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Triple bombing kills 27 at Iraqi police station

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110519/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq

By YAHYA BARZANJI and LARA JAKES, Associated Press Yahya Barzanji And Lara Jakes, Associated Press 1 hr 34 mins ago

KIRKUK, Iraq – A triple bombing killed 27 people and wounded scores outside a police station Thursday, heightening tensions in a northern Iraqi city already on edge after a string of kidnappings and attacks against security officers.

The new violence adds to strain that already besets Kirkuk, a city that has long been plagued by ethnic squabbles over land and oil fields. Iraqi and U.S. officials long have feared Kirkuk and the disputed lands surrounding it — sandwiched between Arab villages and an autonomous Kurdish region — could destabilize the country if American forces leave at the end of this year on schedule.

“This shows there is no government in this country,” railed Ahmed Salih, 55, sitting next to a hospital bed where his 30-year-old son, Omar Ahmed, lay with bandages around his head and legs. “How such an incident can take place at the police station, where there is security, is nonsense.”

The first blast, a bomb stuck to a car in a parking lot in central Kirkuk, lured policemen out of their fortified headquarters to investigate around 9 a.m., said police Capt. Abdul Salam Zangana. Three minutes later, a second blast rocked the lot when a car packed with explosives blew up in the crowd of police.

“The boots of police officers were scattered at the scene,” said one a police officer, Ahmed Hamid, who survived the strike. “I saw a severed hand on the ground.”

The third bomb, planted on a road leading to a hospital, set cars and trucks ablaze when it exploded about 550 yards (500 meters) away less than an hour later. Zangana said it targeted a police patrol near a mosque.

In all, the blasts killed 27 — most of them police officers — and wounded at least 60 people, said provincial health director Siddiq Omar. Eyewitness Adnan Karim described the scene as “a chaos of terror and fear.”

Located 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Kirkuk has been an ethnic flashpoint for years among Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen, who each claim the oil-rich city as their own. Kirkuk’s two largest ethnic groups have their own competing security forces — the Arab national police and the predominantly Kurdish peshmerga forces — and that division has stoked tensions.

Within the last 10 days alone, police patrols in Kirkuk have been targeted in five roadside bombings and an Iraqi army base has been hit by two Kaytusha rockets, said city police Col. Sherzad Mofari.

In Mosul, another major city within the disputed territories, four Iraqi army soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb Thursday afternoon, a policeman said.

Also, Kirkuk kidnappers also killed a policeman and a Christian construction worker. The latter was dismembered after his attackers gave up on collecting the $100,000 random they had demanded.

Mofari blamed the violent upsurge on al-Qaida and its allies in Iraq, which seek to stir up Kirkuk’s tensions. “They are trying to keep this instability of security in the city for a long time,” he said.

American military commanders have long worried that the simmering fight over Kirkuk could provoke violence that could spread to the rest of the country. For the last several years, U.S. troops have worked to build partnerships between Iraqi army forces and the Kurdish security forces, known as peshmerga, to secure the swath of disputed lands that stretches over three northern Iraqi provinces — and over some of the world’s most lucrative oil reserves.

But as the U.S. troops withdraw, there is little indication the Kurdish-Arab partnerships will hold, and officials gloomily predict they could return to violence if the Americans leave as scheduled on Dec. 31.

In February, for example, the Kurdish government sent thousands of peshmerga around Kirkuk, claiming to be protecting the city from planned demonstrations that might turn violent. But the incursion scared Arab and Turkomen residents, who called it a thinly veiled attempt to surround Kirkuk with Kurdish forces. The peshmerga pulled back a few weeks later and the crisis passed without bloodshed.

In Baghdad, lawmakers are still haggling over rules for taking a national census that that would determine Kirkuk’s residency — and therefore which ethnic group can rightfully claim power — trying to shape the eligibility requirements to best suit their constituents.

Hours after the bombings, the U.N. envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, called on all sides to quickly settle the disputes to prove that Iraqi leaders want to ensure security and stability across the country. The U.N. has been working with Kirkuk’s leaders for years to settle the dispute over the territory and get the census taken, but few believe it will be resolved any time soon.

At one hospital where victims were taken, some said they were close to giving up hope.

“This is because of carelessness of security,” said Awaz Kamal, 45, crying as she watched her son, policeman Saman Salih, being prepared for an operation to remove shrapnel from his stomach.

Around them, bloodied and bandaged victims lay on the floor, because the beds were already filled with patients.

Then a police truck pulled into the hospital driveway with four bodies lying motionless in the truck bed. It was not clear whether they were alive or dead.

___

Jakes reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed and Rebecca Santana also contributed.

Three Weddings And Two Funerals

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110429/wl_time/08599206848800

By MICHAEL ELLIOTT Michael Elliott 1 hr 44 mins ago

In Britain, all is not as it seems, nor ever has been. As they viewed the preparations for the royal wedding, with all its pomp and circumstance, the non-British seemed to willingly buy into the idea that the monarchy – and popular reverence for it – has been a fixed point in the British firmament for centuries, a source of stability however the nation’s fortunes may have ebbed and flowed.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The monarchy does not symbolize some deep sense of tradition; on the contrary, it has long been a contested element of what it means to be British. In the 17th century, revolutionaries turned the world upside down and deprived Charles I of his head more than 100 years before the French did the same to Louis XVI. The Crown was restored in 1660, but 28 years later another King was sent packing into exile. By the early 19th century, the scandal-stained Hanoverian dynasty was widely loathed. In his great sonnet “England in 1819,” the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley described George III and his sons as “An old, mad, blind, despised and dying king, – / Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow/ Through public scorn – mud from a muddy spring.” (See pictures of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding day.)

The monarchy was saved and re-invented by the sense of duty of Victoria – just 18 when she ascended to the throne in 1837 – and her remarkable German husband Prince Albert. During Britain’s period of high imperialism and global economic dominance, it suited both the old landed grandees and those enriched by the world’s first modern economy to elevate the Crown into a symbol of changelessness in a society that was changing at breakneck speed.

Victoria’s halo sanctified the reigns of her son Edward VII and grandson George V, a man whose principal pastimes were stamp collecting and slaughtering game birds on his Norfolk estate. But such splendid dullness could not be maintained. Though the reassuring presence of Elizabeth II, who was 9 when her grandfather died in 1936, has indeed been a stabilizing constant in British life, the years since George V’s demise have seen regular eruptions in British attitudes toward the monarchy – all taking place against a backdrop of quiet, but continual and profound, constitutional change.

1937
Not the Wedding They Wanted

On June 3, 1937, at a chÁteau in france, the Duke of Windsor – who had reigned for 10 months as Edward VIII before abdicating in favor of his brother – married the woman he loved, Wallis Simpson, an American from Baltimore and, in 1936, the first woman to be named Time’s Person of the Year. (The piece was distinctly catty; Simpson was said to have “resolved early to make men her career, and in 40 years reached the top – or nearly.”) The wedding was a low-key affair, and after the ceremony one guest described the duke as having “tears running down his face,” perhaps out of relief that the whole squalid business was over. If so, it was a sentiment his people shared. A vain, self-centered man who – to put it at its most charitable – was far too prepared to be used by Nazi sympathizers, Edward would have been a disastrous monarch as Britain fought for its survival in World War II.

1947
Relief from Hard Times

Instead of Edward, the nation was blessed to have on the throne George VI, a man of palpable decency, whose wife Elizabeth was widely popular.

On Nov. 20, 1947, their daughter Elizabeth, the heiress to the Crown, married her distant cousin Philip Mountbatten in Westminster Abbey. In the run-up to the wedding, its expense – shades of 2011 – was highly controversial. Exhausted and broke after six years of war, Britain was going through a period of penny-pinching austerity and food rationing, which made the question of a sugary wedding cake politically sensitive. Gifts piled in, from diamond-encrusted wreaths to a piece of cloth that Mohandas Gandhi had spun himself. (Elizabeth’s grandmother thought it was a loincloth; she was not amused.)

Perhaps because it offered a welcome relief from hard times, the wedding was enormously popular. Less than five years later, while in Kenya, Elizabeth was told that her father had died, aged just 56. TIME named her Person of the Year in 1952, with a tone quite different from the one it had used for her aunt. Elizabeth’s significance, we said, was “that of a fresh young blossom on roots that had weathered many a season of wintry doubt.”

It’s for historians to judge whether the Queen has lived up to such promise, but there is little doubt that, partly by assiduously avoiding any controversy, she did much to restore the monarchy’s luster. Then along came a young, wounded, starstruck, beautiful girl from Norfolk. She changed everything. Again.

See pictures of British royal weddings.

See pictures Westminster Abbey.

1981
A Shaft of Light and Gaiety

If you weren’t there, it’s hard to imagine just how grim a place Britain was in the summer of 1981. Race riots convulsed its cities. The economy was in ruins, with large parts of the industrial north of England and the Midlands reduced to rusted wasteland. The government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was not just disliked by half the population; with a vehemence that still seems shocking 30 years on, it was positively loathed.

Into this desperate gloom, the wedding of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, to Diana Spencer, just 20 – and a very innocent 20 at that – projected a shaft of light and gaiety. (That endless train behind her dress! Kiri Te Kanawa’s voice!) Whatever happened in the half soap opera, half tragedy that followed, the sheer glamour of the wedding endowed Diana with a genuine popularity – no, love – that she never lost. (See pictures of Princess Diana.)

The point about Diana that the royal family did not understand when she was selected for the Prince’s hand was that, like everyone else, she would grow up. The ingenue fairy-tale princess became a confident (albeit devious) young woman, comfortable with the happily mixed-up, multicultural, undeferential society that Britain had become, passionate about controversial causes such as the fights against AIDS and land mines and – in the end – openly contemptuous of the serial indignities to which the family into which she had married subjected her. Even had she lived, Diana’s story would have changed attitudes to the monarchy. The revelation that her husband had continued an affair with his true love (and now second wife) Camilla Parker Bowles while married to Diana – coupled with a rash of royal divorces – replaced the allure and mystery of the monarchy with something much more tawdry. And then Diana died.

1997
The Long Week of Grief

Nobody – nobody – was ready for what happened to Britain in the week after Diana was killed in a Paris car crash. A nation that was supposed to be emotionally stunted, with stiff backbones and stiffer upper lips, descended into the sort of public grief normally reserved for the last act of second-rate Italian operas – except that it was genuine. Stuck at their home in Scotland, the royals seemed woefully out of touch with the sentiments of their people. Only at the last minute did the Queen walk into the crowds that were mourning Diana outside Buckingham Palace and show that she shared the national sense of loss.

The criticism of the royal family that week did not lead to a sustained increase in republican sentiment in Britain. To the contrary: once the Queen returned to London, the numbers of those saying they wanted to ditch her dropped to historic lows. But that extraordinary week changed the nature of the relationship between Crown and people forever. The crowds mourning Diana were not subjects. In a way that the revolutionaries of the 17th century would have understood, they were defining for themselves what they expected of a family, one of whose members was their head of state, and compelling that family to act accordingly. It was as if modern Britain were saying, “We get it. We’re more than happy to have you around. But you do the job on our terms.”

2002
A Link to the Past Is Broken

Before that sentiment could solidify into a modern conception of the monarchy, however, there was one more sad piece of business to attend to. On March 30, 2002, aged 101, George VI’s wife and Elizabeth II’s mother – the Queen Mum – died. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of London to see her coffin. The Queen Mum was a direct link to the tumultuous days of the abdication, to “the war.” (There is only one war in British speech.) But she was a link, also, to a Britain, and monarchy, that is long gone. Deeply conservative, she was a blue-blooded member of the aristocratic class that had once provided wives for royal males. No more. There have been eight weddings in the Queen’s immediate family since 1947, but in only one case – that of Prince Charles – did the royal marry into a titled family. The Windsors have become middle class.

Along with that social transformation has come a constitutional one. Since 348 people signed a document demanding reform called Charter 88 (I was one of them, I am very proud to say), Britain has gone through more constitutional change than in any other period in the past 300 years. Subnational parliaments have been established in Wales and Scotland, London has an elected mayor, a charter of human rights has been constitutionally protected, a new Supreme Court has been set up, taxpayer support for the royals has been reduced, and soon, Parliaments will sit for a fixed term. The Queen remains head of state, but in any real sense, she is the least powerful monarch Britain has ever had. You won’t have heard that among the hushed voices of the global TV commentators who prattle on about Britain’s wonderful sense of tradition, but it is true.

Watch a video on the Royals through history.

See pictures of the courtship of Kate and William.

View this article on Time.com

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_royals/20110429/wl_yblog_royals/royal-wedding-mysteries-solved

Why didn’t Prince William watch his bride walk down the aisle? Who was that little girl covering her ears and frowning while the newlyweds kissed on the balcony? Where can I get those gorgeous earrings Kate wore to her wedding? The last remaining mysteries of the royal wedding are solved, right here at Shine.

Who was that adorable little girl frowning and covering her ears on the balcony during the big kiss? That’s Prince William’s goddaughter, 3-year-old Grace van Cutsem, who was one of the official bridesmaids (there are no “flower girl” roles in traditional British weddings, so children are often included as bridesmaids or pages). She is the daughter of Lady Rose Astor and Hugh van Cutsem, and great-great-great-granddaughter of William Waldorf Astor, a New York-born lawyer and politician who later became a member of the British Aristocracy. (The Waldorf Hotel was one of his pet projects.) Little Grace was also pouting for part of the carriage ride; apparently, the crowd of adoring fans got a little too noisy.

Are there usually trees in Westminster Abbey? Kate loves the outdoors and, according to the Daily Mail, she ordered more than four tons of foliage to create an English country garden setting inside Westminster Abbey, including pyramid-shaped ornamental Hornbeams to frame the choir and a “living avenue” of 20-foot-tall, 15-year-old English Field Maples through which guests walked to their seats. The cost? About 50,000 pounds, or $83,335.

What music did Kate walk in to? It didn’t sound like the wedding march. The princess walked down the aisle to “I Was Glad” by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, who composed it for the coronation of Prince William’s great-great-great grandfather Edward VII in 1902.

Why didn’t Prince William watch his bride walk down the aisle? Tradition. The groom is the last person to see the bride, and can only do so after she has completed the long walk down the aisle and is at his side. Since the aisle at Westminster Abbey is about 300-feet long, he had at least a four-minute wait at the altar.

What did Prince William whisper to Kate? According to some lip readers, he told her that she looked beautiful—and then looked at his father-in-law-to-be and quipped, “We were supposed to have just a small family affair.”

Where did the bride and groom go in the middle of the ceremony? They went to the Shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor, a room inside the Abbey, to sign the wedding registers.

Why was Prince William wearing red? Prince William holds an honorary rank of Colonel of the Irish Guards, and he opted to wear an Irish Guard’s officer uniform instead of his Royal Air Force uniform. He also wore his Garter sash and star, Royal Air Force “wings,” and Golden Jubilee medal.

Was the bride’s dress inspired by Grace Kelly’s? It seems that way; in fact, Kate’s dress looks very much like the one worn by the American actress when she wed Prince Rainier III of Monaco in April 1956. Both Kate’s gown and that of Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco had long sleeves, a cinched waist, a figure-hugging bodice, short veils, medium-length trains, and lots of delicate lace.

What was in the bride’s bouquet? According to the official royal wedding website, the bouquet was a shield-shaped collection of Myrtle, Lily-of-the-Valley, Sweet William, Ivy, and Hyacinth. The Myrtle sprigs were from plants grown from the Myrtle used in the wedding bouquets of Queen Victoria in 1845 and Queen Elizabeth in 1947.

Any hidden messages? Each bridesmaid had her name and the date of the wedding hand-embroidered into the lining of her dress. The bride and groom could not customize their vows, but they did write their own prayer, which was read by Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, during the ceremony (download a copy of the program here). It was: “God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.” And of course, each of those flowers in the bride’s bouquet had a special meaning: Lily-of-the-Valley represents the return of happiness, Sweet William stands for gallantry, Hyacinth is for the constancy of love, Myrtle symbolizes marriage and love, and Ivy is for fidelity, marriage, wedded love, friendship, and affection.

What are the full names of the newlyweds? Prince Williams of Wales got another set of titles in time for the wedding, according to an announcement on the official royal wedding website. His full name is now His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, Duke of Cambridge, Early of Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Master of Arts. (According to the official website of the British Monarchy, those who have the title of HRH Prince or Princess do not need to use a last name, though theirs is Mountbatten-Windsor.) As his wife, the former Miss Catherine Elizabeth Middleton is now Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, but most people will probably call her Princess Catherine or Princess Kate (unofficially, of course).

Was Kate wearing Princess Diana’s tiara? No. Diana wore the Spencer Tiara, a family heirloom of ornate, stylized flowers decorated with diamonds in silver settings. The halo-style tiara that Kate wore was Cartier creation belonging to the Queen. King George bought it for the Queen Mother in 1936; the Queen Mother gave it to the Queen on her 18th birthday.

What about her earrings? The bride’s earrings were designed by Robinson Pelham, according to the official royal wedding website. They are diamond-set stylized oak leaves that frame a dangling diamond-set drop and pave-set diamond acorn. The earrings, which are a wedding gift to Kate from her parents, were made to match the tiara lent to her by the Queen, and were inspired by the Middleton family’s new coat of arms.

Why did the Middleton family get a new coat of arms? What happened to their old one? They didn’t have a coat of arms before, because they weren’t members of the British aristocracy. The new coat of arms features three oak-leaf-and-acorn sprigs representing the three Middleton children—Catherine (Kate), Philippa (Pippa), and James. A golden chevron honors Carole Middleton, whose maiden name was Goldsmith, and two thinner, white chevrons represent the mountains and stand for the family’s love of the outdoors.

Who got to be on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with the royal newlyweds? The bride and groom took center stage, of course, but also appearing before the public were the Queen and Prince Philip, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla (Duchess of Cornwall), Carole and Richard Middleton, the couple’s siblings (Pippa and James Middleton and Prince Harry), the pages (Tom Pettifer and William Lowther-Pinkerton), and the bridesmaids (Eliza Lopez, Grace van Cutsem, The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, and the Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones. Yes, even some children have titles in England.)

Why William won’t kiss the bride

http://royalwedding.yahoo.com/blogs/why-william-won%27t-kiss-the-bride-5776

LONDON–Even being the future king of England and the co-star of one of the most viewed weddings in history will not spare Prince William the frustration of being denied one typical marriage custom.

Sorry, William, you may not kiss the bride.

As he watches Kate Middleton walk down the aisle at Westminster Abbey on April 29, William will have the traditional groom’s checklist stashed in his memory. He will surely mentally admire Kate’s dress, nervously go over his vows one final time in his head, and prepare to listen to the solemn words of the archbishop of Canterbury in his final seconds as a bachelor.

[ Related: How Prince William is breaking a royal tradition ]

But once the ceremony is complete and the rings have been exchanged, there will be no royal smooch at the abbey altar for the benefit of the 1,900 guests in attendance. Church of England protocol expressly forbids such behavior, especially in a hallowed site such as Westminster Abbey, one of the world’s most famous churches.

“There will be no kiss during the wedding ceremony,” explained the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, the dean of Westminster and the man responsible for overseeing the spiritual life of Westminster Abbey. “We don’t do that in the Church of England. That’s sort of a Hollywood thing: ‘ You may now kiss the bride.’ It doesn’t happen here.”

[ Video: Kate’s changes to the wedding vows ]

For the royal family, too, kissing, it seems, is serious business and must be undertaken only in appropriate situations. When William’s mother, Princess Diana, wed Prince Charles in 1981, the pair also did not kiss in church. Instead they produced an iconic moment on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. As thousands of well-wishers screamed for the newlyweds to pucker up, Diana said to Charles: “Well, what about it?”

Photographs of the resulting kiss were splashed across the front page of every British newspaper and seen around the world. That balcony moment is due to be repeated by William and Kate, although this time it will be scripted and part of the carefully planned event.

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There is even an allocated time for the kiss, 1:25 p.m. London time. Several publications reported this week that William and Kate have gone so far as to practice the act to ensure the camera angles are right for the international press.

Perhaps it is just as well there is to be no kiss in the abbey to distract William and Kate from the procedure of their big occasion. With eight days to go, the archbishop–the principal leader of the Church of England–added some welcome words of wisdom as they prepare for a day where every move will be scrutinized in minute detail.

“William and Catherine are making this commitment very much in the public eye, and they are sensible, realistic young people,” said Archbishop Rowan Williams. “They know what the cost of that might be. They have thought that through. And because of that they will need the support, the solidarity, and the prayers of all those who are watching.

“I wish them every richest blessing in their life together and the courage and clarity they will need to live out this big commitment in the full glare–to live it out for the rest of us.”

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