01 January 2014

Princesses to Watch in 2014

The upcoming year will almost certainly be less exciting than each of the last three have been for royalwatchers. Let's face it, it is hard to top the hoopla of 2011's British and Monagesque weddings, 2012's Danish and British jubilees, and 2013's inauguration of new queens in The Netherlands and Belgium. And, did I mention that there was a baby born in London this past summer? All of this on top of the usual assortment of royal weddings and births around the globe.

So, maybe we could use a little cool down in 2014. Certainly, it is much more difficult at this point to select what will be THE royal event of this year but we have a few things we can already anticipate and a few we can hope to see.

BECAUSE THEY’LL BE MOTHERS:
Gorgeous Princess Madeleine
In February, the King of Sweden will welcome another granddaughter when his youngest child, New York-based Princess Madeleine gives birth to her first child. Madeleine, who maintains an active Facebook page, has shared publicly that she and husband, Chris O'Neill, were quite surprised to find themselves expecting so soon after their June 2013 wedding. A honeymoon baby, indeed. For personal photos and updates about her work, follow Madeleine's Facebook page.

In Britain, Queen Elizabeth is awaiting her fourth great-grandchild, this one from first-time mum and Olympic equestrienne Zara Phillips Tindall. Zara caused quite a stir by continuing to ride early in her pregnancy but withdrew from this activity almost immediately afterward. The exact due date and gender have not been announced but recent photos suggest that we don't have much longer to wait.

Victoria with
baby Estelle
Meanwhile, the tabloids and others have already started baby bump watches on Madeleine's sister Crown Princess Victoria, whose daughter Estelle is nearly two, and on the Duchess of Cambridge. A pregnancy announcement from Victoria sometime in 2014 would be in line with other modern royal mothers, who usually have had a second child within three years of the first. A recent skiing accident suggests, however, that she is not yet in "the family way." As for speculation about the former Kate Middleton, all I can say is: slow your roll. When Kate was photographed wearing a bulky sweater, some people got much too excited. While Kate certainly could have become pregnant within months of giving birth to Prince George, the announcement of her upcoming visit to Australia puts such speculation to rest. The Palace would hardly be planning an arduous overseas tour during her third trimester. Like William and Kate, I suggest we enjoy Prince George a little longer before we start thinking too much about another Baby Cambridge.

Lovely Stephanie
Other royal ladies, however, will also be having their bellies closely monitored by the media. Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie of Luxembourg is now 14 months into her marriage in a dynasty not known for small families. This year will likely see her announcing her first pregnancy or facing a lot of pressure to begin producing--hopefully not the same intense pressure faced by her Japanese counterpart, Crown Princess Masako.

In Monaco, the two Casiraghi births in 2013 would be completely eclipsed if Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene were to have a child and an heir for husband Prince Albert II. Heading toward her third anniversary this summer, speculation is likely to hit a fever pitch. More critically, Charlene will be 36 this month, and female fertility typically falls off dramatically as women reach their later thirties. Although beautiful and fit, Charlene has been criticized for her underwhelming fashion choices and discomfort with the French language. She has endured many unfounded and cruel rumors about her marriage. Is she strong enough to endure the ridicule of completing 2014 if no princely child is forthcoming? Let us pray that she need not face this concern, and that if she does, she draws strength from the example of Belgium's Dowager Queen Fabiola, whose marriage was strengthened by such adversity, and who today, at age 85, remains a favorite in the court of her husband's nephew, King Philippe.

[Check out my picks for royal mothers of the millennium in 10 Centuries of Royal Moms.]

BECAUSE THEY’LL BE BRIDES
New mum Charlotte
With no major royal weddings announced yet for 2014, tiaras and trains may seem like a bit of wishful thinking, but at least three royal relationships seem ripe enough for conjecture: new mum Charlotte Casiraghi and Gad Elmaleh, Prince Carl Philipp of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist, and Princess Beatrice of York and Dave Clark. Charlotte and Gad have not been together long but they do have a new son, Raphael, together and so they could decide to “make it legal.”

On the other hand, Carl Philipp and Sofia have been together much longer—nearly four years—with no ring in site. Despite some controversy, they became domestic partners in 2011, a fact that was officially confirmed by the royal palace. As a former reality show contestant and semi-nude model, Sofia has faced much criticism about her suitability as a royal partner. However, in recent years, she has been building up her resume of good works and has been seen prominently at Swedish royal occasions including the weddings of his sisters, the King’s recent jubilee, and the Queen’s birthday—although she always walked in alone. But, before you logon to watch SVT’s live wedding coverage, it is worth noting that Carl Philipp dated his last girl for a decade and never made her a princess.

Beatrice and Dave
Beatrice and Dave have also been together for several years. I even touted her as a potential royal bride in my “13 Princesses to Watch in 2013” post. Speculation did reach a fever pitch during this summer when her mother was invited to join the Queen’s holiday guests. (Of course, I used that occasion to launch an #unfoundedroyalrumor on Twitter that the Duke and Duchess of York were about to remarry. So snarky, I know, but pretty soon, the media were saying the same thing. Hmmmm....) Nevertheless Dave and Bea are seen together constantly and often on holiday like their New Year’s trip to St. Bart’s.

Back in Britain and around the world, the royal highlight of the year could actually be taken by the most eligible royal bachelor, Prince Harry, if he proposes to his latest lady love, Cressida Bonas. Although a longtime friend of the younger Windsors, particularly Princess Eugenie, Cressie’s presence at events that are also attended by Harry’s extended family tend to generate a lot of headlines. I find these occasions unremarkable. After all, if you looked at the guestlists of these various society weddings, birthday celebrations, and miscellaneous charitable and social events, you will find many names appearing over and over again to rub shoulders with the HRH’s—they are part of their social set. If you see Cressida invited to one of The Queen’s holiday homes, that’s when you can truly start to take this seriously. (I just hope that don’t name their baby Troilus—you will only understand that joke if you are as nerdy as I am.)

JUST BECAUSE SHE IS
Kate in her crowning
moment of 2013
The Duchess of Cambridge will undoubtedly continue to dominate royal coverage. With an Australian tour already announced for this spring, she will be the superstar of a royal family which experienced a downturn in its workload in 2013 due to illnesses with two of our favorite ladies, Princess Alexandra and (most unusually) her cousin, The Queen. With more ailments among aging gents The Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of Kent, the younger royals will likely need to step up their game. This means you can also expect to see Camilla The Duchess of Cornwall taking more lead time, too, but her shadow will never subdue the public’s adoration for her husband’s daughter-in-law. Expect many, many more stories about Kate’s hair, teeth, home renovations/dĂ©cor, mummy skills, clothes, jewelry, family, shoes, dog, and, even, once again, her gynecologist. I can very safely predict that royal coverage in 2014 will be All-Kate-All-the-Time, but most of you will enjoy that very much.

So, cheers to Kate and blessings to all our royal ladies for a happy new year!