Saturday, 20 September 2014

Walburga Habsburg Douglas loses Parliament seat

A week after the Swedish general election all the votes have now been counted and the distribution of Parliament seats between parties and candidates finalised. Some of my readers may be interested in knowing that Walburga Habsburg Douglas, the former Archduchess of Austria-Hungary and daughter of that country's last crown prince, Otto von Habsburg, was not re-elected to the Swedish Parliament.
Walburga Habsburg Douglas was first elected to Parliament for the Conservative party in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010. In this year's election she was demoted to the eighth position on her party's list for the county of Södermanland, meaning that she would need a lot of personal votes to supersede those ahead of her on the list. However, as the Conservatives won three seats from Södermanland and Walburga Habsburg Douglas received only 117 votes she will be neither an MP nor a substitute (i.e. one of those who step in if an MP is absent or renounces his or her seat). Her parliamentary career thus seems to have come to an end.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

My latest article: When Christian Frederik met Carl Johan

History is full of great adversaries who never met face to face - Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots, Napoléon I and Wellington, Churchill and Hitler, to mention a few examples - and it is a little-known fact that Christian Frederik and Carl Johan, the two great rivals in the struggle about Norway 200 years ago, actually met on three occasions. This is the topic of a short article I have written in connection with this year's independence bicentenary. The article appears in Historie, no 2 - 2014, which went on sale last week.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

At the road's end: Prince Nicholas Romanov (1922-2014), head of the Romanov Family Assocation

It has been reported that Prince Nicholas Romanov, the head of the Romanov Family Assocation, died on Monday, shortly before his 92nd birthday. A great-great-grandson of Emperor Nikolay I of Russia, Nicholas Romanov was the eldest son of Prince Roman Petrovich of Russia and Countess Praskovia Sheremeteva.
Born on 26 September 1922, he grew up in France and Italy, where he actively opposed the Fascist regime during the Second World War. He eventually acquired Italian citizenship and married an Italian, Countess Sveva della Gherardesca, in 1951. The couple had three daughters.
Nicholas Romanov worked as a businessman and farmer, eventually settling in Switzerland. He paid his first visit to Russia in 1992, the year after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In 1979 he was co-founder of the Romanov Family Assocation, which organises male-line descendants of the House of Romanov. Nicholas Romanov was vice president from its founding until he succeeded Prince Vasili Alexandrovich in 1989.
Under the rules in force when Russia was a monarchy Nicholas Romanov, being born of an unequal marriage, would have had no succession rights. However, the Romanov Family Assocation has, if I understand it correctly, claimed that these rules have been so to speak suspended since the execution of the last Emperor in 1918, claiming that the rights of the princes who contracted unequal marriages were not renounced as there was no emperor to demand their renuncations.
Nicholas Romanov's claim to head the Romanovs was disputed by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, who assumed the headship of the imperial family upon the death of her father Vladimir Kirillovich in 1992, claiming that there were no male dynasts left.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Social Democrats win power in Sweden

Fredrik Reinfeldt has announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Sweden and leader of the Conservative party after having taken a severe beating in Sunday's general election, whose only real winner is the right-wing extremist party the Sweden Democrats. The Speaker of Parliament will ask the leader of the Social Democrats, Stefan Löfven, to form a new government.
Given the election results, Löfven's task will not be an easy one. His party won 31.2 %, a gain of only 0.4 % from its result in the 2010 election, which was its worst since 1911. His prospetive coalition partner, the Green Party, won 6.8 % of the votes, back 0.4 % from 2010, while the third party of the left, the Left Party, gained 0.1 % and achieved 5.7 %. Thus the left wing's total gain was a mere 0.1 %.
Yet the left wins power as all of the four parties which have governed Sweden since 2006 lost support. The Conservative party backed no less than 6.7 %, winning only 23.2 % of the votes. The Liberal People's Party received 5.4 % (-1.7), the Christian Democrats 4.6 % (-1 %) and the Centre Party 6.1 % (-0.4 %).
What is lost by the four governing parties is won by the Sweden Democrats, who achieved 12.9 %, a gain of 7.2 %. The Sweden Democrats thus hold the parliamentary balance, but all the other parties have made it clear that they will under no circumstances co-operate with the extremists, whose roots lie in Nazism.
This creates a very difficult parliamentary situation, as the new government, which is widely expected to consist of the Social Democrats and the Green Party, will not be able to form a majority with neither the Left Party nor the Centre Party nor the Liberal People's Party. Indeed the support of either the Left Party and the Centre Party or the Left Party and the Liberal People's Party or the Centre Party and the Liberal People's Party will be needed, but the Centre Party and the Liberal People's Party have made it clear that they will not support a Social Democratic government. However, if the "established" parties are to continue to isolate the Sweden Democrats, some sort of co-operation across the line that divides the two blocks will be necessary.
If Stefan Löfven, a former trade union boss who has until now never been an MP or a minister, succeeds in forming a coalition with the Green Party it will be the first time that party enters government and the first time since the 1950s that the Social Democrats govern with another party. Another option is that the Social Democrats form a government alone, but dependent of support from some of the smaller parties.
There is also a theoretical possibility that an impossible parliamentary situation may lead to Parliament being dissolved and an extra election called before 2018, but this has not happened after the introduction of the new Constitution in 1974.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Elizabeth, Queen of independent Scotland?

In a week from today, the Scots will vote over whether Scotland should become an independent country. While the no campaign has had a clear lead for months, the opinion polls are now so close that the dissolution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a real possibility. If a majority of the Scots votes yes, Scotland will become independent on 24 March 2016. If they vote no, we have now been told that Scotland will immediately be offered greater autonomy within the United Kingdom.
A yes vote will obviously have great consequences, so it is rather surprising that many crucial issues remain unclear, most significantly the financial issue. While the Scottish government insists that Scotland will maintain the pound as its currency, the leaders of the three main British parties have insisted Scotland will not be allowed to do so, and should they change their mind a currency union between Scotland and Britain would clearly involve some sovereignty being ceded. It is also quite surprising that the British government insist they have no plans for what will happen if Scotland votes yes.
The question of what will happen to the monarchy has on the other hand been settled, although it includes unanswered questions. The referendum is about the dissolution of the parliamentary union of 1707, not the union of crowns of 1603. Therefore a vote in favour of independence means that Scotland and the remainder of Britain will revert to the previous arrangement, i.e. a personal union between two independent states. This is roughly the same arrangement as the union between Britain and Hanover between 1714 and 1837 and the union between Norway and Sweden between 1814 and 1905.
This means that Elizabeth II will become Queen of Scotland or of Scots, the latter (and, I believe, older) title apparently being favoured by the Scots. She will obviously drop the numeral in Scotland, as she is the first Scottish monarch of that name. This will put Scotland in the same position as Australia, Canada and numerous other kingdoms of which Elizabeth II is queen, i.e. of having a monarch resident abroad, although I can imagine the Scots will expect her to come to Scotland more frequently. As Queen of an independent Scotland Queen Elizabeth would be bound to take constitutional advice from the Scottish government, which may mean that she could at some stage receive conflicting advice from the Scottish and British governments in her roles as head of state of both countries (the union kings of Norway and of Sweden would have had much to say about such a scenario). One possibility is that her functions as Queen of Scotland is delegated to a governor general or a similar office when she is not in residence in Scotland, as is the case in her other kingdoms, but this has not been officially discussed.
There is also the issue of how long such a personal union would last. A YouGov poll conducted on 2-5 September found 54 % to be in favour of keeping the British monarch as head of state in the event of independence, while 31 % favoured an elected head of state and 15 % were undecided.
The same opinion poll found, for the first time, a majority to be in favour of independence, which has unleashed what seems like panic in London and some rather desperate calls for Queen Elizabeth to intervene and speak out in favour of the union. At the time of her silver jubilee in 1977, when a referendum on devolution of powers within the United Kingdom was coming up, the Queen for once indicated her personal opinion in an address to the Houses of Parliament, saying: "I number Kings and Queens of England and of Scotland, and Princes of Wales among my ancestors and so I can readily understand these aspirations. But I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Perhaps this Jubilee is a time to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred, at home and in our international dealings, on the inhabitants of all parts of this United Kingdom".
On Tuesday the conservative Daily Telegraph used its editorial to call on Queen Elizabeth to speak out in favour of the union. This was rejected outright by a spokesperson who insisted: "The sovereign's constitutional impartiality is an established principle of our democracy and one which the Queen has demonstrated throughout her reign. As such the monarch is above politics and those in political office have a duty to ensure that this remains the case. Any suggestion that the Queen would wish to influence the outcome of the current referendum campaign is categorically wrong. Her Majesty is firmly of the view that this is a matter for the people of Scotland". It would in my opinion have been unwise if she had indeed intervened. It would have jeopardised the monarchy's political neutrality, and might also have alienated it from roughly half the Scottish people. It would also have undermined the Queen's standing, as it would have made a yes vote a personal defeat for Elizabeth II.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Royal jewels: Princess Astrid’s aigrette(s)

In recent years it seems Princess Astrid, who is now 82, has more or less given up wearing her larger tiaras, i.e. the Vasa diadem of her mother and the diamond and turquoise coronet of her great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra of Britain. These days she mostly chooses lighter pieces, primarily the gold bandeau of her great-grandmother Queen Sophie and an aigrette that is one of the most versatile and peculiar pieces of royal jewellery.
The latter is really two different pieces of jewellery; in other words the base is the same, but there are two different ornaments that can be attached to it.
The version most frequently worn – most recently for the state banquet during the Israeli state visit in May – has a pair of diamond Mercury wings that tremble as the wearer moves. The other version – seen at the state banquet for the President of Estonia last week – has a ruby set in diamonds in the shape of a flower from which two long-stemmed flowers of diamonds and rubies emerge.
When I wrote my biography of her, which was published seven years ago, Princess Astrid told me she is always teased when she wears the aigrette in is latter setting, “people say they suppose one [flower] receives London and the other Moscow”.
The Victorian and Edwardian eras were the heyday of aigrettes, which could be worn as a head ornament with ostrich feathers (Princess Astrid says she has not contemplated that look). Princess Astrid’s aigrette originally belonged to her grandmother, Queen Maud, whose jewels were divided between her three grandchildren in the autumn of 1968. Unlike the Vasa tiara and the turquoise coronet it will not pass to the King upon Princess Astrid’s death, but be inherited by her children.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Duchess of Cambridge pregnant with second child

The British royal court has announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Prince William of Britain and his wife Catherine, are expecting their second child. The announcement seems to come because the Duchess, as last time, suffers from severe morning sickness and therefore had to bow out from a visit to Oxford today. The announcement does not say when the child is expected.
The child will be fourth in line to the British throne and will hold the style of title of Royal Highness and Prince(ss) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (styled "HRH Prince(ss) _____ of Cambridge" within Britain). This follows from Queen Elizabeth II's decision of 31 December 2012 to alter the previous rules under which the royal title was restricted to the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales .

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Princess Ragnhild’s granddaughter marries – in a tiara

This is a bit of old news by now, but on 9 August the late Princess Ragnhild’s granddaughter, Victoria Ribeiro, married Felipe Falcão, to whom she became engaged in November last year. The only member of the royal family present seems to have been the bride’s grandfather, Erling S. Lorentzen.
25-year-old Victoria Ribeiro, who has taken her husband’s surname, is the only child of Princess Ragnhild’s and Erling Lorentzen’s eldest daughter, Ingeborg, and her husband, Paulo Ribeiro. She is a graphic designer and runs her own company, called Vi Ragna.
I have only seen a couple of photos from the wedding, but it was interesting to note that the bride wore a tiara, which is a first for the non-royal descendants of the royal family. As the family are very well-off there is no reason to believe that the tiara is a fake, but it was not one of the two owned by Princess Ragnhild.
On the other hand it has some resemblance with the diamond tiara (convertible to a bracelet) which was a wedding present to Crown Princess Märtha from her uncle and aunt, King Gustaf V and Queen Victoria of Sweden. But this now belongs to Princess Astrid, who wore it for the first and so far only time for the state banquet during the Latvian state visit in 2011, and although Princess Astrid could have lent it to her goddaughter for her wedding it seems somewhat unlikely that it should have been sent all the way across the Atlantic to Brazil.
Victoria Ragna Lorentzen Ribeiro was born in Rio de Janeiro on 19 December 1988 and christened in the Palace Chapel in Oslo the following summer in the presence of her great-grandfather, King Olav V. Given the geographical and genealogical distance she plays no public role and rarely attends royal family events. Except for her grandmother’s funeral in the Palace Chapel in Oslo two years ago I believe her last such appearance was at the big family gathering held in Trondheim in 2006 for the centenary of King Haakon VII’s and Queen Maud’s coronation. However, she and her cousins Sophia Anne Lorentzen and Alexandra Lorentzen Long cut the ribbon when the new Norwegian seamen’s church in Rio de Janeiro, named Princess Ragnhild’s Church in honour of their grandmother, was opened on 3 May this year.

Friday, 22 August 2014

My latest article(s): Emeralds and Reims

I have two articles in the September issue of Majesty (Vol. 35, No. 9), which went on sale on Thursday. The first one deals with the emerald parure that is the pièce de résistance of the Norwegian jewellery collection and often worn by the Queen.
When writing my biography of Princess Astrid, which was published in 2007, I started doing some research into the history of this magnificent parure and in this article I sum up the research done in the intervening years, thereby rejecting some of the myths about this parure that are frequently repeated in the media, and following its provenance, its sometimes dramatic history and the changes made to it through the year, including the dispersal of the necklace's pendants and the unfortunate removal of some of the main stones from the tiara.
In the second I article I write about the Cathedral of Reims, the French coronation church whose significance was so great that French kings could not really be crowned anywhere else. This beautiful cathedral held a special place in French minds, but sadly became one of the first and most important cultural heritage victims of the First World War when German bombs left it in ruins in September 1914. However, it was lovingly rebuilt in the interwar years and now takes its rightful place as part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Widespread indifference to royal choice of private schools

The recent announcement that Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus would switch to private schools caused something of an outcry in Norway, where most children go to public schools, but on the eve of the first day of the new school year an opinion poll conducted by Norstat for state broadcaster NRK (external link) finds that the Norwegians do not have as strong opinions about this as one would perhaps think.
30 % of the 1,000 respondees have a negative opinion about the royal children attending private schools, while 25 % view it positively. The largest group, 41 %, finds it neither positive nor negative. 4 % have no opinion.
The opinion poll also finds that 41 % have great confidence in the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, while 20 % have very great confidence. Only 9 % have little confidence in the crown princely couple, while 26 % have neither great nor little confidence in them.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Book news: Princess Esmeralda on her grandparents

In two weeks Princess Esmeralda of Belgium will release her third book on her family history. While her previous books have dealt with her father, King Léopold III, and her mother, Princess Lilian, this volume will tell the story of her grandparents, King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth. The book is co-authored by Christophe de Vachaudez, who is perhaps best known for his book on the Belgian royal jewels, and will be published by Lannoo (in Dutch).
58-year-old Princess Esmeralda is the third and youngest child of Léopold III's second marriage and thus an aunt of King Philippe. She lives in London with her husband, the renowned cardiologist Sir Salvador Moncada.

Friday, 1 August 2014

On this date: 300 years of the Hanoverians/Windsors

300 years ago today, at around 7.30 a.m. on 1 August 1714, Queen Anne of Great Britain and Ireland died at the age. As the Queen had lost eighteen children and Catholics had been disinherited by the Act of Settlement of 1701, Queen Anne was succeeded by her second cousin, Elector Georg Ludwig of Hanover, who became King George I.
Thus today also marks the tercentenary of the current British royal house. Although the Hanoverians are frequently viewed as separate from the Windsors it is the same dynasty despite the name having been changed and the crown having passed to junior lines within the dynasty in 1830, 1837 and 1936.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

My latest article: Felipe VI

The August issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty (Vol. 35, No. 8) went on sale in Britain on Thursday, and this month I write about the inauguration of King Felipe VI and the up-hill struggle that faces him as he tries to rebuild trust in the monarchy after King Juan Carlos's spectacular fall from grace.
In the same issue there are also articles on Queen Anne of Britain, the last Stuart monarch, who died 300 years ago on 1 August, and the accession of the House of Hanover, as well as an article on Prince Aleksandar of Serbia/Yugoslavia, who is about to turn ninety.
In the next issue I will sum up several years of research into the sometimes dramatic history of the Norwegian emerald parure and also write about Reims, the history of French coronations and the destruction of the coronation church in September 1914.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Marianne Bernadotte speaks on radio on 90th birthday

Today is the ninetieth birthday of Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, philantropist, actress and aunt by marriage to the King of Sweden and the Queen of Denmark. In 1961 she married as her second husband (and his third wife) the industrial designer Count Sigvard Bernadotte af Wisborg, by birth Prince of Sweden, who died in 2002.
At 1 p.m. today Marianne Bernadotte will host a so-called "summer programme" on Swedish radio, which should be available at this external link: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt/400121?programid=2071.
It is an annual tradition that a number of more or less interesting people are invited to host such a programme between midsummer and mid-August, where they talk about topics of their own choice and play music selected by themselves.
Princess Birgitta hosted such a "summer talk" in 2009, while this year's list also contains another princess, i.e. the half-Swedish Princess Anna of Bavaria, a political journalist and biographer, who will host a programme on 28 July.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Prince Amedeo marries in Rome

On Saturday Prince Amedeo of Belgium, a nephew of King Philippe, married his longtime girlfriend Elisabetta Maria Rosboch von Wolkenstein, known as Lili, in the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in her hometown Rome. The bride wore a Valentino dress and a tiara loaned by the groom's grandmother, Queen Paola, which originally belonged to the late Queen Astrid.
Among the guests were King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, accompanied by their four children, of whom Princess Elisabeth was a bridesmaid, King Albert and Queen Paola, and the groom's other uncle, Prince Laurent with his wife Claire and their three children, among them Princess Louise, who was also a bridesmaid. Several members of the groom's paternal family, the House of Habsburg, were also in attendance, as was Princess Beatrice of Britain.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist to marry next summer

Last evening the Swedish royal court announced the engagement of Prince Carl Philip to his longtime girlfriend Sofia Hellqvist. The wedding will take place next summer, but there has not yet been time to make any decisions about the date or the place, what title(s) she will receive or where they will live.
At 5 p.m. the Prince and his fiancée met the press in the small garden of the Royal Palace in Stockholm, where they revealed that the Prince had taken her by surprise by going down on one knee at their country house in the morning. Praising each other’s qualities they spoke about the immediate attraction they felt upon their first meeting. Sofia Hellqvist seemed very at ease with the press and it was noticeable that Prince Carl Philip also appeared more assured and relaxed with the press than usual.
The daughter of Erik Hellqvist and Marie Rothmann, Sofia Kristina Hellqvist was born on 6 December 1984 in Täby, just north of Stockholm. At the age of five or six she moved north to Älvdalen, where she grew up.
After finishing school at the age of eighteen she moved to Stockholm, where she worked as a waitress and glamour model, sometimes posing nude, but mostly in bikinis. Having posed for the lads’ mag Slitz in 2004, she was voted “Miss Slitz” and went on to take part in the reality show “Paradise Hotel”, where scantily clad twenty-somethings pass the time in a tropical resort with partying, intrigues and romancing (no, she was not among the participants having sex on television).
Sofia Hellqvist gradually seems to have made a break with her past after she moved to New York, where she trained to become a certified yoga instructor and attended the New York Institute of English and Business.
In 2009 she did volunteer work at an orphanage and women’s centre in Ghana and in 2010 she and a friend founded Project Playground, an organisation which provides aid to less fortunate children and youngsters in South Africa.
In January 2010 the media revealed that Prince Carl Philip was in a relationship with Sofia Hellqvist and they soon moved in together. In recent years they have shared an apartment in one of the many houses owned by the King at Djurgården in Stockholm.
A Prince marrying a former bikini model may seem like a scandal to some, but it seems it is not considered as such in Sweden, except by dedicated royalists. This is probably partly due to the fact that the Swedes have had several years to get used to the idea as Sofia Hellqvist has gradually become a regular presence and royal events, and partly due to the Swedes’ not taking the royal family as seriously, if it can be put that way, as for instance their Norwegian neighbours do. In Sweden, which has had its own king since 1523 and which remained at peace throughout both world war, the royal family seem to be taken more for granted and the fact that the monarchy was deprived of its constitutional functions forty years ago may also have contributed to how many ordinary Swedes seem to view the royal family primarily as the country’s most famous celebrities, which makes Sofia Hellqvist an interesting addition to the cast.
And it should not be forgotten that more than one royal bride who have been deemed “unsuitable” have eventually turned out to be an asset to the royal family. There was much opposition in 2000-2001 against Crown Prince Haakon of Norway’s choice of Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby, but after the wedding that was quickly forgotten and Crown Princess Mette-Marit is today fully accepted as a member of the royal family (except by some republicans, the haters who thrive in online discussion groups, the Swedish media and some people more royalist than the King) and widely respected for the often innovative ways she uses her role to try and make a difference rather than just cutting ribbons. Another example could be Princess Lilian of Sweden, whose background as a divorced former model, actress and nightclub hostess made her completely unacceptable as a bride for Prince Bertil in the 1940s, but who, after their eventual marriage in 1976, proved to be the perfect princess.
There is no talk in Sweden about Prince Carl Philip having to renounce his title or succession rights because of this marriage; indeed, as both King Carl Gustaf and the government have given their consent today he will retain both.
It remains to be seen what title his wife will receive. As she is heir apparent, Crown Princess Victoria’s husband obviously became a Royal Highness, Prince of Sweden and Duke of Westrogothia, but the spouses of the King’s younger children are in a different position. When Princess Madeleine became engaged to Jonas Bergström in 2009 it was announced that he would become Duke of Helsingia and Gastricia (her dukedom), but not a Prince of Sweden. However, upon her marriage to Christopher O’Neill last year it was stated that his not becoming a Swedish citizen and his business interests meant that it would not be appropriate for him to become either a prince or a duke, which seems to suggest that the King since 2009 may have changed his mind about the princely title, which was also extended to Princess Madeleine’s and Chris O’Neill’s daughter Leonore earlier this year. Thus it seems certain that Sofia Hellqvist will at least become Duchess of Wermlandia (her fiancé’s dukedom) and very possibly also a Princess of Sweden, and that the children they may have will also receive princely titles and dukedoms.

Friday, 27 June 2014

My latest article(s): King Juan Carlos and Princess Leonore

I have written two articles in the July issue of Majesty, which went on sale in Britain today and will soon also be on sale in other major European cities and parts of North America.
The first deals with the rise and fall of King Juan Carlos I of Spain, charting how he led his country from dictatorship to democracy and explaining how he, ironically, eventually had to sacrifice himself in order to improve the monarchy's chances of survival. As the issue went to the printers just before the abdication came into force a second article dealing with the accession of King Felipe VI and the challenges facing him will appear in the August issue.
In the same issue I also report on the birth and christening of Princess Leonore of Sweden, including the unusual circumstances of a Swedish Princess being born abroad and her four namesakes among Swedish queens.
Today is, by the way, the fortieth birthday of Princess Leonore's father, Christopher O'Neill. The anniversary is celebrated privately in London.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Will King Harald abdicate?

“After King Harald’s abdication – Mette Marit [sic] to be queen” was the title on the front page of last week’s edition of the Swedish gossip magazine Se & Hör. Inside we can read that the “royalty expert” Sten Hedman, a retired journalist who does not even have basic knowledge of the Swedish royal family, believes that the King of Norway will be the next to abdicate as he has had health problems recently.
In fact, it is now a decade since the King underwent surgery for cancer (in 2003) and heart problems (in 2005), and in both cases he made a full recovery and is by all accounts now in excellent health. Although Se & Hör is the sort of magazine with such a low reputation for credibility that hardly anyone takes it seriously we should perhaps stop and consider whether there is a chance that the King might abdicate. The answer is most likely not.
In his New Year speech on 31 December 2013, a year which had seen the abdications of the Queen of the Netherlands, the Pope, the Emir of Qatar and the King of the Belgians, King Harald referred to the Constitution, which celebrates its bicentenary this year, and the oath to the Constitution he had taken when he became King in 1991. “This oath is for life”, he added, something I cannot see any other reason for stating in that context unless he meant to send a signal that he did not intend to follow in the footsteps of his fellow monarchs.
When asked about the abdication issue three years ago, the King said in his informal manner that he has asked his children to let him know if he at one stage becomes completely bonkers. In such a case there will most likely be a regency, which is really the exact same thing as an abdication, except that the heir does not acquire the royal title. This was how the issue was solved during the final illnesses of King Haakon in 1955-1957 and King Olav in 1990-1991 and is probably also how things will be done if King Harald at some stage becomes physically or mentally incapacitated.
There is no tradition for abdication in Norway. Since the country became independent in 1814 there has been only one abdication, and that was in 1814, when King Christian Frederik, as part of the armistice concluded with Sweden in Moss in August 1814, agreed to lay down the Crown of Norway. King Christian Frederik signed the instrument of abdication on 10 October, but it did not come into force until it was approved by Parliament on 4 November, the same day King Carl XIII was elected his successor.
King Oscar II on several occasions threatened to abdicate, but was eventually deposed by Parliament on 7 June 1905. However, he did formally abdicate the Norwegian crown on 26 October that year, but this was considered irrelevant by the Norwegians, who maintained that his reign had come to an end more than three months earlier because of his inability to carry out his constitutional functions.
King Haakon VII also threatened to abdicate on at least two occasions, most famously after the German invasion in 1940, when he made it clear to the cabinet that he could not agree to the German demands that he should appoint the Nazi leader Vidkun Quisling Prime Minister, as this would violate his oath to the Constitution, and that he would abdicate in order not to stand in the way if the cabinet wished to agree to the German demands (which they did not).
At the end of the war King Haakon entertained the thought of abdicating in Crown Prince Olav’s favour, apparently inspired by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands’s intention to do so. However, he rejected the idea, and although he later said at one stage that there ought to be an age limit for kings, he was deeply hurt when the newspaper Nordlys brought up the subject of abdication during his final years.
King Olav is not known ever to have considered abdicating.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

King Juan Carlos has abdicated

In a simple ceremony of less than twenty minutes, held in the Hall of Columns at the Royal Palace at Madrid at 6 p.m. today, King Juan Carlos signed into law the so-called organic law authorising his abdication. The bill was passed by the Congress of Deputies last Wednesday and by the Senate yesterday. It will come into effect when published in the official gazette, which will happen at midnight.
After the law had been read aloud, King Juan Carlos walked, with some difficulty because of his many recent operations on his hip and back, over to an ornate table of inlaid marble where he signed the act, which was thereafter countersigned by the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy of the Conservative Party.
Returning to his seat, King Juan Carlos gave Prince Felipe one of his characteristic big hugs and thereafter guided his son to the slightly elevated chair he had himself occupied until then. The 150 guests gave the outgoing King a standing ovation, which lasted for several minutes until he could no longer remain on his feet.
While King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía were seated with Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia in the centre of the room, Princess Leonor and Princess Sofía sat with their aunt, Princess Elena. Princess Cristina remains persona non grata and did not attend. Also present were King Juan Carlos's two sisters, Princess Pilar, Duchess of Badajóz and Princess Margarita, Duchess of Soria, the latter accompanied by her husband, Carlos Zurita, the King's aunt-by-marriage, 96-year-old Princess Alicia, and his cousin Prince Carlos, Duke of Calabria with his wife Ana.
Ex-King Simeon II of the Bulgarians and ex-King Konstantinos II of the Hellenes, accompanied by ex-Queen Anne-Marie, were present in their capacity as Knights of the Golden Fleece. The Greek ex-King is of course also Queen Sofía's brother, while ex-King Simeon is a childhood friend of King Juan Carlos.

Spanish Senate approves King Juan Carlos's abdication

By 233 votes against five, and twenty abstentions, the Spanish Senate on Tuesday passed the bill authorising King Juan Carlos's abdication. The King will sign it into law in a ceremony at the Royal Palace at 6 p.m. today, in the presence of some 150 guests, and it will take effect once it is published in the official legal gazette. As there is no longer a print version of this gazette, but only an online version, it is not quite clear when this will actually happen, but one Spanish newspaper reports that it will happen at midnight.
Prince Felipe, who will then succeed to the throne as King Felipe VI, will be invested with the sash of Captain General of the armed forces by his father at the Zarzuela Palace at 9.30 a.m. on Thursday and will thereafter travel to Parliament, where King Felipe will be sworn in in the chamber of the Congress of Deputies. His wife and two daughters will be present, as will Queen Sofía and the Princesses Elena, Pilar and Margarita, but not King Juan Carlos, who stays away to avoid drawing attention away from the new monarch.
After the swearing-in the new King will take the salute at a military parade in front of Parliament before he and Queen Letizia drive through Madrid to the Royal Palace, where King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía will join them on the balcony to greet the crowds. Around 1 p.m. the new King and Queen will host a reception for some 2,000 guests at the Palace.