April 28, 2011

Royal Reminiscing...

Catherine Oxenberg

With husband, actor Casper Van Dien, acting as messenger last night, I asked Catherine if I could share her current blog entry... Casper responded "She says she would be thrilled... but just give her one more hour...she is editing it right now." So naturally, I agreed.

Besides being a talented actress and director, Catherine Oxenberg is the daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia. With the Royal Wedding happening, I wanted to share her blog entry with you as you'll realize immediately with her writing, she's this down-to-earth, real person. I just love her... and you will too.

Shhh... a secret she doesn't know... her grandfather, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia is one of my heroes. The National Museum of Serbia has one of the most revered collections of French paintings with over 250 works having been from the Prince Paul's personal collection.

Like to leave a message on Catherine's blog? Please click here.

She'd love to hear from you but also you should read her past and future entries.

Thanks, Catherine!


My Almost Royal Wedding -
Catherine Oxenberg

"The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (William is my 3rd cousin) is fast approaching and I am reminded of the day, 31 years ago, when I almost became William’s aunt and Princess Diana’s sister-in-law -

Flash back to the night of July 27, 1981 – right before the wedding of William’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. I arrived at Buckingham Palace with my mother, H.R.H Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, to attend a ball in honor of the royal couple. I still remember my dress – It was a knee length, ruby-red taffeta dress, layered ruffles, with a bustier and gold and black swirls – Signature 80’s! Actually, the length was a point of contention, as my mother and I tugged down on the dress to ensure that my knees were covered – but then discovered, to our dismay, that the top became too risqué!

I had never seen such opulence in all my life – Buckingham Palace had been transformed into a royal fantasyland. We were handed a map upon arrival, presumably to prevent us from getting lost in the palatial labyrinth. There were 3 ballrooms, each playing a different style of music – jazz, classical and pop – so that every generation could shimmy to their preferred tempo. Most of the guests danced until the wee hours, and the buffet, which spanned the length of an entire stateroom, morphed from dinner into breakfast.

Every royal imaginable was in attendance. My mother had instructed me since i was little, that as the daughter of a princess, the protocol, according to my standing in the royal pecking order, was that I had only to curtsey to kings and queens – not to princes or princesses. The fewer the better! I hated curtseying and always felt as if I was going to lose my balance. The only royal I made sure to give a wide berth to was Princess Grace of Monaco – she had given me, Prince Andrew and her son, Prince Albert, a stern lecture earlier that night, at a pre-ball dinner held at Claridges’ Hotel, chastising us for our appalling manners – she had caught us throwing bread rolls at each other during dinner. Food fights were a bad habit amongst young members of the upper crust! I must admit that I had enlisted Prince Charles to throw giant Dublin prawns on another occasion!

Prince Charles is my mother’s 2nd cousin, and they maintain a close friendship. Just to give you an idea how convoluted royal lineages are – Charles’ great-grandfather, King George of Greece was my great-great grandfather. Queen Alexandra of England was my great-great-great aunt and Charles’ great-great grandmother. Charles’ father, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh was my grandmother, H.R.H Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark’s 1st cousin, and, King George VI’s (Charles’ grandfather) younger brother Georgie, the Duke of Kent (both brothers had the same name – confusing?!) was married to my grandmother’s sister, Princess Marina – are you still with me?!! but I had never met Lady Diana before.

Charles took me by the hand and brought me over to meet her. She was standing alone, in the corner of the ‘pop’ ballroom – Duran Duran was blaring over the sound system– probably a first for that room! I will always remember the giant disco ball spinning drunkenly from the middle of the ceiling, in lieu of a chandelier. The strobe lights magnified the iridescent shimmer of her clingy, sequined gown. She was statuesque and I had never seen any royal dress with that kind of slinky style! Diana and I shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, but she seemed nervous and distracted. Her eyes betrayed something that surprised me – this was not the look of a princess convinced her future held a fairytale ending.

Later that evening, I stepped out onto the balcony – the famous balcony that we always see the Queen waving from – with Prince Andrew – I neglected to mention that Prince Andrew had been courting me, filling my hotel room at Claridges’ with boxes of dozens of bouquets of long stemmed roses.

It was a beautiful evening, and from our vantage point, we could see the hundreds of thousands of jubilant well-wishers, celebrating this historic event. Andrew gently took my hand in his and gazed into my eyes.

Why hadn’t I anticipated this? I don’t know, but he caught me completely by surprise. And whenever I’m nervous, or caught off guard, I resort to giggling and/or glib humor. I flipped his hand over and started reading his palm. I told him he had long life, a good heart, and absolutely no brains whatsoever. He laughed whole-heartedly, and undeterred, he proceeded to propose to me.

“Would you be interested in marrying me or would you prefer to be an actress?”

Without hesitation, I said to him, “quite honestly Andrew, I’d really rather prefer to be an actress.”

I was 18 years old at the time, 3 months younger than Diana to the day. I had just graduated from high school and had decided to defer for a year from Harvard University to pursue acting and modeling in NYC.

Prince Andrew didn’t seem too distraught by my refusal, in fact, he seemed to sympathize, and we danced on into the early morning. He continued to correspond with me after that, once sending me a letter written on toilet paper while he was stationed in The Falkland Islands. I have been asked, “why toilet paper?” And I guess the answer might have to do with where he was inspired to write to me from! (joke!) I felt sorry for anyone who had to use that paper for that which it was intended for – It looked more like parchment paper and was probably better suited for writing than wiping anyways!

Exactly a year later, I was in NYC pursuing my dream. My 2nd audition happened to be for the role of Princess Diana in the CBS TV movie, “The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana”. The producers weren’t aware of my relationship to the British royal family, but my look was similar and I had a great British accent. As unskilled and relatively untrained as I was, I miraculously gave a great audition, and I remember the precise moment that the reading came alive. I could see out of the corner of my eye, the producer and the casting director looking at each other with the expression of “we’ve found her.” I got a call almost immediately after the audition telling me that I had the offer. It was my first acting role and I was ecstatic.

However, the thrill of success dissipated, when my mother told me that she was extremely anxious that I would be ostracized by my royal cousins. I received a severe reprimand in the form of a letter, from the King of Greece, who felt that it was disrespectful for me to impersonate Diana. Panic set in. My mother kindly called Prince Charles and told him that I had been hired to play his wife. His gracious response was, “well, they are going to make the film anyway, at least she can bring dignity to the role.” I was so relieved. It was as close to a blessing as I could have hoped for.

Accepting this first role as an actress signaled a major crossroad in my life and closed the doors on palace life. And it would eventually strike me as ironic, that if I wasn’t going to be a princess, I would be impersonating one on screen! And more than once!

As I looked back at that moment over the years, I was always shocked that my response was so immediate. Granted, I knew how hard life in the royal fish bowl was – as did Andrew- which is why he gallantly gave me an out – but why didn’t I even take a minute to mull over his proposal?

It took me years to uncover a deeper, darker explanation – I had been molested as a child by a royal prince. That made so much sense – of course I would react like that! The last thing in the world I would want – would be to marry a prince, after all, the belief embedded in my subconscious was that a prince = perpetrator.

As I peeled away the layers of my psyche, I was amazed to discover how certain childhood events would have so much power in shaping life-changing decisions that I would make as an adult.

It took my current husband to point out another reason I should not have married Andrew – we were 2nd cousins – even if it was once removed! A fact that escaped both me and cousin Andrew!

And truth be told, I did end up marrying a prince – one that came with a loincloth rather than a crown!

This evening was indelibly etched in my memory forever. Not only was it a historic event for 100′s of millions around the world, but for me personally, it held some rather extraordinary details which would be hard for anyone to forget."

To see Catherine's blog directly, please click here.

April 27, 2011

Good Things Come in Small Royal Packages...

In St. Louis we laugh about the local news reporters as they always have to make some connection to St. Louis with any sort of major news item no matter how shaky or insignificant the relationship is. However, as my friends gasp, I'm going to do the same in this entry...

I live six blocks from the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) which was founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw. What people don't realize is that Mr. Shaw worked directly with the director and other botanists at the Kew Gardens in England to help create his vision known now as the MBG. Ranked in order, the Kew and our MBG is #1 and #2 in the world... So naturally I feel St. Louis has such a connection with Kew Gardens and owe it's founders thanks for our treasure here.

If you don't know Kew Gardens it holds the largest collection of plants in the world and is noted as the single most important botanical collection known. But what might be missed is a little known treasure on it's grounds, the Kew Palace.

Although there were four structures known as the Kew Place, the one that we know of today was actually built in 1631 for Samuel Fortrey, a French-born Flemish merchant and then later acquired by the royal family. It's the last remaining structure of a complex of buildings that made up the royal compound. It later was the place that Queen Charlotte died unexpectedly after leaving Buckingham palace going there for a rest not feeling well. The house was set up for public display during the end of Queen Victoria's reign as she wanted it to look just as her grandmother had left it...

The smallest of all the Royal Palaces of England, I thought I'd share it's Dutch architecture and refined details with you. (the Palace went through a major renovation in 2005-6).

For further reading, here are two fact sheets from the Royal Historic Palaces website:
Interior furnishings of Kew click here. History of Kew Palace click here.

Please enjoy as I did while researching this wonderful, intimate place which was the favorite home of King George III and Queen Charlotte and their family.

18th c. brass door locks. It bears the Royal cipher of
Frederick, the Prince of Wales.

Drawing room.

George III library.

Engraving showing the Kew Palace from the Thames River.

The plaster ceilings were restored in 2005.

Vintage photograph showing interior.

Queen Charlotte's bedroom.

Imagine playing on this period harpsichord.

April 26, 2011

Royal Appointment...

Me and Earl Spencer.

Union Jack bunting, wedding souveniers donning the portraits of the lucky couple, tabloid explosions... It’s not a secret that we’re approaching another Royal Wedding.

So I thought it fitting to create a few postings associated with the Royal Couple.

Althorp was the childhood home of Princess Diana and the current Earl Spencer. It sits on 14,000 acres of beautiful countryside in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Norfolk.

The interiors show a 500-year compilation of art, furniture and case goods that are now being reproduced by the manufacturer Theodore Alexander. (the proceeds go to the renovation and maintenance of the home.)


Althorp entrance.

Drawing Room.

Dining Room.

King William Bedroom.

Great Room.


Oak Bedroom.


Alternate View of Library.

April 11, 2011

Spring Entertaining...

© Susan Jackson Photography.

Spring is here and it brings to mind having lunch or an afternoon coffee with some of my great friends laughing and enjoying the cool weather. As I was going through some computer files in some electronic archaeological dig, I unearthed these wonderful photos my photographer friend Susan Jackson took a several years ago when we collaborated on a project. This was my first time doing food styling! Susan is just one of my favorite people and we started our own respective businesses years ago in and around the same time... so when we're together it's as if a brother and a sister are together laughing and having fun.

To prove all you need is a keen eye for design, all the items you see are from Goodwill. No, I'm not kidding... The most expensive item was the silver plate teapot at around $12. All the Goodwill stores were searched out, no one store had every item... it was a job!

I hope this inspires you to search the back of those cabinets, flea markets and even those charity resale shops that help benefit others in need.

Please note: All photos are copyrighted, Susan Jackson Photography.

Wine glasses, silver and dinnerware....
so nice.. I'm ready to eat now!

A pressed glass bowl provides just the right look
for the shabby chic table and the gorgeous cut flowers.

This is a tea party I want to go to.

This is actually a glass candle holder.
Think outside the box, this was the right size for
pistachios and a little garnish of glitz.

There were no marks on this creamware.
But it's the perfect container for these blackberries.

This is a silver plated butter dish. The top missing,
it makes the perfect presentation for jam or condiments.

This silver plated chafing dish was $7.
(the word chafing comes from the Old French chauffer, "to make warm" )

Anything but cheesy, I'm ready to fill my plate.

The lace was found on a shelf under some sweaters.

Pewter and silver DO go together. This unmatched set
is perfect for guests wanting a bit of a healthy nosh.

Taking a 'stand' for design, this silver plate number
is perfect for small confections, or in this case, nuts.

A white resin mirror makes the perfect tray for this
elegant silver coffee pot. One lump or two?
(or in this case, one packet or two?)

Strawberries displayed beautifully in this pierced
open work, footed container.

Shabby chic means nothing needs to match.
These two napkins don vintage broaches.

This couldn't 'bee' any better!