Thursday, 11 January 2018

Harry & Meghan to Visit Cardiff Next Week!

I was delighted to see news of Meghan and Harry's next pre-wedding engagement earlier today. Kensington Palace confirmed the couple will visit Cardiff next Thursday, 18 January. They plan to not only visit cities and communities in England but also locations around the UK. Aside from the visit to Wales, I think we'll see 'away days' in Scotland and Northern Ireland too. What's on the itinerary in the Welsh capital? The Palace said the couple will enjoy "a day showcasing the rich culture and heritage of Wales, and to learn more about some of the organisations working in communities across the country".

Their first stop will be the iconic Cardiff Castle, its history dating back 2,000 years. During their tour, Prince Harry and Ms Markle will hear performances by musicians and poets, meet leading sportsmen and women, and see how organisations are working to promote Welsh language and cultural identity.

Their next stop will be Star Hub, a community and leisure centre in the Tremorfa area of the city to see how sport is being used to engage young people and aid social development. There they will see how StreetGames, a delivery partner of Sport Wales and the Welsh Government, and an organisation with which Prince Harry has worked previously, is helping to make sport accessible to all young people, regardless of their social circumstances. It does this by supporting and establishing over 1,000 locally trusted organisations around the UK to deliver doorstep sport.

They will also meet young women who are taking part in the Us Girls project, set up with the aim of driving a step change in female sport participation across the UK and addressing the barriers that prevent many girls and young women from taking part in sport and physical activity. To date it has mobilised 5,000 girls and young women across Wales. Regarding news about the royal visit - Us Girls tweeted 'brilliant'. :)

I understand there will be opportunities for members of the public to meet the couple; these will be announced nearer the time. This will be the ideal time for Meghan to visit Wales and for Harry to introduce his future wife to the country. If the reaction from the public in Brixton is any indication, I expect we'll see quite the turn out! :)

What will Meghan wear on the day? Several of you suggested, red and green, the colours of Wales. I think that's an excellent suggestion and a very solid possibility. Perhaps a nice red and green coat? A jumper and trousers combination underneath, or a nice dress with boots would work very well. Do you have any style predictions?

It should be a great day!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

UPDATED: Harry and Meghan Kick Off 2018 with Visit to Brixton

For their first official engagement of 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited Reprezent 107.3FM in Brixton, to see their work supporting young people through creative training in radio and broadcasting, and to learn more about their model of using music, radio and media for social impact.

The couple who are no doubt immersed in wedding planning at the moment enjoyed a "fantastic" Christmas with the Royal family at Sandringham before a romantic break to Monaco to ring in the New Year. Back in London, Harry and Meghan are looking forward to carrying out a number of engagements around the UK before the wedding.

Kensington Palace press secretary Jason Knauf said: "This is the country that’s going to be her home now and that means travelling around, getting to know the towns and cities and smaller communities." Today marks Meghan's second day of royal duty; she and Harry carried out a successful day of engagements in Nottingham in early December.

The couple arrived smiling and holding hands.

An arrival video from Sky News.

The crowd certainly gave the couple a warm welcome.

Meghan looked both surprised and delighted by the cheers from the crowd.

The atmosphere in Brixton was electric. This darling little girl, Davinna, made a beautiful poster to welcome Harry and Meghan :)

Station Founder Shane Carey described the visit as a "massive profile boost". SW Londoner reports:

Station founder Shane Carey believes the Prince and Miss Markle are the perfect fit for Reprezent’s core values. He said: “The excitement internally and with the audience is great. I think from an organisational point of view it’s really good because we’ve been working with young people for years now in south and east London.
“Harry’s massively interested in youth development, mentoring young people and everybody having a chance, and that’s exactly what we think. Meghan has been very vocal on women’s rights and we’ve got a 60-40 split female-male, we’ve always had more young girls apply than blokes, so I think that’ll be good for her.”
The visit comes two weeks after Reprezent hosted a three-day collaboration including former Blur and Oasis frontmen Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher, which Mr Carey believes will be surpassed by the Royals.
He said: “That was brilliant again from a station credibility and music industry point of view, but these guys coming down, the frenzy is out of this world. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy talking to TV and media, it’s a massive profile boost for us.”

Mr Carey told Daily Mail royal reporter Rebecca English, Harry and Meghan approached him about visiting because they "admire its ethos of mentoring young people and their work on mental health". It's very interesting to hear background on how the couple are choosing their pre-wedding engagements.

 They will be keenly aware of the enormous levels of media coverage they are receiving and obviously wanted to shine a light on the work at Reprezent Radio.

The Reprezent training programme was established in Peckham in 2008, in response to an alarming rise in knife crime, to help young people develop and socialise through radio. Since then, it has transformed into a hotbed of UK music talent.

From the Mail:

'Meghan confidently introduced herself, 'Hi I'm Meghan, nice to meet you too', followed by Harry, and added: 'I hear your show is very popular. I can see why you are so popular, you are so thoughtful in your approach.'
DJ Glory told her that she first came into the station when she was 16 on work experience and explained how much she had learnt about not just radio but the music industry and media in general. 'Reprezent is not just a place you go to work but it's a family, anything you need they are here for you, they nurture you until you are ready and ripe,' Glory said. 'You'll go onto Beat1….' said Meghan. 'And then there are three thousand people on the waiting list and it opens up a space for someone else to have the same experience. It's amazing, it so cool,' said Meghan, who had clearly studied her brief.'

Harry and Meghan listen to Reprezent.

A video from Victoria Murphy.

Harry has been passionate about tackling knife crime for several years. He recently discussed the problem during his stint as guest editor on BBC Radio 4. The Prince stressed the importance of positive role models encouraging young people to choose the right path.

Training hundreds of young people every year in media and employment skills, over 4,000 young people have been through the Reprezent programme, with over 3,000 on the waiting list. It offers accredited training and support in topics ranging from audio and radio production and editing to communication skills and confidence building, work experience and volunteering. Throughout training Reprezent offers personalised support to enable young people to fulfil their potential, and to progress to further education and employment opportunities. They also offer programmes supporting young people with specific issues like mental health challenges, having recently launched a regional mental health programme with a network of schools.

Many of the young people who complete training can progress onto volunteering roles as presenters and producers on Reprezent 107.3FM, and many of their young talent progress their careers with employment at some of the most prestigious media companies in the UK. Reprezent secured an FM radio licence in 2011 and the majority of their playlist is unsigned, with many artists broken via Reprezent continuing to achieve the highest music industry success.

During their visit to Reprezent FM Studios at Pop Brixton, a temporary project that has turned disused land into a creative space for local businesses, Harry and Meghan met presenters, content producers and staff, heard more about their training programmes.

Prince Harry was asked about gender equality and turned to Meghan saying "She answers the questions". More from The Telegraph:

'Once inside, the pair listened to the station broadcasting, meeting 17-year-old presenter Glory and donning headphones to listen to 'Flirt' by the artist Pote Read. Prince Harry made Meghan laugh by gesturing towards a CD mixer as if he was about to start "scratching" a track. As their few minutes with the presenter ended, Mr Markle praised her work, adding: "I can see why your show is so popular. You're so thoughtful and your approach is so engaging." She then made everyone laugh when she added: "I must tune in."
Prince Harry, who had impressed young people at the radio station with his attempt at an elaborate handshake, fell down slightly when asked by Jeremiah Asiamah whether he had heard of Giggs, a rapper. "He said 'what, events?'" Mr Asiamah wrote on Twitter afterwards. "Fair enough."
Later in the session, the Prince also demonstrated their thoroughly modern relationship as station manager Adrian Newman told him that they had a question for him during a discussion on gender equality. Prince Harry pointed at Meghan and swiftly replied: "She answers the questions. "Yes, talking of gender equality!" Ms Markle replied, with a smile on her face.' 

The couple met some of the current and former volunteers who have benefitted from the training.

A special handshake for Harry.

Brixton is a lively, multicultural area with a down-to-earth vibe. "Brixton Market offers street food and vintage finds, plus clothes and produce that reflect the area’s Caribbean roots. Casual eateries serving global fare line pedestrian-friendly Brixton Village. Late-night revellers hit celebrated bars and live-music venues such as the O2 Academy Brixton for rock gigs, and Hootananny for cutting-edge sounds."

The area's journey to where it is today has been a long and difficult one. More from Wikipedia:

'Brixton was the scene of riots in April 1981 at a time when Brixton underwent deep social and economic problems—high unemployment, high crime, poor housing, no amenities—in a predominantly African-Caribbean community. The Metropolitan Police began Operation Swamp 81 at the beginning of April, aimed at reducing street crime, largely through the repeated use of the so-called sus law, which allowed police officers to stop and search any individual on the grounds of mere "suspicion" of possible wrongdoing. Plain clothes police officers were dispatched into Brixton, and within five days almost 1,000 people were stopped and searched under this law. There was intense local indignation at this, since the vast majority of those stopped by the police were young black men. The riot resulted in almost 279 injuries to police and 45 injuries to members of the public, more than a hundred vehicles were burned (including 56 police vehicles), and almost 150 buildings were damaged, with 30 burned. There were 82 arrests. Reports suggested that up to 5,000 people were involved in the riot.
Following the 1981 Brixton riot the Government commissioned a public inquiry into the riot headed by Lord Scarman. The subsequent Scarman report was published in November 1981 and found unquestionable evidence of the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of 'stop and search' powers by the police against black people. The report made a number of recommendations and led to a new code for police behaviour in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the creation of an independent Police Complaints Authority in 1985. The 1999 Macpherson Report, an investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, found that recommendations of the 1981 Scarman report had been ignored and concluded that the police force was "institutionally racist".'

When Prince Charles visited the area with Nelson Mandela, the South African president lauded it as "heartland of the anti-apartheid struggle". The visit is still fondly remembered over two decades later. Aubrey Nunes told the Brixton Blog: "That day when Nelson Mandela came to Brixton was the most important day in the history of Brixton. I was an agent between the anti-racist and the anti-apartheid movement in London. I took my kids off school that day, which I’d never done before. It was truly special. Whoever played the national anthem only played the first half – it was a terrible mistake. I feel very proud that Brixton was singled out, it was such an honour. The most famous politician in the world comes to London and chooses Brixton. Brixton had a long, active record of supporting the freedom struggle and that was presumably registered somewhere." In recent times, the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Ebony Horse Club in Brixton in 2013

Embed from Getty Images

After the engagement, it was time for a quick walkabout. The photo below captures a lovely moment. The look on the Police Officer's face perfectly sums up the atmosphere and vibe outside POP Brixton.

The Mail Online reports:

'Sandra Wiltshire told MailOnline: 'It just means so much. In 1900, my grandfather signed the 1900 Uganda Agreement with Queen Victoria. Because of the royal connection we've always felt close to them.' She wept as she held their hands and told Meghan: 'Thank you, thank you for all you've done.' Speaking afterwards, she said: 'I just love Prince Harry. For him to have found someone who he really loves it is amazing. You can feel their love I wish them all the best. Ms Wiltshire ran a shop for 25 years from across Pop Brixton and added: 'I just want to say it was a dream to meet them. I wish them all the best and thank you so much for coming to Brixton.'

Meghan received flowers from locals, she was very much in her element meeting people.

A fantastic photo of a well-wisher taking a snap.

Back to The Telegraph article:

'Speaking outside, after meeting the couple, 62-year-old John Loughrey said: "Meghan came up to me and I told her that I had her favourite flowers [peonies] and she said thank you. "I said congratulations on your engagement and that all the royal fans will be celebrating with you in red, white and blue. I was very touched and surprised that they came over. It was a proud moment for Brixton and we all love them."
She told one member of the public she is "so excited" about her forthcoming wedding to Prince Harry.'

Sky's royal reporter Rhiannon Mills said: "I don't think we've seen anything like this in terms of royal visits for a very long time".

Do you remember Davinna who brought a gorgeous poster and drawing for Harry and Meghan?

You'll be pleased to hear she had the opportunity to give it to the couple. Meghan said "That's so sweet. Thank you sweetie. What's your name". Harry added: "I love that. Did you make that yourself". The video was filmed and kindly shared by fellow Meghan blogger 'Meghan Maven'.

Meghan looked effortlessly stylish in a mix of Canadian and British brands today.

Meghan wore the Smythe Camel Brando Coat (with thanks to Meghan's Fashion). The brushed tweed piece is described as "A tailored SMYTHE coat in a sophisticated midi length. Notched lapels meet at the buttoned placket, and 3 pockets detail the front. Padding structures the shoulders. Back vent. Long sleeves. Lined." The $995 garment is now available for pre-orders.

Meghan's gorgeous black sweater is the £45 Marks & Spencer Autograph Wool Blend Round Neck Bell Sleeve Jumper (with thanks to Meghan's Mirror).

It looks very much like Meghan's belt is the Artizia Babaton Amos style she wore in Nottingham.

What Meghan Wore identified Meghan's shoes as the Sarah Flint Jay Pumps. The $395 black suede pumps feature a distinctive tortoise patent heel. They are also available at FarFetch.

Meghan's trousers are by Burberry.

Meghan's oatmeal scarf is a sold out style from Jigsaw.

Meghan accessorised with her $375 Les Plaisirs De Birks Gold Bar Earrings.

The engagement was without question a resounding success. The reaction from the crowd when Harry and Meghan arrived was incredible; Meghan herself appeared incredibly touched by the support she received. She is already doing so well, and walked in very knowledgeable of the history, work and impact of Reprezent on the community. I thought Meghan's look was perfect for the occasion. When she took off her coat and scarf, her choice of sweater and trousers with stylish heels is a classic Meghan look: professional, sophisticated and very wearable. I enjoyed seeing the mix of well-known British high-street brands with higher end retailers. Richard Palmer reported they stayed 25 minutes longer than planned and the impromptu walkabout was a real treat. As so many on social media have said today, we're very lucky to have Meghan joining the Royal family!

We have one more update before signing off. Meghan has deleted her social media accounts. It's the natural next step as she prepares to officially join the Royal family. Kensington Palace confirmed the news to the BBC, adding Meghan took the decision because "they haven't been used in some time".

Looking forward to Harry and Meghan's next engagement :)

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Royal Wedding: A Tiara for Meghan!

Since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's engagement announcement, I have been so excited to begin a new series of posts covering all aspects related to the big day. Over the next four months, we'll be taking an in-depth look at an array of topics, including the wedding venue, Windsor Castle, the reception, traditions, guests, and the potential titles Her Majesty will bestow upon Harry and Meghan. Of course, we'll be discussing the dress, potential styles and designers and looking at how protocol might affect the selection, too. We'll be asking you to submit your predictions for the overall ensemble. Tonight, we're taking a look at a topic I'm particularly fond of: tiaras.

As royal watchers know, tiara appearances for the British Royal family are few and far between these days. White-tie events such as State dinners and the annual Diplomatic Reception offer the most likely opportunities. The day of the royal wedding will mark the first occasion we see Meghan wearing one; Her Majesty will loan her one which may become her 'signature tiara' after she has married. It's important to take a look back at previous royal brides to get a sense of tradition and what we can expect for Meghan.

PHOTO: The wedding of Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh 1947

When Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, Diana wore her family's 'Spencer Tiara'. Diana continued to borrow it from her father and later her brother throughout her royal life. She favoured it over the Lover's Knot Tiara, loaned to her by the Queen, as she found it headache inducing and terribly heavy to wear. Five years later, Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson. The bride wore a diamond tiara with leafy diamond scrolls. Media reports were abound that it was borrowed from a family friend. In fact, it was purchased by the Queen from jewellers Garrard for her new daughter-in-law. It was to become the one and only diadem Sarah wore during her royal life. It is thought Beatrice or Eugenie may wear it on their wedding day. Sophie's wedding tiara in 1999 caused a bit of a stir leaving royal watchers baffled as to its origins. According to the always insightful Order of Splendor, it is widely believed "the tiara's elements are actually four detachable anthemions from Queen Victoria's regal circlet". Sophie has worn it on numerous occasions since. She also wears a small diamond tiara and an aquamarine tiara. Royal commentators have drawn lines between the wedding tiaras and the marriages associated with them. While neither the Waleses or Yorks had happy endings, Edward and Sophie's marriage has endured the test of time.

In 2011, it was reported Kate wanted to wear flowers in her hair; her hairdresser James Pryce revealed it was the plan initially, however, it changed a couple of months before the royal wedding. Indeed, the late Queen Mother, formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon opted for flowers on her big day. I remember reading the stories at the time and thinking, there's no way the future Queen will not be wearing a tiara; it has become embedded in the tradition of royal weddings.

Kate arrived at Westminster Abbey wearing the elegant Cartier Halo Tiara. The piece was made by Cartier in 1936 and purchased by the Duke of York (later King George VI) for the Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother). It is a striking piece composed of stylised petals, paved with 739 brilliant-cut diamonds and 149 baguette-cut diamonds. The name derives from its halo shape. The tiara served as a 'starter' piece for the Queen, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne and the Duchess of Cambridge. Kate has never worn the piece since, instead sporting the Queen Mother's favourite Lotus Flower tiara and, more recently, Diana's Lover's Knot, which has become Kate's favourite.

When choosing a tiara for Meghan, there are a number of factors to consider and a plethora of options in the jewel vaults. I think we'll either see a seldom worn diadem, which will be used by Meghan for decades to come, or a piece steeped in royal history and symbolism. Considering the latter, Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara springs to mind.

It was created for Queen Mary in 1919 in the Russian style reminiscent of a kokoshnik, which was particularly popular during the first half of the twentieth century. The majority of the diamonds used were taken from a necklace/tiara purchased by Queen Victoria in 1893 from Collingwood & Co as a wedding present for Queen Mary.

In 1936, Queen Mary gave the tiara to the late Queen Mother, from whom it was borrowed by Princess Elizabeth for her wedding in 1947. As Elizabeth was getting dressed at Buckingham Palace before leaving for Westminster Abbey, the tiara snapped. Luckily, the court jeweller was standing by in case of an emergency, and was rushed to his work room by a police escort. Her Majesty wore it occasionally afterwards before loaning it to Princess Anne for her wedding. It's a substantial piece, absolutely sparkling with diamonds. Not only would it look beautiful on Meghan, it would be fitting to see her in the piece chosen by Her Majesty for her own wedding.

A piece widely considered to be a front runner is the more dainty and delicate Strathmore Rose Tiara. The tiara belonged the Queen Mother, who received it as a gift from her father, Lord Strathmore, for her wedding in 1923. The diamond tiara features a garland of roses mounted in silver and gold. Created by jewellers Catchpole & Williams, it was supplied with two alternative frames, one invisible which allows the piece to be worn as a bandeau, the other padded for wear on the head.

The tiara was inherited by Her Majesty the Queen in 2002. Perhaps it's time to take it out of the royal vaults and give it's history a new chapter.

Earlier in the post, we chatted about the possibility of a tiara with little provenance associated with it. A simply beautiful, feminine piece is Marie Feodorovna's Diamond and Sapphire bandeau. Born Princess Dagmar of Denmark (a sister of Queen Alexandra), Marie married Alexander III of Russia and acquired an incredible collection of jewels before her death. Queen Mary collected a number of the pieces, including several sapphires. Below we see, Empress Marie wearing her sapphire parure.

The tiara was left to the Queen Mother who never wore it, however, Princess Margaret was quite fond of it in her youth. It is not known where the piece is today or if it has been disassembled to create brooches. There's a dazzling collection of sapphires in the royal vault. Absolutely dazzling. This simple but effective bandeau could provide the crowning touch for Meghan's wedding look.

If sapphires are on the table, and one is considering a 'go big or go home' approach, take a look at the Queen's Modern Sapphire Tiara. To supplement sapphires given to her by her father, Her Majesty purchased a sapphire necklace that once belonged to Princess Louise of Belgium. The necklace was converted into a tiara and has been worn many times by the Queen since.

Another tiara I simply must mention is the magnificent Vladimir Tiara.

The history of the tiara is a fascinating one. Hugh Roberts wrote in The Queen's Diamonds:

'The magnificent tiara was made for Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, wife of Grand Duke Vladimir and sister-in-law of Emperor Alexander III, by the Russian court jeweller Bolin, apparently at the time of her marriage in 1874. The Grand Duchess's spectacular jewels - considered a close rival to the hose of her sister-in-law, the Empress Maria Feodorovna. During the Russian revolution, the tiara, together with many other of the Grand Duchess's jewels was sunggled out of Russia by her close friend and confidant, Albert Henry Stopford.

Queen Mary certainly had a voracious appetite for all things sparkling, and purchased some of the Grand Duchess's collection including the tiara. It was in a state of disrepair following the journey from Russia, but was brilliantly restored by Garrard. In 1924, Queen Mary had the tiara adapted to take fifteen of the Cambridge Emeralds and use them as an alternative to the pearls. The tiara has been worn with emeralds and pearls by the Queen on numerous occasions throughout her reign.

I very much enjoyed this tiara filled journey through the royal vaults. Which tiara would you like to see Meghan wear? Do you have a favourite that's not listed here? Do you think it's possible we'll see a new tiara? Possibly one created using royal jewels? It will be interesting to see if Meghan wears her hair in an updo or down on the day.

A special word of thanks to Order of Splendor and Hugh Roberts, The Queen's Diamonds. Both incredible resources.