Tag Archives: Duchess of Cambridge



Photos are not allowed inside Sandringham House, but mere tourists like me are allowed to take pictures outside and in the nearby museum. This is the very grand entry, used by tourists and guests invited for grand occasions. I just learned that the Queen was recently in residence, possibly while I was there. But I’m sure there is a very private entrance for her and her personal guests. (I think there’s a separate ballroom entrance, which is an exit for tourists).

Yesterday Prince William and his newly-expanded family left London for Anmer Hall, their newly-expanded mansion on the Sandringham estate. I thought I’d post a few photos from my recent visit there.

Sandringham is only open to tourists for a few months a year. At other times, it is the strictly private property of the Royal Family, bought during Victorian times as a retreat. The gardens have been open to the public since 1908.  King George V created and opened the Museum in 1930, with an admission charge of 3 pence. In 1977, the present Queen Elizabeth decided to open some rooms of the house to tourists for a few months a year–very good PR, I think.  The place certainly won me over.


The museum, in the old stable block, is as interesting as the house. It contains, as the British would say, a lot of “bits and bobs” about the Royal Family. 


The family follows traditional pastimes at their country home. This old photo shows royal children looking very serious in 1905. Princes Edward, Albert and Henry and Princess Mary are taking instruction in marching from the Piper, Forsyth. 


Among many fascinating retired vehicles, there’s a picnic wagon which was in use until fairly recently, when it was replaced with a new one. The picnic wagon has a place for everything, including wine bottles and fine china. It’s housed in a large building with murals that show the Royal Family and their friends enjoying the great outdoors in their beautiful grounds. I’m sure family picnics will continue for the newest great-grandchildren of the Queen.


Who knew that the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, is a painter? He’s pretty good. Who can resist this little informal portrait of the Queen reading the morning paper?


The room guides in the house are the Queen’s regular trusted servants. They’re friendly and happy to chat. In the grand formal dining room, I asked whether the Corgis have the run of the house. Of course they do! The Queen feeds them personally in the Gun Room, and they mill around under the dining room table, probably cadging scraps like any other dogs. Right now there are seven Corgis. An elderly dog, the Queen’s beloved Monty, died recently.

This year, Queen Elizabeth will become the longest-reigning British monarch in history.  She has had to overcome her share of family troubles and occasional anti-monarchy sentiment.  But as far as I can see, the Brits really love their Queen.  And right now it seems most British folks also love the very appealing young family of William, Kate, George and Charlotte.

The new little Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge will no doubt be delighted by the Queens’s Corgis. I’m sure the Queen will be a doting great-grandmother!


Welcome to the Princess of Cambridge!


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge greeted their second baby yesterday, and she will indeed be a princess: Princess of Cambridge. In Windsor last evening, carillon bells rang out over the streets lively with celebration.

There’s no word yet on the baby’s name. Speculation on possible names is intense. Bets are being feverishly placed. Reportedly Alice and Charlotte are the front runners. Victoria, Elizabeth and Diana are also popular. Royals often are given about four names, so there are quite a few possibilities.

I was just in beautiful rural Norfolk, where William and Kate will reportedly make their primary home.  Tourists like me are allowed to visit the Royal Family’s private retreat, Sandringham. The house and grounds are breathtakingly beautiful and tranquil. William and Kate’s house, still under renovation, is on the Queen’s estate lands–in fact it is right next to Her Majesty’s horse breeding and training grounds.

There will be plenty of fun for a child on Her Majesty’s idyllic grounds. The little race car above was presented to Prince Charles when he was a child, and it has seen a lot of use by other royal children–boys and girls.

Prince William has chosen to work as a helicopter rescue pilot, and much of the time he will be stationed in Norfolk.  That pleases me.  I remember reading that when he was a child, his mother Princess Diana used to take William and Harry out on unofficial private visits to homeless shelters.  It seems to me that aside from official working visits to hospices and daycare centers and so on, this generation of the Royal Family does genuinely care for those less fortunate.

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The local parish church, St. Mary Magdalene, has a lovely guardian angel over the entrance door.
The angel is tenderly holding a baby.  I wish the new royal baby a life of being cared for, and of caring for others.

The baby’s photo at the top of the post is from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32567875.

Top 10 Reasons Americans Can’t Get Enough of the British Royal Family

The American press took up a lot of the pavement space in front of the hospital where the new Prince of Cambridge was born this week.  Why our fascination with British royalty?  Following is my own very personal and opinionated list of reasons.

1. We’re safe from a monarchy ourselves, having gained our independence 237 years ago.  We get to enjoy the spectacle without paying the bills.

2. Nowhere in the world is the tension between the antique and the modern more visible than in the traditions of the British Royal Family. Prince William in the velvet and ostrich feathers of the ancient Order of the Garter? Irresistible, at least to many of us. To read about the 2013 Garter Ceremony, go to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2343223/Beaming-Queen-flanked-Charles-William-Order-Garter-today-Duke-Edinburgh-recovers-home.html.

3. We won’t admit we’re a little envious.  But we’re both dreading and secretly anticipating the day the royals trip themselves up and create another riveting story like the Charles and Diana Show of the 1990s.

4. We have a new appreciation for Princess Diana, who, in spite of all her colorful personal failings, gave the British Monarchy a well-deserved kick in the pants.

5. We’re embarrassed about the media “royalty” we create for ourselves:  overpaid sports heroes shown to cheat by taking banned substances, dysfunctional families like the Kardashians who cynically exploit their fame, reality “stars” who waste our time with their lame antics.  Is this the best we can do, 237 years after getting British royalty out of our lives?

6. We love our dogs.  We have to admire a Queen who is able to keep as many dogs as she wants.  Besides the much-photographed corgis, the Queen reportedly keeps any number of cocker spaniels and dorgis—a corgi-dachshund mix.  (No doubt there are also kennels full of dogs used for hunting, but these days hunting is kept on the down-low because of public disapproval).

7. We’re looking for stories of redemption.  Queen Elizabeth II appeared to be a classic coldhearted mother, especially to Prince Charles, but (if you ask me) she redeemed herself in the moment during Diana’s funeral procession when she briefly bowed her head as the coffin passed.  We’d like to think the Queen has learned her lesson and became a better parent from that day forward. We especially like telling ourselves that a Queen NEEDS to be humbled once in awhile.

8. The current crop of royals shows signs of having more good sense than greed.  I was won over when William and Kate asked for charity donations rather than wedding gifts.

9. We appreciate good PR, especially when it does not seem like PR. When Kate was photographed pushing her own grocery cart a few days after the Wedding of the Century, that was great PR–and we all knew she had been shopping for her own groceries for years.  When Prince William personally placed the new baby’s car seat in the royal Land Rover and drove off with his expanded family, that was great PR. Commenting that the baby had more hair than his prematurely-balding dad was frosting on the cake.

10. We’d like to think that if we were born to untold wealth that we did nothing to deserve, we’d behave humbly and generously.  William and Kate appear to be doing just that. And they’re making it look easy.

If the British Monarchy survives this century, I think people will look back on the personalities and events of the past few years as the reason. Join me next time for more explorations into the history of Europe and the British Isles–even as history is being made before our eyes!

Her Majesty STILL Knows Best

The Duchess of Cambridge just entered the hospital to give birth to her second child.  She’s in the luxurious Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. She and Prince William will have a two-room suite with Wifi, satellite TV, and a chef on call.  Of course none of that matters very much to a mother embarking on what we now call “natural childbirth.” The “natural” process, these days, does get a little help from medical science.  I decided to re-post an article I wrote a couple of years ago, when the new baby’s great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, changed childbirth for most mothers by insisting on having some anesthesia.

Mothers all over the world owe a debt of gratitude to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria of England.  At the time she was doing her duty for England by giving birth to 9 children, women still suffered through childbirth with no anesthetic of any kind.  In 1850, before she gave birth to her 7th child, her physicians investigated the possible use of anesthetic with Dr. John Snow.

Dr. John Snow, public domain

Dr. John Snow, public domain

Dr. Snow was a pioneer in the use of chloroform and ether to ease the pain of various medical procedures.  It sounds as though Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert was especially interested in alleviating her pain in childbirth. The procedure was unheard-of at the time, though. For whatever the reasons, nothing came of it and Victoria suffered as usual.

Queen Victoria with her eldest daughter, public domain

Queen Victoria with her eldest daughter, public domain

But in 1853, prior to the birth of Victoria’s 8th child, Dr. Snow was finally asked to administer chloroform to Victoria.  He had studied the use of anesthetics for many years.  He knew just when to administer the anesthetic, so as to provide the best pain relief without slowing the natural process of labor. He agreed to attend Victoria.  Was he a little nervous?  Maybe, maybe not.  By all accounts, he knew exactly what he was doing. The chloroform was a resounding success.  Victoria used it again for her 9th child.

The (male) religious leaders of the day treated the news with some consternation–after all, the Bible taught that women were supposed to suffer during childbirth.  But no one was about to argue with the judgment of their beloved Queen. In any case, the Queen was the head of the Church of England. Women all over England, and then women all over the world, began demanding anesthetic during childbirth.

Queen Victoria in her coronation regalia, public domain

Queen Victoria in her coronation regalia, public domain

An article from UCLA,  detailing the history of Dr. John Snow’s medical innovations, is at http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow/victoria.html.

As Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, awaits her turn in history, she can be confident that the birth will be as comfortable as possible.  No doubt Prince William is as anxious about her well-being as Prince Albert was about Victoria’s. I wish Kate a safe and easy delivery of the long-awaited heir!

Be the First on Your Block

One of my favorite catalog stores, The Vermont Country Store, just thoughtfully sent me an opportunity to buy a commemorative plate to celebrate the birth of the soon-to-arrive new prince or princess.  Of course the plate will be pink for a girl and blue for a boy.  Delivery is promised in October.

Commemorative Plates available at The Vermont Country Store

Commemorative Plates available at The Vermont Country Store

Or maybe I would prefer a mug instead.

Commemorative Mug available at The Vermont Country Store

Commemorative Mug available at The Vermont Country Store

I would love to be in England right now, anticipating the royal birth along with everyone else, whether they care to admit it or not.  I understand William, the Duke of Cambridge is even now on duty as a rescue pilot while he awaits the birth.  He gets two weeks off when the baby is born. Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, is no doubt getting a little impatient like all moms everywhere. Even anti-Royalists must wish this new young family well. I can only imagine the cornucopia of commemorative items in British markets right now.  I’ll resist, though.

Jelly Babies available at The Vermont Country Store

Jelly Babies available at The Vermont Country Store

On the other hand, The Vermont Country Store offers a lot of other hard-to-find British products…like old-fashioned Jelly Babies.  Hmmm…



Thrifty Duchesses

Like every other Anglophile, I’m breathlessly waiting for Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, to give birth to a new royal heir.  In the meantime, I’m admiring her common touch–she is, after all, a commoner.  This week she made fashion news by wearing a maternity dress costing L17.50 (about $27), off the rack at a chain called Asos.  Naturally, thousands have been sold.  As far as I can see, she has not put a foot wrong in all the years she’s been Prince William’s main squeeze.

I admire another duchess from an earlier generation, too:  Deborah Devonshire.  She was born into a family of not-very-rich minor aristocrats, the Mitfords.  There were six girls and one boy, and very little money to support them all.  Only the son was properly educated; the girls were expected to marry well.  They begged to go to school and were put off. They were given London debutante seasons instead. But they were all beautiful, brilliant and creative.  So they made their own way in the world.

To make ends meet, Deborah’s mother sold eggs.  Her father dreamed of striking gold in Canada.  In spite of several trips where he personally dug for gold, it never happened for him.  Deborah was the youngest of the family and was considered a little dim as a child.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In my last post I described how Deborah became Duchess of Devonshire when the heir to the Cavendish title and property was killed in action in World War II, and then the sitting Duke died unexpectedly.  The dreaded Death Tax took effect:  the authorities demanded millions of pounds, reportedly about 80% of the total value of the inherited estate.

Deborah personally took charge.  The Cavendish family seat, Chatsworth, had always welcomed tourists.  After all, grand country homes were meant to be seen and admired.  Traditionally, the housekeeper conducted tours–for only the right sort of people, of course–and was allowed to keep the resulting tips.  Many housekeepers saved enough money to eventually open their own shops. (In Downton Abbey terms, think of Mrs. Hughes discreetly pocketing money from well-to-do tourists).  The housekeeper was responsible for vetting the tourists who rang the doorbell.  I’m thinking baseball caps, Bermuda shorts and fanny packs would not make it inside.

Anyway, when Deborah took matters in hand, the only facility to welcome tourists was a water tap outside.  That tap still exists.

Water tap outside Chatsworth

Water tap outside Chatsworth

But Deborah decided that people like to buy things, and they like to eat.  She created a restaurant and extensive gift shop, now so large and full of delights that it’s a destination in itself. She created a Farm Store (think a very exclusive Whole Foods, with everything in it produced on the grounds of the estate). She created a children’s farm, where city kids can learn how their food is produced. She oversaw a huge renovation of the grand house.  She created placards describing the house’s treasures. She began formally charging admission and hiring staff to guide tourists. She created guidebooks and eventually audioguides, with help from historians and art experts. She wrote about a dozen books, about the property and about her colorful life.

Today, a visit to Chatsworth can keep a visitor happy for an entire day.  One of my purchases at the gift shop on my last visit was a wonderful book all about the Mitford sisters, The Sisters by Mary Lovell.  Reading it is a fascinating history lesson.


At age 93, Deborah still presides–pretty much as CEO–over the thriving enterprise she created, starting at a time when all seemed lost for the noble Cavendish family.  Let’s hear it for duchesses with good sense and a common touch!