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.

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