The Original Star Wars Trilogy

May the Fourth be with You

“May The Fourth Be With You” is considered by fans to be the unofficial Star Wars Day.  The date was chosen because off the word play on the famous phrase from the Star Wars series … “may the Force be with you”.  The Force is an energy field that connects all living things and can be used to bring change to the spirit of the Galaxy.  The phrase was used in the context of the films to wish people goodwill in parting or before going into battle.

The Star Wars movie series was created by George Lucas and the first film, “Star Wars” was released on May 25, 1977.  It was followed “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and then “Return of the Jedi” in 1983.  These three highly successful films are considered the original Star Wars trilogy which when combined earned over $4 billion.  Then, after a span of 16 years, “Phantom Menace” was released in 1999, followed by “Attack of the Clones” in 2002 and “Revenge of the Sith” in 2005.  These three films in the franchise are considered the prequel trilogy which never seemed to reach the same commercial success as the original films.  Last year the highly anticipated “The Force Awakens” was released and it continues the Star Wars story, is the first of three movies that will follow the characters into the years after “Return of the Jedi” (I guess you could say it is the “post” trilogy!)

In this post I will mainly discuss the original trilogy of the epic Star Wars series.  So let’s get started … “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”.

The History of the Star Wars Movie Series

After George Lucas mild success with the 1973 film “American Graffiti” he decided that Lucasfilm’s next film would be a science fiction adventure story.  He began writing a rough draft inspired by a relatively obscure 1958 film called “The Hidden Fortress” by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (Lucas had recently graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 1967 and possibly saw the film as part of his Fine Arts courses).  Between 1973 and 1976, several versions of the proposed science fiction film were written and various elements of the original story were changed, added or deleted.  The name of the main character’s changed from Annikin Starkiller to Luke Starkiller to finally Luke Skywalker.  As a result of the name change, the working title of the film also changed from the “Adventures of Luke Skykiller” to “The Star Wars” and then shortened to simply “Star Wars”.  (Interesting Note: After the financial success of the first film, Lucas was able to create an independent film production company which would be separate from the typical Hollywood studio system.  This would allow him complete control over his future films and he would eventually build a large complex for Lucasfilm in Marin County which he named Skywalker Ranch)

By 1976, Lucas had a final draft for the movie completed involving not only Luke but a an entire cast of characters including Princess Leia as a member of the Rebel Alliance, two robotic droids named C3PO and R2D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi a former Jedi Knight, Han Solo and Chewbacca as the renegade crew of the Millennium Falcon and the mysterious and sinister character of Darth Vader who is a member of the opposing Galactic Empire.  (Interesting Note:  Many months prior to the release of the original Star Wars movie, a book titled “Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” was published in November 1976 by Ballantine Books.  Alan Dean Foster was hired to write the book based on Lucas’ screenplay, although Lucas is credited as the author.  It is unclear as to whether the book was part of Lucas’ plan for marketing his upcoming movie but the initial print run sold 125,000 copies.  The photo shown below is my personal copy of the book that I happened to have stumbled upon a few years ago in an antique store, needless to say, I quickly purchased the book for under $10)

Star Wars book

The first Star Wars movie (later re-titled “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”) cast consisted of relatively unknown actors in the three principal parts.  Mark Hamill played Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia and Harrison Ford was Han Solo.  Ford had previously played a minor role in Lucas’ other film, American Graffiti.  Alec Guinness played ObiWan, Guinness was an established British stage and film actor who was hired to please the studio because they were concerned about the cast of unknown actors.  David Prowse played the role of Darth Vader but James Earl Jones gave the character its voice.  Peter Mayhew played the 200 year old Wookie named Chewbacca, Han Solo’s first mate on the Millennium Falcon.  Anthony Daniels played C3PO the protocol droid that is programmed to speak over six million languages.  Kenny Baker played R2D2 the droid that Princess Leia entrusts with the Death Star plans and also a special message for Obi-Wan.

Luke, Leia and Hans Solo  Darth Vader

C3PO and R2D2

The next phase of pre-production was scouting the locations for filming, creating the sets, models and background paintings as well as deciding on the final costumes for the various characters.  Lucas had a very distinct vision for the film and he worked closely with the designers at Elstree Studios in England styling the 30 different sets required for the film and selecting the props using a very small budget.  For the complicated visual effects, Lucas formed Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) which worked in a large warehouse in Van Nuys, CA.  The effects needed to give the illusion of spaceships traveling through the galaxy that were developed using digital motion control photography created by John Dykstra and his team.  (Interesting Note:  Despite the fact that Dykstra won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his work on the first Star Wars film, Lucas had fired him from ILM over creative differences)

The filming schedule was set to have three separate units filming simultaneously at various locations.  Principal photography began in March 1976 in the Tunisian desert in North Africa was used for the scenes of Tatooine, Death Valley National Park was also used for some Tatooine scenes.  Tikal National Park in Guatemala was used for the scenes of the Fourth Moon of Yavin Rebel base.  Elstree Studios is where the Millennium Falcon, Death Star and several other interior scenes were filmed while at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England the final awards ceremony scene in the film was shot on the large Stage H.

A New Hope - original cast

The final phase was post-production in which the visual effects involving the space sequences were being completed by ILM and sound effects were added by Ben Burtt, who won an Oscar for Special Achievement for Sound Effects Editing.  The famous lightsaber battle scenes were choreographed by Bob Anderson and the lightsaber effects as well as R2D2 were created by John Stears, who won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.  (Interesting Note: The lightsaber was the sword-like weapon used by the Jedi Knights and the Sith.  The lightsabers had specific colors, such as the green lightsaber was used by Luke Skywalker and other Jedi Knights.  The red lightsaber was used by Darth Vader and other members of the Sith.  The blue lightsaber was used by Obi-Wan and the other Jedi Guardians or by Jedi Knights with higher powers)

When Lucas was in need of a composer for the first Star Wars film, Stephen Spielberg recommended John Williams who he had previously worked with him on his 1975 movie “Jaws”.  The Star Wars soundtrack was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, with Williams conducting, at the Anvil Studios in Denham England recorded in March 1977. The memorable Star Wars film score known as “Luke’s Theme” won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and the soundtrack album won the Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.  (John Williams would eventually compose all the music for the Star Wars movie series)

Finally, Star Wars written and directed by George Lucas was released on May 25, 1977 into fewer than 40 theaters nationwide and Lucas was so convinced that the movie would fail that he planned a trip to Hawaii to distract him on opening weekend.  While in Hawaii, Lucas watched the evening news reporting on the large crowds queuing up at the movie theaters to see the movie but it wasn’t until it was finally confirmed that Star Wars had overwhelming broke box office records that Lucas realized his “little science fiction film” was not only a huge hit but it had just made him a very wealthy man!  (Interesting Fact: After visiting the set of his friend and fellow director Spielberg’s “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”, Lucas had serious doubts about the success of his own film and felt that Close Encounters would be more successful than Star Wars.  Spielberg disagreed and he felt Star Wars would be the bigger hit.  To settle the disagreement, Lucas proposed that each would trade 2.5% of the profit of each other films.  Well, the bet turned out to be very profitable for Spielberg who still receives his share of the profits from Star Wars)

Star Wars poster of original film

To celebrate the enormous success of Star Wars, the film had an unprecedented second opening at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on August 3, 1977 in Los Angeles, CA.  During the festivities attended by thousands of people there was a special ceremony in which C3PO, R2D2 and Darth Vader placed their “footprints” in front of the theater, an honor usually received for established Hollywood movie actors.

Star Wars premiere 1977

The second film of the original trilogy was “The Empire Strikes Back” which was released on May 21, 1980.  The film was directed by Irvin Kershner, screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan from a story by George Lucas.  Lucas was the executive producer, overseeing all aspects of the production.  The film continues the story of Star Wars as the Rebel Alliance has relocated to the ice planet of Hoth to escape the Galactic Empire.  Luke soon leaves to train with the Jedi Master named Yoda (Frank Oz was the puppeteer and voice of Yoda, the puppet was created by Stuart Freeborn while Warwick Davis appeared in costume for the walking scene) Meanwhile, an old friend of Han’s named Lando Calrissian (played by Bill Dee William) unfortunately turns Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C3PO over to Darth Vader and Han is frozen in a block of carbonite.  Before this happens, Leia confesses her love for Han and he famously responds, “I know”.  Back on Dagobah, sensing that his friends are in serious danger Luke is faced with the decision to complete his training to become a full Jedi Knight or to save his friends.  Luke leaves Yoda to confront Vader who tries to persuade him to join the Empire and the dark side.  During their lightsaber battle Vader severs Luke’s right hand and in the end Vader confesses that he is Luke’s father.  (Interesting Note: This major plot twist’s backstory was that Vader, previously known as Anakin Skywalker, was a former Jedi student of Obi-Wan Kenobi that been turned to the dark side.  In an attempt to protect Luke, Obi-Wan had sent him to Tatooine and that is where we find him at the beginning of Star Wars living with Aunt and Uncle)

Empire Strikes Back poster

The third film of the original trilogy was “Return of the Jedi” which was released on May 25, 1983.  The film was directed by Richard Marquand, screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas.  The film opens with the Galactic Empire constructing a second Death Star in the orbit above the planet of Endor; the first Death Star was destroyed in the Battle of Yavin by Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film.  Seeing an opportunity, the Rebel Alliance plans an attack on the incomplete space station and to also eleminate Emperor Palpatine (played by Ian McDiarmid) who is onboard overseeing the final stages of the Death Star II construction.  On Endor the Rebels are hoping to deactivate the protective shield of the Death Star as part of their attack plan.  Meanwhile, Luke is coming to grips with the fact that Darth Vader (a former Jedi Knight named Anakin Skywalker) is his father and he struggles with this knowledge that Anakin had turned to the dark side.  In the Battle of Endor, the Rebels are victorious in destroying the Death Star and killing the Emperor.  Darth Vader also dies but before he does he tells Luke that Leia is his daughter.  Saddened by the death of Vader, Luke returns to Endor to tell Leia that she is his sister.  In the end, Leia tells Han that she loves Luke because he is her brother, this news shocks him but it also makes him very happy because has come to the realization that he has fallen in love with Leia.  (Interesting Note: After “Empire Strikes Back” completed filming in 1980, it was uncertain as to whether Harrison Ford would return in his role as Han Solo since he had only signed a contract for the first two Star Wars films.  To add to the situation, Ford had become a huge star as “Indiana Jones”.  This was the reason that Han was enclosed in the block of carbonite because the character could potentially be killed off to explain Ford’s absence.  Lucas was against this idea and Ford renegotiated his contract for the last movie in the original trilogy)

Return of the Jedi poster

As the “Return of the Jedi” moved toward completion, Lucasfilm had developed the THX sound system.  Lucas had been unhappy with the sound quality of the movie theaters that showed his films and felt that a better sound system was needed.  THX is a high-fidelity audio/visual sound system that would be compatible with any sound recording format whether digital or analog.  Movie theaters needed to undergo a certification process requiring specific acoustic, technical and architectural standards to be able to use THX.  When “Return of the Jedi” was in May 1983 it was the first film to use the THX sound system.  (Interesting Note:  The first theater install the THX system was the Norris Cinema Theatre located on the campus of the University of Southern California which was where Lucas graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 1967)

On a personal level, the making the original Star Wars trilogy effected not only Lucas health but also the state of his marriage.  Lucas had worked through an extensive and exhausting schedule making of the three films which lead him to be diagnosed with hypertension and he was warned to reduce his stress levels.  His demanding schedule also affected his marriage and by 1983 his wife had filed for a divorce.  The final divorce settlement also affected his financial situation and he lost a large portion of the fortune he had earned.  The ideas he had for the prequel trilogy were put on hold and he took a break from Star Wars, instead he worked with Spielberg as executive producer and story writer for the Indiana Jones film series.

In preparations for the 20th anniversary of the original Star Wars film in 1997 Lucas decided to re-release the trilogy into theaters.  With the new special effects technologies in filmmaking, in particular computer generated imagery (CGI), Lucas felt he was now able to incorporate the visual effects and additional scenes that he was not able to achieve before in the original trilogy.  With the renewed interest in the Star Wars franchise, Lucas decided to move forward with the prequel trilogy which elaborated on the backstory of Annakin SkyWalker and how he turned to the dark side.  “Phantom Menace” was released on May 19, 1999, “Attack of the Clones” on May 16, 2002 and “Revenge of the Sith” was released on May 19, 2005.

Phantom Menace poster  Attack of the Clones poster  Revenge of the Sith poster

In January 2012, Lucas announced his retirement from producing major motion pictures.  By June 2012, Kathleen Kennedy, was named co-chair of Lucasfilm.  Kennedy had co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall; she had previously worked with Lucas on the Indiana Jones series.  Then when Lucas sold his company to the Walt Disney Company a few months later Kennedy became the president of Lucasfilm.  At time it was also announced that there would three new Star Wars films.  The sequel trilogy would continue the story of Luke, Leia and Han Solo.  The first film in that trilogy, “The Force Awakens”, was released on December 18, 2015.  (Interesting Note: 20th Century Fox retained the physical distribution rights to the first two Star Wars trilogies, owning permanent rights for the original 1977 film and holding the rights to the other five films until May 2020.  The Walt Disney Studios owns the digital distribution to all of the Star Wars films with the exception of the first original film.

The Force Awakens logo

The Queen’s Hats and a Couple of Crowns

Queen Elizabeth II has generally not been known in the past years for her fashion style.  But that changed when in 1994 when Angela Kelly was named the Queen’s personal dresser, you could say she is the royal stylist.  Since that time the Queen’s wardrobe seems to have undergone a fashion transformation with more tailored dresses and coats made in solid pastels or bold primary colors or sometimes the dresses are made in fabric with simple patterns. But the outfits are always accessorized with sensible shoes and the ever present handbag (I am still wondering what is in that handbag!).  To complete the fashion ensemble, the Queen will wear pieces from her personal jewelry collection.  During the day, the Queen will usually wear a hat specifically made to match the dress that she is wearing.  On more formal occasions the Queen will wear one of the spectacular crowns from the Royal Jewelry Collection.

In this post I will discuss the many hats of Queen Elizabeth, but let’s start when she was a young Princess.  Shown below in the photo on the left is the infant Elizabeth sitting in her pram wearing a lacy bonnet.  Then, at the age of 11 years old her father unexpectedly became King George VI and the young Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret wore specially made golden coronets to the coronation as shown below in the photo on the right. 

Princess Elizabeth in baby bonnet  Princess Elizabeth - coronet for King George VI coronation   

As the years passed, Princess Elizabeth grew into a lovely young women.  Shown in the photo on the left she is wearing the uniform and hat of the Girl Guide in 1942.  Then, during World War II, Princess Elizabeth joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service as a truck mechanic and she is shown in the photo on the right wearing the uniform and hat of the ATS.

Princess Elizabeth - Girl Guide uniform  Princess Elizabeth-1942 ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Services) uniform

On the occasion of Princess Elizabeth wedding to Prince Phillip on November 20, 1947 she wore a beautiful embroidered ivory silk duchess wedding gown designed by Norman Hartnell.   To complete her wedding ensemble, Princess Elizabeth wore a silk tulle veil held in place with the diamond King George III Fringe Tiara. Unfortunately, on the wedding day the frame of the tiara broke in half but luckily the royal jeweler was quickly called in to make the repair before the ceremony.  Shown below is a photo of Princess Elizabeth on her wedding day.  (For more information about her wedding to Prince Phillip, please click on the link to British Royal Weddings – Part Three.  Also, for more detailed information about Prince Elizabeth’s wedding dress and her other bridal accessories that she wore on her wedding day, please click on the link to British Royal Wedding Dresses – Part Two)

Princess Elizabeth Wedding

Shown below in the photos is Princess Elizabeth at the christening of her first two children.  On the left is a photo on the occasion of Prince Charles’ christening in 1948 and she is wearing a red-orange dress with a matching hat with a large bow and netting.  On the right is a photo of her at the christening of Princess Anne in 1950 and she is wearing a light blue print dress and a matching blue velvet hat decorated a rather unusual fringe accent (sort-of like a blue whisk broom!)

1948 -  Princess Elizabeth with her first baby Prince Charles at Christening 1  1950 -  Princess Elizabeth with Princess Anne at her christening 2

In 1952, upon the death of her beloved father, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II.  For her June 2, 1953 coronation Queen Elizabeth wore another beautiful and intricately embroidered white silk gown specially designed for the occasion by Norman Hartnell.  During the most solemn part of the coronation ceremony, Queen Elizabeth was crowned with the St. Edward’s Crown.  (For more detailed information regarding the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, please click on the link)

Queen Elizabeth coronation 1

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Queen often wore hats with floral accents designed by the Pennsylvania-based milliner Sally Victor who owned one the largest millinery companies in America.  Shown below are some examples of those hats.

1960s - 1970s - Queen Elizabeth Hats

For the Investiture of her son, Prince Charles, as the Prince of Wales on July 1, 1969 at Caernarfon Castle the Queen wore a hat which caused some controversy when she chose to wear it instead of a crown, the Welsh people felt that the important ceremony warranted it.  Although the hat created by milliner Simone Mirman did match her pale yellow dress, it was a Tudor-inspired hat with two rather large pieces covering her ears.  Mirman had often worked closely throughout the years with the designer Hartnell who was a favorite dress maker of the Queen.      

1969 Prince Charles Investiture

An annual event held at St. George’s Chape at Windsor Castle is the Order of the Garter Ceremony.  For this event which is held every year in mid-June the Queen and other members of the Order wear special robes and accessories.  One of those items is the Garter Hat styled as a Tudor Bonnet, a traditional soft crowned round brimmed cap made in black velvet and trimmed with a white ostrich plume and black heron feathers.  Attached to the hat is a badge of the heraldic shield of St. George which is encircled by the Garter of the Order.  (For more detailed information at the Order of the Carter Ceremony, please click on the link)

Queen Elizabeth - Order of the Garter Hat

Another annual event which is also held in June is the five-day horse race known as Royal Ascot.  The Queen and other female members of the royal family, along with the public , that attend the event, take the opportunity to select specially decorated hats.  Shown below are some photos of the hats that the Queen has worn in past years.

Queen Elizabeth - Ascot Hat 4  Queen Elizabeth - Ascot Hat 3  Queen Elizabeth - Ascot Hat 5
Queen Elizabeth - Ascot Hat 1  Queen Elizabeth - Ascot Hat 2

Queen Elizabeth has had several milliners throughout the years that have made thousands of hats. Along with the two milliners previously mentioned, the Queen has had hats created in the past by the British milliner Frederick Fox, Marie O’Reagan of the London College of Fashion and the Danish milliner Aage Thaarup.  Since the 1980s through to his retirement in 2008, the New Zealand born but London-based Philip Somerville had the distinction of being the Royal Milliner.  Somerville was known for his use of unusual fabrics and trimming made in vibrant colors.  Most recently the Irish milliner Philip Treacy designed the hat that the Queen wore to the wedding of her grandson Prince William to Kate Middleton, this hat is shown in the photo below.

Queen Elizabeth - wedding of Prince William and Kate 1

When a milliner is creating a hat for the Queen there are a couple of important things to consider, such as the style and the fit.  The Queen’s hat needs to serve several purposes.  The first is that it covers the Queen’s head eliminating the need for constant hair touch-ups during the day which is usually scheduled with several engagements and appearances at various functions.  The second purpose of wearing a hat is that it covers the Queen’s head to protect her from any weather conditions, such as glaring sun or a sudden rain shower (although lately the Queen had begun to use a clear umbrella with a color coordinated stripe to match her clothing).  Finally, the third purpose of wearing a hat is that is a fashion opportunity to add an extra decorative accessory to the Queen’s outfit. 

When traveling to different countries, the style of the hat will take into consideration the culture and customs of the country that the Queen is visiting.  An example shown in the photos below is when the Queen has visited the Pope at the Vatican she will wear a mantilla to cover her head.  The photo on the left shows the Queen with Pope John Paul II wearing a crown with the mantilla and the photo on the shows the Queen several years later with Pope John Paul II wearing a hat with a mantilla attached.  

Queen Elizabeth - crown and mantilla worn on visit to Pope John Paul II  Queen Elizabeth - hat and mantilla worn on visit to Pope John Paul II 

Finally, when the Queen is at a public engagement, she needs to be able to see the people and they need to see her.  So, when creating a hat the milliner needs to make sure that the brim is not so large that it will cover the Queen’s face.  Also, the upper portion of the hat needs to be a proper height so that the Queen can enter/exit her vehicle without hitting the hat and knocking it out of place on her head.                  

Decor – British Royal Memorabilia


Dating back over 40 years ago my interest in the British monarchy started when I read a series of books by the historical romance novelist Jean Plaidy on the life of Queen Victoria.  Throughout the following years I have read other biographies about King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII (who renounced the throne for the “woman he loved”, Wallis Simpson), King George VI and finally Queen Elizabeth II.  Of course, along with the millions of other people, back in July 1981 I woke up before dawn to watch the television coverage of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and then again in April 2011 for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Serious collectors of royal memorabilia divided the items into two distinct categories – commemorative and personal.  Commemorative items are made on the occasion of royal coronations, weddings or births and can include stamps and coins, medals and medallions, china plates and mugs, tea towels and handkerchiefs, dolls and figurines, books and other printed material.  Personal royal memorabilia is defined as items that were previously owned by a member of the royal family such as clothing, jewelry, or perhaps a cigarette case.  Another personal item could be a painting or drawing done by a royal.  Royal memorabilia can be found in antique stores or on the internet through sites such as e-bay.

In this post I will discuss the many different categories of items in my personal royal memorabilia collection which I have accumulated over the years.  These items include coronation and jubilee medals, commemorative stamps and coins and a small collection of Wedgwood plates created to honor the royal weddings and finally numerous books and biographies about various members of the royal family.

Coronation and Jubilee medals

  • Queen Victoria jubilee and memorial medals – These are the two oldest medals in my Royal memorabilia collection.  The first is a Diamond Jubilee medal which dates back to 1897 on the occasion of the sixtieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria; she ascended to the British throne at the age of 18 upon the death of her uncle King William IV on June 20, 1837.  The second is a memorial medal which commemorates Queen Victoria’s death in January 22, 1901, she was 81 years old.

Queen Victoria - Jubilee medal front  Queen Victoria - Jubilee medal back
Queen Victoria - memorial medal front  Queen Victoria - memorial medal back

  • King Edward VII coronation medal – This medal commemorates the coronation of King Edward VII in June 1902, the date indicates his originally scheduled coronation but when the King had appendicitis just days before the event it was postponed to allow time for surgery and then his recovery.  The King was crowned at Westminster Abbey on August 9, 1902 and the images of both King Edward and Queen Alexandra are featured on the medal.

King Edward II - coronation medal front  King Edward II - coronation medal back

  • King George V coronation medal – This medal commemorates the coronation of King George V which took place on June 22, 1911 (He ascended to the throne when his father, King Edward VII died in May 1910, in general it takes about a year to plan and execute an elaborate coronation ceremony). Featured on the medal are the images of both King George and Queen Mary.

King George V - coronation medal front  King George V - coronation medal back

  • King Edward VIII coronation medal – This medal is unique because it was for the coronation of King Edward VIII which never took place.  Although he ascended to the throne upon the death of his father, King George V, on January 20, 1936 he caused a constitutional crisis when he abdicated on December 10, 1936 to eventually marry the twice divorced Wallis Simpson.

King Edward III - coronation medal front  King Edward III - coronation medal back

  • King George VI coronation medal – This medal commemorates the coronation of King George VI who ascended to the British throne following the abdication of his older brother, the uncrowned King Edward VII.  King George’s coronation took place on May 12, 1937 at Westminster Abbey, the medal features both King George and Queen Elizabeth, who later became known as the Queen Mother after the death of her husband.

King George VI - coronation medal front  King George VI - coronation medal back

  • 1936 commemorative medal – This unusual pin commemorates the year of 1936 which is known as the “Year of the Three Kings”.  The front of the pin depicts King George V on the right (reign May 1910 to January 1936), on the left is King Edward III (reign January to December 1936) and in the center is King George VI with Queen Elizabeth (reign December 1936 to February 1952).  The back of the pin has the inscription that reads, “Souvenir of the coronation of King George VI and the historical year of 1936 during which England had three Kings”


  • Queen Elizabeth II coronation medal – This medal commemorates the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II which took place on June 2, 1953.  Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne after the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6, 1952.  (For more information about the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, please click on the link)

Queen Elizabeth II - coronation medal front  Queen Elizabeth II - coronation medal back
Commemorative stamps and coins

  • King George VI and Queen Elizabeth 25th wedding anniversary stamp – This first day cover commemorates the 25th wedding of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, it is date stamped in Edinburgh, Scotland on April 26, 1948.  (For more information about their wedding in 1923 at Westminster Abbey, click on the link to British Royal Wedding – Part Three)  Shown below is a shadowbox with the anniversary stamp framed with the coronation medal of King George VI.

Silver Wedding stamp with coronation medal

  • Prince Charles and Diana Spencer wedding stamp and coin – This first day cover commemorates the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, it is date stamped in London, England on July 22, 1981.  The envelope features two stamps and a special coin depicting both Prince Charles and Lady Diana. (For more information about their wedding, click on the link to British Royal Wedding – Part Four)

Prince Charles and Diana wedding stamp and coin set

  • Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip 50th wedding anniversary stamp set and coin – The first commemorates the 50th wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, it is date stamped Westminster Abbey in London on April 21, 1997.  The coin features both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.  The second features four different stamps dated November 13, 1997 in Warrington (For more information about their wedding in 1947, click on the link to British Royal Wedding – Part Three)

Golden Wedding stamp and coin set

  • Princess Diana memorial stamp set and coin – The Royal Mail set of four stamps honoring Princess Diana was issued after her death in 1997.  The Princess Diana memorial coin shown was issued in 1999.

Princess Diana stamp and coin set

  • The Queen Mother’s 100th birthday stamp set and coin – The Queen Mother’s 100th birthday stamp and coin was issued in 2000.  The coin features The Queen Mother and the stamp set includes four different stamps depicting the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William.

Queen Mother stamp and set

Royal Commemorative Wedgwood Jasperware Plates

Wedgwood is a British pottery company which was founded by Josiah Wedgwood in 1759 in Stoke on Trent, England.  Jasperware is traditionally made in light blue with white decorative scenes featuring Greek or Roman mythology, other colors have also been used.  Later, Royal Wedgewood Jasperware plates were made to commemorate coronations, wedding and births.

  • Prince Charles and Diana Spencer wedding plate – This Wedgwood Jasperware plate commemorates the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

Wedgewood plate - 1981 wedding

  • Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson wedding plate – This Wedgwood Jasperware plate commemorates the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson which took place on July 23, 1986 at Westminster Abbey in London, England.

Wedgewood plate - 19XX wedding

Books and other printed material

Sparked by my interest in the British royal family, throughout the years I have collected several books which I bought in my local bookstore or online, also I have come across out of print books which I purchased at antique stores.  These books are displayed on the bookshelves in the library of our home.

Listed below are some of the most noteworthy books:

  • “Victoria in the Wings”, “Victoria Victorious”, “The Queen’s Husband” and “The Widow of Windsor” from the Victorian series of historical novels written by Jean Plaidy  – these books tell the story of Queen Victoria’s life from her birth in 1819 to her accession to the throne of England in 1837 and to her death in 1901.  (These are the books that started my long term interest in Queen Victoria and the British royal family)

Jean Plaidy Queen Victoria books

  • “The Beautiful Life and Illustrious Reign of Queen Victoria” by Rev. John Rusk – this book was published only 4 months after the death of the Queen in 1901 and includes many photographs.  (The antique book has a lovely book cover and it is displayed as a decorative item in the bookshelf in my home office)

Queen Victoria book - front

  • “Silver Wedding – The Record of Twenty-five Royal Years” by Louis Wulff – this book was published in 1948 to commemorate the 25th wedding anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Silver Wedding book

  • “The Little Princesses” by Marion Crawford – when this book about the two daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York was first published in 1950 by their Nanny “Crawfie” and it caused a scandal in England.  No Royal servant had ever divulged the “secrets” of the Royal family before in print but the stories about Princess Elizabeth (later to become Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister, Princess Margaret,  are actually very sweet.  Unfortunately, the Queen Mother and the rest of the royal family never spoke to Nanny “Crawfie” again.

The Little Princesses

  • “God Save the Queen” by Allan Michie – This book was written in 1952 after the death of King George VI and before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  The book details the life of King George from his birth to his childhood to his accession to his early and untimely death.

God Save the Queen

  • “The Last Great Edwardian Lady” by Ingrid Seward – This book was published in 1999 and discusses the life of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother.  She was born at the turn of the century and lived until the age of 101.  (The copy that I have has a special in memoriam overleaf on the cover)

Queen Mother book

  • “A Dress for Diana” by David and Elizabeth Emanuel – This book was published in 2006 and is written by the designers of the iconic bridal dress that Lady Diana Spencer wore to her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles.  (For more information about Diana’s wedding dress, please click on the link to British Royal Wedding Dresses- Part Two)

A Dress for Diana book

Listed below are some of the guidebooks collected on our trip to England in 1997:


(For more information about of these travel destinations in England, please click on the links shown above)

Queen Victoria’s Daughters

In part one of the series on the children of Queen Victoria’s children I discussed her four sons including Prince Albert Edward (the future King Edward VII).  In part two, I will discuss their five daughters.  The Queen had a very uneasy relationship with her children that ranged from showing them a minimum amount of affection when they were infants, controlling their education through private tutors as they were small children and finally as young adults selecting their future marriage partners aimed at furthering her political plans for England.  Throughout the years, the Queen wrote letters to her children almost constantly not only to inquire about their personal lives and she also to voice her very strong opinions about all aspects of their lives.  Many of the daughters, especially after the death of the Queen’s beloved husband, felt it was their duty to be a daily companion to their mother and often acted as nursemaid or personal secretary.

So, let’s take a look at Queen Victoria’s daughters …

Princess Victoria Adelaiede (future German Empress and Queen of Prussia)
born – November 21, 1840 at Buckingham Palace in London
died – August 5, 1901 at Castle Friedrichshof in Germany

Princess Victoria was the first child and eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert.  She was christened in the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace and she is named in honor of both her mother, Queen Victoria and her maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.  For the special occasion of the birth of her first child, the Queen commissioned a special silver baptismal font made by Barnard & Co. decorated with the symbol of the lily to represent purity and new life.  The Queen Victoria also commissioned a lovely christening gown made with Honiton lace and lined in white satin, it has a very long skirt with an elaborate collar and bow.  (Historical Fact: Since 1841 over 60 royal children have worn the gown for their christenings including four Kings, King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.  The original robe was very old and fragile so in 2008, to preserve the historical garment, an exact replica was made by the Queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly.  Most recently the replicated christening gown has been worn by Prince George in 2013 and Princess Charlotte in 2015)

Princess Victoria - christening

Victoria was the heiress presumptive (the person entitled to inherit a throne but whose position can be displaced by the birth of an heir apparent) until her brother, Prince Albert Edward, was born the next year.  At that time, the Queen gave Victoria the title of HRH the Princess Royal, a grand name for a one year old but the family called her “Vicky”.

Victoria was her father’s favorite child and he felt that her intelligent nature warranted her education by tutors alongside her brother in subjects such as: mathematics, literature, history, science, Latin, French and German.  Unfortunately, Victoria turned out to be the better student than her brother!  This only added to Prince Albert’s pride in his daughter’s accomplishments and the two became very close discussing politics and current events, this situation greatly distressed the Queen and she was extremely jealous of the close relationship between father and daughter.

Since the Queen controlled all aspects of her children’s personal lives, by the time Victoria was 10 years old it was arranged that would met her future husband at the Great Exhibition of 1851.  He was Prince Frederick William of Prussia and he was second in line to inherit the Prussian throne, this alliance was a calculated move in which the Queen hoped to strengthen the political connections between the two countries.  By 1955, Victoria and Frederick were engaged but the public announcement was delayed for a few years because Victoria was only fourteen years old and Frederick was twenty-four.  Finally, after a long wait, their engagement was officially announced in 1857.

Princess Victoria - wedding

Princess Victoria - wedding dressAt the insistence of the Queen, the wedding of Victoria and Frederick took place in England on January 25, 1858 at the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace in London.  In 1861, Frederick’s father became King William I of Prussia, Frederick and Victoria were now the Crown Prince and Crown Princess.  The couple went on to have a very happy marriage based on true love and mutual respect; they had eight children – Wilhelm (the future German Emperor), Charlotte, Henry, Sigmund, Viktoia, Waldemar, Sophia and Margaret.

During the early years of their marriage, Victoria was having a hard time adjusting to life in a foreign country and she was being encouraged through letters sent by the Queen and occasional visits home to England not forget her British heritage.  (Over 3,700 letters from the Queen to Victoria and over 4,000 letters from Victoria to the Queen have been preserved in the British Royal Archives which were secretly smuggled out of Germany after her death to avoid them being destroyed)

Sadly, after the difficult breech birth in 1859 of their first son, Wilhelm, it was soon discovered that he born with severe paralysis of his left arm which greatly upset Victoria.  This would be a foreboding sign that Wilhelm was to cause his mother’s life to be filled with many more difficulties.  In regards to his education and military training, Victoria was determined that he would have lessons by private tutors that would be brought over from England but Otto von Bismarck, the powerful Prussian minister, was equally set on German tutors.  Bismarck would ultimately succeed with his plan and over the following years the young Wilhelm would ultimately become alienated from his own parents and favor the opinions of Bismarck.

Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia

With the death of Frederick’s father in 1888, he became the Emperor Frederick III and Victoria became the Empress of Prussia, their son was now Crown Prince Wilhelm.  Unfortunately, Frederick was already terminally ill with throat cancer at the time of his ascension and died after only 99 days on the throne, his son was now the Emperor.  Guided by Bismarck, one of the first things that Wilhelm did was to immediately banish the widowed Victoria to live at the Castle Friedrichshof located in the hills near Frankfurt.  By this time, Victoria had lost her father in 1861 and following the example of her mother’s intense mourning, after the death of her own husband she dressed in black for the rest of her life.  The widowed Victoria built a satisfying life at Castle Friedrichshof and she continued her civic work in Berlin by establishing a training school for nurses and also as a patron of the arts helping to organize the 1872 Industrial Art Exhibition.

Empress Victoria 1

In 1899, while visiting her mother at Balmoral, Victoria was feeling ill and the British doctors soon determined a diagnose of breast cancer.  Sadly, upon her return to Germany later 1900, the cancer had spread to her spine and she died on August 5, 1901 at Castle Friedrichshof, she is buried in the royal mausoleum at the Friedenskircheat Postdam.

Princess Alice Maud (later Grand Duchess of Hesse)
born – April 25, 1843 at Buckingham Palace in London
died – December 11, 1878 at the New Palace, Darmstadt in Hesse

Princess Alice was the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  Her name was chosen by the Queen because it was Lord Melbourne, her first Prime Minister, favorite female name and Maud was also chosen to honor Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, one of Alice’s godparents.  To accommodate their growing family and to escape London during the summer months, after the birth of Alice Victoria and Albert purchased Osborne House located on Isle of Wight, it soon became a favorite retreat for the Queen and her family.

Like her siblings, Alice was educated with private tutors in English, French and German and other basic subjects.  She was also taught practical skills that would include sewing and knitting, housekeeping, cooking and gardening.  Although Alice was content with her family life she was intrigued by the daily lives of the average people outside the Palace walls.  In fact, during the Crimean War, the eleven year old Alice accompanied the Queen when she went to the London hospitals to visit the wounded soldiers.  Alice grew into a compassionate and sympathetic young adult with an interest in medicine and caring for patients.

Alice’s nursing skills proved to be a comfort to her father when he fell ill with typhoid fever in 1861 and she was constantly at his bedside caring for him until his death.  (Although the initial cause of death was believed to be typhoid fever, recent history indicates that Prince Albert had been ill for at least two years possibly suffering from abdominal cancer)  After her father’s death, the Queen went into an intense period of mourning and for the next few months she relied heavily on Alice to act not only as her own nursemaid attending to her constant care but also her personal secretary dealing with the Queen’s correspondence and daily paperwork.  This was a very difficult time in Alice’s life because not only had she lost a father but she was dealing with the increasing demands of her distraught mother.

Princess Alice

Perhaps out of despair and exhaustion living in an oppressive home of deep mourning Alice went forward with her engagement to Prince Louis of Hesse, this union had been approved by Prince Albert before his death.  Alice and Louis were married on July 1, 1862 in a private ceremony at Osborne House; it was a very solemn occasion which seemed to forewarn the possibility of future trouble within her marriage.  (Historical Note:  As a wedding present to Alice, the Queen gave her a gold, diamond and pearl bracelet with an unusual inscription that read in part “… from your loving parents … who though visibly parted are ever united …”.  A strange message to be be given on the occasion of a wedding, but the Queen was always thinking of her problems!)    Alice and Louis went on to have seven children – Victoria, Elisabeth, Irene, Ernest, Fredrick, Alexandra and Marie.

Princess Alice in her wedding dress

Now living in Darmstadt during the Austro-Prussian War, Alice became more heavily involved with the nursing profession and she developed a great interest in the work of Florence Nightingale (an English social reformer and considered the founder of modern nursing techniques).  It has been said that the Queen (dare I say, a prude!) was deeply concerned about her daughter’s exposure to various aspects of medical care and in particular gynecological matters.  Sadly, Alice’s youngest son had recently been diagnosed hemophilia when he accidentally fell from a window at their home and ultimately died from internal bleeding, it has been said that Alice never recovered from the death of her favorite son.  (Historical Fact:  The hemophilia disease has been traced back to Queen Victoria.  Besides affecting not only her son, Leopold, she unknowingly passed the disease onto future generations through Alice but also through her other daughter Beatrice)

Princess Alice with husband and child

Then in 1877, upon the death of his father, Louis became the Grand Duke of Hesse and Alice was now the Grand Duchess.  Alice, perhaps still distraught over the death of her young son, had become increasingly worried about her own minor personal health issues, her marital problems with her seemingly disinterested husband and the ongoing problems of an extremely difficult relationship with her controlling mother.  Alice was also distressed that despite her involvement with the social and cultural activities she continued to have a difficult time being accepted by the people of Hesse, this was a problem very similar to her older sister Victoria troubles in Prussia.

Princess Alice and her husband

In November 1878, several members of the Grand Duke and Duchess family became ill with diphtheria.  Victoria was the first of the children to be diagnosed followed by Alexandra, Marie, Irene, Ernest and even the Grand Duke became infected with the disease.  Elizabeth was the only child not to be affected by the illness because Alice had the forethought to send her away to stay with mother-in-law.  After Marie died Alice broke a strict rule of no physical contact with the patients and embraced her son, Ernest, to comfort him upon hearing the news about the death of his sister.  As a result Alice became seriously ill with the diphtheria and she died on December 11, 1878; she was the first of Queen Victoria’s children to die.  Alice is buried at the Grand Ducal mausoleum at Rosenhohe near Darmstadt and as a final salute to her English heritage the British flag was draped over her coffin at her funeral.

Princess Helena Augusta (later Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein
born – May 25, 1846 at Buckingham Palace in London
died – June 9, 1823 at Schomberg House in London

Princess Helena was the fifth child and third daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  Like many of her other siblings, Helena was christened at the private chapel in Buckingham Palace.  She soon became known as Lenchen within her family, a name shortened from the German Helenchen.   

Helena was educated by private tutors arranged by her father and she soon proved her artistic skills when she began drawing, this brought the Queen great pleasure because she was also an accomplished amateur artist.  Also noticed at that time, was Helena’s excellent needlework skills (she went on later in her adult life to promote the art of needlework and in 1872 became the first president of the Royal School of Needlework).

Princess Helene 2

Then, with the death of Prince Albert, her father, the royal household fell into a deep mourning period prompted by the intensely grieving Queen Victoria.  The once happy home with children playing and laughing was drastically changed into a somber house where any type of outward joy or happiness was greatly stifled by the Queen.  Maybe out of rebellion or to bring some excitement in her life, Helena began a mild flirtation with Carl Ruland, the Royal librarian, he also taught German to the Royal children.  Of course when the Queen found out about this fledgling romance she quickly dismissed him and he returned to Germany.  (Nothing every escaped the watchful eyes of Queen Victoria!)

As with all her children, the Queen looked for a prospective marriage partner for Helena.   But unlike her older siblings who married into prominent European Royalty, the Queen stipulated that Helena and her future husband would be required to live in England and remain available to tend to the Queen’s needs whenever she wished.  The Queen’s unusual choice was Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, which was an area in Europe that was at the time being fought over between Prussia and Denmark.  (Historical Note: This caused great friction with the family because the Prince of Wales’ wife was from Denmark and Princess Victoria was married to the Crown Prince of Prussia.  Queen Victoria ruled over not only England, but her decisions regarding her family were ultimately always obeyed)  

Princess HelenaPrincess Helene  in wedding dress

The wedding of Helena and Christian took place on July 5, 1866 in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle and despite the family disagreements everyone attended the ceremony.  The royal couple, abiding by the Queen’s personal request, moved into Frogmore House and later Cumberland Lodge.  They had five children – Christian Victor, Albert, Helena Victoria, Marie and Harald who died in infancy.    

Princess Helene with her husband 2  Princess Helene with children 

During her marriage, Helena continued to work as patron of several charities and she was a founding member of the Red Cross and later served as president of the Royal British Nurses Association.  Helena and Christian were granted an annual allowance, per the request of the Queen, and Christian also held the position of as the Ranger of Windsor Park and the High Steward of Windsor.  Helena was often called upon by the Queen performed personal duties for her as secretary alongside her younger sister, Beatrice.

Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, Helena began to distant herself from her siblings although she continued to support her eldest brother who was now King Edward VII.  She had a distant relationship with her nephew, now King George V.  She was to become the only child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert that had lived to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary in 1916, sadly her husband died a year later.  Helena lived another six years and died on June 9, 1923 at Schomberg House in London.  She was initially interred at the Royal Vault in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle but later reburied at the Royal Burial Grounds at Frogmore.

Princess Helene 3

Princess Louise Caroline (later Duchess of Argyll)
born – March 18, 1848 at Buckingham Palace in London
died – December 3, 1939 at Kensington Palace in London

Princess Louise was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  She was christened in the Private Chapel in Buckingham Palace, her first name of Louise was chosen to honor Prince Albert’s mother.

Louise was brought up traveling with the Queen’s Court from Buckingham Palace to Windsor to Osborne to Balmoral and she enjoyed a relatively happy childhood.  She was educated by tutors alongside her siblings and she proved to be an intelligent student.  She was also trained in the practical skills which she would use later to aid her in managing her future martial household.  Louise developed her artistic skills as an accomplished sculptor and a noted artist creating many beautiful drawings.

Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll.Daughter of Queen Victoria (Died Dec 1939)

When her father, Prince Albert, died unexpectedly in 1861 the Queen fell into a deep period of mourning and the Queen secluded herself from public life alternating between staying in Osborne and Balmoral.  Surviving through this prolonged and intensely solemn time, when Louise was nearing her seventeenth birthday in 1865, she requested that a grand ball be held for her celebration but the Queen refused her request.  Then in 1866, when most young ladies were enjoying an active social life, the duty of being the Queen’s personal secretary and nursemaid fell to Louise after her older sisters were married and she actually excelled in the position.  Later, when Louise fell in love with the much older Reverend Robinson Duckworth, much like her sister Helena before her had a dalliance with another tutor; the Queen heard about the romance and quickly put an end to it.   

As the result, the Queen was soon looking for a prospective husband for the seemingly wild Louise with her progressive ideas about feminine liberation; she found one in John Campbell of Lorne and the heir to the Duke of Argyll.  Louise and John were married on March 21, 1871 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Princess Louise - wedding
Princess Louise in wedding dress 1

Within seven years, John was offered the position as Governor General in Ottawa, Canada.  The Queen was very pleased with this new appointment and hoped that this would continue to improve the political link between England and Canada.  John and Louise soon moved to Canada and took up residence in Rideau Hall which they decorated with Louise’s watercolor and oil paintings and also several of her sculptures.

Despite the difficulties adjusting to life in a new country Louise found joy in skating and sledging during the long winter months.  Unfortunately, in February of 1880, Louise and her husband were involved in a severe sleigh accident.  As a result, Louise suffered from a concussion and when the news ultimately reached the Queen many anxious letters were sent between mother and daughter during the recovery process.

In 1883, Louise and John returned to England and they moved into Kensington Palace in an apartment arranged by the Queen.  While John continued his political career, the couple was having ongoing marital problems and it was rumored that John was a homosexual while Louise was engaging in numerous affairs to compensate for the lack of a sexual relationship with her husband.  The Queen was very insistent that the couple remain married and divorce was not an option (at that time for a member of the royal family.

Princess Louise with her husband

After the death of the Queen in 1901, Louise fully enjoyed the seemingly loose moral of the Edwardian era with an active social life by traveling frequently and sometimes living separate from her husband alternating between their London residence at Kensington Palace with Kent House on the Osborne Estate.  Despite the emotional distance between the couple, Louise returned to take care of John as he became increasingly senile and was devastated with the death of her husband in 1914 from bronchial problem exacerbated by double pneumonia.

Afterwards, Louise spent her final years at Kensington Palace occasionally making public appearances.  She had lived through the reign of her mother Queen Victoria, her brother King Edward VII, her nephew King George V, and the brief reign of King Edward VIII shortly before he abdicated.  Louise died on December 3, 1939 at the age of 91.  She was cremated and her ashes were initially placed inside the Royal Crypt at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor then later moved to Frogmore.   

Princess Beatrice Mary (later Princess Henry of Battenberg)
born – April 14, 1857 at Buckingham Palace in London
died – October 26, 1944 at Brantridge Park in Sussex

Princess Beatrice was the youngest child and the fifth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and, like many of her siblings before her; she was christened in the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace.  Even though the Queen disliked babies, she was delighted with the infant Beatrice who became known to the family as “Baby”.  Beatrice grew into a beautiful child with stunning blue eyes and long blonde hair; she seemed to be an angel on earth in the eyes of the Queen and her husband. 

Four years after her birth, the Queen’s Royal household went through several traumatic events that came to greatly affect Beatrice and her entire family.  In March of 1861, the Queen’s mother died and then December of the same year Prince Albert suddenly died.  As a result the Queen feel into a deep and prolonged period of mourning that brought an intense and constant somber mood to the household.  As her older siblings married and left the royal residence, Beatrice was able to offer unconditional comfort to her mother and the Queen came to rely heavily on her for daily companionship.  Later as she became older, Beatrice assisted the Queen with her correspondence and general nursemaid.

Princess Beatrice - young

In 1878, upon the death of their sister Alice, the Prince of Wales proposed something rather unusual … that Beatrice should marry the widowed husband, the Grand Duke of Hesse.  He felt that this would be the solution in terms of the future upbringing of the Duke’s young children.  At the time it was against the law for a sibling to marry another sibling’s widower so to do this the British government needed to pass special legislation to grant approval, however the bill failed.

While attending the wedding in Germany, Beatrice met the groom’s brother, Prince Henry of Battenberg, and they quickly fell in love.  Upon realizing that if and when Beatrice married the Queen would lose her last daughter and her constant companion thereby being alone (how could a Queen ever be alone?)  Finally the Queen granted her permission but on the stipulation that after the wedding the couple would remain in England and move into the Queen’s house.

On July 23, 1885, Beatrice and Henry were married at Saint Mildred’s Church in Whippingham near Osborne.  Beatrice was the only one of the Queen’s five daughters to be given the honor of wearing their mother’s precious wedding veil of Honiton lace.  (Royal Note: Throughout the years Queen Victoria wore her wedding veil to the almost all of the christenings of her children, the exception was for Prince Albert Edward when she wore the Order of the Garter Robes as befitting the christening of the heir to the throne.  Later she wore it on the occasion of two of her children’s weddings, Princess Victoria and then Prince Leopold.  Finally, per her personal request, upon her death in 1901 the Queen was buried wearing her bridal veil)

The Battenbergs

After a brief honeymoon, the newly married couple returned as promised to live with the Queen and Beatrice resumed her work as the Queen personal secretary.  Henry and Beatrice were able to attain a truly happy marriage and their love proved to be as deep as that of her own parents.  The couple has four children – Alexander, Victoria Eugenie, Leopold and Maurice.

As the years passed, Beatrice’s work with the Queen proved to be very demanding and time consuming.  Henry became restless and in 1889 in response to this situation the Queen made him Governor of the Isle of Wight where Osborne House was located.  Eventually, Henry wished to serve in the military and finally in 1895, the Queen granted him permission to join the British forces fighting in the Anglo-Asante war.  Unfortunately, Henry contracted malaria while overseas and waiting to be sent home when he died on January 22, 1896. 

Beatrice was devastated in much the same way that her mother had been 35 years earlier when she lost her husband.  However, Beatrice spent only a brief month in mourning before returning to the constant demands of the Queen.  At this time, the Queen gifted Beatrice with an apartment in Kensington Palace; in fact it was the same set of rooms in which the Queen had occupied with her mother before her ascension to the throne.

NPG x32717; Queen Victoria; Princess Beatrice of Battenberg by Alexander Bassano

Five years later, Queen Victoria died and per the Queen’s request, Beatrice soon set upon the enormous task of transcribing and editing the massive volumes of her mother’s journals.  The journals were of great historical significance because the Queen had recorded within their pages her views on important political events and details of her daily life.  The journals also included the Queen’s personal information, perhaps expressing her true feelings about various events not only in her life before, during and after the death of her beloved Prince Albert but also about her relationships with her children.  Maybe it was for this reason that Beatrice seemed to do the unthinkable and in transcribing the journals and preparing them for publication she deleted private and sensitive passages in the final version because she felt there might be hurtful opinions toward any living person and then … she destroyed the original journals.  In the end, when Beatrice finished in 1931, there were 111 volumes of the edited journals that have now become part of the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle.  (This poses the question, what was in the original journals that Beatrice felt would be so detrimental to the history of England? It boggles the mind when you think of the important information that has been lost!)

As the years passed, Beatrice continued to make infrequent public appearances.  She lived mostly in her apartments at Kensington Palace and occasionally traveled to Osborne Cottage, her personal home on the Osborne Estate, until it was sold in 1913. On a personal note, Beatrice unfortunately passed on the hemophiliac disease onto future generations and those affected were her son Leopold and her grandson Alfonso.

Princess Beatrice - later

Beatrice died on October 26, 1944 at the age of 87 years old; she was the last of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s children to survive.  Her funeral took place in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and she was initially buried in the Royal Vault before being moved a year later to the cemetery alongside her husband at St. Mildred’s Church in Whippingham, which was the site of her wedding to Henry 60 years earlier. 


Queen Victoria’s Sons

Queen Victoria reigned from June 20, 1837 to January 22, 1901 as Queen of England and Ireland and later Empress of India (she had been the longest reigning monarch for 63 years and 216 days until Queen Elizabeth II broke the record in 2015 at 64 years and still counting!)  Throughout the years numerous history books have been written about Queen Victoria and how she influenced British traditions and customs at a time that later would become known as the Victorian Era.  Several books, some historical and others romance novels, have also been written about her relationship with her beloved husband, Prince Albert.  (For more information on life of Queen Victoria, please click on the link)

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with their children

This two part series about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s nine children will try to answer the following questions – what was the Queen like as a mother and what happened to her children?  Part One will discuss her four sons and Part Two will be about her five daughters.  It has been said that when her children were young she treated them coldly without any affection and with little interest in their daily lives with the exception of their education.  Later, as the children became older, she controlled their personal lives and was determined to arrange their marriages not based on finding the best possible love match but to further her personal and political plans for England.  Perhaps her most difficult and problematic child was her eldest son, Prince Albert Edward, who was the heir to the throne.

So, let’s start by discussing the sons of Queen Victoria …

Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII)
born – November 9, 1841 at Buckingham Palace, London, England
died – May 6, 1910 at Buckingham Palace, London, England

Prince Albert Edward was the second child and eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  He was christened at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and received the name Albert to honor his father and Edward for his maternal grandfather but in the family he was known as Bertie.  He was the heir apparent in the British line of succession and just a month after his birth the Queen bestowed on him the title of the Prince of Wales (Prince Albert holds the record as the longest-serving Prince of Wales at 59 years, 1 month and 14 days. Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales, will surpass this record in September 2017)

At the age of seven the Queen and Prince Albert were determined that Bertie should receive the proper education to prepare him in his future role as a British monarch.  Prince Albert set a very difficult educational plan to be implemented by Bertie’s tutors.  Unfortunately, Bertie proved to be a very poor student although he tried very hard to please both his mother and father by reaching their scholastic expectations.  In 1859, at the age of 18, Bertie went on a grand tour of Europe mainly studying the art and architecture of Rome before going to the University of Edinburgh for the summer.   He later went on to become an undergraduate at the Christ Church, Oxford and then transferred to Trinity College in Cambridge.  Bertie’s academic performance at college was much better than his education under his father direction and his attitude toward higher learning improved dramatically.

Prince Albert Edward - young

In 1860, his studies were interrupted briefly when he was sent to North America to represent the Queen on his first Royal tour as the heir to the British throne.  During the four month tour Bertie traveled to many parts of Canada and he visited the United States and went to Washington, D.C., nearby Mount Vernon and also New York City.  The tour was a great success and Bertie was praised by the media for his charming manner and his diplomatic skills which brought a new-found confidence and self-esteem to the nineteen year old Prince of Wales.

Prince Albert Edward - 1861

At this point in his life Bertie had received the reputation as a playboy carousing with women of questionable character, gambling and drinking.  All these activities upset both his parents and the Queen felt that the solution to quickly ending Bertie’s scandalous behavior was to find him a suitable wife with the hopes that it would force him to settle down.  Queen Victoria thought that she had found the perfect wife for Bertie; it was Princess Alexandra who was the eldest daughter of Prince Christian of Denmark.  On the recommendation of Bertie’s eldest sister, Princess Victoria, a meeting was quickly arranged to introduce them and Bertie was very impressed with Alexandra’s beauty, charming ways and mild manner. (For more information about the fashion style of the future Queen Alexandra, please click on the link)

Of course, the Queen was very wrong in thinking that the prospect of a wife and children would put a stop to Bertie’s wild ways!  When Bertie was sent to Ireland to continue his military training he became involved in a brief sexual relationship with a local actress.  Upon returning to Cambridge, word of his indiscretions reached the Queen and she sent her husband, Prince Albert, to have a serious talk with their son.  A short time later, Prince Albert became seriously ill and died in December 1861.  Wrongfully, the Queen claimed that the stress of dealing with Bertie’s affair weakened Prince Albert’s health and she unjustly blamed Bertie for the death of her beloved husband and she became lost in her grief and completely withdrew from public life.  (The initial cause of death was believed to be typhoid fever but recent historical evidence indicates that Prince Albert had been ill for at least two years and the probable cause of death was abdominal cancer).

On March 10, 1863 Prince Albert Edward and Princess Alexandra were married at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.  (For more detailed information about the wedding, please click on the link to British Royal Weddings – Part Two)

Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra 1863

The young couple moved to Marlborough House, their official London residence, and they also spent time at Sandringham, their country home in Norfolk.  Bertie and Alexandra had six children – Albert Victor, George (the future King George V), Louise, Victoria, Maud and Alexander John who died in infancy.  (For more information about the history of Sandringham, please click on the link)

Prince Albert Edward - his children

The couple entertained lavishly with elaborate balls and dinners in London and large weekend “house parties” at Sandringham where their guests enjoying horseback riding, fishing and hunting.  Despite the appearance of domesticity, Bertie continued his playboy lifestyle having numerous affairs with married women and he also enjoyed gambling at the horse races and private illegal card games.  Bertie also began to cultivate both British and International political alliances with prominent leaders while the Queen remained in seclusion obsessed with her grief and away from London for an extended period of time.  The Queen, always disapprovingly aware of Bertie’s indiscretions, tried to control him by not relinquishing any of her political power to him during the remainder of her long reign.  This situation did not go unnoticed by both the British government and the British public who absolutely adored the Prince of Wales.

Ultimately, upon the death of Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901, Bertie was crowned King Edward VII.  Due to an appendicitis and subsequent surgery, his coronation was postponed while he recovered.  The rescheduled coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on August 9, 1902.  The newly crowned King proved to be a popular monarch, he immediately sold Osborne House, refurbished the other Royal Palaces and reintroduced many of the traditional British ceremonies, such as the State Opening of Parliament, that the Queen had discontinued after the death of Prince Albert and her self-imposed removal from public life.  He also modernized the British Navy and reorganized the British Army.  Being related to many of the Kings and Queens of numerous European countries, King Edward became known as being just and fair in negotiating differences although he had a very difficult relationship with his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II.  During his brief reign, it was barely nine years, the Edwardian era at the turn of the century brought significant advancements in technology.  In the final year of his reign, King Edward was intent on solving a constitutional crisis which would ultimately be resolved after his death and would restrict the power of the House of Lords with the Parliament Act of 1911.

King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra- coronation

King Edward smoked incessantly averaging numerous cigarettes and cigars each day for most of his adult life.  He developed an ulcer and later bronchitis and as his medical condition continued to deteriorate in his final days he suffered from several heart attacks.  King Edward died on May 6, 1910 at Buckingham Palace in London and he is buried at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Prince Alfred Earnest (later the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
born – August 6, 1844 at Windsor Castle, England
died – July 30, 1900 at Rosenau Castle near Coburg, Germany

Prince Alfred was the second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, to his family he was known as Affie.  He was christened at Windsor Castle in the Private Chapel and became second in the British line of succession.  Alfred was tutored alongside his older brother, Albert Edward.  In 1856 his parents decided that he would join the Royal Navy, later he was promoted to lieutenant in 1863 and then captain in 1866.

Prince Alfred 1860

Upon the abdication of King Otto of Greece in 1863 the British government was influenced by the Queen to block the plans for Alfred to succeed him.  It seems that the Queen and Prince Albert wanted Alfred to eventually inherit the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg.  Meanwhile, Alfred position in the line of succession was pushed back further when his elder brother, Albert Edward, had a son.  Then, in May 1866, the Queen’s bestowed on Alfred the title of Duke of Edinburgh and a month later he was granted a seat in the House of Lords.

Prince Alfred

At the beginning of the year 1867, Alfred embarked on a Naval voyage aboard the HMS Galatea.  He left Plymouth in January, then Gibraltar in June, reaching Cape Town in July and finally landing in Australia in October.  This five month historical visit to Australia was the first by a member of the British Royal Family and Alfred received an enthusiastic welcome in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania.   On his return trip to England, Alfred stopped in New Zealand, Hawaii and Japan before continuing on to India.

On January 23, 1874, Prince Alfred married the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia the daughter of Emperor Alexander II at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.  Alfred’s new wife, who was used to an elevated status in Russia, had a difficult time adjusting to the higher precedence of not only the Queen and her daughters but also the Princess of Wales.  After much fuss, the Queen denied Maria’s request for special treatment being the daughter of the Tsar but eventually she granted her precedence before her daughters but after the Princess of Wales.  Alfred and Maria had one son and four daughters – Alfred, Marie, Victoria, Alexandra and Beatrice.  

Prince Alfred - engagement photo

In regards to Alfred’s naval career, while stationed in Malta, he was promoted to rear-admiral in 1878, then vice-admiral and finally Commander-in Chief of the Channel Fleet in 1882 and the Mediterranean Fleet in 1886.  Finally in June 1893 Alfred was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet. 

Prince Alfred - in uniform

Upon the death of his uncle Ernest II, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on August 22, 1893 Alfred inherited the duchy.  To accept the title, Alfred was required to relinquish his seats in the House of Lords and the Privy Council to avoid a conflict of interest.  He also was also denied his British allowance but he was allowed to keep the money used to maintain Clarence House, his London residence.

Sadly, although the people of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha came to accept a “foreign” ruler, Alfred did not hold the duchy long.  He died of throat cancer on July 30, 1900 at the Rosenau Castle and is buried at the ducal mausoleum in the Friedhof am Glockenberg in Coburg.  The duke’s only son had died a year earlier and the next in the succession, his nephew Prince Arthur of Connaught had previously renounce his right and Prince Charles Edward, the son of his brother Prince Leopold, inherited the title.  

Prince Arthur William (later Duke of Connaught and Strathearn)
born – May 1, 1850 at  Buckingham Palace, London, England
died –  January 16, 1942 at Bagshot Park in Surrey, England

Prince Arthur was the third son and seventh child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  He was christened in the Palace’s Private Chapel and it has been reported that he was the Queen’s favorite son.  Like his other siblings, Arthur received his education for private tutors until he was 16 years old.  In 1874 the Queen, much like she had previously done with her other children, bestowed an honorary title on Arthur and he became the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and the Earl of Sussex.   

Prince Arthur 1864

Arthur was enrolled for military service and he was sent to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1866.  After two years Arthur graduated and received a commission as a lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers.  Then in 1869 Arthur transferred to the Royal Artillery Regiment and had a long career in the Army serving in South Africa and Canada in 1869, Egypt in 1882 and India in 1886.

Prince Arthur - in uniform

Meanwhile, in regards to his personal life, Arthur married Princess Louise of Prussia at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Chapel on March 13, 1879.  Louise was the great-niece of the German Emperor Wilhelm I who was not only Arthur’s cousin but also his godfather.  The couple had three children – Margaret, Arthur and Patricia.  They had a London residence at Clarence House and a country home of Bagshot Park in Surrey.

Prince Arthur - wedding to Alexandra Fife  Prince Arthur - children

During Arthur’s time in Canada he had attended state functions and social events leaving a very favorable impression and he became extremely popular with the Canadian people.  Then, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister Asquith, he was appointed by his nephew, now King George V, as the Governor General of Canada in 1911 and served until 1916.  His wife and children moved from England to be with him in Canada during the length of this service.

Prince Arthur - govenor general of Canada

When Arthur returned to England he continued his military career, briefing serving in both World War I and II.  He also represented the King and his country by continuing to perform his royal duties and he served as president of the Boy Scouts Association which had officially formed in 1910.  Princess Louise died in March 1917 of influenza and bronchitis, she was the first member of the British Royal Family to be cremated and her ashes were buried at Frogmore.  Her husband, Arthur, survived her by almost twenty-five years and he died on January 16, 1942 at Bagshot Park and he is also buried at Frogmore.

Prince Leopold George (later the Duke of Albany)
born – April 7, 1853 at Buckingham Palace, London, England
died – March 28, 1884 in Cannes, France

Prince Leopold was the fourth son and the eighth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; he was given the name in honor of King Leopold I of Belgium who was the uncle to both his parents (remember that the Queen and her husband were first cousins).  The birth of Leopold was different than the labor she experienced with her other children; it was the first time that chloroform was used as an anesthesia for a royal birth.

Unfortunately, this was not the only medical condition that was to affect Leopold’s life.  As a young child he was diagnosed with hemophilia, a hereditary genetic disorder that impairs the human body’s ability to control blood clotting.  As a result of his disease, it was decided by his parents that Leopold would be under constant watch and that his physical activities would be severely restricted.  (Historical Fact:  The hemophilia disease has been traced back to Leopold’s mother, Queen Victoria.  Besides affecting not only her son, she unknowingly passed the disease onto future generations through her daughters, Alice and Beatrice, children eventually affecting several of members of the Royal families of Spain, Germany and Russia)

Prince Leopold - young

Despite his health problems, Leopold proved to be a good student studying under with private tutors appointed by Prince Albert.  In 1872, Leopold was enrolled at Christ Church in Oxford and through his interest in the game of chess became the president of the Oxford Chess Club.  While at university, Leopold was initiated into the local Freemason lodge in Oxford after being recommended for membership by his older brother, Prince Albert Edward.  After leaving university with an honorary doctorate in civil law, he spent time traveling in Europe and then Canada.   In 1881, the Queen bestowed on him the tile of Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow.

As a young man, Leopold was upset about not being able to pursue an active military career like his brothers because of the risk of injury would cause him to bleed uncontrollably.  The Queen, who was constantly worried about her son’s health, eventually allowed Leopold to receive an honorary position as the Colonel-in-Chief of the Albany Highlanders 72nd Regiment which later combined with the Seaforth 78th Regiment.

Prince Leopold - in uniform

In regards to Leopold’s personal life, unlike her other children, Queen Victoria did not pursue arranging a marriage for her son because the life expectancy of someone with hemophilia was rarely beyond childhood.  Leopold did consider several women as possible brides, one of those was Alice Liddell (it was said that a friend of her family, Lewis Carroll used her as the inspiration for his classic novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”).  Eventually, Leopold married Princess Helene Friederike on April 27, 1882 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  The couple had a truly happy marriage and soon became parents to a daughter, Alice.

Prince Leopold and his wife  Prince Leopold - with his child

Then, while his wife was expecting their second child, Leopold went to Cannes to recover from severe joint pain brought on by his hemophilia which the harsh winter in England exacerbated while Helene stayed at home.  Unfortunately, during his time in Cannes Leopold fell hitting his head and injuring his knee.  He died the next morning from a possible cerebral hemorrhage and his body was returned to England and he is buried in the Albert memorial Chapel at Windsor.  Helene gave birth four months later to a son named Charles Edward.  (Historical Fact: Since the hemophilia gene is carried on the X chromosome and passed through a female, Leopold’s daughter Alice inherited the gene and her oldest son, Rupert, had hemophilia)

Prince Leopold children 1