Friday, September 26, 2014

Royally Speaking with Team Luxarazzi

Don't worry, our Royally Speaking series isn't over yet as we still have a few interviews in the pipeline, which we will continue to publish over the coming weeks, and who knows, maybe there will also be an occasional Royally Speaking in the future after that. However, we thought it might be a fun idea for you to interview us (because interviewing yourself doesn't sound quite as exciting). So send us your questions on Twitter @Luxarazzi, on Facebook or via e-mail (lux-arazzi at gmail dot com), we will answer (almost) everything.

To kick things off, I asked all those who have contributed to our blog more than once during the past few weeks and months, to each give an answer to the question all of our Royally Speaking interviews have in common - "If you could invite six royals (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would find an invitation in their mailbox..." - and added a little extra bit, "...and where would you like your dinner to take place?" (And of course I'll also answer it first up.)

Svenja (a.k.a. Sydney)
First of all I’d like to apologise for asking this question in the first place as I now understand how incredibly difficult it is to just name six people in royal history and present you would like to have dinner with. However, here’s my list:
I wouldn’t be Luxarazzi without inviting someone Luxembourgish and after some consideration – mostly between Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide and Grand Duchess Charlotte – I decided to go with Prince Felix instead as rather little is known about him and I would like to hear his stories about being one of the 24 children of Duke Robert of Parma, a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army, a man marrying a female head of state during an era when even equal rights of men and women were still far away, the family during the Second World War and so on.
Catherine the Great
My second invitation would go to Catherine the Great. I don’t know as much about Romanov history as I would like to but I certainly find her to be the most interesting family member. Her rise from a princess of a minor German princely family (Anhalt-Zerbst) to Tsarina of All the Russias is simply fascinating. 
Number three on my list would be Electress Sophie of Hanover for the simple reason that she was the first historical royal I ever got interested in. She was a woman of great intellect and curiosity who was friends with German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who greatly shaped the region of southern Lower Saxony where I am originally from. 
Invitation number four would go to Otto von Habsburg, who lived an incredibly interesting life spanning almost a 100 years of European history that he was very much part of. Born as the first son of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor and thus Crown Prince two years before the beginning of the First World War, he fought both Nazism and Communism and was a keen supporter of the European idea and European integration. 
I would also like to invite Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, uncle of the current King and former Crown Prince and a man of great intellect who has dedicated his life to inter-faith communication and cooperation as well as several humanitarian projects. Also, I would like to hear what really went on within in Jordanian royal family around the time of the death of King Hussein if His Royal Highness cared to share. 
Charlotte & Felix
In the end, I decided to go with yet another Luxembourgish guest for my last invitation, Grand Duchess Charlotte. I considered inviting someone from Liechtenstein - maybe Prince Johann II (though he was unsociable and I'm not sure how much fun he would be to hang out with) or Princess Gina (who certainly was much more sociable) - but in the end the chance to meet Madame la Grand-Duchesse was simply too hard to pass up on.
The choice of venue for my dinner is just as hard to chose as the people who would get in invitation. As I couldn't decide between my favourite European castles and palaces and as I wanted it to be something new (hopefully, as I don't know all places they've been to in the past) and exciting for all guests, I decided to go for the Umaid Bhawan Palace, home of the Majaraja of Jodhpur, which I believe features an interesting mixture of Western and Eastern as well as old and new styles.

Nichole (a.k.a. Carolina)
My first choice would have to be Empress Theodora of Byzantium (wife of Justinian I). This may not come as a shock to the readers who know that both Svenja and I are passionate about history but others may be puzzled by my desire to include this ancient royal figure in the guest list for my royal fantasy dinner. I am fascinated by the empress' rise from the lowest and possibly most degenerate parts of society to the beloved wife of the Emperor. I can think of many women who, like Theodora, worked as an actress in a time when performing rowdy acts on stage was merely the day job of women who were expected to provide sexual entertainment for those who could supply money, gifts or favor after the show. Certainly, she is not the first actress-prostitute to catch the eye of a powerful royal, nor the last. Although, she had left this life behind by the time she wed the emperor it is an important part of her history. Tragically, some historians argue that she even served as a child prostitute in brothels serving the lowest of low clients. She may be a controversial figure but she is no less extraordinary. 
Princess Grace
My next choice would be Monaco's second American consort, Princess Grace of Monaco. While I don't view her through rose glasses assuming she was the perfect princess I do admire her. 
My third invitation would go to Catherine the Great. Her rise from minor German princess to Russian empress and autocrat is an important part of history. She was a formidable woman. Her life and the choices she made are still influencing the world today. She would make a fascinating guest. 
As Svenja says, this wouldn't be Luxarazzi without Luxembourgish guests. I could not pass up the chance to dine with the mysterious and maligned Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide. I have a soft spot since she has been tarred with grossly inaccurate histories that portray her as a villainess. 
My last choices are difficult and I find it impossible to settle on just two additional guests. I would have to invite Prince El Hassan of Jordan because he is an incredibly intelligent man who has dedicated his life to interfaith cooperation. 
I would also love to have the chance to talk to Prince Felix about his youth and his role as consort, advisor, father, and soldier during a pivotal time in the history of Luxembourg and the world. 
It is nearly as difficult to select a location to host such esteemed figures as to select them. With so many palaces, castles and monuments that overwhelm with their beauty and history the choices are overwhelming. Since I love Christmas and because I would like to share some of my region with these regal guests I would have the dinner at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. The largest private home in the US, it is magnificently decorated for Christmas each year and set in fabulous grounds with stunning views. I think that even guests known for their grand homes would feel comfortable dining at Biltmore.

Bonnie (a.k.a. B)
Elizabeth Feodorovna
I suspect my choices will be pretty unusual, but I had to make a list based on what really interested me. All of my "guests" come from the past, some further back than others. My own background is as a medieval scholar, so I dug pretty deep into history for some of these: Richard III of England (since I'd like to hear his side of the story), Macbeth (to separate the real man from Shakespeare's character), and if I'm allowed one wild card it would be Henry I of England's illegitimate son Robert Fitzroy who became the 1st earl of Gloucester. His career trajectory in the ensuing conflict between Stephen and Maud, with Robert probably being the best choice overall, is fascinating to me. As for women, I've selected some that I think balance out the rather medieval intensity of the men: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia (who became a saint; I'm Orthodox, and I like the idea of at least one saint at the table!); Agatha, the wife of Edward the Exile (so she can clear up for historians what her origins really were; she also happens to be my ancestor); and Princess Olga of Kiev (just a fascinating lady all around and another of my ancestors). As for location, I'm choosing Culzean Castle in Scotland for sheer beauty and because it seems like it would fit the rather dramatic personalities of several of the guests.

Kim-Lisa (a.k.a. Luxfan)
Archduchess Elisabeth
If I could invite six royals to a dinner party I would invite Empress Augusta (wife of German Emperor Wilhelm I.) because I would like to know more about her life at the so called “Musenhof” at Weimar where she met Goethe and because she lived several years in my hometown and influenced it a lot. I would also invite Queen Friederike of Hanover (sister of Queen Luise of Prussia) to learn more about her ‘scandalous’ life with three husbands as well as her relationship to her sister Luise. Number three on my list is Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria (the daughter of Archduke Rudolf) who became a socialist in her later life and broke up with her royal ancestors. The next person on my list is the Duke of Edinburgh, just because I think he has such an interesting life with Queen Elizabeth on his side as well as you can have a good laugh with him. I would also invite King Ludwig II of Bavaria, only because I love his castles so much and his death was such a tragedy. Last but not least I would choose King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan, because he is the youngest of all monarchs right now and his country seems to be one of the most beautiful ones in the world. My dinner would take place at Stolzenfels Castle, a very beautiful 19th century palace in Gothic Revival style in my hometown Koblenz.

Prince Leopold
I'd choose Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany to talk about living with his haemophilia illness and what that eventually meant to his family and the rest of Europe; Princess Marie d'Orleans (wife of Prince Valdemar of Denmark) to talk about her political views and overall very unconventional life; Queen Isabella I of Spain to talk about the enormous changes she and Ferdinand brought to Spain, particularly in finances and the re-conquering of the country; Grand Duchess Charlotte, particularly to talk about the 1919 referendum and the difficulties faced by Luxembourg during World War II; and King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to hear his feelings on the abdication, war secrets, and his thoughts on the break up of the British Empire. We'd meet at Schloss Friedrichshof in Kronberg im Taunus because I like the story behind the construction of the house. 

So, which of our choices are you most interested in meeting or is it someone else entirely? Drop us your list of people you would like to invite in the comments below and don't forget to send us those questions you have always wanted to ask!

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