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:

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates another mileSTONE, and it’s sapphire

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of ...

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Coronation portrait, June 1953, London, England. Credit: Library and Archives Canada/K-0000047 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates another milestone on February 6th, and it’s sapphire! She is setting a new record as the first British sovereign to celebrate the 65th anniversary of their accession. This is called the Sapphire Jubilee.

Away in Africa on a tour, Princess Elizabeth rushed back home to Britain upon hearing the sad news of her father’s death. King George VI had died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of February 6, 1952. Elizabeth left as a princess; touching down at Heathrow, she disembarked as queen.

As she celebrates 65 years as queen, let’s take a look at the list of records already shattered by Elizabeth II:

On September 9, 2015, she became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch after surpassing the reign of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Elizabeth has lived longer than any other British monarch.

Elizabeth was the second-oldest monarch in the world, behind Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He died in October 2016 after a reign of 70 years. The queen is now the holder of the title of longest-living monarch in the world.

This year, Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh will celebrate 70 years of marriage, the longest British royal marriage!

The Queen has visited 116 countries in her time as monarch, more than any other British sovereign – thanks, modern aviation!


The Queen will have no trouble accessorizing on the day. She’s got a plethora of amazing sapphires to wear. One of her better known sapphire suites came from her father as a wedding gift – a necklace, pendant, and drop earrings. According to our friends at the Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor, the Queen later added a sapphire tiara and bracelet to the set.

If that isn’t enough to satiate, there’s also the Prince Albert Sapphire Brooch to add to the mix. This seems to be one of Her Majesty’s favorite brooches and she wears it frequently. It was originally a wedding gift to Queen Victoria from her “dear Albert”. It was commissioned by the Prince Consort and is surmounted by Turkish diamonds given to her in 1838 by Sultan Mahmud of Turkey.



The Queen will surely wear some small sapphire treat to honor the day. A fine hat of the deepest blue will, I’m sure, also be present for the occasion. Happy Jubilee, Your Majesty!

Celebrate the Sapphire Jubilee!



Historic Royal Palaces also has a lovely variety of items that are Jubilee-related. Check them out!

Sapphire facts:

    The sapphire is the birthstone of September babies.
    The official name of the mineral is Corundum. Rubies are also another variety of Corundum!
    During the Medieval Ages, European lapidaries came to refer to blue corundum crystal by “sapphire”, a derivative of the Latin word for blue: “sapphirus”.
    In ancient Greece and Rome, rulers believed that blue sapphires protected their owners from envy and harm.

Incredible Diamonds: The Basics


The Centenary Diamond. Photo courtesy of 1stdibs.com

Ever wonder about the history and myth behind some of the world’s most famous diamonds? Wonder no more. Check out this great article from 1stdibs.com for a primer on some of these famous gems from around the world.

Included are royal diamonds as well as diamonds that are simply fabulous in their color or size. This grand list includes the Russian Orlov Diamond, the Koh-i-Noor, and the Tiffany Yellow Diamond. [Read it!]


This article appears in full on 1stdibs.com, written by Bella Neyman.

Queen Elizabeth II Marks Longest Reign In British History

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As promised, any major royal event that takes place will be discussed on the blog. That event is the Queen’s record-breaking reign.

Queen of United Kingdom (as well as Canada, Au...

Queen Elizabeth II, long she has reigned! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The moment that once seemed so distant has now arrived: Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch in British history.

People all across the UK – and the world – are celebrating the Queen’s record-breaking achievement, well aware that this is not something every generation gets to do.

As a long-time fan of the Queen, I have to say that I am extremely proud of this moment. This is history that will be talked about for generations, and it is unlikely that another British monarch will reach this achievement for a very long time.

Despite this momentous occasion, the Queen herself is not celebrating the milestone. At least, not publicly. Elizabeth is sticking to her business-as-usual repertoire because A.) she doesn’t want to be seen as being triumphant over her great-great-grandmother, the venerable Queen Victoria.  We must also note that B.) the Queen IS publicly celebrating her 90th birthday next year. With barely a year between events, combined with her reverence for Victoria, Elizabeth is right in keeping this year’s milestone low-key.

Elizabeth has personified grace and decorum since her earliest days, and her time as queen is no exception. Not only is she impressive on the surface, underneath the glamour of pageantry and tiaras lies a solid work ethic and devotion to representing her people. After a life of service, it seems as though there is nothing that the Queen doesn’t know or hasn’t experienced. More to the point, it has been a life of duty and tradition under a bright spotlight, something that only a handful of people could tolerate. Where most would crack, the Queen carries on.

It is hard to say what hasn’t already been said. Reams of paper and columns of digital space have been devoted to Her Majesty’s record-breaking for days. I think, however, I can speak for all of us as I wrap up: Queen Elizabeth II has been, and will continue to
be, a distinct figure upon whom the hopes of better days can be seen. Long she has reigned, and may she continue to do so.

5 Royal Births That Changed History

5 Royal Births That Changed History
by Sam McCann – originally published May 5th, 2015 for the Royal Oak Foundation. Royal Oak is the American partner of the National Trust, of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to encourage Americans to learn about, experience and support places of historic and natural significance throughout the United Kingdom. Royal Oak members receive unlimited entry to all National Trust UK properties. You can read more about their work on their blog, The AngloFiles.

The English world got some big news this weekend, as it welcomed Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana! Royal births are always big news, but their full impact is felt decades down the line. Here are five Royal babies who unexpectedly changed English and world history.

English: The "Darnley Portrait" of E...

The “Darnley Portrait” of Elizabeth I of England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Queen Elizabeth I

From pioneering New World exploration to defeating the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth’s reign undoubtedly changed the course of England. However, at birth her fate wasn’t as clear: the daughter of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth had an older brother, Edward, and older half-sister Mary I, standing between herself and the throne. In fact, her birth itself was a political controversy: Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in order to divorce his first wife to marry Anne Boleyn and father Elizabeth.

Elizabeth wasn’t acknowledged as sovereign until Mary’s death, but she quickly brought stability to the tumultuous political landscape her father’s action wrought. Her reign established England’s empire and her birth must be recognized as one of the most momentous in British history.


Like Elizabeth’s, John’s birth was hugely unexpected: when he arrived on Christmas Eve, 1166, his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was 44 years old. John was a flawed ruler, and his actions led to English barons forcing him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.

While John might not have the treasured history of Elizabeth, his reign is responsible for one of the watershed moments in Western democracy. Visit the site of the Magna Carta’s signing, Runnymede, with your Royal Oak membership.

queenVicQueen Victoria

Victoria was born in 1819; by 1820 her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, was dead after a bout of pneumonia. Under supervision from her Belgian mother, also named Victoria, and her uncle, the famous King Leopold of Belgium, Victoria prepared for the throne.

Following the early deaths of King George III and King William IV when she was a child, Victoria was crowned queen at age 18. Her birth, then, represents another improbable ascension to the monarchy. Her reign, the longest in British history, was marked by the growth of the English Empire and the rise of many integral aspects of the modern world, from industrialization to urbanization.


Queen of United Kingdom (as well as Canada, Au...

Queen Elizabeth II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elizabeth II

Like her namesake, our current Queen wasn’t expected to reach the throne. However, in 1936, at age 10, Elizabeth grandfather died. Her oldest uncle abdicated within a year to marry Wallis Simpson, leaving Elizabeth’s father, George, the throne.

Since she became Queen in 1952, Elizabeth has obviously been instrumental in guiding England through a tumultuous century. From the Cold War to globalization, she’s been at the helm of the last 60+ years of English history and is nearing Victoria’s record as longest-reigning monarch.



William-conquerorWilliam the Conqueror

Known as “William the Bastard” for much of his life, William was the product of an affair between his father and a woman named Herleva. Because of this ancestry, William faced a fight to consolidate power, but he ultimately succeeded in that regard. He then used his power to invade England, defeating King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings and ushering in a new period of British history.

Despite never speaking English, he had an incalculable effect on the language, infusing it with his native French. It’s also believed that every English monarch to follow is descended from him.




Visit the country homes that hosted royalty for centuries with the Royal Oak Foundation. Members enjoy unlimited access to these special properties protected by the National Trust. Join Now!

Queen’s “Nazi salute” photo causes outrage

I had a chance to appear on Canada’s CTV to discuss and refute the alleged Nazi salute given by the queen as a child. In 1933, then-Princess Elizabeth is shown giving what appears to be a Nazi salute along with her mother, the Duchess of York. Her uncle David, the future Edward VIII and subsequently Duke of Windsor, is also seen helping Elizabeth’s sister Margaret “salute”.

Royal Expert Mandy Littlefield reacts to the footage that has surfaced of Queen Elizabeth making the Nazi salute as a child.

Posted by CTVNewsChannel on Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Magna Carta – celebrating 800 years of the democratic legacy

Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4th, the day that the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. In that document, we declared that our colonies were no longer part of Great Britain.

Farewell, Britain – you deal with us on our terms now!

Since that time, America has blossomed into The United States, stretching from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean. We are now allies with the United Kingdom and even refer to the alliance as the “Special relationship”. It is indeed unique for a former colony to become even bigger than its mother country, even equalling them in economic and military might.

King John of England signing Magna Carta on Ju...

King John of England signing Magna Carta on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede; coloured wood engraving, 19th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one question is: would it have all been possible without the Magna Carta?

June 15th, 2015 marked the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The Great Charter was signed by King John to appease his rebellious barons in the midst of battle. Eight centuries later, its enduring legacy has transformed countries all over the world. It outlined the basic rights of man and established that no one was above the law, including the king. It heralded a major shift in the balance of power between the monarch and his people.

Celebrating the events this summer were the staff and students at the Magna Carta School. Below, their celebration of the Great Charter’s 800 years.

We began the Anniversary year with an invitation to visit Number 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister and other government ministers. As the only school in the UK with the name Magna Carta, as well as being located in the heart of Runnymede, we had already caught the attention of ministers due to our work on Magna Carta. It was a fantastic opportunity for both students and teachers to be present at the official launch of the Anniversary year.

Our students and teachers have also been working with the National Archives and Egham Museum to help develop teaching resources on Magna Carta for all age groups in schools. While students and teachers attended the events at Runnymede on 15th June, others were guests of Discovery Education at the official launch of the National Assembly on Magna Carta, which our students had helped to create. We were also fortunate to be invited to the House of Lords to witness the launch of the online teaching resource first hand.

Our students have participated in a national project to draft a modern version of Magna Carta, working with the UK’s Supreme Court and Judge Neuberger. Our clauses can now be seen in this new document, which can be seen by students across the UK and USA.

Students within our Art and Textiles Departments have worked with a highly skilled team of artists to help produce the wonderful tapestries depicting the events of 1215, currently on display at Royal Holloway University.

We are thrilled that our Drama and Dance students played such an integral role in the events of 15th June and had the opportunity to meet the Duke of Cambridge and other guests.

Our school has been gripped by the spirit of the Anniversary and we have seen it as an opportunity to feature important aspects in both lessons and assemblies. We have a permanent reminder of our commitment to the Anniversary, with 25 shields, each measuring 1 metre in height, and depicting a modern interpretation of the emblems of the 25 Barons present at the sealing of Magna Carta, displayed along the front of our school.

Thanks to Tim Smith, Head of the Magna Carta School. Find them at www.magnacarta.surrey.sch.ukand on Twitter as @MagnaCartaHead and @MagnaCartaSch

Operation Marriage: Queen Victoria’s German Expansion

Queen Elizabeth II’s State Visit to Germany this week has prompted a look back at her – and Philip’s – German connections. She isn’t the only royal with German roots, however. Several of Queen Victoria’s children married into German royal families and their offspring now reign in other nations. Below, how they’re linked:

Empress Friedrich+ Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal

Vicky was the headstrong eldest child of Victoria and Albert. She was clever and willing to learn, especially about Albert’s lessons in English government.  That was her driving purpose, taught to her by both parents – go to Prussia and create a united Germany based on English principles.

The royal parents married her off to Crown Prince Friedrich of Prussia. It was, quite simply, a love match made in heaven. Vicky and Fritz adored each other. Sadly, Vicky’s complicated relationship with her children and her stubborn, pro-English ways made life difficult at the Prussian court. Even worse, her husband died a mere three months into his reign, leaving her a dowager with no real power. His brief time on the throne made Vicky realize that it was “frighteningly possible that Fritz’s reign would represent little more than a mere bridge between two thoroughly Prussian Williams”. [1] Their son, Kaiser Wilhelm II, would play a part in the fall of his own House of Hohenzollern.

Descent from Vicky: Georg Friedrich Prinz von Preussen; Ex-King Constantine of Greece and his sisters Queen Sofia of Spain and Princess Irene of Greece; King Felipe VI of Spain (through his mother); King Michael of Romania; Ernst August V of Hanover.


Princess Alice of the United Kingdom+ Princess Alice

This serious, earnest daughter of Victoria married Grand Duke Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt, a small duchy within the group of German states. During the Austro-Prussia war, Hesse-Darmstadt sided with Austria; this officially set Princess Alice against her own sister, Vicky, the Crown Princess of Prussia. In the end, the small duchy lost what little territory it had acquired to the ever-growing Prussian state.

Throughout the conflicts, Alice became a skilled nurse. Thanks to her efforts, the region saw a vast improvement to nursing practices and hospital facilities.

Sadly, the princess died of diphtheria, a dangerous illness that had already taken two of her children. Of her surviving children, young Alexandra would be most affected by Alice’s death. Alexandra would carry the emotional baggage into her marriage to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Descent from Alice: The Romanov family of Nicholas and Alexandra; Earl Mountbatten of Burma; HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Maximilian, Margrave of Baden.


Arthur Duke of Connaught+ Prince Arthur

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, was passionate about the military. The seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria became a soldier at age 16 and rose to the rank of Field Marshal in 1902.

Like his sister Vicky, Arthur entered into marriage with a Prussian royal, though not as high in rank. Arthur wed Princess Louise (Luise Margrete) of Prussia in 1879, and they had three children. When he was appointed as Governor General of Canada, Arthur and his family settled in the Commonwealth country for the duration of the appointment.

Arthur’s daughter, Princess Margaret, married Gustaf Adolf, Crown Prince of Sweden. Here we see another German link – Gustaf’s mother was Victoria of Baden. It is her tiara that we see on today’s Crown Princess Victoria.

Descent from Arthur: King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden; Prince Bertil of Sweden; Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece


Leopold Duke of Albany+ Prince Leopold

Leopold, Duke of Albany, was the youngest son and eighth child of Queen Victoria. He was sadly a victim of the bleeding disease hemophilia, but Leopold never let it stop him. Though he took precautions to stay safe from injury, he was described as a “strong-willed, attractive character with an immense thirst for life”. [2] The prince died at age 31 of  a brain hemorrhage after accidentally falling down a flight of stairs.

Leopold’s daughter, Alice of Albany, married her second cousin once-removed, Prince Alexander of Teck (the brother of Queen Mary). Leopold’s son, Charles, became controversial in England for his support for Germany during World War I. Worse, he became a member of the Nazi party during World War II.


Princess Beatrice of Battenberg+ Princess Beatrice

Beatrice, the youngest of Victoria and Albert’s children, was expected to remain a spinster and tend to her mother’s every wish. The princess’s heart had other ideas, though. Beatrice met and fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg. Their marriage the next year was no small miracle, since Victoria was totally opposed to it. She wanted to keep Beatrice to herself, but fortunately consented to the union when Beatrice promised to stay on.

Descent from Beatrice: Former King Juan Carlos of Spain; King Felipe VI of Spain (through his father).


Ireland trip historic and poignant for Prince Charles

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are undertaking a visit to the Republic of Ireland. Many historic moments are happening, one of which is the meeting between the Prince and Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein. It is a massive moment in Anglo-Irish relations, much like the Queen’s meeting with Martin McGuinness during her visit to the Republic a couple of years ago.

The most poignant moment came when Charles visited the fishing village Mullaghmore, the site of Lord Mountbatten’s assassination in 1979. Lord Mountbatten, known in the family as “Dickie”, had been very close to Charles. The prince adored him so much that he dubbed Mountbatten his “honorary grandfather”.

When Mountbatten was killed by a bomb planted on his fishing boat, Charles was devastated. His mentor was gone. The prince was also grief-stricken over the other bombing victims: one of Mountbatten’s twin grandsons; boat boy Paul Maxwell; and the Dowager Lady Brabourne had all died from the blast. Mountbatten’s daughter and son-in-law were hospitalized with serious injuries.

Mountbatten’s funeral was held in Westminster Abbey. Jaw set, Charles gave a moving eulogy in his naval uniform, bedecked with his own medals as well as Mountbatten’s. He quoted Psalm 107:23, “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; [24] These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.”

Mountbatten was buried at Romsey Abbey, near his home at Broadlands.

On Wednesday, May 20th, Charles paid tribute to Mountbatten again during his speech at the ‘Model Arts Centre’ in Sligo town.

It was, once again, a moving speech from Charles for his honorary grandfather. The prince encouraged peace for future generations, and spoke of how he intimately understood the loss felt by so many killed by IRA violence.

I’ll be honest: there wasn’t a dry eye at this keyboard. Good for Charles in cementing peace. God bless the Prince of Wales.

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