A real royal tour at Provender House

A week ago I was still in England. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t any better than today: quite a lot of rain. Really a pity, as we had planned a visit to Provender House in Norton near Faversham, Kent, in the afternoon. With about 30 people we were to have a guided tour of the house. A friend and I took the train from London to nearby Sittingbourne where somebody picked us up by car.

provender2 provender1Of course we arrived far too early, and because it rained heavily we at first couldn’t even take photos outside. Luckily it stopped raining after a while. Finally inside we all bought some postcards and had our first look around. For the tour the group was divided in two parts. We were very lucky the owner of the house, Princess Olga Romanoff, personally guided the group on the first floor, while her friend Alexandra Campbell guided the group on the ground floor. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take photos inside the house. We were warned beforehand that the house would be quite cold, but I thought it wasn’t that bad.

provender5 provender4 provender3Princess Olga especially turned out to be a very enthusiastic guide and entertained us with amusing stories. She proudly showed us room after room full of beautiful paintings and photos of the family, books and other Romanoff souvenirs. We saw lovely bedrooms, including Olga’s childhood room, bathrooms, and even a library. I wouldn’t have mind taking some of the books with me really. The tour was over far too soon. We all left, but not after having bought some more postcards, and the Princess even signed them. Whether her son, Francis Mathew, really “hide” with the dogs in one of the rooms we didn’t see … In case you missed it, this quite good looking royal descendant once took part in the Ukraine TV-programme “The Bachelor”.

But how did a Romanoff Princess end up in Provender House? The first parts of the house date back to the 14th century. The first owner was Elias de Provender. The house was of course extended in the next centuries. In 1633 the house became in the possession of the British noble family Knatchbull-Hugessen (baronets, nowadays Barons Brabourne). They rented it to the maternal great-grandmother of Princess Olga Romanoff in 1890, and sold it in auction in 1912 to her Finnish-born grandmother Sylvia McDougall née Borgström in 1912. Her daughter Nadine McDougall would married Prince Andrew Romanoff in 1942. Their only daughter Olga was born in 1950 and inherited the house after the death of her mother in 2000. Prince Andrew had been previously married to Donna Elisabetta Ruffo, who had died in 1940, and had one daughter and two sons.

Provender House was extensively restored over the past years with support of English Heritage and Swale Council. It however will costs much more to finish the restoration.

Vikings and Sutton Hoo

Photos and copyright: Netty Leistra

Despite of all my visits to London I had never been in the British Museum. As I thought the present exhibition might be interesting, I decided on Tuesday morning I finally was going to visit the museum. As I didn’t have a pre-ordered ticket for the exhibition, I arrived there soon after the museum had opened its doors (9am). I can tell you now the museum is more than worth a visit, and you could actually spend a whole day there. When you enter the building you already will be surprised to see a huge white and light hall, which is interesting enough to have a look at. You can see it even from a different angel from one of the floors of the museum. Don’t miss the inscription on the top of the “tower” restaurant in the middle of the hall. It says among others “Dedicated to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II AD 2000″.

vikings7 vikings3But of course I came for the present exhibition, “Vikings, life and legend”, opened by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark on 6 March. I was lucky to be allowed in with a group at 10am, leaving me enough time to see it before my departure from London. Already quite a few people interested had arrived to see it, including children. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take photos of the exhibition. On display are lots of artifacts from Viking times coming from Denmark, Norway, Great Britain and other countries: weapons, jewelry, even skeletons, and on the walls beautiful contemporary pictures of places the Vikings have reached. From the Vikingship in Roskilde, Denmark, boat number 6, that was found in the fjord near Roskilde in the late 1990s, was on display. I am not quite sure it was already in the museum in Roskilde when I was there the last time in May 2004. But it remains interesting to see and read about the Vikings. See for more information about the exhibition Vikings, life and legend

vikings2 vikings1I just had enough time left to see some other items in a room on the third floor. The banner “Marvel at the Anglo-Saxons. Sutton Hoo and Europe AD 300-1100″ intrigued me immediately when I arrived at the museum. As most of the museum you can see it for free.

vikings4Landowner Edith Pretty in 1939 asked archaeologist Basil Brown to explore the largest burial mound on her estate at Sutton Hoo, an area where more burial mounds can be found. Some others nearby turned out to be emptied long time ago, but this one turned out to be different. Inside was the imprint of a decayed ship studded with iron rivets, and a central chamber filled with treasures. It has never been revealed who had been buried in the intact burial mound, and the body wasn’t found anymore, but it must have been the final resting place of a very important person, maybe even an Anglo-Saxon king. On display in the British Museum (room 41) are a few items found inside the burial mound, including Mediterranean silver and gorgeous jewelry.

vikings5 vikings6If you´d like to visit yourself, just be sure you have enough time, as there is far more to see in the museum than what I mentioned in this article.

Where the Queen was born

Photos and copyright: Netty Leistra

I just spent some days in and around London. On Monday evening a friend and I were walking through the city, when I suddenly saw a street called Bruton Street. The name sounded familiar to me, so I said, wasn’t the Queen born there? I didn’t remember the number, but wondered if there was any plaque to commemorate the event. We had a quick look in the street, and found the place within minutes. 17 Bruton Street it is! The actual house doesn’t exist anymore, as it was bombed in World War II, the security guy at the door said, but there is a plaque, or actually even two.

queen1The one on top says “This plaque was dedicated in the Silver Jubilee Year of Her Reign – 1977 – to Her Majesty The Queen who was born here on April 21st 1926″.

queen2The one by the City of Westminster below the first one says, as you can probably read “In commemoration of her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Year 2002. On this site at 17 Bruton Street stood the townhouse of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne where Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, later to become Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was born on 21 April 1926″.

Willem II – King of Art

Photos and copyright: Netty Leistra

A week ago I visited the exhibition Willem II – Kunstkoning at the Dordrechts Museum in Dordrecht, The Netherlands. The museum managed to bring back an important part of the special art collection of King Willem II of the Netherlands (1792-1849) in one big exhibition on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The exhibition could already be seen in the Hermitage in St Petersburg, and after Dordrecht will be on display at the Villa Vauban in Luxembourg. On 4 March the exhibition was personally opened by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. It will be open until 15 June 2014.

willemIIiwillemIIaWillem II collected art and in his collection he had paintings and drawings from Italian, French, Spanish, Flemish and Dutch masters, including paintings by Rembrandt and Jan Steen, and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Peter Paul Rubens. He also collected 19th century-art. He showed his collection in the Gothic Hall of his palace at the Kneuterdijk in the Hague. After his death it turned out he had huge debts.Not long before his death he had borrowed one million guilders from his brother-in-law Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, with the collection as pledge. After Willem II’s death his brother Prince Frederik of the Netherlands paid back the debts, but on the condition that the art collection would be sold. The collection was auctioned in 1850, which is why it was pretty well documented, which items were part of his collection. Most of the pieces went to museums and collectors abroad.

willemIIb willemIIe willemIIhWhat delighted me most was that the exhibition in Dordrecht is not only about his collection. Also on display are some bigger and smaller portraits of himself and his wife Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, as well as from other family members. I even came accross a few Habsburgs and a Spanish King. Furthermore the King’s favourite horse, Wexy, which was mounted after his death, can be seen. I loved the court dress of Queen Anna, which even after 150 years or so still looks wonderful.

willemIIc willemIIf willemIIgFor sure you don’t have to be a lover of art to visit this exhibition. If you only love royal history there is already more than enough to see. And if you have time left, I certainly wouldn’t forget to visit the rest of the museum. The museum also has a nice little shop and a café. If you go in a weekend, you should better be in time. Sometimes it is necessary to queue.

The hobby of Pieter van Vollenhoven

Of course also royals have hobbies. Often you will never hear about them, but occasionally something becomes known.

Did you know that Pieter van Vollenhoven, husband of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, loves photographing? Living at Het Loo on the edge of the forest, has its advantages. Over the years Pieter van Vollenhoven has been able to photograph the nature at its best. He loves spending time in the woods observing animals and plants. Photographing is a good way to see even more details of nature, he says.

Some of his work can be seen from 21 March to 18 May 2014 at the Museum Jan van der Togt in Amstelveen, The Netherlands. The photos can be bought too. With his photography Van Vollenhoven supports the “Fonds Slachtofferhulp”, for victims of crimes and accidents. He himself is a founder and president of the foundation.

Of course he is not the only photographing royal. Not seldom you will see royals on photos making photos themselves, even during official engagements. Especially when they are travelling abroad or visit a special occasion they like to have their own souvenir.

2014 Royalty Weekend at Ticehurst

Edited: 8 March 2014

Once again a royalty weekend is being organised in Ticehurst, England. The weekend will be held on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 April 2014 at Ticehurst and Flimwell Church of England Primary School in Ticehurst. If you love meeting other crazy royalty watchers and enjoy a weekend full of lectures and great catering, you’re more than welcome. For more information on whom to contact, just send me a mail or a message, as I just don’t want to place this information online. The closest railway station is Wadhurst, which can be reached by train from Tunbridge Wells (which can be reached from London).  Best is to stay in the area, and if you don’t have a car, always something can be arranged.

This year’s speakers include:
Coryne Hall on They Were Not all Kings – Lesser Known Descendants of Christian IX
Ricardo Mateos Sainz de Medrano on The Infanta Eulalia of Spain
Margreeth Pop-Jansen on Portraits of Royal Children
Helen Rappaport on Four Sisters- the research behind her just released latest book on the daughters of Nicholas II followed by a signing session at Van Hoogstraten’s bookstall
Ian Shapiro on Royal Manuscripts and Letters from Elizabeth I
Katrina Warne on Residences of the Russian Imperial Family
John Wimbles on The Duchess of Edinburgh’s Farewell to England
Charlotte Zeepvat on Maurice of Battenberg

There will also be other royal authors present including Janet Ashton, Bobby Golden and Ilana Miller.

Booksellers van Hoogstraten of the Hague will be in attendance, and there will be a bring and buy Royal Ephemera sale.

Cost: for all lectures, tea, coffee and snacks, two buffet lunches & one evening meal with wine:
£110 for those paying in sterling before Feb 28th 2014
£115  for those paying with Paypal; or sterling later than Feb 28th 2014

How do you manage your royal collection?

I am sure this sounds pretty familiar to lots of other collectors with just limited space in their house. Once in a while I look around in my house and think it is really time to clean up the mess. That moment came again this week. Piles of magazines and other stuff collected in the past two years or so covered part of my bedroom. I try to keep all issues of Vorsten Royale, Royalty, Majesty, European Royal History Journal and Royalty Digest Quarterly. But of course most of the articles in other magazines are not even interesting enough to keep. I just need to cut out all interesting articles from the other magazines and then throw away the rest of the magazines. It is however not something I do regularly. So yes, it was really time to start again. Of course I haven’t finished yet, but at least something is gone already.

But what to do with all the articles and pictures I keep. To be honest, I have put it all in boxes and at least most of it is selected. However I never seem to find the time to really do something with it. I used to make scrapbooks, but it becomes harder and harder to find nice scrapbooks, and due to new regulations glue is too wet nowadays so articles don’t look good anymore in scrapbooks. So for the moment I have given up. And what should I keep and what should I not keep. Surely I am not interested in bad quality paparazzi pictures, neither in pictures of royals in swimwear (or even without it). But it is so hard to decide what is great, nice or just not interesting enough to keep? Even if you have decided you like family photos, jubilees, state visits, births, christenings, weddings and funerals most, there is always something else that looks just too great. And the problem is, I love all kind of royal families, and am not just interested in one of them.

I know people who just scan in everything and keep it on their computers. Not me. I am just too afraid it will get lost somehow. And now I am not even yet talking about overloaded bookshelves :-)

So I’d love to know how other people manage their collections, and what kind of solutions they found …