Last week, we sat down to tea and cucumber sandwiches with Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, to celebrate National Princess Week.
Who would be a more appropriate host for an intimate afternoon of tea than the legendary Julie, who was bestowed the title ‘Dame Julie Andrews’ by Queen Elizabeth II for her lifetime achievements in the arts and humanities?
As we stirred our mint tea with pink and purple rock candy sticks, bloggers asked the mother-daughter duo questions on royal subjects ranging from their best-selling children’s book series, The Very Fairy Princess, to what they really think about Princess Kate Middleton. Check out our chat and photos below, and celebrate National Princess Week with Julie’s 15 tips to be a modern-day princess.
What is National Princess Week and how did it come about?
JA: It came about as a happy collaboration. I’ve long had a relationship with Target and also, of course, with The Walt Disney Company. It is so magical that they’ve come together to help create and hugely support National Princess Week. What it boils down to is that everything princess will be combined under one roof, especially since many of Disney’s animated films have been about a princess or somebody special who believes in themselves. Target will feature an array of Disney Princess merchandise like apparel, toys, books, CDs and DVDs – featuring beloved characters such as Ariel, Cinderella and Snow White. National Princess Week also coincides with the release of The Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes The Flower Girl! and with the 10th anniversary of “The Princess Diaries.” It’s a win-win situation for all of us! Disney and Target were thrilled and excited to come aboard. And I said, “Wow, how lucky can a girl get?” because I know them both well and I enjoy working with them immensely.
Julie, you’ve played so many women of gumption throughout your career. What have these women taught you?
JA: All the characters I have played have taught me something. In terms of the elegant princess-type films, I just emulated all the princesses I’ve seen. Being raised in England, we certainly have royalty so ‘the wave’ was a dead ringer. The Queen waves just like that—she’s a wonderful queen.
What is your take on Princess Kate Middleton?
JA: What a bonus for Britain and the public! She is a beautiful example of a princess. Besides her beauty, Kate seemingly knows exactly how to do it. She’s careful and discreet, giving and gentle, enthusiastic and funny—to put all of those together at such a young age is amazing. I have such good thoughts for her and wish her so much luck.
How can you raise strong young women in a culture that is very saturated with princesses right now?
EWH: I think sometimes princesses are given an unfair rep. In anticipation of National Princess Week, we completed a huge amount of research and compiled a list of more than 70 current princesses. I was reminded once again of the extraordinary work that princesses do in the world—the contributions, causes they champion and the amount of good and service they contribute. I think princesses can be an incredible example to young women on how to be strong and feminine at the same time.
JA: Why not be a princess? I think it is a great thing! In a way, I think the universal love of dressing up is a way for kids to test their young muscles. They are saying, ‘What can I be when I’m grow up? How will I do?’ I think that diversity is what matters. Being allowed to let your own sparkle out—whatever your idea of a princess may be—should be celebrated. Nothing should be dictated and there is no form you should follow—except perhaps being decent, having grace and not treading on people on the way.
How did and do you balance professional life and family life?
JA: I admire everyone that works and raises a family, because it is not an easy thing! Family for both of us is probably the biggest and most important concern. I tried to make islands of quality time throughout the day. I was home to cook breakfast and get the kids off to school every morning. And at about 4:00 pm, we gathered for afternoon tea and shared the experiences of the day together. As long as you can hang on to those moments of being together, you’ll make it work.
How do kids respond when they meet you?
EWH: At book signings or events, we often see several generations of families coming together. They’re excited for everything from The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins to The Princess Diaries and Shrek.
JA: Little girls will come up and say, “I know how to wave too!”
Why do you think imagination and make-believe are so important for youth today?
EWH: The statistics are extraordinary—there is a direct correlation between how much kids read, how much they engage in dramatic play and how successful they are in school and their professional lives.
JA: As a mom, I passionately believe in moms reading to kids—turning the pages, following the pictures and letters with your finger across the page, and letting the imagination run.
How was your writing process working as a mother and daughter team?
EWH: It’s an organic process that started with finishing each other’s sentences. We’ve been writing for more than 14 years and have written more than 20 books. At first, I wasn’t sure what the process would be like for our relationship, but it was a happy surprise. Spending so much time together in a creative pursuit—particularly in children’s literature, which is a hopeful place to be—fueled our relationship and made it richer.
JA: I feel very blessed to be able to share this with my daughter. It’s such a lovely gift. How did we ever manage before?
So are you always in the same room when you’re writing?
EWH: When we had to be apart, there was a lot of talking on the phone. But now, of course, there are webcams. There is a great story when my mom first got her iChat set up. She was in L.A. and it was very early in the morning her time. We got online for the first time and she was laughing and I asked her what was so funny. She said, “It is so early and I didn’t have time to get dressed and put makeup on. So I thought, ‘What can I do to be presentable?’ and I spritzed on perfume.”
JA: Well, it made me feel better and then I felt more dressed!
If you weren’t an actress, would you have been a writer?
JA: I’ve always loved to scribble and to imagine. When I was younger, my tutor knew that I loved to write and she bribed me with writing if I finished my history and math. I always hoped I might be able to indulge myself and write. My husband, Blake, was hugely instrumental in my first book. He kept saying, “That’s a lovely idea, darling! Just keep doing it. Let the pages grow!”
We just had to ask—who is your favorite Disney princess?
JA: Mine has to be Cinderella! I played her when I was about 17 years old in England. And when I came to America, the first Rodgers and Hammerstein musical written for television was Cinderella. She has always resonated with me. I love the rags to riches bit—a little like my own story in a way.
click through the gallery below of teatime with Julie
Photos by Chris New and Brennan Kelley