Monday, 28 September 2015

How relaxed should royal portraits be?

We got two new official royal portraits last week and both gave us a different take on this regal staple in the 21st century. Denmark's official pictures of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary were close to the usual with the two in full formal attire in images released to mark the future king's role in his country's Armed Forces. Sweden gave us a new photo of Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel and Princess Estelle and while the beginnings of that were everything we'd expect, there was a high kick from a second in line to the throne which turned it from formal to family. But how relaxed should royal portraits be?

Victoria, Daniel and Estelle in a new portrait
(Anna-Lena Ahlström,

Let's get this clear, the new picture from Sweden is hardly jeans at fifty paces. The family is dressed formally, the setting is formal and the overall impression is really rather swish. It's just the surprise element of seeing Estelle getting ready to dance that separates this from other royal portraits. An official photo is like the royal copyright on its image, how it wants to be seen and how it wants others to see it. In times gone by, it was all about showing the people who was in charge of them at a time when most ordinary folk might live to be 100 without ever knowing what their king or queen looked like. And today, they are a way of portraying an official image and placing it on record. Official photos tell their own story through time and distance.

Already used to the camera at three and a half, Estelle of Sweden
(photo Kate Gabor,

And the story of Estelle on film is already well established. This little queen in waiting has been showered with support from her parents in getting used to everyone wanting to see her. The family regularly release more informal portraits where they are seen holding her in their arms, playing with her and just having lots of fun. So it's not really a surprise that her first formal portrait shows her holding her mum and dad's hands and looking very relaxed. This royal portrait tells us how much importance Victoria and Daniel have placed on getting their little girl fully involved in the life that she will lead, a royal life, and one that will follow her for decades whether she wants it to or not.

Estelle on her second birthday, February 2014

The Danish portraits, in contrast, have been taken for a very formal purpose and so they follow a very formal pattern. Crown Princess Mary is wearing her almost uniform red velvet dress with rubies while the star of the show, Crown Prince Frederik, is in uniform as we'd expect from portraits taken to mark another milestone in his involvement with the military.

The Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark in new photos released this week
(Steen Evald,

These pictures tell the tale of the evolution of a young couple in a king and queen in waiting. Frederik and Mary look every inch the monarchs to be, calm and composed and totally in control. It is a very typical set of photos.

The man who will be king, Frederik of Denmark
(Steen Evald,

But look more closely and that calm, composed nature gives way to something else. This royal pair are totally relaxed with their royal roles. There is nothing nervous or edgy about Fred and Mary as they go about the preparations to wear a king and consort's crown one day. They are at home with the formality of that and know how to work it in the 21st century.

Born to be queen, Mary of Denmark
(Steen Evald,

And perhaps that is how these two sets of portraits work together. Victoria and Daniel are showing how bringing a young royal into an old role needs to be done while Fred and Mary are showing us what happens once you've learned those ropes and are ready to rule. These royal images tell us a lot about what it is to be an heir and a consort in the 2010s and taken together, they show how royal life is changing while staying very much the same.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Royals on Social Media

The royals are really getting back in the swing of things after the summer with plenty of engagements and almost as many appearances on social media. We've had hard hats, hard stories and hard luck this are the royals on social media.

A sporting chance 

As the summer came to an end there was lots of sport on the royal agenda with Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark getting sweaty as he completed the Swedish Super Classic at the Lidingo Race. A video was shared on the official Danish Royal Family You Tube channel featuring a faintly out of breath future king talking about his sporting dreams - the full video can be seen here.

Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark talks sport

Prince William and Prince Harry told everyone about their sporting sibling rivalry through the week as the Vice Patron of the Welsh Rugby Union (king in waiting) and the Vice Patron of the English Rugby Union (down to fifth in the line of succession) went head to head for a crunch pool match in the World Cup at Twickenham. Just hours before big brother saw his team win (let's face it, Harry is used to being second), the official Kensington Royal Instagram and Twitter accounts posted photos of the two showing their love of the game with Wills winning best image as well.

A helping hand

The desire to use a royal position to help others and to highlight often difficult causes was evident for many ruling houses this week. The Duchess of Cambridge paid a secret visit to a women's prison in Surrey to hear about work by the organisation RAPt to help prisoners overcome addictions. Images of the event, part of an Autumn programme for the duchess linked to mental health causes, were shared on the official Kensington Royal Instagram account.

Queen Silvia of Sweden, who has a high profile when it comes to campaigning on human rights issues especially those affecting children, was in New York for meetings about her work at the United Nations.  An image was shared on the official Swedish Royal Instagram account.

Prince William and Prince Harry donned hard hats in the week to help out on a project in Manchester to build a veterans' village for former Armed Service personnel - a cause close to both their hearts. To take part in the work, organised by BBC One programme DIY SOS, they had to don hard hats. Harry may have lost the rugby but he won this one by a mile - as the video shared on the Kensington Royal Instagram account shows.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Maxima the queen on Prinsjesdag

It only took a couple of years for Queen Maxima of the Netherlands to gather enough confidence to totally steal the show at the opening of her country's parliament. In 2015, her third appearance on Prinsjesdag as a queen consort, saw her score a huge fashion win that knocked just about everyone sideways and left all eyes on her. The Japanese print dress was totally unexpected and a total winner.

It was the most subtle and successful of the three outfits she's worn for this big event - the colour was more muted, the accessories less dramatic and the result was a huge fashion win.


 Perhaps the biggest surprise of this third Prinsjesdag outfit was the absence of a hat. Maxima does love a huge hat and 2013 and 2014 had seen her stick to her style and add massive toppers to the outfits. 2015 was all about a chic updo and the frock.


The one fault of this outfit was perhaps its first impression. The queen, as usual, travelled to the Knight's Hall in the golden carriage with her husband. The first glance is a head and shoulders through a misty window and this time round that meant Maxima in her muted shade with no bling to see.


 In 2014, there was little room to see anything other than the hat. The second appearance of Maxima the queen on Prinjesdag was bright and beautiful and in parts slightly OTT, just like the consort herself. There are so many times that this queen wears something that is best described as 'only Maxima' and last year her outfit for the opening of parliament fell right into that category.


 The deep red full length dress was a stunner. She added a matching pillbox gloves, non matching but still red gloves and accessories and a bit of red lippy for good measure. There was no way anyone was missing her on this occasion.


It was a style evolution for Maxima, mostly in the shape of the hat, which was far smaller than anything we're used to seeing this queen in.


But ultimately there was perhaps a bit too much red - there was nowhere else to look once the queen sat down. Her 2015 look could be a nod to the brightness overload of 2014.


Her first appearance at this huge event as a queen had been bright but far less striking. The gold ensemble chosen by Maxima just months after her husband's accession was very regal and very, very, Maxima.


 The hat was huge, so big in fact it left people wondering how her husband had managed to get into the carriage at the same time.


 The dress was made of a heavy fabric that looked so thick it was a wonder the queen could walk in it.


There's no doubt that Maxima's style for this event has evolved dramatically from ok dress that would do anywhere to a stunner of a frock that will take a long tme to be forgotten. And with many more days like this ahead of her in her husband's reign, it seems this part of her Royal Wardrobe will continue to interest for years to come.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Royals on Social Media

It was a bit of a gala week for Europe's royals as the ruling houses of the Netherlands and Sweden headed to parliament for state openings while Spain's king and queen headed to Washington DC for a sparkler of an official visit and Prince Harry headed back into the limelight with an attempt at acting. And it was all captured on their official Twitter, Facebook and You Tube accounts. Here is the royal week on social media...

Smiles, sunglasses and sausages

The Duchess of Cambridge was back in action on her first solo engagement since the birth of Princess Charlotte in May. Kate headed to the Anna Freud Centre in London to hear about their work helping young people with mental health problems. She donned a dogtooth dress and added a pair of huge dark glasses while trying out the Neuro Tracker game which helps build emotional resilience - the moment was captured on the Kensington Royal official Instagram account.

The Crown Prince and Princess of Norway headed off on a trip to Akershus in the week where they got rained on nearly every day as they waded through the watery conditions in wellies.They headed indoors on a trip to a school where they were given a tour of the kitchens and images were shared on the official Norwegian Royal Family Facebook page.

They'd just played host to some of the heirs to thrones of other countries on a get together. Images of the event were shared by several of those involved including on the official Twitter account of the Luxembourg royal house.

Sporting success 

The Rugby World Cup got underway at Twickenham in the week and the Kensington Palace Twitter and Instagram accounts were filled with images from the event. Harry's speech and Kate's hair starred while William sat on the sidelines. But the best image was a still from the video made for the opening ceremony in which Harry went thespian and played a servant in the early 19th century witnessing the birth of rugby. An image was shared on the official Instagram account.

The King of the Netherlands officially opened the Homeless World Football Cup which is taking place in Amsterdam and Willem-Alexander was more than happy to get in the spirit of the event and have a bit of a kickabout himself with one of his spot kicks captured on the official Twitter account of the royal household.

Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway also enjoyed a gentle kickaround as he continued his tour of Akershus and photos were shared on the official Facebook page.

Dag to av fylkesturen startet i Bjerke Barnehage. Barna var ekstra godt fornøyde med å ha 16-åringene Simen og Emil som...
Posted by Kongehuset on Wednesday, 16 September 2015

New beginnings

There were two state openings of parliament this week with the Swedish Royal Family witnessing the beginning of their country's new political session.  The moment Europe's newest princess, Sofia, and her happily expectant sister in law, Victoria, arrived was shared on the official Instagram account.

The King and Queen of the Netherlands headed to the Knight's Hall for Prinsjesdag where Willem-Alexander began the new parliamentary session with the traditional Speech from the Throne. There was a procession in the golden carriage as well and a balcony appearance with lots of images shared on the official Facebook page.

Felipe VI and Letizia of Spain got their new school season of overseas visits off to a flying start this week with a trip to America. The showpiece event of the four days was a visit to the White House and a meeting with President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, with images shared on the official Twitter account.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Royal Wardrobe: Letizia in America

The birthday queen gave us quite a few fashion presents this week as Letizia of Spain travelled to America. There were plenty of repeats, a second glance at a dress only seen at a wedding before and one old favourite that needs to be unfavourited because it really is very old now. There was no big wow moment but Letizia rarely disappoints when it comes to delivering a set of chic looks. Here's the Royal Wardrobe of a royal fashionista in America

Most striking outfit of the visit was the silver flapper style dress donned for a visit to Miami-Dade College where her husband received the Presidential Medal. It started off underneath a slate grey evening coat then made an appearance all by itself where its full thirties styling could be appreciated.


 It was chic and striking and let down, as is usually the case, by the shoes. Given that she'd gone for flapper hair and make up (unforgiving but that's not a problem when you look like Letizia), the queen's choice of barely there strappy sandals rather than thirties style shoes was pretty inexplicable.


 Next on the noticeable list was a repeat of a blue toned dress worn on a visit to New York in 2014 and reworn on this latest US trip as Letizia and Felipe stopped off in St Augustine


It had come hot on the heels of another rewear, this one the navy blue blouse with turquoise flower print skirt that has been seen several times in 2015 and is starting to get slightly repetitive. It was worn in France and for a lunch with the President of Italy earlier this year.


 The shirt looked too informal while there was another shoe mismatch going on. At least with cooler weather around the corner, this outfit might take a back seat in this royal wardrobe for a while.


 We did get some new looks on this tour. There was a black cocktail dress with sheer panel at the top chosen for an event at Georgetown University.


There was also a sparkle effect two piece evening outfit for a meeting with members of the Senate which included a new variation on a favourite style for Letizia this year, the waistcoat top.


 There was also a new print dress on show for the set piece event of the visit, the audience with the Obamas at the White House.


The white jacket was left behind for a walk in the gardens with Michelle Obama which was a shame as it lifted the whole outfit.


But there was another white jacket event for the queen on a solo visit to the National Cancer Institute when Letizia paired the top with her favourite Hugo Boss mauve and pink flower print dress. It was among the most successful looks of the whole tour.

The US visit of the Queen of Spain was slightly underwhelming on the wardrobe front but with the seasons changing and a new royal school year getting under way it could mark a transition for Letizia, the fashion icon with a class of royal fashionistas breathing down her neck. Autumn could be very interesting.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Royal Wardrobe: opening parliament

We've had two openings of parliaments this week, in Sweden and in the Netherlands, and while it was the kings of those respective countries who did the honours it was the queens and princesses who provided the fashion fixes. Maxima stole the show, Victoria was hot on her heels and Sofia and Madeleine looked like they were in school uniform. Here's the Royal Wardrobe in parliament...

Queen Maxima watches her husband prepare to deliver his speech at the opening of the Dutch parliament on September 15 2015

No doubt about it, the Queen of the Netherlands looked sensational as she attended Prinsjesdag for the third time as consort of her country. Her full length gown this time was unusual and a winner.

In palest beige with a beautiful Japanese style print of birds and flowers along the lower part of the flowing skirt it was fresh, elegant and classy while giving everyone a lesson in how to do formal with a modern twist.


 With her hair swept up and minimal jewellery, Maxima looked every inch the queen in a very modern way. The only jarring moment was the maroon gloves but colour co-ordinating this necessary accessory is always a hard one and the dress is so gorgeous, it's instantly forgotten.


 There's less wriggle room for Sweden's royals when they pick an outfit from the royal wardrobe for the official opening of parliament there with black and white a must. Crown Princess Victoria won this year's monochrome moment with a chic black dress and matching jacket with white trim.


 It did a fairly good job of concealing the baby bump but the happy news was still on show beneath the clever corners of the jacket.


 Her mum looked chic in a black coat with white hat, a simple take on the traditional outfit but effective and elegant, a bit like Silvia herself.


But Victoria's sister and sister in law fared less well having both put on a black dress with white jacket. While Sofia looked smart...


 And Madeleine looked chic....


 Next to one another they looked like they were in uniform as the outfits were so similar.


 When it came to opening parliament this year, the winner was clear. Maxima by a mile in a dress that will stand the test of time.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Low key Letizia, in black and white

Dare we say it but it was a bit of a let down. The Queen of Spain went to America on a much heralded visit which included a stop in the White House and all eyes were on the fashion choices of Letizia. But they were rather sedate and very much in black and white.

The King and Queen of Spain with the President and First Lady of the United States of America
The White House, Washington DC, September 15th 2015

For her visit to the home of the US President, Letizia picked a black dress with white flower print teamed with a white jacket with five neat buttons running down the centre. It was chic, appropriate and rather uninspiring. And it was wiped off the page by Michelle Obama's take on relaxed formal - her beige and white print dress was a stunner.

Felipe checks out the carpet in the White House on his official visit

The queen got the chance to show off the dress in all its glory when she took a walk around the grounds with Michelle Obama.

A queen at the White House

The Spanish queen had worn the same outfit on a visit to Mount Vernon, the homestead of George Washiington, where she and King Felipe had laid a wreath at a memorial to the first US President there.

 They also took a walk about the grounds which is no mean feat in Letizia's uniform high heels and at some points she did seem to be clinging to her husband for help as they negotiated to the grassy slopes.

In the evening, the royal couple met members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committe at a reception in the US capital.

Queen Letizia chose a sparkling black cocktail legnth outfit which in the light showed up as a two piece with waistcoat style top adorned with metal effect buttons and a knee length skirt. Unfortunately, most of the pictures were taken in a rather dark room which made the queen look like she was blending into the shadows.
It was another very low key choice at the end of a strange day of style picks for birthday queen Letizia.


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Elizabeth II, the history maker

There are lots of things to do on a grey Wednesday afternoon but not many of us have the option of writing our names in the history books for all time. But as the clock ticked round to 5.30pm on Wednesday September 9th 2015, Elizabeth II did just that. She is now the longest reigning monarch in British history. The age of Victoria is over, this is truly the era of the second Elizabeth.

The Queen travels into history

She is said to have wanted things to be 'business as usual' but this was an extraordinary day. And as the Queen travelled on a train in Scotland even Elizabeth II realised that her wish couldn't come true. The business was to open a new railway line in Scotland but the as usual disappeared,. Crowds turned out everywhere to see the woman who was about to carve her name in the history books as Britain's longest reigning monarch.

Gazing out into a future where her name is written in history
Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history

The day began at Edinburgh Waverley Station where there were lines and lines of people waiting to see the historic queen.  She travelled on to Newtongrange and Tweedbank where she made a short speech thanking people for their kindess on her milestone.