Sunday, 28 December 2014

Swedish general election cancelled

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

Friday, 19 December 2014

Princess Madeleine expects second child

The Swedish royal court has just announced that Princess Madeleine and her husband, Christopher O'Neill, are expecting their second child next summer. Their first child, Princess Leonore, was born on 20 February this year.

My latest article (and a radio documentary): The Sword of State and Carl XIV Johan's legitimacy

The most interesting item among the Norwegian Crown Regalia is in my opinion the Sword of State, which the then Crown Prince Carl Johan of Sweden carried in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, when he played an important part in defeating his great rival and former master, Emperor Napoléon I. The victory of Leipzig again paved the way for his conquest of Norway the following year, an achievement which meant that he succeeded at what generations of Swedish kings had failed at.
As Carl XIV Johan could not lay claim to any blue blood, he used to say that he built his legitimacy on his sword, in other words his military achievements. He could not have made this any clearer than when he became King in 1818 and gave the sword from Leipzig to Norway to serve as the kingdom's Sword of State and had it engraved with allegories (now almost entirely destroyed) which represented both the peaceful union of the two nations and his programme for the union.
About this I have written an article which appears in the 2014 edition of Trondhjemske Samlinger, the yearbook of Trondhjems Historiske Forening (the Historical Assocation of Trondheim), which was published earlier this month, and NRK's programme "Museum" has made a radio documentary featuring me and Steinar Bjerkestrand, the director of the Restoration Workshop of Nidaros Cathedral, that will be broadcast on P2 at 4.03 p.m. tomorrow and at 8.03 a.m. on Sunday and which is already available as a podcast (external link).

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Book news: The male consorts of female monarchs

While much has been written about female monarchs, there has until now been no study of the roles and challenges of the men who were in the unusual position of consorts to female rulers. Therefore I am glad to be one of the contributors to the new book The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History, edited by Charles Beem and Miles Taylor, which has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan of New York.
My contribution is a chapter on Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark and his struggle for recognition of the role he has tried to carve out through his more than four decades as the first ever male consort of a Danish monarch. But this is only the last chapter of a book that covers a number of male consorts in Navarre, Spain, England/Britain, Sweden, Russia, Austria, Portugal, Brazil, India, the Netherlands and Denmark from the end of the thirteenth century till today.
The table of contents:

Introduction: The Man Behind the Queen; Charles Beem and Miles Taylor
1. The King Consorts of Navarre, 1284-1512; Elena Crislyn Woodacre
2. Ferdinand the Catholic: King and Consort; David Abufalia
3. "He to be Entitled Kinge": King Philip and the Anglo-Spanish Court; Sarah Duncan
4. Why Prince George of Denmark Did Not Become a King of England; Charles Beem
5. From Ruler in the Shadows to Shadow King: Frederick I of Sweden; Fabian Persson
6. Count Ernst Johann Bühren and the Russian Court of Anna Ioannova; Michael Bitter
7. Francis Stephen: Duke, Regent and Emperor; Derek Beales
8. Prince Albert; The Creative Consort; Karina Urbach
9. Commemorating the Consort in Colonial Bombay; Simin Patel
10. Ferdinand II of Portugal: A Conciliator King in a Turmoil Kingdom; Daniel Alves
11. Gaston d'Orléans, Comte d'Eu: Prince Consort to Princess Isabel of Brazil; Roderick Barman
12. The Rise and Fall of Siddiq Hasan, Male Consort of Shah Jahan of Bhopal; Caroline Keen
13. Royalty, Rank, and Masculinity: Three Dutch Princes Consort in the Twentieth Century; Maria Grever and Jeroen Van Zanten
14. Prince Philip: Sportsman and Youth Leader; Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska
15. The Prince Who Would Be King: Henrik of Denmark's Struggle for Recognition; Trond Norén Isaksen

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

My latest article: Churchill and his monarchs

Because of Christmas the January 2015 issue of Majesty (Vol. 36, No. 1) goes on sale already today and to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Winston Churchill's death on 24 January 1965 I have written an article about his relations with the British monarchs throughout his political career, which began when he was elected to Parliament in the reign of Queen Victoria and ended with his second term as Prime Minister in the reign of her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Churchill was, according to his wife, "the last believer in the divine rights of kings", but his relations with the royal family were not always smooth, particularly not with George V.
This issue was sent to the printers a few hours before the death of Queen Fabiola of the Belgians was announced, so my obituary of her will appear in the February issue, which will be out in a month and where I will also write about Hereditary Prince Knud and his loss of the Danish crown.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Foreign guests for Queen Fabiola's funeral

At 10 a.m. tomorrow the funeral of Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, who died last Friday, will take place in the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule in Brussels.
The late Queen had herself wished for a simple funeral in the local parish church in Laeken and did not want to lie in state, therefore asking for "a coffin so ugly that they will not dare show it to the public", but this was apparently deemed incompatible with the dignity of the monarchy and her body has now laid in state at the Royal Palace since it was taken there on Tuesday.
All the members of the Belgian royal family are of course expected to attend, with the exception of Princess Marie-Christine, who has been estranged from the rest of the family for decades and did not even attend the funerals of her parents, and a number of foreign dignitaries will also be present. The Luxembourgian delegation will include the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, Grand Duke Jean and the Hereditary Grand Duke and Hereditary Grand Duchess. The Queen of Denmark and the King and Queen of Sweden will be there, and so will the King of Norway, who rarely leaves the country on Fridays, when he presides in the State Council, but has now appointed the Crown Prince Regent in his stead. King Harald will be accompanied by his sister, Princess Astrid; both being first cousins of the late King Baudouin, to whom they were close.
The Netherlands and Spain will be represented by their former monarchs, Princess Beatrix and King Juan Carlos, respectively, the latter accompanied by Queen Sofía.
The Empress of Japan is flying in from Tokyo, which is only the second time that she leaves Japan without the Emperor, while Thailand will send Princess Sirindhorn. The British royal family, a short train journey away from Brussels, will according to the Belgian media not deign to attend, but be represented by the British ambassador to Belgium.

Two heirs in two minutes for Monaco

At 5.04 p.m. on Wednesday 10 December Princess Charlène of Monaco gave birth to a princess, who will bear the name Gabriella Thérèse Marie. However, as Monaco is one of the monarchies which still have male-preferred succession, Princess Gabriella lost her position as hereditary princess after only two minutes, when Princess Charlène gave birth to a prince, who has received the name Jacques Honoré Rainier.
Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques, who were born at the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco, are the first legitimate children of Sovereign Prince Albert II. While Prince Jacques received the traditional title for the heir to the throne, Marquis of Baux, Princess Gabriella was created Countess of Carladès.
The name Jacques has been borne by one previous ruler of Monaco, Jacques I, born Count Jacques Goyon de Matignon of Thorigny in 1689. In 1715 he married Princess Louise-Hippolyte of Monaco, who became the second female Monegasque ruler when her father Antoine I died in April 1731. However, the Sovereign Princess herself died at the end of the year and was succeeded by her husband, who reigned for nearly two years before abdicating in favour of their son Honoré I. Prince Jacques died in 1751 in his Paris residence, Hôtel de Matignon, today a very well-known address as the official residence of the French Prime Minister.
The name Honoré has been borne by five sovereign princes of Monaco, while Rainier was the name of the thirteenth-century founder of the dynasty and his son as well as of the new-born children's paternal grandfather, the late Sovereign Prince Rainier III.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Queen Fabiola's funeral, lying-in-state and inheritance

The funeral of Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, who died on Friday night, will take place in the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule in Brussels at 10 a.m. on Friday 12 December, the Belgian court has announced. Queen Fabiola will be buried next to her husband, King Baudouin, who died in 1993, in the crypt of the Church of Our Lady in Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels.
On Monday morning the late Queen's coffin will be taken from her home, Stuyvenberg House, where she died, to the chapel of the nearby Laeken Palace, her home from the time of her marriage in 1960 until 1999. On Tuesday afternoon her remains will be brought to the Royal Palace in the city centre, where she will lie in state until the funeral. The public will be allowed to file past to pay their respects between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday and between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The royal court has also announced that Queen Fabiola has left all her possessions to the Hulpfonds van de Koningin, a charity she set up at the time of her wedding in 1960. The members of the royal family will therefore inherit nothing, which will probably disappoint those who had hoped to see her jewellery pass to Queen Mathilde.
The funeral will probably see a large number of representatives of foreign royal families, both reigning and deposed. As for the Norwegian royal family the timing means that the King may not be able to attend, as the Council of State is held at 11 a.m. on Fridays, although it is possible that he could leave the Crown Prince to preside as Regent. Princess Astrid, who was close to her cousin King Baudouin, may also attend - although she for unknown reasons missed the funeral of her aunt-by-marriage and dear friend Princess Kristine Bernadotte in Sweden on 15 November she was well enough to travel to Trondheim for an official engagement twelve days later.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

At the road's end: Queen Fabiola of the Belgians (1928-2014)

Queen Fabiola of the Belgians has, as previously mentioned, died in her home in Brussels on Friday evening. The 86-year-old widow of King Baudouin I was known for her diligent work for the benefit of the less fortunate, but recently came under heavy fire for her inheritance arrangements.
Born Fabiola Fernanda María de las Victorias Antonia Adelaida de Mora y Aragón in Madrid on 11 June 1928, was the sixth of the seven children of Gonzalo de Mora y Fernández, Marquess of Casa Riera and Count of Mora and Blanca de Aragón y Carrillo de Albornoz, who were of fairly recent nobility but owned significant estates and were closely connected to the Spanish court. Indeed Queen Victoria Eugenia was Fabiola's godmother.
Fabiola spent parts of her childhood in exile, as her parents in 1931 chose to follow King Alfonso XIII's example and flee the country after the republican election victory. The family lived in France and Switzerland for two years before returning to Spain, but fled again when the Civil War broke out. It was only after Franco's victory in 1939 that the family settled permanently in Spain.
Fabiola trained as a nurse and worked in a poorhouse in Madrid. She also wrote twelve children's stories, which obviously sold very well in Belgium when they were translated and published there after she became Queen.
That happened on 15 December 1960, when Fabiola wed King Baudouin I in Brussels's Cathedral and put a smile on the face of the man who had until then been known as "the sad king".
As Queen, Fabiola was particularly involved with social issues, physical disabilities, mental health, education and children with learning difficulties. Sadly the couple proved unable to have any children of their own, but the marriage was by all accounts a very happy one.
King Baudouin, whose health was not strong, died suddenly from a heart attack while holidaying in Spain on 31 July 1993, and many will recall the dignity shown by Queen Fabiola as she, dressed entirely in white, followed his coffin to his last resting place.
Queen Fabiola was only 65 when she was widowed and she continued to play an active part for many years and remained a fixture at royal events. In 2013 she was heavily criticised for setting up a private foundation which would allow her to bequeath money to her Spanish relatives and charities without paying inheritance tax. Although this was perfectly legal it did not sit will with the public at a time of financial trouble.
In recent years Queen Fabiola was increasingly weakend by osteoporosis and by the autumn of 2012 she was in a wheelchair. She attended the inauguration of her nephew Philippe as King on 21 July 2013, but the memorial service for King Baudouin on the twentieth anniversary of his death ten days later turned out to be her last public appearance.
In recent months she had suffered from respiratory problems and been confined to her home, Stuyvenberg Palace, where she died on Friday at the age of 86.
A more detailed obituary by me will appear in the February issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty, which will be on sale at the end of January, as the announcement of her death came just after the January issue had been sent to the printers.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Queen Fabiola has died

The Belgian royal court has just announced that Queen Fabiola, the widow of King Baudouin I, died in her home, Stuyvenberg Palace in Brussels, this evening. No further details have yet been given, but the 86-year-old queen dowager had been confined to her home with respiratory problems for some time and had not been seen in public since 31 July 2013, when she attended a mass in memory of her husband on the twentieth anniversary of his death.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Right-wing extremists oust Swedish government

When the King and Queen of Sweden return from their state visit to France on Thursday night they may perhaps wonder if their kingdom has turned into a banana republic in their absence. At least that may seem to be the case after the right-wing extremist party the Sweden Democrats on Wednesday ousted the government which took office two months ago and declared their intention to defeat any government or budget which does not comply with the Sweden Democrats' anti-immigration policy, thus threatening to make Sweden ungovernable. The Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, will now dissolve the Parliament that was elected in mid-September and an extraordinary election will be held on 22 March next year, something which has not happened since 1958.
The crisis erupted when the Sweden Democrats, who hold the parliamentary balance, broke with the parliamentary custom that a party lays down its votes after its own budget proposal has been defeated in the first round. Rather than doing this the Sweden Democrats voted in favour of the budget proposal of the four centre-right parties who formed the previous government, but lost power in the election in September, which was thereby passed instead of the one proposed by the current government, a coalition of the Social Democrats and the Green Party.
The government are obviously unwilling to govern Sweden according to the opposition's budget and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was therefore left with three choices: to send the budget back to the financial committee to try to achieve a compromise with the centre-right, to resign and let the Speaker of Parliament try to find someone capable of forming a new cabinet or dissolving Parliament. After it became clear on Tuesday evening that the Sweden Democrats would indeed use their power to defeat the government Löfven invited the leaders of the four centre-right parties for talks to try to reach an agreement across the divide between the two blocks, but all such attempts were rejected by the centre-right, who despite insisting that they would not give the extremists any influence seem to relish this opportunity to humiliate the Social Democrats, who has traditionally been viewed as the natural party of stable government.
This does however seem like a dangerous game to play, as the centre-right seem to have no plans for how to be able to form a cabinet or pass a budget if the extraordinary election leaves them as the largest parliamentary block but the Sweden Democrats still hold the parliamentary balance. After losing their parliamentary majority in the 2010 election the centre-right governed for four years with the tacit support of the Sweden Democrats, but this opportunity has now been blocked by the extremists' vow to defeat any government and budget that will not do their anti-immigration bidding.
Parliament will be formally dissolved on 29 December, but will continue to sit until the date of the extraordinary election on 22 March. In the meantime Prime Minister Stefan Löfven will carry on, but with the opposition's budget having been passed stalemate will reign in Swedish politics until the end of March.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Former journalist to head Danish royal court

Earlier this week the Danish royal court announced that Queen Margrethe II has appointed a new Lord Chamberlain, a position left vacant by Ove Ullerup’s decision to return to the Foreign Service after eleven years at court. The new Lord Chamberlain is rather surprisingly Michael Ehrenreich, a well-known journalist.
Ehrenreich, who is sixty years old, comes from the post of director of the Foreign Policy Society, which he took up only last year, but before that he worked as a journalist for 34 years, 21 of them (1982-2003) at the newspaper then known as Berlingske Tidende. He was that paper’s correspondent in London from 1984 to 1988 and in Washington from 1988 to 1993 and became editor-in-chief in 2001.
Two years later he became co-editor of Kristeligt Dagblad, a position he held until taking up his current job in 2013. In 2007 he published a biography of the then (and possibly future) US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Hillary – En amerikansk historie.
While the Lord Chamberlain’s chair is often filled by diplomats or officers it is not the first time Queen Margrethe recruits someone from the media. In 1976 she hired Hans Sølvhøj, a former Social Democratic politician who was at that time director-general of the public broadcaster DR, as her second Lord Chamberlain. Hiring Sølvhøj was Prince Henrik’s idea and turned out to be an inspired choice, as Sølvhøj has been credited with making the monarchy more accessible and encouraging Queen Margrethe to let the world see her artistic side.
The new Lord Chamberlain will take up his post on 15 February, just in time for the state visit of the King and Queen of the Netherlands in mid-March and a series of grand events to celebrate Queen Margrethe’s 75th birthday in April.

Monday, 24 November 2014

My latest article: Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria

The Bavarian royal house of Wittelsbach is in my opinion one of the most interesting dynasties in history, and in the December issue of Majesty (Vol. 35, No. 12), which went on sale in Britain on Thursday, I write about the life of Crown Prince Rupprecht, the eldest son of the last King of Bavaria, who in the words of the historian Golo Mann was more suited to be king than several of his forebears. The revolution of 1918 prevented that, but the life of Rupprecht - a First World War commander who during the Second World War had to go into hiding while his family languished in concentration camps and who might have been not only King of Bavaria, but German Emperor and King of Britain - is nevertheless an interesting one.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Princess Kristine Bernadotte laid to rest

Flags flew at half mast at Drottningholm Palace outside Stockholm and at the Royal Lodge in Oslo today as Princess Kristine Bernadotte, who died suddenly on 4 November at the age of 82, was laid to rest. A private funeral service, conducted by the royal chaplain Michael Bjerkhagen, was held in Drottningholm Palace Church west of Stockholm before the late Princess was buried next to her husband, Prince Carl Bernadotte, and parents-in-law, Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, in the Royal Burial Ground at Haga north of Stockholm.
The mourners were led by the Princess's brother, Jan E. Rivelsrud, and his family. Also present were her stepdaughter, Madeleine Kogevinas, the King and Queen of Sweden, the King and Queen of Norway, the Crown Princess and Prince Daniel of Sweden, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway, and Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and Ari Behn.
Princess Astrid of Norway, who was very close to her aunt-by-marriage, sadly seems to have been unable to attend, but two of her children, Alexander Ferner and Elisabeth Ferner, can be seen in photos published in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet's report (external link).

Friday, 14 November 2014

My latest article(s): Obituaries of Princess Kristine Bernadotte

Following the death of Princess Kristine Bernadotte, the King's aunt, last week I have written two obituaries which have appeared in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday and in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter today. The latter seems not to be available online, while the former may be read here (external link).

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Princess Kristine Bernadotte to be buried on Saturday

The funeral of Princess Kristine Bernadotte, who died suddenly on 4 November at the age of 82, will take place on Saturday in Drottningholm Palace Church outside Stockholm. After the service the Princess will be laid to rest in the Royal Burial Ground at Haga in the same grave as her husband, Prince Carl Bernadotte, and her parents-in-law, Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg.
The King and Queen of Sweden, the King and Queen of Norway, the Crown Princess and Prince Daniel of Sweden, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway, and Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and her husband Ari Behn will be present.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

On this date: Grand Duke Jean's golden jubilee (sort of...)

Today might have been the golden jubilee of Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, who came to the throne when his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte, abdicated on 12 November 1964. However, Grand Duke Jean himself abdicated in favour of his son Henri, the current Grand Duke, on 7 October 2000 and has therefore been able to enjoy his retirement for fourteen years. Grand Duke Jean, who will turn 94 in two months, retains the title of Grand Duke and can still be seen at official events from time to time.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

At the road's end: Princess Kristine Bernadotte (1932-2014)

At 3 p.m. today a memorial service will take place in the Norwegian Sailors' Church in Calahonda in Spain for the King's aunt, Princess Kristine Bernadotte, who died suddenly in her home in Benalmádena on Tuesday, aged 82. The Princess rarely missed out on a family event in Norway and was in Oslo as a guest at the wedding of Princess Astrid's son Carl-Christian Ferner as recently as last month.
Kristine Rivelsrud was born in Eidsfoss in Vestfold, south of Oslo, on 22 April 1932. In 1960 she was hired as a secretary by Prince Carl Bernadotte, who had moved to Spain following his aquittal for his involvement in the so-called Huseby scandal two years previously. After he divorced his second wife in 1962, Kristine Rivelsrud was promoted to life partner, but it was not until 8 June 1978 that the couple married at the Swedish Embassy in Rabat in Morocco.
Prince Carl Bernadotte, né His Royal Highness Prince Carl (Junior) of Sweden, Duke of Ostrogothia was the only son of Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, and as such the younger brother of Crown Princess Märtha of Norway, Queen Astrid of the Belgians and Princess Margaretha of Denmark. He forfeited his rights to the Swedish throne when he married a commoner, Countess Elsa von Rosen, in 1937, but received the title Prince Bernadotte (of the Belgian nobility) by his brother-in-law, King Léopold III of the Belgians. Thus Kristine Rivelsrud became a princess by marriage, and she was also listed last among the members of the Swedish royal family on the Swedish royal website.
However, she did not have much contact with the Swedish royal family, although King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia attended Prince Carl Bernadotte's 90th birthday in Oslo in January 2001 and his funeral in Danderyd in July 2003 and she was invited to the opening of an exhibition on the life of her sister-in-law Queen Astrid at the Royal Palace in Stockholm in 2005.
On the other hand she had a very close relationship with the Norwegian royal family, perhaps in particular with Princess Astrid (her exact contemporary). Prince Carl and Princess Kristine Bernadotte always spent Christmas with the Norwegian royal family until Prince Carl's declining health made the journey from Spain impossible, but after his death in June 2003 Princess Kristine returned as an annual Christmas guest. She was also very close to her brother, the hotelier Jan E. Rivelsrud, and his family, and enjoyed a good relationship with her stepdaughter Madeleine Kogevinas.
Princess Kristine Bernadotte looked rather grand, but she was in fact a very nice and likeable down-to-earth lady with a well-developed sense of humour.
Princess Kristine Bernadotte's funeral will take place (the date is yet to be announced) in the small Palace Church at Drottningholm Palace outside Stockholm, which was recently the venue for Princess Leonore's christening. She will be laid to rest in the Royal Burial Ground at Haga in the same grave as her husband and his parents.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

On this date: The bicentenary of the Swedish-Norwegian union

200 years ago today Norway and Sweden formed a union of crowns when the Norwegian Parliament passed a revised Constitution and elected King Carl XIII of Sweden King of Norway. The union was formalised by the Act of Union the following year.
Despite what some people, perhaps particularly foreigners, seem to think, the union did not in any way mean that Norway became part of Sweden (or the other way around) or that the two countries became one state. It was in fact one of the loosest unions in history, the two countries sharing only the King and, as foreign policy was considered a royal prerogative, the foreign service. The relationship between the two countries can perhaps best be compared to the relationship between Britain and Hanover between 1714 and 1837.
The Swedes liked to refer to the two countries as "the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway" (the term seems to have been less popular in Norway), but the plural spells out the difference from "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland".
The union was the brainchild of the Swedish Crown Prince Carl Johan, who hoped eventually to achieve an amalgamation of the two countries. In this he failed, but after his rather turbulent reign there followed what has subsequently been called "the happy days of the union". Clouds began to gather in the reign of Carl XV, and from the 1880s there were numerous conflicts and crisis until the Norwegian Parliament unilaterally deposed Oscar II on 7 June 1905 and Norway thereby withdrew from the union. Following negotiations between the two countries in Karlstad in the autumn, the union was formally dissolved on 26 October 1905 after both parliaments had ratified the Treaty of Karlstad and Oscar II abdicated the crown of Norway.
The union has subsequently had a very bad press in Norway, the bitterness of the political disputes having overshadowed the fact that it was also a time of economic and cultural blossoming.
Commemorations of the bicentenary have been fairly low-key, with conferences taking place yesterday and today and by a speech by the Speaker of Parliament at the start of today's parliamentary sitting.

Friday, 31 October 2014

On this date: Princess Margaretha's 80th birthday

Today is the 80th birthday of Princess Margaretha, Mrs Ambler, the eldest of the once-famous "Haga princesses", i.e. the four elder sisters of King Carl Gustaf of Sweden.
Princess Margaretha Désirée Victoria was born at Haga Palace on 31 October 1934 as the eldest child of Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla. Under the current Act of Succession she would have succeeded her grandfather as monarch in 1973, but as women were at that time entirely barred from succeeding to the Swedish throne Princess Margaretha's life has been a very private one.
That was not the case in her early years, when the four sisters - Margaretha, Birgitta, Désirée and Christina - were the focus of intense media interest and were hailed as idols for their generation of girls. Perhaps this unprecedented attention may have been at least part of the reason why Margaretha, like her sister Désirée, has chosen to live the rest of her life away from the eyes of the media and the general public.
Princess Margaretha was twelve years old when her father was killed in a plane crash in 1947 and seems to have struggled to cope with the tragedy, at one stage going to Denmark to live with her aunt Queen Ingrid. She also suffered from dyslexia and therefore left school at an early age, but trained as a seamstress and studied childcare.
After a well-publicised romance with the British socialite Robin Douglas-Home, Princess Margaretha married another Brit, the businessman John Ambler, on 30 June 1964. Her sister Désirée's wedding twenty-five days earlier had been a semi-state occasion held in the Cathedral of Stockholm, but Margaretha chose a simpler wedding in the parish church of Gärdlösa at Öland, near the summer palace Solliden.
Princess Margaretha, Mrs Ambler and John Ambler settled at Chippinghurst Manor in Oxfordshire, England. They rarely attended official events, but Princess Margaretha used to open the Christmas bazaar at the Swedish Church in London and the Amblers represented the King at the weddings of Princess Anne of Britain and Mark Phillips in 1973 and of Prince Andrew of Britain and Sarah Ferguson in 1986.
The couple had three children - Sybilla, Edward and James - but separated in 1994. However, the couple remained formally married until John Ambler's death in 2008.
Princess Margaretha now lives in a cottage in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, but is usually always present for family events in Sweden and will celebrate her eightieth birthday privately in her native land.
On the occasion of the eightieth birthday of the eldest of the "Haga princesses" I have by the way written an article on the lives of the four sisters, which appears in the October issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Swedish royal wedding on 13 June

The Swedish royal court has announced that the wedding of Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist will as expected take place in the Palace Church in Stockholm on 13 June next year.
Given what was said at the time of the engagement about the wedding taking place in early summer 13 June was really the only option as the previous Saturday (6 June) is the National Day and the following Saturday (20 June) is midsummer's eve, which is a major holiday in Sweden.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Princess Astrid's youngest son marries

Last weekend Princess Astrid's youngest son, Carl-Christian Ferner, married Anna-Stina Slattum Karlsen, to whom he became engaged in January. The wedding was held in Ris Church in Oslo and the reception at Grand Hotel.
According to the magazine Se og Hør the wedding was attended by the King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn. Princess Astrid and her husband Johan Martin Ferner, who at 87 is rarely seen in public, were of course also present along with the groom's siblings Cathrine, Benedikte, Alexander and Elisabeth with their partners and children. Also in attendance were Erling S. Lorentzen, Princess Ragnhild's widower, their three children Haakon, Ingeborg and Ragnhild, and the groom's great-aunt, Princess Kristine Bernadotte.
Carl-Christian Ferner, who will turn 42 this month, works for the family business Ferner Jacobsen, a men's clothing store of which he owns 46 % of the shares. Anna-Stina Slattum Ferner is born in 1984 and is a digital editor in the company Orkla.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Norwegian state visit to Burma

Interestingly, the King and Queen will pay a state visit to Burma from 1 to 3 December. This would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, but should be seen as part of the normalisation of relations with Burma after the retirement of the military junta and the slight improvements in the country's human rights situation. State visits are decided by the government, and the King and Queen will as always be accompanied by the Foreign Minister.
President Thein Sein of Burma paid an official visit to Norway at the end of February 2013. The visit was hosted by then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, but the President was also received by the King and the royal Palace.
Before packing their bags for Burma the King and Queen will play hosts to President Pranab Mukherjee of India, who will pay a state visit to Norway on 13 and 14 October. This will be the first state visit ever between Norway and India, and will also be the fourth incoming state visit this year, compared to none in 2013 and only one in 2012.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

My latest article(s): Tuxen and Swedish princesses

The October issue of Majesty (Vol. 35, No. 10) went on sale on Thursday and includes two articles by me. The first one tells the story of the Danish artist Laurits Tuxen and his work for the royal courts of Denmark, Britain, Russia and Greece. Tuxen has been called "the last court painter" and brought an unusual sense of colour and vibrancy to the often rather stale art of portraying royals and ceremonial, but his many royal commissions also came to influence his career and reputation in an unfortunate manner.
The second article deals with the four sisters of King Carl Gustaf - Margaretha, Birgitta, Désirée and Christina - who were the epitome of royal glamour fifty years ago. The article is published on the occasion of Princess Margaretha's eightieth birthday at the end of October and chronicles how the lives of the four sisters have taken very different directions.

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.

UPDATE (1 November): Having seen a better picture I can now say that it is indeed not Princess Astrid's tiara, but a previously unseen one.

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:
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 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.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

On this date: Oslo's 200th anniversary as capital

200 years ago today, on 22 May 1814, King Christian Frederik took up residence in Christiania, as Oslo was then called, an event which might be considered the date when Oslo became the capital of independent Norway. Following the Danish renunciation of Norway on 14 January 1814 Norwegian ministries had begun their work in Christiania on 3 March, and on 19 May, the day he accepted the Crown of Norway, Christian Frederik formally founded the first ministries. With ministries established in Christiania and the King in residence, the town may rightly be called a capital.
Christiania was at that time a small provincial town of some 10,000 inhabitants. Except for the derelict Akershus Castle and the Church of Our Saviour (now Oslo Cathedral) there were few buildings of any significance, but the following years saw Christiania expanded and rebuilt into a capital worthy of an independent kingdom, a process in which King Carl Johan played a decisive role.
Oslo dates from about the year 1000, and grew in importance towards the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth century, although it is incorrect, as some amateur historians have argued strongly, that Oslo may be considered the capital of Norway from the year 1314, when King Håkon V Magnusson made the Provost of St Mary's Church his chancellor. At that time the concept of a capital did not yet exist and the monarchy remained peripatetic for another three centuries or so, by which time Norway had lost its independence and become a Danish province.
In 1814 it was not yet the largest city (a qualification which belonged to Bergen), but its proximity to Denmark meant that it had become more important during Danish rule and it was in Christiania that a government commission was set up when communications between Denmark and Norway became very difficult because of the Napoleonic Wars and the British blockade from 1807.