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Pregnant Royal Clotheshorse Still Looks Like a Thoroughbred

March 5, 2013

The Duchess of Cambridge is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, but you’d hardly know it from her recent outing (


Maybe the photographers chose just the right angles, but the royal bump was hardly to be seen.
Here’s a picture of her wearing a coat from last year.
And here’s the same coat worn on the recent trip. The big heels are still there and the tummy is not looking a lot bigger. But maybe she has more of a glow.
I’m not a big fan of royalty but I’m starting to think that I’ll have to make an exception for the Duchess. She certainly has a lovely smile.
And it seems that others have the Duchess bug far worse than I do. The last time the Duchess wore this coat it sold out within one hour on the Hobbs website. Let’s hope the royal bump gets a little bigger before the land of hope and former glory gets its new heir to the throne.



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The Many Faces of the Duchess of Cambridge

February 6, 2013

There has always been a bit of the stiff upper lip about the royal family. At least that has been how they have been portrayed. For instance, the stereotype of Queen Victoria’s “We are not amused”.
But when someone marries into the old firm they probably don’t have the years of training that’s required to pull off that aura of regal majesty. Princess Di was young, and all too human, and I’m not sure the Queen ever forgave her for it. So how will the Duchess of Cambridge manage with all the stresses and contradictions of Royal life. It’s early days yet, but maybe there are some clues in all the pictures that have been taken of her and all of the facial expressions that have been seen in those pictures.
Here’s some pictures of Kate where I extracted just her out of a slide show published by Vanity Fair ( The pictures included captions that were supposed to be fun but I’ll admit to being not amused by most of them.
Here’s a picture of Kate looking rather determined. Think of Richard III launching his attack on the soon to be Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
And here is an expression that I interpret as somewhere between uncertain, disbelieving, and forceful.
She knows how to laugh.
And sometimes she glows, and I don’t think it’s just the make-up.
Sometimes she can be playful (I cropped out the kids in this picture).
And you can’t help feeling that there is some sadness there (and who chose the hat?).
But above all there is determination.
and focus.
and something altogether wistful.
With all these expressions, perhaps the Duchess could have been a great actress, and perhaps that’s what her job calls for.
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Richard III: A 21st Century Confirmation of Battlefield Accounts from 1485

February 4, 2013

Here is a portrait of Richard III King of England from 1483 to 1485. He looks like a fairly tough customer don’t you think? I’m not sure that I’d want to go in and ask him for a raise.
And here is his skull, recently dug up in an English parking lot ( I like to think that the set of the teeth also shows the same somewhat grim determination.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding Richard III and it is not hard to see why (based on the fact that the two princes who stood in his way for succession to the English throne (he was the uncle of the princes) magically disappeared and suddenly he was the king and no longer third in line (
“When his brother Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward’s son and successor, the 12-year-old King Edward V. As the new king travelled to London from Ludlow, Richard met and escorted him to where he was lodged in the Tower of London. Edward V’s brother Richard joined him there. Arrangements began to be made for Edward’s coronation on 22 June.
However, before the young king could be crowned, Edward IV’s marriage to the boys’ mother Elizabeth Woodville was publicly declared to be invalid, making their children illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. On 25 June an assembly of lords and commoners endorsed these claims. The following day, Richard III officially began his reign. He was crowned on 6 July. The two young princes were not seen in public after August and there arose subsequently a number of accusations that the boys had been murdered by Richard, giving rise to the legend of the Princes in the Tower.”
In his play about Richard III Shakespeare leaves us in no doubt that he is a villain. It accuses him of plotting against his brother and murdering his nephews (see below).
Perhaps justice had its way, as a scant two years after he took the throne, he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry VII of the House of Tudor took the throne. Perhaps it was all from the best (from the English perspective) as it was the Tudors which took England from something of a backwater to a naval power and a colonizer. And if nothing else, Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I have made for great television.
Here is what the Wikipedia has to say about Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
“On 22 August 1485, Richard met the outnumbered forces of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field. …The size of Richard’s army has been estimated at 8,000, Henry’s at 5,000, but exact numbers cannot be known. …Despite his apparent affiliation with Richard, Baron Stanley’s wife, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was Henry Tudor’s mother. The switching of sides by the Stanleys severely depleted the strength of Richard’s army and had a material effect on the outcome of the battle. Also the death of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his close companion, appears to have had a demoralising effect on Richard and his men. Perhaps in realisation of the implications of this, Richard then appears to have led an impromptu cavalry charge deep into the enemy ranks in an attempt to end the battle quickly by striking at Henry Tudor himself. Accounts note that Richard fought bravely and ably during this manoeuvre, unhorsing Sir John Cheney, a well-known jousting champion, killing Henry’s standard bearer SirWilliam Brandon and coming within a sword’s length of Henry himself before being finally surrounded by Sir William Stanley’s men and killed. The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd while Richard’s horse was stuck in the marshy ground. It was said that the blows were so violent that the king’s helmet was driven into his skull….The 2012 discovery of King Richard’s body shows that the skeleton had 10 wounds, eight of them to the head, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting the king had lost his helmet. The skull showed that a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull.”
Here is the skull viewed from underneath. The hole in the middle is for the spine. The other two holes were caused by weapons the larger one most likely by a halberd and the smaller one with a sword, either of the blows could have killed him.
Perhaps Richard was a hothead, choosing to try and personally kill his rival by charging through his army and attendants. It was certainly a brave maneuver and perhaps almost successful except that he doesn’t seem to have been adequately supported, or perhaps he just got too far ahead of his support. Either way he got isolated and surrounded and suffered an extremely violent death, apparently by men who had supposedly started the battle on his side. It seems like it was definitely a case of living by the sword and dying by the sword.
Tradition has it that Richard III was a hunchback with a withered arm. The investigators who studied his skeleton found no evidence of a withered arm, but there is clear curvature (scoliosis) of the skeleton as shown in the following image of the skeleton.
Perhaps the most interesting lesson here is that history can be found in modern parking lots. And that much of the past still remains with us in one way or another. Maybe one also has to wonder what royalty really means when it seems to have been so much a product of chance and skulduggery, at least in former times.
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Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands Abdicates in Favor of her 45-year old Son

January 29, 2013

All good reigns must come to an end. In the case of Queen Beatrix it has been announced that it will happen on April 30 of this year (

The Queen is following Dutch tradition of Monarchs abdicating rather than dying on the job. At the age of 75 the Dutch Queen is still highly popular and it’s unlikely that she’d have been voted out of obvious should such a thing have been possible.
In a few months the new King will be Prince Willem-Alexander, 45 (above), who is married to Maxima Zorreguieta, a former investment banker with a winning smile (see below) from Argentina. They have three young children, which is good news for the Dutch succession. The King to be is an expert in water management which is highly relevant in a small country where a significant fraction of the land is below sea level or reclaimed from the sea.
The new King will become the Netherlands’ first king since Willem III, who died in 1890, thus breaking a recent run of more than a century of maternal supervision in the Netherlands. By all accounts Queen Beatrix had become a benevolent grandmother in the eyes of the Dutch people.

Queen Juliana resigned the throne in 1980 on her 70th birthday, and Queen Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 at the age of 68 so this is a comparatively late abdication based on recent tradition. Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth II in the UK is 86 and shows no signs of abdicating in favor of her 64 year old son Prince Charles.

Queen Victoria reigned for over 63 years and only her death managed to put her son Edward VII on the throne at the age of 60. Will the abdication of Queen Beatrix product Queen Elizabeth II into doing similar? I doubt it. One gets no sense that the Queen wants to put Charles on the throne and some might thing that she is grimly determined to keep going as long as she can. Which might be quite a few years more given that the Queen Mother (looking a bit like the cat that swallowed the canary in the portrait below) made it to a respectable 102 years of age and that was after bouts of cancer and rumors that she drank prodigious amounts. “Emine Saner of The Guardian suggests that with a gin and Dubonnet at noon, red wine with lunch, a port and martiniat 6 pm and two glasses of champagne at dinner, “a conservative estimate puts the number of alcohol units she drank at 70 a week”. I don’t know how she did it, I’d be incoherent on a diet like that.
The Queen mother was famous for her “dry wit” which I assume might have got even dryer after some liquid refreshment. Here are a couple of examples from her Wikipedia page:

“She was well known for her dry witticisms. On hearing that Edwina Mountbatten was buried at sea, she said: “Dear Edwina, she always liked to make a splash.”

Accompanied by the gay writer Sir Noël Coward at a gala, she mounted a staircase lined with Guards. Noticing Coward’s eyes flicker momentarily across the soldiers, she murmured to him: “I wouldn’t if I were you, Noël; they count them before they put them out.”

Sometimes I wonder why we still have royalty, but I suppose that we do love to gossip about them.
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The Duchess of Cambridge

January 11, 2013

It sounds like the title of a Victorian novel, but no, there really is a Duchess of Cambridge. Recently a portrait of her was painted for the British National Gallery. ( “The duchess, 31, whose pregnancy was announced by the Royal Family last month, sat for the artist in May 2012 at his studio, and again in June at Kensington Palace.”

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The artist, Paul Emsley has said: “I’ve altered the colour of the eyes slightly to match the colour of the blouse and the blue background.” So there you have it. Even artists are photoshopping these days! But I expect it has always been that way. No one ever accused the Impressionists of being realistic in their portraits.

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