Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Kate's 5 sparkliest moments

The Duchess of Cambridge is to attend a banquet during the Chinese State Visit this autumn meaning we get another chance to see Kate do diamonds. Since her marriage, this particular royal has been rather shy when it comes to dipping into the family jewellery box but a gala dinner means tiaras and no duchess likes to pop one of those on her head without a few more sparklers to balance things up. Kate is about to get very glittery indeed. So in anticipation, here are Kate's five sparkliest moments so far.

1. A beautiful bride

Why there was ever discussion ahead of her wedding as to whether Kate Middleton would wear a tiara I don't know. OK, she didn't have a family heirloom to use but she is going to be Queen of England one day so the idea of her turning up to her wedding with a couple of butterfly hairclips or a rose tucked behind one ear was always the wrong option. For her debut as a royal she wore the Cartier Halo tiara which was made in 1936 and bought by the future George VI for his beloved wife, Elizabeth, better known to the 21st century as the Queen Mother. It contains no less than 888 diamonds and also came with that special family link of being a gift from the Queen's father to her mother. About as perfect as it gets.

2. Granny in law's diamonds

Back at the beginning of 2014 there were rumours that the Queen had told Kate she needed to wear more jewellery. The royal command was said to be for longer skirts and more diamonds and like the sensible duchess she is, Kate turned up at an art event in a full length midnight blue evening gown with some of the most impressive diamonds in the Royal Family's collection to match. The duchess chose the Nizam of Hyderabad diamonds for an appearance at the National Portrait Gallery in February 2014. The dress and diamonds were dazzling, the modern hair missed but overall it showed that Kate does sparkles very well.

3. A quirky way to add glitter

A few months later, on her tour of New Zealand, Kate only had a few chances to show off a bit of evening wear but her first after hours appearance allowed her to add a bit of bling in a rather unusual way. At a reception at Government House, the duchess chose a black cocktail dress with diamante fern on one shoulder to pay tribute to her hosts. It was all rather elegant with a Diana style nod to wearing sparkles in a more original way.

4. The unstoppable newlywed

There was another stand out sparkly moment on Kate's first royal tour. The brand new Duchess of Cambridge visited Canada alongside her husband in July 2011 and at an event to mark National Day she borrowed another of the Queen's most famous pieces of jewellery, her maple leaf diamond brooch. Set against the simplicity of a striking purple dress with a tan and a smile to envy, it dazzled onlookers for miles. 

5.  A real spray of sparkle

Sometimes, glitter needs space to breathe. And in the past four years, Kate has shown off a few truly sparkly looks including a dress worn just weeks after giving birth to Prince George. The head to toe sequin look was a pretty confident way of announcing the duchess was back in business - it's not too many women who show off their post baby tummy in endless sparkles but this dress showed just how comfortable Kate is in the public eye. Who needs diamonds when you can sparkle like this?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Royals on social media

It seems like ages but suddenly the royals are back. A wave of engagements in the last ten days or so has seen some ruling houses back in action and their social media accounts beginning to sparkle and shine once more. We've had water, words of wisdom and white trouser suits - a sunny mix to show just how the royals want to tell their story as the summer of 2015 enters its final phase. Here's the royal week on social media.

Rather refreshing

Last time Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden appeared in public brandishing water, she announced she was pregnant a few days later. And after all those rumours this summer when pics of her on holiday with a slightly rounder tummy appeared you might be forgiven for rushing off to start knitting after seeing the images of the future queen waving a bottle of H2O in the air this week. It was actually part of a pilgrimage for the environment and the flask of water was actually a baton being passed from Crown Princess Mette-Marit to Crown Princess Victoria as the walk reached Sweden. Images of the event were shared on the Norwegian Royal Family Facebook page and the Swedish Royal Family Instagram account - and everyone was still looking at Victoria's tummy.

Mette-Marit was in a watery mood herself this week when she posted a thank you for birthday wishes on her personal Twitter account. The princess put up a rather modern photo with her message of thanks on the big day itself, August 19th, when she turned 42.

Meanwhile, her mother in law was at the finals of the music competition which bears her name. Queen Sonja spent quite a lot of time this week listening to the shortlisted stars and meeting some of them. One of her encounters took place with a rather pretty lake view in the background and the queen in a rather striking white suit.

Words of wisdom

With just days to go until the moment Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history, the sense of anticipation is growing. And this week, the Duke of Cambridge wrote the forward in a book paying tribute to his grandmother. His words of wisdom come in Elizabeth II: The Steadfast by Lord Hurd and snippets were shared on the official Kensington Palace Twitter account.

Meanwhile, the official Clarence House Twitter and Instagram accounts continued to pay tribute to those who took part in VJ Day by sharing more images and memories of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall's time with them on the 70th anniversary earlier this month. There was a special #TBT featuring footage of Camilla dancing with a veteran shared on both accounts.

Room with a view

Throughout the summer, with less news to share, many of the official royal accounts have taken to adding images of their palaces, grounds and gardens. In this modern media age, everyone else is doing it so why not them? Kensington Palace may just have veered into the holiday snaps no one else wants to see territory this week with their photo of a parakeet in a tree in the royal grounds. Yep, a bird flying and sitting on a branch. It is summer, we'll let them off. 

The Swedish Royal Family added a very horsey photo to its official Instagram account in the week to remind everyone just how popular the changing of the guard ceremony is. The image itself was rather impressive.

But the most history laden view shared on social media by the royals this week came in a photo from the windows of Buckingham Palace. The official British Monarchy Instagram account added a photo of part of the Victoria Memorial which for decades has stood outside this most famous of royal residences as a tribute to the monarch who reigned longer than any other. But in this image, the skies are grey and the shadows are falling - Victoria's place in history is changing. This is a photo of a monument that will soon commemorate the second longest reigning monarch in British history. This modern media has, in a way, announced the end of a very famous piece of history and the start of another legendary chapter in royal annals.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

10 iconic photos from Charles and Diana's wedding

It is an event that never fails to fascinate despite the passage of time and the sad ending it ultimately had. The wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer on July 29th 1981 is back in the headlines after previously unseen images of it taken by Lord Lichfield were put up for auction. The behind the scenes photos bring back memories of a day that was enjoyed by billions around the world and which still lingers today. As that one special wedding day makes news again, here are ten already legendary images of Charles and Diana's marriage.

1. The kiss

One of the most famous royal photos ever taken was that of the unexpected kiss shared by the newlyweds on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Until then, royal romances were sealed with a kiss behind closed doors but the world wanted a smacker to savour and the bride and groom obliged. The Queen pretended not to look, the page boys pretended not to laugh and everyone else sighed. It is an iconic image of royalty that will be celebrated forever.

2. Inside the Glass Coach

The first glimpse of the bride was a confection in a coach. Lady Diana Spencer left Clarence House in the Glass Coach accompanied by her father and surrounded by the acres of veil and train that would soon be revealed to the world. It was impossibly pretty and the fairytale began...


3. The dress of the century 

OK, it was crinkled. OK, it was huge. But it was a dress of fairytale proportions and the sight of Diana climbing the steps of St Paul's in that cream Emmanual frock was a moment of history. She walked in the footsteps of just a handful of women who had come to the altar to marry a Prince of Wales. And she looked just like a princess from a story book walking towards her destiny.


 4. The proudest possible father 

 Even the hardest heart melted at the sight of Diana's dad, the Earl Spencer, taking his daughter's arm and walking her up the aisle. Recovering from illness, he stood tall and he couldn't have looked more proud. His delight in his daughter just increased as they made that famous journey to the altar of St Paul's to the strains of the Trumpet Voluntary. It was one of the most emotional moments of the whole day.


 5. And the guest wore white... 

 There was emotion of another kind for one guest. Camilla Parker-Bowles was at the wedding and wore white - no one really noticed at the time but the photo of her watching Diana walk past in her bridal gown is now one of the most well known royal images of all time.

6.  Man and wife
Hindsight is a useful thing. In the years since they emerged into the July sunshine as husband and wife plenty have suggested that Charles looks reticent on the steps of St Paul's while Diana looks worried and nervous. With another ending, perhaps those layers of messages would never have been placed on the photo of the new Prince and Princess of Wales. 


 7. A triumphal ride home 

 Now man and wife, the royal couple travelled through the streets of London to a rapturous response and Diana relaxed visibly as she made her way back to a palace, now a princess. The crowds were huge and they all wanted to see the bride - it was the beginning of a stellar royal career.


8. Now one family 

 The group shot at this royal wedding takes some beating. With the ladies lined up in the front row and crowned heads packing out the middle, this was a portrait of royalty in the 20th century at the most famous royal event for decades.


 9. A beautiful bride 

 Whatever your thoughts on the dress, there's no doubt that Diana was a beautiful bride and the official portraits showed a young and very happy woman. The image of the royal couple with their attendants that day had a personal touch that made it stand out from the others.


10. One more kiss 

 Before THAT kiss there was the chivalrous moment Charles kissed his new wife's hand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Given that full on smackers wouldn't become a tradition until these newlyweds started the trend moments later, this peck on the knuckles was romantic and racy all at the same time. But it underlined the romance of the day. We know how it ended but these images, and those that will be auctioned soon, show that there was happiness there when Charles wed Diana.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

6 times royals have conquered the beach

What happens when you put royals on a beach? Either a row about invasion of privacy or a photocall with pitfalls including sand and waves. But some manage the beach look with style - here are 8 top moments when royals conquered the sand.

1. Proud parents

Beaches can be hard work for royals on a holiday press call. They've got to look relaxed, dress down without going the whole shorts and flip flop route and find interesting things to do while smiling for the camera. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands very sensibly opted for the proud parents watching the children route in the summer of 2015 and the result was the perfect royal beach look.

2. Grey but interesting

Think beaches, think sunshine but in Norway the family of Crown Prince Haakon Magnus gave us one of the most interesting royal seaside poses when they joined hands and stood on some rocks against very grey skies that promised rain. The image, taken to mark Haakon's 41st birthday, was striking and stand out and serves as one of the best portraits of this future king and his family.

3. On the rocks, again

Ending up on the rocks also helped the then new King of the Belgians to show off his family in relaxed style. For their first holiday photocall after his accession, the new ruling family of Belgium headed to France for a spot of relaxation on the Ile d'Yeu. The new monarch and his consort wore blue, the kids rode bikes and everyone looked rather happy.


 4. Kate does Baywatch 

During her trip to Australia in 2014, The Duchess of Cambridge headed to Manly Beach to meet lifeguards and hear about water safety. She also ran along the side of the sea in a broderie anglaise dress and wedges while laughing quite a lot. Kate + lifeguards = Royal Baywatch. 


5. An heir in the water 

It wasn't quite as world famous as her father-in-law's Australian beach trip from 1979 when Charles went for a swim off Perth and was famously kissed by Jane Priest as he made his way out of the water. The still single prince looked suitably abashed and the photo became one of the best known of him from that time in his life.



6. Strange shapes in the sand 

 When Crown Princess Mary of Denmark visited her home country in 2011 she had to share the beach with some rather strange shapes in the sand. The princess and her husband toured an art installation while dressed in white - a surreal beach image but a memorable one nonetheless.


Sunday, 9 August 2015

Royals on social media

As it summer holiday time, the official royal social media accounts are having a bit of a break in general. With most of Europe's reigning families on their breaks, there's little for their Twitter, Instagram and You Tube accounts to report. But there have been a few moments of activity, most of them related to holidays or the weather. You can almost smell the suncream on this week's royals on social media.

Getting away from it all

Most high profile of all the royal families of Europe this week has been the reigning house of Spain which spent quite a lot of time in the sunshine as King Felipe VI and his relations began their summer holidays in Mallorca. The official Casa Real Twitter account was full of images of the king, his queen and their daughters on the island where they posed for the media and then hosted a reception for local authorities. And Felipe and Letizia took us behind the scenes at the evening event by tweeting a picture of them with the chef who prepared the food they served their guests at the reception.

The Prince of Wales is enjoying his annual break in Scotland but he's still been out and about and in the week the Clarence House Instagram account shared a photo of him waxing a bottle of gin when he popped into a local producer in Caithness during his holiday.

Remembrance of times past

Everyone has a bit of a reminisce while they are on holiday. It's a chance to take stock of the year just gone and look ahead to what the future might bring. The royals are no different and in the week there were plenty of trips down memory lane. The British Monarchy Twitter and Instagram accounts paid tribute to the Queen Mother on what would have been her 115th birthday with archive images of her with her two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret.

Clarence House also shared memories of the consort of George VI and the matriarch of the British Royal Family for decades with an image of her holding Prince Charles on the day of his christening.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Royal Family shared a photo of King Carl XVI Gustaf, while still a prince, in the arms of his grandfather in a summer holiday snap from the middle of the 20th century. It was a moment of history brought to a new audience on the official Instagram account.

A Room with a View

With the summer break in full swing, a lot of the royal social media accounts have taken to sharing images of the view from their palace windows which is a rather posh way of celebrating the sights and sounds of summer. The British Monarchy Instagram account shared a photo of some of the mulberries in the gardens of Buckingham Palace which is enjoying a bumper crop of the fruit this year.

The Swedish Royal Family threw open the windows of the Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm to capture the stunning view over some of the gardens and posted the image on the official Instagram account.

And the annual photo call for Spain's royals at the Marivent Palace in Mallorca saw them wander off for a little sit on the wall which allowed everyone else to get a view of the countryside around them, as shared on the Casa Real Twitter account.  Summer is well and truly here.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Why isn't Victoria of Sweden on Vanity Fair's Best Dressed List?

There are plenty of surprises on this year's best dressed list from Vanity Fair (Samantha Cameron? Really?). But surely up there with the biggest is the omission of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden from the top ten most stylish women in the world. In a year when this future queen has continually stunned with her wardrobe choices, surely missing her out from the fashion action is a huge oversight?

One seriously fabulous dress that wasn't enough to put Victoria of Sweden on the Vanity Fair Best Dressed List 2015

Victoria has worn some cracking outfits this year. Nearly all of them have had a modern edge with a nod to high fashion and following trends with High Street buys. All those attributes are enough to put Queen Letizia on the list and to have sent the Duchess of Cambridge into the Hall of Fame last year so why no place for Victoria?


And some of her choices have been among the best outfits worn by royals this year. The red ball gown at the Nobel ceremony at the end of 2014 was sensational while the gala dress chosen for the wedding of her baby brother, Prince Carl Philip, was also exceptionally lovely. We've had brilliant geometric prints and smart shift dresses through the year but all of this has been overlooked.


For me, Victoria has been one of the best dressed women around for a long while but in the past twelve months her wardrobe has really gone superstellar. I think that the last year has seen her better dressed than Kate, than Letizia, than Mary - than just about everyone else. But perhaps because her profile isn't as high as theirs, she is overlooked.

High profile doesn't necessarily equate to success - Princess Charlene of Monaco has been just about everywhere this year and she is another big miss from this list. But Victoria's sure ad steady transformation into one of the most elegant women on the royal circuit was surely worthy of a nod?

Victoria has given us some outfits this year that on either Kate or Letizia would have been hailed as all time classics. Let's give this princess her due and start applauding her fashion choices. When it comes to best dressed, Victoria is up there with the very best.


Thursday, 6 August 2015

Black and gold for Spain's two queens

Maybe next year, King Felipe should take the night off. For the second August in a row he has hosted a reception in Mallorca for local authorities but while he might be in charge, all eyes were on the two queens in his life. In 2015, just like his first year as monarch, this particular evening was all about his wife, Letizia, and his mother, Sofia.

And the king came too....Felipe VI of Spain with his consort and his mother in Mallorca

It may well be that Queen Letizia chose an all black outfit on a dark night in Mallorca as a sign of mourning for her grandfather who died last week at the age of 98. But as she stepped out with her country's other queen, Sofia, they made a sharp contrast against the deep evening light at La Almudaina. One in black, one in gold. The king came too.

Letizia's outfit proved controversial, of course. This is a queen with a fashion sense that always manages to get someone talking. The black trousers weren't the problem, it was the transparent parts of her top that raised questions about its suitability for a royal occasion.


 Meanwhile, there were no surprises from Queen Sofia who does love a smart casual trouser outfit on a summer's night. It wouldn't really be August without seeing Sofia in a kind of formal pyjama set and this year she went for gold on white. And it was really rather nice. Only she could get away with it but it worked.


Meanwhile, Felipe put on his best navy suit and added a red tie and stood between them. And kind of got ignored. He might have been the host, but it was definitely the queens' party.


The event for local authorities and members of society on Mallorca is a traditional moment on the royal stay on the island. Following the handshakes, there was a reception inside but while Felipe was hosting, as he made his way in the images were still all about the two queens in Spain. This might have been the monarch's night but it really was a case of the king came too.


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Ear, ear for catchy royal jewels

No one really expected Queen Letizia of Spain to get through a whole appearance without making at least one fashion statement, even if you had to really concentrate to see this one. For her photocall in Mallorca at the start of the royal summer holidays she chose on trend khaki green trousers matched with an equally hot right now white sleeveless top. But the big fashion moment was almost hidden under her famous bob - the queen was wearing a pair of gold earrings shaped like horns.

Queen Letizia has never been one for big statement jewels - the closest she's come to that is her much debated tiara bought as an anniversary present for her by Felipe in 2009 and worn for the first time earlier this year. But these earrings certainly got lots of attention and it's easy to see why. They're an unusual look which works well with the casual summer clothes but they're eye catching enough to make a mark all of their own.

 But Letizia's not the only royal woman to have sported some rather unusual earrings so how do the horns of the Spanish queen match up to jewels chosen by the rest of Europe? For a really unusual take, she'll have to go a long way to beat Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway who turned up to a birthday event for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark earlier this year wearing a pair of earrings shaped like skulls.

 The rather discreet jewels, matched with a white suit and red hair band for a lunch at the Town Hall in Copenhagen, really did stand out from the standard royal sparklers and divided opinion.

Her companion that day, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, has also surprised with her choices. Back in 2010, as a newlywed, she showed off a pair of asymmetric earrings on a visit which gave a very modern twist to a classic all black royal outfit.
 If there's one royal lady who does unusual well then it's Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and earlier this year she reminded everyone why she can still do stand out regal jewellery better than anyone when she added a pair of red and yellow earrings to an outfit worn for a visit to Bonaire. No one else could get away with these but on Maxima they just work.

 While she was still a queen in waiting, Maxima chose a very eye catching pair of blue earrings with a dangle on them that could well be dangerous in other hands.

And the year before she gave us a rather sophisticated take on the tassle with a pair of red earrings that matched her outfit in Berlin to perfection.

 Queen Mathilde of the Belgians isn't known for her really unusual fashion choices but she went daring on the earrings front in December 2013 with a striking if almost safe pair showing off circles within circles.

 And in 2012, while her husband was still heir to the throne, she chose a pair of sparkling and tumbling earrings that were more than noticeable.

 Crown Princess Mary has also gone for statement sparkle with a pair of gold and black earrings worn while she was pregnant with her twins back in 2010.
 And fluttering back into view at the finish is a certain Queen of Spain who made everyone's ears prick up when she wore a pair of striking emerald green butterfly jewels back at the end of 2014. When it comes to unusual earrings, it pays to keep an eye on the royal ladies of Europe.


Monday, 3 August 2015

Family smiles as summer starts for Spain's royals

The temperatures might have been soaring across Spain for months now but the traditional family pose at the Marivent Palace in Mallorca always signals the start of the royal summer there. And as dusk began to fall today, Felipe and Letizia began their break with a laid back press call accompanied by their daughters.

King Felipe VI of Spain with his family
Mallorca, August 3rd 2015

The famous palace steps have been the setting for many famous royal summer photo calls but this one, like 2014, was much smaller than previous years as the Spanish Royals shrink down to a core element of the king, his consort, his heir and the spare. While his father and mother are still part of the official family, they weren't present at the press call although Queen Sofia has been seen on the island in the past days with her eldest daughter, Elena, and her other grandchildren. This evening was all about Felipe and his family.

The Spanish Royal Family
Marivent Palace, August 3rd 2015

The session began with a meet and greet with the journalists who had gathered to take photos and ask questions. And just like last year, Princess Leonor and her sister, the Infanta Sofia, joined their parents in shaking hands with those who had come to see them.


Then it was dad's turn to speak and the words were brief and simple - it was good to be there and there were some wonderful people on the island.


 But this was really about the photos and with such a photogenic family, there were plenty of those. The four posed happily for snaps, even sitting down on a wall to allow more images to be taken.


 And fashion watchers noted that it was Sofia who followed most closely in the footsteps of her style setting mother, wearing an identical top to Letizia.


 The next outing for the royals on the island is scheduled for midweek when Felipe and Letizia give a reception for the authorities on the island. And if past years are anything to go by then we can expect a family day out sometime soon to a local tourist attraction. As the sun starts to slowly sink in the sky, Spain's royal summer has started.