30 July 2017

Previously at the Palace: Zara's Wedding

In this series, we capture the biographical and major news posts from this date in previous years so that you can "catch up" on your favorites or reflect on some topics you might have missed. One paragraph is included here; click the title to see the full post.

By Land Rover MENA (The All-New Range Rover | Global Reveal)
via Wikimedia Commons
2011: A Sporting Scottish Wedding
"Miss Zara Anne Elizabeth Phillips married her longtime love, rugby star Mike Tindall. So, why does a sports star's wife, who is herself an equestrian Olympic hopeful, rate attention from the Princess Palace? Well, there may be no titles involved, but Zara is a royal standout as the only daughter of HRH The Princess Royal. Her life has been closely monitored from the beginning, when she was given her unusual name by her uncle The Prince of Wales to her rebellious tongue-stud clubbing days to her highly successful athletic career." READ MORE

25 July 2017

Abdicating Queens

In honor of the 450th anniversary of the abdication of Mary Queen of Scots earlier this month, let's take a look at the list of Queens Regnant who have given up their thrones, starting with the first European lady to do so, Mary herself. Since her, there has been one each century, except in the 20th century which witnessed the abdications of the mother and daughter Dutch Queens Wilhelmina and Juliana.

after Francis Clouet
via Wikimedia Commons
Mary Queen of Scots, 1567
The turbulence and violence of Scotland's monarchy often meant the early deaths of kings followed by the accession of children. Mary, the only surviving child of King James V was only six days old when she became Queen. The Regency for her was hotly debated between Catholic and Protestant claimants while the tiny Queen was sent to be raised at the French court, where at the age of fifteen she married the Dauphin, who became King of France less than a year later. Before the end of the next year, the teenage King died and his teenage Queen returned to her homeland, which could have hardly remembered. The very Catholic Queen was regarded with distrust by her numerous and powerful Protestant noblemen and by her very powerful cousin to the south, Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was little interested in Mary's desire to be her rightful heir in England. When Mary married their shared cousin Henry Stuart Lord Darnley and further strengthened her claim to the English throne, Elizabeth was infuriated. Although a passionate marriage, it was a troubled one. Darnley wished to be Mary's equal and things grew ugly. In an act of jealousy, Darnley and his men murdered her secretary in front of the pregnant Queen. Several months after their son's birth, Darnley's dead body was discovered. Mary was suspected, but then she was abducted, possibly raped and married to the Protestant Earl of Bothwell. Conspiracy rumors were rampant. The once-again pregnant Mary and her new husband faced an open revolt but their supporters abandoned them. He was given free passage to escape and she was imprisoned, and soon miscarried twins. The despondent Queen, just 24 years old, was forced to abdicate in favor of her one-year-old son. However, that was not the end of her story. She escaped to England but Queen Elizabeth was not eager to help her and instead kept her under close observation. She was tried for Darnley's murder, but Elizabeth found it more politically sound to keep Mary prisoner without an actual conviction. From her imprisonment, Mary embroiled herself in various plots and was eventually caught plotting against Elizabeth herself. For this crime, Mary was beheaded at the age of 44. (Read my post about the Tudor & Stewart Queens: Killing Queens.)

By Sebastien Bourdon
via Wikimedia Commons
Christina of Sweden, 1654
Although not an infant like Mary Queen of Scots, Christina was also a child when she inherited her father's throne. The last surviving legitimate child of King Gustav II Adolf, the nearly six-year-old Christina was initially in her mother's physical custody, despite her mother's refusal to allow the king's burial for 18 months and her mother's apparent neglect of her. Christina was eventually placed with her maternal aunt and, after her death, with appointed guardians. Her father had not only doted on her but had clearly accepted that she would be his heir, leaving orders that she would be educated like a prince. She learned men's sports: fencing, riding and bear hunting. She studied politics, religion, philosophy, the classical Greek and Roman texts and knew at least nine languages. She became obsessed with collecting both art and books. She had a keen and curious mind--a fact that would trouble her reign in an age of absolutes. Not only did she refuse to blindly accept the precepts of Lutherans, a religion for which her country had fought wars, she actually studied Catholicism, Islam and Judaism. She forced her government into peace negotiations while bringing the cultural booty back to Sweden. Another disruptive issue was her refusal to wed. In an attempt to quiet the insistence on her marriage, she named a cousin (once considered a possible husband) as her heir when she was only 21. Her views and tastes were changeable as she explored so many different ideas. At one period she was solemn and serious, working ten hours a day, barely eating or sleeping. Then, she swung the other direction, indulging in all things pleasurable. At age 27, having reigned quixotically and controversially, she announced her abdication. She shipped many of her books and treasures out of Sweden and left for Rome, converting to Catholicism along the way. She traveled around Europe, unsuccessfully inserting herself in their politics but always returning to Rome. When her cousin died, she even returned to Sweden with the stated intention of being queen again. She later attempted to have herself elected queen of Poland. She remained a controversial figure for her insistence on her regal prerogative, her politics, her religion, and her manner of dressing and behaving like a man. Christina continues to be a fascinating person. In her own lifetime, she was alleged to be oversexed or undersexed, to be a lesbian, and to be a hermaphrodite. Today, some scholars believe she may have been intersex, while others make a number of other medical assertions, from various endocrine disorders to autism. Her skeleton was even exhumed 50 years ago in an unsuccessful attempt to confirm or disprove hermaphroditism--turns out bones aren't a very good indicator of gender issues. She lived to age 62, always following her own rules, but is one of only three women buried in the Vatican Grotto.

By David von Krafft

via Wikimedia Commons
Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden, 1720
Ulrika Eleonora was the youngest child of Sweden's King Charles XI. She had an older sister and an older brother, the soldier King Charles XII. Her mother died when she was young and Ulrika Eleonora grew up in the shadow of her brighter, prettier, more talented big sister Hedwig Sophia. However, Ulrika Eleonora had one major advantage over her sister: she remained in Sweden after her marriage. While Hedwig Sophia was sent to live in Holstein, Ulrika Eleonora's husband stayed with her in Sweden. So, while her big brother was often (really always) away on military campaigns, he left the government in the hands of his younger sister, who dutifully did only what she thought he would do, never asserting her own thoughts or directions. Those around her, however, including her husband, Frederick of Hesse, were far more ambitious and began positioning her as her bachelor brother's heir. In this, Hedwig Sophia had one more major disadvantage: she had died, leaving behind a young son. By rights of primogeniture, as the son of the older sister, the lad should have inherited the throne when Charles died from gunshot to the head in 1718, but Auntie Ulrika Eleonora surprised the ministers by declaring she had inherited the throne. She pleased them by agreeing to end the era of absolute monarchy and they willingly declared her the Queen. However, she really did support absolutism and continually tried to thwart the new constitution. She also created more nobles (to support her aims) than any other Swedish monarch despite her very short aim. With the recent example of joint British rulers William and Mary, she wished to have her husband crowned co-ruler, but such an arrangement was not permitted in Sweden. Nevertheless, she insisted on sharing state business with him. Ultimately, it was determined that he could be king, if she would abdicate. Although unhappy with this decision, she agreed as long as she would be his heir. Her reign had lasted just 14 months. Before the abdication, her marriage, though childless was happy. Once Frederick became King, however, he began a long-term affair and even had children with his mistress. Ulrika Eleonora was deeply hurt and the ministers were deeply concerned that their much respected queen was being disrespected by her husband. Various plans to ask him to leave Sweden and bring her back to throne never went far, and she predeceased him in 1741 after contracting small pox. A succession crisis ensued with her older sister's descendants finally winning the throne following Frederick's death.

By Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz
via Wikimedia Commons
Isabella II of Spain, 1870
Isabella was the daughter of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, who had lost his throne to Napoleon before regaining it, and his fourth wife, Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, who was also his niece. Her reign was marked by struggle from the beginning. The ambitious Maria Christina had convinced her husband set aside Salic Law, which forbade female succession, on his deathbed, thereby disinheriting his younger brother Don Carlos in favor of two-year-old Isabella. This launched the Carlist Wars in Spain with liberals supporting the new Queen and conservatives supporting Carlos and, upon his death, his successors. Isabella's early reign was only established through military force and she endured several changes in regency before being declared "of age" and no longer in need of a regent at the ripe old age of 13. At 16, she was pushed into marrying Francisco de Asis de Borbon, a double first cousin, by whom she had 12 children, just five of whom reached adulthood. She was a terrible queen, subject to conspiracies and intrigues and rapid changes of government. She showed favoritism and generally was seen as capricious and perhaps and adulteress. Her enemies, especially the Carlists, spread rumors that her husband was homosexual or impotent and that her children had various husbands. After a revolt in 1868, she went into exile and was replaced with an Italian prince under the First Spanish Republic. Still abroad, she agreed to abdicate in 1870 in favor of her son Alfonso , but the Republic did not invite him to become King and he did not return to Spain until after the Republic fell four years later. Isabella, having left her husband, remained in Paris visiting Spain on occasion and still causing problems. She did form a friendship with her estranged husband and was at his bedside when he died in 1902. She passed away two years later and was buried with the Spanish monarchs in El Escorial.

United Nations Information Office
via Wikimedia Commons
Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, 1948
Wilhelmina was the only child King William III of the Netherlands had with his much younger second wife of Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont. His grown sons by his first wife never married and died before he did. Like most of the Queens already discussed here, Wilhelmina succeeded to the throne when she was still a child although she was older than the others at age 10. Her accession was not marked by controversy as with the others, and her Regent, her mother Emma, was well-admired. She grew to adulthood with grace and was enthroned at age 18. At 20 she married Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a happy marriage sadly marked by several miscarriages. For nearly a decade, it was feared that she would remain childless and be succeeded by a German cousin who was under the influence of the despised Kaiser Wilhelm II. However, her only living child Juliana's arrival in 1909 thwarted that worry. She was strong-minded and not easily intimidated, even standing up to the Kaiser personally. She led her small country successfully through World War I by maintaining neutral. Her popularity help assuage civil unrest after the war. Ultimately, the Kaiser had to surrender his hauteur as he sought refuge in the Netherlands after he lost his throne. Between the wars, Wilhelmina led her country to prosperity with industrial development. She herself was renowned for her business acumen which led to her becoming the world's first female billionaire. Nevertheless, the Nazi invasion in 1940 forced her to flee wearing only her nightgown and housecoat. She took refuge in Britain despite her well-known dislike of England stemming from earlier conflicts between the two countries and their settlers in South Africa. She led the government in exile, becoming a symbol of the Dutch resistance back home. After the war, she did not return to palace living, staying instead at The Hague and touring to visit her subjects around the country by bicycle. By this time, her health was failing and this led to her decision to abdicate in favor of her daughter in 1948, taking the title of Princess, a tradition that has now been followed by both her daughter and granddaughter. She lived a mostly retired life in the country until her death in 1962, emerging only on occasion.

By Hilterman, Dutch National Archive
via Wikimedia Commons
Juliana of the Netherlands, 1980
The only daughter of Queen Wilhelmina, Juliana grew up happily and although educated at home, a small class of students was formed to study with her. She completed a Bachelor's degree at Leiden University, making her the first reigning queen to have a university degree. Because her family was deeply religious Protestants the search for a husband of suitable faith and rank was challenging. Fortunately, Juliana fell in love with the clearly qualified Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld. Nevertheless, the savvy Queen Wilhelmina also made sure that there was an ironclad prenuptial agreement. The couple went on to have four children, all daughters, the third of whom was born in Canada where Juliana had fled with the girls after the Nazis invaded The Netherlands. Her husband stayed in Britain to assist his mother-in-law with the government-in-exile. After the war, Juliana was active as the president of the Dutch Red Cross in an efforts to help her starving and devastated country recover from the brutality of the Nazi occupation. During her final pregnancy, she contracted German measles, causing near total blindness for her youngest daughter, for which the deeply religious Juliana and Bernhard sought all kinds of remedies both medicinal and of the faith healing variety. When her mother's declining health led to her abdication, Juliana ascended the throne at age 39. She continued her mother's tradition of riding around the country on bicycle and adopted a rather casual approach to interacting with her subjects. Her reign saw the decolonization of most of the Dutch overseas territories abroad and by some serious controversies at home. When a devastating storm caused massive flooding in 1953 killing thousands, Juliana threw on her boots and marched into the flood waters to personally help rescue people who were trapped. The affection she earned helped her get through major controversies that arose when it was discovered that she had moved a faith healer into the palace who might be exercising too much influence, when she cut off her second daughter for secretly marrying a Roman Catholic with a Carlist claim to the Spanish throne, and when it was revealed that her husband had accepted $1.1 million bribe. Bernhard had to resign from most of his activities but Juliana recovered and continued a reign until abdicating on her 71st birthday in 1980. She lived another 24 years, suffering from Alzheimer's disease during the last half of that time. Her husband died eight months after her.

By Emil Ketelaar/FrozenImage
via Wikimedia Commons
Beatrix of the Netherlands, 2013
Young Beatrix spent most of her early childhood in Canada, separated from her father and her country due to the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands during World War II. She returned to her homeland at age seven. She not only attended university, but completed a law degree. Her decision to marry a German, Claus von Amsberg, who worked in the German embassy and who had been a member of the Hitler youth and the German military drew huge protests, even on her actual wedding day, when a street battle between protesters and the police erupted. After her mother's abdication, Beatrix faced violent protests again on her investiture day from people wishing to demonstrate about poor housing conditions. Nevertheless, she persisted in the informal and friendly style established by her mother and grandmother and both she and Claus gained popular support and affection. The couple had three sons and eventually eight grandchildren. Claus passed away after a long illness in 2002, leaving Beatrix to soldier on alone. She faced one more violent moment in 2009 when a lone assailant crashed his car into a royal procession. Although none of her family were injured, several people died and the queen was deeply shaken. She faced further tragedy when her second son, Prince Friso, was buried in an avalanche. By the time he was rescued, he had suffered an extended period of oxygen deprivation and remained in a vegetative state. Beatrix decided to abdicate on the 33rd anniversary of her accession, having become at age 75, the oldest reigning queen in Dutch history. She was able to spend more time with Friso, who had reached a minimally conscious state, before his death later that year. Beatrix reverted to the title Princess and still carries out royal duties but not at the level or with the frequency she did while Queen. She spends as much time as she can with her family. (Read my post about the three Dutch queens End of the Queen Streak.)

22 July 2017

Summer Family Photo Calls

In the last couple of weeks, we've enjoyed some official photo calls with a few of our royal families. The Dutch king, his Queen Maxima and their princesses turned out for their traditional summer photo call. Over in Denmark the weather dampened the day but the spirit of Queen Margrethe's annual photo call. Although she is usually joined by her husband (who is ailing), both sons, all of her grandchildren, and sometimes a sister and nieces and nephews, this year, only her heir Crown Prince Frederik, his wife Crown Princess Mary and their quartet of offspring were on hand. In Sweden, the whole royal family came out for several events celebrating Crown Princess Victoria's 40th birthday. An even bigger birthday in Norway, Queen Sonja's 80th, brought out the royal grandchildren. Meanwhile, we had a very rare set of sightings of the Cambridge family together for what has been dubbed the "Brexit Charm Offensive." William and Catherine brought along their wee ones for a few days in Poland and Germany. And, just to top off a week of royal youngsters, the Belgian quartet attended the National Day celebrations with their folks.

21 July 2017

Previously at the Palace: 30 Years with the Yorks

In this series, we capture the biographical and major news posts from this date in previous years so that you can "catch up" on your favorites or reflect on some topics you might have missed. One paragraph is included here; click the title to see the full post.

2016: The Yorks after 30 Years

"In re-watching clips of their wedding day [July 23, 1986], it is clear that the newly titled Duke and Duchess of York were absolutely smitten. Every member of the family also had pure joy written across their faces. It was an exuberant day, less grand than Charles and Diana's wedding five years earlier. The world was worshiping at Diana's feet, but Sarah was clearly a star... As one American broadcaster remarked that day, every girl wished she could be Diana on her wedding day, but when Sarah married her prince, every girl could say "that IS me." READ MORE

20 July 2017

The "Pantsless King" Who United Scandinavia

via Wikimedia Commons
Despite being born a girl in the fourteenth century and the sixth child to boot, Margaret Valdemarsdatter managed to inherit her father's Danish throne, take over her husband's Norwegian throne, and be selected to control of the Swedish throne, too, settting up the Kalmar Union, which united the Scandinavian countries for about a century.

Like so many medieval princesses, Margaret found herself a pawn in the political and religious upheavals of the day. With constant warfare among the Nordic nations and the German Hanseatic League, she was engaged and unengaged as the political situation suited the needs of her father, King Valdemar of Denmark. Ultimately, she was finally married off at the grand old age of 10 to the 23-year-old King Haakon VI of Norway and sent to live in Oslo. Their engagement and wedding did not bring the planned-for peace and Scandinavian remained in great political turbulence.

But Margaret learned political machinations very well. After her brother died and then her father, Denmark was left without a male heir. She pushed aside her older sister and nephew to declare that her son Olav was the rightful heir not just of Denmark but also of Sweden. Since he was too young to rule, she was declared his regent. Five years later, her husband died and young Olav became King of Norway. When he died at age 17, Margaret was in full control. All she had to do was secure Sweden, which she did. She was elected the sovereign. Her Swedish rival, the de-throned King Albert declared her the "Pantsless King" and hired mercenaries in an unsuccessful attempt to topple her. Margaret was not yet 40.

Under her deft political leadership, she formulated the Kalmar Union, uniting the Scandinavian countries while retaining their national identities. Although a formal Act of Union was never completed, the three nations remained under one ruler into the 16th century while Denmark and Norway stayed together into the 19th.

With no heirs of her own body remaining, she adopted a niece and nephew, declaring him her heir. She continued to serve as his regent until he turned 18, but actually maintained her control until her death 13 years later.

Unlike many other female rulers who have done little for the fellow ladies, Margaret enacted laws to protect women from rape and even awarded money to women who had been raped during the wars between Sweden and Denmark.

19 July 2017

Previously at the Palace: More Tips for Your Own Royal Wedding

In this series, we capture the biographical and major news posts from this date in previous years so that you can "catch up" on your favorites or reflect on some topics you might have missed. One paragraph is included here; click the title to see the full post.

2010: Blending Your Tastes with Wedding Traditions
"Most brides don't get to have everything their own way on their wedding days. Your mother's veil. Your partly talented cousin's band at the reception. Princesses tend to have even fewer personal choices open to them. Burdened by centuries of tradition and protocol, not to mention the personal opinions of their countrymen and the world's media, it is challenging to make this most personal of commitments in a ceremony representing her own personal style."  READ MORE

17 July 2017

A Long Hanoverian Tradition

Feuds between the Kings of Hanover and their heirs have been so common that it's almost inevitable that the current head of the house, Prince Ernst August, has publicly announced that he does not support his oldest son's marriage. Nevertheless, Prince Ernst August Jr. pushed forward to July 2017 to marry his longtime love, Ekaterina Malysheva. Daddy may not have attended, but Ernst August Jr.'s siblings and step-siblings all showed up to show their support.

Of course, for just over a century the person who sat on the throne of Hanover also sat on the British throne as Kings George I, II, III, and IV and William IV. The personal union was split when Victoria inherited the British throne--because she was a woman, the restricted Hanoverian throne went to her uncle, a man not surprising named Ernest Augustus. In honor of our newest Hanoverian princess, let's take a look at the Hanoverian brides who came before her.

Sophia Dorothea of Celle
via Wikimedia Commons
Sophia Dorothea of Celle
The product of a morganatic marriage that wasn't made official until she was 10, Sophia had no desire to marry the Electoral Prince of Hanover. He didn't much care for her either. Nevertheless, she came with a hefty dowry and the two were married just days after her 16th birthday. Despite a volatile relationship, they produced a son, George, in 1683 and a daughter, Sophia Dorothea, in 1686. Then, he took up a mistress. She took on a lover, too. Soon, the fights between the couple became physical. Then, suddenly, her lover disappeared. George divorced her and imprisoned her in the Castle of Ahlden. She spent the last 30 years of her life there, never seeing her children again. She did not become Queen of Hanover when he ascended that throne, not Queen of the United Kingdom, when he ascended that throne. Incidentally, he traveled to England with his two mistresses at his side. Just two years ago, bones were discovered under the Leineschloss castle; they are believed to be the hidden remains of her murdered lover.

Caroline of Ansbach
after Geoffrey Kneller via Wikimedia Commons
Caroline of Ansbach
Caroline was the first Hanoverian bride to become a British queen. She had a much better relationship with her husband than his parents had had. She was much brighter than her George and many believe she greatly influenced his government--she was the brains under the crown. On a personal front, however, all was not as it should be. When the family moved to England in 1714. George and Caroline were forced to leave their oldest son Frederick behind in Hanover. He blamed them and never forgave them. Frederick quarreled often and publicly with her mother, especially when she (instead of he) was named regent when his father was traveling abroad. Caroline had eight children with King George II plus a stillbirth and a miscarriage. She was able to keep two daughters at home with her, but the other three married abroad. She suffered for 13 years after the birth of her last child and died after her womb ruptured at the age of 54.

Augusta of Saxe-Gotha
Sixteen-year-old Augusta married the unhappy Frederick Prince of Wales but spoke no English. He was pleased with the marriage because of the increase in allowance that Parliament awarded him. Frederick was determined that his wife would not dominate him as his mother had his father, so he did all he could to keep her naive and to foment discontent between his wife and mother. He even sneaked Augusta out of the palace while she was heavily in labor so that Queen Caroline could not witness the birth. After bearing nine children, Augusta was widowed by Frederick's sudden death. In order to avoid criticism, she increasingly isolated herself. However, when her oldest son became King George III at the age of just 22, she had great influence on him, even keeping his first bout with mental illness a secret from his own wife. When she died of throat cancer at age 52, crowds gathered not to mourn but to shout insults at her.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Charlotte was not only the most prolific of the Hanoverian brides--15 children!--she was also probably the most beloved. When he married the 17-year-old, George told her not to meddle in politics and she only ever did so discreetly. She busied herself with childbearing, botany and the arts instead, particularly music as a sponsor of Mozart and Bach. He even bought her her own house in London (Buckingham Palace) and built her a lodge at Windsor. When her husband's illness led to their son becoming regent, she acted as his first lady since he was estranged from his own wife. She died at age 57, a year before her husband, whose severe illness meant that he did not even know she was gone.

Caroline of Brunswick
By Thomas Lawrence
via Wikimedia Commons
Caroline of Brunswick
Arguably, the biggest mess of a marriage in the Georgian era was that of Caroline and the future George IV. In fact, he even banned her from his coronation, literally turning her away at the door. Like his grandfather, Frederick, George had married to get more money for Parliament. Unlike Frederick, he remained with his wife just long enough for one child to be born and then the two went in opposite directions, always taking any opportunity to snipe at the other. She spent most of her time on the Continent. In fact, she was not event in England when her only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, died in childbirth. Caroline died less than a month after her husband's crowning.

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen
Adelaide married George IV's brother William so that he might beget legal heirs when George's only child died. William already had 10 children by his former mistress, and Adelaide welcomed them in her home. Even after her own little children died in infancy, good Queen Adelaide continued to serve as a mother to William IV's children and was a trusted friend to William's successor, his niece Queen Victoria. She outlived her husband by 12 years. Although she had no descendants, her name lives on today as the capital city Adelaide, South Australia.

Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
By Johann Tischbein
via Wikimedia Commons
Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
As a twice-widowed princess with children, Frederica seemed a perfect choice when George III's fifth son, Prince Ernest Augustus, decided to roll the dynastic dice. He was the first of the princes to figure out that because his oldest brother's heir Charlotte was a girl, that he might just become King of Hanover, where ladies were banned for the throne. A princess with proven breeding experience played into his plans. His other brothers didn't really get into the game until Charlotte died. When only another girl (the future Queen Victoria) survived the royal race to beget an heir, Ernest Augustus received his crown in 1837 when his brother William IV died. The connection to Frederica was deeper than that though--they had fallen in love while her second husband still lived. His untimely/timely death opened the door for them.  Their first two children together were stillborn girls, but a son, Prince George followed in 1819. All together, Frederica delivered 13 children for her three husbands and managed to live to age 63.

Marie of Saxe-Altenburg
Marie had reached the ripe old age of 25 when she married the future King George V of Hanover. A year younger than Marie, George was also completely blind, having lost the sight in one eye due to illness and the other in an accident. As the only son, indeed the only surviving child, of King Ernest Augustus, he was still deemed fit to inherit the throne, which he did upon his father's death in 1851. However, he was not to keep the throne for long. He made the mistake of siding with Austria instead of Prussia, which was seeking to create a German Empire. In 1866, Prussia occupied Hanover and the king fled with Marie and their family. He refused to renounce his throne, but he was the last official King of Hanover. Therefore, Marie's son Ernest August was always called the Crown Prince and the subsequent heirs of been head of the House rather than Kings of a nation. Marie outlived her husband by nearly 30 years, passing away at the genuinely old age of 88 in 1907.

Thyra of Denmark
via Wikimedia Commons
Thyra of Denmark
Thyra came from a prolific royal family. A daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, her sisters were Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom and Empress Marie of Russia. One of her brothers inherited the Danish throne while another was made King of Greece. Of course, Thyra might have been a queen too, but the loss of the Hanoverian throne meant her husband Crown Prince Ernest August never claimed the title. But a prince without a throne was about as much as Thyra could hope for since she had indulged in a bit of "youthful indiscretion" that had resulted in a pregnancy. Most of the Danish royal family were involved in covering up the pregnancy and the baby girl was placed with an ordinary Danish family while Thyra recovered from her jaundice.They had six children, but when their eldest son was killed in a car accident, their youngest boy, yet another Ernest Augustus became the hope of the House. Thyra and her crownless prince lived outside of Germany, mostly in Austria, and were very welcome in Britain where he still was recognized by the title Duke of Cumberland, which had passed down for King Ernest Augustus.

Victoria Louise of Prussia
Then, as now, the father Ernest Augustus objected to the son Ernest Augustus' choice of bride. As the daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Victoria Louise embodied her father-in-law's hatred for the country that took his throne. He forced his son to renounce his claims to the defunct throne, but allowed him to keep his claim to the Duchy of Brunswick, which was also a dubious claim. Their 1913 wedding was one of the last big royal gatherings before World War I brought so many monarchies, including Germany's, to their ends. At the end of the war, her husband formally abdicated any claims he had to the defunct Hanoverian throne. His father had managed to keep his British title as Duke of Cumberland when George V revoked titles held by Germans, but Victoria Louise husband did not inherit it because he had actually served in the German army in the war. The family actually lived in Germany, raising their five children, and they remained there despite both World Wars. Ernest Augustus died there in 1953 and Victoria Louise died in 1980.

Ortrud of Schleswig-Holstein-Glucksburg & Monika of Solms-Laubach
Ortrud married the fourth Ernest Augustus, whose birth in 1914 was a strange prelude to World War I. Among his numerous godparents were the monarchs who were just weeks from going to war against each other: Wilhelm II of Germany, Franz Joseph II of Austria, Nicholas II of Russia, and George V of the United Kingdom. By the time of their marriage in 1951, however, there was very little left of Hanoverian glory. Their titles and claim had been rendered null by two World Wars. Then, as now, they were still surrounded by royal cousins. They produced six children, including the fifth (and current) Ernest August. Ortrud died in 1980 and her husband remarried a close cousin, Countess Monika of Solms-Laubach before passing away in 1987.

Chantal Hochuli & Caroline of Monaco
Unlike so many Hanoverian father-son relationships, the fourth and fifth Ernst August did not have a big, public feud, even when the son decided to marry a commoner. Instead, dad approved the marriage as "equal". The heiress of a Swiss chocolate fortune enjoyed the royal status her husband provided and turned a blind eye to his innumerable love affairs. Having given him two sons, the next Ernst August (the recent bridegroom) and Christian, she spent her time hanging with a glamorous set of people that included Grace Kelly's oldest daughter, Princess Caroline of Monaco. Despite their close friendship, the widowed Caroline didn't seem to have quibbled over starting her own affair with Chantal's husband, and Chantal appears not to have noticed until photos of the lovers together in Thailand surfaced. After 16 years of marriage, Chantal called it quits. A year and a half later, Ernst August married Caroline, elevating her from a Serene Highness to a Royal Highness. Six months after the wedding, their daughter Alexandra was born. For the last several years, Alexandra has spent most of her time in Monaco and France with Caroline while Ernst August has openly cavorted with other women, been caught drunk and urinating in public, and brawled with reports. It is he who has deemed his son's bride unacceptable for the fine House of Hanover.

Camilla, a Future Queen?

Photo: Mario Testino/Clarence House
Will Camilla ever be Queen? That is the question some have been asking for many years. At the time of her 2005 marriage to the future king, Charles The Prince of Wales, it was announced that she would not be styled as Princess of Wales, as the legal wife of every previous Prince of Wales has been. Further, it was announced that upon his accession she would be styled as Princess Consort rather than Queen Consort.

It is difficult to imagine that these were the decision of her husband, Prince Charles, who is clearly still in love with her and who likely has been in love with her for more than 40 years. I think there can be little doubt that she will be Queen Camilla when he becomes King Charles. After all, there is no precedent in Britain for the king's wife to be anything other than the queen. 

Also, the style announcements when they married were made to help people feel that Camilla was not trying to usurp the place formerly held by Charles' first wife Diana. Before Diana, there had not been a Princess of Wales since 1910, so hardly anyone still living could imagine anyone but Diana with that title. Many also saw Camilla as the main cause of Charles and Diana's unhappy marriage and divorce. (In my opinion, there marriage had many more problems than just Camilla and there were many more people than just the three that Diana referenced in her famous interview with Martin Bashir...) That Diana's sad story ended so tragically when she was still so young and full of promise only added to the public's idea that "her" title should be hers and hers alone. 

Very well, I say. Camilla doesn't have to be called Princess of Wales, although she legally is. In 12 years as a member of the Royal Family, she has done very well as The Duchess of Cornwall, a title only used by the previous Princesses of Wales when they were physically in Cornwall. She never appears bored at events. She dresses grandly for the grand events and connect sweetly with the little ones for the un-grand ones. She has taken on causes from literacy to animal welfare to osteoporosis. Her stepsons have stated that they don't see her as a wicked stepmother. Indeed, Prince Harry has been quoted, "She's a wonderful woman and she's made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing. William and I love her to bits."

She clearly doesn't need to be Princess of Wales.

However, being Queen is another thing altogether. Although she still maintains her own old home and retreats there when she wants, she and Charles have a very close relationship. She is truly his partner. No matter the occasion, formal or informal, you can find them laughing or smiling together. She certainly paid her dues and she deserves to be treated as the king's wife when the day comes.

And actually, Charles himself will have the ultimate say. Once he is king, he will be "fount of honor" and he will be able to decide how his wife is styled. I would be very surprised if he makes any decision less than "Her Majesty The Queen."

13 July 2017

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

Photo: Erika Gerdemark, The Royal Court, Sweden
Victoria Ingrid Alice Desiree Bernadotte was first in line to the Swedish throne when she was born on July 14, 1977 and she is first in line now, but this was not always so. At the time of her birth, Sweden still adhered to male-preference succession laws. With the birth of a younger brother, Prince Carl Philip in 1979, he became the Crown Prince and big sister Victoria was relegated to number two. By the end of that year, however, he lost his status as heir with changes to the Act of Succession that allowed for gender-blind inheritance and was made retroactive to living individuals. Victoria officially became the Crown Princess on January 1, 1980 at the tender age of two and a half.

Sweden was the first country to adopt gender-blind succession. Other countries who have adopted it since, like Norway in 1990 and the United Kingdom in 2015, made sure it applied only to people born after a certain date so that no one was shuffled around in the existing line of succession.

Victoria, therefore, grew up knowing that she would be Queen one day. She has done all of the things that were expected of her. She completed a degree from Uppsala University, having studied abroad at the Universite Catholique de l'Ouest in France and Yale University in the United States. She undertook study programs or job placements with the Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the areas of agriculture and forestry. She completed basic training as a soldier. She participates in the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs and the government's various other information councils. She has made official visits to over a dozen countries. At age 20, launched her own charitable fund to support recreational activities for young people who have chronic illnesses or functional disabilities. She married and produced an heir and a spare.

Today, Victoria makes it all look graceful and easy, but it has not always been that way for her. In her teenage years, the pressure and media attention overwhelmed the princess. She developed an eating disorder, anorexia. She left Sweden so that she could be a bit more anonymous as she worked through her recovery in her early 20s. It was her focus on her health that led her to her future husband. Her personal trainer, Daniel Westling, is now Prince Daniel.

 Photo Henrik Garlöv, The Royal Court, Sweden
Together they have battled her illness as well as his own. Daniel suffered from congenital kidney failure. During their official engagement, he underwent a transplant, receiving a kidney from his father. A month later, their wedding took place.

Their daughter (and future queen) Princess Estelle was born less than two years later. Little Prince Oscar arrived shortly after Estelle's fourth birthday.

With their family likely complete, the couple is dedicated to raising them together while serving the nation they love so much.

10 July 2017

Future Queen to Marry Naval Officer

"It is with the greatest pleasure that the King and Queen announce the betrothal of their dearly beloved daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, to Lt. Philip Mountbatten, R.N., son of the late Prince Andrew and Princess Andrew (Princess Alice of Battenberg,) to which union the King has gladly given his consent."

Seventy years ago today, the announcement above delighted a bleary-eyed Britain, still deep in the recovery from World War II. With food rations, clothing rations, unemployment and a previous winter that had broken records with its brutal weather, the island nation and its entire Commonwealth was ready to rejoice. The princess's wedding four months later would bring a bit of color to the ashen remains of Blitz-out London.

As the wedding announcement demonstrates, the bridegroom was merely a naval officer. In fact, he was a newly minted British subject, having recently sworn allegiance to his future father-in-law's realm and renounced any claims he had to his family's precarious throne in Greece. Philip and Elizabeth are cousins twice over:  they are both great-great grandchildren of Queen Victoria and they are both descendants of King Christian IX of Denmark. 

You can read my full account of their romance in my two-part post: The Moonstruck Princess and Her Greek God

08 July 2017

Birgitte's Royal Years

On July 8, 1972, an ordinary Danish woman became a British princess when King George V's youngest grandson, Prince Richard of Gloucester, married Miss Birgitte van Deurs in a country church near his family home in Barnwell in Northamptonshire. Born a year after the end of World War II in Odense, Denmark, Birgitte led a rather ordinary life as a lawyer's daughter. Her parents split up when she was about 20, at which time she chose to drop her father's surname, Henriksen, for her mother's, van Deurs. She completed primary school in Denmark and secondary school in Switzerland before enrolling in a fashion school in Copenhagen. From there, she went to England to study languages, securing a job at the Danish Embassy in London. When she met Prince Richard, he was a rather unassuming architecture student at Cambridge. Like his cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, he was a younger son who was expected to make his own way in the world.

On their wedding day, Miss van Deurs immediately became Her Royal Highness Princess Richard of Gloucester. Nevertheless, she and Richard likely expected to live a rather ordinary life on the very fringes of the British royal family, occasionally showing up for balcony appearances on his cousin The Queen's official birthday but otherwise raising their family and pursuing careers. His older brother, Prince William of Gloucester, would inherit their father's title and be the one called upon to carry out official royal duties. Fate had other ideas. Just 51 days after their wedding, the unmarried daredevil Prince William was killed in a plane crash at an air show in front of 30,000 spectators. Richard suddenly became the heir to their father, who died less than two years later. The former Miss van Deurs became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester before her second wedding anniversary.

Four months after that, she became a mother with the birth of their son Alexander Earl of Ulster in October 1974. Daughter Lady Davina followed in 1977 with Lady Rose completing the family in 1980. They raised their children at the family's country home in Barnwell and at Kensington Palace, where they were neighbors and playmates for the Wales children, Prince William (named for Richard's brother) and Prince Harry. Richard's mother was also a permanent fixture in their family unit. The Dowager Duchess of Gloucester, who was dearly loved by her husband's niece The Queen, had been granted the special favor of being styled as a princess in her own name during her widowhood. She became HRH The Princess Alice, and outlived her sister-in-law The Queen Mother to become the longest lived British royal, passing away at the age of 102.

The Gloucesters have been great supporters of The Queen taking on numerous patronages and responsibilities. They have carried out official foreign visits to more than two dozen countries and serving as colonel-in-chief of numerous military regiments in Britain and the Commonwealth. Birgitte's charitable patronages include the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, Bliss baby care, Prostrate Cancer UK, Bridewell Royal Hospital, and the Royal Academy of Music, which she inherited from Diana Princess of Wales. Although many people today don't know who the Gloucesters are, you can spot them at key royal moments throughout the year like Trooping the Colour, Royal Ascot, and the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day.

Now grandparents to six little ones aged four through ten, the Gloucesters still carry on their royal duties. Their children and grandchildren tend to stay out of the spotlight entirely. In fact, they are usually only spotted through car windows heading to The Queen's family Christmas dinner in London. (The male-line descendants of George V, including the Gloucesters, used to spend the entire holiday together at Sandringham or Windsor before the family got so large.) You may also spot one or two of them on the balcony for the RAF flyover on The Queen's official birthday. Quiet, steadfast, and reliable, Birgitte and Richard (and their children) have never caused a moment of worry, concern, or negative press comment. They are the quintessential royal relatives. 

07 July 2017

Previously at the Palace: The Kiss of Death

In this series, we capture the biographical and major news posts from this date in previous years so that you can "catch up" on your favorites or reflect on some topics you might have missed. One paragraph is included here; click the title to see the full post.
The Hessian Family
via Wikimedia Commons
2010: The Kiss of Death
"From the room next door, 18-year-old Princess Alice could hear her beloved father’s ragged and uneven breathing. She had moved her own bed to this chamber so that she could be by his side in seconds whenever he needed her. For two weeks, Alice had been Prince Albert’s chief care giver; mopping his fevered brow, changing his linens, following after him when he was strong enough to take a few steps. Never hearty, Albert was left with little energy or will to fight off typhoid."