Monday, 28 January 2013

More on Queen Beatrix’s abdication

The Dutch royal court has now released further information about the abdication of Queen Beatrix, which she announced in a televised address at 7 p.m. today. Queen Beatrix will sign the instrument of abdication at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam on 30 April and the enthronement of the new King will take place in the adjacent New Church on the same day.
The new King will reign as King Willem-Alexander (not as King Willem IV, as many had expected) and his wife will be styled Queen Máxima (although the husbands of the three previous monarchs were only styled Prince). The eldest daughter of the new King will receive the title Princess of Orange.
Queen Beatrix will, following her abdication, assume the title Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix. Willem I retained the title of King when abdicating in 1840, but Queen Wilhelmina, upon her abdication in 1948, chose to be known as Princess Wilhelmina, arguing that Queen Wilhelmina was constitutionally dead. Queen Juliana followed her mother’s example.
The new King and Queen will for the moment continue to live at their estate Eikenhorst in Wassenaar, while the outgoing monarch will stay on temporarily at the Huis ten Bosch. Eventually the former Queen will vacate that palace for Drakensteyn Palace, and the new King and Queen will take over the Huis ten Bosch.
The abdication means that the two eldest sons of Princess Margriet (Queen Beatrix’s sister), who are now in line of succession, will lose their succession rights because of their more distant kinship to the new monarch. However, Princess Margriet herself will remain in line to the throne.
The national day of the Netherlands will now be moved from 30 April to 27 April. 30 April was the birthday of Queen Juliana, but Queen Beatrix (who is herself born on 31 January) decided to keep that date as the national day when she succeeded her mother in 1980. Now it will be moved forwards by three days to coincide with the birthday of the new King.

Queen Beatrix to abdicate on 30 April

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has just concluded a speech to the nation in which she announced that she will abdicate the throne in favour of Prince Willem-Alexander on 30 April.
Given that there is a Dutch tradition for abdicating, there has been much speculation in recent years about her doing so. Queen Beatrix, who will celebrate her 75th birthday on Thursday, is, if I am not wrong, already the oldest monarch in Dutch history.
Queen Beatrix came to the throne upon the abdication of her mother, Queen Juliana, on 30 April 1980. Queen Juliana turned 71 on that very day, and lived to be almost 95, dying in March 2004.
Queen Beatrix’s speech was followed by an address by Prime Minister Mark Rutte; both of them expressing their full confidence in Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima. Prince Willem-Alexander will be the first male Dutch monarch in 123 years. Since the death of King Willem III in 1890, there have been three queens regnant in a row: Queen Wilhelmina from 1890 to 1948 (under the regency of her mother, Queen Emma, until 1898), Queen Juliana from 1948 to 1980, and then Queen Beatrix from 1980 to 2013.

On this date: Erling S. Lorentzen’s 90th birthday

Erling S. Lorentzen, businessman, war veteran and brother-in-law of the King, celebrates his ninetieth birthday today.
The son of shipping magnate Øivind Lorentzen and his wife Ragna, Erling S. Lorentzen was born in Oslo on 28 January 1923. During World War II he joined the resistance movement, becoming one of the youngest members of the elite resistance group Company Linge.
When the royal family returned from exile in 1945, Lorentzen became part of the royal protection squad. He was also given the task of teaching the young princesses to sail, and captured the heart of Princess Ragnhild in 1946. Despite initial strong opposition from King Haakon and Crown Princess Märtha, Lorentzen and Princess Ragnhild were eventually allowed to marry. The wedding took place in Asker Church in Asker outside Oslo on 15 May 1953.
Meanwhile, Lorentzen had studied at Harvard Business School, graduating with a Master of Business Management degree in 1948. Following their wedding, Lorentzen and the Princess settled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to take care of the Lorentzen family’s business interests. The initial plan was for them to stay there for two years, but it turned out to be forever.
In 1968 Erling S. Lorentzen founded the company Aracruz Cellulose, which turned out to be a great financial success; Lorentzen was able to sell his share for approximately $ 1.7 billion when Aracruz merged with another company in 2008.
At the age of ninety, Erling S. Lorentzen remains active and apparently healthy. Princess Ragnhild died on 16 September last year.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

My latest article: Carl XIV Johan as King of Norway

To mark the 250th anniversary yesterday of the birth of King Carl XIV Johan of Sweden and of Norway I have written an article about him which appears in Aftenposten today. The article deals with his role as King of Norway from 1818, which has been accorded comparatively little attention by his many biographers. His political goals were so increase the King’s powers and to achieve an amalgamation between Sweden and Norway, neither of which he achieved. To the contrary, his long power struggle against Parliament led to the monarch’s power diminishing. However, he succeeded in his role as city planner and builder, leaving an indelible mark on Oslo, which means that his name and memory are ever-present in the Norwegian capital to this day.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

On this date: Birth of Carl XIV Johan 250 years ago

Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of King Carl XIV Johan of Sweden and of Norway. The second son of Henri Bernadotte and Jeanne St-Jean, the future King was born in 8, rue de Tran in Pau in the southwest of France on 26 January 1763. He received the name Jean, but was called Jean-Baptiste to distinguish him from his elder brother Jean, who was referred to as Jean-Évangeliste.
Obviously there was nothing at the time which indicated that Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte would ever be King of two nations. But the French Revolution made possible a meteoric rise through the ranks of the French army and beyond. He became a general in 1794 and was appointed a Marshal of the Empire by Emperor Napoléon I in May 1804. Two years later Napoléon made him Sovereign Prince and Duke of Pontecorvo, a former Papal enclave about halfway between Rome and Naples.
In 1810 he was surprisingly elected Crown Prince of Sweden and assumed the name Carl Johan. The ill-health of King Carl XIII meant that the Crown Prince soon became the real ruler of Sweden and in 1812 he changed sides, joining Napoléon’s enemies and playing a significant part in the defeat of France in 1814.
The same year he achieved what generations of Swedish warrior kings had dreamed of: the conquest of Norway. However, Carl Johan agreed to let Norway be an independent kingdom in a personal union with Sweden. Upon the death of Carl XIII on 5 February 1818 he succeeded to the Swedish and Norwegian thrones as Carl XIV Johan, thereby founding the most durable dynasty in Swedish history. He was crowned in Stockholm on 11 May and in Trondhjem (now Trondheim) on 7 September 1818.
As King of Sweden he carried out a number of significant reforms, but his increasing conservatism cost him his popularity in his old age. As King of Norway he engaged in a long power struggle with Parliament, which he eventually lost. His most important legacy in Norway is perhaps the development of Christiania (now Oslo) as a capital, with the Royal Palace as its crowning glory. He died on 8 March 1844, aged 81.
There will be no large events to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth, unlike the 200th anniversary in 1963. To a great extent this is probably the result of there being many exhibitions, books, royal visits and other events three years ago to mark the bicentenary of his election to Crown Prince. However, the anniversary was commemorated by a conference at the Royal Palace in Stockholm yesterday, focusing on Carl XIV Johan’s role as “the founder of modern Sweden” and tomorrow Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, will carry an article by me on his Norwegian reign.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

My latest article: The fabulous Princess Ingeborg

In the February issue (Vol. 34, No. 2) of the British monthly magazine Majesty, which goes on sale today, I write about one of my favourite royals, Princess Ingeborg of Sweden (1878-1958). Princess Ingeborg is perhaps best known today as the mother of Crown Princess Märtha of Norway and Queen Astrid of the Belgians and the sister of King Christian X of Denmark and King Haakon VII of Norway, but was herself one of the strongest and most unusual characters in recent royal history.
She was, in the words of the historian and courtier Carl-Fredrik Palmstierna, something of a “dissident princess”. She never hesitated to speak her mind and stood out at the politically conservative Swedish court by holding rather radical political opinions. A staunch anti-Nazi, she went to great lengths to help the resistance movement during World War II. Princess Ingeborg was dearly beloved by her family and despite suffering the loss of two of her children, she was the one who sustained the rest of the family when tragedies struck.
For the benefit of art-lovers I may add that the article includes the great Swedish modernist Nils Dardel’s portrait of Princess Ingeborg. As far as I know this is the first time this painting appears in print.

Monday, 21 January 2013

On this date: Princess Ingrid Alexandra turns nine

Today is the ninth birthday of Princess Ingrid Alexandra. As usual, the Royal Court marks the occasion by releasing a new photo, this time showing the Princess walking with her father, the Crown Prince, and her grandfather, the King, thus visualising the line of succession.
The photo was taken in the garden of Skaugum, the home of the crown princely family in Asker outside Oslo, last summer and echoes a rather well-known photo from the early 1980s of the then Prince Haakon walking in the same garden between his father, then Crown Prince Harald, and his grandfather, King Olav V.
Princess Ingrid Alexandra was born at the National Hospital in Oslo on 21 January 2004, incidentially the 175th birthday of previous Norwegian monarch, her great-great-great-grandfather, King Oscar II. She was the first girl to be born in direct line of succession to the throne, following the introduction of gender neutral succession in 1990.

Prussian “pretender” fathers twins

The office of Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia, head of the former royal house of Prussia, has announced that the Prince and his wife Sophie have become the parents of twin boys, who were born in Bremen yesterday. The eldest boy has received the name Carl Friedrich, while the younger has been named Louis Ferdinand, both names with deep roots in the history of the House of Hohenzollern.
Prince Georg Friedrich is the great-great-grandson of Wilhelm II, last German Emperor and King of Prussia, and head of the royal house since the death of his grandfather, Prince Louis Ferdinand, in 1994. Thus, if the German monarchies had survived World War I and subsequent upheavals, Prince Georg Friedrich would now have been German Emperor and King of Prussia. However, he makes no such claims. On 25 August 2011 he married Princess Sophie of Isenburg, daughter of the Prince of Isenburg.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Statue of King Christian Frederik to be erected outside Parliament

Next year Norway will celebrate the bicentenary of its independence and the government yesterday announced (external link) that its jubilee present to Parliament will be a statue of King Christian Frederik, which will be erected in the middle of Eidsvoll Square in front of the Parliament Building.
Christian Frederik, the cousin of King Frederik VI of Denmark and Norway, was sent to Norway as Lieutenant of the Realm during the Napoleonic Wars and led the rebellion when Frederik VI on 14 January 1814 ceded Norway to the King of Sweden. Christian Frederik was persuaded to call a constituent assembly, which met at Eidsvoll in April and which passed the Constitution which is still in force on 16 May. Christian Frederik was himself elected King the following day. However, his reign turned out to be short, as Sweden attacked Norway in July. A ceasefire agreed in Moss in August led to negotiations which ended with Christian Frederik’s abdication and Sweden and Norway agreeing on an arrangement whereby Norway retained its independence and its constitution in a loose personal union with Sweden.
Christian Frederik, who eventually became King of Denmark as Christian VIII, was later chastised for not having fought harder, but eventually more and more people have come to realise that opening negotiations rather than fighting to the last drop of blood was probably what saved Norway’s independence and constitution.
The idea of a statue of King Christian Frederik was brought up already in time of the centenary in 1914, but nothing happened then. Two years ago the then Secretary General of Parliament, Hans Brattestå, stated that the Presidium had rejected the idea of erecting such a monument. However, this was overruled by the government last year, and the Minister of Culture, Hadia Tajik, has now revealed that the statue will be placed in front of the Parliament Building. This is, in my opinion, the best possible solution, and will correspond nicely with the statue of King Carl XIV Johan in front of the Royal Palace.
There will now be a competition among sculptors and it is intended that the statue will be unveiled before the bicentenary on 17 May 2014.

Monday, 14 January 2013

British heir expected in July

The British royal court today announced that the first child of Prince William and his wife Catherine is expected in July. The news of the pregnancy was first confirmed when the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital for treatment for very acute morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), but at that time nothing was said about when the child was expected.
Because of the changes to the succession which were recently introduced in Parliament, the child will be in the direct line of succession regardless of its sex. Letters patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II on 31 December 2012 also means that a girl will get the title of Princess, whereas she would previously only have been styled as the daughter of a duke (i.e. Lady Name Windsor).

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

All children of Prince William to be princes and princesses

In yesterday’s issue of The London Gazette (external link) we may read that Queen Elizabeth II of Britain has issued letters patent, dated 31 December 2012, which say that “all the children of the eldest son of The Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of Royal Highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour”.
In practice this means that the first child of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, which is expected later this year, will be a Princess if it is a daughter, whereas she would have been simply styled “Lady” under the previous letters patent, which restricted the title of Prince(ss) to the children and male-line grandchildren of the monarch and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Majority in favour of King Carl Gustaf’s abdication

An opinion poll by SIFO, published in Aftonbladet (external link) today, shows that a clear majority is in favour of King Carl Gustaf of Sweden’s abdication in favour of Crown Princess Victoria. Of the 1,000 people interviewed between 10 and 13 December altogether 60 % think that the King should abdicate. More precisely, 17 % think that he should abdicate as soon as possible, while 20 % think he should do so within five years and 23 % within ten years. Only 32 % think he should remain on the throne until his death, while 9 % are uncertain.
The poll also shows that 70 % want to retain the monarchy, while 23 % want to abolish it and 7 % do not know. 17 % have less confidence in the King than a year ago, while 2 % say that their confidence in him has increased, 79 % find it unchanged and 2 % do not know.