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.

Royal children to attend new schools

The Norwegian royal court announced on Monday that Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus, who have until now attended the local Jansløkka School near their home Skaugum in Asker, will be enrolled in new schools after the summer holiday.
The Princess will attend Oslo International School, which, despite its name, is not in Oslo, but at Bekkestua in Bærum, while the Prince will become a pupil at the Montessori School in Oslo. In the case of the future monarch, the Palace explains the change by her need to learn to speak, write and think in English from an early age.
The fact that the Princess and the Prince, who have until now attended a public school, will switch to private schools has caused some negative reactions in a country where the overwhelming majority of children attend public schools and private schools are widely seen as rather elitist.
However, those who argue that this constitutes a departure from royal traditions are not quite correct. Before the Second World War, royal children were educated at home, except for a brief spell at Halling's private school for the then Crown Prince Olav. However, during the war the three children of Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha attended private schools in the USA, and after their return to Norway Princess Astrid and Princess Ragnhild refused to go back to being educated at home. They, and their brother Prince Harald, were therefore enrolled in public schools - Nissen for the Princesses, Smestad for the Prince, who later went on to Oslo Cathedral School. Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Märtha Louise were also enrolled at Smestad, but later switched to the private Kristelig Gymnasium.

Monday, 16 June 2014

After 850 years, a female archbishop of Sweden

The King and Queen of Sweden, accompanied by Crown Princess Victoria, were present in Uppsala Cathedral on Sunday for the installation of Antje Jackelén as Archbishop, the first female Archbishop in Swedish history.
Jackelén, who has until now been Bishop of Lund and was elected Archbishop last autumn, succeeds Anders Wejryd, who has held the archiepiscopate for eight years and performed his last official duty when he baptised Princess Leonore last Sunday.
Jackelén becomes Archbishop of Sweden in the year that that office celebrates the 850th anniversary of its founding by Pope Alexander III. Among the events to mark this jubilee is the exhibition "Himlen är här" ("Heaven is here"), which is held in Uppsala Cathedral this summer. Among the items exhibited is, interestingly, St Erik's crown, which has been removed from the late king's shrine while his bones undergo various tests. This is therefore a unique opportunity to see the only medieval royal crown that has been preserved in Scandinavia.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Title issues: King Juan Carlos to keep royal title

On Friday the Spanish government approved an amendment to the decree of 6 November 1987 on royal titles, so that King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía will retain the titles of King and Queen after his abdication. They will also retain the style of Majesty, but, interestingly, will rank after the descendants of the new King and Queen. This is, according to the government, done partly as a mark of respect for King Juan Carlos's and Queen Sofía's services to Spain, but also in keeping with historical precedents and customs in other monarchies.
Indeed I believe both King Carlos IV and Queen Isabel II retained their royal titles after their abdications. This is also how things have been done in Belgium and Luxembourg. Currently King Albert II of the Belgians, who abdicated in 2013, and Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, who abdicated in 2000, retain their titles, as did their parents, King Léopold III, who abdicated in 1951, and Grand Duchess Charlotte, who abdicated in 1964.
Britain and the Netherlands have chosen another solution. When King Edward VIII renounced the British crown in 1936 it was decided that his ceasing to be king meant that he reverted to being a prince, and he was granted the dukedom of Windsor in addition. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who abdicated in 1948, argued that her abdication was constitutionally equal to her death and reverted to being Princess Wilhelmina. This precedent was followed by her daughter, Queen Juliana, when she abdicated in 1980, and again by her granddaughter, Queen Beatrix, who renounced the Dutch crown last year.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A lecture on Carl XIII

If anyone has some time to spare on Sunday I will be giving a lecture on Carl XIII, the first king of the Swedish-Norwegian union, at the Defence Museum at Akershus Fortress at 1 p.m. on Sunday (entrance is free).
Although his adopted son, the future Carl XIV Johan, was the architect of the union, Carl XIII became its first king 200 years ago this autumn. He has been overshadowed not only by Carl Johan, but also by his elder brother, Gustaf III, and his wife, the famous diarist Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta, but the story of Carl XIII is not without interest, not only for the many intrigues he was involved in, but also because his sheer existence, although physically and mentally weak, seems to have had rather significant consequences for Norway and the union.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Spanish Congress passes abdication bill

After what seems to have turned into a rather heated, three-hour debate today, the Spanish Congress of Deputies has passed the bill of King Juan Carlos's abdication by 299 votes against 19 (and 23 abstentions). The bill will be debated in the Senate on 17 June and is expected to be signed into law the following day by King Juan Carlos, who thereby ceases being the King of Spain.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Six godparents for Princess Leonore

Princess Leonore of Sweden will be christened in the chapel at Drottningholm Palace outside Stockholm at noon today. A few hours ago the royal court announced that her godparents will be Crown Princess Victoria, Louise Gottlieb (Princess Madeleine's best friend), Patrick Sommerlath (a nephew of Queen Silvia who moved to Sweden at an early age and became almost like a brother to her children), Tatjana d'Abo (one of Christopher O'Neill's five half-sisters), Count Ernst Abensperg und Traun (the husband of another half-sister), and Alice Bamford, a childhood friend of Chris O'Neill.
As Princess Leonore is the daughter of the King's third child this will obviously be a much smaller affair than Princess Estelle's christening, which took place in the Palace Church in Stockholm on 23 May 2012. The domed, circular chapel at Drottningholm can seat only 160 people and there will be fewer official representatives and no foreign royals or heads of state in attendance.
The splendid baroque silver christening font will not be brought from the Royal Treasury in the cellars of the Royal Palace, but the chapel's usual christening font will be used. Princess Leonore will wear the christening robe first worn by her great-grandfather, Prince Gustaf Adolf, in 1906. She will be baptisted by the outgoing Archbishop, Anders Wejryd (his successor, Antje Jackelén, who will be Sweden's first female archbishop, will be installed next Sunday).
Following the christening a reception will be held at Drottningholm Palace. The parents and grandparents will receive their guests in the Ehrenstrahl Drawing Room, which was originally Dowager Queen Hedvig Eleonora's throne room and whose walls are covered by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl's monumental paintings glorifying Hedvig Eleonora, who built Drottningholm and for whom Princess Leonore is perhaps at least partially named.
The Princess will rest in the cradle made for the future King Carl XV in 1826, which is used for junior royals (Carl XI's cradle is used by direct heirs to the throne). Most likely she will be invested with the Seraphim Order by her grandfather either during or after the christening ceremony, which takes place on the first wedding anniversary of her parents.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Felipe VI to succeed Juan Carlos I on 18 June

Spanish media report that the abdication of King Juan Carlos I will take effect on 18 June. Although the King signed his abdication on Monday, a bill must be passed by both houses of the Cortes (Parliament) for it to come into force. When the bill has been approved by both the Congress of Deputies and the Senate, it will be sanctioned by King Juan Carlos at the Royal Palace in Madrid on 18 June.
Prince Felipe will succeed to the throne as soon as the abdication act is published, and the following day he will be sworn in during a joint session of the Cortes, as his father was on 22 November 1975.
In 1975 the swearing in was followed by a mass in the Church of San Jeronimo five days later, but as a result of the secularisation of Spain this has now been dispensed with.
The 1975 enthronement mass was attended by several foreign heads of state and royals, which was important for King Juan Carlos, who came to the throne as the appointed successor of the Fascist dicator Francisco Franco, but intended to dismantle the dictatorship. This time no foreign heads of state or royals will be invited, which the royal household explains with lack of time and space in the Cortes.
It is as yet unknown what other members of the Spanish royal family, if any, will be present for the swearing in, but I would expect that at least the new Queen will join her husband and that their two daughters will also be present.
Curiously the media refer to the inauguration as a coronation and claim that Prince Felipe will be crowned. This is obviously wrong, as the swearing in is an entirely secular ceremony and no monarch has been crowned in Spain since the unification of the country in the fifteenth century.

On this date: King Albert turns eighty

Today is the eightieth birthday of King Albert II, who reigned as King of the Belgians from the death of his brother, King Baudouin, in 1993 until his abdication in favour of his son, the current King Philippe, on 21 July last year.
Unlike his Dutch counterpart, King Albert retains the kingly title, but he and Queen Paola have so far kept a fairly low profile. While Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands is a fixture at all sorts of events, King Albert and Quene Paola carry out few public engagements, although one exception was the canonisations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on 27 April, when they represented their son.
King Albert and Queen Paola also seem to have found it more difficult than Princess Beatrix to adjust to their new role. There was some rather undignified complaining that his allowance was too low, leaving him short of money for fuel for his yacht, and when their youngest son, Prince Laurent, was recently in a coma in hospital, Queen Paola issued a statement which suggested that the situation was more serious than the royal court claimed. Apparently this lead to King Philippe removing the head of his parents' household, who was, however, soon back in a role of special adviser.
King Albert's eightieth birthday will be marked by an exhibition on his life at the BELvue Museum in Brussels, which will open tomorrow, and King Albert and Queen Paola have given a rare interview to broadcaster RTL, which will air in two parts on Monday and Tuesday.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

On this date: Golden wedding of Princess Désirée and Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld

The King of Sweden's third elder sister, Princess Désirée, and her husband, Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld, celebrate their golden wedding anniversary today.
The Princess and the Baron, who belongs to a family that was ennobled in 1686 and made barons in 1771, married in the Cathedral of Stockholm on 5 June 1964. Theirs was thus the "biggest" of the weddings of the four so-called Haga princesses, but that was not a sign of things to come, for Princess Désirée and Baron Silfverschiöld have lived quitely at his estate Koberg near Trollhättan and only rarely appeared at royal occasions other than family events in Sweden and Norway (they are close to the King and Queen of Norway).
In recent years Niclas Silfverschiöld, who turned eighty last Saturday, has been seriously ill, which caused him to be absent from many events, but he had recovered sufficiently well enough to attend the wedding of Princess Madeleine and Christopher O'Neill a year ago.
June 1964 was a month of weddings for the Swedish royal family, as Princess Margaretha and John Ambler tied the knot 25 days after the nuptials of Princess Désirée and Niclas Silfverschiöld. However, as John Ambler died in 2008, having separated from Princess Margaretha fourteen years before, there will obviously not be a second golden wedding this month.

Monday, 2 June 2014

King Juan Carlos abdicates

During a meeting with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the Palace of La Zarzuela this morning King Juan Carlos I abdicated the crown of Spain in favour of his son, Prince Felipe. However, the abdication does not come into effect immediately, but will have to be approved by both houses of parliament. This will, it seems, take at least a couple of weeks.
In a televised speech to his people, the King gave no exact reason for his decision, but stated that his 76th birthday last January made him feel that "the time had come to prepare the handover to make way for someone who is in the best possible conditions to maintain that stability", a stability he believes is "a defining feature of our monarchy" and which he thinks his son "embodies".
The actual reasons are probably a combination of the King's health problems and how the standing of the Spanish monarchy has been severly undermined by a series of scandals during the past two or three years. The most serious has been the court case which has seen Princess Cristina's husband, Iñaki Urdangarín, accused of corruption and embezzlement, a case the rest of the royal family have also been dragged into.
For the King the problems started in April 2012 when he fell and broke his hip while hunting elephants in Botswana with another woman than the Queen. This, which happened shortly after the King had spoken of how Spain's severe economic problems, which have caused an unemployment rate of 25 % (and 50 % for those under the age of 25), kept him awake at night, opened the floodgates for criticism of the monarchy and the King.
As the King's approval ratings and support for the monarchy plummeted Prince Felipe managed to keep out of the storm and it seems things had eventually reached the point where King Juan Carlos had become a problem for the monarchy and the chances for its survival would improve by his stepping aside.
King Juan Carlos can thus be said to have sacrificed himself for the future of the monarchy, but it is an ironic - and tragic - end to the reign of the monarch who steered Spain from dictatorship to democracy following the death of the Facist dicator Francisco Franco, who had hoped Juan Carlos would continue the Francoist regime. It is to be hoped that history will remember King Juan Carlos I for the great contributions he made to his country and to democracy rather than for the disgraceful end to his nearly forty-year reign.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

My latest article: Queen's consort

The Prince Consort of Denmark will turn eighty on 11 June and is therefore the subject of my article in the June issue of Majesty (Vol. 35, No. 6), which went on sale last week, in which I in particular consider how he has coped - or not coped? - with the unusual role of consort to a female head of state (the first in Danish history).
Prince Consort Henrik will celebrate his actual birthday privately at his château in France, but tonight a concert will be held in DR Concert House to mark his anniversary and the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Palace in Hillerød is holding an exhibition on his life, which the Prince Consort opened a few days ago.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Heir to Monaco expected

The princely court of Monaco has announced that Sovereign Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène are expecting a child at the end of the year. Prince Albert, who is 56 and came to the throne in 2005, married the former South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock, now 36, in 2011.
The Principality of Monaco still operates with male-preferred succession, meaning that the child, if a son, will be heir apparent and eventually succeed his father, but if it is a girl she will only be heiress presumptive and will be bypassed by any younger brothers she might have.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

On this date: Death of Empress Joséphine 200 years ago

Today is the 200th anniversary of the death of Joséphine, Empress of the French, the first wife of Emperor Napoléon I. The Empress died at Malmaison Palace in Reuil outside Paris on 29 May 1814, aged 50, little more than a month after Napoléon's first abdication.
Born Rose Tascher de La Pagerie on Martinique on 23 June 1763, she was sent to France at the age of 16 to marry Vicomte Alexandre de Beauharnais, an arranged marriage which turned out to be unhappy. While her estranged husband was guillotined in 1794, Rose, who had been imprisoned, was lucky to be alive when the Terror came to an end a few days later.
In 1796 she went on to marry the young and promising General Napoléon Bonaparte, who gave her the name Joséphine. Theirs is often considered one of history's great love stories, but Joséphine seems at first to have been rather cool towards her husband, whose passionate letters often went unaswered. Her infidelity caused him much grief, but with his rise to power the tables were turned and it was Joséphine who found herself having to accept her husband's affairs with other women.
Having been elected Emperor of the French in 1804 Napoléon crowned Joséphine Empress, the scene which is brilliantly captured by David in his famous painting of the coronation. However, Joséphine, who had two children by her first husband, proved unable to bear Napoléon and an heir, thus putting the future of the dynasty in jeopardy. In 1809 the Emperor, at the height of his glory, therefore found that he had little choice but to put his feelings aside and divorce Joséphine. In 1810 he married Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, who the following year bore him the longed-for son, the King of Rome.
Retaining the title of Empress, Joséphine retreated to Malmaison, the château just west of Paris which had been purchased in the early days of her marriage to Napoléon. When Napoléon was forced to abdicate in April 1814 Empress Marie-Louise fled to her native Vienna, taking with her the King of Rome. Joséphine remained at Malmaison, while Emperor Alexander I of Russia set himself up as the protector of the former Empress and her children, Prince Eugène, Viceroy of Italy and Queen Hortense of Holland. During a chilly evening walk with the Russian Emperor Joséphine contracted pneumonia and died within days.
When Napoléon, at that time exiled to Elba, read of her death in a newspaper he shut himself in his room for days. Following his return to France, the Hundred Days and his final defeat at Waterloo in June 1815 it was to Malmaison that he retreated before surrendering to the British and being deported to St Helena, where he died in 1821. While Joséphine's last words are said to have been "Bonaparte...Elba...Marie-Louise", his were allegedly "France...the army...at the head of the army...Joséphine".
One of history's ironies is that while Napoléon repudiated Joséphine in order to sire an heir, that heir died almost a prisoner in Vienna at the age of 21, while it was Joséphine's grandson who restored the Empire as Napoléon III in 1852. Through her son, Empress Joséphine is also the ancestress of the current monarchs of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg and Belgium.
On Monday a service commemorating the bicentenary of her death will be held in the small Church of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul in Rueil, where the Empress is buried. Despite the continuing appeal of their love story, Joséphine's grave, unlike Napoléon's, attracts no tourists. When I was first there, the day after having visited the Invalides, where tourists crowd around Napoléon's tomb, I found the church entirely empty. The second time I went there someone had left a rose on Empress Joséphine's tomb.