Friday, April 29, 2011

My wedding hats

I promised a post with photos of my hats, so here they are. I bought them from, so it was a real feat of trust that they would look as good on my head as they did online because there's no brick and mortar store. But Mia at NY Fashion Hats in Bainbridge NY gave me great advice over the phone; we chatted for over an hour and she helped me winnow down my selections; and by the time we hung up, I felt like we were already old friends.

I wore the black hat on Wednesday in front of Buckingham Palace and was interviewed by an Italian TV journalist (it pays to dress well!). She was surprised to find out that she'd snagged a royalty expert. When I gave her my card after the interview, she indicated that she'd heard of me ... several of my books have been translated into Italian.

The mood on the Mall was like one giant block party -- with half a million of your closest friends.

Here I am with Melanie (English) and Cavell (Scots), who broke out the pink champagne after William and Catherine said their vows. I was standing diagonally opposite Clarence House. The wedding ceremony was broadcast on speakers and people sang along with the hymns (when they sang "Jerusalem," I became all choked up. It was the favorite hymn of my dear friend Patrick Tull, an actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company, fellow Player, and Lord Nelson aficionado. Needless to say, I became all teary during the vows as well. I always cry at weddings (except for my own, where I was beaming throughout the ceremony).

I wore my turquoise hat to the royal wedding -- along with my late paternal grandmother's antique garnet necklace. Her family was English (she said that long after her father emigrated to the States he referred to George VI as "our king"), and she would have wanted to be here today.

Here's my wedding suit -- it's a similar color to Carole Middleton's!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Wedding Fever Grips London!

So far the naysayers and the republicans have kept their snark under wraps. If you walk the streets of London (providing you have sharp elbows and a lot of patience to brave the tight-knight crowds), in the areas of Buckingham Palace, the Mall and Wesminster Abbey where Prince William will wed Catherine Elizabeth Middleton tomorrow, it is nothing but a love-fest, a jolly-holiday spirit, replete with tent cities, flags, and creative costumes.

This man was the first to arrive outside Westminster Abbey, staking out a spot with his teddy bear early in the week. His shirt says "Diana Would Be Proud."

We're staying around the corner from the Goring Hotel, where Kate Middleton will spend her final night (tonight) as a single woman, staying with her family. With so much making news every moment, perhaps one of the few secrets left is what her wedding dress looks like. We may have seen it off-loaded from a van yesterday, along with the Middletons' other wedding wear -- but everything was discreetly concealed inside garment bags.

My husband Scott and I strolled along the Mall this afternoon and I came across a very touching homage. On the Mall not far from Clarence House (where Princes William and Harry lived with their father Prince Charles after the death of their mother Princess Diana, and where their great-grandmother, known to our generation as the Queen Mum, lived), is her statue as well as one of her husband George VI. For those who get their royal history from Hollywood movies (rather than from my books, she half-joked), George VI is the stammerer from "The King's Speech," who ascended the throne in December 1936 after his elder brother Edward VIII abdicated after Parliament presented him with the choice of remaining on the throne or marrying his twice-divorced American inamorata Wallis Simpson.

His queen consort Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the mother of the current queen, was very close to William and he adored her. Below her statue, a few people had laid bouquets; and one person placed a little box of what looked to me like mums, with a photo of Wills and Kate on it, a touching homage and a nice way of including William's great-gran in his wedding festivities.

I'll post a photo in one of my hats soon!

Monday, April 25, 2011

I'm Off to the Royal Wedding!

As soon as Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their wedding date right around Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I made plans to be in London for the royal "I do's." Having written four books on royal romances, relationships, and scandals thus far*, with a fourth under contract (and which will have a chapter on William and Kate's romance), it was a dream to be able to soak up the atmosphere and pageantry of the grand event.

We lucked out on renting an apartment. Not only will we be right around the corner from Buckingham Palace, abutting the royal mews,

but we are also a stone's throw from the elegant Goring Hotel where Kate Middleton will be joining her family, spending her final night as singleton and as a commoner.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for me, giving numerous interviews to radio and television stations across the U.S. about the royal wedding plans, William and Kate's relationship, and about past royal weddings and marriages. It's a dream job, and the cherry on the sundae is that I will be appearing on national television from London as a guest expert on CBS nightly news, interviewed by the lovely Michelle Miller. Air date is likely Monday, April 25.

It's been thirty years since the last major royal wedding -- that of William's parents, then thirty-two-year-old Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, barely twenty. Theirs was really an arranged marriage as most royal unions throughout history were, and bore all the hallmarks of one, starting with the fact that the groom was still in love with his longtime inamorata, Camilla Parker Bowles. As the Waleses' marriage became rocky and Diana would become unfaithful as well, she publicly lamented on broadcast television, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." She and Charles were divorced in 1996, and one year later, she was tragically killed in an automobile accident in Paris.

The marriage of her oldest son, a young man whom she described when he was just a little boy as being an old soul and so much like herself, to a lovely woman of his own choosing, a woman who is his own age, his former college classmate, housemate, and for all we know, his soulmate as well, brings a sense of closure to the wounds the world felt at Diana's passing, leaving behind a teenage son (and his younger brother Prince Harry of course), whose one-word bereavement card that read "Mummy," placed atop her lily-bedecked coffin told you all you needed to know about the depth of feeling William had for his mother.

A deeply romantic and keenly sensitive young man, one reason he waited so long to propose to Kate was that he wanted to ease her into the family and try as much as he could to make sure that she would not become a victim of the media frenzy that he felt had murdered his mother; that she understood what sort of a lifelong lifestyle commitment she would be making; their marriage would not be just the two of them, and perhaps a few kids, like other couples. Giving Kate Diana's 18-carat sapphire and diamond engagement ring was another way of including his mother in the celebration. At first I wondered about his judgment; after all, Diana had a miserable marriage -- mightn't the ring be bad luck? But Diana chose that ring herself (and took a lot of flak for it initially, from the Windsors). So, good on William (and Diana)!

I've been telling all these broadcast journalists that Kate and William's story is not a Cinderella story, as some of the press would like to spin it. For one thing, Cinderella went from rags to riches. Kate, although she is a commoner (as was Diana; a commoner is anyone not of royal blood -- although Kate was born into the middle class and Diana was the daughter of an earl). Kate is going from riches to royalty, thanks to an entrepreneurial mother and a father who was game enough and wise enough to stand beside his spouse and support her goal to build a mail order party planning business after the pair of them enjoyed careers in aviation.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Carole Middleton. For starters, we share a maiden name: Goldsmith. I applaud her enterprising spirit, her talent, and her ambition, even if she does have a bit of Jane Austen's Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) in her. And besides, just as Mr. Bingley genuinely fell in love with Jane Bennet after her mother sent her over to Netherfield in the rain, William genuinely fell in love with Catherine Elizabeth Middleton after her mother encouraged her to enroll at St. Andrew's (rather than the University of Edinburgh, which had a better History of Art program), because the prince was going to St. Andrews.

Kate had been a fan of William throughout her girlhood. And her grades from the posh Marlborough College (a private high school) were good enough to permit her to enroll anywhere. So why begrudge her the opportunity to befriend England's heir presumptive? Kate in fact makes history as the first college-educated future Queen of England.

Another reason William and Kate's romance isn't a fairy tale is that it's all too real and relatable. In fairy tales the handsome prince and beautiful princess barely know each other before they get married and; so the story ends, "live happily ever after." In Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the poor girl receives a kiss while she's non compos mentis and that passes for courtship. Even poor Diana got more than that. But Kate and William's relationship developed organically over time and weathered two breakups with the eyes of the world upon them as well as tremendous pressure to wed on the media's timetable rather than their own. They met nearly a decade ago and have been a couple since 2002, living together while they were in college. Kate is practically a decade older than Diana was when she married Charles and has more maturity and life experience. She's also had several years, rather than a few dates (and always within a crowd), to get to know her prince.

And William is not Charles. He is an atypical Windsor, more "warm and fuzzy," like his mother was. Against Charles's wishes, Diana insisted that their sons go to school with other children from their earliest years and that they always be keenly aware of the less advantaged. This lesson has paid off. William is a mensch.

Here's the link to my interview with Michelle Miller that aired on CBS Nightly News with Katie Couric on Monday, April 25. The text is a mashup of what was voiceover narration and actual interview quotes, but I believe you can click to play the video of the footage that actually aired.

Here's a link (I think). The text takes what was narrated in voiceover, plus what was actually said in the interview, but I believe you can click to play the video footage of what actually ran on air tonight.

So, what about you? Are you looking forward to the royal wedding on April 29, 2011 and will you be watching it? Did you watch Charles and Diana's wedding?

*for NAL, ROYAL AFFAIRS (2008), NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES (2010), and ROYAL PAINS (just published last month); and exclusive to Barnes & Noble, THE ROYALS: The Lives and Loves of the British Monarchs (a big, illustrated "coffee table" volume containing facsimiles of historical memorabila that you can take out of envelopes and peruse, due out this October, I believe. The last section is on William and Kate); and my wip, ROYAL ROMANCES: Titillating Tales of Passion and Power in the Palaces of Europe (also for NAL)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ROYAL PAINS now on sale

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Leslie Carroll’s third nonfiction title about scandalous royals,

A Rogues’ Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds

is now available wherever books are sold!

In a world where sibling rivalry knows no bounds
and excess is never enough, meet some of history’s boldest, baddest, and bawdiest royals!

The bad seeds on the family trees of the most powerful royal houses of Europe often became the rottenest of apples. In an effort to stave off wrinkles, sixteenth-century Hungarian Countess Erzsébet Báthory bathed in the blood of virgins, and for kicks and giggles devised even more ingenious forms of torture than the über-violent autocrats Vlad (the Impaler) Dracula and Ivan the Terrible had ever imagined. Lettice Knollys strove to mimic the appearance of her cousin Elizabeth I and even stole her man. The Duke of Cumberland’s sexcapades and subsequent clandestine marriage led to a law that still binds England’s royal family. And the libidinous Pauline Bonaparte scandalized her imperial brother by having herself sculpted nearly nude and commissioning a golden drinking goblet fashioned in the shape of her breast.

Chock-full of shocking scenes, titillating tales, and wildly wicked nobles, Royal Pains is a rollicking compendium of the most infamous, capricious, and insatiable bluebloods of Europe.


Praise for Leslie Carroll’s 2010 title, Notorious Royal Marriages

“For those who tackled Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and can’t get enough of the scandal surrounding Henry VIII’s wives, [Notorious Royal Marriages is] the perfect companion book.”—The New Yorker

“Carroll writes with verve and wit about the passionate—and occasionally perilous—events that occur when royals wed.”—Chicago Tribune (5 stars)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

William and Kate's Engagement: Why It's Historical

On November 16, Prince William of Wales announced his engagement to his girlfriend of more than eight years, Catherine (Kate) Middleton. It was the moment that millions had been waiting for with bated breath.

Royal-watchers released said breath with a joyful exhalation and then began bloviating about what it all meant (mine to follow); and manufacturers from Stoke-on-Trent to Shanghai released the work orders for the commemorative tchotchkes: the tea towels, plates, thimbles, and spoons, and all manner of junk that in fifty years' time will become treasured scraps of memorabilia.

But there is something exciting about a royal wedding, especially this royal wedding. William's parents did not wed in love. On July 29, 1981, when those of us who watched Charles and Diana walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, could we have imagined the sorrow that lay ahead and the tragedy that would end Diana's life at the age of 36? William and Kate give us the chance to believe in a royal happily-ever-after again.

And there is an added significance to William's choice of bride. You've heard ad nauseum that Kate Middleton (she will be known as Princess Catherine after her royal wedding on April 29, 2011) is a "commoner."

Well, Diana, was a commoner, too. So was Elizabeth the Queen Mum, born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. A commoner is someone who is not of royal birth. BUT in the past, the heirs to the throne have wed commoners who were born to the purple, so to speak, women of noble lineage. For example, the Queen Mum was the daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Diana's father was the eighth Earl Spencer and her noble lineage goes back several generations farther than the Windsors' does.

What makes Kate Middleton special is that her background is not remotely aristocratic. Her father Michael was a flight dispatcher and airline officer for BA, where her mother Carole (née Goldsmith, as was I -- so I'll be eagerly anticipating my wedding invitation) was a flight attendant. The entrepreneurial Carole Middleton later started a party planning company for children, Party Pieces, which took off, so to speak, landing the family in financial clover. Consequently, through the dint of her parents' hard work, Kate was able to grow up in soft surroundings and attend the best schools.

The last time an heir presumptive to the British throne wed a true commoner--one absent all aristocratic blood--was in 1660 when James, Duke of York, the younger brother of Charles II (and the future James II; 1633-1701), clandestinely wed the zaftig brunette Anne Hyde (1637-1671).

Here's the story of James and Anne, excerpted from my book ROYAL AFFAIRS: A Lusty Romp Through the Extramarital Adventures That Rocked the British Monarchy.

The prodigiously buxom and flirtatious Anne Hyde was the daughter of Edward Hyde, a Wiltshire lawyer who turned to politics, becoming Charles II’s chancellor. Her contemporaries noted her intelligence, though they admitted she was not very pretty; in fact, Anne was most often described as a cow. A hearty eater during an era when slenderness was the vogue at court, the girl’s booty came in for some serious ribbing in a popular rhyme:

With chanc’lor’s belly, and so large a rump,
There, not behind the coach, her pages jump.

For several years before the Restoration, Anne had been a maid of honor to Mary, the Princess Royal, sister of Charles and James. But it was in Paris at the exiled court of the Queen Mother Henrietta Maria where Anne first met Mary’s brother James, the Duke of York.

The stuttering duke was stiff and reserved, with a downer of a personality, but by all accounts, James, tall, blue-eyed, and fair, was even more of a rake than his less classically handsome brother, Charles. It certainly wasn’t charm or affability that was the chick magnet—in fact, James was considered rather slow and plodding, particularly compared to the exceptionally bright and witty Charles. But then again, James didn’t attract the beauties of the age, as did his elder brother. On James’s embracing of Catholicism as well as loose women, Charles observed, “My brother will lose his throne for his principles and his soul for a bunch of ugly trollops.” He jested that James’s mistresses were so universally hideous that his priests must have given them to the duke as penance.

With Anne Hyde, however, “dismal Jimmy” (as Charles’s famously clever mistress Nell Gwyn called him) must have scintillated. Apparently their affair grew passionate after the exiled court had moved to The Hague. After the Restoration, Anne’s father sent for her, and she returned to London, fat and glowing—but as Anne was always fat and glowing, her father didn’t notice that she was also pregnant.

Hyde should have congratulated himself on the fact that his daughter had inherited his canny political skills, because in August 1659, Anne had successfully convinced the duke to sign a marriage contract. After that, they cohabited intermittently and clandestinely as man and wife.
On Anne’s return to England, realizing they’d be caught sooner or later, James sneaked into Worcester House, her father’s home, with an Anglican chaplain in tow. The chaplain married Anne and James in a private ceremony on September 3, 1660. Only after they were legally wed did Anne’s new husband throw himself upon the king’s mercy, begging him to allow them to publicly marry.

King Charles summoned Chancellor Hyde, a portly Polonius who had known nothing of his daughter’s affairs until the news was broken to him by two of his friends, the Marquis of Ormonde and the Earl of Southampton. Hyde assured the monarch that as soon as he got home to Worcester House, he would toss Anne out into the street as a strumpet. At the suggestion that Anne might actually be married, the politician then changed his tack, ranting that he would sooner see his daughter be the king’s whore than the duke’s wife—and if Anne were really married to James, she should be thrown into a dungeon in the Tower of London and an Act of Parliament passed to behead her.

“And I shall be the first man to propose that to Parliament!” Hyde shouted.

Charles endeavored to smooth things over, but poor Anne ended up locked in her room. However, Anne’s sympathetic mother managed to sneak the duke into her daughter’s chamber for conjugal visits.

But Anne, a mere commoner, had unintentionally created an international incident.
The Queen Mum, Henrietta Maria, came over from Paris “to prevent so great a stain and dishonor to the Crown.” Then a group of courtiers was enlisted to convince James of his wife’s rampant promiscuity—and therefore, her unsuitability to be his duchess. Anne was traduced by men who had never even met her, all claiming to have bedded her. It seemed that every man in England had crawled out of the woodwork to testify to Anne’s lasciviousness, each sworn statement more outlandish than the last.

Charles didn’t believe a word of it, and assured his increasingly livid chancellor that his daughter was being unjustly slandered. As Anne lay abed, the birth of her baby imminent, the king sent his most trusted ladies to attend her.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Anne, shrieking with labor pains, was forced to endure another torment. The oh-so-sensitive Bishop of Winchester visited her bedside and demanded, “Whose child is it of which you are in labor? Have you known any man other than the Duke of York?” Anne responded in the negative, and probably spat out a lot of other negative things to the bishop besides.

Enter Henrietta Maria, in high dudgeon at Dover, ready to defend her son’s good name and tar Chancellor Hyde with the brush of treachery for daring to marry an undeserving creature of his own lowly brood into the royal house—little realizing that she and the chancellor were on the same side.

Charles stepped in and averted a crisis by making Hyde a baron, with a gift of £20,000 (well over $4.3 million today) to sustain the honor. By the time the groom’s mother reached London, she was greeted by the bride’s father, now Baron Hyde of Hindon, a peer of the realm. The following year Charles made Hyde Earl of Clarendon.

The dowager queen’s argument about the worthiness of Anne Hyde’s family had thus been gracefully nipped in the bud, and eventually, Henrietta Maria grew to accept her new daughter-in-law.

Anne was clearly the dominant partner in the marriage, yet she could not prevent James from returning to his rakish ways soon after their union was legalized in the eyes of family and state. “The duke is in all things but his codpiece led by the nose,” Samuel Pepys observed.

Anne coped with her husband’s frequent infidelities by overeating. She was also perpetually pregnant, giving birth to eight children in nearly as many years, but only two daughters, Mary and Anne, survived to adulthood. The rest died in infancy.

After suffering from cancer for three years, Anne finally succumbed to the disease in 1671, a few weeks after giving birth to her eighth child. In her final days, she also became a secret convert to Catholicism.

One evening after enjoying a hearty dinner at Burlington House, Anne retired to pray, and then collapsed in the chapel. A frantic James sent for the Bishop of Oxford, but by the time he arrived, Anne was incoherent.

She died at St. James’s Palace in her husband’s arms, with the words “Duke, Duke, death is terrible. Death is very terrible.” She was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Anne’s two daughters each went on to become Queen of England, and both would make their mark in British history. Mary, born on April 30, 1662, would marry William of Orange and become a key player in the Glorious Revolution that would overthrow her own father and place herself and her husband on the English throne. Her younger sister, Anne, born on the sixth of February in 1665, would inherit her mother’s corpulence as well as her father’s crown. Under Queen Anne, England and Scotland were combined into a single nation in the Act of Union signed on May 1, 1707, thereby making Anne Hyde’s younger daughter—the issue of the woman who was such a “stain and dishonor to the Crown”—the first monarch of Great Britain.

So, are you a royal watcher? Do the impending nuptials of William and Kate have you excited or are you more fascinated with their place in the pageant of history?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Congratulations, William and Kate

At last -- the romantic moment that royal watchers have been awaiting for months, if not years!

Prince William, England's heir presumptive, popped the question to his longtime girlfriend, the lovely Kate Middleton.

We wish the couple all the joy in the world

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And the winner of Pearson's Elven Princess Tiara is...



Send me a photo of you wearing the tiara to the office -- tongue-in-cheek, and all!!