April 18, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter} No. 2: The Scent of Love

Continuing our celebration of this spring's royal wedding.... the second post for my "Why Royal Weddings Matter" Confluence Daily column, "The Scent of Love" reprinted below:

The Scent of Love

It’s only natural that flowers are in the news surrounding this spring’s royal wedding and the love story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle—those two deeply soulful romantics! The prince has been open about the memory of his late mother having “an important role in their relationship,” even requesting that their wedding florist (London-based decorative designer Philippa Craddock) include white garden roses in their ceremony, a particular favorite of Princess Diana.

According to goddess legends, the beautiful and resilient rose, with its intoxicating fragrance, is celebrated as the flower of Venus, the Goddess of love in Greek mythology. (“In her love nest,” historian Marina Heilmeyer writes, “Cleopatra had pillows filled with rose petals.”) Affectionately called “the queen of flowers,” inspiring sensuous poetry and close admiration, no other bloom in nature has such a histoire as the rose.

In turn, the rose is most treasured by brides—especially for the intimacy of their bouquet—its scent seems to tap into the memory of the heart. No wonder, as perfumer Mandy Aftel explained: “Scents come in without language and go directly to the emotional center of the brain. That’s why scent is so connected to memory.”

Aromatherapy connoisseur and writer Christopher Bamford reveals that smell is the “most ancient and magical sense, acting as a sort of sensual medium between heaven and earth. A scent or perfume was thought to express the ‘inner essence’ or spiritual nature of a thing.” Therefore, when we smell a rose, it’s the scent of something truly divine.

Princess Diana was known to keep fragrant, fresh-cut garden flowers in her Kensington Palace apartments. Perhaps the remembered scent of roses is such a beloved memory for Harry that having white roses at his wedding is a naturally intimate way to connect the two women closest to his heart.

In early Christian lore, the “mysterious” rose was so cherished (despite its sensual past) that it came to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary; red roses symbolized her suffering, white roses her joy. Did Diana intuitively know this?  According to the former head gardener at Kensington Palace, the princess always favored white flowers over red ones. Unfulfilled in her own search for love, yet Diana found joy in the love of her sons and encouraged them to be true to their heart’s desire. As though she was leaving them with an inner directive to move thoughtfully through the ‘suffering’, then live gratefully inside the ‘joy’.

The memory of love, indeed—with the lingering scent of roses.~

[Bits of this column excerpted from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, available on Amazon.]

April 11, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter}

In celebration of the upcoming royal wedding, I’ve just begun a limited-edition weekly column, “Why Royal Weddings Matter,” on Confluence Daily, an online magazine especially for women. 
The first post, “The Real Fairy Tale,” has excerpted bits from both The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride (available on Amazon) and my book in progress, A Memory of Beauty: The Spiritual Mission of a Princess
I've reprinted the article below with some yummy wedding photos. Enjoy!


With splendid pageantry and elegant costumes, royal weddings bring up “fairy-tale” dreams of love and romance. “Fairy,” an English word, comes from the French fée, which came from the Latin fatare, “to enchant.” No wonder royal weddings and “enchantment” go hand-in-hand—especially when there is an engaging tug-of-the-heart story with the charms of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Following in his brother Prince William’s footsteps, Harry not only will marry the woman he loves this spring, but his spiritual partner as well. Only a generation before—in the arranged marriage code-of-conduct royal world—such a “love first, duty second, woman with a past” arrangement for any heir to the British throne would have been, if not impossible, certainly one with consequences.

William and Harry’s parents’ wedding in 1981 stirred the hope of “fairy tale” and yet, as Diana and Charles’ marriage played out, any notion of “happily ever after” soon vanished. Theirs was an arranged marriage that pretended it was not. Although times were changing when they married, the social culture had not shifted enough to allow Prince Charles to follow his true feelings. Perhaps even more consequential, the Windsor family was shadowed by kinsman King Edward VIII who in 1936, with some political pressures, gave up the throne “for the woman he loved.” The scandal was a little too close in historical proximity for Charles to make a similar decision about marrying someone for love who didn’t fit the “queenly model.”

Nonetheless, almost seven decades after King Edward’s abdication, cultural changes were on Prince Charles’ side—thanks in great part, ironically, to his late wife insisting on bringing more heart into the royal family. In 2005, 24 years after his marriage of “dynastic duty” to Diana, Charles did not have to give up the throne nor start a palace revolt, yet, with his queen’s blessing, he indeed married the woman who had been his longtime friend and confidante—the woman he had long loved.

In this more modern and egalitarian grand gesture, Charles and Camilla’s marriage put the seal on “love over duty,” supporting Edward’s heartful claim that “he could be a better king with the woman he loved at his side.” With such a legacy, when it was time for Charles’ sons to marry, they fell in love with women who matched their vision and compassion—beautiful “commoners” with “backgrounds” no less!

So call royal weddings “fairy tales” if you must, but the conscious connection that both Princes William and Harry have made in their marriage choices is simply what I call the way life is meant to be when heads are clear and hearts are strong. Whether king or prince or commoner, “what your heart thinks is great, is great,” poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. “The soul’s emphasis is always right.”

April 2, 2018

{Trousseaux on the Titanic}

My article, “Trousseaux on the Titanic,” is included in the Spring issue of SEASON magazine (scroll to page 73.) I’ve reprinted it below with the featured costume image courtesy of fashion historian and collector, Randy Bryan Bigham.

The Irish bride-to-be was nervous. Her boat train from Cork arrived late in Queenstown where she was to set sail for America and into the arms of her betrothed. Bertha Mulvihill, with a third-class ticket in hand, held on tight to the carpetbag filled with her precious belongings as she finally boarded the RMS Titanic.

During her stay in Ireland, “Bert”—as she was affectionately called—had gathered with family members for the intimate ritual of assembling her trousseau linens: a nightgown, tablecloths, napkins and doilies, probably trimmed with handmade Irish croquet or a delicate carrickmacross needle lace. Perhaps it’s hard for modern brides to imagine how dear a trousseau was to a bride and her family at one time. With origins from an Old French word meaning “bundle,” the trousseau consisted of personal items a woman brought to her marriage—which could include clothes, accessories and lingerie, along with household linens and wares.

Titanic passenger Mary Farquharson Marvin,
circa 1912. Photo courtesy Randy Bryan Bigham,
 author of 
Lucile – Her Life By Design.
Bert’s modest trousseau was no less precious to her than the fancy frills fashioned by couture designers for several newlyweds also on board the Titanic, sailing home from extended continental honeymoons in first-class parlors. Like Madeleine Astor, the teenage bride of the wealthiest man on the ship, whose trousseau included stylish silk-trimmed hats from Lucile, Ltd., designed by fellow Titanic passenger Lady Duff Gordon; and Mary Marvin, daughter of a couturiere, with steamer trunks packed with lavish dresses and lingerie, especially created for her trousseau. (Both Madeleine and Mary were saved from the sinking Titanic, but their trousseaux, along with the rest of their elegant wardrobes, were, of course, lost.)

Although fewer third-class passengers were rescued, Bertha Mulvihill later explained how, after being pushed down a staircase by a crew member, she fought her way to the deck—perhaps emboldened with thoughts of her fiancé Henry Noon waiting for her at home in Providence, Rhode Island. Once safely aboard Lifeboat 15, her lovingly hand-stitched trousseau lost, Bert was reassured to know that the gold pocket watch Henry had given her remained securely pinned to her undergarments.

Bertha shared later that her fiancé traveled to New York to be there when the rescue ship Carpathia docked days later: “He thought I was drowned. He came to see if anybody could say anything about my last words,” Bert recounted. “Then I saw Henry from the back, I sneaked up behind him and put my arms around him. We went back on the train. They wanted me to get checked at a hospital first, but I wanted to go to Providence with Henry.” ~

Thanks to Richard Salit of the Providence Journal for introducing me to Bertha Mulvihill and her Titanic love story. 

March 18, 2018

{Titanic Glamour On Board at Biltmore}

By the turn of the 20th century, when touring the European continent was fashionable for wealthy Americans, transatlantic travel became luxurious to suit those “gilded age” patrons. Ocean liners like Cunard’s RMS Aquitania, The French Line’s S.S. France, and White Star Line’s RMS Olympic were synonymous with extravagance and glamour.

For over a century, stories of one of those ships, the ill-fated RMS Titanic which tragically sank on its first voyage in 1912, has captivated the public—and dozens of books and films have kept the fascination alive! The most famous of those movies, James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar-winning epic, recreated the grandeur of the time, including the elegant fashions. How appropriate that Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina hosts the first large-scale exhibition of its costumes: “Glamour on Board: Fashion from Titanic the Movie.”

Now through May 13, 2018, the exhibition at Biltmore House represents the extensive wardrobes preferred by intercontinental travelers like George and Edith Vanderbilt in the early 1900s. Visitors will learn more about the Vanderbilts’ worldwide travels while viewing 45 of the award-winning “Titanic” costumes, evoking the era’s gilded lifestyle.

Since first-class passengers strolled the promenade decks, had tea in richly-decorated lounges, and dined at elegant formal dinners (all dressed-to-the-nines in different outfits for each occasion), costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott and her team had hundreds of garments to recreate and authentically accessorize—down to the proper collar studs and cuff links for the men, and corsets and hatpins for the ladies. (Recreating the hats alone became a “titanic” task!) Scott’s design team scoured international antique markets to find as many original period garments as possible; other ensembles were custom made from original patterns of the era, embellished with vintage beadwork and appliques.

Entrance to “Glamour on Board: Fashion from Titanic the Movie” at Biltmore is included in the general admission ticket price. However, a limited number of special-ticket guided tours are available, taking you behind-the-scenes of the glamorous period! ~

[Reprinted from my article in the Spring issue of SEASON magazine. Images of the costume exhibition inside Biltmore House above courtesy of The Biltmore Company.]

Click here for other Titanic Fashion Happenings!

February 28, 2018

{The Woman I Love} -part three-

We're completing the final part of “The Woman I Love” (excerpt from my book in progress)...and featuring a bit of Prince Harry's family legacy. 

 The Woman I Love
{part three of three*}

Was Diana’s real “duty” as princess—the underlying essence of her life mission—to show how there is always a place for love and that being heart-centered can only strengthen and give pleasure to one’s sense of “duty”? Was part of her monarchic purpose to bring the shadowy emotional inheritance from King Edward into the light, even revealing an intriguing connection to her and the conspiratorial theories about how he was maneuvered from the throne? “In the abdication crisis of Edward VIII,” Jungian analyst Ian Alister asserts in When a Princess Dies, “there was a conflict between the steady, reliable—what I call ‘thinking’—qualities required by the collective institution of monarchy and the more unpredictable personal qualities—which I characterize as ‘feeling qualities’—represented by the individual. Edward favoured feeling (Wallis Simpson) ahead of thought (his kingly duty). I suggest that Diana re-awoke this conflict in the House of Windsor.”

Indeed, Diana awoke a ‘relationship of the heart’ revolution in the House of Windsor! Diana’s was a revolution that was to reveal how one does not have to sacrifice personal happiness for the privilege of doing one’s duty.

Ironically Charles and Camilla’s marriage called on this “feeling,” heart-centered energy that King Edward stirred up and then which Diana broke open in British culture—in the monarchy on down. Several years after Charles and Camilla married, former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond commented about the Duchess of Cornwall in the Telegraph: “She’s trodden carefully and turned the public around with her charm and sense of humour. I like her an awful lot.”

Bond also recalled a conversation she’d had with Princess Diana: “Diana once told me that Camilla had always been the love of Charles’ life and that she’d been ‘very loyal and very discreet.’” I was happy to read that for several reasons and, if accurate, it was the first I read of Diana acknowledging to someone—in what seemed a mature, thoughtful way—what she truly felt in her heart about Camilla, and without rancor toward her husband. Here was a moment when Diana’s strong “feeling” nature came into balance with a more thoughtful “thinking” nature. (Is this, a reoccurring task we all have, perhaps the essential “life lesson” of the ages?)

Diana indeed carried the mantle for “bringing your heart” along into all situations of life. And perhaps we’re still learning for ourselves what she was only beginning to realize at the end of her life: To trust the intelligence of our heart more than the emotions of our mind and that our body is wiser than our head. So in that sense, “bring your heart” is to bring both love and wisdom.

We see the unhappy results in our own lives when we don’t “bring our heart”—only relying on thoughts and reason and wayward emotions. We see the harsh results in today’s society when politicians, business leaders, or even next-door neighbors don’t “bring their heart” with them in making decisions that affect all of us. It’s not easy for anyone—king or commoner—to simply “be ourselves” in a world bent on winning at all costs, that puts profit ahead of people’s well-being, and appearance above happiness. But then why are we still so fascinated with the story of King Edward and Mrs. Simpson or the life of Princess Diana—or her charming sons who both married for love—if we indeed aren’t yearning to be our authentic self, if we aren’t truly yearning to “bring our heart” with us no matter the bent of the world?

Diana didn't get there herself, but it seems her former husband and both of their sons "bring their heart" into a vibrant life of service and devotion to their beloveds. All three "married for love" and the monarchy still stands. ~

{*Final part of "The Woman I Love"....excerpt from my book in progress, tentatively titled, A Memory of Love: The Spiritual Mission of a Princess.}

February 14, 2018

{The Woman I Love} -part two-

Continuing our "month of love" celebration (and upcoming marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) with the second part of “The Woman I Love” (excerpt from my book in progress)...and featuring a number of Windsors!
The Woman I Love
{part two of three*}

Clearly “love isn’t everything” nor is “doing one’s duty” without the potential of deep satisfaction. There’s not simply one prescription for happiness. It’s just darn hard to follow one’s heart, however, in extreme patriarchal conditions!

Nonetheless, change always happens. Almost seven decades after King Edward’s abdication, a change in social culture was on Charles’ side (thanks in great part to the work of his late wife.) In 2005, 24 years after his marriage of “duty,” Charles did not have to give up the throne (although there were restrictive provisions), nor start a palace revolution nor send anyone to the guillotine, yet he indeed married the woman who had been his longtime friend and confidante—the woman he had long loved—Camilla Shand Parker Bowles; now Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. And they are a couple who seem to simply fit so well together. “What your heart thinks is great, is great,” nineteenth century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said. “The soul’s emphasis is always right.”

I want to look deeper at the role of love in the story of King Edward and Mrs. Simpson, the couple who later became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. But not the fairy-tale kind of love the story became for many, inspiring films, novels and poetry. (I remember my mother talking about how romantic it all seemed to her as a teenager in Alabama, reading news of the handsome king and the sacrifice he made for “the woman he loved.”) But what did David, soon after becoming King Edward, really give up? And what was it really for? Was it indeed for love or for a woman? Or was it to transform the monarchy, to gain his freedom, or perhaps to reclaim his soul? After his abdication “David later explained that what was at stake was not a choice between love and duty, but a ‘different concept of kingship’,” journalist Beatrix Campbell wrote. (Ironically, is this closer to the “model” of kingship that his great-great nephew William—a young man with a broad and equalitarian world view—will create?) Perhaps the power and bigger message of David’s choice was tainted when he went on to live a frivolous life as the Duke of Windsor, making some unwise decisions while living in the spotlight approaching and during a world war when England was in peril. Nevertheless, “he was making a point about love, women and kingship…,” Campbell added. “Impaled between love and duty, he insisted that love was his duty.”

By her uncle choosing this path not only changed his niece Elizabeth’s life path, but set (or perhaps re-set) her on an extremely duty-bound course, declaring “duty” as the center of “the inspiring exemplar of ideal family life,” wrote Howard Chua-Eoan in Time magazine in 2007. She put the whole Windsor clan to work in a regular, day-to-day, dutiful plan of action. “Elizabeth would serve. She would persevere. She would be dutiful. She would obey.” And with such focus, maybe she missed the emotional shifts her people were going through when Diana came on the scene in the 1980s and 90s; cultural changes that Diana—“the girl chosen to refresh the line, to bear its heirs, to be the new smiling face of the family”—recognized, related and responded to, and called out the monarchy for ignoring. Yet no matter how Queen Elizabeth had carefully and dutifully constructed this façade that she believed to be true and honest, “Diana found the dynasty dysfunctional, uncertain of its work, in truth more a firm than a family,” Chua-Eoan added. “Diana tried to serve, she tried to persevere. She tried to be dutiful. But in the end, she would not obey.” Nor had King Edward. Perhaps the world was not ready for a king to “bring his heart” to the throne, but Princess Diana later got the world’s attention by revealing what happens in a family not allowed to bring its heart along with them. (It occurs to me the Windsor family’s sacrificial trade-off for being immensely rich and privileged was to do your duty and happiness be damned. That was certainly the royal culture in which both David—King Edward—and Prince Charles grew up.) 
[To Be Continued...]

{*Part two of three from "The Woman I Love"....excerpt from my book in progress, tentatively titled, A Memory of Love: The Spiritual Mission of a Princess.}

February 1, 2018

{The Woman I Love} -part one-

During the month of February—considered the month of love—and in celebration of the upcoming marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I’ll share an excerpt (in three parts) from my book in progress. The section, called “The Woman I Love," features several members of Prince Harry’s family!

The Woman I Love
{part one of three*}
The timing of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles’ union, caught in the historical crossfire of a major shift in royal culture, arose in paradox. These were the last stages of an era where marriages were arranged to suit one’s level of dynastic duty and now times were shifting into a more modern world where royals, at last less isolated from the masses, desired to marry for love and supportive companionship. (Can you imagine either Prince William or Prince Harry marrying based solely on their dynastic duty? Or for that matter, can you imagine your children marrying someone that you selected for them based on background, connections, and reproductive capabilities?) The irony for Diana and Charles was that without some sort of outside “arrangement,” they would have never become a couple.

But the timing had not shifted enough for Prince Charles in the 1970s and ‘80s allowing him to act from his true feelings, especially since the marital decisions of this particular heir to the throne were still shadowed by his family’s recent history. The actions of a great-uncle, King Edward VIII (Uncle David), who, with some political pressures, gave up the throne “for the woman he loved” in 1936, were a little too close in historical proximity for Charles to have made a similar decision about marrying someone for love, regardless of “background.” (Of course, to make matters worse, Wallis Simpson, King Edward’s beloved and regular companion, was not only twice married—and only once divorced at the time—but an American to boot!) 
The earthshaking decision of the king to choose love and happiness over duty and abdicate the throne (causing a constitutional crisis) was considered abhorrent by the rest of the Windsor family for many reasons. And to show they meant business, they shunned the former king—their brother, son, in-law, cousin, and uncle—insisting on a near exile from Great Britain; he was only allowed to return by royal invitation for short visits or to attend a funeral, but never to live. This exile-of-sorts lasted the remainder of his life; ending only when his body was brought back home for burial, some 36 years later. So it was under this specter that Charles was trained in the mindset of “duty above feelings” by all the palace powers led by his mother and grandmother.

While editing this section (originally written in 2011 or so), I watched the television drama series from 1978, “Edward and Mrs. Simpson.” The actor who played Edward (as prince then king), responding to his advisor’s instruction about “who” he could bring to the palace to avert any further notoriety in regard to his companion, Mrs. Simpson, asks in almost a whisper: “How can he not bring his heart?” I don’t know if King Edward actually said these words, but it was the most poignantly telling line in the program’s reenactment. And perhaps his great-nephew, Charles, asked the same question years later about his own circumstances.

King Edward also said that he could be a better king with the woman he loved at his side and longed to be able to just “be himself,” asking his subjects to trust that would be enough. (“I am different from my father and determined to be myself.”) But palace officials, steeped in tradition, feared such heart-centered notions—so foreign to them the possibility of heart and head working in powerful alignment! (Queen Mary, David’s uncompromising mother, responded to her son’s dilemma by asking, “What’s love compared to duty?”) Not only were the lives of both men, Edward and Charles, altered because of these attitudes, but a nation also remained in wait.  [To Be Continued]

{*Part one of three of "The Woman I Love"....excerpt from my book in progress, tentatively titled, A Memory of Love: The Spiritual Mission of a Princess.}