Not quite sure whether to laugh or cry Thursday, Apr 7 2011 

Sorry guys, I’m kinda busy lately (I don’t even get to answer most of my private mails, let alone keep up with things that are happening elsewhere), so blogging has had to take a step back.

But this even I couldn’t pass by:

William and Kate to share marital home with Harry

Yes, you read that right.

And it’s not just that they’re all three going to live in Clarence House, no. They’re to share an apartment. I mean, wtf? Little brother as the best contraceptive device or what?

Never will I understand these Brits.

Well, maybe that point is a moot one anyway, because our dear prince with the devil-may-care attitude is currently stranded in the Arctic.

Hmmmm. And the wedding is only 22 days away. Go Wills, and rescue your little brother (a hint: you could go MIA and take refuge in Argentina, I hear that works quite well; or maybe ask your royal peers for asylum).

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Prince Harry on Pole Trek Monday, Mar 28 2011 

The Ginger portion of the brotherly couple is currently trekking to the North Pole with wounded soldiers. GQ sports his face on front and there’s a couple more pictures in there:

My, he’s dashing, isn’t he?

Harry’s conducted himself quite well recently, which is not surprising. The military has done him good and I’ve remarked on that before already. Interesting though that he does this stint. Theoretically speaking, I’m looking at the PR angle here, William should be the one doing such stuff. He’s going to be king and stuff like this sticks to people.

And Harry doesn’t really need the goodwill.

Harry will leave the group on April 5th, to to go back to his training before the wedding on the 29th.

Radiation Dose Chart Sunday, Mar 20 2011 

Okay peeps, I know I’m running a royal blog here and all, but since I’ve made a comment on the iodine tablets below and my general displeasure with the fearmongering, I’m going to put this here for those of you who are interested:

xkcd – a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language that most of you might know, has put up a Radiation Dose Chart, which explains the matter wonderfully and gives us actual sources for the data. Better than any media mass media outlet and actually making some sense, contrary to the disparaging opinions the media is feeding all of us.

MOnaco Town Sunday, Mar 20 2011 

As I posted earlier, the theme of this year’s Monaco Rose Ball was “MoTown” (hence the Detroit roster ;)).

The ball this year was overshadows by the death of Princess Antoinette, the sister of the late Prince Rainier III. She lived to be 90 and died last Thursday. She will be interred on Thursday, March 24th in the Peace Chapel of Monaco’s Cathedral. Princess Antoinette, Baroness de Massy schemed against her brother in the past, trying to put her son on the throne. Wounds have, of not mended, scapped over since and Antoinette has been seen in the presence of Albert quite often.

Due to this event, Princess Caroline and Prince Albert cancelled their attendance at the ball, leaving the Casiraghi trio to manage things.

Very occasion-appropriate dress, Charlotte, I approve. Somber yet glamorous.

Andrea gave a speech, after which the Casiraghis left again. Everything seemed very well prepared (Caroline outdid herself once more there) and the three played their role very well.

Lovely, aren’t they?

In this picture, among others, Margherita Missoni, Beatrice Borromeo, Tatiana Santo Domingo, Eugenie Niarchos, Vera Santo Domingo.

More nobility was out and about, Charles and Camilla of Bourbon-Sicily among them:

Alex And Tatiana stayed beyond the speeches but that seems fine, yes? Presentation and all that

Beatrice wore cat for the occasion

Speaking of Beatrice, her half-sister recently got engaged to Prince Antonius zu Fürstenberg, which is an interesting match indeed.

For more pictures go to the Zimbio album.

Various Wednesday, Mar 16 2011 

Not quite on hiatus but things are happening in the world and I don’t have quite the levity at the moment to ponder royalty. Sorry. I’m happy though that you guys seem to have quite the fascination with the Detroit Red Wings (who woulda thunk; any true hockey fans among you? I’m willing to even deal with Flyers.)

So anyway, a few tidbits:

Miss Middleton is actually marrying Prince Harry; let’s hope Harry was told?

Also, the first Barbie doll that actually looks like the person (well okay, the doll has a bigger bosom, but I can’t find it in me to fault the creators):


Scary.

Also, if you needed further proof that something’s up:

Worrisome development.

I much prefer these pictures (click for bigger versions)

During the Six Nations Tournament (Rugby):

I’m impressed Zara, she gets her man liften up…kinda ;-)

And during Six Nations, Mike lifting the Calcutta Cup. She really does look in love, doesn’t she? Why can’t the other couple be like that?

There are a few more things but I guess this is enough for now?

Also, no I won’t be covering either the British or the Monegasque wedding. I may write stuff about Zara and Mike, but I’m not going with the farce and jump on that bandwagon, sorry.

And for what it’s worth, which isn’t much I grant you, my heart goes out to the people of Japan. The media keeps expecting a 35 million people panic that likely won’t be happening. Also, if you really care about what’s going on with the Fukushima Daichi and Daini nuclear plants, please don’t check the common media outlets, the reading they are putting out are largely misleading at the moment. To give you an example, this is a pdf with the radiation monitoring of Ibaraki prefecture, which lies north of Tokio. Also, for you guys in America Europe: Swallowing iodine tablets that were not dispensed to you will give you thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid) sooner than help you against radiation that won’t reach you anyway, please head this warning. Thyroiditis is painful and can cause permanent damage to your thyroid and thereby to your metabolism.

Emperor Akihito has addressed the people by now. It’s funny how the media correspondent here are surprised at how much of an effect he’s had on the people. As if everyone considered their royalty just figureheads, but this is a culture slash same as with the panic above.

Okay, enough ramblings.

Monaco Rose Ball 2011 Saturday, Mar 5 2011 

The annual Monaco Rose ball will run under the theme of “Detroit * Motor Town” this year.

Wonder if any of these guys will get an invitation? ;)
(Well, not really, but I do love me a well built guy in a suit.)

Deposed monarchies in the Arabian world Saturday, Mar 5 2011 

And I’m using the term ‘Arabian world’ very loosely here, please be aware of that.

I’ve said before that I’m not looking at making a lot of comments on the Muslim monarchies, because we’re looking at too many political implications there, due to the fact that we’re largely dealing with absolute monarchies there.

Still, with what is currently going on in the world, I thought it would be interesting to at least bring to the attention of everyone (well, you guys, really), that there is more than just the deposed Pahlavi dynasty in Iran. Pretty much all countries that today are Arabian, or predominantly Muslim, had kings or what would be the equivalent. Many of these kings have been deposed for a while yet, replaced with dictators of one kind or other.

Not a difference you say? Maybe that’s true for some, but unless a king turns out to be a tyrant, to me a hereditary monarchy (or at least semi-hereditary, as things are not always as clear cut as around Europe) is preferable over a dictatorship, hereditary or not.

Unpopular opinion is unpopular.

Anyway, what it comes down to is that Dag T. Hoelseth has made an interesting post over on his blog. For easier access, here’s a compilation of the links that seem most relevant (also so I have a record of them for myself).

In Egypt, today would rule King Fouad II, the WSJ had a feature about him last September already.

There’s not a lot of info about Tunisia, but here is some broader look at the Husainid Dynasty, that would put the Pasha (that term might ring familiar in some ears?) on the throne now.

Libya’s “Crown Prince” today would be Muhammad al-Senussi. Aljazeera has an interview with him, which is probably the most recent info from anyone in regards to this (as it is from February this year).

Following disclaimer: I’m not saying they should restore the monarchies in North Africa. I don’t think all the people would be behind this, so that might land them exactly where they came from in the first place. However, looking at the sole fact that the current kings in Jordan and Morocco rule in a factual absolute monarchy (despite having ministers and a parliament etc.), it might be a good idea to get the current pretenders to the thrones behind the democratic movement to keep the train rolling and on track.

Victoria & Abdul Wednesday, Mar 2 2011 

Not quite young indeed. *g* But Victoria was a young Queen once, and one of the most influential monarchs the United Kingdom has ever had (interestingly, the Queen Regnants have always held more of an interesting the the reigning kings). And she is the ancestor of almost all monarchies in Europe today.

Anyway, the Telegraph featured an article late last months, which I found quite interesting for the sole fact that we don’t know a lot about this period, at least not her personal life.

(there’s pictures in the article, go read it over at the website, this is just for me own reference)

The lost diary of Queen Victoria’s final companion

Abdul Karim’s writings, hidden by his family until now, throw new light on a close and controversial relationship, says Ben Leach.

‘I am so very fond of him. He is so good and gentle and understanding… and is a real comfort to me.”

These were the words of Queen Victoria speaking to her daughter-in-law, Louise, Duchess of Connaught, on November 3, 1888, at Balmoral. Perhaps surprising, though, is who she was talking about – not her beloved husband, Albert, who had died in 1861. Nor John Brown, her loyal Scottish ghillie, who in many ways filled the void left by Albert, since Brown had died in 1883.

Instead, Queen Victoria was referring to Abdul Karim, her 24-year-old Indian servant.

Her relationship with Karim was one that sent shockwaves through the royal court – and ended up being one of the most scandalous periods of her 64-year reign.

Indeed, such was the ill-feeling that when Victoria died, her son King Edward ordered all records of their relationship, including correspondence and photographs, to be destroyed.

But a new archive of letters, pictures and Karim’s “lost diary”, held secretly by his family for more than a century, sheds new light on their relationship.

The documents tell the story of how Karim arrived in England in 1887 and quickly gained the affection of a monarch 42 years his senior. They chart the remarkable rise of the clerk from Agra in northern India to one of Victoria’s closest and most influential friends.

The author Shrabani Basu discovered the documents after writing Victoria & Abdul, her book on the remarkable relationship between the Queen and her Indian servant. In 2010 Basu was in Bangalore, India, for the book’s launch when she received a call from the British Council. Begum Qamar Jehan, then 85, frail and blind, was one of Abdul Karim’s few remaining relatives (Karim had had no children himself); yet, despite her age and condition, she still had vivid memories of her days in Karim Lodge, Agra (more of which later). Moreover, she had in her possession Karim’s diary documenting the period in which he served Queen Victoria.

Two months later Basu flew from London to Karachi in Pakistan. She was handed the diary – a neat brown journal with gold edges, recognisable as the stationery used in Windsor. It contained a record of Karim’s 10 years in London between the Golden and Diamond jubilees. The pages were also filled with photographs and magazine cuttings. It had been smuggled out of India by the family when they had fled in 1947 following the Partition riots, then kept a closely guarded secret until Basu’s visit. Basu has now updated her remarkable story of the Queen and her Indian manservant with extracts from his diary – plus from Queen Victoria’s Hindustani Journals, which Basu has had translated for the first time.

Karim initially moved to England for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – the Queen wanted two Indian waiters there to attend to the Indian princes who would be present. Victoria was instantly charmed by the tall, elegant Karim, and within a year he had transcended from waiting tables to becoming a powerful figure within the royal court.

Yet in the opening paragraphs of his diary, Karim remarks on the humble nature of his status in the Royal household: “Under the shadow of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, I a humble subject venture in the following pages to lay before the reader a brief summary from the journal of my life at the court of Queen Victoria from the Golden Jubilee of 1887 to the Diamond Jubilee of 1897. As I have been but a sojourner in a strange land and among a strange people I humbly trust all mistakes will be kindly overlooked by the reader who would extend indulgence to the writer of these pages.”

He then goes on to describe his initial thoughts on coming to England: “In 1887 with the recommendation of Dr Tyler who was my superior officer at the Central Jail [where he was working as a clerk] I came to England as orderly to the Queen. I must mention that the word ‘orderly’ as understood by us in India means one who has to accompany a sovereign or Prince or other high person of rank on horseback. It is a much higher position than the orderly of the British Army who is simply a private soldier selected to attend an officer as a personal servant carrying his orders etc. It was in the former sense of the word that I accepted the proposal to go to England.”

On arriving in London, he notes, he visits the zoo as well as Madame Tussauds. Yet sightseeing was not Karim’s prime purpose; he is there to meet the Queen. He recounts their first audience:

“Dr Tyler and I were instructed to take our station near the dining room and wait her Majesty’s coming. I was somewhat nervous at the approach of the Great Empress who soon entered accompanied by HRH the Duke of Connaught and Princess Beatrice. Dr Tyler at once did homage by kneeling, whilst I did the same in Oriental style. I presented nazars, or gifts by exposing, in the palms of my hands, a gold mohar [a coin] which Her Majesty touched and remitted as is the Indian custom. The Queen was thereafter pleased to speak to Dr Tyler a few words, and so ended my first interview with the Empress of India.”

Two days later, Dr Tyler received a telegram asking him to return to Buckingham Palace with Karim. The queen wrote in her diaries about her two new Indian servants: “The one Mohammed Buksh, very dark with a very smiling expression… and the other, much younger, called Abdul Karim, is much lighter, tall and with a fine, serious countenance. His father is a native doctor at Agra. They both kissed my feet.”

Karim introduced curry to the royal menu and started teaching her to speak Urdu, offering lessons every evening. As Empress of India – and a committed Indophile – nothing pleased her more.

Yet Karim was dispirited – he was unhappy doing such a menial task as waiting tables and professed his wish to return to his homeland. This is mentioned in his diaries.

The following letter from Queen Victoria that Karim kept in his journal asking him to stay is significant: that letter was one of many destroyed by her son, King Edward, following his mother’s death. Karim, however, had kept a certified copy:

“General Dennehy has read me your petition… I shall be very sorry to part with you for I like and respect you, but I hope you will remain till the end of this year or the beginning of the next that I may be able to learn enough Hindustani from you to speak a little. I shall gladly recommend you for a post in India which could be suitable for you and hope that you may be able to come and see me from time to time in England.”

And recommend him for a post she did: Queen Victoria made Abdul Karim her official munshi (teacher) as well as Indian Clerk to the Queen. This too he notes in his diary: “It was a day I shall never forget and for the same I shall ever thank my God and pray for the long life and happiness of Her Majesty.”

Henceforth Karim travelled everywhere with the Queen, even on her tours of Europe, meeting numerous monarchs and prime ministers along the way. The Queen allowed him to move his wife over to England, and the couple were given their own cottage on each of her estates. In Balmoral, a special cottage was built just for him, and the Queen called it “Karim Cottage” in his honour. The munshi spared no expense decorating and, on the completion of Karim Cottage, threw a house-warming party for the ladies and gentleman of the household.

According to his diaries, Karim seems particularly enamoured by Balmoral: “I admired the scenery for it reminded me so forcibly of the Highland scenery of India which is much resorted to by Europeans during the hot season… I was told that Her Majesty is particularly partial to this residence in the Highlands. During the summer the neighbouring hills are covered with the rich bloom of the white and purple heather and with many kinds of wild flowers. To add to the charms of the scenery the silver Dee flows directly past the back of the castle.”

He isn’t as impressed with Glasgow, though: “Glasgow is a very dirty town but it could not be otherwise as it is purely a business centre. There are numerous manufactories, ship building yards and great iron works. The country round about produces abundance of coal. It is situated on the River Clyde, the water of which is so black and dirty… that no fish can live in the river.”

On one of his many foreign trips with the Queen, this time to Nice, he remarks upon his good fortune: “Events which we never thought or even dreamt of happening to us cause us to wonder at the wonderful ways God makes use of in working out his purposes. This thought came to my mind as I considered the wonderful good fortune that happened to some Indian jugglers who chanced to be in Nice while Her Majesty was there. When Her Majesty came to hear of them she sent a request to have them brought before her to exhibit their tricks. The Queen was highly amused and delighted and the honour which was given to these poor jugglers must have made them happy for life.”

Still, many in the royal court were unhappy with Karim’s constant presence. He was forever by her side and the Queen, a prolific letter-writer, often sent him several letters a day. He became her most trusted companion. Although mother to nine children, her relationship with them was distant – and often strained. She missed her late husband dearly, and was desperate for company. As the years went on, Karim’s influence grew, and in time, the one-time servant had servants himself.

The courtiers’ fears had some substance. Since Karim saw every letter that the Queen sent, he was soon advising her on how to deal with sectarian problems between Muslims and Hindus – advice she passed on to the bemused Viceroy. Unsurprisingly, her solutions always seemed to favour the Muslims – Karim, of course, was a Muslim. He even asked to be given a knighthood – one of the few requests the Queen turned down.

The courtiers’ resentment came to a head in 1889 when the Queen spent the night with her munshi at Glassalt Shiel, the isolated Scottish cottage she had once shared with John Brown but vowed never again to visit after he died. Although it appears to have been platonic, he was 26 and she 70, so eyebrows would have been raised. Several courtiers – and indeed members of the Queen’s own family – attempted to distance the Queen from Karim but to no avail; indeed, she thought their actions were motivated by race – and jealousy.

Karim only notes the hostility towards him in his diaries once, and in passing: “The memorable year [Diamond Jubilee year] did not open well… The unpleasantness I remarked on last year still existed.”

Queen Victoria died in 1901, and Abdul Karim was given a prominent place in the funeral possession. Yet days later, guards ordered him to hand over every letter she had written to him. He must somehow have managed to keep his diary concealed.

The few other documents that survived fire are held at Windsor. These include a journal kept by the Queen that was written entirely in Hindustani, and Shrabani Basu has painstakingly translated all 13 volumes.

The translations also reveal fascinating insights into the nature of the Queen’s relationship with Karim.

Abdul had created a phrase book of everyday Urdu words for the Queen to use when speaking to her Indian servants, as well as visiting royalty, and has written them out in Roman script.

The phrases include the standard ones such as: “You may go home if you like” (Tum ghar jao agar chhate ho); and: “The egg is not boiled enough”.

But some of the phrases are significantly more intriguing. For instance: “You will miss the munshi very much” (Tum munshi ko bahut yad karoge). And: “Hold me tight” (Ham ko mazbut thamo).

The Windsor documents also contain letters from Queen Victoria to Karim, frequently concerning his wife (towards whom, it would appear, she was equally fond), signed: “dearest mother”; or “Your loving mother, Victoria R.I.”

She nearly always signed these in Urdu. Moreover, the intimate details that the Queen included showed how close she had come to Karim. For instance, the Queen learnt that Karim and his wife had been unsuccessfully trying to have children, and decided to get medical advice:

“I spoke to Dr Reid about your dear wife and I think he will understand easily what you have to tell him. It may be that in hurting her foot and leg she may have twisted (moved or hurt) something in her inside, which would account for things not being regular and as they ought.”

Following the letter-burning, Karim and his wife were ordered to return to India. Years of fine living in the Queen’s palaces meant Karim had grown portly. He had also grown rich, and, returning to Agra, built himself a house, Karim Lodge. He died eight years after his return, at the age of 46.

Yet King Edward’s paranoia was not quelled, and he sent more agents to India to demand that all memorabilia relating to the Queen be burned, much to the alarm of Karim’s grieving widow. King Edward had done the same with all mementos of his mother’s relationship with John Brown.

After all these years, Abdul Karim’s family decided to come forward with the diary as they were determined to show him in a more positive light; not the social climber he had been painted as by many. In truth, Karim was one of the Queen’s closest companions, and offered the widowed monarch a great deal of support – and pleasure – during her lonely later years.

 

 

Prince William and Kate Middleton visit lifeboat station for first joint Royal engagement Thursday, Feb 24 2011 

I’m not going to go as far as saying I’m impressed (mostly because I’m not), but she did put her hair up (or well, back at least). Kinda. Also, she actually…well….’worked’. If you can call that working, but I digress.

Still with the make-up, the weight (waist, legs, come on someone make the girl eat), and I’m neither enamoured with the fascinator nor the shoes (she should have worn her old boots here, would have been much better, because ugh, shooties). Also, the coat is rather boring, Camilla could wear that and get away with it.

Generally, I’d have said an engagement Angelsey is a good idea, because they live there anyway, and for a first engagement in her new role, or what’s going to be her new role, it’s perfect. And there’s quite a crowd there. On the other hand, yeah I’m not happy with the outfit. Hair yes, everything else (and the person, but well), no. Also, William, would it have hurt you to wear a uniform? The only reason I like to watch you anymore is you wearing a uniform. Especially the black one.

Also, you do know you’re allowed to touch her now, yes?

Pictures (snagged from the Mail article):

The Wills & Waity movie Tuesday, Feb 22 2011 

I guess it’s bad when the actors have more chemistry than the people they’re meant to portray (let’s not talk about looks…because the real people lose out on that, too).

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