Hello, loyal Furry readers!
While letter writing may now be uncommon, it was a main form of communication for three of the 20th Century’s (and all centuries’, for that matter) greatest icons: Princess Diana, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Princess Grace of Monaco. Their choices of stationery, the style of their signature, and the character with which they wrote continue to inspire anachronistic scribes 15, 18, or even 30 years after their deaths.
Signatures and Handwriting
All three women grew up with great wealth at times when education was still very classical; thus, Grace, Diana, and Jackie would all have had extensive penmanship instruction in school.
Jacqueline Kennedy’s handwriting was elegant, but not too stiff–creating a very personal effect (much like Diana.) During her marriage to JFK, she would sign her letters “Jacqueline Kennedy”, as shown above. In later life, she would mix up her three surnames, signing “Jackie Bouvier Kennedy,” “Jackie Bouvier Onassis,” or “Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis”.
Diana’s handwriting changed very little from her teen years. I saw some samples of her penmanship at the exhibition “Diana: A Celebration” and found that the handwriting in the nineteen year old’s datebook was consistent with that of the thirty year old humanitarian. Also, it was perfectly uniform from a note to her staff to a letter to a high level dignitary.
Princess Grace of Monaco handwriting could have been a computer font. Unlike Britain’s royal family, the Monegasque royals use “de Monaco” (of Monaco.) Her signature as Princess was much more romantic than that of her Hollywood days. Most notable is the unique uppercase “G” that I have tried, and failed, to copy.
Although this is not surprising based on what we know of them, but Grace, Diana, and Jackie clearly saw letter writing as a very personal medium. These letters expose their real kindness and warmth, and they allow their writers to add depth to their public personas.
Smythson is the official stationer of the British royal family. To create stationery for the family, the company engraves a crown motif (sold exclusively to the royals) over the first letter of the Christian name. Note that the royal family never uses a name or title on its stationery, but the residence from which the letter is written.
When she flew solo, the Princess of Wales used a stunning combination of red ink on ecru paper with her royal cypher. The Prince and Princess of Wales’ marriage may not have worked, but their couples’ stationery did. Their initials intertwined in an elegant style, printed in cerulean ink on white paper, were a beautiful “logo” for the pair.
Jacqueline Kennedy preferred Massachusetts brand Crane and Co. Jackie, always an original, was a pioneer for the usage of colored paper for stationery. Even in high school, her writing papers stood out. Like the royals, her stationery was typically marked with the address from which the letter was sent. She had her own stationery from the Kennedys’ Palm Beach estate, “the Winter White House,” marked by the address. But, her stationery from the White House was marked “Mrs. John F. Kennedy”.
Princess Grace of Monaco used a more subtle style: her royal cypher, (seemingly) blind embossed onto an ecru card. Her royal monogram, used on everything from note cards to postage stamps, was two mirroring uppercase “G”s, unpretentiously without a crown on private stationery.
The House of Grimaldi’s Christmas cards were, shockingly, very much like any other family’s Christmas cards–a beautiful family portrait on the front with a short and sweet message on the inside. Not shockingly, the Prince and Princess’ busy schedules kept them from writing everyone a handwritten note, explaining why this card went to auction without a trace of neither Grace nor Rainier’s handwriting.
Princess Diana’s Christmas cards evolved with her marital status. While she was married to Charles, the family portraits were colorful, highly posed, and taken in the conventional living room setting or out in the countryside. They were very casual. With her increasing independence after her separation, the Princess’ cards included just Diana and her two sons. The images tended to have darker lighting or be black and white, and were something out of a Vogue spread. But, the routine remained the same; although there were no personal messages, every card was personally addressed and autographed. Highly glamorous, the portraits of Diana, William, and Harry are considered gorgeous 365 days a year, and are an important part of her photographic legacy.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ Christmas cards were a source of personal pride. Her regal demeanor shined through with her White House era Christmas cards. She even hand painted one illustration of her own design, which has now been redistributed as ornaments to benefit the JFK Library and Hallmark cards to aid the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
During and after her Onassis years, Jackie’s Christmas cards were much more intimate, proving that behind the Swan hairstyle and big sunglasses she was just as special as the public thought she was. The above message, “so much love to Prory (Provy?) at Christmas…Jacqueline Onassis” is a simple message affectionately and elegantly stated.
Going to the Chapel (or Shall I Say Cathedral)
The wedding invitation of Senator John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was straight from Crane’s Blue Book of Stationery. The Chevalier font, still in use for wedding invites and men’s correspondence cards today, signaled that a New England wedding was in store for the handsome Massachusetts senator and the one time Debutante of the Year.
Despite her Northeastern roots (Grace grew up on the Main Line), marrying in Europe meant that preppy tradition was not in the cards for the invitation to Princess Grace’s wedding. Oddly for a royal wedding, the invitation was sent from Mr. and Mrs. Kelly, not the Grimaldis. Having great wealth, as well as success in business and athletics, Jack Kelly was able to provide a wedding invitation that was equally as royal as whatever the House of Grimaldi could provide. The reception card, sent from the Palace, was worded in an even older style in which the guest’s name was written on the invitation.
No need for an elaborate invitation from Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, the Prince of Wales–whatever the guests needed to know about the wedding they could hear on television, read in magazines, and talk about with people from every nation in the world. Interestingly, the royals always use the more archaic “Marriage of the Prince of Wales with Lady Diana” instead of “Marriage of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana”. They even used this style on the wedding invitations of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It’s been working for a thousand years, so why not hang on to the status quo?
Farewell, My Friends
During a time of shocking personal tragedy and national crisis, Jacqueline Kennedy made sure that those horrible four days captured what she believed to be the graceful and eloquent essence of her husband through breathtaking memorial services. In January, she appeared on television to thank the public for the millions of condolence letters. Each and every one of those people received one of these Crane’s cards acknowledging his or her sympathy–a gesture that continued to cement the elegance of Camelot.
Again, Jackie’s later notes revealed more intimacy. When Aristotle Onassis died during his less than enchanting marriage to Jacqueline, she put hard feelings aside to give him a respectful farewell. A little less traditional, Onassis’ condolence cards were navy writing on an ecru card, with little handwritten notes at the bottom.
Although not always remembered as the shock it was, Princess Grace of Monaco’s death in 1982, at the age of 52, was unexpected and tragic. Jimmy Stewart eulogized her, saying, “You know, I just love Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met.”
A prominent guest at Princess Grace’s funeral in 1982 was the newly minted Princess of Wales, who would die fifteen years later in another shocking car accident. The loss of the People’s Princess was arguably the biggest display of grief and the largest media event in history. Despite her loss of the “HRH” status, Diana’s people wished her to have a proper royal-send off, and she got it. The Princess of Wales was remembered at Westminster Abbey, which was been hosting major royal religious events since its founding in 960. The order of service is written in simple royal style, much like the Princess’ wedding invitation sixteen years earlier. A prayer at the funeral read, “As we reflect on the Princess’ compassion for others, we pray that we too may be inspired to serve as she served.”
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading my guest post for my dear friend Furry! For more, please check out my blog, thepeonypages.blogspot.com.