Amazing, to be in England while the Royal Ascot is on…
Buckingham Palace has a way of dealing with family feuds… and ‘emotional’ royals never fare well
As Tolstoy famously opined: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It’s a jolt to consider that the royal family are actually just like us – unhappy in their own way. We want to buy into the archetypal myth of the fairy tale: that the palaces, privilege and pomp lend themselves to living happily ever after. Tonight’s documentary, The Royal Family At War, debunks this myth: navigating the marriage break-up between Prince Charles and Diana,Princess of Wales in 1996; revisiting the abdication crisis of 1936, when Edward VIII renounced the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, and the current rumoured feud between the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex. Members of the royal family may marry for love – “whatever in love means”, as Prince Charles questioned in his engagement interview to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – but history and tradition regularly conspire against them. Monarchy depends on continuity, conformity and the cult of the court. Familial conflict is not part of the regal code. The big business of The Firm requires that it operates as a diplomatic, rational machine. What is not tolerated, far less understood, is emotion. Those that heed the unspoken creed – duty over emotion – fare well. This week, unflappable Kate, who undertook her first public engagement with the Queen, fully cemented her position as a failsafe support to the monarch. Smiling and relaxed, her sunny self-assuredness must have been a balm to courtiers prickly over rumours of her rift with Meghan.
The news that Queen allegedly vetoed the Sussexes’ plan to set up a separate court and be “entirely independent” underlines the essence of a constitutional monarchy. This is an institutional structure to support the monarch, which doesn’t allow for that kind of rogue independence. The fact that William and Harry are splitting courts, as Meghan and Harry move from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage next month,is unsettling enough with its potential for further rifts and rivalry. History shows that the more colourful, excitable characters in the royal family who try to steer their own course tend not to reign triumphant. Consider the fates of Edward VIII, Princess Diana and Sarah, Duchess of York: all anathema to the British old school, stiff upper lip modus operandi. Which makes me anxious for Meghan and Harry.
The sixth-in-line to the throne is clearly more volatile and openly expressive than his elder brother, while Meghan has the double impediment of being not just emotional but an outsider. Worse, an American outsider who must quickly learn that the British way of coping can appear game-playing and manipulative; what is unsaid is often more significant than what is. Like her predecessor, American divorcée Wallis Simpson, of whom her friend, Nicky Haslam said: “To be an American was against her then, almost more than the divorce.” Fortunately, The Firm has modernised in part, and it seen as an advantage to our special relationship that Meghan has become a part of British royalty. Her gushingly demonstrative nature, however, penning positive affirmations on bananas and describing the feeling of her baby moving as the “embryonic kick of feminism,” must be raising eyebrows sky high in Court. Hopefully, after the unfortunate loss of three palace aides, Meghan is now astute to the fact that it is the courtiers who hold real sway. The Men in Grey, as Diana called them, have successfully ensured the survival of the House of Windsor. As Queen Mary’s biographer, James Pope Hennessy, warned: “it is courtiers who make royalty frightened and frightening.” They maintain control by undermining power with gossip and setting up rivalry between courts. Clarence House took on Kensington Palace during Charles and Diana’s acrimonious divorce in 1996.
As early as in 1932, Edward’s equerry, John Aird, railed against the courtiers at York House who were briefing King George V against his son, lamenting “all the nasty gossip, which is very wrong of them and does no good.” At the time of the abdication, Wallis Simpson had realised that the courtiers wield tremendous influence, writing: “I became obsessed with the notion that a calculated and organised effort to discredit and destroy me had been set afoot.” She was right. The mantra for an effective monarchy may be duty over emotion but sadly, this is antithetical to harmonious family life. As Edward VIII said of his childhood, “Christmas at Sandringham was Dickens in a Cartier setting.” He considered his upbringing to be devoid of emotion; his mother, Queen Mary, could never understand nor forgive him for what she saw as the greatest dereliction of his duty when he abdicated. She wrote to her son in July 1938: “All my life I have put my Country before anything else, and I simply cannot change now.”
The Queen has followed suit and is a brilliant monarch, though fallible mother. Like the savvy Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge, she has never openly bleated about her position, nor given friends the green light to mutter to the media. Camilla, a true blue blood, has kept her feelings tightly and admirably to herself. From being a reviled figure at the time of the Wales’ divorce in 1996, who could have been crushed by the avalanche of opprobrium, she has become the nation’s favourite grandmother, proving herself to be the mainstay of Prince Charles’s happiness and an ideal consort.
Having written books about two controversial royal women, Princess Diana and Wallis Simpson, it is clear to me that emotion is the enemy of monarchical longevity. Drawing attention to fragility is viewed as nauseating weakness, while openly addressing conflict is simply bad manners. Diana became the victim of her emotional life. Ill-equipped to cope with her outbursts, such as confronting Camilla at a party at Annabel Goldsmith’s about her affair with Charles, the Palace found her irrational and difficult to deal with. The same could be said of Edward VIII. After the abdication, his torment that his wife would not be received by his family, nor given the HRH title, caused him to further alienate himself. His obsessive and pushy tendencies regularly undid whatever miniscule steps had been made towards familial rapprochement. “If you gave the Duke of Windsor an inch, he took a mile,” said royal biographer Hugo Vickers. “He could be hugely whiney, especially to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.” If only the Duke of Windsor had been as patient and strategic as Camilla has been. I believe that eventually he could have returned to live in Britain with his Duchess, which he longed for. In terms of true grit of character, Wallis understood – and ironically had the requisite inner discipline to survive – court life. After the abdication, when she received trays of vicious hate mail each morning, she schooled herself to control her inner world. She developed an implacable façade to conceal the extent of her suffering. Unlike her husband, she predicted that the conflict with the royal family was unlikely to abate. During the Second World War, she wrote: “We had two wars to deal with – the big and still leisurely war – in which everybody was caught up, and the little cold war with the Palace, in which no quarter was given.” And never was.
Queen speaks of ‘greater confidence and optimism’ thanks to stable links with Commonwealth on 70th anniversary
The Queen has spoken of the “greater confidence and optimism” Britain can have thanks to its stable links with the Commonwealth, as she marks the 70th anniversary of the “family of nations”. In a message delivered ahead of Commonwealth Day on Monday, the Queen has given thanks for the ” networks of cooperation and mutual support to which we contribute, and on which we draw”. Saying the “enduring commitment” of the 53 countries is intangible, she added that nevertheless “its impact is very real”. In what is scheduled to be her last Commonwealth Day message before Brexit on March 29th, the Queen emphasised the element of “belonging” in a modern, connected organisation.
On Monday, she will be joined by members of her family including the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for a Westminster Abbey service celebrating its 70th anniversary with music from Clean Bandit and tenor Alfie Boe, and a reflection by Lewis Pugh on ocean conservation. This year, the Queen’s message contains a plea to protect the planet, following her Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy tree project and a new focus on the ocean environment. “Com-monwealth Day has a special significance this year as we mark the 70th anniversary of the London Declaration, when nations of the Commonwealth agreed to move forward together as free and equal members,” the Queen said. “The vision and sense of connection that inspired the signatories has stood the test of time, and the Commonwealth continues to grow, adapting to address contemporary needs. “Today, many millions of people around the world are drawn together because of the collective values shared by the Commonwealth. “In April last year, I welcomed the leaders of our 53 nations to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and we all witnessed how the Commonwealth vision offers hope, and inspires us to find ways of protecting our planet, and our people. “We are able to look to the future with greater confidence and optimism as a result of the links that we share, and thanks to the networks of cooperation and mutual support to which we contribute, and on which we draw. “With enduring commitment through times of great change, successive generations have demonstrated that whilst the goodwill for which the Commonwealth is renowned may be intangible, its impact is very real. “We experience this as people of all backgrounds continue to find new ways of expressing through action the value of belonging in a connected Commonwealth. “I hope and trust that many more will commit to doing so this Commonwealth Day.”
The Commonwealth Day service will be broadcast live on BBC One and across the BBC World Service. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who lived in Canada while filming her television show Suits, will spend part of the day with young people at Canada House making maple taffy and watching dance performances. Later on Monday evening, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will be guests of the Commonwealth Secretary-General at a reception at Marlborough House.
The Duke of Sussex pips the Queen to take ‘Most Popular Royal’ crown, according to survey
Prince Harry is the most popular royal, according to a new You Gov survey. The Duke of Sussex beats the Queen to first place, with 77 per cent of the public having a positive opinion about the father-to-be, ahead of 74 per cent for the monarch. Prince William is in third place with 73 per cent. The Duchess of Cambridge is the second most popular woman in the Royal Family, with 64 per cent, while the Duchess of Sussex came sixth with an approval rating of 55 per cent – a percentage point less than 97-year-old Prince Philip, in fifth. Kate proved more popular with both men and woman than Meghan, with 72 per cent of women and 55 per cent of men approving compared to 61 per cent and 50 per cent for the former American actress. Baby boomers prefer Princess Anne to both of the younger Duchesses, with 68 per cent of over 55s approving compared to 64 per cent for Kate and 51 per cent for Meghan. While William’s wife may be more popular than Harry’s, the ’ own popula-rity is not based on their rank in the royal pecking order with the Duke of Sussex proving more popular than his older brother. Eighty six per cent of women and 69 per cent of men approved of Harry, with just seven per cent of having a negative opinion of either Harry or William, compared to nine per cent who disapproved of the Queen and Kate, and 10 per cent who didn’t like Meghan. While Harry was the most popular royal among women, the Queen was the most popular among men, with 71 per cent approving. Both princes were much more popular than their father, Prince Charles, who marks his 70th birthday on Wednesday. Almost half of the nation (48 per cent) said they had a positive opinion of the heir to the throne, putting him in seventh place overall. A further 20 per cent have a negative view of him, while 30 per cent have a neutral view. Charles’s wife Camilla is far less popular than he is. Only 29 per cent of Brits have a favourable view of the Duchess of Cornwall, putting her 10th on the list of 15. The 36 per cent of people who say they dislike her is the joint-highest of any member of the royal family – putting her popularity on a par with her brother in law, Prince Andrew. Princess Anne came eighth on 47 per cent, followed by her daughter Zara Phillips on 43 per cent. The Countess of Wessex came 11th in the popularity poll on 28 per cent followed by her husband Prince Edward on 27 per cent. Sophie Wessex proved to be the least famous royal with only 74 per cent of the public having heard of her compared to 99 per cent who recognised Prince William – regarded as the “most famous” royal of all. Princess Beatrice proved slightly more popular than her younger sister Princess Eugenie on 25 per cent and 24 per cent respectively while the Duke of York came bottom of the league in 15th place with an approval rating of 22 per cent.
HM Elizabeth II, Queen of England
Queen speaks publicly on Brexit for first time during Dutch royal visit
The Queen has spoken publicly about Brexit for the first time, telling the King of the Netherlands that “as we look toward a new partnership with Europe” the values shared by the UK and Holland “are our greatest assets”. Speaking at a state banquet in honour of King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima, the Queen added that as “innovators, traders and internationalists we look with confidence to the future”. The Queen, who remains impartial in political matters, chose to emphasise the qualities needed by the UK and one of its closet European neighbours going forward. The women of the two Royal Families, including Queen Maxima, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Cornwall, put on a dazzling display of royal tiaras during the white-tie dinner. The Duchess of Cambridge wore the Royal Family Order, awarded to her by the Queen last year. It is understood to be made from glass rather than the traditional ivory, after the younger members of the Royal Family campaigned against the illegal wildlife trade.
King Willem-Alexander reiterated comments made before about regretting the UK’s decision to leave the EU, but he respected the decision of the British people. He went on to personally praise the Queen, highlighting her now famous appearance in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, describing her as the “most fearless Bond Girl ever” for her role alongside 007 played by Daniel Craig.
Queen Maxima brings regal glamour to the state banquet dinner at Buckingham Palace
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands have wrapped up their UK state visit with a meeting in Downing Street hosted by British Prime Minister Theresa May and a formal farewell with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. It was the first UK state visit by the Dutch monarchy in 36 years. The last state visit from the Netherlands was by Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus in November 1982, while Queen Elizabeth and her husband Philip paid a state visit to Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in March 1958.
Prince Harry: I panic at the sight of my grandmother
Prince Harry has revealed he still “panics” when he bumps into the Queen walking along the corridors of Buckingham Palace, despite being her grandson. Speaking in a new documentary that explores behind-the-scenes moments of the Royal family, the Duke of Sussex recounts to visitors that he still gets nervous when he sees the Queen coming. Addressing a group of hospitality professionals from the Caribbean, who are spending time at the palace as part of a new scheme headed up by the Queen, the newlywed Duke offers some words of encouragement. “You guys have spent way more time in Buckingham Palace than I ever have – and you’ve only been here two weeks,” he says. “Have you bumped into the Queen yet? If you suddenly bump into her in the corridor, don’t panic. I know you will. We all do!” The two part ITV series, Queen of the World, also gains exclusive access to a collection of private home films to show the Queen’s role as head of the Commonwealth. Claudine Jeffrey is one of the group visiting from Antigua to work in Buckingham Palace. Speaking in the documentary she says: “It’s a fun place to work. I say it’s an adventure every day because every day it is always something different. “You never find that you are doing the same thing so that’s really amazing because I love a challenge and I don’t like to be bored…to find myself in Buckingham Palace, it is beyond my wildest imaginations.” Anthony Johnstone-Burt, Master of the Royal Household, added: “Our Caribbean scholars are eight fabulous young people. This very much was an attempt to reach out and see what more we can do to involve the Caribbean realms particularly in the royal household, so it’s very, very special.” During the show The Duchess of Sussex is reunited with her wedding gown and veil for the first time since her wedding day as Royal Collection specialists prepare the dress for a new exhibition. HRH The Princess Royal also reminisces on her first trip on the Royal Yacht Britannia with her brother Prince Charles, after six months apart from their parents during the great post-Coronation Commonwealth tour.
State Visit by The King and Queen of The Netherlands
Their Majesties The King and Queen of the Netherlands have accepted an invitation from The Queen to pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from 23rd to 24th October 2018.
The King and Queen of the Netherlands will stay at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh paid a State Visit to Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in March 1958. The Queen has hosted two previous State Visits from the Netherlands during her reign: in April 1972, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard paid a State Visit to the United Kingdom; the last State Visit from the Netherlands was by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus of the Netherlands in November 1982.
Pearls of approval: the Duchess of Sussex’s new earrings were a gift from the Queen
The Duchess of Sussex and the Queen appeared to be getting along famously on the Duchess’ first royal engagement without her husband. They were pictured talking and laughing as they watched a ceremony to mark the opening of the new Mersey Gateway bridge in Cheshire. The Queen’s fondness for her grandson’s new wife was also evident in the pearl and diamond earrings the Duchess wore, which Buckingham Palace later revealed were a gift from the royal collection. The earrings had been incorrectly attributed to Birks, the Canadian jewellery brand that the Duchess has worn on numerous occasions. She wore Birks opal stud earrings when her engagement to Prince Harry was announced, and has been pictured in the brand’s delicate diamond-studded pieces several times. Her mother Doria Ragland also wore Birks to the royal wedding.
But the pearl earrings the Duchess wore in Cheshire carry much greater significance. As the Duchess’ first gift from the Queen, they have been taken as a symbol of her acceptance into the royal family. Although it is not known when the Queen gave them to her, it is fitting that the Duchess chose to wear them for their first joint engagement. The understated earrings were a timeless choice of accessory and perfectly complemented the Duchess’ demure Givenchy dress. The Queen herself also wore a larger pair of pearl earrings, while the style is also a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, who often wears her classic pearl drops. The late Princess Diana was also famed for her love of pearls. This is not the first time the former actress has worn pieces from the royal collection. On her wedding day in May, she wore the Queen Mary diamond bandeau tiara, which she borrowed from the Queen. Made in 1932 to accommodate a diamond brooch that Queen Mary (the Queen’s grandmother) had been given as a wedding gift in 1893, the tiara was subsequently returned to the Queen’s collection. The Duchess did receive a permanent addition to her jewellery collection on her wedding day in the form of the large Asprey aquamarine cocktail ring that belonged to Princess Diana. Prince Harry gave it to his bride as a wedding gift, and she wore it as a “something blue” addition to her Stella McCartney gown as the couple made their way to their evening reception.
Duchess of Sussex brings out Queen’s inner-child: Body language expert analyses their first joint trip
The Duchess of Sussex showed her nerves on her first joint engagement with the Queen, but there was genuine warmth between the monarch and Meghan, a body language expert said. Judi James said the head of state and the former Suits star giggled together like teenagers at one point as they enjoyed their day out in Cheshire. The Queen and Duchess travelled to Cheshire on the Royal train, leaving Euston at 11pm on Wednesday and spending the night in a discreet siding en route before pulling into Runcorn station at 10.35am for the Duchess’ first trip to the north of England. Greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, the Duchess lingered behind the Queen, appearing slightly nervous as she watched for instructions about where to go. After a moment of confusion at their waiting car, as both politely waited for the other to get in, the Duchess asked her grandmother-in-law “what is your preference?” before being told: “You go first.”
The Queen wore a green outfit by Stewart Parvin, choosing a colour some onlookers interpreted as a gesture of support on the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Their first engagement was a ceremony marking the opening of the new £1.86 billion Mersey Gateway bridge. It saw the pair deep in conversation, laughing and gesturing as they watched a seven-minute-long dance performance by children and enjoyed one another’s company. Ms James said: “The Queen doesn’t indulge in worries and she didn’t spend a lot of time checking on Meghan, but instead let her get on with it. “But when she did glance at her, it was with a beaming smile and approval.” She added: “The Queen was the happiest I’ve seen her in a long time. They looked like naughty teenagers giggling together at one point.” Next on their itinerary was Storyhouse, a cultural hub in the centre of town. The Queen and Duchess led crowds in a minute’s silence to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster, solemnly bowing their heads. They then watched more performances, learned about “digital buddies” who were teaching their elders to use technology more efficiently, and took to the streets to meet thousands of well-wishers. Ms James described the monarch as having young body language for a woman of 92. “She looked positively girlish. When she smiles you can see the young princess coming out. She’s got a beautiful childlike smile and her little hands were formed into fists at one point. Perhaps Meghan did bring a little bit more of that out in her. “We saw displays which showed the pair genuinely having fun.” The Duchess of Sussex had her guard up in the morning, showing signs of anxiousness – not least when there as confusion over who was meant to get in the royal Bentley first. “Meghan was still being very careful. She sat with her legs crossed at the ankles and was clearly seeking approval,” said Ms James. The newlywed Duchess, who married the Duke of Sussex in a star-studded ceremony in Windsor last month, was nervous, repeatedly touching her hair. Ms James suggested: “Meghan did so many self-checking gestures of anxiety which is interesting in such a confident woman. “She walked up the aisle on her own without batting an eyelid.” The duchess’s outfit – a beige Givenchy dress with caped shoulders – may have not been the ideal choice, Ms James said. “I think her outfit did her no favours. The caped shoulders restricted her arms and she lost some of her more natural movements.” But the Duchess soon eased into the day, and was a natural with the crowds who had gathered to catch a glimpse of her and her grandmother-in-law. The rapport between the pair was obvious, with the Duchess leaning in and talking to the Queen, producing what appeared to be fits of laughter from the 92-year-old. Ms James said the Queen was similarly beaming with smiles when she carried out her first joint engagement with the Duchess of Cambridge. They wrapped up their tour with lunch as guests of Cheshire West and Chester Council.