Royal Reads for Kids — Part I.

Royal Reads -- Children's Books

As an aunt of five little ones–plus two more on the way!–I always love giving them books as gifts (obviously making me the ‘cool’ aunt. ūüėČ ).

Recently while on the way to Kansas City I was trying to entertain them with ‘ghost stories.’ These included stories of Marie Antoinette’s beheading along with other more grizzly tales from history… they loved it! So now, every time they stay the night, they beg for ‘more ghost stories!’

Naturally, after running out of more PG-tales with a little bit of gore, I started perusing for more material to keep them happy. After an afternoon of research, I found the titles above and thought, ‘Eureka! They’ll love it!’

Should you have a little history buff of your own, you may fancy a gander at these regal reads (descriptions from the publisher)…

1. Power PalaceIn the same series as the award-winning Tower Power, this colourful and lively look at Hampton Court Palace through the ages will delight young history fans (and convert those who didn’t think they were!).

2. Kids’ Kensington Incredible tales from Kensington Palace by Natasha Narayan takes a light-hearted look at Kensington‚Äôs history. This lively, fun-filled guide, aimed at 7-9 year-olds reveals the stories of some of Kensington‚Äôs more colourful characters including grumpy kings, clever queens, naughty princesses, savage beasts, wild boys and ferocious rat-killers!

3. Tower Power Who built the Tower of London and why? Was it ever attacked? Which kings and queens stayed there? What happened to the prisoners who were kept there? What’s it like now? Discover the answers for yourself in this delightful children’s book packed full of fascinating stories and amusing illustrations.

4. Palace PrincessesThis unashamedly pink book is a fascinating collection of feisty young royals connected with the five historic palaces, from the 12th century Princess Matilda (went to war with her cousin) to 21st century Princess Beatrice (goes to night clubs with her sister). In between, the stories of beautiful, brave, wicked, weak, stupid, stylish, gifted, greedy and sometimes very unhappy princesses will appeal to 9 to 11 year-olds curious to discover more about the lives of real princesses at our palaces.

5. Henry’s Blog ‘Battles and Boys Toys’, ‘My fit new queen’ and ‘ I marry a teenager’. These are just some of the entries in King Henry VIII’s personal blog as Tudor technology might have created it! Henry’s secret thoughts on ruling, fighting, cute babes and all round global fabulousness are revealed in royal blog-speak, via his online diary.¬†

6. Kings and Queens of England: a little book of rulersWhich queen rewarded a pirate with a knighthood? Who was crowned on Christmas Day? What happened to the two young princes imprisoned in the Tower? Discover these amazing facts and more

Note: While this round of royal reads has to do with British royalty, I am currently looking for more books to feature the other reigning royals of Europe. Also: any suggestions you’d add to a post? I’d love to feature them! Comment below or feel free to email me at royallyspeakingblog@gmail.com.

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Royal Review: A Royal Affair directed by Nikolaj Arcel

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I was flipping through Netflix a few days ago and came across this gem, A Royal Affair (En Kongelig Affære).

The story

It tells the true story of when Caroline Mathilde (the sister of King George III of Great Britain) married King Christian VII of Denmark.

A sadly familiar theme in royal history, King Christian suffered from ’bouts of mania.’ Thus leaving the young Queen to a new country, language, and mentally unstable husband.

The King finds friendship in his new physician, Struensee who came from Germany and influenced the King with his ideas of enlightenment and new laws for the country of Denmark. Struensee then fell in love with the lonely Queen after the birth of her first child, the future King Frederik VI.

The court grew more and more in contempt of Struensee’s influence on the King, eventually convincing the King of the Queen and Struensee’s ‘plans to kill the King.’ (Of course a lie.)

During this time the Queen gives birth to a daughter, which is actually Struensee’s child. Soon after, the former court staged a coup and deported the Queen to Germany, and executed Struensee.

The story is told from the perspective of Queen Caroline Mathilde, as she writes the story to have handed down to her children.

Personal take

I love Denmark though am admittedly ignorant about its history. Since having au paired in Northern Germany in a town an hour from the Danish border, (next to the town where King Christian III is said to have died, I read last night) my fascination in Denmark has grown exponentially. So it’s no surprised that I love this film.

The story in itself is captivating, and when you add the actors and the detailed scenes and costumes, it’s a beautiful piece. I love that it was done in Danish (with subtitles) and they stayed true to the period and location, not getting to ‘Hollywood,’ if you will. It’s how I wish Marie Antoinette had been done, to be honest.

If you are interested in royals, enjoy period pieces, and love history you’ll love this movie. I rarely buy movies, but this is one I am adding to my collection.

You can watch the trailer here, read more about the film here, and read more about Caroline Mathilde here.

Have you seen the film? What’d you think?

Royal Book Review: ‘The Queen — A Life in Brief’ by Robert Lacey

The Queen by Robert Lacey

the-queen-a-life-in-brief

Earlier this week I was at my local library hunting for some royal reads. Unsuccessful in finding any specific to royal weddings (strange, right?), I did find this gem of a book, The Queen. It’s a mere six chapters, full of beautiful, rare photographs, and a brief, yet interesting read. So, after my sister saw I was reading it, she said she expected a book report… always willing to please, I’ve complied. ūüėČ

About the author

The author of this book, Robert Lacey, is a British Historian who has covered extensive royal topics for nearly 40 years. He wrote the book Majesty which is noted as the influence for the film, The Queen. He is well connected with his topics, often able to get information from primary sources.

Part I.

Time Magazine Cover 1929

‘The Princess of Hearts’

Chapter one of this book covers, appropriately expected, the early years of a then Princess Elizabeth. It’s an interesting look at how she was merely a Princess, never expecting to be Queen. She was essentially a York girl, like Eugenie and Beatrice are today.

Nonetheless, she was an incredibly popular princess, even from an early age, and the world reported all about her every move. Including her yellow dress, that was very groundbreaking compared to the mere blue or pink choices for babies of the time. She was even included as the cover feature of Time magazine in 1929, sporting that yellow dress.

The ‘Princess of Hearts’ was also rather close with her grandfather, King George IV, calling him ‘Grandpa England.’ She’d wave from her window every morning and he’d wave from Buckingham Palace. It’s quite adorable the connection they shared.

A Princess (unexpectedly) turned Heiress Apparent

Of course then was the great abdication of Prince Edward VIII came with it the realization of the Princess’s new found fate.

“‘When our father became King,’ Princess Margaret recounted nearly sixty years later to the historian Ben Pimlott, ‘I said to her [Princess Elizabeth], ‘Does that mean you’re going to become Queen?’ She replied, ‘Yes. I suppose it does.’ ‘She didn’t mention it again.'”

Coronation-of-King-George-VI

It goes on to talk about Princess Elizabeth’s diary entry about the day of her parents’¬†coronation, which is said to now be ‘bound in pink ribbon’ and stored within the royal archives.

Part II.

Princess Elizabeth Playing Tag on Ship

Royal Romance

Lots of detail regarding the courtship and marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip is covered in part two and it’s quite interesting. It expounds far more than I wrote about in their wedding post, as expected, and it’s overall a good read even if you know most of the story already.

And baby makes 3

I was quite surprised how quickly the Queen had had Charles after the wedding, less than a year later. She was one busy mama, even covering tour appearances her father was unable to make due to his declining health. She really stepped up and got down to business, newlywed, new mother… all before she was 25. She seems to really put William and Kate’s work to shame… but that’s another topic for another time.

First Minutes of Queen’dom

It was terrible reading of how she found out about her father’s passing while abroad, and how she became Queen quite literally while in the tree-topped jungle in South Africa. She is said to have not been seen crying, only coming back from the bathroom on the return flight with puffy eyes a few times. I also learned that every royal is to pack a black outfit for tours in case of a tragedy while gone, in turn needing an outfit for mourning.

Queen-Elizabeth-Coronation-1953

Another thing I learned was that the coronation was originally banned for television, causing outrage worldwide. But the Queen relented, and the coronation was broadcast, however, without any closeups, of course.

Part III.

A slap in the face

In 1953, John Grigg, Lord Altrincham, wrote an editorial regarding the Coronation and the number of places allotted for members of Parliament, the true representation of the people. Only 100 seats were granted of the 625 elected members. Then again, four years later, he wrote more criticisms of the Monarchy in a special edition of the National and English Review (a publication he owned and edited). Only he was more critical of HM herself. This did not go over well for many, even though polls showed the younger people of Britain were in agreement with much of his claims.

On August 6, 1957, a group of the League of Empire Loyalists waited for him outside of Television House and smacked him across the face. Wild.

A Princess and her Captain

Margaret and Peter Townsend

The author goes on to talk of Princess Margaret’s falling in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend, a divorced RAF Officer, 16 years older than the Princess. Being only 22 required HM’s approval for marriage of the two, and this was out of the question because Townsend was divorced. The Queen was sympathetic, but could not allow the marriage. Instead Townsend was essentially exiled until the summer of 1955 when the Princess would be 25, an age that allowed her to marry without HM’s consent.

It’s quite sad that while their relationship continued, upon his return upon her 25th birthday, Parliament would not consent to continue its support of funding the Princess and the captain should they marry. When the Princess learned that she would lose all royal standing should she marry the captain, she ¬†would lose all royal prestige. She immediately broke it off with him and issued a statement that she would not marry him in order to uphold the Church’s beliefs regarding divorce. Of course it’s the ultimatum of losing her royalty¬†that really caused the separation.

Issues abroad

Lots of explanation is given regarding the 1956 invasion of the Suez Canal, which left the Queen feeling embarrassed¬†by¬†the new PM Sir Anthony Eden. More political drama occurred after the PM’s collapsing under pressure, leaving the Queen to help choose his replacement. Full disclosure: Unfortunately, being quite illiterate regarding the British Government, I wasn’t very interested in this section, so the details are admittedly murky.

Royals do Television

Royal Family BBC

The BBC produced Royal Family, a documentary with the family, it was released in 1969. It is one of the most viewed documentaries of its time. It proved to be wildly successful around the world. (And¬†I am still looking for a copy of it to watch.) 40 hours of unshown footage are locked away in high-security vaults, and are labeled ‘Religious Programming.’

Part IV.

Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales

Becoming the ‘Prince of Wales’

A month after its premiere came the investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales. The last bang of ‘Royal Mania.’ For the 60s, at least. He then went on to tour of his principality and even though tensions were high regarding the Monarchy, his subjects received him well. Though he had a relatively difficult relationship with his parents, he found in his great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, what he didn’t find with them. He encouraged the young prince to ‘sow his oats’ and then settle down later. It was during this time that Charles met Camilla. Her alleged pick up line ‘my great-grandmother was you¬†great-grandfather’s mistress, so how about it?’ Charming, that Camilla…

He could not then propose to his ‘one true love’ because they had been having regular romps. ‘The bedded could not be wedded,’ the author writes. So she married someone else, but she and Charles carried on.

 Part V.

Charles and Diana's WeddingWhat’s love got to do with it?

The courtship of Prince Charles and Diana was quite quick, and quite telling. First of all, Prince Charles had first dated Diana’s older sister. He had also been a huge playboy, the opposite of Diana, an 18-year-old Kindergarten teacher. Oh, and he was 13 years older. He was in love with Camilla Bowles to boot. But she had become Camilla Parker-Bowles, leaving a broken hearted Prince in need of an heir. Cue engagement to Diana.

“‘Can you find the words to sum up how you feel today?’ the couple were asked when their engagement was made public on 24th February 1981, ‘…in love?’

‘Whatever “in love” means,’ came Charles’ famous reply. ‘Put your own interpretation on it.'”

Tensions rise

The ’80s seemed to be a rather tumultuous time for the royals. From the race riots in 1981, to the Queen being shot at during the Trooping the Colour ceremony in 1983, issues were abound.

Furthermore, it was barely a month after the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana that the marriage started showing its cracks. By the end of September Diana was already distraught after learning of the affair between Charles and Camilla. The media pressure, betrayal of a spouse and Camilla, who had taken Diana under her wing, proved to be too much for Diana.

No matter the strife between his parents, the birth of Prince William proved to be somewhat of a balm for the royal’s wounds.

While Prince Charles was on the front line of parenthood, his younger brother Prince Andrew was on the front line of the Falkland War. Returning from the war as a hero, the young Prince enjoyed the attention–especially from the ladies. Earning his title of ‘Randy Andy’ from the tabloids.

When he settled down and married Sarah Ferguson, everything seemed perfect. She got along great with the royals and she was a friend for Diana.

However, tensions continued as Charles began to resent Diana for her popularity, Diana’s bulimia and depression were wreaking havoc, and Camilla was on the scene again. These together proved to be the ingredients for the perfect storm.

1992, ‘annus horribilis’

Fergie’s escapades and the hacking of Prince Charles’ phone caused great embarrassment for the palace. The fire which broke out at Windsor Castle and the separation of Charles and Diana were the cherry on top of a year which the Queen herself deemed ‘annus horribilis’.’

Part VI.

The Queen observes flowers for Princess Diana

A grandmother’s love

After the death of Diana in August of 1997, the Queen put her country on the back burner and moved her grandsons to the front. While the country mourned, the Queen acted as any grandmother would when caring for young grieving grandsons. The Queen made sure the boys, Princes William and Harry, were being cared for before she made any move to address the nation and the death of Diana. This caused enormous backlash from the public, prompting headlines of “Say Something” and “Your Nation Needs You, Your Majesty.” After nearly a week, the Queen finally addressed her mourning subjects, putting at ease a grieving and tempered nation.

The Queen sadly lost her sister and mother within only months of each other in 2002. The book goes on to talk about the marriage of Charles and Camilla, William and Kate, and how the monarchy saw a bit of rise in popularity since the early 2000s.

Overall

This book was a really quick, yet informative read. If you’re new to the royal scene and want to learn more about the Queen, it’s a great place to start. However, if you’re already well versed in most all things royal, you may want to skip it, while it covers broad topics already known if you’ve read anything on the Queen before. However, it’s a great reference guide to have on hand, and a reliable source to use in your research and writings. Plus, it is beautifully designed, perfect for any bookshelf.

You can buy your own copy here.

Royal Film Review: ‘Diana’ a film by Oliver Hirschbiegel

Diana Film Poster

Last weekend I finally got around to renting ‘Diana’¬†after having wanted to see it since seeing its first trailers.

Admittedly, I hadn’t researched the plot, so I was a bit disappointed upon realizing it was merely 90 plus minutes covering the alleged love story of Diana and heart surgeon¬†Dr. Hasnat Khan. Had I been more interested in that aspect of her life, maybe I would have viewed the film with an entirely different opinion.

Naomi Watts did not play a convincing Diana, though you could certainly tell how badly she wished to represent her as authentically as possible. I do give her credit in that regard, as well as credit to the costume department of the movie.

Interview

Diana Film Naomi Watts

I’m surprised that this was the piece of Diana’s life the filmmakers decided to cover. Though she had a tragically short life, it was full¬†of fascinating stories from start to finish. Of course, her years as Princess of Wales, as well as immediately following, were among the most interesting. But this little sliver, her affair with the heart surgeon, is a compelling piece, but not hardly feature-film worthy.

With the film’s¬†bad reviews (Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert), outright disapproval¬†from the heart surgeon depicted, and Naomi Watts’ comparison of it to ‘a sinking ship,’ I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised to find the whole thing to be a complete flop.