Thursday, 28 April 2016

Falling support for Dutch monarchy

Yesterday was the 49th birthday of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, which since his accession in 2013 is also the country's national day. On this occasion, broadcaster NOS published an opinion poll conducted by polling institute Ipsos, which shows that support for the Netherlands remaining a monarchy has fallen to 65 percent. In 2008, 80 percent were in favour of the monarchy, while 78 % supported it in 2013, the year of Queen Beatrix's abdication and King Willem-Alexander's accession. However, only 16 percent favour a republic, which obviously means that rather many are undediced.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

My latest article: Crown-wearings

The May issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 5) was published on Thursday, the ninetieth birthday of Europe's only crowned monarch, and contains and article by me about crown-wearings. Nowadays the British State Opening of Parliament, which this year will take place on 18 May, is the only time apart from a coronation when a crown is actually worn and Queen Elizabeth II puts on the crown as if it were a hat, but in the middle ages, crown-wearings were in themselves a solemn ritual. Kings wore crowns on the great religious feast days to stress not only their power and sacred elevation but their likeness to Jesus and crowns were placed on the monarchs' heads by high prelates in a ritual based on coronations. The article explores the roots of crown-wearings, how the ritual fell into abeyance and how the tradition of wearing a crown to Parliament was revived by King George V in 1913.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Service of thanksgiving for Prince Alexander

In keeping with tradition, a Te Deum was sung in the Palace Church in Stockholm at noon today to celebrate the birth of Prince Alexander on Tuesday.
These services of thanksgiving are usually held the day after the birth, but it had now been postponed by two days, apparently to allow Queen Silvia, who was attending a conference in New York when her fifth grandchild was born, to be able to attend.
Princess Madeleine, who lives in London with her family, was, however, still in New York and thus unable to attend, and as usual the newborn and his mother were not present. The new father Prince Carl Philip was joined by his parents, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, and his eldest sister, Crown Princess Victoria, and her husband, Prince Daniel. His aunt Princess Christina was also there with her husband Tord Magnuson, as well as his great-aunt, Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, and his grandfather's second cousin Dagmar von Arbin, who celebrated her 100th birthday less than two weeks ago.
Other family members present were Queen Silvia's nephew Patrick Sommerlath, who partly grew up in Sweden and is therefore particularly close to his Swedish cousins, with his wife Maline, the newborn Prince's maternal grandparents Erik and Marie Hellqvist, his great-grandmother Britt Rotman, and his maternal aunts Lina and Sara Hellqvist.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

HRH Prince Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil of Sweden, Duke of Sudermania

In a formal meeting with the cabinet at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has just announced that his newborn grandson will be named Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil and be a Prince of Sweden and Duke of Sudermania (Södermanland). Prince Alexander, the first child of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, was born at Danderyd Hospital on Tuesday evening.
Alexander is of course a very royal name, but has not previously been used by the Swedish royal family, except that Queen Christina after her abdication and conversion to Catholicism added Alexandra to her name in honour of Pope Alexander VII.
Erik is on the other hand a name with a long royal tradition in Sweden, although it has been little used in recent years. The first King Erik was Erik the Victorious, who reigned from about 970 to 995. Very little is known about early medieval Sweden, which was deeply divided between warring factions, but around 1067 there were two rival kings, both named Erik, who were both killed around that year. In the twelfth century, two rival dynasties who have later come to be known as the Sverker and Erik families, fought each other. The latter drew its name from Erik Jedvardsson, who was King of a part of Sweden around 1158 and died a violent death a year or two later. He was subsequently considered a saint, although never officially canonised, and although the cult was for a long time only local, he was eventually promoted into Sweden's national saint. The promotion of St Erik's cult also meant that his name became rather popular among Swedish royals.
The next Erik was his grandson, Erik Knutsson, who reigned from 1208 to 1216 and was the first Swedish King known to have been crowned. His son, uncharitably known as Erik the Lisp and Lame, won back the crown from the rival Sverkers and reigned from 1222 to 1229 and from 1234 to 1250. The next Erik was Erik Magnusson, who challenged his father Magnus Eriksson in 1356 and reigned as joint monarch for a few months before his death in 1359.
His sister-in-law, Margareta Valdemarsdatter, who succeeded in uniting all three Scandinavian realms and being elected monarch, adopted her great-nephew Bugislav of Pomerania and had him made King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway under the name Erik. He was elected King of Sweden in 1396 and crowned in Kalmar the following year, the event which is traditionally held to mark the foundation of the so-called Kalmar Union, but his reign was conflict-filled and he was eventually deposed in 1439.
Thereafter, the name did not reappear until King Gustaf I, the founder of the Vasa dynasty, named his eldest son Erik. Erik succeeded his father upon his death in 1560 and assumed the name Erik XIV (a number of fictional Eriks were inventend to make the line of Swedish kings look longer and more prestigious). He was deposed by his brother, Johan III, in 1568 and poisoned nine years later.
Since then, there seems to have been some sort of stigma related to the name borne by at least two unfortunate monarchs, but the Bernadottes revived it in 1889, when the future King Gustaf V and Queen Victoria became the parents of their third son. However, this prince was another unfortunate Erik. He was mentally challenged and lived most of his life away from his family and the public eye, dying from the Spanish flu at the age of 29 in 1918.
A more recent connection is Prince Alexander's maternal grandfather, Erik Hellqvist. Hubertus derives from his other grandfather, Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus, who received the name in honour of his mother's brother, Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was killed fighting for Nazi Germany in 1943. Bertil is in honour of the King's late uncle, Prince Bertil, to whom Prince Carl Philip was very close.
As for the dukedom, Sudermania is often seen as one of the more prestigious ducal titles. It was most recently held by Prince Wilhelm, the second son of King Gustaf V. Prince Wilhelm resided at Stenhammar Palace in Flen, which was left to the state by the courtier Robert von Kraemer, who willed that it should be made available to a prince of the royal house, preferably a Duke of Sudermania (the province in which the estate is located). Since Prince Wilhelm's death in 1965 it has been used by King Carl Gustaf, but Prince Carl Philip has been groomed to take it over and it was therefore no surprise that the dukedom connected to it was given to his firstborn.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Princess Christina publishes book on Drottningholm Palace

Today Princess Christina, the youngest of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden's four sisters, makes her literary debut with a book on Drottningholm Palace. Dagar på Drottningholm, which is co-authored by Carl Otto Werkelid and illustrated by the photographer Ralf Turander, is published by Bonnier Fakta and is also available in an English version titled Days at Drottningholm.
Drottningholm Palace, which is situated on an island just west of Stockholm, was built by the great baroque architects Nicodemus Tessin the Elder and the Younger for Dowager Queen Hedvig Eleonora, the widow of Carl X Gustaf, who was a great patron of the arts. Since 1981 it is the home of King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia and since 1991, the domain is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Princess Christina has celebrated all her Christmases there and always loved Drottningholm, which was also where her and Tord Magnuson's wedding dinner and dance was held in 1974. According to the publisher, she has been particularly fascinated by the strong women who have put their mark on Drottningholm and uses historical dates as starting points for bring to life "royal figures, rooms, details and memories".
The photo is a courtesy of Ralf Turander/Bonnier Fakta.

President of Iceland to stand for sixth term

At a press conference on Monday, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland announced that he will after all stand for a sixth term in the presidential election to be held on 25 June. In his New Year's Speech, the President announced that he would retire at the end of his fifth term, but the uncertainty caused by the developments of the last weeks has made him reconsider. Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was felled by the Panama Papers revelations and parliamentary elections will now be held in the autumn of this year rather than next year as previously planned. In this situation, a wish for the experienced president to continue grew into a "wave of pressure". As the formation of a new government may prove difficult, the President wants to ensure that the country is not without leadership, he said.
The office of President of Iceland is largely ceremonial, but unlike his predecessors, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who has led Iceland through difficult times, has repeatedly used the powers vested in the President. In 2010, he vetoed the so-called Icesave deal whereby the government had agreed to compensate Britain and the Netherlands for the financial losses suffered by citizens of those countries when the Icelandic banks collapsed. The President's veto led to a referendum being held, in which the majority endorsed his veto. In February the following year, he vetoed another similar deal, a veto which was again supported by the people in the referendum that followed. Recently he also refused the scandalised Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson's request for a dissolution of Parliament.
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is the fifth President of Iceland since the country abolished the monarchy in 1944 and is already the longest-serving. For decades, no incumbent president was challenged for re-election, but in 1988, President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was challenged when she stood for a third time. Having won a resounding victory, she served until 1996, when she decided to stand down and Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson won the election to succeed her. He was challenged when he stood for re-election in 2000, but was unopposed in 2004 and then again challenged in 2008. In 2012, he announced he would not stand for re-election, but changed his mind after being petitioned by 30,000 citizens and was eventually elected with 52.78 % of the vote against 33.16 % for his closest opponent. This year he seems likely to face at least ten contenders who have already announced their candidacies.
Postscript: A few weeks later, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson again changed his mind and announced that he would after all not stand for a sixth term. This decision came after it was revealed that his wife Dorrit Mousaieff and her family were mentioned in the Panama papers. A spokesperson for the President said that the couple live completely independent lives and that he had no knowledge of her or her family's financial affairs.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Princess Sofia of Sweden gives birth to a son

Earlier tonight, the Swedish royal court announced that Princess Sofia gave birth to a child at Danderyd Hospital in Danderyd outside Stockholm at 6.28 tonight. At a press conference which is right now taking place at the hospital, Prince Carl Philip disclosed that it is a "little guy" who measures 49 centimetres and weighs 3595 grams.
The newborn child is King Carl XVI Gustaf's and Queen Silvia's fifth child and fifth in line of succession to the Swedish throne. The Prince's name and dukedom will be announced by the King in a council meeting with the government at 11.15 a.m. on Thursday. The traditional service of thanksgiving for the birth of a new member of the royal family will be held in the Palace Church at noon on Friday.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Title issues: Prince Henrik renounces Prince Consort title

Yet another chapter was added to the ongoing saga of the title of the husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark during yesterday's state banquet for the President of Mexico at Fredensborg Palace. Several television viewers noticed that the Queen in her speech referred to her husband not as "the Prince Consort" but as "Prince Henrik", and today the royal court confirmed that he has renounced the title of Prince Consort. This comes as a consequence of his decision to more or less retire from royal duties, which was announced by the Queen in her New Year's Speech on 31 December last year. The court's head of communication, Lene Balleby, told the tabloid Ekstra Bladet that "It is His Royal Highness's own decision to alter his title to the less formal Prince Henrik. Prince Henrik finds this more fitting for his present situation after his retirement".
When he married the then Heiress to the Throne in 1967, Henri de Laborde de Monpezat received the title "His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark". When his wife succeeded to the throne in 1972, it was considered creating him Duke of Fredensborg, but this idea was dropped and he was thereafter officially referred to as "the Prince" and informally as "Prince Henrik". However, in 2005, the Queen let it be known that he would from now on be known as "the Prince Consort". He subsequently claimed that this was his own decision and that he had taken the new title as being just "Prince Henrik" or "the Prince" obscured the fact that he held a special position and was not just a prince like one of his young grandsons but the monarch's consort. He has, however, on many occassions voiced his opinion that he ought to be King Consort as the wives of kings are always queens. Now he is back where he started as plain "Prince Henrik".
The court has not given any date for when the change of title happened, but the last time he was referred to as "the Prince Consort" on the royal website seems to have been on 22 March in a press release stating that "HM the Queen and HRH the Prince Consort" had sent their condolences to the King and Queen of the Belgians following the terrorist attacks on Brussels (in the Danish version, they are however referred to as "Regentparret", i.e. "the Regent Couple" - which is in itself a very quaint term as Queen Margrethe is not regent but monarch). He was, however, still called "the Prince Consort" on the wreath the Queen and he sent to the funeral of former Prime Minister Anker Jørgensen on 2 April.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

On this date: A Bernadotte turns 100!

The Bernadottes are known for their longevity, but although several of them have lived well into their nineties, so far only one has made it to her centenary. But today another Bernadotte reaches the age of 100.
Dagmar von Arbin, née Countess Dagmar Bernadotte af Wisborg, is a great-granddaughter of King Oscar II of Sweden and of Norway and thus a second cousin of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s father and a stalwart of Swedish royal family events. She is also a second cousin of King Harald V of Norway. Her mind is as sharp as ever and she walks without the aid of a stick, but like most elderly Bernadottes her hearing is somewhat impaired. Five years ago she gave up driving after her old car broke down.
Born on 10 April 1916, Countess Dagmar Ebba Märta Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg was the eldest of the four children born to Count Carl Bernadotte af Wisborg and his first wife, Baroness Marianne De Geer af Leufsta, who later left him for Marcus Wallenberg of the powerful financier dynasty. (Her mother was also the maternal aunt of Countess Gunnila Bernadotte, the widow of King Carl Gustaf’s and Queen Margrethe’s uncle, Carl Johan).
Her father was the eldest son of Prince Oscar Bernadotte, who was himself the second child of King Oscar II and Queen Sophie but forfeited his rights to the Swedish and Norwegian thrones in 1888 when he married Ebba Munck af Fulkila, a former lady-in-waiting to his sister-in-law, Crown Princess Victoria. In 1892, he received the title Count(ess) of Wisborg for his children from Queen Sophie’s half-brother, Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg.
Dagmar Bernadotte grew up on the estate Frötuna near Norrtälje (not far from Uppsala), which her mother had inherited but which her father continued to run even after their divorce.
Despite an age difference of ten years, Dagmar became a good friend of her second cousin, Prince Gustaf Adolf, the current King’s father, and was a bridesmaid when he married Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Coburg in 1932.
Because of her friendship with the King’s parents, Dagmar von Arbin has, unlike her siblings, remained close to the current royal family and is a fixture at family events – not only bigger events such as weddings, christenings and funerals but also events for the inner circle, such as the private engagement dinner the King and Queen gave for Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling.
Dagmar herself married, at the age of 20, on 16 October 1936, the naval (later air force) officer Nils-Magnus von Arbin. Ten years later, he was appointed air attaché at the Swedish Embassy in London, a position he held until 1950. He reached the rank of colonel in 1953. Dagmar herself did not have a career, but stayed at home raising their five daughters, Marianne, Louise, Cathrine, Jeanette and Madeleine.
Dagmar von Arbin was widowed in 1987 and lost her eldest daughter, Marianne Flach, to cancer in 2006, but has thirteen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.
Dagmar von Arbin has never enjoyed being the centre of attention and it was only a few months ago that she gave her first ever interview, to Kungliga Magasinet (later republished in English in Royalty Digest Quarterly), followed by another with Svensk Damtidning. In the latter, she insisted that she did not like all the fuss being made about her 100th birthday, which she will celebrate only with her family.
The only Bernadotte before her to reach 100 was her aunt, Elsa Cedergren, who was born on 3 August 1893 and died on 17 July 1996, just shy of her 103rd birthday. Dagmar von Arbin’s younger brother, Count Oscar Bernadotte af Wisborg, will be 95 in July, while her sister, Catharina Nilert, will turn ninety on Thursday.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Prince Oscar to be christened on 27 May

The Swedish royal court has announced that Prince Oscar, the second child of Crown Princess Victoria, who was born on 2 March, will be christened in the Palace Church in Stockholm on Friday 27 May.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

My latest article: Retired monarchs and King Carl Gustaf at 70

The April issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 4), which is now out, is an unusually large issue of 84 pages, much of it marking the upcoming 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain on 21 April. My contributions are an article looking at how her four European counterparts who have chosen to take things easier in old age, i.e. Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Albert of the Belgians and King Juan Carlos of Spain, are faring in their retirement, and a profile of this month's other birthday boy, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who will turn seventy on 30 April.
While Queen Elizabeth's official birthday celebrations have been postponed until June, King Carl Gustaf will mark his milestone with a series of events at the end of this month, starting with a performance at the Royal Dramatic Theatre on the 25th and a concert by the army's orchestra in the Palace Church the next day. On the 28th and 29th, the King will receive congratulatory deputations and on the 29th King Carl Gustaf will also present scholarships at the Royal Opera and attend a concert at the Nordic Museum.
On his actual birthday, Saturday 30 April, there will be a service of thanksgiving in the Palace Church before the customary military event at the Palace's Outer Courtyard, which is held every year. Thereafter, the King will be serenaded by a multitude of singers on the northern side of the Palace and thereafter travel by carriage to a lunch in the City Hall before receiving well-wishers from Parliament, the government and the county governors at the Palace. In the evening there will be a banquet in the Palace's Hall of State. (Fans of the Swedish court's penchant for "glitter" may perhaps be disappointed to hear that the dresscode for the latter is black tie).