The Australian Model and the Royal Scandal

Men stopped to stare at Patricia Tuckwell on the street because she was so beautiful. The young Melbourne girl was also very talented, joining the Sydney Symphony Orchestra when she was only 16. Her beauty and talent would lead her to a life very far from Australia.

Tuckwell left the orchestra to marry the photographer, Athol Shmith, in 1947 when she
was 21. She became a model and was nicknamed 'Bambi'. Tuckwell was also one of the founders of the Mannequins' Association of Victoria.

The couple had one son, Michael, but their marriage only lasted nine years. They were divorced in 1957. Tuckwell continued modelling, but she'd always wanted to go overseas. She set off on an expedition that would change her life forever.

The young woman arrived at the Milan airport only to find that her flight to Paris was cancelled by fog. While she waited for a bus transfer to Turin, she caught the eye of George Lascelles, the seventh Earl of Harewood, and a close relation of the Queen. He was married to Marion Stein and had three children.

The couple sat together on a flight to Paris and the Earl almost fell in love 'at first sight'. He was unable to forget the beautiful Australian, who was equally attracted to him. They were both very musical - the Earl worked for the opera, and 'Bambi' was a violinist.

The Earl of Harewood's Affair

The model and the earl soon began an affair. Harewood told his wife but she wanted to stay married and refused to grant him a divorce. The earl continued his affair discreetly, but he obtained a house for Schmith in London. The house was not far from his family's London house!

Surprisingly, the couple made a conscious decision to have a child together, after some years together. Their son, Mark, was born while the Earl was still married.

The Earl of Harewood Divorces

The scandal shocked the royal family, especially when the Earl's wife eventually decided to divorce him for adultery. He married his model in 1967 in America after they had had an eight-year affair. Schmith had found being the 'other woman' humiliating, so the couple was extremely pleased to be married at last.

The couple paid a high price for their indiscretion, however. They were not invited to Princess Anne's second wedding and the Earl was out of favour with the Queen. It wasn't until 1981 when the Queen attended the 50th anniversary of the English National Opera, that they knew that they were again considered part of the family.

The Earl told People magazine that it had all been worth it. "Infinitely", he answered. He did regret causing people pain and thought that a 'quick, sharp split' might have been better.

This Week in Princesses

While Queen Elizabeth II continued her family cruise and vacation in the north, many other royal ladies were also scarcely seen this week.

JULY 25, 2010

Spain's King Juan Carlos (R) and Queen Sofia arrive at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral on St James's day, north west of Spain July 25, 2010. REUTERS/Miguel Vidal (SPAIN - Tags: ROYALS RELIGION ANNIVERSARY)

Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos of Spain joined the annual festivities in Santiago de Compestela where Spaniards combine two celebrations to make one long festival at the end of July. Politicians, religious pilgrims and good-time seekers congregate to honor Galicia Day and St. James's Day.

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - JULY 25: Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands attend the premiere of the play 'Jedermann' during the opening of the Salzburg Festival on July 25, 2010 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

Later that day, Princess Laurentian of the Netherlands enjoyed a public display of affection with her husband Prince Constantijn at a play premiere in Salzburg.

JULY 28, 2010

KING'S LYNN, ENGLAND - JULY 28: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall smiles as she attends Sandringham Flower Show in a carriage at Sandringham on July 28, 2010 in King's Lynn, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Who says Camilla Duchess of Cornwall doesn't have the royal touch? These folks at the Sandringham Flower Show didn't seem to mind waiting in the iffy weather to catch a glimpse of the wife of the heir to the throne. Folks seem to agree that Camilla isn't glamorous, but she definitely has that sporting, common, country touch perfected by British royals since Queen Victoria's reign.

JULY 30, 2010

Princess Stephanie arrives to attend the Red Cross Ball in Monte Carlo July 30, 2010.The Red Cross ball is a traditional and annual charity event in the Principality of Monaco. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard (MONACO - Tags: ROYALS)

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - JULY 30: 30: Prince Albert II of Monaco (C), his fiancee Charlene Wittstock (R) and Princess Stephanie of Monaco (L) attend the 62nd Monaco Red Cross Ball at the Sporting Club Monte Carlo on July 30, 2010 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Princess Stephanie of Monaco "busted" out at Monaco's annual Red Cross Ball while her future sister-in-law, Charlene Wittstock, showed more "grace."

Blog Bestie: AmyJean of Weddzilla

Meet The Relentless Bride, AmyJean. She's currently the
Director of Community Development for Weddzilla & one of my Blog Besties! I've been following Amy's Blog since I started planning my wedding! She's an awesome voice in the wedding blogging world. Here's a little Q&A to better get to know her & Weddzilla!

1. What is and what is your role within Weddzilla? is the first website in the wedding industry to fully integrate the wedding planning process into popular social networks. leverages the power of community to simplifying the wedding planning process for our Nearlyweds. It’s all about connecting them with their perfect vendors and making their wedding planning easy, social, and fun. It's Wedding planning simplified.

My role with is the Director of Community Development - so my focus is on creating and stimulating the community for both brides and vendors. The main avenues of communication that we use are the Blog, which has many brides and Mrs. Bloggers as well as featured vendor blog posts which are provided to help brides with advice, answers to general questions, and tips on how to plan stress-free; twitter and facebook. Our main goal is to simplify wedding planning with useful social tools and to provide a community that is supportive, informative and just fun to be involved with.

2. How is Weddzilla changing the game for online wedding planning?

Social media is changing the way brides and vendors interact and is at the forefront of this new frontier. By making it easier for a bride to find her vendor, from near or far, and involving her friends and family with the various social tools on the site - planning becomes instant, fun and easy.

3. What is the one feature you would highlight for Wedding Professionals to use?

Our Weddfieds are the game changer for vendors. They allow wedding professionals to be proactive in connecting to the Nearlyweds that need their services anytime they want, without paying for leads. You can set your search parameters by zip code, budget, and wedding date. We notify vendors every time a Nearlywed creates a post that matches their search criteria and they’ll be able to start connecting with the brides they want to work with directly through

4. What is the one feature you would highlight for Nearlyweds to use?

Our Nearlyweds are loving how easy the Weddmark (a visual bookmarking tool) makes makes collecting and organizing inspiration from all over the web. You can watch a demo here.

And of course they love the fact that each new item they Weddmark between now and September 30, 2010 gives them one entry in the “Weddmark Challenge” and a chance to win a $1,000 gift registry from Macy’s!

5. Do you do Webinars or educational series to help Nearlyweds or Vendors?

I don't personally but our Director of Marketing, Sara Morgan does. She's involved in a great social media presentation called “Social or Die.” Making social media a part of your daily business routine is a lot simpler than you may think and our “Social or Die” presentation is takes a straight-shooting approach to help wedding professionals “get real” about how to grow their business through social media.

6. Tell us about your experience (an anecdote) about working with an up-and-coming internet company. What has the journey been like?

Being involved with has truly been a blessing. It's an amazing feeling to see something start from an idea and grow into a product... especially one that I know will be such a helpful tool for brides everywhere. Planning my own wedding long distance and seeing how much I utilized the internet, I just can't wait to see how is utilized and the feedback we get on how much easier wedding planning becomes for so many brides out there.

7. Tell us about your gurus. How did you pick them? What will they be bringing to the Weddzilla community?

The Weddzilla Gurus are our team of celebrity wedding professionals that will be sharing their expertise and extensive experience with the Weddzilla Community. The Gurus are not only trendsetters in their respective fields, but are trusted names in the wedding industry. Whether they’re forecasting trends, blogging about their latest wedding experiences, or sharing their weekly tips, the Gurus act as an accessible advisory board for our Nearlyweds and Vendors and allows members of to gain access to, and feel connected with the leaders in their industry through our site.

8. Why have you made social media such an integral part of

Social media isn’t a trend, it isn’t going anywhere. It’s changing the way people interact and the way companies do business. The wedding industry is built around a very social community of brides and vendors. We wanted to create a site that took offline word-of-mouth and social networking and put it into an online format to create that same sense of community through our site. It’s all about engagement, continuous conversation, and instant feedback.

9. I notice you have a Weddzilla You Tube channel...any good videos we should be looking out for?

We actually just started putting up some videos to our channel. We want to make it a hub for cool wedding videos from our brides, or anything else wedding related. We’d love to have our users suggest videos to us to add to our site or as a favorite. In addition to wedding related videos you can find tutorials on how to use Weddzilla better, highlights from our launch party, and will be adding more content soon.

10. What’s on the horizon for Weddzilla? Tell us what we should be looking out for from you guys.

Up first is the Guru Awards - that is going to be really cool. We are all about social media and blogs play a huge role in the wedding community and we can’t wait to award 25 great blogs our Blog Guru 2010 title!

On the horizon are an iPhone app for Nearlyweds...if you thought the Weddmark was cool..wait till you see the iPhone app...It’s going to be addictive!

We have a whole bunch of new site features coming soon. The Ideabook, a new twist on the store, and we will be introducing “Wedding helpers” soon which allow our nearlweds to really get social and get their communities or, “wedding helpers” involved in the planning process.

11. Why did you start blogging?

I first started blogging as a way to journal my wedding planning - a place to collect ideas so I wouldn't forget. When i first started blogging, we didn't have the Weddmark, where I could easily just bookmark images into one place... so the blog was my version of "Weddmark"ing things. Then, it took on a life of its own. I found that researching traditions, colors and pretty much anything wedding related was fun - and it was informative. I also noted that if i wondered it, someone else probably did to, so why not document my research.

12. Why do you continue to blog now that you're married?

I'm still recapping the wedding, so that is one main reason I am still blogging - and I'm doing a very detailed job b/c my main goal with the blog was to document my wedding planning and wedding. Another main reason I still blog is b/c its a community that I've grown very fond of. Sharing, inspiring and just being supportive to others during this fun but also stressful & challenging period in a person's life makes me feel good.

13. Do you consider yourself a wedding junkie?

Yes. I do love all things weddings. I love weddings that aren't "my style." I love weddings that are "my style." I love weddings and all details about weddings. I really don't see how anyone can do a wedding detail "wrong" b/c it really is just an expression of one's personality. At the end of the day, and when the wedding planning is done and the ceremony begins... the main focus for me is the love, marriage, family & friends and happiness: and that's what i focus on when Bride walks in the door. It's completely idealistic, but for that one moment - i think its 150% OK to have no other thought in the world.

July 28th 1914

July 28th, one month after the murder of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, the Austrian ministers sent the ultimatum to Serbia which would precipitate war on a scale no one could have imagined. Gavril Princip, (ironically translated as 'prince'!!) the young consumptive terrorist who killed the Archduke, must have been sitting in his cell and wondering what he had been drawn into and what he had started. A mere pawn in a game, or a person whose name was written into the history books, the poor, silly lad must have really felt nothing but despair at having been so inflamed by some inner anger that he fired point blank at an innocent man and woman and those 2 bullets were to lead to the mindless slaughter of millions...a whole generation.

However, Princip wasn't a cold calculated killer. He was an opportunist and his opportunity came when he least expected it by the fluke of Franz Ferdinand's car reversing in front of him as he left the sandwich shop. (Brings to mind Auden's poem: Musee des Beaux Arts:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on

Behind him, were the calculated killers who issued the ultimatum. They had a month to consider their response to the murder of a man they hated: Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Within that month, they waited until the French President had left Russia so he couldn't confer with Tsar Nicholas, and until Kaiser Wilhelm had set off for his holiday on the Norwegian fjords, while their own Emperor was away at his summer residence.

If they had only known what they were letting themselves in for....Where are they now, those people who wanted war to bring themselves glory? Most people today don't even remember their names any more than we remember the names of the countless millions who died on battlefields.
Poor Princip, what an unlikely candidate for such a burden....

New Post Soon

I've been a bit ill for a while. I had the dreaded migraine. Now I have a cold and a sore foot.

However, I hope to write a new post soon!


In the July Crisis of 1914 - the events which could have prevented WW1 - it's interesting that 2 of the 3 supposedly major players were away. Kaiser Wilhelm was shoved aside, against his better judgement, to continue his plans for his holiday touring the Norwegian fjords; Emperor Franz Josef was at his summer residence, Bad Ischl...and Tsar Nicholas was working day and night to find a peaceful solution through an international agreement (he contacted the British Foreign Secretary, Grey) and suggesting presenting the whole matter to a fair council in The Hague. Nicholas comes out of the war as a weakling (for some utterly bizarre reason!); Wilhelm as a monster, and Franz Josef is virtually forgotten in the popular imagination. Everything was created behind the scenes by ministers when their kings were out of the way...and afterwards they blamed their kings for the horror of it.

"If only..." is such a pointless thing, but it seemed to me that if, during the German successes in the early part of 1918, the Central Powers had succeeded in driving the Allies home, it might have been a better long term outcome. If Germany had won WW1, I dare say that Belgium would eventually have regained her borders; France would have still lost Alsace and Lorraine but would have survived; Britain would have still been Britain; the defeated Tsar would have been shipped off to somewhere safe (perhaps Denmark); Kaiser Wilhelm would have retained his throne and, above all, WW2 would never have happened. Germany, at the time, was one of the most progressive countries in terms of care of the workers, the unemployed, the elderly and the 'needy' and also at the forefront of literature and music. Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany was probably one of the best places to live in Europe at that time. The travesty of the Treaty of Versailles utterly destroyed a nation which, until then, had been one of the most enlightened in the world...and so gave rise to the darkness of Hitler.

As an English person, I love my country...and, apart from seeing the pointlessness of that horrendeous war, think it would have been better for all of us, if Germany had not been defeated.

Muse Board: A Fun Fair Affair

Golden Wedding at Altshausen

On Saturday 24.07.2010 Duke Carl and Duchess celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary with an special Service in the Castle Church St. Michael at Altshausen. After the Service a reception for all people of Altshausen took place at the recently opend Gallery in the Alte Remise of the Castle.
Present where all 5 children of the Couple with their spouses and children. They only who was not present was Duchess Fleur who is expecting her third these days. There where all some other Guests present but they walked direct from the Castle to the Church and also back after the Service so they could not seen from the public. I could recognize Duke Max and Duchess Elizabeth in Bavaria and 2 sisters of Duke Carl (but not sure whioch ones).

The children and grandchildren leaving the Castle

in front: Duke Carl Theodor with his sister Duchess Anna
and Duchess

after them: Duchess Marie, Duke Friedrich
and Duke Wilhelm

Duchess Julia, Duke Michael, Hereditary Countess
Mathilde and
Hereditary Count Erich

Duke Eberhard with Duchess Sophie




The last where the Jubilee Couple
Duke Carl and Duchess Diane

At the sideentrance they where greeted by the Priest
and had to wait a little bit until the Procession in the Church was formed


The Mass lasted for 1 1/2 hours. In the meatime it had started to rain again but luckily when the Mass had ended it was only a little bit rain.


After the Couple came the grandchildren.
Here Duke Carl Thedor and Duke Wihelm

followed by their sisters and cousins

Duke Friedrich and Duchess Marie followed by
Hereditary Count Erich and Hereditary Countess Mathilde

Hereditary Countess Mathilde and Hereditary Count Erich behind
them Duchess Julia, Duchess Marie Caroline and Duke Eberhard

The children and grandchildren went back into the Castle but Duke Carl and Duchess Diane went to the Gallery in the Alte Remise where a reception took place. Some of the local organisations made dances and music there.




This Week in Princesses

After a fun weekend, the week started out with our favorite royal ladies addressing some serious topics: AIDS, nuclear disarmament, war memorials. But things started to take a lighter turn toward midweek.

JULY 17, 2010

17th July, 2010: Asprey World Class Cup Polo held at the Hurtwood Park Polo Club in Ewhurst, Surrey. Among those attending, Prince Albert of Monaco and his fiancee, Charlene Wittstock. Credit:  Ref: KGC-40/ Photo via Newscom

Prince Albert of Monaco and his fiancee Charlene Wittstock reenacted a scene from the Julia Roberts' movie, "Pretty Woman," stomping on divots at a polo match in England. She looks delightful, Grace Kelly-esque. She gets five stars. He gets two and a half for poorly chosen accessories: a ball cap and no socks. He would have received fewer stars but he does have one fabulous accessory: her!

JULY 19, 2010

Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit displays her T-shirt as she attends an exhibition of the 18th World Aids Conference in Vienna July 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Herwig Prammer (AUSTRIA - Tags: POLITICS ROYALS IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway attends an exhibition in Vienna, Austria, during 18th International AIDS Conference, on July 19, 2010. A world forum on AIDS opened in Vienna yesterday to warnings led by UN's Secretary General that the 29-year war against the disease was at threat from funding cuts. Photo by Tom Hansen/Stella Pictures/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway started the week in Vienna, Austria for the 18th World AIDS Conference. I have a feeling that her playful T-shirt was inspired by U.S. President Obama's successful campaign slogan. And this time, it was her shoes rather than Letizia of Spain's, that generated a buzz. In all seriousness, however, the princess spent the conference strongly advocating for more youth involvement and warning the United Nations about the negative impact of funding cuts on the proliferation of the disease.

NEW YORK - JULY 19: ( ueen Noor of Jordan attends the taping of 'The Road to Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Origin, The Evolution and The Future of a Movement' at SIRIUS XM Studio on July 19, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

It is almost impossible to believe that Queen Noor of Jordan is going to be 60 next year! The American-born grandmother-of-three is the widow of King Hussein, who is remembered for his valiant attempts to broker peace in the Middle East. This week, she was in New York City for several events related to the "Global Zero" project, which advocates for nuclear disarmament. On Monday, she was interviewed by Deepak Chopra for a program on the topic.

LILLE, FRANCE - JULY 19: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall attend the burial of the final soldier who died in the battle of Fromelles in 1916 at Fromelles cemetery on July 19, 2010 in Fromelles, France. Today marks the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles in Northern France, the first battle fought by the Australians on the Western Front, and sees the completion of the Fromelles Military Cemetery which was constructed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The dedication ceremony includes the re-burial, with full military honours, of the last of the 250 WWI soldiers recovered from communal graves in France, followed by an official reception for families of identified soldiers. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were among many international luminaries who attended a memorial service marking the re-burial of soldiers killed in the World War I Battle of Fromelles in France. About 250 British and Australian soldiers who were buried in a mass grave have now been reinterred in individual graves. DNA is being used to identify them.

JULY 20, 2010

NEW YORK - JULY 20: Queen Noor of Jordan attends the premiere of 'Countdown To Zero' at the Paley Center for Media on July 20, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Queen Noor continued her no-nukes visit to New York, attending the premiere of the film "Countdown to Zero."

JULY 21, 2010

(L-R) Belgian Crown Princess Mathilde, Crown Prince Philippe and Queen Fabiola arrive for a Te Deum Mass in celebration of Belgium's National Day, in Brussels, Belgium on July 21, 2010. Photo by Danny Gys/Reporters/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Queen Fabiola of Belgium (left) looked lovely as she joined her nephew Crown Prince Philippe and his wife Crown Princess Mathilde for Belgium's National Day celebrations. Spanish-born Fabiola is the widow of King Baudoin. She has been plagued by death threats and ill health over the last couple of years. Last year, someone threatened to kill her with a crossbow, so she carried an apple with her to the National Day celebrations tempting her anonymous nemesis to reenact the legend of William Tell. At 82, she is clearly still a spirited lady!

Belgium's Princess Claire and Prince Laurent watch the traditional military parade on National Day in front of the Royal Palace in Brussels July 21, 2010. Belgium celebrates on Wednesday its National Day and its 180th anniversary of independence.  REUTERS/Yves Herman (BELGIUM - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY ROYALS MILITARY)

Meanwhile, it appears that Princess Claire of Belgium was flashing back to Fabiola's hey-day. She could easily have worn this complete ensemble to Fabiola's engagement party in 1960. Perhaps, Claire's husband Prince Laurent had to wear the sunglasses--to hide how drowsy this snooze-fest of dress is making him.

Crown Princess Mathilde of Belgium attends a reception to mark Belgium's National Day in front of the Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium on July 21, 2010. Photo by Danny Gys/Reporters/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Poor Crown Princess Mathilde! It must be difficult to maintain your figure when you live in Belgium where someone is always passing around a platter of fabulous chocolates!

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 21: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is handed a bag as she buys yams from a stall in Brixton Market on July 21, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

It's a little-known fact that Camilla Duchess of Cornwall does her own marketing. Perhaps she's preparing a little fry-up for hubby Prince Charles. Actually, the royal couple were making an official visit to Brixton Market in south London. They are advocates for organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

JULY 22, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 22: Guests gather in the gardens of Buckingham Palace to meet HRH Queen Elizabeth II (C) during a garden party hosted by the Queen on July 22, 2010 in London, England. At least three garden parties are hosted by the Queen every summer, an event which dates back to the 1960's and are held as a way of rewarding and recognising public services. British National Party leader and member of the European Parliament Nick Griffin who had initially been invited to attend the event has had his invitation revoked after officials said he was using his invitation for party political purposes. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II really knows how to throw a party--a tea party, that is! The tiny queen was decked out in the brightest of blues so that she would stand out amidst the thousands of guests. Just look at that crowd. That's a lot of crumpets and cucumber sandwiches!

JULY 23, 2010

MADRID, MADRID - JULY 23: Princess Letizia of Spain attends several audiences at Zarzuela Palace on July 23, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Crown Princess Letizia of Spain often draws attention with her sartorial style. On Friday, her snazzy ensemble had cameras snapping not just her shoes--a usual fetish for the photogs--but also her belt. I'm personally a fan of the belt but I'm not in love with cuffing the pants, but I guess she didn't want to obscure anyone's view of the shoes.

Buckingham Palace's 2010 Exhibition

If you are in London this summer, make sure to pay a visit to Buckingham Palace where they are throwing open the doors to let the sun shine in on the magic. In addition to seeing state rooms and the royal mews (stables/garage), you can also see a special exhibition called "The Queen's Year."

Members of the Household Cavalry stand to attention as they wait for Britain's Queen Elizabeth to leave Buckingham Palace to attend the State Opening of Parliament in London May 25, 2010. The new British coalition government set out its legislative agenda on Tuesday in a speech delivered by Queen Elizabeth at the state opening of parliament. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT POLITICS ROYALS MILITARY)

The palace will be open July 27 through Sept. 29 while the queen is on holiday, taking a cruise with her family and then making her annual visit to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Tours start at 17 pounds (about $26 U.S.). For ticket information, visit

Here's a sneak peak of what you'll see:

Britain's Queen Elizabeth's Cap of Maintenance, used at the State Opening of Parliament is displayed at Buckingham Palace in London July 23, 2010. The cap is part of an exhibition entitled The Queen's Year for the Summer Opening of a Buckingham Palace exhibition which runs from July 27-October 1. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: ROYALS SOCIETY)

The cap of maintenance is also on display. It is used every year at the Opening of Parliament ceremony. Compared to the U.S. Congress, the Opening of Parliament is a much more tradition-laden event where even the history of opposition to the crown is ceremoniously preserved. After the Queen arrives in the House of Lords, the man known as the "Black Rod" is sent to summon the members of the House of Commons only to have them slam the door in his face. He has to knock three times before they open the door to him. Then, in stark contrast to the Lords, who serenely filed in wearing robes and coronets, the MPs shamble over in a disorderly mob, further signifying that they don't "bow" to the Lords. Then, the Queen reads a speech prepared for her by the Prime Minister.

A curator poses for photographs with a collection of hats worn to Royal Ascot by Britain's Queen Elizabeth, at Buckingham Palace in London July 23, 2010. The hats form part of an exhibition entitled The Queen's Year for the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace exhibition which runs from July 27-October 1. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: ROYALS FASHION SOCIETY)

Probably one of the most fun parts of this year's exhibition is this wall of hats worn by the Queen to Royal Ascot. Try not looking at the curatorial information and just guessing which hats were worn in which decade. As a petite person who needs to stand out in a crowd, the queen usually chooses large and or brightly colored hats. She is also usually careful to make sure that they don't obscure her face. She's motivated by politeness rather than vanity--she realizes that many people wait a long time to catch a glimpse of her and she doesn't want to disappoint them. Although hats are less popular elsewhere in the world, they are still common among the British upper crust, but women of all classes wear hats for Ascot and, on ladies day, the more outrageous the hat, the more likely you'll be to get your picture in the paper.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara from 1890 is displayed at Buckingham Palace in London July 23, 2010. The tiara forms part of an exhibition entitled The Queen's Year for the Summer Opening of a Buckingham Palace exhibition which runs from July 27-October 1. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN - Tags: ROYALS SOCIETY)

circa 1926:  Queen Mary (1867-1953), wife of George V, the King of England.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Known as the Vladimir tiara, this magnificent piece was purchased by the Queen's grandmother, Queen Mary, in 1921 from Princess Nicholas of Greece (Prince Philip's aunt) after it had been smuggled out of revolutionary Russia. Grand Duchess Vladimir, born Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was married to the last tsar's uncle. She died and left the tiara to her daughter Helen, wife of Prince Nicholas. There is a photo of Marie wearing the tiara on her Wikipedia profile.

As a huge jewelry collector, Queen Mary was more than happy to help out refugee royals following World War I by acquiring their jewels. She had the Vladimir tiara reconfigured to accommodate emerald drops. This is just one of the magnificent pieces Queen Elizabeth II inherited from her beloved grandmother. (Incidentally, Queen Mary also had a reputation for admiring objects that she expected the hostess, friend or relative to then present to her as a gift. Her mother-in-law, Queen Alexandra, was less than fond of this little habit and sometimes joked that people should hide away their valuables whenever Mary was coming to visit.)

Queen Elizabeth II watching attending the premiere performance of the film 'Born Free'.   (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Since Mary's death in 1953, the Queen has regularly worn the Vladimir tiara, choosing it for many portraits. She frequently wears it with the pearls, sometimes with the emeralds and occasionally without any drops at all.
LONDON - JULY 25:  Queen Elizabeth II's Vladimir Tiara is displayed at Buckingham Palace on July 25, 2006 in London. Celebrating the Queen's 80th birthday, the largest ever exhibition of 80 gowns and jewellery from the 1940's to the present day, worn by her majesty on private and official engagements, will go on show to the public in the State Rooms during the summer opening of the palace.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The Taboo of Illness

In these interesting, post-politically-correct times there is still a strange taboo which cannot be crossed without appearing totally hard-hearted: the question of illness and the care of the sick. I would like to make a statement which would appear to be the most cold-hearted of all but which I write out of love: one of the deepest tyrannies that afflicts countless people today is the tyranny of the invalid.

Having been a nurse and having carried out voluntary work including working for several years in pilgrimages to Lourdes, there is something quite bizarre to me about the way in which 'sickness' is somehow honoured. Growing up among 'family invalids' and being in hospital myself as a child, it seemed being ill was something that goes with the territory of being human.

There are many advantages to playing the sick role. You can relinquish all responsibility and have others wait on you. You can be the centre of attention. You can turn your pain into the pleasure of control, without having to lift a finger, and share that misery around with anyone who comes into your vicinity. You can write of it on forums and be immediately respected for being ill and 'brave'. (Why is it 'brave' to be ill?). You can be as rude as anything to those who look after you and they will forgive you because you are 'ill', and basically, have the healthy world run around after you while you earn their attention and pity until you run those who did that into the ground.

There are many disadvantages to playing the sick role. You need to find willing partners to play your game. If people tire of it, you might end up completely alone and feeling more sorry for yourself. You might have to spend a lot of time watching others do the things you would like to be doing but you cannot give your game away so have to remain on your sick bed. You might then become desperately jealous and that, of course, will make you more ill. You will eventually really suffer for it. But, it might or might not be worth it - it's up to you.

It truly seems to me there are only 2 types of illness. The first is the manipulation of those who decide to be ill in order to play that game. The second is the result of that and affects those who went along with the game and consequently wear themselves out, begin to believe the only rest they can have is by playing the game, too, buy into the scheme and end up ill and wondering why they feel that way. Some even die of it.

If, as some people believe and is still preached from some pulpits, illness is somehow part of God's scheme (a bizarre and illogical notion), why did Jesus never spend a moment pandering to it? He walked in, said, "You're healed..." and that was it. Is there a single mention in any sacred text - or, more importantly in our own minds/recollection - of anyone being healed by someone pandering to their imagined illness.

Illness, I think, is the outplaying in our bodies of what our thoughts have been doing. We think badly of ourselves or others, we find a corresponding illness. In the overall scheme of things, if one believes in a Deity and the goodness of Life, how could one ever, even for a moment believe illness was anything other than a state of mind? I do not honour illness or 'the sick'. That is an insult to the people who are displaying the sickness. I do honour the moments of being misaligned in order to realign and gain further alignment; I honour the occasions when I or someone else feels unwell as indicators of growth. Above all, surely the most important thing is to honour the total wellness of everything and everyone because that is closer to our reality than all the messages of playing the sick role and how it is somehow holy to suffer!

Here's to the brave healthy people who go through life thinking so clearly that they never expect others to sacrifice their own happiness by pandering to their misery!

Who Had the Most to Gain?

With the beautifully respectful and desperately tragic story of the new cemetery at Fromelles, comes the century-old question of 'what was it for?'
The Second World War - on the surface at least - seemed to have a genuine cause for which so many gave their lives, but the First World War? The more I study it, the more I wonder if anyone knew what he was fighting for, all of which begs the questions: who wanted that war and why?

As a small child I sat on my grandmother's knee as she sang (untunefully) songs of the era and told me stories of all the people she had known who were killed there (happy scenario for a small child??). Everyone explained what had happened but no one said why. It was the Kaiser's fault. It was 'for England' and 'for our freedom'. Was it heck! The Kaiser, I am absolutely certain, had no desire for war. He, who held his dying grandmother (Queen Victoria) in his arms had a love-hate relationship with Britain and a desire to appear 'strong' to Cousin Nicky in Russia, was a loyal German, wanting the best for his country - which hadn't known any war since Unification and was thriving. Why would he want war? He didn't.

Nicholas, in Russia, far from being the 'weak' or unintelligent Tsar of popular imagination, worked overtime to prevent a recurrence of the Balkan Wars with a brilliant understanding of psychology (note his suggestions for a Bulgarian settlement after the Bulgarians' routing in the Second Balkan War) and what was best for his own country. He ordered 12 or 14 days mourning for Franz Ferdinand and then worked day and night to achieve a peaceful solution to the 'July Crisis' of 1914.

Franz Ferdinand, whose death was the catalyst to the tragedy, wanted to create an American-style government in Austria-Hungary, giving a kind of autonomy to each of the states within the Empire. His trip to Sarajevo was, I think, part of that plan - to hand power back to people.

None of the kings had any desire for war. They were friends, relations; they attended the same functions, met occasionally, lived the same way of life and every single one of them wanted the best for their people.

How many soldiers went to war because their landowner or his son went first? That doesn't show that the people were forced into something against their will; it shows rather the amount of respect they had for caring employers. Here's another lie - the generals and officers stayed safely behind the scenes while the ordinary soldiers went to their deaths. 78 British Generals were killed in World War I and countless officers, most of whom were first out of the trench, armed with only pistols against machine gun fire.

So who wanted war? Well...obviously, there were the power-seekers and the hot-heads most of whom posed (and continue to pose) as 'socialists' who have the welfare of the people at heart but really are seeking only their own gain. In Austria, there was Berchtold and Conrad. Behind them, stood the bankers and economists for whom war is always profitable, and behind them is the whole mass of people who are happy to be led without thinking for themselves.

I have such deep feeling for those who died in those trenches and firmly believe that almost 100 years later we still haven't uncovered who and what was really behind that mass slaughter. It certainly wasn't for freedom. It certainly wasn't for the pleasure of kings (who suffered more from it than anyone!) and it certainly wasn't for all the reasons that have been taught ever since then.

There is so much more to say....

Wedding Arch Decoration Ideas

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