Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Queen's Diamonds – Review by Coryne Hall

“The Queen’s Diamonds” by Hugh Roberts. (Royal Collection Publications). 320 pages, 348 illustrations, many of them in colour.

What better way to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee than a book on the Queen’s Diamonds.  Sir Hugh Roberts, Surveyor Emeritus of The Queen’s Works of Art, was Director of the Royal Collection from 1996 until 2010.  His book, authorised personally by the Queen, traces the history of the most significant pieces in Her Majesty’s collection, either inherited or acquired during her reign.  This is personal jewellery, as distinct from the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

Diamonds have been the principal and most prominent adornment at major events of every reign, and “a necessary part of the outward show of monarchy”, as well as “a visible representation of the wealth and influence of the country.”  Using documents from the Royal Archives, including Queen Mary’s photographic jewellery inventory, Sir Hugh guides us through the various pieces from owner to owner, showing how certain pieces were transformed as fashions and tastes changed and stones were taken from unfashionable pieces and reused.  It is also fascinating to learn how pieces came apart, to be worn in different ways.

Sir Hugh begins with Queen Adelaide, the first female sovereign to wear George IV’s diamond diadem, now worn by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament. Despite Queen Victoria having to give back the Hanoverian Diamonds, the collection continued to grow, with additional help of major jewels from India and other parts of the Empire.  Queen Alexandra started the fashion for jewelled ‘dog collars’ and introduced jewellery influenced by the Russian styles, such as the Kokoshnik Tiara, which she had seen on her sister Dagmar, the Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia. One of Queen Alexandra’s most elaborate pieces was the Dagmar Necklace (a wedding gift from Frederik VII of Denmark), incorporating a replica of the Dagmar Cross, a famous medieval relic. 

Unsurprisingly a large amount of space is given to Queen Mary.  Her acquisitions include the famous Cullinan Diamonds and the Delhi Durbar necklace. Jewels purchased from the estate of Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia, including the famous Vladimir Tiara, are included, but those purchased from Empress Marie Feodorovna’s estate (which largely contained stones other than diamonds) are not. She also inherited jewels from Princess Mary Adelaide Duchess of Teck, Princess Mary Duchess of Gloucester and Princess Augusta Duchess of Cambridge and Queen Mary was particularly ingenious in having her jewels altered, dismantled and remade.

I was amazed at how much jewellery Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) inherited from Mrs Ronald Greville - sixty spectacular pieces from Mrs Greville’s personal collection, including the Greville Tiara (latterly loaned to the Duchess of Cornwall) with its distinctive honeycomb design. Queen Elizabeth’s collection also included the Halo Tiara (loaned to the Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day), and the Maple Leaf Brooch, worn on visits to Canada, most recently by the Duchess of Cambridge. Incidentally, Mrs Greville’s ‘jewellery box’ was actually a tin trunk!

With the accession in 1952 of the first Queen Regnant since 1837 the Queen Consort’s heirloom jewellery could be combined with the new Queen’s personal jewellery and, on State occasions, with the Crown Jewels. The result, as first seen at the coronation, is spectacular.  Legacies from Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth are now combined with some new acquisitions such as the Williamson, the finest pink diamond ever discovered.

The photographs in this book are superb. Each item is shown actual size and, in some cases, larger, so that the beauty of the stones and their settings can really be appreciated.  Photographs also show the various royal ladies wearing the pieces, illustrating how each Queen chose to wear, or alter, the items. 

This is a breathtaking book, recommended for any fans of royal jewellery.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Really...Penny Junor is writing a bio of Prince William

Every once in a while I sit back and dumbfounded by the choices made by the powers that be at publishing houses here in the USA and in the UK.

Penny Junor, who has written several opportunistic books about the Prince of Wales and his late former wife, as well as about the English royal family, now regales us with a new biography of the Duke of Cambridge.


Hvidøre – A Royal Retreat – Review by Katrina Warne

 HVIDØRE. A ROYAL RETREAT. By Coryne Hall & Senta Driver. Rosvall Royal Books 2012

Hvidøre was the beloved holiday home of Queen Alexandra and her sister Dagmar, The Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia. They brought it in 1906 following the death of their father King Christian IX of Denmark. Hvidøre is situated on the coast north of Copenhagen near Klampenborg. The sisters were regular visitors until the outbreak of the First World War. After the Russian Revolution, Dagmar made it her permanent home until her death in 1928. From 1920 her daughter Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna lived there with her, along with her husband Nikolai Kulikovsky and their two sons.
Coryne Hall tells the history of the Italianate villa and the sister’s lives there. Many of the photographs were taken around 1911. They have been beautifully re-produced. They show the interiors of the villa when the sisters lived there. It is interesting to see their tastes and how their chose to furnish their rooms. There is the inevitable clutter on various surfaces with family photos and other ornaments on every surface. There are other photographs of the sisters and their family to help illustrate the story of their time in the villa.
On 3rd June 2000 I was lucky enough to be invited to a lecture Coryne Hall was asked to give on Dagmar at Hvidøre. It was a lovely sunny day as a group of us (including Senta Driver) made our way from the station to Hvidøre.  Coryne had been invited to lecture by Paul Kulikovsky (a great grandson of Grand Duchess Olga). As Hvidøre is not normally open to the public, it was a not to be missed opportunity to see inside as we were given a tour of the villa after Coryne’s lecture. Hvidøre is now owned by the Novo Nordisk Group who specialise in the treatment of diabetes. 
This book shows the intimate private life of Alexandra and Dagmar. It will add to their admirer’s knowledge about the pair. The book is produced in Rosvall Royal Books usual format, so it will fit well on the library shelf alongside the other books they have published.

Victoria Revealed – Review by Coryne Hall

 “Victoria Revealed:  500 Facts About the Queen and Her World.” (Historic Royal Palaces). 152 pages, illustrated in colour throughout.

When Queen Victoria was born in 1819 England was largely rural, by the time she died in 1901 Britain had been changed out of all recognition and Victoria herself had been transformed from passionate princess to elderly Empress.  This lovely book, published by Historic Royal Palaces in connection with the new exhibition at Kensington Palace, provides 500 facts about Victoria’s world starting with her girlhood, then as woman, wife, mother and widow before moving on to her time as sovereign. “Ten Girlhood Favourites”; “Baby Mementoes” (her own and her children’s); her most interesting grandchildren; outstanding achievements of the age in the arts, engineering, science and literature, are just some of the aspects covered in this book. Victoria had trouble descending stairs because of “something wrong in the knee”;  Prince Albert designed a brooch for her containing their daughter Vicky’s first milk tooth; and Victorian conventions included leaving calling cards but not, apparently, covering piano legs!

There is something for everyone in this beautifully illustrated book.

Dear Ellen – Another Rave Review by Marlene Koenig

This is a rave. A real rave. I am not saying this because I am one of the sellers of Dear Ellen on Amazon. (I sell Eurohistory's books on Amazon, and I get a teeny weeny percentage of each sale.)

I am saying this because this is the best book produced so far by Eurohistory. Dear Ellen ... is a super photo book of royal photographs ... photographs from the private albums of Grand Duchess Helen of Russia, who married Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark. They were the parents of three daughters: Olga (Princess Paul of Yugoslavia), Marina (Duchess of Kent) and Elisabeth (Countess zu Toerring-Jettenbach.)

The book's dedication is by Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia. Elizabeth's brother, Prince Alexander wrote a remembrance of their grandmother. Arturo Beeche also had the cooperation of Archduchess Helen of Austria and her brother, Count Hans-Veit zu Toerring-Jettenbach, the children of Princess Elisabeth.

The book is divided into 12 chapters: Prince Nicholas (1872-1902); Grand Duchess Helen (1882-1902); the Wedding (1902); Life Together (1902-1938); Widowhood (1938-1957); Princess Olga and her family; Princess Elisabeth and her family; Princess Marina and her family; The Greeks : Prince Nicholas' siblings; Grand Duchess Helen's siblings; Prince Nicholas' first cousins; and Grand Duchess Helen's first cousins.

A true treasure trove of many previous unpublished photos. Grand Duchess Helen was the only daughter of Grand Duke Wladimir of Russia and Duchess Marie Pavlovna of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Marie Pavlovna was determined to find a good husband for Ellen. Prince Max of Baden was the man most likely, but the proposed engagement soon fizzled out, and Grand Duchess Helen was left without a fiance. Her mother opened the Almanach de Gotha in search of another royal husband for her pretty and well-endowed daughter. Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and King Albert I of the Belgians were on Marie Pavlovna's shortlist, but another candidate emerged for Helen's hand.

Prince Nicholas of Greece was determined to marry Helen, although he was not on Marie Pavlovna's list. He was a younger son of King George I of the Hellenes and his wife, the former Grand Duchess Olga Constantinova of Russia, a prince without true opportunity -- and income.

The wedding on August 29, 1902 turned out to be a true success. Helen gave birth to three daughters, Olga, Elisabeth and Marina, three of the most adorable princesses of the early 20th century. Helen and Nicholas had a happy and fulfilled marriage, a loving relationship that sustained the Russian Revolution (the murders of close family members and the loss of the very remunerative appanages), the collapse of the Greek monarchy, and exile.

After a putative engagement with Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Olga married Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, a non-dynast to the Yugoslav throne, who serve as one of three regents during King Peter II's minority. Elisabeth, known as Woolley, married German Count Carl Theodor zu Toerring-Jettenbach. The youngest daughter, Marina, made the most spectacular marriage, when she married Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, son of King George V and Queen Mary.

One hundred and thirty six pages of pure joy. This is a book that cries out for frequent browsing.

Helen's three daughters were amazingly photogenic, and the strength of their beauty can be found not only in the lines on their faces, but also in the grace and determination they had in their private lives. All three sisters endured struggles and separation, largely due to the vicissitudes of the second world war.

I could wax lyrical for hours about this book. One of my absolute favorites is the photo is the one on page 97: a tableaux vivant arranged by Maria Kirillovna of Russia, Alexandra of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Wladimir of Russia, Irma of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and Kira of Russia.

It is nice to see how Grand Duchess Helen's extended family interacted with each other. I have only seen one photo of Helen's niece, Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna's wedding, in 1925, a portrait of the bride and groom. The British and American press were largely uninterested in this wedding, even though the bride's mother was born a British princess, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. If the Russian monarchy had survived the first world war, the marriage between elder daughter of the heir presumptive to the throne and the wealthy Prince of Leiningen would have been a grand event indeed. But in 1925, the marriage was a media afterthought. It was so nice to see that Grand Duchess Helen included a photo of Maria's bridal attendants. All were members of the family. Her sister, Kira, and two first cousins, Alexandra and Irma of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, were the bridesmaids, and the two pages were her younger brother, Wladimir, and Prince Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the youngest child of her mother's first cousin, Duke Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha ... what a shame this photo was not released as a postcard.

Art Beeche's text offers a rich complement to the myriad of photographs that offer readers a delicate journey that meanders into the lives of those who lived in Imperial Russia, Imperial Germany and the fledgling Greek monarchy.

Grand Duchess Helen and her family experienced wealth we can only dream about, and in a revolutionary minute, all of wealth was gone. Helen became more than survivor, she became a can do sort of person can do when the chips are down. She inherited magnificent jewels, but the true jewels were Helen's family.

I  have one quibble. It would have been really, really nice if Art Beeche had included an index to the photographs .. it would make my life easier.

The price of the book is $43.95


Where to buy it:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dear Ellen – A Top Seller After a Month in Sales!

Much to my absolute delight (as I blush, truly) my latest book, DEAR ELLEN – Royal Europe Through the Photo Albums of Grand Duchess Helen Vladimirovna of Russia, continues as the top seller at renowned Dutch royalty bookstore Hoogstraten English Bookstore, where I signed copies of the book two weeks ago.

You can also purchase DEAR ELLEN at:



MAJESTY Magazine:

Librairie Galignani – Paris: