25 September 2017

Overdue Book Review: Royal Pains by Leslie Carroll

As 2017 lumbers along, I am finally making good on my New Year's Resolutions: fewer television documentaries featuring hunky archeologists or crashed air planes and more royal biographies. Still drawing from my "purchased in 2011" stack of unread "new" books, I have recently completed Leslie Carroll's Royal Pains: A Rogue's Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds. All in all, it is an easy read presented in thoroughly modern language for a contemporary audience seeking fast (and titillating) stories more than deep and penetrating histories.

Carroll began her career and built her reputation as a historical novelist, using pen names Amanda Elyot and Juliet Grey, so she has a deft touch with narrative within a historical setting. She also clearly has a keen interest in the historical characters she chooses to enliven and a more than passing fancy for scandalous scuttlebutt. Before Royal Pains, her two previous works of nonfiction focused on notorious royal marriages and royal affairs. (She has since added several more works of collected biographies to her repertoire.)

I found Royal Pains easy to read, even addictive. However, I was sometimes distracted by the 21st-century terminology employed throughout the work, terms like "BFF". Even the use (overuse) of the term "psychopath" I found a bit disturbing as it is not only a term but also a concept that is modern in every way. Of course, she does provide evidence of psychopathy when she uses it, but it feels more forensic than the rest of the narrative warrants. Carroll also takes great "pains" to tell the reader that both Ivan the Terrible and Vlad the Impaler are considered national heroes among their countrymen, but she never fully explains why this is.

Which leads me to my second disappointment with the book: the selection of historical figures. In the foreword, Carroll explains that she did not have a definition of a "royal pain" beyond the idea of "brats, brutes, and bad seeds" when she started the book. This lack of parameter has led to an odd collection of characters. For instance, no matter how scandalous Princess Margaret's behavior, I would never put her in the same "bad seed" category as the Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory. With Carroll's light, witty and sometimes even jolly approach to her subjects, I would rather have seen her focus on the less horrific personages. Prince Albert Victor and Princess Margaret, even foolish King John and possibly evil King Richard III would be completely out of place when confronted with Ivan, Vlad and Elizabeth. It would have been better to have one book focused on the possibly mentally deranged and another on the merely spoiled or entitled.

Overall though, it is an enjoyable read, divided into easily digestible segments.


04 September 2017

Royal Baby #3

It has been a week for royal babies! Exactly one week ago, Princess Madeleine of Sweden shared that she is pregnant with her third child. A few days later, her sister-in-law Princess Sofia of Sweden gave birth to her second son, Prince Gabriel Carl Walther. And, today, Kensington Palace announced that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her third child next year. As with her first two pregnancies, Catherine is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum and has had to cancel an engagement due to illness. This prompted the announcement, which is no doubt earlier in the pregnancy than has traditionally been the case with other royal pregnancies.

In celebration of the new babies, but especially the expected children of Madeleine and Catherine, both of whom will be the third born, let's take a look at the third-born children of other royal families.

HRH The Prince Andrew, The Duke of York
While each of The Queen's children had only two offspring, Her Majesty had four. She took a long break between her first two and her last two due to her unexpectedly early accession to the throne when she was only 26 years old. Andrew was born more than 11 years after his oldest brother Prince Charles, but nevertheless had a close relationship with him as a young child. He grew up to be the "handsome one" in the family, and earned the naughty-boy reputation now enjoyed by his nephew Prince Harry. However, he married young, at just 26, to Sarah Ferguson, who it turns out could be even more scandalous. The couple separated and divorced following her well-publicized affairs. They nevertheless remained close and raised their two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, together. Andrew completed a career in the Royal Navy and took on the role as UK Special Representative for International Trade and Investment.

via Palais Princier de Monaco
HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco
The poster child of "Royal Wild Child" Princess Stephanie was the youngest child of Prince Rainier and his Oscar-winning wife Grace Kelly. Teenaged Stephanie was in the accident that killed her mother and was quite seriously injured herself. She recovered from that and went on to famously hang with the Hollywood "Brat Pack" of the 1980s, worked as a model, fashion designer and pop singer. She had one child out of wedlock with her bodyguard, married him, had another child and divorced him. Had another child by an unnamed father. Then, she literally ran off with the circus to be with her married boyfriend. Her life may be succinctly described as colorful.

HM Felipe VI The King of Spain
Over on the Iberian peninsula, the King himself is the third-born child. He inherited his throne over his two older sisters upon the abdication of their father because Spain remains one of the few monarchies to still observe male-preference in its succession laws. When Felipe was born, Spain was under the dictatorship of General Franco following the overthrow of the monarchy when his great-grandfather was still king. Franco, however, named Felipe's father, Juan Carlos, as his own successor. This allowed Felipe to grow up in Spain. Upon Franco's death, Juan Carlos brought democracy to Spain. Felipe received a superior education and served in the armed forces and had a couple of long-term relationships before surprising everyone by announcing his engagement to television news journalist Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano. The couple has two daughters, Leonor Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia.


Photo Anna-Lena Ahlström, The Royal Court, Sweden.
HRH Princess Madeleine of Sweden
Expectant mother Madeleine is herself the third child of King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia. She has been widely viewed as one of the most (I think THE most) beautiful princesses of her generation and her name was erroneously linked to both Prince William and Prince Harry. She announced her first engagement shortly after her older sister Crown Princess Victoria had announced her own. Unfortunately, her fiance was publicly unfaithful and the wedding was called off. She recovered within a couple of years and married American-British businessman Chris O'Neill who declined a royal title because he did not wish to give up his business. Their first child was born eight months later and the second followed 15 months later. Madeleine works on behalf of many causes, but is especially devoted to Childhood, an organization to end sexual abuse of children.

HRH Prince Laurent of Belgium
The youngest child of the former King Albert II and his Italian wife Queen Paola, Laurent is not well-loved by the media, who portray him as the "eco-blunderer" for his outspoken environmental views and his generally un-royal demeanor. His name has been associated with a couple of scandals including an unapproved visit to the Congo to raise awareness of deforestation. This led him to choose between following the government's rules or surrendering his payments from the state; he chose to be obedient and keep the money. He has also struggled publicly with depression. His wife, British-born Claire Coombs, however, is well-respected for her quiet dignity although she has no official public role. The couple has a daughter and twin sons.

HRH Prince Emmanuel of Belgium
The third of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde's four children, Prince Emmanuel is now 12. He was previously removed from the school attended by his siblings and enrolled in one that has a special focus for learners with dyslexia, a condition that Princess Beatrice of York and Crown Princess Victoria. Emmanuel plays the flute and engages in several sports including cycling, swimming, skiing and sailing. He already speaks three languages: Dutch, French and English.

Image: Jeroen van der Meyde
HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands
Born in Canada where her mother and sisters had evacuated following the Nazi invasion of The Netherlands during World War II, Princess Margriet has led an exemplary life in the public eye. She has been a steadfast working royal during her mother's, sister's and now nephew's reigns. She also served for more than 20 years as president of the European Cultural Foundation. She met her husband Peter van Vollenhoven at university. He took no titles or royal role upon their marriage, but their four sons were all given the rank and style His Highness Prince of Orange-Nassau. The couple celebrated 50 years of marriage this year. They have 11 grandchildren.

HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands
The third and youngest son of the former Queen Beatrix, Constantijn is the exact image of his late father, Prince Claus. He is named for his godfather, ex-King Constantine of Greece. An attorney with a Master of Business Administration degree, the prince has held several key positions with the European Union and the World Bank as well as Booz Allen Hamilton and Rand Corporation, which he has worked around his part-time job with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He and wife Laurentien Brinkhorst have three children.


Image: Jeroen van der Meyde
HRH Princess Ariane of the Netherlands
Ten-year-old Ariane has the rounded high cheeks of her grandmother, former Queen Beatrix, and the exotic eyes of her Argentine-born mother, Queen Maxima. The youngest of King Willem Alexander all-girl "A Team" of princesses (her sisters are Alexia and Amalia), Ariane and her family often escape Europe's winter for a bit of South American summer before returning to enjoy the ski slopes. It is not surprising then that she speaks Spanish as well as Dutch and English. Princess Ariane gave her parents a bit of scare by developing a serious lung infection that required an extended hospital stay when she was just a few weeks old. Today she is the picture of health as she enjoys horse riding, hockey and jazz ballet in addition to drawing and guitar.

HRH Prince Sverre Magnus of Norway
Although only the second child of Crown Prince Haakon, Sverre Magnus is the third child born to his mother, Mette-Marit Tjessem-Hoiby, who infamously had a son out of wedlock before she married the prince. He began his education in a state school before transferring into a private Montessori school. Sverre Magnus and his older sister Ingrid Alexandra are the most Norwegian royals in modern history. Their dynasty was started just four generations earlier by a Danish prince who married a British princess. Their son married a Swedish princess. But, in the last two generations, Haakon and his father King Harald married Norwegian ladies, making this prince at least 75% Norwegian. This is a bit extraordinary in continental royal Europe where most royals have not married their own subjects.

HRH Prince Henrik of Denmark
Little Prince Henrik, 8, is the first child of his mother, Marie Cavallier, but the third son of his father, Prince Joachim, who has two older sons from a previous marriage. Named for his headline-gathering French-born grandfather, Henrik is at least 75% French in his heritage through this grandfather and his own mother. Eight-year-old Henrik also has a little sister, Princess Athena. Prince Joachim, his four children, his former and current wives all seem to get on very well, with apparent affection on all sides. Henrik is therefore very close to his older brothers, the oldest of whom just celebrated his 18th birthday.


photo: 
 Pernille Rohde, PR PHOTO
HRH Prince Vincent and HRH Princess Josephine of Denmark
The third and fourth children of Crown Prince Frederik and his Aussie wife Mary Donaldson are twins Vincent and Josephine, now six years old. The twins have Greenlandic names among their list of names and have visited the Danish territory. They are, in fact, extremely well traveled with many trips to their mother's native Australia, too. They are also very active, with Josephine suffering a broken arm last year. The royal twins often steal the show on royal balcony appearances and photo calls.