Tag Archives: royal family

It isn’t racist to be disappointed

Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau Tiara worn by Meghan Markle on her wedding day

diamond bandeau filigree tiara queen mary meghan markle united kingdom

Hitler said she would make a good queen. He was referring to Wallis Simpson, by then the Duchess of Windsor, after they’d had a friendly get together in pre-war Germany.

I thought of this when I read that someone in the US had said what a good queen Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex would make. And I thought too that neither Hitler, or even Ms Markle had any idea what the concept of the British monarchy was all about as I read the latest press release from a ‘source close to the Duchess’. The release informed us that the Duchess would not be joining the Royal family for Christmas and would be spending Thanksgiving at Frogmore Cottage with her mother, when they would visit a homeless shelter to ‘help the homeless cook traditional stuffed turkey and pumpkin pie’.

This essentially New World party has no relevance to the British, so I did wonder at the announcement of a visit to a local homeless shelter, weeks in advance. Most intending Mother Theresa’s or Lady Bountiful’s perform this sort of philanthropy unobtrusively and without fanfare, with no virtue signalling publicity or photographers on hand.

I wondered too how these lonely desperate people, with no warm home and loving family around, would feel when confronted with a beaming stranger either dressed up to the nines in Givenchy, or sporting skinny jeans and an over-size shirt, and accompanied by the de rigueur security men – slightly bewildered I wouldn’t be surprised.

People who criticise the American addition to the Royal family are usually accused of racism, but this lazy and one-size-fits-all label is not accurate. Prince Harry’s bride was welcomed with open arms, for the sake of the little boy who’d walked behind his mother’s coffin and who had a special place in many English hearts. Everyone bent over backwards to make their union work.

The Queen did an unprecedented thing and invited Meghan to Sandringham for Christmas, to spend with the ‘family she’d never had’, as besotted Prince Harry explained tenderly on radio. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge was not invited until she was well married, like all the previous fiancees.

When Prince Charles remarried a divorcee, he could not be married in a church according the Church of England rules, and had to have a registry office wedding, and a church blessing afterwards. This requirement was waived for Meghan, also a divorcee, who enjoyed the full panoply of royal privileges, including the traditional loan of one of the Queen’s tiaras, and a carriage ride through Windsor, costing the British taxpayers millions in security. Her wedding cost both the Queen and the taxpayer over $40,000,000 pounds. No one begrudged it. The new bride was welcomed with enthusiasm.

But she never said thank you. What she did do was buy more expensive couture clothes than any other English or European Royal, only a quarter of which were made by British designers.  She flew to New York by private jet for a $350,000 baby shower, she sat in splendid isolation after turfing forty British Wimbledon spectators out of the seats which they had queued and paid for, and assuming that two people who were taking selfies of themselves with Federer in the background were photographing her, had her security guards stop them using their phones.

When her friend Serena Williams was beaten, she showed her disappointment, but did not congratulate the winner, a Canadian girl who was a member of the Commonwealth for which Meghan had been made an ambassador by the Queen. She left as soon as Serena’s match was over, when it would have been both polite and diplomatic as a member of the Royal Family to watch the British Wimbledon champion Andie Murray, who was next up, play his match.

The dog loving English people were puzzled that a dog lover should leave her two rescue dogs behind in Toronto in spite of the unconvincing explanations. They were also puzzled when she and her Prince left the splendour of Kensington Palace, to spend over $3,000,000 on a house at Windsor, with all the extra costs to the taxpayer of security, which were covered when all the Royals shacked up at KP, as Kensington Palace is known.

Writing woke messages saying ‘you are loved’ and ‘you are brave’ on bananas to give to sex workers provoked national hilarity, but it wasn’t seen as so funny when Meghan embarrassingly dodged her royal duty by claiming maternity leave in order not to meet President Trump. Yet she surfaced a few days later to sit in a carriage and stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s birthday celebrations.

Turning up to parade down the red carpet at the glamorous ‘Lion King’ London premier in a hideously expensive dress costing $4,924, when Prince Harry should have been at a solemn memorial service with the Royal Marines didn’t go down well either. Telling an African-American star in the line-up, who’d congratulated her on the great job she was doing, that ‘They don’t make it easy for us”, a reference to the English people/plebs who support her extravagant life-style, went down like a brick too.

Neither did it go down well that the couple refused to share the date of their baby’s birth, the names of his godparents or issue any photos of him – traditional Royal custom – which is part of the unspoken contract between the Royals and the public. There was more heartburning when it was discovered that various American TV personalities, including Ellen de Generes, who Meghan had never met before, had had invitations to tea  and were able to boast – on TV – that they had cuddled the baby who was off-limits to the British public.

And more ire, when pictures of good old Archbishop Tutu were taken with the hitherto invisible baby. Many people, myself included, felt that it should have been Thomas Markle, his grandfather, seeing the baby. This is the man who brought up Meghan when her mother was not around during her childhood, and paid for her expensive schooling, university and overseas trips – on one of which Meghan was photographed posing outside Buckingham Palace – though she had told the public that she’d never heard of Prince Harry before she met him!

Thomas Markle is the old man who to date has met neither his son-in-law or his grandson, but according to his daughter, in happier days when she was worried about her freckles, lovingly consoled her with the words that a face without freckles would be like a sky without stars. While he was working at the TV studios, she would turn up after school, and he’d steer her away from facets of the filming he thought in-appropriate for a little girl to watch – a caring father coping with parenting alone while he worked for their living …

The apparent snubs to the Queen in turning down not just the Sandringham Christmas get together, but also the traditional summer gathering of the Royal family at Balmoral, and then zapping off to New York a few days later to watch her friend Serena’s tennis final, has not endeared the Duchess to the British public. None of these faux pas, extravagances, and many other ill-judged actions have anything to do with race.

They are the justified criticisms made of a woman who seems to have no interest in the customs and culture of the family and society she chose to marry into; a woman who, while enjoying all the perks of her extraordinary new life, insists on privacy, and at the same time goes out of her way to be photographed and publicise her doings and achievements on Instagram.

Criticism of the new arrival in the family who has ‘singlehandedly modernised the Royal Family’ according to her PR team, stems from disappointment, not racism. In the unspoken contract and loyalty between the Sovereign and the people, the Royals have various rituals and duties to perform as a quid pro quo for their immensely privileged life-style.

Their profession and ‘career’ is service to their country, to be performed in whatever way the government of the time requires, and observance of ancient precedents. The public knows it’s a daunting task to learn the ropes of this 1,000 -year-old institution, so all they expect is for a new entrant to learn the ways and customs of the institution, using humility, a desire to learn, and determination to do the job.

So the arrival of Meghan who said she was going to hit the ground running, and who seems to feel it’s her role to change the lives of the English people who’ve enjoyed a free society and democracy all their lives; a newbie attempting to educate them about climate change, female empowerment, racism, and other self- appointed missions, irritates them.

They don’t want their lives changed (unless they can enjoy some of the perks of her privileged life-style). They don’t want to be lectured about carbon emissions by someone who flies in private jets, and hops across oceans and continents for holidays, weddings and celebrity occasions.

It doesn’t go down well for someone from another country to seem to criticise the British culture and members of the Royal Family on TV, to tell us that the British stiff upper lip is ‘internally damaging’, and that in spite of no money worries, a healthy baby, a loving husband, a luxurious home, and a wardrobe to die for, she finds life tough and no-one has asked ‘are you okay?’

It was her decision during maternity leave to ask Vogue editor, Edward Enninful, to allow her to guest-edit a controversial edition of that luxury magazine, and her decision too, to organise the design of some fairly ordinary clothes for a charity which had been up and running for some years before. Since most of us cope with our babies plus other challenges without nannies and staff, for their PR staff to use the word ‘gruelling’ to describe their lives (several holidays, overseas trips to tennis and a Rome wedding this year) seems puzzling.

Most people have tough hardworking lives, and find self-pity, a sense of entitlement, and what feels like hypocrisy when actions don’t match words, unattractive. So for all these reasons, and many others, the second American woman to marry into the British Royal family is almost as unpopular as the first one. And as in the case of Wallis, there is great relief that Meghan is not likely to become queen either, barring a complete annihilation of four or five other members of the family.

The saddest thing of all is that so much genuine goodwill towards Prince Harry and Meghan seems to have been squandered, despite the in-ept rescue attempts by their American publicity team, and this has left many loyal supporters of the monarchy throughout the Commonwealth feeling disappointed. To bowdlerise a great Englishmans’s words, ‘never has so much been lost, so quickly, by so few.’

As for the 93- year- old Queen, adapting Shakespeare’s words would no doubt be sadly true for her at the moment: ‘Uneasy lies the head that bears the crown’.

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

The cupboard was bare – and the fridge. All I could rustle up the day before our big shop, was one chicken drum stick, half a parsnip, two carrots, half a leek, plenty of onions and my staple, red lentils.

While the onions were having a quick zap to soften them up in the micro- wave, I fried the chicken leg to seal it, and chopped carrots, parsnip and leek small, keeping one carrot back to grate, to give the intending mess of pottage some texture. Onions, chicken and vegetables went into a saucepan, along with two thirds of a cup of washed lentils, garlic, salt, pepper and a chicken cube.

Boil gently for half an hour or until the chicken is falling off the bone. This collection of scraps turned into a thick comforting soup on a cold day.

 

 

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Diana

Diana died on 31 August fifteen years ago. Those old enough to remember, know where they were at the moment when they heard that John Kennedy had died, taking with him the hopes and idealism of people all around the world.

And most of us I think, also know where we were when we heard of the death of Diana – there’s only one Diana. Her death left a huge hole in the consciousness of the world. For fifteen years we had gloated over her clothes, admired her beauty, shared her children, followed her travels, marvelled over her commitment to others,  felt her pain at her failing marriage, hated her rival, regretted her lapses of judgement in men and other things, and always loved her.

Who can forget the pictures of her kneeling at the feet of an old blind lady just after her engagement – no Royal had ever knelt to their adoring audience before? Who doesn’t remember those pictures of her on her knees again, arms open wide, love blazing from her face as she greeted the sons she hadn’t seen for a few days? Can anyone forget that picture of her mastering her fear and courageously walking through a minefield to show the world what wars do to women and children?

Do people remember those pictures of her holding the hands of a leper, and another of her sitting with an Aids patient with his hands in hers? These pictures flashed a message around the world – no-one should ever be an outcast. We should include the old and the sick and the pariahs.

And then there were those unforgettable ones of her in a Bosnian cemetery where she came on a grieving mother, and with no common language between them Diana put her arms round this stranger and held her. Being available to her grief, no words necessary. And the shots of her carrying a little Black American girl in her arms to take her for a ride in her limousine, the one wish the little girl had expressed.

There were other pictures – the woman who went to hospital to collect her husband with his broken arm in a sling – the same husband who then, unbeknown to the world at the time, took his mistress up to Scotland to convalesce with his grandmother. Meanwhile, Diana continued to visit the young man she’d befriended in that hospital, and then to visit his family when he got back home.

She went to a childrens’ hospital every few days to paint a little girl’s finger nails pink. She wrote so many comforting handwritten letters to people, that after she died, and the stories were told, people could only marvel.

She did so many kind things in private, and as her marriage broke down, some foolish things in public. But in many ways she lived out all the archetypes of women, and maybe that’s why some people loved her, and some didn’t- if they were repelled by the archetype. So she personified Persephone, the shy goddess of springtime, who in her dark moments refused to eat; she personified Ceres, the mother and good friend, with compassion for all; Hera, the angry, vindictive, jealous and rejected wife of Zeus; Minerva, the career woman who was meticulously briefed and organised in contrast to her husband’s chaotic office, and all the other goddesses. (I wrote of this in depths in my book ‘The Sound of Water’).

She also had that much misused word – charisma – hardened journalists felt her presence, watched her love in action, and melted. She was down to earth- talking to a mayor on an official visit, she had him eating out of her hand when she asked him how much money he gave his children for pocket money!

She had courage. As a shy twenty-one year old on her first tour – in New Zealand – she emerged from a hall to greet the waiting crowds, and was met by a barrage of placards and yelling protestors shouting about Ireland. For a moment she stopped, shocked, and then stepped straight up to the other people standing in front of the protestors and greeted them, all the while enduring the barrage of insults. That took grit. She had courtesy, refusing to shelter from the rain under an umbrella, unless the mayor’s wife standing with her shared it too, the mayor’s wife told me.

In psychological terms, the first relationships people have with their parents shape their later lives. Diana, as the third daughter, was initially rejected at birth by her father who wanted an heir. That sort of emotional shock would have stayed in her psyche, and projected an unconscious fear that she would be rejected by the men she loved. So she was. Her husband rejected her, and then the Pakistani surgeon who she loved for two years and hoped to marry – until he couldn’t face the hullabaloo which surrounded her.

Her last fling on the rebound was unlikely to have lasted. Dodi Fayed simply didn’t have the intellectual and emotional depths that Diana would have needed. She called herself as thick as a plank, because she had failed her school exams. But it’s a given that strife at home blocks children’s progress at school. They can’t concentrate on their lessons when they have emotional trauma going on, and Diana was always torn between her warring parents. On the other hand, people who knew Diana encountered a lively mind and wit, a phenomenal memory, and a musical talent that meant she was able to plunge into the notoriously difficult Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto without any music, when asked to play.

Like all un-integrated people she had many flaws. Who does n’t? That’s no reason to denigrate her, as it’s become fashionable to do in the years since the world wide grief at her death. Her gifts to the world outweighed her private problems. And what were those gifts, apart from her two sons? She left us with a memory of a beautiful soul who wasn’t afraid to love and act spontaneously; who gave compassion- and acceptance – to all who crossed her path, and whose example has given others the courage to open their own hearts and express their feelings.

Her motto was ‘compassion in another’s troubles, courage in your own’. Her acts of random kindness were legion. Her life, her mothering, and her work were an inspiration, while fashion has never been the same since she went to Paris and died. I, like many, still miss Diana’s presence on this earth, and wish I had seen her grow into the magnificent mature woman which was her potential. She was only thirty-six when she died.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

A friend recovering from a major operation came for supper last night, so I made a bit of an effort. Whole chicken legs, slashed at intervals and the slashes stuffed with chopped garlic and grated lemon rind and juice, marinated for some hours before hand. Before popping into the oven, I sprinkled them with flour mixed with ginger, salt and pepper, and sprinkled with some olive oil. Then into a hot oven for about an hour or until cooked. The skin is crisp and tasty. I’d made some of the cream potatoes from the recipe other day, and we had them with Brussels sprouts and little spring carrots.

Not bad. I experimented with a pear and almond tart for pudding – the pastry a wonderful quick easy recipe for another day – the frangipane didn’t taste as almondy as I would have liked… so a bit of jiggling to do there.

Food for Thought

So precious is a person’s faith in God… never should we harm that.

Because He gave birth to all religions.            St Francis of Assisi 1182 -1226

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Bedazzled by Their Jewels

The French want the Queen to give them her crown jewels as compensation for killing the last Plantagenet in 1499. Well I can understand that -those jewels are more than something- especially the tiaras. Oh, for a tiara – some people are born to wear them, and some are not. Alas, I was not.

The nearest I’ve got to it was on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding day. I was in a sewing shop looking for buttons that morning, and just by the door was a stand draped with fairy clothes, wands and jewels for children’s parties. I seized the amethyst and diamond tiara, knowing I would need it that evening.

I wore it with a purple top and all my pearls and amethysts. Mostly faux, just the odd decent pearl winking under the load of beads and baubles. I looked like the late Queen Mary actually – laden with jewels – and as the evening wore on, and the champagne flowed while we watched the Wedding, I wondered how Queen Mary had managed all those years, with her bosom bedizened with strings of diamonds, ropes of pearls and layers of diamond brooches. My strings and strings of beads and brooches, earrings and bracelets were all fake, and therefore comparatively light.  But as time went by I wilted under the weight of wearing all this stuff. Queen Mary’s glittering jewels were the real thing – two large chips off the fabulous Cullinan diamond for starters – the biggest stone ever found – frequently adorned her bosom. They were known as Grannie’s chips to the present Queen, who wears them quite often. Then there were those lustrous pearls, giant rubies, heaps of emeralds, gorgeous sapphires…

Queen Mary, who married Queen Victoria’s grandson, George, who became the Fifth, did rather well in the jewellery line. Queen Victoria had lost most of her family jewels in a family wrangle which went to court, and the judges – English – found against her, and let the King of Hanover keep all the crown jewels. This left only a string of pearls which had once belonged to Queen Anne, who died in 1714, and another string which had belonged to Queen Caroline, wife of George 11. Queen Victoria later amassed plenty of jewels in her sixty-two year reign, not because she was particularly impressed by jewellery, but as symbols of the royal status. But Queen Mary, who’d always been an impecunious princess, adored jewels, and was showered with diamonds when she became engaged to the heir, including the diamond tiara the Queen often wears, known as Grannie’s tiara, and given by the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland.

Then there were the diamond brooches from the inhabitants of Kensington, another tiara from the county of Surrey, a large diamond bow from the county of Dorset, a diamond and ruby bracelet from the County of Cornwall, and this incomplete list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the collection of treasure she received, including precious gifts from all the royal families of Europe (they were all family anyway).  Queen Mary was famous for her acquisitiveness, and managed to snaffle many fabulous jewels, tiaras and bracelets from the desperate Russian Royals when they had escaped the Revolution, and needed money in the thirties.

Her mother in law, Queen Alexandra, had also done rather well, receiving hoards of priceless tribute from the Indian princes at various durbars – ropes of pearls, ruby and diamond chokers, an emerald girdle, to mention only a few of these princely gifts . So by the time the present Queen inherited all these generations of jewellery, she had a choice of over a dozen tiaras, diamond necklaces for Africa ( and many were African gifts and from African diamond mines) not to mention ruby, emerald, amethyst and sapphire tiaras, with their matching earrings, necklaces and bracelets. They all have names, like the Russian fringe tiara, the Brazilian aquamarine, the Greek key, the Vladimir circle tiara.  

But the favourite jewels in every generation of Royals seem to have been the ones with historic or sentimental value, like Albert’s brooch, the Prince Consort’s wedding gift to his bride Victoria. A huge sapphire ringed with diamonds, all the succeeding queens have worn it regularly, and Albert had a copy made for his eldest daughter, which Princess Anne now owns. The historic Crown pearls, rescued from the Hanoverian raid, were worn by the Queen on her wedding day, and she still often wears them. The Cambridge emeralds, large cabochon emeralds set with diamonds inherited from Queen Mary’s family, were given to Diana, who wore them as a head-band on a trip to Australia-  dancing at a ball in a matching green dress.

Diana also wore the bow knot tiara, another of Queen Mary’s family heirlooms. But Kate, as yet, has only been seen in a very modest, and entirely appropriate diamond tiara lent to her by the Queen on her wedding day. Meanwhile Camilla, Prince Charles’ second wife, flashes the dazzling jewels owned by the Queen Mother who left them to Prince Charles. The Queen Mother wore them with some restraint, but Camilla wears as much as possible at the same time! Sporting the huge modern diamond tiara, she adds a necklace of five rows of enormous diamonds, even managing to make the Queen’s exquisite jewellery look less impressive if big is what you like.

The history of all these jewels is recorded, and this is what makes jewellery so fascinating to me, that all the great pieces have a history behind them. Elizabeth Taylor possessed a famous necklace known as La Peregrina, dating from the sixteenth century, when Philip 11 of Spain gave this huge symmetrically perfect pearl to Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) of England on their marriage in 1554. When she died, the necklace went back to Spain, and two hundred years later, Napoleon captured it, which was when it earned the name of La Peregrina (the wanderer). Later Napoleon 111 sold it to the Marquess of Abercorn while in exile in England, and Richard Burton bought it from the Abercorns. Elizabeth Taylor also owned another famous jewel, a heart shaped diamond which had once belonged to Shah Jehan, who built the Taj Mahal.

A scroll through Google, studying the jewels of the reigning and deposed royal houses of Europe is mouth-watering if jewels are your thing. One of the best things about the wedding of the Danish Crown Prince, a few years ago, was that everyone was asked to wear a tiara, and for the first time in years, all these wonderful jewels came out of hiding and bank vaults to dazzle and enchant.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

My granddaughter came today, to give me another session wrestling with the intricacies of computers. Not a big eater, so rather than proper lunch I gave her things to pick at… shredded ham sandwiches made with brown bread one side, and  white the other, with a touch of mustard. Crusts off, and cut into dainty squares to tempt her appetite.  The grand-children call the Danish slightly salted butter I always use, Grannie’s butter, so that was de rigueur on the bread. I also made some maple syrup and date muffins, but another time wouldn’t waste expensive maple syrup , brown sugar would taste just as good.  And we had celery soup to sip in a cup for those who wanted it, a fragrant gentle soup, made with just celery, a potato,  chicken stock, (stock cube actually), nutmeg and a dollop of cream. Gently sauted, then boiled till soft and whizzed in the blender with salt and pepper and nutmeg to taste – quick and easy.

The muffins – two cups of self raising flour, a cup of dates, chopped and softened in hot water, pinch of salt, 125 g of butter and of brown sugar, melted together, one egg, half a cup of milk and half a teasp of cinnamon. Beat the egg lightly with the milk, and stir all the ingredients together. Spoon into greased pattie tins, two thirds full, sprinkle with castor sugar and bake in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when lightly touched. I did a dozen miniature ones, and eight big ones with this amount. Eat as soon as possible, while warm – with butter if waist-lines are no object!

  Food for Thought

The centre of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days.

 Stephen Jay Gould, 1941 – 2002  Popular science writer,  American palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist.

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