Thursday, 31 December 2015

Prince Consort Henrik to retire

In her New Year's Speech, delivered live from Fredensborg Palace at 6 p.m., Queen Margrethe II announced that her husband, Prince Consort Henrik, has decided to retire. "In the fture, the Prince Consort will therefore only very rarely take part in the official events which through so many years have been a natural part of his life", she said, adding that it was "his decision; I understand it and I respect it". The Queen expressed her gratitude for "all the support, help and inspiration he has given me through all the years" and added that she still looks forward to continue her work and to have his continued support even though in a less visible way.
The Prince Consort's decision to retire comes at the end of a year in which he caused much comments by absenting himself from the celebrations of his wife's 75th birthday, claiming illness but turning up in Venice the next day. He has also on numerous occasions voiced his dissatisfaction with his role, including repeatedly insisting that he ought to be king consort rather than prince consort. However, the Prince Consort's decision may not necessarily have anything to do with this, as he is after all 81 years, but it is of course very rare for a member of a reigning royal family, and particularly for a sitting monarch's consort, to retire from public life.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

My latest articles: Norwegian silver jubilee and Waterloo bicentenary

It is still 2015, but the January 2016 issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 1), which contains two articles by me, is now on sale. On 17 January, the King and Queen will celebrate their silver jubilee and in the first article I look back at the events of 1991: the death and funeral of King Olav V, the accession of King Harald V, his and Queen Sonja's solemn blessing and the challenges that faced the new King and Queen. In the second article, I report on this year's bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, starting with the death of the 99-year-old 8th Duke of Wellington on the very last day of 2014 and ending with Prince Napoléon receiving the Freedom of the City of London at the end of November.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Celebrations for King Harald's and Queen Sonja's silver jubilee

In a month, 25 years will have passed since King Olav V died and Harald V ascended the throne, and the silver jubilee of the King's accession will naturally be marked in several ways.
The jubilee will be kicked off on 15 January, when the King and Queen will receive congratulatory deputations at the Royal Palace. The following day, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess will host a private dinner at their home Skaugum, at which the Queen of Denmark and the King and Queen of Sweden will join the Norwegian royal family. Some may wonder about the other European royal houses, but the custom for Scandinavian jubilees (as opposed to birthdays and weddings) is that only the Nordic royals and heads of state are invited (this was also the case when King Olav celebrated his silver jubilee in 1982 and when Queen Margrethe and King Carl Gustaf celebrated their silver and ruby jubilees).
On 17 January, accession day, the extended royal family and the foreign guests will attend a service in the Palace Chapel at 11 a.m. On the same day, a large winter sports event for children and youngsters will be held in Palace Square, obviously reflecting the King's great interest in winter sports. The royal family will visit this event between 12.45 and 1.35 p.m. At 1 p.m., a gun salute will be fired from Akershus Castle. At 2 p.m., a private lunch for family and foreign guests will be held at the Palace. Thereafter, the royal family will walk from the Palace downhill to the University, where the government will host a jubilee concert featuring various performers and there will be various activities in University Square (details about those events and the concert are yet to be announced). In the evening, the King and Queen will host a private dinner at the Palace.
In June, the King and Queen will mark the 25th anniversary of their solemn blessing, the ritual instituted by King Olav to replace coronation. Back in 1991, the new King and Queen travelled overland to Trondheim and back along the west and south coast, and between 17 and 28 June this year they will embark on a similar journey by the Royal Yacht, visiting Tromsø, Bodø, Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger and Kristiansand. On 23 June, the 25th anniversary of the solemn blessing, they will return to Nidaros Cathedral to attend a service of thanksgivings.
To mark the jubilee, NRK will broadcast a new documentary series in seven parts (which I have been a little bit involved with) about the King and Queen and their 25 years on the throne. The first part will be aired on NRK 1 on Wednesday 30 December at 7.45 p.m., with the remaining six parts to follow the next six Wednesday nights.
There will also be a special stamp to mark the silver jubilee, which will be on sale from 11 January.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

On this date: Prince Mikasa turns 100!

While many royals have reached their nineties, few members of reigning royal families have lived to celebrate their 100th birthday, but today the Emperor of Japan's uncle Takahito, Prince Mikasa reaches this milestone.
Born in Tokyo on 2 December 1915, Prince Takahito is the fourth and youngest son of Emperor Yoshihito and thus a brother of Emperor Hirohito. In 1941, he married Yuriko Takagi, who bore him three sons and two daughters. He was given the title Prince Mikasa on his twentieth birthday in 1935, but sadly the Mikasa branch of the imperial house will become extinct upon his death as all his three sons have died before him without leaving any sons. His two daughters are however still alive, although not members of the imperial house since their marriages, and he is also a grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of four.
During the Second World War, Prince Mikasa served with the Japanese army and was posted to China. He later claimed he had not fully understood he crimes committed by Japan, and in 1945 he urged his brother Hirohito to take responsibility by abdicating in favour of Crown Prince Akihito, but the USA insisted on keeping Hirohito on the throne.
After the war, Prince Mikasa studied archaeology, Middle Eastern studies and Semitic languages at the University of Tokyo and became a scholar of ancient Oriental history. Although he had heart surgery three years ago and is now in a wheelchair, the centenarian is said to be in good health for his age. "Nothing will change just because I turn 100 years old", the Prince says in a statement released by the imperial court today. "I'd like to spend my days pleasantly and peacefully while praying for the happiness of people around the world and thanking my wife, Yuriko, who has been supporting me for more than 70 years".

Thursday, 19 November 2015

My latest article: Mountbatten in Sweden and Princess Esmeralda on her mother

Today the December issue of Majesty (Vol. 36, No. 12) goes on sale in Britain and this month I have contributed two articles. One of them deals with Lord Mountbatten and Sweden. Much has been written about how he tried to position himself as the power behind the British throne, but I look at how he tried to vield influence on the Swedish monarchy, of which his sister Louise was Queen, including how he tried to make Gustaf VI Adolf abdicate and his attempts at match-making for King Carl Gustaf.
In the same issue is the third and final part of my interview with Princess Esmeralda of Belgium, who this time talks about her mother, Princess Lilian, one of the most controversial royals of the twentieth century, whom her biographer Evrard Raskin has called "the woman who brought down Léopold III". That article also includes some rare photographs, including some from her last years, when Princess Lilian never appeared in public.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

My latest article: Kings consort

In a recent interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, the Prince Consort of Denmark once again stated that in his opinion he ought to be King Consort rather than Prince Consort as the wives of kings are always styled Queen. This is far from the first time he has raised this issue, which he apparently considers a matter of principles and gender equality - by Berlingske's count (external link) it is in fact the eighth time - and it usually subjects him to criticism by the Danish media.
It has been claimed that there is hardly any precedence for the husband of a queen regnant being styled King, but in an article in the newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad today (external link) I point out that until the mid-nineteenth century it was in fact the norm rather than the exception that the husbands of queens regnant became kings. Examples may be found in Navarre, England, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Naples and Poland, and in many cases these kings by marriage also excercised power. But although the Prince Consort has historical precendence on his side, I also suggest that it might be wise not to keep insisting on a wish he must know that will never be granted.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

My latest articles: Princess Esmeralda on her father & Edward VII and Norway

The November issue of Majesty (Vol. 36, No. 11) went on sale in Britain on Thursday and this month I have contributed two articles.
There is the second part of my interview with the writer and climate change activist Princess Esmeralda of Belgium, who this time shares her fond memories of her father, King Léopold III of the Belgians, and talks about how he rebuilt his life after his more or less forced abdication after the Second World War and how she carries on part of his work. While the first part of the interview, which appeared in the October issue, dealt with her grandparents King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth, the third and final part, which will appear in the December issue, will be devoted to her controversial mother, Princess Lilian.
As November marks the 110th anniversary of King Haakon VII's arrival in Norway, my second article investigates the role played by King Edward VII of Britain in securing the Norwegian crown for his daughter and son-in-law.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Seraphim Order for Princess Sofia

On Friday night, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden attended an award ceremony and banquet at the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, where Princess Sofia wore the Order of the Seraphim for the first time. Unlike her brother-in-law Prince Daniel, Princess Sofia did not receive this order, which is Sweden's highest, at her wedding and it has until now not been known if she had received it. The date on which she received the Order is so far not known.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Princess Sofia is pregnant

The court of Stockholm has just announced that Princess Sofia, who married Prince Carl Philip four months ago, is pregnant. The couple's first child will be born in April 2016. In accordance with King Carl Gustaf's decision to bestow royal titles on all his grandchildren, the child will be a Prince or Princess of Sweden and a Royal Highness and receive a royal dukedom.
The birth will follow shortly after the birth of Crown Princess Victoria's second child, which is expected in March. Thus, Prince Carl Philip's and Princess Sofia's child will at the time of its birth be fifth in line of succession to the Swedish throne.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Prince Nicolas of Sweden christened

At noon today, Prince Nicolas of Sweden, the son of Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill, was christened in the chapel of Drottningholm Palace outside Stockholm. This intimate chapel was also the venue for the christening of his elder sister, Princess Leonore, in June last year.
The sponsors were his maternal uncle, Prince Carl Philip; his father's maternal half-sister, Countess Natascha Abensperg und Traun; his mother's first cousin Gustaf Magnuson (son of Princess Christina); his paternal uncle by marriage Henry d'Abo (whose mother, Lady Ursula d'Abo, who will be 99 next month, is the daughter of the 9th Duke of Rutland and was a maid of honour at the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Britain in 1937); his mother's friend Katarina von Horn; and his father's friend Marco Wajselfisz.
Prince Nicolas wore the christening robe that was made for the baptism of his great-grandfather, Prince Gustaf Adolf, in 1906 and which has been worn by many royal children since then. He was baptised by the Archbishop, Antje Jackelén (who last year became Sweden's first female Archbishop). At the end of the ceremony, he was invested as a Knight of the Order of the Seraphim by his grandfather, King Carl XVI Gustaf. His royal rank was, in keeping with a tradition instituted in 1778, symbolised by a princely crown on a pedestal next to the altar. Until now, one crown has usually been assigned to each prince and princess, but the fact that the royal title now descends through both the male and the female line means that there are not enough crowns to go around, and Prince Nicolas has thus been assigned the same crown as his mother, that of Princess (later Queen) Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta (the distinction between crowns for princes and princesses had already been broken in 2012, when Oscar II's princely crown was assigned to Princess Estelle).
As the chapel at Drottningholm is rather small, the christening was attended by a rather select gathering of family, friends, officials and courtiers. Apart from Prince Nicolas, his parents and his sisters, the members of the extended royal family present were King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia; Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel; Princess Estelle; Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia; Princess Margaretha; Princess Christina's husband Tord Magnuson, their three sons Oscar, Gustaf and Victor Magnuson, Gustaf's wife Vicky Magnuson, Victor's partner Frida Bergström and their infant son Sigvard, who was born on 25 August; Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, who is the widow of the King's late uncle, the former Prince Sigvard; and Dagmar von Arbin, a great-granddaughter of King Oscar II, who will celebrate her 100th birthday in April. The only foreign royal present was Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a first cousin of King Carl Gustaf who is also one of Princess Madeleine's sponsors.
Also present were Chris O'Neill's mother, Eva Maria O'Neill; two of his three paternal half-sisters, Annalisa O'Neill and Karen O'Neill, and his nephew Oliver MacNeely; his maternal half-sister Tatjana d'Abo with her husband Henry and their children Anouska, Celina and Jasper; his maternal half-sister Countess Natascha Abensperg und Traun and her daughters Milana and Chiara; and a man by the name of Wolfgang Seybold, who is apparently in a relationship with Eva Maria O'Neill.
Queen Silvia's brother Walther L. Sommerlath is on the guest list, but was as far as I could tell not present in church. On the other hand two of her nephews were there: Thomas de Toledo Sommerlath and Patrick Sommerlath, the latter with his wife Maline, his son Leopold Lundén Sommerlath and their daughters Anaïs and Chloé Sommerlath.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

My new book is out today - "Norges krone"

I am glad to report that my new book, Norges krone - Kroninger, signinger og maktkamper fra sagatid til nåtid, is on sale from today. The title translates roughly as "The Crown of Norway: Coronations, Solemn Blessings and Power Struggles from the Age of the Sagas to the Present" and the book deals with the role of coronations (and solemn blessings) in Norwegian history from Magnus Erlingsson's coronation in 1164 to the future solemn blessing of the current crown princely couple, which amounts to telling the history of the Norwegian monarchy viewed through the coronations.
Coronations run through Norwegian history as a red thread and many of them have taken place in connection with important events, for instance the bloody civil wars of the twelfth century and the attempt to introduce a new state order based on sacral monarchy, the excommunication of King Sverre in 1194, the unificiation of the Nordic countries in Kalmar in 1397, the final choice between Sweden or Denmark as union partner in 1448-1450, the nation's rebirth in 1814, the conflict between Carl XIV Johan and Parliament and the dissolution of the union in 1905. The book also offers the first thorough investigation of the history and symbolism of the crown regalia and shows how the coronations saved Nidaros Cathedral from ruin.
For my readers in Norway the book is of course available in bookshops (ask the staff if you cannot find it and they will order it) and through online bookstores such as Haugen Bok (external link) or Adlibris (external link). Haugen Bok also ships abroad, while my Swedish friends may order it from the Swedish version of Adlibris (external link).

Friday, 2 October 2015

Queen's childhood home to be moved to museum

The news that the villa in which the Queen grew up was to be demolished caused some consternation a while ago, but yesterday it became known that the house has now been saved and will be moved to the open air museum Maihaugen at Lillehammer.
Until her marriage to the then Crown Prince Harald in 1968, Sonja Haraldsen, as she then was, lived in a functionalist villa in Tuengen allé 1B at Vinderen in Oslo, which had been built in 1935, two years before her birth. After her mother Dagny Haraldsen moved to an apartment at Majorstua, the villa was taken over by Dag Swanstrøm, son of the Queen's late sister Gry Henriksen, but because of reconstruction of the area it had now been decided to demolish the house.
However, Maihaugen has since 1993 collected houses in order to documents Norwegian homes of the twentieth century, but has until now lacked houses from the 1930s and 1960s. The Queen's childhood home will thus fill a gap in the museum's collection while preserving a house that is of more than usual historical interest.
The villa has been modernised and altered through the years, but in connection with its move to Maihaugen later additions will be removed and the house restored to its original appearance. The Queen has agreed to assist in this work by making available items, documentation and memories.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

My latest articles: Princess Esmeralda on her grandparents, Queen Charlotte and Ludwig II's bride

I used to post updates here about articles I write, but in the final months of work on my new book there was no time for that, but now that the book is done I will try to resume that habit, starting with the October issue of Majesty, which went on sale in Britain last Thursday and will soon reach other countries too.
In this issue (Vol. 36, No. 10, October 2015) you will find the first part of an interview I recently did with the author and climate change activist Princess Esmeralda of Belgium, the youngest daughter of King Léopold III. This time she speaks about her grandparents, King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth, who are the topic of a book she and Christophe Vachaudez co-authored last year. In the second part of the interview, which will appear in the November issue, Princess Esmeralda will talk about her father, his downfall and how he built a new life for himself after his abdication, and in the third and final part, in the December issue, she will share her memories of her controversial mother, Princess Lilian. All three parts will include several unusual photos.
In the October issue I have also written an article on Queen Charlotte of Britain, the long-suffering consort of "mad" King George III, who was often severely tested by misfortune, but who, in spite of everything, managed to maintain her sanity.
I have written no less than three articles in this issue, and the last of them deals with Duchess Sophie in Bavaria, the younger sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was engaged to the legendary, eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria, fell in love with a photographer, married a French Prince, was locked away in a mental asylum when she fell in love with her doctor and died a horrible death. Hers was surely one of the most dramatic and tragic of royal life stories.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

At the road's end: Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia (1939-2015), historian

A spokeswoman for the former royal house of Prussia has announced that the historian Prince Friedrich Wilhelm died yesterday, following a lengthy illness. The eldest uncle of the head of the dynasty was 76 years old.
The eldest son of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia and his wife, née Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia, Louis Ferdinand Friedrich Wilhelm Hubertus Michael Kyrill Prinz von Preussen was born on 9 February 1939. At that time his great-grandfather, ex-Emperor Wilhelm II, was still living in exile in the Netherlands, but the headship of the royal house eventually passed to Friedrich Wilhelm's father. As the eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm was first in line to succeed to the headship, but he forfeited his rights when he made an unapproved marriage with the commoner Waltraut Freydag in 1967. As his next brother, Michael, who died last year, also lost his rights through marriage, the headship of the royal house passed to their nephew Prince Georg Friedrich, son of the third brother, who had been killed in an accident in 1977. The issue of inheritance caused a protracted legal battle.
Prince Friedrich Wilhelm studied at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and obtained a doctorate in history in 1971. He was however accused of having plagiarised a substantial part of his dissertation and was stripped of the doctorate in 1973. Eventually he obtained a new doctorate from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, this time on the topic of the Hohenzollern dynasty's relations to Nazism.
His first marriage was dissolved in 1971, and in 1976 he married Ehrengard von eden. That marraige was also dissolved in 2004, and later that year he married his third wife, Sibylle Kretschmer. He had one son from his first marriage and two sons and a daughter from the second.
For Prince Georg Friedrich, this is the second death in the family in little more than three weeks, following the death of his mother, Duchess Donata of Oldenburg, on 5 September.

Prince Joachim of Denmark appoints cabinet minister

Earlier today Prince Joachim of Denmark appointed Peter Christensen of the Liberal Party Minister of Defence and Nordic Co-operation. Prince Joachim acts as Guardian of the Realm in the absence of Queen Margrethe and Crown Prince Frederik, and it seems this is only the second time that he has appointed a cabinet minister.
The outgoing Minister of Defence, Carl Holst, announced his resignation yesterday, 93 days after his appointment, after accusations of using a public servant for his own party-political purposes while he led the Regional Council of Southern Denmark but was seeking election to Parliament.
If the Queen is abroad or incapacitated, the Crown Prince is first in line to act as Regent, but if he is also unavailable Prince Joachim or Princess Benedikte will act as Guardian of the Realm, carrying out the monarch's constitutional functions. According to the television network DR, the only previous occasion on which Prince Joachim has appointed a cabinet minister was in December 2012, when Marianne Jelved succeeded Uffe Elbæk as Minister of Culture.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Queen Sofía nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

It was reported this week that Queen Sofía of Spain, the mother of King Felipe VI, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Queen, whose husband King Juan Carlos I abdicated last year, has been nominated by representatives of an undisclosed American university for her commitment to research into Alzheimer's disease and for her work on behalf of the disabled and other marginalised groups.
The nomination was revealed by the head of Spain's Centre of Investigation into Neurological Diseases (CIEN) on World Alzheimer's Day on Monday. However, it was not clear whether the nomination has just been made or if Queen Sofía was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize before the deadline for nominations expired on 31 January.
The recipient or recipients of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on 9 October, but there are hundreds of nominees and I would say it is highly unlikely that Queen Sofía would be seriously considered. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has in recent years expanded the peace concept somewhat, which has resulted in the Peace Prize being awarded for for instance environmental work or the promotion of girls' rights to go to school, but supporting medical research seems to be too far-fetched to be covered by any definition of peace (it seems to be a general misunderstanding that all sorts of good deeds can be rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize).
The European royal who is known to have come closest to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is Prince Carl of Sweden, who was President of the Swedish Red Cross for forty years and was on a number of occasions seriously considered based on his humanitarian work.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

My new book: Coronations and their role in Norwegian history

Today I have the pleasure of announcing the publication of my third book. Norges krone - Kroninger, signinger og maktkamper fra sagatid til nåtid, which translates roughly as "The Crown of Norway: Coronations, Solemn Blessings and Power Struggles from the Age of the Sagas to the Present", deals with the role of coronations (and solemn blessings) in Norwegian history from Magnus Erlingsson's coronation in 1164 to the future solemn blessing of the current crown princely couple.
This might sound like rather dry ceremonial history, but coronations run through Norwegian history as a red thread and many of them have taken place in connection with important events, for instance the bloody civil wars of the twelfth century and the attempt to introduce a new state order based on sacral monarchy, the excommunication of King Sverre in 1194, the unificiation of the Nordic countries in Kalmar in 1397, the final choice between Sweden or Denmark as union partner in 1448-1450, the nation's rebirth in 1814, the conflict between Carl XIV Johan and Parliament and the dissolution of the union in 1905.
Thus the history of the coronations is also the history of the Norwegian monarchy and a prism through which more than 800 years of Norwegian history may be viewed. In addition the book offers the first thorough investigation of the history and symbolism of the crown regalia and shows how the coronations saved Nidaros Cathedral from ruin.
The book will be published by Forlaget Historie & Kultur and go on sale around 8 October. More information about its publication and how to buy it will appear in due course.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Former Princess Alexandra to divorce second husband

A lawyer speaking on behalf of Countess Alexandra of Frederiksborg, the former Princess of Denmark, today announced that she and her second husband Martin Jørgensen are set to divorce. In an interview with the news agency Ritzau, the Countess claims that the decision was hers alone. She adds that "When one can see that there is no shared future and that there are some fundamental values we all have in a marriage that become too different, one has to rethink it".
Born in Hong Kong in 1964, the businesswoman Alexandra Manley married Prince Joachim of Denmark, the second son of Queen Margrethe II, in 1995. They had two children, Princes Nikolai and Felix, but announced their separation in September 2004 and divorced in April 2005. At the time of the divorce, Princess Alexandra was given the additional title Countess of Frederiksborg, after the palace where she and Prince Joachim married. When she married the film photographer Martin Jørgensen, who is fourteen years her junior, on 3 March 2007, she forfeited the title of Princess but kept the comital title (which is personal). In spite of having been only briefly married to the monarch's younger son, Countess Alexandra receives 2.1 million DKK from the civil list annually for the rest of her life, an arrangement that has come under criticism in recent years.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Crown Princess Victoria is pregnant

The Swedish royal court this afternoon announced that Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel are expecting their second child. The baby, who will be third in line to the Swedish throne, is expected to be born in March 2016. The couple's first child, Princess Estelle, was born on 23 February 2012.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Prince Nicolas to be baptised on 11 October

The Swedish royal court today announced that Prince Nicolas, the son born to Princess Madeleine and Christopher O'Neill on 15 June, will be christened in the chapel at Drottningholm Palace on 11 October. This is the same chapel where his sister, Princess Leonore, was christened on 8 June 2014. It was also the venue for the funeral of Princess Kristine Bernadotte in November last year and the wedding of Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian in December 1976.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Princess Charlotte of Britain christened

The christening of Princess Charlotte of Britain, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and his wife Catherine), took place in St Mary Magdalene Church at Sandringham in Norfolk today. The godparents were Prince William's first cousin Laura Fellowes (daughter of Princess Diana's eldest sister Jane and Queen Elizabeth's former Private Secretary Robert Fellowes), the Duchess of Cambridge's first cousin Adam Middleton (son of her father's brother Richard), and three friends of the parents: Sophie Carter, James Meade and Thomas van Straubenzee.
The Princess wore a christening dress from 2007 which is a replica of one first worn by Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Victoria, later German Empress, in 1841. The so-called Lily Font, a silver gilt baptismal font made for the same occasion, had been brought to Sandringham from the Tower of London, where it is usually displayed together with the Crown Jewels (sparking silly stories in the media about "the Crown Jewels leaving London for the first time").
Princess Charlotte was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The only invited guests, except from her parents and elder brother George, were her great-grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip; her grandfather Prince Charles and his wife Camilla; her grandparents Michael and Carole Middleton; her uncle James Middleton; her aunt Philippa ("Pippa") Middleton; and the five godparents, four of them accompanied by their spouses.
St Mary Magdalene Church is located at the royal Sandringham estate in northeastern England, where the parents of Princess Charlotte nowadays have their primary home at Anmer Hall. The church has also been the venue of the christenings of, among others, the future King George VI of Britain in 1896, the future King Olav V of Norway in 1903, and Princess Charlotte's grandmother Diana, the future Princess of Wales, in 1961.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf of Sweden, Duke of Ångermanland

At 1.45 p.m. on Monday 15 June, less than 48 hours after the wedding of her brother Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, Princess Madeleine of Sweden gave birth to a son at Danderyd Hospital in Danderyd outside Stockholm, and in a council meeting with the government earlier today King Carl XVI Gustaf announced that his grandson's name and titles will be Nicolas Paul Gustaf, Prince of Sweden and Duke of Ångermanland.
The name Nicolas has not been used in the Swedish royal family before, except in the version Nicolaus. In 1831, the fourth son of the future King Oscar I and Queen Josephine received the name Nicolaus August, the first of them in honour of Emperor Nikolaj I of Russia, but when the Emperor shortly thereafter cracked down on the Polish uprising the reactions in Sweden were so strong that it was apparently felt safest to let the newborn prince be known by his second name, August.
Paul is obviously in honour of Prince Nicolas's paternal grandfather, the late Paul O'Neill, while Gustaf is a name with deep roots in Swedish royal history and of course also the second name of the current King, the baby's maternal grandfather.
All three names were also used in 1909, when the only child of Prince Wilhelm and his Russian-born wife Maria Pavlovna was named Gustaf Lennart Nicolaus Paul, although he was always known as Lennart.
The dukedom, on the other hand, is without precedent. Since Gustaf III re-introduced dukedoms in 1772 these have been derived from the provinces of Sweden. Some have been used more often than others, while some have never been used for dukedoms. Until today, Ångermanland was one of the latter.
The newborn Prince is sixth (and last) in the order of succession to the Swedish throne. He is the second child of Princess Madeleine and her husband Christopher O'Neill, following Princess Leonore, who was born on 20 February 2014.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Swedish royal wedding on Norwegian television

Today Prince Carl Philip of Sweden will marry Sofia Hellqvist in the Palace Church in Stockholm, a glittering event that seems likely to be the last but one major royal wedding in several years.
NRK will broadcast the arrival of the guests, the wedding and the carriage procession through Stockholm from 3.50 p.m. (the actual wedding begins at 4.30 p.m.) until about 6.30 p.m., with Anne Grosvold and me as commentators. The broadcast should also be available at either or, or possibly both.
The dinner and dance will also be broadcast on Swedish television SVT, but not on NRK - SVT's broadcast of these events will however also be available through NRK's website.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Official guest list for the Swedish royal wedding

The Swedish royal court has today released the official lists of guests who will be present in the Palace Church in Stockholm tomorrow for the wedding of Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist. Some of the interesting names are:

Members of reigning royal families with partners:
TM King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden
HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
HM Queen Sonja of Norway
HM Queen Máxima of the Netherlands
HM Queen Mathilde of the Belgians
TRH Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden
TRH Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark
TRH Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway
HRH Princess Estelle of Sweden
HRH Princess Madeleine of Sweden and Mr Christopher O'Neill
HRH Princess Birgitta of Hohenzollern and Sweden
Princess Margaretha of Sweden, Mrs Ambler
Princess Désirée of Sweden, Baroness Silfverschiöld and Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld
Princess Christina of Sweden, Mrs Magnuson and Mr Tord Magnuson
TRH Prince Edward and Sophie of Britain, Earl and Countess of Wessex
TRH Prince Joachim and Princess Marie of Denmark
HIH Hisako, Princess Takamado of Japan
HH Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and Mr Ari Behn
Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg (widow of the late former Prince Sigvard of Sweden)

Members of non-reigning royal families:
TRH Prince Nikolaós and Princess Tatiana of Greece and Denmark
HRH Prince Leopold and Princess Ursula of Bavaria
TRH Prince Manuel and Princess Anna of Bavaria
HH Hereditary Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
TSH Prince Hubertus and Princess Ute Maria of Hohenzollern

Descendants of royalty with partners
Baroness Sybilla von Dincklage (daughter of Princess Margaretha)
Mr James and Mrs Ursula Ambler (son and daughter-in-law of Princess Margaretha)
Mrs Désirée and Mr Eckbert von Bohlen und Halbach (daughter and son-in-law of Princess Birgitta)
Baron Carl Silfverschiöld (son of Princess Désirée)
Baroness Christina and Baron Hans De Geer (daughter and son-in-law of Princess Désirée)
Baroness Hélène Silfverschiöld (daughter of Princess Désirée) and Fredrik Dieterle
Mr Gustaf and Mrs Vicky Magnuson (son and daughter-in-law of Princess Christina)
Mr Oscar and Mrs Emma Magnuson (son and daughter-in-law of Princess Christina)
Mr Victor Magnuson (son of Princess Christina) and Miss Frida Bergström
Countess Bettina Bernadotte af Wisborg and Philipp Haug (daughter and son-in-law of the late former Prince Lennart of Sweden)
Mr Emil Bernadotte af Wisborg (son of Bettina Bernadotte and Philipp Haug)
Mrs Dagmar von Arbin (granddaughter of the late former Prince Oscar of Sweden and of Norway) (aged 99!)
Count Bertil and Countess Jill Bernadotte af Wisborg (grandson and granddaughter-in-law of the late former Prince Oscar of Sweden and of Norway)

Members of Queen Silvia's family:
Mr Ralf and Mrs Charlotte de Toledo Sommerlath (brother and sister-in-law)
Mrs Carmita Sommerlath Baudinet (daughter of Ralf de Toledo Sommerlath) and Mr Pierre Baudinet
Miss Chloé Radigues de Chennevière (daughter of Carmita Sommerlath Baudinet)
Mr Thomas de Toledo Sommerlath (son of Ralf de Toledo Sommerlath) and Ms Bettina Aussems
Mr Tim de Toledo Sommerlath (son of Thomas Sommerlath) and Mrs Kristina de Toledo Sommerlath
Mr Philip de Toledo Sommerlath (son of Thomas Sommerlath)
Miss Giulia de Toledo Sommerlath (daughter of Thomas Sommerlath)
Mr Walther L. and Mrs Ingrid Sommerlath (brother and sister-in-law)
Mr Patrick and Mrs Maline Sommerlath (son and daughter-in-law of Walther L. Sommerlath)
Mr Leopold Lundén Sommerlath (son of Patrick Sommerlath)
Miss Chloé Sommerlath (daughter of Patrick Sommerlath)
Miss Anaïs Sommerlath (daughter of Patrick Sommerlath)
Miss Helena Christina Sommerlath (daughter of the Queen's late brother Jörg Sommerlath) and Mr Jan Sohns
Ms Maria Salles Souto Ferreira (maternal relative of Queen Silvia)

Members of the bride's family:
Mr Erik and Mrs Marie Hellqvist (parents)
Miss Lina Hellqvist (sister) and Mr Jonas Frejd
Miss Sara Hellqvist (sister) and Mr Oskar Bergman
Mrs Britt Rotman (maternal grandmother)
Mr Anders Rotman (maternal uncle) and Mrs Laila Rönn Rotman
Mr Victor Rotman (cousin) and Miss Eleonora Caiazza
Mr Johan Rotman (cousin)
Mrs Lena Rotman (maternal aunt) and Mr Peter Nygren
Miss Hanna Nygren (cousin)
Mr Andreas Nygren (cousin)
Mr Lars and Mrs Irena Hellqvist (paternal uncle and aunt)
Mr Daniel Hellqvist (cousin)
Mr Martin Hellqvist (cousin)

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Foreign guests for Swedish royal wedding

With only three days to go before the wedding of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist on Saturday, the Swedish royal court has not yet released on official guest list, nor do the media seem to have been able to get hold of it, but several foreign courts have already announced which royals who will travel to Stockholm for the nuptials.
The only foreign monarch expected is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who is the groom's godmother (the other sponsors being Princess Birgitta of Hohenzollern, Prince Leopold of Bavaria and the late Prince Bertil of Sweden). She will be accompanied by Crown Prince Frederik, Crown Princess Mary, Prince Joachim and Princess Marie.
There will also be a strong Norwegian contingent, headed by the Queen. She will be joined by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess and by Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn.
The Queens of the Netherlands and the Belgians will also attend, while the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Prince Edward and his wife Sophie) will as usual represent Britain. The Japanese imperial family will be represented by Princess Takamado, the wife of a first cousin of the Emperor, who also attended Princess Madeleine's wedding two years ago.
It is not yet known whether Luxembourg, Monaco and Spain will be represented, but the presence of Spanish royals are for security reasons mostly only made just before the event.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Statue of King Olav unveiled in Oslo

24 1/2 years after the death of King Olav V and 20 years after the municipality of Oslo decided to erect a statue of him, the King and Princess Astrid today unveiled Olav Orud's statue of their father outside the City Hall in Oslo. 36 members of the extended royal family attended the unveiling ceremony.
The statue shows the late King in a civilian outfit and holding his hat behind his back, having stepped down from the plinth, which is decorated with four reliefs showing scenes from King Olav's life. It is located in Crown Princess Märtha Square, where Queen Maud Street, Haakon VII Street and Olav V Street meet.
There were speeches by among others the Mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang, and the Minister of Defence, Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, and all surviving cabinet ministers and members of the royal household during the reign of King Olav had been invited to the unveiling, which also saw an unusual gathering of almost all the living descendants of King Olav and Crown Princess Märtha.
The King and Queen were of course there, accompanied by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, Prince Sverre Magnus, the Crown Princess's son Marius Borg Høiby, and Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn with their three daughters, Maud, Leah and Emma Behn.
Princess Astrid's branch of the family was also complete. The Princess's eldest daughter Cathrine Ferner Johansen was accompanied by her husband Arild Johansen and their children Sebastian and Madeleine; Benedikte Ferner by her partner Aage Hvinden; Alexander Ferner by his wife Margrét and their children Edward and Stella; Elisabeth Ferner by her partner (whose name escapes me) and her son Benjamin Beckman; and Carl-Christian Ferner by his wife Anna-Stina S. Ferner.
Sadly Princess Ragnhild, who would have turned 85 on Tuesday, did not live to see the statue of her father unveiled, but her 92-year-old widower, Erling S. Lorentzen, had come from Brazil. Their son Haakon Lorentzen and his wife Martha were absent, but Haakon's and Martha's eldest son, Olav, and their daughter Sophia Anne were present, while their younger son Christian was absent. Princess Ragnhild's eldest daughter, Ingeborg Lorentzen Ribeiro, was accompanied by her husband Paulo Ribeiro, their only child Victoria Ribeiro Falcão and her husband Felipe Falcão. The late Princess's youngest daughter, Ragnhild Lorentzen Long, did not bring her husband and their two daughters.
The unveiling took place on a symbolically important date: The union of crowns with Sweden was dissolved 110 years ago today, paving the way for the election of the new dynasty in the autumn, King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav were forced to leave Norway for exile in Britain 75 years ago today, and King Haakon, Crown Princess Märtha, Prince Harald, Princess Ragnhild and Princess Astrid returned to Norway in triumph 70 years ago today (Crown Prince Olav had returned already on 13 May).

Friday, 5 June 2015

Princess Charlotte to be christened at Sandringham

It was announced today that the christening of Princess Charlotte of Britain will take place in St Mary Magdalene Church at Sandringham on 5 July. Her brother, Prince George, was christened in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace, London, but the parents are now living primarily at their country home Anmer Hall on the Sandringham estate, which makes the local church seem a natural choice of venue.
Among other royals baptised in St Mary Magdalene Church are the baby's late grandmother Diana, Princess of Wales, who was born in Park House on the Sandringham estate and christened in the local church on 30 August 1961, Princess Eugenie, who was christened there on 23 December 1990, and the future King Olav V of Norway, who was born at Appleton House, also on the Sandringham estate, and baptised on 11 August 1903.
Like her brother, Princess Charlotte will be christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Princess Madeleine moving to England

The Swedish royal court today confirmed what has been long expected, namely that Princess Madeleine and her family will soon be moving to England. Princess Madeleine moved to New York on the day the end to her engagement to Jonas Bergström was announced in April 2010 and remained there after marrying Chris O'Neill in June 2013. Their daughter, Princess Leonore, was born in New York in February last year, while their second child, which is expected almost any day now, will be born in Stockholm, whence the family moved at the end of 2014. However, it was stated at that time that they were only living in Stockholm temporarily while looking for a home somewhere in Europe.
Chris O'Neill holds both British and American citizenships, but has stated that he considers himself primarily British. London is also where he was born, and where his mother Eva O'Neill lives. While Chris O'Neill changed his tax domicile to England on 22 April, Princess Madeleine and their daughter are still living in Stockholm. His absence from a handful of recent events, including the celebrations of King Carl Gustaf's 69th birthday on 30 April, has been remarked upon by the press, and it is now clear that he will also be unable to attend the National Day celebrations on 6 June. Obviously this is not too strange considering that he is not a working member of the royal family, but has a full time job to look after even though he is married to a princess.
The Act of Succession includes a rather vague stipulation for princes and princesses to be brought up in Sweden, and at the time of Princess Leonore's birth it was stated by the Marshal of the Realm, Svante Lindqvist, that the court had interpreted this to mean from about the age of six and that the children should attend Swedish schools in order to maintain their succession rights. It is of course not really for the royal court to make binding interpretations of constitutional matters, but as their interpretation has not been challenged it seems the family will have to return to Sweden before 2020 if Princess Leonore is to retain her succession rights (and possibly her royal titles, which have in recent generations been seen as conditioned by succession rights).

Monday, 18 May 2015

Title issues: Sofia Hellqvist to become a princess and a duchess

With less than a month to go before the wedding of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist on 13 June, the banns of marriage were published in connection with a service in the Palace Church in Stockholm on Sunday. This is no longer mandatory, but the Swedish royal family upholds the tradition and uses it as an occasion for the presentation of wedding gifts.
King Carl Gustaf also took the opportunity to announce his decision that Sofia Hellqvist will receive the titles Princess of Sweden and Duchess of Wermlandia as well as the style Royal Highness. This is not automatic, but decisions about titles for members of the royal family are the King's prerogative. As a logical consequence of the introducing of gender-neutral succession, King Carl Gustaf decided to treat the issue of princesses in the same way as the issue of princes, which means bestowing royal titles upon the children of Princess Madeleine. However, he seems to have changed his mind when it comes to the titles of his younger children's spouses.
When Princess Madeleine became engaged to Jonas Bergström in 2009, it was announced that her future husband would become Duke of Helsingia and Gastricia, i.e. of his wife's dukedom, but not a prince. On the other hand, her marriage to Christopher O'Neill in 2013 was preceeded by an announcement that her husband would become neither a prince nor a duke since he would not become a Swedish citizen and was not willing to give up his business interests, which suggests that the title of prince had been offered in addition to that of duke, as is now the case with the future wife of Prince Carl Philip.
The service in the Palace Church, which was followed by a lunch and reception, was attended by among others King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel with Princess Estelle, Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill with Princess Leonore, Princess Christina's son Gustaf Magnuson and his wife Vicky Andrén, the King's aunt by marriage Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, and Sofia Hellqvist's parents Erik and Marie Hellqvist as well as her sisters Lina and Sara with their boyfriends Jonas Frejd and Oskar Bergman.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Monegasque twins baptised

Today Hereditary Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, the twins born to Sovereign Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène on 10 December, were christened in Monaco's Cathedral.
The children wore christening gowns from Dior and the godparents were Diane de Polignac Nigra and Christopher LeVine Jr for Prince Jacques and Gareth Wittstock and Nerine Pienaar for Princess Gabriella. Christopher LeVine Jr is the son of the only surviving child of Princess Grace's sister, Lizanne Kelly LeVine, and as such Prince Jacques's second cousin, while Diane de Polignac Nigra is a granddaughter of Thérèse de Polignac, who if I am not mistaken was a second cousin of Sovereign Prince Rainier III, making Prince Jacques's godmother his fourth cousin. Gareth Wittstock is Princess Charlène's brother, while I assume Nerine Pienaar is a friend of hers.
Princesses Caroline and Stéphanie attended with their families (the former as usual without her estranged husband), while the only foreign royals to have attended seem to have been Prince Charles and Princess Camilla of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, who are friends of the children's father.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

King Salman appoints new crown prince and consolidates power

Three months after he came to the throne following the death of his brother Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia today dismissed his half-brother Muqrin as Crown Prince and replaced him with his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, while his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. King Salman thereby consolidates power in his own branch of the royal family while ensuring that the succession will move to the next generation after his own death.
Since the death of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul-Aziz (Ibn Saud) in 1953, the crown has passed among his many sons (approximately 45). Among these sons, the so-called "Sudairi Seven", seven full brothers whose mother belonged to the Sudairi family, have been particularly powerful, yet they have not taken all power for themselves until now.
For instance, when King Khalid appointed the eldest of the Sudairi Seven, Fahd, Crown Prince, he also appointed a non-Sudairi, Abdullah, second deputy prime minister, i.e. effectively second in line to the throne. As King, Abdullah in turn appointed three Sudairis Crown Prince, first Sultan, who died in 2011, then Nayef, who died in 2012, and then Salman, who succeeded him in January. But Abdullah also appointed a non-Sudairi, his ally Muqrin, to the new post of Deputy Crown Prince in April last year, thereby apparently trying to uphold the balance between Sudairis and non-Sudairis. There was speculation that Salman upon his accession would remove Muqrin in favour of Prince Ahmed, another Sudairi, but Salman immediately confirmed Muqrin as the new Crown Prince, while appointing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is the son of the late Crown Prince Nayef and the son-in-law of the late Crown Prince Sultan, and thus so to speak twice a Sudairi, Deputy Crown Prince.
At the same time, King Salman appointed his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Defence Minister and Lord Chamberlain, and by promoting him to Deputy Crown Prince today, King Salman has made the Sudairi branch almost all-powerful. The new Crown Prince also holds the important post of Interior Minister.
King Salman today also relieved Prince Saud bin Faisal of the post of Foreign Minister, which he has held since 1975, replacing him with Adel al-Jubeir, until now ambassador to the USA.
As things now stand, King Salman, who is born in 1935, will be succeeded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is 55, and thereafter by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to be in his early thirties, but Mohammed bin Nayef, who himself has no sons, may choose to appoint another heir when he becomes king. The influence of the Allegiance Council, which was set up by King Abdullah in 2007 to oversee the appointment of heirs, seems to be negligible.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Swedish royals meet the Pope

On Monday, the Pope received Queen Silvia, who was accompanied by Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill and their daughter Princess Leonore, in audience in the Apostolic Palace. The Queen and Princess Madeleine are in Rome to attend a conference on trafficking, a cause they have both been closely involved with and which Pope Francis singled out for attention in his New Year address.
This was Princess Leonore's first major public appearance, and the photos of Queen Silvia seated with her granddaughter, who clutches the Pope's finger, reminds one of the photo of Princess Madeleine at the age of seven, standing on her toes as she is kissed on the head by Pope John Paul II, a photo Queen Silvia keeps on her desk.
Interestingly, Queen Silvia chose to abide with the dress code for papal audiences that stipulates a long black dress and veil for women other than the Catholic wives of Catholic kings, who wear white, although other Protestant queens have abandoned it in recent years. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark wore a grey day dress and hat for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, while Queen Elizabeth II of Britain wore a mauve day dress and hat when she and Prince Philip were received by Pope Francis a year ago.
Chris O'Neill rarely accompanies his wife to official events that are not family events, but in this case his presence was clearly due to the fact that he is a Catholic. Queen Silvia, who was born in Germany to a German father and Brazilian mother and raised in Brazil, is a Lutheran and has always been so. Her Brazilian mother's funeral was held in a Lutheran church in Heidelberg, Germany, which suggests that her mother was also a Protestant.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Queen Margrethe's 75th birthday celebrations on Norwegian TV

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark turns 75 tomorrow and I will, as for previous royal events, be the commentator during NRK's live broadcast of the celebrations. The broadcast will begin on NRK1 from 8.10 a.m. to 8.45, when Queen Margrethe will be awakened by song at Fredensborg Palace and appear in her bedroom window, and will continue from 12.15 to 1.40 p.m. and thereafter on NRK2 from 1.40 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. before it returns to NRK1 from 2.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The broadcast in the afternoon will cover the carriage ride through the streets of Copenhagen and the performance at Copenhagen's City Hall.
The celebrations have begun tonight will a state banquet at Christiansborg Palace, attended by, among others, the royal family, representatives of the Danish state, the King of Norway, the King and Queen of Sweden, the King and Queen of Spain, the King and Queen of the Netherlands, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and the President and First Lady of Iceland. Unfortunately the Prince Consort has fallen ill with the flu and will miss all of the birthday celebrations.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

New British act of succession comes into force

Today is an historic day for the British monarchy as the Succession of the Crown Act 2013, which introduces gender neutral succession in Britain and the other fifteen realms of which Elizabeth II is head of state, comes into force. The prime minister of the sixteen kingdoms agreed upon these changes at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth on 28 October 2011 and although it passed its final reading in the British Parliament and received the royal assent in April 2013 it has not come into force before now as it needed to be passed by the all the realms, which has been a rather complicated process. In the end Australia, Barbados, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines have passed legislation to amend the succession, while Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, St Lucia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu concluded that it was not necessary to pass legislation, apparently because the succession was not codified in suc detail. For instance, the constitution of Tuvalu appears to say that whoever is monarch of Britain is monarch of Tuvalu.
While younger brothers have until now bypassed elder sisters in the act of succession, the first-born will now be the heir regardless of its gender. This change will be retroactive, but only for those born after 28 October 2011. Thus Princess Anne is still behind her younger brothers and their children in the line of succession, and Prince Edward's son is still ahead of his older sister, while Senna Lewis, a granddaughter of the Duke of Gloucester, overtakes her younger brother Tane, who was born after that date.
The new Succession to the Crown Act also means that people who marry to Catholics are no longer barred from ascending the throne, while Catholics themselves are still excluded as the monarch is required to be Anglican. This change is retroactive, so that the Earl of St Andrews (the Duke of Kent's oldest son), Prince Michael and several others are now back in the line of succession (while Lord St Andrews' children and his brother Lord Nicholas Windsor, who are themselves Catholics, are still excluded).
The new act also repeals the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, scrapping the requirement for anyone in line of succession to seek the monarch's permission to marry. This will now only apply to the first six people in line to the throne. Currently those six are Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince George, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice, which means that Prince Andrew's eldest daughter needs permission while her sister does not (the birth of Prince William's second child, which is expected in the second half of April, will however push Princess Beatrice out of the top six).
Of the seven European kingdoms, Spain is now the only one left where sons still take precedence over daughters in the order of succession. Gender neutral succession was first introduced in Sweden in 1980, followed by the Netherlands in 1983, Norway in 1990, Belgium in 1991 and Denmark in 2009.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Barbados to abolish monarchy

In a speech to party supporters, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart of the Democratic Labour Party, has announced that the country will "move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future". Legislation to transform the Kingdom of Barbados into a republic will be put to Parliament to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Barbados's independence next year and will, according to the Democratic Labour Party's Secretary General George Pilgrim (quoted in The Times today) "move the country through to the next major step in the process of nationhood". Pilgrim does not "expect any opposition" to the change.
Barbados is currently one of fifteen countries of which the British monarch is head of state, the others including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but the Queen of Barbados has only visited five times and has not set foot in the country for 26 years. Her youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and his wife Sophie did however visit Barbados a year ago.
Like many other countries who have removed the British monarch from the position of head of state, Bahamas intends to remain a member of the Commonwealth. It is interesting to note that Prime Minister Stuart said that they "respect [Queen Elizabeth] very highly as head of the Commonwealth and accept that she and all of her successors will continue to be at the apex of our political understanding". These words are interesting as the headship of the Commonwealth is not hereditary; thus Prince Charles will not automatically become its head when Queen Elizabeth dies.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

King appoints female Lord Chamberlain

I have been too busy lately to find time to update this blog regularly, but one piece of news from last Friday surely deserves to be mentioned: The King has appointed Gry Mølleskog Lord Chamberlain, thereby making her the first woman in Norway - and as far as I know also in Europe - to hold the top position at the royal court. Mølleskog will take over in the summer from Åge B. Grutle, who was been Lord Chamberlain since 2009 and was appointed Ambassador to Finland in the Council of State on Friday.
Mølleskog, who is 53 years old, was chief of staff to the Crown Prince and Crown Princess from 2003 to 2006, when she left to pursue a business career. She was Senior Vice President of SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) and Senior Client Partner of the recruitment company Korn/Ferry, but returned to the royal court in 2012, when the Crown Prince and Crown Princess's office merged with the office of the King's Private Secretary to form the Royal Secretariat and Mølleskog became Chief of Staff and head of the secretariat.
The creation of a joint staff for the King and Queen and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess was a significant step that intended to make the future transition from Harald V to Haakon VIII as smooth as possible. The King will not abdicate, but while King Olav remained the absolute head of the monarchy until the very end, King Harald has turned it into a teamwork, first between himself and the Queen and in the past fifteen years also including the Crown Prince and Crown Princess in the making of all major decisions (although the King retains the last word).
The fact that Gry Mølleskog will (probably) be King Harald V's last Lord Chamberlain can also be seen as a testimony to the feminisation of the monarchy and the royal court that has taken place in his reign. King Olav's court was almost exclusively male - it was only after 25 years that a female Assistant Private Secretary was appointed in 1982 - while the royal household of the current reign has been more or less equally balanced between genders. While King Olav's household consisted almost entirely of officers, the court of Harald V has been recruited from a wider base. The highest court position held by a woman before Mølleskog was that of Private Secretary, which was held from 2000 to 2012 by Berit Tversland, who began her career in the royal household as governess to the then Prince Haakon and Princess Märtha Louise in 1977.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

My latest article: The Saudi succession

Yesterday I had an article in Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, about the complicated but geopolitically important Saudi succession, which looks at the interdynastic rivalries and what it means that the succession is now at last about to move from the many sons of King Abdul-Aziz to the first of the hundreds of grandsons. The article may be read here (external link).
This article is in Norwegian, but I will return to the topic in the March issue of Majesty in the context of an obituary of King Abdullah.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Funeral of Johan Martin Ferner

The funeral of Princess Astrid's husband, the businessman Johan Martin Ferner, took place in Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo at 1 p.m. today. The chapel held a special place in the hearts of the Ferner family as it was where all the five children were christened and Princess Astrid played a central part in raising funds for its rebuilding after it was arsoned by Satanists in 1992.
The adult members of the Norwegian royal family were out in force, including Princess Ragnhild's widower, Erling S. Lorentzen. As expected, no members of foreign royal families attended, but there was at least a wreath from Luxembourg. Several members of the Ferner family, although not Princess Astrid, wore folk costumes, which is very unusual at funerals. Sigurd Osberg, a retired bishop who has sat on the board of Crown Princess Märtha's Memorial Fund, of which Princess Astrid is chairwoman, officiated together with the parish priest, Jan-Erik Heffermehl.
The coffin was carried out of the chapel to the tunes of "Amazing Grace". As a last greeting to her husband of 54 years, Princess Astrid curtseyed deeply as the hearse departed.
Johan Martin Ferner will apparently be cremated, but it is not yet known where his ashes will be interred. The most likely option is perhaps the cemetery of the local parish church, Ris, while another, less likely, option is the cemetery in Asker, next to the royal estate Skaugum, where Princess Ragnhild is buried. The royal mausoleum at Akershus Castle is unlikely, although there is now an empty wall niche, which might perhaps have been able to take two urns, after the alleged skull of King Sigurd the Crusader turned out not to be genuine and was consequently removed.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My latest article: Obituary of Johan Martin Ferner

Following the death of Johan Martin Ferner, the businessman who was for 54 years married to Princess Astrid, I have written an obituary which appears in the newspaper Aftenposten today. It may be read here (external link).

Monday, 26 January 2015

Johan Martin Ferner's funeral to take place on 2 February

The funeral of the businessman Johan Martin Ferner, Princess Astrid's husband, who died on Saturday, will as expected take place in Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo on Monday 2 February at 1 p.m. As befits the low profile of this most anonymous member of the royal family, the funeral will be a private one, without media presence.
I would not expect members of foreign royal families to attend, except perhaps a representative of the Swedish royal family, to whom Princess Astrid was always close. Those Belgians, Luxembourgian and Danish relatives the Ferners were close to are now all dead, with the exception of Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, who at the age of 94 is unlikely to travel to Norway.
Holmenkollen Chapel is part of the Ferners' local parish Ris. It is also close to the royal winter residence, the Royal Lodge, and has long held a special place in Princess Astrid's heart. It was where all their children were baptised and she was deeply upset when the wooden chapel was arsoned by Satanists in 1992, less than two months before Elisabeth Ferner's wedding was due to take place there. The Princess played a key role in raising more than 10 million NOK for its reconstruction. It was completed in 1996, just in time for Alexander Ferner's wedding to take place there.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

At the road's end: Johan Martin Ferner (1927-2015), businessman and royal husband

The business man Johan Martin Ferner, Princess Astrid's husband, passed away at the age of 87 at the National Hospital in Oslo at 5.25 this morning, the royal court has announced. Ferner was the most anonymous member of the royal family and during his 54 years as the Princess's husband he was the very essence of discretion and loyalty.
Born in Oslo on 22 July 1927, Johan Martin Jacobsen was the third and youngest child of Ferner Jacobsen and his wife Ragnhild Olsen. In November of the same year, the children adopted their father's first name as their last name. His father ran a men's clothing store, Ferner Jacobsen A/S, founded in 1926 and still in existence in Parliament Street in Oslo. Johan Martin studied at London Polytechnic Institute, Bradford Technical College and the University of Lyon and worked at Harrods and Austin Reed in London before joining his father's company, where he worked his way up through the ranks until taking over the company jointly with his older brother Finn Christian on their father's death in 1964.
Johan Martin Ferner was a keen yachtsman and won a silver medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. The previous year he had for the first time gone sailing with Princesses Ragnhild and Astrid, and they remained part of each other's social circle. In 1953, Ferner married a friend of the princesses, Ingeborg "Bitte" Hesselberg-Meyer (1931-1997), but the marriage was dissolved in 1956. Ferner's and Princess Astrid's friendship gradually evolved into love, but it would be several years before King Olav gave his permission for them to marry. When writing my biography of her, Princess Astrid told me that after her elder sister had married a commoner she was convinced that it would not be possible for her too to do the same, and the fact that Ferner was a divorcé obviously complicated the matters (this was about the same time as Princess Margaret of Britain had to give up her relationship with the divorcé Peter Townsend). Attempts were made to stop the relationship, but eventually the King gave in.
The storm that broke out when the engagement was announced on 13 November 1960 was considered the worst the royal family had so far experienced and contained many of the same arguments that would come up again when the Princess's nephew married a single mother in 2001. Two members of Parliament's presidium boycotted the congratulatory visit to the Palace, while the Christian newspaper Vårt Land declared itself in mourning and thundered against the Princess and her choice of husband. The wedding was set for Asker Church, the parish church near the royal estate Skaugum, but the parish council refused to allow the marriage to be celebrated there. It was only after the King had appealed to the Church Ministry that the decision was overturned. The Bishop of Oslo was unwilling to marry divorces, but the more liberal Bishop of Nidaros, Arne Fjellbu, agreed to do so. The couple were eventually married on 12 January 1961 in the presence of royal guests from Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and Britain.
Johan Martin Ferner and Princess Astrid, Mrs Ferner, as she was now styled, settled in a villa on Oslo's west side and had five children between 1962 and 1972: Cathrine, Benedikte, Alexander, Elisabeth and Carl-Christian. Until 1968 the Princess, despite ill health, combined her role as wife and mother with that of first lady of the realm and she had continued to take on many royal duties also after her brother's marriage meant that her sister-in-law Sonja tok over as first lady. Johan Martin Ferner kept a very low profile and did not carry out any public engagements, only occasionally accompanying his wife to major events. I believe the interview he gave to Aftenposten on the occasion of his seventieth birthday in 1997 was the only interview he ever gave. Instead he focused his attention on the family business, which was eventually taken over by his son Carl-Christian and his nephew Christian, but until recently Johan Martin Ferner still paid regular visits to the store.
King Harald made his brother-in-law a Commander of the Order of St Olav shortly after the couple's golden wedding anniversary in 2011. By then the 84-year-old Johan Martin Ferner had given up on attending evening events and was only occasionally seen at royal events. His last public appearance was the wedding of his youngest son to Anna-Stina Slattum Karlsen on 4 October 2014.

Last rites for King Abdullah - and appointment of new heirs

In keeping with Muslim tradition, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who died in the early hours of Friday, was buried already on the same day. After funeral prayers at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque, the King was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in the El-Ud public cemetery in Riyadh.
The King of Bahrain, the Emirs of Kuwait and Qatar, the Presidents of Turkey and Sudan and the Prime Ministers of Egypt and Pakistan attended the funeral, while other foreign dignitaries will arrive in Riyadh on Saturday to pay their condolences to the new King, Salman. Among those expected are the Kings of Sweden and Spain, Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, the Crown Princes of Denmark and Norway and US Vice President Joe Biden.
There were two interesting developments to the Saudi succession, one particularly significant, on Friday. Firstly, King Salman appointed his half-brother Muqrin Crown Prince. Muqrin, the youngest surviving son of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud), was appointed Deputy Crown Prince by King Abdullah in March last year. The choice was somewhat surprising as there is an older half-brother, Ahmed, and Muqrin is not the son of a Saudi mother, and some had wondered if King Salman upon his succession would appoint Ahmed Crown Prince. This did not happen, and King Salman also appointed the Interior Minister, Prince Mohammed, the son of the late Crown Prince Nayef, Deputy Crown Prince, signifying that after the deaths of Salman, who is 79, and Muqrin, who is 69, the Saudi succession will at last move from the approximately 45 sons of Ibn Saud to the third generation of the House of Saud.

Friday, 23 January 2015

At the road's end: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (1924?-2015)

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was hospitalised with pneumonia several weeks ago, died at 1 a.m. local time today, it has been announced. The King was believed to be 90 years old. Under the Saudi succession rules, which means that the crown passes between the many sons of the country's founder, King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud), King Abdullah is succeeded by his half-brother Salman, who is believed to be 79 years old and in indifferent health.
King Abdullah came to the throne upon the death of his older half-brother King Fahd in August 2005, but had by then already been the country's actual ruler since King Fahd suffered a serious stroke ten years previously. In a Saudi context, King Abdullah, who was very popular with his people, was seen as a moderate and a reformer, who gave for instance the media and women more freedom, but as an absolute monarch he presided over one of the world's most barbaric regimes.
King Abdullah outlived two crown princes, Sultan, who died in 2011, and Nayef, who passed away in 2012, before appointing Salman Crown Prince. For good measure, he appointed another half brother, Muqrin, Deputy Crown Prince last year.
Muqrin, now Crown Prince, is a mere 69, but the youngest son of Ibn Saud, meaning that the shift to the next generations - the grandsons - will probably occur after him.
The death of King Abdullah makes Queen Elizabeth II of Britain the world's oldest monarch.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

My latest article(s): Queen Fabiola and a Danish succession dispute

I have written two articles in the February issue of Majesty (Vol. 36, No. 2), which goes on sale in Britain today. There are seven pages on the life, death and funeral of Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, who died last month, and I also write about Hereditary Prince Knud of Denmark, the younger brother and heir presumptive of King Frederik IX, who never got over his bitterness about losing the crown when the succession was changed in 1953 to allow for the accession of his niece, the current Queen Margrethe II.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

On this date: Marius Borg Høiby's 18th birthday

When he entered public life fifteen years ago he was often referred to as "little Marius", but time flies and today the Crown Prince's stepson, Marius Borg Høiby, turns eighteen and thus reaches his majority.
Marius Borg Høiby was born to the then Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby and Morten Borg on 13 January 1997 and was still just two years old when his mother began a relationship with the Crown Prince in 1999. His family understandably tried to shield him from unwelcome media attention, but many will remember him playing with the Queen on the floor of the Royal Lodge during the 2000 Christmas photo session and as a pageboy at his mother's and stepfather's wedding on 25 August 2001.
The King decided that Marius should be a member of the royal family, but not of the royal house, which means that he is a natural presence at family events, but does not take part in official events that are not family events, except for the occasional more informal event, such as a football match or a concert. Thus he does for instance not join his siblings on the palace balcony on the National Day and it is not expected that he will carry out official engagements or represent Norway abroad as an adult.
So far, the media have mostly left Marius alone, but it remains to be seen whether his unusual position will provide him with the best of both worlds or if his royal status will restrict him in trying to lead a normal life.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

At the road's end: The 8th Duke of Wellington (1915-2014)

Ever since the 1st Duke of Wellington was one of the victors in the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815 it has been a tradition that the current Duke of Wellington goes to Windsor Castle on the anniversary of the battle to present the British monarch with a French flag as a token rent for the estate the 1st Duke was granted by the nation in recognition of his victory over Emperor Napoléon I of the French. It would have been wonderful if the 8th Duke of Wellington, who was born two weeks after the centenary of the battle, had been able to present the flag to Queen Elizabeth II on the bicentenary this year, but sadly he died on the last day of 2014, aged 99.
The son of the diplomat and architect Lord Gerald Wellesley, Arthur Valerian Wellesley was born in Rome on 2 July 1915 and was quite naturally named for his great ancestor. However, he was at that time not expected to succeed to the dukedom, but the death of his childless cousin Henry, the 6th Duke, from wounds received in action in Italy in 1943, made his father the 7th Duke and himself the heir apparent to the dukedom, which he inherited - together with a number of other British, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese titles, including Prince of Waterloo, on the death of his father in 1972.
The 8th Duke was a career soldier, who served in the Middle East and Italy during the Second World War and was awarded the Military Cross in 1941. He retired from the British army in 1968 with the rank of brigadier. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1990.
During the war he married Diana McConnel, who worked in military intelligence, in Jerusalem on 28 January 1944. The Duchess died in 2010. The couple had five children, of whom the eldest, Charles, a former MEP who is married to Princess Antonia of Prussia, succeeds to his father's titles (although it is customary in Britain that the heir to a title does not start using it until after the funeral of the previous holder). Their only daughter, Lady Jane Wellesley, is a TV producer, was at one stage advocated by Lord Mountbatten as a possible bride for King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, but a certain Silvia Sommerlath came in the way of what might have been a grand alliance between the descendants of two of the victors of the Napoleonic Wars.
The 8th Duke of Wellington was last seen in public when he and Lady Jane attended the memorial service for Lady Soames, Winston Churchill's daughter, in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 2014.

Princess Madeleine and family return to Sweden

Following much recent speculation about a move to London, the Swedish royal court has confirmed that Princess Madeleine and her family have left New York, where she has been living since 2010, and will for the foreseeable future live in her apartment in the Royal Mews in Stockholm. According to the royal court the Princess and her husband, Chris O'Neill, intend to find a new home somewhere in Europe, but no final decision about where has yet been made.
It was recently announced that the couple expect their second child in the summer and at the time of the birth of their first child, Princess Leonore, in February 2014, the Marshal of the Realm stated that the royal court's interpretation of the Act of Succession's rather vague requirement for royal children to be brought up in Sweden in order to maintain their rights of succession to mean that they must live in Sweden from approximately the age of six and attend Swedish schools.