Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What I've Been Reading: October Edition

BEST of October

There is more to the Holocaust than the horrors of the death camps. There are those who escaped that fate and there is what came after the war. Journalist Martin Fletcher, whose voice could reassure the world that nuclear annihilation isn't as bad as we might imagine (his voice is up there with Jeremy Irons in true cooolness) has written a marvelous story of a young Jewish couple who "got out" and survived in World War II London. As they mark each name off the list of family members in the months after the war in Europe the face the realities of survival--neneighbors who want them gone, British Fsacisim rearing its post-war head and Jews wanting to take Palestine for themselves through any means necessary. This one is not to be missed.  The List by Martin Fletcher.

Non-linear storytelling done PERFECTLY. Amazing story--on the edge of the car seat today as I started the second-to-last disc of the audio book. Trying to decide who should be in the movie. I don't know how either would manage as a Frenchman, but I think Robert Bathhurst as the father and Christopher Plummer as the Great-Uncle and Max Irons as Werner...... [Minor point: Mentions tuning in a radio broadcast from Pakistan before it was a country..... no, it is not a minor point to Pakistanis.] All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Who doesn't love to go home to Mitford, North Carolina to visit with Father Tim and Cynthia? You'll need to stick with this one--it starts out slow, with way to many recaps of each characters past story lines, but becomes really good. Excellent, in fact. But, do wish she'd not rehash so much of the past. A "Cast of Characters" in the front of the book would be much better at this point --the series is too long to keep making a 1/4--1/3 of each book an explanation of who each character is and how Timothy knows him/her. This made getting into the story longer than normal. In spite of that, it turns into a great read for fans of the series. I did not like how the reader of the audio version voiced Puny--he made her so dumb! I read all of these until "Home to Holly Springs," so I suppose I'm just not used to someone else's way of seeing a character. These are minor points though. This book is everything you want in a visit to beloved old friends--it is warm, honest, true to the spirit and the letter of the series and leaves you feeling very glad you came. Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon.

I missed the part of the review that said this was for Middle School or early High School, but no matter--it is excellent. It captures the mood of hope that infused the Freedom Summer volunteers as well as the creepy fear that engulfed the state of Mississippi and the entire old south in general in the early 1960s. This is the type book that would get a class of disdainful history students to sit up and take notice. I cannot say enough to recommend this book to its age group--or to adults who don't know where to start in understanding this frightening time in our history. The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell.

I also fell back in love with Anne Perry's irascible William Monk and romped happily thru two more books in the series: Slaves of Obsession and Funeral in Blue. This is my go-to series when I need a cure for loneliness. Love William, Oliver, Hester and Callandra. Love the marvelous names the author comes up with, too--they are among the most anticipated moments of a new adventure. She is so brilliant at naming her characters and I love quirky names, but not the stupid improbably nicknames that seem to be mandatory in fiction today for at least one character per book. Ms. Perry gets the "tone" of names just right in each new adventure. Haven't met Mr. Monk and company? Then start here: The Face of a Stranger. You won't regret it.

The Rest of October

Yet another take on Amish life this month. In Money Secrets of the Amish there IS good information, but the author spoils it by trying way too hard to be glib and clever. Just tell us about their ways and spare us the rest. I ended up skimming the last third of this--I was that eager to escape her annoying style. Such a shame she didn't reign it in and let us really learn from the wisdom she was trying to convey. Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker.

"Colorless Tsukuru Tazari" is an interesting study of a one man's ordinary life. His friends, his career, his life do not combine to make him exceptional But then the friends just "drop" him. Why? This book builds the mystery, interspersed with his otherwise ordinary life. Sadly, I "ruined" it by getting the MP3 player setting messed up and landed accidentally on the solution to the mystery. Once heard, I couldn't go back. An interesting way to tell the story. Colorless Tsukuru Tazari by Haruki Murakami.

This little collection of essays came up in a search for a writing project I'm doing. I started listening and was soon hooked. Ordinary topics, presented in a fun manner, by a Mom and her grown daughter. What's not to love? Plus she has dogs, cats, a character of a mother and a life as a published author. In short, I've found a new role model. I'm sad to say I'd never heard of her before this little book, but I will be listening to more audio versions of her work, you can be sure. My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space by Lisa Scottoline.

Bored middle class Mommy goes to Nigeria--NIGERIA--for a holiday and it changes her life.Her only child needs therapy and a Mommy who can say "no." Then there's the whole "in Africa" thing. If he'd said it one more time, I'd have thrown the book away. Instead, I don't regret finishing it. It tells a very necessary tale--the tale of what it IS like to be a woman on the outside of a very dangerous society and the tale of the illegal immigrant needing--not merely "wanting"--asylum in a safer country. It is also the perfect illustration of a "First World Problem" Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

Don't Bother

I had such hopes for this book! I so loved The Thorn Birds and Anthony and Cleopatra but this one just wasn't up to her normal standard of story telling. It is billed as a  sweeping family "saga," but was under 400 pages--not very "sweeping" in my opinion. Not much of a "saga" either, since it doesn't really cover more than one generation of the family. Then there's the cardboard characters, the seemingly-obligatory-today character with a stupid nickname, and the sterotypical responses of same. None of the four--two sets of twins with the same father, different mother--stands out in any way. Then there's the truly unbelieveable moment when a Conservative politician, in the 1930s in Australia (a country whose leadership would not accept a twice-divorced woman as Queen...) allows someone to out him as gay in a conversation at fund raising dinner? Please.... It's like that throughout the book. Colleen McCullough is a way better storyteller than this. Bittersweet by Colleen McCullogh.

A book about a Royal AND Churchill would seem to be a perfect fit for me, I know. But this one.... I guess how "deep" it would be when he referenced the movie "The King's Speech." Did the author not realize that everything the Prime Minister and the King said to each other would never be recorded or revealed unless in their private diaries? He also is very selective in referencing sources of certain statements of comments in spite of presenting appropriate research sources in the back of the book.So, this then is a book about Churchill and a book about King George VI in which he draws vague comparisons between some common experiences  the two men had. In short, nothing new is presented here. If you want to know about working with Churchill read John Coville or Charles Moran's books. Verdict: If you known nothing about either man you will learn a little from this book.

What happened to Ann Hood?? I've loved her book Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine since it was published, enjoyed the Knitting Circle and recently enjoyed the Obituary Writer.

In this book the author sas a man "unzip" his trousers before trousers had zippers.....oh well.....no editors anywhere who know history any more I suppose...UGH...We're treated not only to the village idiot walking around with his penis swinging free, but to a description of the penis, too??  Seriously??  I am sick to death of such "interesting" things being crammed into books. What happened to authors who cared about their reputation and to editors who took pride in helping their author's polish their work????? I've never thrown a book back by this author, but this one is going back fast. The Italian Wife by Ann Hood.

Leave a comment and tell me what you read this month. I love to hear what other readers are enjoying--or not enjoying.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I've Been Reading: September Edition!

The Best of September

I'm not one for many self-help books, or popular religion books either, but when a group I belong to wanted to read it, I joined in. This book really struck a cord with me. I remember buying my second house and needing a lawn mower. I was overwhelmed by Lowe's and Wal-mart. I went to the hardware store on the square in the small town where I was then living. They had a choice of lawn mowers: This one, that one, or the other one. Perfect! [For the record, I bought "that one"].  Nancy Sleeth writes such readable prose and puts such sincere emotion into her words that I was swept along just reading the story. But something else happened. I stopped all along the way to reflect, to remember and, best of all, the VALIDATE the choices I have made along the path to a saner life. No cable, satelite or broadcast tv. (We do watch dvds). No wi-fi (though this is changing -- we have up-to-date phones now and make due with our data plan at home), cooking at home, eating real food, etc., etc.

I did feel that she glossed over some of the problems in Amish life--emotional claustrophobia, genetic defects from closely related people marrying and lack of "new blood," the harsh shunning of those who do not choose to join the church, the mistrust of outsiders, the running of puppy mills, and the often semantic games played over what is and is not allowed. (No electric appliances, but propane stoves and fridges are fine--really??). The rigid structure of occupation, both paid and unpaid, by gender. I felt this needed a more serious discussion, though she did at least look at some of these issues.

I did giggle  a bit at her taking it for normal that, just like in her cool neighborhood in a big-college town, everyone should shop at farmer's markets and support local craftsmen, etc. That's fine and I do--when its available. But we can't all walk where we want to go due to distance. Some farmers markets are overpriced and not well stocked. CSAs are province of the upper-middle class for the most part and much of the country has never heard of one. I'm sure they are the be-all and end-all in a big-college town and I KNOW they are in affluent suburbia, but in the rest of America they are a luxury.

She also seems to forget that all of us do not have husbands how can walk away from a thriving medical practice and the money that he justifiably earns with his talents (I do not begrudge doctors a dime of their earnings--I simply cannot think the way they do and am grateful for their perseverance in all that schooling!) to bankroll our moves to a slower life in a place where a car isn't necessary or at least is only rarely necessary. Many of us WOULD love that, but how do we make it happen? Many of us ARE working toward that, but it may not happen or it may not happen until retirement.

These are small things--I highly recommend this book to anyone searching for a less hectic, more reflective life, for a more caring life,  for more community. I also highly recommend Asbury College--a great little college for anyone, but especially for those interested in Communications majors. State of the art facilities for would-be movie makers, recording artists, writers and other creative types, but in a Christian environment. (And the food is Good!!!) And, I second her recommendation of the More With Less Cookbook and the book Living More With Less.

Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life by Nancy Sleeth.

I'm not sure how to review this fun book without giving spoilers! Part Harry Potter, party mystery, part almost, but not quite, sci-fi--this is such a great read!!! Just go read it!!! Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

The Rest of September......

I've always wanted to go to India. I've read quite a lot of Indian novels (or novels about Indians) so when I saw this series--and saw that it was favorably compared to the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series--I knew I'd like it! What's not to love about Vish Puri,  middle aged man whose Mother snoops around helping him solve mysteries? I loved it from start-to-finish. I will definitely read more in this series! The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall.

 Americans, if they know any history at all (sadly, that is not a given today) think of the Civil War as the one that may have split families. The Schoolmaster's Daughter presents us with a family eccentric loyalist British schoolmaster and his three renegade "American" children at the time of the Revolution. These "children" are a teenage son, a young adult daughter and an older son and the story follows their actions at the start of the war. Mrs. Paul Revere (the second one) is also included in the characters. I pleasant book, very readable, that tells of a time almost glossed over now in mile wide, 1/16 of an inch deep history courses in school. The Schoolmaster's Daughter by John Smolens.

[Note: Why f-*& mandatory in books these days? And why must seemingly every novel have some idiotic character yammering on graphically about sex? When I read this I felt like a teenager had defaced the book with such a monologue. Admittedly the f---- and one very short graphic sex rant was from a prostitute, but the other such diatribe came out of nowhere, added nothing to the story, and seemed like it was forced in with a crow bar just to titillate--totally unnecessary to the story. Happily, these "ick" moments were barely more than a line or two in total so I say this just to warn the reader, not to condemn the book.)

It's rare that I read the book AFTER watching the movie. I LOVE the Best Exotic Marigold Motel movie--Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and my favorite--Judi Dench. When I re-watched it recently, I saw it was based on a book. I recalled the tie-in book, but assumed (wrongly) that it was the script made into a book. The book is just as fun as the movie only more believable. (Hands up if you thought Graham's story unbelievable in the movie?) I'm a back-story lover--I like to KNOW the characters, and not just on the surface. I'm no longer sure which I like more--the book or the movie, but I can tell you that I'm anxiously awaiting the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie sequel.The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deoborah Moggach

I've always been fascinated by boarding school and the notion of "an elite" or aristocracy, of privilege and all that goes with it.And, I like to study great men and women and what makes them leaders. The Rector of Justin has all of this. At Justin Martyr, a school like Groton (alumni include T.R. and F.D.R.), Choate (J.F.K.), Andover (George H.W. and W. Bush), founder and revered headmaster Frank Prescott has reached the end of the line--retirement. His successor has been named and things will begin changing. A young man arrives to start teaching at the school and comes to know Prescott and his ailing wife and eventually is chosen to write the great man's biography. The story is told thru the persectives of the people who know Prescott best. They say writes should write what they know and author Louis Auchincloss (a relative of Jackie Kennedy's step-father) attended both Groton and Yale and spent his life among the strata of society profiled in many of his books.The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss.

The problem with writing historical fiction is we know how the big things turn out--in this case we know about germs, about cholera transmission etc. We know that Crimea is a turning point for nursing. But sometimes this leads us to put too much on characters and it makes them too modern to be believable.Rosa stays "just this side" of being too modern--and stays annoying. Mariella is a ninny who finally gets over herself. In spite of this the story is well told and interesting. There is one MAJOR FLAW in this book though. It is another book that made me feel someone had taken the chapters, tossed them in the air, then published them in the order they landed. Non-linear storytelling, in this case, was a HUGE distraction. I got whiplash being jerked back and forth thru the decades.
The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon.

I'm not an Austen freak--in fact I prefer to watch the movies. There. I've said it. I listened to Mansfield Park by Jane Austen having started it before in both audio and print. This time I enjoyed it. I'm slowly working my way thru all of Austen and think I will stick with audio.

I started the Tenant of Wildfell Hall a few years ago but got so confused I let it languish on my kindle unfinished. Finally the right time appeared to try it again. Having gleaned the gist of the way the story was told from a summary I went back to it and enjoyed it thoroughly. My summary? Silly girl thinks she can change rogue into a nice Christian husband and fails miserably. Slinks off to lick her wounds and save her child from depravity by isolating him like a modern day ultra right wing homeschooler!! Ha! Snarky, I know. I enjoyed the book once I understood how it was being told. Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.

Sadly, I gave up on this. It had such promise, but I've never spent this long on such a short book! It just does not move. That said it is not boring. I can't really explain it. I will likely give it another try some other time, but after more than a month I only reached at page 144.......  The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli.

What are you reading this month? Leave me a comment!! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

What's on Your Nightstand? Last of the Summer Edition

The Best of August

Amy Belding Brown's new novel, Flight of the Sparrow, features sublime prose and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat! A retelling of the story of Mary Rowlandson whose story of her time in the captivity of native Americans was sensationalized, this book has it all--great characters, a compelling story, vivid emotion and real life confusion of what faith and freedom really mean. This one is truly not to be missed. Flight of the Sparrow, by Amy Belding Brown. My review of her earlier novel, Mr. Emerson's Wife, is here.

The Rest of August's Reading

What's not to love about a book in which a book set in the 12th Century becomes a ghostwritten best-seller? Life in contemporary Paris and its suburbs has never been so compelling a read! Throw in a Kenyan Crocodile farm, a new shot at love and.....well too many details would spoil the fun of reading it!! The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol.

The word "iconic" is woefully overused today. But it is the only word to describe the pink suit and pillbox hat that Jackie Kennedy wore on that fateful day in Dallas in November of 1963. This is the story of that dress--the fictionalized story--of how it came to be. In the final days of a world in which people "knew their place" based on their socio-economic level, the seamstress who works on the ensemble, a Chanel original copied legally so that Mrs. Kennedy can be said to be wearing a suit by an American Designer, comes to terms with who she is and where she belongs. The Pink Suite by Nicole Kelby

If you grew up in the late 60s and early 70s likely you remember Fannie Flagg trading wise cracks with Gene Rayburn, Brett Summers and Charles Nelson Riley on the The Match Game. Well, today, she's the author of a great slew of novels. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion tells the story of the SPARS--women who ferried planes to US Army Air Corps bases during World War II. It's also the story of identity and what it means to be "me" and "us." This little gem is nteresting, fun and well worth your time in every way. And, please, somebody play me the "Aw Jeese, You Bet Polka." The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg.

Odd book that isn't really about a Buddhist nun like it claims to be. My favorite character was the cat. A little sprinkling of sci-fi and a dump of hard science that I couldn't begin to fathom, but that didn't last long. A few "ick" moments (skip the intro if you want to miss the biggest one). Overall, the story was interesting though. Could have done without the mandatory PC-anti war screed, but it was a fleeting second in the story. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

This year, in case you missed it, is the Centenary of the First World War. This book, a sweet story of a young couple separated by that war, show a different side of the war--that of the common folks, those outside the realm of Downton Abbey. Morale among the troops is so low it cannot be mentioned in letters home. Food is so awful that a group of soldiers lives for the young wife's lettters detailing the meals she imagines cooking for her new husband.The beauty of the wife's cooking, contrasts with the ugliness of the war. The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear.

I loved Bernadette!!! The wife of a powerful Microsoft executive with one talented daughter, Bernadette is the Grumpy Cat of her daughter's school drop-off line. When Bernadette's life careens a bit off the streets of Seattle, things get very interesting. There isn't a boring moment in this one! Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

I enjoy Stephanie, Joe, Ranger, Lula, Connie, Bob the dog and Rex the hamster and totally love Grandma Mazur, but this time.........hmmmm...even my favorite "other" character, Randy Briggs, just didn't do it for me. Granted in real time Joe and Stephanie would be about 50, its more than that. This one seemed to be coasting.  No Joyce Barnhardt? (She was merely mentioned), almost no Vinnie. Just "blah." It's time for Stephanie and Joe to settle down, time for Ranger to disappear under cover, time for Grandma's own viewing at the funeral home. These folks are worn out. Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Special needs in the Royal Family

The descendants of Queen Victoria have numbered a few with special needs. The conditions range from the best know--hemophilia, to Down's Syndrome, Intellectual Development Disorders, to deafness and other conditions.

The "Grandmother of Europe" left a legacy unlike that of any other monarch--Hemophilia--the disease that is fully manageable today that keeps blog from clotting. Alexei, the last Tsaravitch of Russia, is the best known of these.

 Note: unless otherwise noted, all images are in the public domain.

Victoria's second daughter, Alice, was a carrier of hemophilia.

Her son, Prince Friedrich of Hesse was a hemophiliac who died after falling from a window as a toddler. This family would suffer more tragedy, losing Alice and her daughter, Marie, within days of each other from diptheria.

public domain
Alexei Nikolaevich was assassinated with his family at Yekaterinburg on July 17, 1918. Alexei was the grandson of Queen Victoria's daughter Alice.

Alice's grandson, Prince Heinrich of Prussia (also the nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm), died after a fall when he was just four years old thanks to his hemophilia.

Heinrich's big brother, Prince Waldemar of Prussia, lived into his 50s but died at the end of World War II for want of a transfusion. Like Leopold of Battenberg, he was shown in uniform during World War I.

Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, was the first of the royal hemophiliacs. He lived long enough to marry and father two children--one of whom was born after his death. His daughter, Princess Alice of Albany, passed the hemophilia gene on to son, Rupert, and possibly to her son Maurice who died in infancy.

Prince Rupert of Teck was a grandson of the first hemophiliac, Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold. He apparently was able to attend Eton and went with his parents, the Earl and Countess of Athlone (formerly Princess Alice of Albany and Prince Alexander of Teck) to South Africa. He bled to death after an automobile accident. (His father was Queen Mary's brother.)

Princess Beatrice (Princess Henry of Battenberg after her marriage) was Victoria's youngest child and the one she kept at home. Her children grew up in Victoria's household, as the family moved with the Queen in her seasonal migration from Osborne on the Isle of Wight, to Windsor, to Balmoral, etc.

Beatrice's son, Prince Leopold of Battenberg (after World War I he was known as Lord Leopold Mountbatten) as a hemophiliac. Leopold was shown in uniform during World War I but was a hemophiliac. He died during an operation in his early 20s.

 Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, was heir to his father King Alfonso the XIII of Spain and was a grandson of Victoria's youngest daughter, Beatrice.(His parents famously survived an assassination attempt on their wedding day.)  He fared better than most hemophiliacs of his time, living to age 31. He, too, died from a car accident.

Alfonso's younger brother, Gonzalo, was also a hemophiliac. Gonzalo lived to his late 20s. He died from internal bleeding following a car accident. He and Alfonso were put into special padded suits to protect them when they played outside.


Prince Albert Victor, son of King Edward VII, may have been deaf like his mother Queen Alexandra, but functioned well enough to deal with the Army.

Princess Alice of Battenberg, seen here with her son Prince Philip, was the name-sake granddaughter of Victoria's daughter Alice, thru her daughter Victoria of Hesse. She was congenitally deaf, but learned to speak and to lip read in several languages.

Princess Beatrice's grandson, Prince Jaime of Spain, was deaf following mastoiditis and surgery. This also made his speech difficult to understand.

Down's Syndrome and Intellectual Development Disorders

King George V and Queen Mary's youngest child, Prince John, is best know as an epileptic and as the subject of the television show "The Lost Prince." He had some form of intellectual development, though given the times he lived in not much could have been done to aid him. (It is important to remember that the "Lost Prince" is merely "based" on his life--there is no evidence, for example, that John ever mastered playing the coronet as was show in the program, though there is a good deal of evidence that he did enjoy gardening like his two eldest brothers, Edward VIII and George VI did.

Lady Tatiana Mountbatten was a great-great granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a first cousin to Prince Philip. She was intellectually disabled and lived for many years in an institution, but was visited by her brother and her  brother's children throughout her life. As a child she participated in normal family activities. Her brother, David (in the sailor suit) was best man to Prince Philip in that royal wedding.

[Many readers will now search for the two Bowes-Lyon cousin's of Queen Elizabeth who were famously institutionalized and written out of Burke's Peerage. They are not descendants of Queen Victoria and so are not profiled here.]

The German decscendants of Queen Victoria include the only known royal with Down Syndrome. Princess Alexandrine of Prussia, a granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm, lived at home and was frequently photographed. She died in 1980.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wanted: A few replacement (minor) Royals

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Do you recognize these faces? If you don't that's ok. Most people would not recognize them, but in the United Kingdom (aka England) they play an important and often unrecognized role. They are "minor royals." The gentleman in black tie and glasses is H.R.H. the Prince Richard Duke of Gloucester and his Danish wife Birgitte. The gentleman in the the business suit with the reseeding hairline is H.R.H. the Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and with him is his sister H.R.H. the Princess Alexandra of Kent (by marriage she tacks on "Lady Ogilvy" to that already long title).  The two Dukes and the Princess, like Queen Elizabeth, are grandchildren of King George V and Queen Mary through their younger surviving sons Prince Henry (Gloucester) and Prince George (Duke of Kent). Although a good bit younger than Her Majesty (Edward was born in the Abdication year and was named for the uncrowned king--Edward VIII; Alexandra in 1937 and Richard in 1944).

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 So why should you care? Well, they do the "ordinary soldiering" of the Monarchy. They open new school buildings, visit with Old Age Pensioners in nursing homes, buck up the troops, represent the Queen in nearly forgotten outposts of the former Empire. When the Marquee Royals (The Queen, Philip, their children, William and Harry) gather around the card table at Sandringham to apportion new charities, Eddie, Alex and Richard get what no one else wants but that still needs a Royal patron. Edward, having been an Army officer like Harry until Northern Ireland got in the way, goes off to see the troops, takes the Salute at military parades and lays wreaths when necessary and does it all in a Uniform he EARNED. This matters. No one snickers when he does this, unlike when the Queen's son, the "other" Prince Edward shows up at Trooping the Colour in his hotel doorman-ish London Scottish Regiment's honorary colonel uniform. (He's the one who famously quit the Royal Marines.)

Photo: Prince Richard, now Duke of Gloucester, front left in front of his Grandmother, Queen Mary. Princess Alexandra and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent are in the back row far left with Princess Margaret in front. Christmas at Sandringham, 1951 just before King George VI's death.  from http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-21EantpR11E/U-uUQ-VeKkI/AAAAAAAABXY/J3hBBeS0q_M/s1600/lastxmas.jpg

Copyright Ponopresse Anthony Cricknay
H.R.H. the Princess Alexandra of Kent has always been the glamorous one. She took over that role when the late Princess Margaret married in 1960. Her late husband was "an ordinary businessman," at least as "ordinary" as the younger son of an Earl and educated at Eton can be. Today, with the estrangement of her older brother's wife, she often fills in and goes along with Edward to events such as Memorial Services and things like that. It says a lot that the Queen recognized Alexandra's status as a "Princess of the Blood" by giving her precedence the social and diplomatic pecking order ahead of Camilla--the wife of the heir to the throne.

Copyright Getty Images
H.R.H. the Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had to give up a thriving practice as an architect (he's published books on the subject), when his older brother, the "other" Prince William (Prince William of Gloucester as he was known) died in a plane crash in the early 70s. But, as a Grandson of Queen Mary, duty was in his blood and he has been cutting ceremonial ribbons, declaring Stock Shows and Fetes open and the rest of it ever since. Thankfully he still goes by tube and motorcycle when not on duty.And, like Edward, he is a neighbor of William and Harry (yes Harry has his own place these days) at Kensington Palace).

As all of these folks are now certified Old Age Pensioners, the question looms large: Who will replace them when Charles and then William ascends the throne? As we saw in the Diamond Jubilee, Charles is for a very streamlined Royal Family and not the yards and yards of distant cousins featured on the balcony after the Trooping of the Colour each summer. But is this realistic? Can Posh Spice (Mrs. Becks) or other celebrities take this over? Is this really even "relevent" any more. You bet your charitable contribution it is! A royal on the letterhead as "patron" makes raising money for charities, schools and general good causes much easier. Bono and Sting and the footballers and the movie stars can only do so much. There's nothing like those three little letters--H.R.H. to bring in the pounds and pence!

Who is out of the running?

Well,  let's start with those who are out of the running. In times past (i.e. Victoria's day) the title H.R.H. continued down the (male) line a while. Today there are term limits. Not past the soveriegn's grandchildren of the male line. While it can be overlooked, it is helpful if the said H.R.H. is still in the line of succession (that's a euphemism for not having married a Catholic--though that's being fixed I believe since its terribly un-pc to knock someone out of the running just for marrying someone with an older religon).

copyright Desmond O'Niell Features
So, that knocks out the three children of the Duke of Gloucester and their many exotically named Grandchildren. Though Alexander, Earl of Ulster and in time, his son, Xan (yes, Xan! Prounounced 'ZAN'), the very un-pc titled Baron Culloden, will each in turn become Duke of Gloucester, they will not inherit the title of H.R.H.as they are not Princes of the Blood. They will be garden-variety, Downton Abbey type toffs. The sort who go to Eton and party with Harry. That sort. Only they don't--well Alexander DID go to Eton and Sandhurst, but he's a consultant now--pretty ho-hum like his father. Low profile. His wife is a pediatrician. Their daughter Cosima is more likely to go to a fashionable University than a fashionable debutante event.
Photo (left) Earl and Countess of Ulster

Copyright Sam Greenhill

Photos: Edward (yes another Edward) Baron Downpatrick, Grandson of H.R.H. the Duke of Kent is in the tartan trews in the Bullingdon Club photo on the right. He's also in the photo below with his sisters, Lady Marina and  Lady Amelia Windsor.

Copyright: Tatler.co.uk

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 Photo (right) Prince Edward Edward, Duke of Kent with daughter, Lady Helen Taylor

Also knocked out of the running are  the children and grandchildren of the Duke of Kent. His sons married Catholics and none of the Duke's offspring are H.R.H.s. His heir, George, Earl of St. Andrews, so un-Royal that he won a King's Scholarship at Eton, managed to begat a son who shares membership in the notorious Bullingdon Club at Oxford [think richest, most obnoxious frat on campus] which boasts members such as Diana's nephew and Prime Minister David Cameron among many others. Lord Downpatrick (as this "Eddie" is known) and his sisters only came to light recently with an appearance in the society magazine Tatler. Their Aunt, Lady Helen Taylor, is the former "Ambassador" for Armani. Her children are also not H.R.H. but ARE C.of E. (Protestant).

The potential replacement (minor) royals:

So, who are the up-and-coming "Minor Royals?" There are four of them--all the "other" grandchildren of the Queen and Prince Philip--the children of their two younger sons. Not being Royal (i.e. not of the male line) Princess Anne's successful, apparently normal and well-adjusted, children are free to make money off their sponsorships and patronages so they don't count.  I wrote about all of them a few years ago HERE, but its time for a different look at them--a job interview, if you will.

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Lady Louise Windsor, daughter of the Queen's youngest son Prince Edward, (the "other" Prince Edward--the one closest to the throne) Earl of Wessex. She was one of the bridesmaids at William and Kate's wedding. She is of boarding school age now, but it remains to be seen if her parents will select Gordonstoun for her, like Princess Anne did for her children, or a more traditional school like her female royal cousins Beatrice and Eugenie each attended. Her father will become Duke of Edinburgh when Prince Philip dies, so she may then be given her "real" status as Princess Louise of Edinburgh. Her parents chose to have their children take the style and tile due to the children of an "ordinary" Earl (like Diana's father and brother or Downton Abbey's Lord Grantham--that kind of "ordinary").  Though much younger than William and Harry (a similar age group the Queen and the Duke of Gloucester) she could grow up to be a stunning young "helper" for her Uncle and Cousin when they each take the throne in turn. Could she grow up to be the first female royal since her Grandmother to serve in the military? That would add luster to the family and would give her credibility in taking over for Old Cousin Eddie Kent. Or perhaps she'll follow her cousins (except Harry) to a trendy university and then have a typical upper-class career in say, movie production or nightclub owning, and marry well at about age 30 to someone she's lived with for years. Perhaps, just perhaps though, she could have inherited the "Duty" gene like Prince Richard and be willing to devote her life to showing the Flag and declaring new primary schools "open" and such. Remains to be seen--she's just coming up to her eleventh birthday.
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Louise's little brother, James (Viscount Severn) is 30 years younger than Queen Elizabeth's oldest grandchild, Peter Phillips, and is an unknown quantity. Even his balcony appearances aren't regular. He did make binoculars with his fingers one year at the balcony photo op for Trooping the Colour, though. Could be a blot on his copybook. His main event is the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show which is more or less held in his back garden.I have not read where he goes to school, but a likely guess would be the same as his big sister--the coed St. George's Windsor Castle, a day school located at his Granny's favorite "home." He has a good seat on a pony--very essential for a male minor royal, so perhaps at some later date he will become an honorary Colonel of one of the Household Regiments and ride behind Uncle Charles or Cousin William at the Sovereign's Birthday Parade (aka Trooping the Colour) and make visits to members of his Regiment in Afghanistan or wherever they are stationed by then. Like his sister, James will experience a title change upon the death of his grandfather Prince Philip, but it remains to be seen if he will be H.R.H. Prince James of Edinburgh or if he will simply, again, be known by his father's (lesser) courtesy title Earl of ________.
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It remains to be seen where James will really go to school--preschool IS crucial these days, but its the secondary school that really "makes" a man. Since his father's old prep school (that's a private elementary school in England) has closed, perhaps he will stay on at St. George's. Day Schools have risen in popularity along with Mummy blogs, cupcake decorating parties and, so unpleasant to have to say, tuition increases. But, Charles' old prep (to which he did NOT send HIS sons) is hugely popular again, so perhaps with the endorsement of the Tatler ringing in James' upwardly mobile Mummy's ears, he could get packed off to Cheam (now coed). He will be seven in December, so next Winter could find him shuttling off to boarding school, cricket boots and tuck box at hand. But will it be Eton like the sons of Prince Charles and the Dukes of Kent (well his elder son went to Eton) and Gloucester? Or Gordonstoun like Papa and Aunt Anne's children? With his father taking on so many of Prince Philip's charities and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, Gordonstoun may be the eventual choice. An added plus is that  (at least at age 7) James looks a good bit like Uncle Charles, which doesn't hurt, either. Overall he has excellent potential to replace the Duke of Kent--or at least fill the gap until Prince George is of age.

H.R.H. the Princess Beatrice of York and H.R.H. the  Princess Eugenie of York are the daughters of the Queen's second son, Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Were that all they'd no doubt be wearing coat dresses and sensible hats and opening things right and left. But let us remember that their mother is the notorious Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew's adoring ex-wife once known to the world as "Fergie" (before the singer) and "The Duchess of Pork," who before she made a career of praising Her Majesty to the skies and crying over Di and proclaiming Andrew her "bestest" friend and "her boy" on American talk shows, was famously known for her big mouth, brash ways, and love of having her financial people suck her toes in public. Yes, THAT Fergie. Both have done a limited amount of the "Royal Round"--including a joint venture to Germany in support of British Trade (well, their Papa IS the Queen's favorite child). And, aside from bad taste in hats (that could be dealt with), both seem capable of standing on the balcony and doing the required pointing and waving and both have shown they can sit on a raised platform before an audience and not let their knickers (or lack-there-of ) show.

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Sadly their royal "jobs" are consistently overshadowed by their bar-hopping on two continents with their mother and their vacation jaunts to private islands. Then there are the boyfriends. Bea seems to be about of age (upper class folk take years to grow up these days) to finally marry her live-in boyfriend of, (has she had any other boyfriends?) years--Dave Clark (not the 60s singer). Eugenie, too, has a very steady chap named Jack Brooksbank, that she probably lives with as well. Both really DO need to marry soon or they won't likely be able to have it at St. George's Chapel at Windsor (attached to James and Louise's school) as Uncle Charles probably won't pick up the tab like Granny will. Of course they could simply sell the photos to pay for it like cousin Peter did. The weddings will certainly boost their worldwide popularity ratings, if not their domestic ratings. Best for the Royal Family to capitalize on that while they are a "hot" commodity. Plus William's children will need more "safe" children to have over for play dates.


Beatrice has tried "work," in a financial firm, but having a degree in the History of Ideas put her at a disadvantage to those people who have attended say, the London School of Economics or Harvard Business School. Plus it was difficult to work in her long nights of bar-hopping with Mom and vacations with Dave. It was just announced she's doing yet another "work experience" (i.e. volunteer) stint learning the ropes in television production or something like that. So, becoming a full-time minor royal really could improve her C.V. ['resume' to Americans].  Still, "History of Ideas" could perhaps have run her thru the major science ideas of human history so she could take on that sort of thing so Harry doesn't have to be tutored in the difference between Ortho- and Osteo- and bytes and kilowatts in order to avoid the dreaded "How did you come--by car or train?" sort of chit-chat at charity dinners and receptions for the science-minded. And she does seem to be terribly sweet to oldies -always a plus when the nursing home visits rota gets doled out. Having "come out" as dyslexic was a wise move--made her seem almost grown up and gave her her first "cause."

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Princess Eugenie attended Kate's (and Princess Anne's ex Mark Phillip's) old school, Marlbourough, followed by the party school New Castle University and made headlines by....wait for it....living in a dormitory. Yes, you read that right. (More recently she has made headlines as a friend of Harry's sprite-like ex-girlfriend, Cressida Bonas.) She has a degree in art history and literature. That's good--that frees Harry from having to read something other than girlie magazines and tedious summaries of his Army training manuals the equerries prepare for him. She can take on the "high brow" stuff. And, God knows what a "charity benefits auctions manager's" long-term career outlook is anyway. That's what her Wilipedia entry claims she does as "work." Plus, like Beatrice, she has a personal cause--scoliosis--based on her surgically corrected childhood disability.  You could look on this as "royal street cred," if you will. A good candidate for minor royal duties if ever there was one.

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What remains to be seen is whether or not Prince Charles, when reigning as he claims he will be, as King George VII, will give his nieces and nephew the nod and have them fill the gaps left by the old age or death of his mother's cousins. To my mind the balcony looked pretty empty at the Diamond Jubilee. We'll just have to wait and see.