25 October 2015

Royal Baby Boom

Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia on their wedding day
By Frankie Fouganthin via Wikimedia Commons
Last week, the Swedish Court announced the pregnancy of Princess Sofia. The birth of her child in April will mark the fourth royal baby for the Swedish royal family in just over two years: Princess Madeleine's daughter Leonore was born in February 2014 and her son Nicolas in June 2015; meanwhile, Crown Princess Victoria is expecting her second child in March 2016. [UPDATE: Since this originally posted, Madeleine had a third child and Sofia a second, so six royal babies in 40 months: Leonore, Oscar, Nicolas, Alexander, Adrienne and Gabriel.]

Of course, this is not the first royal baby boom in history. Back when royal families were larger and more plentiful, they were fairly common. Queen Victoria had 22 descendants born in the 1890s, five born in the year of her death, and four more in the year that followed. The most important royal baby boom, in my opinion, was the race to provide an heir for the British throne almost 200 years ago. In the space of two months in 1819, four royal babies was born: two in March and two in May--Queen Victoria was the third of those babies. A similar event happened in 1964, when The Queen, her sister Princess Margaret, her cousin Princess Alexandra, and her cousin-in-law The Duchess of Kent each gave birth between February 29 (yes, Leap Day!) and May 1. Those children are known today, respectively, as The Earl of Wessex, Lady Sarah Chatto, James Ogilvy, and Lady Helen Taylor.

So, I thought I'd look at other recent baby booms among the current monarchies. Looking only at babies whose mother's had royal status at the time of the birth (so only dynastic marriages) here are the tops from the last century in each of today's Kingdoms.

Belgium: Six babies in 32 months

The Belgian monarchy was created just about 200 years ago with a prince selected from a relatively minor German princely house--however, the first King was an uncle of both Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. They have not been very fortunate dynastically, with their few male heirs often dying without children and women banned from inheriting the throne until 1991. This has meant a relatively smaller number of royal births, only 32 within the last century and none at all in the last seven years. So, the biggest royal baby boom is fairly recent, beginning with the birth of Princess Astrid's youngest daughter, Laetitia (who is styled as a Princess of Belgium, through her mother, and an Archduchess of Austria, through her father) in April 2003 and concludes with the birth Prince Laurent's youngest children, the twin Princes Nicolas and Aymeric, in December 2005. Interestingly the next biggest royal baby boom in the Belgian family also concluded with twins, the 1957 birth of Prince Jean and Princess Margaretha of Luxembourg, whose mother had been Princess Josephine Charlotte of Belgium.

Denmark: Thirty-five babies in 9 years
Alexander & Ludwig of Hesse
via Wikimedia Commons
Alexandra of Kent
By Harry Pot/Anefo
via Wikimedia Commons
Harald of Norway
By Anders Beer Wilse
via Wikimedia Commons
Margrethe of Denmark
via Wikimedia Commons
Constantine of Greece
By Peeperman
via Wikimedia Commons

The Danish royal family is one of the most ancient and in the last 150 or so years, it has been incredibly prolific, while also marrying into royal families across Europe. One of its princes was selected as King of Greece in 1863 and another as King of Norway in 1905. Because all of the members of the Greek branch of the family, including those born in this century, continue to be recognized as Princes of Denmark, the number of living royals in the extended family is larger than in any other current monarchy. The current King of Spain was born to a Greek/Danish royal mother, the current King of Norway had a father who was born a Danish prince, the children of the current Queen of England have a father who was born as a Greek/Danish prince, and three of the English Queen's first cousins had a Greek/Danish mother. In the last few decades, this big dynasty has averaged only one or two births a year, but in the first half of the last century, they were often producing four or five children a year. The most productive decade was between 1933 and 1942, when 35 babies were born to Danish or Greek/Danish royals. (I'm calling this nine years because amazingly none were born at all in 1941--I'd say World War II had something to do with this but a total of 20 were conceived during the war.) Thirteen of these 35, or more than a third, were nieces and nephews of Prince Philip of Greece, who is better known today as The Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth. Among this subset were all but the eldest of the "cursed" Hesse children--the eldest had been born in 1931. Philip's sister, Cecilie and her husband were killed in a plane crash in 1937 on their way to a family wedding. Their two oldest children died with them, and the baby she was carrying was stillborn in the crash. Their only other child died a year and a half later from meningitis.

Among the most notable folks born in this huge royal baby boom are the current Duke of Kent (1933), his sister Princess Alexandra (1935), and brother Prince Michael of Kent (1942), whose mother was Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. Others in the crowded nurseries were the current King of Norway (1937) and his sisters, whose father King Olav V of Norway was born Prince Alexander of Denmark. Ex-King Constantine of Greece (1940), his sister Queen Sophia of Spain (1938), and the reigning Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (1940) also were born in this time period.

Luxembourg: Eleven babies in 42 months
Six daughters of Grand Duke William; mothers of the boom.
By Charles Bernhoeft via Wikimedia Commons
Although Luxembourg is not a kingdom, its Grand Dukes and Princes are styled as royal highnesses, so they are included in this look at royal families (unlike Monaco and Liechtenstein, which have princely not royal houses). Since Grand Duke William had six daughters, it is perhaps not surprising that Luxembourg's greatest royal baby boom occurred when most of them were having their children. Between March 1922 and September 1925, four of these sisters gave birth to 11 babies in total. Second from the oldest, Charlotte (who became Grand Duchess after her eldest sister abdicated in 1919) had her first child a year before the boom--that pre-boom baby was the future Grand Duke Jean, who is still alive today at the age of 94, although he abdicated in 2000. Altogether, these four sisters generated 17 offspring. Their other two sisters, Marie Adelaide (who never married and died in her 20s) and Hilda, had no children.

The Netherlands: Five babies in 21 months
Although the Dutch royal family stretches back centuries it has never been particularly prolific. In the last century and a half, it has been particularly "unproductive." At the end of the 19th century, all of the princes of the royal house died without children, usually (but not always) at a young age. So it was that a daughter, Wilhelmina, born when her father King Willem III was 63, became Queen. She had only one child, a daughter, who had four children--all daughters! In fact, no prince was born into the Dutch royal family between 1851 and the birth of the current king in 1967. A year after his birth, the largest royal baby boom of recent times started with the birth of his cousin Prince Maurits. After him came four more little boys (a real change from what had been an all-female dynasty for so long). These included both of the king's younger brothers, and the older sons of his aunts Margriet and Irene. All together, there would be seven boys born in a row before another girl arrived--and she was born with a twin brother! The most recent generation, however includes mostly females; among the eight grandchildren of the recently abdicated Queen Beatrix only one boy has been born.

Norway: Three babies in 24 months

Norway has the newest and smallest royal family. Norway selected a king from the Danish royal family in 1905 and he had only one son, who had just three children. Since the creation of the independent Norwegian monarchy 110 years ago, there have only been 18 royal births. So, it is not surprising that their boom is so small and so recent. It includes the two eldest daughters of Princess Martha Louise and the oldest child of Crown Prince Haakon. Maud Behn was born in April 2003, Princess Ingrid Alexandra in January 2004, and Leah Behn in April 2005. Only two other royal children have arrived in the decade since.

Spain: Eleven babies in 39 months
Alfonso, French pretender
By Angelo Cozzi via Wikimedia Commons
Because King Alfonso XIII made all of his nieces and nephews Infantes of Spain, no matter which royal families their daddies belonged to, once those nieces and nephews and his own children began having children, it resulted in quite a large royal baby boom in the 1930s. Between February 1935 and May 1938, 11 babies were born to Spanish Infantes (meaning literally "children" of the King--though in this case only half of them were Alfonso's kids). Six of these royal babies are now deceased; the most recent being Don Carlos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias Duke of Calabria, a claimant to the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, who passed away earlier this month. Also among this group is King Juan Carlos, who stepped down as king in 2014, due to ill health (and a few scandals--one of which will see his youngest daughter stand trial for corruption in 2016). Another notable in this group was Alfonso Duke of Anjou, who was a claimant to the French throne before his death in 1989. His teenage son picked up his claim and is recognized by some as King Louis XX of France.

Sweden: Six babies in 27 months
Baby Carl Gustav with his parents and his sisters
By Atelje Jaeger via Wikimedia Commons
Considering that King Carl Gustav has four sisters (known collectively as the Haga Princesses, after the palace where they grew up), it is not surprising that there should have been an even bigger baby boom when their children were arriving. What is surprising is that three of these babies were born to the same mother! Princess Margaretha of Sweden started this boom with her first child Sibylla in April 1965, continued with baby Charles in July 1966, and concluded the run with her third and final child, John in June 1967. In the meantime, her sister Princess Desiree had two children and sister Princess Birgitta had one. The fourth sister, Princess Christina, did not start her family until 1975. All together, the four princesses had 12 children. Like their brother, they each had three kids.

The United Kingdom: Four babies in 27 months
Leaving the 1964 boom out (see above), the next one occurred between March 1980 with the birth of Lady Rose Windsor Gilman to The Duchess of Gloucester and June 1982, when The Princess of Wales delivered Prince William. Between those births Princess Anne had Zara Phillips and Princess Michael of Kent had Lady Gabriella Windsor. These royal darlings are now in their early 30s.