A tragic end to the ‘annus horribilis’ for Edward and Sophie
If 1992 was Queen Elizabeth’s “annus horribilis”, there can be no doubt that 2001 was the Wessexes. The year started with the “Sophiegate Tapes” where the Countess was the victim of a classic tabloid “sting”, built to a crescendo with Edward accused of sending a TV team to “stalk” his nephew, Prince William, at his Scottish university. And if most of these episodes could be termed as farce, the tragic came when Sophie was helicoptered to hospital suffering from an ectopic pregnancy. She has recovered and is now back home at their Bagshot Park home.
Lucian Freud, best known for pitiless studies of nudes in raking close up, has turned a marginally kinder brush on a grey-haired septuagenarian: the Queen. Monarchists fearful of what might emerge from the man who persuaded model Jerry Hall to pose nude while heavily pregnant will be relieved to learn that the result is not only clothed but crowned. They may be less pleased to see that the light reflected on to her chin and neck from her dress gives her just the faintest suggestion of a blue beard. The portrait, by the artist regarded as the greatest living British painter, has been presented as a gift to the Royal Collection and will go on display next May in the new Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen’s golden jubilee.
The director of the National Portrait Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith, called the work, a small head and shoulders view of a pensive, slightly anxious and even rather cross face under a stupendous diamond tiara, “a thought-provoking and psychologically penetrating contribution to royal iconography”. “We’d be delighted to hang it,” he said. “This breaks the mould of royal portraits which tend to be commissioned from highly traditional artists for highly conventional clients. I really think both parties should be congratulated for what is really quite a brave thing to do.” He can say that again . . . and again.
It was Christmas Party time for the Palace staff and we were treated to the sight of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles strolling through the park on their way from St James’s Palace to the Ritz for the Prince’s staff whoop-up. But, rather obviously, the couple were not arm-in-arm. Charles studiously kept his hands in his coat pocket.
A Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all RoyaltyWatchers and their families. We look forward to keeping you as the first-to-know about what’s happening in the wonderful world of Royalty in 2002!
Japan gets first peek of baby princess
Japanese Crown Princess Masako checked out of the palace hospital a week after giving birth to a baby girl. She cradled the infant in her arms to give the public its first glimpse of the royal family’s newest member. Masako and her husband Crown Prince Naruhito grinned broadly as the mother held baby Aiko.
Aiko, wrapped tightly in a long white cloth with only her face and a shock of short hair protruding, slept soundly, her lips slightly ajar and her cheeks pink in the chilly outside air. After bowing to nurses and doctors, the family left the palace complex in a limousine and proceeded to their residence in central Tokyo. Masako, dressed in a white dress suit, waved to cheering crowds as the royal cavalcade drove through streets lined with Rising Sun flags. Mother and daughter are in good health, a palace spokesman says. Masako is to turn 38 on Sunday but there are no birthday celebrations planned, the spokesman added. As the eldest son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, Naruhito, 41, is heir to the throne. The birth of the princess has intensified discussion of whether the government should abandon the current males-only law in favour of one that would allow a woman to assume the throne.
Duchess plans Afghanistan charity trip
The Duchess of York is planning a humanitarian mission to Afghanistan. She plans to travel to Afghanistan as soon as she can get clearance. The Duchess insists education is the only way to prevent the country from repeating its mistakes. The Duchess, patron of the charity Children in Crisis, said she wanted to support her colleagues who had been forced underground ever since the Taliban seized power. She said education held the key to cementing the future prosperity of the country. The Duchess said: “As soon as I get clearance, I’m going to go because I think it’s important that you are not only the figure-head but that you’re actually out there in the field supporting your people. “Education is the best way to ensure that Afghanistan does not repeat its history.” The Duchess had been due to visit the charity’s offices on the 101st floor of the World Trade Centre’s North Tower on September 11. She said the best way to beat terrorism was to “smile”. She added: “Britain has been so good. They are right behind the American people and there’s a great feeling of solidarity and friendship between the two countries and that’s fabulous. “It’s a time to unite the family. It’s a time to turn and say love each other. The best way forward, to beat terrorism, is to smile. Today is today. Let’s take it, seize it, and go forward.”
Prince’s ex-secretary loses race bias claim
A former personal secretary to Prince Chalres has lost her claim for constructive dismissal from her post at the Prince’s Highgrove estate. The case of Elizabeth Burgess has been dismissed on all counts by an employment tribunal in Bristol. She claimed she was forced out of her job after being sexually and racially discriminated against.The tribunal panel ruled that Mrs Burgess had failed to prove any of her allegations against the Prince of Wales.
Stephen Venton, solicitor for Mrs Burgess, said: “She is naturally disappointed at the result. She realised it was difficult taking on a respondent of this magnitude but she felt that she had to do so and it was always a matter of principle for her.”
Mr Venton said he did not know Mrs Burgess’s plans following the decision but said she would be considering her future over the weekend.Speaking after the hearing, the Prince of Wales’s private secretary, Stephen Lamport, said: “First of all obviously we were very sorry that this case was brought in the first place.
“Lizzie has over many years been a much respected and highly regarded member of the Prince of Wales’s household and all the household wish Lizzie the very best for the future.” Mr Lamport declined to make any further comment.
Spanish Prince splits from model girlfriend
Crown Prince Felipe of Spain has split from his girlfriend Eva Sannum. It ends a courtship widely criticised by Spaniards, who feared having a queen that once modelled sexy lingerie.
The 33-year-old heir to the Spanish throne told journalists at a reception that he and Sannum, a 26-year-old Norwegian, had amicably agreed to go their separate ways.The news stunned Spaniards because in recent months press reports had suggested the couple were heading for the altar, with Sannum spending more time in Spain to study Spanish.Polls have consistently suggested a vast majority of Spaniards opposed the relationship, which reportedly began in 1998. But the prince denies he was acting out of a sense of duty.”The relationship simply did not prosper and that’s all there is to it,” he said. “There is no other reading of this.”
One of Span’s top newspaper’s El Mundo said a quick poll on whether readers approved of the prince’s decision yielded a landslide result: 77 percent in favour, 23 percent against. Sannum’s life came under excruciatingly close scrutiny and paparazzi followed her every move.
Commentators pointed out that she had not finished her university studies, and photos of an ad campaign in which she modeled underwear while sitting coquettishly beside a young man made the front pages of Spanish newspapers.In May, King Juan Carlos’ official biographer wrote in the newspaper ABC that if the prince married Sannum, it would put the Spanish throne on par with Britain’s scandal-weary House of Windsor.”I would consider as a grave error a wedding which would put us on a level with the English and which perhaps would make me consider the advantages of a republic,” Jose Luis de Vilallonga wrote.
Prince Charles flower attacker won’t be charged
A Latvian teenager who slapped the Prince of Wales across the cheek with a carnation will not be charged with assault. Sixteen-year-old Alina Lebedeva lurched at Prince Charles with a bunch of flowers during his recent visit to the Baltic state. She was arrested and spent three days in custody before being released to her parents.
Alina had been shouting her opposition to the war in Afghanistan and to Latvia joining Nato. Police said she might be charged with assaulting a foreign dignitary, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in jail.Prince Charles made a plea for lenience. The Latvian president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who was with the prince in Riga at the time, immediately apologised. Lebedeva and her family also sent letters of apology to Prince Charles. A spokesman for the Latvian prosecutor general’s office said the teenager would not be charged, although she could still face disciplinary action.Sanctions she could face include being sent to a special reform school.
Prince Andrew and Sarah on Christmas card for first time since divorce
Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York are pictured on a Christmas card for the first time since their divorce. The picture which also includes Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie was taken by a friend in the garden of their Berkshire home.The photograph shows the Prince with his arms around the Duchess and their two daughters.In the years following the couple’s divorce in 1996, only Beatrice and Eugenie have appeared on their Christmas cards, says The Mirror.
Bookies offer odds on Charles becoming King and marrying
A bookmaker is offering odds that Prince Charles will become King and get married to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2002.
William Hill says it has taken a flurry of bets for the couple to become engaged or married.
Hills has also taken bets the Queen will announce her abdication during this year’s Christmas message at odds of 33/1.”We are currently offering odds of 5/1 that Charles and Camilla become engaged next year; 12/1 that they marry – one punter has even staked a bet at odds of 500/1 that they do so at the Millennium Dome – and 10/1 that Charles becomes King in 2002,” said spokesman Graham Sharpe..
BOB HOUSTON – Royalty’s founder and Editor at Large reads between the week’s Royal headlines (24 Dec., 2001)