17 June 2018

Your Favorite Queen Consort

What makes a great queen consort in today's world? Is it her beauty? Her support of her husband? Her willingness to champion particular causes? Much of the media coverage tends to focus on what she wears. Even many bloggers focus on her fashion, while others delve more deeply into the history of her jewels.

Since Twitter provides its users the ability to run a brief poll, I thought it might be interesting to discover which queen consort tops my followers' lists of favorites and get them to tell me why. Because the Twitter poll is limited to four options, I asked my followers to choose between the younger queens: Letizia of Spain, Mathilde of Belgium, Maxima of the Netherlands or Rania of Jordan. (Apologies for Silvia of Sweden and Sonja of Norway.)

Queen Maxima in 2013
By Oliver Abels (SVT) via Wikimedia Commons
With 186 responses, Queen Maxima garnered first place with 62% of the vote, far outpacing the other three combined. Queen Letizia came in second at 19%. Queen Rania earned third place with 11%. Queen Mathilde didn't quite make it to double digits, finishing at 8%.

Maxima's place in people's hearts came as no surprise to me. She is gorgeous and vivacious. She maintains a very high public profile. Perhaps due to her Argentinian heritage, she exudes life and energy. She is photographed regularly with her husband and her children. She is not afraid to wear bright colors and bold, nontraditional jewelry but she can still pile on the Dutch royal jewels in a way none of the others in this poll does. As @duchessofDC wrote, "Maxima is the Maximus." Everything she does, she adds a bit more flair than her contemporaries. @Carmelamotto focused on those great big jewels, "Maxima. Tiaras. Nuff said." to which @ThePrinceLogan agreed, "That was my reasoning as well!" Meanwhile, @larissabona chose Maxima "because she's simply stunning." Of all of these queens, she is almost certainly the one you would most want to invite to your party, no matter what kind of party you are having.

King Felipe and Queen Letizia
From Casada Rosada of Argentina
via Wikimedia Commons
Spanish native Letizia seems to have an almost opposite personality. A former television news anchor, she is "quieter" in her approach to queenship. Her exquisite wardrobe is sleek and well-tailored but much less colorful and her personal jewelry tends to be more understated. As for access to the family vaults, Letizia rarely seems to dip into those historic Borbon jewels. Some of this is due to the ongoing political and economic situation in Spain (it's not good form to be dripping in jewels and seem disconnected from the people) but some of it may be due to Letizia's less flamboyant personal style. (For those of you who only follow the British Royal Family, her style could easily be compared to that of the new Duchess of Sussex: simple elegance.) The Spanish royal family has also had its own personal and legal issues, which means that big family events, whether formal or informal, are much more rarely observed than in the boisterous, free-wheeling Dutch royals. On a lighter note, @ps_mike selected her because "Letizia has the hottest husband." And, I have to readily agree on that one. King Felipe has always been handsome and he is aging very well, for those of us who like a sporty but debonair European man. Plus, at 6'6 (198 cm) he certainly towers over the other royal spouses and almost everyone else on the planet.

Queen Rania speaking at World Economic Forum
From World Economic Forum via Wikimedia Commons
In third place, Queen Rania of Jordan's fashion is just as crisp as Letizia's but a bit edgier. Despite the modesty expected of a Middle Eastern queen, she pushes the fashion envelope in other ways. She wears silhouettes and styles that stay within her borders of streamlined elegance but are often unexpectedly different. As @nelainedahlia93, who runs the Queen Rania's Closet blog, said "I love the other Queens a lot but Rania is bae." Though Rania only earned 11% of the votes, she sparked the greatest conversation, and I use the word "conversation" with great sincerity. Social media, especially royal Twitter, is often a place for attacking people who disagree. In this case, however, I am quite pleased to say that the tone was respectful both to the participants and to their subject. The main issue with Rania for these commenters is because her very different political situation. Unlike the other queens in this poll, all of whom are married to constitutional monarchs who are more figureheads than governing leaders, Rania's husband King Abdullah has much more authority despite also having a parliament. Jordan also faces a lot of political turmoils due to its proximity and support of the Palestinians in Israel and the refugees flooding in from other less stable areas of the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq. On top of that, women's rights, or lack thereof, continue to be an ongoing concern in Jordan. So, what is Rania's role in this kind of environment? She certainly has acted as a goodwill ambassador for her country and as an advocate for both women and refugees, but has she done enough? Commenter @TojoriJ asserted that "Rania has an impressive fashion style, but as a Queen she failed miserably!" and cited an incident where King Abdullah imprisoned some sports spectators for allegedly chanting against Rania. (I have not researched this incident.) @Royaltyfan disagreed, asserting that "Rania hasn't failed in anything," further reminding us that she has been a queen consort much longer than the others on the list. (Rania became queen in 1999; the other three came to the throne in 2013 and 2014.) In the same vein, @AgNews_Otto wrote, "I think she has the best opportunity (which she absolutely uses and uses well) to make a difference to disprove stereotypes, both at home and abroad." Likewise, @meghanskate wrote "I admire her work so much and she's so intelligent and plus she's such a great public speaker...and she's so loved by her people..." However, @TojoriJ warns us not to take things like popularity as face value, especially since Arab monarchies are not merely ceremonial like most European ones, "The Jordanians don't elect their government. If you visit Jordan, you will notice that everyone (majority anyway) are afraid to speak up and comment about the royal family untracked expenses." So, there is certainly a lot to think about here.

Queen Mathilde with her two youngest children, Prince
Emmanuel and Princess Eleonore
By Charlot B via Wikimedia Commons
Rounding out the list, Mathilde is one of my personal favorites precisely because she is always appropriate. There has never been even a whisper of scandal or anything attached to her. Many had despaired that her somewhat awkward husband would never find a bride and he faced inevitable questions about whether he even wanted to marry a woman. King Philippe's marriage at age 39 to a Belgian noble came almost as a surprise to the nation. Ever since then, he has grown in popularity. Their family has grown, too, as Mathilde produced four children (two of each gender) in the first nine years of marriage. Mathilde, who seems to be pals with the much livelier Maxima, dresses immaculately (and sometimes colorfully) with just the right sprinkling of jewels. As @RoyaltyOnline wrote, "Sweet mom of 4, great wife, great figure, living in Belgium, Maxima as one of her besties." In short, Mathilde never has the figurative hair out of place.

Meanwhile, @Missjones888 dismissed all four choices in the poll, proclaiming, "NONE OF THE ABOVE, Queen Elizabeth I or Catherine the Great for me!"

Feel free to contact me on Twitter @PalacePrincess or comment below to add your voice to the conversation.