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Review: The Gown by Jennifer Robson

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My Interest

As you may have realized, I’m a big follower of the British Royal family. I have my likes and dislikes among them, but Her Majesty and Prince Philip always get my vote! When I saw this book in the forthcoming titles, I knew I had to give it a try, but I was fearful of it being like a few other very popular recent royal novels–stilted and unappealing.

Happily, Jennifer Robson is a storyteller indeed! Not a stilted moment in the book! And, a trope I usually run from–the “look we found grandma’s [album, scrapbook, etc] worked so beautifully in this book I’m rethinking my dislike of it. The modern story was just as appealing as the 1947 story, with characters as enjoyable and storyline as believable. A rare triumph.

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The Story

In the bleak post-war world, Britain’s had one moment of true color–Heiress Presumptive Princess Elizabeth’s wedding to Philip Mountbatten on November 21, 1947. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (the “Queen Mum” to us) and the princess selected H. M.’s favorite designer, Norman Hartnell, to design the wedding gown. Like today’s royal brides, Catherine (Kate) and Meghan, the dress had to be utterly sensational. The press speculated long and often about how the gown “might” look. In The Gown, the royals are bit players as the story focuses on Ann and Miriam, the two principle embroiderers and their personal stories, both of which were well told.

I loved how the author didn’t make a big deal out of things like rationing–she just told the story as they lived it. She also made the serious work of embroidering the gown and train real without bogging it down in tedious detail. The entire story flowed as beautifully as Princess Elizabeth’s train. I can’t wait for the movie.

My Verdict

4 stars.

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

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If you enjoyed this book

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If you enjoyed this book, you’ll like enjoy The Pink Suit: A Novel by Nicole Kelby about the creation of Jackie Kennedy’s iconic Dallas suit.

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Top Ten Tuesday: 10 New Royal Books for Royal Wedding Week

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Nonfiction

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Andrew Morton is the journalist to whom Diana told her side of the War of the Wales. Now he’s telling about royal bride Meghan Markle, whose stated ambition is to be the next Diana.

Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton.

Note: There are way, way too many Meghan/Harry books to even try to cover them all.

 

 

 

Duchess

 

Author Penny Junor is seen as Prince Charles’ apologist. This book is yet another attempt to make the Diana-worshippers and conspiracy-freaks come around to liking Camilla. I wasn’t a fan of the late Princess of Wales, but this book was just unnecessary. Haters are gonna’ hate. In short–don’t waste more breath (or paper) trying to win converts.

Duchess: Camilla Parker-Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked The Crown by Penny Junor.

 

 

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Britain and Russia had ties thru marriage. First, the sister of the Princess of Wales was married to the Russian Tzar. Then Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Alix of Hesse, married the Tzarevich, Nicholas.  This forthcoming book (June 2018) details three visits between the royal families in the years before the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The Imperial Tea Party by Frances Welch.

 

 

 

rebel

 

This biography of Prince Charles actually came out in late March but missed my last list of Royal books somehow. Excerpts were published in a UK newspaper. It’s the one you may have heard about that claims Charles travels with his own bed and all the rest. Why no one has ever seen the bed at

the airport isn’t explained.

Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles by Tom Bower.

 

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Eileen Parker was married to Prince Philip’s one-time buddy and Private Secretary before his behavior merited a divorce. Tell-all books are always with us, but viewers of The Crown may enjoy this one. Excerpts have been published in a British paper. This book was released in December.

Step Aside for Royalty: Treasured Memories of the Royal Household by Eileen Parker.

Fiction

 

 

 

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Royal Mess by Jenna Sutton.  Thanks to As The Book Ends for posting about this book.

Royal Treatment by Melanie Summers

The Royals by Rachel Hawkins  Thanks to Candid Cover for posting about this book.

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm  Thanks to Candid Cover for posting about this book.

 

 

Want more? Here’s the link to my previous royal books post.

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Who will the pages and bridesmaids be at the royal wedding? What will they wear?

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Prince Harry is giving many a shout-out to his mother’s family in his wedding, apparently. Lady Jane Fellowes is to do a reading–a very nice touch. So, can we look for any other Spencer touches? And, will any little Spencers or Spencer cousins be in the wedding? Today I’m looking at the possibilities.

Who? And, what will they wear?

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Everyone wants to see Prince George and Princess Charlotte in these roles, of course, but who else might be asked? Tradition dictates that the couple’s godchildren should be asked, if of an appropriate age.  Prince Charles’ godchildren made up the majority of the children in that wedding–though Diana was able to ask a few children, too. Relatives come next. Princess Anne had her little brother and little cousin. Prince Andrew and Sarah had nieces, nephews and Sarah’s half-siblings as well as godchildren and friends’ children as their attendants. Queen Elizabeth had two of her youngest first cousins as pages and friends and relatives among her bridesmaids.

A nice gesture would be to invite one or more of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester’s grandchildren since they have just given up their long-time home at Kensington Palace so Harry and Meg can have it as their family-to-be home next door to William and Kate.

 

First the Paiges

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Sir Joshua Reynolds: “Viscount Althorp”

Inspiration From a Family Masterpiece

As a little boy, Harry was a page in his uncle, Earl Spencer’s wedding. The outfit he and the other boys wore (see photo at the top of this post) was based on the painting above. I think this would be a sweet way to incorporate his mother’s family–by using this outfit for the boys, but perhaps with a different color sash?

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Photo credit:

Prince Edward and Sophie choose an historic theme as well.

Unlike American weddings, the little boys do not appear in mini-tuxedos in British weddings–especially not aristocratic weddings. Of course, Meghan could go American and have them wear bow-ties and suspenders–that’s very trendy right now, but probably not very likely. Prince William wore a similar look way back in the day for the wedding of Churchill’s grandson. Even some aristocratic weddings can be pretty far “out there” with dress, but I don’t imagine St. George’s Chapel will see attendants in Star Trek uniform or Hogwarts gowns.

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Inspiration From the Military

 

 

 

Photo Credit: (Charles & Diana) Patrick Lichfield. (Andrew & Sarah)

(William & Catherine) Hugo Bernand

Miniature uniforms are a staple in British high society weddings. Harry’s regiment is part of the Household Cavalry–the Blues and Royals. It happens to be the same regiment that Andrew Parker-Bowles belongs to.  Harry is also Captain General of the Royal Marines–an honorary position. This is the uniform he is likely to wear, as it is the one with the senior-most rank. At his parents’ wedding, the two pageboys wore naval uniforms because Charles, like his father, grandfather and two great-grandfathers (George V and Prince Louis of Battenberg) both served in the navy. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s wedding featured pageboys dressed as officers or ratings of Nelson’s Royal Navy era.

 

Scotland the Brave

 

 

 

 

Kilts are another favorite for page boys. Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne had these for the little boys in their wedding parties. Anne famously declared she did not want “yards of uncontrollable children” in her wedding and chose only her youngest brother, Prince Edward, and their cousin, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones (now Chatto).

For Harry’s wedding, the boys could wear one of the royal tartans as the did in Her Majesty’s and Anne’s weddings. Or, if, as expected, Harry is made a Duke, then one of the customary three titles will be from Scotland so the boys could wear that tartan. Prince Charles has the green Lord of the Isles tartan, for example.

Here are some of the possible Pages:

Prince George of Cambridge, age–about to be 5.

Jasper Dyer, age 6, Godson of Prince Harry

James, Viscount Severn, age 10. The Queen’s youngest grandchild. His sister, Lady Louise, was in William and Harry’s wedding.

 

Xan, Baron Culloden, age 11, grandson of the Duke of Gloucester  [The Duke is the Queen’s first cousin]

Master Rufus Gillman, age 6, grandson of the Duke of Gloucester

Master Tane Lewis, age 6, grandson of the Duke of Gloucester

Master Albert Windsor, age 11, grandson of the Duke of Kent (the Queen’s first cousin)

Master Leopold Windsor, age 9, grandson of the Duke of Kent

Master Louis Windsor, age 4, grandson of the Duke of Kent

Master Robert Fellowes, age 3, child of Harry’s first cousin (Lady Jane Spencer’s grandson)

Master _____ Pettman,  age ___, son of Harry’s first cousin, Laura Fellowes Pettman

Master _____ Pettman, age ___, son of Harry’s first cousin, Laura Fellowes Pettman

Gus Lopes, age 9, grandson of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. His sister, Eliza, was in Wiliam’s wedding.

Louis Lopes, age 9, Gus’s twin brother.

Freddy Parker-Bowles, age 8,   grandson of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

 

The Bridesmaids

 

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The Duke and Duchess of Kent’s wedding (above) featured not only the Duke and his brother, Prince Michael of Kent, but Princess Anne and Lady Jane Spencer Fellowes as bridesmaids.  Harry’s first cousin, twice removed (the Duke of Kent) is godfather to his maternal aunt Jane. How about that?

The girls’ dresses will match the era and style of the boys’ costumes.  They are normally appropriate to the child’s age. No mini-adult strapless gowns or anything of that sort.

Here are some of the possible bridesmaids:

 

The Royal  Girls: (well, not truly “royal”, but from Harry’s paternal family)

Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, age 3.

Lady Louise Windsor, 14, was also in Prince William’s wedding. She could be the senior bridesmaid.

Savannah Phillips, age 7, daughter of Princess Anne’s son, Peter Phillips.

Isla Phillips, age 6, Savannah’s sister.

Mia Tindall, age 4, daughter of Princess Anne’s daughter, Zara Phillips Tindall.

Maud Windsor, age 4, granddaughter Prince Michael of Kent–nice traditional tie-in as her grandfather was one of the Queen’s two pageboys.  Her mother, Sophie Winkleman, is an actress, too.

Lady Cosima Windsor,  age 8, granddaughter of the Duke of Gloucester. The Duke’s late brother was a pageboy at the Queen’s wedding.

Lyla Gilman, age 8, granddaughter of the Duke of Gloucester.

Senna Lewis, age  8, granddaughter of the Duke of Gloucester.

Lola Parker-Bowles, age 11, granddaughter of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

The Spencer girls:

Lady Lara Spencer, age 12, daughter of Earl Spencer and his 2nd wife. She could be the Senior bridesmaid.

Lady Charlotte Spencer, age 6, daughter of Earl Spencer and his 3rd wife.

Isabella Hutt, age 4, Lady Sarah Spencer McCorquodale’s granddaughter. (Sarah is the other Spencer who dated Prince Charles).