Tag Archives: UK

Princess Harry

Prince_Harry_and_Ms._Markle_Northern-Ireland-Office-Mar-2018-wikicommonsOn Saturday, Meghan Markle will become Princess Harry. That is when she will marry Prince Henry of Wales, second son of the Prince of Wales and better known as Prince Harry.

She probably won’t be called Princess Harry. Although it is the proper form for non-royal wives of princes, it has not been used often. The only example I know of is Princess Michael. That is how Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz has been known since 1978 when she married Prince Michael of Kent, first cousin of the Queen.

The Queen likely will give Harry a dukedom or earldom, as she did his elder brother William upon his marriage. That way, his wife can be called the Duchess or Countess of whatever.

Meghan is American and an actress. Although Grace Kelly and other American actresses have married into European royalty, this is a first for Great Britain.

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Meghan’s inlaws L-R: Sophie, Camilla, Charles, Edward behind QEII, Anne, Philip, Louise (Edward’s daughter), Timothy Laurence, Catherine, William, Eugenie (click for larger view)

A more serious aspect of British royal marriage rules does not have to be an issue for them, or the Queen or Parliament. Meghan is divorced, with a living ex-husband. Despite being founded by a King who wanted to divorce and remarry, the Church of England long forbade the marriage of divorced persons unless the ex-spouse had subsequently died.

1992

For being free to marry Harry in the Church of England, Meghan has 1992 to thank. That year, called by the Queen an “annus horribilis”, sarah-ferguson-tabloid-headlineHarry’s parents Charles and Diana separated after scandal upon scandal. Tabloid photos of his Aunt Sarah, Duchess of York, scandalized the world after she and Prince Andrew split up. His Aunt Anne, Princess Royal, divorced her husband Mark Phillips then married Timothy Laurence. All this in one year.

Princess Anne and her second husband Timothy Laurence married in the Church of Scotland. It allowed the marriage of divorced, but not widowed, persons. So by getting married at a church near Balmoral, her family home in Scotland, they sidestepped Church of England dicta.

Prince_Charles_Diana-1985-Ronald-Reagan-Library-wikicommonsDissolution of Charles and Diana’s marriage was a thornier issue. He was heir to the throne, therefore the next head of the Church of England. Their marriage and its problems were much more public than his sister’s first marriage had been. However, Charles and Diana did divorce in 1996.

The next problem was what to do about his relationship with Camilla Barker-Bowles. She too was divorced, and her ex-husband was alive. So in November 2002 the Church of England changed its rules. The General Synod said that divorced people with living exes could remarry in the Church.

Despite having the way open to a church wedding, Charles and Camilla did not marry until 2005 and then in a civil ceremony, followed by a Church of England blessing.

Three Kings in One Year

Vincenzo_Laviosa_Duke_and_Duchess_of_Windsor-ca-1934 wikicommonsIt is the story of Harry’s great-great uncle, 82 years ago, that has been most compared to Harry and Meghan. In December 1936, the new King Edward VIII abdicated the throne rather than give up the woman he loved. She was an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson.

1936 was commemorated in a plate my mother had as Three Kings in One Year. George V died in January, Edward abdicated December 10th, and his brother became George VI. The former king and his new wife were given the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and effectively banished from the UK.

Three-Kings-One-Year-1936-Sovereign-Potters, Hamilton, ON CanadaWhile Meghan Markle’s story invites comparison with Wallis Simpson, Harry’s story is maybe more like that of Princess Margaret. Like Harry, Margaret was a member of the inner circle of Royals and always would be. Also like him, she was in little danger of actually ever becoming monarch.

Princess Margaret

In 1953 Margaret was third in line for the throne, behind her RAF-Peter_Townsend_Imperial-War-Museum-ca-1939-B-J-Daventry-wikicommonsnephew Charles and niece Anne. She was in love with RAF Group Captain Peter Townsend, and he proposed to her. Problem was he had just divorced his wife. The Queen and Parliament would not agree to their marriage. Over the next two years, they sought ways to allow it without compromising Church or government rules. If Margaret gave up her place in the line of succession, they eventually decided, she could marry him in a civil ceremony. But in 1955 Princess Margaret said that, due to “the Church’s teachings” and her “duty to the Commonwealth”, she would not marry Townsend.

Antony_Armstrong-Jones_1965_Dutch-National-Archives-Eric-Koch_Anefo-wikicommonsIn 1960 Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones. Wikipedia says she “reportedly accepted his proposal a day after learning from Peter Townsend that he intended to marry a young Belgian woman [who] bore a striking resemblance to Princess Margaret.” True or not, it fits well in the story of thwarted romance. Princess Margaret and Armstrong-Jones’s wedding was the first to be televised. Fitting for her, the glamorous sister and maybe the first Royal media star. Also maybe in keeping: in 1978 they divorced amid tabloid scandal.

So, from Edward VIII and Wallis, through Princess Margaret to Harry’s own parents, the path has been cleared for him and Meghan. The Church, the Queen and the public have given their blessing.

Princess Margaret 1965-Dutch-National-Archives-Erich-Koch_Anefo-wikicommons

Tinseltown Princess

A girl from Tinseltown and a prince. Maybe General Hospital will use the storyline. The soap opera is part of Meghan’s story. Her parents met while working on it and Meghan got her acting start there.

The Princess Harry story is a  happy-ending romance, one hopes. Wallis and Edward, Princess Margaret too, are more tragic romance stories.

See The King and Us for why I think Wallis Simpson and Parliament did us all a favour. Also, although Coronation Street hasn’t yet mentioned Harry’s wedding (at least in Canadian airtime), I loved their take on William and Kate’s marriage in 2011.

Royal Corgis

A week ago, the death of an elderly dog made headlines. A pet’s death is always momentous for his or her loved ones. But it’s usually not world news.  Willow, who died April 15th, was Queen Elizabeth’s pet, however, and her last link to Susan, matriarch of the Royal Corgis.

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Queen Elizabeth with her pet Corgi terrier Susan, at Balmoral Castle. Photo by Lida Sheridan

Willow is a 14th generation descendant of the Queen’s first Corgi, Hickathrift Pippa, known as Susan. Susan was born in 1944 and died in 1959. King George VI gave the two-month old pup to his daughter Elizabeth on her 18th birthday, 74 years ago.

Corgis in the York family

Susan wasn’t the first Corgi in the royal household. In 1933, the Queen’s father bought a pup from Corgi breeder Thelma Evans Gray. The pup’s name was Dookie (Rozavel Golden Eagle). Three years later, a female pup called Jane (Rozavel Lady Jane) joined the family.

Royals and Corgis 1940 Star Weekly May 30 1953 Unbeknownst to the then Duke of York, he and Thelma had discussed dogs before. When Thelma was 9, her dog was killed by a car – the Duke’s car. He wrote to Thelma’s parents, offering to buy her another dog. Thanks but no, they replied, Thelma’s grief was too great. Thelma, however, wrote to him that she would happily accept. He told her that they must abide by her parents’ wishes.

Thelma grew up and established Rozavel Kennels. When the Duke bought the Corgi pups from her in the 1930s, he didn’t make the connection to the child Thelma. And she never told him.

The Susan Lineage

Susan was the Queen’s first dog of her own. Susan had pups and they had pups. So through the decades, there were always Royal Corgis of Susan’s line. But several years ago, the Queen said no more. She didn’t want to leave any young dogs behind.

007 Buckingham Palace Newspix International people.comWillow, Monty and Holly were the last three Susan descendants. Monty died in September 2012, soon after the Corgis starred in the London Olympics “007” video with the Queen and Daniel Craig. Monty was named for Monty Roberts, the “Horse Whisperer” and friend and advisor of the Queen. Holly passed away in 2016.

The Queen’s Pembroke Welsh Corgis were of the best stock. She put the same care into their pedigree that she does for her horses. But they were her pets, her friends. Unlike her horses, the Queen has never entered her dogs in competition.

Windsor Loyal Subject welshcorgi-news.ch
Windsor Loyal Subject aka Edward, b 1971

Only one royal Corgi ever competed in dog shows. The Queen gave Windsor Loyal Subject, aka Edward, to Thelma Gray, along with permission to show him. He won twice at Crufts dog show in the 1970s.

The Queen still has her Dorgis. They started from an unsanctioned Princess Elizabeth with dogs Star Weekly March 1 1952dalliance between one of the Corgis and Princess Margaret’s Dachshund. She also has one elderly Corgi. The Queen took Whisper home after his owner died in 2017. Bill Fenwick, her retired gamekeeper, and his late wife Nancy looked after the Royal Corgis for many years.

So a Corgi is still with the Queen. But no Corgis of Susan, a lineage that has accompanied the Queen for longer than even Prince Philip.

Passchendaele

The Battle of Passchendaele ended 100 years ago today. It is also called the Third Battle of Ypres and the “Muddy-est, Bloody-est of the whole war”. The latter is what Alberta infantryman Arthur Turner called it in his diary.Frank-Hurley-Australian-4th-Div-duckboard-29-Oct-1917-Chateau-Wood

Passchendaele is a small village in Belgium near Ypres close to the border with France. British troops came to the aid of the French there in July 1917. Australian and New Zealand divisions were brought in early in September, then the Canadian Corps in October.

The Canadians weren’t supposed to be involved. They’d just come off the terrible Battle of Vimy Ridge in July. They were assigned to diversionary attacks on the Germans occupying nearby Lens, France. But the British Commander, General Douglas Haig, ordered them in over the protests of the Canadian Commander General Arthur Currie. Too much of a mess, too uncertain of a strategic gain, and the likelihood of too many casualties.

Be that as it may, General Haig was Commander in Chief and so his plan went ahead. And that meant reinforcements. The British and ANZAC troops were exhausted and their numbers drastically depleted. They pulled out and four divisions of the Canadian Corps moved in.pilckem-ridge-31-jul-1917-imperia-war-museum wikicommons

General Currie decided the first thing to do was clean up the place. The Canadians had fought two years earlier at the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and Currie and the men could see the bodies still there. Bodies of men, mules and horses had been churned up from their shallow graves by the renewed fighting. So they reburied the dead, built roads and board walks, brought in supplies.

Battle of Mud

Passchendaele Battle-of-Pilckem-Ridge-brushwood-track-St-Eloi-11-Aug-1917-John-Warwick-Brooke-imperial-war-mus_Q5944The 2nd Battle of Ypres was marked by gas warfare, the 3rd Battle by mud. Complete desolation of the land from the years of battle and heavy rains caused the drainage system to collapse. “The mud is a worse enemy than the German” said NZ divisional commander Sir Andrew Russell.

Two months of horrific fighting and losses by both sides, but the Canadian troops prevailed. The Germans were pushed back and the battle ended November 10th.Second Battle of Passchendaele Cdns-survey-German-Bunker_public-domain-in-Bostyn-and-Van-Der-Fraeden

Then in December, General Haig pulled out the Allied troops guarding this patch of land won at such expense. The Germans moved in again. After two more battles of Ypres, the Allied Forces won it back by the end of the war a year later.

British soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon was not at Passchendaele. He was in hospital, but could well imagine what it was like. He could imagine too the process of ‘king and country’ that took so many young men to fields of slaughter like it. In October 1918 he wrote Memorial Tablet.Cambridge U Library The Siegfried Sassoon Literary Estate via First World War Poetry Digital Archive http://ww1lit.nsms.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/item/9660

Talking with our Vera

An interview, 1992

My name’s Liz Dawn. I play Vera Duckworth. I bet all your listeners will recognize this voice!

Daily Mirror front page 27 Sep 2017 Liz DawnWhat’s Vera like?

Well, actually, Jack and Vera, they’re the best – most happily married couple in Coronation Street. Really! Because every time they have an argument, well, it’s a form of endearment! It’s not really like it looks, it’s a caress!

Well, Vera, she’s quite happy. In this day and age, she’s got her job, her husband’s working. I go play bingo with Ivy. Great corner shop, great Rovers Return. I’ve got lots of friends. Really she hasn’t a bad life, don’t you think? Compared to some people. I don’t know what it’s like in Canada, but we’ve got so much unemployment, you know. I’m so happy that Jack’s got this job in the pub. and he don’t really do owt wrong.

He just has these pigeons he loves. I don’t know whether you’ve seen the pigeons. Oh, he loves them. We’ve got them in the yard and every morning he goes out and feeds them. and he listens for them cooing.

Do you know much about pigeons? Well, they’ve got a sound of their own. And they’re filthy! So he’s having to clean the cages out, you know.

She should have an affair

Apart from that, actually, not a lot happens for Vera. I think she Reg Holdsworth Corriepediashould have an affair. With Reg Holdsworth in Bettabuy. Because I worked at this supermarket. He’s a bit manic looking, Reg Holdsworth. But I think Vera could quite feel as if she’s come up in the world, you know, having an affair with a manager. Do you know what I mean – after Jack! She’d think she’d quite done well for herself.

What’s she like really: well, she’s down to earth. She likes a laugh. Some people think she’s nosy but she’s not really. It’s just her way, do you know what I mean?

I don’t think Vera will ever be able to afford to go to Canada. How much is it to go to Canada? [₤300, 400] Oh! I mean, our Jack can’t even get his glasses mended. You know our Jack, he wears Elastoplast around the edge. You see, that is about five pints to Jack, to get them repaired. That’s what he’s like, really, you see. He’d rather spend money for beer than have his glasses repaired.

Vera since 1974

Oh, do you want me to be Liz now? I get mixed up sometimes. I go into an identity crisis. Sometimes I’m Vera and sometimes I’m Liz. Right, well, my name’s Liz Dawn. I’m married, got 4 children. I’ve got 4 grandchildren.

Vera 1st episode 1974 CorriepediaI started off singing in working men’s clubs, you know, to earn a bit of money, extra money. Then I joined Equity to do ‘extra’ work. But when I joined, it was just around the time when we had a lot of Northern directors, and story writers that wanted the real thing. So anyway, I landed on my feet. It just happened the right time. And I had quite a few cameo parts in good plays.

So then I ended up in Coronation Street. And that were 1974 when it was Ken Barlow’s old factory. He managed the factory, and that’s where it all started really. And I’ve been in it ever since.

Next Ena Sharples

I’m hoping to be the next Ena Sharples, you know. I want to be in the snug, with an hairnet, drinking milk stout, with Ivy and a few other old cronies. Wearing big bloomers. Because I just love the programme.

Vera and Ivy 1974 wikipedia[Did you watch it before you were on the show?] Yeah, I thought it were brilliant: oh, look at this! It’s so different than the programmes that were around at that time. Everybody spoke ‘very nice’, ‘very posh’. Weren’t a bit like real life, not in the North anyway. And that’s how I started.

I think It’s more of an institution now. It’s not a soap really, is it. After thirty-two years, I think it’s part of people’s life. If it came off it’d be like taking the 9 o’clock news off. People have just grown up with it.

The Duckworth Doorknob

We have a tour – Granada Tours – here, and people come round, there’s thousands come round a day, from all over the world. And they keep pinching my stone cladding! I don’t know, it’s a bit of memorabilia or whatever it is.

And one week they took the doorknob. What they thought they were going to do with the Duckworth doorknob I don’t know! They sent us out to do a scene, it was in the old factory. I came out of the factory, walked over the road, and I said to the prop man where’s my 9 Coronation Street new stone claddingdoorknob? He said them bloody tours again! I said what do you mean? And he said somebody’s took your doorknob. I said the doorknob! Can you imagine, it’d be stuck on somebody’s mantlepiece. They’re having cups of tea and boiled ham sandwiches and say ‘oh look, did I tell you that’s the Duckworth doorknob?’ Oh dear!

Duckworths visit Canada

I went over with Easter Seals, in Ottawa. Me and Bill. It were hard work. We were only there a week, 6, 5 days, something like that. But we raised a lot of money for charity and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.

[Why do you think people in Canada and other countries watch?] I think it’s memories isn’t it, well, people that’ve gone over. People who’ve gone over to live there. I think it’s a piece of home, don’t you?

So that’s how it started, yeah. Time flies, doesn’t it. People say to me, did you think you’d be in it so long. Well, it’s just part of my life now. It’s hard work, it’s a fast show, it’s a 3 half hour programme a week. So you haven’t really time to look around. In my head sometimes it’s 1982, you know.

Character believability

[Do you do any other work, other acting?] No, not acting, because our contract is very binding. You can’t do other things and quite rightly so. Because that’s what makes the characters believable. I mean, they’re a bit unbelievable aren’t they if you see them on other programmes.

Liz Dawn 1992 Rex-Shutterstock ITV Archives
Liz Dawn 1992, ITV Archives, Telegraph (UK) obits 26 Sept. 2017

And I think Granada has always had the right idea about how things should be. You know, the programme and how it should be run. I think it’s always been looked after, people kept their eye on things. ‘Hang on, you can’t do a pantomime and be in this.’ Well, you can’t anyway, it’s too – you couldn’t do a lot of things in this programme. It’s too time-consuming, you know.

Well, I’ve got to go. Because my husband’s waiting for me. But I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I’d like to wish your listeners all the best. When you go home, just say Liz Dawn, or say Vera says, look after yourselves.

In March 1992 I was lucky enough to meet actor Liz Dawn in her dressing room in the Granada Coronation Street studios. This is a slightly condensed transcript of our conversation. There is a lot of laughter in the actual tape. A lovely woman who made you feel right at home. Thank you, Liz – and Vera. (Meeting Jack Duckworth has more on my interviews with Liz and Bill Tarmey, our Jack.)

Diana 1961-1997

Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales died at the age of 36. She was the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and 15 times great-granddaughter of King Henry VII. She was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, also 15x-great-grandchild of Henry VII.

Diana’s line comes from Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII. Charles traces his ancestry from Henry VII’s heir, Henry VIII. Her family therefore is nobility while his is royalty. Her sons, however, are royals and direct heirs to the British throne.

Spencer Family Tree – from Edward IV to Diana

family tree Diana daughter of 8th Earl Spencer
Diana Spencer family tree – click for larger view

18th century Lady Diana Spencer

Duchess_of_Marlboro_with_Lady_Diana_Spencer-Maria-Verelst-wikipedia
Lady Diana Spencer and grandmother Duchess of Marlborough

A several times great-aunt, and name-sake, of Diana’s almost took the same path from nobility to royalty. (See her highlighted in chart.) That earlier Lady Diana Spencer‘s grandmother tried to arrange her marriage to Frederick, heir apparent of George II. But he married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Frederick died before his father and his son became the next king, George III.

Frederick_Lewis_Prince_of_Wales_by_Philip_Mercier-wikipedia
Frederick, Prince of Wales

While Frederick was Prince of Wales, his grandfather George I created the title of Duke of Edinburgh for him. His son inherited the title but it “merged into the Crown” when he became king in 1760.

Two more times the title was created and died out before King George VI re-created it for Philip Mountbatten in 1947. In order for it to pass to Prince Philip’s youngest son Edward, as planned, instead of to eldest son Charles, as it would through rules of primogeniture, it will likely have to officially end and be re-created once more.

So had history played out differently, another Lady Diana Spencer would have been in line to be Queen. But ‘our’ Lady Diana is the only Spencer who actually married into the top echelon of the Royals. The People’s Princess, PM Tony Blair called her, “queen of people’s hearts,” she hoped to be. A fairy tale princess she certainly was.

King George VI

Sixty-five years ago today, Great Britain’s King George VI died at the age of 56. The King is dead, long live the Queen. King George VI death front page Kitchener-Waterloo Record

George VI’s daughter became Queen Elizabeth II. My mother clipped and saved newspaper articles about those events. These are just a few from her scrapbooks. Click on the images for a larger view.George VI Passes in sleep

Sorrowing young queen, prince arrive home

From George VI to Elizabeth II

In Canada, as in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth, changes had to be made. death causing canadian changes

And there were tributes to the late King. The photo below is of one in Tillsonburg ON. My grandparents,  Charley and Minnie Burwell, are there – at the bottom left.Tillsonburg tribute to king photo of crowd

Three Queens and a King

When George VI died, Elizabeth became the only reigning monarch. But she was one of three women in England called Queen. The others were Queen Elizabeth, widow of King George VI, and Queen Mary, his mother and widow of George V.Rich and poor stand hours to honor king

Veiled queens see coffin carried into hall

sympathy goes out to three queensPresent also was a king of Great Britain, one who abdicated. The Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward VIII, attended the funeral of his brother and successor. (See The King and Us Feb 16, 2011)

Duke of windsor deciding own role at king's ritesduke and duchess of windsor on liner queen maryWhat didn’t happen

George VI had made plans for a “health cruise” to South Africa. His daughter Elizabeth was to represent him on a planned tour to Australia and New Zealand. While they were gone, his younger brother Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester would take care of royal matters at home. But none of it happened, due to the King’s death.forgotten gloucester to be acting kingAnother might-have-been in the Duke’s family was a Royal wedding. His niece, Princess Margaret, and his wife’s nephew were an item for a time. But it didn’t happen.princess margaret and earl of dalkeith

An Elizabethan Era

better than wisdom by F Beatrice Taylorqueen elizabeth II all radiance for historic event

Here’s eBay offerings marking the death of George VI.

Royal Wedding Anniversary

Happy anniversary, Elizabeth and Philip. November 20th marks 69 years since their wedding. Four children, 8 grandchildren, 5 great-duke-and-princessgrandchildren. Three heirs apparent to the British throne – son, grandson, great-grandson.

On November 20, 1947 a Princess married her prince. Her prince was a Royal Navy Lieutenant and somewhere in line for the shaky throne of Greece. She was heir to the British throne.

royal-news-clippings
A page from my mother’s Royal Wedding scrapbook. (Click to enlarge)

So that Philip would have British royal credentials, the bride’s father conferred HRH status on him, then titles. On his wedding day, Philip became HRH Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. In 1957 his wife, then Queen, made him a Prince of the United Kingdom.

Their wedding was the first big royal event after World War II. Six years of war had exhausted the British people and British resources. A news clipping (CP Nov. 19, 1947) my mother kept says British china manufacturers “can’t spare the time or the materials” to make wedding collectibles. The Royals and government knew, however, that after years of privation the nation wanted to enjoy something beautiful. So lavish, but not too lavish.

Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding scrapbook

royal-wedding-shoes
“Here is an artist’s study of the royal wedding shoes…” (Click to enlarge)

Every step of the wedding planning was reported. Everyone, I imagine, followed along as if they were in the wedding party. My mother did. She made a scrapbook called “Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding”. I took the clippings here from it.

At the time, she lived in a farmhouse north of Belmont in southwestern Ontario. Dad drove a milk truck and installed glass. Mom looked after two small children. The people who owned the farm and their animals provided her only regular company. Dad worked long hours. Mom was home alone a lot.

So in 1947 Mom spent a lot of time, I think, reading about the upcoming wedding. Dad would have been interested too. He had a soft spot for Princess Elizabeth. She had signed up for service during the war, she knew how to strip down an engine and rebuild it – that meant a lot to him. A mechanic in the RCEME, he worked on those same engines in the UK at the same time.

Five years of ‘ordinary life’

George VI and Princess Margaret
Left: “Viewed wedding gifts…” George VI and Princess Margaret. Top right: “Royal Groceries Bought on Credit”, Lower right: “Loyal Londoners Beam with Pride” – and compare their royals to others. (Click to enlarge)

Elizabeth and Philip had five years of what passes as ordinary life for royals. He continued in the Navy. They had two babies. Then five years later, her father died. Everything changed for her and Philip.

She became Queen Elizabeth II. He became first and foremost the Queen’s husband. Two more children. Nearly seven decades after that wedding, Elizabeth and Philip are still cutting ribbons and unveiling plaques. They are the foundation of a Royal Family that, despite predictions of its demise and its own drama and trauma, seems to be going strong. Long may they live.

Elizabeth and Philip wave from Buckingham Palace balcony
“Elizabeth and Philip, man and wife, were cheered by London’s teeming thousands…”

 

Pen Name Mysteries

Amazon link for The Cuckoo's Calling
Click to buy on Amazon

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb are pen name mysteries by famous authors I’ve never read. Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rawling of Harry Potter fame and J. D. Robb is the romance writer Nora Roberts. Both books, I think, are excellent.

The Cuckoo’s Calling introduces Cormoran Strike, private investigator. He has had a recent run of bad luck in business and love. Then he gets a new case. It promises to pay well, but seems to him to be more a matter of reassuring his client than of investigating a murder. It looks like J._K._Rowling_wikicommons pen name mysteriesan open and shut case of a London celebrity suicide. But is it? Or is a murderer hiding in plain sight? With his office temp, Robin, he gets drawn into a sad, tangled story of fame and envy, money and family.

Despite the sadness of Cuckoo’s central story, you still feel cozy in Cormoran’s office looking out on a wet and wintry London. Despite the nastiness of some of the characters, you feel sympathy toward them.

In Devoted in Death, you never feel cozy nor inclined toward understanding the reasons for murder. You see right off the bat who dun it, and why. You then follow the action and the thinking by police lieutenant Eve Dallas and her detectives as they figure it out. The plot is grisly and twisted enough to make a good episode of Criminal Minds.

Amazon link for Devoted in Death
Click to buy on Amazon

It takes place in New York City in 2061. I’m not a big science fiction fan, but this setting is ok. There are some technologies that we, to my knowledge, do not have at the present time. And that is kind of neat to think about. But it doesn’t get in the way of the story.

Some aspects of American society maybe are eternal, one being the disconnect between NYC and the ‘flyover zone’.  An Arkansas deputy in the city for the first time expresses his awe: “That kicks the cow in the ass.” That line alone made the book worth reading.

The edition that I have is labelled ‘romantic suspense’. I don’t know why. There is suspense but no more ‘romance’ than in any other Nora_Roberts-wikicommons-Devillibrariangenre mystery. The book includes the protagonists’ lives outside the investigation, but not overwhelmingly so. The book is suspenseful, yes, but romantic, no.

In their different ways, English versus American most obviously, both books engaged me right from the start. I may now seek out books written under the authors’ real names to see how they differ. For sure I want to read more of their pen name mysteries.

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth and corgis 1953Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday today. My mother, two years older, grew up with the Queen. From her teen years to adulthood, Mom kept scrapbooks about the Queen’s life. Clippings carefully pasted in, over-filling the large pages. There was a lot of news about the Royals. Thanks to Mom, I have a pretty good record of their lives.

Mom’s scrapbooks weren’t purpose-built for a Royalty collection. But there were those, I discovered in a second-hand shop in Sussex. Scrapbooks exactly like Mom’s but with a full-page image of the Queen on the cover. Mom wasn’t the only person with the mission of keeping a record of the Queen’s life.

Their Majesties with Princess Elizabeth and Civil Defence dogProbably mainly young women, entranced by the fairy tale aspects of Elizabeth and Margaret, the two beautiful young princesses. Princesses who as children had thought they’d always be in the choir of the royal family, not among the soloists.

That changed in 1936, when their Uncle David abdicated. Their father, the next eldest son, went from Duke of York to King George VI. Princess Elizabeth, being his first born, would wear the crown after him – in time, many years down the road.

wedding 1947 Elizabeth and Philip scrapbook pageIn the meantime, she could have a life a bit outside the limelight. She married at the age of 21, two years after World War II ended, and had children. Her naval officer husband was stationed in Malta, so they lived there for a time.

Queen Elizabeth and family 1952 on Clarence House lawnHer life had parallels with the lives of women like my mother. A WWII veteran husband, two baby boom children, making a new home while keeping close with parents and family. In the magazines, you saw a beautiful young woman, impish children, handsome husband, a dog or two. A privileged version of the post-war, post-Depression life shared, or aspired to, by many.

Three Queens

George VI death headline and new queen in mourningIt all changed, too soon, for her. George VI died in 1952 at the age of 56. Three bereaved Queens shrouded in black – mother, wife and daughter. The daughter now the reigning monarch.

For 64 years now, she has been Queen. We still see photographs of her and her family in magazines and social media. We know quite a lot royal scrapbooks made by my momof detail about the lives of her children and grandchildren, but we actually know very little about Queen Elizabeth. Her life has been such a part of our history and our geography that she is familiar to us. We feel like we know her, much the same, I think, as my mother felt about her when they were both young girls.

Have a very happy birthday, ma’am.

Titanic: No greater love

Among the bodies found after Titanic sank was that of a woman, clinging to the body of a Great Dane. Ann Elizabeth Isham had a seat in a lifeboat but was told dogs on Titanic deck, including a Great Dane typeher dog was too big to come with her. So she jumped back on board the ship. They drowned together.

This is one of the stories told in a current exhibit about the people and dogs of Titanic at the Widener University Art Gallery in Chester PA. There were at least twelve dogs on board. Three survived. Small dogs, they were carried in bags or wrapped in blankets and, held on laps, they didn’t take extra space. Astonishingly, a Pomeranian was refused entry on the rescue ship Carpathia. That, after he and his mistress had survived the night on a lifeboat. Mrs. Martin Rothschild raised such a fuss that her little dog was allowed to board.

Dogs were 1st class passengers while cats were crew, on mousing detail. There is a story that one cat saved a man as well as herself and her kittens. She was on board from Belfast to Southampton where she disembarked, carrying her kittens off one by one. A man, debating whether to seek continued work on the ship’s journey, saw the cat leave and decided he too should stay ashore.

Happenstance, loyalty and sacrifice

The tale of the Titanic is filled with happenstance, loyalty and sacrifice. Ida Straus was in a lifeboat when she realized her octogenarian husband wasn’t allowed on. “Where he goes, I go” she said and stepped back on the ship. They died together.

Quigg Baxter rowingQuebec Shamrock hockey player Quigg Baxter was on board with his mother and sister and, without their knowledge, so was his girlfriend Berthe Mayné, a Belgian cabaret singer. He introduced Berthe to his mother and sister as he put her in the lifeboat with them. He drowned.  Berthe later returned to Belgium and told stories of her doomed Canadian beau but nobody in her family believed her. After her death, they found a small box filled with photos of Quigg and his love letters to her.

A Canadian businessman, Capt. Arthur Peuchen, survived but later wished he hadn’t. A yachtsman, he got on a lifeboat with women and children to safely row it away. Back in Toronto, he was scorned for having survived. He retreated to a logging camp and horse farm in Alberta, haunted by survivor guilt. He died in 1929, a double survivor I think; of Titanic, then of societal opprobrium.

Titanic 100 years later

painting by Willy Stower sinking of TitanicThe Titanic specials for the 100th anniversary taught me a lot about the ship and our folklore about her. The hubris believed to be shown by the claim that she was unsinkable: the Captain and ship designers never said that, only the media did. The image of frivolity we see in the band playing as the ship listed and sunk: those musicians willingly gave their lives, knowing the value of music to keep others calm and provide solace for those facing death. Engineers accepted death to stay below trying to save the ship, then just to delay the sinking to save as many other lives as possible. The Captain hadn’t run her at full speed. He knew the danger of icebergs. On his final voyage before retirement, he went down with his ship.

Unfortunate timing of events coupled with miscommunication led to the disaster. The errors were not having Titanic ship in a bottleenough lifeboats and not enough practice at loading those they had. But, faced with disaster, people did the best they could. I hope Titanic is protected effectively now and left as the burial ground she is. Let her remain a testament to the power of the sea and the sacrifice of so many.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Apr. 19, 2012 (2 comments below)