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George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death. He was the last Emperor of India, and the first Head of the Commonwealth.

George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death. He was the last Emperor of India, and the first Head of the Commonwealth.

It was Christmas, 1939, and Great Britain was at war with Nazi Germany. Like his father before him, King George VI would continue the holiday tradition of addressing the British Empire in a live radio message. That year, he would broadcast from the royal country house at Sandringham, where he and his family would spend Christmas.

The Royal Residence at Sandringham, England

The Royal Residence at Sandringham, England

King George VI and his family leave Buckingham Palace, 1939, to spend Christmas at their country house at Sandringham. Pictured are the King and his wife Queen Elizabeth, daughters Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Princess Elizabeth would become Queen Elizabeth upon the death of her father in 1952.

King George VI and his family leave Buckingham Palace, 1939, to spend Christmas at their country house at Sandringham. Pictured are the King and his wife Queen Elizabeth, daughters Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Princess Elizabeth would become Queen Elizabeth upon the death of her father in 1952.

You will remember that King George VI was not a man comfortable with public speaking. His struggle to overcome a debilitating speech impediment – a stutter – was immortalized in the 2011 American Academy Award-winning film for Best Picture, “The King’s Speech.” A shy, nervous man, a heavy smoker and drinker (it would kill him at 56), King George VI would have preferred to have remained the Duke of York, living a quiet, out-of-the-public eye life with his sturdy wife and two rosy-cheeked daughters.

British Royal Princesses Elizabeth (l.) and Margaret Rose. February 1939, 7 months before the outbreak of WWII

British Royal Princesses Elizabeth (l.) and Margaret Rose. This photo was taken in February 1939, seven months before the outbreak of WWII.

King George VI – born Albert, called Bertie - never wanted to be king. He wasn’t supposed to be king. He was only king because his brother David had abdicated the throne in 1936 and he, Bertie, was next in line. Nevertheless, unwillingness aside, this unlikely monarch would rise to the occasion and be the very king the British people so sorely needed in a time of great trouble.

It was December 25, 1939, the day of the broadcast. Dressed in the uniform of the Admiral of the Fleet, the tall and too thin sovereign approached the table where two radio microphones were set up, taking his seat.

King George VI addresses his people on September 19, 1939, at the outbreak of WWII.

King George VI addresses his people on September 19, 1939, at the outbreak of WWII.

Taking a few deep breaths, he began to speak, slowly yet solidly. Measuring his words carefully, he spoke from the heart:

“A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”

Toward the end of his nine-minute broadcast, he said:

“I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you:”

He then read from a poem given to him by his 13-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth,

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’”*

He finished by saying,

“May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”

For a king not known for compelling speeches, this one would be a landmark. It united King and Country in common cause and inspired the people to hold fast. After all, at this point in history, no one knew that the Allies would triumph. Britain was to face five more years of war and brutal bombing by Hitler before the day of liberation would arrive. The end of 1939 was a shaky time and great leadership by King, Queen, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill would hold Britain steady against the Nazi aggressors.

Queen Elizabeth and King George VI of Great Britain stop at Vallence Road, Stepney, in the East End, London, to examine the debris following an air raid in the Second World War. October 4, 1945

Queen Elizabeth and King George VI of Great Britain stop at Vallence Road, Stepney, in the East End, London, to examine the debris following an air raid in the Second World War. October 4, 1945

King George VI pins a Distinguished Service Medal on Chief Petty Officer C.L.Baldwin in December 1939.

King George VI pins a Distinguished Service Medal on Chief Petty Officer C.L.Baldwin in December 1939.

Listen to the last four minutes of the King’s Christmas 1939 message here:

For more about the British Royal Family on this blog, click here.

Click here for the full text of the King’s 1939 Christmas Message plus The REAL austerity Christmas: How a nation gripped by fear kept calm and carried  on three months after outbreak of war in 1939

*“The Gate of the Year,” by Minnie Haskins (1908)

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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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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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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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The Royal Wedding: Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, travel to Buckingham Palace in the 1902 State Landau, along the Procession Route, after their wedding in Westminster Abbey in London, April 29, 2011. Kate is wearing the Queen's Cartier "halo" tiara, on loan for the occasion.

Every bride wears something borrowed and, for Kate Middleton, that special something belongs to the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, who became Kate’s grandmother upon marriage. On loan for her royal wedding, the newly ennobled Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, anchored her veil with the demure diamond sparkler.

Royal Wedding: Kate Middleton's veil was of silk ivory tulle with hand-embroidered lace flowers.

The 1936 tiara, which was purchased by King George VI for the Queen Mother, was presented to the Queen on her 18th birthday, Buckingham Palace confirmed with the Daily Mail.

Royal Wedding: Kate Middleton dazzles with her smile and diamond sparklers.

Other sparklers, besides her beautiful smile, were Kate’s earrings:

With her hair swept behind her ears, Middleton wore leaf-shaped diamond earrings by Robinson Pelham, which were made to match her tiara. They also featured a diamond set drop and pavé set diamond suspended in the center.
The earrings were a gift from her parents, Carole and Michael Middleton.

 

Pelham’s design for the earrings was inspired by the Middleton family’s new coat of arms, which includes acorns and oak leaves.

In advance of her marriage to Prince William of Great Britain, Catherine "Kate" Middleton and family were granted a new coat of arms.

The three acorns represent Mr. and Mrs. Middleton’s three children (Catherine, Philippa and James). Acorns were chosen because the area in which the children were brought up – West Berkshire, England – is surrounded by oak trees, a symbol of both England and strength.

The gold chevron at the center of the design represents Kate’s mother, Carole,  whose maiden name is Goldsmith. The two thinner chevrons flanking the gold chevron represent hills and mountains, symbolizing the family’s love for the great outdoors. The colours blue and red are the principal colours from the flag of the United Kingdom.

Approved by the Queen, Miss Middleton’s personal Coat of Arms has been presented in the form of a ‘lozenge’ and is shown suspended from a ribbon, which indicates that Kate, at the time, was an unmarried daughter.

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

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What’s Prince Philip’s favorite drink? Check out our quiz to see how much you know about the Royal Family:

1. In which battle did George VI fight?
A. The First Battle of Ypres
B. The Battle of Loos
C. The Battle of Jutland
D. The Battle of Tumbledown

Queen Elizabeth II loves corgis.

2. What was the name of the first royal corgi, which was given to the Queen on her 18th birthday in 1944?

A. Sinbad
B. Susan
C. Senator
D. Sonata 

 
 

Queen Victoria celebrates her fiftieth year on the throne in 1887 at her Golden Jubilee. Queen Victoria lived from 1819-1901.

3. Who succeeded Queen Victoria?
A. Prince Albert
B. Edward VII
C. George V
D. Edward VIII

4. Of how many countries is the Queen head of state?
A. Four
B. Eight
C. 16
D. 21

5. What title did the British monarch also have until 1947?
A. King of India
B. Imperial Sovereign
C. Monarch of Asia
D. Emperor of India

6. In which naval engagement during World War II was Prince Philip mentioned in despatches?
A. Battle of Cape Matapan
B. Battle of Cape Potsandpans
C. Battle of Cape Cod
D. Battle of Barents Sea

The Duchess and Duke of Windsor in exile in France, years after the Duke AKA King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne in 1936.

 7. What was Edward VIII’s relationship to his successor, George VI?
A. First cousin
B. Father
C. Elder brother
D. Younger brother

8. What was the Queen Mother’s maiden name?
A. Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
B. Lady Elizabeth Glamis
C. Lady Elizabeth Bows
D. The Countess of Strathmore

9. Which king reigned throughout World War I?
A. Edward VII
B. George V
C. George VI
D. George VII

 
 
 

King George VI sits with Prince Charles of Wales. Charles was just 3 when the King died of lung cancer on Feb. 6, 1952.

10. What relation is Prince Charles to George VI?
A. Maternal grandson
B. Paternal grandson
C. Maternal nephew
D. Paternal great-grandson

11. How old was the Queen when she came to the throne?
A. 55
B. 45
C. 35
D. 25

12. Who did the Duke and Duchess of Windsor meet at Berchtesgaden in 1937?
A. Adolf Hitler
B. Charlie Chaplin
C. Tsar of Russia
D. Winston Churchill

13. In which war did Prince Andrew fight as a helicopter pilot?
A. Gulf War
B. Iraq War
C. Falklands War
D. Korean War

14. What was the name of the royal yacht decommissioned in 1997?
A. Britannia
B. Queen Elizabeth
C. Elizabeth and Philip
D. Queen Mary

15. What is Prince Philip’s favorite drink?
A. Bass
B. Brandy (Greek, of course)
C. Boddingtons
D. Bacardi

16. In which war did the Royal Family change their dynastic title from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor?
A. Boer War
B. World War I
C. World War II
D. Cold War

 
 
 

Princess Diana, spring 1997, photographed by Mario Testino

17. What was the maiden name of Diana, Princess of Wales?
A. Lady Diana Spencer
B. Diana, Lady Spencer
C. The Lady Diana
D. The Lady Spencer

18. Why is Prince Michael of Kent not in the line of succession to the throne?
A. He converted to Islam
B. He married a Roman Catholic
C. He became a Zoroastrian
D. He married without the Queen’s permission

19. What was the name of the most famous of Edward VII’s mistresses when he was Prince of Wales?
A. Lily Crabtree
B. Nell Gwynn
C. Mary Robinson
D. Lillie Langtry

20. Which monarch of the House of Windsor has reigned the longest?
A. Edward VII
B. George V
C. George VI
D. Elizabeth II

 
 
 

Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, as portrayed on a commemorative stamp

21. How old was the Queen Mother when she died in 2002?
A. 90
B. 95
C. 75
D. 101

22. Where was the then Princess Elizabeth staying when she heard of the death of her father George VI in 1952?
A. Treetops Game Reserve in Kenya
B. Stardust Casino in Las Vegas
C. Government House in Auckland, New Zealand
D. Ice Station Zebra in Antarctica

23. What post does the monarch hold in the Church of England?
A. Supreme Pontiff
B. Senior Governor
C. Supreme Ruler
D. Supreme Governor 

Queen Elizabeth's little sister, Princess Margaret, enjoying her bath.

24. Who did the Queen’s sister marry?

A. Antony Armstrong-Andrews, Lord Snowdon
B. Andrew Armstrong-Jones, Lord Mountbatten
C. Andrew Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon
D. Antony Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon 

25. What was Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick, later Edward VIII, called by his family?
A. Edward
B. Bertie
C. Albert
D. David

26. Who was prime minister at the time of the Abdication Crisis?
A Stanley Baldwin
B Neville Chamberlain
C Winston Churchill
D Ramsay Macdonald

Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Winston and Clementine Churchill as she arrives for a dinner given at 10 Downing Street on April 4, 1955. In leading his guests in the loyal toast to Her Majesty, Churchill noted that as a young cavalry officer he had proposed similar toasts during the reign of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. He resigned as Prime Minister on the following day.

27. How many prime ministers have served under the Queen?
A. 13
B. 10
C. 14
D. 12

28. Who is The Keeper of the Royal Conscience?
A. The Archbishop of Canterbury
B. Prince Philip
C. The Prince of Wales
D. Ken Clarke

ANSWERS: 1 C. 2 B. 3 B. 4 C. 5 D. 6 A. 7 C. 8 A. 9 B. 10 A. 11 D. 12 A. 13 C. 14 A. 15 C. 16 B. 17 A. 18 B. 19 D. 20 D. 21 D. 22 A. 23 D. 24 D. 25 D. 26 A. 27 A. 28 D (as Lord Chancellor).

Source: The Daily Mail, Jan. 11, 2011

Readers: For more on the British Royal Family on this blog, click here.
11th January 2011

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Prince William and Kate Middleton announce their engagement at Clarence House, London, on November 16, 2010. They are both 28.

Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton have made more decisions on their upcoming wedding,” Clarence House said in a statement, which was first released in a series of messages on Twitter.

The royal wedding will take place on Friday, April 29, 2011, at Westminster Abbey.

Kate Middleton will travel by car to the 11 a.m. service passing through some of Britain’s most historic sites – Pall Mall, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall, and Parliament Square. The ceremony will be conducted by the Rev. John Hall and the couple will be married by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Once the pair are husband and wife, they will travel along the same route that Middleton arrived in, but this time, in a horse-drawn carriage. Prince William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, will host a gathering at Buckingham Palace for guests. Afterward, William’s father, Prince Charles, will organize a private dinner for friends and family.

Source: Google News

Readers, for more on this blog about the royal wedding and the British Royal Family, click here.

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Princess Diana, 1997

Following her 1996 divorce from Prince Charles, Princess Diana downsized her life. She reduced her Kensington Palace staff to cleaner, cook, and dresser with Paul Burrell filling in the gaps as her man Friday. The police, not the Royal Protection Squad, accompanied her to public events. She pared down the list of charities she supported from 100 to 6.  

She culled her wardrobe, throwing out dresses that reminded her of her previous life, famously donating 79 of them to charity at a June 1997 Christie’s auction, including the black dress she wore while dancing with actor John Travolta at the White House in 1985.

American Actor John Travolta and Princess Diana of Great Britain dance at the White House, 1985.

She changed her friends. She dumped old confidante Elton John after he acted as a go-between with her and fashion designer Gianni Versace for Versace’s 1997 coffee-table book Rock and Royalty.  Diana blamed John for carelessly placing a photograph of the Princess and her sons in the book amid a portfolio of semi-nude male models, which Diana rightly feared would upset the Queen

In July 1997, Diana did make up with Elton John, consoling him at Versace’s memorial service. 

Princess Diana comforts rock star Elton John at the 1997 memorial for slain fashion designer Gianni Versace

By the end of August, Diana, too, would be dead, and John would play the piano at her funeral. In 2008, John reflected on Princess Diana’s last year:

I think in the end…Diana trusted the wrong people. She didn’t trust the people she should have trusted, her true friends. I always thought the people that really felt for her and really were true to her she just was a bit airy fairy towards in the end.”

Fergie was another of Diana’s old friends that got the heave-ho in the last year of her life. This rupture was also a result of the publication of a book.

Back in 1985, Sarah, the Duchess of York, and Princess Diana were close friends.

In her memoir, My Story: by Sarah, the Duchess of York, the divorced duchess shared that she and Diana wore the same size of shoes and often shared them.  Fergie claimed that she caught a verruca—a plantar wart – after wearing a pair of Diana’s shoes.

Diana was aghast that her old friend and former sister-in-law would portray her in such unflattering detail just to make a buck. Despite Fergie’s repeated apologies, Diana would not forgive her. She never spoke to Fergie again.

Brown, Tina. “Diana’s Final Heartbreak,” Vanity Fair, July 2007.

For more on Princess Diana, click here.

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U.S. President Jimmy Carter (right) visits Buckingham Palace in May, 1977, and is greeted (l to r) by Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and the Queen Mother. Let me just point out that both Elizabeth and her mum are carrying purses. The Queen is never without her purse. The Queen Mum's purse blends so nicely with her frock they look cut from the same cloth! Although the Queen wears both gloves, her mother has taken off her right glove, presumably to shake Carter's hand - but he has something else in mind for her! (Lisa's History Room)

U.S. President Jimmy Carter only visited the British Royal Family once during his presidency but, in that short time, he made a very strong impression. In London for an economic summit in May, 1977, Queen Elizabeth II invited Carter to Buckingham Palace. While meeting her and other members of the royal family, Carter broke protocol and kissed the Queen’s mother right smack on the lips. 

Carter’s Southern hospitality did not sit well with the Queen Mother (1900-2002) who snapped,

Nobody has done that since my husband died.”(1)

Her husband, King George VI, died in 1952.

The Queen Mother took an instant dislike to the former peanut farmer from Georgia. Later, she wrote about the unpleasant encounter. Evidently, she had seen Carter leaning in for a smooch and had tried to dodge his ample lips:

 I took a sharp step backwards – not quite far enough.” (2)

While there are no obligatory ways to greet the Queen and the royal family, often a man bows his head or simply shakes hands. An American is not required to bow or curtsy. Planting a kiss on the royal lips is definitely out of bounds!

(1) www.mirror.co.uk

(2) Shawcross, William. The Queen Mother: The Official Biography. 2009

READERS: For more posts on the British Royal Family, click here.

For more on Jimmy Carter, click here.

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Queen Elizabeth and her consort Prince Philip visit Richmond, Virginia, May 3, 2007.

Prince Philip of England’s upbringing was far from normal. He was born June 10, 1921, on a kitchen table on the Greek island of Corfu in a house that had no electricity, hot water, or indoor plumbing. The only son and fifth and final child of Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark was christened Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark. The platinum blond toddler learned sign language to communicate with his deaf mother.

Prince Philip (center) with parents, ca. 1923 (Lisa's History Room)

Prince Philip of Greece’s father was a professional soldier in the Greek Army. When Turkey invaded Greece in 1922, Prince Andrew was accused of treason; he was tried, convicted, and jailed and faced possible execution by firing squad. Princess Alice (known as Princess Andrew to English speakers) appealed to her British relative, King George V, for help. Remembering what had happened to his Russian cousin the Tsar when he had refused his cry for rescue, the King quickly dispatched the HMS Calypso to remove Andrew, his wife, their four daughters, and Baby Philip from Greece. Prince Andrew boarded the ship carrying his 18-month-old son in an orange crate. They sailed for France.

For the next eight years, Prince Philip’s family lived in exile in Paris. Philip learned to speak English, French, and German, but no Greek. His family was royal – but not rich – and depended upon the charity of relatives and friends to feed, house, clothe, and educate them while in exile from their mother country.

Prince Philip of England's family poses for a photograph ca. 1930. A young Prince Philip stands to the right of his mother, Princess Andrew (Alice of Battenberg) and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (called Andrea). From left to right are Philip's sisters, all Princesses of Greece & Denmark: Margarita, Theodora, Sophie, and Cecilie.

In 1930-31, the family fell completely apart. All four of Philip’s sisters, who were educated in Germany, married German noblemen and moved to Germany. Then Prince Andrew abandoned his wife and Philip and ran off to live with his mistress on her yacht anchored in the Mediterranean off Monte Carlo where Andrew quickly became addicted to the gaming tables.

Philip’s mother collapsed under the strain. She suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized in Switzerland at the famed Bellevue Sanatorium. That left little Philip all alone in Paris, with no one to care for him. He was only nine.

Philip was then sent to England to be cared for by his maternal grandmother.  But then she died. Next he moved in with his Uncle George, who, by 1938, was dead also. Philip was 17 at the time.

Then another of his maternal uncles, Lord Louis Mountbatten, British sea lord and the last Viceroy of India stepped in and took Philip under his wing. “Uncle Dickie” took an intense interest in his promising nephew. He made grand plans for him.

Prince Philip as a young midshipman in the Royal Navy, ca. late 1930s

Even though Philip was a Greek citizen, Uncle Dickie pulled a few strings so that Philip could join the Royal Navy as a midshipman. Then Uncle Dickie began to pave the way for Philip to marry the future Queen of England. In 1939, he arranged for Philip to entertain King George VI‘s two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, while the King and Queen Elizabeth toured Dartmouth Naval College.

When Princess Elizabeth met Philip, she was only 13. She fell head-over-heels in love with the tall, handsome, and athletic young man. The two became pen pals and wrote constantly to one another during the next six years of world war. He celebrated the Christmas of 1943 with her and her family at their Scottish estate, Balmoral. The press hailed the romance as the love match of the century.

I

In this July, 1951 photo (a year before King George VI's death and Princess Elizabeth's ascension to the British throne), Princess Elizabeth and her mother, Queen Elizabeth, arrive at Westminster Abbey to attend the wedding of Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott to Mr. Ian Hedworth Gilmour. Princess Elizabeth's mother - who styled herself "Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother," after her daughter became Queen Elizabeth II - had a fussy, overdressed sense of fashion. Her hats were generally broadbrimmed, trimmed in lace or swaths of chiffon, or piled high with feathers. Her neckline was often V-shaped and adorned with her trademark triple strand of pearls. Her dresses were feminine, flirty, and accented by enormous brooches and rings. As she aged, she dressed in fruity colors like pink, lime, and yellow. Her dresses and hats always matched in color. Her girlish style, peaches-and-cream complexion, pudginess, and sunny smile suggested a sweetness and wholesomeness that made her extremely popular at home and abroad. The Queen Mother, nee Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, died in her sleep in 2002 at the age of 101. (Lisa's History Room)

It was no surprise when, on July 9, 1947, the Palace announced that Prince Philip of Greece and Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain were officially engaged. Philip was 26; Elizabeth, 21. The wedding was set for November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey. The King and Queen were not wild about the idea of Elizabeth marrying before the age of 25, but it didn’t matter what they wanted. Elizabeth wanted Philip and she was going to have him.

Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain and Prince Philip of Greece announce their engagement, July 9, 1947. (Lisa's History Room)

Buckingham Palace shifted into high gear planning the royal wedding:

“This was not simple a marriage ceremony, but an affair of state that would focus world attention on the British monarchy. Consequently the King and Queen told him [Prince Philip] that his sisters and their German husbands, some of whom had supported Hitler’s Third Reich, could not possibly be included. So they remained in Germany and listened to the service on the radio.” (1)

Still focused on the guest list, the Queen addressed the issue of Philip’s mother, Princess Andrew, whom she considered “pleasant but odd.” Although Philip’s mother had had nothing to do with Philip since he was 9, Princess Andrew had nevertheless been quite busy while others raised her son. After several years of Swiss therapy in the early 1930s, she had rejoined society and taken up charitable works. During WWII, she saved a Jewish family named Cohen from being sent to the death camp by sheltering it in her Greek home.

After the war, Princess Andrew founded a religious order called the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary dedicated to helping the sick and the needy in Greece. Princess Andrew became a nun, taking a vow of celibacy, although she had born 5 children. She had a habit – a nun’s habit – that she wore all the time. It consisted of a drab gray robe, white wimple, cord, and rosary beads. She was commonly referred to as “Sister Andrew.”

Queen Elizabeth was understandably terrified that Princess Andrew would show up at the wedding at Westminster Abbey wearing her nun’s habit and embarrassing the family in a large way. The Queen pressed the issue with Philip. As a result, Princess Andrew appeared at her son’s wedding wearing a demure hat and a simple silk dress, which the Queen later described as “very pretty and most appropriate.”

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip marry on November 20, 1947

Six years later King George VI was dead. Elizabeth and Philip returned to Westminster Abbey for Elizabeth to be crowned Queen.

The coronation was held on June 2, 1953 and televised, at Elizabeth’s request, so that all her subjects could see her crowned. Twenty million viewers watched the seven-hour BBC-TV marathon. The ceremony began as the guests began their stately procession down the long aisle of Westminster Abbey, ahead of the Queen, to take their seats.

Prince Philip’s mother was among the guests. She turned heads as she processed up the aisle wearing a long grey dress and a flowing head-dress that looked remarkably like a nun’s habit! She had had it especially made for the coronation.

Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Prince Philip's mother (bottom left) processes down the aisle of Westminster Abbey for her daughter-in-law Elizabeth's coronation as Queen Regnant of Great Britain. June 1953. Princess Andrew is dressed in an outfit resembling her usual attire - a nun's habit. (Lisa's History Room)

Princess Andrew, 1965

Princess Andrew died at Buckingham Palace in 1969. According to her wishes, she was buried in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. On October 31, 1994, Princess Andrew’s two surviving children, Prince Philip and Sophie, Princess George of Hanover, went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, in Jerusalem to witness a ceremony honouring their mother. Princess Andrew was called “Righteous among the Nations” for having hidden a Jewish family in her home in Athens during WWII.

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

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Queen Elizabeth II of England suffered two wardrobe malfunctions at a private party in London for her cousin King Constantine of Greece. A fellow guest spilled something on her beautiful blue gown, leaving huge stains running down the right side, then the chain link strap on her silver handbag broke. (June 3, 2010)

Two nights ago, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain helped King Constantine of Greece celebrate his 70th birthday and, at the party, had not one but two fashion mishaps. Someone – a fellow guest, possibly, or a waiter maybe - spilled what is purported to be coffee on the 84-year-old British monarch’s pale blue floor length gown, staining it permanently. Then, on top of that, the metal strap on the Queen’s ever-present handbag broke in half.

Queen Elizabeth clutches the broken strap of her evening handbag at King Constantine's 70th birthday party in a private London home.

Poor Queen! Where were all those ladies-in-waiting when she needed them most? Couldn’t someone have thrown a cloak over the Queen’s dress to hide the stains or stood in front of her to block her from the paparazzi’s unrelenting snaps?

If the Queen was ruffled by being uncharacteristically messy, she didn’t show it. Her Majesty – who is always neat, clean, and fastidiously turned-out - held high the royal chin throughout the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad night and had a very good time, thank you, in spite of her multiple fashion faux-pas. Jolly brave, Elizabeth partied for hours alongside fellow royals — including son Prince Andrew, daughter Princess Anne, Queen Sofia of Spain, and Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, who hosted the bash at his London home.

King Constantine of Greece escorts his cousin Queen Elizabeth down the steps at the end of his 70th birthday party. Despite the obvious food stains running down the Queen's dress and the broken strap of her glittery evening bag, the Queen maintained her always noble demeanor.

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Sarah Ferguson watches polo at Windsor with Princess Diana, in 1985, the year before she married into the British Royal Family and became the Duchess of York

Sarah Ferguson –  “Fergie” –  and Princess Diana (1961-1997) knew each other for six years before Fergie married Prince Andrew in 1986 and became a member of the Royal Family. The two women had first met on the polo circuit, as Diana’s husband Prince Charles was an avid player and Fergie’s father, Sir Ronald Ferguson, was the Prince’s polo manager.

Soon after meeting, Diana and Fergie (b. 1959) became fast friends. The timid and reserved Diana was intoxicated by Fergie’s loud and breezy energy:

“The two girls would burn up the telephone wires trading gossip and irreverent royal tidbits they could share with no one else.” (1)

Since Diana’s 1981 wedding to Charles, she had been starved of fun. Diana thought about how lovely it would be to have Fergie as a mate in the Royal Family. In June of 1985, Diana decided to play royal matchmaker and make it happen. She wangled an invitation for Fergie to not only attend the Queen’s Ascot Week house party at Windsor Castle , but managed also to get the boisterous redhead seated next to the Queen’s second son, the 25-year-old Prince Andrew, a very eligible bachelor and second in line for the throne.

Sarah, the Duchess of York ("Fergie") and Diana, Princess of Wales, 1987

Within an hour of meeting Fergie, Andrew was “chatting her up” and “flirtatiously coaxing a merry-eyed Ms. Ferguson to eat every one of the chocolate profiteroles [cream puffs] on her plate.” (1) A year later, Fergie and Andrew were married at Westminster Abbey as the Duke and Duchess of York. Di had gotten her ally in the family.

This commemorative stamp was issued in Great Britain in 1986 to commemorate the Royal Wedding of Prince Andrew to Miss Sarah Ferguson. They became the Duke and Duchess of York.

 
Encouraged by Fergie’s wildness, Diana began to loosen up publicly. She became a bit of a royal daredevil. Memorably, in June 1987, she and Fergie were photographed at Royal Ascot poking Fergie’s old school friend Lulu in the behind with their umbrellas, called “brollies” in England.  (2) 

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York (l), and Princess Diana (r) attend the Royal Ascot, June 1987.

The Ascot Umbrella Caper – dubbed “the Brolly Folly” – drew public scorn. Woodrow Wyatt recorded in his memoirs that his wife saw Diana at Ascot

fooling about in the most childish manner, pulling people’s hair and tweaking them.”

The Sun reported the incident, referring to Fergie and Diana caustically as “silly, simpering girls.” It was the first of many desperate attempts Diana and Fergie made to “unstiffen” royal protocol. 

Over time, the fallout from the bad press would affect Diana and Fergie differently. Diana would weather the public criticism better than Fergie. With Diana’s tragic death, charity work, and sad marriage, the public has been more forgiving of her wild days. The late Princess Diana is lovingly remembered today as the People’s Princess.

Fergie, however, at age 50, continues to court disaster with her impetuous ways and money woes. Matter of fact, with the latest bribery scandal and “Oprah” TV appearance, the Duchess of York is being referred to in the press as the Duchess of Disaster. 

 
 
 

An image made from video shows the Duchess of York apparently selling access to ex-husband Prince Andrew for 500,000 British pounds to an undercover reporter from the UK tabloid, "News of the World." (foxnews.com_May 24, 2010)

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

(2) “Births, Deaths, & Marriages.” Thirty Years of Majesty. Vol. 31, No. 5.

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TIME magazine's 1952 Woman of the Year: Queen Elizabeth II of England (Jan. 5, 1953 cover)

TIME magazine's 1952 Woman of the Year: Queen Elizabeth II of England (Jan. 5, 1953 cover)

In February 1952, Princess Elizabeth was touring Kenya with her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh when she received the bad news that her father, King George VI of Great Britain, had passed away. Thus, at the tender age of 25, Elizabeth ascended the throne to become Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. She took the title Queen Elizabeth II although she was not a descendant of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), who was the last Tudor queen. Queen Elizabeth II belongs to the Royal House of Windsor, formerly known as Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

During the Queen’s reign, there have been 11 U.S. presidents. Queen Elizabeth II has met every one of them except Lyndon B. Johnson. She met Harry Truman before she became queen and Herbert Hoover when he was a former president.

Here is a photo gallery of Queen Elizabeth II and 12 U.S. Presidents:

The Queen with President Barack Obama in 2009

The Queen with President Barack Obama in 2009

The Queen with President George W. Bush in 2003

The Queen with President George W. Bush in 2003

The Queen with President Bill Clinton in 2000

The Queen with President Bill Clinton in 2000

The Queen with President George H. Bush in 1991

The Queen with President George H. Bush in 1991

The Queen with President Ronald Reagan in 1982

The Queen with President Ronald Reagan in 1982

The Queen with President Jimmy Carter in 1977

The Queen with President Jimmy Carter in 1977

The Queen with President Gerald Ford in 1976

The Queen with President Gerald Ford in 1976

The Queen with President Nixon 1970

The Queen with President Richard Nixon in 1970

The Queen and Prince Philip with President John and Jackie Kennedy (early 1960s)

The Queen with President John F. Kennedy in 1961

The Queen with former President Herbert Hoover in 1957

The Queen with former President Herbert Hoover in 1957

The Queen with Presidents Dwight Eisenhower (top) and Harry Truman (1950s)

The Queen with Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower (top) in 1957 and Harry Truman (bottom) in 1951

Readers, for more on the Queen, scroll down the right sidebar to “Categories” – “People” – “Queen Elizabeth II”

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photo of Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, March 28, 2007, by Annie Leibovitz
photo of Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, March 28, 2007, by Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz photographed Queen Elizabeth. Here’s what she had to say about that experience.
Excerpted from Annie Leibovitz at Work, by Annie Leibovitz, published by Random House © 2008

The Queen

In 2007, a few weeks before Queen Elizabeth visited the United States for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, I was asked to take her portrait. I was the first American to be asked by the Palace to make an official portrait of the Queen, which was very flattering. I felt honored. I also felt that because I was an American I had an advantage over every other photographer or painter who had made a portrait of her. It was O.K. for me to be reverent. The British are conflicted about what they think of the monarch. If a British portraitist is reverent, he’s perceived to be doting. I could do something traditional.

It’s ironic that the sitting with the Queen became controversial. I’m rather proud of having been in control of a complicated shoot. The controversy arose about two months after the pictures were published, when the BBC claimed that the Queen had walked out while we were shooting. This was completely untrue, and although they retracted the claim and issued an apology to the Queen and to me almost immediately, the scandal had a life of its own. The story, which came to be referred to as Queengate, wouldn’t die. Eventually the head of BBC One resigned over it.

When I was preparing for the shoot, I thought about using the landscape around Balmoral Castle, in Scotland. I brought this up in the very first conference call with the Palace. I said that Americans thought of the Queen as an outdoorswoman. I had been influenced by Helen Mirren’s performance in The Queen and I couldn’t help mentioning how much I liked her character in that film. There was a long silence on the other end of the line.

The second idea I had, after Balmoral, was to photograph the Queen on horseback. I asked where she rode and they said she went riding every Saturday at Windsor Castle. I said that I would love to see her in her riding clothes, and in a later conversation I asked if she could stop during her weekend ride and get off her horse and mount it again. That is, could I do a portrait of her in the trees. They said, No, it was not possible. She just rode the horse and came back, and, anyway, she didn’t wear riding clothes anymore. A few days later they said it was going to be Buckingham Palace and no horses.

I realized that I was going to need some time on the ground for this. When we arrived in London, we went straight to the palace and were shown all the rooms, including the throne room—everywhere except the private quarters. And then we scouted the back. There was a wintery sky and the trees didn’t have leaves. It was an appropriate mood for this moment in the Queen’s life. There was no way, however, that she was going to stand outside in formal attire.

For a sitting like this you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You try to have as many options as possible. I kept thinking that somehow I would get the Queen outside, but I began choosing formal outfits. I narrowed the robes down to a very handsome Order of the Garter cape, but then we were told that she could wear only a white dress under it. We were lobbying for a gold dress. I was also hoping for a dress with more body to it. The Queen wears very streamlined dresses now that she’s older, and I wanted her in something with more volume. But she didn’t have anything like that. Finally everyone agreed that she could wear a gold-and-white dress under the Order of the Garter robe. The Queen was 80 years old. She was sturdy, but putting on and taking off a lot of heavy clothes is tiring, and she had to be dressed in layers to expedite things. The gold-white dress became the base.

I was still upset that I couldn’t get her outside. It was so beautiful out there. And it wasn’t cold or raining or anything. I began thinking about what Cecil Beaton had done. He brought in flowered backdrops. Beaton was big on backdrops. He made very stagy portraits. Perhaps because the pictures were made in black and white you don’t notice the backdrops. They sort of go out of focus. I realized that I could do something similar digitally. I decided to photograph the garden and the trees for a backdrop.

The Palace had given us 25 minutes with the Queen, so there had to be a battle plan. I chose a grand reception room, the White Drawing Room, as the principal setting because of the light from the tall windows. Supplementary lights had been pre-set so that when the Queen moved from one spot to another all we needed to do was switch them on. We had constructed a gray canvas backdrop in an anteroom, and she was to come in there wearing the Order of the Garter robe and the dress, but no tiara. The first shot was to be made on a balcony, with the sky behind her. That sky could be digitally exchanged later for the pictures I had taken in the gardens the day before. I didn’t want her to be wearing a tiara in the gardens.

The morning of the shoot, the Queen came walking down the hall very purposefully. She was definitely a force. This was all being taped by the BBC for a documentary. I would never have agreed to their being there if I felt I had any choice, but they had been following her around for months. Their microphone picked up her saying, “I’ve had enough of dressing like this, thank you very much,” as she marched down the hall. Later, when segments of footage for the BBC were edited for a promotional film, it appeared as if the Queen were stomping out of the photo session rather than going into it. Thus the brouhaha.

The Queen was about 20 minutes late, which we thought was a little strange. When that happens, you never know if it can be made up on the other end. My five-year-old daughter, Sarah, had come with us, and she curtsied and offered the Queen flowers, and I introduced my team. At this point I was in shock. The Queen had the tiara on. That was not the plan. It was supposed to be added later. The dresser knew that. The Queen started saying, “I don’t have much time. I don’t have much time,” and I took her to the first setup and showed her the pictures of the gardens. I think she understood what we had in mind. Then I walked her into the drawing room, probably sooner than I would have if things had been going well. She composed herself when I took some pictures.

I knew how tight everything was, especially with the loss of 20 minutes, and I asked the Queen if she would remove the tiara. (I used the word “crown,” which was a faux pas.) I suggested that a less dressy look might be better. And she said, “Less dressy! What do you think this is?” I thought she was being funny. English humor. But I noticed that the dresser and everyone else who had been working with her were staying about 20 feet away from her.

We removed the big robe, and I took the picture of the Queen looking out the window, and then I said, Listen, I was a little thrown when you first came in, and I have one more picture I’d like to try, with an admiral’s boat cloak. I was thinking of one of Cecil Beaton’s last pictures of the Queen. A very stark and simple and strong portrait in which she’s wearing a boat cloak. We went back into the anteroom, where the gray canvas backdrop had been set up, and she took off the tiara and put on the cloak. That’s the shot we digitally imposed on pictures of the garden.

Right after we finished, I went up to the press secretary and said how much I loved the Queen. How feisty she was. Later I mentioned to a couple of friends that she had been a bit cranky, but it was nothing unusual. What was remarkable about the shoot, and I wrote the Queen a note about this later, was something the BBC missed: her resolve, her devotion to duty. She stayed until I said it was over. Until I said, “Thank you.” We were finished a little before our allotted 25 minutes were up.

 

Readers, for more on this episode, read my post, “The Queen is Mad.”

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In this March 2007 photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets American photographer Annie Leibowitz at a reception prior to their photo shoot. Notice that the Queen has her black Launer purse on her arm.

In this March 2007 photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets American photographer Annie Leibovitz at a reception prior to their photo shoot. Notice that the Queen has her black Launer purse on her arm.

Prior to her May 2007 visit to the United States, Queen Elizabeth II sat for a series of official photographs by famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Ms. Leibovitz is well known for her sometimes controversial celebrity photographs including one of a naked John Lennon hugging a fully clothed Yoko Ono.

December 8, 1980 photograph of John Lennon with wife Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibowitz. Five hours after this photo shoot, Lennon was shot dead.

December 8, 1980 photograph of John Lennon with wife Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibowitz.

Leibovitz has said the original concept for the now legendary John Lennon and Yoko Ono Rolling Stone cover was for both to appear nude, designed to mark the release of their album “Double Fantasy.” As legend has it, Lennon was game, shedding his clothes quickly, but Ono felt uncomfortable even taking off her top. Leibovitz recalled for Rolling Stone:

“I was kinda disappointed, and I said, ‘Just leave everything on.’ We took one Polaroid, and the three of us knew it was profound right away.”

It was December 8, 1980. Five hours later, Lennon was dead – shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of his Manhattan apartment.

Now back to what I was saying about the Queen:

Leibowitz took the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II in March 2007. One of the photos, shown below, shows a very serene Queen sitting in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace dressed in a pale gold evening dress, fur stole, and diamond tiara. The wide shot captures the Queen gazing towards a large open window and reveals some of the room’s furnishings and a reflection of a chandelier in a mirror. The room is dark except for the soft light flooding through the open window. All is calm.

Queen Elizabeth II photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007

Queen Elizabeth II, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007

The session was going smoothly until Leibovitz asked the Queen to take off her tiara (crown) to look “less dressy” for the next photo. The Queen flew into a huff and replied:

“Less dressy? What do you think this is?”

Queen Elizabeth II, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007. The Queen is not amused after having been asked by Leibowitz to take off her crown, which is actually a tiara.

The Queen was definitely not amused and the tiara stayed on the royal head.

The incident was caught on tape and included in a  BBC documentary “A Year with the Queen.” The BBC kept the footage and included it in a  promotional trailer for the film. The trailer shows the Queen telling an aide, “I’m not changing anything. I’ve had enough dressing like this, thank you very much” and storming out of the room.  The BBC later apologized and admitted that the sequence of events shown on the trailer had been misrepresented, as the Queen was in fact walking to the sitting in the second scene, not exiting. This led to a BBC scandal and a shake-up of ethics training. The event is known as “Tiaragate” and “Crowngate.” According to sources, the Queen was still furious about the incident months later.

Here’s the NBC-TV report:

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