Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Prince Nicolas to be baptised on 11 October

The Swedish royal court today announced that Prince Nicolas, the son born to Princess Madeleine and Christopher O'Neill on 15 June, will be christened in the chapel at Drottningholm Palace on 11 October. This is the same chapel where his sister, Princess Leonore, was christened on 8 June 2014. It was also the venue for the funeral of Princess Kristine Bernadotte in November last year and the wedding of Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian in December 1976.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Princess Charlotte of Britain christened

The christening of Princess Charlotte of Britain, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and his wife Catherine), took place in St Mary Magdalene Church at Sandringham in Norfolk today. The godparents were Prince William's first cousin Laura Fellowes (daughter of Princess Diana's eldest sister Jane and Queen Elizabeth's former Private Secretary Robert Fellowes), the Duchess of Cambridge's first cousin Adam Middleton (son of her father's brother Richard), and three friends of the parents: Sophie Carter, James Meade and Thomas van Straubenzee.
The Princess wore a christening dress from 2007 which is a replica of one first worn by Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Victoria, later German Empress, in 1841. The so-called Lily Font, a silver gilt baptismal font made for the same occasion, had been brought to Sandringham from the Tower of London, where it is usually displayed together with the Crown Jewels (sparking silly stories in the media about "the Crown Jewels leaving London for the first time").
Princess Charlotte was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The only invited guests, except from her parents and elder brother George, were her great-grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip; her grandfather Prince Charles and his wife Camilla; her grandparents Michael and Carole Middleton; her uncle James Middleton; her aunt Philippa ("Pippa") Middleton; and the five godparents, four of them accompanied by their spouses.
St Mary Magdalene Church is located at the royal Sandringham estate in northeastern England, where the parents of Princess Charlotte nowadays have their primary home at Anmer Hall. The church has also been the venue of the christenings of, among others, the future King George VI of Britain in 1896, the future King Olav V of Norway in 1903, and Princess Charlotte's grandmother Diana, the future Princess of Wales, in 1961.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf of Sweden, Duke of Ångermanland

At 1.45 p.m. on Monday 15 June, less than 48 hours after the wedding of her brother Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, Princess Madeleine of Sweden gave birth to a son at Danderyd Hospital in Danderyd outside Stockholm, and in a council meeting with the government earlier today King Carl XVI Gustaf announced that his grandson's name and titles will be Nicolas Paul Gustaf, Prince of Sweden and Duke of Ångermanland.
The name Nicolas has not been used in the Swedish royal family before, except in the version Nicolaus. In 1831, the fourth son of the future King Oscar I and Queen Josephine received the name Nicolaus August, the first of them in honour of Emperor Nikolaj I of Russia, but when the Emperor shortly thereafter cracked down on the Polish uprising the reactions in Sweden were so strong that it was apparently felt safest to let the newborn prince be known by his second name, August.
Paul is obviously in honour of Prince Nicolas's paternal grandfather, the late Paul O'Neill, while Gustaf is a name with deep roots in Swedish royal history and of course also the second name of the current King, the baby's maternal grandfather.
All three names were also used in 1909, when the only child of Prince Wilhelm and his Russian-born wife Maria Pavlovna was named Gustaf Lennart Nicolaus Paul, although he was always known as Lennart.
The dukedom, on the other hand, is without precedent. Since Gustaf III re-introduced dukedoms in 1772 these have been derived from the provinces of Sweden. Some have been used more often than others, while some have never been used for dukedoms. Until today, Ångermanland was one of the latter.
The newborn Prince is sixth (and last) in the order of succession to the Swedish throne. He is the second child of Princess Madeleine and her husband Christopher O'Neill, following Princess Leonore, who was born on 20 February 2014.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Swedish royal wedding on Norwegian television

Today Prince Carl Philip of Sweden will marry Sofia Hellqvist in the Palace Church in Stockholm, a glittering event that seems likely to be the last but one major royal wedding in several years.
NRK will broadcast the arrival of the guests, the wedding and the carriage procession through Stockholm from 3.50 p.m. (the actual wedding begins at 4.30 p.m.) until about 6.30 p.m., with Anne Grosvold and me as commentators. The broadcast should also be available at either https://tv.nrk.no/serie/nyheter/NNFA410151155/13-06-201 or https://tv.nrk.no/direkte/nrk1, or possibly both.
The dinner and dance will also be broadcast on Swedish television SVT, but not on NRK - SVT's broadcast of these events will however also be available through NRK's website.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Official guest list for the Swedish royal wedding

The Swedish royal court has today released the official lists of guests who will be present in the Palace Church in Stockholm tomorrow for the wedding of Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist. Some of the interesting names are:

Members of reigning royal families with partners:
TM King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden
HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
HM Queen Sonja of Norway
HM Queen Máxima of the Netherlands
HM Queen Mathilde of the Belgians
TRH Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden
TRH Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark
TRH Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway
HRH Princess Estelle of Sweden
HRH Princess Madeleine of Sweden and Mr Christopher O'Neill
HRH Princess Birgitta of Hohenzollern and Sweden
Princess Margaretha of Sweden, Mrs Ambler
Princess Désirée of Sweden, Baroness Silfverschiöld and Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld
Princess Christina of Sweden, Mrs Magnuson and Mr Tord Magnuson
TRH Prince Edward and Sophie of Britain, Earl and Countess of Wessex
TRH Prince Joachim and Princess Marie of Denmark
HIH Hisako, Princess Takamado of Japan
HH Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and Mr Ari Behn
Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg (widow of the late former Prince Sigvard of Sweden)

Members of non-reigning royal families:
TRH Prince Nikolaós and Princess Tatiana of Greece and Denmark
HRH Prince Leopold and Princess Ursula of Bavaria
TRH Prince Manuel and Princess Anna of Bavaria
HH Hereditary Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
TSH Prince Hubertus and Princess Ute Maria of Hohenzollern

Descendants of royalty with partners
Baroness Sybilla von Dincklage (daughter of Princess Margaretha)
Mr James and Mrs Ursula Ambler (son and daughter-in-law of Princess Margaretha)
Mrs Désirée and Mr Eckbert von Bohlen und Halbach (daughter and son-in-law of Princess Birgitta)
Baron Carl Silfverschiöld (son of Princess Désirée)
Baroness Christina and Baron Hans De Geer (daughter and son-in-law of Princess Désirée)
Baroness Hélène Silfverschiöld (daughter of Princess Désirée) and Fredrik Dieterle
Mr Gustaf and Mrs Vicky Magnuson (son and daughter-in-law of Princess Christina)
Mr Oscar and Mrs Emma Magnuson (son and daughter-in-law of Princess Christina)
Mr Victor Magnuson (son of Princess Christina) and Miss Frida Bergström
Countess Bettina Bernadotte af Wisborg and Philipp Haug (daughter and son-in-law of the late former Prince Lennart of Sweden)
Mr Emil Bernadotte af Wisborg (son of Bettina Bernadotte and Philipp Haug)
Mrs Dagmar von Arbin (granddaughter of the late former Prince Oscar of Sweden and of Norway) (aged 99!)
Count Bertil and Countess Jill Bernadotte af Wisborg (grandson and granddaughter-in-law of the late former Prince Oscar of Sweden and of Norway)

Members of Queen Silvia's family:
Mr Ralf and Mrs Charlotte de Toledo Sommerlath (brother and sister-in-law)
Mrs Carmita Sommerlath Baudinet (daughter of Ralf de Toledo Sommerlath) and Mr Pierre Baudinet
Miss Chloé Radigues de Chennevière (daughter of Carmita Sommerlath Baudinet)
Mr Thomas de Toledo Sommerlath (son of Ralf de Toledo Sommerlath) and Ms Bettina Aussems
Mr Tim de Toledo Sommerlath (son of Thomas Sommerlath) and Mrs Kristina de Toledo Sommerlath
Mr Philip de Toledo Sommerlath (son of Thomas Sommerlath)
Miss Giulia de Toledo Sommerlath (daughter of Thomas Sommerlath)
Mr Walther L. and Mrs Ingrid Sommerlath (brother and sister-in-law)
Mr Patrick and Mrs Maline Sommerlath (son and daughter-in-law of Walther L. Sommerlath)
Mr Leopold Lundén Sommerlath (son of Patrick Sommerlath)
Miss Chloé Sommerlath (daughter of Patrick Sommerlath)
Miss Anaïs Sommerlath (daughter of Patrick Sommerlath)
Miss Helena Christina Sommerlath (daughter of the Queen's late brother Jörg Sommerlath) and Mr Jan Sohns
Ms Maria Salles Souto Ferreira (maternal relative of Queen Silvia)

Members of the bride's family:
Mr Erik and Mrs Marie Hellqvist (parents)
Miss Lina Hellqvist (sister) and Mr Jonas Frejd
Miss Sara Hellqvist (sister) and Mr Oskar Bergman
Mrs Britt Rotman (maternal grandmother)
Mr Anders Rotman (maternal uncle) and Mrs Laila Rönn Rotman
Mr Victor Rotman (cousin) and Miss Eleonora Caiazza
Mr Johan Rotman (cousin)
Mrs Lena Rotman (maternal aunt) and Mr Peter Nygren
Miss Hanna Nygren (cousin)
Mr Andreas Nygren (cousin)
Mr Lars and Mrs Irena Hellqvist (paternal uncle and aunt)
Mr Daniel Hellqvist (cousin)
Mr Martin Hellqvist (cousin)

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Foreign guests for Swedish royal wedding

With only three days to go before the wedding of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist on Saturday, the Swedish royal court has not yet released on official guest list, nor do the media seem to have been able to get hold of it, but several foreign courts have already announced which royals who will travel to Stockholm for the nuptials.
The only foreign monarch expected is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who is the groom's godmother (the other sponsors being Princess Birgitta of Hohenzollern, Prince Leopold of Bavaria and the late Prince Bertil of Sweden). She will be accompanied by Crown Prince Frederik, Crown Princess Mary, Prince Joachim and Princess Marie.
There will also be a strong Norwegian contingent, headed by the Queen. She will be joined by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess and by Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn.
The Queens of the Netherlands and the Belgians will also attend, while the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Prince Edward and his wife Sophie) will as usual represent Britain. The Japanese imperial family will be represented by Princess Takamado, the wife of a first cousin of the Emperor, who also attended Princess Madeleine's wedding two years ago.
It is not yet known whether Luxembourg, Monaco and Spain will be represented, but the presence of Spanish royals are for security reasons mostly only made just before the event.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Statue of King Olav unveiled in Oslo

24 1/2 years after the death of King Olav V and 20 years after the municipality of Oslo decided to erect a statue of him, the King and Princess Astrid today unveiled Olav Orud's statue of their father outside the City Hall in Oslo. 36 members of the extended royal family attended the unveiling ceremony.
The statue shows the late King in a civilian outfit and holding his hat behind his back, having stepped down from the plinth, which is decorated with four reliefs showing scenes from King Olav's life. It is located in Crown Princess Märtha Square, where Queen Maud Street, Haakon VII Street and Olav V Street meet.
There were speeches by among others the Mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang, and the Minister of Defence, Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, and all surviving cabinet ministers and members of the royal household during the reign of King Olav had been invited to the unveiling, which also saw an unusual gathering of almost all the living descendants of King Olav and Crown Princess Märtha.
The King and Queen were of course there, accompanied by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, Prince Sverre Magnus, the Crown Princess's son Marius Borg Høiby, and Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn with their three daughters, Maud, Leah and Emma Behn.
Princess Astrid's branch of the family was also complete. The Princess's eldest daughter Cathrine Ferner Johansen was accompanied by her husband Arild Johansen and their children Sebastian and Madeleine; Benedikte Ferner by her partner Aage Hvinden; Alexander Ferner by his wife Margrét and their children Edward and Stella; Elisabeth Ferner by her partner (whose name escapes me) and her son Benjamin Beckman; and Carl-Christian Ferner by his wife Anna-Stina S. Ferner.
Sadly Princess Ragnhild, who would have turned 85 on Tuesday, did not live to see the statue of her father unveiled, but her 92-year-old widower, Erling S. Lorentzen, had come from Brazil. Their son Haakon Lorentzen and his wife Martha were absent, but Haakon's and Martha's eldest son, Olav, and their daughter Sophia Anne were present, while their younger son Christian was absent. Princess Ragnhild's eldest daughter, Ingeborg Lorentzen Ribeiro, was accompanied by her husband Paulo Ribeiro, their only child Victoria Ribeiro Falcão and her husband Felipe Falcão. The late Princess's youngest daughter, Ragnhild Lorentzen Long, did not bring her husband and their two daughters.
The unveiling took place on a symbolically important date: The union of crowns with Sweden was dissolved 110 years ago today, paving the way for the election of the new dynasty in the autumn, King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav were forced to leave Norway for exile in Britain 75 years ago today, and King Haakon, Crown Princess Märtha, Prince Harald, Princess Ragnhild and Princess Astrid returned to Norway in triumph 70 years ago today (Crown Prince Olav had returned already on 13 May).

Friday, 5 June 2015

Princess Charlotte to be christened at Sandringham

It was announced today that the christening of Princess Charlotte of Britain will take place in St Mary Magdalene Church at Sandringham on 5 July. Her brother, Prince George, was christened in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace, London, but the parents are now living primarily at their country home Anmer Hall on the Sandringham estate, which makes the local church seem a natural choice of venue.
Among other royals baptised in St Mary Magdalene Church are the baby's late grandmother Diana, Princess of Wales, who was born in Park House on the Sandringham estate and christened in the local church on 30 August 1961, Princess Eugenie, who was christened there on 23 December 1990, and the future King Olav V of Norway, who was born at Appleton House, also on the Sandringham estate, and baptised on 11 August 1903.
Like her brother, Princess Charlotte will be christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Princess Madeleine moving to England

The Swedish royal court today confirmed what has been long expected, namely that Princess Madeleine and her family will soon be moving to England. Princess Madeleine moved to New York on the day the end to her engagement to Jonas Bergström was announced in April 2010 and remained there after marrying Chris O'Neill in June 2013. Their daughter, Princess Leonore, was born in New York in February last year, while their second child, which is expected almost any day now, will be born in Stockholm, whence the family moved at the end of 2014. However, it was stated at that time that they were only living in Stockholm temporarily while looking for a home somewhere in Europe.
Chris O'Neill holds both British and American citizenships, but has stated that he considers himself primarily British. London is also where he was born, and where his mother Eva O'Neill lives. While Chris O'Neill changed his tax domicile to England on 22 April, Princess Madeleine and their daughter are still living in Stockholm. His absence from a handful of recent events, including the celebrations of King Carl Gustaf's 69th birthday on 30 April, has been remarked upon by the press, and it is now clear that he will also be unable to attend the National Day celebrations on 6 June. Obviously this is not too strange considering that he is not a working member of the royal family, but has a full time job to look after even though he is married to a princess.
The Act of Succession includes a rather vague stipulation for princes and princesses to be brought up in Sweden, and at the time of Princess Leonore's birth it was stated by the Marshal of the Realm, Svante Lindqvist, that the court had interpreted this to mean from about the age of six and that the children should attend Swedish schools in order to maintain their succession rights. It is of course not really for the royal court to make binding interpretations of constitutional matters, but as their interpretation has not been challenged it seems the family will have to return to Sweden before 2020 if Princess Leonore is to retain her succession rights (and possibly her royal titles, which have in recent generations been seen as conditioned by succession rights).

Monday, 18 May 2015

Title issues: Sofia Hellqvist to become a princess and a 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).