October 12, 2018

{The Real Fairy Tale}


My article, "The Real Fairy Tale," is in the latest issue of Season Magazine... ...reprinted below! (It is also part of my Why Royal Weddings Matter series for Confluence Daily, online magazine for women.)
THE REAL FAIRY TALE

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 married the woman he loves, 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 Princes William and Harry made in their marriages 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.” ~ 


October 1, 2018

{Amazing Women Aboard the Titanic} Take Two!


We are living in momentous times when women are not just making history, but reshaping history’s narrative. I love reading about women of an earlier era who made a difference, whose courage pushed them forward—when you can find yourself in their story. So I was delighted to read about “The Amazing Women on Titanic—a two-years-in-the-making event highlighting stories of 19 trailblazing women on board the legendary ship (currently at the Titanic Museums in both Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.)

Perhaps our fascination with the luxuriously-appointed yet ill-fated RMS Titanic—with a passenger list of some of the period’s most celebrated names and sinking on its heralded maiden voyage in 1912—is as much to do with its compelling life-and-death saga as it is with how the tragedy dramatically punctuated the ending of a gilded era. Just as a bold new century was breaking open, with an outdated culture crumbling, women were to play their part in reshaping a disordered world.

“The Amazing Women on Titanic” features women whose lives echo today’s headlines, as well as our own everyday dreams. There was Edith Chibnall, first-class passenger from England, who had marched with suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst in the famous “Black Friday” protest on Parliament in 1910; crew member Violet Jessup who survived this and another ship disaster to write a no-holds-barred book about a working woman’s life at sea; ground-breaking Mennonite missionary Annie Funk, second-class passenger from Pennsylvania who didn’t survive, had founded the first school for girls in Janjgir, India—later named in her memory; and Dorothy Gibson, famous model and pioneering American silent-film actress, the highest paid of her time.

Let’s meet other “amazing” Titanic women:

Best-selling author, well-known journalist, travel writer, and single mother of two, Helen Churchill Candee, who cut short a European research trip after receiving word her son had been injured, booked first-class passage on the Titanic to come back home to the United States. One of the nation’s first professional female interior decorators, Helen also wrote eight best-selling books, including How Women May Earn a Living.

Helen had to walk with a cane for a year after surviving the Titanic; she severely fractured her ankle when escaping the ship yet helped row her lifeboat to safety through the icy Atlantic waters. A board member of the National Woman Suffrage Association, Helen used her fame and political connections to further the cause, then in 1913 she led a Votes for Women parade—with 10,000 estimated participants—down Pennsylvania Avenue on horseback to the steps of the U.S. Capitol, the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. (It was seven more years, however, before the 19th Amendment was passed then ratified, giving women the right to vote.)

Elsie Bowerman, 22-year-old first-class passenger, became one of the first women barristers in Britain and first woman to present a case at the Old Bailey courthouse and win. Elsie served as a representative of the United Nations’ Secretary General, serving on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. On board the Titanic with her mother, a militant activist in the suffrage movement in England, Elsie went on to lead women’s suffrage groups until all women won the right to vote there in 1928.

American fashion journalist, importer and stylist, Edith Rosenbaum, 32, had just reported on the fashions at the Paris races for Women’s Wear Daily when she boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg. (Reluctantly because a fortune teller warned her of trouble ahead!) On the night of the sinking, Edith carried a music box in the shape of a toy pig, her good-luck token, and used it to calm frightened children in her lifeboat, twisting its tail to play a popular tune.

Edith became one of the first female war correspondents, reporting from the trenches in World War I (many Titanic survivors were involved in this brutal and game-changing war.) She later changed her last name to Russell when people with “German sounding names” were banned from the couture houses in Paris. During her 95 years, as Titanic expert Hugh Brewster noted, Edith traveled extensively, weathering other catastrophes from car accidents to tornadoes: “I’m accident prone,” she once said. “I’ve had every disaster but bubonic plague and a husband.”

For the spirited Irene (René) Harris—on board with her husband Harry, a leading New York theatrical producer—being on the Titanic had been a joyous experience. However, she slipped on the grand staircase before the formal dinner on Sunday evening, fell and broke her arm (her heel may have gotten caught in her fashionably narrow hemline.) Hours later René had to be lifted and carefully placed in a lifeboat—she made it, husband Harry did not. René took over the family theater business back in New York, becoming the first woman producer of Broadway plays and musicals, backing or managing more than 200 during her two-decade career.

American Margaret Brown—wife of a Colorado millionaire, a miner who struck it very rich—had been in Paris when she received a wire that her grandson was seriously ill and was heading home to be with her family. Margaret was a powerful advocate for human and women’s rights, worked tirelessly for suffrage and literacy for children, historic preservation and, after the accident, the Titanic Survivors’ Committee.

Margaret, at age 44, was called the great heroine of the disaster, taking charge of her lifeboat, organizing the other women to row to keep warm during the frigid night, and guiding them to the rescue ship the next morning. She would become even more famous after her death when Broadway and Hollywood produced musicals based on her life, calling her “unsinkable” and renaming her “Molly.”

But the most famous of the “amazing” women on board Titanic (and the elegant centerpiece of the Titanic Museums’ exhibits in Branson and Pigeon Forge) was Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon. The celebrated British couturiere who, under the name of Lucile, “was known for her innovative and provocative designs plus savvy self-promotion, attracting royalty, socialites and entertainment figures to her coveted brand—women whose influence set the fashions of the day,” explains her biographer (and my costume buddy) Randy Bryan Bigham. “She helped usher in sexy lingerie, looser corsets, and the modern runway show,” he shares in Lucile – Her Life by Design.

To get a sense of the unprecedented scope of Lucy Duff Gordon’s achievements, Bigham remarked that “Lucile was one of the first important female haute couture designers, the first major London-based couturiere, and the first leading designer to open full scale branches in America. She also was the first top name in fashion to do lower-priced lines and to launch perfumes and cosmetics.” (Lucile was so famous during this time, she even got a mention on Downton Abbey, the wildly popular period costume drama—its storyline beginning with the news of Titanic’s sinking!)

By the time Lady Duff Gordon boarded the RMS Titanic in April of 1912 with her husband Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and her secretary, known as “Franks” (they all survived, but there was a whiff of scandal), Lucy was acclaimed and wealthy—“a celebrity in her own right” with Lucile salons in London, Paris, New York and Chicago, explained Bigham. She was traveling to New York incognito, away from the usual media spotlight that followed her, to be able to rest and relax on the grand luxury liner. Fate, however, had other plans.

For a rare treat, presented into early 2019 as part of “The Amazing Women on Titanic” exhibits, a collection of original Lucile designs is on display: beautiful evening gowns, wedding dresses (worn by the rich and famous), lingerie, accessories (including two fabulous hats), and charming ephemera—most items from Randy Bryan Bigham’s own collection. (Other garments and accessories from FIDM Museum in Los Angeles; Canada’s Fashion History Museum in Ontario; and private collectors Inger Sheil and Lisa Kominek.) A lovely way to honor all women of the era.

I don’t know about you, but reading about women of history, especially women unknown to me, seems to infuse modern life with a certain quality, like a fresh perspective and vitality. It’s as though bringing their lives into my awareness gives me something of their energy, their vision—like they knew I’d be here to carry on. ~ 

[This is reprinted, with extra images, from Confluence Daily online magazine. For more details about “The Amazing Women on Titanic and the Lucile design exhibitions: TitanicBranson.com and TitanicPigeonForge.com. And thanks to Titanic author Hugh Brewster and Lucile and Dorothy Gibson biographer Randy Bryan Bigham for informative details.]

September 13, 2018

{Amazing Women On the Titanic} 'Lucile' Costume Exhibition

Original Lucile designs on display at the Titanic Museums
Step into a captivating world filled with grace and glamour as well as hardship and tragedy during the current presentations at the Titanic Museums in both Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. “The Amazing Women of 1912 on Titanic” highlights unique stories of 19 groundbreaking women on board the legendary ship—like British barrister Elsie Bowerman, American missionary Sylvia Caldwell, best-selling author Helen Candee, and silent-film star Dorothy Gibson.

However, the elegant centerpiece of this event showcases a singularly “amazing” woman: Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, the celebrated British couturiere who, under the name of Lucile, “was known for her innovative and provocative designs plus savvy self-promotion, attracting royalty, socialites and entertainment figures to her coveted brand—women whose influence set the fashions of the day,” explains her biographer Randy Bryan Bigham. “She helped usher in sexy lingerie, looser corsets, and the modern runway show,” he shares in Lucile – Her Life by Design.

Presented through November 2018, the “two-years-in-the-making” exhibits display a rare collection of original Lucile designs: beautiful evening gowns, wedding dresses (worn by the rich and famous), lingerie, accessories (including two fabulous hats), and charming ephemera—most items from Bigham’s own collection. Other garments and accessories from FIDM Museum in Los Angeles; Canada’s Fashion History Museum in Ontario; and private collectors Inger Sheil and Lisa Kominek.

To get a sense of the unprecedented scope of Lucy Duff Gordon’s achievements, Bigham remarked: “Lucile was one of the first important female haute couture designers, the first major London-based couturiere, and the first leading designer to open full scale branches in America. She also was the first top name in fashion to do lower-priced lines and to launch perfumes and cosmetics.”

By the time Lucy boarded the RMS Titanic in April of 1912 with her husband and secretary, she was acclaimed and wealthy—“a celebrity in her own right,” Bigham explained, with Lucile salons in London, Paris, New York and Chicago. She was traveling to New York incognito, away from the usual media spotlight that followed her, to be able to rest and relax on the grand luxury liner. Fate, however, would intervene!  ~

For more details about “The Amazing Women of 1912 on Titanic and the Lucile design exhibitions: TitanicBranson.com and TitanicPigeonForge.com



Photo credit for all exhibit images above:
Titanic Museum Attractions


Article printed in the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of Season Magazine



September 5, 2018

{Exhibition at Windsor Castle}

Exhibition
A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
26 October 2018 - 6 January 2019

Queen Mary's circa 1932 diamond and platinum bandeau-style tiara
Silk gown designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy
Sixteen-foot veil embroidered with the flora of 53 Commonwealth Countries 
Prince Harry's Blues and Royals Uniform
made by Savile Row tailors Dege & Skinner
(Since the Prince still needs to wear the uniform for official functions, 

an identical uniform made years earlier will be on display.)

August 16, 2018

{The New Royal Marriage}


My article, and book excerpt, "The New Royal Marriage," was recently published on Confluence Daily....and I'm sharing it below with some yummy images! Enjoy....

.....................................................
THE NEW ROYAL MARRIAGE


A few years after the grand and ritual-rich wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981—a time when the interplay of relationships, including the roles of men and women, were changing—spiritual teacher Gary Zukav released his groundbreaking book, The Seat of the Soul. He wrote about the end of the old marriage archetype (what he considered a “five-sensory” relationship focusing on the body and personality) and the emergence of “spiritual partnerships”—more consciously aware, “multisensory” ways of being in relationship.
   
Prince Charles was the last heir to the British throne to marry for dynastic duty first (and who was raised in that hands-off, secluded, in-training-for-the-crown severity); his sons were the first heirs to grow up with access to the openness of modern culture and with fewer restraints of the monarchy (thanks to insights of both parents.) This meant Prince William and Prince Harry could participate in a less-structured environment—but still be aware of their duty and place in the world—and be free to develop a loving, deep friendship with the woman they would marry.

Looking back, perhaps it was predestined for Charles and Diana’s spot-lit, world-stage relationship—fraught with jealousy, deception, and lack of mutual support—demonstrate an outdated model for marriage. Not finding the desired harmony in their own relationship, yet as destiny would have it, they produced two sons (one a would-be-king, one a prince of deep passion, both imbued with characteristics of each parent) who, as young men, apparently did.

We saw this deep connection during their weddings. I wrote the following about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding in The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, but it could also apply to the ceremony and lives of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a few years later:
Like the best of weddings, William and Kate’s botanically inspired celebration had a sense of reconciliation and healing within relationships, families, communities, even religions. This is what I see their life mission will be about. And this nuptial day, therefore, was a blessing, a redemption for both Diana and Charles. “It was Diana who wired William with some innate radar to look for a soulmate who had a strong family bond,” wrote journalist and author Tina Brown. “She never had it with her own family, nor did Prince Charles,” but their first son has it and embraced it and included all of his families—Spencers, Windsors and Middletons—at the heart of his wedding day. And his Kate matched every royal moment with equal poise and tenderness, inspiring Brown to share about the bride’s choices: “Everything about her actions, to and for William, is about creating a feeling of safe continuity: You know me. I am here.”
Seven years later, as I watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s sun-lit springtime wedding, it seemed that we all were witnessing not just a break in tradition, but something so transformative it was as though being baptized in pure light and redemptive love—being initiated into the most sacred depths of oneness. “It felt like another level of everything,” Oprah Winfrey, who had an up-close seat at the wedding ceremony, shared. “It felt like more than a wedding. It felt like a shift in culture. I left more hopeful,” she concluded.

Are these two royal couples representatives of a “new marriage”—a “spiritual partnership,” as Zukav imagined? Or perhaps it’s simply a return to the original purpose of marriage where the cultivation of a deeply connected, equal partnership is a natural way of relating for couples. William and Kate nor Harry and Meghan asked for their marriage to be a template, however, royalty is one of our most reflective archetypes so it’s just in the stars for them to take on a world stage life. Not right or wrong or perfect; not forever or even “happily ever after,” and certainly not a “traditional” marriage. (Is there really any such thing?) 
Nonetheless, these two relationships act as a mirror, so we can see ourselves just a bit clearer in one of the most problematic areas of life for people. “It would be difficult to find a human relationship that embodies a greater complexity than marriage—with its blend of the civil, social, spiritual, and physical,” wrote cultural mythologist Jane L. Mickelson. Our culture is filled with the shadow side of marriage. “For every folk and fairy tale that concludes, ‘and they lived happily ever after,’” Mickelson continued, “there is another that speaks of the betrayal and bitterness, the hostility and disappointment of marriage.” William and Harry knew this all too painfully well because of their parents’ mismatched marriage as did their mother because of her parents’ damaged union. (I called these marriages representatives of the end of the illusion—“the end of the fairy-tale bride.”)

In the aftermath of Charles and Diana’s shattered marriage, a very public royal divorce, and—as though following some Jungian script—the death of the much-loved princess, Dr. Caroline Myss, mystic and best-selling author, considered the outdated “damsel and knight” fairy story could finally be laid to rest. Echoing Gary Zukav’s vision for marriage, Myss wrote that we now begin “to uncover a new archetype—one that reflects the emerging era of partnership.”

Was this to be a new mythology for marriage where couples serve the highest good for each other? “This is how spiritual partnerships work,” Zukav explained. “You begin to set aside the wants of your personality in order to accommodate the needs of your partner’s spiritual growth, and in doing that, you grow yourself.” In this relational reframing, women and men are not substituting romance for intimacy; not settling for the illusion of love instead of the real thing; not relying on the other for their own happiness and fulfillment; nor are they denying the best of themselves so they can have some false sense of security and comfort.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have royal titles, but it appears that their marriages—their love and relationships and deep commitment to their partners—are real and sincerely grounded, aligning with their modern, yet old soul sensibilities. Both Kate and Meghan have “brought a kind of grace under pressure to the royal family,” their husbands’ family, and I would suspect that sense of being comfortable-in-their-own-skin reinforces a closeness with their husbands.

It was Princess Diana’s tenacity and spirit that carved out a way for William to be king and have a marriage based on love and equality; and, in her demonstrative acts of unconditional love, gave Harry, younger at her death and maybe more vulnerable, the resilience to mend his broken heart and find a strong partner who matches his devotion and compassion. And Prince Charles played his part as he tenderly protected and guided his sons after Diana’s death; then, years later, boldly challenged the old monarchic code and, with William and Harry’s full-hearted support, married the woman he had long loved.

Perhaps we are drawn to these young Windsor couples because they remind us of the true nature of what “happily ever after” is to be—living a life you love, in service and in kindness to others. And perhaps our attraction to them is how their lives show us, in the words of beloved Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan, that, whether you are royal or just regular folk, “to discover the heart is the greatest initiation.” ~ 

[Excerpts from Cornelia’s The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, available at Amazon, as well as excerpts from her book in progress, tentatively titled, A Memory of Beauty: The Spiritual Mission of a Princess.]