Archives for March 2015

March 30, 2015

Privilège du Blanc: Princess Charlene’s Papal Fashion

Two years ago in March, Catholics around the world awaited white smoke to billow out of the Sistine Chapel’s chimney pipe. After days and days of black smoke appearing, signifying that we hadn’t yet received a new Pope, the stakes got pretty high: whoever we ended up with better be worth this wait. And, as it turns out, he was. I could have waited for years just to have Pope Francis in the end.

At Pope Francis’ inauguration Mass, royal watchers were delighted to see a couple familiar faces in the tremendous crowds: Princess Charlene and Prince Albert! Being sovereigns of one of the few Catholic nations in the world, the Princely couple attended the inaugural Mass to pray for the new pontificate.

Charlene selected a black dress and mantilla, per tradition when a woman has an audience with the Pope. I’m quite unclear as to why women are required to dress in mourning around the Pope, but I do understand that part of it has to do with respect and modesty. I still can’t figure out how black achieves those two things, but whatever. Tradition is tradition, and we Catholics are known to stick to tradition like grim death. Which, strangely, brings us back to black. At least Charlene looks good in black!

But here comes the interesting bit! Charlene is one of the very few women in the world who is actually entitled to wear white around the Pope. This right is called Privilège du Blanc/Privilegio del Bianco/Privilege of the White, and it applies to all female Catholic rulers of Catholic nations or the wives of Catholic rulers (it adds up to only a handful of women in the world). It is yet unclear to me why Charlene opted for black at the inaugural Mass – perhaps to detract attention from her sartorial choices so that the focus might be on the matter at hand? Who knows. But she was flanked by a couple other royal ladies who did enjoy their privilège du blanc:

Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg (left) and Queen Paola of Belgium (right) both wore white to the inaugural Mass.

Charlene did draw attention for wearing white some years ago, when she exercised the privilège du blanc during a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican actually had to issue a press release explaining her choice of color, as Monaco had previously not been included as one of the countries worthy of the privilège du blanc at that point. Apparently, the Vatican had given Charlene the all-clear to wear white prior to the visit, but they just hadn’t publicized Monaco’s inclusion in the law. The press release calmed any uproar and explained that it was entirely acceptable attire for Charlene’s position as the Catholic sovereign’s wife.

But the privilège du blanc does not open up the floodgates for bells and whistles. Women enjoying this attire must still keep accessories to a minimum, skirts below the knee, and modesty throughout – nothing low cut, tight, or flashy. And, of course, a head covering is still required.

Charlene pulled off the privilège du blanc perfectly: a cream-colored, elegantly embroidered dress, tailored impeccably, paired off with beige pumps and simple accessories, which included a white lace veil. As far as jewelry goes, I don’t think I see any at all, save her wedding band of course, and her makeup was neutral and appropriate. Modest, chic, and respectful all at once. The picture of perfection, as usual.

As we stagger out of the Lenten season, let’s enjoy these photos of Charlene in white in hopes of a lovely upcoming Easter and, with highest hopes, a spring that’s just around the corner. And a happy 2-year anniversary to Pope Francis!

March 23, 2015

Divorce Rumors?

Oh boy, here we go again: divorce rumors. The rumor mill had another explosion this month, when Princess Charlene and the twins started staying in a French villa, as opposed to their home in the Princely Palace. Is there trouble in Monégasque-paradise? Is the princely couple headed to a divorce? No worries, my friends: I am here to answer your questions as best I know how, by unpacking and repacking the details in order to clear out some space for clarity. So, are they in marital trouble? My humble opinion: no. And yes. But mostly, no.

To set the record straight: the rumors, of course, neglected to mention that Albert is also there with Charlene and the kids at that villa, because obviously it’s not as juicy that way. The whole family moved out of the palace temporarily, because of the construction zone it has become (video can be found on the Palais Monaco Facebook Page):

The Princely Palace is undergoing major renovations, which will include the apartments in which the princely family lives. Cue your antennae to the fact that they have 3-month old twin babies in the house, and it makes sense that they’d want to high-tail it out of town. Who wants peacefully sleeping babies to be woken up by the sound of a jackhammer outside their door? It’s probably all Charlene can do not to run outside and make shushing sounds at the construction crew. Also, as Prince Albert is still keeping up his many public engagements, he’s back and forth to Monaco and of course, it looks like Charlene is alone with the twins in France. In a new house. Away from Albert.

Prince Albert gave an interview to People Magazine recently, in which he vehemently quashed these divorce rumors as being unequivocally insane. As usual, an interview with this brand of enthusiasm can never be taken at face value: people are freaking out because he was so staunch in his stance. He’s denying it too much, they say, so the rumors must be true. One must remember, though, that if he was calm and stoic in his stance, people would be saying the same thing. Too stoic – he obviously doesn’t care! Heathen! Blasphemer! *Roll eyes.*

But I don’t doubt that there is a little trouble in paradise, for two specific reasons: the twins. Charlene and Albert have infants in the house. Just one infant is crazy-making, but two? That’s pulling-out-your-hair impossible. So yes, there probably is some trouble, because they’re being driven out of their minds by sleep deprivation and diaper explosions. In Pamela Druckerman’s survival manual book about the calm serenity of French parenting, Bringing Up Bébé, she points to the statistics to prove this point: marital trouble skyrockets with the birth of a child, upping the divorce rate, and the divorce rate is much higher for parents of twins (Druckerman is specifically familiar with each scenario, being the mother of both a singleton and a set of twins). It actually makes sense: taking care of infants can make jumping off a cliff sound like a very, very reasonable idea, and snapping at one’s spouse? That’s just par for the course. I have one friend who put it very succinctly after the birth of her second child: “It’s a good thing I love my husband, because I definitely don’t like him. Not right now.” Yep, sounds about right.

So my take? They’re not en route to a divorce, no. They’re in a marriage, and they just changed up their entire dynamic by bringing babies into the equation. And they’re renovating their home at the same time! They might be stressed out, but guys, I really think their marriage is FINE. It’s normal. We have to give them some room to be stressed out if they have to be, because that’s how it works. And let’s face it, this couple has been under the divorce-microscope ever since their wedding. But since we’re fans here, we’ll look at them a different way: with understanding and compassion. ‘Cause they’re sure not getting it from the press (or those babies, ha)!

Hopefully the renovations will be done soon and the family can be back in their home, and they’ll fall into a comfortable groove with parenting twins. They probably already have. In the meantime, I hope they’re not afraid to put the babies down in their cribs and go scream into a pillow if necessary. No judgment from here!

March 17, 2015

Irish Princesses of Monaco

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all! Assuming that you’re celebrating in a dignified way – such as with green bagels at your local café – I am here to entertain you with some of Princess Charlene’s most memorable Irish-flavored moments in honor of her ancestry. Let’s not forget: Charlene is of Irish descent!

A couple years back, Irish genealogists from Eneclann came to the Princely Palace to give Charlene a Certificate of Irish Heritage and details about her ancestors, the Fagans of Feltrim. They made the special trip to Monaco to supply Charlene with details on her heritage, a family tree which reaches back at least 16 generations. (If you wish to read the entire story on the Fagans of Feltrim, you can find it here. It’s actually quite an interesting read!)

Charlene’s family roots are in Ireland, as were those of her late mother-in-law, Princess Grace. Monaco celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in honor of its princesses, lighting the Princely Palace in shades of green, so we shall do the same here today…only with fashion.

This is what Charlene wore at her first major public engagement in Monaco, the Red Cross Gala in 2006. Yikes. Even Charlene herself looks back on this and cringes, saying she looked like a Christmas tree. Apparently it was only after this appearance that HSH got seriously knowledgeable about fashion. Moving on!

In early October of 2011, Charlene and Albert welcomed Croatian President and his wife. Now THIS is more like it. I love this dress! Something about the material and the tiers makes it very unique and flattering, and the color is not a green you would expect. It’s got an underlying beige tint to it that I love, not unlike the textured color of natural clover. Which brings us to…

You all know I love this one. Let’s be real, green is a great color on Charlene. Her eyes.

This is a green dress. It took me years to accept that this is green and not black, though. I have to struggle very hard to see the green tint to it, but yes, it is actually a green Ralph Lauren gown. Many royal watchers out there absolutely love this, but I will take a bold risk and admit to you that I don’t. At all. Actually, I kind of hate it. The neckline and the sheen of the material just scream Disney sorceress to me. Her hair and makeup, though, are of course impeccable and dreamy.

Yes, yes, I know, this isn’t green. But Charlene wore this grey Akris gown during her tour of Ireland with Prince Albert, so it gets to be on here again. Half because it’s what she wore in Ireland, and half because I just love it so much. Work it!

And of course…

…I can’t leave you without a picture of Monaco’s first Irish princess, Grace. Perfection. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all, and to Monaco in celebration of its striking Irish princesses!

March 14, 2015

Happy Birthday to Princess Charlene’s Hubby, Prince Albert!

Today marks a special day for the Princely family of Monaco: Prince Albert’s 57th birthday!

While we royal watchers are unsure how Albert is celebrating today, we can certainly be sure that this past year has been one of Albert’s finest, at least as far as his family life is concerned: the first birthday with his baby twins. At 3 months old, they are probably getting into the cute phase of babyhood, where smiles are starting to emerge and gurgles are hopefully replacing blood-curdling screams. With that joyful notion in our heads, let’s look back at some of Albert’s most shining moments in his life.

1958: just born! Little baby Albert with his maman, Princess Grace. Sweet sweet sweet.

With his family in 1976. Man, that’s a good looking group. Those haircuts, though. It was definitely the 70s. (As we all silently thank God that decade is over, in the name of all that is holy and attractive.)

Coronation Day! In July of 2005, Prince Albert succeeded to the throne.

Announcing his engagement to Charlene in 2010. Looks like he has to prop her arm up due to that gigantic rock weighing down her hand. Holy carats.

The wedding, duh! And of course…

…those babies.

Just to throw this in for fun, too, this happened last week: the first fully solar-powered airplane took off for a flight around the world, and its control center is based in Monaco. Prince Albert gave the official green light and all systems were GO for the pilots. It’s certainly a pretty cool thing to do to mark your birthday, right?

Wishing a very happy birthday to Prince Albert! (Now go help Charlene with those babies!)

March 5, 2015

Baptism Date Announced for the Royal Twins!

You all know how much I love some baby news – and today I’ve got some for you! As you may have heard, the baptism date for Gabriella and Jacques has been released, at long last. The event will take place on May 10th of this year at the Cathedral of Monaco.

It will be a private ceremony sans press coverage, but I’m assuming we will have some photos of the back-and-forth for the ceremony. While private, the ceremony will still be broadcast in Monaco, and I’m hoping that some lovely soul out there will share it online for the rest of the world, too.

My guess is that each baby will have a godmother and a godfather, presumably only one pair for each child as is customary for a Catholic baptism (as opposed to someone like Prince George, who had a handful of various godparents for his christening). It’s unlikely that we will know who the godparents will be until the ceremony; however, at least one godparent per child would have to be Catholic, so that narrows down the prospects a bit.

When Prince Albert was baptized (above photo!), his godparents were Prince Louis de Polignac and Queen Victoria-Eugénia of Spain. Given that there are two babies to work with here, we will probably see some family and some royalty sprinkled into the mix for the twins, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two non-Catholic godparents, perhaps from Charlene’s side of the family. Some possible choices would be Charlene’s brother, Gareth:

Or either of Albert’s sisters, Princess Caroline and Princess Stéphaine:

Or even Princess Caroline’s daughter, Charlotte Casiraghi:

Obviously, these are just some fun speculations and it will be interesting to see how on (or off) the mark I am here!

The babies will be a precious 5 months old at their baptism, which is actually on the older side for Catholic baptisms (or so I say, with clearly no conviction. I’m Catholic, and my own toddler has yet to be baptized! Procrastination is my weakness, so sue me). It makes sense that they waited a bit, though, for some milder weather and the passing of the Lenten season, which the Princely family is undoubtedly recognizing.

This isn’t anything that will break the internet, but it gets me excited to think that we’ll be seeing the babies again soon. Hopefully the press will get some exterior coverage, and at the very least, we can hope for some lovely portraits of the family to mark the occasion. Best case scenario would be that we get a video of the ceremony, so cross your fingers and toes and I’ll see you all again soon!

March 1, 2015

Prince Albert Reflects on Princess Grace

I’m not sure who out there has read the words with which Prince Albert recently described his late mother, but if you haven’t yet, it might be worth a skim.

I love Prince Albert to pieces, but he’s endearingly tongue-tied when it comes to expressing his affection. Come to think of it, it may just be due to the discomfort of discussing something so personal in such a public forum, and I don’t blame him at all for that. Albert said some lovely things about his mother, but it seemed tough for him to get his thoughts out smoothly. That being said, it’s worth some of our time here to turn the spotlight to Princess Charlene’s predecessor, so we can appreciate her more fully…and tap into what Albert was trying to say.

I love Princess Grace. As a devoted follower of Princess Charlene and royalty in general, she is constantly on my radar. I feel like she’s the one who brought stardom to monarchy, the reason paparazzi lenses are always crusading after royal fashion and whereabouts. Before Grace, monarchies seemed drab and unreachable; her presence, however, pulled royals into the spotlight, giving us royal watching as we know it today.

We all know her as Grace Kelly, the famed Hollywood starlet who won the heart of a prince, right around the same time Disney princesses started popping up all over the place. Granted, she had to give up her career as an actress in order to become a princess, but she knew what she was doing, so I will not bore you with any saga on the matter here. I’d have chosen to be a princess too!

Originally a Philly girl (any readers familiar with Kelly Drive? It was, of course, named after Princess Grace’s family. After many years in Philly myself, I never knew this until now!), Princess Grace’s father was an Olympian, which is a rather strange coincidence for Monaco’s royal family to have so many connections to the Olympics. I can’t help but think that Albert might have been influenced by his mother and her heritage when he first laid eyes upon Charlene…and they don’t look too dissimilar from one another, either. Beauty for beauty.

Indeed, Charlene has a lot in common with her late mother-in-law beyond her looks, Olympic legacy, and Albert. Both Foundations that these royal ladies founded center around things dear to their pre-wedded hearts: the arts and theater for Grace, swimming for Charlene. They both also have an affinity with children, and as most of Charlene’s charitable work is focused around little ones and their wellbeing, so was her predecessor’s. Grace founded the Association Mondiale des Amis de l’Enfance (AMADE), a children’s organization, and she started the yearly Christmas Party for children in Monaco, a tradition which Albert and Charlene faithfully continue every year. In many ways, Grace was the original princess of the people, reaching out and touching children and their families’ lives and pushing community service. Princess Diana followed closely in Grace’s footsteps in this way, very shortly after Grace’s death in 1982, and now the current young royals are following suit.

Something random that draws my interest so fixedly, though, is that she threw her support behind La Leche League, an organization known by moms worldwide for its advocacy for breastfeeding (have a question, day or night? Call ‘em. Too much milk? Too little milk? Just annoyed and need to vent about your breastfeeding pillow that’s not working? They have answers. Praise God for this resource!) Given the time and place in which she was doing this, it made her something of a pioneer – with Monaco’s proximity to France, which is famous for bottle feeding, and the time in which the bottle held superiority, it’s pretty remarkable that she was willing to put herself out there as an advocate for nursing mothers. Her dedication to family health seemed to radiate through every aspect of her voice.

We could talk on and on about her acting career or her famous wedding, but we’ll save those topics for another time. Today, we can just reflect on Princess Grace’s love, how she loved her family and children, and how she extended that love to her community without pause. I think that’s what Albert was trying to say in his brief interview: she was very, very loving, and she cared about people very, very much.