Saturday, 31 October 2009

On this date: Princess Margaretha turns 75

Today is the 75th birthday of Princess Margaretha, Mrs Ambler, the eldest of the four sisters of the King of Sweden.
Princess Margaretha Désirée Victoria of Sweden was born at Haga Palace on 31 October 1934 as the first child of Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla, née Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who had married two years previously. As the eldest son of the Crown Prince, Gustaf Adolf was himself heir to the Swedish throne and according to the present Act of Succession Margaretha, as the eldest child, would have followed him on the throne. However, until 1980 only men could inherit the throne and it was therefore necessary for Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla to beget an heir. But Margaretha was followed by three sisters – Birgitta, Désirée and Christina.
The four “Haga princesses” became the centre of an unprecedented adoration from the public and the media. They grew up under a strong media attention which is probably the reason why both Margaretha and her sister Désirée have chosen to live their adult lives far away from the limelight.
In April 1946 Princess Sibylla finally gave birth to a son, Prince Carl Gustaf, and thereby secured the succession to the throne. It turned out to be in the nick of time. Nine months later Prince Gustaf Adolf was killed in a plane accident on his way home from a hunt hosted by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.
Aged twelve, Princess Margaretha was at a very sensitive age when her father was killed and apparently she was the one who reacted most strongly to it. Shortly thereafter she went to Denmark to live with her aunt, Queen Ingrid, for a year.
Back in Sweden, the Princess trained as a seamstress and studied childcare. At the age of 20 she fell head over heels in love with the British aristocrat and bar pianist Robin Douglas-Home. The romance took place under close media scrutiny, culminating with Douglas-Home’s arrival in Stockholm. Allegedly he proposed to the Princess, but her mother and grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, vetoed the match.
Later Princess Margaretha would marry another Englishman. At a cocktail party in London she met John Ambler, a businessman ten years her senior. The wedding took place on 30 June 1964, just a few weeks after the wedding of Princess Désirée and Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld. While the latter’s wedding had been a semi-state occasion held in the Cathedral of Stockholm, Margaretha opted for a simpler and more private event in the parish church of Gärdslösa at Öland, near the summer palace Solliden (there are rumours that Princess Madeleine is considering the same church for her wedding).
Princess Margaretha, Mrs Ambler, as she was now styled, moved with her husband to England, where they settled at Chippinghurst Manor in Oxfordshire. Three children were born in rapid succession: Sybilla Louise in 1965, Charles Edward in 1966 and James Patrick in 1969. The Amblers lived a very private life and were rarely seen in public except at family events. However, the Princess used to open the Christmas bazaar held by the Swedish church in London, but she ceased doing so about a decade ago.
In the early 1990s John Ambler found himself in financial difficulties and had to sell Chippinghurst Manor. The couple separated in 1994, but never divorced. John Ambler died on 31 May last year, aged 84.
Today is also the birthday of another member of the Swedish royal family; Margaretha’s uncle, Count Carl Johan Bernadotte af Wisborg, by birth Prince of Sweden, turns 93.

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