Royal Wedding Tiara’s Tantalising History.

It was a most touching gesture of the Queen to lend her diamond fringe tiara to her granddaughter Princess Beatrice of York on her recent wedding day. Interestingly, Her Majesty had worn the self-same tiara at her own wedding to the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1947. Fortunately, for Beatrice, there was no mishap, or drama, involved in the wearing of it. The same cannot be said for the then Princess Elizabeth as, on the morning of her wedding day, the tiara’s fragile frame snapped, as the bride-to-be was dressing. Fortunately, the court jeweller was on hand to rush it-accompanied by a police escort-to his workroom for a quick but necessary repair.

But what is the history of this sparkling jewel which the catty diarist, Henry ‘Chips’ Channon referred to, dismissively, as ‘an ugly spiked tiara’? According to Suzy Menkes in her worthy examination of royal jewellery, the Royal Jewels and Leslie Fields in the exhaustively-researched Queen’s Jewels, the ‘sunray’ tiara was made, around 1830, to be worn as a necklace from brilliant-cut stones belonging to King George III (and referred to as the King George III fringe tiara). Fields indicates that Queen Victoria was the first person to use it as a tiara, when the graduated necklace was mounted on a thin wire band. In her book, she even includes an image of a young Victoria wearing it in a Winterhalter painting, carrying her infant son Prince Arthur (later the Duke of Connaught) in her arms. This necklace/tiara was one of an extensive list of items of jewellery (sometimes referred to as the ‘Crown Jewellery’, to distinguish it from the Sovereign’s personal gems) left in perpetuity to the Crown by Victoria on her death in 1901.

This tiara/necklace eventually passed into the hands of that most acquisitive of royal consorts, Queen Mary. However, this is where the story takes an unexpected and confusing turn. According to more recent sources (and meticulously highlighted in a post in the blog, The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor in 2017), although Queen Mary did wear this 1830 version as a tiara, she also subsequently had a similar-styled tiara made from stones from a necklace she had received as a wedding present from Queen Victoria in 1893. This new ‘Queen Mary Fringe Tiara’ was manufactured by E. Wolff & Co. for the royal jewellers, Garrard and Company, in 1919 and was apparently easier to wear. She passed this version on to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (along with a portion of the Crown Jewellery) following the accession of her second son, Albert (‘Bertie’), to the throne as King George VI in December 1936.

While both Menkes and Field state that it was the 1830 version which was worn by Princess Elizabeth as the ‘something borrowed’ on her wedding day in 1947, the more recent sources, including Hugh Roberts in his publication The Queen’s Diamonds, point to the later 1919 Queen Mary Fringe Tiara version’s use. He and the Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor Blogspot (17 February 2012) also point out that the two tiaras are frequently confused, as was the case when the Queen wore the later version in a formal portrait to be used in New Zealand to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee. The tiara was also worn by Princess Beatrice’s Aunt, Princess Anne (the Princess Royal) on her wedding day in November 1973.

Queen Elizabeth was glad of the acquisition of jewels from Queen Mary-which she wore on a tour of Canada in the summer of 1939-for as she revealed to the photographer, Cecil Beaton, ‘The choice [of jewellery available] is not very great, you know.’ Although this is an exaggeration, it was a tactful acknowledgement by her successor that Queen Mary, now Queen Dowager, still held on to the vast majority of royal gems, much of which had been amassed from often impecunious relatives during her husband, King George V’s reign. Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth’s jewellery box would be augmented by a wonderful bequest from the shrewd Scottish brewery heiress, Mrs Ronnie Greville in 1942.

The Royal Chapel of All Saints, Windsor-location of the wedding of Princess Beatrice.

This pleasant little Victorian Gothic church was the location of yesterday’s wedding of Princess Beatrice of York. The chapel stands ‘across the way’ (as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a frequent worshipper there, would say) from the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, the current home of Prince Andrew, Duke of York. George IV-who used the Royal Lodge as a private retreat in the 1820’s-was the first royal to worship at All Saints from around 1825. Indeed, it was he who commissioned the English architect, Jeffry Wyatville to design it. (Other sources point to the influence of architect John Nash).

Queen Victoria later worshipped there too and had the chapel rebuilt, during the early 1860’s, to designs by Samuel Sanders Teulon and Anthony Salvin. This included the addition of a new chancel, extra seating for worshippers and a stained-glass window dedicated to the memory of her mother, the Duchess of Kent and Strathearn, who died in 1861. There is a also a window to the memory of Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein, the son of Prince Christian and his wife Princess Helena, who lived nearby at Cumberland Lodge. Their beloved ‘Christle’ died of enteric fever in Pretoria in 1900, while serving with British forces in South Africa during the Boer War.

Around 1931, the future King George VI (then Duke of York) and his wife Elizabeth took up residence at the (much-reconstructed) Royal Lodge. The couple were regular worshippers at the chapel. When the Duke of York ascended the throne in 1936, he subsequently had various alterations undertaken including the installation of a new ceiling (designed by the architect and designer Edward Maufe) in the Chancel, as well as the addition of a royal pew (carefully positioned to allow for privacy), new choir stalls and a screen for the organ.

Following Queen Elizabeth’s death at Royal Lodge on 30 March 2002, the Queen Mother’s mortal remains rested at the Altar of All Saints prior to being taken to London for the Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster. Today the Queen worships at All Saints when she is in residence at Windsor. Those who live and work in the Great Park may also attend services.

Princess Elizabeth’s 21st Birthday Speech.

Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King George VI, was due to turn 21 on 21 April, 1947. The Royal Family were on a tour of South Africa at this time and it was decided that the young princess should make a ‘dedication’ broadcast to the Empire from Government House, Cape Town on the evening of her birthday. There was, however, a problem. The beam radio link between Cape Town and the BBC in London was unreliable and often subject to extreme interference. Frank Gillard, a former BBC Wartime Correspondent, was covering the tour and sent a memo expressing his concern to Sir Alan Lascelles, the King’s Private Secretary. What if, he queried, the Empire were waiting patiently for the broadcast and nothing happened? It would look ridiculous.

Fortunately, Gillard and his colleagues came up with an excellent solution. The Princess could pre-record her broadcast on high-quality discs which could then be flown to London to be used as a fail-safe should the ‘live’ broadcast from Cape Town fail to materialise or be interrupted in any way. The ‘stand-by’ version was pre-recorded on the evening of Sunday, 4 April at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Southern Rhodesia, where the royal family were enjoying a brief stay on their current leg of the tour. The King emphasised to an already nervous Gillard that ‘this will probably be the most important broadcast of my daughter’s life.’ No pressure then!

There was another useful aspect to this exercise: When Gillard had perused the prepared script with the King and Queen, all were horrified by the ‘pompous platitudes’ expressed within it. They and Princess Elizabeth subsequently sat down together and spent two hours completely revising the text. Shortly after sundown, the Princess sat at a table with a large BBC microphone atop to pre-record the broadcast. Gillard remembers that she was ‘composed, confident and extremely cooperative.’ Within hours, the discs bearing the recording were being flown to London for use if required.

As it happened, the beam radio signal to London was working a treat on 21 April and a ‘live’ broadcast was possible from Government House, Cape Town. The words, ‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong’ rang out over the airwaves and are remembered to this day, with great affection, by those listening. It is not surprising that South Africa has a special place in the Queen’s heart. It must also be remembered that she was the last monarch of the Union of South Africa prior to the country becoming a republic in May,1961. However, she returned to make two State Visits, in 1995 and 1999, the former at the invitation of President Mandela.

Centenary of the Royal Tour of Australia.

100 years ago, today, on 26 May, 1920 the British cruiser HMS Renown entered Port Melbourne. On board, was the darling of the British Empire, HRH The Prince of Wales. Edward (or ‘David’ to his friends) was about to undertake his first tour of this great continent and the local populace were in a frenzy. In Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, numerous triumphal arches had been built in his honour, the most notable of which was the ‘Wool Industry Arch’ in Sydney’s Bridge Street, which featured the figure of a ram atop. The local populace had also been tutored to sing the words of ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales.’ This would invariably be accompanied at events by a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, ‘God Save the King.’ In addition, various public buildings throughout the country were being illuminated electrically in the royal visitor’s honour.

After disembarking at Port Melbourne, the Prince and his party drove in a convoy of Crossley cars the eight miles to Government House, Melbourne, at that time the largest in the Empire. The pavements on both sides of the road were thronged with flag-waving crowds, anxious to catch their first glimpse of ‘Our digger Prince.’ The events then began in earnest: A visit to the Federal Houses of Parliament, a dinner for 300 at the Queen’s Hall, followed next day by a gathering of 18000 worthies at the State Exhibition Building. Somehow, the Prince also found time to review the Australian Fleet on the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Melbourne. Edward was immediately caught up in the general bonhomie and wrote to his mother, Queen Mary, of the ‘enthusiastic’ crowds which even surpassed his experience on an earlier portion of his World Tour in Canada.

The Prince departed Port Melbourne by sea on 12 June. As the focus of the tour was very much on honouring military veterans and ‘returned’ sailors and servicemen, en route to Sydney, a visit was included to The Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay. Edward arrived in Sydney, the largest city in Australia, on 17 June. After a formal reception at the Town Hall and a State Government Dinner, the Prince progressed to the Central Station to join the Royal Train for an overnight journey to Canberra, to lay the foundation stone of the new Federal capital. On his arrival, on 21 June, HRH must have been a trifle confused for apart from a power station and a water works, there was, as yet, little evidence of the fine city Canberra would one day become. Nevertheless, he diligently did his part before returning to Sydney by rail in time for dinner. The remainder of his time there quickly passed in a blur of lunches, banquets, receptions, speeches, late-night private parties, as well as a parade for 10000 returned sailor and soldiers at Centennial Park.

On 25 June, the Prince departed Sydney for a long sea voyage along the south coast of Australia to the port of Albany in the West and thence, on 30 June, by train to Perth. After many days of official engagements there (including a sail down the Swan River), Edward embarked the royal train for the journey eastwards across the vast Nullarbor Plain and onwards to Adelaide. However, at Jarnadup, three carriages of the train came off the line. Fortunately, the Prince had been spared injury by rolling up into a ball shape the moment he experienced the heavy jolting movement of the train. A highlight of this stretch of the tour was HRH’s encounter with fifty Aboriginal people, dressed only in loin cloths, at Cook. Edward was transfixed during this ‘corroboree’ by a boomerang display.

Adelaide was reached on 12 July. The itinerary here included a Boy Scout Jamboree at the Jubilee Oval, a visit to the Military Hospital at Keswick and a march past of military veterans at Government House. Then it was the turn of Tasmania. As the two main towns of Hobart and Launceston enjoyed a friendly rivalry, both had to be visited.

On returning to Sydney by sea, the official party immediately travelled by rail up to Queensland. At Brisbane, the Prince was greeted by a party of Women War Workers and feted by crowds the length of Edward Street. Events included a Peoples’ Reception at the Botanic Gardens, an official dinner atop Finney’s Department Store and a tour of an Agricultural Exhibition. As in the other cities, many of the large buildings were festooned with decorations and Prince of Wales feather motifs. Postcards were now available featuring the ‘Digger Prince’, as were little metal medallions.

By this stage of the tour, the Prince was complaining to one correspondent in England that, ‘mentally, I’m absolutely worn out.’ Late nights at the various Government Houses en route, as well as sleepless nights aboard the royal train were to blame. Therefore, Edward must have been delighted when the final period of his tour in Australia was mostly devoted to rural pursuits. On 2 August, he visited a cattle station near Boonah, Queensland to watch the cattle being dipped against ticks. 7 August found him attempting to shear sheep at Wingadee Station, New South Wales. He was amazed to learn that a man could shear 200 in a day. Finally, there was a ‘buck jumping’ display and some Kangaroo hunting at another venue near Miowera.

The successful tour ended with HMS Renown steaming through the Heads at Sydney on the early evening of 19 August, following a 21-gun salute by HMAS Australia. The Prince informed the Governor-General that he had been ‘deeply touched’ by the ‘openhearted affection’ of the Australian people.

Plots and Intrigues: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Madrid, June 1940

Late on the evening of 20 June 1940, a large Buick crossed the border from France into Spain and proceeded with all speed to Barcelona. Two of the occupants were the former King Edward VIII and his American wife, Wallis. Now styled the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the couple had arrived in neutral Spain to seek temporary sanctuary from advancing enemy forces in France and also to take stock as to what the future held. The couple had already been much shaken by the apparent indifference shown by officials in Whitehall to their fate.

However, the government in London had now little option but to act as there was always the possibility that, should the royal duo decide to remain in the Iberian Peninsula, they might run the risk of being captured by the Germans or used by them for propaganda purposes. This was a realistic view to take as there was a large network of Nazi agents spread throughout Spain. In addition, General Franco’s Falangist government was regarded by London as having pro-German sympathies. Particularly feared in Allied circles was El Caudillo’s brother-in-law (and the Interior Minister) Ramón Serrano Suñer. The latter was a friend of the German Ambassador, Baron Eberhard von Stohrer. The British Ambassador, Sir Samuel Hoare (whom the Duke knew well having served alongside him in the First World War) had been somewhat surprised by the arrival of his former sovereign but soon received firm instructions from his Foreign Office bosses to ‘offer…hospitality and assistance.’ Unfortunately, Hoare booked his royal charges into the Ritz which was a well-known hotspot of German intrigue and a favourite dining place of the German Ambassador.

On 22 June, Winston Churchill, keen to have the Duke safely out of danger’s way, telegraphed the British Embassy at Madrid and requested ‘Your Royal Highness to come home as soon as possible.’ Furthermore, the Prime Minister informed Hoare that a flying-boat was being sent to Lisbon, on 24 June, to convey the Duke and Duchess to Poole in England. All this information was passed on to the royal duo by the Ambassador in person on their arrival at the Ritz, from Barcelona, on the evening of 23 June. Sir Samuel also informed the royals that a house, Saighton Grange in Cheshire, had been put at their disposal by the Duke of Westminster.

The Germans had other ideas: They (and in particular the Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop) wanted to keep the Duke in Spain as long as possible. Circumstances were currently working in the their favour: The Portuguese dictator, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, was currently hosting a visit from the Duke’s younger brother, Prince George, the Duke of Kent. He was leading the British delegation attending commemorations to celebrate 800 years of Portuguese independence. Salazar, whose private sympathies were for England, was determined that nothing should detract form Prince George’s visit and made this clear to officials in London. Thus, the Duke of Windsor’s journey to Lisbon was postponed until after his brother’s departure from Lisbon on 2 July.

In the meantime, German operatives in Madrid (aided by the Spanish press under the control of the pro-Nazi Serrano Suñer) were soon spreading rumours that Prince Edward had fallen out with the British government and had come to Madrid in order to negotiate his homeland’s withdrawal from the war. Another fanciful tale was that the Duke would be arrested if he set foot in Britain, a fact that had to hastily denied by London.

There were also other issues to take into consideration: In particular, Edward began to question whether he would be given some sort of official employment, for he did not want to be regarded as ‘an embarrassment to all concerned, myself included.’ The Duke also wondered how the Duchess would be treated by his family in the future, particularly as to her ‘status’. He made contact with Churchill by telegram, on 24 June, in an attempt to receive assurances. However, the British Prime Minister was wise enough to realise that he had currently enough problems to deal with without becoming involved in a royal feud between the ex-King and the Palace. Churchill’s response, next day, was evasive at best,’ It will be better for Your Royal Highness to come to England as arranged, when everything can be considered.’

On 25 June, the Duke of Windsor held a press conference at the British Embassy. This was carefully stage-managed by Sir Samuel and Edward was at pains to emphasise that Britain would be victorious. Nevertheless, the ex-King was dissatisfied with Churchill’s answer and cabled back that he would not return to England, ‘until everything has been considered and I know the result.’ Edward was also keen to elaborate on the ‘status’ question in a separate note to Hoare, explaining that he and the Duchess should be received regularly at Buckingham Palace so that they would not find themselves ‘regarded by the British public as in a different status to other members of the family.’

Of course, the deepening rift soon reached the ears of the German Embassy who now sought to use it to their advantage: Why not persuade the Duke to take up residence in ‘neutral’ Spain (for he spoke the language and was popular among the aristocracy and with the people) from where he might, over time, be coaxed into making helpful noises about England and Germany reaching a negotiated peace? The Spanish Foreign Minister, Colonel Luis Beigbeder, at Ribbentrop’s urging, went so far as to offer the Duke the use of a Palace, la Casa del rey moro at Ronda, in Andalusia, as a residence, should he decided to prolong his Spanish visit.

Meanwhile, the King’s Private Secretary at Buckingham Palace, Sir Alexander Hardinge, seemed determined to deny his former master a future role, informing Churchill, on 28 June, that he simply did not believe that it was possible for the Duke, ‘as an ex-King to perform any useful service in this country.’ The British Prime Minister was in many ways now caught between a rock and a hard place as telegrams continued to fly between London and Madrid. And then, suddenly, it was Edward himself who offered a solution: He would be prepared to take an official posting overseas! But how had this change of heart come about? Hoare acknowledged to Churchill that he had been quietly working for a solution behind the scenes and had also persuaded the Duke to limit his ‘status’ demand to a one-off, short meeting between himself and his wife and the King and Queen. This ‘audience’ would subsequently be acknowledged in the Court Circular.

Otherwise, the Duke and Duchess met with friends (including the Spanish diplomat, Don Javier ‘Tiger’ Bermejillo who had served in the Spanish Embassy in London and took them on a sightseeing tour to Toledo). Sir Samuel, keen to keep his royal charge in patriotic mode as well as extend his list of contacts (for Hoare had only been posted to Madrid a few weeks earlier), also hosted a large cocktail party-attended by 500-at the British Embassy. Indeed, this occasion was merely the pinnacle of the hospitality extended to the Duke and Duchess at the legation throughout the nine days they were in Madrid. The Ambassador, of course, was no fool: It was far more preferable to have the royal duo lunch or dine under his watchful eye than expose them to the trickery and chicanery of the Ritz’s dining salon.

On 2 July, the Duke left Madrid for Portugal. For the moment Ribbentrop must have been somewhat miffed that his quarry had eluded him. However, there was always the possibility that Edward (who seems still to have been undecided as to what to do) might be susceptible to German overtures during his stopover in Lisbon, particularly if he did not receive a final, suitable offer from London.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor flee the French Riviera…

In the spring of 1940, the Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII prior to his abdication in December 1936) was attached (with the rank of Major-General) to the British Military Mission to the French Command in Vincennes. He was tasked with making tours of various French Army Sectors to report on the quality of the defences, as well as the morale and bearing of the French troops. Following the completion of his last trip in March, the Duke had returned to the opulent rented house he shared with his wife, Wallis, on Paris’ fashionable Boulevard Suchet, where he remained twiddling his thumbs throughout April into May, as no further work was currently forthcoming. The nearest he came to any action was entertaining the British Ambassador to dinner.

Soon everything was about to change: On 10 May, German forces invaded France and the Low Countries. The Duke went to Mission HQ at Vincennes each day where he was initially kept busy studying troop movements on wall maps and undertaking useful liaison work with the French forces at the front. The Duchess of Windsor, meanwhile, was occupied with work for the French Red Cross and Le Colis de Trianon, a charity which distributed ‘soldiers’ boxes’ and comforts to the troops. Matters reached a head, on 16 May, when German Panzer divisions reached the Oise, having successfully crossed the Ardennes and the Meuse with minimal opposition. Panic ensued in Paris and the British Embassy began evacuating all female members of staff, as well as the wives of British diplomats. The Duke, on his own initiative, rushed home and, parrying aside her objections, instructed his wife to pack as he was relocating her southwards for her own safety. Within hours the duo were en route to Biarritz. Although, the roads were packed with refugees heading South, the royal couple managed to find overnight accommodation at Blois from a sympathetic innkeeper who recognised the Duchess, who had overnighted there previously, at the time of the Abdication crisis.

On 17 May, the Duke and Duchess reached Biarritz. After checking his wife into the opulent Hotel du Palais, the Duke headed back north to resume his duties with the Mission. However, the situation there was growing ever more dangerous and the Duke’s brother, Prince Henry of Gloucester, who was serving as Chief Liaison Officer to General Gort, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, was winched out of Boulogne on 19 May and flown back to England. However, as there was no guidance from London regarding his own (increasingly perilous) position and, having been assured by his superior, Major-General Howard-Vyse, that there was ‘nothing for him to do’, Edward decided to take matters into his own hands: He proposed a plan whereby, as he later put it to the British Ambassador, Sir Ronald Campbell, he would return to Biarritz to collect his wife and then ‘settle the Duchess in’ at their holiday home, the Château de la Croë at Antibes. From there, he could easily undertake a tour of inspection of French forces on the border with Italy. The Duke did, of course, obtain permission in advance from Howard-Vyse who thought it ‘a good idea.’ Thus, on 27 May, Edward was formally seconded to the French Armée des Alpes and the couple’s house in Paris’ fashionable Boulevard Suchet was soon closed up for the duration of the war. On the beaches to the north at Dunkirk, London had already set in motion ‘Operation Dynamo’, the plan for evacuating the British Expeditionary Force and other Allied troops who had been completely surrounded by German troops.

At La Croë, which they reached on 29 May, the Duchess packed up the Duke’s family silver (which was to be stored at a château in Aix-en-Provence), while the Duke travelled to Nice to report for duty. Antibes was filled with troops and a strict black out was in force and, when not otherwise occupied, the royal couple camped out nervously, eating off tin plates to await further developments. A nearby neighbour was a Captain George Wood and his wife Rosa. The Captain knew the Duke reasonably well as had been attached to the British Legation in Vienna during Edward’s sojourn at Schloss Enzesfeldt, following his Abdication in 1936. The Duchess’ childhood friend Kitty Rodgers and her husband Hermann were also ensconced along the coast at their Villa Lou Viei at Cannes. Inevitably, word of their presence soon reached press who soon posited that Edward had ‘resigned his military appointment’. This was denied by the Ministry of Information on 8 June.

From the North the news was devastating. By 10 June, the Germans were on the doorstep of Paris and the French government had evacuated to Tours (and subsequently to Bordeaux). But of more relevance to the Duke and Duchess on the French Riviera, this was the day Italy declared war on France and Great Britain. Fortunately, the French forces managed to repel an attack by Mussolini’s troops the following day (this came as no surprise to Edward as, during his recent tour of inspection, he had found the French defences in the Alps to be ‘excellent’). The only physical manifestation of the war at La Croë was when the sirens sounded during an Axis air attack on the airbase at St-Raphael to the west. Nevertheless, the writing was on the wall for both the Duke and the Duchess. They had to find a way to escape or risk capture.

On 16 June, the Duke decided to seek the advice of the British Consul-Generals at Nice and Marseilles and eventually a plan was formed whereby Edward and his wife, along with their neighbours, the George Woods’, would join a consular convoy to the Spanish frontier organised by Major Hugh Dodds, the Consul-General at Nice and the Vice-Consul at Menton, Martin Dean. The Windsor’s Buick, driven by their chauffeur Ladbrook, was filled to bursting, for in addition to themselves, the royal duo were accompanied by the Duchess’ maid and the Duke’s comptroller, Major Gray Philips, as well as three Cairn dogs. A lorry containing the royal luggage followed on behind. The group left La Croë on the Duchess of Windsor’s birthday, 19 June, just three days after Marshal Henri Pétain had assumed the office of Prime Minister and was on the verge of signing an armistice with Germany. The main problem now was that neither the Duke nor Duchess had the relevant visa to enter Spain. There was also the possibility that the Duke-who was careful to travel in civilian clothes- might be arrested by the Spanish authorities on the basis that he was a serving British army officer entering a neutral country. Nevertheless, there was little option but to keep going as Italian planes were bombing Cannes as they passed through and there was word that German forces had already reached Lyon.

After an uncomfortable night spent at a hostelry in Arles, the party set off at dawn for the Spanish frontier, inching their way along congested roads. Throughout the journey the Duke, who was perhaps better known in southern Europe as the iconic Prince of Wales of yesteryear, managed to pass through the many barricades manned by locals en route by announcing, ‘Je suis le Prince de Galles. Laissez-moi passer s’il vous plait.’ On reaching Perpignan, however, no amount of Princely charm seemed to work on the Spanish consul and it was only after the Duke made a telephone call to the Spanish Ambassador to France, José Félix de Lequerica, that the party were allowed to pass through the frontier around 7pm.

An hour later, at the British Embassy in Madrid, the Ambassador, Sir Samuel Hoare, informed the Foreign Office of the Duke and Duchess’ arrival in Spain. The royal couple spent the first night on Spanish soil in a hotel in Barcelona. Next morning-21 June-the Duke called on the British Consul-General in Barcelona and sent the following telegram to London: ‘Having received no instructions have arrived in Spain to avoid capture. Proceeding to Madrid. Edward.’ However, far from being safe in this neutral country, the Duke and Duchess were about to enter a world of subterfuge, plots and intrigues….


The Queen’s Royal Maundy Money.

Today is Maundy Thursday and throughout her sixty-eight year reign, Queen Elizabeth II has-with a few exceptions (sadly, including this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak)-taken part in the Royal Maundy Service when she distributes Maundy Money (a selection of specially minted silver one-, two-, three- and four-penny coins) to an equal quota of men and women. The exact number of recipients-who are all retired pensioners and have been active in their local church or community-is determined by the Queen’s age. For instance in 2016, when Her Majesty was aged ninety, ninety-men and ninety-women each received sets of these coins which are distributed in red and white purses similar to those used in Tudor times.

The ceremony, which dates back to A.D. 600, is based on the holding of the Last Supper when Jesus gave his disciples a command or mandatum (the Latin word from which maundy is derived) to love one another. The Order of Service is composed of two lessons and the distribution of the Maundy money takes place following upon each lesson. Fortunately, the Sovereign is no longer required to wipe or kiss the feet of the poor, as some earlier monarchs (including James II) are recorded as having done. However, those attending Her Majesty still wear white linen towels as a poignant reminder of these times. Another nod to the past is that all the principal participants-such as the wonderfully named Lord High Almoner who is officially (and historically) responsible for the organisation of the service-carry nosegays of flowers and herbs (to guard against infection).

In past years, the Queen was invariably accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. However, since his retiral, she has, on occasion, been accompanied by other family members (in 2019 this was her granddaughter, Princess Beatrice of York.) In another-even greater-break with tradition, due to the recent cancellation of the Royal Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, Her Majesty has written to those who were due to have been presented with the Maundy money this year and enclosing the much-coveted coins. In her communication, the Queen reflects that, ‘This ancient Christian ceremony…. is a call to the service of others, something that has been at the centre of my life. I believe it is a call to service for all of us.’ Among those honoured are 100-year-old Bill Allen, from Chelmsford in Essex, who was a dispatch rider to Field Marshal Montgomery during the Second World War and has since been an active member of the Royal British Legion.

Queen Mother’s Highland Hideaway.

Following the death of King George VI, on 6 February 1952, his widow, Queen Elizabeth was left feeling bereft and vulnerable. Unsure as to what the future held, the Queen Mother (as she was now more often referred to in the popular press) decided to fly north, on 16 June, for a four-day visit to her beloved Scotland to visit her childhood friend, Lady Doris Vyner and her husband Commander Clare Vyner at their Caithness home at Dwarick Head, The House of the Northern Gate. She took with her a Lady-in-Waiting, the Hon. Mrs Mulholland.

Although dressed in deepest black, the Dowager Queen descended from her Vickers Viking aircraft of the Queen’s Flight at Wick Airport to a warm welcome from not only her friends but thousands of curious locals too, for a royal visit to the windswept and barren County of Caithness was rare indeed. Yet, Queen Elizabeth was enthralled by the open views of the sea and beaches as she travelled the thirty-mile drive by coast-road from Wick to Dunnet, especially when she espied a small 16th century castle, Barrogill, which Lady Vyner indicated had been for sale for many months and was in danger of being demolished. Intrigued, the Queen Mother arranged to return a few days later to make a thorough inspection.

Elizabeth soon discovered that the current owner, Commander Imbert-Terry, lived in only a few of the edifice’s thirty rooms, which had served as a billet for Coastal Defence troops during the Second World War. The castle’s roof had mostly been destroyed by a recent storm and there was no proper sanitation or electric light. Nor did Barrogill come with a large land area-its immediate policies extended to only 30 acres. Nevertheless, the views over to Orkney and the Pentland Firth were uninterrupted and spectacular. Queen Elizabeth was adamant that ‘It must be saved.’ Although the Commander offered to sell Her Majesty the castle for nothing, she declined, but accepted his suggestion of a nominal price of £100.

Many thousands of pounds now required to be spent on it, over the next three years, including the reconstruction of the roof (which took twelve months alone) and the purchase (for £300) of another parcel of land for grazing and shooting. To keep costs down, much of the furniture was sourced by Lady Vyner from local antique shops, including that of J. Miller Calder in nearby Thurso, owned by Miss B Calder. The Queen Mother also frequented another antique establishment, ‘The Ships Wheel’ run by a local ‘character’ Miss Hetty Munro and her brother Alistair. The siblings eventually became good friends of Her Majesty and the business was awarded a prestigious Royal Warrant. There were occasional indulgences including a selection of antique clocks and a four-poster bed trimmed in chintz to enliven an otherwise austere white-washed bedroom.

Finally, in the summer of 1955, the castle was ready for habitation. The Queen, Prince Philip and their children Charles and Anne disembarked, on 12 August, from the Royal Yacht Britannia at nearby Dwarick Pier to inspect the castle, which Queen Elizabeth had decided to restore to its ancient name of the Castle of Mey. After a scrumptious tea, the royal party returned to the yacht. The Queen was ‘terribly impressed’ by all that she had seen ‘and…sorry to depart’. These family nautical interludes at Mey would become an annual tradition until the Royal Yacht was finally decommissioned in 1997.

The Queen Mother quickly adapted to life in Caithness. She would make a short visit in the late Spring to inspect the daffodils and her herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, followed by a three-week stay in August and she invariably returned for final week’s holiday in October. Royal etiquette was deliberately kept to a minimum, with picnic lunches at some local beauty spot being the order of the day. Daily pastimes included walks on the beach to collect shells, country drives, shooting, fishing for mackerel and hunting for crab. Evenings were a more formal affair, with pre-dinner drinks served in the large drawing room with its warming peat fire and impressive 16th century Flemish tapestry. Dinner was served around 9pm in the adjacent 19th century dining room, at a mahogany table festooned with roses from the castle’s walled garden (which also supplied vegetables, herbs and fruit) and accessorised with good glass and Derby china. Dishes served included artichokes and fresh salmon, augmented by Veuve Clicqot champagne and cheeses (the latter supplied by another Royal Warrant holder, the Thurso grocers, Hamish Cameron). A game of cards (Racing Demon was a favourite) might follow.

In addition to the Vyners’, Her Majesty was well-acquainted with Viscount Thurso (the local Lord Lieutenant) and his wife Marigold. She also became a staunch friend of the local Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Bell, and his wife Christianne, and faithfully attended Sunday service at nearby Canisbay Old Church. The local people also took the Dowager Queen to their heart and, in August 1956, she was presented with the Freedom of the Royal Burgh of Wick. In later years, Queen Elizabeth would invite her former equerries to join her at Mey, when the house party could take on a more rumbustious flavour. However, Her Majesty could always retire to her small private sitting room, situated in one of the castle’s turrets. This contained a poignant reminder of her late husband: a marble fireplace with a heart medallion which the King had gifted to her many years earlier.

As she reached her mid-nineties, the Queen Mother was determined that the Castle of Mey-the only property she had ever owned-prospered well into the future. Ownership of the castle was transferred to a charitable trust, headed by her grandson Prince Charles as President, on 11 June 1996. Her Majesty paid her final visit to Mey in the autumn of 2001. She died at her other home, Royal Lodge, in Windsor Great Park, on 30 March 2002 at the age of 101. Today, the castle is a thriving tourist centre with a busy visitor centre and a newly opened bed and breakfast facility in the grounds. The profits of these enterprises are channelled into the care and maintenance of a place that brought Queen Elizabeth great comfort over nearly five decades.

Greek Princesses in Wartime Europe.

The three daughters of the Russian-born, Romanov Grand Duchess Helen (Ellen) and her husband Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark were regarded as the most beautiful and sophisticated in Europe. Marina, Elizabeth and Olga were also extremely close, having been raised together by their beloved, brusque English nurse or ‘nurnie’, Miss Kate Fox, at the Nicholas Palace in Athens, as well as at the Greek royal family’s country retreat at Tatoi, in the wooded foothills of Mount Parnitha. The Princesses made frequent trips to England, where they spent the summer months living in simple hotels or Norland hostels at Westgate-on-Sea or Bognor. Yet, the trio were equally at home amongst the grandeur of the Imperial court in St Petersburg, where their powerful maternal grandmother, Grand Duchess Vladimir, showered them with exquisite gifts and instilled in them a deep understanding of their Imperial Romanov heritage.

The best-known (and youngest) of the trio was Princess Marina. In November 1934, she had made a highly desirable marriage to Prince George, Duke of Kent (the youngest son of Britain’s King George V). The middle sister, Princess Elizabeth, is a more obscure figure. She married a wealthy Bavarian aristocrat (and nephew of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians), Count Carl Theodor of Toerring-Jettenbach and settled in Munich. However, it was the eldest sister, Princess Olga, who would hold the highest rank as the wife and Consort of the Prince Regent (Paul) of Yugoslavia.

Despite their impeccable royal credentials, the sisters were actually more interested in a ‘cosy’ life en famille, and whenever their individual official or domestic duties permitted, they would meet up in London, Munich, Belgrade or Slovenia for a grand family get- together. When all else failed, long and detailed letters (chiefly concerning domestic matters or news of extended family) flew between England, Bavaria and Yugoslavia on a weekly basis. Grand Duchess Helen encouraged these strong inter-family bonds from her homes in Paris and Athens.

In late 1935, Paul and Olga had purchased a large Slovenian castle at Brdo which was large enough to accommodate all of the extended family for visits throughout August and into late September. The emphasis was firmly on fun: Games of tennis were interspersed with riding, swimming, film shows, charades and fishing trips, as well as excursions to the Slovene capital, Ljubljana. On occasion, several members of the party might travel further afield to enjoy a relaxing cruise down Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. When all else failed, there was always the joy of the popular card game, Lexicon.

However, as early as September 1938, the shadow of war threatened this almost idyllic family existence. All the extended family happened to be staying at the Toerring’s country home, Frauenbuhl Castle at Winhöring when, during a rally in Nuremberg, the German leader, Hitler, denounced Czechoslovakia as a ‘fraudulent state’, focused on subduing the German-speaking minority in the Sudetenland. The Führer also encouraged the Sudeten Germans to demand union with Germany and even offered to provide them with military assistance. Anticipating a deterioration in the European political situation, the Duke and Duchess of Kent returned to England, with heavy hearts, on 14th September. Next day, the Prince Regent and Princess Olga journeyed home to Brdo. Meanwhile, Count Toerring, being of military age, joined the Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops) and was called up to the Czech frontier, leaving his anxious wife to mind their two young children. War was temporarily averted following peace negotiations which resulted in the Munich Agreement of 30 September signed by Hitler, Neville Chamberlain (the British Prime Minister), Mussolini and the French Premier Edouard Daladier. However, Czechoslovakia paid a heavy price as the accord permitted the annexation of the Sudetenland into the Third Reich. Gallingly, the Czechoslovak government was neither invited nor consulted over the matter.

As 1938 drew to a close, Princess Olga feared for her husband’s safety as it was no secret that the Prince Regent was a prime target for terrorists as he sought to thrash out an agreement between the Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. She was cheered by a visit from Marina in February 1939. However, within weeks of the Duchess of Kent’s return to England, German forces invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia, in direct contravention of the Munich Agreement. Suddenly, it seemed to the British government that Hitler was intent on dominating Europe and Britain’s policy of appeasement was now abandoned. As it appeared likely that Poland would be the Fuhrer’s next target, on 31 March, Neville Chamberlain informed the House of Commons that ‘in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence’ the British government would ‘feel bound.. to lend the Polish Government all support in their power’.

On Good Friday, 7 April, Italy invaded Yugoslavia’s southern neighbour of Albania. This troubled Olga greatly as it put extra pressure on the Prince Regent and served to underline that much of the weight of Yugoslavia’s uncertain future rested squarely on his shoulders. Princess Elizabeth and Count Toerring happened to be spending Easter in England with Marina and the Duke of Kent at their country home, Coppins. Prince George’s correspondence with Prince Paul indicates that there was a frank exchange of (often differing) views on the situation in Europe between the couples.

However, the Duke of Kent and Marina were mostly focused on preparing for their departure to Australia where Prince George was due to take up an appointment as the Dominion’s Governor-General. Elizabeth and Olga were both in despair at the thought of their youngest sibling moving to the other side of the world for a period of up to five years. Fortunately, Olga was distracted by her own official duties, as she and the Prince Regent were due to make State visits to Italy and Germany in May and June respectively. The visit to Berlin provided Olga and her sister Elizabeth with the chance of several brief reunions at the Bellevue Palace, amid a busy week of official engagements.

In early July, it was the turn of Marina and the Duke of Kent to greet Olga and Paul, when they arrived on a visit to London. The stay was a more relaxed family affair, despite the Yugoslav royals being quartered at Buckingham Palace. While the Prince Regent had talks with government ministers, Olga-keenly aware that her sister would be departing in only a few months for Canberra-spent quality time with Marina at the Kent’s home in Belgrave Square. She and Paul also managed a weekend trip down to Coppins.

In early August, Olga and Paul returned to Bled for what remained of the summer; Grand Duchess Helen was already in residence and the house party was soon completed by the arrival of the Kents and the Toerrings. It so happened that Prince Albrecht of Bavaria was a fellow guest. Albrecht was strongly opposed to Hitler and his National Socialist Party and was currently employed by Prince Paul to run his shoots at Petrovčić and Belje. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere was somewhat strained for if Britain and Germany went to war, as seemed increasingly likely given Chamberlain’s guarantee, the Kents and Toerrings would, technically speaking, be enemies. Since Yugoslavia intended to remain neutral, Olga would be Marina and Elizabeth’s mutual point of contact.

Within a few weeks the situation deteriorated considerably: On 22 August, it was confirmed that Germany and Russia had signed a non-aggression pact. The Treaty had a secret protocol appended to it which divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence and signalled the green light for further German advances, including into Poland. Aware of the implications, both the Duke of Kent and Count Toerring left Brdo for their respective homelands as soon as they received the news. Marina remained in Slovenia until the end of August before departing by train for London.

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland and Elizabeth Toerring immediately left for Munich. On 3 September, in line with the guarantees it had earlier given to the Polish government, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Olga was ‘stunned’ by this development realising all too well the implications for Marina and Elizabeth. Count Toerring had already been called up to the western front and Prince George-his move to Australia now put on hold-was serving in the Royal Navy at the Admiralty in London. To exacerbate matters, Princess Olga’s sons Nicholas and Alexander were currently attending school in England, a place which now seemed increasingly far off as telephone communications with Yugoslavia were suspended.

Suddenly, the sisters’ life of privilege was gone. In Bavaria, Princess Elizabeth had taken to riding a bike as petrol was rationed, while Princess Olga had been appointed President of the Yugoslav Red Cross. Olga and Elizabeth had originally been able to communicate by telephone (with a German censor listening in), but this facility was withdrawn in late October. Although letters could still be sent (in Olga and Marina’s case via the official diplomatic bag) the process was slow and tedious; there were also limits as to what could safely be committed to paper. In England, Marina had joined the Navy as Commandant of the Women’s Royal Naval Service-‘the Wrens’-and was soon undertaking tours of inspection throughout England. On occasion, she travelled to Scotland to join the Duke of Kent who had been transferred to Admiralty House in North Queensferry. This meant that she was sometimes separated from her young children, Edward and Alexandra, who, with Coppins closed-up and the London house vacated, often spent time staying with their paternal grandmother, Queen Mary, at Badminton.

In early November, Princess Elizabeth and her children Hans Veit and Helen arrived in Belgrade. The main reason for her visit was that food was increasingly scarce in Bavaria. However, the erratic political climate must have been another factor. Countess Toerring feared for her husband’s welfare, particularly when she learned that there were random, ‘new wholesale arrests’ following an assassination attempt on Hitler’s life in Munich’s Bürgerbräukelle. Yet, as 1939 drew to close, the sister’s remained resolute. Elizabeth and her children returned to Bavaria, in early December, to be with Count Toerring (who had now been released from active duty), while Olga sought to try and provide some Festive cheer in Belgrade for King Peter (whose mother, Queen Dowager Marie, now lived in England with her younger sons Andy and Tommy), her three-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and the Prince Regent. Meanwhile, Marina busied herself with organising accommodation for the Christmas school holiday period, in Cambridge, for Olga’s sons and Miss Fox. She later visited the trio to help them celebrate the Festive Season.

As 1940 dawned, Olga noted that, ‘The future looks dark I must admit- but I know the light is there behind it all the time.’ Yet, in the years ahead, all of the sisters would face terrible challenges, which would test them-and their close bond-to the limit.

Queen of Scots Arrives in Edinburgh.

Today, Her Majesty the Queen commences her annual visit to Edinburgh for what the Royal Household refer to as the ‘Holyrood Week’, so-named as the focus of this stay is the Queen ‘s official residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom of the Royal Mile. Normally frequented by tourists, this infrequently-used Royal Palace closes it’s doors well in advance of the Queen’s arrival (this year on 24 June) and then comes alive as royal staff arrive from London to man the ground-floor kitchens, fill the State Rooms with flowers and give the private apartments a much-needed airing.

The visit always follows a traditional, time-tested format: When the Queen arrives at the Palace, she is formally welcomed in the forecourt to her “ancient and hereditary kingdom of Scotland’’ by the handing over of the keys of Scotland’s capital city by the Lord Provost (the Scotch equivalent of a Lord Mayor). The Queen then returns them, entrusting their safekeeping to Edinburgh’s elected officials. The Ceremony of the Keys concludes with Her Majesty inspecting the Guard of Honour, this year formed by F Company, Royal Scots Guards.

The Palace is also the focus for two other events: an investiture and a garden party. The Investiture takes place, watched over by the portraits of Scotland’s Kings, in the Palace’s largest room, the Great Gallery. The event is for Scottish residents whose outstanding achievements to their profession or community have been recognised in the twice-yearly Honours List . The Royal Garden Party, meanwhile, is held on the sweeping lawns of the Palace and is usually attended by 8000 guests, including the First Minister of Scotland and other local worthies. Guests feast on dainty finger sandwiches and cakes. During this event, the Royal Company of Archers, the Sovereign’s Official Bodyguard in Scotland, are much in evidence, dressed in their distinctive dark green tunics and feathered Highland bonnets.

Away from the Palace, another ‘hardy annual’ of Holyrood Week is the Order of the Thistle Service at St Giles Cathedral, half-way up the Royal Mile in the Old Town. The Thistle is Scotland’s highest Order of Chivalry and the sixteen Knights or Ladies appointed reflect a cross-section of individuals who have made a significant contribution to national life. Participants, including the Queen (who is Sovereign of the Order), process in their distinctive green velvet robes or ‘mantles’ from the nearby Signet Library to the service held in the Order’s Chapel inside the Cathedral.

Most unusually, 2019’s Holyrood Week commences on a Friday, with a visit to a High School in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow, where Her Majesty will receive a greeting in Gaelic from some of the pupils and be serenaded by North Lanarkshire Schools’ Pipe Band. Various members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay and Prince Edward, the Earl of Forfar will support the Queen. The highlight of this years’ visit is the Sovereign’s attendance, accompanied by Prince Charles, at the Scottish Parliament’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations. Her Majesty is no stranger to the Parliament (this is her ninth visit) and she will make a congratulatory speech in the debating chamber.

Although the Queen spends around 11 weeks of the year in Scotland (mostly at Balmoral, her private estate on Royal Deeside), this week of engagements in Edinburgh helps to maintain the strong links between the Queen of Scots (her preferred title in Scotland) and her Scottish subjects.