Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Royal memorabilia with a difference

I'm sure we've all had this problem. At the end of a trip to some far off exotic location, like the UK, we search for souvenirs that will fit into our luggage, make it past customs, and won't get thrown out by the recipient. T-Shirts, Union-Jack thongs, mugs, spoons, thimbles, the selction is endless. But what if you want to buy something different? Instead of rushing around the airport, desperately in search of the least tacky gift, why not consider these items? As an added bonus, you can shop from the comfort of your own home by convieniently ordering these gifts ahead of time.

Ever wondered about executioners blocks? This item allows you to build your own! Not only fun but educational too. Hours and hours of fun ensue as your child learns about capital punishment. "Gee, thanks Mom and Dad!"

In order to enhance the experience of that toy, why not buy a figurine of one of its most famous victims? Lady Jane Grey, the nine-days Queen, is a perfect example. You can even add Anne Boleyn to your collection. No word whether they come with detachable heads.

Charles I, Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, and the Earl of Essex, are just some of the famous names that went to the executioners block for treason. You too can experience the thrill without the dire consequences by playing the Treason Game.

Once you have gained the Crown, why not stage your very own Coronation? No ceremony is complete without the anointing spoon. With the soundtrack playing in the background, take the solemn vows and line up your friends to pay homage to you. Holy oil sold separately.

With playing treason and hosting your own religious ceremonies, you're bound to develop an appetite. There's nothing like a dish of mussels to complete the day. Pry those suckers open in style with your very own silver mussell opener.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Sport of Royal Watchers

A recent Angus Reid survey revealed that 42% of Britons would prefer Prince William to succeed Queen Elizabeth II. While 36% prefer Prince Charles to succeed.

This question, usually raised during significant birthday's (such as the Queen's 80th), significant deaths (Diana), or just because, is no more than a harmless pastime for people. Especially those who do not seem to understand how the succession to the British throne works. For those who should know (such as professional royal watchers), they either genuinely don't know or choose to ignore it because it's newsworthy to discuss this non-issue.

So, let me state categorically, for the record, that barring any tragedy (i.e. should Prince Charles succumb to an unfortunate skiing, polo, gardening, or watercolor painting accident), he will succeed the Queen as the next King. No Angus Reid poll, heated message board discussions, or your personal opinion on the matter will change that. You can quote me on it and even tell people that you heard it here first. I don't mind at all.

Now, admittedly, there isn't much of a difference between the two percentages. The remaining shares are made up of people who either don't mind (15%) or don't care (7%). One would think that the amount of people who don't mind or don't care, should be significantly larger than this. After all, whether one or the other or neither suceed has no bearing on our lives. Prince William would look better on the coins and stamps, but in all honesty, that's really about the only advantage.

Should Prince William by-pass Charles, we wouldn't have to deal with questions regarding Camilla's title, Charles' suitability, and potentially the length of Charles' reign should the Queen live as long as her mother did (Note: The Queen Mother died at the age of 101). All those interesting questions would be replaced by what William and his consort will wear, maybe even whether William, depending on how young he is, is up to the job himself.

Commentators will discuss duty and the sacrifice William will make, as they did when his grandmother came to the throne at the age of 25. The beautiful princess, not yet married five years, with two small children, prematurely burdened by the weight of office. Yet, for all of this discussion, and after a long line of aged King's, people no doubt welcomed having a young and glamourous sovereign.

Maybe these redundant polls are a sign of people's focus on appearances and desire for some glamour. Prince William, bursting with vitality and his mother's looks, trumps Prince Charles regardless of his age. And unlike an elderly King, a young and handsome sovereign with a beautiful consort sells more souvenirs.

Regardless of the facts, people will still play this game. And like it or not, the answer will remain the same. So, upon the death of the Queen, long live the King.

Whoever that happens to be.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Kate Middleton story of the week

It seems like a week cannot go by without someone speculating/betting/predicting/announcing the imminent engagement of Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton. For royal insiders and watchers alike, it seems to be a popular pastime. With the top four royals still alive, Camilla recovering from surgery, Mary and Maxima pregnant, and Harry going to Iraq, we're starved for some news. Any news.

Now we have someone who says he's 'in the know'. Photographer Arthur Edwards claims that William himself told him that he plans to marry Kate. When and where are incidental to keeping the flame alive. But predictions come and go. Most recently there were rumours it would happen on Valentine's Day. When February 14th came and went without nary a proposal, no problem. It gives us more time to speculate about next Valentine's Day.

After all, everyone loves a royal engagement. Spring is coming, and love is in the air. When the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) married Prince Philip in 1947, the wedding gave a touch of much needed glamour after the war. Charles and Diana's 1981 engagement distracted from recession, high unemployment and chronic rioting. Prince Andrew's wedding in 1986 and Prince Edward's in 1999 were minor bright spots while waiting for Prince William to come of age.

An engagement for William, while not necessarily lifting the spirit of the nation or distracting from challenging economic times, would After all, it's been almost two years since the last wedding. Souvenir makers, dress designers, newspaper reporters, authors, photographers, stamp makers, and the Republicans wait to offer their wares. Do we ever really hear from the Republican's otherwise?

Newspapers would look for angles. Does she have a former nanny? She must have something new to add. Noted psychics will predict if the marriage will last. Astrologers chart whether William and Kate are astrologically compatable. Then there are the former paramours. Unlike Diana, she probably hasn't 'kept herself tidy for what lay ahead', but nowadays (and realistically) bridal virtue isn't a pre-requisite. Yet, it's still newsworthy to find out whether her heart was broken or whether she callously cast aside men on her path to glory.

Yes, we would get all sorts of tidbits about Kate. Some Starbucks barista would tell us about what type of coffee Kate likes to drink. Would it be a non-fat latte? If not, she needs to switch so she can fit into 'the dress'. We would hear from more of Kate's classmates and teachers. Ancestry would be traced. Cute baby pictures produced. The family would demand privacy. People would be misquoted.....

But, until and engagement is announced, that's another Kate Middleton story.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Monday, March 05, 2007

Royal Review: Charles & Camilla: Whatever Love Means

With all of the fuss surrounding the movie 'The Queen', one would think this is the first dramatization of the royal family. In fact, it isn't. Who could forget the 1982 movie: The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana starring Catherine Oxenberg as a young and naive Diana? or the 1992 update Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After, where she reprises her role, this time as disillusioned Diana. Diana seems to be an extremely popular subject for royal movies, but what about the other side of the story?

After a long wait, finally, we have a docu-drama telling the story of Charles and Camilla! They would be impressed by it; a sympathetic portrayal and it shows them young and relatively good looking. The title of this comes from the often quoted phrase Prince Charles used during his engagement interview. When the happy couple were asked whether they were in love, Diana replied "of course", and then Charles "Whatever in love means". Did Prince Charles know this phrase would haunt him the rest of his days?

The story covers the period from when they met in 1971, until the day of Prince Charles' wedding to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. First of all, I was a bit disappointed they ended it there. Where was the Dynasty worthy confrontation of Diana and Camilla? the slow-motion flying bread-rolls? They completely missed out on all the juicy stuff which would have made this bearable to watch.

The docu-drama begins with the disclaimer: For the purpose of dramatization, some characters, events, and dialogue have been invented'. This show thereby becomes a dramatization of all of the unsubstantiated quotes attributed to Charles, Camilla, Prince Philip and other members of the family. But it's not without it's fun points. Part of the fun became predicting the lines. While watching, I was waiting for Camilla to say "My great-grandmother and your great-great-grandfather had an affair, so how about it?". The fact that they didn't fall back on this sensational chestnut appealed to me. But they don't completely avoid it. The closest they come is Camilla saying that her great-grandmother's duty was to curtsey and then get into bed. Who says romance is dead?

The character of Camilla, portrayed by Olivia Poulet, bears more than a passing resemblance to the real Camilla at the same age. Prince Charles, stiffly portrayed by Laurence Fox has the awkward mannerisms down pat. Uncle Dickie, Prince Philip, and the Queen are in the background, while Princess Anne, acting as the sardonic voice of reason, is completely bored by it all. Ah, if only we could all be so blase about ruining other people's lives!

Charles seriously considers marrying Camilla, but Camilla, as her character says, has 'no desire to be Queen'. They contemplate the ramifications of having a future together. But there are obstacles: Uncle Dickie disapproves and duty calls. Charles goes off to the navy, hoping that Camilla will wait for him. Unfortunately for Charles, in the interim, Camilla marries Andrew Parker-Bowles and starts a family. But however hard he tries, Charles can't forget Camilla.

Andrew Parker-Bowles (Simon Wilson), hardly the cuckolded husband, has his own affairs, and is happy to 'lay down his wife' for the country. Her husband's unfaithfulness sets the stage for our sympathy and understanding when an unhappy Camilla, reluctantly turns to Charles for comfort.

But there's an obstacle to their happiness: Charles has to find a wife and sire heirs. Number one on their priority list is someone who will not interfere with their affair. Sitting at a table, pen in hand, Camilla and Charles brainstorm possible spouses. After a series of unsuitable women, they find Diana, pathetically portrayed by her doppelganger Michelle Duncan. Watching Lady Diana Spencer plead with Charles about Camilla, any sympathy we might have for the main characters is lost. Especially when Charles and Camilla get ready for the wedding with melodramatic, funereal music playing in the background.

Ultimately, there were no surprises. However it was refreshing to watch something which shows some sympathy for Charles and Camilla. Fallible, but not the diabolical schemers we would be led to believe by the press.

Although no one will win an Oscar for their performances, this is recommended if you're want a brief synopsis of their love story. Royal watchers, however, may find this extremely contrived.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Thursday, March 01, 2007

With this piston...

Forget an official announcement or pictures of the ring. A true sign that Kate Middleton is closer than ever to becoming royal, is the fact that she has just bought the same make of car favored by the royal family.

Yes, yes, I know. You're wondering, if it was so easy, why didn't she just go out and buy the car earlier? What about those other young, single, passably attractive women who bought the same car before her? The ones also pining away for their prince to come. I think I know why Kate waited, patiently driving her Volkswagen Golf all this time, she didn't want to make it obvious. She wanted to play hard to get. I mean, anyone can go out and buy this car right? Sensibly, Kate has a good head on her shoulders and didn't want to be too hasty. No, maybe she looked at Nissan's or BMW's or even to please her potential father-in-law, something environmentally friendly, but she was teasing us all along.

"A powerfully bold front end, the striking, sharply broken-off rear and the wedge-shaped outline....conveys a very typical sense of dynamism - even when stationary". Yes, this could describe Kate herself. But while she may be buying the same make of car, she's steering clear of the same model. It's good to maintain one's individuality. And no doubt William will respect her for it. Will she go for the same color? It's hard to say. She's got to be careful on this, as we've seen, royalty doesn't like non-conformists.

Will she go for the three-door or five-door? Let's face it, she has to make room for the body guards, and it's a lot harder to alight gracefully while crawling out the backseat. Also, a five-door makes room for the future heirs and spares. It could lead to some rabid speculation by royal watchers, but it's practical to think long term.

But not to offend her future husband, she's shouldn't go for something faster. The royal spouse must always stay two steps behind, even if they are coughing in the dust. No, she'll never compete with him. But don't worry, she won't be alone with Prince Harry to keep her company.

It's said that she negotiated a good deal. Maybe William told her to mention him. But, it must be emphasized, not too good a deal. She has to wait until later to exercise her royal perogative.

However, if this leads to a royal wedding, it could be the best deal of all.

© Marilyn Braun 2007