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.