March 9, 2021

{Princess Mission} Book Excerpt


In this remarkable time of feminine wisdom rising, here's an excerpt from my long-in-the-works upcoming book, The Spiritual Mission of a Princess.  Like the excerpt below, each chapter begins with something from the life of Diana, Princess of Wales—a young woman of highly-developed heart energy who intrigues us stillthen intertwines that legacy, seen through a different lens, with the story of all women.

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[EXCERPT]
CHAPTER ONE: PRINCESS MISSION

  Unwittingly, the Princess had established for herself a persona that would, in time, be a phenomenon.
-Andrew Morton, Diana: Her Own Story 

L
ady Diana Spencer’s glorious emergence from the horse-drawn glass carriage on her wedding morning in the summer of 1981 set in motion mythological musings: a fairy-tale bride…a heavenly vision…the return of the goddess—“like seeing a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis,” reminisced her Victorian-inspired fairy-gown designers. Standing in hand-crafted satin slippers and crowned with old family diamonds, Diana was dressed in yards and yards of England’s own custom-dyed ivory silk taffeta, lace and tulle—voluminous and fragile—“her gown unfolding perfectly like a paper flower,” observed historian Hilary Mantel. This was beyond any superficial longing of “princess dreams”—although dreams of being a princess certainly fueled our imaginations. Diana’s appeal went deeper than our fascination with feminine beauty, or brides and weddings, or royalty and pageantry, or mysterious ancient rituals. For many watching the brilliant wedding pomp that day, the experience stirred something deep within. Historically, the vision of a bride often brings a sense of hope and renewal, but for a culture in turmoil, here was a spark that relit what once thought lost. There seemed a light about this young bride. Even if we were unaware of being affected, legends were brewing. 

Or did the anti-monarchists and second-wave feminists and other skeptics—not taken in by romance or grandeur or even possible divine intervention—have it right? This was simply another wan young woman, “shrouded” beyond recognition, “tumbling from her coach like a bride in a bag,” critiqued Mantel. From feminist writer Beatrix Campbell: “Her ivory silk wedding dress was a shroud…a crinoline, a meringue…a symbol of sexuality and grandiosity….” Diana was being led to an altar “propping up the aged patriarch who had got her into all of this” to stand with a man much beyond her years and experience who represented an outdated institution where young women disappeared into desperate disappointment. “Neither her father nor her mother had taken care of her, enlightened her or warned her. They married her off to someone else’s prince,” Campbell added. Professor Colleen Denney opens her study of how artists portrayed the princess “with the consideration that feminism and femininity collided in 1981 when Diana married.” 

Clearly there were divergent worlds colliding that day—the outdated and the shift of the ages. After all, here we were under the influence of prophetic celestial changes, long mapped out by wise ancients foretelling the end of “old time” and the beginning of a new era. As the Earth was doing what it naturally, miraculously does—tilt perfectly with an elegant wobble, and spin from equinox to equinox—its slow rotation was in the complicated process of completing two decisive cycles, thousands of years in the making, shifting energies and filling hearts above and below. Some called this swirling cosmic marvel the effects of the Age of Aquarius dawning—feminine vibrations of the Age of the Goddess that would awaken our spirit; others reverently proclaimed the “Age of Holy Breath” ushering in a time of enlightenment and expanding consciousness. Whether it was such heavenly wonders at work that day on this full-of-legends Emerald Isle, or simply the dynamic effect of two royal archetypes chosen to fulfill their soul’s mission and now moving through their predestined paces…you could not escape the sense that there was something mystical afoot. 

If this was truly an era coming to an end—with things tired and harsh falling away, things fresh and heart-tempered beginning—then how perfect that it was a wedding to send up the momentous flare seen round the world, beckoning our heart’s attention. Now under the direction of a new pole star in the Aquarian constellation, we hoped that love would, indeed, “steer the stars and peace would guide the planets” as we all embarked on this auspicious yet tumultuous journey. 

Did this young woman—who became a princess on her wedding day and after a long, winding road, the ‘queen of hearts’ upon her death—ignite a pathway for a consciousness shift of the heart? Was this a signal for the return of a nurturing goddess spirit intended to nudge along the occurring paradigm shift where we see a flowering of feminine strength and influence? During a life fluctuating between tedious soap opera and compassionate healing, how could we imagine then that Diana would be showing a way to, in the words of spiritual thinker Xavier Le Pinon, “educate the heart” on how to be tender, open, and immaculately loving? In all the pomp and glamour and personal drama, it was easy to overlook her spiritual mission. 

However, for some with eyes to see, there were clues in this enchantment on that summer-lit wedding morning on the red-carpeted steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. There was an exquisite bridal moment captured in a memorable and intimate zoom-lens photograph, where Diana—veiled in what seemed to be the ancient mystery of womanhood—paused to look back before entering the cathedral. Possibly a moment’s hesitation before stepping toward her entrusted destiny? Perhaps it was simply to check the fluffing of her impossibly long train, stretching down the staircase. But then you see her eyes, piercing through the veil as if with an inner knowing, glancing toward some distant yet remembered past encouraging her forward. Was Diana standing in for all future brides at a time when they, too, pause at their nuptial doorway to embody, no longer a woman’s loss of autonomy and self-expression—as was the old custom of the patriarchy—but the female essence and empowering qualities of beauty, openness, strength, forgiveness, love, and the desire for true partnership? ~

January 20, 2021

{Fashion Diplomacy}

 

Fashion Diplomacy Returns at Joe Biden's and Kamala Harris' Inauguration

Katey Rich wrote for Vanity Fair: "The scaled down, heavily protected event still brought together most of Washington's leaders, many of whom dressed symbolically for the occasion." (Click above to read the article and see fashion photos and commentary!)

November 29, 2020

{The Crown and "That" Dress}

Diana on the left; Emma Corrin in "The Crown" on the right
For me, the brightest star of The Crown television series on Netflix is its head costume designer, Amy Roberts. I've written for years, including in The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, about the design of Diana Spencer's wedding gown, so I appreciate Amy's story of re-creating the legendary gown that appeared "on screen" for only a few poignant moments.

Emma Corrin in "The Crown," left; Princess Diana, right
When The Crown first announced "that gown" would be part of its Season Four storyline, their Twitter account posted: "Emmy award-winning costume designer Amy Roberts wanted to capture the same spirit and style of David & Elizabeth Emanuel’s original design, without creating a replica for Emma Corrin."

Emma Corrin on "The Crown"

Here is what journalist Lela London wrote in Forbes:

The second Diana took her vows in a gown with a 25-foot train, it became one of the most iconic wedding dresses in history.

The silk taffeta gown was hand-crafted by David and Elizabeth Emanuel at the time, and The Crown’s costume department consulted with the Emanuels to ensure the replica dress—worn for just a few seconds in the series—was as similar as possible. The original designers even gave them its patterns.

"We were filming the scene when you first see her in the wedding dress—I think it was Lancaster House in London—and I had a team of about ten people helping me put it on, because it's massive," Corrin told British Vogue.

"I walked out and everyone went completely silent. More than anything else I wear in the series, it’s so…it’s her."

Emma Corrin on "The Crown"
Vogue shared a background story of creating the real gown by David and Elizabeth Emanuel. And read more details and entertaining anecdotes in my book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding.
 

September 20, 2020

{The Windsor Brides}

Congratulations to the wonderful people at Paperdoll Review for the publication of their new book...Windsor Brides Paper Dolls by Norma-Lu Meehan...and thanks for inviting me to write the essay inside, "The Legacy of Windsor Brides." Enjoy....

Here come the royal brides, all from the House of Windsor—Elizabeth The Queen Mother; Queen Elizabeth II; Princess Margaret; Anne, Princess Royal; Princess Diana; Sophie Rhys-Jones; Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. An exquisite collection meticulously illustrated by Norma Lu Meehan. Includes a lovely essay by fashion historian Cornelia Powell. A gem for paper doll collectors, fashion buffs and Anglophiles!

August 26, 2020

Second-Class Citizen {book excerpt}

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment, when women won the right to vote in the United States, I'm sharing an excerpt from my long-in-the-works book The Spiritual Mission of a Princess.

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SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN


Diana Frances Spencer knew a thing or two about being a second-class citizen although she was born into a wealthy, aristocratic English family and married into perhaps the most renowned royal family in the world.

“‘In the Spencer family the gender issue is a big one,’” biographer Sarah Bradford wrote, citing a Spencer cousin, “‘women are very much second-class citizens.’” Diana’s sense of being “lesser than” began at birth. After Diana’s two older sisters were born, the pressure intensified for her mother to produce a son to inherit the family title; but when a boy was born, the malformed infant died within days.

“Diana was intended to be the replacement child, the longed-for heir,” reported Bradford. “By the time she was born, her parents’ marriage was in trouble, which the arrival of yet another girl did nothing to improve.” So, by all accounts, Diana’s feeling of being a disappointment went deep, wounding her on many levels, diminishing any self-confidence, and perhaps setting up the more suspicious and manipulative nature of her personality. 

It also seems the na├»ve, yet headstrong Diana felt like a “second-class citizen” in her ill-suited marriage to Prince Charles, an older, cerebral man who was caught in his own web of deep disappointment. She similarly felt “lesser than” in his family’s stuffy, staid and paternalistic world where it appeared, to this heart-centered young woman, the Palace made decisions based on duty first at all costs and desires of the heart be damned. (That strident sense of duty may have worked in earlier monarchic decades, maybe even served a higher purpose at times, but not in the more open, free-spirited modern world emerging—a world Diana came to represent.)

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Many women, for thousands of years of patriarchal laws, have not only felt like second-class citizens, but have been regarded and treated as less important than men. Thwarted by their religions, governments and families, denied education and work opportunities to earn their own income, generations of women had their dreams, ideas and talents squashed. A few found ways to flourish in their personal goals and public ambitions—usually at a great cost or compromise—and there were certain women who used what they had been denied to help set others free.



“Long before she was First Lady, Abigail Adams was a trusted advisor and supporter of husband John’s political efforts, and shared his patriotic fervor,” wrote the authors of Reflecting Freedom.  While he was away with the Congress, she, like thousands of other women before and since, took care of family and farm and whatever business the men left behind when they went off to govern or to war. “John and Abigail shared their devotion to the cause of freedom, their politics, and their ambition for his advancement, but their views were not aligned on one issue. On March 31, 1776, Abigail wrote to her husband John as he worked on the formation of the new nation….”:  

....in the New Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuilar care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determine to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

 

The notion of “second-class citizen” was so ingrained in the patriarchal mindset at the time (not only about women, but about Native Americans, all people of color, and anyone else considered “lesser than” because of some prejudice against them) that Abigail Adams’ request fell on deaf ears. No one “remembered the ladies”! Moreover, according to Gail Collins’ book America’s Women: “John’s answer was, ‘As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh.’”


Over 200 years later, fifteen-year-old Heidi Schreck from Wenatchee, Washington, put herself through college by giving speeches about the United States Constitution. As an adult, she turned her knowledge and experience into an award-winning Broadway play, “What the Constitution Means to Me.” The play is witty and shocking and revelatory as it discloses that the actual word “woman” is not mentioned in the Constitution. Not once. Not anywhere.

When the American colonies were slugging it out with the British for their freedom, the second-class female citizens of Paris who were “furious and starving, rioted over the high price of bread, leading a march to Versailles in October of 1789 that would help kick off the French Revolution and ultimately dethrone King Louis XVI,” explained Rebecca Traister in Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women. But in those “heady days” of revolution, “when ‘Amazon bands’ of women took to the streets clad in short petticoats and little red Phrygian caps, even Robespierre decided that things had gone too far. ‘All citizenesses’ were ordered to give up their political activities and ‘retire to their separate domiciles’. Their leaders, among them Olympe de Gonge, author of the famous ‘Declaration of the Rights of Women’, were sent to the guillotine.”


This revolutionary spirit was brewing in England at the time as well. Another “uppity woman,” Mary Wollstonecraft—novelist, philosopher, mother of author Mary Shelley, and advocate for women—was writing “A Vindication of Women’s Rights.” Regarded as one of the founding philosophers of feminism, Wollstonecraft’s work inspired generations of women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the mothers of the suffrage movement in the United States and one who wrote passionately to expose the numerous ways women were considered “second-class citizens.”

Seventy-two-years after the Declaration of Independence was written (and 72 years before women won the vote in the U.S.), Stanton and fellow activist Lucretia Mott—enraged by the continued suppression of women—gathered with three other women and organized the radical notion of a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. On the convention’s agenda, and perhaps the most revolutionary of all, was the demand for women’s right to vote! Drafting a Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the document signed by Abigail Adams’ husband John, the women’s deeply subversive text “was also a statement of independence—women’s direct rebuke of male power and a seeming return on Abigail’s promise of rebellion,” explained Traister. By using the famous Declaration of Independence as their blueprint, “the suffragists were employing the language and logic of righteous rage that America revered—the rage of the founders, white men who were furious about limitations set on their liberty.” And by taking this bold stand in 1848—holding a public meeting by, about and for women—Stanton and Mott were holding up a mirror to the current power bloc of white men to show the consequences of women being denied liberties—and declaring “no more.”


When Susan B. Anthony met Stanton a few years later, a chance meeting that changed the world, they formed a lifelong partnership of political activism and organizing. “Elizabeth and Susan were a perfect complement to each other,” continued Eileen Tannich Gose and Kathy Wiederstein DeHerrera in Reflecting Freedom. “Elizabeth had bold and radical ideas and Susan possessed independence and self-discipline. Together, they worked better than they did alone and they made a formidable team—Susan supplied the facts and Elizabeth wrote the speeches.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton became known for her radical, sometimes incendiary, writings; but Susan B. Anthony didn’t mince her words either: “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.... Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.”


Around the time of this first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, Harriet Tubman was planning her escape from a Maryland plantation. Born a slave (records mark the date around 1825), Tubman grew into a barely five-foot-tall, fiercely determined abolitionist leader and political activist. She escaped from slavery, found her way to freedom above the Mason Dixon Line, yet returned south and, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad, guided many slaves to their freedom. This Moses of her people said: “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”


The new century brought many “uppity, contrary women” into the public sphere! One of those groundbreakers was Margaret Sanger. Sanger, a “nurse who had watched her own mother die from the strain of too many childbirths, promoted birth control,” explained Gose and DeHerrera. “In 1914 she was arrested for obscenity charges for mailing birth control literature, and two years later she was jailed for opening a birth control clinic in the Brooklyn slums.” The authors write how this was a time when “many women wanted to control the number of children they bore. Also, pregnancy was risky; during World War I the U.S. women who died in childbirth outnumbered the men who died in battle.” Margaret Sanger continued her work for women of all classes and became even more effective in saving women’s lives after 1921 when she founded the organization later known as Planned Parenthood.

A suffrage leader of a younger generation, Alice Paul and her more extremist National Women’s Party, took the suffrage movement public during the 1910s in a big, bold and “unladylike” manner (just speaking out in public was considered “unladylike.”) Paul organized huge parades with women demonstrating and marching through city streets—although in very fashionable “ladylike” outfits—demanding the right to vote. She also led demonstrations in front of the White House beginning in January 1917. They targeted President Woodrow Wilson—“using his own words to accuse him of his inaction on behalf of women”—and for 18 months, with women from every state participating, they picketed “every day, despite weather, harassment, and arrest,” Gose and DeHerrera reported in Reflecting Freedom. President Wilson, at the end of World War I, attempted to support a “new world order” for peace through the League of Nations, so Paul sent him a message: “There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it.” The president soon announced his support of women’s suffrage.


Once the 19th Amendment was signed into law in 1920, Alice Paul, and hundreds of other women, didn’t stop there—especially since it took decades more for women of color to be allowed to exercise their right to vote. Paul knew that the fight for gender equality was not over and in 1923, on the 75th anniversary of the original Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, she organized a second meeting to introduce and launch the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And in 2020, we were still working on it!

All of these revolutionary women were not only guides to freedom for others—and many did not live to enjoy the freedoms they fought for—but they also acted as clarion calls of courage for us today, to awaken us all, so we demand our “unalienable rights.” ~