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Showing posts from 2019

The Hever Castle, the Two Queen Anne and the Astors

Hever Castle is one of the most storied castles in England, attracting thousands of visitors every year not only because of its interesting structure but also the history that transpired here.

Hever Castle can be found in the village of Hever in Kent, England. It was originally a medieval defensive castle, which was built in 1270. In 1462, merchant and Lord Mayor of London Geoffrey Boleyn converted the existing structure into a manor, adding a Tudor dwelling within its walls.

In 1505, Geoffrey Boleyn’s grandson, Thomas Boleyn, inherited the castle and lived there with his wife Lady Elizabeth Howard and their children George, Mary and Anne, who would later become the wife of Henry VIII, who would often stay at the nearby Bolebroke Castle while courting the Marchioness of Pembroke. Hever Castle came into the possession of Henry VIII after the death of Anne Boleyn’s father in 1539. Interestingly, a year later, Henry would bestow the property to another wife of his, another Anne in the …

The George IV State Diadem: A Royal Treasure Rich in History

The George IV State Diadem is one of the most interesting and precious tiaras in the royal vault. Indeed, images of this head ornament has graced postage stamps and coins, featuring the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland. 
In 1820, after the long wait, King George IV finally succeeded to the throne. He wanted a grand coronation like no other, so he commissioned Rundell & Bridge to make him diadem, which he would wear on his coronation procession to Westminster Abbey. The tiara cost £8,216 to make; £800 of which was paid to “hire” the diamonds. However, it seemed that the diamonds were never returned to the jewellers and an arrangement was made instead. 

The crown consists of  1,333 diamonds weighing a total of 320 carats (64 g), including a four-carat yellow diamond in the front cross pattée set in gold and silver frame, which measures 7.5 centimetres (3.0 in) tall and 19 centimetres (7.5 in) in diameter. The crown’s upper string used to have 86 pearls and the lo…

Winnaretta Singer, Princesse Edmond de Polignac: The Muse of Modern Music

During the Gilded Age, Winnaretta Singer emerged as one of the most colorful and interesting million-dollar princesses not only because of her immense fortune and intriguing private life, but also because of her ceaseless patronage of music and the arts and support for social causes.
Birth and Early Years
The American heiress was born on January 8, 1865 in Yonkers, New York, U.S.A., the 20th of the 24 children of Isaac Merritt Singer, inventor and founder of Singer Sewing Machine Company, and his second wife, Parisian model Isabella Eugenie Boyer. Following the American Civil War, Winnaretta’s family moved to Paris where they remained until the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The Singers then moved to England and took up residence at Mr. Singer’s Oldway Mansion, a palace in Paignton, Devon.
Winnaretta showed a profound passion for music since her teenage years that on her 13th birthday, she requested to hear a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet op. 131, a piece of mus…

A Gift from Brazil: Queen Elizabeth II’s Brazilian Aquamarine Parure Tiara

In 1953, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place. Floods of precious gifts were showered upon her, including a diamond necklace with very large aquamarines and matching earrings, the gift of the president and the people of Brazil to the new British sovereign.

The set was made by Rio de Janeiro’s Mappin & Webb, and it consisted of a necklace and matching pendant earrings comprised of multiple oblong Brazilian aquamarine set in diamond and platinum. The necklace contains nine large oblong aquamarine stones with a larger drop pendant. Interestingly, additional perfectly matched pieces of aquamarine continued to be collected within Brazil, which, in 1958, were given to The Queen in the form of a similarly designed bracelet and brooch to add to her existing set.

To complete the set, the Queen commissioned jeweller Garrard to create a tiara, a wonderful creation with an aquamarine as a focal point that exceeded all other stones of this set.  The tiara originally consisted of a…

The Eccentric Princess Marie of Orléans, Princess Marie of Denmark

Marie Amélie Françoise Hélène was born in Ham, London, England on January 13, 1865. She was the eldest child of Prince Robert d'Orléans, Duc de Chartres, and his wife, Princess Françoise d'Orléans. Marie was a descendant of the “Citizen King” of France, Louis Philippe. She spent the first few years of her life in England before her family moved to France following the defeat of the Second Empire in 1871. By then, she referred to herself as une bourgeoise.

Marriage Family
At the age of 20, Marie was arranged to marry Prince Valdemar of Denmark, the youngest son of King Christian IX. After obtaining consent from Pope Leo XIII, the couple was wedded in, first, a civil ceremony on October 20, 1885 in Paris, then, two days after, in a religious ceremony at the Château d'Eu in Normandy.
They had five children all together. The first born, Prince Aage of Denmark (1887–1940) renounced rights to the throne Mathilda Calvi dei Conti di Bergolo in 1914. He was created Count of Rosenb…

Wawel Castle: Home to the Kings of Poland

Wawel Castle is a castle residency located in the historic district of Old Town in Kraków, Poland. People have lived on the site of the castle, the Wawel Hill, since the Paleolithic Age (some 50,000 years ago).  The settlement was then a flourishing venue for trade and local farming. The Wawel Hill was being utilized as a fortified castle before Mieszko I, the first ruler of Poland, made it as one of his official residences.

The first cathedral on the site, believed to be made of wood, was built in 1000 AD following the establishment of the Bishopric of Kraków. The structure is believed to have started Wawel’s renown as a center of political power. The structure was later destroyed by fire. It was replaced by another cathedral, which also suffered the same fiery fate as its predecessor.  The third and current cathedral (consecrated in 1364) was built on the orders of Władysław the Short, the first king of Poland. On January 20, 1319, he became the first Polish king to be crowned in W…

E.P. Ranch: The Duke of Windsor’s Ranch in Canada

During World War I, Edward, Prince of Wales served as a staff officer attached to the Canadian Corps Headquarters in Flanders. It was during this period that he developed a liking for the Canadian's good nature, frankness and fighting qualities. After the war, he embarked on three full-scale Canadian toursand two private visits as Prince of Wales, one historic encounter as king, and two private visits as Duke of Windsor. At the heart of these visits were a place close to the prince, later king, and duke’s heart: E.P. Ranch, one of the only two properties he would ever own in his lifetime—the other Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, his weekend retreat outside Paris.

1919 – First Visit  and Purchase of E.P. Ranch

On September 14, he reached Calgary and the lifestyle of the west immediately enamoured him that it was said that the "space and tranquility, the mystique, vigour, and apparent freedom captured his  imagination." On a letter to Queen Mary, he wrote "That's a real…

The Fortune of Robert, Duke of Parma and the Inheritance Issue that Split a Huge Family

Robert I, the last Duke of Parma, may have lost his little duchy  after his family were driven out by a revolution following the French and Sardinian victory in the war against Austria. But he had nothing to worry since he had a fabulously enormous fortune that he literally never had to work for a day! Unburdened by the constraints of running a realm, the duke, instead turned to running his family. With his first wife, Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Sicily, he fathered 12 children. After her death, he married Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal and with her, he fathered 12 more children.

From his grandfather, Charles II of Parma, he inherited considerable properties, including valuable religious books and the infamous Farnese blue diamond.  But the bulk of his fortune came from her mother, Louise Marie Therese d’Artois, and  his uncle, the Comte de Paris. On the Comte’s death in 1883, Robert became his principal heir and the most significant property he inherited was Chateau de Chambord.…

Robert I and his 24 Children: The Story of the Last Duke of Parma

Robert I could have gone down history as the last reigning Duke of Parma, but thanks to his prolific progeny, he is best remembered to this day as the royal who fathered 24 children.

Roberto I Carlo Luigi Maria di Borbone, Duca di Parma e Piacenza, was born on July 9, 1848 in Florence,Tuscany, Italy, the elder son of Charles III, Duke of Parma, and his wife, Louise Marie Thérèse d'Artois. Following his father’s assassination in 1854, Robert ascended to the ducal throne at six years old. His mother served as regent all throughout his minority. However, Robert was never to rule on his own since he was deposed at the age of 11 years old after Piedmontese troops annexed other Italian states, which eventually led to the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.

Robert married his first wife, Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, on April 5, 1869 while in exile in Rome. The union produced 12 children: Princess Marie Louise (1870-1899), who married Ferdinand I, Prince and later Tsar of Bu…

Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier—Europe’s Richest Single Princess

In 17th century France, there were only three “grand” personalities in the family: Louis XIV, known as Louis le Grand; Louis, le Grand Conde, perhaps the greatest military leader of that period; and Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier, who would pass on in history as France’s Le Grande Mademoiselle. The leading figure during the Fronde rebellion, her grandness was made possible by the fact that she was then the richest princess in all of Europe.

La Grande Mademoiselle was born on May 29, 1627 at the Palais du Louvre in Paris, France, the only daughter of Gaston, Duke of Orléans, and his first wife, Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier. Her mother died five days after giving birth to her, leaving Anne Marie the sole heiress to Marie de Bourbon’s vast fortune, which included the Principality of Dombes, the Dauphinate of Auvergne, as well as five duchies. Instantly, she became one of the richest people in France.

Anne Marie Louise, being the eldest daughter of her fa…

The Legendary Princess Mathilde Bonaparte and the Case of the Stolen Jewels

From the mid-19th century and towards the 20th century, Princess Mathilde Bonaparte ruled French high society. In fact, so formidable was she that when the princes of the former ruling dynasties were expelled from France, she was the only member of the Bonaparte family to stay. Like her cousin, Princess George of Greece and Denmark, Mathilde held an eccentric personality, making her a favorite by the French literary circles.
Birth and Early Years

Mathilde Laetitia Wilhelmine Bonaparte was born in exile on May 27, 1820 in Trieste, Italy. She was the daughter of Napoléon Bonaparte’s brother, Jérôme Bonaparte, and his second wife, Catharina of Württemberg. Mathilde spent the first three years of her childhood in Trieste before her family relocated Rome, where his father bought a house despite being heavily indebted.
She was not close to her mother. Later in life, she would recall, “I never had very much love from my mother because I was a girl. She was rather quick with her hand.” Mathi…
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