31 December 2015

British Royal Ladies of 2015

As is true in every year, the British royal family received the most attention around the world, especially with the birth of little Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Her Majesty also officially became the longest serving British monarch, finally surpassing her great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who had reigned for 63 years 216 days. Meanwhile her daughter-in-law The Countess of Wessex began to share her personal stories about the impact of her daughter's early vision problems. (On a side note: three of The Queen's four granddaughters have had a particular struggle: Beatrice with dyslexia, Eugenie with scoliosis and Louise with esotropia.) Princess Beatrice took a job with an equity firm in New York where perhaps not coincidentally her longtime boyfriend Dave Clark works for Uber. At about the same time, her sister Princess Eugenie left New York to take a job with an art gallery in London.

As Elizabeth II prepares to celebrate her 90th birthday in a few months, she still has a passion for brightly colored fashion and hats so that the petite monarch is visible in a crowd. More notably, she seems to be smiling in public much more often.

Speculation that she might one day be Queen Camilla, despite the Palace statement that she would be Princess Consort, once again swirled around The Duchess of Cornwall this year. She meanwhile maintained her reputation for being jolly good fun, and this Christmas card from her and The Prince of Wales put to rest the other rumors of the year: that she and Charles are growing apart.

Despite a slimmer calendar of engagements due to her pregnancy and confinement, The Duchess of Cambridge remained the world's royal cover girl, and everything she was seen wearing immediately sold out. With cameras trained on her every move, I still think this private family photo turned Christmas card was her best look of the year.

In the first eight months of her life, we have been blessed with four sets of photos of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge: her departure from hospital, her christening, snaps by her mum a few weeks ago (which appear to have been taken on the same day as the family photo above), and an adorable set of pics with big brother Prince George, also taken by her proud mum.

After the sartorial criticism of her past, Princess Beatrice of York appeared much sleeker and sophisticated this year, as demonstrated in this photo with cousin Zara Phillips Tindall at Ascot.

Unlike her sister Bea, Princess Eugenie of York tends to draw a bit less media attention and therefore media criticism. Even her longtime relationship with Jack Brooksbank has rarely made headlines, although his appearance with her at Glorious Goodwood this year could not be overlooked.

As The Queen's daughter-in-law, Sophie The Countess of Wessex has been the official British royal representative at foreign royal weddings along with her husband The Prince Edward. This summer found them at the white-tie wedding of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden.

Officially not royal, The Lady Louise Windsor is still a male-line descendant of The Queen and therefore, under previous Letters Patent, entitled to a royal style. Her family prefers to keep things more low-key and their parenting approach is clearly working: Lady Louise appears happy and healthy and, having just turned 11, seems to have grown tremendously this year.

Although Anne The Princess Royal still maintains one of the heaviest schedules of official engagements, she much prefers her life in the country with horses, dogs, and her three granddaughters, including Savannah (left) and Isla Phillips.

As one of the more senior members of the cadet branches of the royal family, the Danish-born Duchess of Gloucester still maintains a steady calendar of engagements, including this year's Davis Cup where her royal status gained her the spot next to Queen Mathilde of the Belgians.

Preferring to be called simply Katharine Kent, the Duchess of Kent has retreated into private life focusing her time on teaching and performing music, her Catholic faith, and her 10 grandchildren. Sightings of her have become increasingly rare.

Meanwhile Katharine's sister-in-law Princess Michael of Kent (nee Marie Christine von Reibnitz) loves the spotlight, but she and her husband must "earn" their own way as they are no longer subsidized by The Queen. Marie Christine has a multifaceted career as an author as well as an interior designer and art consultant. She spent part of this year sporting an eye patch, which she tried to make as fashionable as possible, after a cornea surgery.

Now in her eighties, The Queen's only female cousin (on the royal side) Princess Alexandra has taken on an increasingly smaller public role due to health issues, particularly a painful condition called polymyalgia rheumatica. Her older brother, the Duke of Kent is also growing more frail and this year broke his hip while the family was in Scotland.

Swedish Royal Ladies of 2015

Sweden's royal family had the most exciting year in 2015. They welcomed two new members within days of each other, with the wedding of Prince Carl Philip to Sofia Hellqvist followed two days later with the birth of Prince Nicolas. To add to that excitement, they soon announced the impending arrival of two more royal babies in 2016 with the pregnancies of Crown Princess Victoria and the new Princess Sofia.

Queen Silvia welcomed her third grandchild and found out that her fourth and fifth are on the way, but she still found quality time with her second grandchild Princess Leonore during a visit to Pope Francis.

Crown Princess Victoria's maternity fashion has much improved over the tent dresses she often wore when expecting Princess Estelle.

Princess Estelle steals the show wherever she goes, but she really won hearts when she suddenly dashed to the back of the church during Prince Nicolas' christening to return with a pacifier for the crying baby prince.

The marriage of Prince Carl Philip to his longtime girlfriend Sofia Hellqvist drew mixed feelings from many royal watchers. Her appearance on her wedding day really symbolized that dichotomy when we learned she had a tattoo (not very princess-y) but we got to enjoy her brand-new tiara. (Read my post about changing royal standards: Anyone Can Be a Princess.)

Princess Madeleine had many bright moments in her personal and official lives this year--from an amusing television interview with husband Chris O'Neill (in which he revealed that he calls his in-laws "Mom" and "Sir") to her son's christening to her ongoing work with her mother's charity, Childhood. For me though, she really showed her princess credentials when she showed up looking spectacular at her brother's wedding just two days before giving birth. Truly miraculous!

The King's four sisters, known collectively as the Haga Princesses, showed that they are still glamorous at their nephew's wedding. From left, they are Princess Christina, Princess Desiree, Princess Birgitta and Princess Margaretha--the youngest is 71.

30 December 2015

Spanish Royal Ladies of 2015

Without question, the Spanish royal family was the most troubled royal family in 2015 and their angst, which has already lasted years, will certainly continue into 2016. After many years of investigation and court proceedings related to her husband's business dealings, criminal charges were filed against Infanta Cristina in summer 2014 and held up by higher courts last December. In 2015, the ongoing negative publicity led the King to deprive his sister of her title as Duchess of Palma de Mallorca in June of 2015; as yet, she still retains her rank as Infanta of Spain. The case will finally proceed to trial in two weeks and could last as long as six months. Meanwhile, Queen Letizia has once again been subjected to media innuendo that she is too thin and her grandfather passed away in July. In happier news, the King's mother, Queen Emerita Sofia, was one of 273 people nominated for the 2015 Nobel Prize for her work with Alzheimer's disease. She didn't win that one, but she did receive the 2015 Hadrian Award from the World Monuments Foundation for her promotion of the culture of Spain and Ibero-America. In even better news, King Felipe and Queen Letizia have made great strides in rescuing the Spanish throne from the abyss it was facing when his father was more or less forced to abdicate a year and a half ago. Felipe's approval rating now sits comfortably above the 80 percent mark.

A sign of better days ahead? Queen Letizia finally wore a tiara that was rumored to have been given to her shortly after her 2004 wedding. Most royal observers believe it had been closeted for so long to avoid accusations of privilege during Spain's long economic downturn.

Born a Princess of Greece, Queen Sofia has retained her regal bearing since her husband's abdication in 2014, but her favorite title is undoubtedly Grandmother. Here she is on holiday with five of her eight grandchildren.

Leonor Princess of Asturias (holding her daddy's hand) and little sister Infanta Sofia have been seen more in public in 2015, including at the National Day Military Parade.

The King's oldest sister Infanta Elena has not been seen officially as much recently, but she was spotted riding horses with her daughter Dona Victoria Frederica de Marichalar in October.

The indicted Infanta Cristina faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted in the trial that opens in mid-January; her husband faces more charges and more possible prison time.

The King's youngest aunt, Infanta Margarita, attended the funeral of Bulgarian Prince Kardam, who had been in a coma for five years following a car accident. The Bulgarian royal family has been based primarily in Spain since their exile nearly 70 years ago with ex-King Simeon and all five of his children marrying Spaniards.

Norwegian Royal Ladies of 2015

The Norwegian royal family experienced a year of unusual accidents. Just days ago, the King, Queen and their daughter attended a memorial service for a woman killed in a freak accident on the day after Christmas at one of the church's they frequent--a flagpole fell and hit her on the head, killing her instantly. Queen Sonja also made headlines for assisting some teenagers after an accident in the sea near the royal summer home. Meanwhile her daughter Princess Martha Louise hit the news when her house nearly caught fire; she had left something baking in the oven when she left to take her children to school and returned to find the fire fighters already on the scene. On her wedding anniversary in August, Crown Princess Mette Marit was on her way to an official engagement when another car slammed into hers. Although the accident was minor, it aggravated her ongoing back problems and caused her to cancel several engagements. Next year will open with public celebrations of the King's 25th anniversary as monarch (a bittersweet moment no doubt since it also marks the death of his father.) In February, the family bid farewell to the King's brother-in-law, John Martin Ferner, who died at the age of 87.

Queen Sonja, formerly a seamstress, has an eye for notable outfits. This year, she chose sunshine yellow for the Swedish royal wedding.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit joined other senior members of the royal family for the annual presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

Princess Ingrid Alexandra and her little brother Prince Sverre Magnus donned traditional clothing for the celebration of Norway's national day on May 17.

Princess Martha Louise toned down her usually bold sartorial choices to create this refined and sophisticated look for the Swedish royal wedding.

The King's only surviving sister, Princess Astrid, started the year with the death of her husband and ended up by lighting London's Christmas tree, which is an annual Christmas gift from Norway in thanks for British support during World War II.

Dutch Royal Ladies of 2015

In The Netherlands, it was mostly business as usual. Queen Maxima travelled the world both on behalf of her adopted country and as a U.N. special ambassador for inclusive finance for development. (We should remember that she is highly educated with a master's degree in economics and professional work experience in finance, banking, and institutional sales.) However, she cut short an official visit to China and was hospitalized in Amsterdam for a kidney infection. Her husband continued the tour alone. She was on the balcony in London with the Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex this year for Remembrance Sunday; all of the royal families participated in special ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Oldest daughter Amalia The Princess of Orange started secondary school by cycling to the neighborhood school. A few months later, one of her security agents created an uproar when he forgot his gun at the school. Princess Alexia hit the big 1-0. Princess Mabel continued her international crusade against childhood marriage and in favor of education for girls. Just a few days ago, Princess Carolina (of the extended family, but not officially of the royal house) gave birth to her second child, a baby boy named Xavier.

Queen Maxima on the balcony with the Duchess of Cambridge on Remembrance Sunday

Princess Beatrix wearing a typical Beatrix hat.

Amalia Princess of Orange cycles herself to her first day at her new school.

The younger princesses Alexia (center) and Ariane with their mother Queen Maxima on King's Day in April.

The King's cousin's wife Princess Annette (right) with his sister-in-law Princess Mabel (widow of his brother Friso), who continued her work on human rights around the world.

The King's other sister-in-law Princess Laurentien is known for her lively fashion choices, but in this case, the bright orange is a patriotic choice for King's Day.

The King's oldest aunt Princess Irene was among the dozens of royals who participated in 70th anniversary commemorations for the end of World War II.

Princess Margriet is the King's most popular aunt in The Netherlands and in Canada, where she was born during World War II.

Princess Margriet has four sons and four daughters-in-law including Princess Annette (earlier) and Princess Marilene, Princess Anita and Princess Aimee in their King's Day appearances.

20 December 2015

Danish Royal Ladies of 2015

We continue our royal "photo albums" with the Danish royal family. Queen Margrethe celebrated her 75th birthday with usual extensive glittering, international royal fanfare that they reserve for all of their big events. She also confirmed once again that she has no intention of ever abdicating; she, like Queen Elizabeth but unlike former Queen Beatrix, was crowned in a religious ceremony with lifelong vows that she takes seriously. The Crown Prince's family faced two questionable biopics about the Crown Princely couple. Crown Princess Mary also was the victim of tabloid rumors about a rift between her and her siblings, which the Palace officially denied. Even though they usually do not comment on "gossip," the Palace also felt was necessary to deny reports that Princess Marie had undergone breast augmentation. In little princess news, eight-year-old Princess Isabella (now 9) took on her first royal engagement, christening a ferry boat named in her honor with her mother by her side. A few weeks later her four-year-old sister Princess Josephine broke her arm in a fall from a horse.

The Royal Family's traditional summer holiday photocall

Queen Margrethe, looking queenly at the Swedish royal wedding of the year

Crown Princess Mary with her twins, Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine, who is sporting her cast

Princess Isabella on her first royal engagement with mum by her side

Princess Marie with her Prince Charming Joachim at the Swedish royal wedding

Princess Athena making a balcony appearance with her dad

Princess Benedikte and Queen Anne Marie of Greece on the balcony with King Constantine to celebrate their big sister's 75th birthday

Alexandra Countess of Frederiksborg was also invited to her former mother-in-law's birthday celebrations


19 December 2015

Belgian Royal Ladies of 2015

The Belgian Royal Palace in Brussels

By Martin Falbisoner via Wikimedia Commons
As 2015 draws to a close, I thought we might like to have some photo albums of all of the royal ladies as they appeared this year (or in recent years). Today, we start with Belgium. Please enjoy!

Following a couple of years with family challenges, the death Queen Fabiola in 2014 and the abdication of King Albert II in 2013, this year has been relatively quiet for the royal family. Queen Mathilde did suffer a fall which caused her to spend part of the year in a knee brace followed by flat shoes for some time. This did not stop her from visiting Pope Francis in Rome and visiting Ethiopia on behalf of UNICEF and making several state visits including one to China. She managed to carry out a busy schedule at home and abroad while continuing her very hands-on parenting of her four children. Meanwhile, Princess Astrid traveled around the globe in the role her brother King Philippe gave her upon his accession: Honorary Chairman of the Foreign Trade Agency. Poor Princess Claire stood by her husband, overcoming rumors of trouble in her marriage, as Prince Laurent publicly lamented that the royal family treats him poorly and as the government accused him of using his public funding for private purposes.

Queen Mathilde with her family, including daughters Elisabeth Duchess of Brabant (right) and Princess Eleonore

Former Queen Paolo

Princess Claire and her family, including daughter Princess Louise

Princess Astrid

Astrid's children including daughter-in-law Princess Elisabetta (center) and daughters (from tallest/oldest) Princess Maria Laura, Princess Luisa Maria and Princess Laetitia Maria (from February 2014)


15 December 2015

Princess Spotlight: Maria of Saxony, Duchess of Pomerania

Today marks the 500th birthday of Maria of Saxony (1515-1583). During the 16th century, Germany was at the heart of the Reformation. In fact, Martin Luther started the movement by tacking up his arguments on a church door in Wittenberg, a Saxon city. As the various Reform-minded states allied against the staunchly Roman Catholic ones, princely marriages had great consequence. As the daughter of the Elector of Saxony, John the Steadfast, Maria was a great bride for Philip I Duke of Pomerania. Many prominent Reformers, including Luther, attended the wedding, which allied the two territories in the German Diet. Soon thereafter, her husband joined the Schmalkaldic League with other Lutheran princes battling against the might of the Holy Roman Empire.

Maria was also a good wife in that she provided Philip with ten children, with seven living to adulthood. Several of her seven sons became Dukes of various regions of Pomerania while the youngest became Bishop of Cammin. Her two surviving daughters married other Lutheran princes.

Philip died in 1560 and Maria survived him for another 23 years, becoming head of the Regency Council for her young sons. Later, one of her sons built her a Pudagla Castle from materials of demolished monasteries.

For more about Maria:
Princess Maria's Blog on Sidonia the Sorceress

03 December 2015

Princess Spotlight: Victoria of the United Kingdom

Among the numerous descendants of Queen Victoria, there is a Princess Victoria among nearly every sibling group for several generations. Some became quite famous, like Empress Vicky of Germany and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain. Others were a bit infamous, like Victoria of Hesse who divorced her first husband and essentially ran off with a Russian grand duke. One of the least well known, however, lived her life more or less in the sheltered shadow of her publicly adored mother, Queen Alexandra (see my profile of her). So that when she died in 1935 her passing was remarkable only among the closest of family members, despite an official court mourning period of six weeks. In the immediate run up to her death, her beloved brother King George V skipped the State Opening of Parliament and in its aftermath, her recently married nephew the Duke of Gloucester curtailed his honeymoon plans--his wedding had been scaled back too when his bride's father died a few weeks earlier. (See my profile of the bride.)

When Princess Victoria Alexandra Olga Mary of Wales was born on July 6, 1868, she was fifth in line to the throne after her father and three older siblings. Her godparents include the Queen of England, the Queen of Greece, the Dowager Queen of Denmark, and the reigning and future Emperors of Russia. When she died on December 3, 1935 at her country house in Buckinghamshire, she was fifteenth behind all but one of her nieces and nephews and their children. Victoria grew up in a bustling and close-knit family. Like her parents, she was athletic. Like her mother and her siblings, she was shy with others. Like many relatives, she was artistic. Unlike her siblings or parents, she was considered bright.

Toria (right) with her mother (seated) and sister Louise
Nevertheless, Toria, as she was called, never really had the opportunity to spread her wings. Despite several rumored suitors, she never married. Her mother is generally blamed for this as she kept Toria as a close companion until her own death in 1925. While her sisters married and had families, bright, gentle, active Toria was treated as a "glorified maid," in the words of one cousin. As she aged, many noted that she became more bitter and sharp with a tendency to hypochondria. Despite this, her position afforded her many comforts, including fabulous jewels, and allowed her to travel extensively. She visited the continent many times, often to see family in Denmark and Russia, where her first cousin, the ill-fated Nicholas II, was a dear friend. Toria also accompanied her parents on official travels, too, including a dangerous trip to Ireland.

Toria and her siblings remained close all of their lives. They were all devastated by the loss of their oldest brother, Prince Albert Victor, from the flu in 1892 although were all likely too young to have been very aware of the death of their day-old youngest brother, Prince Alexander John, in 1871, despite how deeply his loss affected their parents. As children, they were lively and mischievous, traits that their grandmother, Queen Victoria, did not like. "I can't fancy them at all," she wrote, although to be fair, Queen Victoria was rarely a doting parent or grandmother. If she heard about the time the children brought a pony into their mother's sitting room, she was almost certainly not amused.

In adulthood, Toria remained strongly connected to her sisters, even though Louise spent much of her time in Scotland, and Maud was frequently in Norway, where her husband had been selected as king. The growing prevalence of the telephone meant that they could communicate easily, and she is said to have had a daily phone call with her remaining brother, even after he became King George V. Their sibling bond left him devastated upon her death, and he died only eight weeks after her.

For more about, Victoria:
Princess Victoria of Great Britain Dies on Royal Splendor
Princess Victoria is Dead on Royal Musings
Royal Profile: Princess Victoria Alexandra on Marilyn's Royal Blog
The Stories of Queen Victoria's Granddaughters: Princess Victoria of Wales on Royal Central

Book about Victoria and her cousins: