Monday, 18 May 2015

Title issues: Sofia Hellqvist to become a princess and duchess

With less than a month to go before the wedding of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist on 13 June, the banns of marriage were published in connection with a service in the Palace Church in Stockholm on Sunday. This is no longer mandatory, but the Swedish royal family upholds the tradition and uses it as an occasion for the presentation of wedding gifts.
King Carl Gustaf also took the opportunity to announce his decision that Sofia Hellqvist will receive the titles Princess of Sweden and Duchess of Wermlandia as well as the style Royal Highness. This is not automatic, but decisions about titles for members of the royal family are the King's prerogative. As a logical consequence of the introducing of gender-neutral succession, King Carl Gustaf decided to treat the issue of princesses in the same way as the issue of princes, which means bestowing royal titles upon the children of Princess Madeleine. However, he seems to have changed his mind when it comes to the titles of his younger children's spouses.
When Princess Madeleine became engaged to Jonas Bergström in 2009, it was announced that her future husband would become Duke of Helsingia and Gastricia, i.e. of his wife's dukedom, but not a prince. On the other hand, her marriage to Christopher O'Neill in 2013 was preceeded by an announcement that her husband would become neither a prince nor a duke since he would not become a Swedish citizen and was not willing to give up his business interests, which suggests that the title of prince had been offered in addition to that of duke, as is now the case with the future wife of Prince Carl Philip.
The service in the Palace Church, which was followed by a lunch and reception, was attended by among others King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel with Princess Estelle, Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill with Princess Leonore, Princess Christina's son Gustaf Magnuson and his wife Vicky Andrén, the King's aunt by marriage Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, and Sofia Hellqvist's parents Erik and Marie Hellqvist as well as her sisters Lina and Sara with their boyfriends Jonas Frejd and Oskar Bergman.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Monegasque twins baptised

Today Hereditary Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, the twins born to Sovereign Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène on 10 December, were christened in Monaco's Cathedral.
The children wore christening gowns from Dior and the godparents were Diane de Polignac Nigra and Christopher LeVine Jr for Prince Jacques and Gareth Wittstock and Nerine Pienaar for Princess Gabriella. Christopher LeVine Jr is the son of the only surviving child of Princess Grace's sister, Lizanne Kelly LeVine, and as such Prince Jacques's second cousin, while Diane de Polignac Nigra is a granddaughter of Thérèse de Polignac, who if I am not mistaken was a second cousin of Sovereign Prince Rainier III, making Prince Jacques's godmother his fourth cousin. Gareth Wittstock is Princess Charlène's brother, while I assume Nerine Pienaar is a friend of hers.
Princesses Caroline and Stéphanie attended with their families (the former as usual without her estranged husband), while the only foreign royals to have attended seem to have been Prince Charles and Princess Camilla of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, who are friends of the children's father.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

King Salman appoints new crown prince and consolidates power

Three months after he came to the throne following the death of his brother Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia today dismissed his half-brother Muqrin as Crown Prince and replaced him with his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, while his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. King Salman thereby consolidates power in his own branch of the royal family while ensuring that the succession will move to the next generation after his own death.
Since the death of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul-Aziz (Ibn Saud) in 1953, the crown has passed among his many sons (approximately 45). Among these sons, the so-called "Sudairi Seven", seven full brothers whose mother belonged to the Sudairi family, have been particularly powerful, yet they have not taken all power for themselves until now.
For instance, when King Khalid appointed the eldest of the Sudairi Seven, Fahd, Crown Prince, he also appointed a non-Sudairi, Abdullah, second deputy prime minister, i.e. effectively second in line to the throne. As King, Abdullah in turn appointed three Sudairis Crown Prince, first Sultan, who died in 2011, then Nayef, who died in 2012, and then Salman, who succeeded him in January. But Abdullah also appointed a non-Sudairi, his ally Muqrin, to the new post of Deputy Crown Prince in April last year, thereby apparently trying to uphold the balance between Sudairis and non-Sudairis. There was speculation that Salman upon his accession would remove Muqrin in favour of Prince Ahmed, another Sudairi, but Salman immediately confirmed Muqrin as the new Crown Prince, while appointing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is the son of the late Crown Prince Nayef and the son-in-law of the late Crown Prince Sultan, and thus so to speak twice a Sudairi, Deputy Crown Prince.
At the same time, King Salman appointed his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Defence Minister and Lord Chamberlain, and by promoting him to Deputy Crown Prince today, King Salman has made the Sudairi branch almost all-powerful. The new Crown Prince also holds the important post of Interior Minister.
King Salman today also relieved Prince Saud bin Faisal of the post of Foreign Minister, which he has held since 1975, replacing him with Adel al-Jubeir, until now ambassador to the USA.
As things now stand, King Salman, who is born in 1935, will be succeeded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is 55, and thereafter by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to be in his early thirties, but Mohammed bin Nayef, who himself has no sons, may choose to appoint another heir when he becomes king. The influence of the Allegiance Council, which was set up by King Abdullah in 2007 to oversee the appointment of heirs, seems to be negligible.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Swedish royals meet the Pope

On Monday, the Pope received Queen Silvia, who was accompanied by Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill and their daughter Princess Leonore, in audience in the Apostolic Palace. The Queen and Princess Madeleine are in Rome to attend a conference on trafficking, a cause they have both been closely involved with and which Pope Francis singled out for attention in his New Year address.
This was Princess Leonore's first major public appearance, and the photos of Queen Silvia seated with her granddaughter, who clutches the Pope's finger, reminds one of the photo of Princess Madeleine at the age of seven, standing on her toes as she is kissed on the head by Pope John Paul II, a photo Queen Silvia keeps on her desk.
Interestingly, Queen Silvia chose to abide with the dress code for papal audiences that stipulates a long black dress and veil for women other than the Catholic wives of Catholic kings, who wear white, although other Protestant queens have abandoned it in recent years. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark wore a grey day dress and hat for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, while Queen Elizabeth II of Britain wore a mauve day dress and hat when she and Prince Philip were received by Pope Francis a year ago.
Chris O'Neill rarely accompanies his wife to official events that are not family events, but in this case his presence was clearly due to the fact that he is a Catholic. Queen Silvia, who was born in Germany to a German father and Brazilian mother and raised in Brazil, is a Lutheran and has always been so. Her Brazilian mother's funeral was held in a Lutheran church in Heidelberg, Germany, which suggests that her mother was also a Protestant.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Queen Margrethe's 75th birthday celebrations on Norwegian TV

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark turns 75 tomorrow and I will, as for previous royal events, be the commentator during NRK's live broadcast of the celebrations. The broadcast will begin on NRK1 from 8.10 a.m. to 8.45, when Queen Margrethe will be awakened by song at Fredensborg Palace and appear in her bedroom window, and will continue from 12.15 to 1.40 p.m. and thereafter on NRK2 from 1.40 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. before it returns to NRK1 from 2.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The broadcast in the afternoon will cover the carriage ride through the streets of Copenhagen and the performance at Copenhagen's City Hall.
The celebrations have begun tonight will a state banquet at Christiansborg Palace, attended by, among others, the royal family, representatives of the Danish state, the King of Norway, the King and Queen of Sweden, the King and Queen of Spain, the King and Queen of the Netherlands, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and the President and First Lady of Iceland. Unfortunately the Prince Consort has fallen ill with the flu and will miss all of the birthday celebrations.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

New British act of succession comes into force

Today is an historic day for the British monarchy as the Succession of the Crown Act 2013, which introduces gender neutral succession in Britain and the other fifteen realms of which Elizabeth II is head of state, comes into force. The prime minister of the sixteen kingdoms agreed upon these changes at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth on 28 October 2011 and although it passed its final reading in the British Parliament and received the royal assent in April 2013 it has not come into force before now as it needed to be passed by the all the realms, which has been a rather complicated process. In the end Australia, Barbados, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines have passed legislation to amend the succession, while Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, St Lucia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu concluded that it was not necessary to pass legislation, apparently because the succession was not codified in suc detail. For instance, the constitution of Tuvalu appears to say that whoever is monarch of Britain is monarch of Tuvalu.
While younger brothers have until now bypassed elder sisters in the act of succession, the first-born will now be the heir regardless of its gender. This change will be retroactive, but only for those born after 28 October 2011. Thus Princess Anne is still behind her younger brothers and their children in the line of succession, and Prince Edward's son is still ahead of his older sister, while Senna Lewis, a granddaughter of the Duke of Gloucester, overtakes her younger brother Tane, who was born after that date.
The new Succession to the Crown Act also means that people who marry to Catholics are no longer barred from ascending the throne, while Catholics themselves are still excluded as the monarch is required to be Anglican. This change is retroactive, so that the Earl of St Andrews (the Duke of Kent's oldest son), Prince Michael and several others are now back in the line of succession (while Lord St Andrews' children and his brother Lord Nicholas Windsor, who are themselves Catholics, are still excluded).
The new act also repeals the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, scrapping the requirement for anyone in line of succession to seek the monarch's permission to marry. This will now only apply to the first six people in line to the throne. Currently those six are Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince George, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice, which means that Prince Andrew's eldest daughter needs permission while her sister does not (the birth of Prince William's second child, which is expected in the second half of April, will however push Princess Beatrice out of the top six).
Of the seven European kingdoms, Spain is now the only one left where sons still take precedence over daughters in the order of succession. Gender neutral succession was first introduced in Sweden in 1980, followed by the Netherlands in 1983, Norway in 1990, Belgium in 1991 and Denmark in 2009.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Barbados to abolish monarchy

In a speech to party supporters, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart of the Democratic Labour Party, has announced that the country will "move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future". Legislation to transform the Kingdom of Barbados into a republic will be put to Parliament to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Barbados's independence next year and will, according to the Democratic Labour Party's Secretary General George Pilgrim (quoted in The Times today) "move the country through to the next major step in the process of nationhood". Pilgrim does not "expect any opposition" to the change.
Barbados is currently one of fifteen countries of which the British monarch is head of state, the others including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but the Queen of Barbados has only visited five times and has not set foot in the country for 26 years. Her youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and his wife Sophie did however visit Barbados a year ago.
Like many other countries who have removed the British monarch from the position of head of state, Bahamas intends to remain a member of the Commonwealth. It is interesting to note that Prime Minister Stuart said that they "respect [Queen Elizabeth] very highly as head of the Commonwealth and accept that she and all of her successors will continue to be at the apex of our political understanding". These words are interesting as the headship of the Commonwealth is not hereditary; thus Prince Charles will not automatically become its head when Queen Elizabeth dies.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

King appoints female Lord Chamberlain

I have been too busy lately to find time to update this blog regularly, but one piece of news from last Friday surely deserves to be mentioned: The King has appointed Gry Mølleskog Lord Chamberlain, thereby making her the first woman in Norway - and as far as I know also in Europe - to hold the top position at the royal court. Mølleskog will take over in the summer from Åge B. Grutle, who was been Lord Chamberlain since 2009 and was appointed Ambassador to Finland in the Council of State on Friday.
Mølleskog, who is 53 years old, was chief of staff to the Crown Prince and Crown Princess from 2003 to 2006, when she left to pursue a business career. She was Senior Vice President of SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) and Senior Client Partner of the recruitment company Korn/Ferry, but returned to the royal court in 2012, when the Crown Prince and Crown Princess's office merged with the office of the King's Private Secretary to form the Royal Secretariat and Mølleskog became Chief of Staff and head of the secretariat.
The creation of a joint staff for the King and Queen and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess was a significant step that intended to make the future transition from Harald V to Haakon VIII as smooth as possible. The King will not abdicate, but while King Olav remained the absolute head of the monarchy until the very end, King Harald has turned it into a teamwork, first between himself and the Queen and in the past fifteen years also including the Crown Prince and Crown Princess in the making of all major decisions (although the King retains the last word).
The fact that Gry Mølleskog will (probably) be King Harald V's last Lord Chamberlain can also be seen as a testimony to the feminisation of the monarchy and the royal court that has taken place in his reign. King Olav's court was almost exclusively male - it was only after 25 years that a female Assistant Private Secretary was appointed in 1982 - while the royal household of the current reign has been more or less equally balanced between genders. While King Olav's household consisted almost entirely of officers, the court of Harald V has been recruited from a wider base. The highest court position held by a woman before Mølleskog was that of Private Secretary, which was held from 2000 to 2012 by Berit Tversland, who began her career in the royal household as governess to the then Prince Haakon and Princess Märtha Louise in 1977.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

My latest article: The Saudi succession

Yesterday I had an article in Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, about the complicated but geopolitically important Saudi succession, which looks at the interdynastic rivalries and what it means that the succession is now at last about to move from the many sons of King Abdul-Aziz to the first of the hundreds of grandsons. The article may be read here (external link).
This article is in Norwegian, but I will return to the topic in the March issue of Majesty in the context of an obituary of King Abdullah.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Funeral of Johan Martin Ferner

The funeral of Princess Astrid's husband, the businessman Johan Martin Ferner, took place in Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo at 1 p.m. today. The chapel held a special place in the hearts of the Ferner family as it was where all the five children were christened and Princess Astrid played a central part in raising funds for its rebuilding after it was arsoned by Satanists in 1992.
The adult members of the Norwegian royal family were out in force, the only absentee being Princess Ragnhild's widower, Erling S. Lorentzen, who is 92 and lives in Rio de Janeiro. As expected, no members of foreign royal families attended, but there was at least a wreath from Luxembourg. Several members of the Ferner family, although not Princess Astrid, wore folk costumes, which is very unusual at funerals. Sigurd Osberg, a retired bishop who has sat on the board of Crown Princess Märtha's Memorial Fund, of which Princess Astrid is chairwoman, officiated together with the parish priest, Jan-Erik Heffermehl.
The coffin was carried out of the chapel to the tunes of "Amazing Grace". As a last greeting to her husband of 54 years, Princess Astrid curtseyed deeply as the hearse departed.
Johan Martin Ferner will apparently be cremated, but it is not yet known where his ashes will be interred. The most likely option is perhaps the cemetery of the local parish church, Ris, while another, less likely, option is the cemetery in Asker, next to the royal estate Skaugum, where Princess Ragnhild is buried. The royal mausoleum at Akershus Castle is unlikely, although there is now an empty wall niche, which might perhaps have been able to take two urns, after the alleged skull of King Sigurd the Crusader turned out not to be genuine and was consequently removed.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My latest article: Obituary of Johan Martin Ferner

Following the death of Johan Martin Ferner, the businessman who was for 54 years married to Princess Astrid, I have written an obituary which appears in the newspaper Aftenposten today. It may be read here (external link).

Monday, 26 January 2015

Johan Martin Ferner's funeral to take place on 2 February

The funeral of the businessman Johan Martin Ferner, Princess Astrid's husband, who died on Saturday, will as expected take place in Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo on Monday 2 February at 1 p.m. As befits the low profile of this most anonymous member of the royal family, the funeral will be a private one, without media presence.
I would not expect members of foreign royal families to attend, except perhaps a representative of the Swedish royal family, to whom Princess Astrid was always close. Those Belgians, Luxembourgian and Danish relatives the Ferners were close to are now all dead, with the exception of Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, who at the age of 94 is unlikely to travel to Norway.
Holmenkollen Chapel is part of the Ferners' local parish Ris. It is also close to the royal winter residence, the Royal Lodge, and has long held a special place in Princess Astrid's heart. It was where all their children were baptised and she was deeply upset when the wooden chapel was arsoned by Satanists in 1992, less than two months before Elisabeth Ferner's wedding was due to take place there. The Princess played a key role in raising more than 10 million NOK for its reconstruction. It was completed in 1996, just in time for Alexander Ferner's wedding to take place there.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

At the road's end: Johan Martin Ferner (1927-2015), businessman and royal husband

The business man Johan Martin Ferner, Princess Astrid's husband, passed away at the age of 87 at the National Hospital in Oslo at 5.25 this morning, the royal court has announced. Ferner was the most anonymous member of the royal family and during his 54 years as the Princess's husband he was the very essence of discretion and loyalty.
Born in Oslo on 22 July 1927, Johan Martin Jacobsen was the third and youngest child of Ferner Jacobsen and his wife Ragnhild Olsen. In November of the same year, the children adopted their father's first name as their last name. His father ran a men's clothing store, Ferner Jacobsen A/S, founded in 1926 and still in existence in Parliament Street in Oslo. Johan Martin studied at London Polytechnic Institute, Bradford Technical College and the University of Lyon and worked at Harrods and Austin Reed in London before joining his father's company, where he worked his way up through the ranks until taking over the company jointly with his older brother Finn Christian on their father's death in 1964.
Johan Martin Ferner was a keen yachtsman and won a silver medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. The previous year he had for the first time gone sailing with Princesses Ragnhild and Astrid, and they remained part of each other's social circle. In 1953, Ferner married a friend of the princesses, Ingeborg "Bitte" Hesselberg-Meyer (1931-1997), but the marriage was dissolved in 1956. Ferner's and Princess Astrid's friendship gradually evolved into love, but it would be several years before King Olav gave his permission for them to marry. When writing my biography of her, Princess Astrid told me that after her elder sister had married a commoner she was convinced that it would not be possible for her too to do the same, and the fact that Ferner was a divorcé obviously complicated the matters (this was about the same time as Princess Margaret of Britain had to give up her relationship with the divorcé Peter Townsend). Attempts were made to stop the relationship, but eventually the King gave in.
The storm that broke out when the engagement was announced on 13 November 1960 was considered the worst the royal family had so far experienced and contained many of the same arguments that would come up again when the Princess's nephew married a single mother in 2001. Two members of Parliament's presidium boycotted the congratulatory visit to the Palace, while the Christian newspaper Vårt Land declared itself in mourning and thundered against the Princess and her choice of husband. The wedding was set for Asker Church, the parish church near the royal estate Skaugum, but the parish council refused to allow the marriage to be celebrated there. It was only after the King had appealed to the Church Ministry that the decision was overturned. The Bishop of Oslo was unwilling to marry divorces, but the more liberal Bishop of Nidaros, Arne Fjellbu, agreed to do so. The couple were eventually married on 12 January 1961 in the presence of royal guests from Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and Britain.
Johan Martin Ferner and Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner, as she was now styled, settled in a villa on Oslo's west side and had five children between 1962 and 1972: Cathrine, Benedikte, Alexander, Elisabeth and Carl-Christian. Until 1968 the Princess, despite ill health, combined her role as wife and mother with that of first lady of the realm and she had continued to take on many royal duties also after her brother's marriage meant that her sister-in-law Sonja tok over as first lady. Johan Martin Ferner kept a very low profile and did not carry out any public engagements, only occasionally accompanying his wife to major events. I believe the interview he gave to Aftenposten on the occasion of his seventieth birthday in 1997 was the only interview he ever gave. Instead he focused his attention on the family business, which was eventually taken over by his son Carl-Christian and his nephew Christian, but until recently Johan Martin Ferner still paid regular visits to the store.
King Harald made his brother-in-law a Commander of the Order of St Olav shortly after the couple's golden wedding anniversary in 2011. By then the 84-year-old Johan Martin Ferner had given up on attending evening events and was only occasionally seen at royal events. His last public appearance was the wedding of his youngest son to Anna-Stina Slattum Karlsen on 4 October 2014.

Last rites for King Abdullah - and appointment of new heirs

In keeping with Muslim tradition, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who died in the early hours of Friday, was buried already on the same day. After funeral prayers at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque, the King was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in the El-Ud public cemetery in Riyadh.
The King of Bahrain, the Emirs of Kuwait and Qatar, the Presidents of Turkey and Sudan and the Prime Ministers of Egypt and Pakistan attended the funeral, while other foreign dignitaries will arrive in Riyadh on Saturday to pay their condolences to the new King, Salman. Among those expected are the Kings of Sweden and Spain, Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, the Crown Princes of Denmark and Norway and US Vice President Joe Biden.
There were two interesting developments to the Saudi succession, one particularly significant, on Friday. Firstly, King Salman appointed his half-brother Muqrin Crown Prince. Muqrin, the youngest surviving son of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud), was appointed Deputy Crown Prince by King Abdullah in March last year. The choice was somewhat surprising as there is an older half-brother, Ahmed, and Muqrin is not the son of a Saudi mother, and some had wondered if King Salman upon his succession would appoint Ahmed Crown Prince. This did not happen, and King Salman also appointed the Interior Minister, Prince Mohammed, the son of the late Crown Prince Nayef, Deputy Crown Prince, signifying that after the deaths of Salman, who is 79, and Muqrin, who is 69, the Saudi succession will at last move from the approximately 45 sons of Ibn Saud to the third generation of the House of Saud.

Friday, 23 January 2015

At the road's end: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (1924?-2015)

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was hospitalised with pneumonia several weeks ago, died at 1 a.m. local time today, it has been announced. The King was believed to be 90 years old. Under the Saudi succession rules, which means that the crown passes between the many sons of the country's founder, King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud), King Abdullah is succeeded by his half-brother Salman, who is believed to be 79 years old and in indifferent health.
King Abdullah came to the throne upon the death of his older half-brother King Fahd in August 2005, but had by then already been the country's actual ruler since King Fahd suffered a serious stroke ten years previously. In a Saudi context, King Abdullah, who was very popular with his people, was seen as a moderate and a reformer, who gave for instance the media and women more freedom, but as an absolute monarch he presided over one of the world's most barbaric regimes.
King Abdullah outlived two crown princes, Sultan, who died in 2011, and Nayef, who passed away in 2012, before appointing Salman Crown Prince. For good measure, he appointed another half brother, Muqrin, Deputy Crown Prince last year.
Muqrin, now Crown Prince, is a mere 69, but the youngest son of Ibn Saud, meaning that the shift to the next generations - the grandsons - will probably occur after him.
The death of King Abdullah makes Queen Elizabeth II of Britain the world's oldest monarch.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

My latest article(s): Queen Fabiola and a Danish succession dispute

I have written two articles in the February issue of Majesty (Vol. 36, No. 2), which goes on sale in Britain today. There are seven pages on the life, death and funeral of Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, who died last month, and I also write about Hereditary Prince Knud of Denmark, the younger brother and heir presumptive of King Frederik IX, who never got over his bitterness about losing the crown when the succession was changed in 1953 to allow for the accession of his niece, the current Queen Margrethe II.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

On this date: Marius Borg Høiby's 18th birthday

When he entered public life fifteen years ago he was often referred to as "little Marius", but time flies and today the Crown Prince's stepson, Marius Borg Høiby, turns eighteen and thus reaches his majority.
Marius Borg Høiby was born to the then Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby and Morten Borg on 13 January 1997 and was still just two years old when his mother began a relationship with the Crown Prince in 1999. His family understandably tried to shield him from unwelcome media attention, but many will remember him playing with the Queen on the floor of the Royal Lodge during the 2000 Christmas photo session and as a pageboy at his mother's and stepfather's wedding on 25 August 2001.
The King decided that Marius should be a member of the royal family, but not of the royal house, which means that he is a natural presence at family events, but does not take part in official events that are not family events, except for the occasional more informal event, such as a football match or a concert. Thus he does for instance not join his siblings on the palace balcony on the National Day and it is not expected that he will carry out official engagements or represent Norway abroad as an adult.
So far, the media have mostly left Marius alone, but it remains to be seen whether his unusual position will provide him with the best of both worlds or if his royal status will restrict him in trying to lead a normal life.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

At the road's end: The 8th Duke of Wellington (1915-2014)

Ever since the 1st Duke of Wellington was one of the victors in the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815 it has been a tradition that the current Duke of Wellington goes to Windsor Castle on the anniversary of the battle to present the British monarch with a French flag as a token rent for the estate the 1st Duke was granted by the nation in recognition of his victory over Emperor Napoléon I of the French. It would have been wonderful if the 8th Duke of Wellington, who was born two weeks after the centenary of the battle, had been able to present the flag to Queen Elizabeth II on the bicentenary this year, but sadly he died on the last day of 2014, aged 99.
The son of the diplomat and architect Lord Gerald Wellesley, Arthur Valerian Wellesley was born in Rome on 2 July 1915 and was quite naturally named for his great ancestor. However, he was at that time not expected to succeed to the dukedom, but the death of his childless cousin Henry, the 6th Duke, from wounds received in action in Italy in 1943, made his father the 7th Duke and himself the heir apparent to the dukedom, which he inherited - together with a number of other British, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese titles, including Prince of Waterloo, on the death of his father in 1972.
The 8th Duke was a career soldier, who served in the Middle East and Italy during the Second World War and was awarded the Military Cross in 1941. He retired from the British army in 1968 with the rank of brigadier. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1990.
During the war he married Diana McConnel, who worked in military intelligence, in Jerusalem on 28 January 1944. The Duchess died in 2010. The couple had five children, of whom the eldest, Charles, a former MEP who is married to Princess Antonia of Prussia, succeeds to his father's titles (although it is customary in Britain that the heir to a title does not start using it until after the funeral of the previous holder). Their only daughter, Lady Jane Wellesley, is a TV producer, was at one stage advocated by Lord Mountbatten as a possible bride for King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, but a certain Silvia Sommerlath came in the way of what might have been a grand alliance between the descendants of two of the victors of the Napoleonic Wars.
The 8th Duke of Wellington was last seen in public when he and Lady Jane attended the memorial service for Lady Soames, Winston Churchill's daughter, in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 2014.

Princess Madeleine and family return to Sweden

Following much recent speculation about a move to London, the Swedish royal court has confirmed that Princess Madeleine and her family have left New York, where she has been living since 2010, and will for the foreseeable future live in her apartment in the Royal Mews in Stockholm. According to the royal court the Princess and her husband, Chris O'Neill, intend to find a new home somewhere in Europe, but no final decision about where has yet been made.
It was recently announced that the couple expect their second child in the summer and at the time of the birth of their first child, Princess Leonore, in February 2014, the Marshal of the Realm stated that the royal court's interpretation of the Act of Succession's rather vague requirement for royal children to be brought up in Sweden in order to maintain their rights of succession to mean that they must live in Sweden from approximately the age of six and attend Swedish schools.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Swedish general election cancelled

The extraordinary Swedish general election which it was recently announced would take place on 22 March will now not take place after all, it was announced on Saturday. This follows from an agreement reached between the governing Social Democrats and Green Party and the four parties of the centre-right block which aims at making it possible for a minority government to survive despite the stated intention of the right-wing extremist Sweden Democrats, who hold the parliamentary balance, to defeat any government that will not do the extremists' bidding.
The decision to hold an extraordinary parliamentary election in March was announced by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven on 3 December, after the Sweden Democrats ensured that his government's budget was defeated and the budget proposed by the four centre-right parties, which ruled for eight years until they were defeated in September's general election, was adopted instead.
However, the Social Democrats and the Green Party on one side and the Conservatives, the Liberal People's Party, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats on the other have now reached an agreement, valid from 2015 till 2022, which says that neither of them will block the election of the leader of the largest party constellation to the premiership and ensures that the government will be able to get its budget proposal through Parliament, while it will also no longer be possible for the opposition to amend single parts of the budget.
This agreement across the divide between the two blocks cancels out the influence of the Sweden Democrats, who responded by stating their disgust that it will be possible for a "very small minority" to decide over a majority, which seems to be an ironic statement from a party which after receiving thirteen percent of the votes made clear their intention to defeat any government and budget that would not do their bidding. he Sweden Democrats will now call for a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and have demanded that the four centre-right parties join them in defeating the government, something those parties have again made it clear they will not do.