Category Archives: Royals

When Harry Met Meghan: Why Meghan Markle May Be Perfect for Harry (and for the British Monarchy)

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Full disclosure: When rumors started circulating a couple weeks ago that Prince Harry was dating an American television actress named Meghan Markle–and that she was teasing her social media followers with coy Instagram shots of Buckingham Palace and spooning bananas–I thought it was a publicity stunt, a very bad plan hatched by her media team to get some better name recognition for an actress few Americans know of.

Was I ever wrong.

I think I was more shocked with Prince Harry’s strongly worded statement to the press to leave his American girlfriend alone than I was by the outcome of our U.S. presidential election. After all, I’ve spent the last several months warning my liberal east coast friends that they were underestimating the depth of dislike for Hillary Clinton in other parts of the country, thus why I awoke Wednesday morning not at all surprised we have a Trump presidency awaiting us in January.

Like the pundits here and abroad have said, this very public declaration is an extraordinary move for anyone in the royal circle to make. Look how long it took Prince William to stand up to the press with his long-time girlfriend (and now wife) Kate MIddleton– years!–and Prince Harry stood up to it in mere months. It certainly signifies the relationship between the British prince and the American actress is very serious, and my gut says an engagement announcement is forthcoming.

I’ve thought a bit about this, and my opinion is that a Princess Meghan is just what the Royal Family needs to move forward and stay relevant. Why?

  1. She’s a working woman. Ok, she may not work in an office or be on the cusp of discovering the cure for cancer, and her day job is probably a bit more glamorous than the one you or I have, but Markle does support herself with her acting and shows some entrepreneurial spirit with her website and a clothing line. The loudest complaint I heard about the Duchess of Cambridge, and now about Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, is that she was “work shy.” Before she married Prince William, the Duchess did hold a few jobs, but not for long, and she had to rely on her parents for housing and an eventual temporary position in their own company. Bea and Eugenie are objects of ridicule for their relentless job hopping and the number of cushy vacations they manage to take each year. If Markle does become a member of the Royal Family, she’ll probably have to give up her career, but at least no one can accuse her of taking any free rides to the palace balcony.
  2. She’s philanthropic. I suspect this is one of the major attractions Prince Harry has for his new girlfriend…beyond the obvious, that she’s absolutely gorgeous! Princess Diana was revered for her charity work, and Markle looks like she has the energy and star-power to continue her legacy. As a young child, Markle traveled with her mother to developing countries, where she saw poverty up close, and this seemed to drive her philanthropy as an adult. In college she double-majored in theater and international relations (Northwestern grad, too, a great school!), and has most recently traveled to places to Rwanda and Afghanistan on behalf of UN-based organizations. If she and Prince Harry marry, she’ll be totally comfortable and passionate with the royal charity obligations she’ll undoubtedly have. Moreover, it seems that both she and Harry have similar charitable interests … a double win!
  3. She’s biracial. Markle’s mother is black, her father white. A few newspapers have made issue of this and snobbishly wondered if the very white Royal Family was ready for her. My feeling is that the Royal Family is far more welcoming and liberal than we give them credit for; it’s the old-school courtiers and the media rabble-rousers who will make race into an issue. So many families today are made up of different races that it’s time to let our institutions reflect that reality instead of holding them to a standard that’s antiquated and frankly racist.
  4. She’s American. I’ve read some snobby comments about Markle’s common American roots, but the flip side of this is that Americans are going to be far more aware and interested in the British Royal Family than ever. I wasn’t around when Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier, but I’m guessing that most Americans had never heard of Monaco until Grace became Princess Grace. The British may see the Royals as “royal scroungers” but Americans have nothing like them, so they’re what we think of when we think of England. Having one of us in their midst will make us love you a little more than we already do.
  5. She’s an actress. The press seems to think Markle’s acting background is an impediment (mostly because of some risque scenes she’s done) but I think it’s an incredible skill she’ll bring to the family business. Everyone rolls eyes about the Royal Family’s endless ribbon-cutting and wreath-laying itineraries, but after watching all ten hours of The Crown on Netflix last weekend, I got a taste of how hard it must be for the royals to always be smiling, pleasant, and conversational for hours at a time. (If you saw the mini-series, there’s a funny scene where the Queen has to have a relaxant injected into her cheek after the muscle freezes from smiling too much during a Commonwealth tour.) Markle’s acting background means she can put on a show, deliver a speech, smile, act interested, and have less of a chance forgetting her lines than someone who hasn’t had that kind of training.

Of course, if Markle marries into the Royal family, it won’t all be rainbows and unicorns. Surely she’ll have to give up her (paid) acting career, her social media presence, and I assume her American citizenship. And then there’s the relentless media scrutiny she’ll have to deal with, although her acting career will have prepared her for that somewhat.

What do you think? Has Harry met his match? Is she the breath of fresh air the Royals need, or a right royal headache? Please feel free to comment below. P.S. I’ll be back next week with a more personal post; I haven’t been able to log into WordPress until today because of a technical issue, but that has been fixed. Yay!

 

 

Hard to believe Memorial Day is here…

Every time I wanted to post in these past few weeks, my blog was suffering a denial of service attack, which resulted in my service provider having to shut down my WordPress login. But yay, today I could get in so here I am.

Spring here in Boston has been cold and rainy. I’ve even cranked up the heat a couple times; I normally shut off the heat on April 30 and suffer through the occasional chilly day, but this spring has tested my internal thermostat.

We’re heading to Connecticut this holiday weekend. My son is attending summer camp for a week in early July, so we’re going to the open house on Saturday, then spending the rest of the time with my family. Forecast? Rain. Although on Monday it looks like it may be sunny and high 70s.

I’m almost done with my Mind the Gap socks … I’ll probably finish them tonight and photograph them over the weekend. Any time I’ve been caught knitting in public, someone always comments on how colorful they are. One benefit about living in New England is that people tend to mind their own business and comment only when they have something nice to say. Only once did someone speak disparagingly to me about “some older lady” knitting in public (at a school graduation). He didn’t realize that I was the one who had been knitting, and when he figured it out, he looked chagrined … probably more about insinuating I was an “older lady” than anything else. 😉

Last night while I was whirling my way down the foot of my Mind the Gap sock, I watched a BBC documentary running on PBS about Queen Victoria and her children. I studied the Victorian era in college (history/literature/politics), but the extent of my knowledge of Queen Victoria’s private life is that she was devastated by the loss of her husband, she spent almost all her reign mourning for him, and that her children were married off to various branches of the family in Europe. I did NOT know what an overbearing and needy mother she was until I watched the show and some of her letters were read aloud. She even mocked the looks of some of her children and in one letter wished that the Prince of Wales would die before she did because he was such a disappointment as a future king. (He ended up being quite a good king, despite his playboy reputation as a youth.)

It made me contrast Victoria with the present queen, Elizabeth. They reigned under different circumstances (the British Empire no longer exists, Elizabeth has had the support of her husband), but I wonder if in 100 years, Elizabeth will outshine Victoria in history? I think so. Unlike Victoria, she has accepted if not embraced change and kept the monarchy relevant for the majority of her subjects.

OK, enough rambling. Off to knit. Knock wood, I’ll be able to get back to you with a picture of my finished socks. 🙂 Have a nice long weekend if you’re stateside!

The Duchess of Cambridge and her court shoes

Of course I’ve been keeping up with the Cambridge’s grand tour Down Under and reading all the breathless commentary on stylish Kate. She certainly has a great pair of pins, and today I learned her secret: nude court shoes!

Here in the U.S. we call these shoes “pumps”: closed-toe, low front shoes with heels. According to the fashion press, nude pumps/court shoes give the illusion of long legs when the color of the pump and the skin are similar. Which makes sense, as your eye tends to stop when you get to a jolt of black or red at the feet.

Sign me up!

According to the folks in the know at the Daily Mail, Kate’s preferred court shoe comes from London-based retailer LK Bennett and these shoes are, unfortunately, sold out in the U.K. If you’re stateside, you can purchase the style “Sledge” at Nordstrom for just $345.

If you, like I, don’t have a royal allowance for footwear, here are some lower-priced options.

Here’s the Madden Girl Fastenn pump for $34.30 at Belk. The LK Bennett pump is a bit more taupe, but I think the Madden Girl version would work better on someone with fair skin. It must be a popular choice with Kate admirers because most sizes are hard to find: Belk was the only online retailer where I found a variety of sizes available.

If you’ve got more dosh (sorry, I’ve been reading the latest Elizabeth George mystery), the Cole Hahn Chelsea pump is very similar to the LK Bennett court shoe. They’re currently $199.00 at Zappos … and free shipping. Like the Madden Girl pumps, though, popular sizes are unavailable at the moment, but Zappos will let you know when your size is back in stock.

The Michael Kors Ionna pump is quite nice, too, and a more reasonable $130 at Zappos — that is, if they have your size. The only thing I don’t like is the bling on the back of the heel.

I saw some other nude pumps by Kate Spade and Christian Louboutin, but if I can’t afford LK Bennett, it goes without saying I can’t afford these versions either.

I’m curious to see the “nude” effect on my own legs, so I’m heading down to our local Marshall’s to give it a try. I’m not so sure about that platform look; my mind goes to porn films, hookers, and Times Square in the 70s, sorry. And those heels — some of them are 4″ or 5″. Never mind walk in them. Could I even stand? We’ll see … I’ve sewn a bunch of skirts in the last couple months, and I’m eager to see if nude pumps are the trick of the eye my figure needs. 🙂

Oliver

Friends and acquaintances often ask me if I named my son Oliver because it’s a popular name in Britain. In August, Oliver was one of Britain’s top-ten names for boys, right after Harry. Harry? Who would name a kid Harry? Ah, that’s right.

Prince Harry

So who would name a kid Oliver?

Well we did, way back in 2001 when Oliver wasn’t a very popular name at all here in the U.S., and only a bit more so in the U.K. Here’s the story: had we a daughter, her name was already picked out. We were going to name a daughter after my beloved paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Cairns Forrest. Everyone thought I was going to have a girl in the early months of my pregnancy, even the Chinese doctor who was treating me with acupuncture for my 24/7 morning sickness and who assured me she’d never been wrong predicting a baby’s sex. I, on the other hand, had a sneaking suspicion there was a boy baby jumping on my bladder.

An ultrasound around month five confirmed there would be no daughter named Elizabeth.

My husband and I spent months going back and forth on boys’ names. It seemed he loathed every name I liked: Andrew. (Too common). William. (Too boring, too many nickname possibilities). James. (“Di, what is it with you and Scottish kings? Give it up!”). And then there were his names: Calvin. (Syllables didn’t work with our last name.) Neal. (Eh.) I can’t remember the rest, but nothing stuck. We thought about our father’s names, but we were already using his father’s middle name (another long story) for our son’s middle name. As for my father’s name, it’s nice but I couldn’t go there for personal reasons that have nothing to do with my dad, who’s a great guy with a great name.

One hot late summer evening we were in bed with the baby name books and suddenly my husband said, “What about Oliver?” I was about to screech, “Oliver? OLIVER? Are you nuts? That’s a terrible name!” But just then, the boy in my belly gave me a god-awful kick and I paused. I poked my tummy to get his attention and said to it, “Hey kid, what do you think of Oliver Sheldon?” And he gave me another almighty kick. So that was that. Today when Oliver complains about his name (which isn’t very often, to be honest), I tell him, “We consulted and you approved.”

Most people said they loved the name, except two members of our family. One I won’t discuss here. The other was my mother, who has name issues because of her own moniker–Agnes. She insisted kids would make fun of him at school and call him
Ollie or Oliver North.

“Mom,” I reasoned, “Kids in ten years won’t know who Oliver North is. Kids today don’t know who Oliver North is!” She was so upset over the name choice, she actually hung up on me! (She insists she didn’t hang up on me, but I swear, she did.)

The night our son was born, nurses kept telling us, “He looks like an Oliver!” I still hear that today. I can’t imagine Oliver being anyone but an Oliver, and no one has ever called him Ollie. Oliver is a name that’s figured prominently in my ancestral family tree, and I love that its Norman roots come from the word for olive branch, signifying peace … and for me, good food. 😉

Last week he came home and said, “Hardly anyone at school calls me Oliver.”

“Oh really?” I said.

“When I walk into class, everyone yells, ‘Hey Ginger!'”

Thank God we didn’t name him Harry.

 

Thistle stole

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(Photos posted with kind permission of Mary Scott Huff)

Like most knitters on Ravelry, I am constantly adding patterns to my queue. The problem is there’s not enough time in the world to knit everything I would like to knit.

But now and then, a pattern comes along that stops me in my tracks, and I tell myself, “I must knit that NOW. If I get to my deathbed without having knit that, I will enter the afterlife with a very unhappy soul.”

Thistle by Mary Scott Huff is one of those soul-stirring patterns for me.

Huff is one of my favorite knitting designers, so it’s not really a surprise that I fell in love with this gorgeous stole. She specializes in colorwork, and her patterns are stunning. I’m pretty sure the pattern for Wedding Belle in her book The New Stranded Colorwork got me back into knitting.

What I love about the stole of all stoles: obviously the colors–the bright green edging, the multi-shades of purple. But that it has thistles, the national flower of Scotland, made it irresistible to my Anglophile sensibilities.

Huff writes in the pattern headnotes, “Legend has it that during the King Haakon’s Viking invasion of Scotland, the Norsemen tried to surprise the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness, the invaders removed their footwear. As they crept barefoot, they came across an area of ground covered in thistles and one of Haakon’s men unfortunately stood on one. Shrieking out in pain, he alerted the Clansmen to the advancing enemy. The Scots then defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Largs, saving Scotland from invasion. The important role the thistle played was recognized, and it was chosen as Scotland’s national emblem.”

And while I’m not a huge fan of tassels, here they work. My stole shall have tassels, too.

I have to wait until January to begin this project as I have so much holiday knitting/sewing to plow through in December. I’ve sent my mother a picture of the pattern, and I’m sure I’ll be getting a gift certificate for yarn in return. My mother is such an enabler; I, on the other hand, encourage her! 😉 Meanwhile, I continue knitting up my Christmas gift list of cowls, boot socks, and hot water bottle covers and dream of Thistle.

English king’s remains found

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Richard III. One of the few lines of Shakespearean drama I can remember years after college is the king’s dying cry on Bosworth Field: “A horse, A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

Scholars have long searched for this medieval king’s remains, and today the University of Leicester, along with the Richard III Society and the Leicester City Council announced that remains excavated from underneath a city parking lot are indeed the remains of the last English king killed in battle. Mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton was matched to a Canadian man who is a direct descendant of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York.

The video above explains how the remains were discovered. A friary once stood in place of the city parking lot. The king’s body was rumored to be buried in the choir area of the church. Since researchers knew the geography of the former church, once they started digging and found location markers, they were able to figure out where the choir would be. Luckily, the rumors were accurate! One thing I’ve never thought about is how often archaeological remains are found and we never know much about the person they once were. In this case — what a story!

Olympic Fever!

Friends and family keep asking me, “Don’t you wish you were in London right now?” Guess they don’t know me very well because my idea of hell is being stuck in loud, sweaty crowds with no easy means of escape. Not to mention if you want to watch the Olympics, the best seat in the house is usually at home where you can see everything much better thanks to network cameras. I’ll save London for another day. I’m content to see the sights from this side of the ocean.

I did stay up last night to watch the opening ceremonies. Well done, I thought. Not much of a surprise there as I like Danny Boyle, but I did find it odd that it overly emphasized British literature, film, and music over than sport and athleticism. I’m not going to complain, though, because the soundtrack was outstanding: the Clash, Bowie, the Sex Pistols, the Chemical Brothers, the Pet Shop Boys, Clapton, and more. We did not see Elton John or Coldplay. And I loved that when Queen came on, their music got an extra cheer from the crowd.

Speaking of queenly matters … did you like the James Bond short? I thought it was fun. And good for the Queen for playing along, although she looked rather glum all night.

Another thing I enjoyed about Boyle’s direction? The homage to Britain’s sense of humor. The Brits just don’t take themselves so seriously, unlike Americans. (A huge generalization, I know.)  I doubt you’d see the likes of an American director let someone like Rowan Atkinson goof around with a renowned orchestra. I mean, look how offended we get when Ricky Gervais pokes fun at Hollywood celebrities? Wait — I guess it’s the Hollywood celebrities who get offended. But I stand by my original assertion.

I loved the look of the Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms for the U.S. athletes, though I was dismayed to find out they were made in China. Grr. And while I’ve seen the athletic wear that Stella McCartney designed for Team UK, I wasn’t thrilled with the look of the uniforms they wore at last night’s opening ceremony. (Those gold patches under their arms? Yuk.) I also liked Canada’s outfits — they were simple, but really stood out.

Anyway, it was a pleasant way to spend the evening and I managed to get a good bit done on my 2012 Ravellenic Games entry, my Go America! socks:

socks for Ravellenic games

I had to rip them back a bit after I’d discovered I’d cast on an extra stitch, but otherwise good progress. This morning I manged to add another two inches to the leg, and I suspect by the end of the weekend I’ll have the heel turned. My son is down in Connecticut this weekend, so I have some extra free time.

Are you watching the Olympics over the next several weeks? Are you participating in the 2012 Ravellenic games?

The Gentle Art of Knitting

When I heard/read that Jane Brocket was coming out with a knitting book, I got pretty excited. The Gentle Art of Domesticity keeps a prominent place on my livingroom bookshelf and gives me that boost I need when the house needs a little TLC.

The Gentle Art of Knitting was released in England a few months ago. I considered buying it sight unseen, but then I read some negative reader reviews of it and scratched it off my list. The complaints were that the knitting projects were too basic and not very revolutionary. (Those are my words/impressions of the reviews.) I buy very few knitting books, and only buy them for reference .

Though I’d resolved not to buy the book, I was thrilled to find a copy of it at our local library on the new titles shelf.

I spent a pleasant hour or two reading through it, sipping tea, during one of the many drenching rain storms of May. Is there anything revolutionary in the book? Why, yes, there is. As the reader reviewers noted, there aren’t any patterns in here that will put Brooklyn Tweed out of business anytime soon, but what Brocket’s book does brilliantly is remind knitters to focus on the process, not the product. As someone who frequently gets impatient to finish a sweater or can’t wait to start some complicated cabled shawl, I appreciate this message. As soon as I put the book down, I cast on 37 stitches of red cotton and knit a simple garter stitch dishcloth. Then, I knit another, this time striping at random places with blue cotton.

It’s the kind of knitting book I like to have when my handwork is giving me fits and I need to be reminded why I knit … to create beautiful objects with care, to bond with friends (who knit), and to relax and enjoy the hours rather than wasting them idly in front of the computer or television set.

I do think I’ll be getting a copy for my own bookshelf. The library’s version was from England. Unlike British cookbooks, I like British knitting books to be “Americanized” with our needle sizes and dimensions in inches rather than centimeters, so I’m hoping they’ll come out with a Yank version soon.

While on the domestic subject, I was futzing around the Web yesterday and found this video about how to properly fold a t-shirt, hosted by none other than Anthea Turner:

When I wasn’t ironing and folding my extensive t-shirt collection, I was watching the Jubilee procession on the Thames, broadcast over CNN. My goodness, the British must be thrilled to have Piers Morgan off their island. The man DOES NOT SHUT UP. He interrupted every guest, including India Hicks, who was attempting to tell the audience what it was like to be in Princess Diana’s wedding party. Morgan kept butting in with his own memories of the day, none of which were as remotely exciting as being Princess Diana’s bridesmaid. I wanted to throttle him. So I ended up turning the tv off, and downed a glass of lemon barley water in honor of the Queen.

And how was your Jubilee weekend?

The Duchess Effect

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I’ve been seeing lots of stories recently about “The Duchess Effect” or “The Kate Effect,” about how the Duchess of Cambridge’s clothing choices are wielding considerable influence on the fashion industry, especially over the last year since her marriage to Prince William.

While I’m not a rabid royalty watcher, I have always felt sympathetic toward Kate (I’m sorry; I can’t yet bring myself to call her Catherine.) I hated how the British tabloids trashed her and her family in the years before her marriage and can’t help but feeling a bit of “haa haa on you” when I see these same tabloids tripping over themselves, breathlessly covering her every move. I don’t think Kate has made one misstep, which has got to be hard with potentially billions of eyes on you every time you run out for a Starbucks.

I have noticed the effect the Duchess has on fashion. Indeed, I’ve even fallen head-over-heels in love with a shawl she wore while shopping (I blogged about it here) and the white coat she wore to Prince William’s passing-out ceremony. But model my wardrobe after Kate’s? Hmmm.

First, have you really studied a picture of her? She’s TINY. Not short tiny, but skinny tiny. A single thigh of mine is bigger than her torso. Okay, not really, but let’s just say a lot of the stuff she wears wouldn’t look good on my “curves.” For example, before she was married she was frequently photographed wearing skinny jeans stuffed into boots. First, I consider “skinny jeans” to be a pair of pants I can fit my butt into after a week of dieting. Second, if I stuffed my jean bottoms into a pair of skinny boots, I’d cut off circulation to my feet. The bottom line: where Kate looks slim and chic, I’d looked like an overstuffed sausage.

Then there’s the fact that you have to shop to get Kate’s look. And frankly, I hate to shop, except if the shopping involves yarn … then I’m up for the game. But people who really love Kate’s look must have to spend a fortune by quickly snapping up an original the moment Kate’s photographed in it (the royal blue engagement dress by Issa) or spend too much time hunting down a knockoff.

And then there’s that fact that I’m 17 years older than the Duchess. I’m more in Princess Diana’s generation, but NOT Prince Charles’s, thankyouverymuch. It’s weird because I don’t think the Duchess dresses in a particularly youthful manner (a criticism she receives from a lot of print journalists who cover fashion), but maybe it’s that I don’t place as much emphasis on fashion as I did in my 20s and early 30s, and go more for what looks good on me and what fits the life I have today. I’m more apt to look at a pair of wellies the Queen is wearing and wondering if they’d be a good choice for summer gardening … or should I get less sexy rubber gardening clogs? Does that make sense?

I like seeing how her fashion choices inspire others, though. The blog What Kate Wore reports on everything Kate wears and gives details on where you can buy. The green shawl that I adore has its own Ravelry group. BurdaStyle offers pattern suggestions for Kate fans who like to sew. And not Kate fashion, but an Australian pattern company developed a pattern for “The Pippa Dress.” Now that’s something you’ll never catch me in, although Gorgeous Things did “gorgeous things” with it … and she’s even in my generation! (She looks seriously stunning in it.) Don’t sew or knit? The Daily Mail frequently covers Kate and will tell you what brand she’s wearing.

So what do you think about all this “Duchess/Kate Effect” business? Do you think it will wear off? Do you catch yourself admiring certain clothes Kate wears or would you rather not be bothered? Please comment below. As for me, I’m sure I’ll keep watching but I don’t see myself patterning a wardrobe based on another person’s look. I am, however, going to cast on that shawl. Kate seriously ripped off my style.