Monday, 31 August 2015

A Royal Family Order for the Duchess?

Good evening, dear readers,

To round off the weekend we're discussing a topic familiar to many of our readers and perhaps something new for others - Royal Family Orders. A Mail on Sunday article reports Her Majesty is planning to give the Duchess of Cambridge the Royal Family Order of Elizabeth II - the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a female member of the Royal family.

More from the article:

'The Queen plans to celebrate her milestone next month – when she becomes the longest-reigning Monarch – by honouring the Duchess of Cambridge. Kate will receive the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II.
 The 33-year-old Duchess is the only senior member not to wear a family honour. A source said: ‘It is an honour reserved for first division female Royals.’ Sophie Wessex has one, as does the Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Anne. Kate is expected to wear hers to a State dinner when the Chinese president Xi Jinping visits the UK in October.'

This is an interesting story indeed, because traditionally there is no formal Palace announcement regarding this honour. The media and public tend to only become aware a royal has been given one when they are photographed wearing it. It is possible a Mail Online journalist has obtained an exclusive on this, however, I'm more inclined to think there's an expectation Kate will be wearing the honour (and a tiara) at the state banquet in October.

It's important to note a number of our knowledgeable readers mentioned the possibility of the Duchess debuting the order at the banquet once rumours began to circulate the Cambridges would be in attendance.

Let's take at look the history of the order, along with recipients and occasions when it is worn. A Royal Family Order is an order awarded by the Sovereign of the United Kingdom to female members of the Royal family as they typically do not wear the commemorative medals as men do. The order is a personal memento rather than a state decoration. The badge of the order consists of a portrait of the Sovereign set in diamonds, which is suspended from a ribbon. The ribbon of each Royal Family Order changes with each monarch.

Royal Family Orders originated in Britain during George IV's reign. His order was rather ornate in appearance, and the frame that surrounded his portrait was of diamond oak leaves and acorns. The badge was suspended from a white silk bow. Below we see an image of the order which originally belonged to George IV's sister Charlotte, Queen of W├╝rttemberg, circa 1820 - 1830. Charlotte willed it to Princess Victoria, later Queen Victoria, who left it to the Crown.

The Royal Collection

After George IV, each succeeding sovereign with the exception of William IV and Edward VIII, has issued their own Royal Family Order. A slight variation came with the reign of Queen Victoria. When Victoria came to the throne the order was not issued until after her marriage. In 1862 she created the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert. It consisted of a cameo portrait of Victoria and Albert; no other Royal Family Order has depicted both the sovereign and their consort since. Theoretically speaking Charles could choose to depict Camilla in his, or William could choose to depict Kate.

Royal Collection

More than one Royal Family Order can be worn. In this case, they are worn layered with the most recent on top. For example, the Queen wears the Family Orders of her father King George VI which features a rose pink sash, and her grandfather King George V, a pale blue sash.

The Royal Family Orders are worn pinned to the left shoulder at formal evening occasions when other orders and decorations are worn. If a sash is worn also over the left shoulder, the order is often pinned to the sash. Below we Her Majesty wearing them for a state banquet for the President of Singapore at Buckingham Palace.

A stunning image of the Queen decked out in full regalia and Royal Family Orders actually graces the cover of Hello! Canada at present.

Hello! Canada

For Her Majesty's Royal Family Order she chose a Dorothy Wilding portrait from 1952.


Does the Queen's dazzling necklace look familiar? You may recall she loaned it to the Duchess for The Portrait Gala in February 2014. The Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace was given to Her Majesty in 1947 by the Nizam, then ruler of a state in India.

The Queen is depicted wearing the George IV State Diadem, ribbon and star of the Order of the Garter. It is set in a diamond frame topped by a Tudor crown and set on a chartreuse yellow silk ribbon bow. Her cypher adorns the reverse side.

Her Majesty's Jewel Vault

Below we see the late Queen Mother wearing the Royal Family Orders of her daughter Elizabeth II and husband King George VI. The Queen's choice of a yellow ribbon is a striking one; it very much stands out in photographs and portraits.


According to Wikipedia, the Queen has awarded the Order to the following recipients:


  • Queen Mary, wife of King George V and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, sister of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Diana, Princess of Wales, daughter-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, aunt of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, aunt of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, aunt of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, first cousin twice removed and grandaunt of Queen Elizabeth II


  • Princess Anne, Princess Royal, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, daughter-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Sophie, Countess of Wessex, daughter-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, cousin-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Katharine, Duchess of Kent, cousin-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II

When and how does the Queen decide to award the honour? As it is given at HM's pleasure we will never specifically know the criteria. It would seem it is awarded to senior members of the Royal family who undertake royal engagements. The late Diana, Princess of Wales received hers quite early on - reportedly within a year of her marriage. She wore it several times during the royal tour of Australia in 1983.

AP /UK in Australia

The Earl and Countess of Wessex regularly represent the Queen at royal weddings across Europe, meaning we see Sophie wearing hers with some frequency. The Countess received the Order in 2004, roughly five years after her wedding.

The Duchess of Cornwall was first seen wearing hers in 2007 two years after her wedding to Charles and has sported it on many state occasions since. Below we see her wearing it at the State Opening of Parliament in May.

Interestingly, the Queen never awarded the honour to Sarah, Duchess of York. None of her granddaughters have been given it either. Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie carry out engagements occasionally, however, neither are working royals and Zara Tindall doesn't have a title or carry out engagements on behalf of Her Majesty.

Is it possible Kate has had the order for some time now? The only function William and Kate have attended since the royal wedding where the order would have been worn was the Annual Diplomatic Reception in December 2013, but the Duchess didn't have it then. It may have been given to her any time since, but it's also possible she doesn't have it yet.

I'm inclined to think there's a very good chance we'll see it at the state banquet. It's yet to be confirmed, but it certainly looks most likely William and Kate will be in attendance. If so, it will be the most regal event, sartorially speaking, Kate has attended. Gown, tiara, jewels, Royal Family Order... It should be one to remember!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Kate Loves: A Very Royal Proposal

It was September 2010 and everything was falling into place for Prince William. Following eighteen months on a number of courses he was "delighted" to qualify as a search and rescue pilot. The second-in-line to the throne had given much of his concentration to achieving his goal in pursuing a career in flying: "I absolutely love flying, so it will be an honour to serve operationally with the Search and Rescue Force, helping to provide such a vital emergency service.''

Indeed, it was a wonderful time not only professionally but personally for the prince. Based at RAF Valley on the picturesque Isle of Anglesey, he rented a farmhouse where he and his then long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton enjoyed the idyllic privacy they had both loved during their time at St Andrews. Like any other young couple, they were spotted at local cinemas, taking in the breathtaking views on the beach and enjoying romantic lunches at local pubs and restaurants.

The couple, who had met almost a decade earlier as students at St Andrews University had built a strong foundation over the years despite the difficulties of a relationship in the public eye. These difficulties had of course taken their toll, and in 2007 they broke up for a brief period. When they got back together, it was clear to many Kate was the woman William was going to marry. They had tried to be apart and it didn't work. They discussed marriage and knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, however, the right time hadn't come along... Until now.

William decided the time had come when they took a holiday in Kenya with friends in October 2010. The Prince wanted to propose somewhere truly special; his love of Africa had been well documented since he first visited in 1998 with Harry and their family friends the van Cutsems. It was there he had first met the Craig family, who had turned their 61,000 acre reserve over to house a rhino sanctuary, now called the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Facebook Page

William returned several times after, working with the Craigs, which is when he became involved with wildlife conservation charity Tusk Trust. After university, he took Kate there so she could experience the land which held a special place in his heart.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Facebook Page

Speaking about Africa for a 2010 Sky documentary William said:

"This place will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. Africa's the perfect place to come. The locals haven't a clue who I am, and I love that when I step off the plane I'm like, 'Yes, I'm back.' I know I'm here to work, but you can't help feeling like that. Africa is my second home."

When they first flew in with friends, they began the safari by staying with the Craigs at Lewa Downs, located in the foothills of Mount Kenya. The group spent much of their time driving around the estate and admiring the elephants and rhinos.

Keen photographer Kate will have no doubt taken the opportunity to capture some of the stunning sights she saw on camera.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Facebook Page

It was an incredibly relaxing break for the couple who spent their evenings enjoying dinner and laughs with friends at the Lewa Safari Camp. Featuring large tented bedrooms with verandahs and full en-suite bathrooms, Lewa Safari camp offers authentic comfort for its visitors; cozy log fires in the sitting room are perfect for relaxing after a day in the Conservancy.

A glimpse inside the cosy "camp".

For the second leg of the trip, William and Kate travelled alone on a 24-hour stop over at Rutundu Lodge, overlooking Lake Rutundu - two wooden cottages nestled on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa, and a very tranquil and isolated area with stunning views.


The lodge itself is a world away from the formality of royal residences and royal life. The self-catering lodge does not have electricity and the four-poster bed was made out of tree trunks.


As they made their way to the lodge, Kate was unaware a somewhat-nervous William was carrying a very special piece of jewellery in his rucksack. The Prince would later recall in the engagement interview: "I had been carrying it around with me in my rucksack for about three weeks before that and I literally would not let it go, everywhere I went I was keeping hold of it because I knew this thing, if it disappeared I would be in a lot of trouble."

Upon arrival, the couple enjoyed a romantic walk and went fishing for rainbow trout. That night, William cooked dinner and they sat by a log fire sipping cups of tea.


It is believed it was on the verandah of the cabin William asked Kate to be his wife. There's also been reports the proposal took place at the nearby Lake Alice which sits in an extinct volcano. Whichever romantic location - a thrilled Kate said yes. Recalling the proposal in the engagement interview Kate revealed it was both romantic and unexpected. "It was very romantic. There's a true romantic in there. Because we were out with friends and things I really didn't expect it all."

Africa Safaris

William presented a thrilled Kate with his late mother's engagement ring: "It's my mother's engagement ring so I thought it was quite nice because obviously she's not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement of it all - this was my way of keeping her close to it all."

Diana chose the large oval Ceylon sapphire ring surrounded by 14 diamonds at Garrards. Unusually, it was not a bespoke piece, though it has become iconic in the many years since, and it was a very special token of love on William's part to give the ring to his future bride.

After Kate accepted, the newly-engaged couple travelled back to Lewa. Before leaving, Kate wrote in the visitors book: "Thank you so much for a wonderful 24 hours! Sadly no fish to be found, but we had great fun trying. I love the warm fires and candle lights - so romantic! Hope to be back again soon."

Georgina Goodwin / Rurundu Lodge

Upon return, the secretly-engaged couple kept the big news under wraps for a while. After a short break in Scotland they were ready to tell family and friends. Kate recalled the moment she revealed the secret to her mother Carole:

 "I think as any mother would be she was absolutely over the moon. And actually we had quite an awkward situation because I knew and I knew that William had asked my father but I didn't know if my mother knew. So I came back from Scotland and my mother didn't make it clear to me whether she knew or not so both of us were there sort of looking at each other and feeling quite awkward about it. But it was amazing to tell her and obviously she was very happy for us.".

The rumour mill went into overdrive when a beaming William and Kate attended the wedding of William's close friend Harry Meade. Unusually for the couple, they arrived together. Kate looked stunning in a blue Issa dress and black jacket for the day.

The couple were all set to make the big announcement in early November, when the sad news of the passing of Kate's grandfather Peter Middleton came. He had been her last surviving grandparent and they were very close, so it was decided the announcement date would be postponed by a couple of weeks.

On November 16, 2010 the big announcement came...

And the rest, as they say, is history! :)