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".