|Princess Beatrice and Eduardo
Image by Princess Eugenie of York
While we had no truly royal weddings in 2019, we did get a big engagement announcement and a few royal-adjacent weddings. Plus, we finally got some information about one 2018-announced engagement.
First, the big engagement news, Princess Beatrice of York announced her engagement to Eduardo Mapelli Mozzi on September 26. After a ten-year relationship ended in 2016, we have all been hoping for a happy ending for the spunky redhead. Some were concerned about her beau's suitability (is he just looking for notoriety?) and others worried that the relationship has been too quick (perhaps just over a year), but I prefer to be a hopeless romantic and hope for all good things for the couple. However, their bright future has already been dimmed by the cloud surrounding Beatrice's father Prince Andrew The Duke of York who "temporarily" stepped away from his royal roles in November following an ill-advised interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and accusations that Epstein provided at least one underage girl for the Duke's "entertainment". We are still awaiting details for Beatrice's spring 2020 wedding with many royal experts predicting that it will be a much less grand and public event as her younger sister Princess Eugenie's wedding in 2018.
In the meantime, we still are awaiting details of the wedding for Princess Theodora of Greece, who announced her engagement to Matthew Kumar in November 2018. At the time, we were told that the wedding would take place in 2019. However, in November 2019, we finally learned that the wedding will happen some time in May 2020 but no word yet on location. Her older siblings married in Spetses, Greece in 2010; in London in 1999; and in London in 1995. So, we might expect a wedding in Greece (which was not possible for the family in the 1990s), especially now that her parents have moved from London to Greece. Of course, there is also the possibility that she might marry in Los Angeles where she and her fiance both live -- she is an actor and he is an attorney.
The British Royal Family returned to St. George's Chapel, Windsor on May 18 for the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor to Thomas Kingston. Lady Gabriella is the daughter of the Queen's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent. On the Continent, Prince Albert II of Monaco witnessed the marriages of a niece and a nephew. His sister Princess Caroline of Hanover's oldest daughter Charlotte Casiraghi married Dimitri Rassam in June. Dimitri is the father of Charlotte's second son, Balthazar. Then, in July, Albert's sister Princess Stephanie of Monaco's only son Louis Ducruet married Marie Chevallier.
|(From left) Prince Philip, Prince Harry, the Queen, Doria
Ragland and the Duchess of Sussex holding Archie
By Chris Allerton via SussexRoyal
While the year did not bring us many new babies, we did get an exciting new British-American baby and, toward the end of the year, some very big pregnancy news that many of us have been praying for for years.
First, everyone hail the royal baby who is Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Although his parents, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, decided to forego the seemingly requisite post-birth appearance on the hospital stairs, gave him a first name that sounded more like a nickname, and announced that he would not use any titles (including Earl of Dumbarton, to which he is entitled as his father's heir), Archie did not need any of that fancy stuff to capture hearts. He won us over with a fantastic photo feature his paternal great-grandparents and his maternal grandmother. Then, he charmed us again at a personal meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He wound up the year with an adorable Christmas snap. A lot of accomplishments for a lad who has only been with us for just over seven months! (For information about why Archie's name is NOT really unique, read my post.)
While Archie's birth was heralded worldwide as the first mixed-race British royal and the first to hold dual British and American citizenship, from a dynastic point of view, we received much bigger baby news from the Hereditary Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. On December 6, they announced that Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie is expecting their first child in May 2020. This will be the first child for the couple who married eight years ago. Many have speculated that the couple may have struggled with fertility issues, a personally heartbreaking situation if true. While the new baby will be the heir to the Grand Duchy after his/her father, the dynasty was in no danger of fading away if Guillaume and Stephanie had no children. Henri has several siblings and their descendants in the line of succession. Nevertheless, I am thrilled to bits that they are going to have their own child...and don't be surprised if that baby is named Jean or Jeanne following the death of Guillaume's grandfather in 2019 (see deaths below).
Tessy and Prince Louis of Luxembourg on their
wedding day with their son Gabriel Image by Schnékert via Wikimedia Commons
More news came out of Luxembourg this year when Guillaume's younger brother Prince Louis of Luxembourg's divorce was finally finalized after more than two years of negotiations, which reportedly (but typical of many divorces) were stuck on points of child custody and financial support. The couple were fairly controversial from the start: their first son was born before they married. When they married, Louis renounced succession rights for himself and his children while his bride Tessy Antony and the children were not granted titles. Two years later Tessy was made a Royal Highness and their sons were made Princes of Nassau. With the divorce, Tessy's titles have been stripped -- although many still call her Princess Tessy -- and she now uses the name Tessy Antony de Nassau for her extensive humanitarian work.
In July, we received news of the dramatic disintegration of higher profile royal marriage when Princess Haya of Jordan suddenly left her husband Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. They have had a prominent role internationally, with Haya assuming a very public role. The couple wed in 2004, with Haya taking on the role of junior wife since the Sheikh was already married to his first cousin Hind bint Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum. Sheikha Hind, who lives her life privately, is the mother of 12 of the Sheikh's estimated 30 children. Princess Haya mothered two of his children, both of whom she took with her (along with millions of dollars) when she fled the UAE for London, claiming that her life was in danger. The chief issue seems to be "forced marriage", which the Sheikh has reportedly required of his older daughters, but which Haya does not want for her own daughter. So far, she has been granted an order of protection, normally given to people who have experienced physical abuse, for herself and forced marriage protection for her children. The custody hearings are ongoing in London with an expected divorce in the billions of dollars expected later. Haya is represented by the same divorce attorney who worked for the Prince of Wales and Sir Paul McCartney. In the meantime, the Sheikh has been posting his own poems on social media accusing his wife of treachery.
Christina of the Netherlands in 2015
Image RVD, Jeroen van der Meyde
On April 23, 2019, the former Grand Duke of Luxembourg passed away at the age of 98--he was five months older than Britain's Prince Philip. (Although he is not a royal lady, the passing of a monarch certainly merits a mention.) Having served in the British Army during World War II, Grand Duke Jean ascended the throne in 1964 following the abdication of his mother Grand Duchess Charlotte. He and his wife, Princess Josephine Charlotte of Belgium (aunt of the current Belgian King), had five children. Grand Duke Jean was a proponent of European unification and he led his tiny nation to become a major financial center. He abdicated in favor of his oldest son Henri in 2000. His death has been greatly mourned by his people and his family. Even his grandson's ex-wife Tessy Antony de Nassau speaks frequently of him as her beloved grandfather.
We did lose one royal lady this year: Princess Christina of the Netherlands passed away on August 16 at age 72. The youngest daughter of Queen Juliana, she was the aunt of the current King Willem Alexander. Because Juliana had contracted rubella during the pregnancy, Christina was born nearly blind. Treatment and corrective lenses helped her be able to see more normally. Her parents also employed a controversial faith healer, who is thought by many to have had too much influence on Queen Juliana (a kind of Dutch version of the Alexandra and Rasputin story). Christina attended university and became both a professional vocalist and vocal coach, eschewing her royal titles to live like a normal person in New York City as a young woman where she fell in love with a commoner. Unfortunately for her, her Cuban-born preschool teacher sweetheart was Catholic, a no-go for a Dutch princess at the time. So, she renounced the right to the throne for herself and her offspring in order to marry Jorge Perez y Guillermo and, much later, even converted to Catholicism herself. Their marriage produced three children and lasted nearly 21 years before they divorced. Both her professional and royal work focused mainly on music, but she also supported other endeavors in the areas of dance therapy and blindness. She had been diagnosed with bone cancer in 2018.
The most devastating royal death of 2019, however, was undoubtedly the Christmas Day suicide of Princess Martha Louise of Norway's ex-husband, Ari Behn. Martha Louise had a somewhat challenging year, facing some questions over her romantic relationship and business partnership with self-proclaimed guru and shaman Durek Verrett. Accusations that she was misusing her royal titles for financial benefit (which she has faced before) led her to reorganize her marketing and social media. Nevertheless, she seemed to be thriving in her new romance and her work -- she does not carry out official duties -- when the terrible news was announced. An artist and writer, Ari had married the princess in 2002. Their 15-year marriage produced three daughters: Maud, 16; Leah, 14; and Emma, 11. Ari often had a tempestuous relationship with art critics and the media. In an interview last year promoting his latest book, he said, perhaps tellingly, "I am yesterday's news, even though the world has not yet been told. I'm a clown, at worst. At best, I am a publicist and public actor. For many I'm a fool." He even spoke publicly about whether he was capable of being a good father and said that he would just grow increasingly lonely in his life. Nevertheless, many friends and family have issued loving statements about him in the wake of his death, including his former in-laws, King Harald and Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit, and Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden. Victoria even canceled all of her public and personal New Year's activities to travel to Norway to be with Martha Louise and her daughters. The tragedy is greatest for those three young girls, for whom Christmas may never again be a time of joy.
|Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako via Wikimedia Commons
To end this post on a happier note, we fly around the globe to Japan where a new imperial era has dawned with the retirement of Emperor Akihito and coronation of his eldest son, the new Emperor Naruhito. Japan had to change its laws to allow the aging Akihito to step down -- proving such laws can be changed (hint, hint Japan: let's update the laws that bar female succession and that require princesses to leave the family and lost their titles when they marry). The big news for this blog, however, has been the renaissance of Naruhito's wife Masako, who has struggled over the years with stress-induced illness, diagnosed as adjustment disorder, following massive pressure and scrutiny plus the personal trauma of the couple's fertility struggles, which included at least one miscarriage, before their only daughter Aiko was born nearly nine years after their wedding. Since 2002, Masako undertook few public appearances and Naruhito often traveled without her for official visits abroad. Nevertheless, he has always been supportive of her, asking the public in 2008 to "Please continue to watch over her kindly and over the long term." After so many years of suffering, it seems that Masako, now 56, is at last emerging as a strong, healthy, well-adjusted woman, much more like she was before her life as a princess. It has been gratifying to see her at Naruhito's side through all of the accession and coronation rites as well as many other public occasions in 2019. Although she still remains a bit tentative about her role, she is showing great grace and fortitude. May she continue to grow in health, in strength, in confidence and in happiness for her sake, her family's sake and for all of us who admire and support her.