AMERICAN ROYAL WATCHERS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve always loved following the British royal family. Growing up, I read about the young Prince Charles and his siblings, who were my generation.

When Diana Spencer came onto the scene, my interest spiked way up. I avidly followed her romance with Prince Charles, their wedding, their complex and eventually toxic marriage and their divorce.

In fact, I got up at 5 AM with my one year old son and watched Diana and Charles’ wedding live in 1981. I watched it while talking on the phone with my close English friend, in London. I still remember the excitement of that morning! (NOTE: Most Brits loved Diana’s poofy wedding dress and most Americans hated it, me included).

What intrigued me most about Diana, was how she modernized the royal family, single-handedly. This was particularly true in her role as mother to two young princes. She broke with the stuffy, old-fashioned tradition of remote and stiff royal parenting. She insisted on being a modern, hands on parent. This resonated with generations of younger Americans and Brits. She instantly became a royal to whom it was easier to relate. And the whole world fell in love with her.

She also brought the royal family into the modern era of fashion. Her contemporary, chic and sometimes casual style endeared her to modern women everywhere. She wore some risqué outfits as well as blue jeans and tee shirts. No one could accuse Diana of being frumpy or stodgy, like the Queen. Diana became a worldwide fashion icon – something the royal family had never dreamed of in the past.

Kate Middleton continued Diana’s tradition of modernization when she entered Prince William’s life during college. Not only was she a commoner, but she lived openly with William before they were married. She was also photographed (and still is) going to the supermarket and walking her dog and doing other everyday chores.

Once she had children, Kate took them everywhere with her. She also took care of them herself, with the help of William, her parents and one nanny. She functioned much like other wealthy working mothers. She gives lots of interviews about her children and her experiences with child rearing. Her devotion to her kids endears her to pretty much everyone.

Her great style and fashion sense also add to her cache. She is always well dressed and chic, even when she is dressed down. And she is incredibly glamorous when she needs to be. I love her clothes and admit to scrolling through vast numbers of fashion photos of Kate online.

Now the modernization of the British monarchy is taking another big step forward with Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry. Meghan is not only a commoner. She is also an American, divorced, a working actress/successful career woman, and biracial! These are all firsts for the monarchy.

Meghan’s acting career has prepared her for her future life in the limelight. She is already comfortable with the press, she is relaxed about being photographed and interviewed and she is confident about being in the public eye. So she is ahead of the game right out of the gate. She’ll probably be as much of a royal fashion plate as Kate is, but she will probably be more of a media presence than Kate has been.

Meghan is also naturally informal and open, traits the press love as well as the public. She reportedly likes to hug people, something that royal protocol strictly prohibits! She was also inclined to give autographs, which is also a royal no-no. So Meghan will be taking the monarchy down an increasingly accessible route.

I know it’s not going to happen, but I wish that Charles would abdicate in favor of William when the time comes. It would be nice to jump right into the more modern branch of the royal family. Instead we will have to live through another twenty years of Charles and Camilla – a throwback to the stuffy old days of yore.

But we’ll still get to royal watch William and Harry and their 21st century marriages and families. Even if William is not actually King, he can still be king of our hearts!

WAITING FOR HOLLYWOOD TO CALL

Challenge of Smiles

My monthly royalty payment from Amazon just came in and I was pleased to see it was up slightly from last month.

A total of $3.89 was directly deposited into my checking account. I am not sure how many book sales this represents (three?), but I’m pleased my book sells at all.

The royalty deposits make me laugh. What should I do with all the money?

teepee book shelf

I could get a small meal from the dollar menu at McDonald’s. It isn’t enough to buy me a coffee at Starbucks. Good I don’t like Starbucks coffee, eh? I can’t think of anything else I could do with the money, but the idea amuses me. Being an author has not turned out exactly as I dreamed.

But you never know. Hollywood might yet call and my book could be the next blockbuster.

Right. Sure. Uh huh!

Woven of Myth: The Plantagenets

The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England

By Dan Jones

PENGUIN GROUP Viking – 560 pages

Publication Date:   April 18, 2013

This is a highly readable book. Although it is pure history, it’s so beautifully written, so lyrical it feels like a novel. Rarely has any book about this remarkable family given me the sense of destiny and the full impact of their influence and the romance of England’s premier ruling family. To a large extent, the Plantagenets defined England — perhaps even created it. This view of the Plantagenets was unique concept for me. As soon as I read it, it made complete sense. That the more than 200 year reign of this remarkable family, with its peaks and its depths continues to define British identity was something I’d never considered. Now it seems obvious, but like so many obvious things, I never noticed it until the author pointed it out.

It was wonderful to read history where the author appreciates not just the facts, but the drama, romance, story and myth. The imprint left by this ruling family on Great Britain is deep, pervasive and affects every aspect of England’s identity, even in the 21st century long after the family has — technically — disappeared. On many levels, this family can never disappear. They are part of the soil, the air, the heart of the island kingdom they ruled.

From its opening words, the book grabbed me and pulled me in. It “had” me before I had finished the preface, much less the first chapter.

The Bayeux Tapestry, chronicling the English/N...

The Bayeux Tapestry, chronicling the English/Norman battle in 1066

Although I was predisposed to enjoy it, I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. This is a book that greatly and delightfully exceeded my expectations. I have read many books about the Plantagenets, both straight history and as literary “docudrama.” I am very familiar with the stories of each of the monarchs, the wars, the scandals, the affairs, the treachery. It could have been old news for me, but instead, it was like reading it for the first time. What a wonderful fresh voice the author brings to material that has been written about — one might think — to the point where you could reasonably question whether or not yet another tome on the subject serves any purpose.

Was anything new uncovered? Not really new information, but in many cases, a new way of looking at history I have read in many other books. Whether or not the information is new to you will depend on how much else you’ve read. There was no news in it for me, but I’ve been fascinated by the Plantagenets and the British Crown since I was a kid.

The debunking of characters like Simon de Montfort that seem to have surprised some readers wasn’t news to me. I have read sufficient French history of the period to thoroughly detest the man and didn’t need any more help. The same goes for most of these characters. It wasn’t new information that made the book so much fun for me, but the presentation and the obvious relish the author took in the stories and characters. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Richard_I

As you might expect, the book includes maps, lineage charts, all the family connections of the Plantagenets. The story covers that period from Empress Mathilda through Richard II’s loss to Bolingbroke. It stops in 1399, rather before the ascent of the Tudors. The author chose to end his narrative before the War of the Roses, leaving that long and ugly battle for England’s throne for the next volume. I look forward to reading that too.

At 560 pages, it is a long book. I had no trouble with its length other than finding enough time to read the entire thing. It wasn’t hard to become engrossed in each of its sections. Nor does it require any prior knowledge of the period, although prior knowledge certainly doesn’t hurt. You could hardly grow up an English-speaker and not have heard of most of the prominent people that strut, gallop or crawl across the pages. If you’ve read any English history at all, you have surely encountered these Kings, Queens, counselors, courtiers, ministers and more.

If you’ve read Shakespeare, you may feel you know this material well, but anything written by Shakespeare is strongly prejudiced in favor the usurping Tudors. It is untrustworthy as fact. Shakespeare is literature, not history and should be enjoyed as such.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a pleasure to read, whether you are a scholar, history buff,  Anglophone or Anglophile, lover of historical novels … or innocently searching for a great read.

It’s available in hard cover, paperback, Kindle and audio. I don’t believe you could go wrong no matter what version you choose.