Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Cambridge matriarch

She began life as the youngest granddaughter of a king. She grew up in a borrowed court as her father stood in for big brothers who were too busy to rule one of their realms. She was ridiculed as unattractive and married off by her matchmaking cousin to a prince with no land and no prospects. And yet she ended up as the mother of a queen and the matriarch of a dynasty that will now rule Britain until well into the 22nd century at least. Today is the anniversary of  the birth of Mary Adelaide, Princess of Cambridge who was known to history as Fat Mary but whose descendants now hold the throne.

Mary Adelaide, Princess of Cambridge and Princess of Teck
1833 - 1897

In later life, Mary Adelaide is every inch the matriarch and her last photos show her decked in Victorian finery trimmed with jewels. A quick glance shows a regal looking woman dressed to impress. But for much of her life, Mary was a poor relation and then some. She was born in Hanover on November 27th 1833 because her father, Prince Adolphus, was minding the royal shop for his brother, William IV. William was King of Hanover just like his own sibling, George IV, had been before him but the British throne took up more of their time and so George had dispatched Adolphus there to rule in his place. But the Cambridge family knew they were just passing through.

Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge and father of Mary Adelaide

In 1837 William IV was succeeded by his niece, Victoria, to the throne of Britain but the law in Hanover meant a girl wasn't getting the throne. So the kingdom passed to yet another of Adolphus' brothers, Ernest Augustus, and the Cambridge family headed to London. They set up home in Kensington Palace and Mary Adelaide, with her sister Augusta, carried out royal duties. But Augusta didn't hang around long. She was eleven years older than Mary Adelaide and in her early twenties followed that well worn path of marrying a distant cousin. By 1843, ten year old Mary was alone in the royal nursery. And she wouldn't hear wedding bells of her own for another two decades.

Mary Adelaide's sister, Augusta, in later life

Mary struggled to find a royal husband. By the time she was old enough to say 'I do', Queen Victoria had a growing stable of daughters and the royal houses of Europe started looking to them rather than poor cousins as potential brides. Mary Adelaide was also teased for her appearance. She was called 'Fat Mary'. Her father was the youngest surviving son of George III and so Mary's marriage chances were pretty low - she wasn't rich compared to other royal ladies, her regal blood line meant she would never be queen and there were far more important British princesses already waiting to snap up husbands. But she was still a princess and marrying a commoner was off the list.

But Queen Victoria liked nothing better than a bit of match making and so, when cousin Mary hit thirty, she got out her little black book of blue blooded cousins and found her a hubby. He was a prince, poorer than her and had no succession rights of his own anywhere but he was a roya. And so Mary of Cambridge married Francis of Teck at St Anne's Church in Kew on June 12th 1866 when the bride was 32 and the groom aged 28. They would have four children - Mary, Adolphus, Francis and Alexander. But this princess of Cambridge was anything but settled yet.

Mary Adelaide, Princess of Teck, with her four children

Mary Adelaide and her husband had a limited income and a large part of that came from the lady of the house through her allowance for carrying out royal duties. By 1883 the family was in so much debt they had to flee abroad while their creditors looked for payment and the Tecks learned to live more frugally.  In 1885 they returned and set up home at White Lodge in Richmond Park. And the poor relation suddenly came into her own.

White Lodge, Richmond Park was Mary Adelaide's home on her return from exile

Mary Adelaide had been the subject of Queen Victoria's avid match making herself and she now set about turning the monarch's hobby to her advantage. She had one daughter to place on the marriage market but Mary of Teck was a formidable proposition. She was descended from George III, she had a royal lineage and she had shown herself already to be eminently sensible and devoted to duty. The old queen liked what she saw and in 1891 Mary of Teck became engaged to Albert Victor, heir of Victoria's heir. When he died six weeks later, Mary Adelaide must have thought her chances of royal glory were gone but Victoria was having none of that. Mary of Teck married Albert Victor's brother, George, in 1893.

Mary Adelaide, Francis and their daughter, Mary, soon after her birth 

By 1897, the new Duke and Duchess of York had two sons and a baby daughter. Mary Adelaide had, in fifteen years, gone from broke cousin to granny of a future king. She died on October 27th 1897 before her daughter became queen consort but her legacy was secure. Despite a life of making ends meet, exile and occasional pity, this princess triumphed in the end. Her great granddaughter is now the Queen and three generations of men stretch out after her, ready to take the throne. The youngest is little George, Prince of Cambridge. And so, 181 years after her birth, Mary Adelaide has become the Cambridge matriarch.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Duchess of Cambridge in Norwich - the photos

The Duchess of Cambridge recently attended the launch of a campaign to raise funds for one of her charity's, East Anglia Children's Hospice.

EACH wants to build a new children's hospice in Norfolk and Kate helped get the fundraising underway. Here are some of the best photos from her visit.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Birthday wishes

Buckingham Palace has been reminding people of how to make sure centenarians and couples celebrating a special wedding anniversary around the country are given a helping hand with their celebrations by the Queen. Every year, Elizabeth II sends a card to people marking their 100th birthdays. And when they hit 105 they get another one with an extra every year after that. For happy couples there's a card on their 60th, 65th and 70th anniversaries. Which means that the Queen has already sent herself two cards marking marital milestones and can expect another in three years time.

The Queen puts pen to paper - the special greetings she sends out are typewritten before being signed

The delivery of the cards has been going on for over a century but became  a regular event in 1917 - the first year statistics were kept. Then, the Queen's grandather, George V, sent out 24 congratulatory messages to centenarians. In 2011, Elizabeth II sent out 9,736. It is a useful reminder of the changing nature of society with better health and better health care and living conditions meaning that more and more people are making their century. The cards are also sent to citizens of 'Her Realms and UK Overseas Territories' and the oldest ever receipient was a man in Canada who celebrated reaching 116 years of age.

George V was the first British monarch to regularly send birthday greetings to his fellow citizens when they reached 100

The Anniversaries Office is repsonsible for sending out the cards and gets information on people's ages from the state pension database but it does welcome applications from members of the public who want to make sure their loved one is on the list. And it holds no information on marriage anniversaries so anyone wanting to make sure those special dates are marked needs to write in. The applications must be sent no earlier than three weeks before the date of the event with full details available on the British Monarchy website. In just three years time this special celebration will reach an anniversary of its own. And thousands more will have enjoyed an extra special moment on their big day as they get their telegram from the Queen.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The king's scoop

His daughter in law began her career as a journalist and now it seems that King Juan Carlos of Spain is taking over where she left with a sporting scoop. Visiting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix today he chatted happily with reporters and let slip one of the most open secrets in the racing world at the moment - the future of Fernando Alonso.

King Juan Carlos of Spain gave reporters a scoop at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Juan Carlos had arrived at the race to support Alonso and to enjoy the last Grand Prix of the season which saw Lewis Hamilton clinch victory and claim a second world title. But the former monarch caused almost as many headlines by telling reporters all about his chat with Alonso before the race. 'He told me he is going to McLaren' said the king. It's been widely speculated but not officially confirmed - yet. But then if a king says something, surely that must make it so?

Juan Carlos didn't seem to mind his little slip and was later seen driving around the Grand Prix event with Alonso in a golf cart. The news is expected to be firmed up by the firm in the next few days. And Fernando Alonso can add a new claim to fame to his CV - he's the only world champion with a king for his spokesman.

Monarchical monochrome

We're used to seeing kings and princes in black and white. Most royal engagements require the men of the royal house to don a suit, usually in a dark colour, with a shirt in a paler colour - namely white. But in the last few weeks it's the royal ladies who have been getting into the monochrome mix. Queens, princesses and ladies in waiting have been embracing the black and white look. Here are some monarchical monochrome moments.

Princess Charlene of Monaco is the latest royal lady to choose a black and white combo

In a black beret and black and white coat, the expectant mother appeared briefly on the balcony on Monaco's national day

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden has also gone monochrome in recent weeks, most recently at an event celebrating textiles and clothing.

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at an engagement in the week

And earlier in the month, Victoria went for a black and white mix dress and black jacket when she hosted a reception at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

Victoria with her guests at a reception at the Royal Palace in mid November 2014

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark chose a black and white mix jacket, worn with black top and trousers, for a visit to a school in Copenhagen on the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the week.

Crown Princess Mary arriving for celebrations marking the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children

The princes had already chanelled the monochrome trend earlier in the month when she wore a black dress with white coat to a conference in Copenhagen where she joined discussions on ending female circumcision.

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark on her arrival at the Christiansborg Palace in early November 2014

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians chose a striking white dress with black print for a meeting in the week with Jean Claude Juncker at the Laeken Palace.

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians at the Laeken Palace in November 2014

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands chose a black and white dress with unusual black hat for a visit to a school in the week.

Queen Maxima in black and white for a school visit in November 2014

Earlier in the month, the queen had chosen a black and white lace effect dress when she attended the final of the 10th annual Franz Liszt competition held in Utrecht.

The Queen of the Netherlands on her visit to Utrecht on November 8th 2014

Queen Letizia wore a white and black suit for her introductory visit to Italy in the week. The jacket had black trim and was worn throughout the day in Rome.

The Queen of Spain in black and white for her visit to Rome with King Felipe VI

The week before, the queen had chosen a white dress with black trim for the introductory visit to Luxembourg.

More monochrome for Letizia as she spends the day in Luxembourg in November 2014

Which just goes to show that it's not just the royal men keeping it simple as winter starts to take a hold in Europe's royal courts/

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Tweeting the royals, week ending November 22nd 2014

There were firsts, fun and foreign trips for the royals of Europe this week and they shared a lot of it on their official social media channels. Here's how the royals told their story in the week just gone.

Royal debuts

Sofia Hellqvist, fiancee of Prince Carlo Philip of Sweden, made her debut at another royal engagement this week when she accompanied her husband to be at a prize giving for the Young Entrepreneur of the Yea. Photos of the couple were shared on the official Swedish Royal Family Facebook page.

Queen Letizia made her debut as a speaker at a major international event when she addressed the meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which took place in Rome in the week. Casa Real TV, the official You Tube Channel, shared a video of the speech.

The Prince of Wales made his debut in a Google hangout in the week. The prince took part in the live event, where he was asked questions by young people around the UK, as part of his work on the #iwill campaign which aims to make social action the norm for all 10-20 year olds by 2020. Clarence House shared the event on its official Google Plus page.

Children first

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians took part in events this week marking the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Images of the day were shared on the Royal Household's official Twitter account.

Queen Silvia of Sweden travelled to New York to take part in the UN General Assembly marking the anniversary with images of the event shared on the official Facebook page.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway took part in a round table discussion on encouraging children and young people to care for the environment and work towards tackling climate change with her speech being shared on the official You Tube Channel.

And the King of the Netherlands presented the tenth annual prize given by the Dutch organisation Kids Rights which works to protect vulnerable children around the word. The Royal Household shared a photo of the king handing over the award to 18 year old activist, Neha Gupta, on the official Facebook page.

Out and about

Prince Harry made a visit to Oman in the week where he visited the Nizwa Fort and Souk and also spent time in Muscat. Images of the three day trip were shared on the official Clarence House Twitter feed.

King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain made another introductory visit in the week, this time to Italy, and images of their time in Rome were shared on the official Twitter account.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians visited the province of Namur in the week with engagementsin Cerfontaine and Couvin. The trip was tweeted on the official royal account.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Queen's Anniversary

For a woman who has spent the most recent part of her reign chalking up major anniversaries, perhaps this one is just another big number on an ever growing list of achievements. But there's no denying that pretty much everyone is impressed and ready to celebrate as the Queen marks her 67th wedding anniversary.

Because everyone should get flowers on their wedding anniversary - the Queen in Moray, 67 years after her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh
(photo RAF Lossiemouth)

It was business as usual for the royal couple with a day of engagements in Scotland to enjoy. The Queen and her husband arrived on the royal train which pulled into Elgin station in the morning and that's when the smiles started. The royals, their hosts and just about everyone they met all day was beaming from ear to ear.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in Scotland as they start year 68 of their marriage
(photo RAF Lossiemouth)

There were two visits in the diary for today - a trip to RAF Lossiemouth and to Kinloss. There was a royal salute at Lossiemouth and the Queen unveiled a plaque to commemorate the beginning of quick alert duties by squadrons based there. 

The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on November 20th 2014 at Westminster Abbey in front of a congregation of crowned heads and royal guests at a time of austerity in Britain following World War Two, The wedding was seen as a bright moment in grey days. Less than five years later, Elizabeth was queen.

For 67 years they have walked the same path even if Philip has always had to remain one step behind. Theirs is an institution of a marriage but very modern in the way with the wife in the spotlight and the husband in a supporting role. They have remained devoted to one another through happy times and trying times and won the support and admiration of their fellow citizens as they have done it. It may have been business as usual but the joy on their faces gave away that this was a special day. And after 67 years of happy marriage, it's no wonder they're smiling.

Felipe and Letizia in Rome - the photos

King Felipe and Queen Letizia spent Wednesday in Rome on another introductory visit.

Their tour included a meeting with the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, at the Quirinale Palace and audiences with leading politicians.  Here are the photos that tell the story of Felipe and Letizia in Rome.

Royals in Rome

It's been a busy week for King Felipe and Queen Letizia. Less than seven days after touching down in Luxembourg for an introductory visit that segwayed into a courtesy call on Bruseels they completed a hat trick of hellos when the royals hit Rome. A trio of trips that have allowed the new monarch and his consort to make their mark on Europe.

The King and Queen of Spain during their introductory visit to Rome on November 19th 2014

The third visit followed the pattern of many of the others. The royal couple were given an official welcome and then met the head of state - President Giorgio Napolitano. The president and his wife posed for photos with their guests before a private lunch.

Felipe and Letizia are given an official welcome on their arrival at the Quirinale Palace at the start of their official visit to Rome

There was also an opportunity for the newest king on the continent and his wife to meet leading politicians and during their time in Rome Felipe and Letizia said hello to the Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, as well as to the President of the Senate and the President of the Chamber of Deputies.

The Prime Minister of Italy,Matteo Renzi, with his royal guests at the Chigi Palace in Rome

The visit, as usual, lasted one day and is part of an ongoing tour being carried out by the king and queen following the accession of Felipe VI on June 19th 2014. But while the summer was busy for the royal couple, November has been jam packed with visits - November has been a series of new encounters for Felipe and Letizia.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A new prince Louis?

The recent poll to choose the most likely name for a Prince of Monaco had a clear winner and a very Monegasque one at that. Louis, already the name of two sovereigns of the Principality, claimed top spot. And if Albert and Charlene do select it for a son at the end of the year then that little royal will be joining an illustrious group of princes of Monaco who have borne the name.

Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco are expecting twins later this year

The first sovereign to take the name Louis was only the second man to be called Prince of Monaco. Louis I was born in the Prince's Palace in the country in 1642, the eldest son of Ercole Grimaldi and his wife, Maria Aurelia who was a member of the powerful Genoese clan, the Spinolas. Ercole became known as Hercule and was heir to the first man to rule Monaco as a prince, Honore II, but he died before his father and so Louis got the title in 1662. He ruled the principality until 1701 and was succeeded by his son, Antonio.

Louis II, Prince of Monaco, who ruled between 1662 and 1701

The second Louis of Monaco would begin his reign over 200 years later. Louis Honore Charles Antoine was sovereign between 1922 and 1949 but packed plenty into his life before that. He was born on July 12th 1870, the only child of the then heir to the throne, Albert I, and his wife, Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton. Louis' parents parted soon after his birth and he was raised in Germany by his mother and step-father before returning to Monaco to learn the art of monarchy. But he ended up joining the French Foreign Legion while his father became a well known sovereign prince with a love of culture and, in particular, oceanography.

Louis II, Prince of Monaco who ruled the state from 1922 until 1949

This second Louis took the throne on his father's death and his great passion in his reign was sport with Monaco Football Club taking shape soon after his accession and the first Grand Prix to be held in the principality taking place in 1929. Louis had had a relationship with a singer called Marie Juliette Louvet which produced a daughter, Charlotte, who in 1919 was declared heir after a change to the law. She passed her rights to her son, Rainier, who succeeded on Louis' death in 1949.

Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand was the sovereign Prince of Monaco between 1949 and 2005

Louis was also one of Prince Rainier III's names and the current sovereign is called Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre. It is a name with plenty of history in Monaco and the one chosen in the recent poll as the most likely to feature in a birth announcement from the Prince's Palace later this year should one of the royal twins be a boy.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The day of the two queens

It's happened once and once only. On this day in 1558 one woman succeeded another to the throne of England. Against all the odds, Elizabeth I followed her half-sister Mary I as regnant of a country their father didn't think a woman could manage. November 17th is unique in British history.  It is the day of the two queens.

Elizabeth I, Queen of England, was the only woman to succeed another to rule the country

Like Mary, Elizabeth's reign began in hope and turmoil. When Mary had taken the throne in 1553 she had had to fight for her right to rule after the installation of Lady Jane Grey as queen in an ill fated coup. Mary's triumphant ride to London saw her greeted by thousands cheering her as their rightful monarch. It hadn't taken long to unravel and by the time she died, aged 42, on November 17th 1558 her reputation was damaged. She was 'Bloody Mary' who had put to death many Protestants as she tried to re-establish Catholicism as the main religion of her country. She was queen at a time of economic uncertainty and difficult harvests. And she was the woman who was called to be the first female regnant of her country but who was so desperate to marry by the time she won her crown that her unswerving devotion to her husband, Philip of Spain, led to many fearing that he might rule through her. Mary's reign quickly turned from sweet to sour. The rise of Elizabeth was a relief for many and a sign of hope on the horizon.

Mary I, Queen of England, always in the shadow of her glorious sister

Mary had bowed to the inevitable and named her Protestant half-sister as he heir before her death. Elizabeth, aged 25, was in at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire when news reached her that she was now Queen of England. The little girl declared illegitimate at the age of two and a half when her mother, Anne Boleyn, had been executed and who had grown up in the turmoil of the Tudor court before finding herself under house arrest in the reign of her sister was now the leader of her country. The realm belonged to her and her arrival as regnant was greeted with cheering. Except this time the story would have a far happier ending.

Henry VIII, father of Mary and Elizabeth, changed the succession twice to stop his daughters wearing his crown but both would reign in the end

Elizabeth's reign is one of the most famous in European history. Known as Gloriana she reshaped politics, foreign policy and the whole concept of monarchy. She was the Virgin Queen who ruled alone and who made it quite clear early on that there would be no blood line to inherit the throne. And in so doing she made sure that her country learned to love the concept of a king or queen rather than the family who embodied it at that time. Elizabeth's reign was a game changer but then it started in a most unique way. The only woman every to succeed another, she took the throne in a wave of hope which she turned into an ocean of success. The two sisters, so often apart and opposed in life, would eventually be buried together in Westminster Abbey.  For their lives, their relationships and their reigns were forever intertwined. And today is an important date in that story. It is the day of the two queens.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Tweeting the royals, November 15th

We got lunch and dinner from Europe's royals this week not to mention a few trips to meet the neighbours. There were also acts of remembrance and celebrations of peace and all of it shared on the official social media channels of the continent's courts. Here's how the royals tweeted the week that was..

Feeling hungry?

Crown Princess Mette-Marit has made no secret of her love of books and reading and this week she held a dinner to promote literacy with hubby Haakon coming along to lend a hand. There were pics of her meeting her guests on the Norwegian Royal Family's Facebook page.

The King and Queen of Spain made an introductory visit to Belgium in the week and after a welcome in the wind they went inside for a spot of lunch. And Felipe, Letizia, Philippe and Mathilde were shown about to tuck in on tweets featured on both the Spanish and Belgian royals' official Twitter accounts.

The Duke of Cambridge attended a dinner held by Skill Force UK in the week with a pretty impressive backdrop - as seen on the Clarence House Instagram account.

Testing times

The Duchess of Cambridge met young athletes who hope to represent their country at the Olympics in years to come on a visit to GSK in Essex in the week. While there, Kate tried an exercise to test her reflexes and Clarence House shared a video on its Instagram page.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has set himself a task - over the next year he will make a series of working visits to find out more about the work of different government ministers. First on the list was social affairs and that led to some striking images on the official Facebook page of the king in some unusual headgear.

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden got the chance to test things of a different kind when she visited an exhibition about water and sanitation and saw some very unusual designs for new toilets - photos of the royal reactions were shared on the official Facebook page.

Popping in on the neighbours

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia made two introductory visits in the week, popping into see the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg first of all with images shared on the official Twitter account of Casa Real.

Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway spent part of November in Belgrade and in the week the Royal Household shared some images of the trip on the official Facebook page.


Remembrance Day was marked in the week and the Queen led tributes on Remembrance Sunday in London.  The British Monarchy also shared an image of the family at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on its official Twitter account.

The Swedish Royal Family attended an event remembering 200 years of peace in the country and shared a video on the official You Tube channel.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Kate heads Stateside

The Duchess of Cambridge is one of the most famous and glamourous women in the world so it's perhaps appropriate that she will end her year with a trip to one of the most famous and glamourous cities in the world. Kate is going to New York.

Kate's off to New York, New York in December - Wills is going too, no one really seems to care about that part

The duchess touches down in the city that never sleeps on December 7th 2014 for a three day visit which will involve engagements linked to the Royal Foundation and other charities Kate and William are involved in. The couple will also visit the September 11 National Memorial and Museum at the Word Trade Center to pay their respects. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a packed schedule of events in New York

The duke will travel to Washington on December 8th for several different meetings and discussions about ending the illegal trade in wildlife - his United for Wildlife charity campaigns on this issue. Kate will stay in New York where she will visit a child development centre and attend a lunch given by the British Embassy in New York to celebrate the achievements of Britons in the city.

The Duke and Duchess will carry out engagements together as well as completing individual events as well

But Wills and Kate will most definitely be together for a trip to an NBA Basketball game where they will launch a new collaboration between the NBA, United for Wildlife and the Royal Foundation. And just about everyone will be hoping for lots of cosy snaps of Kate and William cuddling up at the basketball.

There will be time to relax for the royal couple as they head to a basketball game

And there will be more romance in the air as the trip comes to an end - the final engagement is a dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to mark the 600th anniversary of St Andrews University, the couple's alma mater and where they first met and fell in love. New York, city of dreams, is about to get a dream of a royal visit.