Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Alex Wernher - A close friend of the Duke of Edinburgh

It is a simple white grave marker at the Medjez-el-Bab War Cemetery in Béja, Tunisia, that marks the final resting place of George Michael Alexander Wernher.  A plaque on Alex’s grave reads: “In ever loving memory of George Michael Alexander (Captain 17/21 Lancers), only son of Sir Harold Wernher, K.C.V.O., who died on active service at Béja. 4 December 1942.  Aged 24.  Buried in Military Cemetery Medjez-el-Bab Cemetery.”

Alex Wernher took part in several battles that began in mid-November 1942 when a German military delegation arrived in Béja and issued an ultimatum to the city’s mayor: surrender the city.  The mayor got word to a civil governor who sent the message to British military officials in Algiers.  The following day, November 17, British battalions began parachuting into the hills, just north of the city.    Two days later, the Germans began bombing Béja.  During the next three months, fierce battles ensued, as the Allied forces were determined to defend the city.  The Germans began their final assault on February 28, 1943, to no avail.  They were forced to surrender in April.         
The British sustained 1,800 casualties including Captain Wernher, whose death was reported on December 24, 1942, in The Times’ “On Active Service.”

Alex’s death was a “cruel blow to his many friends,” a friend wrote in a personal tribute nearly six weeks later.   The friend noted that Alex was a “keen soldier, and was loved and respected by all who served with him.  His buoyant spirits and charm of manner were among his finest qualities.  Invariably cheerful, even under the most difficult conditions, he had the gift of inspiring others and was equally at ease with young and old in all walks of life.  He seemed to radiate an atmosphere of sunshine and happiness.”

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Alex’s friend (the writer is not identified) did not mention was the young man’s illustrious and well-connected family. His uncle, Sir Derrick Wernher, was the second Baronet, and the father of a daughter, who could not succeed to the title. Alex’s father, Sir Harold, who was Derrick’s younger brother, was the heir presumptive to the title – already in control of the family’s vast fortune.   And then there were Alex’s royal connections.   He was a descendant of Nicholas I of Russia.   One of his godfathers was King George V, a friend of his maternal grandfather, Grand Duke Michael of Russia.

His mother, Zia, was born Countess Anastasia Torby, the elder daughter of Grand Duke Michael, and his morganatic wife, Countess Sophie von Merenberg, whose maternal grandfather was the acclaimed Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin. Sophie was a child of a morganatic marriage, as well. She was the eldest of three children of Prince Nikolaus of Nassau and Natalia Alexandrovna Pushkina.  Sophie’s paternal uncle was  Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg and her paternal aunt was  Queen Sophia of Sweden, the consort of King Oscar II. First cousins on her father’s side included Princess Elisabeth of Wied, who married King Carol I of Romania,  the Duchess of Albany (Princess Helen of Waldeck und Pyrmont), and her sister, Queen Emma of the Netherlands, widow of Willem III and mother of Queen Wilhelmina.

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Grand Duke Michael was one of seven children of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich of Russia and Princess Olga of Baden, and a grandson of Nicholas I.  Michael’s siblings included Grand Duchess Anastasia, who married Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III of Mecklenburg-Schwerin ( mother of Queen Alexandrine of Denmark and Crown Princess Cecilia of Prussia), Grand Duke George, who married Princess Marie of Greece, and Grand Duke Alexander, who was the husband of Grand Duchess Xenia, sister of Nicholas II.   (These family connections were important in Alex’s family.  Grand Duchess Marie (nee Greece) and Grand Duchess Xenia were King George V’s first cousins.)

Michael’s morganatic marriage led to exile in France and England.  The family leased Kenwood House in Regent’s Park until the Russian Revolution.  Exiled saved his life, but  Michael lost property, providing him with a comfortable income.  Michael and Sophie had never known what it was like to be poor.  With few resources apart from a gracious loan from King George V (£10,000), the Grand Duke and his wife had to move out of Kenwood House to a smaller residence.  It was imperative that their two daughters, Zia and Nadejda (Nada), marry well.

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Nada was the first to marry.  In July 1916, she wed Prince George of Battenberg, the second of four children of Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and Prince Louis of Battenberg, a child of another morganatic marriage.   Louis was one of four children of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine and a Polish countess, Julia von Hauke, who was created Princess of Battenberg, by her brother-in-law, Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hesse and By Rhine.

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 The princely title of Battenberg was also carried by Julie and Alexander’s children and male-line descendants.   Prince Louis of Battenberg served in the Royal Navy, and he and his wife, Victoria, divided their time between homes in Germany and England.  The couple’s first child, Alice, was born in 1885 at Windsor Castle.  She married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, whose sister,  Princess Marie, married Grand Duke George, brother of Grand Duke  Michael.

Alice and Andrew were the parents of five children, four daughters, and, a son, Philip, born in 1921. 

In 1917, Louis renounced his German titles and created Marquess of Milford Haven, Earl of Medina, Viscount Berkhamstead, by King George V, with the surname Mountbatten, an anglicized version of Battenberg.   Their elder son, Prince George, was styled as the Earl of Medina, while the two younger children were now Lady Louise and Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Prince George's parents were also worried about money, as most of Prince Louis' property was in Germany. Due to these straitened circumstances, Louis could give George only £350 per year as a wedding gift.  Michael purchased a small home for the newlyweds at Rosyth, as George was attached to Admiral Beatty, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet.

Zia had known her future husband, Harold Wernher (1893-1973) since they were children in Cannes, where Sir Julius and Lady Wernher first met Grand Duke Michael and Countess Sophie von Merenberg.  The two families became close friends. Harold Wernher was the second of three sons of German-born financier Julius Wernher, who made his fortune in diamonds in South Africa, and Alice Mankiewicz, whom he had met and married after he had moved to England.   He was created a baronet in 1905.   Sir Julius was one of England’s richest men. When he died in 1912, he left an estate worth £12 million ($60 million today).   His eldest son, Derrick, succeeded to the baronetcy, but Harold was the primary beneficiary of Sir Julius’ immense wealth.

After a two-month engagement, Zia and Harold were married on July 20, 1917, at the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace in the presence of King George V and Queen Mary, Queen Alexandra, and other members of the Royal Family. That September.  Countess Zia became Lady Zia Wernher when George V gave Royal Assent to her new precedence as a daughter of an earl. 

Alex was born on August 22, 1918, in Edinburgh.  Nada sent a telegram to her sister: “Congratulations.  Tell Harold he is a good shot.”

  The Aberdeen Daily Journal noted that Lady Zia’s newborn son will “eventually be the heir to the immense fortune of the late Sir Julius Wernher.”  The baptism was on October 22 at the Boothby Parish Church, near Grantham.  King George V was one of the sponsors at the baptism but did not attend the ceremony. He was represented by Sir Harry Verney, Bt.  The other sponsors were Grand Duke Michael, the Marquess of Milford Haven, the Earl of Medina, Major W.R. Styles, Lady Victoria Primrose, the Countess of Medina, and Miss Margaret Pryce.

The three names were in honor of King George V,  Count Michael Torby (Zia’s brother), and Harold’s younger brother, Alexander Pigott Wernher, who had been killed in action in France in September 1916.

Alex and his two younger sisters, Georgina (Gina) and Myra grew up at Thorpe Lubenham Hall in Leicestershire, which Harold purchased after the Armistice.   Lubenham’s “stream of visitors” was described as  “positively endless.” 
Princess Elizabeth, a year younger than Myra, first came to tea when she was two and a half years old – “two little things running around.”   The young princess would have swimming lessons with Gina and Myra   Time was also spent at Luton Hoo, first rented by Sir Harold’s father, Sir Julius, in 1899, and purchased outright four years later.

Summers were spent in Scotland at Downie Park and Invermark, where Alex honed his hunting skills. He resembled his mother, “fair with slightly Slavic eyes.”  Unlike Lady Zia, whose passion for horses and racing was well known, Alex was more interested in the arts and music.   He did not share his parents’ enthusiasm for equine pursuits, but eventually got over his “nervousness with horses.”   At Eton, Alex was a “prominent member of the shooting eight,” and gained a “remarkable record as a crack rifle shot.”  After Eton, he attended Sandhurst where he received the ‘Saddle’ award for the best rider.   He also played golf very well.

By all accounts, Alex Wernher was a “delightful, unspoilt boy,” despite his father’s wealth, his mother’s heritage, and his royal connections.  His life, albeit shortened by war, would have a profound impact on a cousin, three years younger, who saw Alex as a mentor and the “older brother” he never had.

Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was the youngest child and only son of Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece.  The young prince, born in June 1921 at Mon Repos in Corfu, spent most of his formative years in exile in Germany and Britain.  By the early 1930s, Philip’s parents were living apart.  Alice suffered from mental illness and underwent treatment in several sanatoriums.   Prince Andrew (and his mistress) headed for more a sunny clime in France and Monaco, where he enjoyed the casinos.

Alice’s brother, George, the 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, stepped in to become Philip’s guardian. 

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Prince Andrew wanted his son to attend an English school, and George chose to send Philip to his prep school, Cheam, where his only son, David, Earl of Medina, two years Philip’s senior, was a pupil. It was Philip’s first introduction to an extended family that included his grandmother, Victoria, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, who lived in a grace and favor apartment at Kensington Palace, Uncle George, and Aunt Nada, and their two children, Lady Tatiana, who was mentally disabled,  and David,  who would become one of Philip’s closest friends, and their cousins, Alex, Gina, and Myra Wernher.  This small circle of young children also included two more first cousins, Patricia and Pamela, the daughters of Philip’s maternal uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose of York.

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[Lord Louis (later the Earl Mountbatten of Burma), would play a role in Philip’s life, but this would not happen until after the death of his brother, George Milford Haven, in 1938, when Philip chose to join the Royal Navy.] 

 George Milford Haven was Philip’s official guardian although other family members, including the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, were more involved with raising the young prince.  Philip spent school holidays with his sisters in Germany or at Lubenham with his “honorary uncle and aunt,” Sir Harold and Lady Zia.

The Wernhers provided a “useful corrective” in contrast to the “louche milieu” that the young Philip found with Uncle George and Aunt Nada at Lynden, their country home.  Lady Zia was said to be shocked by her sister’s behavior in Cannes, where she frequented lesbian bars, and acquired several women friends, including Gloria Vanderbilt, the young widow of Reginald Vanderbilt, and mother of a young daughter, also named Gloria. [Gloria was also a friend of Prince Gottfried (Friedel) of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who married Philip’s eldest sister, Princess Margarita.]

The Wernhers offered Philip the stability of a happy family life. Alex adored his younger cousin.  Philip was “particularly close” to Alex, and looked up to him as an older brother.  After spending three years at Cheam, Philip returned to Germany to attend school at Schloss Salem,  the home of his sister, Theodora, and her husband, Berthold, the Margrave of Baden.  The school was opened in 1923 by Berthold’s father, Prince Max of Baden, and was run by the respected educator, Kurt Hahn, a German Jew.  But as National Socialism began to creep into Germany’s social fabric, including education, Hahn was forced to seek refuge in Britain.  In the spring of 1934, he opened Gordonstoun, based on the Salem School, in Morayshire.  Plans were made for Prince Philip to leave Salem and join Hahn’s new school in September, a month before Philip’s cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, married Prince George, Duke of Kent, the youngest surviving son of King George V.

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 The royal wedding may have been the first occasion where eight-year-old Princess Elizabeth, one of Marina’s bridesmaids, met her thirteen-year-old third cousin, Prince Philip.   As they grew older, there were other occasions when their paths would cross due to their mutual circle of cousins and friends. Childhood games and tea parties led to lifelong friendships.  Philip’s two closest friends were his first cousin, David (who succeeded his father as 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven in 1938, when George succumbed to cancer), and Alex Wernher.

   As war loomed in Europe, all three young men joined the British military.  Lord Louis largely persuaded his nephew to join the Royal Navy.   He passed the entrance exams for the Royal Britannia Naval College (Dartmouth) and entered the school as a cadet after finishing his education at Gordonstoun.  It was at Dartmouth in July 1939, where it has been alleged that Prince Philip, 18, first met 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth. The heiress presumptive to the throne and her younger sister accompanied their parents on an official visit to Dartmouth, where Prince Philip was asked to entertain the young princesses.

There are at least a half dozen different versions of what has been called the first meeting between the future Queen and her husband.  Due to family connections  (especially through the Wernhers_- and the same circle of friends – that Elizabeth and Philip had met as children.  This meeting, however,  sealed their fates.    Before he left Dartmouth, Prince Philip was invited by Queen Elizabeth to a party at  Royal Lodge at Windsor, one of the last royal parties before the war.  Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten, Nada Milford Haven, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Sir Harold and Lady Zia were among the guests.  Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth were able to meet again.

Prince Philip would be the first to acknowledge that Sir Harold and Lady Zia were major influences in his life.   He spent many of his school holidays at Thorpe Lubenham or Luton Hoo.  Holidays with the Wernhers were “fun and games,” where everyone rode and fooled around, especially the three Wernher children, their cousin, David, and David’s cousin, Prince Philip.

Alex had “all the charm in the world.”   He never “boasted about his grand connections,” but loved telling funny stories about his mother.  He also knew that Lady Zia would not approve of some of the “girls he courted.”  He shared “digs, tents, and girlfriends,” with Bobby Peacock, a friend since Eton.  Lady Zia would have been “horrified” if she knew that her good friend, Cecil Boyd-Rochfort had arranged for Alex and Bobby to have dinner with some of the young women from the Windmill Theatre.

 He celebrated his Russian heritage, and on occasion, he would break into a Cossack dance.   A family friend said of Alex: “Once he was in the Army, he took life with both hands.”  For his 21st birthday, Alex received a large car from his father.  He said to Sir Harold that he did not want the car.  He had wanted a small car.   Sir Harold gave him an annual allowance of £500 a year, which was more than enough for Alex to “keep three polo ponies,” when he was stationed in Meerut, India.

Sir Harold and Lady Zia were in London on September 3, 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany.  They decided to “drive immediately to see Alex,” based in Colchester.  During the First World War, Harold served in the trenches.  The memories of war still haunted him.  He and Zia feared for their son, whom they “idolized.”

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After he joined the army, Alex proclaimed “My Life is Good.”  Following the German invasion of Russia in 1941, Alex wanted to volunteer to fight on the Russian front.  His mother was “nearly frantic” with his suggestion. Sir Harold knew this would not happen. His connections in the War Office informed him that Alex’s regiment, the 17/2st Lancers was to be the “spearhead of the 1st Army in Algeria and Tunisia.    In 1942, he was stationed in Tunisia with the 17/21 Lancers.

According to Raleigh Trevelyan’s largely official history of the Wernher family, Grand Duke and Diamonds, he wrote about Alex’s final days, based on his final letters to his mother. Two days before his death, he wrote to Zia about the ten days of fighting he had witnessed, as he saw shells coming straight at him.

“Well Ma, so far all is well, and I hope my luck goes on. I feel it will somehow, as I seem to come out of all our engagements better than most.   I think of you all a great deal. Give my best love to Pa, Gina, and Myra. I will write again soon.  Much love, Alex.”

That evening as Alex’s squadron headed back to the harbor, he suffered a fatal injury.  He got trapped between two tanks as they were pulled out of a gully.  One of his legs and hip were crushed.  He “remained amazingly cheerful” but without any proper medicines, such as penicillin, “gangrene soon set in.”    The military doctor donated a pint of his own blood to Alex, who “drifted in and out of consciousness,” for some hours.

Alex Wernher’s last words were to send his family “all his love.”   He died the following morning.

Lady Zia was at her desk in the drawing room at Thorpe Lubenham and Myra was playing the piano when the butler brought in the telegram with the news of Alex’s death.   Harold and Zia were “devastated” by the news.  They never talked about their son's death in public.  Harold’s mother, Lady Ludlow, wrote separate letters to Harold and Zia, describing the “special bond,” she had with her only grandson.  She understood the loss.  Her youngest son, Alexander, was killed in the First World War at age 19, and now, her only grandson, who was named after his late uncle, was killed in the Second World War at 24 years old. 

“Seeing the disparity in our ages, our relationship was extraordinary and the most precious thing in my life. We had much in common, not only in our tastes but in our outlook in life and he liked to discuss those with me and never felt I was too old to understand.”

 Alex’s friend Bobby Peacock arrived in Tunisia two days after his death and took part in three weeks of “hectic fighting.”   It was not until the end of the year that he could visit Alex’s simple grave, “marked with a wooden cross and stones.’   Bobby, who had known Alex since both were boarders at Eton, placed flowers on the grave.  He also took a photograph, and sent it to the grieving Lady Zia, unable to fully understand the “realities of war.”  Her response to Bobby was: “Is this the best you can do?”   It was.

The one person who had not heard about Alex’s death was Prince Philip, serving as second-in-command on the HMS Wallace, a destroyer patrolling the “particularly dangerous waters” of the North Sea and the English Channel.   He had sent a Christmas card to Harold and Zia, signed “Love, Philip.”   Zia could not understand that Philip had not been told about Alex’s death.  She “complained bitterly” to Lord Louis Mountbatten.

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Lord Louis sent a telegram to Philip with the bad news, and Philip wrote to Zia on January 10, 1943.  “Ever since I got the telegram from Uncle Dickie, I have been in a daze.  Alex filled a place of a brother and for that alone, I am eternally grateful to him. As the older boy, he was the guide and the pillow and in a great many ways I tried to model myself on him. As I grew older, I was able to find many of my shortcomings by just comparing myself to him and in some cases, I managed to do them right.

“It is not easy for me to try and say what I thought of him because there are no words which can describe a friendship between two boys, those things just are and one does not stop to think why.

“Dear Zia, I know you will never think very much of me. I am rude and unmannerly and I say many things out of turn which I realize afterwards must have hurt someone.  Then I am filled with remorse and I try to get matters right....”

Alex’s will was made public in April 1943.  Lord Louis was one of the two executors of Alex’s estate.   He left an estate worth £30, 906 (£1,205,334 in 2016) with the primary bequests to his cousin, the Marquess of Milford Haven (£5000), and the London Clinic (£2000), with several smaller “personal legacies” to several others including Miss Bonner, a former nurse.

 Philip remained close to Sir Harold and Lady Zia.  They were among the first to know about his engagement to Princess Elizabeth.   Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were favorite visitors to Luton Hoo, where they often spent their wedding anniversary.  They, however, did not spend their honeymoon at Luton Hoo.

 Lady Zia and the Queen shared a passion for horses and horse racing.

Alex Wernher was only 24 years old when he died in Tunisia.  He was an adored son, much loved by his parents, sisters, and close friends.  Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh,  rarely discussed his friendship with Alex.  He considered Alex as his “mentor.”  Alex certainly played an important role – the older brother – in Philip’s life.   There is no doubt in my mind that if Alex had survived the war, he would have returned home to take on the responsibilities of his inheritance.  He would have married, and perhaps, the Wernher baronetcy might have remained extant, rather than become extinct in 1973 when Sir Harold died.   Prince Philip chose their mutual first cousin, David, as his best man, but it may have been Alex who would have received that honor had he survived the war.

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Their friendship was based on the mutual respect that Philip treasured for his entire life.  One can imagine how Alex would have reacted to Philip’s love for his sister’s friend, Princess Elizabeth.  David had blotted his copybook with Prince Philip when he used his position as his best man to “advance his business career.”   It would be some years before David was welcomed back to Buckingham Palace. Alex would not have needed to exploit his relationship with Philip for financial gain.

Of all of Philip’s biographers, only Tim Heald and Philip Eade have written about his friendship with Alex Wernher.   Philip was a young boy from a broken home who needed friends and family.  His extended family embraced him and provided him with much-needed stability, and Alex Wernher, nearly three years his senior, offered friendship. 

It was a friendship that HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh has never forgotten.

If you like this perhaps you can buy me a latte ...

Grand Dukes and Diamonds is a fabulous book.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Sovereign's Garden Party

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 It rained today in London.  The wet weather did not dampen the guest's enjoyment at the Sovereign's Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

The Prince of Wales was joined by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester,  Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Peter Phillips and Zara and Mike Tindall.  This was the first time that Princess Anne's family attended an official garden party.  

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 The Prince of Wales asked his cousins to join him as he knew he and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester could not chat with all of the guests.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Lady Sarah Chatto is now the Royal Ballet president


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 Buckingham Palace has been undergoing an examination of the late Queen Elizabeth II's patronages.  In the last two weeks, the palace has announced several charities and organizations passed to King Charles II or Queen Camilla.

One of the organizations is the Royal Ballet.  In 2003, the then Prince of Wales succeeded his aunt, Princess Margaret as President of the Royal Ballet.  Princess Margaret's daughter, Lady Sarah Chatto, was named the Royal Ballet's Vice President the following year.

King Charles III has accepted the patronage of the Royal Ballet.  Lady Sarah Chatto has become the ballet's President.   Lady Sarah is the Vice President of the Royal Drawing School and Patron of the Frederick Ashton Foundation.

“I am absolutely delighted that The Lady Sarah Chatto has agreed to accept the position of President of The Royal Ballet. As a long-standing and close friend of the Company, we are all deeply grateful that she will continue her dedicated care and support as our new President," said the Royal Ballet's director. Kevin O'Hare.

How it started, how it's Going!

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On May 22, 2004, King Felipe VI, then the  Prince of Asturias, married Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano.  

The King and Queen are the parents of two daughters,  Leonor, Princess of Asturias, 18, and 17-year-old Infanta Sofia.

all four photos @Casa Real

Friday, May 17, 2024

Proud Parents: Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley

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 The Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley attended the Thanksgiving Service for the Order of the British Empire at St Paul's Cathedral on May 15.  They were invited because their younger son Lord Oliver was King Charles' page of honour, carrying his train.  Lord Oliver, 14, also served as a Page of Honour at the King's Coronation and the State Opening of Parliament.

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David George Philip Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, is the son of George Hugh Cholmondeley, 6th Marquess of Cholmondeley, and Lavina Leslie.  Lord Cholmondeley's paternal grandmother was Sybil Sassoon.  He is a descendant of Great Britain's first prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole. 

Lord Cholmondeley was the Lord Great Chamberlain during Queen Elizabeth II's reign, succeeding his father in this position in 1990.  Lord Carington succeeded in this hereditary position when Charles became king.  When William succeeds, the position of Lord Great Chamberlain will return to David, or if he is deceased, to his elder son, Alexander.   In March 2023, King Charles named Lord Cholmondeley as permanent Lord-in-Waiting.

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Lord Oliver follows in his father's footsteps as the Marquess, then Earl of Rocksavage, was a Page of Honour to Queen Elizabeth II from 1974-1976.

The engagement between the 7th Marquess of Cholomondely and Sarah Rose Hanbury was announced on June 22, 2009.  They married in a civil ceremony two days later.    The wedding was "very small" and in haste, as the new Marchioness was pregnant.

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 On October 12, 2009, Lady Cholomondely gave birth to twin sons,  Alexander Hugh George and Oliver Timothy George.  Alexander is the heir to his father's peerages and is styled as Earl of Rocksavage. 

When she married,  Rose was a political assistant to Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove. She gave up her job because of morning sickness.  

She suffered complications during her first pregnancy, In early October 2009 she was admitted to Queen Charlotte's Hospital although the twins were not due until January.  Her sister, Marina, told the Daily Mail: "Rose is absolutely fine now. It was one of those complications you get with twins. Hopefully, she will be allowed home today or tomorrow. 

"All twins arrive slightly prematurely, and that will be the case for Rose." There are just a few more weeks to go, but we don't know the precise date yet. Actually, as it is twins, Rose has been told she can choose the date herself."

The twins were born by caesarian section three months early, and taken out of the womb at the same time,  Lord and Lady Cholomondely had to choose which son would be the heir.  According to a friend,
"They have decided that the eighth marquess will be the boy who weighed more at birth. There was only eight ounces in it, but they will be a very significant eight ounces.''

 Lady Cholomondeley gave birth to a daughter, Lady Iris Marina Aline in March 2016.

After Lord Cholomondely announced his engagement, to the "beguiling socialite,"  Tim Walker, then the Mandrake columnist for the Daily Telegraph wrote: "No one has had more fun being single than David, but there comes a point when even a man with his energy has to commit himself to one person,'' a friend of Rocksavage tells me. "Rose is delighted that she has succeeded where so many women have failed.''

Sarah Rose Hanbury is 25 years younger than her husband.  She was born on March 15, 1984, at the Westminster Hospital in London, the younger daughter of Timothy Hanbury and Emma Longman.  The Hanbury family is landed gentry.   Rose's maternal grandmother, Lady Elizabeth Lambart, daughter of the 10th Earl of Cavan, was one of Queen Elizabeth II's bridesmaids, and her paternal grandmother, Sara, was the daughter of Sir Henry Ralph Stanley Birkin, 3rd Baronet.

Sir Henry was better known as the racing driver, Tim Birkin.

Rose's older sister, Marina, is the third wife of Edward Lambton, 7th Earl of Durham.

The Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley live with their three children at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, and Cholmondeley Castle, near Malpas, Cheshire.

Lord and Lady Chomondelely move in the same social circles as the Prince and Princess of Wales.  The Marquess has a major role in Charles III's court.   He and his wife often attend royal events.  His wife has never had an affair with the Prince of Wales.  

Thursday, May 16, 2024

New exhibit at the King's Gallery: Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography


@Lord Snowdon/Camera Press/Royal Collection Trust

The above photo was taken in 1964 soon after the birth of Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, 2nd and youngest child of Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon.  

Lord Snowdon took the previously unpublished photograph to give to Sir John Peel, the royal obstetrician, who delivered all four of the 1964 royal babies between February 29 and May 1.

In this photo:  Princess Alexandra (with James Ogilvy), Queen Elizabeth II (Prince Edward),  Duchess of Kent (Lady Helen Windsor) and Princess Margaret (Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones)

"The art galleries formerly known as The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh are to reopen as The King’s Galleries with the arrival of their new exhibitions this spring.

The two Galleries at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse show changing exhibitions of works of art from the Royal Collection, with the aim of increasing public access to one of the largest and most important art collections in the world. Since 2002, when the buildings were opened in their current form, they have welcomed almost five million visitors.

At The King’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the summer exhibition Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography will chart the evolution of royal portrait photography from the 1920s to the present day, revealing the stories behind some of the most celebrated photographs ever taken of the Royal Family. From November, Drawing the Italian Renaissance will explore the diversity and accomplishment of drawing across Italy during this revolutionary period, through works by artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian.

Following a successful run in London, Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians will be the first exhibition to open at The King’s Gallery in Edinburgh following its 18-month closure for essential maintenance work. Exploring life in Georgian Britain through the fashions of the day, it will be the 40th exhibition to be held in the Gallery since it was opened as a space to share a wider variety of works from the Royal Collection in Scotland.

As part of the organisation’s charitable aim to ensure that as many people as possible can access and enjoy the Collection, Royal Collection Trust is proud to launch a new scheme of £1 tickets for exhibitions at The King’s Galleries in 2024, available to those receiving Universal Credit and other named benefits.

In addition to £1 tickets, The King’s Galleries will continue to offer a range of concessionary rates, while visitors who purchase standard tickets directly from Royal Collection Trust can convert them into a 1-Year Pass, allowing free re-entry for 12 months.

Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography

The King’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace                                                  

17 May – 6 October 2024

For centuries, portraiture has played a vital role in shaping the public’s perception of the Royal Family. Over the past 100 years, no artistic medium has had a greater impact on the royal image than photography.

Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography will chart the evolution of royal portrait photography from the 1920s to the present day, bringing together more than 150 photographic prints, proofs and documents from the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives. The photographs presented in the exhibition will be vintage prints – the original works produced by the photographer, most of which have never been on public display.

The works on show will demonstrate how the Royal Family has harnessed the power of photography to project both the grandeur and tradition of monarchy, and at times an unprecedented sense of intimacy and relatability. The exhibition will examine the changing status of photography as an art form and consider the cultural, artistic, and technological shifts that influenced the work of the most celebrated royal photographers, from Cecil Beaton and Dorothy Wilding to Annie Leibovitz and Rankin.

Archival documents and unreleased proofs will shed light on the behind-the-scenes process of commissioning, selecting and retouching royal portraits. From photographers’ handwritten annotations to never-before-seen correspondence with members of the Royal Family and their staff, these materials will reveal the stories behind some of the most enduring photographs ever taken of the Royal Family.

The exhibition will open with the 1920s and 30s, the golden age of the society photographer. Post-war prosperity and technological advances led to a boom in photographic studios, and members of the British and European Royal Families were among the ‘Bright Young Things’ eager to be captured on camera. Many of the new studios were operated by women, and female photographers such as Dorothy Wilding and Madame Yevonde were among those experimenting with a bolder, more modern aesthetic.

In the mid-20th century, no royal photographer had a greater impact on shaping the monarchy’s public image than Cecil Beaton. The exhibition will present some of Beaton’s most memorable photographs, taken over six decades. These include Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s famed 1939 shoot in the Buckingham Palace Gardens, dressed in her ‘White Wardrobe’ by Norman Hartnell, and Beaton’s original Coronation portraits of Queen Elizabeth II – arguably the most prestigious photography commission of the century. 

Close relationships between royal sitters and photographers will unfold throughout the exhibition, seen most clearly through the lens of Lord Snowdon (born Antony Armstrong-Jones). One of the most sought-after photographers of the 1950s, Snowdon’s unpretentious style soon attracted the attention of the Royal Family, and he became a member of the family himself when he married Princess Margaret in 1960. His remarkably intimate portraits of the Princess, taken both before and during their marriage, hint at the depths of trust and collaboration between them.

The exhibition’s final room will explore the innovations in digital and colour photography that revolutionised the medium between the 1980s and the 2020s. During this period, photography came to be recognised as an art form in its own right, and the perception of the role of the photographer shifted from image-making craftsperson to celebrated artist. From Andy Warhol’s diamond-dust-sprinkled screenprint of Queen Elizabeth II to famed photographs by Rankin, David Bailey, Nick Knight, Hugo Burnand, Annie Leibovitz and more, the bold and colourful works in this room will demonstrate the extraordinary variety, power and at times playfulness of royal portrait photography over the past four decades.

Alessandro Nasini, curator of Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography, said: 'This is the first exhibition from the Royal Collection entirely dedicated to modern portrait photography, an artistic medium that has helped to shape how the world views the British monarchy. We are excited for visitors to discover the beauty and materiality of these original prints, many on display for the first time, and we hope they will also enjoy a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creative process behind some of these iconic royal images.'"

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Peter Phillips introduces new girlfriend to Queen Camilla

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 In April, Peter Phillips, son of the Princess Royal, confirmed the reports that he and his girlfriend, Lindsay Wallace had split up.  The couple had dated for three years.    Peter and his wife Autumn, divorced in June 2021.

On May 12, Peter attended the final day of the Badminton Horse Trials at Badminton, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort.  Queen Camilla was also present.  

Peter, 46, was accompanied by his two daughters, Savannah, 13, and Isla, 12, and a new girlfriend, Harriet Sperling.  He presented Sperling to the Queen.

One witness told The Sun: “They looked completely smitten and he was grinning from ear to ear. He looked like the cat that got the cream and acted without a care in the world.”

Peter and Harriet were seen walking hand in hand at the Horse Trials, one of the most prestigious events in the equestrian season.

Harriet is a pediatric specialist nurse with the NHS. In 2009 she was an integral part of the team bringing 3-week-old Phineas Cockerham to the Evaline Children's Hospital in London. The infant had contracted a virus that could compromise his immune system.  He needed to be brought to the Evalina Children's Hospital for treatment.  "Just 20 minutes after receiving the call to collect Phineas, the retrieval team were on our way in an intensive care ambulance,"  Harriet Sperling said in 2009.   Young Phineas was at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, before Harriet's team brought him to London.   Phineas survived.

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Harriet Eleanor Sanders was born in early 1980.  Her birth is registered in Swindon, Wiltshire.  She is the daughter of the late Rupert Hugh Sanders and Mary Elizabeth Hoskins, who married in Cirencester in 1972.  In 1971,  Country Life magazine featured Mary Hoskins as one of its Girls in Pearls portraits.

Rupert Sanders, a solicitor, was a partner with Sanders Brickwood, which merged with Sewell Mullings Logie Solicitors in 2013.

Both of her parents grew up in Gloucestershire. Through her paternal great-grandmother, Dorothy Courage, she is a descendant of the Courage (beer)  landed gentry family.   In 1971, Harriet's paternal grandfather  Major Geoffrey Thomas St. John Sanders served as High Sheriff of Gloucestershire.

Harriet has three siblings, Nicholas Rupert (1975), Louisa Kate (1977), and Rebecca Alice (1986).  Her father's maternal first cousin, Timothy Rupert de Zoete (1942) married Moyra Jane Dawnay (1946), daughter of Sir Peter Dawnay and Lady Angela Montagu-Douglas-Scott, younger sister of HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.  Moyra de Zoete and HRH The Duke of Gloucester are first cousins. 

Rupert Sanders is the son of Eleanor de Zoete and Geoffrey Thomas St. John Sanders.  Timothy de Zoete is the son of Rupert Edward de Zoete, Eleanor's brother.

 Harriet is a single mother of a 12-year-old daughter, who is likely to be Georgina Isabella Sperling.  


Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard  August 30, 2023


Harriet is also a freelance writer, using her maiden name.   Her most recent article was published in March in Woman Alive, a Christian women's magazine.

"In the earlier years of my journey as a single mother to my daughter, resources were scarce, and the future was uncertain. Yet, in the absence of material security, I discovered the strength and life that comes from true selfless love. A love that is able to be solely devoted to your child."  She sees in the bond of single mother and child "a reflection of God’s unwavering love for us. It teaches us about sacrifice, about the depth of love that is costly and willing to give without expecting anything in return. This journey has deepened my faith, teaching me to trust in God’s plan and to find strength in his love."

According to Daily Mail writer Richard Kay, Peter and Harriet have been dating for a month.  Should this relationship end in marriage,  Kay notes Harriet would be the first NHS nurse to marry into the Royal Family.   Claire Booth, the wife of the Earl of Ulster, heir to the Duke of Gloucester, is a medical doctor and a Consultant Paediatric Immunologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust.

However, Harriet would not be the first nurse in the Royal Family.  HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught, Duchess of Fife (1891-1959) was a registered nurse and ran her own nursing home during the Second World War.

Harriet Sperling is "passionate about early brain development in babies and seeing children thrive" which means she has something in common with Peter's cousin-in-law, the Princess of Wales

A girl for Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg


Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg gave birth to a daughter, Victoire, in Paris on May 14, 2024.  This is the first child for the Princess, 33,  and her husband, Nicolas Bagory.  

Alexandra, the only daughter of Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg married Nicolas Bagory on April 29, 2023, in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France.

Victoire is the eighth grandchild of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess.  

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Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine visit Indija, Serbia

All photos courtesy of HRH Crown Prince Alexander

May 14, 2024

 HRH Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine visited today the town of Inđija, Serbia, to see the monument to Queen Maria in the park of the same name and deliver jerseys for two basketball clubs, a donation from the Crown Prince Alexander’s Foundation for Education and Culture. On this occasion, an exhibition of photographs dedicated to the return of the remains of the Queen Mother to the Homeland in 2013 was opened as well.

Their Royal Highnesses gladly responded to the invitation of the Committee for the Building of the Monument, which is a gift of this group of people to the citizens of Indjija. This is the first public monument to HM Queen Maria in Serbia, and its author is Dr. Jelena Božović Đorđević.

The Crown Prince laid a rose on the monument to his grandmother, while the Board and members of the Kingdom of Serbia Association, who were the first to welcome the body of the blessed Queen upon her return to the Homeland, laid wreaths. Before that, HRH Crown Prince Aleksandar and Deputy President of the Indjija Municipal Assembly Mr. Lazar Vukmirović laid wreaths at the monument to King Peter the Great Liberator, which is located nearby.

"I am grateful to you for preserving the memory of my grandmother, that her spirit, her legacy, her charity, humanity and the immense love she had for our people still live in the collective memory. Queen Maria, King Peter, and all other members of the Royal Family are our role models and inspiration, and my wife and I and the entire Royal family must always look up to them, and always follow their example," said Crown Prince Alexander.

In the continuation of the visit, the Crown Prince officially opened the exhibition "Fulfilled Legacy (from London to Oplenac)" by Mr. Predrag Medenica. Mr. Uroš Parezanović, Head of Public Relations and Protocol of the Royal Palace, as one of those who carried the coffin of the late Queen, spoke about this exhibition that follows Queen Maria's journey from exile in London to her return to the Homeland and finding eternal peace in the family endowment at Oplenac next to her husband, Knightly King Alexander.

On this occasion, on the sports fields of the former Sokol Home and now the Cultural Center, the Royal couple presented a donation in the form of jerseys to the basketball clubs "Železničar" from Inđija and "Hajduk" from Beška. Representatives of both clubs expressed great gratitude for the support of the Royal couple to their teams, and the members of Železničar Club presented the Crown Prince with a gift - a basketball signed by all the players and coaches.

The jerseys are the result of a generous donation from Mr. Danilo Bijelica, CEO of the company "Intec Ltd." from Novi Sad. Namely, the jerseys were purpose-made for the 3x3 basketball tournament, which was supposed to be held at the Royal Palace, as a special send-off for our national team to the Olympic Games and other major competitions, but the plans were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to help athletes from smaller clubs, who don't have the same resources as the first league ones, the Crown Prince and his Foundation decided to donate the jerseys to these clubs from Srem, thus helping the promotion of sports and a healthy lifestyle among young people. Crown Prince Alexander is very grateful to Mr. Bijelica for his great help. It is a pity that our national team members were not able to play with this equipment, but we are very glad that we were able to help our athletes.

In his welcome, the Chairman of the Committee for Monument, Mr. Predrag Medenica said: "With the words that the citizens of Serbian Athens welcomed your grandfather, the Knightly King Alexander, we welcome you today. Our hearts are filled with joy. On behalf of the Committee for the Building of the Monument, I express my great gratitude for your visit and wish you a warm welcome. Our city has never had more important and beloved guests. Welcome, our dear King!"

The visit ended in the Temple of Holy Emperor Constantine and Empress Jelena, in front of which a solemn reception was held for distinguished guests, and then a thanksgiving service was held for the Royal couple, which was held for the first time on the soil of Vojvodina in the presence of Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine. This gave the visit a very special character.

After the service, His Royal Highness, in the company of the Elder of the temple, Father Bogoljub Milovanović, planted a tree in the church yard as a memory of this visit. 

During the welcoming, Jovana Savić, a student of the Inđija High School, playing the role of Queen Maria gave a monologue especially prepared for this occasion, which talks about the life of the Queen Mother, and the member of the Committee for the Building of the Monument, Mr. Stevo Lapčević also greeted Their Royal Highnesses with an inspiring speech.



all photos Courtesy of HRH Crown Prince Alexander

Belgrade, 14 May 2024 – TRH Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine officially opened the tourist season for 2024 and invited everyone interested in visiting the Royal Palaces to join the tours organized by the Touristic Organization of Belgrade. Before the Royal Family’s return to Serbia, the Royal Compound was closed to the public, and opening it for the tourists was one of the first important decisions of the Head of the Royal Family – HRH Crown Prince Alexander.

“My wife, Crown Princess Katherine and me are very happy to open the Royal Complex for another tourist season! It is almost 23 years now since my family and I came back to Serbia, to our home where we belong. The legacy that my grandfather, King Alexander I, and father, King Peter II, left here, the history and memories of the Royal Compound are magnificent. It is very important that they are conveyed, especially to our younger generation. And I wanted the people of Serbia and the world to be able to see and feel all this history and tradition that our family home has. Since our arrival, it is no longer “a forbidden city”.

If we are not proud of our glorious past, if we are not the ones who cherish it and inform others about it, nobody else would do it for us. Organized touristic tours are the best opportunity to see this beautiful place, know our glorious past, and learn something new. We are happy to welcome you to our home”, said HRH Crown Prince Alexander.

Media representatives who joined the first tour were welcomed at the Royal Palace by Their Royal Highnesses and Ms. Jelena Stankovic, PR of the Tourist Organization of Belgrade. Accompanied by a professional tourist guide, they had the opportunity to enjoy the same tour that the tourists will be able to have at the Complex - the Royal Palace, the White Palace, the Royal Chapel of St. Andrew the First-Called, and the Royal Park.

The tourists will also, when it is available due to their obligations, be greeted by Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine. The tour is a pleasant 1 and a half-hour walk to get acquainted with the history, legacy, and culture of our country.

Ms. Jelena Stankovic thanked Their Royal Highnesses for their cooperation and emphasized once again that the Royal Compound is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Belgrade. 

The Tourist Organization of Belgrade (TOB) organizes visits to the Royal Complex every weekend on Saturdays at 9:30 am and 12:30 pm. Ticket purchased from the Tourist Organization of Belgrade includes organized bus transportation from Nikola Pasic Square to the Royal Palaces - meetings for transport are at 9:30 am and 12:30 pm. The ticket price is 1,500 RSD. The number of people in a group is restricted to a maximum of 30 visitors. 

For information and reservations, tourists should visit the Tourist Information Centre in Belgrade, Knez Mihailova 56, phone: +38111 26 35 622, e-mail:, website

Schools, students, and pensioner associations can visit the Royal Palaces in Dedinje in announced group visits every working day from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm with the mandatory notification to the Office of HRH Crown Prince Alexander at least 7 to 10 days ahead, over the phone +381 11 306 4014 or via e-mail: Each group must consist of at least 10 visitors and up to a maximum of 40 visitors per group. Website: 


As the guest of Crown Prince Alexander, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Royal Compound for different events during three visits to Belgrade.   If you plan a trip to Belgrade, I recommend getting a ticket for this tour.