• The Duke of Edinburgh Retires From Public Life

    Britain bid a fond farewell to Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, who retired from public service on August 2nd.

    At the age of 96, the Duke felt it was time to step back and let the younger generation manage the day-to-day engagements and patronages that are the center of royal life. Philip is also a big believer in going out while on top. The Queen is still steering the ship of monarchy, but even Her Majesty, 91, started scaling back a few years ago by ending her overseas travel and lengthy royal tours.

    Prince Philip, who calls himself “the world’s most experienced plaque-unveiler” isn’t your typical royal. His events were always memorable thanks to his blunt statements, which have garnered both countless critics and a legion of fans. In a world where high-profile people are often scripted and politically correct, Philip has been the opposite. His so-called gaffes have led to published works such as The Duke of Hazard: The Wit & Wisdom of Prince Philip, a compilation of his best quotes throughout the years.

    Who Is Philip?

    Philip’s quick mind and rough-around-the-edges manner formed during his early years of family turmoil. Though Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark, his life was very un-royal as the family barely had any money. What they did manage to acquire was gambled away by their father, Prince Andrew, despite their family of five mouths to feed (four daughters and Philip, born in 1921). As if that wasn’t bad enough, Prince Andrew and Princess Alice had to escape Greece’s political upheaval and the family were evacuated on a warship sent by King George V. Philip was only a year old.

    The breaking point came while Philip was away at Cheam, a boarding school in Berkshire, England. Prince Andrew ran off with his mistress, and Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, had a nervous breakdown and went away for treatment. He stayed with various relatives as he went through his school years, never getting a chance to form any roots. This likely established his pragmatic attitude: there’s no time for being sentimental or wistful.

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    The prince’s sister Theodora decided to take a hand in Philip’s education and enrolled him in the Salem School in Germany. It was founded by her father-in-law and Kurt Hahn, a German-Jewish educator. When the Nazis came to power, Hahn fled to Scotland and Salem was closed. Philip followed him to Scotland and enrolled in Hahn’s new school, Gordonstoun. It was a highly structured environment in which Philip thrived. It was a blessing after the fractured early years of his life.

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    July 1935: Schoolboy Prince Philip of Greece in costume for his school Gordonstoun’s production of Macbeth. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

    After leaving Gordonstoun, Philip entered Dartmouth Royal Naval College at the urging of his maternal uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Mountbatten had evolved into Philip’s father-figure, and he steered Philip towards a naval education and career much like his own. Mountbatten had risen to the rank of First Sea Lord and he hoped for similar successes for Philip.

    Young Philip Wins Elizabeth’s Heart

    Princess Elizabeth met Philip during a visit with her parents to Dartmouth Naval College – she was 13 and Philip was 18. It was love at first sight for Elizabeth, who was taken by Philip’s golden tan and splash of blond hair. His rough jokes and devil-may-care attitude stood in stark contrast to Elizabeth’s genteel upbringing, but that was what Elizabeth found so exciting and she loved his high spirits. The king was not impressed, however. He thought Philip was coarse and loud.

    As the years went by, the princess stayed in touch with Philip while he was overseas on duty. World War II delayed the courtship, but Elizabeth remained firm in her devotion to him. George VI had grown to like Philip and admired his active role in the Navy, his own choice of military career when he was the Duke of York. When on leave, Philip was invited to stay with the royal family and was also a regular guest of the Mountbattens. Philip had finally found family stability.

    After the war had ended, the public was finally let in on the secret – Philip and Elizabeth were to be married. Philip presented Elizabeth with a ring whose diamonds had once been in one of his mother’s old tiaras. Princess Alice, at that time residing in London, had brought her diamonds to a jeweler in Bond Street to create the ring. It was too risky for Philip to do so in case he was recognized.

    Though King George had relented over Elizabeth’s wish to marry Philip, he was bothered that his little family would no longer be “us four”. He was sad to lose his daughter to marriage, but after the magnificent wedding at Westminster Abbey, he was proud to see Elizabeth and Philip so happy.

    Decades of Service

    I believe that George VI would not only be incredibly proud of Elizabeth in her years as queen, but also of Philip’s devotion to the duties that came with his own role. It is to Philip’s credit that he has kept so many things updated and functioning smoothly, the royal residences being one example. He’s also been a key player in helping members of the family: he walked his sister-in-law, Princess Margaret, down the aisle for her wedding after the king died. Philip was known to try and cheer up Diana, Princess of Wales when she was struggling in her marriage, and he has helped bolster the Queen countless times when she probably felt exhausted or in need of a laugh. You can’t do all that without a good strength of character, which I feel Philip has in abundance.

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    The Queen and Duke’s other “big day”.

    It hasn’t always been easy for Philip, though. He blanched at losing his position as man of the house when the Queen ascended to the throne. No longer were they the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh; Elizabeth was The Queen, and Philip would have to walk behind her in public and be her support. He did this admirably, and part of that was because Elizabeth acknowledged that Philip needed to have a leading role to play. In private, therefore, he was the head of the family. He was also tasked with looking after renovations and improvements to royal homes. The Duke was also extremely active in his growing list of patronages and duties. His most well-known patronage was encouraged by Kurt Hahn himself – The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. This was a project that Philip managed and relished for decades.

    The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has helped countless young people on their sometimes difficult path to adulthood,” the Duke explained. As someone who experienced his own difficult path to adulthood, The D of E Award closed the circle for Philip. He found his stability and then began his own efforts to help others find theirs, too.

    From your self-motivated path to excel to your naval service, all the way until August 2nd, 2017, I’m sure I speak for many people when I say “thank you, Prince Philip”. May you enjoy your retirement (though I doubt he will rest on his laurels any time soon)!

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  • Royal Tweets: King George V and His Parrot

    The royal family love their pets. Her Majesty’s life-long love of corgis and horses is no secret. She passed on her equestrian pursuits to her daughter, Princess Anne and to her sporty granddaughter, Zara. Several other members of the family have horses and dogs, too – even Siamese cats (Princess Michael).

    King George V was different. Did you know that the Queen’s grandfather was partial to feathered friends? The king had a bird called Charlotte, whom he acquired during his time as a midshipman. During a stop at Port Said, the then-prince took a liking to the African grey and brought her home to Britain. [1]

    Charlotte was his close companion for the rest of his life. She sat on the king’s shoulder as he read state papers and memos. She had even picked up his lingo, often shouting, “What about it?” and “Where’s the captain?”. At dinner, Charlotte would sit at a table near the king and nibble her seeds or an apple core. She also perched confidently on the hands of various dinner guests, who did not always share that confidence. [2]

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    George V with Charlotte (far right).

    In a touching display of devotion, Charlotte paced and muttered during the king’s illnesses and took great delight and relief when she could be admitted to his presence during his convalescence.

    Perhaps his love of birds came from his mother, Queen Alexandra, who also had a pet parrot. Queen Alexandra even had an Australian species named for her, Polytelis alexandrae or Queen Alexandra’s Parakeet/Rose-throated Parakeet.  These little beauties are found in the arid regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and South Australia.

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    When I heard that the king had a parrot, I was delighted. I have a parakeet now named Snowy (for Tintin’s dog) and previously a small, feathered “son” called Percy. He was a dream; beautiful blues and green shimmer, and he could talk all day – “Mandy is a good bird, birdbirdbird!” and would even ask “Where’s the big bird?” when my uncle took his cockatiel home after a visit.

    They are delightful little beings for royals and commoners alike!

    What is your favorite royal pet? Answer in the comments below!

    [1] T.H. White, The Book of Beasts, Page 114.
    [2] Denis Judd, George VI, Page 7.

  • The Spanish State Visit To the United Kingdom

    King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia State Visit to the United Kingdom: July 12 – July 14, 2017.

    King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia made a successful visit to the United Kingdom, the first for them as monarchs. The last State Visit from Spain was made by Felipe’s parents, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, in 1986.

    Felipe and Letizia were toasted with all of the pomp and circumstance that Britain is known for – after inspecting a guard of honor, the visiting monarch then traveled with The Queen in a Carriage Procession back to Buckingham Palace. Queen Letizia rode with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

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  • Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia will make State Visit to UK

    Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia are headed to the UK for a State Visit. It has been in the making for a while: the trip was announced in December 2015 and scheduled for the following March. It was then postponed due to Spain’s political turmoil happening at that time. They tried again for June 6-8 of this year, but that was canceled due to the UK’s own general election.

    Happily, it’s back on for July 12-14th (i.e. next week). There will be a State banquet where, I’m sure, the glamour-factor will be through the roof. Might I add that it will be excellent to see Prince Harry escorting Felipe and Letizia to Westminster Abbey, where the king will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

    There will most likely be discussion between the king and Queen Elizabeth II over Gibraltar, an area of contention between Britain and Spain. The political issue caused Queen Sofia, Felipe’s mother, to back out of Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Elizabeth II.

    NOTE: Queen Victoria is the mutual connection between the Windsors and Spain’s Borbon dynasty. Queen Victoria is Felipe’s great-great-great-grandmother and Harry’s great-great-great-great-grandmother.

  • Diana’s legacy: it’s not what you thought it was going to be

    Prince Philip got right to the point in his usual style. The year was 1969, and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau wanted to unify Canada and move away from British influence. That meant that they might break from the monarchy, too. Philip characterized the situation thus:

    I think it’s a complete misconception to imagine that the Monarchy exists in the interests of the Monarch—it doesn’t. It exists in the interests of the people: in a sense—we don’t come here for our health, so to speak … if, at any stage, people feel that it has no further part to play, then for goodness sake let’s end the thing on amicable terms without having a row about it.[1]

    That’s pragmatism for you. The Duke made his answer plain. So if, as Harry claims, the monarchy isn’t working for the people immediately within it, can we take that same pragmatic approach? “If, at any stage (right now), people (Harry/Cambridges) feel that [they] ha[ve] no further part to play, then for goodness sake let’s end [their role] on amicable terms without having a row about it.”

    There, much better. This is the style of straight-up talk Harry should’ve used rather than his “woe is me” statement to Newsweek. It doesn’t have anything to do with what the royals want – it’s down to the people. One referendum is all it takes, and Harry could be doing his own shopping for real. The public won’t just have a referendum to decide on the monarchy in general, they’ll call one specifically to get rid of whiny, privileged princes.

    Harry and William are not cut from the same cloth as their grandparents. That much is obvious. They were taught to air grievances in public and hope that their public relations teams got them good press from it. I call this Diana’s Legacy ™.

    The late Princess of Wales constantly pushed for her sons to be ‘normal’ because the monarchy is full of a bunch of old meanies that won’t let you do whatever you feel like. We give interviews about how we feel (all the feels!) and how tough it is to be royal – everyone needs a good pout on a yacht. Don’t you?

    Yes, it was important for William and Harry to see that there are less fortunate people in the world. It was good for them to have a taste of average life. What isn’t good is that it all stemmed from Diana’s revenge-fueled media games aimed at their father and the monarchy. You know, all of that McDonald’s-and-water-parks normalcy that she gave them to reinforce how stinky and ‘stuffy’ royal life is. The two princes are obviously now conflicted by it. This “am I royal or am I normal”  is the result. Diana set William and Harry’s teeth on edge about their futures, and the public is starting to see it more and more.

    On The Flip Side

    Before I catch hell from “Di-hard” Diana supporters, let me add that I do understand that the royals had a part to play, too. Prince Charles kept the princes shielded, and both Harry and William have been given a lot of leeway in order to heal from Diana’s death. Ok, but shielding them for too long, like top-secret formula plans, didn’t help them. Letting them do whatever they wished didn’t help them.

    I am also concerned with the Queen’s lack of put-your-foot-down finality. I can’t claim to know how the Queen thinks, but I fear that if she is anything like her mother, then she will shy away from confrontation. The Queen Mum could often be described as “sticking her head in the sand” in order to avoid anything unpleasant. So if Elizabeth II never set the princes straight, it’s no wonder that they seem spoiled and annoyed when they are expected to do their job.

    So what now? Will they be “normal” as their mother made fashionable, or will they grow up and represent their country? I get the feeling it won’t be the latter. It’s too late. Combined with Diana’s drive to do what she wanted regardless of consequences, and the royal family letting it happen, these two men may be the end of the monarchy as we knew it. How sad. Harry was right about one thing – we do need the magic of monarchy, but not unless there’s a responsible adult to wear the crown.

    Current mood:

  • Prince Harry talks to Newsweek

    “Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

    No, that wasn’t Prince William talking. This is a quote from Prince Harry in an exclusive interview with Newsweek.  Harry granted the news magazine access to observe his daily life over part of the past year.

    What’s going on?

    I don’t think Harry meant to sound apathetic, but there you have it.  This does not bode well in the wake of William and Kate moving to Kensington Palace only when their 96-year-old grandfather retired. Can you believe that? Prince Philip had to officially hang up his hat before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would stay permanently in London for more work. The term reluctant doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    Then Harry continues: “It’s a tricky balancing act,” he says to Newsweek. “We don’t want to dilute the magic….The British public and the whole world need institutions like it.”

    Now Harry’s making me wonder. After all of his great work with Invictus and wounded soldiers, Harry’s obviously no slouch for being fifth in line. So is he trying to tell us that he doesn’t want to be king, but might have to be and he will carry on because that’s what you do. The fact that his brother and his sister-in-law seem, at best, tense about their increasing duties, I can’t help but think there’s a lot in going on in private and these comments are popping out because of it.

    Somebody better do something soon, because when Harry himself is talking reluctance, we’re looking at a harsh reality: if no royal is interested in that “top job”, then why should the rest of us be? If you really want to preserve that magic (thank you, Walter Bagehot), then don’t sound so dismayed. Call a royal family meeting and figure out who will step aside/step in and then get on with it. The public will thank you for making a damn decision already, instead of the constant off putting “at the right time” or we’re “keen” to eventually do things, etc.

    If I sound unsympathetic, I am. For two reasons:

    1.) Kate joined the monarchy after a ten-year courtship and was slowly eased into what it entails.  The Queen obviously allowed breathing room so Kate could find her footing and so William could live more quietly with his little family. However, given the ages of the Queen and Philip (not to mention Prince Charles),  Kate and William couldn’t possibly have expected their “quiet life” to last too long. If they fear or resent that, time to reconsider their options.

    2.) Nowhere have I found references to King George VI going on public tirades on how his brother dropped him, unprepared, into kingship. Nor have we read about Elizabeth II complaining in interviews about her role as queen perhaps starting too early (age twenty-five, for the record) or how much of a burden it is on her children. They. Just. Got. On. With. It. That’s why the monarchy has been so successful so far, and the younger generation needs to realize that.

    Let us look at a page from the excellent book The Monarchy: An Oral Biography of Elizabeth II.

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    Funny, I didn’t see one thing about hesitation or complaining in the media. If William, Kate, or Harry are so damn uncomfortable taking the lead in upholding that royal magic and doing as the Queen has done, then stand aside for someone else in the family to do it sooner rather than later. Nothing kills the magic like a great big yawn from the public, and that’s not how you show respect for your grandmother or her institution.

    God Save the Queen.

  • Is there such a thing as “Parliament Casual”?

    After the General Election in the United Kingdom ended in a hung parliament, it made the public wonder what would happen in regard to the Opening of Parliament this year.  Not only was it delayed by two days, but the Queen eschewed the traditional pomp.

    Ascot opened the same week, but after only one day in attendance, Prince Philip fell ill and had to pass on Parliament. It fell to Prince Charles to accompany the Queen. It was surreal – Charles next to the Queen on the throne, and the Queen herself was dressed only in her typical queenly attire (avec sturdy shoes and purse, of course). I know Charles will be there from now on since Philip has officially stepped down from public duties, but after so many years seeing the Duke of Edinburgh there, it reminds you of how much things are changing.

    The crown was still present, regardless. It rested on a cushion near the queen.

    Some people have posed the theory that the Queen was using her powers of subtlety to show her support for the European Union with her outfit. Strangely enough, her all-blue hat features flowers containing yellow centers, all somewhat arranged in a circle like the yellow stars on the blue flag of the EU. Interesting, but unlikely.

  • Countess Mountbatten stamp cover, a treasure

    I wanted to share a bit of history since the passing of Patricia, Countess Mountbatten – a stamp cover she signed for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

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    I acquired this stamp cover during the Golden Jubilee celebrations. It would be wonderful to say that she signed it for me personally; alas, it was one of several – yet limited – signed copies. It was a lovely piece to add to my collection because Countess Mountbatten was a great character. Not to mention that her father, Lord Mountbatten, was an incredibly interesting character himself. Mountbatten was known to be a bit vain, and though he was unstuffy, he did love his titles. So much, in fact, that he got special dispensation from the Crown to pass his title to Patricia, his eldest daughter. In this way, Mountbatten was quite progressive; the Queen herself did not amend the male-only succession to the throne until 2011.

    Do you have a favorite item of royal memorabilia? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

  • Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, dies at 93. 

    Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, has died at the age of 93. She was the eldest daughter of Lord Louis “Dickie” Mountbatten, maternal uncle of Prince Philip.

    The Countess is survived by her children and her sister, Lady Pamela Hicks. Her husband John, 7th Lord Brabourne, passed away in 2005 aged 80.

    The Countess is lucky to have lived to 93 – she survived an IRA terrorist’s bomb in 1979 that killed her father, her mother-in-law, one of her twin sons, and a young boat boy while they were on holiday. In an interview decades later, Patricia noted that she still had flecks of green paint in her eyes from the explosion that tore apart the little green fishing boat.

    Patricia was the eldest of two girls for Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife, Edwina. Mountbatten wanted his title to continue despite having no male heirs, so by special dispensation granted by the Queen, Patricia became Countess Mountbatten upon her father’s death.

    It was a time of severe grief, but Countess Mountbatten channeled her sadness into something that could help others. Over the decades since the incident, she used her own personal experience of loss – especially that of her son Nicholas – to help other bereaved parents. The Countess served as honorary president of Child Bereavement UK and Compassionate Friends.

    My condolences to her family on this sad occasion, but with joy know she is reunited with her father and her son.

    Norton, the eldest son of the Countess and Lord Brabourne, is now the 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma. His wife, Penny, is now known as Countess Mountbatten.

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