the heroine of gaeta

how do you solve a problem like marie?

Do you know my sister, Marie? She was barely 12 when I was whisked away from my family to become Empress, but over the years following, we grew quite close. In fact, I named my favorite child after her.

They called her the Queen of Two Sicilies, which has such a romantic sound, does it not? Ha! The marriage of Poor Marie at age 17 to feeble, asexual King Francis of Naples was anything but romantic. Francis was a religious zealot, anxiety-ridden and afraid of his own shadow. Imagine my gorgeous sister, young, hopeful, willful. Bavarian through and through! She was tossed as a teenager into a kingdom threatened by revolution and anarchy, to rule beside a skinny little weasel who garnered no respect.

My sister and her wormy and sickly husband fled war-torn Naples, and sought refuge in the fortress at Gaeta during the political confusion surrounding the establishment Italy proper, where Marie’s defense of the fortress earned her the nickname “the heroine of Gaeta.” Alas, though Marie withstood several attacks on the fortress (I believe the King was meanwhile hiding under the bed), the fortress fell, and the couple escaped to Rome.

From then on, my sister (her confidence buoyed by all the political intrigue and turmoil and near assassination),  decided to live life on her own terms. For several years thereafter, brave-hearted Marie, traveled the world, swam naked in the sea, smoked cigars in public, and took a lover (who, by the way, was an officer of the Papal Guard). I actually facilitated this tryst, I’m proud to admit, as did our other politically-betrothed sister, the Countess Mathilde Trani.

sis with francis before "the operation"

Such was the pent up passion of my dear Marie, that she spit in the face of caution and ended up with child. If ever a big Bavarian family comes in handy, it’s when one of their ilk is knocked up out of wedlock. We three sisters pleaded illness and off we tarried to our family’s summer home, our beloved Possi, where we were greeted by dear Papa.  Always one to keep composure, he calmly offered, “Well, all right, such things happen. What’s the point of cackling?”

And, as it turned out, there was more than a bit of cackling amongst us bohemians at our Possenhofen idyll when it was revealed that dearest Marie had not merely one bastard in her womb, but two!

This story has somewhat of a happy ending, however. Understanding that scandal had its price, Marie handed her illegitimate baby girls over to the father, and returned to Francis, who admitted his sexual inadequacies, and underwent surgery to correct his particular penile deformation, and dear Marie was impregnated post-haste. Though the baby (who was born on my birthday) died in infancy, my sister and her husband developed an intimacy and new bond to rival any manufactured case study that Viagra could conjure, living, from then forward, rather happily ever after.

hats off to the princess

the not-so silent heroine of trw

A bit ago, I posted about the Royal Snubbing of Fergie, whilst musing on the possibility of Philip Treacy hats amongst the Royal Wedding retinue. My, my, am I prescient or what?

Not to toot my own horn, but I knew that where there’s a royal affair, there’s the pressure to set a trend. Not that any normal person could afford to tarry about under a Treacy headdress, but I’m sure there will soon be knockoffs fashioned by small Chinese children and sold for much more than the pennies they are paid.

Which makes it ironic (don’t you think) that Bea is auctioning off the hat and funneling the pounds to UNICEF, and Children in Crisis–two children’s charities. At this posting, the eBay bids have surpassed £20,200, and, along with that, some spotlight on the lot of poor and orphaned children throughout the world. It is often the reality that spectacle leads eventually to compassion, albeit circuitously. Who knew this better than the now-dead Princess Diana?

So here’s to Princess Bea–the child of the snubbed Fergie–she held her head (and headdress) with grace and class!

sibling rivalry never goes out of style.

the "it" sisters of 2011

Sisters. Can’t love with them, can’t love without them. It has more than come to light that at the latest royal wedding, all eyes were not on Kate. Some were on her younger sister, Pippa. Many, in fact, were on her younger sister. Including those of the spare heir, the paparazzi, and her increasingly anxious beau.

But, what’s a royal wedding without a wee scandal, yes? My own royal wedding was replete with sister jealousies, as many of you know. Word on the street is that I scooped my elder sister for the Emperor’s attentions using my feminine wiles. It was my sister, Nené , who was slated for the throne. Franz Josef’s mother and our mother, Ludovica (who were also  sisters) had painstakingly arranged it. But, alas, my sister was a bit of a sour puss, and, well, it’s not exactly that I cavorted in a bikini top, but the Emperor found my shy-yet-frisky demeanor a bit more to his liking.

the "sit" sisters of 1848

I’m setting the record straight here and now. I did not flirt with the Emperor during the betrothal meeting. I did not bat my eyelashes. I did not, as the movie indicates, accidentally hook the Emperor with a fishing line whilst he tarried to the castle. No, I think the Emperor’s choosing me had more to do with passive-aggressively thwarting his mother’s meddlesome ways.

Whatever the reason for Franz Josef choosing me over my sister, it caused quite a stir in our family. Nené didn’t speak to me for months! Of course, eventually, she found a beau of her own, and it’s been said that her marriage was the happiest of all us Wittelsbach girls.

It remains to be seen how the Middleton girls stack up over the marital long haul. I’m sure we’ll all find out.

wedding kitsch

what is that? spam? turkey? liverwurst? haggis?

Well friends, this is my last homage to trw, as I think it’s time to return to all things Vienna. And the Habsburgs. And, well, me! Below you can feast your eyes on a very small sampling of the interminable swag available via http://www.buythisnow.com. Okay, don’t click on that link. I made it up.

Oh how I wish there were a Sisi PEZ!

knit your favorite royal.

william & harry

sons. is there anything better?

The groom and the best man. Diana’s boys. Oh how proud she would be, don’t you think? And wouldn’t she have been just a fabulous mother-in-law? I’m getting the embroidered hankie out now, for I fear tears will overtake me on short order.

William. The typical heir: well-behaved, appropriate in the ways that a Prince must be. Marrying a lovely girl (in just a few short hours). Spitting image of his dad (but let us hope, for Kate’s sake, he doesn’t have a Camilla stashed in a turret down the lane).

Harry. The jokester, playboy and spare heir. Impetuous little brother. The polo playing playboy. My guess is that had Diana lived, Harry would be her secret ally. The one she’d text at midnight asking what does “shawdee” mean, anyway?

Tomorrow is a big day. There will be tears and cheers. William and Harry though? In the spotlight since day one? They will shine. Trust me. Kate will be lovely, of course, but when we watch those boys, we’ll be thinking about another bride. The star of that other royal wedding, 30 years ago.

TRW 2011: rehearsal day

even the horses are gossiping!

The final countdown for the wedding of the 21st century (though, admittedly, the century is quite young) is upon us! Who among us will not be glued to a screen?
Long about now, Miss Kate is practicing her “I do’s,” or, if her wedding will be anything like my own, she’s practicing not fainting, weeping, or having to suddenly run for the water closet.
From The Duchess of Cornwall to the flower arrangers, everyone is a buzz!

fergie, under cover of headgear?

A hat to hide a duchess.

Poor Fergie, the black sheep Duchess of York. Not only is she frequently maligned by the tabloids, she is continually shunned by the Royal Family at large. While her daughters received one of the coveted invitations to the nuptials of the 21st century on April 29, the red-haired perpetual persona non grata did not.

All that aside, I’m thrilled at the recent announcement that Irish milliner, Philip Treacy, will be creating the hats  for the affair. Kate’s tart of a stepmother-in-law, Camilla, actually came up with the idea, for Treacy created the headgear for her wedding, six years ago.

Wouldn’t it be funny if Fergie had Treacy create a headpiece just for her? One where her face was hidden completely, so she could stealthily attend the blessed event? If it were me, I’d consider such a ruse. Why not? What does she have to lose, anyway?

a moment of catiness. meow.

I'd give my best cow for frock that blue!

Kate, Kate, Kate. Okay, she’s a “style icon,” I buy that. And for a Brit her teeth are fantastic! And she’s obviously a regular at the brow bar. But. Does she have a twenty inch waist? I think not.

Much has been made of my obsession with my figure. They called me obsessive. Vain. At times they said I was clearly mad, thinking that I imagined drowning in a vat of hog lard when I refused to eat the ridiculously lavish blood sausage and biscuit meals they put before me at the Hof.

So what if I preferred to bring my own livestock when I went on holiday? You can never be too careful what with cholera and mad cow and the like.

I just hope that when Kate Middleton becomes Mrs. Crown Prince, she intends to accessorize with more than a mere suntan and wide-brimmed hat.  There, I said it.  Now I must roast in hell.

my thoughts on the duchess’s skiing ban

I am perturbed to hear that Sarah Ferguson has put the kybosh on her girls’ annual skiing holiday lest they get bumped or bruised before the upcoming nuptials of their cousin, William.

it's just another wedding, after all!

Friends, this strikes a deep cord and opens many wounds for yours truly.  I can’t tell you the number of fun activities I had to forgo for this or that silly reason.  Having to wield a parasol every time the sun broke through the Vienna cloud so freckles wouldn’t overtake.  Banning me from my daily exercise routine during my monthlies.  And don’t even get me started on the restrictions to horseback riding!

I am surprised that in this day and age the elder generation is still so nervous about potential calamity.  What’s the worst that could happen?  Bea in a cast as she ambles into the church?  Or Eugenie with a sunburn? No, if I was their mum, I’d insist as business as usual.  Those girls could use a little fresh air and exercise! Some red into their pale British cheeks! I say, put them back on the pistes and let the skis fall where they may.

But then, that’s what always gets me into trouble.