Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Fashion Feast from Queen Máxima

The European royals offer so much in terms of tiaras, jewels, formal events and stunning gowns, and Queen Máxima is one of the best to follow in this regard. She loves experimenting with her style, trying new things and any excuse for a dramatic gown. Yesterday Max had such an opportunity for the Prince's Day session of the Dutch parliament.

The Queen looked wonderful in a sweeping red floor-length Valentino gown with a matching red hat by Fabienne Delvigne. She accessorised the regal look with a blue and orange (the national colour) sash - and a pearl brooch with matching earrings.

This was a magnificent look for Máxima.

The Dutch equivalent of the State Opening of Parliament sees the monarch give details of the government's programme for the financial year and budget allocations. Prince's Day was originally used to celebrate the birthday of William V, Prince of Orange on 8 March in the eighteenth century, but today the king uses it set out government policy for the coming year.

It's very much a royal event full of pomp and ceremony; the couple arrived in a golden carriage and were greeted by locals and well-wishers lining the streets.

The King and Queen then made their way to the balcony of the Noordeinde Palace, where they were joined by King Willem-Alexander's younger brother Prince Constantijn and his wife Princess Laurentien.


The Queen has been keeping a busy schedule of late with a number of fashionable appearances over the past week.  The royal couple enjoyed a trip on the lifeboat 'Prins Henrik' where they enjoyed laughs as Willem-Alexander took photos with his iphone.

Dutch Royal Family Facebook Page

There's a great story behind Máxima's colourful Natan dress. It was actually designed by a ten-year-old Dutch girl who suffers with Leukaemia. Thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation the little girl, Luna, had the opportunity to design this dress for the Queen with the popular brand.

Máxima repeated another Natan design, an understated grey dress, for a visit to the Laluz Foundation in Amsterdam, It's quite a simple dress, but Max added her own signature stamp to the look with the addition of two golden butterflies on her right shoulder.

Do you like Máxima's style choices this week?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Earl and Countess of Wessex Visit Canada

The Earl and Countess of Wessex are currently undertaking a five-day tour of Canada at the moment, not that royalists in the UK would know. Coverage has been desperately lacking to say the least, and it very much appears not one British newspaper sent a photographer or reporter to accompany the couple. For our Canadian readers, is the tour gaining much media coverage over there? It really is a pity Edward and Sophie are not covered properly considering the amount of work they do.

Governor's Facebook Page

Crowds welcoming the couple upon arrival.

Governor's Facebook Page

Sophie received a posy of flowers.

Governor's Facebook Page

The tour began with a reception at Government House hosted by the Leiutenant Governor, The Honourable Judith Guichon OBC.

Governor's Facebook Page

Sophie's sense of style has really evolved over the past couple of years. She knows what suits her figure, colouring and she's always considerate of the occasion. The Countess selected a £945 Stretch Wool Emilio Picci Bolero and the very pretty Abstract-Print Cotton Dress by Oscar de la Renta. The $2,790 frock features cap sleeves and a modified boat neck.

For day two of the tour the couple attended a service of dedication at The Cary Castle Mews, a cluster of 19th century wooden service buildings on the south-east side of the Government House estate. The Mews consists of stables, a carriage house, a wash house and a poultry house.

Governor's Facebook Page

Edward and Sophie officially opened the newly expanded costume museum located in the carriage house.

Governor's Facebook Page

Afterwards, a busy day of engagements ensued which saw Sophie spent time at Our Place; an inner city community centre serving Greater Victoria's most vulnerable: working poor, impoverished elderly, mentally and physically challenged, addicted and the homeless.

Our Place Facebook Page

Sophie met staff and people who have benefited from the services provided.

Our Place Facebook Page

The Countess donned an apron to help cook lunch.

Our Place Facebook Page

Once again, Sophie chose a black dress and pretty frock for a varied day of appearances. The zipped blazer is a Sandro piece and the silk geo-print dress is by Peter Pilitto

Day three offered a variety of events beginning with a visit to the Rick Hansen Institute; a Canadian based not-for-profit organisation committed to accelerating the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injuries.

Rick Hansen Foundation Twitter Feed

The vision of the organisation is "a world without paralysis after spinal cord injury".

Rick Hansen Twitter Feed

The organisation is named after and headed by Rick Hansen. Inspired to find a cure for his own injury Rick and his team wheeled more than 40,000 km to raise awareness for the charity.

Christine Tam Twitter Feed
The Countess selected an understated but elegant white wool blend dress by Emilio Pucci for the visit. It's a very classic piece which works from day to night.

Later, it was time to enjoy the great outdoors as the royals visited the Trans Canada  Trail Hike, one of the world's longest networks of trails, developed and promoted by a non-profit registered charity. When completed, the trail will stretch nearly 24,000 kilometres from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Vancouver Sun

The tour is going very well. Edward and Sophie both come across as very personable and friendly and according to those who met them were very eager to meet as many people as possible. We thank Anna from the HRH Countess of Wessex blog for the fashion ID's listed throughout!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Prince Albert & Princess Charlene Attend Golf Tournament; Princess Caroline Chic in White!

We're heading over to Monaco to take a look at the latest happening's at the principality. As you all know, Princess Charlene is expecting (it is thought she's about six months pregnant) and her diary is being gradually scaled back, but Her Serene Highness is still undertaking engagements. Yesterday she joined Prince Albert at the women's professional golf tournament the Evian Championship in France.

Charlene's bump is beginning to become more visible and she looked casual in loose-fitting trousers and a matching blouse. At this point in her pregnancy I'm sure it's all about comfort and feeling relaxed in ones clothing.

There are a few rumours doing the rounds saying if the couple have a daughter, they plan to call her Grace after Albert's late mother Princess Grace, formerly Grace Kelly. Yesterday marked the 32nd anniversary of the icon's death. I have to admit (being a huge fan of Grace) I do hope these rumours are true.

Meanwhile, Princess Caroline made a public appearance officially reopening the new and improved pedestrian street, Rue Princesse Caroline. Joined by several officials and government councillors the Princess was all smiles as she cut the ribbon.

Caroline looked effortlessly chic in a stylish white dress with a low neck and a belt cinching in her waist. She injected a pop of colour with print sandals.

We'll be posting on the Wessexes' Canada tour tomorrow. I know we have a few Sophie fans here :)

Prince Harry's Successful Invictus Games and Turning 30 Today

The Invictus Games, the international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women came to an end last night with a sell-out concert at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. Over 400 competitors from 13 nations took part in the event, which was organised by Prince Harry.

During the closing ceremony, which featured music from such bands as Kaiser Chiefs and Foo Fighters, Prince Harry told the audience the games had shown "the very best of the human spirit" and read a statement from the Queen in which she said: "As I have followed the competition over the past four days, I have been deeply moved by your courage, determination and talent. All of you have used the power of sport to enhance your own recovery and to raise wider awareness of the enormous challenges faced by wounded veterans."

Team GB celebrate after winning gold. (Invictus Games Twitter Feed)

Prince Harry enjoyed the event, hugging Foo Fighter's lead singer Dave Grohl on stage, and even encouraged the 26,000-strong crowd to take part in a 'Mexican wave'. The Prince also said he intends to share a drink with the captain of the British team, David Henson, who, along with Prince Harry, turns 30 today.

Prince Harry presented medals to competitors at the Games.

A number of the Prince's family and friends attended to show their support for his efforts.

James Middleton, Pippa Middleton and Autumn and Peter Phillips at the Invictus Games. (Invictus Games Twitter Feed)

We received a number of requests regarding the identification of Pippa's dress; it is the Isabel dress by Anthropologie, which retails for £98 (with thanks to Pippa Style).


Speaking about his birthday, Prince Harry said, "On the birthday side of things, I'll be chuffed to bits when I'm having a beer with Dave Henson. We're really looking forward to being 30, both feeling quite old about it."

With the Prince's 30 birthday he also receives an inheritance from his mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. The sum of £6.5 million left by her to Prince Harry is expected to have rose to at least £10 million now, after various investments.

Princess Eugenie and Guy Pelly were in attendance.

It was rumoured the Prince would celebrate his birthday at Kensington Palace, but due to the Duchess of Cambridge's illness will now postpone the party.

Prince Harry's ex-girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, also showed her support at the closing of the games, looking stylish in a long, grey wool coat, black boots and a black leather bag with chain detailing.

We wish Prince Harry a very happy 30th birthday! The Prince can be incredibly proud of his achievements with the Invictus Games, in which he showed true dedication and commitment. One could tell Harry really cared about the people involved and making the Games a success.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Stylish Danish Royals Attend Red Cross Dinner

We've often noted how the Danish royal family are perhaps the best at showcasing their finery; certainly the most frequent in terms of tiara and evening gown appearances. Royal fans were in for a treat as the royal family attended the Danish Red Cross 150th anniversary dinner.


Mary chose a vibrant Hugo Boss one shoulder Grecian-style gown with a statement belt to accentuate her waist. The dress benefited hugely from the belt as it's quite a flowing garment with layers. Queen Margrethe repeated a stunning deep-blue velvet gown with white overlay and Princess Marie looked "very Kate" in a structured navy lace gown.


A great arrival shot.


Crown Prince Frederik was noticeably absent, as he was in London supporting the Invictus Games.

Friday, 12 September 2014

King Felipe and Queen Letizia Do the School Run as Their Daughters Return to School

Yes, it's that time of year again. The summer holidays have ended which means students prepare to return to school and university for another academic year. For the Spanish royal family, yesterday was about just that; as King Felipe and Queen Letizia brought their daughters Leonor, Princess of Asturias and her sister Infanta Sofia to school for their first day back.

The two girls, aged eight and seven, attend the Santa Marie de los Rosales in Madrid, the same school their father attended as a boy.

Letizia was casually dressed in grey pants, a loose-fitting grey sweater and ballet flats. The Queen appeared to be completely make up free and looked radiant.

Fresh from a month look holiday in Mallorca, Felipe and Letizia have been keeping an incredibly hectic schedule since their return. It's nice to see them enojying normal family moments such as bringing their daughters back to school despite their other commitments.

We'll be seeing a lot of the couple over the next month as their schedule intensifies further.

Royal Residences: The Palace of Versailles

The magnificent Palace of Versailles began life as a hunting lodge built by King Louis XIII near the village of Versailles, roughly twelve miles south-west of the city of Paris in 1624.

Louis had been invited to hunt in the forests surrounding the village by the lord of Versailles, Albert de Gondi, and created a base there, such was his liking for the area. Some years later, Louis gained ownership of the fief from the Gondis and set about expanding the base beyond a hunting lodge into a large country manor, which was called Château de Versailles.

The Palace of Versailles. (Wikipedia)

The grand Palace we know today was not developed until the reign of Louis XIII's son, Louis XIV, known as 'the Sun King'. Louis XIV, influenced by the teachings of his godfather, France's Chief Minister Cardinal Mazarin, wanted a centralised government ruling France, which was only possible if he could undermine the power of the French nobles, as they each held sway over their respective areas under the remnants of the feudal system, and could muster private armies if need be in defiance of the king's authority.

Louis XIV of France in 1701, seen here in one of over 300 portraits. Note the high heels, which Louis had made to raise his stature, and which subsequently set a fashion trend for women. (Public Domain)

Louis' plan was the further development of a standing (national) army under his rule and the creation of a power base situated safely outside the capital, Paris. He also instituted various reforms in spending and taxation. These policies slowly worked to weaken the nobles and further bring them under his direct rule.

Revolts led by Parisians against the monarchy from 1648 to 1653 (known as the Fronde) had left a bitter taste in the mouth of the young king, who had ascended to the throne at age 5 in 1643. It would seem he never quite trusted the city of Paris as a safe place to rule from again, yet the victory of his rule over the rebellion (won by the efforts of Cardinal Mazarin on the young Louis' behalf) placed him in a very strong position from which to begin his long reign when he came of age.

The Hall of Mirrors, designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and decorated by Charles Le Brun. In modern times heads of state are entertained here. (Myrabella - Creative Commons)

Louis employed some of the greatest minds of France in his designs for Château de Versailles including: Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the great French architects; André Le Nôtre, the master landscape architect; and Charles Le Brun, the renowned painter - whom Louis called "the greatest French artist of all time". Together these men helped create a palace which was to become a most fitting symbol of the power, majesty and influence of Louis XIV's absolute monarchy.

The Royal Chapel at Versailles designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and completed by his former pupil Robert de Cotte. The lavish design and artwork is typical of the French Baroque style and was designed to impress upon the viewer a sense of great wonder and awe. The style is seen throughout the Palace of Versailles in its art and architecture. (Diliff - Creative Commons)

While Versailles expanded in size and grandeur, more and more of the French aristocracy were invited to stay at the Palace by the king. It was Louis' wish that his court should always remain there, and so the power of the French nobles was weakened further, as one by one they became guests of the king at Versailles and their influence was decreased in their own home regions which they had been forced to leave unattended in an effort to remain in the king's favour. In the Palace of Versailles, Louis could keep an ever-watchful eye on those he distrusted.

The Queen's Bedchamber in the Queen's Apartment at Versailles. The small door standing open by the Schwerdfeger case leads into a hidden passage through the palace and was used by Marie Antoinette during her escape from Versailles as the revolution gained momentum and threatened Versailles. (WestendRaider, Flickr)

Upon Louis XIV's death in 1715, his 5-year-old great-grandson Louis XV became king. The new king was not as ambitious in his plans for the Palace - or indeed the state - and Versailles remained largely unchanged afterwards, save minor modifications and additions, though Louis XV still ruled as an absolute monarch.

A panoramic view of the Grand Trianon. The Trianon was a smaller residence away from the Palace where the king and queen could entertain guests without the grand formality of royal court. It was designed and built by Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, and features a ceramic façade.  (All Free Photos)

This trend continued with the succession of Louis XVI, grandson of Louis XV, in 1774, and by then, with France having become a much-weakened kingdom since Louis XIV's time, the public were no longer tolerant of such symbols of power and splendour. Versailles separated the monarchy from the people of France, much as Louis XIV intended, but while the king's court continued on with lavish balls and entertainments organised by Queen Marie Antoinette, national debt spiralled out of control and unrest grew in the country.

The absolute monarchy was teetering on the edge without the powerful hand of Louis XIV to guide it.

King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette. The king was deemed to have lost control of the state such were problems with national debt, and his Austrian queen found herself isolated at court and mistrusted by the people. (Public Domain)

When the dust had settled after the initial events of the revolution and Louis XVI was deposed, Versailles was left in an uncertain position. After much debate on what to do with such a national institution (into which vast amounts of money had been poured), it was decided the Palace and it's properties would be preserved under the care of the Republican government as a museum. The Palace also became a repository for items confiscated from houses and churches associated with the Ancien Régime and those deemed enemies of the new state.

The Palace and Gardens were allowed to fall into a state of disrepair until 1794 when André Dumont, head of the newly-created administrative department Seine-et-Oise - which included Versailles - began work to restore and preserve the buildings, gardens and art for fear they would be left to ruin.

Part of the Little Apartment of the King now restored to its pre-revolution appearance. (Lionel Allorge - Creative Commons)

During the later part of the 1790's, items from the Palace were sold off to pay for various costs associated with the revolution, and other items were appropriated for use in government buildings. Part of the Palace was used as a military hospital, and the King's Grand Apartment was used as a gallery to display works of art.

The Orangerie designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart was completed in 1686 to replace Louis Le Vau's earlier, smaller version. It is part of the famous Gardens of Versailles. (Urban - Creative Commons)

With the arrival of the Napoleonic era, Versailles again became a central location for French government when it was given the status of imperial palace. Pope Pius VII visited in 1804 for the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as emperor in Paris, and gave his blessing to the crowd gathered in the palace gardens from the balcony of the Hall of Mirrors.

After the final defeat of Napoleon, the Bourbon heirs of Louis XVI returned, though now under the stricter rules of a constitutional monarchy. Louis XVIII, the younger brother of Louis XVI, ascended to the throne in 1814 (Louis XVII, Louis XVI's son, died aged 10 during the revolution without ascending to the throne.) Little was done to update Versailles as there was continuous unrest in France. Charles X, another of Louis XVI's brothers abandoned Versailles for the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

King Louis-Philippe I of France (Public Domain)

The year 1830 saw the Bourbons again deposed, and then King Louis-Philippe I of Orléans rose to power and soon began an ambitious regeneration of Versailles, turning it into a grand museum dedicated "To All the Glories of France" - a visual chronicle of all the ages of French history.

Louis-Philippe, hoping the endeavour would unite the people of France and bring about an end to civil strife, dedicated more than 15 years to the project and paid for the work with his own money until Versailles was suitably modified for the purpose. Recognising Louis XIV and Versailles' deep and unending connection, Louis-Philippe had the great king's apartment restored to its right and proper appearance so the French public could glimpse the world of the Sun King and Château de Versailles' former glory.

Signing of the Treaty of Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors in June 1919 to end the war between Germany and the Allies. Again, the palace found itself at the very centre of French history. (Public Domain)

From 1892, the Palace of Versailles gained new life under the administration of Pierre de Nolhac, historian, art historian, poet and curator of the Palace museum from 1892. To help support the restoration work Nolhac organised events to collect funds and raise public awareness of the importance of Versailles in France's history. He also succeeded in returning much of the Palace's collections, which had been removed in the preceding years, including furniture and draperies. These items had been confiscated and sold to recover money considered misspent by the monarchy.

The Petit Trianon, which was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel for Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's beautiful mistress, aide and advisor, who unfortunately died four years before its completion. It was afterwards occupied by his mistress Madame du Barry, and later home to Queen Marie Antoinette. It is considered a prime example of Rococo-Neoclassical transitional architecture. (All Free Photos)

Following in Nolhac's footsteps, and hoping to finally restore the Palace, the French art historian Gérald Van der Kemp set in motion wide-reaching restoration plans, beginning in the early 1950s. Over 30 years, Van der Kemp worked tirelessly to recreate Louis XIV's vision, and today in Versailles we see the brilliant fruit of his labour.

Van der Kemp, working with a team of artisans not seen in Versailles since the Sun King's reign, left no detail unchecked; he wanted Versailles to be again perfect.

With the help of his US-born wife, Florence, he set up the Versailles Foundation in New York, which found many generous and willing American supporters whose contributions were essential in the rebirth of the Palace, the Grand Trianon and the Gardens.

Editor's note: This post, the first of a series on royal residences we'll be featuring here at The Royal Digest was written by Andrew (my other half :)). A former student of history and art who has had the opportunity to visit a vast number of royal residences. We hope you'll enjoy the series!
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