Friday, August 23, 2013

Ena, Spain's English Queen

Ena, Spain's English Queen is a 1999 biography written by Gerard Noel on Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Queen of Spain

Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Beatrice, was never suppose to marry. She was intended to remain by her mother's side as her constant companion. But things don't always work out as planned. At the wedding of her niece, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by the Rhine, to Prince Louis of Battenberg, Beatrice met and fell in love with the groom's brother, Prince Henry of Battenberg. After much resistance and only after Prince Henry agreed to stay by his mother-in-law's side, Beatrice and Henry were married in 1885. The couple had a total of four children: three sons, Alexander, Leopold, Maurice, and one daughter. Their daughter was born in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and was named Victoria Eugenie (after the last Empress of the French) Julia (after her paternal grandmother, the Countess Julia Hauke) and Ena (due to the fact that she was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria to be born in Scotland). She was known predominantly as Ena.

Victoria Eugenie and her brothers spent their childhood at Windsor Castle, Balmoral and Osborne House on the Isle of Wright where her father was serving as Governor General.. But Henry became frustrated that his life wasn't going any where and persuaded the Queen to allow him to fight in the Ashanti War in 1896. He died after contracting a fever en route. Ena's last letter from her father was him telling her what a wonderful place Spain was. Beatrice was devastated. Tragedy struck again in 1901 when Queen Victoria died. After the Queen's death, the Battenbergs moved to Kensington Palace.

In 1905, King Alphonso XIII of Spain was out in search for a bride. Alfonso was born six months after his father, Alphonso XII's, death. His mother, Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, was his father's second wife and a poor replacement for the love of his life, Princess Mercedes of Orleans. Maria Christina served as regent until her son reach his majority in 1902. Now it was time for him to find himself a bride and all bets were pinned on Princess Patricia of Connaught. But despite the King's considerable charms, Patricia was not interested in the King and later married a commoner. Someone who did fall for Alphonso was Ena. He found her to be very beautiful (especially her light blonde hair) and the two began exchanging post cards. Maria Christina was against the match due to the obscure origins of the Battenberg family, her Protestantism and the risk that Victoria Eugenie could be a carrier of hemophilia (Her brother, Leopold, was a hemophiliac). But Alphonso held firm and proposed to the Princess of Battenberg at the Villa Mauriscot. She converted to Catholicism in 1906.

Victoria Eugenie and Alphonso married on May 31, 1906. After the wedding ceremony, an anarchist attempted to assassinate the King and Queen by throwing a bomb at them. The Queen was not harmed but her dress was covered with the blood of the guard who was on the side of the anarchist. Despite the poor start to her tenure as Queen, her marriage to Alphonso seemed to be happy.Within months of the wedding, Ena was pregnant and on May 10, 1907, she gave birth to Alfonso, Prince of the Asturias, or Alfonsito as he was called at home. While the Prince of the Asturias was being circumcised, the doctors noticed that he wouldn't stop bleeding. Alphonshito was a hemophiliac. Alphonso never forgave his wife for infected their children with that cursed gene.

The couple went on to produce seven children in total. Their second son, Jaime, was born perfectly healthy but at the age of four, he suffered from double mastoiditis that left him deaf and mute. Their next son was stillborn. Their last son, Gonzalos, was also a hemophiliac. Of their five sons, only Juan was perfectly healthy. The couple also had two daughters named after their grandmothers, Beatriz and Maria Christina. After the birth of Gonzalo in 1914, relations between the King and Queen were effectively over and the King instead let his eyes wander. The King's indiscretions deeply hurt the Queen, no less the fact that Ena's cousin, Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, was helping procure women for the King. Despite the fact that their marriage was on the whole over, there were period where Alphonso would turn to his wife. His wife would always love him just not with the passion that he wanted.

During the First World War, Spain remained neutral but that didn't stop the tensions between the two different women in Alphonso's life. Maria Christina being born an Archduchess of Austria supported the Alliance while Victoria Eugenie being a grand daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom supported the Entente. This battle for the King's attention had been going on for some time as people who supported the old ways supported the Queen Mother while the younger generation flocked to Ena. This carried on until the Queen Mother's death in 1929 but at that point the couple was passed the point of no return. During the Great War, Ena dedicated herself to nursing, revolutionizing the entire institution in Spain.

The Spanish royal family was exiled on April 14, 1931, after municipal elections brought Republicans into power, leading to the Second Spanish Republic. Victoria Eugenie and Alphonso settled down in Italy but separated from there on out. She would often travel to England for brief spells. Abroad, Ena suffered many hard blows. In 1934, Gonzalo died after being in a car accident with his sister Beatriz. Alphonsito renounced his rights to the Spanish throne, married lower than his rank, divorced her, remarried and divorced the second wife, only to die at the age of 31 in a car accident. The family gathered together in 1938 for the baptism of Juan and his wife, Maria de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, eldest son, Juan Carlos. Alphonso died in 1941 after suffering a heart attack a few days prior.

Juan Carlos married Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark in 1962. Ena stood as godmother to her great-grandson, Infante Felipe. Spain's English Queen died in Lausanne on April 15, 1969. Six years later, Juan Carlos would return to Spain as its King.

I give this book 4/5. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Spain's English Queen, this book is a great starter. Before reading this book, I only had a general idea of who Victoria Eugenie was. Of course I knew that she was a carrier of hemophilia and that Alfonso XIII never forgave her for that but that's about it. In this book, you learn about so much about her namely her resilient character. It's interesting, filled with good information and generally well written. The only problem I had with the author's writing style was that he kept using the third person when referring to himself. After you've seen "the author" for the fifteenth time you can't help but think "You mean 'you'?". But that's just me being nit picky. The book's only flaw is that it doesn't explore Ena's relationship with any of her family members. It centers on her relationship with her husband. I would have loved to know more about her relationship with her mother or her children, especially her two hemophiliac sons. Ena, Spain's English Queen is a great starter that will leave you wanting to know more about this brave Queen. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Ludwig&Lohengrin is a production at the 32nd annual Edmonton Fringe Festival on the life of Ludwig II of Bavaria, either the Dream or Mad King of Bavaria.

The production is written, directed and stars Calgarian, Kyall Rakoz. Rakoz portrays all the characters in the production.

I give this production 4/5. Some of you might not know but lately I have been getting into a couple of internet arguments over how far the liberties of interpretation can go. My argument is that interpretation should be formed from true facts - the blurred lines are where you can open yourself to interpretation, not what is generally assumed aka considered facts. And with in this vain, Ludwig&Lohengrin does it brilliantly. All of the plot points corroborated fully with the knowledge I already have of Ludwig (although some might take this as an indicator of how very little I know of the Dream King of Bavaria - teehee) but it had the right amount of zest to make it come alive. The murky points of the king's insanity and death are done exceptionally well by Rakoz. In fact, the production taught me something new. I had no idea that Duchess Sophie Charlotte in Bavaria fell in love with Edgar Hansfstaengl during her engagement to King Ludwig. Some characters are exaggerated for comedic effect but on the whole, lots of research into the production and it really shows. 

You can tell that Rakoz really tried to get into the mind of Ludwig II - despite the fact that Rakoz never actually plays the character. It's all told from the different perspectives of people that knew him. It is not big production as Rakoz wears twenty first century clothing with only a white sheet to aid him but he manages to pull it off. A minor detail that I could not help but love is that when he portrays a woman he will tie the sheet around his waist. To the average person this would obviously just indicate that he is portraying a woman but for those that know a bit of Victoria fashion, Rakoz actually does make a bustle. 

After asking four friends to go with me to this production, I was at the end of my rope when I decided to ask my friend, Blanche. She was the perfect companion to go with me. During her highschool days, she had gone on the school trip to Europe and that year they went to Bavaria to see Neuschwanstein Castle. After the production was over and we went to go grab a bite to eat, she was telling me all about how accurate his description of the castle was and then she went off recounting how beautiful the castle was. Going with Blanche was an absolutely amazing experience - I really feel that I connected with someone on an intellectual level that day.

It is such a pity that I do not know of any historical drama fans that lives in Edmonton because I would surely recommend this to them and we could call it a fairy tale date.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Shadow of the Tower

The Shadow of the Tower is a historical drama broadcasted on the BBC in 1972. It is based on the reign of Henry VII and the creation of Tudor dynasty.

Norma West as Elizabeth of York

The plot to The Shadow of the Tower is similar to The White Princess but extends pass where the book ends to cover Prince Arthur's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the Prince of Wales's subsequent death, Elizabeth's death in childbirth in 1503, and finally Henry's own death six years later.

I give this historical drama 5/5. This and the White Princess are miles apart. James Maxwell nailed the part of King Henry VII. He had the right amount of paranoia, the cold exterior and even the heartfelt moments. The character of Elizabeth of York was perfect. She put up a bit of resistance at the beginning of the series considering that Henry is of the rival faction but she does warm up to him and you see that they do develop a loving relationship with one another. She was sweet and loving just like you'd expect her to be. Henry's relationship with his mother was spot on, he held in her the highest respect without looking like a man child who has his mother kiss his forehead every night before he goes to sleep.

This TV series is a true testament to the hay days of BBC historical dramas. It is a worthy prequel to Elizabeth R. and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Even when I compare this their current historical drama, The White Queen, I am blown clear out of the water by The Shadow of the Tower. It doesn't have the large budget that The White Queen has but the scenery worked so much better. It was dark and dank and it really worked well in capturing that 16th century look. Like The White Queen, The Shadow of the Tower couldn't support filming a bunch of battle sequences but again this 1972 show got around this problem much better because it had much dialogue. Be forewarned this show is very dialogue heavy so if you like something that is action packed, this isn't the thing for you.

If you are interested in the life of the founder of the Tudor dynasty, skip the Phillipa Gregory book and head straight for this BBC classic.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The White Princess

The White Princess is a 2013 fictional novel written by Philippa Gregory on Princess Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII.

Elizabeth is devastated by the loss of her beloved, her uncle, Richard III of England, at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Years earlier, her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, had made a pact with Margaret Beaufort to marry Elizabeth off to Margaret's Beaufort's son, Henry Tudor. Now that Henry Tudor is king, he honors the pledge he made in 1483 and agrees to marry Elizabeth, although he makes it quite clear that he is the conqueror of England and will not rule jointly with the princess who had a much better claim to the throne than he. Still he must make sure she is fertile and so he rapes her until she is with child. Their first child is born 8 months after their wedding on January 18, 1486. The royal historians had said that Henry was descended from King Arthur identifying Winchester as Camelot. As such, the first Tudor Prince was born there and he named Arthur.

In 1486, only a year after gaining the throne, Henry faced open rebellion by York supporters in the Stafford and Lovell rebellion. Under the leadership Francis Lovell and the Stafford brothers, the rebellion was a failure and ended in the death of the latter two.

Due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, Elizabeth's two brothers, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, their was civil unrest against the Tudor reign by pretenders claiming to be the York heirs. While Henry had spared  Edward "Teddy, 17th Earl of Warwick, son of George, Duke of Clarence, the boy was kept as a prisoner in the Tower of London. Teddy's sister, Margaret "Maggie", was given in marriage to Henry's cousin, Sir Richard Pole, son of his mother's half brother. In 1487, Yorkist, under the command of the Earl of Lincoln, rose up in rebellion against the King in support of Lambert Simnel, who claimed to be Teddy. Despite Henry's attempt at damage control by showing that he had the real Earl of Warwick, Simnel gained traction with Teddy's Aunt, Margaret of Burgundy. Simnel was defeated at the Battle of Stoke where Lincoln was killed. Henry VII pardoned the poor boy and gave him a job in the royal kitchen.

For her participation in the Simnel rebellion, Henry had his mother-in-law placed in Bermondsey Abbey. She died 5 years after entering on June 8, 1492. Elizabeth would name her second daughter and overall third child after her but the child died at the age of 3, 6 months before her younger sister, Mary, was born. Elizabeth already had another daughter named Margaret after the child's grandmother. Henry and Elizabeth would also have two other sons, Henry (1491) and Edmund (1499). As their marriage progressed, the two reached an understanding and slowly became attached to one another.

In 1490, a young flemish man named Perkin Warbeck, appeared and claim the be Richard, Duke of York. Like Simnel before him, he gained the favor of Margaret of Burgundy. Eventually he was able to gain the support of James IV of Scotland, who gave him Katherine of Huntley in marriage. Warbeck landed in Cornwall in 1497 with 6000 men. He promptly fled upon hearing news that Henry's arm was in hot pursuit. Henry had Warbeck arrested and placed in the Tower of London with Teddy. Both tried to escape in 1499 but were subsequently found and brought back. Both were subsequently executed.

I give this book a 1/5. As you all know, I have a youtube channel and I consider myself a romantic of sorts and my videos reflect that. I had been thinking of making a video on Elizabeth of York but after reading this book, that is the last thing I want to do. I had always envisioned Elizabeth of York as this beautiful and sweet York princess but in this book, she just comes off as whiney, mopey and completely unlikable. I was on the fence about the Elizabeth-Richard romance but in this book they went so far as to say that they actually had relations. I was completely turned off the book by the rape of Elizabeth by Henry and perhaps infuriated later when they started to bond together in some bizarre form of Stockholm Syndrome. From all the previous readings I have read, Elizabeth and Henry had a very loving relationship and this book just spits in that relationship's face. Henry comes off as a complete monster.that rivals Shakespeare's Richard III. The book itself is incredibly boring, all this commotion happening with none of the tension that comes with fearing the loss of a crown. I understand that these events did actually happen so I am more inclined to blame Gregory's odd writing. I know she can do tension building decently as we've seen in the White Queen but this book was just awful.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The White Queen (TV Series)

The White Queen is a TV series which premiered on  June 16, 2013 on BBC One and began broadcasting in America on August 10, 2013 on the Starz network. Set in the the tumultuous times in the War of the Roses, the series centers around Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville and Margaret Beaufort.

 It is based on the "The Cousins' War" Series by Phillipa Gregory, namely The White Queen, The Red Queen and The King Maker's Daughter.    

I give this TV show a 3/5. Considering the three books this series is based on I am not going to hold the plot against the show because I've already talked about it. What I will say is that I am not a fan of the whole witchcraft thing. As for the acting, the only person who stood out to me was Aneurin Barnard, who made a great Duke of Gloucester. Amanda Hale and James Frain, who played the Earl of Warwick, were not bad either. Fayes Marsay shows herself to be a rising star. Otherwise everyone else was either hit or miss for me.

The characterization and writing was incredibly disappointing. The transition between the beloved York Prince to the "evil" Richard III was so sudden it comes off as unnatural. Isabel Neville flip flopped left and right without there being much need to. Anne Neville goes from "Let's not get carried away calling Elizabeth a witch" to "BURN THE WITCH" in two seconds flat. There was a very weird paradox where Margaret Beaufort was extremely religious and at the same time openly lusting after Jasper Tudor. I was not a fan of the crazy fanaticism either - I understand that Margaret Beaufort was indeed religious but they seemed to have taken it to a whole new level in the first few episodes. Thank goodness they toned it down later on in the series. Needless to say, the characterization was down right bad.

Worst of all was the production value. The sets and costumes were lackluster. I understand that they couldn't afford a ship or 3 battle scenes but I felt they could have done better than just stating, "There was a battle and I am King. Oh wait, he is king. Nope, I am king again. Oops, another battle happened." Edward IV had a slow decline into excess until he started looking  like his grandson, Henry VIII, and how did The White Queen present this? They stuffed a pillow down Max Iron's shirt. None of the rest of him filled out....just his shirt. The funniest scene, in my opinion, was when Edward said, "We are not young, Elizabeth", when they looked exactly as they had in the first episode.

I will take a step back and say that I did enjoy the show to a certain degree and don't regret spending an hour each Sunday to enjoy the latest episode. One perk to the show was that we saw the romance between Richard and Anne, it's one of the few works to feature these two lovebirds. Still, I would only recommend it for people especially interested in the War of the Roses and not just anyone who is looking for a nice period drama. It starts out incredibly rough but gets better and better towards the end.

Stay tuned for my review of the fifth book in the Cousin's War Series The White Princess

Monday, August 5, 2013

Marina: The Story of a Princess

Marina: The Story of a Princess is a 1995 book on Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, later the Duchess of Kent by Sophia Watson.

The story of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark begins in 1863, more than 40 years before her birth, when her grandfather, born Prince William of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and later a Prince of Denmark, was elected as King George of the Hellenes, after King Otho was deposed the previous year. He married Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia four years later and the two went to on to have eight children. The fourth of which was a boy named Nicholas, Marina's father. The Greek Royal family was an incredibly close one, who spent their days at the lovely palace of Tatoi. Their court was said to be one of the most easy going in all of Europe.

On August 29, 1902, Nicholas married Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, the only daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and Princess Marie of Mecklenburg-Scherwin. The couple had three children: Olga, born in 1903, Elisabeth, born in 1904, and the last, being born on December 13, 1906, was Marina. Marina was very close with her two sisters as well as her parents although her maternal needs were filled more by her English nanny, Mrs. Fox, than anyone else.

George was a good king and led the nation to dramatically increase its size during the first Balkan War. Nearing the fiftieth anniversary of his ascension, George was killed by an alcoholic anarchist. The future kings of the Hellenes would not be quite so lucky. Nicholas's elder brother, Constantine, succeeded the throne in 1913, making his German born wife, Princess Sophie of Prussia, queen. When the first world war broke out in 1914, conflict broke out between Prime Minister Venizelos and the King over Greece's position in the war. Venizelos wanted to join the side of the allies while Constantine believed in maintaining neutrality. The Prime Minister began a smear campaign against the King saying that he was actually pro-German on account that his wife was sister to the Kaiser. Constantine was exiled in 1917, making his second son, Alexander, King of Greece.

Prince and Princess Nicholas followed the ex-King into exile in France. Their exile from Greece and the Russian Revolution put a dent in the Nicholas' purse but Elena was able to live glamorously on a reduced budget, something that she later passed on to Marina. The family lived off of the sales of Elena's jewels and Nicholas's paintings as their only source of income.

After the death of Alexander from a monkey bite in 1920, Constantine was restored to the throne, bringing the entire Greek royal family back with him. His reign would end two years later when after military failure against the Turks, he was once again exiled, making his eldest son George II of the Hellenes. He died only 4 months after his second exile. In 1923, Olga married Prince Paul of Yugoslavia. He would become regent of Yugoslavia when in 1934, his cousin, Alexander I of Serbia, was assassinated in Marseille, leaving his 11 year old son, Peter, king at the age of 11. Elizabeth married Karl Theodor, Count of Toerring-Jettenbach "Toto" in 1934.

In 1932, Princess Marina met Prince George, Duke of Kent, fifth child of George V of the United Kingdom and Mary of Teck. George experienced a rather stunted childhood as neither his Mother or Father were of a parental sort. He was however close to his brothers: Edward, Albert and Henry. Marina and George became engaged in 1934 and they married in November of that year. The couple enjoyed a 5 month honeymoon. While Marina was very much in love with George, he eventually did stray and it was a constant humiliation to the proud Princess to endure all of his affairs. Marina, by this point, had already become beloved by the British people.

On January 20, 1936, George V died, making his eldest son Edward VIII. Marina had had a good relationship with her father-in-law and a decent one with her eldest brother-in-law. Edward's reign lasted less than a year as he abdicated on December 11, 1936, after being barred as king to marry his mistress, the divorcee, Wallis Simpson. His younger brother, Albert "Bertie", took the name George for his reign. Marina had a cordial relationship with the new King's wife, born Elizabeth of Bowes-Lyon, but felt herself slightly superior because she was born a Princess and didn't just marry into the title. Same with Prince Henry's wife, born Alice Montagu Douglas Scott.

In 1939, Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. Marina threw herself headlong into the war effort. In 1941, Prince Paul signed a pact with Nazi Germany in order to try a preserve Yugoslav in face of Hitler's threats. This pact did not sit well with the Yugoslavian army and he was exiled within two days of its signing. Paul, Elizabeth and their family were exiled to British Kenya.

George died at the age of 39 in 1942 in an airplane crash. Marina was devastated. She had had three children by George: Edward, Alexandra and Michael, the last of which was born only 7 weeks previous. George VI had to the good sense to bring Elizabeth over from Kenya to help comfort her sister. Although she was still very much broken up over her husband's death, Marina eventually returned to work. Marina, who relied on her husband for everything, now had to rely on herself alone. While she was not poor, she was far from well off and had to live scrupulously. But that did not stop her from being the fashionista that she was before George's death.

Marina died on August 27, 1968, at the age of 61. She died leaving behind her three children, two of whom were now married and with children of their own. Marina was an active member of the royal family, who won respect from all that knew her.

I give this book a 1.5/5. The book is roughly 45% on Princess Marina and 55% on something else. The book went into huge detail on the Greek and British Royal Family. Do not misunderstand me, I have nothing against a little back story, it's always a necessary. And even afterwards, if an event was mentioned, huge detail was put into the event and only stated that Marina was there and not how she felt about the situation in more than one sentence. But there was just way too much and as such Marina's story lost out on book space. Not that there was much to work with considering that the author skipped roughly fifteen years of the Duchess's life.  Her death came suddenly and was just glossed over, more time was spent on her funeral than anything else. Another huge flaw with the story was that it barely explored any of the relationships Marina had with her family. There was more written on Marina's relationship with her mother-in-law than with her husband. It does not go into any detail on George's extra marital relations both heterosexual and homosexual. She was only upset by, that's it folks. Choose another book instead of you are really interested in the life of this glamorous Princess because I found it empty, hollow and ultimately not worth my time.