May 23, 2018

{A Day of Gracious Gestures and Love Power}

The wedding celebration of Prince Henry of Wales and “princess-to-the-whole-world” Ms. Meghan Markle was truly a “Windsor knot” of love and diversity, beauty and harmony, inclusion and passion, acted out on a world stage in perfect archetypal timing as only old souls on a spiritual mission can do. Lighting up the world for the rest of us!

I was touched by the news a few days before the wedding about the gracious gesture by the Prince of Wales (Harry’s beloved father and future king) accepting Meghan’s invitation, in the absence of her own father, to be her bridal escort. And it played out even more beautifully and mythically than could be imagined.

Meghan, confidently and joyfully on her own, entered St. George’s Chapel to the sound of trumpets on a sunlit noontime, carrying a small, sentimental bouquet of forget-me-nots and other delicate flowers picked by her groom the morning before in the gardens of Kensington Palace (where his late mother had lived and he now made a home with Meghan.) The radiant bride, in designer-sculpted shimmering white silk and the most feminine filigree diamond tiara—“something old and something borrowed” from the Queen—began her walk down the aisle as the voice of a lyrical soprano lifts in “light divine and glory” with two delighted pageboys holding up her floral-embroidered, nod-to-the-monarchy, long silk veil. 

As Prince Charles met her under the archway marking the end of the nave—lush with locally-gathered greenery and white flowers—offering his arm to escort Meghan through the Quire and the rest of the journey to the altar to stand beside his youngest son (“Thank you, Pa,” Harry acknowledges with a smile), it was as though the grand old patriarchy was bowing to the young goddess, honoring her lineage, and delivering her safely and gallantly to the far shore, where she would then help ignite a new world that genuinely knows of love.

Of course, the imagery of Meghan, a successful woman of experience and substance, self-assuredly walking down the aisle alone on her wedding day could be taken as a bold feminist statement, especially for a royal wedding—needing no one to hold her up, give her away, or speak for her—so any action otherwise would simply have been an outdated tradition. (Although an escort, how I consider it, could be appropriately offered, just as it was, as an act of courtesy and respect.) Nonetheless, what truly struck me as the defining moments of the day were these archetypal gestures by kindly menfolk: offering their attendant arm, handpicked flowers, and pure exuberance. The father, the groom, the boys; the past, the present, the future—giving of themselves in the most respectful, tender, even reverent way. After all, on some level I would wager, they knew this fresh wave of feminine consciousness now sweeping the world is the future we all long for...and this day represented its promise in every expression. There was something much deeper brewing here.

And the preacher-man got there—right down into the heart of the matter: the redeeming power of love! Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, who traveled to Windsor from Chicago, declared that “love is the only way.” With soulful hand-gesturing passion, he reminded the audience (even the upper-crust British members, perhaps accustomed to their less emotional, don’t-knock-tradition way of doing things): “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.” Going off-script, he mentioned some of the most horrific practices of the old patriarchy that denied love in the world—and had us squirming in our seats! But how else do you stir up the resistance, re-ignite the revolution, awake the ‘unwoke’ to the power of love?

Harry and Meghan are on a mission, accepting each other’s wedding request to “stand by me” as they lead their power-of-love revolution, taking on nothing less than changing the world. Their wedding-day ceremony, a reflection of their own mixed histories, included archbishops and reverends from various religions; guests from all backgrounds and locations; music from classical British composers, an American bluesman and a Welsh deacon—there were hymns, an orchestra and a gospel choir; readings from the Song of Solomon—the most sensuous of biblical references; a teenage cellist from Nottingham playing like an old master in the midst of royal Medieval heritage; there were the ancient and the possible. This gleaming day also included lots of handholding, “a room full of happiness,” and fiery love prophets; a proud and teary, independent, free-spirited mother-of-the bride as well as the fragrance of white garden roses arranged in memory of the groom’s own unforgettable mother. Then there were those gentlemanly gestures in honor of the emerging modern woman and the legacy she represents. There is indeed something deeper brewing here and we are all invited to the love revolution! ~

May 19, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter} No. 7: Royal Wedding Redux

Continuing the series for Confluence Daily, “Why Royal Weddings Matter,” we celebrate Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding with a look at a past bridal remembrance, reprinted here:

Royal Wedding Redux

in British tradition, wedding vows are a morning affair, and if we were to catch the first glimpse of the beautiful bride, we needed to be “front and center” very early. My friends and I were a little old for a slumber party, but as we gathered in our pajamas at 4 a.m. in front of my clunky television in Atlanta, Georgia, the anticipation and giddiness was “ageless.”  It was July 29, 1981, and like millions of people around the world, we prepared to watch the royal wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, Prince of Wales. (We even had snacks to match the occasion: scones with homemade fig jam and Earl Grey tea with lemon—perhaps to not only feed our early morning hunger, but also some inherent dreams of being a princess.)

As the world welcomes a new “princess” today, we are reminded of another celebrated royal wedding almost four decades ago. It was a landmark event broadcast in 74 countries and watched around the world by over 750 million people—including me and my pajama-party friends!

The moment Diana stepped out of that fairy-tale-inspired glass coach on her wedding morning with endless yards of silk train magically materializing with her—"like seeing a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis,” her gown designers wrote later—she had us hook, line and sinker. Princess Diana did not invent our fascination with royalty, nevertheless, her wedding ushered in a whole new ballgame—and the world was never quite the same.

As the first worldwide media spectacular, and probably the defining event of the eighties—a decade in which style so often trumped substance—the glittering happening brought ceremonial weddings back in style almost overnight. It resurrected the bridal industry from the social upheavals of the previous two decades and set the pace for a new era of fancy wedding hoopla: elaborate designer gowns; staged over-the-top productions; refined Martha Stewart details; and the wedding as a “consumer rite.” (Sound familiar?)

Since the same media blitz followed Diana and Charles’ soap-opera marriage and thorny divorce, many people became wary of fairy tales and princesses. However, the endearing William and Kate, with their dignity and realness, made us fall in love all over again! And, of course, the royal buzz was on once more last fall when charming Prince Harry and lovely Meghan Markle announced their engagement. But there were and are differences.

Like her now sister-in-law Kate Middleton, Meghan is not “blue-blooded” (not even British, yet that will change after she marries the prince), but like what attracted William to Kate, Meghan has other qualities that were more important to Harry. Thanks in part to the princes’ mother cracking open the staid and out-of-touch British monarchy, revealing how “dynastic duty” has little to do with love and happiness, and, to insure they didn’t get boxed-in by the past, insisting her sons have the grounding of real-world experience. All of which helped to free William and Harry to choose to marry from their true heart’s desire. (Tweaking a quote from journalist extraordinaire Tina Brown, who has covered the weddings of Charles and Diana, William and Kate, and now Harry and Meghan: “Everything Diana had wished for her sons has come to pass. They each found the woman who would bring them the personal contentment she lacked.”)

So not only is the return to elegant wedding pageantry part of Diana’s legacy, but her most lasting legacy just may be Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle—and the more egalitarian world available to them as the two young women bring their confident, modern, compassionate and open-minded “princessdom” to a world ready for some genuine graciousness. Thank heavens for royal weddings! Tea, anyone? ~ 

[Excerpts from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding … a book for anyone who likes their wedding pageantry tossed with a little fashion history and princess brides! Available on Amazon.]

May 15, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter} No. 6: Wedding Vows

The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is almost here! I'm happy to reprint the latest in my series, "Why Royal Weddings Matter," published on Confluence Daily. Enjoy remembrances of royal weddings past.... 


 Wedding Vows

The bride’s entrance into the majesty of St. Paul’s was announced by a fanfare from trumpeters high inside the cathedral’s celebrated dome. Perhaps they were not only announcing a princess bride, but prophetically heralding in, for better or worse, a new era. Thirty-seven years ago, Lady Diana Spencer’s charismatic appeal as a bride, combined with the grand splendor of the British monarchy, revived the “great white wedding”—helped along with society’s need for order and tradition, a little Reaganomics, plus a dash of glam and glitter!

Or as author Maria McBride-Mellinger described changes following the royal wedding in 1981: “After more than a decade of swinging singles and disco infernos, suddenly everyone wanted to be married and every bride wanted a gown fit for a queen: regal and ornate, with a lengthy train, and a jeweled veil. The big white wedding was back in style and no expense seemed too great.”

Signaling another change of the times (something more archetypal, affecting the archaic structure of relationships), the bride and groom made royal history that day with a break in tradition even before becoming husband and wife. Removing some outdated words from the Church of England’s 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, as the couple stood before the archbishop of Canterbury, and witnessed by nearly a million-fold television audience, the bride’s marriage vows did not include the promise “to obey.”

A London byline in The Washington Post a few days before the wedding reported that the archbishop of Canterbury revealed “the decision to drop this vow was made very quickly in his discussion of the service with Charles and Diana and that he told them, the usual clergyman’s joke. ‘It’s a bad thing to start your marriage off with a downright lie.’ He told reporters that many couples now omit the vow, which was a remnant from the Middle Ages, when a wife would pledge ‘to be bonny and buxom in bed and board.’”

I don’t doubt the archbishop’s knowledge of history regarding marriage vows including “to love, cherish and obey.” However, my understanding of the Latin meaning of the word “obey” as used in the old marriage text is “to hear, to deeply listen”—a promise that would be beneficial, even essential, to any successful marriage, yes? If that’s the case, my only complaint with the original marriage vows is that the pledge “to obey” (i.e., “to listen”) was in the woman’s declaration but not in the man’s. Is the promise “to love and cherish” truly possible without “deep listening”?

The gift of giving someone your focused attention, the gift of “deep listening,” is most precious. Perhaps because such a connection was so painfully missing in Charles and Diana’s relationship, they instilled in their sons a sixth sense about finding, cherishing and protecting love and harmony. We saw this intimacy of connection during the marriage vows of their first son Prince William and Kate Middleton—“their chemistry lit up the screen,” as Tina Brown wrote in Newsweek following their wedding. “Everything about her actions, to and for William, is about creating a feeling of safe continuity: You know me. I am here.”  We’ve seen this soulful closeness continue in their marriage and now in the relationship of second son Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, kindred spirits who found each other although from vastly different backgrounds.

I look forward to the upcoming royal wedding, the marriage ceremony of Harry and Meghan—not just for the “glam and glitter,” but especially to be present to the intimate recognition of the other, the deep listening of love in action, and the “set the world on fire” changes possible when wedding vows are made inside a spiritual partnership like both of these modern-day princes and their beloveds have created. All of life, then, becomes an awakening to “love and cherish.”

Certain wedding “traditions”—royal or otherwise—are indeed outdated and need tossing aside; others are keepers in their own right. Then there are those traditions that simply need the wisdom of a woman’s touch! ~

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

May 9, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter} No. 5: A Whiter Shade of Pale

Enjoy this fifth column in my series "Why Royal Weddings Matter"....reprinted from Confluence Daily.
A Whiter Shade of Pale: 
Meghan Markle and Bridal White

 The centerpiece of the “great white wedding”—a tradition we’ve inherited in all its Victorian glory—is the bride’s gown. Once white became the bridal color in the nineteenth century, the wedding dress became steeped in dreams and emotions and lots of “meaning.”

By the time of Princess Diana’s royal wedding in 1981, bringing weddings back from the brink of nearly two decades of social unrest, the notion of “virgin white” had not been completely swept away with the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s. There were still underpinnings of deeply entrenched beliefs about the “rules” of wearing different shades of white—ivory, cream, beige—inferring one’s “virginal status.” (“If I wear cream,” a concerned bride-to-be asked me in the early ‘80s, “will people think I’m not a virgin?”) Costume historian Donald Clay Johnson believes the decades’ long “acceptance of white, symbolizing ‘purity,’ is a reflection of the pervasive power of English Victorian society to impose its value system throughout many parts of the world.”

Now, however, in our Internet-equalizer, glam-image crazed world there is a near universal popularity of the gown that turns any bride into a “vision in white” (no matter her age or how many times she’s been married, whether widowed or divorced) and evokes some kind of “princess” tingling down to her toes. Has the color white—once reserved for “maidens” only—finally lost any cultural and emotional symbolism and is now just a “pretty preference” for brides?

Fashion designers think so! The appealingly “unspoiled” nature of white is why many couturiers still have a wedding gown as their theatrical runway finale. When “stripped of religious and outdated cultural meanings, white—pure and dramatic—is the perfect canvas to showcase the intense craftsmanship of couture,” Eleanor Thompson wrote in her book featuring fifty iconic wedding dresses. 

Of course, Meghan Markle is not just any modern, savvy, independent woman getting married again. Her second wedding will be a very publicized, talked about, viewed world-wide royal wedding. So, naturally, there has been much curiosity about Meghan’s choice for her bridal gown: what designer, what style, what silhouette—but very little conversation about what color she will choose. Even though she is marrying into one of the oldest monarchies on earth, in a grand religious ceremony brimming over with ancient tradition, to a man whose grandmother is head of the church—will Meghan make a choice based solely on her good taste and good fashion sense?

Vogue magazine, which thinks Meghan “demonstrates a growing sense of ease and confidence with her fashion choices for royal engagements,” advises the soon-to-be royal bride about her wedding gown choice: “You can’t go wrong with the classics.” (It sounds as if “wearing white” is merely assumed. We, along with the British monarchy, have indeed come a long way!)

In the mid-1980s, on the glittering culture-changing wave following Diana and Charles’ royal wedding, I opened a bridal art-to-wear shop in Atlanta for the emerging modern woman, a “grown-up bride” as I called her. (I closed the store in late 1999; I thought the end of a millennium was a good transition point to complete one life phase and begin another, especially with the coming feminine energy powerhouse of the next thousand years—but that’s another story!) During these shop years, when brides-to-be asked me about the symbolism of white, I suggested that if they had it “mean” anything then why not choose “celebration”—and joy and inclusion and love. I find that wearing white always has a ceremonial and regal quality, for whatever occasion, taking on a kind of radiance. And I think Meghan Markle will choose from this spirit-centered, radiant place where a woman simply knows her true self and her heart’s deepest desire. ~

[Want to know more about the “great white wedding”? The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding tells all! Available on Amazon.]

May 1, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter} No. 4: Channeling Kindness

Continuing the celebration of the upcoming royal wedding, here's my latest column for Confluence Daily in the "Why Royal Weddings Matter" series. Enjoy "Channeling Kindness"....reprinted below.
Channeling Kindness

“Well, is he nice?” Meghan Markle asked about Prince Harry of Wales when a well-connected friend offered to arrange a blind date between the two famous thirty-somethings. Only familiar with the royals via media headlines, she explained, everything else about the prince was a moot point for her “if he wasn’t kind.”

As most of the world now knows, the couple got engaged last fall and will marry in May. It appears Meghan, an activist and humanitarian, found a common spirit in her kind-hearted prince. They have already made a dynamic partnership in their altruistic work together focused on the youth of the world. “Meghan is going to be a force,” People magazine reported, citing a palace source. “She will help him define his role and relate to the public in a way that he wouldn’t have been able to do before. It was worth the wait.”

Harry and Meghan want as many people as possible to benefit from the generosity of spirit that bubbles up around wedding celebrations. So, continuing the precedent set by William and Kate (and now the trend with regular couples, who were, in turn, inspired by the young royals), they are asking the public to “channel kindness,” noted Natalie Hinde in Huffington Post, requesting any wedding gifts be made in the form of a donation to one of their personally selected charities—they chose seven “which reflect their shared values.” (Plus, I doubt they really need any household items or another cut crystal bowl!)

Considered a “personal” wedding (distinct from a “state” occasion where it’s appropriate to invite heads of state from around the world), Harry and Meghan’s ceremony is rather small compared to other Windsor weddings. (Only 600 friends and family members received the coveted invitations to attend the wedding service at St. George’s Chapel and following reception. Yet Harry, who remained close to his mother’s family, invited the Spencer clan—Diana’s three siblings and their families—to both wedding and reception, including the evening’s let-your-hair-down party for 200 at Frogmore Hall.) Nonetheless, Harry and Meghan have extended special invitations to almost 2700 people “from every corner of the United Kingdom”—people of all ages and backgrounds who have served their communities, plus members of the royal household—to be part of their wedding by gathering on the grounds of Windsor Castle to watch the comings and goings of the day’s festivities. (I’d like to be part of that group!)

I find it a pleasure to be drawn into the love story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Given the archetypal nature of royalty, representing something stirring in the collective consciousness, it’s most heartening to know that a deep level of “kindness” is brewing on such a glittering world stage to help counteract the harshness that’s been unleashed in the world of late.

Kindness has indeed taken a hit recently in the rude realm of “trumpery,” but as British novelist Amelia Edith Barr wrote: “Kindness is always fashionable.” Both of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ sons inherited a tender, thoughtful side from their parents—and both William and Harry attracted life partners who seem to nurture and encourage that tenderness. (The expression “real men are kind-hearted” comes to mind!)

“Channel kindness” is an apt directive today—and perhaps a reason so many people are captivated by this vibrant couple who are creating such joy in being in service to others. I say let’s all enjoy and celebrate this royal wedding, immersing ourselves in heart-centered energy—and feel the spirit of kindness rising in the world, then pass it forward.~
[I'm working on a new book, A Memory of Beauty: The Spiritual Mission of a Princess—which explores the transformational nature of kindness.]

April 27, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter} No. 3: Victoria's Choice

The third post in  my "Why Royal Weddings Matter" column for Confluence Daily, "Victoria's Choice," is reprinted get you caught up on royal wedding history!
Victoria's Choice

If you know one thing about wedding gown history, I would wager that it has something to do with Queen Victoria beginning the bridal fashion of wearing white. (And now, thanks to her, it has been a tradition of sorts for over 175 years.) But I would also wager that most people don’t know the real reason the 20-year-old monarch chose the color white for her wedding gown, breaking the precedent set by earlier princess brides who considered it their right to be “dressed in the usual cloths of silver or gold.” Victoria even chose a crown of fanciful, yet wax orange blossoms instead of one of her dazzling diamond diadems.

Her choices have since been regarded as representing simplicity, modesty and purity—and indeed the young queen was sentimental with an “uncluttered fashion preference,” according to costume historian Kay Staniland. However, Victoria was deeply in love, and this became her guiding inspiration for her wedding attire. Therefore, with much consideration—taking into account her duty, her position and her subjects, carefully discussing her options with her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne—“the queen decided to make her marriage vows to her ‘precious Angel’ as his future wife rather than as the monarch,” wrote Edwina Ehrman, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. So Victoria not only opted against wearing the ornate silver and gold of royalty, but also her regal “crimson velvet robe of state”—first worn at her coronation two years earlier—feeling “it would only emphasize her seniority, and overshadow the role of her future husband,” Staniland added.

Victoria’s all-white bridal costume may have been without the usual opulent royal accoutrements of silver and gold or ermine-trimmed robes, but it “was actually exquisite and of great value,” explained Maria McBride-Mellinger, author of The Wedding Dress. Underscoring “patriotic spending,” the young queen commissioned her country’s renowned textile artisans. The rich silk satin for the gown and its 18-foot court train (Victoria giving a subtle nod to her queenly status) was woven in Spitalfields; and “two hundred women in a Devon village were employed for eight months” making the beautiful, lyrically-patterned bobbin lace for her gown’s embellishments as well as her short veil. The only color Victoria wore was near her heart: a large, brilliant blue sapphire brooch which had been Prince Albert’s wedding gift to her.

On the day of the wedding, Victoria’s adoring subjects happily received their queen’s choices, cheering her carriage on its way to the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. Dressed in these creamy shades of white and tufts of orange blossom, I doubt that Victoria had a sense of the remarkably romantic lineage she was about to inaugurate. (“Queen Victoria’s wedding and her gown inspired an era and an industry,” wrote McBride-Mellinger.) Nor could she ever know that her most queenly exemplar: “Keep your relationship top priority,” would make fine advice for today’s busy wedding-planning brides.

It seems for this young bride (who just happened to be ruler of an empire), that it came down to choosing the feelings of her future husband over her own ego. Victoria’s heart-centered choice changed bridal history and, in turn, illuminated the supreme sovereignty of a woman in love. ~

[Taken from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, available at Amazon.]

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} No. 1: The Real Fairy Tale

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!

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 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!