November 9, 2022

Whatever 'In Love' Means

With the release this month of season five of Peter Morgan's The Crown—and its emphasis on the next generation: the marriages, affairs, and divorces of three of Queen Elizabeth's children, especially spotlighting Charles and Diana—here's an excerpt from my in-progress book, The Spiritual Mission of a Princess, with notes on 'love.' As royal archetypes, were Charles and Diana simply a mismatched couple or was it a "karmic-setup"...with some divine intervention to show the world the way of the heart? 

    

         ~ WHATEVER 'IN LOVE' MEANS ~

Through the ages, history shows that members of royalty—including Charles, Prince of Wales—“was not encouraged or expected to follow their hearts into marriage,” as author Caroline Weber wrote in her book review of The Diana Chronicles. It was dynastic duty first: a decision about which marital alliance would best serve the realm and which eligible woman would be most likely to produce a male heir. It was about power, ownership, control.

Since the desire of one’s heart was not part of the equation in this extremely patriarchal system of marriage—where little value was put on love—then if you happened to be in love with someone who wasn’t suited for the job of royal wife or husband, consequently your lover was either forgotten or set aside for later affairs. This was just the way it was, until it wasn’t.

~ ~ ~

“In the history of the human race, the idea of romance as the prelude to marriage is very rare,” Alistair Cooke wrote in “The Quest for a Royal Bride” in a July 1981 Parade magazine article featuring the upcoming wedding of Charles and Diana. “It must come as a shock to many people to be reminded that today most marriages, high and low, in the great majority of countries, are arranged, and that the choosing is not done by the partners,” the British historian continued. “It is true, in a particular sense, of royalty. For hundreds of years, love has been the least essential element of a royal marriage. There are certain precise conditions. Once these are met, if the partners also come to love each other, so much the better.” And declaring only days before their wedding, in his famously lighthearted way, Cooke said that if Charles and Diana indeed loved each other, it would be considered “a happy accident.”

Engagement photo,left, Diana & Charles, right "The Crown" season four

As writer and humorist Nora Ephron said: “You can never know the truth of anyone’s marriage, including your own.” Underneath all the soap opera of the Wales’ arranged marriage (which pretended it was not), we don’t know much about the moments of sweetness, love and support that both Charles and Diana said were there. But we do know there was turmoil—and duplicity. Historically, in the times when arranged marriages were more typical than not, it was accepted as normal for royal and aristocratic men to have a discreetly-handled lover—and Charles took advantage of the system. But in the changing social culture of the late-twentieth century (including the evolving women’s movements), compounded by the tabloid press now exposing the private lives of royals, it all seemed hypocritical and vastly out-of-date. And the young Diana was having no part of the hypocrisy!  “For the first time this century,” as feminist author Beatrix Campbell wrote in 1998, “a woman called a future king to account for his behavior as a man.” Diana not only denounced the archaic monarchic code of “men will be men” (and the one where women stay quiet, dont complain so not to rock the royal boat), but exposed the similar double-standard code of the patriarchy held by many men around the world.

There were probably many feelings and emotions that pushed Diana to go public about the disappointments of her marriage. There was hurt and jealousy over her husband’s infidelity, anger and disappointment, perhaps embarrassment. But underneath it all, I’d say there was the heart-achingly desire to be loved. (If not by her husband, then at least by her sympathetic public.)  

Nevertheless, “every relationship I have ever looked at Astrologically,” Steffan Vanel states, “can be seen as a ‘karmic set-up’ revealing what the evolving souls knew they would do to each other.” And it was true about Charles and Diana. “Conflictual [sic] as well as complimentary,” wrote Martha Caldwell about the astrological karma between Diana and Charles according to Vanel’s research. “Diana and Charles were perfect for each other in light of what they came to Earth to learn in this lifetime. Much of Diana’s karma surrounds her experience of relationship, so it is with Charles that she worked on her most troublesome issues.” Vanel picked up from there: “The karmic lesson for Charles has been to look inside himself to know who he really is. Diana was the perfect manifestation of a force which would pull the rug out from under his over-identification with role in his life to help him in his own evolution.”

~ ~ ~

Prince Charles caused quite a stir with his “whatever ‘in love’ means” statement during an interview with his young fiancĂ©e. But philosopher and writer Alain de Botton would have understood Charles’ frustration. Since his first book, a novel titled On Love, de Botton combined the theme of love and relationship in his writing and teaching, but not in a conventional way. The novel’s first line reads: “Every fall into love involves the triumph of hope over knowledge.” 

“Compatibility,” de Botton later wrote, “is an achievement of love. It cannot be its precondition.” His essay “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” explained On Being radio host Krista Tippett, “was, amazingly, the most-read article in the New York Times in the news-drenched year of 2016. As people, and as a culture, de Botton says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. Nowhere do we realistically teach ourselves and our children,” Tippett continued, “how love deepens and stumbles, survives and evolves over time, and how that process has much more to do with ourselves than with what is right or wrong about our partner.”

We are inside a profoundly evolving world; a fundamental consciousness shift is occurring and the nature of our relationships and what we desire from them are shifting as well. But many people have been stuck in the old paradigm, expecting satisfying relationships inside an outdated model. If we are indeed all here to grow and evolve and assist with each other’s evolution, then it’s time to open our hearts—wide with generosity and compassion—so we see each other with love. And sometimes our guides into a new way of being related are unexpected ones. During her life within the archaic institution of the British monarchy and its duty-bound royal family, Princess Diana called out its hard-edged, mindset of “duty over love” and declared that she led with the heart, not with the head, and that love, real love, must always come first. It was a lesson passed on to her sons, as well as to her former husband.

So whether in a romantic relationship or just living day-to-day out in the world, there’s simply this, in the words of Marianne Williamson: “You are loved, and your purpose is to love.” ~


September 8, 2022

Femininity As Power

In honor of Queen Elizabeth II, and all women who have taken on leadership roles in a man's world (either by birth or by determination and talent), here's an excerpt from my book-in-progress, The Spiritual Mission of a Princess. This section, Femininity As Power, is from the "Dressing for the Illusion" chapter....enjoy.

........................................................................

Several years ago, Nancy Kidwell, who at the time was head costume curator at the Smithsonian, addressed an all-male audience of museum executives regarding the urgency of funding their institutions costume departments. Kidwell recalled that she shocked this “sea of gray suits” when she declared: “If you think clothes aren’t important, then try going to work without them!” For women, their clothes are not only “important,” but they inspire a running critique. Any woman, royal or otherwise, who is in the public eye must deal with the criticism and judgment about her “wardrobe”—just check the press coverage on Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin or Margaret Thatcher or any number of prominent women in politics. 

In the culture-shifting 1980s, as women’s roles were changing and more and more women opened their own businesses, ran for political office, entered the workforce once restricted to “men only,” taking on leadership positions in offices and boardrooms, women’s fashions powered-up as well. The man-tailored, hard-edged suits with heavy shoulder pads were like a woman’s “armor” to help her move through a man’s world—Margaret Thatcher comes to mind. And whether it was an intentional feminine gesture or just the Prime Minister’s preference, she always wore skirts. 

Of course, Queen Elizabeth always wears skirts—it’s her inherent style. But it’s also a way to stand out in a man’s world, a show of femininity as power. When I returned to work on this long-in-progress book, the third season of Peter Morgan’s television series The Crown premiered in 2019. “I’ve come to realize more than ever,” wrote Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic, “how the series uses clothing to explore and subvert ideas about power, and what it looks like when a woman wields it.” (This particular season of The Crown was recreating the world of Queen Elizabeth II from the mid-1960s into the late 1970s.) “Typically when women gain access to a man’s world in popular culture, they dress the part, adopting masculine tailoring and fabrics. The Queen is different. Her gender, and her femininity, are intrinsic to the way she governs.” Gilbert describes the opening scene of the first episode as the image of the Queen, played by Olivia Colman, comes into focus “surrounded by a phalanx of men in dark suits. She, by contrast, wears a lilac dress with a love-knot detail over her breastbone, high-heeled black shoes, and pale stockings…. Her authority is such that the men around her bend slightly backward when she enters the room, as if to surrender even the airspace to the head of state.” 

Actresses portraying QEII in "The Crown" television series

This is why costume designers are key to the appeal and success of films and television programs. Picture
Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, or Downton Abbey—their costumes so essential to character development and overall production values. Costume designer Michelle Clapton, who was lured away from her remarkable run with Game of Thrones for most of its season five to create the costumes for the pivotal first season of The Crown, explained: “Correct costuming has its own primary role in enabling the actors to inhabit their characters. I’m the first person they really spend time with; the rehearsals come later. When they put the clothes on, and you get it right, you do see them transform….”

Angela Kelly, the real Queen’s senior dresser beginning in the late 1990s and by 2001 her in-house designer, used several techniques to emphasize Queen Elizabeth’s femininity, as well as her authority. Kelly revealed in her book, The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe, that she uses striking, vibrant colors for the Queen’s daytime wardrobe, not because they’re the Queen’s favorites, but to “allow her to stand out from the crowd and be visible to the well-wishers who have come to see her.” These are intentional gestures by the Queen and her staff meant to be courteous, diplomatic, and, as Gilbert sees it, a way “to underscore her own authority”—to underscore femininity as power. Something many women are now embracing with a confident stride, again. ~



August 31, 2022

A Remembrance of the Heart

photo by Mario Testino

Twenty-five years ago today a princess died and the world was never the same. Diana's heart-centered, deeply feminine sensibility was preparing us for changes to come...changes of the heart. From the Introduction of my still-in-progress book, The Spiritual Mission of a Princess....


DIANA AS MESSENGER

We are in a most remarkable moment in history. Feminine wisdom, suppressed through the ages, is reclaiming her respected place in global culture—and in the human heart. Many have championed its re-emergence—that more compassionate, inclusive, tender side of ourselves—and many have been met with pointed resistance. But the female creative spirit can be denied no longer, the forgotten beloved now has a name, and the power of a woman’s gift is poised to bring the world back into balance.

photo by Mario Testino

Historically, there have been royal archetypes, far from being perfect human beings yet seen as “messengers”—some thought to be divinely guided, their roles designed to help light our paths, even playing a part in shifting consciousness, resetting human potential, and, as with one such messenger, Diana, Princess of Wales, representing the return of a womanly presence, a heart’s vision, or as she called it, simply the need for “a woman’s touch” in a hard-edged world. In this pivotal, between-the-worlds time of universal changes, of feminine wisdom rising, it’s the perfect moment to explore this celebrated life through a different lens, a lens focused on the heart as a way to capture Diana’s true legacy—and how it interweaves with the story of all women—then set alight her spiritual mission in us all. 

photo by Mario Testino

Was Diana Spencer Mountbatten-Windsor’s life, in Shakespeare’s princely words, about “cracking open a noble heart”—and with her death, our own? There are times when someone’s true influence and contributions only become known when we take a step back to see a broader view of what that life awakened in the world. And we’re now living in that awakening. Carried by a bold feminine impulse, we are being transported into a new future, into a higher order of relating, being connected with something precious and intimate within us to share with each other…something we only dared to ever imagine.

July 15, 2022

"Heart Star" - Book Excerpt


In my long-in-progress book,  The Spiritual Mission of a Princess: Diana and the Return of the Heart, I often reference an anthology published months after Princess Diana's death...When A Princess Dies: Reflections from Jungian Analysts. In my chapter, "The Sight of Stars," I quote Renos Papadopoulos about distinctions of stars in the heavens and celebrities who have a 'star quality': 

Stars are self-sufficient and independent entities in so far as they shine from within and do not follow anybody else's orbit. It must have been these attributes of stars, in addition to their distant, mysterious and magic qualities, that have prompted people to describe certain celebrities as 'stars'.

Enjoy an excerpt of "The Sight of Stars" chapter....

.........................

HEART STAR

She was a 'flawed' star and this brought her

closer to the people, who loved the idea 

 that a star could also be so near to them.

-Renos K. Papadopoulos, 

When A Princess Dies: 

Reflections from Jungian Analysts


“The etymology of the English word ‘star’ comes from a very old root with similar words in most ancient languages,” wrote Renos K. Papadopoulos in When a Princess Dies. However, the Greek version of the word, aster, “reveals an interesting twist.” It is related to the word teirea that translates to “‘the heavenly constellations, signs’…and to teras which is ‘a sign, wonder, marvel, of any appearance or event, in which men believed that they could see the finger of God, and read the future,’” Papadopoulos continued; “hence, teras also refers to ‘anything that serves as a divine sign or omen.’” Many viewed such ‘star signs’ and ‘divine omens’ in the life and death of Princess Diana.

An “incandescent star that illuminated both the earth and skies,” wrote Stewart Pearce about Diana, not seeing the Princess’ stardom as simply superficial celebrity, but saw her as a divinely-inspired being following her spiritual mission. Pearce, who spoke about his confidential position as a voice and presence coach during the last two years of Diana’s life, writes ardently about her celestial connections and “world saving” fate which was “set to illuminate the conviction of love, joy and charity….”

Oprah Winfrey wrote eloquently about how we are all precious human beings “given an almighty gift,” destined to live a life we love. And she also acknowledges there are those who shine a bit more brilliantly. “Then along comes an anointed one, who given the chance shines as brightly as the pole star. These are the shining ones who lead the way, and Diana was such a one!” Divinely touched, yet poignantly human.

photo by Mario Testino
The star-lit words used to describe Princess Diana in life and death: luminous, radiant, inner light, shining from within, incandescent—whether used literally or metaphorically—also suggested something of a spiritual nature. Just as such words also point to that person’s life being a guidepost of sorts, a sign, a message to pay attention, changes ahead. And for Diana, her message was through the heart, she was signaling the world that it was time for change. It was time for a return to love…and she was indeed shining a light to guide the way.

But there was another etymological twist Papadopoulos pointed out relating to Diana and her complex persona. Those ancient star-related words, teirea and teras, are related to the verb teiro which he defines as “to rub away: of the effects of pain, sorrow on body and mind…to suffer, to be distressed. This is the root of ‘trauma’, as well.” We see this in Diana and other celebrity stars. In addition to “the glitter and glamour there is often something ominous, even dark about them…likely to have traumatic histories.” Papadopoulos connected Diana’s star quality with her trauma this way: “Her sparkling disposition had a sense of tragedy about it, her splendor was closely associated with disarming simplicity, and her joy was almost visibly linked with her pain.”


Diana greeting and shaking
hands with AIDS patient.
Yet the other side of the meaning of teiro, Papadopoulos explained, is also a reference to “healing and rubbing away the effects of pain and anguish. In other words, in addition to their external twinkling grandeur, stars could be the agents of both distress and healing.” Clearly with Diana, healing was part of her spiritual mission in life and death. In life, she demonstrated the nature of loving touch and attention; when her death cracked open hearts around the world, a deep cleansing began in the soul of humanity. Diana’s “radiating shine,” as Papadopoulos defined it, spread far and wide, “affecting the widest possible variety of people”…no one was left out. And twenty or so years after her death, Diana’s sons, left traumatized and suffering as boys, found their way, through love, especially the loving support of their wives, to healing their own mental and emotional anguish—and courageously shared about their experiences as a healing gesture to help others find their way to wholeness, and to love.
Indeed, being an advocate for mental health has become the main focus of Prince Harry's work, using his 'star' quality to draw attention to the well-being of others. ~

April 6, 2022

Downton Abbey Returns...with a Wedding!


The movies love weddings and Downton Abbey fans had several family ceremonies (and wonderful costumes) to enjoy during the run of their popular television series. 

We love weddings too! One of my most popular presentations as a guest speaker has been "Vintage Inspiration: The Brides of Downton Abbey"...sharing the inspiration of the show's costume designers in creating Lady Mary's, Lady Edith's, Lady Rose's and all the circa 1920s wedding gowns we saw through the years. (And I also shared a bit of costume history to tie it all together!)

Now with the upcoming new Downton Abbey movie (to be released in the UK later this month and in the US on May 20), we'll have another family wedding! 
Wedding scene from Downton Abbey: A New Era
Tom Branson (the widowed husband of the Crawley's youngest daughter, Sybil) marries Lucy Smith (who he met in the 2019 film and is the heir of Lady Bagshaw, Robert Crawley's cousin) and by the look of the fashions, it's a late 1920s wedding!
Wedding scene from Downton Abbey: A New Era

Enjoy getting into that elegant 1920s vibe and ready for Downton Abbey: A New Era!

March 1, 2022

Celebrating Women's History...


...and honoring women who honor women!

Meghan Markle has long supported women's rights...even when she was a little girl and before she became the Duchess of Sussex. When she married long-time activist Prince Harry, she then had a dedicated partner in support of empowering women. Now their Archewell Foundation extends her reach and influence in improving the lives of women--and therefore children--worldwide. 

This support gets magnified during Women's History Month in March each year as they expand contributions with grants, recognitions--and sometimes a cake! (This one baked in her own kitchen for volunteers at the World Central Kitchen.)


"Part of Archewell Foundation's core commitment is to build strong, compassionate, and equitable communities across the world. Although these grants have been announced as we recognize Women's History Month, the work they represent is relevant and vital every day of the year," the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said. (People Magazine) Putting "compassion into action" is a lifetime commitment for both Meghan and Harry.

Salute to Freedom gala 2021



October 25, 2021

Diana Spencer Mountbatten-Windsor

Another film featuring a slice of the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, premieres on November 5th.  Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart, is called a “psychological drama that follows Diana’s decision to end her marriage to Prince Charles and leave the British royal family.” (The “decision” was a bit more complicated than that for all involved, especially Diana and Charles’ sovereign, Queen Elizabeth.) Nonetheless, using this occasion, I’ll post a short excerpt from my book in progress, The Spiritual Mission of a Princess….

....................................................

Chapter 3: Social Changes (excerpt)

           “When the royal family enfolded Diana, they thought they had got a rather dim girl from the landowning Norfolk aristocracy—not exactly the stuff of revolution. They could not have known that she would be transformed into an international superstar who would make their lives hell.” This from an article, “Diana’s Britain,” by the editors at Newsweek magazine published the week after the princess’ funeral. Some feminists of the time were also fooled by “the mouse that roared.” British journalist Beatrix Campbell wondered how more conservative Britain could become when this pretty, inexperienced girl from old landed gentry married into the stale confines of royalty. Calling her wedding gown “a shroud,” she feared Diana would disappear within a dusty patriarchal construct. But Campbell and others began to see it differently.

Diana emerged into the world’s consciousness during the second year of Margaret Thatcher’s landmark run as Prime Minister and Great Britain, entrenched in a recession, was in turmoil with the country’s traditional industries in crisis and race riots destroying neighborhoods in the cities. “Into this unrelieved gloom the royal wedding injected a welcome splash of color and glamour,” the Newsweek article continued. “For that reason alone, Diana always carried a fund of good will with her. Yet at the time, few appreciated the central significance of the new princess; she was young and unformed, with enormous potential for growth.” And indeed, from that summer in 1981, Diana’s growth into a striking, outspoken woman paralleled Britain’s own growth into the modern era. Diana may have spent her childhood in the country, but as a young woman she needed the bustle and stimulation of the city and like much of the country’s youth, Diana loved “London’s glitzy rebellious values.” And for better or worse, she brought “an American style of emotionalism,” as feminist writer Naomi Wolf expressed, “to the rigid skin of British formality.”  

The Labor Party picked up this youthful call to modernize with forty-three-year-old Tony Blair’s campaign for prime minister in 1997. Since his “agenda echoed Diana’s,” according to Catherine Mayer’s Time magazine article, “How Diana Transformed Britain,” Diana met in secret with him and his election team in support of Blair’s “mandate to build a more inclusive, caring Britain.”  By the time of her death, only months after Blair’s election, she seemed to embody “how new Britons wanted their country to be.” After centuries of practiced reserve and mystery, it took the Royal Family a little longer to realize how much the country was changing even though they had clues inside their own family which had been moving, as Newsweek reported, “from archaic rule to modern dysfunctionality.” Then the shock of the princess’ death left them unprepared for the rising new era of more open public self-expression—the unbuttoning of England’s stiff-upper-lip sensibility. “The People’s Princess,” Mayer wrote, summing up Diana’s impact, “had unlocked hearts, reordered values, presided at the triumph of emotional intelligence over cold intellect, of compassion over tradition.”