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Can the Cambridges Travel in One Car? The Queen's Christmas Luncheon

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Today was the Queen's annual Christmas luncheon.  She hosts it every year at Buckingham Palace and invites her large extended family.  It is a lovely tradition that allows more distant relatives to get together and enjoy the splendor of Buckingham Palace, see the Queen, and celebrate this wonderful family holiday before HM departs to Sandringham for Christmas with her immediate family.  

We don't get pictures from inside this private family gathering, but it has become a tradition to enjoy the car photos of the royals arriving (and leaving).  This is another event where the car photos are de facto official. ;) 

The Cambridges arrived in separate cars.  William drove with George in the front seat and a security guard in the back.  Kate arrived in her sporty Audi hatch back with Charlotte peeking cheerfully from the back and baby Louis watching the excitement outside the car with open-mouthed wonder. Mr. Security was riding shot-gun. Quick fashion notes--Kate appears to be wearing Emilia Wickstead, and those are her beautiful Cassandra Goad pearl earrings. Interestingly she had ditched the earrings by the time the party was over (see the first picture in this post, which is actually a shot of her leaving. I liked it, so I led with it). 

There is a lot of speculation about why they arrived separately and the truth is we have no idea.  It could be just about anything.  It is possible they were off doing separate things in the morning, or they may have wanted an extra car for Nanny Maria to take home in case Louis had a meltdown midway through the meal. Who knows! It is not, however, mandated for security reasons or because they can't all fit in one car. They all travel in a single car with some regularity, and it isn't essential that security be in the car with them.  As is the case with diplomats and politicians, etc, the royals' cars are tailed by a back up car--they drive in a two-car convey, if you will. So, a guard could pop in the actual car, and often does, but they also could give a royal some space and drive in the car behind. 

As if to prove the point, the Cambridges left the event in a single car driven by William, with Kate in the front seat and their kids lined up in the back. Those little ones look a little spent, don't they? :) 

Harry and Meghan weren't there.  They are still on their 6-week break, which appears to be a break not just from the public, but from the BRF. I think that is healthy--that is not a criticism.  I thought it was interesting that one outlet said the couple are in an "undisclosed country."  I was wondering today if they could possibly still be in the U.S. after their Thanksgiving break here. If so, they have a remarkable ability to fly under the radar, but, they might very well be. It is possible to fly under the radar.  But, I wonder if they are off somewhere else? Maybe holidaying somewhere warm?  I don't know. There have been reports, too, that Meghan is using this break to ready a major initiative in the U.S., or an initiate that will have a major U.S. outreach component.  We will have to wait and see. 

Kate in Velvet at Diplomatic Reception + Why the Screen on Kate's Window?

Friday, December 13, 2019

This past Wednesday was the annual diplomatic reception at Buckingham Palace where the Queen hosted close to 1,000 guests from the diplomatic community.  The Queen, Charles and Camilla, and William and Kate were among the royals who attended. It is a major event on the royal calendar and something we all look forward to getting a peek at every year.

Kate has been experimenting more with her style for these major evening events in the last year or two--I am thinking of the pink Marchesa she wore to the State Banquet for Spain, the ruffled McQueen she wore to the Banquet for Trump, and even the ruched blue McQueen she wore for the Dutch State Visit.  Those have all been fresh and experimental for her, after years of trending toward the sequined Jenny Packham gowns.  Although the JPs have been beautiful, even I have been tiring a little of the same simple style (although last year's white gown for the Diplomatic Reception was stunning).  Just last month I was dreaming about how much I would have loved Kate's Royal Variety dress in full velvet, so you probably know that this McQueen dress was a huge win for me.

This dress is bespoke, but based off of a similar RTW style from the brand.  Someone asked me if the back has detailing, and as you can see from the lead photo above (zoomed in below), she does not have any panelling or lace on the back.  It is a very minimalist gown, leaving all the punch to come from the velvet and tailoring. I think it oozes old world glamour and sophistication.  It looks like something Greer Garson would wear in some golden-age black and white.  One of my girlfriends messaged me and reminded me of this picture (above) of Diana, too.  It's just a stunning dress, and that neckline perfectly frames the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace Kate wore years ago (on loan from HM).

Kate wore her Lovers' Knot tiara and new diamond earrings that we haven't seen her wear previously, as well as a large statement ring.  Kate used to love a good cocktail ring for a night out, but she abandoned statement jewelry like that after her engagement to William.  In the past few years we have seen her slowly begin to return to wearing large rings for formal functions, which I love.  There are hypotheses about these pieces, but the Queen's jewelry vault is not my area of expertise. Suffice to say both the earrings and the ring are almost certainly loaned from the Queen from the royal collection.  [insert shrug emoji here :)]  If you want to do a deep dive on all this, I commend you to Susan at What Kate Wore, who has presented the collective wisdom of the royal watching community and her own substantial expertise in her coverage of the evening. It's very interesting.  You should run over and check out that great post!

One of my favorite parts of the night was this shot James Whatling captured of Carole Middleton arriving at Kensington Palace before the Cambridges left for the party.  Grandma was on babysitting duty! 

The Car Screen 

Every year Kate has attended this event (and other major evening receptions at the Palace that are announced, but that have limited press access--or none at all) we have gotten car photos of the Cambridges as they leave Kensington Palace. Someone asked me why no one ever uses full length photos from several years ago, and the answer is because until last year, we never got pictures from inside this event (at least we haven't in the time Kate has been attending).  So the car photos are important.  On Wednesday, the first images of the Duchess that started to populate the picture agency websites (where people pay for pictures--more on that in a moment:)) showed that there was a screen across Kate's window that really obscured the shot.  I was very surprised and I hope in the future the Cambridges remove the screen.  We aren't quite sure why the screen was there. 

One option is that the screen was left in the window, the staff forgot to remove it, and Kate didn't think much about it.  It has been noted that the Queen had a screen up on her car in the last week or so, and I think this might be the same car; the royals have a fleet of Bentleys and Jaguars and share them.  So, this might be the same car, and they just forgot to remove the Queen's screen. That would an unusual oversight, but it is possible.

If the screen was placed deliberately, I think it was probably to force news agencies to run photos that included William.  His side of the car did not have a screen, and so photos from that side of the car were lovely and clear.  The royals night have been trying to focus the spotlight on the Cambridges as a power couple--the future of monarchy--amid all the bad press certain members of the BRF have drawn down lately.  It wouldn't be the first time they worked to steer the press toward the shot that would tell the Palace's preferred story.  I would certainly understand that, but I think it also had some negative messages staff might not have considered (if this was, indeed, deliberate). 

If it becomes the norm to obscure Kate's side of the window, que sera sera, but Wednesday night it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Although the royals are certainly allowed to have privacy in the car (like the Queen putting a screen up for her commute last week), car shots for events like this one are essentially part of the event.  Everyone expects to get them, and these are the kinds of shots for which the royals should smile and wave--I'd say they are part of the engagement and part of their royal duty to maintain good relationships with the people and press.  It looks in bad taste to deliberately block a shot like this.  

Blocking shots brings me to my final point, and one of the primary reasons I found this to be a bad move.  Photos don't take themselves.  I received a number of comments saying the screen was a "first world problem" or that "[the royals] released full shots right after," but real people take these photos.  Real people go out in the cold December night in London and they stand outside some uber-wealthy person's gates in the hope of capturing, in a split second, a good photo.  They then try to license (i.e. get people to pay to use) those photos.  A lot of people in the royal watching community take this for granted, and there are droves of fan accounts that share hundreds of photos they pulled from Google without a second thought to the fact the photos are someone's work product. But, photographers make their living off of these shots.  As a photographer you can't be in two places at once, so anyone queued up on Kate's side of the car got a screen blocking his or her shot.  For an event where the press are expected to wait outside for the care hot, and always do, it is important not to ruin the money shot for half of them.

One of the reasons people think this is a tempest in a teapot is because it is primarily inside baseball. I understand why many people don't think twice about where photos come from, or the "economy of reporting on royals," or even the ways the Palace might or might not be trying to shape the narrative. We are in the weeds here, but a lot of what I write about on this blog is the deep-dive. If you just care about the finished product, I can see why these details might be tedious or inconsequential (the average person picking up People in the grocery store line didn't think twice about a few bad photos), but if you are interested in the finer points about the royals' relationship with the press and the way PR is made, this type of thing is interesting and notable. 

A screen is bad look for a night like this--when press inside the event is limited, and photographers' single chance is the anticipated car shot.  Hopefully it was an oversight and next year Kate's side of the car is not obscured. :) 

Kate Picks Christmas Trees with the Kiddies; Carole Decorates at Party Pieces; NATO Reception

Friday, December 6, 2019

I thought these were patterned pants when I saw the image previews.  They are not patterned pants.

On Wednesday, the Queen passed along one of her longtime charities to her grand-daughter-in-law and future Queen, the Duchess of Cambridge. HM had been patron of Family Action for 65 years, and had inherited the role form Queen Mary, so it is quite the premier-royal-woman charity. 

Kate does themed dressing to perfection, and she looked the part of a stylish elf in a gorgeous green emerald sweater from Really Wild and her Perfect Moment Mini Duvet coat we’ve seen a number of times. Kate completed the look with her Berghaus Supalite II boots and simple gold hoop earrings she has worn a number of times, but for which there is no ID as of yet.   

This was such a festive and fun ensemble for an afternoon crouching down with near-toddlers and man-handling Christmas trees!  I love that Kate doesn't shy away from the obvious Christmas colors--she just dressed up as a Christmas tree.  I don’t mind a pretty snug skinny jean, as you all know, but it might have been the lighter wash of the jeans coupled with the short cut of the sweater, but I did find the fit a little distracting. I think most of us tend toward darker washes for more formal outings, and lighter, more worn jeans for these dressed down affairs, but I think a darker wash, or a longer coat would have made this a little more of a win in my book.

The same day, Party Pieces (the Middleton family business) posted a picture of Carole decorating a tree at the Party Pieces office in Berkshire. I loved the timing (Kate out picking Christmas trees/Carole decorating one), and that Carole featured herself.  I think the Middletons should feel comfortable being a little more active in public. Kate has been a royal for almost a decade and her family has the right to maintain a public profile.  I hope Carole's earlier feature in the Telegraph and this post are signs of more to come. 

Finally, just the night before, Kate attended the reception the Queen hosted at Buckingham Palace for leaders of NATO nations. It is always fun to see Kate, but these BP receptions are often disappointmenting in terms of pictures. We only got a few snaps of Kate, and she is obscured by the crush of the crowd in all of them.

We did get a bit of peek, though, at her Alexander McQueen dress, which featured (from what can be seen) a high neckline, tailored waist, and buttoned sleeves—maybe sleeves with a bit of a bell? I have seen a view of the dress from farther away, and it appears to go at least mid-calf. So for me, a lot depends on the length and movement. We will have to wait for a good recycle to get a proper look.

This week was my mom's second round of chemo.  I came to town to be with her through it. It was a rough go, and she has been pretty miserable; it has been very hard to watch. She has an aggressive and very resistant cancer, and we won't know until mid-December if the chemo is working. We continue to pray to God, through the intercession of his Blessed Mother, that He will heal her--that the cancer will respond to the chemo.  I always think of the Wedding Feast at Cana, when Jesus was not ready to begin His ministry, but one word from His mother and He changed the water to wine.  We just need one word from her. :)  Thank you for praying with us and for us.  I really struggled the first few weeks, but I have felt your prayer lately.  Sometimes, when I am lying in bed at night worrying, I remember how many of you are praying, and it gives me courage.  Thank you.    

William and Kate at the Royal Variety 2019

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Last Monday night, the Crown deployed its star couple to claw back some positive headlines after Prince Andrew's astounding BBC interview.  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge represented the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance.  This is the third time the couple has undertaken this special duty for Her Majesty, who is the patron.  The two made their first appearance in 2014 and again in 2017--both times Kate was pregnant!  This year Kate is not pregnant (sadly), but still stole the show in a striking bespoke Alexander McQueen.

This gown really took my breath away when I saw the video of her emerging from her car.  It is perfectly fitted to highlight her incredible figure, and the lace overlay was eye-catching to say the least. 

It was that particular lace pattern over the nude lining, though, that was ultimately the only drawback for me. The pattern was a little too "scarce."  I don't like lace where the actual floral or design is sparse leaving most of the material as large swaths of netting. I think the pattern and the prominence of the lining gave the dress a decidedly sexual vibe, and ultimately looked a little cheap to me.  I am all for some good va va voom from Kate, but the vibe on this one wasn't the right kind of oh la la.  The structure, the peaked sleeves, the velvet trim, the neckline--everything else was magnificent. This would have been my dream dress with a closer lace pattern, or even full velvet! The structure of the dress was so stunning it saved the look, and so although this is not my favorite, I still liked it. But, it wasn't a home run for me. 

Kate was wearing her bold Erdem earrings, and carried her Jimmy Choo "Celeste" clutch in velvet and wore her Romy 100 heels from Choo as well.  

Meghan & Harry's PR Strategy That Backfired: Lawsuits and Africa Documentary

Friday, November 15, 2019

It has now been a little more than a month since Harry and Meghan stunned their family and the world by ending their tour of Africa with an announcement they were suing the media. Harry's explosive statement was a declaration of war that took his family, the media, and the public entirely off guard.  Several weeks later the couple took a sudden new tack, exposing vulnerabilities, stress, and mental strain in a documentary they had filmed while in Africa.

I think the suits against the media and the release of the documentary constitute a planned PR strategy, probably built by Latham and Meghan's American PR firm, that has gone horribly wrong.  If I am right, the strategy has two prongs.  The first was to aggressively attack and wound the media with the lawsuits and the second was/is to woo back the public with the two's personal testimonies in the documentary. I think both prongs have backfired.  But, let's rewind briefly to see what the situation was that led the couple to need this plan to begin with.

How Did the Sussexes Get to This Point?

I frankly think that Meghan got off on the wrong foot with many Brits and royal fans around the world as early as her engagement interview, but that Harry and Meghan really fumbled the ball with Archie's birth.  The couple told the media (and by extension the watching public) that they would inform the media when Meghan went into labor, thereby permitting the media to begin live coverage outside Windsor Castle.  The couple then reneged on that (more about that on this post), and embarked on a series of bizarre attempts to shroud details about Archie's birth and baptism in secrecy. This was a really bad play on the Sussexes' part, because it did not just alienate the media, it hurt and offended the public.  The couple got little to no practical results from their strange maneuvering, and the damaging repercussions for their popularity continue today. 

At the end of the summer, Meghan made her big return as guest editor of Vogue. I suspect she imagined it would be a smashing success, but it turned out to be a very controversial issue.  While some were really thrilled with the September issue, others were upset that Meghan chose politically polarizing women to feature. Most royal watchers understand--whatever one's politics--partisan or controversial issues cannot be introduced into the monarchy without destabilizing the institution and potentially accelerating its downfall.  Britain is a democracy now.  You can't have unelected, tax-payer funded "elites" throwing weight behind issues on which society does not have near uniform agreement.

The controversial nature of highlighted women and causes was the most striking problem, but the bumps in the Vogue debut didn't end there.  There was an allegation Meghan plagiarized by copying the cover of a book to which she contributed several years before her marriage, and both Meghan and Harry caught flak for the features they wrote for the issue, which came across as preachy and condescending to many. Harry's pledge to Jane Goodall that he and Meghan would limit their family to only two children for the sake of the planet rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.  I still get angry messages about that comment. Obviously the royals fly private on occasion, but these very forward leaning admonitions to the public set the stage for even more intense scrutiny when Harry took a private jet to Google Camp to give a lecture on global warming and the need to make changes no matter how small... Despite the damaging headlines, the two then took a number of private jet flights to and from the South of France for summer holiday.    Elton John assured everyone he had paid the carbon offset, which only wealthy people can hope to afford, which was tantamount to throwing gasoline on the flames.  The headlines were brutal and the couple were branded hopeless hypocrites.  

That is really where we were at the end of the summer when the Sussexes were ready to head out on tour.  They had experienced a series of punishing news cycles, but the tour offered the promise of a respite and even an opportunity to use that good press to begin to turn the ship around. They enjoyed positive international headlines throughout their tour, and then, strangely, the couple torpedoed their own good press right at the end.

Phase I: Intimidate the Press   

I don't think there is any excuse to use a royal tour--taxpayer funded, undertaken to represent the Queen--as a launching pad for a personal PR campaign.  That displayed very poor judgment.  It was disrespectful to everyone from the Queen to the reporters (who go to trouble and expense to cover these tours) to the very people in Africa M&H were supposed to be highlighting.  It really made the end of the tour all about the Sussexes, and immediately truncated any residual press that the other initiatives they'd highlighted in Africa might have been receiving.

Harry's statement itself was inaccurate in describing the situation and too hostile toward the media--a group with which the royals (whatever their personal feelings) must maintain a reasonable relationship to survive.  Harry didn't clear his statement with his family, and all reports are that they were stunned and upset by it, which makes perfect sense. The Queen, Charles, and William have spent their lives trying to maintain a good balance with the press. Think of the Queen as the CEO and Charles and William are her appointed successor CEOs (the heirs).  It's really their family business, and Harry is an employee--a senior one, but an employee nonetheless.  He doesn't have a stake in the game the way the owners do. He will not be the CEO, his son won't inherit the company--his son might not even work for the company. Yet, he just delivered a message that damages the company's reputation and threatens its longevity.  You can imagine the mixed feelings of the CEOs. 

It was a bad move with respect to his family, but it was also a bad move with respect to the public.  I have come to the conclusion Harry and Meghan underestimate the public's ability to deliberate and come to varying conclusions.  His statement sparked widespread analysis of the couple's behavior.  Harry's bold allegations against the media painted the Sussexes purely as victims. So people did what people do--they looked back, marshaled the facts, and sat down and said, let's see if his representation matches the reality.  Unfortunately, that analysis didn't end well for the Sussexes.  Although the couple have certainly had their fair share of poor press, some of it unwarranted, most people concluded that much of the negative media was of the Sussexes own making.  Archie's birth and the end of summer shoals they hit are two examples, but there were more.  On balance, most people determined that the Sussexes were far from blameless in this dispute. 

In my opinion, Phase I was primarily the lawsuits that probably are meant to intimidate the press. It remains to be seen if this attack strategy will work.  The defendants in both suits have sworn they will battle out to the end, and much depends on the outcome of those suits.  For my American readers, speech laws and laws that govern the press are a lot different in the U.K and so the outcome of the cases could set precedents that could significantly chill speech (if the press loses), or embolden them (if Harry and Meghan win).  It was a roll of the dice from Harry and Meghan and we just don't know the outcome yet.  Whether or not they score a point against the press legally, I think they certainly further damaged their reputations in the eyes of the public.  What I call Phase II is what I think the couple were banking on to bring the public back around. 

Phase 2: Woo Back Public Support & Sympathy

I think Phase 2 of the PR strategy was the documentary.  As they have in the past, the Sussexes misjudged the super-majority of the watching public.  Some people really felt the tug to their heartstrings when watching Harry and Meghan share how bruised and traumatized they are by the press, but the majority ordinary people watched two of the most privileged people on the planet complain that their lives were at breaking point with more than a little skepticism.

The hard fact is that neither Harry nor Meghan has been the subject of Diana-like scrutiny.  Diana was a phenomenon unlikely to be repeated in our lifetimes, perhaps ever.  The Sussexes have been the subject of bad press.  It happens in public life, and as we've discussed above, the public had already come to the general conclusion that much of the Sussexes mixed press was of their own making--you have to live with the choices you make.  So, I don't think there was a lot of sympathy for them on that score. 

Harry seems to genuinely be in need of time away.  I have heard reports his family is worried about him, and he does seem in a fragile place. Although painful, I think someone needs to remind Harry that Diana wasn't killed by the press.  Letting go of that false narrative alone might help Harry find some peace. If he truly cannot look at a camera or hear a click and not suffer symptoms of trauma from his mother's death, he certainly needs to step away from the limelight and seek help.  I wish him well in that struggle. 

Now to the most unpopular part of this post.  Meghan completely lacked credibility in her interview.  She certainly did not look or sound authentic to me.  Meghan is a remarkably gifted and polished speaker with an exceptional facility for words.  The long pauses, the sighs, the sentences that just trailed off... she didn't come across as vulnerable or deeply moved, she came across as rehearsed.  And, how could it not be?  This was a documentary the theme of which was clear.  Tom Bradby is close to the royals--he is a trusted reporter for them and they collaborate with him on interviews they want to control.  This was highlighted when William, who was radically protective of Kate and the two's privacy around the time of the marriage, chose Bradby to do the two's engagement interview.  They trusted Bradby to ask the right questions, avoid the wrong ones, to be sensitive to Kate's state-fright, etc. That interview was a huge deal, and they chose Bradby.  It is inconceivable that in this Africa documentary, Bradby just went off script and took her off guard with these questions.  It had to have been a planned and agreed upon line of questioning.  I know some people will be up in arms, but...cringe.

Meghan is a strong, outgoing, and ambitious woman; she has sought fame her whole adult life.  I have said it before, I will say it again, that in itself is not a bad thing at all, but it is important to remember that she is not a wallflower who must face the media for love of her prince.  I think Harry's prominence on the world-stage was one of his attractive qualities for her. Again, not a bad thing, but, a reality that plays into any analysis like the one we are engaged in. We all know she could have just as easily given an impassioned and aggressive defense of herself and her family if she had felt that was an expedient approach--and such a response would have been more her speed.  She didn't.  This sounded like a script with a purpose--sympathy from the public, and the hope that there would be a resulting backlash at the cruel media. 

It seems in the interview that Meghan knew what the objections would be, and she was careful to front load with her rebuttal by explaining that we just don't understand the pressure--even she didn't understand before she married Harry.  That's a low attempt to silence criticism, because it tells  everyone else they can't understand and therefore they can't engage or come to their own conclusions.  But of course, the truth is all sorts of people live and work in high profile positions under harsh media and public scrutiny.  This describes most every politician in the Western world.  Plenty of people seek this type of media attention, weather it, thrive on it.  Royalty is unique in many respects, but media scrutiny (often critical!) is not one of its more exclusive experiences. 

Meghan made a claim that her friends warned her off of Harry because of the U.K. papers, but that she was too naive to understand how brutal it would be. Again, this stretches credulity.  One of Meghan's biggest stumbling blocks is that she seems to grossly underestimate the good sense and basic reasoning skills of average people.  This was very reminiscent of her engagement interview comment that she didn't really know who Harry was. We have critical papers in the United States, we have tabloids and fake news, and we also have something called the internet which permits us to view and read news sources across the pond.  I think most adults know about U.K. tabloids, and certainly someone in showbiz should be familiar with them.

Meghan's suggestion that the couple is just surviving not thriving, made while on tour in Africa where the two were visiting with some of the most downtrodden people on earth, left me speechless.  I think it struck most people as similarly out-of-touch.

This interview was a big mis-step.

Meghan's Expectations v. Reality 

Negative press is not unique for royal women. Meghan has received mixed media since she announced her engagement.  I think Meghan thinks (or wants to claim) that her situation is unusual, but most recent royal women have had their fair share of generally critical press.  Camilla received absolutely brutal press when she married Charles.  Camilla was attacked for her looks, her past, her character--the still bruised and angry feelings from the Charles/Diana debacle were channeled at her with full force.  She kept her head down, weathered the storms, and is one of the more popular and respected members of the BRF today.  Kate, too, got plenty of bad press in her day.  You can still find the headlines dubbing Kate and Pippa "the Wisteria sisters" for their social climbing ways, and the scrutiny of her parents' middle-class background was unrelenting.  Carole Middleton was mocked for being a smoker, and I can't count how many times I read an article about how disgusted William's high-class friends were with Carole and Michael's humble beginnings and middle class manners.

I think the problem is not that the media attention is too intense for Meghan, but that it is not the right kind--it isn't the type she wanted.  To be fair to her, she pursued Hollywood celebrity, not politics, and the type of fame you get in one arena can be very different from the type you get in the other. In Hollywood, most attention is positive or neutral.  Scroll through the DailyMail and see the articles.  There are posts upon posts filled with pictures recounting the lives of celebrities going about mundane daily activities--I think we get 10 photos every time Jennifer Garner goes to church on Sunday, or a slew of photos if a celeb is spotted grabbing coffee in Malibu, etc.  That's pretty unadulterated celeb adulation.  Even Amal Clooney, whom I think Meghan admires (who doesn't?) and emulates, gets unmitigated good press, and she is never scrutinized for her private jet flights or roasted for injecting politics into some of her speeches.  But, she is a private person.  Her lifestyle is funded by the stratospheric success of her husband's Hollywood career and her own work as an attorney.  

The royals are unelected leaders in a free country; they are taxpayer funded/subsidized in a nation with a strong Republican (anti-monarchy in the U.K, NOT U.S. Republican) movement.  They have to walk an entirely different line.  They are subject to a more watchful press. It's not impossible to be a royal and have a good life and positive press, but you have to stay out of trouble.  You have to avoid issues that are controversial, you have to steer clear of anything that could strike the public as partisan or political, you have to think ahead on perception and plan according to the perception, not what is necessarily fair.  This is, by the way, a very similar experience for any major politician. Meghan is in a political sphere, the chief difference being she must stay a-political. 


Meghan and Harry need to fire their PR people.  A strategist in touch with normal people could have foreseen how this would backfire. The hubris of this plan, which seems to rest on a basic premise that ordinary people won't think through what we've discussed above, is stunning.

The one thing the royal family never wants to do is draw the scrutiny and comparisons that Meghan's kind of comments spark.  Royals want to downplay the bubble in which they exist.  Massive, luxurious manor houses dotted across England, Scotland, and Wales; round-the-clock, state-funded security; transportation by train, plane, helicopter, Bentley or Rolls--at their preference; de facto unlimited budgets for clothes, food, entertainment; platinum healthcare; excellent education for their children; the list goes on.  Royals today join fellow billionaires in living the most privileged lives of anyone in human history.  But for royals, their lifestyle is tax-payer funded.  [Sidenote] When Harry and Meghan talk about privately funding their lawsuit--what does that mean?  Where did the money come from?  Maybe it came from Harry's inheritance, maybe it came from Meghan's salary from acting.  But, the only way they have that money to spend on lawsuits is because other funds are maintaining them in their lifestyle. If someone paid for my apartment, my car, car insurance, airfare, etc., I'd have a lot more discretionary income to spend on handbags or art or whatever tempts me to part with my cash.  Since no one does that, I don't have as much discretionary income. I can't buy all the bags I want... When you live a primarily subsidized lifestyle, it's a bit of a word game to say you fund anything privately, because your private money comes at the expense of the subsidized money.  Royals don't want any of this scrutinized too closely, because when royals act out and people get irritated, that's what ends monarchies.

Meghan loves to share (not a bad personality trait) and clearly has a need to be loved.  But, she should also remember that you can't share too much with the world without getting hurt.  There are a lot of crazy people out there, a lot of nasty people, a lot of people who hate her just because they are jealous of her privileged existence, her beauty, her husband, her platform, and the list goes on.  The Sussexes should look to the Cambridges for tips on this.  William wanted to protect Kate, and he has.  The Cambridges maintain good boundaries with the public.  Although warm and friendly on walkabouts, there is always a slight barrier with the Cambridges.  From their more guarded social media to their more formal speeches, they maintain an intangible grace that sets them apart and shields them from the barbs that are also thrown at them.  They don't always get the explosion of excitement that comes when the Sussexes get very personal in public, but they also don't suffer the wounds from people who criticize and attack--as always happens.  The Sussexes can't emotionally manipulate their way to uniform public approval.  Although a boring plan, their best course of action is to kill the fire by taking away the oxygen.  I think the couple's break is a good plan, but I worry their next move will be more exposure.  We shall see...

Ok, that's enough for now, yes?  That's my perspective.  If you made it to the end, you (like me) are in deep. :).   Have a good weekend! 

Sussexes Announce Christmas Plans

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Today the Sussexes announced via a Buckingham Palace press release that they will be taking their break toward the end of this month (I think it actually began right after Remembrance Sunday) for "extended family time." They specifically highlighted that they "spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham" before saying they'd be spending the holiday with Doria.  The statement was careful to note that other members of the BRF have taken this path (aka William and Kate, who have spent Christmas in Bucklebury several times) and to underscore they had the full support of the Queen. 

I couldn't remember if the Cambridges ever press released their Christmas plans, so I put the question to Twitter and was reminded that they did issue brief statements.  Pretty short and concise. In 2012 they simply stated (3 days before Christmas!) they'd be with Kate's family, and they announced again in 2016. 

The Sussexes' statement seems to be performing two functions.  One to deliver the news and the other to head off at the pass any negative blow-back.  With the indirect reference to William and Kate's "precedence", the statement is pointing out that other members of the family have taken this path before, but even more telling is the comment that the Queen approves. 

Frankly, I don't have any problem at all with them spending Christmas elsewhere.  I don't think they even need to offer an explanation.  Yes, HM and the DoE are getting older.  They've been getting older for a long while.  You can't put your life on hold for years and years just because your grandparents are getting old. Also, Meghan is American and she lives in Britain. It is natural and fair that they set aside time--even major holidays--to give her mother and friends special time, too. 

Christmas with the royals would probably have been unbearable for these two this year anyway.  In declaring war with the media in the spectacular fashion that they did at the end of the Africa tour--literally hijacking a royal tour as their first salvo of the war--they set themselves at odds with William, Charles, and even the Queen.  People always leap to extremes, so I hasten to say that I don't think they are cat-fighting over at the Palace. And I am sure that the Queen, despite her displeasure, is handling it all diplomatically.  She loves Harry, and you can love someone even while feeling frustration toward them. Nevertheless, I suspect the atmosphere is strained. Far better to take some time with Doria rather than rub elbows in the confines of Sandringham House. 

William & Kate at Shout Thank-You Party

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Today the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a thank-you party for volunteers of the text crisis hotline Shout.  The event was held at the Troubadour White City Theatre in London.  Shout is a program, inspired by crisis hotlines in the United States, that the Royal Foundation researched and funded after the massive success of Heads Together.  Kate doesn't always get the credit she is due, so I will point out that Heads Together was Kate's brainchild, and this program truly is one the fruits of her labor.  [William fiddling with his clothes below 🀣]

The Duchess recycled one of her gorgeous Smythe blazers today, and paired it with cranberry trousers from Joseph and her Gianvito Rossi Piper block heels. She added the necessary sparkle with her Empress pendant earrings and matching pendant necklace from Mappin & Webb. [Sidenote: sometimes people complain William doesn't wait for Kate, but here in this video from Victoria Murphy Kate is charging ahead of William, which just made me chuckle]. 

To Kate's clothes...This is how you do a sharp trouser ensemble.  The trousers are not too voluminous and they aren't skin tight, either.  It is the like the Three Bears standard of measurement--neither too big nor too small. They are also cropped at just the right length, hitting her right around the ankle bone, so they look polished and professional.  The ensemble is a big win for me.  I love this Smythe blazer, which is so sharp and sophisticated, and I love the pop of color with her trousers.  It is quite a festive and holiday-like ensemble without going overboard.  She looked fabulous! 

Someone asked me yesterday if the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would attend this event.  There was no mention in KP's diary announcement that they would go, and obviously they did not show up this morning.  It isn't surprising to me that they were not there.  Although the couple featured in the launch back in April or May, I noted at the time that they were distinctly sidelined in the launch video.  William was the star of the show and there was something about the way the spotlight was directly on him that sent a message of its own.  He mentioned Harry and Meghan, but it did not feel like the launch of a joint, collaborative effort.  To me it felt very much like William, as future king, taking the reins.  At that time, I don't think the Palace had confirmed that the Royal Foundation would split, but royal reporters had scooped that story some time before, so it was an open secret.  We knew that although confirmation was lagging, the two couples were splintering.  Although the Sussexes were given a nominal roles in Shout's launch, you could tell from watching the opening video alone that their participation was not going to be equal.  It leaves Shout in a lightly weird place in terms of its patrons.  It was created and launched while the couples were still working together, and it seems like the Sussexes will continue as patrons, but in this secondary role?  Although the Sussexes were not present, William again tipped his hat to his brother and sister-in-law during his speech today, much as he did in the launch video.  It should be interesting to see how they handle this moving forward.


Kate & Meghan at Remembrance Sunday

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Today is Remembrance Sunday.  Every year there is an annual ceremony at the Whitehall Cenotaph.  attended by Britain's royals, senior politicians, veterans, and the public who all gather to pay tribute to the nation's war dead.  As mentioned in the past, the Queen has permanently passed her presiding role to Prince Charles, and she know watches the proceedings from the balcony of the Foreign Office, with members of her family.  The royals populate the balconies by seniority, so today the Queen stood with Camilla and Kate, the two most senior royal women--the two future queens--and Meghan stood with Sophie Wessex on another balcony with Timothy Laurence (Anne's husband).  Before the Queen relinquished her role, there was room on the first balcony for her, and she was pictured every year standing with Kate and Camilla, but this is now the line-up.   

Kate turned to McQueen for another show-stopping military coat.  She does military-themed ensembles to perfection, and this is another smash hit in my book.  I do think that for particularly formal events royals should really step up the style stakes.  They fill a ceremonial and historical function in addition to just being famous people.  Kate could not wear this coat on a lunch date with friends in London--it is special.  It has a presence and gravitas that gives her an imposing and regal air, and lends an historic spirit to the whole event.  The lightly vintage Philip Treacy topper was the perfect complement, and Kate chose the Bahrain pearl and diamond drops on loan from the Queen for a punchy finish. 

Where Kate scored, Meghan faltered.  Last night, Meghan was the more adventurous at the Festival of Remembrance (for which I applauded her), but today was quite boring in my book.  This is just a black wrap coat.  She could ditch the hat and head to John Lewis for a spot of shopping after the ceremony and no one would look askance at her.  I think Remembrance Sunday calls for more pizzaz. This is a different complaint than saying the ensemble is unflattering. It is a perfectly fine ensemble, and I actually really like the Stephen Jones hat (I love broad-brimmed hats!), but just that for the occasion it was too plain-Jane.

There is no consensus on the coat's ID yet.  Several people have pointed out that the clasp on the coat appears to be a design used by Stella McCartney, and indeed the label has claimed the coat as one of its designs.  But, sharp-eyed fashionistas have pointed out significant differences in the stitching of the belt.  I am not sure we have an accurate ID yet.   

To quickly address the most frequently asked question I have received--I don't think that Meghan is pregnant again quite yet.  People did report that Harry was dropping hints at a recent event that the couple were thinking about a second.  I don't think there is any mystery that these two will try for a second, and I just assume without dwelling on it, that they are almost certainly trying already.  Meghan is 38 years old; she won't delay in having a second.  But, I doubt she is pregnant yet.  She has been wearing bulky coats that tie in the front, and these styles make even the flattest of women look a little more rounded.  Since Meghan hasn't fully lost the baby weight, these recent styles just accentuate the extra weight. My bet is Meghan isn't killing herself to lose her baby weight because she is planning to roll into a second pregnancy as soon as possible.  Smart. That would definitely be my approach. 

The British Army 

Festival of Remembrance 2019

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The royal family was out in force tonight for the Festival of Remembrance at Royal Albert Hall.  This is an annual event that both celebrates and commemorates Britain's heroes.  The Queen always heads up the royal delegation, and this year included the usual suspects--Charles and Camilla, Sophie and Edward, Anne and her husband Timothy Laurence, the Cambridges and the Sussexes, and so forth.   

I am going to do this backward and talk about the Duchess's accessories before we get to the dress. The big 'wow' tonight was that Kate the Great showed up in another headband. This is a genuine headband, not a hatband, and I actually really like it! The light volume and wave of her hair give her style a decidedly 60s vibe, and this style on Kate looked very youthful, too. Win for me. The headband is from Zara, and I imagine it is sold out by now. Kate added sparkle with her mini pearl earrings on loan from the Queen and carried a clutch that appears to be a customized McQueen (sans skull).  Finally, she wore Jimmy Choo "Romy 100" heels.  

I was really on the fence about this dress's color, but I think I have finally been convinced it is a deep, deep navy. Still, it is a liner.  Velvet always photographs a deep black, so the contrast between the dress and the velvet band at the waist does not convince me the dress is blue.  However, when contrasted with the others around her, it does look blue, so right now I am in the camp that thinks it is blue.  I don't think we have a label confirmation yet.  I have seen a number of guesses, but my own guess is that the dress is bespoke Jenny Packham.  As soon as I saw the dress I thought it was a repeat, but couldn't quite place it, and then finally I did... It looks like Kate's JP from New Zealand, just a little shorter and with a velvet band rather than grosgrain. And of course, without the fern detailing on the shoulder.  So, my money is on JP.  I am sure we will find out...  

Meghan chose what is currently reported to be Erdem.  Kate loves Erdem and I know we have a mixed audience here.  Some of you love all Kate's Erdem, and others want her to burn everything form the label.  This dress on Meghan was so promising when I first saw it--I love that it is more interesting than Kate's dress, frankly, and I love the neckline--but at the end of the day it is simply not flattering on Meghan. If I were Meghan I would look for another stylist to help her.  Whoever is on the job right now just isn't up to the task. This dress was, again, far too bulky for her tiny frame and did not flatter her figure. Disappointing, but this is a miss. 

Meghan was wearing shoes I adore, though. These are her Aquazurra "Deneuve Bow" heels and she complemented her red poppy brooch with Jessica McCormack "Gypset Ruby Heart" hoop earrings. I don't know the ID on the bag. 

I have already seen much made of Harry and Meghan's placement, over on the right behind Boris Johnson et al, with other more minor royals, but this has been their assigned seating since they first attended the Festival of Remembrance in 2017!  It's reflective, not of the current crisis, but of their place in the family.  Given their popularity in the media, I think that gets lost in the shuffle, but at events like this, hierarchy is observed more formally and you can get a visual of where everyone stands in the BRF. 

My verdict on Kate's ensemble is that it is a win, but chiefly thanks to the hairstyle and headband. Although the dress is very flattering, it is a little boring for this event.  She needed that bolder hairstyle to jazz it up, which it did (therefore the win).  I don't love black stockings with a dress of this length, either.  They are very aging. Black stockings really should go with short skirts or stay in the drawer. But, simple flattering dress and a hairstyle with a kick make for a good combo. It is a win for me, although not a home run. 

Kate in Wickstead & Meghan in Sentaler

Friday, November 8, 2019

Yesterday was a busy day for royal watching as both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess and Duchess of Sussex were out on public engagements. I've got my quick thoughts on both ladies' ensembles below.

The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge 

William and Kate attended the launch of the National Emergencies Trust at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square where the couple met victims of the Westminster terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower.

Kate debuted a new blue dress that will, nevertheless, look very familiar. This is another Emilia Wickstead in a pattern she has turned to several times now with smashing success.  You probably remember this dress. She has an almost identical one in lilac and another in forest green.  With this cobalt dress, she has added a detachable (but matching) belt.  I think this pattern is strikingly flattering on her.  Wickstead has had a few stumbles with her tailoring--I am thinking of her pleated pink/teal dresses where the fastening on the buttons was visible and the seams were a little uneven in places.  This new pattern suffers none of those earlier malfunctions and its tailoring is exquisite. It looks great in motion and at rest.  If Kate has a bit of uniform right now, this is it. It seems like she likes to turn back to these simpler styles as a bit of a palette cleanser every now and again. It makes sense to me she'd wear this after her tour of Pakistan, which was fabulous, but one ornate ensemble after another.

Kate accessorized with Jimmy Choo Romy 85 heels and an Aspinal by Beulah blue heart clutch, and finally, her sapphire and diamond drops. I thought a little classic Kate was just what the doctor ordered yesterday.  

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex 

Also yesterday, Meghan and Harry were out. The couple attended a ceremony to open the annual Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey.  I love so much how formally Britain celebrates its war dead every November. It is incredibly moving--a week of various events and commemorations, culminating in the extraordinary moving Remembrance Sunday. I wish the U.S. did something similar. In any event, this was one of those events. 

Meghan wore a past-season Sentaler fastened with a Prada belt. I believe this coat is from Sentaler's 2015 collection. It is a boucle coat of midnight blue and black alpaca wool. Meghan took what I consider a bit of a risk by pairing the mostly black coat, black dress, and new Tamara Mellon boots with a deep blue Philip Treacy hat, but she pulled it off. I love all the shots of Meghan from the waste up, but this coat doesn't really fit her right now, and it might have been better to have chosen one that did fit.  The coat gaped open in the front, which if part of a design can be edgy and fun, but here it was clear this was not the design of the coat. As a result, it looked a bit bundled on.  Meghan is so petite, she really needs to be careful about the "bundled" look That style can look glam on a taller frame, but it can overwhelm someone of Meghan's smaller stature. Although the coat was a little off in its proportions, Meghan's hat was gorgeous and Meghan herself was particularly glowing.  She really looked stunning. 

A quick follow-up: although this is a past-season coat, I just got onto my Facebook and Sentaler is already advertising the relaunch of this "Boucle Alpaca 'Megan' coat in Midnight blue."  So, it can be yours, too, for $1,795 on pre-order. 

Buckingham Palace Pressured ABC to Kill Story on Andrew & Epstein

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

I don't have a lot of thoughts about Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein simply because I have never followed the minutia of the story.  I have certainly seen the headlines over the years--we've known about Epstein's depravity and it is impossible not to view askance anyone who maintained an active/close friendship with him.  Given that Andrew's friendship appeared to be more than a purely social one--he not only knew him, but he traveled to Epstein's Island, visited Epstein in New York, hosted Epstein at Sandringham, and maintained a pretty close friendship with Epstein's girlfriend (about whom there are now questions), it is impossible not to make some uncomfortable conclusions. 

So, it isn't a case have followed closely and I just don't have a lot of thoughts about his behavior specifically, other than that I obviously think he was up to things he oughtn't to have been.  Whether he engaged in a activity at the fringe or was deeply involved, I don't think anyone knows...yet.  More interesting to me is how the Palace works behind the scenes to control the media narrative about its principal royals, and we have some interesting news on that score today.

Someone today brought this clip to my attention last night.  It is ABC news anchor Amy Robach having a "hot mic" moment and claiming that one of Epstein's victims (Virginia Roberts) had brought her story to Robach several years ago.  Robach said she was ready to run the story, but ABC news killed it after ABC was pressured by people connected to Epstein. Robach says that when Buckingham Palace heard about the story, it "threatened us in a million different ways."  (To give context, Virginia Roberts claims that Prince Andrew slept with her when she was only 17).  Robach even said that ABC was afraid they would't be able to interview William and Kate if the story aired!

We have talked a little in the past about the Palace bringing legal pressure against outlets to block the publication of various stories.  The unsubstantiated allegation that William cheated on Kate never ran in a major U.K. paper because the journalists had no proof, and Palace attorneys made very clear that if the story was published without proof there would be a lawsuit.  So, that situation is different from this Andrew/Epstein one, which does have meat on its bones.  But, even when the Palace doesn't come from a position of strength, it can still bring other types of pressure to bear.  Obviously William and Kate are unlikely to do a sit-down with ABC anytime soon (although, you never know), but the Palace can restrict access to networks for big royal events as well as for tours and the day-to-day engagements.  It can leverage its bigger players (like William and Kate) to protect its smaller players (like Andrew).  It sounds like that is what it did here. 

I am not surprised at all that the Palace is fighting this story tooth and nail.  Every royal reflects upon the monarch.  Every royal--by virtue of his or her title and position--can either strengthen or weaken the monarchy's position in the eye of the public.  When an individual royal has a good news day, the monarchy basks in that glow, when a royal has a scandal, the monarchy's reputation takes a hit.  So, the royals are in a strange sink-or-swim-together alliance, and every negative story has the potential to hurt them all. Killing this news story is, therefore, both to protect Andrew individually, but also to shield the monarchy from the blow-back of such a nasty scandal.

I think this news is interesting, although I am not sure it is groundbreaking.  Epstein was connected to many powerful people who were most certainly bringing pressure to kill the story, too. But it is interesting to think about the way the royals manage (or attempt to manage) it all.  I don't know that the Epstein story will ever be fully examined.  Time will tell.

A personal update: I am with my mom at the hospital this week as she begins an aggressive chemo regimen.  Thank you for your continued prayers.  She weathered the first day of infusions really well (much better than anticipated)  and she said to me, "well, I have so many people praying for me."  I know lots of you are numbered in that "many," and am deeply grateful for your prayer. We really do feel strengthened by it. 

Day 4 of Royal Visit Pakistan: Lahore

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Cambridges flew to Lahore today for a series of engagements. After their airport arrival, the two started their day at the SoS Children's Village where they visited and played with the kids and where Kate gave a speech.

I have seen some comments remaking this is her first overseas speech, and it is definitely not. The Duchess has been speaking for years, and gave her first overseas speech way back in Malaysia in 2012. 

The couple also visited the National Cricket Academy, where Kate swapped her heels for trainers to take to the turf.

This first ensemble is by Gul Ahmed with a scarf by Maheen Khan. You can see it is embroidered with jasmine, which is the national flower of Pakistan. Kate wore her Asprey oak leaf earrings and carried one of her favorite Mulberry handbags in nude. Her heels are new from J.Crew. When she changed for cricket I thought she would choose her Supergas, but it looks like she has instead opted for the adult version of Princess Charlotte's Hampton Canvas Plum Shoes. I thought this was a gorgeous ensemble. The all-cream was striking on her, and I really like this style--it is a lot like the blue ensemble she wore the first day (which I loved--post on that later). I also am so pleased that Kate is debuting a series of local ensembles. I have heard from a number of Pakistanis who have remarked on how this has really warmed their hearts to see, and I think it is part of what makes royal tours so special. Kate is in lock-step with the example Diana set. 

I will update this post later in the day with ensemble 2 (below) and possibly a third!

Royal Visit Pakistan: Day 3

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

On Day 3 (Oct. 16) the Cambridges took helicopters north to the Chitral airport in the Hindu Kush mountains.  The mountain range stretches across the north of Pakistan, dipping down into Afghanistan in the west and stretching all the way to the borderlands of China in the east. It is stunning country, and the royals reporters shared lots of breathtaking shots as they swept over the mountain peaks.

On their arrival, both William and Kate were given Chitral scout caps, and William was gifted a coat and Kate an embroidered shawl. From that airport, the two took a second helicopter ride even further north to see the Chiatibo glacier.

The couple visited a Kalash village, which provided the most colorful pictures of the day. Emily Andrews had marvelous coverage of the royals mingling with their hosts:

Kate turned to Really Wild Clothing today, wearing their vest (which we've seen before) and their boots. She was sporting earrings from Missoma London and wearing an unidentified (to my knowledge) skirt and blouse. The shawl she was wearing was given to her by locals, and again, great reporting from Emily Andrews who informed us: "[t]he scarf Kate is wearing here was given to her in Chitral by the Scout leader of the local area-echoing Kate’s association with the Scouts in the UK."

On some level, I don't know that I was looking at Kate's ensemble from a fashion perspective today, but I was scratching my head a little when I saw this. With brutal honesty, I am just going to say she was in peak Afghan warlord mode.  I think it was the vest (which I might hate generally, but certainly with this outfit--true confessions) and that dreadful brown blouse, and the long skirt paired with clunky boots... Ooof. This is like what you'd get if Osama Bin Ladan got lost on a Star Wars set or something... Nope. Hard pass from me.  Otherwise a great day! :) 

Twitter has changed the way its embedding works, so I am not sure why it is hearing multiple tweets when I just wanted to share a video, but the good news is more content from Emily is always a good thing.