Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Letizia's suitcases

She is one queen who doesn't travel light. On her recent State Visit to France, Letizia of Spain went through an average of three outfits a day and the record remains intact as she starts another major trip. Since arriving in Mexico on Sunday night, the newest queen in Europe has shown us four outfits. And there are another two days to go. That's a lot of suitcases.

Letizia of Spain debuts a new red cocktail dress, outfit number four at the start of her tour of Mexico

Admittedly, finding an outfit that will see a royal visitor through a day of engagements can be a hard ask. The first full day of events for the King and Queen of Spain began with an official welcome by the President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, and his wife, Angelica Rivera. The Queen of Spain chose a pale green dress with a cream and pink boucle effect jacket with ties for the occasion which also saw her accompany her husband to lay a wreath at the memorial to the Heroic Children.


 The outfit paid tribute to the colours of the Mexican flag and had a retro feel about it, partly due to the mini waves added to the now world famous Letizia bob.


 As is habitual with Letizia now, the shoes were wrong - this pair of strappy sandals ended up looking old fashioned and like she'd had to borrow them from someone after one of her heels broke at the last minute. But the overall effect was chic and stylish and totally blown off the page by the Mexican First Lady who chose an impossible to miss blush coloured trouser suit with pussy bow at the neck and a mini same shade cumberband at the waist.


 The green dominated suit stayed on for the second engagement of the day when Felipe and Letizia were named as Distinguished Guests and presented with medals and a key to Mexico City.


But then it was time for lunch and after several hours in one outfit, Letizia changed into the cream suit which she had worn - briefly - at the start of her State Visit to France. It is subtle, stylish and very Queen Sofia. And as her hostess had also changed, it was perhaps a good idea to put on another outfit to keep up with Angelica. But Angelica was already streets ahead in a Wedgewood blue and white dress with a shoulder line that defied expectations and gravity. Again, there was nowhere else to look. Letizia almost looked like she was playing it safe next to this display of flamboyant fashion.

King Felipe and Queen Letitia of Spain with the President of Mexico and his wife on day one of the State Visit to the country

The first actual dress for Mexico wouldn't really have done for this event either. The queen had arrived in the country in an on trend pleated frock in palest beige with white trim that looked very summery if slightly underdressed for the occasion. There was no way this one could take on Angelica for lunch.

Just don't look at the shoes. Again. Letizia of Spain arrives with her husband for a State Visit to Mexico on June 28th 2015

And however bulging the suitcase is, room must always be found for a gala dinner. The first night of the State Visit saw a banquet held in honour of the King and Queen of Spain by President Enrique Pena Nieto and Angelica Rivero. And this is where Letizia came into her own. A brand new, red, embellished one shoulder cocktail dress was a winner and then some. The black fringed outfit chosen by her host was left in the shade.

Red wins - Letizia of Spain and Angelica Rivera at a State Dinner in Mexico on June 29th 2015

One day down, two to go, four outfits already and the promise of many more. State Visits mean big suitcases for all queens and Letizia is showing she's no different.

Charlotte's christening, part two

Just like her big brother's, the christening of Charlotte of Cambridge is a slow reveal. We know when, we know where and now - with just under a week before the big event - we know who will be going. But that means there are still lots of gaps to fill in and, if the pattern follows that of George exactly, many of them will stay as mysteries until Sunday when the Cambridge family arrive for the christening of their littlest member.

Charlotte of Cambridge - more news about her christening has been revealed

The guest list for the service at St Mary Magdalene, Norfolk on Sunday 5th July 2015 isn't really that big a surprise. But with news that Prince George will definitely be there we now know that this Sunday will be the first chance to see the Cambridges together as a family of four. Unless grandpa Middleton has been busy with the camera again and a sneaky portrait is released ahead of time. The more likely scenario is that as Kate and William arrive with their children for this special family event the world will get its very first glimpse of them with both their babies.

And soon to be four - William and Kate will be photographed with both their children in public for the first time at Charlotte's christening
(photo Katie White Twitter)

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be there along with the Prince of Wales who will be accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. Michael and Carole Middeleton are also ready for Norfolk but we won't see Prince Harry who is spending part of his summer in Africa, as planned. And that makes it unlikely his name will be on the godparents' list but given the decision of the Cambridges not to ask siblings to do that job last time round, that's not really a shock. Other family members and friends will attend.

Uncle Harry won't be at the christening of baby Charlotte
Those wanting to get their own snap of this happy little family will be able to stand near St Mary Magdalene Church where it all takes place - the ceremony itself is private but there will be appearances as family members arrive and leave. But whether they will see Charlotte in the replica of the Honiton lace christening gown worn by royal babies since Victoria's day (let's face it, it's all but certain that's going to happen) or George in another of daddy's hand me downs (nice once but twice might be overegging the pudding) remains an unknown. All we do know is that Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge will be welcomed into the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the presence of its Supreme Head, her great grandmother, in the place where her paternal grandmother, Diana, was baptised 54 summers ago. This royal event is all about family in many ways and it's star will be Charlotte.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Best royal photos: June 2015

There are always many royal photos every month but some make more of a mark than others. They might be moments caught on camera or records of events that will be written about for decades to come. But they all help sum up four weeks in a moment.  Here are the five photos that will linger on as a memory of a very royal June 2015. And it all starts in Sweden where Prince Carl Philip, born an heir and demoted to spare seven months later, married Sofia Hellqvist in the Royal Wedding of the year. There were lots of lovely images of a very modern marriage but the one for the history books is their official photo, the first of them as husband and wife, released the day after their marriage.

Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden, Duke and Duchess of Varmland
Married June 13th 2015, Stockholm

Sofia is now Europe's newest princess but its second newest starred in another image of the month. Charlotte of Cambridge's first official pictures were taken by her mother in mid May and released at the start of June. She shared the limelight with Prince George in a set of four snaps that added hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers to the Kensington Royal account. The first, and perhaps the most striking, showed a big brother gazing in wonder at his new little sister.

Prince George and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge at home in Norfolk
Photographs by the Duchess of Cambridge released on June 7th 2015

George and Charlotte's grandfather, the Prince of Wales, led British commemorations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in London. In Belgium, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde welcomed King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg as well as the Duke of Kent for commemorations there. One image caught many of these royal men together alongside a descendant of the House of Napoleon in a photo that brought history alive.

The King of the Belgians leads commemorations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo
Waterloo, Belgium, June 18th 2015

There were celebrations of another kind earlier that same week when the party for the Queen's official birthday got under way with Trooping the Colour. There was much excitement beforehand about the possibility of seeing the Duchess of Cambridge for the first time since she gave birth to Princess Charlotte. In the end, it was her son who stole the show appearing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the first time in an outfit worn by his father and grandfather before him. It was the first time that the Queen had been seen with the three princes who will each one day inherit her throne and it was a real photo for posterity.

Elizabeth II with the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge
Trooping the Colour, London, June 13th 2015

Sweden was the royal star of the month - it's not often that a major royal wedding is followed less than forty eight hours later by the birth of a new prince. Carl Philip's sister, Madeleine, attended his wedding on Saturday June 13th and delivered her second child, a son, on June 15th. The baby, named Nicolas Paul Gustaf, was made Duke of Angermanland by his proud grandfather, Carl XVI Gustaf, within days of his birth. The first official photos of him, including this close up, will go down in history as the start of another royal chapter.

Prince Nicolas of Sweden
Born June 15th 2015, Stockholm

The Royal Wardrobe

The Royal Wardrobe is a bit lighter in many ways this week. Summer means that the heavy coats have gone, even for Queen Letizia, and it also means there are fewer royals on display as warmer weather usually means a dip in engagements. So get ready for lots of frocks, lots of bare arms and lots of yellow. Lots. Although we start with cream or dark white or ivory - whatever you want to call it, Crown Princess Mary's evening look of the week was sleek, stylish and an eye catcher with class.

Mary donned the dress for a visit to the Reumert Prizes in Copenhagen on June 21st and the combination of light and long dress, crisp and cool coat and fabulous filigree jewellery produced a stunner of a summer look.

It was a week of contrasts for Mary - her other big appearance was at the inauguration of a lifeguard post and the Australian born future queen went for a pair of black leggings and an oversize grey jumper for the beach event. It was appropriate and very yummy mummy and about as far away from the glamour of the awards ceremony as she could get.

Queen Letizia's most striking look of the week was also rather casual but hers caught the eye for a different reason. We've seen most of the components of the outfit chosen for a forum at the end of the week before. Just not together. And now everything is crossed we won't see them together again. Busy doesn't come close to describing this one.

Her smoking jacket and fitted black trousers for an event the night before - all part of the Princess of Girona awards - worked much better. Sleek, elegant and Letizia at her best.

The newest queen on the continent drew some criticism this week for describing her predecessor in the role, Sofia, as her mother in law repeatedly during a speech in which she was presenting her with an award for her four decades of work with UNICEF. Queen Sofia didn't seem to mind and once again the women had clearly been colour co-ordinating before stepping out. Letizia went for the pastel Hugo Boss dress worn several times since its debut in June 2014 while Sofia chose a very Sofia cream suit.

It was another Letizia staple for an appearance at the Princess of Asturias Foundation at the start of the week. The Spanish queen does love a white top with statement skirt - this time round it was snake print on display. Very chic if a bit crumpled.


Celebrations for National Day in Luxembourg this week meant a lot of royal appearances. The Hereditary Duchess, Stephanie, went for yellow for one event.

 Her sister in law, Princess Claire, perhaps played it too casual for a church service in a pretty red spot dress with straw hat which looked perfect for the weather but slightly too underdressed for the event itself. The Grand Duchess herself, Maria Teresa, meanwhile looked very grand in a dark beige suit with black trim.

 Claire didn't make the same mistake twice. For another event she was in a striking and very chic shade of blue with a fabulous ruche effect at the neckline which stole the show over Stephanie's navy blue and mum in law's dark beige (again). 
And there was only one star in town in a new official photo of the whole family. Princess Claire in red with rubies knocked just about everyone else off the page. Stephanie looked pretty in ivory and Maria Teresa looked elegant in green but with a dress like that at the side of the photo, this was only going to end with one winner. 
Yet again this week it was a case of 'only Maximxa' because only the Queen of the Netherlands could wear a monochrome dress with green scarf and green gladiator style heeled shoes and look good. 

Her other big appearance of the week involved a peach and pink stripe skirt with sleeveless top and a white hat with pink shoes. Perfect summer dressing.

The last few months have seen Queen Mathilde of the Belgians hit a run of form that has seen her sometimes overly safe sense of style take wings. She spent the week in China on a State Visit with her husband and the highlight of the week was a very yellow dress chosen for a visit to the Great Wall. 

There was some lovely floral work going on including a striking silver dress with flower print chosen for a visit to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

There was a more modern take on flower power for a top paired with white trousers for an evening event.
A fruit salad print effect dress with flower petal hat was unusual and rather jolly for a trip to a school. 
It was certainly more successful than the grey ripple effect hat chosen to go with a familiar red and white print dress. The frock looked out of place and the hat looked like an oversize scrunchie. Not the best.
There was another hat problem when the Belgian queen chose an all red outfit for a day of engagements. In fact the outfit showed the issue of picking something from the Royal Wardrobe to get through a whole day of mixed engagements. It started off being perfect for the occasion but by the time she'd reached a hospital where she was perching on the edge of patients' beds it looked slightly over the top.

But generally, blocks of colour had worked well for Mathilde in China. Another red dress, this time with no headwear, was a winner. 

As was an all silver suit with perfectly matching hat. Yes, a silver suit that looks good. A hard call, a big fashion win for the Queen of the Belgians.

There was a rather smart, if slightly safe, sage green silk suit chosen for the start of the visit to Shanghai.

But there was a winner of a white outfit towards the end of the tour when Mathilde chose a white basket weave effect dress which would have been perfection if she hadn't opted for another giant scrunchie effect headpiece. At least this one was tucked round the back and not visible for most of the day.

The other big State Visit of the week saw the Queen head to Germany. On her arrival she chose a blue coat with blue and green hat. 

It was blue and green again on day two when the Queen visited Frankfurt.


The warm weather meant that the coat disappeared by the time the royal visitor appeared on the balcony to wave to the huge crowds that came out to meet her. The dress underneath the Queen's coat was a blue and green mix.


There was plenty more colour as the Queen left the Adlon Hotel in Berlin at the end of her tour. For this appearance and a walkabout in Parisier Platz she chose bright yellow with black trim.

But the main colour of the tour was white. For her first full day of engagements, the Queen chose the famous white coat with added sparkle worn for her Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Maybe it's waterproof - day one included a boat trip down the River Spree before tea with Angela Merkel.

There was more tea on offer at a garden party held by the British Ambassador on the evening of day two. Again, the Queen was in white for the occasion - this time with an added dash of red print.


The State Banquet offered by President Joachim Gauck at Schloss Bellevue on the evening of the first full day also saw the Queen opt for white. The red this time round came from some stunning rubies.


But as the trip came to an end, the Queen chose a sombre outfit in dark grey for a visit to the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she paid her respects and met survivors on a moving day.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Royals on social media

There was a real summer feel to the royal news this week with everyone beginning to dial it down as the weather warmed up. Telling the royal story on social media is harder when there isn't as much going on and sometimes this week it did feel that things were being shared just for the sake of it. But there were still interesting moments and it's perhaps the pictures and messages that weren't meant to be centre stage that told the biggest story - that was the case in Spain where King Felipe was joined by King Juan Carlos for a series of events to mark the 30th anniversary of their country joining the EU. While there was a lot of attention paid to the speeches, it was the image of the two kings together sharing a father and son moment in a tweet on the official Casa Real channel that really caught the eye.

The warmth of the image shone out even when shared in that always popular Twitter tradition of a quartet of photos on one message.

The EU was also on the mind of the Queen as she began her State Visit to Germany. With her Prime Minister, David Cameron, present ahead of talks the following day about the UK's role in Europe the Queen's speech at this event emphasised the strength the country takes from the EU. The remarks and the State Banquet at which they were made were featured in a photo summary of day one in Germany for the Queen shared on the official British Monarchy Twitter account.

Scene stealers

Just about the only royal social media account missing some sunshine this week was the Facebook page belonging to the Norwegian family. But they did brighten everything up with quite a few photos of Queen Sonja, still in her cape at the end of June, at an open air art display. The art definitely stole the show in all the images although here things are looking up for the queen.

Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay - as Charles and Camilla are known in Scotland - were making their annual trip to the country and as part of their stay they paid a visit to the inaugural Dumfries Dog Show where they didn't have a chance of anyone noticing them once they stood next to a cheeky labrador puppy. The moment the royal guests were outshone by a baby dog was shared on the Clarence House Instagram feed - who doesn't love a cute animal photo?

Meanwhile, in Spain it was a pair of trousers that stole the scene when King Felipe and Queen Letizia arrived at an event for the Princess of Girona Foundation at the end of the week. Letizia matched her handbag to the clothes and the result was unmissable - as shown on a video on the official You Tube Channel, Casa Real TV.

Smiling for the camera

Even royalty wants to visit the most famous places in the world and when King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians headed to China for a State Visit hopes were high that they would be snapped during a visit to the Great Wall. They didn't disappoint with the Queen's very yellow dress quite possibly as visible from outer space as the wall is itself - there were images on the official Twitter feed.

It was yellow, too, for the Queen as she headed for the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin. She has visited several times before which is perhaps why she surprised quite a lot of people by not stopping there and hopping straight in her car. But the UK in Germany Twitter feed grabbed the photo everyone wanted of the Queen with the Gate in the background and its image was retweeted by the British Monarchy account later.


Kate's date with Angelina

They're both global superstars and one half of world famous power couples so it's no wonder that news of the Duchess of Cambridge's cuppa with Angelina Jolie has got everyone talking. Kate welcomed the Oscar winner to Kensington Palace on Friday for a private meeting. The hubbies were there too and just when you thought it couldn't get any more stellar, Prince George popped in. It's the royal story the internet has been waiting for.

Who asked for whose autograph? Angelina Jolie met the Duchess of Cambridge for tea

The Jolie-Pitts, minus their six children, were invited to Apartment 1A of Kensington Palace on Friday for tea and cakes (low fat, we presume) with the Cambridges to discuss, among other things, their shared interest in ending wildlife crime. The four spent several hours together, according to reports in US Weekly, and obviously got on well because their tea date lasted far longer than anyone expected it to.

Kate and William did some more A List entertaining at home when Brangelina popped by for tea

Prince George joined in and the guests brought presents as well for his little sister, Princess Charlotte. It's all part of Kate's comeback - her first public appearance following the birth of her daughter on May 2nd came at Trooping the Colour on June 13th with an informal appearance at a polo match the next day.  She will appear in public again with her family next Sunday when Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge is christened in Norfolk.

All big brothers need to get one up on little sisters and George got to meet Hollywood A-listers while Charlotte had a nap

It's a second high profile meeting for Angelina Jolie in just a few months - not long ago, she was a guest of the Queen at Buckingham Palace where she was awarded an honorary damehood for her humanitarian work including a campaign to end sexual violence against women.

Angelina Jolie will be working on that campaign again this week - she is in London for a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Monday about ending sexual violence. It's not known how long the meeting with William and Kate has been planned for or who suggested it but it's certainly caused a stir. There were no photos but that hasn't stopped this private meeting becoming one of the most talked about events of the whole weekend.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Queen in Berlin, Day One

There was a minor moment when the woman who has received more presents that quite possibly the rest of the world put together seemed rather unimpressed with her latest gift. But she rallied, as did her host, and it was plain sailing - literally - from that moment on. The Queen's first full day of her latest State Visit to Germany was just about picture perfect.

The Queen greets Angela Merkel during the first day of the State Visit to Germany
(photo UK in Germany Twitter)

Just not portrait perfect. The pressie which caused raised eyebrows was a specially commissioned painting of a famous photo of the Queen, as Princess Elizabeth, on a favourite pony with her father at her side. In this rendition the horse has a slight, well, blue tinge to it prompting  a royal question of it being rather an unusual colour for the animal. But the best moment came when the Queen, master of diplomacy, asked 'is that meant to be my father?' Her host, President Joachim Gauck, replied 'don't you recognise him?' Big mistake. The answer was 'no'.

Things got better after that. Prince Philip is obviously like every other husband and dad in the world and quite happy with a box of marzipan as a present. The royal couple gave the President a four volume set of writings by a German prince about his tour of Britain, Ireland and France. There was no audible comment on that.

The gift giving was part of the official welcome which took place at Schloss Bellevue in Berlin as the three day tour got under way. The Queen had arrived in the German capital the night before and after a stay at the city's Adlon hotel was at the official residence of the German President as the grey morning dawned for a packed day of engagements.


One of the highlights of the day was a boat trip down the River Spree and clearly sensing rain, the Queen chose the white coat and hat with crystal embellishments worn for the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant which was, famously, one of the wettest days on record. The weather wasn't quite so bad this time round and the choice of white helped the Queen stand out against the cloudy skies as thousands of people lined the route to catch a glimpse of her.


It was a truly impressive turnout and shows the massive interest there is in Germany over this State Visit, her fifth during her 63 year reign. It seemed that most of Berlin wanted to catch a glimpse of 'die Queen' as she made her way to a meeting with the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel.

Mrs Merkel has a reputation for calm, cool toughness but she seemed to momentarily lose that when she met her royal guests. As they sat down to tea and biscuits she almost seemed lost for words. And there was another very royal response when she offered the Queen a cuppa - 'would you like a cup of tea?' she asked to which there was only one reply 'of course'.

In a video posted on Twitter by one of Mrs Merkel's aides, the two women are shown chatting in German while the Chancellor traces the route of the Berlin Wall and tells her guest where she used to live. The Queen follows the tour with deep interest and the brief chat is an insight into what goes on during State visits. It is easy to presume its all light small talk but the personal story told here and the deep interest shown in it demonstrates a more intimate and human side.

The afternoon saw a reunion of Queen and President as they travelled to Berlin Technical University which had been ready to welcome Elizabeth II for days.

(photo British Monarchy Instagram)

Perhaps Joachim Gauck had stopped off at the gift shop on his way in but the two seemed on very good terms as they settled down to listen to the Queen's Lecture, an annual event gifted by the royal guest on her first visit to Berlin in 1965.  The room was filled with students eager to get a glimpse of 'die Queen' with some waving union flags as she took her seat. And she was definitely amused by the lecture, smiling when an excuse was found to show the famous footage of her with James Bond from the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in 2012.

President Gauck may have had to get his credit card out at the university as well for his guest seemed thrilled with a robot which performed for her. If he was still in any doubt about possible future presents for her then the glee on her face as the invention did its thing must have been a clue hard to miss.


 The day ended with that staple of State Visits, the State Banquet, which was held at Schloss Bellevue with the Queen in white and some rather magnificent rubies.

During her speech, she talked of the importance of Europe and of unity  and seemed to hint that it would be wise for Britain to remain within the EU. Its a topic occupying another of the guests, David Cameron, rather a lot right now following his promise to hold a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the Union.


And her respect for President Gauck shone through as she made a subtle reference to his earlier life when he was a civil rights activist in then Eastern Germany. She told him 'In our lives, Mr President, we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent. We have witnessed how quickly things can change for  the better. But we know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the postwar world.' In perhaps her most direct comment yet on the debate that faces Britain over continued EU membership she went on 'we know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the west as well as in the east of our continent'.

Angela Merkel, sitting on the Queen's table, appeared to nod throughout those comments. It was a show stopping end to a show stopping first day. And as the stars of the show went their separate ways, the blue horse seemed long forgotten.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Queen in Germany

The Queen has arrived in Germany for her fifth State Visit to the country since the start of her reign in 1952. Her three day tour began at Berlin Tegel airport with an official welcome and the sight of the Duke of Edinburgh almost jumping off the plane to get things going.

The welcome gets even more official at the start of day one proper when the Queen will be the guest of President Joachim Gauck at Bellevue Palace before travelling by boat along the River Spree for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The visit is being seen as highly significant with an increased focus on the Queen's overseas travel as she approaches the age of 90.  The fact that Germany has been chosen for this State Visit is seen as important and testament to the relationship between the country and the UK.


The Queen has previously visited Germany on State Visits in 2004, 1992, 1978 and 1965 - a witness to the changes that have taken place there in the sixty three years since she became a monarch.  This was summed up by Angela Merkel who, ahead of the visit, said 'the Queen is a contemporary witness of the development of relations between Germany and the United Kingdom".


And that bearing witness will be extremely poignant on Friday when, as the visit reaches its last day. the Queen and her husband visit the Bergen-Belsen memorial site to lay a wreath. That day will also see them return to the Brandenberg Gate which has featured in some of the most symbolic scenes in recent German history. 

There will be plenty of State Visit staples in the three day tour as well including a State Banquet on Wednesday night at Bellevue Palace and a Garden Party hosted by the British Ambassador in Berlin on Thursday. As the Queen begins her fifth State Visit to Germany, every moment will be history in the making.