Wednesday, 24 July 2013

British prince named George Alexander Louis

The British royal court has announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and his wife Catherine) have named their son, who was born two days ago, George Alexander Louis. He is a Royal Highness and a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and will thus be styled as Prince George of Cambridge within Britain (the custom is that princes and princesses who are not the children of the sovereign are known by the territorial designation of their father's peerage).
If Britain remains a monarchy (and Prince Charles does indeed reign as Charles III) the child will one day become King George VII. The first British king of that name was the founder of the current royal house, Elector Georg of Hanover, who inherited the British throne in 1714 and reigned as King George I until his death in 1727. He was succeeded by his son, George II, who outlived his eldest son and was therefore succeeded in 1760 by his grandson, George III, who was again succeeded in 1820 by his eldest son, George IV. Thus the King of Britain was named George consecutively from 1714 to 1830. These four "Hanoverian" Georges had a rather bad press (for instance, George III is remembered primarily for going mad and losing America), although their reputations have been somewhat revised in recent decades.
The name appeared again when Edward VII died in 1910 and was succeeded by his second son, George V (who had not been born to be king). George V's death in 1936 was followed by the brief reign and scandalous abdication of his eldest son, Edward VIII, who upon his abdication was succeeded by his younger brother, Prince Albert, Duke of York. As a mark of continuity and carrying on the traditions of his father after the upheaval of the abdication, Prince Albert chose to be known as George VI, George being the last of his four names.
It might be argued that it was George V who ushered in the current style of monarchy, which has been continued by George VI and Elizabeth II. It is sometimes said that Elizabeth II's historical horizon extends no further than her father and grandfather, and some have jokingly referred to her as "George VII". There have on at least two occasions been rumours that Prince Charles, whose full name is Charles Philip Arthur George, may choose to reign as George VII rather than Charles III.
It might be noted that there has also been a previous "Prince George of Cambridge", namely the only son of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (himself the seventh son of George III). This Prince George, who was a first cousin of Queen Victoria, was born in 1819 and rose to become Commander in Chief of the armed forces. He succeeded his father as the second Duke of Cambridge in 1850, but as he made a morganatic marriage the Cambridge title died with him in 1904.
George is also the name of the patron saint of England, on whose feast day, 23 April, the Order of the Garter is normally awarded.
The name Alexander has been borne by three Scottish kings, and was also the name of the youngest son of the future King Edward VII, who died at birth in 1871. Then there is of course Queen Alexandra, the consort of Edward VII, and Princess Alexandra, a first cousin of the current Queen of Britain and one of Prince William's godparents. Alexander is also the name of the only son of the current Duke of Gloucester.
The name Louis is most closely associated with Louis, the first Earl Mountbatten of Burma, a maternal uncle of Prince Philip and "honorary grandfather" to Prince Charles. Lord Mountbatten, who is known for his military career and for being the last Viceroy of India, was assassinated in 1979, and three years later the name Louis was given to Prince William, whose full name is William Arthur Philip Louis.
There is nothing particularly surprising about the choice of names, perhaps except that there are only three names. All the four children of Queen Elizabeth have four names, as have Prince William and his brother and the children of Prince Edward. However, Queen Elizabeth herself has only three names, as does the children of Princess Anne and of Prince Andrew.

Monday, 22 July 2013

A British prince is born

An hour ago it was announced by the British royal court that the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a son at St Mary's Hospital in London at 4.24 p.m. BST (17.24 CEST). The Prince, whose name has not yet been announced, is third in line to the British throne and it is the first time since 1901 that there are direct heirs to the British throne in three generations. The infant Prince is the first grandchild of the Prince of Wales and the third great-grandchild and first great-grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

Duchess of Cambridge goes into labour

After much recent speculation the Duchess of Cambridge (Catherine of Britain) has gone into labour and been taken to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London. Following the recent changes to the succession laws the child will be heir to the throne (or, at the moment, the heir apparent to the heir apparent to the heir apparent) regardless of whether it is a boy or a girl. Thus it seems a future British monarch will be born today (as it is my birthday I naturally think it a good choice of date!)
The child will be a Royal Highness and a Prince(ss) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (and styled Prince(ss) X of Cambridge within Britain). As for names, it would be expected that they would choose one with a British royal history, preferably one already borne by a British monarch (but if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have as little sense of history as their Swedish counterparts they may of course choose a foreign name without royal roots, but I somehow feel Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles will put a stop to any such ideas).
For a girl the most likely names are perhaps Elizabeth or Victoria, with Anne and Mary as other options. Personally I also think Charlotte would be a good choice, it being the name of the "lost" Queen of Britain, i.e. the only child of the future George IV, who died in childbirth in 1817, so that the crown eventually passed to her cousin Victoria, who was born in 1819. Charlotte would also commemorate two of the baby's grandparents, Prince Charles and Carole Middleton.
If it is a boy, there is a wider range of choices, as Britain has had more male than female monarchs. George, James, Alexander, Edward, Henry and Richard are some of the options.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A new king for Belgium today

Today is the National Day of Belgium, a day which will also see the country getting a new monarch, following King Albert II's announcement eighteen days ago of his abdication. The events related to the abdication of King Albert and the accession of Prince Philippe will be crammed into the usual schedule for the national day, making it a rather busy day.
The usual service of thanksgivings will take place at the Cathédral des Saints Michel et Gudule at 9 a.m. (rather than the usual hour of 10 a.m.), followed by the abdication ceremony at the Royal Palace at 10.30 a.m.
Belgium is the only European kingdom where the heir does not succeed automatically upon the death or abdication of the sovereign, which means that the country will find itself without a monarch until Prince Philippe swears the oath to the Constitution before the two chambers of Parliament in the Palace of the Nation at noon.
The royal family will thereafter greet the crowds from the palace balcony before King Philippe honours the unknown soldier at the Congress Column, reviews troops and takes the salute at the usual national day parade. The day will end with a firework display at 11 p.m.
Contrary to what Aftenposten has claimed repeatedly in recent days, the Norwegian royal family are not "dropping out" of the celebrations or "making other priorities". Nor are other royal families, as none of them have been invited. There is no tradition for foreign royals to attend the inauguration of Belgian monarchs, the exception being in 1934, when the father-in-law and brothers-in-law of King Léopold III accompanied him to his swearing-in after attending the funeral of King Albert I.
King Albert will, as is the tradition except in the Netherlands and Britain, retain the title of king and will not retire from public life. During the last days he has visited several Belgian cities with Queen Paola and yesterday gave his farewell address to the nation.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

On this day: Crown Prince Haakon is forty

Today is the fortieth birthday of the Crown Prince, who was born at the National Hospital in Oslo at 2.12 p.m. on 20 July 1973. Music is one of his great interest, and in his younger days the Crown Prince was a frequent guest at music festivals - one such festival was also where he met Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby for the first time in the summer of 1996. His birthday celebrations thus take the form of a music festival held in the grounds of his home, Skaugum, in Asker outside Oslo, with the guests sleeping in tents.
Except for his nieces, aunt and uncles the entire royal family will attend. The foreign royals present are the King and Queen of the Netherlands, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark, Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, the ex-Crown Prince of Greece and his wife, Prince Kyril of Bulgaria with his daughters Mafalda and Olympia and ex-wife Rosario, and Prince Jaime of Bourbon-Parma.
From 8.10 to 9.25 tonight NRK will broadcast an interview with the Crown Prince.

Friday, 19 July 2013

My latest article: Carl Johan’s important choices for Oslo

This week this year’s third issue of Byminner, the journal of Oslo Museum, was published and there I write about the role played by King Carl XIV Johan in the development of Christiania (as the city was named then) as capital in the years after independence in 1814, particularly by making five defining choices. The article contains some new insights into the reasons behind the King’s decisions, and, as it happens, also has some relevance to this summer’s debate about the expensive wardrobe of Crown Princess Mette-Marit.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

King Albert II to abdicate on 21 July

In a televised speech at 6 p.m. today King Albert II of the Belgians, standing in front of a portrait of the country’s first king and the dynasty’s founder, Léopold I, announced that he will abdicate in favour of his eldest son, 53-year-old Prince Philippe, on 21 July, the national day.
King Albert observed that he had entered his eightieth year (on 6 June) and is now the eldest monarch in Belgian history, and that he no longer felt wholly able to fulfill his royal duties. He also expressed his full confidence in his son and daughter-in-law, Princess Mathilde.
King Albert succeeded to the throne on 9 August 1993 after the early death of his elder brother, King Baudouin. Prince Philippe had been groomed as his uncle’s successor and it was widely expected that the then Prince Albert would at some stage renounce his rights in favour of his son. However, when King Baudouin died at the age of 62, Prince Philippe was only 33 and his 59-year-old father assumed the kingship.
He came to the throne only weeks after Belgium, a country torn between the French-speaking minority and the Flemish-speaking majority, had become a federation. But the political division did not decrease and twice King Albert found himself unable for months to appoint a viable government; in 2007-2008 for three months, in 2010-2011 for a world-record eighteen months (541 days). The continued political strife is believed to have taken its toll on the King.
This will be the fourth time this year that a monarch abdicates. There is no tradition for voluntarily abdication in Belgium; indeed the concept of abdication is not mentioned in the Constitution. King Albert’s father, King Léopold III, was forced to abdicate in 1951 amid great controversy over his role in the Second World War, when he had refused to follow his government into exile and voluntarily handed himself over to become a German prisoner.
However, the fact that abdication has now become a tradition in both the Netherlands and Luxembourg may have influenced King Albert’s decision and perhaps made it easier. As King Albert is a devout Catholic, he may perhaps also have been influenced by the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI in February this year. Indeed the reasons given for his abdication resemble those given by the former Pope.
As far as I can see it has not yet been announced what title King Albert will have after his abdication. While the three Dutch queens who have abdicated have reverted to the title of princess, following Queen Wilhelmina’s argument that abdication is the same as constitutional death, King Albert’s father retained the title of king following his abdication. The Luxembourgian monarchs who have abdicated, including King Albert’s brother-in-law, Grand Duke Jean, have also retained their titles.
Belgium is the only kingdom in Europe where the accession of the heir does not follow automatically on the death of the monarch. On the demise of the monarch, the government will carry out the functions of the head of state until the heir takes the oath to the Constitution. In 1993 there was an interval of nine days between the death of King Baudouin on 31 July and the inauguration of King Albert on 9 August, but this time Prince Philippe will swear the oath on the same day as his father abdicates.

At the road’s end: Princess Fawzia of Egypt (1921-2013), former Queen of Iran

The former royal family of Egypt has announced the death of Princess Fawzia, the second daughter of the late King Fuad I and sometime Queen of Iran as the first wife of Shah Mohammed Reza. She was 91 and passed away in Alexandria yesterday.
Princess Fawzia was born in Alexandria on 5 November 1921 and was the first child born of the then Sultan Fuad’s second marriage to Nazli Sabri. The following year her father assumed the title of King.
On 16 March 1939 Princess Fawzia was married off to the Crown Prince of Iran, Mohammed Reza, an arranged marriage which soon proved unhappy. In October 1940 the Crown Princess gave birth to a daughter, Princess Shahnaz, and the following year she became Queen of Iran when her husband was brought to the throne through the forced abdication of his father, Reza.
According to Shah Mohammed Reza’s biographer Abbas Milani, Fawzia, whose wealthy Sunni family had ruled Egypt for a one and a half century, was believed to look down on the poor, Shiite parvenus that were the Pahlavis, a dynasty founded by her father-in-law.
Her difficult relationship with her mother-in-law and her husband’s infidelities eventually made her return to Egypt. Her absence from Iran was officially explained by her health being endangered by the Iranian climate.
This was also the reason given for the divorce, which was finalised in 1947. In his memoirs, the Shah would later claim her inability to bear a son as the reason for divorce, but this was obviously nonsense as Fawzia had both a son, Husain, and a daughter, Nadia, by her second husband, the officer and politician Ismail Chirine, whom she married in 1949.
In 1952 Fawzia’s brother, King Farouk I, was overthrown in the revolution which, within a year, also brought an end to the Muhammad Ali dynasty. However, Princess Fawzia remained in Egypt. Her second husband died in 1994 and their daughter in 2009.