12/23/2012

The show always goes on for Queen at Christmas

  Sandringham_House
Sandringham House has been the traditonal home for a Royal Family Christmas since the days of her grandfather, George V.

After 60 years on the throne, there are still some things Queen Elizabeth never seems to tire of. Christmas at Sandringham is one of them.

It is family time, and that means upholding the best of its traditions. The Queen has had these embedded in her since youth, and she takes great pains to make Christmas a family-based affair. Of course, it helps to have a big house like Sandringham, which has been a private royal residence for four generations.

The Queen is slightly under the weather as the big day approaches -- she missed church service on Sunday while "getting over the tail end of a cold," said the palace -- but there is always 'the-show-must-go-on' kind of bravado around the whole affair.

Even Prince Philip's hospitalization for emergency heart surgery last year didn't seem to put much a dent in the long-held routines -- which is just the way Philip wanted it.

2012-12-24T013441Z_01_CLH100_RTRMDNP_3_BRITAINAnd the 86-year-old monarch even leaves a little room for twists to the traditions. Her annual Christmas message goes out in 3D for the first time this year (she previewed it with producers at right) and the word from the palace is that she proclaimed the result "absolutely lovely."

Advance extracts of her speech include special mention of the athletes of the London Olympics, who, she said, "gave the rest of us the opportunity to share something of the excitement and drama."

A few of the 'star' royals will be missing this Christmas at Sandringham -- Prince William and Kate will be at the Middleton family home and Prince Harry is in Afghanistan -- but there's plenty more relatives to fill the space.

H7omb7z3For about four days, it’s all about family, and the kids, and routines that have been going on for years. Kind of like the Christmases many of us enjoy. The setting is somewhat grander, but the general ambition remains the same: keep Grandma happy. (Right: the Queen adjusts the hat of one of her daughters-in-law, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, on Christmas Day in 2002)

Here's a look at how Christmas at Sandringham is celebrated, gleaned liberally from outside sources and a blog post we presented last year:

It all begins the week before Christmas, when the Queen vacates Buckingham Palace for what will be a six-week stay at Sandringham House, an hour and a half or so by train north of London. For a while she hosted the holiday at Windsor Castle (it can accomodate far more people) but now she tries to keep it simple with immediate family only at the Norfolk estate.

That means a crowd of more than two dozen relatives, including children and spouses.

Despite its country-estate setting, there’s still plenty of royal duties for the Queen to attend to at Sandringham, which acts as the monarchy's base until February. The first week, however, is all about Christmas and family. This is strictly a private affair, though details emerge over the years, some of them in a book by Phil Dampier, "What’s In The Queen’s Handbag (And Other Royal Secrets)." From that and other sources, we can put together a reasonable diary of the goings-on.

Before they start arriving -- junior royals first -- a spruce Christmas tree will be selected and cut down from the huge estate, and servants begin decorating it in the White Drawing Room. (Three years ago, disaster struck when the 18-foot tree was toppled after a staff member fell into it.)

As you might imagine, there’s a huge store of old ornaments, dating back to Queen Victoria.

The Queen likes to decorate the tree (as much as an 86-year-old woman can), making sure to take care of the star from George V's days and laying on the tinsel. The younger royals finish off the decorating.

As the guests begin to arrive, they are given a room plan and a timetable by the Master of the Household. The accomodations are bare by royal standards, more country inn-sensible than palace-plush, with rooms kept warm by two-bar electic fire grills. Beds are covered with blankets, not duvets.

Gifts that have been brought are laid out in the Red Drawing Room, sectioned off by name and in order of precedence.

Drawing room

The drawing room at Sandringham, where the royals will gather for the first time.

CHRISTMAS EVE

It’s tea time (Earl Grey mostly) at 4 p.m. in the drawing room. Sandwiches, scones and muffins are in abundance.

At 6 p.m., it’s time for the gifts, following in the German tradition of unwrapping the bounty the night before Christmas.

All the gifts are laid out on a white linen-covered table with name tags and everyone dives in. Ceremony is dispensed with.

What do royals get each other for Christmas? Well, not as much as you’d think. Most gifts are either practical, or a practical joke.

A few examples:

- The Queen was reportedly delighted to receive a casserole dish, and even more delighted one year to be given one of those singing Big Mouth Billy Bass fish, which supposedly still sits on the grand piano at Balmoral.

- Harry and William went in together on a Blu-Ray player for Grandma Liz.

- Princess Anne gave her brother Charles a padded toilet seat. One year he gave her a doormat.

- Harry once gave the Queen a plastic shower hat emblazoned with: “Ain’t life a bitch!”

- Princess Diana gave Charles some Mickey Mouse socks.

- Prince Philip has a penchant for novelty items like unusual can openers. He has also received a whoopee cushion, apparently.

SaloonAfter the orgy of cheap gifts, it is off to the saloon (right) for drinks prepared by the servants. This will range from Coke to martinis. The Queen is partial to Dubonnet and gin.

Amply refreshed, everyone scatters to get ready for dinner.  This involves yet another change in outfits, since it is regarded as a formal affair: ladies in gowns, gents in black tie.

At 8 p.m., the gong sounds for the gathering of the clan. The Queen always arrives fashionably at 8:15.

“You never let the Queen beat you down for dinner, end of story,” said Sarah Ferguson, recalling her Christmas days as wife to Prince Andrew. “To come in any later would be unimaginably disrespectful.”

There’s Christmas crackers, of course, those festive-wrapped tubes that snap (!) open and to reveal a party hat, horoscopes, jokes and a insanely cheap little plastic toy. The Queen is excused from wearing the paper hat.

Dining roomA typical dinner (by candlelight no less) might start with a shrimp appetizer, followed by the main course of lamb or game killed on the estate. Dessert might be a soufflé or tarte tatin.

Two hours later, dinner is done and on come the post-dinner beverages: coffee, port and brandy. 

By midnight, the Queen usually retires. No one leaves the gathering before she does.

CHRISTMAS DAY

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Princess Eugenie and Queen Elizabeth II accept flowers from children outside Sandringham Church after the traditional Christmas Day service at Sandringham. (Getty Images)

Not sure who does all the filling, but eyes awaken to the sight of stockings at the foot of each family member’s bed, filled with small gifts and fruit.

St. Mary MagdaleneBacon, sausage, eggs, toast and tea -- take your pick from the traditional English menu for breakfast. Everyone just has to give themselves plenty of time to make the 11 a.m. Christmas service at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (right). By tradition, most walk, though the Queen and those with young children are driven.

This is where the public generally gets its best view of the royals. Although photographing royals on the estate is generally not allowed, the rule is relaxed at Christmas (aside from a nasty incident a few years ago where cameras were mistakenly confiscated).

Finally, turkey time -- courtesy of birds raised on the estate -- arrives at 1:15 p.m. The Queen makes the seating plan.

Gobble, gobble and gone. Don’t want to miss the Queen’s annual Christmas TV broadcast at 3 p.m., a tradition that dates to 1932 and George V’s radio broadcasts. The Queen's first broadcast was in 1952, with the first televised one in 1957 (below).

 

Other than that must-see TV, this is the family’s lazy afternoon, with everyone free to play some games, watch TV, take a stroll, have a nap… just like ordinary turkey-filled folk. Sometime during the day, it's expected that Prince Harry will touch base with the relatives via Skype.

And guess what’s for dinner? Yep … leftovers (with a fresh lobster salad to start).

“The family are not keen on mince pies or Christmas pudding so I could be quite bold with, say, a pina colada mousse with a raspberry coulis,” said former royal chef Graham Newbould.

It’s game night after that, where the doors are closed on the digital world and old stand-bys like charades make a comeback.

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, greets well-wishers after leaving the 2011 Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk. (Reuters)

BOXING DAY

After a big breakfast, the annual pheasant shoot is arranged, with Prince Philip traditionally taking the lead. Last year, after being in hospital for four days following surgery for a blocked artery, the ever-game duke headed straight for the pheasant outing, though he didn't pick up a gun.

As for the Queen, every dog has their day and this is the one for monarch’s many corgis, who will undoubtedly be in her company most of the afternoon — along a beach if the weather permits.

The festivities winding down, it's back to regular royal duties on the 27th, most of the royals scattering to their United Kingdom corners, from London to Wales. 

The Queen, meanwhile, hunkers down with Philip at Sandringham for the long January month.

Someone has to clean up the mess the kids left behind, right?


12/22/2012

Prince William and Kate to miss Christmas with Queen

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Prince William, Kate and Prince Harry, seen here last Christmas Day, will all be missing from this year's celebrations with the Queen at Sandringham. (Reuters)

The Queen can forget about changing the sheets in at least one room at Sandringham -- Prince William and Kate won't be coming for Christmas Day.

Instead, the royal parents-to-be will be feasting with Kate's family in Bucklebury. The decision, said St. James's Palace, has been met "with the approval of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh."

So, no hard feelings.

The Palace also said Will and Kate will spend at least some time at the Queen's winter home over the holidays.

Christmas at the Middleton home, with parents Carole and Michael and siblings Pippa and James, will certainly be a less formal affair, and less stressful for Kate, who has been coping with acute morning sickness in her third month of pregnancy.

William and Kate are not expected to make any public appearances on Christmas Day, unlike the rest of the Royal Family, who greet locals as they make their trek to and from church services.

Sources have told the Telegraph the duchess has shown "marked improvement" recently, and she has shown it with a couple of outings to the BBC Sports Personality Awards and the Queen's annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace. She also joined Palace staff for a seasonal party last week.

Without Will and Kate, the Queen's Christmas guest list is still quite full with at least a few dozen immediate family. Another notable absentee, though, will be Prince Harry, who is serving with UK troops in Afghanistan.

All the Queen may be hoping for is no more surprises. Last year, her husband Prince Philip was stricken just before Christmas and had to spend four days in hospital after surgery for a blocked artery.

 

12/21/2012

Duchess Kate's pregnancy adds twist to Queen's Christmas plans

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Queen Elizabeth stands in the 1844 Room of Buckingham Palace after recording her annual Christmas Day broadcast last year. (Getty Images)

In case you hadn't guessed it already, family is pretty important to Queen Elizabeth, and there's no more important time of year to express that than Christmas. And if that means bending a few of her 'tradition' rules, so be it.

She'll have at least a couple dozen Royal Family members have confirmed their attendance at Sandringham, but the biggest question mark still swirls around Prince William and wife Kate, whose bouts of morning sickness have made her, in sports parlance, a game-day decision.

If not Sandringham, she will likely be with her own family at Bucklebury. However, the latest speculation, according to UsMagazine.com, is that the Queen has sweetened the pot by extending an invitation for Kate's parents, Carole and Michael, to join the royal clan at her estate, thereby ensuring Kate's attendance.

1988That would be a definite break in tradition which demands the holidays be reserved for immediate family only.

Last year was Kate's first Christmas Sandringham, where she got a first-hand look at the tradition-laden activities, which includes many changes of clothes for the various meals and the annual trek to church Christmas morning, greeting the locals along the way (photo, from 1988).

Speaking of tradition, the Queen's annual Christmas Day message (3 p.m., check your listings) gets a mini-makeover this year with a 3D broadcast -- just another technological leap for the monarch, who makes a brave attempt to keep up with the young 'uns.

The broadcasts are, by themselves, mini time capsules. Below, you get a sense of that, but also a sense of the consistent themes the Queen hits on at this time of year. The first is from 1957, her first televised broadcast. The second, from 1984, is interesting for its scenes of a newborn Harry and very young Prince William with Charles and Diana.

 

 

Christmas message 1984

 

12/20/2012

Royals: It's been a good news/bad news kind of year

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The Queen and her closest heirs -- Prince Charles and Prince William -- stand on the balcony at Buckingham Palace during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on June 5. (AP Photo)

When the train pulled into King's Lynn station on Thursday, it was sure sign the end of the year is close.

Aboard was Queen Elizabeth, arriving with Prince Philip for the annual Christmas pilgrimage to their 8,100-hectare Sandringham estate, where they will celebrate the season with a few dozen or more Royal Family members.

It's a time to reflect, on both the good and bad.

Most would say it's been a pretty good year for the Royal Family, starting with the Diamond Jubilee and ending with a new heir on the way. But behind every silver lining ... is a cloud.

KateOn one hand ... No more guessing games over when Prince William and Kate will start a family.

On the other hand ... The mental image of Kate throwing up with morning sickness puts a whole new spin on "The Kate Effect."

On one hand ... the Diamond Jubilee celebrations were a huge success, culminating with the thousand-boat flotilla down the Thames.

On the other hand ... Standing to wave at crowds in often drizzly weather, all Prince Philip got was a bladder infection and almost a week in hospital.

On one hand ... Prince Harry revealed himself to be a fine ambassador for Britain during his royal tour of the Caribbean.

On the other hand ... Prince Harry revealed too much of himself during his very non-royal tour of Las Vegas.

CharlesOn one hand ... The Diamond Jubilee celebrations meant Canada would get a royal visit.

On the other hand ... It was Charles and Camilla.

On one hand ... The 86-year-old Queen vowed to "rededicate myself" after 60 years of service.

On the other hand ... Charles, 64, made no such vow to wait another 60 years for his turn.

On one hand ... Pippa Middleton has become a published author.

On the other hand ... She's apparently not a very good one.

On one hand ... Kate and her clothes again made headlines.

On the other hand ... Kate without her clothes made even more headlines.

On one hand ... British papers refused to publish photos of Topless Kate.

On the other hand ... More than half of Britons polled looked at them on the web anyway.

ZaraOn one hand ... The Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips won Olympic silver in team equestrian event.

On the other hand ... Even Zara admitted it would have been gold, but "I messed up."

On one hand ... The Brtitish government named a gigantic piece of the planet after Queen Elizabeth.

On the other hand ... It's in Antarctica, where penguins and seals can't even hum the words to "God Save the Queen."

On one hand ... Prince William inherited $16 million from his mother's estate when he turned 30 in June.

On the other hand ... It wasn't enough to stem the flow of hair from his head.

As we said ... all in all, a pretty good year.

12/19/2012

A photo feast for Queen fans ... while Duchess Kate is feasting again

Majesty kids daimler 1957 windsor

Queen plays chauffeur for her children Charles and Anne in the Daimler in 1957. (TASCHEN/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)

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The Duchess of Cambridge is catching up, but she'll have stand in front of a camera lens for a long time to come close to the number of times Queen Elizabeth has been photographed.

Hard to believe, but there are still some photographs among the millions that are considered to be rare. These are among the images that have been collected in a new book on the Queen celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, Her Majesty, by Taschen publishers.

The book, listed at $170 but going for $136 at amazon.ca, is available pre-order for a January release in Canada.

The photos have been gleaned from a variety of sources and include some rather famous photographers, from Cecil Beaton -- responsible for some of the most iconic shots of the monarch -- to Annie Leibovitz.

The fun of the book is some of the rare shots of the Queen caught in informality, like when she's driving her kids Anne and Charles through Windsor. Through her childhood days, to family life, to greeting movie stars, it's the story of a Queen as we do not often see her.

Cecil beaton queen nigeria 1955
Cecil Beaton photographing Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace prior to her trip to Nigeria in 1955. (TASCHEN/Victoria & Albert Museum)

Bettman Corbis Lisa Sheridan family at Great Lodge Windsor Park 1949
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth enjoy the garden life at the Royal Lodge at Windsor with daughters Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. (TASCHEN/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)

Monroe
Marilyn Monroe, standing between Victor Mature and Anthony Quayle, waits her turn to meet the Queen at the London premiere of "The Battle of the River Plate" in October 1956. (TASCHEN/Harry Myers/Rex Features)

DUCHESS KATE HAS APPETITE BACK

For someone who couldn't even look at a piece of solid food without gagging a few weeks ago, the Duchess of Cambridge is being remarkably well-fed these days.

Kate, who was hardly finished digesting a Christmas feast with royal staffers on Tuesday, was at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday for the Queen's annual pre-Christmas lunch with family.

Sandringham_House(1)The meal marks the unofficial start to the monarch's winter season. As soon as the dishes are cleared, she is off to her Sandringham estate (right), two-and-a-half hours northeast of London, until February.

Kate, who joined Prince William and 27 Household staffers for a turkey dinner on Tuesday,  arrived by car at the Palace amid several shouts from an expectant gathering in front of the gates. Oddly enough, she was not accompanied by Prince William, who came in a separate car with his cousin Lord Linley.

The parade of cars loaded with royals made for a mini convoy. The lunch guest list was long, including among others, Prince Charles and Camilla; Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie; Prince Edward, Sophie and Lady Louise;  Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Lady Sarah Chatto; the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.

A couple of notable absentees were Prince Harry and Princess Anne. Both were in Afghanistan at Camp Bastion, home to the UK troops. Harry, of course, has been there for months, flying missions against the Taliban in Apache attack helicopters.

The Queen's daughter, meanwhile, dropped in with her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence to for a surprise visit with several different UK regiments, including the Military Working Dogs Squadron, one of several units of which she is Colonel-in-Chief. The dispatches don't mention whether she popped in on her nephew Harry, whose four-month tour of duty ends next month.

The Queen will be hoping for a less eventful Christmas season than last year. It was just before the big day that Prince Philip was sent to hospital for a little emergency heart surgery for a blocked artery. A week later, there was a murder victim found on the Sandringham estate. The case of who killed Alisa Dmitrijeva, 17, remains unsolved.

 

12/18/2012

Queen marks historic day with politics, placemats ... and penguins

Queen 2
Queen Elizabeth listens to Prime Minister David Cameron speak during a cabinet meeting in the at 10 Downing Street in London on Tuesday. The Queen attended cabinet on Tuesday to mark her Diamond Jubilee. (Reuters)

It was quite a day for Queen Elizabeth, filled with history on a couple of fronts.

First, the Queen was welcomed to 10 Downing Street to attend a Cabinet meeting. That by itself was history-making, since monarchs are not usually invited to discussions among elected officials.

"We think the last time a monarch came to Cabinet was in 1781 (George III), during the American War of Independence," Prime Minister David Cameron told the assembled ministers as he welcomed Her Majesty. "But I'm happy to report that relations have improved slightly since then."

(There is some dispute about the last monarch ... some claimed it was Queen Victoria, while others note that George VI attended a War Cabinet meeting.)

After a group photo, the Queen sat in the PM's usual seat at the Cabinet table and listened in for about a half hour with her "observer" status. The gesture was meant as a simple thank-you for her Diamond Jubilee, but it was not without controversy. Constitutionally, the separation of the royals from the running of the country is not to be tampered with, but the republican hardliners were kept at bay for the most part.

Placemats"I've always viewed the Queen as kind-of the ultimate public servant," former Cabinet Secretary Lord O'Donnell told the BBC. "You think what she's done during her Jubilee period and they just want to say thank you."

More than that, the politicians even presented the Queen with a set of Palace-inspired placemats (right), 60 in all, to mark her years on the throne. The Cabinet members also put their own money into a pot for a donation to her Jubilee charity.

Then it was off to the Foreign Office with Foreign Secretary William Hague. Their arrival coincided with the announcement that a piece -- 437,000 square kilometres actually -- of the British Antarctic Territory had been named Queen Elizabeth Land.

The previously unnamed land covers only about a third of Britain's holdings in the frozen southern hemisphere but is still twice the size of the United Kingdom. It is home to a few British Antarctic Survey research stations as well as various species of seals and penguins. It's no place for a castle, though, even in summer. The average temperature is minus-34 Celisus.

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Queen Elizabeth takes a seat at the table for the Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. (AFP/Getty Images)

Queen 1
Queen Elizabeth sits in the prime minister's usual chair at the table between PM David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague during the Cabinet meeting inside 10 Downing Street on Tuesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Queen map
The Queen listens to British Foreign Secretary William Hague announce that a 169,000-sq. mile (437,000-sq. km) section of the British Antarctic Territory has been renamed Queen Elizabeth  Land to mark the monarch's 60 years on the throne. The land is in the southern portion of the British-controlled territory. (Getty Images)

OFFICE PARTY FOR WILL AND KATE

Prince William and Kate weren't going to let a rocky start to pregnancy spoil Christmas.

DuchessThe pair were spotted at the Christmas party for their Household staff on Tuesday, with both looking fit and in good humour as they joined in a seasonal feast with about two dozen members of the staff that looks after their affairs.

Turkey and Christmas pudding were on the lunch menu, according to the Daily Mail, as the group dined in the Queen's Room at the Bumpkin in Notting Hill restaurant, a medium-priced dining experience specializing in English fare.

Kate, it should be noted, kept her liquid consumption to soft drinks.

The duchess has been resting at home since being hospitalized for acute morning sickness. She made her first public appearance in several weeks at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday (right).

Where the Duke and Duchess will be spending Christmas has been an open question, with some suggesting they may forego the Queen's annual gathering at Sandringham in favour of being with Kate's parents in Bucklebury.


12/17/2012

One door closes for Pippa, another one opens for the Queen

NBC's Today is willing to roll out the red carpet for Pippa Middleton, but apparently only as a guest.

Pippa MiddletonHot on the heels of a report in the Daily Mirror that the Duchess of Cambridge's sister has been offered $600,000 to be the show's royal correspondent in 2013, the network offered a short response to E! News on Monday:

"There has been no such offer made to Pippa Middleton by the Today show. She of course is welcome as a guest on Today anytime."

Notice that the spokesperson specifically disqualifies Today from the Pippa stakes, but not the network itself. Also remember that E! and NBC are owned by the same outfit, NBCUniversal.

With royal news on the rise -- (apparently someone is having a baby early next summer) -- it's no surprise the U.S. networks would be clamouring for some presence on the royal scene. Ever since the royal wedding of 2011, they've discovered a relatively untapped reservoir of viewers eager for some monarch mumblings over their bowl of Wheaties.

The deal as outlined would have required 22 appearances by Pippa on Today, discussing royal comings and goings, but not necessarily reveal any behind-closed-doors news.

It has the potential of being dangerous ground for someone tied in closely with the Royal Family, but the 29-year-old Pippa could do worse than go for a TV job. The underwhelming performance of her first book, Celebrate, ought to convince her that other career options beyond party-planning advice should be considered.

If not NBC, there are others who would surely be interested in a photogenic society gal with more than a passing knowledge of what makes bluebloods tick.

KNOCK-KNOCK ... WHO'S THERE? ... QUEEN ... QUEEN WHO?

It's hard to believe that the Queen has never dropped into 10 Downing Street to sit in on a cabinet meeting once in a while over her 60-year reign. She does, after all, meet the Prime Minister for off-the-record chats at Buckingham Palace on a regular basis.

QueenBut the record is clear ... she has never sat in on a Cabinet meeting. Nor did her father. Or grandfather. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the 19th century and Queen Victoria for the last time a monarch attended an official meeting of Cabinet.

This fact makes Queen Elizabeth's trip to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday rather historic. The Queen will be listed as an "observer" for the Cabinet meeting, sitting beside Prime Minister David Cameron (right) for about a half hour as he steers the ministers through an agenda that, under normal circumstances, has been known to produce raised voices.

On Tuesday, however, it's expected that all with be civil, with the primary reason for the Queen's presence being the presentation of a gift to commemorate the end of her Diamond Jubilee year.

The Queen has remained very arm's-length from the political process, though she has been known to throw out a barb or two. One academic observer has called the idea of the Queen at the Cabinet table as "daft."

"It will mean potentially the Queen will know things she is not supposed to know and hear things she is not supposed to hear," Rodney Barker, a professor of government at the London School of Economics, told the BBC.

At 86 years old and after listening to 12 different prime ministers, we suspect the Queen has heard it all.

12/16/2012

Royal roundup: Duchess Kate back to work while Pippa eyes NBC job

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Kate, the Duchess  of Cambridge walks out to present Lord Sebastian Coe with the Lifetime Achievement Award during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2012 in London on Sunday. The gown is by Alexander McQueen, the earrings are Kiki McDonough. (AP Photo) 

Being the sporty type, it was only fitting that the Duchess of Cambridge would make her public comeback in an athletic environment.

Kate emerged on Sunday evening for the first time since her hospitalization for acute morning sickness to hand out a couple of trophies at the BBC's Sports Personality Awards show in London.

Wearing a green silk Alexander McQueen gown ($1,700), the duchess emerged onstage in the live broadcast in dramatic fashion, just in time to hand a lifetime achievement award to Lord Sebastian Coe for heading up the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as for a competitive running career that included two Olympic golds (1980, '84) and 12 world records.

52d08cd32cea48019b06After Coe's award, she stuck around to present the top personality award to cyclist Bradley Wiggins (right, with David Beckham), who won Olympic gold and was also the first Brit to win the Tour de France.

The duchess looked fit and none the worse for wear after missing several engagements last week, including the premiere of "The Hobbit" movie, to battle a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum, which can leave expectant mothers dehydrated. She is just shy of three months pregnant and has been recuperating at her cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace.

Although the BBC show ran four hours, Kate only arrived about 45 minutes before the end to hand out the awards, then returned to Kensington Palace.

Her husband Prince William did not attend Sunday's event since he is on duty at RAF Valley in Wales with his search-and-rescue unit.

Kate's presence at the Olympics-dominated awards show was a fitting one since she was an official ambassador of Britain's Olympic and Paralympic team. Those athletic squads captured team of the year. Jamaica's Usain Bolt was the Overseas Sports Personality of the year.

If Kate is well enough to return to royal duties, she may yet be part of the Royal Family Christmas at Sandringham. There are reports she and William may opt to spend the day a little more quietly at the Middleton family home in Berkshire.

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21cbd02a26c74432b6fdKate stands alongside second placed Sports Personality of the Year 2012, heptathlete Jessica Ennis during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2012. Right, she applauds after presenting Lord Sebastian Coe with the lifetime achievement award. (AP Photos)

 


 


 


PIPPA MIDDLETON ... ROYAL CORRESPONDENT?

She may not make it as an author, but NBC thinks Pippa Middleton has a future in television, according to reports.

515938875The Mirror in the UK is reporting that "The Today Show" might be willing to pay the Duchess of Cambridge's sister $600,000 to make 20 appearances next year as a royal reporter.

“A couple of offers are on the table, but they would like her to make as many as 20 appearances reporting on Royal-themed events like the Chelsea Flower Show, the opening of Buckingham Palace and Opera House nights," a source told the paper.

“She will not focus on intimate Royal matters like Wills and Kate’s move to London, Harry’s return from war and the family Christmas."

Sounds like a sweet deal for the 29-year-old party planner. Her book, "Celebrate," has not met with much success, though she still pocketed a cool $600,000 advance. The NBC deal, if legitimate, would boost her already high profile in the U.S. market without having to reveal too much of what goes on behind the royal curtains.

And you can bet NBC is eyeing a boost in ratings as they, along with everyone else, await the arrival of a royal baby that is in direct line for the throne.

The question is: Would Kate approve? Cashing in on royal ties is not considered a great way of keeping family ties tight.

SEASON'S GREETINGS

Did you get your Christmas card from Prince Charles and Camilla yet?

Well, you're not alone. But we've got the next best thing -- a picture of it:

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2002 cardThe photograph for this year's card was taken on June 3, 2012 during the Thames River Pageant, as part of the Diamond Jubilee, marking the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth. From our vault, on the right is the photo for the prince's Christmas card 10 years ago, in 2002, featuring his sons William and Harry and all adopting The Thinker pose. Time flies ...


12/14/2012

Can Will and Kate defy royal baby name tradition?

Will kate

Lets face it ... Will and Kate's baby will likely have a boring name. Most royals do.

Look at the Queen's kids -- Charles, Anne, Andrew, Edward. We get sleepy-eyed just reciting them.

The next generation finally has a chance to break the mold, to boldly pick a name from a hat no royal has dared to wear.

Will Prince William and Kate raise the bar and stop dipping into that stagnant pond of names from long dead bluebloods? 

Not likely.

But just in case they do, we have some suggestions to stretch the name protocol wihout abandoning royal ties. They will, naturally, go unheeded. After that, you can vote for your favourites from among the names oddmakers are betting on.

Aston: Prince William's favourite soccer team is Aston Villa. It is clearly better than saddling their child with the monicker of Harry’s favourite team, Arsenal. (What do you think they'd call him for short?)

Bucky: Since the little one will one day be living in Buckingham Palace, what better than a name that would remind everyone of that?

H3t4k9z3Britannia (or Brittney): This names drips British, and also might remind the royals of their sea legs aboard the departed royal yacht.

Erdem: A homage to one of Kate’s favourite designers (Montreal-born to boot). In fact, since the royals like a lot of middle names, she can combine lots of labels to create a truly noble name: Erdem Issa Alice Jenny Roksanda McQueen Reiss LK Bennett Windsor. Fit that on the old credit card.

Harper Eleven: One of William’s best friends, David Beckham, named his little girl Harper Seven ('Harper' for author Harper Lee, Seven for his jersey number). Eleven works since it sums up the two numbers from the date they were married (29).

Oprah: Could be first royal with a talk show and almost as much money as Chicago's icon of TV royalty.

Pippa: Princess Pippa kinda has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Huppj2z3Prince:  Might as well go all out and just call him what he is. Saves on the stationary.

Val: Works for either sex and, when he/she grows up, Will and Kate can tell them it reminded them of a simpler time when dad was a pilot at RAF Valley. Grandpa Charles can then remind the youngster he's descended from Vlad the Impaler.

Zorba: Great-grandpa Prince Philip was born in Greece. It's about time some of that heritage made it into the royal name book. Zorba accomplishes that, with an exclamation point.

Okay, your turn to vote (you can make up to three choices each):

12/13/2012

Queen's exposed to some solid gold fever

Queen
Queen Elizabeth II inspects gold reserves in a vault at the Bank of England in London on December 13, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

Is it just our imagination, or does the Queen look just slightly more wide-eyed than usual in this photograph?

Could be that even she feels a little in awe of the contents of the Bank of England vaults -- 4,600 tons of gold bars (about 27 pounds apiece). Total worth? About $312 billion.

Queen 2Even the Queen (est. worth $450 million) had to have been impressed with that as she and Prince Philip toured the vaults at bank on Thursday.

T+he monarch was also given a mini lecture by the bankers on how economies fall into crisis. It's a question she herself posed in 2008 when she asked some financial experts why nobody noticed a worldwide collapse.

"People thought markets were efficient," Sujit Kapadia of the Bank of England told the Queen. "Because the economy was stable there was this growing complacency. ... People didn't realize just how interconnected the system had become."

Later, when the royals were assured there were people working at the bank to prevent another crisis, Prince Philip quipped: "There's not another one coming, is there?

"Don't do it again."

The royals also kept up a VIP tradition dating back more than 100 years by signing a banknote worth £1 million.

Philip couldn't resist: "Is this just lying about? You won't miss it, will you?"

The Queen was also shown the very first banknote she signed when she visited the bank in 1937 with her grandmother Queen Mary -- a mere £1,000 note back then.

Examining the "Elizabeth" signature written as an 11-year-old, the Queen deadpanned: "It hasn't improved much you know."

This was the Queen's ninth visit to the bank and the first since 1998. So far, no gold bars have been found in her purse.

QUEEN 1
Queen Elizabeth along with Prince Philip inspect gold reserves in a vault at the Bank of England on Thursday. (Getty Images)
Queen 3
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip keep their hands to themselves as they tour a gold vault on Thursday. (Reuters)

PRINCE MISSED SUPPORTING ROLE

Speaking of golden opportunities, Prince William may have missed out on one when his grandmother the Queen was pegged to star as herself in the James Bond spoof video that highlighted the opening ceremony at the Olympics.

BondThe Sun tabloid reports that William was originally in the script as the helicopter pilot who would fly the Queen over the Olympic Stadium before she parachuted down. In the script, according to a BBC source, the Duke of Cambridge would turn from his controls and give the Queen a thumbs-up.

When the Queen agreed to the role (Helen Mirren was second choice), it's claimed that the idea of including William was dropped so as to not draw any attention from the Queen.

William himself says he was as surprised as everyone else when the Queen appeared on the video. "We were kept completely in the dark about it, that's how big the secret was," he said.

And speaking of the Queen's starring roles, her annual Christmas Day message will be in 3D for the first time this year. She recorded it last Friday, but what was said stays under wraps until the big day.

Thus, the 86-year-old Queen again breaks new ground for the royals. Sky Cable failed in its attempts to have Will and Kate's 2011 royal wedding broadcast in 3D.

PRINCE'S FRIEND CLOCKED AT 207 KM/H

One of William's and Harry's best friends is going to need a ride for the next few months.

Guy Pelly, a 30-year-old nightclub owner and close buddy of the royals, was nabbed on the highway near Salisbury last March in his $160,000 Audi R8 V10 doing 207 kilometres an hour. That was slightly over the posted limit of 110 km/hr.

Pelly didn't show up for his court appearance, but the judge went ahead and took his licence away for 56 days while ordering him to pay $1,200 in fines and $420 in court costs.

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