29 April 2015

Today's Second-Born Royals

Today, as we very eagerly await the second-born child of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, we are also celebrating the eighth birthday of Infanta Sofia, the second-born child of The King and Queen of Spain. In honor of these two second-borns, I thought we should take a look at the second-born children of this royal generation.

Nearly 12 years old, Prince Gabriel is the second child of the still-new King of the Belgians and his aristocratic Belgian wife Queen Mathilde. In addition to older sister Elisabeth The Duchess of Brabant, Gabriel has a younger brother and a younger sister. Under previous accession rules, his gender would have made him heir over Elisabeth, but the times they are a-changin'. His position still grants him privileges, however. After all, not every child gets to meet their national sports heroes like Gabriel does when Dad takes him along. Like most Belgians, Gabriel speaks Dutch and French, and may also speak German.

Probably one of the favorite young princesses of royal watchers is the second child of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and his Australian wife Crown Princess Mary. While big brother and future king, Prince Christian received a VERY traditional Danish royal name, Princess Isabella's name had not been used by the Danish royals in centuries. Her younger siblings, twins Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine, received even more unusual names. She was the first royal lady born in Denmark in over 60 years. Just a few days older than Infanta Sofia, she turned eight last week, but she probably holds the record for youngest royal to go on royal tour: she accompanied her parents to New York at five months. Since then she has traveled overseas many times, capturing the hearts of photographers with her playful, mischievous spirit.

The Netherlands
Less than two years into his reign, King Willem Alexander is supported by a bevy of blonde beauties; his Argentine-born wife Queen Maxima and three lovely daughters, who last week, for the first-time ever were not dressed in matching outfits as they celebrated a national event. The second of these daughters is a lovely little princess who is named Alexia in honor of her daddy. She will be 10 this summer and already speaks three languages: her father's Dutch, her mother's Spanish, and English (because what princess doesn't?) She is both sporty and artistic, playing hockey and piano. Like many girls her age, she likes horses and she also likes to sing. Nevertheless, she will always be one step behind her big sister, the heir to the throne, Catharina Amalia The Princess of Orange.

Nine-year-old Prince Sverre Magnus is the second child of Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, who was also a second-born child with an older sister. When Haakon was born, succession laws still called for male preference giving him inheritance over his sister, but they have been changed for Haakon's descendants. Sverre Magnus also has an older half-brother Marius Hoiby, the first child of their Norwegian mother--so Sverre is actually her third-born child. The family's rules about styles also gives preference to big sister Princess Ingrid, who is a Royal Highness, while Sverre is merely a Highness--Marius is just Master Hoiby. Like most Norwegians, Sverre enjoys many outdoor activities with his family.

Birthday girl Infanta Sofia, is the second child and second daughter of the recently enthroned King Felipe VI and his Spanish wife Queen Letizia. Like the currently awaited British princeling, she was a little overdue. In her case, a caesarean was performed. The Spanish infantas (a title denoting a daughter of the monarch in a country where there exists nonroyal princely titles) are not seen in public as often as their counterparts in other countries. They were both present on their dad's accession day, and it is easiest to catch sight of them on the Palma de Mallorca, where they spend the Easter holiday and the sailing-mad Spanish royals gather for sailing on the Mediterranean.

In Sweden, so far only one royal child has been born in this generation. Princess Estelle of Ostergotland is three years old but is an old-hand now at major international sporting events and official occasions. At her christening, she was presented with her own tiny sash as a member of the Royal Order of the Seraphim. She has accompanied her mum Crown Princess Victoria on official visits, even accepting flowers from well-wishers in the crowd when she was barely able to toddle. However, her younger cousin, 15-month-old Princess Leonore, who was born in New York City, has beaten her to one honor. Leonore has already had her first audience with The Pope, accompanied by granny Queen Silvia and her parents Princess Madeleine and Christopher O'Neill, the only Catholic in the group (except for the Pope, of course.) Leonore is expecting a younger sibling this summer, but so far, Estelle remains an only child. No worries, though, as she, her mom and her Swedish dad Prince Daniel make and awesome threesome. [9/22/15 UPDATE: Leonore's brother Prince Nicolas was born earlier this year and Crown Princess Victoria is expecting a second child in 2016.] [5/5/18 UPDATE Princess Madeleine recently delivered her third child, Princess Adrienne. Victoria and Madeleine's brother Prince Carl Philip now has two little princes of his own, Prince Alexander and Prince Gabriel.]

Here are some photos of the second-born royal children in the direct royal lines who have arrived since this post was first published in 2015. These include Princess Charlotte of Cambridge (b. 2015) and Prince Oscar of Sweden (b. 2016). I've also added the second-born children of the collateral royal lines: The Belgian king's niece Princess Maria Laura (b. 1988) and his twin nephews Prince Nicolas and Prince Aymeric (b. 2005); the Danish queen's grandson Prince Felix; the Dutch king's niece Countess Zaria (b. 2006) and Count Claus-Casimir (b. 2004); the Norwegian king's granddaughter Leah; the Spanish king's niece Dona Victoria Federica (b. 2000) and nephew Don Juan Valentin (b. 1999); and the Swedish king's grandson Prince Nicolas (b. 2015); and the British Queen's grandchildren Princess Eugenie (b.1990) and James Viscount Severn (b. 2007), her great-granddaughter Isla (b. 2012), and, just for fun, her great-niece Lady Margarita (b. 2002)  Also, the second child of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden is expected later this year.

27 April 2015

Final Baby Name Predictions

As the whole world starts to lose its mind waiting for the second child of Royal Baby #2, I will go out on a limb and predict that this baby will NOT be a girl and will NOT be Diana. (If you've followed my predictions for awhile, you'll know that generally fewer than half of my predictions come true.)

So, my choices today for royal baby names are: Princess Eleanor for a girl or Prince Robert for a boy. Check out my previous predictions (with explanations) here and here.

In the meantime, look at the cheeks on these royal babies:







22 April 2015

Today's Princess: Marie Louise of Hohenzollern

Although strongly connected by family ties across most of the royal houses of Europe, Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1845-1912) likely never imagined how close she would come to a throne. Born into a non-reigning branch of the Hohenzollern dynasty that ruled Germany, Marie married the youngest brother of the Belgian King, while her sister married the King of Portugal and one brother was selected as the King of Romania. No such crowned fate seemed likely for Marie when Britain's Queen Victoria matched her with her own cousin Philippe Count of Flanders.

Philippe's older brother, King Leopold II, already had an heir, eight-year-old Prince Leopold. This left Philippe and Marie free to pursue their many religious, literary and artistic interests, while starting their own family. This period of their marriage was very brief, for tragedy struck less than two years later. Young Leopold fell into a pond, developed pneumonia and died. Even then it wasn't entirely clear that the throne would come their way. Leopold and his wife Marie Henriette of Austria were young enough to have more sons. When only another daughter arrived, Philippe's role as heir to the throne was certain.

As the wife of the future king, she did her duty by presenting him with five children: two boys and three girls. Then, tragedy struck again and again, as it so often did in the Belgian royal family. Their baby Josephine Marie died at just two months old and years later, their oldest son Prince Baudouin died of influenza at the age of 21.

Marie clung to her faith, and continued her artistic pursuits. She was even known to exhibit her work.

In the end, however, the throne bypassed Marie. Her husband predeceased his brother. Marie lived long enough to see her youngest child become King Albert I, but passed away at age 67 after battling pneumonia. She was remembered by her family for her tender love, playful spirit, and serious religious convictions.

For more about Marie:
Bonne Maman Flandre on The Cross of Laeken
Marie of Hohenzollern on Maria's Royal Collection
Wedding of Philippe Count of Flanders on Unofficial Royalty

20 April 2015

Today's Princess: Adela of Flanders

Statue of Adela's oldest son,
Blessed Charles the Good

via Wikimedia Commons
Nine hundred years ago this month, Adela of Flanders (c. 1064-1115) died in her early forties. Despite what seems a tragically early death to us today, she had led an eventful life. The Europe of a millennium ago was a seething cauldron of small kingdoms, duchies and counties continually jockeying for power and influence; and that is how this Flemish lady became a Danish queen and an Italian duchess.

Born just before the Norman conquest of England, the Norman hold on the island nation was by no means certain during Adela's time. Many foreign princes and English lords were eager to assert their claims. Not the least of these was the Danish prince Canute, whose life goals included becoming King of Denmark, becoming King of England and supporting the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the fact that Adela's aunt, Matilda of Flanders, was married to the Norman William the Conqueror, Flanders was opposed to the growing English-Norman empire. So, when Canute stopped off in Flanders after a less-than-successful raid in England, he likely took notice of the marriageable Adela, daughter of Count Robert II of Flanders.

A rival against his brothers for the Danish throne, Canute eventually succeeded the eldest one and almost immediately cemented his position against England by marrying the teenaged Adela of Flanders. While he continued alternately fighting battles and funding churches, Adela bore him a son named Charles and then twin daughters. The girls were newborns when her husbands twin ambitions merged in an unholy way. In the midst of a rebellion, he and his entourage were slaughtered inside of a church. The movement to canonize began almost immediately.

An agreement was reached to allow Canute's younger brother Olaf, who had been banished to Flanders to stop him meddling in Denmark, to take the Danish throne and Adela returned with young Charles back to Flanders, leaving behind the baby princesses.

A few years later, with the continuing shift in political alliances, Adela married Roger Borsa, the Norman Duke of Apulia in southern Italy. She left her Danish son behind in Flanders, where we eventually became the Count of Flanders, but, much like his father was hacked to pieces in a church and then beatified.

In Italy, Roger was a far less respected and less successful ruler than Adela's first husband, but having a Queen for a wife was no doubt a boon to him. Adela once again produced three children, this time all boys. When Roger died, Adela briefly took over as regent for their teenaged son William, who was an inadequate but popular leader. She saw to his marriage with an Italian countess and then passed away shortly after.

Books featuring Adela:

18 April 2015

Today's Princess: Louise de Kerouialle

By Studio of Sir Peter Lely (scan by User:Manfred Heyde)
via Wikimedia Commons
Born into a relatively impoverished French noble family, Louise de Kérouaille (1649-1734) never really imagined that she would grow up to be a royal mistress but, there weren't many options for a woman. Louise's parents secured a position for her as a lady-in-waiting to Henrietta Anne Stuart, the Duchess of Orleans, who just happened to be the beloved kid sister of the notorious royal lover King Charles II. Charles loved everything about women, and who loved just about every kind of woman he encountered. When King Louis XIV sent his sister-in-law Henrietta Anne to use her influence on Charles, the British king got his first look at the baby-faced beauty Louise.

A year later, when Henrietta Anne died, Louis thought it would be a great idea to send Louise to be a lady-in-waiting for Charles' queen. Charles and Louise both mourned deeply for the dead princess, and had an undeniable attraction for each other, but Louise at first resisted the king. She had no ambition to be a "whore." She soon realized, however, that the position of royal mistress could be a good one. Royal mistress who also receives financial support from a French king who needs someone in a foreign court? Well, that's even better.

Within no time, poor little Louise became one of the richest mistresses in the English court. She was also the most refined and tasteful. Charles used her gracious apartments for many unofficial meetings with foreign representatives, particularly the French and Catholic ones. Beloved by Charles, she was the least popular with the British people, who were suspicious of Catholics. Her close and loving relationship with Charles protected her, even during the Popish Plot.

Unlike his more prolific mistresses, Nell Gwynne and Barbara Castlemaine, Louise presented Charles with only one son, Charles Lennox, and earned the lucrative title Duchess of Portsmouth for herself. When he was three, baby Charles was created Duke of Richmond and Duke of Lennox. One child was enough for Louise to have a permanent impact on the English aristocracy. Among literally hundreds of well-born descendants are three daughters-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II: Diana Princess of Wales, Sarah Duchess of the York and Camilla The Duchess of Cornwall are all descended from Louise thanks to her son.

Louise and King Charles had a solid relationship, but his early death after 14 years together, left her fairly insecure in England. She hired some ships to help haul all that she had acquired while in England. King Louis continued rewarding for her service, especially by having her debts cancelled, because despite all of her wealth she enjoyed high living a bit too much. When King Louis died, there was no one left to provide her with that kind of security. She descended back into the genteel poverty of her child, but lived until the ripe old age of 85.

For more about Louise:
De Louise de Kéroualle à Lady Di...

Copy and WIN : http://ow.ly/KNICZ
De Louise de Keroualle a Lady Di on Le Monde de Titus (French)
Historical Profile: Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth on Examiner
Louise de Keroualle on Cierto Sabor a Veneno (Spanish)

Louise de Kéroualle, Charles II's French mistress: a discussion with Susan Holloway Scott on Versailles and More
Louise de Keroualle, duchesse de Portsmouth et d'Aubigny on Carnet d'Aubigny-sur-Nere (French)
Louise de Keroualle and Nell Gwynne on The Stuarts
Louise de Kérouialle, Duchess of Portsmouth on English Monarchs
Louise de Keroualle de Penancoet, grande favorite de Charles II on Les Favorites Royales (French)
Mistress to the King on Royal Splendour
Scandalous Women Welcome Susan Holloway Scott on Scandalous Women
Women's History Month; Women, Astronomy on Greenwich on Royal Museums Greenwich

Books about Louise:

16 April 2015

Two Queens: Daisy and Lilibet

By Aalborg Stift / Casper Tybjerg (Flickr: Bispevielse)
via Wikimedia Commons
As Denmark's Queen Margrethe celebrates her 75th birthday today, I thought it would be fun to take a look at her and the only other Queen Regnant reigning today, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The two regal ladies actually have quite a bit in common, although Elizabeth is almost exactly 14 years older.

Neither Was Born to Be Queen
When Elizabeth was born, her father was merely the second son of the king. His older brother was expected to marry appropriately and have his own children. Princess Elizabeth of York was expected to become less "important" as she grew. However, her uncle's abdication placed her father on the throne, and she, as his eldest daughter with no brothers, became the heiress at the age of 10. For Margrethe, things were a bit more complicated. Women had been constitutionally banned from the throne for nearly a century. Because he had no sons, her father had no heir except his younger brother despite the fact that he had three daughters. Just before her twelfth birthday a constitutional change was approved by popular referendum and she became the heiress.

Elizabeth during her WWII service
via Wikimedia Commons
They Both Grew Up in Close Families
Elizabeth was nicknamed Lilibet in her family after early attempts at pronouncing her own name, while Margrethe was nicknamed Daisy, the English name for the flower called a marguerite. Each of them became big sisters at the age of four, although Daisy got a second sister when she was six. Both future queens were adored by their fathers and close to their mothers. During World War II, they both stayed in their home countries while other royal children were sent elsewhere for safety. Lilibet spent much of the war at Windsor Castle while Daisy, born just a week after the Nazi invasion, spent her early childhood at the heart of occupied Denmark.

Both Were Specially Prepared for Queenship
Although Elizabeth was privately educated at home, she also had special lessons in constitutional history with the head of nearby Eton College. She also did a brief stint in the Auxiliary Territorial Services, proudly learning to become a mechanic as her part of the war effort once she became old enough. Born into a later generation, Margrethe received a much more formal education, studying at four universities (Cambridge, Aarhus, Sorbonne, and London School of Economics). She served 12 years in military service.

Margrethe with Frederik
via Wikimedia Commons
They Both Ascended the Throne as Young Mothers
Elizabeth and Margrethe each inherited their thrones from their fathers when they had two young children. Elizabeth was only 25 when her father passed away. Married just four years at the time, her son Charles was three and daughter Anne was 18 months old. Margrethe was a bit older at age 31 but her sons Frederik and Joachim were three and two. After many years break, Elizabeth had two more children, sons Andrew and Edward, while Margrethe did not have any more offspring after her accession. However, they now both have eight grandchildren. Of course, Elizabeth is well ahead of Margrethe when it comes to great-grands; her fifth is due any day while Margrethe still has many years to wait since her oldest grandchild is only 14.

They Both Have Historic Names
Although each was named for a close relative (Elizabeth for her mum and Margrethe for her granny), they each have legendary predecessors with the same name. Queen Elizabeth I ruled England in the 16th Century during an era of great economic, artistic and political expansion. Queen Margrethe I was Queen of Denmark as the daughter of the Danish King, and became Queen Consort of Sweden and Norway by marriage. She oversaw the Kalmar Union, which united all of the Scandinavian countries under one ruler for over a century, beginning in 1397.

Ruby Jubilee in Denmark
By Comrade Foot via Wikimedia Commons
They Both are Beloved in their Countries
In 2012, both ladies celebrated Jubilees, which allowed the public to show their love for their monarchs. Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, celebrating 60 years on the throne, featured a water pageant, huge concert and tours by the entire royal family throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries. Margrethe's Ruby Jubilee, celebrating 40 years, included a gala dinner and concert. They both received many jubilee gifts, but Margrethe received the best with the birth of her youngest grandchild, Princess Athina.

They Are Related to Each Other
Like most of today's European monarchs, they are closely related in multiple ways. They are both great-great granddaughters of Christian IX of Denmark, whose daughter Alexandra married King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom. They are also both great-great granddaughters of Britain's Queen Victoria, whose granddaughter Princess Margaret of Connaught married the future King of Sweden and became the mother of Princess Ingrid of Sweden, who married King Frederik IX of Denmark, and named her first child Margrethe after her own mother. Margrethe is also first cousins with the King of Sweden, and both are more distant cousins with the King of Norway and even more distantly related to the King of Spain.

They Both Adore Their Husbands
While others find Prince Philip and Prince Henrik to be irascible and a bit snobbish, their wives have always adored them. As the Queen's Consort, both men have struggled with their roles at different times. It was not always easy for men of their generation to take second place to their wives, but they have managed to be great supporters. Their wives have tried to repay them by publicly praising them and by ensuring that their descendants will carry on their names. In Britain, Elizabeth added her husband's adopted surname (he was born a Prince of Greece and Denmark) was added to the royal surname by declaring that their nonregal descendants would bear the hyphenated Mountbatten-Windsor. Although she specifically left the direct heirs out of this declaration, the new name has been used by both her heir Prince Charles and his heir Prince William. In Margrethe's case, she created the special Danish title Count of Monpezat to be borne by their descendants in honor of Henrik's family, which uses the French comital title of Counts Laborde de Monpezat.

In both the United Kingdom and Denmark, long live The Queen!

Queen Margrethe and her family five years ago on her 70th birthday.
By Bill Ebbesen via Wikimedia Commons

15 April 2015

Celebrating Margrethe II of Denmark

via Wikimedia Commons
In 1940, the Nazis stormed into Denmark. One week later, on April 16, the nation welcomed a much more delightful newcomer, Princess Margrethe (1940- ), daughter of the then-Crown Prince Frederik and his wife Princess Ingrid of Sweden. Unlike in other royal families in occupied Europe, the Crown Princess and her new baby did not leave the country for safety elsewhere. Instead, Ingrid wished to stay and live openly in resistance to the German overlords. She was not afraid to push Margrethe's carriage through the streets, even after she hung Danish, Swedish and British flags in Margrethe's nurseries windows.

Margrethe inherited her mother's strength of character and her popularity with the Danish people. The Crown Princely was so popular in fact, that a movement began to change the laws in favor of young Margrethe. At the time of her birth, the law banned women from inheriting the Danish throne, but as it became clear that Frederik and Ingrid would have only daughters--three in total--the law was changed. It took two Acts of Parliament and a public referendum. So, in a way, the Danish people actually voted to make Margrethe their future queen shortly before her 13th birthday.

As such, she received an extraordinary education. She studied at Girton College, Cambridge University, Aarhus University, the Sorbonne and London School of Economics. She spent 12 years of voluntary service with the Women's Flying Corps. She speaks not only Danish and her mother's native Swedish but also English, French and German. Throughout all of these preparations to be queen, she developed many artistic talents. She often designs her own colorful wardrobe, has had many exhibitions or her own artwork around the world, and not only illustrated the 1977 Danish translation of The Lord of the Rings, but also helped with the translation itself.

In 1967, she married French diplomat Count Henri Laborde de Monpezat, a fellow linguist (he speaks French, English, Chinese, Vietnamese and Danish) and artistic spirit (he writes poetry). By their second anniversary, the couple already had two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim. They are now the grandparents of eight, including five princes and three princesses. The marriage had a very public rough spot in 2003 when Henri left the country after getting upset about his royal precedence, but Margrethe went to him in France and they were reunited. She has since signaled his role as the patriarch of their family by creating the Danish title Count of Monpezat and granting it to their descendants. [UPDATE: Prince Henrik passed away on Feb. 13, 2018.]

by Holger Motzkau
via Wikimedia Commons
Margrethe ascended the throne upon the death of her father in 1972. She has been a very popular monarch. She can be seen shopping in the local markets and riding her bicycle among the people and she can be seen dripping in ancestral jewels welcoming foreign leaders or jetting around the globe to promote Danish trade. She has managed to find a balance between accessibility and majesty that works well in Denmark. With 43 years on the throne, she has the second longest reign among current European monarchs; only Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has reigned longer.

The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor provided a full rundown of birthday events in its Sunday Tidbits. It is featuring an open post on all of the festivities today and tomorrow. FYI The Danes love any excuse to throw a royal gala, so be prepared to see royals from all over the world for this celebration.

For more on Margrethe:
Her Official Biography on Kongehuset
10 Facts about Queen Margrethe on Hello
Queen Margrethe on Royalista
Queen Margrethe on Tumblr
Queen Margrethe's Accession on Royal Order of Splendor
Queen Margrethe II on Hello
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark's 40th Anniversary on Dag Trygsland Hoelseth
Margrethe II's Illustrations on io9
Wedding of Margrethe II and Henri Laborde de Monpezat on Unofficial Royalty

CNN's Program on Margrethe's Ruby Jubilee by Max Foster:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Blogs about Margrethe:
Queen Margrethe II on Tumblr

Books about Margrethe:

11 April 2015

Today's Princess: Sophie Amalie Moth

via Wikimedia Commons
Today's "Princess" is the first official royal mistress in Denmark. She gained her position during a kind of heyday for Danish royal mistresses, whose existence at court, not only weakened the position of the Queens but also played a role in destabilizing the relationship between the Kings and the nobility, as the Kings became increasingly powerful and used their illegitimate children as pawns in political marriages with the nobility.

Like many of the royal mistresses before her, Sophie Amalie Moth (1654-1719) seems to have been pushed forward by an ambitious mother. At the age of 16, Sophie Amalie, the daughter of the King's late teacher, became the mistress of King Christian V, shortly before he married Princess Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel. For the next decade, one or both women was pregnant, each presenting five children to Christian--usually with "Christian" or "Christiane" among the child's names. (His wife went on to give the King two more children later.)

Sophie Amalie was formally introduced at Court shortly after the birth of her first child. Then, she was granted the title Countess of Samsø. In 1679, all of her children were officially acknowledged by the King and given the surname Gyldenløve, which looks romantic to English speakers, but actually means "golden lion." It had been the name given to generations of illegitimate royal children.

In 1684, Sophie Amalie's mother and her two youngest daughter's died. A year later, her sons were sent to live with an illegitimate uncle to be better educated for their futures. Then, her eldest child, daughter Christiane was married at age 14 to an illegitimate cousin. Unfortunately, she died before the age of 18.

Sophie Amalie and her family, particularly her brother Matthias Moth, continued to grow in wealth and influence until the King's death in 1699. The new King Frederik V promptly dismissed Matthias Moth from his official duties, but treated his half-brothers well. One was postmaster general while the other, Ulrik Christian was an admiral in the navy and helped defeat the ambitions of the Swedish King against Denmark and its allies in the Great Northern War.

As for Sophie Amalie, she lived a quiet retirement for another couple of decades in her mansion, which is now the home of the French embassy in Sweden. Her descendants are among the highest nobles in Denmark today, and the line of Dannekiold-Samsø, which eventually married into the Augustenburg branch of the Schleswig-Holstein family also descends from her.

For more about Sophie Amalie:
Sophie Amalie Moth on Dansk Kvindebiografisk Leksikon (in Danish)

09 April 2015

Camilla Shand, The Duchess of Cornwall

Unless you've been blinded by an unfortunate collision with a fascinator at a royal wedding, you must be aware that today is the tenth anniversary of the wedding of The Prince of Wales and Camilla Shand (1947- ), more commonly known as Camilla Parker-Bowles, officially known as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, and still known by her detractors as the "Rottweiler," a nickname given to her by the late Diana Princess of Wales.

But, those detractors are growing smaller in number and less severe in their criticisms. After 40 years of friendship/romance with her partner and ten years as a member of the royal family, Camilla has certainly overcome a lot of her negative image to emerge as a truly popular member of the family. She is clearly supportive of her husband, enthusiastically involved with her charities, and has always had a very loving relationship with her stepsons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

by Jose Cruz/ABr
via Wikimedia Commons
Born into the English aristocracy, but not into the nobility, Camilla was an unlikely (some say impossible) bride for the future king when they first struck up a romance in the early 1970s. Still in his early 20s and embarking on his military career, Charles wasn't ready for that step. When they split up because of his military commitments, she returned to a former love and married Andrew Parker-Bowles. Despite his Army postings, the couple had two children, Tom and Laura. However, they did not stay together. He was frequently abroad for his duties while she remained in England with the kids.

By the time, Charles finally settled down to marry the more noble (but less temperamentally suited) Lady Diana Spencer, the Parker-Bowles marriage was already moving in two different directions. As the relationship between Charles and Diana grew more volatile, he took comfort with his old friend Camilla, while Diana spent her time with Army officers and policemen. The most famous divorce since Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon took place in 1996, a year after Camilla and Andrew officially and finally parted ways.

Charles quickly moved to make Camilla part of his life, but the tragic death of Diana in 1997 likely put their marriage plans on hold for quite awhile. The public's deep love for Diana only caused the already deep hatred of Camilla--who many blamed for breaking up the marriage--to grow even more vile.

Camilla with her husband's daughter-in-law The Duchess of
Cambridge and his youngest son Prince Harry of Wales

by Carfax2 via Wikimedia Commons
Camilla, nevertheless, privately remained at Charles' side, and slowly moved out into the spotlight next to him. With their marriage in 2005, they acknowledged that Camilla could never fill Diana's place in the public's hearts by declaring that Camilla would be called Duchess of Cornwall, from one of his lower titles, rather than Princess of Wales. They even took a preemptive step by announcing that, if Charles becomes King, as expected, Camilla will use the unprecedented title of Princess Consort rather than Queen.

As time has passed, the couple has been more coy about their intentions regarding Camilla's future title, and the public, frankly has grown less concerned. Camilla's jolly attitude and her unflagging support for osteoporosis, rape victims, the military/veterans, literacy, poverty, and homeless charities has slowly but steadily won over people. At this rate, I will not be at all surprised if the next Queen is indeed named Camilla.

Official bios of Camilla:
On The Prince of Wales site
On The British Monarchy site
On the Duchy of Cornwall site

Blogs about Camilla:
Camilla's Girl on Tumblr
Duchess Cornwall on Tumblr
Duchess of Cornwall

More about Camilla:
10 Things You Didn't Know about The Duchess of Cornwall on Free Tours by Foot
Camilla The Duchess of Cornwall on Unofficial Royalty
The Duchess of Cornwall on Antique Jewelry Investor
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Camilla? on Scandalous Women
"No requirement" for the wife of a king to be Queen on Royal Central

Books about Camilla:

08 April 2015

Today's Princess: Margaret of Saxony, Duchess of Brunswick-Luneburg

via Wikimedia Commons
The youngest daughter of Elector Ernest of Saxony and Elizabeth of Bavaria, Margaret of Saxony (1469-1528) was part of a Catholic family divided by the Reformation. Two of her five brothers were Catholic priests, one was even the Archbishop of Magdeburg while oldest brother Elector Frederick III was one of the earliest and most ardent defenders of Martin Luther. With only two daughters in the family, they were both saved for political marriages. Older sister Christina became the Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, while Margaret was engaged to the young Duke Henry I of Brunswick-Luneburg from an early age.

With her fiance living in her family's Saxon court from the time he was 12 and she was 11, Margaret was certainly familiar with him by the time they finally married at the ripe, old ages of 19 and 18. In the meantime, Margaret had suffered a string of losses. Her mother passed away after a long illness when Margaret was 15. Sister Christina left for the north when Margaret was 16. Her father died after falling from a horse when she was 17.

With their marriage, Margaret and Henry took up residence at Celle Castle, which centuries later became the home of the infamous Queen Caroline Matilda of Denmark, when she was banished for her extramarital escapades.

Henry lacked the military and political acumen to maintain control of his own territory. After winning the Battle of Soltau in 1519, politics robbed him of his victory and his authority was given to his and Margaret's two eldest sons, who were both supporters of the Reformation. Henry enlisted the help of the anti-Reformation force to attempt a return in 1527, but was unsuccessful. Margaret died shortly after.

Together, they had seven children--all of their sons were Protestant Reformers while two daughters, including a nun named Apollonia, were stalwart Catholics.

06 April 2015

Get Ready Australia! Prince Harry still needs a princess

By Carfax2 via Wikimedia Commons
It has been over a decade since a royal prince found a bride Down Under. Now, that Europe's most eligible royal bachelor is in Australia, it could happen again. He is there for four weeks on an attachment with the Australian Army as part of his ongoing military career. That is much longer than it took Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark to meet Tasmania's Mary Donaldson during the Sydney Olympics in 2000. While he will be busy with his military duties during most of his stay, Harry is sure to have some down time with the lads. Don't be surprised to find him at a local pub or club. Remember to look your best for the next month, ladies. ;)

Of course, his dad The Prince of Wales spent a longer stint in Australia back in the 1970s, while his uncles The Duke of York studied in Canada and The Earl of Wessex completed a teaching project in New Zealand, all without bringing back a bride. Let Crown Princess Mary be your shining beacon of hope: she is now the mum of four little princelings and has a wardrobe and jewelry collection you can only dream of, and she gets to spend a good bit of her time supporting causes she cares about instead of working in a drudge job to pay the mortgage.

For more about meeting a prince, read How to Become a Princess.

Today's Princess: Sybilla of Conversano

The death of Sybilla, miniature from Avicenna's Canon
via Wikimedia Commons
As further evidence of my assertion that there is a "Princess Diana" in every royal generation, today's princess is Sybilla of Conversano (c. 1103). Famously beautiful and significantly younger than her forty-something husband Robert Duke of Normandy, Sybilla caught the attention of the chroniclers of the day. In an era when some royal women's names weren't even recorded, Sybilla was praised not just for her beauty, but also for her many virtues, and keen mind.

Her husband Robert was said to have fallen in love with her while he was on his way to the First Crusade, and married her on the way home. He then took up his once-again unsuccessful struggle to take the English crown, which had been passed from his father William the Conqueror to his younger brother, and then upon his death, to an even younger brother. While away, he left Sybilla in charge of Normandy, where some remarked that she was a better leader than her duke. Of course, many thought her husband was inept, so this may not have been praise for her as much as it was condemnation of him.

Within a couple of years of her marriage, Sybilla gave birth to her son William Clito. A few months later, she died tragically young. While the true cause of her death is unknown, some allege that she was murdered by Robert's mistress. There are few facts to support this allegation, and many to refute it, but conspiracy theorists do enjoy rumors of murder when the good die young, don't they? Another legend even asserts that she once saved her husband from the wound of a poisoned arrow by sucking the poison from the wound; a fairly common story about popular royal/noblewomen that illustrates their devotion to their husbands.

05 April 2015

Princess of the Day: Claire Coombs

Kate Middleton is not the only ordinary British-born girl to have found herself a prince. Born in Bath, Claire Louise Coombs (1974-  ) grew up to marry Prince Laurent, younger son of King Albert II of Belgium. Perhaps most famous for her Natan wedding gown which was immediately copied for Anne Hathaway to wear as Princess Mia in The Princess Diaries film series, Claire is one of the few modern royal ladies without a royal job. She holds only a couple of charitable patronages and occasionally accompanies her husband on engagements, but otherwise, she is simply a working mum of three.

Claire's father was a British telephone executive who now runs his own company. Her Belgian mother was a secretary--much like Sophie Countess of Wessex's family background. Claire's family moved to her mother's homeland when Claire was three. She grew up and was educated there, and eventually became a land surveyor.

She met her colorful and sometimes controversial husband through mutual friends. He is a decade older than her, and their marriage has not been without its bumps. First, Laurent was called to testify against corruption charges when it appeared that money from the Belgian Navy was spent on their family villa in Terluven. He also nearly lost his royal funding when he traveled without permission to Africa to the former Belgian Congo. Then, last year started with rumors that the couple was separating after Claire was not seen with her husband or at official family occasions for several weeks. By March 2014, when Laurent was hospitalized for depression and pneumonia, and even placed in a temporary coma, all seemed to be well again. Claire was reported to be with him daily at the hospital and happy family photos soon followed. Since then, Claire has again been seen on family occasions.

Lovely Claire is most commonly spotted among the extended royal family at weddings and christenings, smiling serenely beneath an unusual and/or boldly colored hat on Laurent's arm with their three children, Princess Louise and twin Princes Nicolas (named for her father) and Aymeric, gathered around them. She may have the ideal princess life: continue your career, occasionally wear gorgeous tiaras, hang out with other royals, have beautiful children, and rarely be bothered by the press.

For more about Claire:
Her official bio on The Belgian Monarchy
Princess Claire of Belgium on Unofficial Royalty
Top 10 Best Royal Wedding Dresses: #9 on Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor

Blogs about Claire:
Princess Claire of Belgium on Tumblr