Oct 31, 2014

Queen Elizabeth II and her Royal Residences

Buckingham Palace

The Queen and the Prince Philip use five different houses throughout the year- Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House. Of these only Balmoral and Sandringham are privately owned and maintained, and passed by will through the generations, although King George VI had to buy out his elder brother Edward VIII on the latter's abdication in 1936. The first two are the official London residence and the official country residence of the monarch, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the monarch in Scotland.

St. James' Palace

Other palaces and houses- St James's Palace (still the 'senior' palace, the Court of St James's, the official name for the British court, it administered from there), Clarence House, Marlborough House Mews, Kensington Palace, the Royal Mews and Paddocks at Hampton Court and buildings in the Home and Great Parks at Windsor, are used by members of the royal family as houses and as offices for the Royal Household. The residential and office areas of these various buildings, together with the official residences in England, are all maintained by annul a funding provided by the government to the Royal Household. The government in turn receives any revenues from this 'Estate', which comprises a staggering 360 individual buildings spread over 160, 000 square metres (1.7 million square feet), plus a further 280 properties used mainly as residential quarters for staff and pensioners.

Windsor Castle

The official residences are also known as the 'Occupied Royal Palaces', or the 'Estate' for short, distinguish them from the palaces that are no longer official residences- the Palaces of Westminster and Whitehall (all that remains is the Banqueting House where King Charles I was executed in 1649), Hampton Court and Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London. The official residences are held in trust for the nation by the Queen as sovereign and are used by her in fulfilling the role and functions of head of the state- and that less definable but vitally important description 'head of the nation' that describes the emotional power of the monarchy- and by other members of the royal family in a support role. To ensure the Royal Household is run flawlessly and the vast Estate is kept in good order, over 1000 people work in occupied palaces.

Best-Selling Royal Books You Shouldn't Miss

Thinking of what books to read this weekend? Here are some of the hottest, best selling royal books that you shouldn't miss!

1. Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton

This biography of the Princess of Wales is unique in that the story contained in its pages would never have appeared had it not been for the wholehearted cooperation of Diana, Princess of Wales. The story is based on lengthy, tape recorded interview with Diana, supplemented by the testimony of her family and friends. Like Diana, they spoke with honesty and frankness in spite the fact it meant laying aside the ingrained habits of discretion and loyalty which proximity to royalty invariably engenders.

2. On Duty with the Queen: My Time as a Buckingham Palace Press Officer by Dickie Arbiter with Lynne Barrett-Lee

In this wonderful and honest book, former press secretary to the royal family Dickie Arbiter reveals the inner-workings of everyday life inside Buckingham Palace and what it s really like to be On Duty with the Queen. With over three decades of experience covering royalty as a journalist and as one of Her Majesty s press secretaries, Dickie Arbiter has had unprecedented access to the inner circle of some of the most intriguing news stories over the years and is the only royal commentator to have witnessed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and covered her Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees. Open, entertaining, enlightening and surprising, On Duty with the Queen is a wonderful account of a once-in-a-lifetime job and a truly unique service to the crown.

Empress Dowage Cixi (1835-1908) was the most important female figure in Chinese history, ruling China for decades and bringing the medieval empire into the modern ages. In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly pictures Cixi as she fought against huge obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, telegraph and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. It was she who abolished gruesome punishment like death by thousand cuts and put an end to foot-binding. She inaugurated women's liberation, and embarked on the path to introduce parliamentary elections in China. Jung Chang comprehensively overturns the stereotype that Cixi was a ruthless, corrupt  and despotic ruler.

4. The Queen's Houses by Alan Titchmarsh

Balmoral, Windsor, Sandringham, Holyrood and, of course, Buckingham Palace. The five residences of the Queen and her family are icons of the British nations, and have been the setting for some of the most significant moments in the country's history. In this book, Alan Titchmarsh attempts to find out and explore the human stories behind the houses, from extravaant architects who built them, to the fires that have destroyed them; from the kings and queens who have grown up in them, to the household staff who ran them. Titchmarsh takes readers on a riveting guided tour of each one, combining new, meticulous archives research with his own personal experience and access to paint an initiative portrait of royal domesticity, and a fascinating history of the places they call home.

5. Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson

Britain's longest reigning monarch was one of the most passionate, expressive, humorous and unconventional women who ever lived, and the story of her life continues to fascinate. A. N. Wilson's exhaustively researched and definitive biography includes a wealth of new material from previously unseen sources, to show us Queen Victoria as she's never been seen before. It explores the curious set of circumstances that led to Victoria's coronation, her strange and isolated childhood, her passionate marriage, Prince Albert's pivotal influence, her widowhood and subsequent intimate friendship with John Brown, set against the backdrop of this momentous epoch in Britain - and Europe's - history. Victoria is a towering achievement; a masterpiece of biography by a writer at the height of his powers.

Oct 17, 2014

Queen and Prince Philip Visit Poppy Field at Tower of London in Commemoration of World War I Centenary

The First World War broke out 100 years ago and this year, Britain commemorates the centenary of the unforgettable event that changed the course of Europe’s political and economic landscape.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red Poppy installation at the Tower of London to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness walked amongst 888,256 poppies - each representing a fallen British and Commonwealth soldier. Image Credit: Press Association/ The British Monarchy

Oct 16, 2014

The Duchess of Cornwall's Speech at the Man Booker Prize 2014

Here is the Duchess of Cornwall's speech at the 2014 Man Booker Prize, who is also an avid reader and is keen to promote the importance of supporting literacy through her work as Patron of a number of literacy charities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be with you again on the most exciting evening of the literary year!  As a passionate reader myself, it is a huge pleasure for me to join this gathering of the great and good from the world of books.  I am sure that all of us here - readers and writers alike - cannot wait to hear who has won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. 
Why is the Man Booker Prize important?  I believe it’s because every year writers and their books hit the headlines.  We are interested in who the judges will be and what books make the long list; we read and judge them for ourselves over the summer.  We argue about the shortlist and who was left out, and wonder why.  The Man Booker Prize puts books and authors at the top of the agenda and reminds us all of the pleasure and power of reading – no mean feat in a world where there are so many other calls on our time and attention.  And, more importantly, those newspaper articles – or that opinion on Twitter – might convert a 'non-believer'.  (I hope the Chairman of the judges will forgive my turn of phrase.)  It might just be the key which opens the door into that magical kingdom of the written word. 

Court Circular October 15, 2014

Here's the Court Circular of the British Royal Family for October 15, 2014. Source: British Royal Family's Facebook Page.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE: His Excellency Mr. Victor Emmanuel Smith was received in audience by The Queen today and presented the Letters of Recall of his predecessor and his own Letters of Commission as High Commissioner for the Republic of Ghana in London.

Mrs. Smith was also received by Her Majesty.

His Excellency Mr. Meas Kim Heng was received in audience by The Queen and presented the Letters of Recall of his predecessor and his own Letters of Credence as Ambassador from the Kingdom of Cambodia to the Court of St. James's.

Mrs. Huot Meardey was also received by Her Majesty.

Mrs. Deborah Bronnert (Chief Operating Officer, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) was present.

Mr. Philip Barton was received in audience by The Queen this afternoon upon his appointment as British High Commissioner to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Mrs. Barton was also received by Her Majesty.

The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP (Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury) had an audience of The Queen this evening.

The Duke of Edinburgh, Patron, today attended Receptions at St. James's Palace for young people who have achieved the Gold Standard in The Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

His Royal Highness, Patron, Thrombosis Research Institute, this afternoon held a Founders' Lunch at Buckingham Palace.

Oct 15, 2014

Louis Philipppe: Last King of the French

Louis Philippe, King of the French

Louis Philip was the eldest son of Louis Philippe Joseph, duke of Orleans (known during the Revolution as Philippe Egalite) and of Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon, daughter of the duc de Penthievre. He was born at the Palais Royal in Paris on Oct. 6, 1773. The legend that he was a supposititious child is dealt with elsewhere. The god-parents of the duke of Valois, as he was entitled till 1785, were Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette; his governess was the famous Madame de Genlis, to whose influence he doubtless owed his wide, if superficial knowledge, his orderliness, and perhaps his parsimony.
Known since 1785 as the duc de Chartres, he was 16 at the outbreak of the Revolution. In 1790 he joined the Jacobin club and joined the debates in the National Assembly. He thus became a persona grata with the party in power; he was already a colonel of dragoons, and in 1792 he was given a command in the army of the north. As a lieutenant-general, at the age of 18, he was present at Valmy (Sept. 20) and Jemmappes (Nov. 6).

Zog I: First King of Independent Albania

King Zog of Albania
King Zog of Albania was born Ahmet Muhtar Bej Zogolli on October 8, 1895 in Burgajet Castle, near Burrel in the Ottoman Empire.  He was the second son of Xhemal Pasha Zogolliwith his second wife Sadijé Toptani.

He was educated at Galatasaray High School (Lycée Impérial de Galatasaray) in Constantinople, which was then the capital of the declining Ottoman Empire, which controlled Albania. With his father’s death in 1911, Zogolli became governor of Mat, superseding his elder brother, Xhelal Bey Zogolli.

As head of the Zogolli, one of the four ruling families of the Mati district, he gained early distinction as a supporter of the Prince of Weid in 1914.

When World War I came, he fought for the Austrians. After the war, he became minister of the interior (Jan. – Nov. 1920), and organized resistance to the Yugoslav incursions during the autumn.

He was commander-in-chief of the national forces under the “Sacred Union” cabinet (Oct. – Dec. 1921), and again distinguished himself against the Yugoslavs. As minister of the interior in DjaferYpi’s cabinet (Dec. 1921 – Dec. 1922), he suppressed a serious insurrection in March 1922, and disarmed the lowlanders.

In Dec. 1922, he was elected prime minister in which capacity he governed with ability, pursuing a sound anti-irredentist and constructive policy. However, at the end of 1923 he was accused by the Democratic party of obstructing various progressive and agrarian reforms.

Following an attempt upon his life he resigned in Feb. 1924, but his influence remained. A revolt against him and his colleagues took place in June, and he sought refuge in Yugoslavia. Skillfully turning to his advantage the Yugoslavian policy, he returned to Albania in Dec. 1924 and ousted his successor, Archbishop Fan Noli.

His election as president of the Albanian republic on Feb. 1, 1925, ushered in a period of internal tranquility, with several major reforms making their way. Italy became Albania strongest ally. The Italian government actually lent his government funds in exchange for a greater role in Albania's fiscal policy. Serfdom was gradually eliminated. And Albania started to emerge as a nation rather than a mere collection of feudal localities. However, his administration was met with disputes with Kosovar leaders, primarily Hasan Prishtina and Bajram Curri.

While reforms have been instituted, Albania turned into a police state. Civil liberties were curtailed, the press censored and political opponents killed. The constitution gave Zogu virtually unopposed executive and legislative powers, including the right to appoint one-third of the upper house.

On Sept. 1, 1928, Albania was transformed into a monarchy, with Zogu proclaimed as King. Rather than using his name Ahmet as his regnal name, he took his surname Zogu since the former sounded Islamic, which might prevent him from joining the ranks of European royals.

On the same day, he was proclaimed Field Marshal of the Royal Albanian Army. As a constitutional monarch, he established a strong police force, and instituted the Zogist salute (flat hand over the heart with palm facing downwards). Zog hoarded gold coins and precious stones, which were used to support Albania's first paper currency.

The constitution barred any member of the Royal Family from serving as head of government or or a member of the Cabinet. In 1929, the King abolished Islamic law in Albania, and in its lieu, a civil code adapted from Switzerland was instituted.

In 1938, Zog allowed Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecution in Germany to come to Albania.

King Zog was somewhat disregarded by other European monarchs because of his lack of connection with other reigning houses. He was, however, recognized by the governments of Italy, Luxembourg, Egypt, Yugoslavia, France, Romania, Greece, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria.

On April 27, 1938, he married Countess Geraldine Apponyi of Hungary; a son being born to them on April 5, 1939. Three days later, on the Italian occupation of Albania, the King and Queen became exiles.

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