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Return to the Roots: FBTB's Future

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I started writing From Berkshire to Buckingham in April of 2011, so it has been chugging along for over four years now, which is a little hard to believe. I have been astounded by the growth of this site, and, of course, very gratified by it. In addition to my interest in royalty, I love travel and people, so it is a delight for me to pop by my Google Analytics every now and again and just browse the geographical dots. At any given time I see check-ins from all over the globe, and I muse about your far-off countries (or nearby states) and hope you are well.  As I write this, Ludhiana, India is on; Durban, South Africa; Clisson, France; Virginia Beach...;)  I don't know your names, or your faces, but I "see" you and I appreciate that you are here!  

In 2014, I gave a tremendous amount of attention to my "royal work" and poured significant energy into FBTB, and in the latter half of 2014, built Kate's Clothes.

August 2015 has, however, seen me take on a huge "project" in my personal life, which has forced me to reorganize my commitments and my time management. Inevitably, my blogs--which are very time-consuming--had to be included in this inspection and reorganization. I struggled much of the summer trying to decide whether it was time for me to let go of these spaces as my life transitions. Now that la rentrée has arrived, I have come to a decision.

The problem is that I really love writing FBTB. I love writing it for my readers, I love writing it for myself, and I just didn't want to give it up. I started thinking about why I blog and what I want from the blog, and where I see the blog going in the future. I realized that to keep this space alive, I have to go back to the roots, back to the source of my motivation.

Royal watching has always been my little escape from the grind and for four years From Berkshire to Buckingham has been my retreat space. I come to the blog to sink into an alternate world, to write and design, and to present engaging and entertaining material which essentially distracts and pleases. I began this site to share my interest in Kate's life, my admiration for her beauty, and my passion for the history behind her role as a princess. I wanted to more fully participate and enjoy the fairy tale with those who were equally "starry-eyed." This site is an unabashed indulgence in princess-watching.

It follows that FBTB is not a space for clinical discussion of the roles of the royal family juxtaposed against the needs of the world, or to contrast Kate's clothes budget against the needs of children starving in 3rd world countries. The majority of my life is consumed by attention to and study of many of these issues. I appreciate there is a more serious life reality, from conflict in the Middle East and the plight of enthno-religious minorities, to political tension and turmoils at home. But, this space is where I take a break, and I hope you do, too. We are here to break from whatever troubles you, whatever worries you, whatever weighs on you throughout your days. Here it is la vie en rose. Here we think about castles and history, tea and scones, designers and dresses. 

I want to make sure the focus stays there. Both in the content and in the comments. The comment section has reflected the organic and evolving nature of blogging over the past four years. Its flavor is in constant motion. In the last few years, we have tended to talk more about Kate's work ethic or the way in which she balances motherhood and her role as a royal. I have always welcomed these topics. I am not disturbed by controversy and I have a pretty thick skin. At the same time, though, it has been the cause of more than several disagreements and a few--not many--unpleasant moments.

Part of this is due to the anonymity of the cyber-world. We have some people who come to comment simply to cause strife in our little kingdom. It can be hard to tell who is a good fairy or a bad one until the plot is pretty fully developed, and by that time we have often taken a bite of the apple and descended into comment chaos. 

So here is what I have decided. We are going back to the basics. I want to talk about fashion, which is the primary focus of the blog anyway. In fashion I welcome all comments, as always, charitably expressed. Do you love the dress? Do you hate the dress? Does it remind you of your aunt's sofa? Does it make you think of Marie-Antoinette? Has Kate changed her style recently? Did she wear that color as a tribute to her hosts? Why haven't we seen Kate wear Ralph Lauren in public much, even though she seems so fond of the label in private? And on, and on, and on. That's the fashion side.

As to Kate's personal life, this is where I am going to tighten it up a little. I want to muse about her day-to-day. I want to know if you think she invited neighborhood children to George's party, or kept it strictly family & friends. I would love to hear if you think she juices or if that was just an urban legend. Where will she vacation next, and why?

Topics we will no longer host at From Berkshire to Buckingham, or elements that will disqualify an otherwise great comment:
  • The state of Kate's marriage. Kate's fidelity or William's fidelity. It is a very serious thing to wonder if a marriage is having trouble, and it ought not to be done unless there is significant evidence to support it. Even then, better to quietly confide one's concerns to a close friend than to muse publicly. No comment, no matter how perfect in every other respect, will be approved if it suggests (or wonders) if William is unfaithful to Kate, or if Kate is unfaithful to William, or unhappy in her marriage, or any such twist on that theme.  
  • Whether Kate works enough. Still off-limits.
  • Any abusive or foul language. I have no tolerance for it and I won't approve a comment that includes it.
  • Any attack on a fellow reader, or their opinion, which is an extension of their person in this forum. (And law school lingo begins to creep in...) "JaneDoe, that is just an idiotic remark." or "JaneDoe, I wonder how anyone could hold such an absurd position." Let's be honest, you might as well say, "JaneDoe. You are a moron." You can think that, you just can't say that out loud. :) This has actually been a big issue in the comments section, and some of you may be doing it without realizing, so be aware as we move forward that this will disqualify future comments. Instead, if you don't love JaneDoe's perspective, please address the facts. "I think that is an interesting point, but I see it a little differently. I think..." Do not address the person's motives for writing. 
  • I am also tightening up the comments about other members of the royal family. People say things online that they would not say sitting around a living room with a teacup in hand. We will extend a general rule that all subjects of the blog must be discussed as if they will sit down later this evening and read every comment. Please word your comments accordingly, i.e. with kindness and thoughtfulness to their feelings. 
  • If I approved a comment it does not mean that I agree with it, but it does mean that I found it fell within the rules by enough to go live. Please do not play the umpire. I am the final arbiter, and if you are unhappy with my decision, avail yourself of my readily accessible email and tell me why I am wrong. An email means that I can actually address your objection to you. If you write an anonymous post, it is likely I will simply delete it and keep moving, no matter how much I would like to point out to you why I made the choice.
Most basically, be kind. Be polite. Interact in charity. If you are upset, cool down first. If you want to smack someone down, pause and wonder if you'd say it to their face (and be honest about that!). Even if you decide you would say it to their face, don't. Assume the good in others at all times. Always read a comment with the kindest spin. Be kind even if you feel someone has been unkind toward you.

I think that sums up the fruit of my reflection over the past few months. I know that many still want to have these more spirited discussions, and so I am excited to say that I have a new project I hope to launch toward the end of the month that might give you an outlet for a little more real-time discussion on topics that are not as welcome on the blog. So, keep a weather eye out for that! Details will follow.

In conclusion, I thought perhaps that I could not balance the blog, but I have found so far that it has been--as it has through more than a few valleys over the past four years--a huge comfort in its continuity. I don't have as much time as I once did, but it seems more than ever it fulfills its early purpose, and I look forward to the days I can sneak away to blog here. So, I will continue to write, and when I have time I hope to wade into the comments more, and I look forward to moving forward with a little more clarity.

This week, we will continue the "Who Will Kate Wear" series by looking at designers Kate likes, but hasn't tapped as much for super formal wear. 

What Will Kate Wear to the State Banquet: Jenny Packham

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Good morning! We continue our "What Will Kate Wear to the State Banquet" series by looking at the next possible candidate in the race to design the dress. Last time, we chatted about the lead candidate--the horse out ahead of the pack--and that is, of course, Alexander McQueen. Tonight, we turn to another worthy possibility:  the Queen of Kate's evening wear, Jenny Packham. (Kate wore this black Jenny P at a State Reception Down Under. It isn't floor length, and so is not included, but it is an evening event at which Kate went with JP.)

I know what you are thinking. Last time, we discovered that Kate has actually debuted more McQueen evening gowns than any other designer, but... I think that Packham retains the crown for Queen of the Night because she has designed for some really big events--more big evening events than McQueen. Perhaps more accurately, we could say that she has had a magic concoction of high-profile events and really head turning designs. Let's look over the dresses to get a sense of what his means.

On her very first public event as a royal, the very first, Kate and William were slated to attend the ARK Gala. That was a huge, historical, iconic moment. Kate wore this shimmering Packham gown that remains to this day, a favorite for many. 

It was almost a year later that she wore her second JP evening gown, but it was another stunner. In May 2012, she wore the teal Jenny P to the Our Greatest Team Rises gala, and it dazzled. I think this is my favorite evening gown. I am still head over heels with it, and it continues to wow me despite my familiarity with it. 

In 2013, Kate had another big event on her calendar. Her come-back after George's birth was the hotly anticipated Tusk Trust gala. This was the longest dry-patch we had experienced since (what will become) a life-time of being spoiled rotten commenced on the 29th of April in 2011. She turned to Jenny Packham again, debuting this super-sparkly column dress. Was I super-duper in love with the dress? I won't go that far, but (to use a colloquial turn of phrase at which my mother would purse her lips) Kate looked pretty smoking, so there was that.

It was just the next month that she debuted what turned out to be a very popular dress. On an evening out (in? The event was held in the KP State Apartments...) for 101 Women in Hedge Funds and Action Addiction, Kate debuted an ink-blue Jenny Packham. We loved it at the time, but fans were a little disappointed that we didn't get a better look at the stunner. The lighting wasn't ideal, and as is generally the case when Kate attends an evening of this sort, pictures were scarce. 

Little did we know, we had nothing to worry about.  Kate gave this dress the good ol' Royal-Repeat when she wore it in February of 2014 on her first public engagement of that year. It was a notable appearance because she paired it with the eye-watering Nizam of Hyderabad necklace on loan from the Queen. Kate almost never wears bling of this degree, and it was a bit of a random one-off. I have no idea what precipitated it, nor why she never went back, thankful for small blessings. It was fun and unexpected! 

It would have been within reason to think that was it for the ink-blue Jenny P. It was a beauty and it got its fair shake. Ha! Kate the Great never ceases to amaze. Who would have thought that on the final night of her hugely popular tour of NYC, at the glittering and imposing Metropolitan Museum of Art, that Kate would wear anything but a new, custom design? Not so. Kate pulled a three-peat. It couldn't have been more fabulous. With her hair swept up and with new, dazzling emeralds dripping from her ears, Kate was every inch the princess. It was almost as if the confidence of the recycle made her even more amazing. I think we were all wowed. Well done, Your Grace. 

This (St. Andrews 600th) was the last time we saw Kate in a Jenny Packham evening gown, but let us not forget that between the repeat and the three-peat, she wore one other Jenny Packham dress that was floor-length. That would be this, her most unusual gown. Many speculate, and I am of the same mind, that Kate had this dress made for her trip to Malta, which was regrettably canceled due to her HG with Charlotte. It certainly would have been perfect for a Mediterranean night!

So, to sum up. Yes, McQueen has the larger evening gown count if we are considering debuts only, Packham squeaks by McQueen in the count if we consider appearances only, and I would argue that Packham has beaten McQueen in the "quality" i.e. notoriety of the events. You will see photos of Kate waving on the steps of the Met in NYC, pregnant with her second child, far more than you will of Kate presenting a quick award for BBC. (No disrespect to that event.) You will see far more photos of Kate in that teal bridal gown than you will the hibiscus Belle dress--again, no disrespect to Malaysia. Although I am not suggesting Jenny will snag eh State Banquet, she still rules the night. 

Next up, we will discuss, ahem, third tier possibilities. I haven't gotten a chance to respond to the comments, and likely will not be able to given how much work I have on this end, but I have enjoyed so many of the comments on the possibilities, and agree with many solid points that have been made. We will sum up some of those in the final post of this series. 

What Will Kate Wear to the State Banquet: McQueen

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Just over the past weekend, we discovered that Kate will be attending the State Banquet this October, when the president of China visits Britain in October. We are still waiting to hear the exact date, but while we wait I think everyone's thoughts have turned to, what will Kate wear? That's a hard question to answer beyond the obvious: a floor length evening gown. It is fun, however, to speculate on who Kate will wear and with that in mind, I am undertaking a series of posts examining the labels that are the most likely contenders.

Glitz & Glamour: A State Banquet at Buckingham Palace

Let's start with the strongest possibility: Alexander McQueen (Sarah Burton). We think of Jenny Packham for evening wear, and although we will discuss Packham in the next post, Kate has actually worn more McQueen, if we count the dresses rather than the appearances. Let's review all six of the McQueen gowns in chronological order. I have linked each appearance to its corresponding ensemble page on my wardrobe website Kate's Clothes, and I have linked directly to the individual item, as well. You can follow either of the links for each ensemble to learn more about the event or about the dress. 

The first gown was, of course, the ball gown the brand new princess donned for her wedding reception. This dress often gets lost in the shuffle or overshadowed by the star of the show earlier in the day, but it was a separate piece all its own:

The pressure to look her very best was certainly high when Kate visited (arguably) the capital of glamour, Hollywood.  Tom Ford and a host of American designers had been named as possible options for Kate to choose for her appearance at the BAFTA "Brits to Watch" evening, but the Duchess flew the British flag in a simple, but gorgeous lilac evening gown from Alexander McQueen. I think we can safely say, she stunned the stars.

In December of 2011, she wore her third McQueen gown as she attended the Millies with William and Harry. The dress was a customized, black velvet which strongly echoed Princess Diana's similar gown early in her own royal life. Kate paired the gown with a sparkling necklace and matching bracelet from Mouawad:

In 2012, while touring South East Asia, Kate and William were the guests of honor at a State Banquet. Kate did not wear a tiara, but she did debut a bespoke gown from McQueen. This one was decorated in golden hibiscus flowers--the official flower of Malaysia. 

Leaving her sickbed briefly, Kate presented at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in the late fall of 2012. She once again wore McQueen, this time a floor length dress in deep, forest green with a slit up the front. Again, this dress gets a little lost in the shuffle, but had Kate been feeling better, she would have made a more thorough appearance and this would have had better exposure. 

The final McQueen evening gown that Kate has worn publicly was to the Diplomats' Reception at Buckingham Palace in 2013. (NB: this was not a State Banquet, as has been suggested in some comments.) We only caught a glimpse, but the dress featured lots of lace. This also happened to be the only time other than on her wedding day that Kate has worn a tiara. (Again, reflecting some comments from earlier posts, since the Diplomats' Reception was a different kind of event, we didn't get inside pictures. We will get pictures from the upcoming State Banquet.)

I think it is almost out of the question that Kate would recycle. Her first State Banquet at Buckingham Palace, and presumably in a tiara, seems to demand a brand new, and likely bespoke dress. McQueen would be a very good guess, but it would not be fair to say the only possibility. Join me next time as we look at other labels who have a chance at dressing Kate for the State Banquet!

P.S. the comment section has gotten a bit volatile. I will address this in a post later this week. For the moment, please abide (or continue to abide) by the comment guidelines. :) 

The Mystery of Missing Kate

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Good evening! Well, I had planned a different post for today, but the mystery of Kate missing the wedding has more or less eclipsed all else. I apologize for the confusion in the last post. A lot of weird details flew about and several of them surfaced after I had posted. Let's just pop through what we know at the moment, since I know there are a lot of different ideas running around. 

We have it on very solid authority that Kate was supposed to be at the weekend wedding in Thurlestone. Sebastian Shakespeare is quite a good source when it comes to the celebrity social circuit. He claims that Kate was a no-show at the very last moment and that her name was still on the place-cards. 
The hosts appeared to have been informed so late that Kate’s name was still on the seating plan at the reception in a marquee overlooking the village green. ‘The names William and Catherine Wales were written on the plan, which appeared on an antique-looking mirror,’ a source claims. ‘They were due to sit at the top table. Kate had been expected to attend.'
As a side note, I am a little charmed to see that the Cambridges continue to go by "Wales." As you may recall, the story went that William introduced Kate to the guests at this wedding reception as "Mrs. Wales." Of course, we also have heard that Kate has used her current title as a surname as well, os I suspect their is an element of interchangeability and perhaps transition. In any event, a cute detail that I very much enjoyed. Back to the story.

So,  we have it on good authority that Kate had planned to be there. There were multiple reports that Kate was spotted with William on the train down to Devon (not Cornwall. ;)). Unfortunately, this is a little harder to verify, but ultimately, it might not be terribly important. 

William did show, but there are two different reports. One said he came alone, but the Sebastian report seems to suggest that Pippa, rather than just happening to be at the same wedding, actually filled in for Kate as Will's date. Does this mean she sat at the head table with him? I don't know. But the implication in the Daily mail articles is that she did. 

Again, this isn't super important to know, but it could tell us whether Kate had some warning that she wouldn't be able to attend. Did she have a day to ring up Pips and say, "Sis, I need you to pinch hit for me. William needs a buddy. Can you book it down to Devon?" Or, was it the morning of the big-do that Kate backed out,a nd did the hosts, not wanting to shuffle the seating, just moved the royal's sister-in-law to the head table? 

I do not find it strange that William and Pippa spent the weekend together. If William was without Kate, and Pippa was without any date, it makes sense they would stick together. They are, after all, family, and no one likes to float about alone at a wedding. 

I also do not find it odd that William stayed the entire weekend. Why should he rush home just because Kate was not there? He had two reasons for staying on: his own personal enjoyment, and consideration for his hosts. 

Let us assume that Kate was unable to make the event for some reason other than a deathly malady that would demand William's presence at her sickbed. Wouldn't she urge him to enjoy the weekend as planned? Wouldn't you urge a loved one to do the same? Isn't love actually willing the good of another? Selflessly? Wherever Kate was, I am sure she was comfortable and safe. Just because she could not make the weekend does not mean that she wouldn't urge William to proceed as planned. Plus, if Pippa was going solo, expecting to be kept company by her family, Kate would take Pippa's feelings and comfort into consideration, as well. I would urge my spouse to look out for my little sister, too. Some things don't change, no matter how "adult" you are.

The second consideration, is of course, that William and Kate were obviously going to be the celebrity guests. Every party has a few people on the list who are particularly fun or exciting. If those particular guests bail, it is a disappointment. So, losing Kate was bad enough. William probably felt a renewed need to stay to the bitter end of the festivities so as not to further dampen the fun and the festivities. Nothing odd here at all. He was gracious in attending the entire weekend as planned. 

So finally, the million dollar question. Where was Kate? To which I respond, I don't know---but, does it matter? The most obvious likelihood is that either she, or one of her children, was taken ill. It happens even to royals. Life has a weird way of springing those things at the most inopportune of times.

Nothing suggests there is trouble in paradise. Au contraire, I believe that if William and Kate were dealing with strain in their marriage, they would be at pains to project the opposite picture to the world, and so I think Kate would have been present and smiling. When you are truly on the rocks, you put on a good show. You paint a smile on your face, and you soldier through. There is absolutely nothing to suggest anything is amiss with the Waleses. 

This is a tempest in a teapot, a mountain made from a mole hill, whatever other charming sayings we have inherited from posterity. DOn't give it anymore mind. It happens, it was too bad, and I am sure that Kate was as disappointed as anyway, except maybe the bride. Kate owes her dinner at KP. 

Let's reconvene on Friday, all y'all.