28 June 2014

Anyone Can Be a Princess

Sofia Hellqvist, new fiancee of 
Carl Philipp of Sweden
Once upon a time, to become a princess, you had to get a very good start in life. You had to pick your father well--preferably an emperor, a king, or a powerful duke. You had to behave yourself. You had to keep your opinions to yourself. And, you should definitely avoid developing a "past." (Read my 2009 post, How to Become a Princess)

Good news, modern ladies!! Absolutely none of those rules apply today. With yesterday's announcement of Prince Carl Philipp of Sweden's engagement to long-time live-in love Sofia Hellqvist, the change in royal princess qualifications has once again been reconfirmed. It has not been so long since the idea of a royal bride of less than equal rank was scandalous (see my post, Unequal Marriage Equals Happy Marriage?) Even in the 1970s, Carl Philipp's dad had to wait to become King in order to change the dynastic rules so that he could marry Carl Philipp's non-royal, non-noble mother.

Even more recently, Prince Charles was coaxed (forced?) into marrying the virginal Lady Diana Spencer and his brother Prince Andrew was criticized for dating soft-porn actress Kathleen "Koo" Stark. Just a generation later, however, a royal prince is about to marry a young woman who built her reputation as a reality TV personality and nude calendar pin-up girl.

But Sofia is just the latest in steady line of loosening protocols regarding royal marriage partners. After all, Princess Stephanie of Monaco and Princess Anne of Great Britain both married royal staff members in the 1990s. In 2004, the new King Felipe of Spain married Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a woman who had been previously married. And, a few years before that, the Crown Prince of Norway caused a stir by making a princess out of a single mother, Mette-Marit Tjessem-Hoiby.

While true love may be noble, the real danger lies in royals and their partners becoming "celebrities" that can be torn down by the media and the public for real or imagined flaws. With Prince Harry's private parts having been shared around the globe and The Duchess of Cambridge's topless pics still alive and well on the Internet, plus the recently retired King Juan Carlos of Spain's philandering ways, the Prince of Monaco's acknowledged illegitimate children, and Infanta Cristina being indicted for fraud, is it any wonder that so many royals have fallen victim to tabloidization? Is it just that their exploits are more exposed or are the royals truly more inclined to "let the side down"? The days of stiff upper lips are rapidly passing away. When we lose, Queen Elizabeth II, will everything begin to slip into the mists of history?

Now that European monarchs have little real power and are completely dependent upon popular goodwill for their status, I am concerned that we are seeing the last generation of royalty playing its way across the stage. If the royals are now being portrayed--and sometimes deservedly so--as little better behaved than Kardashians, why should they be held up as the titular heads of nations?

Sixty-ish years ago, King Farouk of Egypt predicted that soon there would be only five kings left--the King of Clubs, the King of Spades, the King of Hearts, the King of Diamonds, and the King of England.

He may have overestimated.

(For links to other bloggers' coverage of the Swedish engagement, visit my other blog, Royal Blog Central.)

20 June 2014

A New Day in Spain

On June 19, 2014, King Felipe VI started his reign in Spain with his three royal ladies by his side.  From left to right, they are his daughters Infanta Sofia and Infanta Leonor (who is the new Princess of the Asturias and future Queen) and his wife, Queen Letizia.  Let us hope that this signals a bright new day for the Spanish throne.

08 June 2014

The Last Summer of Monarchy

Grand Duchess Olga Nicolaievna
One hundred years ago, the young princesses, archduchesses and grand duchesses of Europe were attending balls and fretting over which distant cousin their parents would select for their husbands. As the summer progressed, they cruised the Mediterranean or the Black Sea or the Baltic dreaming about their futures. By the end of the summer, those dreams would turn to ashes. For many, there would be no princely husbands, for some, there would be no future at all.

The calls for a referendum on the Spanish monarchy in the wake of King Juan Carlos' recent abdication announcement has put me in mind of the summer of 1914 and those weeks before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated at Sarajevo. I often wonder what if Tsar Nicholas had not doted so much on his children and instead insisted that Grand Duchess Olga marry her cousin, the future King Carol II of Romania--and if only his gorgeous mother Queen Marie had not thought Olga too plain. The marriage would likely have been unhappy, but Olga, at least, would not have died in the House of Special Purpose.

The Summer of 1914 was the last real summer of monarchy, as many of Europe's largest and oldest monarchies fell as a direct result of World War I.  The Portuguese king had already been replaced by a Republican coup in 1910, but the years of the First World War saw the demise of the European thrones in Russia, Montenegro, Germany (including 22 principalities, grand duchies and kingdoms), Austria-Hungary, Serbia, and Ukraine. Both Greece and Albania fell a few years later, were restored and fell again. Spain lost its monarchy in the Civil War of the 1930s, only to have it restored with the current king in the 1970s.

Then, World War II sounded the death knell for several more: Albania, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Italy, Bulgaria and Romania.

So, today we are left with only ten hereditary monarchies* in Europe: Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kindom.  How many will we have after the Summer of 2014?

* Andorra and Vatican City are also technically monarchies but their princes are elected/selected.

02 June 2014

Television reporter to become Queen of Spain

With today's surprise announcement that King Juan Carlos will soon be abdicating the throne of Spain, we can prepare to welcome a new Queen to our royal ladies. Of course, we have been following the former Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano since her engagement to Felipe Prince of the Asturias was announced in November 2003--another surprise since no one seemed to know that a romance was afoot. The engagement was rocked by some controversy because she had been previously married and by real tragedy with the terrorist train bombing of March 11. Through it all, Letizia showed true grace and the affection between the couple was apparent.

Letizia is one of the few royal wives who is a native of the land of which she will be Queen, but charmingly she hails from the region from whence her husband draws his top title. (Imagine if Diana had been Welsh.) She is well-educated with both undergraduate and undergraduate degrees. Before her marriage, she had a distinguished career in television journalism, working for several agencies including Bloomberg and CNN+. In fact, it is said that she met Felipe while reporting on an oil spill that he had come to inspect.

Together, she and Felipe have two gorgeous daughters, Infanta Leonor, who will now be the heiress to the throne, and Infanta Sofia.

Viva Felipe y Letizia!

Read my post about the drama surrounding the last abdication in Spain: A Night at Palacio Real.