“Your Majesty, Dinner is Served” – Part II: European Royal Families, Royal Banquets & Ten Royal Recipes

Written by Pandora’s Box [my old writing alter-ego]
Tuesday, 30 November 2004

This week, we will continue looking at royal culinary preferences but will broaden the focus to include some other royal families, such as the current Danish royals and the Romanovs. We’ll also examine royal banquets which have changed substantially over time, at least in terms of food, if not in terms of protocol. At the end of the column, an addendum will list ten royal recipes for you to try. As always, I hope to hear from any readers who have ventured into the kitchen with the recipe in hand.

THE WINDSORS

The Recent Decades

Dinner at Buckingham Palace, which was such an integral part of last week’s column, only goes up to 1965 but other royal chefs have come forward since that time to provide an inside peek into the British royals’ eating preferences. TV chef Gary Rhodes spoke on a show called “All the Queen’s Cooks” about his time at Buckingham Palace. According to Rhodes and the program,

The Queen apparently favours plain food, such as lamb cutlets or roast beef, with bread-and-butter pudding or ice-cream to follow. All the Queen’s Cooks claims that the Queen dislikes spicy food and tomato pips, which are said to get stuck in her teeth.

Taking afternoon tea – which consists of scones, potted shrimps, thin cucumber sandwiches without the crusts and a special royal blend of tea – is one of the Queen’s favourite pastimes.

The programme says the Queen takes tea strong with a few drops of milk, and, as an aperitif, she likes a dry martini, stirred not shaken, and finished with a twist of lemon.

Rhiannon Edward, “Martinis and cuppas – the Queen’s delights revealed,” The Scotsman (August 3, 2004), at http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=642&id=888352004

The Queen’s eating preferences caused a slight international fuss back in 2000 when she was visiting Rome and the Vatican. As a general rule, the Queen’s household always warns foreign hosts of “the royal likes and dislikes. The requirements – which typically ban mauve flowers, duvets and foreign mineral waters – provide a rare insight into Her Majesty’s tastes.” See, “Right Royal Requirements,” BBC (October 10, 2002) at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/965079.stm

I have no idea why the Queen dislikes mauve flowers or duvets but it’s quite easy to understand her issues with other items. At the time of the Italian visit, the Palace reportedly sent orders that nothing with garlic was to be included on the menu. In fact, the kitchens of Rome’s Quirinale Palace, where the Queen was to stay for two nights, were allegedly “informed that Her Majesty will not tolerate ‘long pastas’ such as spaghetti, ‘messy’ tomato sauces or blackberries and raspberries.” See, “Cooking for the Queen: The unique demands of a royal palate,” http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/10/10/queens.dinner/

The Italian papers got hold of the request and had a field day:

Il Messaggero reported that “her majesty’s antipathy for ‘boorish’ garlic and onion is well known and detected a symmetry with the rightwing opposition leader, Silvio Berlusconi, who also apparently hates “these plebeian, intrusive breath problems.’ The newspaper’s culinary expert, Giacomo A Dente, also reported that the palace wanted spaghetti and other long pastas kept off the menu -because of the danger of undesirable splashes of sauce- as well as all forms of seafood, strawberries and wild berries: ‘those berries so dear to the majority of the Queen’s subjects’.

See, “Italians feast on royal fear of garlic,” The Guardian, (October 11, 2000) at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/monarchy/story/0,2763,380437,00.html

Other papers followed suit with equally hyperbolic claims. Buckingham Palace was forced to respond with the common-sense statement that Her Majesty was merely considering others: “If you are going to be meeting people you don’t want to be breathing garlic fumes over them.” Id.

There are practical considerations involved as well. The royal entourage likes progress to run smoothly, “free from the disruptions of gastronomic indisposition.” See, “Right Royal Requirements,” supra. Hence the ban on shellfish, rare meat, foreign water and any food that is too spicy or exotic. “Yet the Queen is not averse to trying out new taste sensations. On a visit to China in 1986, she ate slimy sea cucumber – although suitably bland for the royal palate, it is a delicacy that requires a dab hand with chopsticks.” Id.

If the Queen is willing to try a slimy sea cucumber, I think it’s clear that her issues with something as simple as garlic stem from thoughtfulness. As royal watchers and commentators have often noted, the Queen is always sensitive to other people’s situations.

For example, she’s very different from her royal ancestor, Queen Victoria, who ate at lightening fast speed and, as a result, ended meals before some people had really begun. “This was bad luck if you were her dining companion as protocol dictated that the plates for each course be cleared as soon as Her Majesty’s palate was sated. As William Gladstone, the Liberal prime minister, chewed each mouthful 32 times, he often left the royal table famished.” Caroline Davies, “Royal kitchen tours offer a taste of the past,” The Telegraph (30/9/2003) at http://babyurl.com/JtR3uN. In fact, Victoria ate so fast that more than one aristocrat who frequented her court ate dinner ahead of time because, otherwise, there was simply no chance to have enough sustenance to withstand the long hours of ceremony.

In that sense, Victoria was a lot like Napoleon who drove his Imperial Court to distraction with his hasty manners. Napoleon loved to eat with his fingers, but most of all, he loved to eat quickly. Like Queen Victoria, Napoleon had little interest in food and would practically inhale his meals in a few minutes. He was so extreme that Empress Josephine would insist that the royal meal continue long after Napoleon had gulped down his food and left, even though – technically – the meal was supposed to be over once the Emperor finished.

In contrast to both Queen Victoria and Emperor Napoleon, the current Queen is known for playing about with bits of food on her plate for hours so that everyone has a chance to finish. She also prefers small portions, unlike her predecessor and namesake Elizabeth I, “who would use a peacock feather to make herself vomit between courses so as to create space for more food.” See, “Cooking for the Queen: The unique demands of a royal palate,” http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/10/10/queens.dinner/

In terms of drink, the Queen tends to stick to a glass or two of wine, and mineral water, of which she will only drink Malvern Water (she always takes a supply of it with her whenever she travels). Id. One of her favorite wines seems to be Brunello di Montalcino. See, “Italians feast,” supra, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/monarchy/story/0,2763,380437,00.html. The vineyard produced extremely earthy and smoky wines. If the name means nothing, then think of the richest, earthy, peaty and leathery wines from such comparable varietals like Cote du Rhone, Petit Syrah, Shiraz, or even a powerful, high burn, Zinfandel.

Other than a few select wines, Her Majesty also likes a martini, although it’s unclear if she prefers it made with gin (like the Queen Mother) or vodka. In contrast, Prince Philip prefers a tanker of lager beer or a gin-and-tonic. Dinner at Buckingham Palace, (Ed. Paul Fishman & Fiorella Busoni, Metro Publishing 2003), at p. 31. Neither one seems to be too fond of champagne. Id.

Royal Coronations

The differences between various British monarchs can be seen in the food chosen for their coronation banquets, as well as that served at street parties marking the occasion.

When the Prince Regent ascended the throne as George IV in 1820, the banquet was incredibly elaborate.The new King absolutely adored food and, at this point, was said to weigh more than 23 stone or over 320 pounds. For just one of his banquets as Prince Regent, he had the famous chef Carême serve over a 100 dishes in 36 courses. His coronation banquet was equally extravagant:

The Coronation Banquet for three hundred guests at Westminster Hall was served by a procession of household Officials and Gentlemen Pensioners. Some of the dishes served were: soups including turtle, salmon, turbot, and trout, venison and veal, mutton and beef, braised ham and savoury pies, daubed geese and braised capon, lobster and crayfish, cold roast fowl and cold lamb, potatoes, peas and cauliflower. There were mounted pastries, dishes of jellies and creams, over a thousand side dishes, nearly five hundred sauce boats brimming with lobster sauce, butter sauce and mint. The peers and bishops having had nothing to eat since breakfast turned to their plates with relish. The guest’s wives and children could only look on from the galleries built for the occasion. One peer at least tied a capon in his handkerchief and tossed it up to his famished family. http://www.georgianindex.net/coronation/Coronation-GeorgeIV.html

In total, there were 20 first courses, 22 main courses and 31 desserts. http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page2227.asp And, of course, the thousand side dishes!

When William IV succeeded George IV to the throne, things changed drastically. The court returned to the simple, very Germanic style of George III. Extravagance was rejected, and so too was fancy French cooking. In fact, Queen Adelaide dismissed all the French chefs and instituted “more homely English cooking. Lord Dudley, a guest of both Kings at the Pavilion, complained that with Queen Adelaide as host ‘you now get cold pâté and hot champagne’.” http://tinyurl.com/69kd6

When Edward VII ascended the throne in 1902, the Boer War had just ended and the country was in the mood to celebrate. More than 450,000 people were fed in the streets on Coronation day, possibly with “Carbonadde Flamande” which was a dish of stewing steak, onions, and beer in a butter sauce. The Coronation Cookbook, (April 24, 2002) BBC, athttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast/1947639.stm

At the coronation banquet, however, it was French food all the way. As we saw last week, Edward VII loved good food and he had a special fondness for sophisticated foreign dishes. At his banquet, the menu consisted of “Jambon D’espagne a la basque (Spanish ham) and Fillet de Truites a la Russe, trout with caviar in a hollandaise sauce.” Id.

When George V ascended the throne, “the Street parties of 1910 were of the ‘cold meat tea’ variety but many of the dishes then are still enjoyed today – boiled bacon, pickled onions, bakewell tarts.” Id. There was also banana jelly, iced buns and blancmange. Id. The one thing all these dishes have in common is that they are simple, basic British fare and, in that sense, they are symbolic of the King’s personal style and preferences.

Just as George V avoided fancy French dishes so too did King George VI. At his coronation banquet in 1937, his love of British fare shines through: rather than Spanish ham or Russian style trout with caviar, there was simple Scottish Salmon, followed by chicken in a rather plain sauce. Id.

The Queen’s Coronation

Queen Elizabeth had two banquets for her coronation but both were very simple. Rationing was still in effect in Britain but, equally important, the Queen liked simple food. Scottish salmon was once again featured on the menu, but the main course was grilled steaks, albeit steaks garnished with quarters of artichoke hearts tossed in butter with cocotte potatoes and slices of truffle. There was also a simple soufflé named after Princess Anne but not much more. Id. There certainly wasn’t the vast number of dishes featured at one of King Edward VII’s average dinners. And the Royal Family was obviously galaxies away from the extravagance of the Prince Regent.

The public or street parties celebrating the Queen’s ascension must have been quite something. According to the Royal Family’s official website, “[t]he Ministry of Food granted 82 applications for people to roast oxen, if they could prove that by tradition, an ox had been roasted at previous Coronations – a welcome concession in a country where the meat ration was two shillings a week.” http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page2333.asp

Oxen notwithstanding, most people probably ate the now famous Coronation Chicken — chicken with an apricot mayonnaise sauce featuring a hint of curry. The dish is usually attributed to Constance Spry, an English flower arranger and cookery author who also advised the Ministry of Works on floral decorations for the Coronation. “Popular lore has it that Spry hijacked the recipe from its similarly rich’n’spicy royal relation, jubilee chicken, prepared for the silver jubilee of George V in 1935, which mixed the chicken in mayonnaise and curry.” Jim Gilchrist, “Another Thing; Coronation Special,” The Scotsman (2/6/2003) at http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=885&id=612742003

In reality, however, it seems Rosemary Hume of the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in London was behind the recipe which went on to appear in the famous Constance Spry Cookery Book of 1956. Id. It is thought Hume drew on a recipe by 19th-century cookery guru Mrs. de Salis, of chicken with curry powder and apricot butter. Id.

Whomever invented the dish, it has now become an ubiquitous part of the British culinary scene, and can be found everywhere from society weddings to the corner sandwich shop. Id. A copy of very simple recipe can be found at the end of the column, although you might want to consider the words of one commentator: “Numerous upstarts over the years have included almonds, raisins and crème fraîche, while one current version has chicken breasts tossed in Kerala aioli. Others lace it with saffron and the odd subversive red chilli. Upending a jar of salad cream over your fragmented fowl and stirring in curry powder just isn’t on.” Id.

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002 were meticulously planned out and the food was no exception. In fact, Her Majesty personally chose the dish that would become known as Golden Jubilee chicken. The recipe was the result of a competition for chefs from all the Royal palaces. “The chefs were challenged to come up with a dish that could be cooked in large quantity, eaten cold with a salad and appeal to as many differing palates as possible. The initial entry of ten was whittled down to a final two, which were tasted personally by The Queen. She chose the dish cooked by Head Chef Lionel Mann as the eventual winner.” http://www.tiscali.co.uk/events/2002/goldenjubilee/features/cchicken_goldenjubilee.html

The Queen’s choice was a dish of cold chicken with a fresh, tangy dressing made from crème fraîche, ginger and lime. A copy of the recipe can be found at the end of the column.

Jubilee Chicken became the centerpiece of the food catered to the public for the concerts at BuckinghamPalace. Each ticket holders was given a hamper which included everything needed for a three-course meal, including a plastic champagne flute. Id. The starter was a smoked salmon wrap. The main course was Chicken Jubilee with a pasta salad. It was followed by strawberries and cream. But there was more.

Each hamper also contained half a bottle of Lanson champagne, a bottle of mineral water, Walkers shortbread, and Duchy Originals biscuits made from organic wheat and oats grown mainly on the Prince of Wales’ Home Farm at Highgrove. Cadbury’s provided squares of chocolate and a miniature book of coronation photos. Id.

THE DUTCH, NORWEGIAN AND DANISH ROYAL FAMILIES

Information on the culinary preferences of other, modern royals families is hard to find. One reason is that the press in many European countries is far less intrusive than the British media. Another reason is that many European monarchs seem to be much more indifferent about what they are served.

For example, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands rarely makes food requests when traveling abroad:

“She tends to keep her likes and dislikes to herself,” says Hans Kamp, of the Royal Netherlands Court, “Although I honestly can’t think of any type of food she doesn’t like. We generally leave it to the country she is visiting to decide what food they are going to serve.”

“Cooking for the Queen,”” supra, at http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/10/10/queens.dinner/

The same goes for King Harald of Norway. According to a spokesman from the Norwegian embassy, the Norwegian royals “basically … eat what they get.” Id.

Back home, however, it would appear that the King prefers Norwegian dishes with a slight French twist. Take for example, the menu for the banquet before Crown Prince Haakon’s wedding: “The dinner menu had a classic Norwegian theme, and reflected the coming autumn season. An appetizer of trout roulade with ocean crayfish and herbs was followed by the main course – roast filet of veal with forest mushrooms, baby carrots, spinach and sugar peas served with a mille feuille of peppers, squash and chévre. The feast was topped off with a dessert of wild strawberries marinated in white wine syrup and a vanilla-praline parfait.” http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article183181.ece

The French influence is probably most pronounced at the Danish court. Queen Margrethe’s consort, Prince Henrik, is French and very knowledgeable about culinary matters. According to the Master of the Royal Household, he’s “got a real knack for food and wine.” http://www.cphpost.dk/get/77882.html Thus, when Crown Prince Frederik married Mary Donaldson earlier this year, it was Prince Henrik who decided what was going to be on the banquet menu. The dishes were Danish in origin but the French influence and style is evident, as the following menu should make clear:

Timbale of Shellfish from the Nordic Seas
Sea Urchin Sauce
*
Roast Venison from the Royal Forests
Rissole Potatoes from Samsø
Peas à la Parisienne
Sauté Mushroom and Morel Sauce
*
Vol-Au-Vent Perfect Union
White Danish Asparagus and Bornholm Chicken with a Sprinkling of Apple Cider
*
White Chocolate Délice
Crown Prince and Crown Princess

http://kongehuset.dk/artikel.php?id=61127

Prince Henrik’s involvement in the Royal Family’s culinary preferences extends beyond just his son’s wedding banquet. Due to his gastronomic expertise, it is said that the Prince Consort, not the Queen, decides what will be served at the family’s dinner table. He is provided with a selection of menus and makes the final determination. Prince Henrik also plays a role in the choice of wines. He owns his own vineyard in the famous Cahors region of France and his wines are featured heavily at royal banquets and the general dinner table.

THE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL FAMILY

One of Catherine the Great’s favorite things to eat was “Sturgeon & Champagne Soup.” There is an amusing story associated with this extremely expensive and elegant dish which required a whole fillet of sturgeon per person.

According to legend, the Empress had planned a visit to one of her lovers, Count Potemkin, at a time when no sturgeon was to be found in all of Moscow. Potemkin was in a panic because he knew of the Empress’ passion for the soup, but he was not one to give up easily. He found a cunning fishmonger who somehow managed to provide him with enough fish for the recipe. But it cost Potemkin dearly. To pay for it, he had to give up a painting which he’d recently purchased for 10,000 rubles. Darra Goldstein, “À la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality,” (Random House 1983).

The original recipe may be too expensive for most people to make today but an affordable version is possible if you replace sturgeon with another white fish. For those who are interested, a copy of the recipe can be found at the end of the column.

Catherine the Great’s favorite soup is extremely revealing. Its extravagant sophistication can be seen as a symbol for her entire reign. The royal court under Catherine was extremely sophisticated and French in orientation; money was not an object and appearance was everything. Following Catherine’s lead, every noble family who could afford one had a French chef. Food costs at imperial balls were of no concern, family fortunes would be squandered on a single feast, and tables literally buckled from the weight of their splendor.

Subsequent tsars continued the trend. The royal court was obsessed with following the French style in all matters of fashion, decor and food. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Tsar Alexander I hired Antonin Carême from the Prince Regent. Carême was probably one of the most important master chefs ever to live, the creator of French “haute cuisine,” and a genius who cooked for almost every powerful royal in the 19th century. (See, Pandora article “Food Fit for a King (Literally!),” in the archives, for more on Carême and royal cooking.) When Carême died, the Tsar Alexander I mourned his passing in a way that probably no Tsar has ever done for a servant.

Tsar Nicholas II continued the traditions established by his predecessors, which included serving dishes first created under Catherine the Great. Hundreds of people worked in the royal kitchens. The latter was located in a building entirely separate from the palace, until 1902 when, eventually, an underground tunnel was built to connect the two establishments and to facilitate service. Bob Atchison, “History of Royal Dining,” (hereinafter simply referred to as “History of Royal Dining”) at http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/tsartable.html.

The Imperial Table must have been impressive to behold. It was set with silver, gold, porcelain, crystal and huge flower arrangements from the Imperial Greenhouses. The silver dated back to Catherine the Great; the china came from the Imperial Porcelain Factory, was marked at the bottom with a cipher of the year and the name of the current monarch, and was checked for even the smallest imperfection. Those pieces with the minutest chip or flaw were smashed. The waiters were always men who were selected for their height, good looks and breeding.

It was a prestigious position as far as Imperial servants were concerned for it involved daily service upon the person of the Tsar himself. Only the most senior of waiters could be permitted to serve the Tsar and his family and these men were attached permanently to each member of the family. They travelled with them from palace to palace and were not attached to any particular building. The Russian seniority system meant that sometimes the most august waiter was also the oldest. Nicholas suffered in silence with an old waiter he had inherited from his father. The poor man had failing eyesight and Nicholas carefully supported the faithful servant’s arm while he poured the wines for want of mishap.

“History of Royal Dining,” supra, at http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/tsartable.html

For the most part, daily meals at the last Romanov court seem to have been much less elaborate or extravagant than those at other royal courts of the same period, notably the British court under Queen Victoria or Edward VII. That’s not to say that they were abbreviated, miserly affairs; they weren’t. It simply means that Queen Victoria and King Edward VII went to unmatched extremes in setting a royal table.

The trend towards simplicity which we saw with the British Royal Family was repeated with the Romanovs. The extravagances of Peter the Great or Catherine the Great had given way to much simpler meals by the time you got to Nicholas II:

At the last Romanov court, meals were served in three to four courses and started immediately. “The Tsar did not request special foods to be served. Ever since childhood he had been taught to accept and eat was placed before him without question. His menus were selected by court officials and the chef who were generally familiar with his tastes. Aleksandra’s meals were prepared and served separately. She was on a special diet established by her doctors and was usually a vegetarian.”
Id.

The royal dinner might have been simple but it was long and there seems to have been an incredible quantity of food. The meal began with hors d’oevres, called zakuski in Russian, which were usually served in the adjoining Portrait Hall, or sometimes in the Small Library. Id. Zakuski were served either buffet style, standing up, or by waiters with rotating trays and were a complete meal in and of themselves. They consisted of many appetizers, including German salads, rare caviars, mushrooms and other dainty delicacies- all washed down with various kinds of vodkas. Id.

After the Zakuski, the real dinner began:

The first course was a soup, generally a rich cream soup with small meat pies. Then followed an intermidiate [sic] course of fish. People who knew Nicholas say he loved oysters, but there is no record of them being served at meals. Perhaps they were part of the zakuski. The fish dish served most often was Dviena sterlet in champagne sauce. Next came a course of chicken in rich sauces followed by another course of either beef, mutton or ham. This course could also be game, such as pheasant, wild goat, duck or partridge.
Id.

Throughout the meal, many different sorts of wines were served. The Tsar preferred Madeira or port with his soup but would switch to wine for subsequent courses. All the wines “were served in special bottles adorned at the winery with the Imperial crest and Tsar’s monogram – or in crystal carafes. The Tsar’s wine cellar was exceptional and the court anticipated the rare occasions when a rare vintage was served.” Id.

After dinner, the Imperial Family withdrew to the Portrait Hall where coffee was served. Tables were piled high with “chocolates, delicate sponge cakes of different sorts and shapes, and candies made in the Imperial confectionery.” Id. Brandy, cognac and liqueurs were also available on adjoining tables. It’s even been said that Coca-Cola made its way into the palace! Id.

When the Tsar left the room, the meal was officially ended:

There was no lingering about and sipping one’s coffee or going back for another serving of torte before leaving. Servants immediately began to remove everything as soon as the Tsar was gone. Enormous amounts of food were prepared and there was usually lots left over. According to tradition whatever was left could be sold by the kitchen staff and the money earned was their own. Crowds sometimes gathered at the palace kitchens awaiting the potential leftovers from the Tsar’s tables. The customers included members of the highest aristocracy.
Id.

The Tsar’s favorite foods were French. According to the historian Robert K. Massie, he enjoyed pig with horseradish, cabbage soup and buck wheat with broiled fish or fruit. Nicholas and Alexandra, (New York 1967).

He is also reported to have loved “Salade Olivier,” or, as it’s more commonly known now, Russian Salad. This dish was said to be his favorite hors d’oevre. It was named after his French chef, Olivier, who escaped Russia when the Revolution took place. He became a successful restauranteur and re-named the salad “ à la Russe” in honour of his late employer. “Based on peas, carrot cubes, potato cubes and mayonnaise and served in virtually every restaurant in Germany and nearly every French bistro and brasserie, ‘Russian salad’ is probably one of the world’s best known side dishes.” Rogov’s Ramblings, “Salade a la Russe,” at http://www.stratsplace.com/rogov/salade_russe.html It was also served at street parties during George V’s coronation. A copy of the recipe can be found in the Addendum to this column, along with recipes for other Romanov favorites.

Until next week, happy cooking and bon appetit

* * *

TEN ROYAL RECIPES

You will find below 10 recipes, ranging from Romanov favorites to the Queen’s Golden Jubilee chicken and the Plum Pudding made for Queen Victoria’s Christmas Dinner in 1899. I’ve reproduced many of the recipes almost exactly as I’ve found them. On occasion, only the American measurement system is used, as opposed to the European metric system. Or vice-versa. Readers who would like to try their hand at cooking can convert the measurements at http://convert.french-property.co.uk/ or http://www.onlineconversion.com/weight_common.htm. If you choose to make one of these dishes, I’d love to know how it turns out and whether you enjoyed it, so don’t hesitate to write to me.

1 – The Queen’s Coronation Chicken

Ingredients:
Chicken – 1 x 2.3 kg (5 lb), poached
Vegetable oil – 1 tbsp
Onion – 1 small, finely chopped
Curry paste – 1 tbsp
Tomato purée – 1 tbsp
Red wine – 100 ml
Bay leaf – 1
Lemon – ½, juice only
Apricot halves – 4, drained, finely chopped
Mayonnaise – 300 ml (½ pint)
Whipping cream – 100 ml (4 fl oz)
Salt and pepper
Watercress – to garnish
Serves 8

Directions:
1.    Skin the chicken and cut into small pieces.
2.    In a small saucepan, heat the oil, add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the curry paste, tomato puree, wine, bay leaf and lemon juice. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until well reduced. Strain and leave to cool.
3.    Purée the chopped apricot halves in a blender or food processor or through a sieve. Beat the cooled sauce into the mayonnaise with the apricot puree.
4.    Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold into the mixture. Season, adding a little extra lemon juice if necessary.
5.    Fold in the chicken pieces, Garnish with watercress and serve.
http://www.tiscali.co.uk/events/2002/goldenjubilee/features/cchicken_jubilee.html

2 – The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Chicken

Ingredients:
4 chicken breast fillets, about 18 oz (500g) in total
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp olive oil
Bunch flat leaf parsley
1 lime quartered

For marinade:
Half lime, juiced and zest grated
3cm fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 clove crushed garlic
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
For dressing:
3fl oz (100ml) creme fraiche
6 tbsp mayonnaise
Half lime, juice and zest grated
2in (5cm) piece fresh root ginger

Directions:
1.    Mix the marinade ingredients together in a shallow dish. Add the chicken and turn to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
2.    To make dressing, place crème fraîche, mayonnaise, lime juice and zest in a bowl. Peel and grate the ginger, then twist in a piece of muslin, or press through a sieve to extract the juice. Add 2 tsp of the juice to the dressing. Stir, cover and chill to allow the flavours to develop.
3.    Scrape marinade from the chicken and pat dry with kitchen paper. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle over olive oil.
4.    Roast in oven (pre-heated to 190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 5) for 25 minutes, baste occasionally until the chicken is cooked through. Leave to cool completely, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
5.    Combine the chicken and dressing, adjust the seasoning, and refrigerate. Serve with a pasta salad, lime quarters and chopped flat leaf parsley.
http://www.tiscali.co.uk/events/2002/goldenjubilee/features/cchicken_goldenjubilee.html

3 – The Romanov’s Cream of Asparagus Soup
Served to Empress Alix on the celebrations for her Name Day in 1897. The following recipe has been copied verbatim as found:

“Clean asparagus and cut it into small slices; melt butter in a saucepan, put flour and pepper into it. While stirring it pour some chicken broth and wait until it boils. Put asparagus into the broth and leave it on fire for some time, then strain it, run the sediment though a mincing-machine, rub it through a sieve and mix it with the broth, add some cream and warm it on fire.

For 4 persons: 500 grams of fresh, frozen or canned asparagus, 6 table full-spoons of butter, 4 table spoon-fuls of onions cut into small pieces, 2 table spoonfuls of wheat flour, one eighth of freshly ground pepper, 2 small glasses of chicken broth, 2 glasses of 10% cream.” Bob Atchison, ” Alexandra’s Namesday – 1897″, at http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/tsartable2.html

4 – Catherine the Great’s “Sturgeon Soup with Champagne”
In Imperial Russia, a whole fillet of sturgeon was placed in each soup bowl and the broth poured over it. Diners sipped the broth and then ate the fish with knife and fork. The recipe below is a more economical version and can be made cheaper still by replacing sturgeon with another white fish.

Ingredients:
3 cups basic Fish stock
1 lb fresh sturgeon, trimmed and cut into cubes
chopped scallions
Lemon slices
1 cup champagne
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
“Place the fish stock and the cut-up sturgeon in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Pour the champagne into the fish soup and just barely heat through. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish each with some thin lemon slices and chopped scallions.”
(Taken from À la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality, supra, at 63-64.)

5 – “Mayonnaise de Homard”
This dish was served at the Coronation Banquet for King George VI and the Queen Mother on May 10, 1937. The recipe serves 4. It seems a bit confusing and isn’t explained very well, but it has been copied verbatim from the Royal Family’s official website.

Ingredients:
1.6 kg Lobster
0.14 pt Mayonnaise
1/10 bunch Chives
0.06 pt Vinaigrette
0.4 each Round Lettuce
2 Medium Eggs
0.1 each Cucumber
0.4 each Raddichio Lettuce
Salt and Pepper for seasoning

Directions:
Boil lobster for 20 minutes, cool and shell meat. Marinade in chive vinaigrette, drain and combine with mayonnaise then build on a dish. Garnish with lettuce and cucumber.
http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page2227.asp

6 – Russian Palace’s Vegetable Borscht
The source for this recipe is Roza Gorenuk, whose grandfather cooked for Tsar Nicholas II and, in fact, made this very dish for him:

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon Vegetable oil
1 and ½ cups of finely chopped onion (essentially,1 large onion)
5 medium beets
½ cup chopped carrot (essentially 1 small carrot)
5 teaspoons Tomato paste
16 cups of chicken stock
2 large potatoes
1 medium cabbage head
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons Sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Clove garlic; minced
1 teaspoon fresh Dill; chopped

Directions:
1.    Peel and julienne raw beets to yield 4 cups. Peel and cube potatoes to yield 2 1/2 cups. Finely chop cabbage to yield 6 cups.
2.    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add beets and carrot. Saute, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Remove from heat and set aside.

3.    In a large stock pot, bring chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Add potato and cook for 3 minutes. Add cabbage and continue boiling for 5 minutes.

4.    Add reserved beet-tomato paste mixture, green pepper, sugar, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in garlic and dill. Serve hot.

(Recipe taken fromhttp://www.recipeusa.org/Ethnic/Russian/Russian%20Palace%20Borcht%20%2013567.htm)

7 – “Salad Olivier” or “Salade À La Russe

Ingredients:
1/2 kilo roasted chicken meat, cut in small cubes
4 medium boiled potatoes, cooled, peeled and sliced
4 hard boiled eggs, cut in eighths
2 half-sour pickles, sliced thinly
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
6 – 8 hearts of lettuce
2 tomatoes, cut in wedges
16 green olives
2 Tbsp. capers

Directions:
In a mixing bowl combine the chicken, potatoes, eggs and pickles. Fold in the mayonnaise and sour cream, season to taste and mix gently but well. Serve the salad on a bed of the lettuce hearts and garnished with the tomatoes, olives and capers.
(Taken from Rogov’s Ramblings, “Salade a la Russe,” athttp://www.stratsplace.com/rogov/salade_russe.html.)

8 – The Tsarina’s Cream
It’s unclear if this dish was created for a specific Tsarina and, if so, which one. Darra Goldstein, editor of “Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture” and the author of a Russian cookbook, includes it in her section of classic dishes under the Tsars. By her account, the dish is said to be so “divine” in its flavour that “some people call it pishcha bogov, ‘food of the gods.’” Darra Goldstein, À la Russesupra.

Ingredients:
1 package unflavoured gelatin (1/4 ounce)
¼ cup water
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 ¼ teaspoons rose water
5 tablespoons Maraschino liqueur
½ cup unsalted, chopped pistachios — or – ½ cup lightly toasted, blanched sliced almonds
Green food colouring

Directions:
1.    Soak the gelatin in the ¼ cup of water, then heat gently until the gelatin dissolves.
2.    Whip the cream just until it begins to form soft peaks. Then beat in the dissolved gelatin, which has cooled somewhat, and the confectioners’ sugar, almond extract, rose water and Maraschino liqueur. Fold in the nuts.
3.    Then add 2-3 drops of green food colouring, to tint the mixture pale green. If, with all the beating and folding, the cream is still not in stiff peaks, give it a few more turns with the whisk.
4.    Turn the mixture into a 1-quart mold or 6 individual molds. Sprinkle some chopped pistachios on the top. Chill for several hours before serving.
(Taken from À la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality, supra, at 116.)

9 – Strawberries Romanov
This simple dish was originally created by my beloved Carême. It was originally made for Czar Alexander I using cream and, possibly, meringues. Modern versions often include ice cream and omit the meringues. The following recipe is from Darra Goldstein and seems to be the most historically accurate. For a simpler version, omit the sections dealing with the meringue. If possible, choose medium-size strawberries for this dish instead of the huge ones. If they are very big, you might consider cutting them into pieces. The following recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:
1 pint strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup Cointreau or Triple Sec [My Note: Grand Marnier is another favorite liqueur used in this recipe ]
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
1.    Place the strawberries in a bowl and toss them with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix together the liqueur and orange juice. Pour over the berries and leave them to macerate (or soak) for 2 hrs at room temperature.
2.    For the Meringues: Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they begin to hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in the ½ cup of sugar, beating until a thick meringue has been formed. Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease the foil. With a spoon, make 8 rounds of meringue on the sheet, flattening the centers slightly with the bowl portion of the spoon. Bake for 1 hr, or until lightly browned. Remove to a rack to cool.
3.    To serve the dessert, whip the cream with the confectioners’ sugar. Place a generous portion of soaked strawberries on top of each meringue round. Top with whipped cream.
(Taken from À la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitalitysupra, at 118.)

Emeril Lagasse’s version:
The famous chef, Emeril Lagasse, has a modern version of the dish that is extremely simple. It’s not “Strawberries à la Romanov” the way the Tsars had it and, strangely, it fails to include the one step that is fundamental in every other version of the recipe: soaking the strawberries in liqueur. The step is important because it infuses the strawberries with the subtle taste of orange liqueur. As a result, every bite of the fruit includes a fusion of tastes. Nonetheless, Emeril’s version is easy to make and, for that reason, may be of interest to readers.

Ingredients:
6 ounces vanilla ice cream, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup sweetened whipped cream
Orange flavored liqueur, like Brandy, Cointreau or Grand Mariner, to taste
2 cups rinsed, hulled strawberries
Mint leaves, for garnish
Shaved chocolate curls, for garnish

Directions:
Mix ice cream, sour cream and whipped cream together and slowly add alcohol to taste, adjusting flavoring to your liking. Divide berries between 2 glasses and spoon cream mixture over. Garnish with mint and chocolate.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_14243,00.html

10 – Queen Victoria’s Christmas Plum Pudding

Ingredients for the Plum Pudding:
3/4 lb. raisins
3/4 lb. currants
1/2 lb. candied orange, lemon and citron
1 1/4 lb. chopped beef suet (or shortening)
1 lb. flour (2 cups)
3/4 lb. moist sugar
4 eggs
3 gills of milk (1 1/2 cups)
Grated rind of two lemons
1/2 oz. nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves
1 glass of brandy (1/4 cup)
Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the German Custard Sauce:
4 egg yolks
2 oz. pounded sugar (about 1/4 cup)
1 glass of sherry (about 1/4 cup)
Orange or lemon peel, rubbed on loaf sugar
Very little salt

Directions:
1. Mix the above ingredients thoroughly together in a large basin several hours before the pudding is to be boiled; pour them into a mould spread with butter, which should be tied up in a cloth. The pudding must then be boiled for four hours and a half; when done, dish it up with a German custard sauce over it.

2. German Custard Sauce: Whisk this sharply over a very slow fire, until it assumes the appearance of a light frothy custard.

(Taken from http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/christmas-desserts/plum-pudding.htm which cites as a source: “Royal Insight Collection, from Queen Victoria’s Christmas Dinner at Windsor Castle, 1899.”)

-pandorasbox-etoile.co.uk

The Prince & The “Mobster’s Moll” – 2004

Written by Pandora’s Box [my old writing alter-ego]
Tuesday, 02 November 2004
Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there was a handsome young prince with locks of gold and a smile so bright. He met an attractive, ambitious woman, fell in love and proposed in the most romantic fashion. Dastardly villains did not approve of their marriage, but that didn’t deter the prince. He fought for and married his true love, even though it required him to give up his rights to the throne.

A fairytale? Not exactly. The story of King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor, who gave up his throne for an American divorcée? Non plus.This story involves Prince Johan-Friso, second son to Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands who heads the immensely popular, rich (or, with over a billion dollar in assets, more than just “rich”) House of Orange. Born in 1968, he was christened His Royal Highness, Johan Friso Bernhard Christiaan David, Prince of Orange, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Jonkheer van Amsberg. He was second in line to the Dutch throne, behind his older brother, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, and eventually third in line when Willem-Alexander’s wife had a child. Then he met Mabel Wisse-Smit, and he lost it all.

I should tell you at the outset that I dislike Mabel with a passion. I generally try to be fair and understanding in my columns, but I can’t do it when it comes to Mabel. So there is no point in pretending to be objective, because I’m not. Besides, I couldn’t hide my antipathy if I tried.

No, I don’t know “Princess” Mabel personally, but, like any person who reads a lot about a situation, I have a personal opinion. And, in my personal opinion, she is a hard, ambitious, lying, calculating, social-climbing creature who brought down a prince.

Vicious invective? I have no doubt that some of you will think so. Yet, personal opinion aside, the facts show that Mabel Wisse-Smit is an ambitious career woman, who was linked to one of Europe’s most infamous druglords (along with other powerful, successful men), who lied to the government about her past and who led a prince to lose his birthright. Those facts are undisputed. I will leave it up to you to make up your mind about the rest of the tale.

The Early Years

Mabel Martine Los was born on August 11, 1968, to a solidly middle-class family in the town of Pijnacker. Pijnacker is not a cosmopolitan metropolis but a smallish town with a population of 38,000 located in the western part of the Netherlands. When Mabel was nine years old, her father died in a skating accident. A year later, in 1979, her mother remarried a successful businessman called Peter Wisse-Smit. A few years later, Mabel changed her last name from the more middle-class “Los” to the more socially upscale hyphenate “Wisse-Smit.”

Mabel spent her teenage years in Het Gooi in the central part of theNetherlands. She graduated from high school in 1986 and then attended theUniversity of Amsterdam. She studied economics and political science and, in 1993, graduated cum laude. During her university years, she had internships with several hugely important organizations: the Secretariat of the United Nations in New York; Shell Oil Company in Malaysia; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at The Hague; and the multinational ABN-AMRO Bank in Barcelona.

In 1994, only a year after graduating from university, Mabel founded the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans, a non-governmental organization supposedly focused on achieving peace, democracy and stability at the Balkans. The Balkan wars had just broken out, so, at first blush, Mabel’s group would seem to have the most benevolent of intentions. Not so. In my opinion, the group’s theoretical neutrality was a sham because, as I think the subsequent facts will show, the Council defined “peace” solely as a victory by the Bosnians.

Part of that was due to Mabel’s new lover. A year before, in 1993, while working at the UN, Mabel had met the charismatic Bosnian Ambassador, Mohammed Sacirbey. Mabel began a long, passionate, heated affair with him which lasted for several years. She was about 25; he was almost 40. And married. (See e.g., Stephanie van den Berg,“Dutch Prince chooses fiancee over throne,” (Agence France-Presse, 10-Oct-2003), available at http://tinyurl.com/5o8jz)

Mabel and her Action Council became deeply involved with Sacirbey’s political agenda. One of the co-founders of her group was a lawyer, Phon van den Biesen, who represented Bosnia at The Hague. In fact, he gave his speech alongside Sacirbey charging Serbia with genocide.

Their agenda soon became more than mere speeches at the UN or The Hague. In 1995, Sacirbey was appointed Bosnia’s Foreign Minister and, as such, his main goal was to get arms for his country’s forces. The fact that there was an arms embargo by the West didn’t matter. Sacirbey lobbied numerous Muslim countries, seeking both guns and money.

Newspaper accounts show that he succeeded in obtaining weapons from the Islamic Republic of Iran and, allegedly, Osama Bin Laden. See, “Iran says Islamic army chiefs to meet on Bosnia,” (Reuters, July 1995) athttp://tinyurl.com/5nktt“‘War Child’ involved with Arms Lobby,” at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/10/279556.html. For information regarding the Kosovo Liberation Army, the Bosnian Muslims and Osama Bin Laden, see Yossef Bodansky, Offensive in the Balkans: the Potential for a Wider War as a Result of Foreign Intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1995), Some Call it Peace: Waiting for War in the Balkans(1996), and Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America (1999).

The newspapers weren’t the only one to charge the Bosnians (and, by implication therefore, Sacirbey) with using Iran to violate the arms embargo. The United States Senate Republican Policy Committee issued a report in 1997 entitled, “Clinton-Approved Iranian Arms Transfers Help Turn Bosnia into Militant Islamic Base” which detailed the seriousness of the weapons violations.http://www.balkanpeace.org/rs/archive/sept01/rs184.shtml

In July 1995, the massacre at Srebrenica occurred. Dutch peacekeepers were overrun by Serb forces, resulting in the death of thousands of Bosnians Muslims. The Dutch government launched a detailed investigation into the matter. According to one report, “[t]he Dutch inquiry into the Srebrenica massacre later confirmed that the two of them [Mabel and Sacirbey] had direct access to the Foreign Ministry, and influenced Dutch policy, in the run-up to the massacre.” (See, “War Child’ involved with Arms Lobby,” supra, at http://tinyurl.com/67emp) Although the Bosnians were the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, they were the instigators of equally reprehensible activities, both before and after.

Sacirbey didn’t have clean hands in this period, and allegedly neither did his lover and political partner. In fact, it’s been reported that Sacirbey allegedly used Mabel as a go-between with Egyptian arm dealers, as well as the infamous Adnan Khashoggi, a relative by marriage of Mohammed Al-Fayed, and one of the biggest gun dealers to the Bosnian Muslims. Sacirbey has since denied Mabel’s role in arms smuggling and claims that she was merely involved in a “strong lobby” for Bosnia’s right of self-defense. (See, Royal News for October 30, 2003,http://www.nettyroyal.nl/newsoct03.html)

The truth of the charges is up for debate. What’s undisputed, however, is the fact that Mabel was the subject of investigations involving those arms dealers and illicit weapons sales. (See e.g., Expatica article, dated 22 October 2003, previously available at http://www.expatica.com/index.asp?pad=2,18,&item_id=35127, reproduced at http://tinyurl.com/5d2wm). Reports of the investigations continued until shortly before her marriage into the House of Orange but, since there, there has been absolute silence on the matter.

Mabel wasn’t the only one under investigation. Sacirbey was recently arrested for embezzling millions from the impoverished Bosnian state.He’s currently sitting in a New York jail awaiting extradition to Bosnia. However, his relationship with Mabel had ended far before then.

In fact, it ended soon after Sacirbey lost his position as Foreign Minister in 1997. After the Dayton Peace Accords ended the Balkan conflict in 1995, Sacirbey’s international significance had steadily diminished. The loss of his government job seemed to mark the complete end to his influence. And like a rat leaving a sinking ship, Mabel moved on. Onwards and upwards.

That same year, she began working for a man with truly global influence, power and prestige: the billionaire financier, George Soros. Mabel became the director of Soros’ Open Society Institute in Brussels. The Institute works on behalf of the Soros Foundations Network in Western Europe, to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

All very charitable, noble concerns, for which Mabel has been repeatedly and endlessly praised as an altruistic young woman. Personally, I have no doubt that Mabel is genuinely concerned about some human rights issues. I also have no doubt that she’s a responsible, serious woman who would like to effect some good in the world. Taken by itself, her work seems nothing but laudable.

However, her activities – when taken in conjunction with other parts of her life – lead me to react with scepticism. Perhaps you will see why when the story is complete.

Shortly after dumping Sacirbey and starting work with Soros, Mabel was introduced to Prince Johan-Friso. They began dating and, before long, Mabel was included in a number of activities with the Dutch royal family.The latter seemed very fond of the Prince’s new girlfriend. Mabel was a close friend of Laurentien Brinkhorst, the girlfriend and future wife of Johan-Friso’s younger brother, Prince Constantjin. In fact, it was Laurentien who introduced the couple and who ensured her acceptance by the royal family. Mabel was included with the family on such momentous occasions as the death of Prince Claus, Johan-Friso’s father, as well as the wedding of the Crown Prince.

I may be a cynic but I think the Royal Family’s open-armed reception of Mabel wasn’t due solely to her serious credentials. Obviously, every parent is overjoyed to see their child happy but, in the case of Prince Johan-Friso, the relationship had added benefits.

For years, the Prince had struggled with rumours of being gay. It had become such a problem that he’d felt the need to make a public statement, protesting his heterosexual orientation. News of the Prince’s relationship with Mabel, a tall, leggy, attractive blonde, effectively squashed those rumours once and for all.

Personally, I don’t see Mabel’s appeal. She’s been compared to a blonde siren but, in all honesty, I think she looks rather like a rabbit. (To see a photo of “The Rabbity One” in some of her better moments, go to http://tinyurl.com/58dpn and http://tinyurl.com/6fhoc)

In 2003, the Prince proposed. A sweet, somewhat shy man with a good sense of humour, he arrived at her door in a white Mexican outfit, accompanied by flowers and champagne. She accepted.

A few months later, in June 2003, she was interviewed by the Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende. By law, the Dutch Prime Minister must meet with and interview future members of the royal family. The interview is usually the culmination of the security screening process begun by the Dutch security forces. After the interview, the Prime Minister asks permission from Parliament for the marriage to proceed. If he does not submit his request to Parliament or if approval is not granted, then the royal loses his right of succession to the throne. That does not mean his or her marriage is forbidden by law. It merely means that he cannot maintain his right to the throne without first getting approval from parliament for his marriage.

In the case of Prince Johan-Friso and Mabel, the interview went swimmingly well. Then, a few months later, an investigative journalistic broke a story which shed a whole new light on the affair.

“Mabelgate”

In October 2003, a famous Dutch investigative journalist called Peter R. de Vries reported that Mabel had been the lover of a mobster called Klaas Bruinsma. This was an extremely seriously allegation because Bruinsma was no smalltime crook. To the contrary, he was considered to be the “Godfather” of the Dutch drug trade and one of the most notorious men in all Northern Europe. Bruinsma was assassinated in brutal fashion in 1991 but by then he’d already left his stamp on the narco-trafficant business. It’s been said that every single druglord in the Netherlands today owes some debt of gratitude toward Bruinsma’s pioneering efforts, and many have some sort of actual connection to him.

Bruinsma was not just a mere druglord; he was also so ruthless as to conjure up mental images of Al Pacino’s “Scarface.” He allegedly hired hit men to assassinate his rivals but, like everything else in his flamboyant life, they weren’t supposedly to go quietly. Thus, one unfortunate opponentwas found upside down in a barrel of cement, having had his penis and his legs cut off while he was still alive. (Anthony Browne, “Is fairytale princess really just a gangster’s moll?,” (London Times, October 7, 2003) at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-844915,00.html.)

Bruinsma’s passion for the limelight is reminiscent of John Gotti, the infamous head of the Gambino crime family who obsessively courted the limelight without concern for the legal ramifications. Unlike Gotti, however, Bruinsma was much more socially active in legitimate society.He was a passionate about sailing and frequently organized sailing events with exclusive yacht clubs. The rich, the social and the wannabes attended his events in droves.

It was there that he met the young university student, Mabel Wisse Smit. De Vries’ investigation had led him to South America and Bruinsma’s former bodyguard, Charlie de Silva. According to De Silva, Mabel and “the Godfather” had had a heated affair, and he was a witness.

Mabel’s response to the allegations was to scoff and insist that she barely knew Bruinsma. She admitted that she’d met him in the yachting circles but denied any sexual relationship. According to her, she’d only known him briefly for a few months, and in the most cursory fashion. She insisted that, once she found out what he did, she broke off all contact.

De Silva’s response was essentially to roll his eyes He retorted that, not only did Mabel know Bruinsma well, but she’d known him so well as to spend nights on his yacht. He said that Bruinsma was so utterly and completely besotted by Mabel that she became the only woman allowed to do so. And her stays weren’t platonic tea parties either.

De Silva wasn’t alone in his charges. Bruinsma’s former bookkeeper, a man referred to for safety reasons as “Ed S.,” said he was “almost certain” that Mabel had an intimate relationship with Bruinsma and that she knew of his illegal activities. He admits that he never physically witnessed the two in a compromising position but insists that he has more than enough reason to believe the two were intimate.

His statements may seem suspiciously generic and uninformative but I believe much of that has to do with security reasons. Decades after his tenure as Bruinsma’s accountant, the man still can’t reveal his real name in public. He certainly isn’t going to risk giving detailed information on Bruinsma’s activities. One might think that a mere girlfriend would be an exception but the fact that “Ed S.” refuses to get into details makes one wonder what he knows. After all, the man was in charge of Bruinsma’s financial matters and he insists he has cause to think there was an intimate relationship. What sort of financial information would give rise to that impression?

Confronted by all this detail, Mabel was forced to admit that she had, in fact, continued her “acquaintanceship” with Bruinsma far later than she’d initially claimed. As subsequent reports showed, Mabel remained in contact with Bruinsma for 18 months after she’d purportedly ended their “friendship” in disgust. Not only that, but Mabel was forced to admit that she had, in fact, slept on Bruinsma’s boat on several occasions. Still, she insisted that she’d never been involved with him sexually.

A friend of hers came to the rescue and valiantly told the press that it was she, not Mabel, who’d had the affair with Bruinsma. Another one of the mobster’s cohorts also stepped forward to absolve Mabel of all charges and to attack De Silva as a man who loved the spotlight.

Perhaps. But if De Silva loved the spotlight, he would have come forth on his own accord to rain on Mabel’s parade. He didn’t. One may argue that he didn’t know of Mabel’s connection with the Prince, as he was living inSouth America at the time. That’s possible, but I don’t buy it. I personally saw online reports of the Prince’s engagement surface in newspapers of such distant countries as the People’s Republic of China and Russia. I have no doubt that the AP newswire would have carried and repeated such reports in South America metropolitan cities. Yet, De Silva still did not volunteer to come forward. If he was someone who cared purely and solely about media attention, he would not have waited to be contacted by an investigative reporter.

Whatever De Silva’s motivation, additional evidence began to corroborate his claim. Reports surfaced that Mabel had repeatedly stayed with Bruinsma in a number of different expensive hotels, including the four-star Amstel Hotel. In addition, women –who weren’t Mabel’s closest friends – began to step forward to confirm the affair. According to these uninvolved, unbiased witnesses, it was more than clear from their social interaction that Mabel was intimately involved with Bruinsma. So much for her best friend’s attempt to take the heat.

It got worse. Allegations soon arose that Mabel had found out the details of her personal security file before her meeting with the Prime Minister. According to political sources, Mabel had somehow obtained “insight” into the security dossier compiled on her by the AIVD, the Dutch equivalent of the FBI or MI5. The inside sources claimed that, when Mabel’s screening interview with the Prime Minister finally took place, she informed him only of those things which were in the file and already known to the government. Events, as they occurred, seem to substantiate the charges.

The fact that Mabel obtained her AIVD file was shocking in and of itself; to this day, it’s still unclear how she managed that feat. But that’s not really the point. The point is premeditation. Mabel seems to have carefully and deliberately found out just how much the government knew about her; and then intentionally hid the rest.

Just to clarify, Mabel’s “friendship” with one of Europe’s biggest drug lords wasn’t even known before the investigative reporter, De Vries, broke the story. The security forces had absolutely no idea about Bruinsma and they certainly didn’t include it in her file. She knew that, and she was more than happy to keep on lying about it.

And lie she did. Repeatedly. Again and again. First, Mabel insisted she’d barely known the chap. Then, she was forced to admit that she’d known him so well as to sleep on his boat. She claimed she had broken off all ties with him after a few months. Then, she was forced to backtrack and admit that she’d actually been in contact with him for a year and a half after she’d reportedly ended things.

In the overall scheme of things, 18 months may not seem like much. It took longer to build Hadrian’s Wall, to discover penicillin, to break the atom, to win WWII. In this case, however, 18 months were all Mabel and Bruinsma had. Bruinsma was assassinated at the end of that time in a flame of bullets. And, by some accounts, she knew him until the very end.

Mabel’s lies soon became known as “Mabelgate.” The Prime Minister was deeply embarrassed. After all, he’d personally interviewed Mabel as part of her security screening and had been shown up for a fool.

The Prime Minister decided that he was not going to submit the marriage for the requisite parliamentary approval. His decision meant that the Prince had to either give up Mabel or his place within the line of succession. If he gave up the latter, he’d also have to give up his place in the Royal House, which is composed of those individuals who are legally eligible to ascend to the throne. The Royal House is therefore different from the Royal Family which consists of the monarch’s personal, immediate family.

The Prime Minister’s position may seem hugely unfair but he didn’t trust Mabel. And I don’t blame him. She’d already lied to him once or, depending on your interpretation, more than once. He didn’t want to go before his Republican enemies supporting a woman who could be hiding even more and probably felt his political position would be on the line if he did.

The Prince and Mabel issued a written, and very public, apology to the Prime Minister. In a letter dated 9 October 2003, the Prince wrote:

During the conversations with you in the period before the announcement of our marriage we gave the impression that it had been a superficial relationship of about two and a half months in 1989, with afterwards an occasional meeting. The contacts should mainly have to be seen in the range of sea sailing and should have been ended by Mabel after she became aware of Mr. Bruinsma’s activities.

What we should have said in June was that it was more than a superficial relationship and that they have had regular contact with each other for three months in 1989. When Mabel became aware of his activities she decided not to continue her friendship with Mr. Bruinsma in the same way. However she has seen him with some regularity in the following one and a half year. It is also a fact that Mabel has stayed at Mr. Bruinsma’s several times. However the truth remains that there there never business contacts between Mr Bruinsma and Mabel, nor did they ever had a love affair. Besides it has only became fully clear to her after his death with which practises he really was occupied.

In June you have expressed the intention to introduce a bill of consent at the States General. This was according to our wish in view of my connection with the Royal House, our respect for the Queen and her family, and the supporting role which Mabel and I possibly could fulfil.
Your decision was partly based on the incomplete view we had recalled regarding Mabel’s contacts with Mr. Bruinsma. Because we have not been open in all ways in time, your confidence in us has been violated. We admit our mistake and accept the consequences. Therefore it is now our wish that the Government doesn’t introduce a bill of consent for our marriage at the States General. Herewith we also hope to avoid damage to the Queen, the Royal House, our families, friends and others.

(See Netty Royal for a translated version of the Prince’s letter, (hereinafter referred to simply as “Letter to Prime Minister”), at http://www.nettyroyal.nl/mabelaffair2.html.)

The couple may have insisted that Mabel’s relationship was completely innocuous but the public clearly disagreed. A poll taken at the time showed that more than 70% of the population thought Mabel had not only lied but was still lying about the real nature of her relationship with Bruinsma.

Still, the Prince insisted on shouldering all the blame. He publicly stated that he’d been the one to advise Mabel to tell only “the important facts” to the government. As he later explained in a televised interview, he’d only thought to inform the government of things that could possibly involve “criminal or blackmailing facts.” See, Netty Royal’s translation of the interview, available at http://www.nettyroyal.nl/frisomabel6.html. In his opinion, Mabel’s relationship with Bruinsma involved neither. By the same token, he felt Mabel’s nights on Bruinsma’s yacht were completely meaningless. He dismissed all queries with the reply, “I think there has been said enough about it… Where someone stays to me is a private thing.”Id.

In fact, according to the Prince, every part of Mabel’s relationship with Bruinsma was insignificant. In his eyes, Mabel had been a naïve young girl and the whole thing was fifteen or twenty years ago in the past. The only reason they hadn’t brought it up was to avoid “dragging up painful memories of which Mabel had hoped that they belonged to the past.” (See, Letter to the Prime Minister, supra.)

“Painful” memories? An odd choice of words to describe a supposedly passing acquaintance of the utmost insignificance. In fact, much of Johan-Friso’s explanation is odd or defies common sense.

Let’s start with the Prince’s main line of defense, namely that Mabel was just a young, naive girl who shouldn’t be blamed for the events going back almost 15 years ago. Let’s not forget his postscript that, “[b]esides it has only became fully clear to her after his death with which practises he [Bruinsma] really was occupied.” Id.

With all due respect to the Prince, a man who has much of my sympathies and whom I like, I must say that his generous defense is complete rubbish. Mabel’s alleged naiveté is not only utterly ludicrous but an insult to one’s intelligence. Bruinsma was not someone living in the shadows with a hidden reputation. He was the most notorious drug lord in Northern Europeand his reputation was well-known in his own country. Furthermore, he hardly lived outside the spotlight. He was a big part of the social scene, was involved in society races at the yacht club, and lived in an ostentatious, loud manner replete with several bodyguards. How someone could spend time in close proximity to him — let alone actually sleep over on his yacht — without noticing the bodyguards, hearing the rumours or finding out about his prison sentences, is beyond me.

From personal experience, I can tell you that Mabel’s ignorance is highly unlikely. When I was 20 years old, I was at a party where I met a “businessman” who took an inordinate fancy to me. He was, to put it extremely euphemistically, involved in some shady activities. For all his underworld power, he kept a deliberately low, secretive profile, so his reputation was hardly front-page news. Yet, within less than an hour of meeting him, I was told exactly who he was and what he did. If his sleazy behavior and loathsome appearance didn’t put me off him, his reputation certainly did. But the real point here is that word spread almost immediately regarding this mobster and who he really was. I find it almost impossible to believe that something similar wouldn’t happen in the case of Bruinsma who did have a deliberately high profile and who did lead an active, ostentatious social life. And if Mabel didn’t hear of it the first night, I find it utterly inconceivable that she wouldn’t have heard of it after a few weeks, if not 18 months.

A “Devil’s Advocate” may argue that knowledge about Bruinsma’s activities still doesn’t refute Mabel’s alleged foolishness and naïveté. In fact, they’d probably argue that it supports the claim of Mabel’s foolishness.

Perhaps, but I’m still unconvinced. We’re not talking about some silly prepubescent teenager; Mabel was 21 at the onset of the relationship, and 23 by its end. Nor are we talking about some fatuous, simpering blonde pop star like Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson. In the case of either one of those intellectual giants, I’d probably be the first to argue that the idiocy ruled the day. But even those two morons would probably think twice before hanging around Europe’s version of Scarface.

In fact, no matter how stupid or young the girl, I think they’d all have a moment’s trepidation before cozying up to a man who had one lucky rival’s penis and limbs chopped up while he was still alive. And one thing Mabel has never been called is stupid. No, here we’re discussing a brilliant intellectual who graduated cum laude from an excellent university and who has shown that she has a clear penchant for rich, powerful men.

The constant harping on the timeline also bothers me. Again and again, it’s been repeated that these events occurred fifteen years ago. My reply is, so what? A single, one time mistake in judgment would be something. In the case of Mabel, however, her entire career since Bruinsma has continued the same pattern, even if it meant sleeping with a married, corrupt politician like Sacirbey. Frankly, I think Mabel stopped being naïve and foolish long ago.

Speaking of Sacirbey, it should be noted that Mabel informed the Prime Minister about her relationship with him before “Mabelgate” broke. Her admission means little in my opinion because, again, she knew the contents of her security file beforehand. As it’s already been noted, the Dutch government’s investigation into the Sbrenenica massacre uncovered information about her relationship with Sacirbey and the couple’s connection to the Dutch Foreign Ministry. In other words, her relationship was probably too well documented to conceal.

In my opinion, Mabel’s relationship with the Netherlands’ “Godfather of Crime” could be easily dismissed if her subsequent actions didn’t make it symbolic of a bigger pattern. She went after a politician — married and with children– until he lost most of his power. She then went to work for one of the most powerful, influential billionaires on the planet. If it was really all about the children and the refugees, she could have stuck with her organization “War Child Netherlands” which was intended to help such groups. Or, she could have rolled up her sleeves and done some serious work in the trenches for those who really needed it. Instead, she followed the money and power by working for George Soros, in an office very far away from the blood and gore.

In Mabel’s defense, she could probably raise more funds or awareness working for a high-profile organization than working in the trenches à la Mother Theresa. Her efforts are probably commendable and there is nothing that says only hardship work is “real” work. I will admit with complete frankness that my bias against Mabel hampers my objectivity and that she must have done some good along the way. Well, at least in so far as the Bosnians, since her earlier work was seemingly indifferent to the plight of the other Balkan groups.

I can only say that my perceptions of Mabel’s power-hungry nature make me highly reluctant to raise her to the level of a saint, the way so many others seem eager to do. Quite frankly, my idea of a saintly, altruistic angel does not involve working with a Palm Pilot and telephone in a gorgeous office, provided by a billionaire, and far away from anything bloody, gruesome or disturbing. It certainly doesn’t involve sleeping with a married man with children, let alone the Dutch equivalent of Scarface. And yes, I absolutely and completely believe that Mabel had a sexual relationship with Bruinsma. Forget the bodyguard or the bookkeeper – people unassociated with either the gangster or Mabel have come forward to corroborate the claims. Whether it was on a yacht, at sporting events or at luxurious hotels, Mabel has been connected to the mobster in an intimate fashion, again and again.

I have no doubt that I’ll be excoriated for my harsh opinions and analysis. In fact, I’m actually preparing myself for a ton of hate mail from Dutch readers. The majority of those will probably be people who feel sorry for the Prince’s renunciation of his birthright. They might be surprised to learn that I share their feelings and that I have nothing but sympathy for the Prince.

That said, I think I’m not alone in my perception that Mabel follows power and money. In the interview shortly before her wedding, a Dutch commentator asked Mabel point blank about her interest “in powerful men.” Mabel gave a terse statement that she loved the Prince and his position was merely incidental. (Seesupra, for the Netty translation of the interview.)

“Incidental”? Hmm… I’d like to think so, but I doubt it. In my opinion, there was nothing “incidental” about the Prince’s position. And that’s a pity because I think he’s a good man who deserves true love. I admire his fierce protection of his bride and I wish him nothing but happiness. It’s incredibly unfortunate that he had to lose his birthright and I have no doubt that it’s hurt him. In fact, he admitted as much shortly before his marriage.

One has to wonder how his mother, the Queen, reacted to the story or the subsequent turn of events. The Prince has admitted that he hid the truth from her when Mabel first told him about Bruinsma. His reasoning was that he didn’t want her to tell the Prime Minister, as the law would require. Id.His admission undercuts his insistence that the relationship was much ado about nothing and something that wasn’t worth mentioning. Still, I don’t blame him. By all accounts, his mother was thrilled by his new relationship and, more to the point, the Queen doesn’t seem like the best person to upset.

Queen Beatrix, or “Trix” as she’s fondly called, is a remarkable woman. She is strong and passionate, with endless, beaming smiles and deep laughs, a love of bright colours, and a flamboyant style that includes a passion for eye-raising hats. Unlike more reserved monarchs, she’s often photographed laughing unabashedly and with complete abandon. Her wide, broad grins underneath flaming magenta flying saucer hats have created the image of a jovial, relaxed monarch. Yet, despite the huge smiles and hearty chuckles, there is a strength and steeliness which one would do well not to ignore. Her Majesty is famed for her attention to detail, perfectionism and tendency to be in iron control of every situation. She takes a fierce pride in her family’s name and position; and she does not appreciate anything which may negatively influence them.

I simply cannot see a woman as steely or as fiercely protective of her family’s reputation as Queen Beatrix standing approvingly while her son and Mabel lied to the PM about the scope of Mabel’s Bruinsma links. In fact, if she’d known the full extent of Mabel’s rumoured past, I doubt she’d have approved at all. A woman with ties to the Netherlands’ most vicious drug overlord, then a corrupt Baltic politician and, possibly, Middle Eastern arms dealers…. No, I can’t see Her Majesty accepting all that with equanimity.

Some people will note that the Queen approved and warmly accepted her eldest son’s choice, a woman who was equally controversial at the time. Crown Prince Willem-Alexander fell in love with and married Máxima Zorreguieta, an Argentinean whose father was a senior member of the brutal Videla military junta. Personally, I think that was another situation entirely. Máxima had never been personally involved in any disreputable, controversial situations. Her father had been, but she herself was blameless. Mabel was not.

Whatever the Queen’s feelings upon learning of “Mabelgate,” she stood by her son and offered him her full support. She ensured that he would be styled as a Prince, even if it couldn’t be of a Prince of the Netherlands(e.g., of Orange.) With her assistance, Johan-Friso would remain a prince of Orange-Nassau, a lesser title but still a princely one. Mabel would stay a commoner but, since the spouse of Dutch princes are accorded the courtesy of their husband’s title, Mabel would be formally addressed as H.R.H. Princess Mabel. Furthermore, any children they might have would be ennobled and given the titles of Count or Countess of Amsberg.

The couple’s wedding took place on April 24, 2004, in the town of Delft.The event was a subdued affair, in part because the groom’s grandmother, the former Queen Juliana, had died a few weeks before.

The bride wore a gown designed by Dutch couturiers, Viktor & Rolf, with her detailed input. The dress was made of white Duchesse satin and had a form-fitting bodice with a demure boat neckline. It was attractive, from the waist-up. Unfortunately, it was inundated with 248 handmade silk georgette bows, starting on the bodice and small in size before becoming larger and larger on the way down. By the time you got to the train, the bows were so enormous that just one of them alone could have served as a tablecloth or bed sheet. All right, so I might be exaggerating, but not by much. (For a photo of the hideous train, see http://tinyurl.com/44sdp )

It was not a cheap dress either. The dress reportedly cost €65,00 or €72,000, much more than the dresses of some other royal brides. For example, the wedding dress of Crown Princess Letizia of Spain cost approximately €15,000, while that of Crown Princess Matilde of Belgiuma mere €5,000.

The wedding itself was an unusual affair. I watched it with several friends, most of whom had no opinion about Mabel one way or another. Yet they were all uniformly taken aback at the difference between the bride and groom’s demeanor during the ceremony. Mabel went down the aisle looking from side to side with, as one person was surprised to note, a “triumphant” expression on her face.

In contrast, the Prince was exceedingly somber, if not grim. As one of my friends noted, he looked as though he were attending a funeral, not his own wedding. He barely glanced at his bride, who kept turning to him during the ceremony with a big grin on her face. The Prince was undoubtedly troubled by the knowledge that the minute he said, “I do,” he would give up his place in the Royal House.

It clearly was on the mind of other members of his family too. When it came time for his brother to sign the witness statement officialising the marriage, he paused for several long moments and simply looked at Johan-Friso. The implication was so obvious that a nervous titter went audibly through the wedding guests. Johan-Friso just looked pale and gave a weak smile. The paper was signed, the ceremony was soon concluded and Johan-Friso walked out with “Princess Mabel.”

As I’ve said earlier, I admire the Prince for his steadfast devotion to Mabel and I wish him nothing but happiness. If Mabel is his one true love, and if she genuinely reciprocates his feelings, then maybe he’s gained more than he’s lost. I hope so.

Whatever the case, there is finally some good news for the 36 year old Prince: he will soon be a father. It was announced last week that Mabel is pregnant and due to give birth in April 2005. That month also marks the date of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, so the House of Orange and the Dutch people will have a lot to celebrate. Proost and congratulations!

-pandorasbox-etoile.co.uk