Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Weddings, The Finale: Wedding Gowns!

Well, did you stay up until the wee hours to see this decade’s royal wedding? It was at 1am my time, and I’m afraid I preferred my sleep. I did hear already that the announcers struggled to use the correct titles for the various members of the royal family. And that the bride looked beautiful in her gown. Isn’t that the dream of every bride?

So to end our series of posts on nineteenth century royal weddings, Marissa and I wanted to share some pictures on royal wedding gowns over the years. You’ll remember several we’ve discussed in the last few weeks, including Princess Charlotte’s gown, Queen Victoria’s satin gown, and the gown of Princess Mary of Teck, among others. It’s hard to imagine that these have survived so long, for nearly 200 years!

This link will take you to an excellent article and video on the Telegraph’s site. Below is a more formal presentation of the history behind the dresses.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Royal Weddings Part 6: George, Duke of York and Princess Mary of Teck

I’m starting our final week of Royal Wedding month with the 19th century royal wedding that most resembles this current week’s event: the 1893 wedding of Prince George, Duke of York (and grandson of the reigning monarch) and his bride Princess Mary of Teck.

What’s interesting about this wedding is the fact that George was not the first person Mary was engaged to marry. In December 1891 George’s older brother Eddy, Duke of Clarence, had proposed to Mary, who’d more or less been chosen for him by the Queen. Eddy was not known to be terribly stable or intelligent, while Mary was both—it was thought that she might improve him as he was, after all, in line for the throne after his grandmother and father. But only weeks after their engagement, Eddy was dead of pneumonia following an attack of the flu.

Queen Victoria, however, had decided that her great-niece Mary (a descendent of her father's younger brother, the Duke of Cambridge) was too good to be allowed to slip away, and encouraged a match between her and Eddy’s younger brother George, now second heir to the throne. Her wish was eventually granted, and a little more than a year after Eddy’s death (and after a lot of public speculation as to whether they would or not and doubts on both their part), George and Mary were engaged. Happily, their doubts proved groundless, and they became a devoted if not very demonstrative couple, Mary indeed proving to be a source of strength for her husband, just as the Queen had foreseen.

Their wedding, in the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace, was attended by a large crowd of royalty, among them the recently engaged Alix of Hesse and her fiancé, Tsarevitch Nicholas of Russia. The weather was perfect, hot and sunny but with a breeze, and Londoners turned out in droves to watch the spectacle. Mary's ten bridesmaids (including two of George's sisters and several cousins) rode to St. James's in open carriages to the delight of spectators. The Queen was a spectator, and wrote in her journal about the wedding "Dear May looked so pretty & quiet and dignified. She was vy. simply and prettily dressed--& wore her mother's lace veil. The bridesmaids looked vy. sweet in white satin, with a little pink & red rose on the shoulder & some small bows of the same on the shoes.... Georgie gave his answers distinctly...while May, though quite self-possessed, spoke vy. low."

After the service, which was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and a handful of other bishops, a luncheon was served back at Buckingham Palace, and at 5 pm the couple left Buckingham Palace for Sandringham, the country estate of the Prince of Wales, for their honeymoon--an odd choice, as it had been the place of Prince Eddy's death just the previous year. They would eventually settle in York Cottage on the grounds of Sandringham, and not quite a year later, the couple's first child would be born--a son who would grow up to be King Edward VIII and give up his throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Royal Weddings, Part 5: Princess Mary and William, Duke of Gloucester

[Thank you all again for offering suggestions on titles for my new three-book miniseries from Love Inspired Historical! My editor had a hard time picking. In the end, she came up with her own title, which I like too: The Rogue’s Reform. So, I drew a name from among those of you who were kind enough to play, and the winner is pie! Dear pie, please contact me via the e-mail on my website, and let me know where to mail you the advance copy of The Irresistible Earl. I haven’t actually received it either, but as soon as it’s in my hot little hands, it’s yours!]

In our series on royal weddings in the nineteenth century, this one is probably not the stuff dreams are made of. Princess Mary was the eleventh child of King George III and the sister of the Prince Regent. Some say she was the prettiest of the King’s daughters. Like her sisters, Mary was raised quietly and led a very sheltered life. But she certainly had a romantic side to her. When she was barely twenty, she fell in love with Prince Frederick of the Netherlands. He and his family had escaped Napoleon’s armies, which ad overrun their country, and were living in London at the time. Even though the Prince returned her love, King George said that Mary must wait to marry him until her three older sisters were married. (A feat that would actually never happen, as her sister Princess Augusta never married.) Sadly, when Mary was twenty-three, Prince Frederick caught an infection and died while serving in the army. Mary went into mourning.

When Mary was forty years old, at a time when she would be considered firmly on the shelf, she married her cousin Prince William Frederick, the Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh. He was also forty, and his nickname was Silly Billy. He’d apparently been “on hold” to marry his second cousin Princess Charlotte if no suitable foreign prince was found, but she’d recently wed Prince Leopold. I wonder how Mary felt being the consolation prize? The Ladies Monthly Museum was politically correct in their coverage:

“This marriage, it is said, has been in contemplation for many years, but various reasons have been assigned for its delay. It is undoubted that they early imbibed a strong affection for each other, and which time has increased rather than diminished.”

Okay then.

They were married on July 22, 1816, in the evening at St. James’s Palace in the grand saloon, which had been draped in crimson velvet and gold lace for the occasion. The space was lined with a party of yeomen of the guards. The groom was dressed in the uniform of a field-marshal and wore the Order of the Garter. The Prince Regent gave his sister away. Again, from the Ladies Monthly Museum:

“Her Royal Highness was dressed with her usual beautiful simplicity; she wore no feathers, but a bandeau of white roses fastened together by light sprigs of pearls. Her neck was ornamented with a brilliant fringe necklace: her arms with bracelets of brilliants formed into flowers, and her waist with a girdle to correspond with her bandeau. Her whole appearance was very lovely. The ladies present were also most splendidly dressed: the prevailing color was blue.”

Though she had no children of her own, Mary was the longest lived of George the III’s children. She outlived her husband by 20 years and died in 1857 at the grand old age of 81.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Royal Weddings, Part 4: Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and Princess Alexandra of Denmark

Our latest royal wedding wasn’t precisely a love match like Vicky and Fritz’s, but as royal marriages go managed, after a few rocky years, to be a successful one, based on mutual respect and affection. I’m talking about the match between “bad boy” Bertie, eldest son of Queen Victoria and Princess “Alix” Alexandra of Denmark.

Finding a bride for Bertie, the twenty-year-old future king of England, was of course a very important issue. Victoria was in the depths of mourning first for her mother, then for her beloved Albert who’d died in December 1861 (and whose death she partly blamed on poor Bertie's misbehavior with an Irish "actress"), so Bertie’s elder sister Vicky, now Crown Princess of Prussia, stepped in to find a suitable bride for her brother.
She found the young and beautiful Alexandra of Denmark, known as Alix to her family. Although their first meeting didn’t precisely result in sparks, neither outright refused to consider marriage, and a year later, on their second meeting (and after much behind-the-scenes discussion and negotiation), Bertie proposed in September 1862, with the wedding to take place on March 10, 1863. Though traditionally the marriage should have taken place in the bride’s home, Victoria would not hear of her heir being married anywhere but London, and so in London it was.

Because the Queen was still in the deepest mourning, the wedding was held at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. The small venue meant that only Alix’s closest family members were invited, and Bertie was limited to inviting six friends. Holding the wedding at Windsor also denied Londoners the spectacle of the wedding of the heir to the throne, but the Queen would not hear of a more public wedding. Court mourning also decreed that female guests could wear only secondary mourning colors like mauve or grey, which must have been a bit of a disappointment.

Alix’s dress was of white and silver satin, decorated with garlands of greenery; Bertie wore a general’s uniform under his Garter robes. But most of the eyes were on the Queen in a balcony overlooking the altar; she seems to have played somewhat shamelessly to the crowds, making it clear that witnessing what was supposed to be a joyous event was terribly painful to her (“I dread the whole thing awfully, & wonder even how you can rejoice so much at witnessing what must I should think be to you, who loved Papa so dearly, so terribly sad a wedding,” she wrote to her eldest daughter Vicky a few weeks before the happy event.) The Archbishop of Canterbury officiated, operatic star Jenny Lind sang, and Bertie’s nephew, Vicky’s eldest son, four-year-old Willy (later Kaiser Wilhelm II), behaved very badly, crawling about and biting people.

A wedding breakfast for five hundred was held under a tent (fortunately the weather was sunny at this point) with another enormous cake, and then the bride and groom went away to dress for their wedding journey to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. “Ah, dear brother, what a sad and dismal ceremony it was!” the Queen wrote later to the King of Prussia.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Let's Play Name Those Books

We once again interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with a request for assistance. (I will get to the marriage of Princess Mary next week—promise!) You see, I am absolutely delighted to report that Love Inspired Historical will be publishing three more books from me! My editor loves the characters and stories as much as I do, and she’s so excited she hopes to get all three books out in 2012, which means I have three books to write in about 11 months. And I need titles yesterday.

I did not inherit the title gene. Either titles come to me, or they don’t. So far, these don’t. But you all have been so helpful with Marissa’s and my books, offering outstanding suggestions, that I asked my editor if I could appeal to you yet again. She is eagerly awaiting your thoughts.

So, here’s the situation: The books are a miniseries tentatively tagged with the phrase “The Everard Legacy.” They are set in 1805 in England, which technically is the Georgian period, but they still have the feel of the Regency. Three roguish cousins learn that their scandalous late uncle left a secret daughter, a feisty teenager ready to embark on her first London Season, and they may only claim their much anticipated inheritances if they bring her out properly. In the first book, the hero Jerome Everard is certain the girl must be a fraud. (Picture Matthew Bomer with that charming smile.) Used to protecting the estates from his mercurial uncle, he is determined to protect them now from a cozening female. But his new cousin Samantha is not the scheming girl he expected, and neither is her lovely governess, Adele Walcott. Jerome must choose between protecting his inheritance and protecting the women he is coming to love.

In the second book, the hero Richard Everard is a world-weary widower, a former sea captain. (Picture a Jonathan Frakes in the early days of Star Trek: The Next Generation only with redder hair and beard.) Despite his best efforts, Samantha has wiggled her way into his heart, and he wants to help her, so he appeals to the widow of a man who was in his debt to act as sponsor for Samantha’s Season. Lady Claire Winthrop has also given up on love, but accepting Richard’s offer will help her keep her standing in Society. Richard must learn to open his heart even further and take a chance on love.

In the third book, the hero Vaughn Everard is a poet, as fast with his wit as he is with his sword. (Picture Orlando Bloom looking like Legolas but with a more devilish character.) Vaughn is fiercely loyal to Samantha, so when her future is threatened by someone who knows the secret of her birth, he sets out to protect her, even if that means wooing her rival, Lady Imogene Devary. Vaughn must choose between vengeance and mercy.

Here’s where it gets a little trickier. We want the three titles to be of similar construction (so if the first was something like Marrying the Marquis, then the second could be Eloping with the Earl and the third might be Kissing the Count, though of course none of my gentleman are titled—Samantha is). The titles also need to focus on the men—their goals, their characteristics, their archetypes. In addition, I have been asked to stay away from the term “rogue” (although that certainly describes them!) because upcoming titles from Love Inspired Historical will be using it. And the titles can’t be generic (I tried His to Claim, His to Court, and His to Love—no dice). Finally, they need to have “hook,” and if you can figure out what that term means and apply it well, you have a great career ahead of you in publishing.

You can make a suggestion for one book, or all three. Post suggestions in the comments section until midnight this Sunday, April 17. I will collect them and send them to my editor. If she picks one of yours, I will send you an advance signed copy of The Irresistible Earl as soon as I get my author copies (expected in early May). If, as she did last time, she doesn’t pick any of them, I’ll put your names in a hat and draw a winner for the advance copy.

Looking forward to seeing what you make of all this! And thank you so much!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Royal Weddings, Part 3: Princess Victoria and Prince Friedrich of Prussia

Our next royal wedding is that of Princess Victoria the Princess Royal, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, and Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, the future Emperor and Empress of Germany…and known within their families as Vicky and Fritz. As we have seen, the match between these two was truly a love match, and they remained devoted all their lives. In fact, they became semi-secretly engaged—family were informed, but it wasn’t widely announced—when Vicky was not quite 15. As Fritz was nine years her senior, she must have been quite a young lady to enchant a more-or-less grown man, and a very eligible one to boot.

Since her parents decreed that she should not marry before she was seventeen, Queen Victoria had plenty of time to gather Vicky’s trousseau…which she did with a vengeance. In the end, 100 hundred packing cases of everything from clothing (dozens of dresses and fabric for dozens more) to housewares (from carpets to wallpaper to furniture) to dainties from Fortnum and Mason and saddles. Parliament granted her a dowry of £40,000, which would generate her an income of £8,000 per year. Although the Prussians wanted their future king to be married in Prussia, the Queen would not hear of it, and the wedding was set for January 25, 1858, in London.

According to her former governess, Vicky was wonderfully calm and composed all through the fuss of dressing and preparing. Her dress was of white silk moire over a flounced lace petticoat, decorated with sprays of orange blossom and myrtle. Her veil was held on with a matching wreath, and she wore diamonds. The Queen wore lilac, while the mother of the groom, Princess Augusta, wore white with a blue velvet train, and Fritz himself wore the dark blue tunic and white trousers of the Prussian Guards.

Unlike her mother’s wedding day, the weather was clear and sunny for Vicky, and the roads between Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Chapel were thronged with onlookers. The wedding itself seems to have run smoothly: Vicky’s train was long enough that her eight bridesmaids didn’t have to worry about tripping over each other, and while according to the Queen the Archbishop of Canterbury was “very nervous”, the bride and groom themselves were poised and spoke “very plainly”. And when the vows were said, the young couple set a tradition, walking out of the chapel to the strains of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. They also set a precedent by stepping out onto the balcony at Buckingham Palace to wave to the cheering Londoners.

If Victoria and Albert’s cake was enormous, their daughter’s was no smaller: it stood over six feet tall, and quite hid them from view at the wedding breakfast! Also like her mother, Vicky’s honeymoon at Windsor was a short two days, after which her parents and dozens of other wedding guests arrived. And by February 1, Vicky was sailing away with her new husband for her new life as a Prussian Crown Princess—a life which would often be difficult for the warm-hearted young girl.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Royal Weddings, Part 2: Charlotte and Leopold

If ever there was a princess in need of a handsome prince, it was Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales. The only daughter of Prince George and Princess Caroline, she had her father’s florid looks and her mother’s earthy temperament. She laughed too loudly, threw temper tantrums at will, and never learned the fine art of diplomacy expected of a princess and heir to the throne.

On the other hand, His Serene Highness Leopold George Christian Frederick, Prince of Saxe-Coburg, was apparently aptly named. With no money behind his fancy name and no particularly impressive connections among his bloodline, the twenty-six-year-old youngest son of a minor house needed to be a diplomat. He had served well in the war against Napoleon and cut a rather dashing figure.

Though the Prince Regent urged his daughter to marry the Prince of Orange, Charlotte was captivated by Leopold and begged her father incessantly to allow her to marry him. She is said to have written in her diary “I find him charming . . . I am certainly a very fortunate creature and have to bless God. A Princess never, I believe, set out in life with such prospects of happiness, real domestic ones like other people.”

Prinny reluctantly relented, and the engagement was announced on March 14, 1816. The Prince insisted on the couple remaining apart during the next few months, and they saw each other only occasionally. They were married at nine in the evening on May 2, 1816, at her father’s Carlton House in London in the Crimson State Room. Around fifty people attended, most members of the royal family or faithful retainers. The Prince Regent, Duke of York, Duke of Clarence, and many of the other gentlemen in attendance wore military uniforms, as did Prince Leopold, who was resplendent in the embroidered coat of a British General, a commission he had been granted, and white wool breeches.

Charlotte certainly looked the part of a princess. Her wedding gown, which cost over 10,000 pounds, was made from silver lamé over net, with a silver tissue slip. The hem and sleeves were embroidered with silver lame shells and flowers and trimmed with Brussels lace. She also wore a manteau of silver tissue lined with white satin, embroidered to match the dress and fastened with a single diamond. On her head was a tiara of brilliants formed into rosebuds and leaves.

One of the reports at the time claimed she “wore on her countenance that tranquil and chastened joy which a female so situated could not fail to experience.” That doesn’t sound a great deal like Charlotte. But even dressed like a princess, poor Charlotte couldn’t behave like one. Supposedly she giggled when her penniless groom promised to endow her with all his worldly goods.

Leopold did his best to guide his headstrong wife, and she did her best to heed his advice, after a decent tantrum or two, of course. Theirs was to be a model marriage, lauded by the common folk, appreciated by the aristocracy, until Charlotte’s untimely death in childbirth a year and a half later.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Royal Weddings, Part 1: Victoria and Albert

Feeling bridal? Regina and I thought it would be fun to join in Royal Wedding fever this month and do a series of posts on 19th century royal weddings in the lead-up to the wedding of Prince William of Wales and Miss Kate Middleton on April 29. Are you ready?

Surely one of the most momentous royal weddings of the 19th century was that of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Victoria had proposed to her cousin in October—as a reigning monarch, she far outranked him—and the wedding was set for February 10, 1840—a scant three months later. Victoria had hoped for a private wedding, but her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, over-ruled her and so it was the first public royal wedding in decades—since George III’s wedding, back in 1761. The weather was beastly that morning, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds of people who came out to watch the queen drive from Buckingham Palace to the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. The Chapel was stuffed with as many seats as possible for visiting dignitaries and as much of the whiggish side of the British nobility as possible (of the Tory nobility, only the Duke of Wellington and Lord Liverpool, a former prime minister, were invited).

Albert, dressed as a British Field Marshal, entered the chapel first, and awaited Victoria, who walked down the aisle on the arm of her uncle, the Duke of Sussex. Her dress (viewable in the London Museum) was of her own design and fairly simple, of British-made white satin with a trim of orange blossoms. Her veil, worn with a wreath of orange blossoms, was literally one of a kind: it was made by lacemakers in Devon, and the design was destroyed so that the pattern could never be copied. She wore her Turkish diamond necklace and earrings and a sapphire brooch Albert gave her as a wedding present.

There were a multiplicity of clergy on hand, with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London all there to officiate. What there hadn’t been was a rehearsal, so that the dowager queen Adelaide was heard whispering to Albert about the proper order of the procession, and Victoria’s twelve bridesmaids (dressed in simple gowns also of Victoria’s design, with wreaths of white roses on their heads) struggled to hold onto the queen’s short train without stumbling over each other. Though Albert often seemed unsure and agitated—his English was not very good at this point, so following the service may have been difficult—Victoria was poised and calm and, as she wrote in her journal, “so very happy!” There were amusing family touches, too: Victoria’s uncle the Duke of Cambridge kept up a very audible, if cheerful, commentary on the proceedings. Her uncle Sussex, who gave her away, still wore his customary black skullcap which he always wore to keep his head warm. And like many mothers of brides, the Duchess of Kent was seen to shed tears.

After the ceremony the married pair returned to Buckingham Palace for a small wedding breakfast (relatively speaking) of family members and their households, the prime minister and a handful of cabinet members, the Royal Household, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. Over a hundred wedding cakes were made, to distribute to various family members, Royal Household members, officers of state, and foreign ambassadors. The main cake was nine feet across and sixteen inches high, and decorated with all sorts of allegorical symbols of marriage and of the queen…oh for a photograph! And then it was time to change (Victoria wore a white satin cloak trimmed with swan’s down and a white velvet bonnet with plumes and Brussels lace) and head off to Windsor for their two-day honeymoon. Yes, two days. As Victoria reminded Albert, “You forget, my dearest Love, that I am the Sovereign and that business can stop and wait for nothing.” Not even true love, it seems!

Friday, April 1, 2011


It’s spring! Not to crow overmuch, but it reached over seventy degrees here this week. (Marissa will now commence throwing snowballs at me—guess what it did this week in her neck of the woods.) Some years, Easter would be right around the corner. In 1811, for example, Easter fell on April 14. It is, of course, much later this year.

And just after Easter, the London theatre season blossomed in nineteenth century England. The Monday after Easter, Sadler’s Wells, Astley’s Amphitheatre for the Arts, and the Royal Circus all opened. Each of these tended more toward pageants and melodrama. Other houses such as Covent Garden and Drury Lane, both Theatres Royal, brought out ballet and opera as well as dramas from Shakespeare and the playwrights of the times.

If you were a young lady of means and you were out in Society, you might accompany your family to the theatre. Seats were arranged in arcs around the center. In many theatres, the lower arcs housed the general (read well to do) public, and the upper arcs were reserved for season ticket holders (the elite). The center section held around twenty rows of seats, although not everyone actually sat, for the cheapest prices and was called the pit for good reason. One never knew who one might meet in the pit, or how the crowd would behave.

For many however, attending the theatre was as much watching what happened onstage as it was about watching what happened off. Stories abound of fisticuffs and mayhem in the pit. But perhaps one of the most dramatic offstage events happened on May 15, 1800. King George and his family had just entered the royal box at Drury Lane and been greeted to the tune of “God Save the King” from the orchestra when a shot rang out. The mentally ill James Hadfield, standing on a bench next to the orchestra, had attempted to assassinate the monarch.

The audience erupted. The musicians surged out of their seats, grabbed Hadfield, and dragged him back under the stage to the music room, where he could be held for questioning. In the midst of all this, King George refused to be cowed. He strode to the very front of the box, raised his opera glass, and gazed about the house as if daring someone to shoot again. Though his chamberlain and his queen and daughters begged him to retire into the safety of the antechamber, he replied, “I shall not stir one step.”

Officials called for calm, but the audience insisted on another round of “God Save the King,” which was greeted with shouts and applause. The play finally commenced, with much confusion on the part of the players, and the queen and princesses were said to weep through the entire play. I’m fairly sure no one was watching the stage. So much for theatrics.