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Elizabeth Taylor, age 44, the year she married John Warner. April 1976. Photo: Henry Wynberg

Elizabeth Taylor, age 44, the year she married John Warner. April 1976. Photo: Henry Wynberg

Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) was willing to do almost anything to get her seventh husband, Virginia lawyer John Warner, elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978.  To woo voters and the Republican Party leaders, Elizabeth had to prove to be an asset to the campaign. She had to make the transformation from movie queen to political wife. (Readers: For how they got together, read the previous post.)

During their brief courtship, Warner was given cause to worry that she could not make the leap. He recalled inviting Elizabeth to lunch with him in Washington, D.C.. Looking forward to showing her off, he was embarrassed when she appeared at the Bicentennial office (where he was director)

wearing a flowing black silk pajama outfit with a low-cut neckline.” (1)

Then there were her showy jewels, for example, an “eye-popping necklace of…egg-sized canary diamonds and amethysts as big as her fist.” Elizabeth promised her husband she would dress down, cutting down on the diamonds and the décolletage, opulence that would not go over big with plain Southern Virginia folk.

At a British Embassy reception, Queen Elizabeth II of England gets a look at Elizabeth Taylor's famous jewels: the Bulgari Vladimir Suite of emeralds and diamonds from her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Richard Burton. July 1976

At a British Embassy reception, Queen Elizabeth II of England gets a look at Elizabeth Taylor’s famous jewels: the Bulgari Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite of emeralds and diamonds from her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Richard Burton. July 1976

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite of emeralds and diamonds, once part of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite of emeralds and diamonds, once part of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection

Besides sacrificing her fashion sense, Elizabeth would set her career aside during this period, appearing in only a handful of films and, then, mostly in cameo roles, requiring only a short stint away from the campaign.

Elizabeth Taylor, age 44, wears her signature color, purple, to match her violet eyes. 1977

Elizabeth Taylor, age 44, wears her signature color, purple, to match her violet eyes. 1977

Then there were her friends of the moment, the hard-partying, cocaine-sniffing crowd of the notorious New York disco Studio 54: Liza Minnelli, fashion designer Halston, Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger. Warner steered her away from hanging out with them at the club (although she did install a discotheque at the farm for entertaining them).

Elizabeth Taylor dances with her fashion designer friend Halston at Studio 54. Note that Elizabeth wears a purple pantsuit. Feb. 1978

Elizabeth Taylor dances with her fashion designer friend Halston at Studio 54. Note that Elizabeth wears a purple pantsuit. Feb. 1978

Self-restraint, too, was called into play, if Elizabeth was going to help Warner hit a home run, for Elizabeth was a hot-blooded woman, prone to hard-drinking, cursing, and screaming at photographers trying to shoot her from uncomplimentary angles.

In January, 1977, weeks after returning from honeymooning in Switzerland, Elizabeth and John hit the campaign trail with an appearance at the Hearts of Gold Ball in Richmond, which they reached by Greyhound bus. From here on out, for Elizabeth, it would be a 23-month slog of kissing babies, speechifying, ribbon-cutting, riding in parades, chairing galas, raising funds, eating corn-on-the cob at county fairs, signing autographs, hurling cream pies, and pinning Warner buttons on Democrats. If a college campus had a drama department, she held a seminar for the students and allowed friendly question and answer sessions, unscripted, with no retakes, to which she was accustomed on a movie set. Toward the end of the race, she and Warner put in 12-15 hour days, riding in planes, buses, cars, and trains to reach their destinations.

John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor in her favorite purple pantsuit by Halston. 1977

John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor in her favorite purple pantsuit by Halston. 1977

Large, enthusiastic crowds turned out to see Elizabeth, accessible to them, no longer protected by bodyguards, as  in her movie stardom days. She shook so many hands that, one day, two blood vessels broke in her hand. That did not slow her down. She continued to shake hands, though her hand was swollen and protected by an elastic bandage. Elizabeth’s bursitis flared up in her shoulder from such rigorous handshaking. She received cortisone injections to help with the pain. Sometimes she campaigned in a wheelchair. But she kept going. She did it because

‘They come to see my wrinkles and pimples, and I don’t disappoint them, do I?’ she laughed. ‘This face has been around a lot of years. People want to see if my eyes really are violet or bloodshot or both. Once they check me out, they can go home and say, ‘I saw Liz Taylor and you know what? She ain’t so hot!’” (1)

At almost every campaign stop, Elizabeth Taylor look-alikes would show up, in big wigs and evening gowns.

Unfortunately, a lot of the people who showed up at rallies came to see if Elizabeth was as obese as it was being reported in the press. The strain of the campaign was beginning to take its toll on her. Her weight had ballooned and she was drinking booze in excess and eating way too much. Joan Rivers was regularly lampooning her with fat jokes on  “The Tonight Show“:

Every time Liz Taylor goes into McDonald’s, the numbers on the sign outside start changing. When she looks up and see five billion, she thinks it’s her weight.”

John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor, ca. 1978

John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor, ca. 1978

Elizabeth was affected by such cruel commentary. Nevertheless, she continued eating and drinking herself into oblivion. Dinner guests reported seeing her eat, in one sitting, mounds of mashed potatoes drowned in gravy, followed by five rich desserts and countless bottles of champagne. (2) In her defense, she remarked:

‘I am not a monument that pigeons can doo-doo on. I am a living human being, and if I want to eat fried chicken six times a day and can still function, that’s up to me!’” (1)

Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner campaign for the U.S. Senate seat. June 2, 1978

In August, 1978, John Warner became the Republic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia, when the original nominee was suddenly killed.

John Warner became the Republican nominee for the 1978 U.S. Senate race by a strange circumstance. Richard Obenshain was the nominee but he died in a plane crash. John Warner and wife Elizabeth Taylor are shown here at Obenshain's funeral. Aug. 5, 1978. Photo: Don Long, Richmond Times Dispatch

John Warner became the Republican nominee for the 1978 U.S. Senate race by a strange circumstance. Richard Obenshain was the nominee but he died in a plane crash. John Warner and wife Elizabeth Taylor are shown here at Obenshain’s funeral. Aug. 5, 1978. Photo: Don Long, Richmond Times Dispatch

The general election was on November 7; there were three months to go. The strain of the long and grueling campaign trail was apparent in both of them; tempers frayed and Elizabeth kept eating, eating, and then eating some more. Some campaign leaders worried that Elizabeth’s star appeal was overshadowing the candidate. They considered removing her from the campaign.

On October 12, 1978, three weeks before the election, Elizabeth was to suffer one of the many freak accidents for which she was known. She appeared at a rally at Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The whole countryside was in a dither to see her.

Elizabeth Taylor wore her purple silk Halston pantsuit accessorized with a sumptuous gold necklace studded with amethyst stones the size of cookies and matching drop earrings encrusted with pearls. She had tucked a small bouquet of fresh violets behind one ear. She posed for photo after photo with a smile that was genuine.

Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner, center, pose at a campaign rally in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Oct. 12, 1978

Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner, center, pose at a campaign rally in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Oct. 12, 1978. Note the purple Halston pantsuit Elizabeth is wearing.

Later that evening, John and Elizabeth stopped for a chicken dinner at Fraley’s Coach House, where Elizabeth took a bite of a fried chicken breast and accidentally swallowed a two-and-a-half inch bone. The bone lodged in her throat. She clutched her neck, barely able to breathe. She tried to cough it up, but in vain. She stuffed some rolls into her mouth to try to push the bone down her throat but it didn’t work. It was clear that she was choking to death. (3) She was rushed to Lonesome Pine Hospital, where a thoracic surgeon inserted a rubber hose down her throat and stuffed the bone down where it dissolved in digestion. She was overnight in the hospital. The next day, she made the headlines:

‘ACTRESS NEARLY CHOKES AT CAMPAIGN RALLY,’ screamed The Washington Star.

Elizabeth Taylor is assisted by her husband, John Warner (r.) as she returns from a hospital stay in Richmond, Va. Oct. 13, 1978

Elizabeth Taylor is assisted from an airplane by her husband, John Warner (r.) as she returns from a hospital stay in Richmond, Va. Oct. 13, 1978

Strangely, it was about this time that a delegation of women who ran the Warner campaign chose to approach Elizabeth and inform her that she could no longer wear purple to John’s rallies. Everyone knows that purple was her signature color. Her legendary eyes were violet. In a 1997 interview with Kevin Sessums, Elizabeth recalled:

‘If the woman is the politician, then it might be quite different. But if you’re wedded to the politician, it’s like your lips are sealed. You are a robot. They even tell you what you can wear. You can imagine how that sat with me! I was told that I—me!—was not allowed to wear purple because it smacked of royalty.’ 

She told Harper’s Bazaar:

‘The Republican women told me, ‘You simply cannot wear the purple pantsuit you’ve been campaigning in anymore.’ I ended up in a tweed suit. Me. Little tweed suits. What I won’t do for love.’”

Twelve days before the U.S. Senate election,Republican women crowd around Elizabeth Taylor Warner at the Meadowbrook Country Club, Richmond. Va.  Oct. 26, 1978.

Twelve days before the U.S. Senate election,Republican women crowd around Elizabeth Taylor Warner at the Meadowbrook Country Club, Richmond. Va. Oct. 26, 1978.

On November 7, John Warner squeaked to victory. Out of 1.2 million votes, he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Virginia by only 4,271 votes.  He could not have done it without Elizabeth. Some say that the chicken bone incident moved the public to sympathy for her, swinging the vote in Warner’s favor. Elizabeth joked later

‘I seem to have at least 4, 271 fans in Virginia, so at least I know I pulled my own weight!’” (2)

After the election, the Republican women threw Elizabeth a luncheon in her honor, for all she had done in the campaign. In her Kevin Sessums interview, Elizabeth said she

…put on my purplest Halston pantsuit. I told them the story that the women who ran John Warner’s campaign had forbid me to wear purple. I got up and pointed out one specific woman. I said, ‘That one! Right there!’”

The subjugation of her own ego to John’s for two full years damaged Elizabeth’s self-esteem. There were few movie roles for an aging beauty, especially a puffy one. Elizabeth Taylor, movie star, had lost her self-identity.

John and Elizabeth moved to Washington, D.C., where, on January 16, 1979 in the gallery of the U.S. Senate, John was sworn in with Elizabeth and her mother in attendance. Things looked rosy for the couple at that moment. John and Elizabeth threw each other big Hollywood kisses, but John immediately became consumed by his new job, declaring he would never miss a roll call. Elizabeth was left alone for long stretches of time in their Washington home or Virginia farmhouse, consoling herself with massive quantities of Jack Daniels and chili dogs. She resorted to trips to New York to hang out at Studio 54. Elizabeth liked to have a man around and John wasn’t there for her. Whereas John may have loved Elizabeth, he loved work more.

Elizabeth Taylor, center, hangs out at Studio 54 with singer Liza Minnelli (l.) and First Lady Betty Ford (r.). 1979

Elizabeth Taylor, center, hangs out at Studio 54 with singer Liza Minnelli (l.) and First Lady Betty Ford (r.). 1979

Elizabeth had married John Warner in the hopes that he would give her the roots (and a private life) that she had longed for so much in her hurried life. Instead, she had spent the first two years of their marriage on the campaign trail and in the public eye more than before, if that is possible. Her life was more stressful than ever. As a star, she was used to crushingly cruel movie reviews but nothing could have been as brutal as the punishing ridicule she had received from the media for her weight gain.

Though these years were painful for Elizabeth – she and John Warner would divorce after six years of marriage – her worsening addiction to alcohol, pain pills and food would put her feet firmly on a path that led, in 1983, to a life-changing stay at the Betty Ford Clinic. A new Elizabeth Taylor would emerge from the famous rehab: a savvy and respected politician who would use her high profile celebrity to raise mega millions to combat the deadly disease, AIDS, by creating AMFAR.

Elizabeth Taylor, age 55, looking healthy and trim. 1987

Elizabeth Taylor, age 55, looking healthy and trim. 1987

(1) Kelley, Kitty. Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981.

(2) Heymann, C. David. Liz: An Intimate Portrait of Elizabeth Taylor. New York; Simon & Schuster, 1995.

(3) Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Elizabeth. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2006.

Readers: For more on Elizabeth Taylor, click here.

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At a 1968 British society wedding in Kent, Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor snaps a souvenir picture of the Queen Mum (seated), mother of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen Mum

At a 1968 British society wedding in Kent, Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor cannot resist snapping a souvenir picture of "the Queen Mum" (seated), mother of Queen Elizabeth II.

“The Queen Mum,” born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900-2002), was the beloved British Royal Family matriarch from 1953 until her death at age 101. Of Scottish birth, she served as Queen consort to her husband King George VI from 1936 until his death in 1952, when their daughter Princess Elizabeth took the throne as Elizabeth II.

During the London Blitz in WWII, the Queen Mum – who was then naturally referred to as Queen Elizabeth - insisted that she and the King remain in Buckingham Palace after it was bombed by the German luftwaffe. The Queen remarked to her mother-in-law that she was more affected by the bombing of the East End of London than by the bombing of the Palace:

“I’m glad we have been bombed,” she said. “Now, I can look the East End in the eye.” (1)

British King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth (later Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) survey the damage to Buckingham Palace from German bombs. Both the King and Queen were in the Palace when the attack hit the palace grounds and chapel on the morning of September 13, 1940. As they made their way to the palace shelter, they felt the Palace shake under the assault of high explosive and incendiary bombs. They were unhurt. Undeterred by the danger, the royal couple vowed to stay in London in the Palace.

I am still just as frightened of bombs as I was at the beginning,” the Queen wrote to a favourite niece. “I turn bright red and my heart hammers….I’m a beastly coward but I do believe that a lot people are, so I don’t mind! Well, darling, I must stop. Tinkety tonk old fruit and down with the Nazis.”(2)

Her indomitable spirit in the face of German aggression boosted British morale to such a degree that Adolf Hitler called her “the most dangerous woman in Europe.”

Her scary skinny sister-in-law, Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, hated and mocked her, calling her by the unflattering nickname “Cookie” behind her back, mocking her love of sweets and resulting plumpness. The Queen Mum, however, did not hide her love of fun, jokes, champagne, and good food. In the 2010 movie, “The King’s Speech,” the Queen Mum, played by Helena Bonham Carter, is shown eating candies in the backseat of a car.

Her ultimate accolade for anyone or anything was “delicious.”(2)

Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

A new book by British monarchy chronicler, Brian Hoey, gives us yet another “behind the palace walls” glimpse of the Queen Mum enjoying her sweets.  Not in Front of the Corgis, scheduled for a June 2012 release, relates this anecdote: 

Lord Callaghan, when he was prime minister (1976-1979), was a frequent guest of the Queen Mother’s at Clarence House. Once, when just the two of them were present, she was eating from an enormous box of chocolates when he arrived.  She asked him if he would like one. He said, “Yes.” She then pointed to one in the middle of the box and said, “Have that one.” During the time he was eating his one specified chocolate, she ate three more. 

She then invited him to take another, once again selecting the one he should have. This went on for the remainder of the morning, with Her Majesty always pointing to the ones he could have.

As Callaghan left, he spoke to The Queen’s Page, asking why he was offered only particular chocolates by the Queen. The Page let him in on the secret:

“Those are the ones with hard centers. Her Majesty only eats the chocolates with soft centers.”(3)

(1) Source: BBC

(2) Source: The Daily Beast

(3) Source: The Daily Beast

Faithful readers:

  •  For more on the Queen Mum on this blog, click here.
  • For more on the British Royal Family on this blog, click here.
  • For more on Elizabeth Taylor on this blog, click here.
  • For more on Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor on this blog, click here.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government is moving ahead with plans to change succession laws so that if Will and Kate have a daughter, she will be able to ascend to the throne. Under existing rules, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge‘s first child is a girl but their second child is a boy, the son would pass over his sister and inherit the throne. Cameron wrote,

We espouse gender equality in all other aspects of life, and it is an anomaly that in the rules relating to the highest public officer we continue to enshrine male superiority.”

Read more at People.

For more on this blog about Will & Kate, click here.

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Queen Elizabeth II and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, took a preview tour of Buckingham Palace’s royal wedding exhibit on Friday. 

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and her grandmother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, are on their way to view Buckingham Palace's royal wedding exhibit, July 22, 2011. Uncharacterically, the Queen is not carrying her trusty handbag.

The Royal Collection show, called “The Royal Wedding Dress: A Story of Great British Design,” opened to the public today. It brings together the Duchess of Cambridge’s Alexander McQueen white and ivory Irish lace wedding dress, shoes, tiara, earrings, and a replica bouquet for the public to view up close.

Among the items displayed at the Queen's London residence include the Cartier Halo tiara, worn by Kate Middleton on her wedding day. The understated headpiece was made in 1936 and purchased by the Duke of York (later King George VI) for his wife, Elizabeth's mother (also Elizabeth). Queen Elizabeth received it as an 18th-birthday present, at which time she was Princess Elizabeth. The delicate diamond tiara was lent to Kate by the Queen.

The Palace expects over 500,000 people to buy tickets to the ten-week exhibit. Both at home and abroad, Prince William and Kate are wildly popular, as evidenced by the overwhelmingly warm reception they received earlier this summer on their 2011 Royal Tour of Canada with a detour to Hollywood.

Kate Middleton's bridal shoes will be on display at Buckingham Palace this summer. Custom made by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton to match her wedding dress, Kate's elegant pumps are made of ivory duchesse satin with lace hand-embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework.

Kate and William’s wedding cake was a fruit cake designed by Fiona Cairns. It was covered in cream and white icing, decorated with over 900 sugar paste flowers and elaborate scrollwork. Fiona Cairns’ cakes are in huge demand; Sir Paul McCartney orders one every Christmas.

Kate designed her wedding cake to match its surroundings. She took into account that her wedding reception was to be held in the Picture Gallery in Buckingham Palace. The room has high ceilings so she chose a cake that towered but was not too tall or thin. She wanted something with presence. Architectural elements in the room, for instance, garlands on the walls, were reproduced loosely on the fourth tier piping: roses, acorns, ivy leaves, apple blossom and bridal roses. The cakemaker would not reveal her exact recipe but did disclose that she used a range of produce from dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas to walnuts, cherries, grated oranges and lemon, French brandy and free-range eggs and flour to create her historic confection.

Of course, the centerpiece of the exhibit was Kate’s wedding dress and veil. An ongoing tradition, viewing royal wedding gowns has wide public appeal. For instance, Princess Diana‘s 1981 Elizabeth Emanuel wedding gown continues to be viewed and is currently part of a travelling exhibition. 

Kate and the Queen view Kate's wedding gown display in Buckingham Palace. July 20, 2011.

Upon viewing the installation of Kate’s wedding dress and veil, the Queen was heard to exclaim, 

“Horrid, isn’t it? Horrid and dreadful!”

 

The Queen is not amused.

The ivory and white Alexander McQueen gown is displayed in a dark and gloomy fashion with the veil and tiara hovering eerily above. 

The Duchess of Cambridge's wedding gown is displayed without a mannequin.

It appeared the mannequin’s lack of a head may have upset the Queen.

Source: HuffStyle 

Readers: For more on Lisa’s History Room about the British Royal Family, click here.

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Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, braved temperatures in the nineties as they continue their Royal Tour of Canada at a stop in Ottawa. Kate wore a striking red hat adorned with the Canadian maple leaf as well as a brooch loaned from the Queen. In his speech, Prince William referred to his grandmother as the “Queen of Canada.” Queen Elizabeth II remains Canada’s head-of-state.Prince William waves to the Ottawa crowd as Catherine steps out in a striking red hat adorned with red maple leaves, a symbol found on the Canadian flag. July 2011  

Kate flashes a smile as we get a close-up of her red hot fascinator by Sylvia Fletcher for Lock and Co.

Kate wears a family heirloom loaned to her by Queen Elizabeth II: a diamond brooch of a maple leaf, Canada's national emblem.

Queen Elizabeth II wore the maple brooch when she toured Canada 60 years earlier, in 1951.

The flag of Canada features a red, 11-tipped maple leaf against a white field, flanked by vertical red bands. Canada is a federal state that is governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is a bilingual nation with both English and French as official languages at the federal level.

Readers: For more on the British Royal Family here on Lisa’s History Room, click here

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Landing in Ottawa, Canada, Prince William and Catherine begin the Royal Tour of 2011, their first tour as husband and wife.

Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are in Canada today, the first leg of the Royal Tour 2011 of North America. For more, click here.

For more about the British Royal Family on this blog, Lisa’s History Room, click here.

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This week's current Newsweek cover featuring a fantasy image of what Princess Diana, had she lived, might have looked like at age 50. The image has sparked tremendous backlash.

The Daily Beast has provided a photo gallery of Princess Diana over the years. Had she lived, she would have turned 50 today, July 1, 2011: “Princess Diana’s 50th Birthday.”

Newsweek’s Tina Brown has written a really strange futuristic look at what Diana might have been like at 50: “Diana at 50.”

For other posts on Diana on this blog, Lisa’s History Room, click here.

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Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

They first met at the 1884 wedding of his uncle to her sister. She called him Nicky; he called her “Alix” or “Sunny.”  Although Alix was only 12, she knew at that moment that Nicky was “The One.” It was on this occasion she carved their names on the window of the Peterhof Palace.

Alix of Hesse as a young girl ca. 1878

After the wedding, Alix bid her sister and Nicky goodbye, returning to the Darmstadt Palace in Germany which was her home. Alix was a royal princess.

Alix of Hesse ca. 1888

Young Nicholas II of Russia, before he ascended the throne in 1894

Five more years would pass before Princess Alix would return to Russia and see Nicky again. During that visit, the two fell even more deeply in love. Nicky was determined to make Alix his bride.

But Nicky’s parents wouldn’t hear of Nicky marrying a German princess. They hated Germans as did almost every Russian. But Nicky’s parents weren’t just any Russians.  Nicky’s parents were the Romanov rulers of Russia: Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Marie Feodorovna . They were the Royal Emperor and Empress. Nicky – Nicholas Alexandrovich- being their oldest son – was the Tsarevitch – the heir to the Russian throne.

Alix returned to Germany.

Princess Alix of Hesse, seated, prepares for her first ball. 1889.

More years passed. Love letters written in English flew back and forth between the lovesick pair.

Meanwhile, Nicky carried on a torrid and scandalous three-year affair with the famous Russian ballerina, Mathilda Kschessinska.

Mathilde Kschessinska (1872-1971)

Nevertheless, Nicky’s heart still belonged to Alix.  He wrote in his diary:

It is my dream to one day marry Alix H. I have loved her for a long time, but more deeply and strongly since 1889 when she spent six weeks in Petersburg. For a long time, I have resisted my feeling that my dearest dream will come true.”

Nicky’s parents continued to wage a fierce campaign to find Nicky a suitable bride. The Tsar hoped to land a bigger catch for his son than Princess Alix (even though she was his godchild!), parading a series of royal princesses in front of his son. But Nicky stood firmly against each proposed match, declaring flat out to his folks that he’d become a monk rather than marry anyone ugly and boring when he could have the tall and lovely blue-eyed beauty Princess Alix as his wife and royal consort.

Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom comforts her German granddaughters, the Princesses of Hesse; left to right, Victoria, Ella, and, the youngest, Alix. Their mother, Princess Alice, had just died. Alice was Victoria's second daughter.

Meanwhile, alone in Germany, Alix was equally resolute to marry Nicky, doing her own bit in  turning down royal suitors. She even stood up to her domineering grandmother, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, when the Queen tried to marry her off to her grandson, the Duke of Clarence. Alix declined to marry the Duke stating to “Granny” that she did not love him. Victoria – notorious for her royal matchmaking – surprisingly

“was proud of Alix for standing up to her, something many people, including her own son, the Prince of Wales did not do.”

 
For five years, Tsar Alexander III had stood firmly against his son’s wishes. But, in 1894, he became ill and relented, the couple announcing their engagement in April of 1894.

1894 official engagement photo of Princess Alix of Hesse (later Alexandra Feodorovna) and Tsarevitch Nicholas (later Tsar) of Russia

Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt and by Rhine & Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, London, 1894

Alix, as a requirement for the engagement, converted from Lutheranism to the Russian Orthodox religion and took the Russian name “Alexandra Feodorovna” to strengthen her appeal to the Russian people. Nicholas and Alexandra planned a spring 1895 wedding.

But their plans were thrown in disarray by Alexander’s sudden death in November and Nicholas’s subsequent ascension to the throne as His Imperial Majesty, Tsar Nicholas II. Nicholas insisted that the wedding date be moved forward, as he wanted Alix by his side to help him rule. They married a swift three weeks later. He was 26.  Alix, now called Empress Alexandra,was 22.

Wedding of Russian Emperor Nicholas II (1868-1918) and Grand Princess Alexandra Fedorovna (1872-1918) by Laurits Tuxen, 1895

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Dodi Al Fayed looks over Princess Diana’s shoulder just minutes before the two of them will die in a Paris tunnel.

Keith Allen, the director of the controversial film, “Unlawful Killing,” is interviewed today by the UK Daily Mail regarding his decision to include in the “documentary” a previously unseen and graphic black and white photo of Princess Diana as she lay dying August 31, 1997.  The photo was probably sold by one of the paparazzi in the Paris tunnel with her at the time of her fatal car crash. (1)

“Unlawful Killing” debuts tomorrow at the Cannes Film Festival. Allen defends his tasteless use of the disturbing photo of the much beloved princess on the heels of the Royal Wedding:

The photo is not used in the film for the purpose of shock. It is included as evidence, because it shows clearly that, although Diana had been injured in the crash, she was alert and very much alive. I repeat: it is not a picture of a dying woman.

As medical evidence presented at the inquest confirmed, if Diana had been taken promptly to hospital by Dr Jean-Marc Martino, she could well have survived.

Instead, due to a series of delays that have never been properly explained, it took one hour and 43 minutes to get her to a hospital just a couple of miles away, by which time her life was ebbing away.

We briefly use one photograph as part of a sequence which asks: why was she not taken to hospital more quickly? What took place within Dr Martino’s ambulance (inside which she remained for well over an hour)? Why is Dr Martino’s evidence greatly at variance with the known facts? And why did no official inquiry ever interview (or even name) most of other people in the ambulance?

Surely, if the inquest and police enquiries were as ‘thorough’ and ‘open’ as the voices of authority insist, that is the very least they would have done?

My film is not about a conspiracy before the crash, but about a conspiracy after the crash, culminating in a six-month inquest which (it is my contention) sought to bury the truth, rather than reveal it. I don’t know whether I’ll convince you or not, but I hope you’ll reserve judgement until you have seen it for yourselves.

Admittedly, that’s difficult at the moment, because the film cannot be shown in the UK (mainly because the questions it asks about the conduct of the coroner and police chiefs could lead to us all being imprisoned under contempt of court laws). But it will soon be showing widely throughout the world, so many of you will be able to see it elsewhere.” (2)

Allen admits that “Unlawful Killing” is backed by Mohamed Al Fayed, the former owner of Harrods Department Store in London.  Al Fayed is the  father of  Dodi Fayed, Diana’s lover, who also died in the Paris crash.

Summer 1997: Dodi Al Fayed and Princess Diana

Mohamed Al Fayed is convinced that Dodi and Diana were murdered by a collaboration between the British spy agency M16 and Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip.

Mohamed Al Fayed has pursued his elaborate conspiracy theory for over a decade, memorably presenting it at an official British inquest into the deaths of Dodi and Diana. (3) However, on April 7, 2008, the jury released an official statement that sharply dismissed Al Fayed’s claim:

Diana and Dodi were unlawfully killed by the grossly negligent driving of chauffeur Henri Paul and the paparazzi. Though the official verdict implicated the pursuing vehicles, the jury also named the intoxication of the driver and the victims’ decisions to not wear seat-belts as contributing factors to their deaths. Additionally, the Mercedes had been travelling at over twice the legal speed limit of that particular section of road and had long since left the paparazzi vehicles far behind by the time the accident occurred.” (4)

Princess Diana (1961-1997). Mohamed Al Fayed created many myths about his son Dodi and Princess Diana’s romance, particularly that they were getting ready to announce their wedding plans. He even went so far as to claim that Diana was pregnant at the time of her death. The British inquest into Diana’s death concluded that she was not pregnant at the end.

(1) The Daily Mail

(2) The Daily Mail

(3)The New York Times

(4) Wiki

Readers: Check out “Diana’s Death Photos Leaked, Part 1 “The Shrine at Harrods,” and other posts on the British Royal Family on this blog.

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In its coverage of the fashion displayed by guests at the British Royal Wedding of William and Catherine, The New York Times wrote that the outfits of the guests “were generally tasteful and royal-friendly. A few things stuck out. The exotic costumes of foreign dignitaries, seeming throwbacks to imperial times. The hats worn by the ladies, which resembled, variously

overturned buckets, flowerpots, lampshades, fezzes, salad plates, tea cozies, flying saucers, abstract artworks or, in one case, a pile of feathers. There were also a number of fascinators, decorative shapes with flowers or feathers, that are stuck in one’s hair but are not hats.”

It now appears that 36 of the wild headpieces worn at the royal wedding can be traced to a single eccentric Irish milliner, Philip Treacy, referred to by the UK’s The Daily Mail as the man “responsible for all this fashion roadkill.” 

In this 1999 photo, milliner Philip Treacy poses with the late hat fancier Isabella Blow

Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice arrive at Westminster Abbey for the Royal Wedding in their much-ridiculed hats by Philip Treacy. Beatrice's hat was described in the Daily Mail as "beige pretzel-like" and Eugenie's as a "catastrophic confection...with a rose the color of dried blood."

For more pictures of royal wedding hats on this blog, click here.

Princess Beatrice wore this Treacy creation to another wedding. A swarm of butterflies seems to be attacking her head.

At another fancy occasion, Princess Eugenie wears a feather headpiece designed by Philip Treacy

Victoria Beckham wore one of Philip Treacy's creations to her husband David's O.B.E. ceremony. Note that Mrs. Beckham is showing her teeth, something rarely seen in her photos.

David and Victoria Beckham arrive at Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding. Victoria is wearing one of Treacy's hats, perched precariously on the front of her head. Though almost seven months pregnant with their fourth child, she opts for fashion footwear, wearing sky-high Christian Louboutin heels. David proudly wears his O.B.E. - but on the wrong lapel!

Once inside the Abbey, you can see that David Beckham has switched his O.B.E. medal from his right lapel to the left one - the correct one. Someone must have mentioned the faux pas and he made the swap. He's chatting up a Beefeater, rather nervously, I think!

While we are on the subject of propriety, let me mention that several people have remarked that Kate Middleton chose to wear a wedding gown with sleeves so that she didn’t bare her arms in the Abbey, which is firmly against the dress code.

Royal Wedding: William and Catherine are shown in the Abbey with best man Prince Harry of Wales and maid-of-honor Pippa Middleton.

I checked this out and there seems to be no such rule, at least in writing. Here is the dress code recorded on the Abbey website:

There is no specific dress code for the Abbey. For services we ask that you dress in a respectful manner, although we are aware that some people are on holiday – bear in mind that during the winter months it can become quite cold inside.

 

Besides, if Abbey rules require covered arms, then how was Pippa Middleton exempt?

Newsweek magazine clarified the matter. Royal protocol requires that the arms of a royal bride must be covered.

Prince William wore the scarlet coat of an Irish Guards mounted officer, the uniform of his senior honorary army appointment. He wore gold sword slings, but no sword. Although unconfirmed, my sources report that no weapons are allowed in the Abbey.

Back to the mad hatter and more of his crazy, over-the-top designs for The Rich and Famous:

American Actress Sarah Jessica Parker wears a Philip Treacy design. Saloon girl? More unpleasant things have been said about this hat like, "What do you get when you cross a small cowpat with a pair of yellow butterflies, a sickly green rose and a clump of brown chicken feathers?" (the Daily Mail)

British model Jade Parfit allows another Philip Treacy odd creation to rest on her right ear.

You knew it was coming.

That's Lady Gaga in the wreath by Treacy with Beyonce.

 

Jodie Kidd wears a Treacy saucer hat with pheasant feather antennae.

In this 2005 photo, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, newly-minted as the Duchess of Cornwall, are just married. She wears a Philip Treacy "wheatsheaf halo" hat for which Prince Charles later awarded him an honorary O.B.E. Camilla is so chummy with Treacy that she sent Treacy's dog a Christmas card every year until the dog's death. At the dog's funeral, Grace Jones sang and Kate Moss sent flowers. (the Daily Mail)

Readers: 

 

On this site, read, “Kate Rocks the Fascinator.”

For more pictures of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) in hats, click here.

For more posts on the British Royal Family and the Royal Wedding, click here.

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William and Kate drive Prince Charles' Aston Martin through the streets of London on their wedding day, thrilling the crowds.

Following a post-nuptials luncheon buffet for 650 guests given by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, Prince William took his new bride Kate out for a spin in his father’s vintage Aston Martin. The crowd in the street was taken by surprise to see the royal couple, the newly-christened Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, appear on the streets so spontaneously, and sent up mighty cheers, applause, and laughter as the 41-year-old blue sportscar rolled by. William and Kate waved and smiled as they passed the wildly exuberant crowds lining the curbs, waving British flags.

On the front of the car was a large red letter “L”  which stands for “learners permit” bordered by 4 red hearts. Red, white, and blue ribbons and bows decorated the front bonnet. White bows and colored party balloons -two bearing the initials C and W and others shaped like hearts and stars - fluttered gaily from the rear bumper. The novelty license plate proclaimed JU5T WED.

Prince William is distracted from his driving as an RAF helicopter salutes him overhead. Note the special license plate for his wedding day.

The royal car is said to have been specially decorated by that fun-loving prankster Prince Harry.

Best man Prince Harry waves to the crowd as he makes the journey by carriage procession to Buckingham Palace following the Royal Wedding of his brother, Prince William, to the lovely Miss Catherine Middleton.

A Range Rover followed close behind the snazzy convertible. Overhead a yellow Sea King Search and Rescue helicopter with the B Flight 22 Squadron did a flyby to honor the Prince on his wedding day. Prince William is an RAF Search and Rescue helicopter pilot with the same squadron based in Anglesey, Wales.  

RAF colleagues of Prince William did a flyby over Buckingham Palace on his wedding day.

The couple, who had just that morning exchanged televised wedding vows at Westminster Abbey before a worldwide audience of millions, were on their way up the Mall, 500 yards away, to Clarence House, where they would change their clothes for the night’s festivities.

William had already changed clothes once. He had worn a red Irish Guards tunic as he tied the knot but, for the drive down the Mall, had swapped the tunic for an Irish Guards frock coat. In the open auto, Kate still wore the Alexander McQueen wedding dress 

Prince William and the former Miss Kate Middleton, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, pose joyously for their official wedding pictures in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. April 29, 2011

“a glorious sweep of ivory and white silk gazar with hand-embroidered English and French Chantilly lace and 58 organza-covered buttons snaking up the back. It had a discreet v-neck, long lace sleeves and a train that measured nearly nine feet long. Middleton’s slender waistline was emphasized by the gown’s narrow bodice and slight padding at the hips—a nod to Victorian style.”

As for that spiffy sportscar….

Queen Elizabeth had given the Seychelles blue Aston Martin Volante DB6 MKII to her son Prince Charles in 1969 as a 21st birthday gift. The Prince of Wales -who is environmentally sensitive – converted it to run on sustainable fuel in 2008. It now uses E85 bioethanol, made from English wine wastage. The car is said to be roughly valued at £350,000.

Below is an old photo of Prince Charles taking his wife at the time, Princess Diana, William’s late mother, for a spin in the same Aston Martin convertible.

In this undated photo, Prince Charles and Princess Diana are seen driving away in the Prince's blue Aston Martin.

Readers: For more on the British Royal Family and the Royal Wedding, click here.

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Newlyweds William and Kate pose in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace with his family on our left, her family, the Middletons on our right, and members of the wedding party. On Kate's right include at far right, Kate's sister Philippa, brother James, mother Carole, and father Michael. To the far left of the picture is William's stepmother, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, father, Charles, Prince of Wales, brother Prince Harry, and grandparents, seated, Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II.

On April 29, 2011 at 8 a.m., the day Prince William of Wales married Kate Middleton, officials at Buckingham Palace announced that, in accordance with royal tradition and on recognition of the day by Queen Elizabeth, William was created Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. The Queen gave Kate a new princess title: Her Royal Highness Princess William Arthur Philip Louis, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus. 

Even though Kate now has an official princess title, she will not and cannot be called Princess Catherine. Why not?  Unlike the majority of royal brides, and in contrast to most previous consorts-in-waiting for over 350 years, Catherine does not come from a royal or aristocratic background and therefore has no title of her own. Some of the royals — Princess Margaret, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, for example — can use the designation because they were born into blue blood clan. 

 

May 6, 1985: Princess Diana holds baby Prince Harry, Prince Charles holds toddler Prince William.

Princess Diana was a blue blood when she married William’s father, Prince Charles. She was never officially declared “Princess Diana.” She styled herself in this fashion, much as the Queen’s mother became “Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother” when he daughter assumed the throne. 

None of this is set in stone, however, as the Queen could make Kate a “Princess of the United Kingdom,” which would then entitle her to be called Princess Catherine. 

Could we then call her Princess Kate? 

Readers, for more on the British royal wedding and family, click here.

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The eight-tiered wedding cake, decorated in cream, white icing and 900 delicate sugar-paste flowers, was a stunning centerpiece to the Buckingham Palace 650-guest reception hosted by William’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II. The cake is made up of 17 individual fruit cakes decorated in elegant scroll work and piping. It took renowned cake decorator Fiona Cairns five weeks to design the royal wedding cake.

Readers: For more on the British royal family and the royal wedding of William and Kate, click here.

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High fashion was the order of the day for the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton today, April 29, 2011. As is their custom, British women were dressed up and wearing some outlandish hats.

The royal Princesses of York, Eugenie (l.) and Beatrice, wore fascinators to match their dress colors. Their mother, Sarah Ferguson "Fergie" was not invited to the royal wedding of William and Kate.

British socialite Tara Parker Tomkinson wore a stunning cobalt blue outfit with hat, gloves, and dress made of the same fabric. According to the Daily Mail, the outfit is not the only new thing Ms. Parker Tomkinson got for the special occasion. Years of drug abuse necessitated some plastic surgery on her nose.

Fashion icon Victoria Beckham wore a somber navy outfit with matching hat that matched her somber mood. Ms. Beckham is expecting her fourth child, a girl.

 

The Earl Spencer’s daughters Lady Amelia, Lady Eliza and Lady Kitty, were all in attendance at the wedding. The Earl is the late Princess Diana’s brother and, thus, the girls are Diana’s nieces. Lady Kitty wears a gown designed by Victoria Beckham, also in attendance.

Readers, click here to read Part II: “The Royal Wedding: The Mad Hatter.”

Readers: For more pictures of royal wedding hats on another source, click here.

Readers: For more on the British royal family and the royal wedding of Kate and William, click here.

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May 6 1985: Princess Diana, Prince Charles and their sons Harry and William on board royal yacht Britannia in Venice.

It’s 1985. Prince Charles and Princess Diana have been married close to five years. He’s 37; she’s 24. They have two young and healthy sons. Charles and Di have everything. They are rich and famous and, by all rights, should be happy. They seem happy in most photos. But they are not. Their marriage is in trouble but it will be another 11 years before it crashes for good.

Princess Diana arrives at the Royal Opera House, London. Dec. 1985

It’s December – Christmastime – and the two of them are out on the town together in London. It’s a special night. They are seated at the Royal Box at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. It’s a VIP evening for “Friends of Covent Garden,” composed of skits and entertainment for special patrons. Silly things happen at this event - dancers sing, singers dance, and, occasionally, a celebrity might turn up on stage unexpectedly and wow the audience. Just the previous year, matter of fact, Charles and Di had done that very thing. They had performed a skit together – as Romeo and Juliet -  and the Prince had sung an ad jingle, “Just One Cornetto.”

Back to December 1985. The show is drawing to a close. Imagine Charles’s surprise when, just two numbers before the end of the show, Diana slips from the Royal Box and, minutes later, emerges on stage. She is going to perform! She wears a slinky white dress and begins dancing seductively to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” 

Princess Diana and Wayne Sleep dance to Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" at Covent Garden, December 1985.

Uptown Girl

She’s been living in her uptown world

I bet she’s never had a backstreet guy

I bet her mama never told her why

Diana – at 5’10″ – towers over her dance partner, Wayne Sleep. At 5’2″, Sleep is the shortest dancer ever admitted into the Royal Ballet School. He recalled his pas de deux with the princess that night

The Prince nearly fell out of his chair, especially when [Diana] did the kicks over my head….I was worried she’d fall apart under the spotlight, but she totally carried it off. Not many people could handle being under such scrutiny in front of an insiderly audience on that huge Covent Garden stage. She showed natural star quality.” (1)

Everyone – except Charles - is thrilled by Diana’s performance. She receives a standing ovation and eight curtain calls. At a reception afterwards, Sleep recalled that Charles was aloof, making it embarrassingly clear that he disapproved of Diana’s performance (or was he just plain jealous because he wasn’t asked to participate?). Diana had rehearsed for weeks in secret and was performing just to please Charles. Again, her efforts fall short. Of course, we know now why she couldn’t please him. He didn’t need her. He had Camilla.

Where did Diana get the personal courage to perform a seductive dance in front of 2,600 people?  Well, thank Nancy Reagan for giving Di the opportunity to shine at something she was good at. Just a month before, Diana had danced with John Travolta (at Nancy’s request) at a gala White House dinner given by the Reagans, dazzling Washington and the world with her youthful beauty, dancing grace, and sex appeal.

John Travolta and Princess Diana dance in the East Room of the White House, November 1986. Standing up to welcome Prince Charles and Princess Diana, President Reagan, in after-dinner remarks, flubbed the princess's name. Standing up in welcome, the president offered a toast to Prince Charles and "his lovely lady, Princess David."

By the time she returned to London, everyone was abuzz with Diana’s splashy American visit:

The Princess of Wales had become a walking monument – British opinion polls said she was the country’s greatest tourist attraction….One national survey calculated that from 1983-1985, she had generated $66.6 million in revenue from magazines, books, and tourists.” (2)

“Shy Di looking up through the eyelashes” had gone off to America but Confident Di had returned in her place. She made Buckingham Palace nervous – and with good reason. It could no longer control her.

(1) Brown, Tina. The Diana Chronicles. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

(2) Kelley, Kitty. The Royals. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1997.

Readers: For more on Princess Diana and the British Royal Family, click here.

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