Friday, 29 November 2013

Queen Sofia gets cute

What more can a queen consort ask for than a baby panda to pose with.  Queen Sofia of Spain got her wish when she popped into Madrid zoo to meet the new baby panda born there in August 2013. 

That's definitely an 'ah' moment.  Queen Sofia of Spain and the baby panda born at Madrid Zoo this summer
The queen has taken a big interest in the giant panda breeding programme at the zoo for over thirty years.  Pandas first arrived at Madrid zoo after the king and queen were given a pair on a state visit to China in 1978.  Since then four cubs, including the one that gave the queen a very cute cuddle this week, have been born.
That's an even bigger 'ah'.  The queen and her cub at Madrid zoo
There's no name for the latest addition - tradition dictates that pandas are named once they are over 100 days old.  But the queen didn't seem to mind, looking totally besotted with the little cub.  She heard all about the care the panda is getting and how it will continue to grow and develop.  And no doubt she'll be popping back in for a catch up soon.  And a few more 'ahs'.
The biggest 'ah' of all.  Queen Sofia and her new friend share a special moment

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Royal tummies

Princesses must know that that their tummies are always on show.  And those two fashion icons extraordinaire, Letizia of Asturias and Kate of Cambridge, have been having belly laughs at everyone's expense in recent days.  Kate's tum was famously flat as a pancake less than two months after the birth of Prince George but on her latest public engagement she's made sure any photos of the royal midriff will be totally complimentary by wearing a semi-empire line lace dress that covers everything while showing off just how slim this new mum really is.

Kate of Cambridge at the Sportaid awards in London on November 28th 2013
Meanwhile, Princess Letizia hasn't been subject to pregnancy rumours for at least a day and a half recently but luckily walked across a stage in high heels that made her stick her tummy out and suddenly we have lift off again.  Admittedly, Letizia is so slim that any weight gain or wrinked skirt front makes her look larger than she really is so it's no wonder that her slightly bulging tum in a tight grey skirt is raising eyebrows and questions. 
Letizia of Asturias after a good lunch gives photographers the snap they've been waiting for
Things were so much easier for their Victorian predecessors - there's no way a corset can lead to pregnancy rumours.

Eleanor, England's most romantic queen

Eleanor of Castile was loathed by many of her English subjects in her lifetime.  The wife of Edward I, who died on November 28th 1290, was seen as a dangerous influence at court.  Following her marriage to Edward, heir to the throne of England, in 1254 there were many in her new country who feared all she would bring with her when she arrived to take up her royal role were greedy relatives and friends.  That image never really altered.  But in death, Eleanor was transformed from grasping to ultimate romantic heroine. 

Eleanor of Castile, Queen of England, became one of the most romantic figures in medieval Europe after her death and that legacy has endured for over 700 years
Her legend began through the deep grief her husband showed on her death.  So devastated was Edward on the loss of his wife that he ordered a series of crosses to be erected at each of the twelve places where Eleanor's coffin rested on the long journey to Westminster Abbey for her funeral.  The princess born in Spain, who had ruled a court that took her from London to the Holy Land, had died at a house in Harby, Northamptonshire. The route her husband took back from the nearby city of Lincoln to their capital would be marked with signs of love that have lasted over seven centuries.
The Eleanor Cross at Northampton is one of just three still surviving in its original form
The king remained devoted to his wife's memory and kept her anniversaries faithfully.  He did marry again but, in a move that surprised contemporaries, he and his second wife called their only daughter Eleanor in honour of his first consort.  And that romantic reputation meant that Eleanor of Castile's reputation changed as time went on.  After her death, another legend arose - that she had sucked poison from a wound her husband suffered while on crusade on the Holy Land.  It is almost certainly apocryphal but it added to the image of a queen of romance.  And that image remains today.  The rows of her lifetime are forgotten.  What lingers is the love with which her husband remembered her. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

William, the Karaoke King

Prince William has a few royal firsts under his belt but belting out karaoke with Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift is a totally new one.  The Duke of Cambridge had invited the two stars to Kensington Palace for a charity fundraiser on behalf of Centrepoint.  And while everyone expected some uber glam snaps of a future king and a pop princess, no one thought they would sing together.

William, Duke of Cambridge tries and fails to outsing Jon Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift
But when you're going to be king one day and you've let everyone take over your London residence, if you want to sing then you sing.  William treated the royal family to a rendition of Livin' on a Prayer at Zara Phillips' wedding in 2011 but the monarch in waiting decided he'd kept the rest of us waiting long enough to hear him sing and jumped on stage to join in his favourite karaoke song in front of an audience of, well, millions by the time the footage has gone global.
Luckily for all of us he was quite a long way from the microphone - William in full voice as he scares his guests with his after dinner entertainment
Kate wasn't there - which may explain why hubby was allowed up on stage in the first place.  Luckily for him, he didn't wake baby George up with his singing and he managed to help raise thousands of pounds for Centrepoint.  Who knows, the total may have gone up as guests dug deep to stop the karaoke king doing an encore.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Taylor Swift sings Prince George to sleep

Let's hope that Taylor Swift is good at lullabies.  The US star is at Kensington Palace tonight for the Winter Whites Gala, an annual event held in aid of homelessness charity, Centrepoint UK.  And as their patron is Prince William, he's offered them his spare ballroom at Kensington Palace to host the event.  Which means Taylor and the other headline act, Jon Bon Jovi, are going to have to be really quiet.  There's a future king asleep in the nursery.

Taylor Swift and Prince William talk about noise levels ahead of her performance at Kensington Palace in aid of Centrepoint UK
William has also invited along Jon Bon Jovi - he did one of their songs in karaoke at cousin Zara Phillips' wedding - and James Blunt.  Kate is on babysitting duty so there's no chance to see her next to some of the best known faces in the world at the moment.  Unless they get really noisy in which case she might just pop down to tell them to keep it quiet or they will have to get Prince George back to sleep themselves.
She won't be laughing if she wakes Prince George up - Kate needs her sleep

Richard III's final battle

For a king who died over 500 years ago, Richard III is getting a lot of attention.  For centuries, the bad boy of British monarchs has been pretty easy to sum up.  Jealous brother became jealous uncle who knocked out the rightful monarch to take the crown himself and then lost it in a fight with an upstart of a cousin.  Oh, and he had a hunchback, withered arm and really, really needed a horse when his big day out at Bosworth went really, really wrong.  That's the Tudor version of history and, just as that royal house shaped a lot of what we call modern Britain, so that version of Richard's story remained pretty much unchallenged.  And suddenly, this most beleaguered king is box office.

Richard III was king of England for just over two years but has cast a long, if predictable, shadow ever since
It helped that he was played by an easy on the eye actor in the BBC adaptation of The White Queen.  Aneurin Barnard's interpretation of a confused and concerned king in the making was an interesting spin but the most interesting part was that the adaptation made Richard look his real age.  For the last 500 years he's been represented as much older than he really was - this king died at the age of 32.  Giving him a youthful face does a lot to change the way we think about this king of England.
Richard III (Aneurin Barnard) in The White Queen - if only he'd hung on to that horse, who knows what might have happened in episode 10
But it's the remains of the king that have got everyone talking about him today.  A court in London will today consider where Richard III should be buried.  The discovery of his body, beneath a car park in Leicester, led to plans to inter him in that city's cathedral.  But descendants of the House of Plantagenet want him buried in York - they say it's what he would have wanted, having spent much of his life in the north of England.  They've won a judicial review and today a judge gets to re-open, if only for a few hours, the Wars of the Roses.  Richard III may have given battle in vain but his legacy keeps on growing.

The day of England's missing queen

For a long time, November 26th was a notorious date in England's history.  It marked the day when the country had to come to terms with its fledgling monarchy stumbling into serous trouble.  Today, in 1120, the English king found out his only legitimate son was dead and his throne was in danger of falling empty. And so started a chain of events that would lead a young girl in what is now Belgium becoming queen consort of England.  And it marked the beginning of a fight by an exceptional woman to become the first queen regnant of her country. 

The woman who's fight for the throne of England began today 893 years ago.  The Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, found her life had changed in many ways when she woke up on
November 26th 1120
In the cold, dark hours of the evening of November 25th 1120 one of the most modern ships in northern Europe set sail from Normandy. The White Ship was an amazing feat of engineering and, as befits such a remarkable vessel, its passengers were VIPs.  The great and the good of England were on board for its voyage to England.  Among them, the most famous young man in the kingdom - William Adelin, the dashing and much feted heir to the throne. 
William, son of Henry I, and his only legitimate son
It was captained by the man who had helped sail William's grandfather, the Conqueror with whom he shared his name, to England for his battle to seize the throne.  That man, Thomas FitzStephen, had offered the ship to William Adelin's father, Henry I himself, but he'd' already sorted out his trip home and instead passed on the opportunity to his heir and a whole retinue of nobles.  The king left Barfleur harbor on the evening of November 25th with rumours that the drink was already flowing on the White Ship.  But he, like everyone else, expected to see his heir back in England on November 26th.  And then disaster struck.
Henry I had just one legitimate male heir but lost his successor in the White Ship disaster
There are several theories as to why the ship went down but most seem to involve drink.  One has it that the crew were more than tipsy and that's what caused the disaster.  Another involves the young king in waiting and his chums encouraging the crew to try and overtake the ship carrying Henry I back to England.  What is certain is that the boat slammed into rocks just outside Barfleur and it began to sink.  William made it onto a smaller boat and was safe but ordered his craft to go back to save his half sister - Matilda, Countess of Perche - who he could hear screaming for help.  And when they reached her, so many people tried to board the boat that it sank and England's heir died.
The White Ship sinks, taking with it the only legitimate heir to England's king, Henry I.  The ambitious younger brother who had scrambled his way to a crown and made the throne his own was now without anyone to pass it on to - and anarchy beckoned as a result
The drama and devastation of the loss of the White Ship is hard to comprehend now.  Almost 900 years on, it is impossible to realize the shocking nature of the loss and how it rocked the throne and England to its very core.  For the first time since that all conquering king, William of Normandy, had snatched the throne and ended the decades of confusion that marked the years of late Anglo-Saxon England, there was no clear successor to the crown.  Henry I was a strong king who commanded huge respect but now he was an ageing man, weakened by the loss of his only heir.  The Norman monarchy had gone from rock solid to feather light overnight.
A heartbroken father, a broken king.  Henry I of England, seen in a later representation of the king was grieving, was devastated by the death of his heir, William Adelin
England woke up that November 26th to a king with no heir and no way of getting one as his wife, Edith Matilda, had died in 1118.  A girl in her late teens called Adeliza woke up that morning in Louvain little knowing that within two months she would be queen of England as a consequecen of the events that had taken place off the Normandy coast just hours earlier.  Although Henry had considered taking another wife as early as 1119, negotiations to get this king a queen consort speeded up with his son's death and he said 'I do' again less than two months after William's death. 
Adeliza of Louvain married Henry I on January 21st 1121, less than two months after the death of his only legitimate son, William Adelin
But Adeliza didn't become the mother of a king of England.  The couple had no children in their fourteen years of marriage and on Henry's death his crown became the subject of a civil war, led by cousins, that divided families and left his stable kingdom rocking in the turbulence.  Because on November 26th 1120, another woman woke up to a very different world from the one she had known before.  Matilda of England, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor, was in her husband's German lands when she heard the news of her little brother's death.  But alongside the devastating grief, the loss of William changed Matilda's life forever.  Any son she had would be his grandfather's heir.  And in the absence of a son, Matilda herself considered claiming the throne.
The Empress Matilda was the first woman to try and rule post Conquest England in her own right
Much would happen before Matilda tried to claim her father's crown.  On the day that news of William's death was sending shock waves acros Europe, she was an Empress who believed she had many more years of ruling alongside - and sometimes for - her husband.  But within five years, the Emperor Henry was dead as well and Matilda became first a marriage tool for her heir hungry father.  But the fact that she was an empress on the day her brother died made all the difference.  Henry I may have married her to a lowly count but Matilda remained imperial and as she watched the men around her flounder, a slow burning flame of ambition took hold of her.  On this day, in 1120, devastation reigned but it was also the beginning of the story of the first woman who tried to rule England in her own right.  Matilda, the Empress and England's missing queen.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The day the White Queen secured her legacy

On this day, in 1487, that most ambitious of medieval monarchs, Elizabeth Woodville secured her legacy.  Her eldest child, Elizabeth of York, was crowned queen consort of England.  And over 500 years later, it is Elizabeth Woodville who still grabs all the headlines.  Her daughter wasn't as pretty, as scheming or as determined as the first commoner queen.  And so while Elizabeth, Princess of York was the daughter, sister, wife and mother of kings of England, she remains eclipsed by her mother. 

Elizabeth of York, queen of England, is better known as the daughter and mother of monarchs than as a consort in her own right
Elizabeth of York had a better claim to the throne of England than the man who gave her a crown.  And that's perhaps why her husband, Henry Tudor, made her wait for a wedding ring and then for a coronation of her own.  Elizabeth's coronation, on November 25th 1487 at Westminster Abbey, came over two years after Henry had triumphed at the Battle of Bosworth.  The king himself had been crowned on October 30th 1485, again at Westminster, and made sure the crown was firmly on his own head before he wed his distant York cousin.  They had agreed to unite their two warring families as early as 1483 in a bid to end the Wars of the Roses but after Henry defeated Elizbeth's uncle, Richard III, he needed to secure his own claim to be king and the White Princess was left hanging around in regal uncertainty for a wedding.  And it was only after Elizabeth had given her husband a son and heir, Prince Arthur, that he gave her a coronation.
Henry VII, king of England, in later life.  He was the image of his mother and had the same tenacious spirit and determination to be recognized for his royal blood as Margaret Beaufort
Elizabeth of York is, in many ways, the forgotten woman of English history.  Her husband was determined to relegate her to a backstage role and she never enjoyed the high profile or high influence her mother had done at the court of Edward IV.  Perhaps it can be argued that the younger Elizabeth never wanted the same power, having seen what it did to her family during her father's lifetime and in the aftermath of his unexpected death in 1483.  Perhaps, had she lived longer, she would have flexed those royal muscles just a little bit more as her nursery of princes and princesses grew into kings and queen consorts in waiting.  Perhaps.  We will never know but we do know that on this day, in 1487, she was finally allowed the crown that was hers by right by a man determined to make his dynasty, the Tudors, the most powerful in the land.  Elizabeth helped him do that and then some.  And thanks to that, the White Queen got her legacy.

Monarchs in training

Her voice has rarely been heard in public until now but as the Spanish royal family left the Quiron clinic in Madrid after visiting King Juan Carlos, it was the Infanta Leonor who led the family's interviews with journalists.  The eight year old, who one day will be queen of Spain, answered several questions from journalists as she ended her hospital visit alongside dad, mum, granny and little sis, Sofia.  And if she looked a little bit nervous at times - who could blame her with just a few dozen people shouting at her and letting flashes off in her face - she's now got her first big public moment out of the way.  Just like her fellow heirs across Europe.

A future queen steps up to the mic - Leonor of Spain, aged eight, leads the royal family's chat with journalists after a visit to King Juan Carlos in the Quiron Hospital in Madrid
Leonor has often seemed hidden from view compared to her counterparts in royal courts across the continent.  Until this year, she and her own heir, Sofia, were rarely seen in public with occasional photo opportunities at Easter and in the summer and a quick snap on a Christmas card to round things off.  But in 2013 they have been much more high profile and Leonor's leading role in answering press questions about her grandfather seems to be another step in a bigger public presence for the future queen and her sister.  Leonor's parents and grandmother didn't try to intervene and let her handle everything and while her answers were short and sweet, she handled it all with a confidence that's not been seen before. Suddenly, Leonor has a profile.
Ready for another question?  Leonor in her first big royal moment
She is playing catch up a bit.  In several other European countries, the future monarchs have already carried out official dutites.  The future Norwegian queen, Ingrid Alexandra, has several engagements under her belt and all before her 10th birthday.  Earlier this year, she visited an environmental project with her parents with proud mum, Mette-Marit, tweeting a lovely photo of the family in their car on their way to Ingrid's big event.  Alongside regular appearances at big events like Norway's national day, this queen in waiting already has a high public profile balanced with privacy in her day to day life.
All grown up all of a sudden - Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway on her way to an official engagement with mum on hand to chronicle the day
Prince Christian of Denmark was perhaps the most eager to get started on a long life of official duties - his first engagement was in 2008 when he helped his granddad, Prince Henri, open a new elephant house at Copenhagen Zoo.  He's carried out several other public events since, usually with mum and dad on hand to help out.
Grandad may not have a crown of his own but he led the way in teaching Denmark's future king how to cope with the public life that awaits him
And the eldest of Europe's next wave of heirs, Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, also got into training early.  She made her first speech on the day she carried out her first major public engagement, opening a children's hospital named after her.  The princess was just shy of her tenth birthday when she stepped into the public limelight in her own right.  And like all the heirs at the start of their long road to monarchy, she had mum and dad there to offer support.
 Mum Mathilde is on hand to help Elisabeth of Belgium as she makes her first speech while proud dad leads the applause and you don't row with a prince who wants you to cheer his little girl's big achievement
Leonor may be the last to enter the public fray but there's no doubt that the duties that await her will be as long lasting and heavy going as those her counterparts are undertaking.  And for now, just like the others, she has the protection of her parents as she learns the ropes. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Doctor Who, by royal appointment

It was all the fault of Elizabeth I.  That amazing queen of England has just added another string to her bow by being part, albeit as a fictional creation, of the 50th anniversary episode of one of the biggest TV dramas ever.  Doctor Who has just marked its half century with an amazing adventure and thankfully, the show went back to its whimsical best and made one of England's most famous monarchs one of the stars of the show.

All of them together again - the Doctor turns fifty today and brought along Elizabeth I to celebrate
Many actresses have tried to bring Gloriana herself to life and Joanna Page made a very good job of it for this hugely significant show.  It might not be the dramatic, haughty Elizabeth of legend but she had all the spark and determination of that amazing monarch and delivered the queen's most famous line from that speech at Tilbury as well as anyone else. 

Three doctors, one man and a total TV success.  Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt have their own acting competition and come out honours even

Of course, it's Doctor Who so the Time Lord had to marry Elizabeth but disappeared before he could become a prince consort.  By far the safest option, even for a man that can regenerate in tricky circumstances.  But for a time traveler, what better way to mark this epic anniversary which has got the whole world talking by heading back to see an epic queen who got the whole world she knew talking about her in her lifetime.

Joanna Page as Elizabeth I for Doctor Who's 50th anniversary - and a very good one she was too

Friday, 22 November 2013

The ice prince

Prince Harry is now in Antarctica to get ready for the race to the South Pole.  The prince is patron of the British team taking part in the event and, like the US and Commonwealth teams, he's now spending several days getting used to the temperatures and altitude that will surround him for the next four weeks.  He's hoping to reach the Pole by December 17th and already has the makings of a polar explorer beard.  Just the makings.  Here's hoping that's just a few days' growth - given that he's descended from Edward VII and George V who sported two of the most famous royal beards in history, it's not his best effort.

Prince Harry touches down in the Antarctic ahead of the race to the South Pole in support of Walking with the Wounded

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Kate and Letizia: Marilyn moments

The Duchess of Cambridge's skirt malfunction in London today is small fry compared to the rather more revealing breeze moment she had in Calgary on her first official overseas tour following her marriage.  Then, her primrose yellow dress caught in the wind and almost gave us a royal knicker flash.

Kate's first breezy dress moment in 2011
Kate quickly learned the lesson of leaving long hair untamed in windy weather after her locks wrapped themselves round her face as she stepped out of a car in London on November 19th.  On November 20th, she was all neat coiffure and hair pins as she arrived at another engagement only to find the skirt off on its own little trip.  But whether she'll change anything after the dress moment is less certain.  The yellow dress of Calgary isn't her only windblown moment.  She was caught out by a floaty summer print frock as she got off a plane in Brisbane last year and had to move pretty quickly to stop that one in its tracks.
A demure tea dress almost becomes Kate's most shocking outfit as she arrives in Australia in September 2012
And during her pregnancy she was caught out by a gust of wind and a sneaky photographer at a wedding when her polka dot dress lifted skywards and almost gave us a peek of royal baby bump.
Kate juggles hat, bag, bump and unruly frock at a wedding in the early summer of 2013
The Queen has always had her hems weighted down so that the same problem doesn't affect her and many other royal women follow suit.  In fact, all of them do eventually.  Even that royal rebel in the making, Letizia of Spain, has obviously started sewing something into the bottom of her frocks after a gust of wind almost left her very red faced.
Letizia finds out that a moment of breeze can turn into a lifetime of embarrassing photographs
Kate might just have nipped back to the Palace for a needle, thread and beads for her floatiest frocks. Or she might just stick to coats and tighter fitting skirts for the winter and start with the chiffon again next spring. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Europe's ageing monarchies

Charles, Prince of Wales is the boy who waited.  The prince is the oldest person ever to be heir to the British throne and he's also held that position longer than any other.  And if his mother lives anywhere near as long as her own mother, the boy who became first in line to the throne at the age of just three will be a man approaching eighty when he becomes king.  But Charles is just the beginning of a generation of men and women who will assume their destinies at a much greater age than any of their predecessors.  Europe's monarchies are getting older.

Prince Charles is just the beginning of a new wave of older kings with Prince Frederik among a whole generation of monarchs unlikely to begin their reigns until their sixth or seventh decade
This new wave of blue rinse bods at the top is inevitable given the general ageing of the population.  Although royal families have had the best of everything from nice, warm places to sleep to top doctors to sort out their aches and pains, the general rise in living conditions all round also means they're getting healthier and happier along with the rest of the population.  Plus, all those pesky things that used to do for kings and queens in days of yore are gone.  The chances of dying in battle or revolutions is much lower as is picking up a strange medieval illness with no cure.  But healthier monarchs mean older heirs - will the ageing process bring wisdom with it or leave Europe with a generation of kings and queens too old to do the jobs for which they were born?

Edward IV survived battles, imprisonment and exile but wine, women and song added to stress and all kinds of infections with no cure led to his early death at the age of 41
After the UK, Monaco has the oldest heir to its top title.  In the absence of any legitimate children, Prince Albert II's throne will pass to his sister, Caroline, who is 56 and fast approaching 57 meaning she's second on the list behind Prince Charles when it comes to heirs packing the years.  She's also the only heir to the throne in Europe to be older than the person she could succeed.  Like Charles, she has a son and heir waiting behind her and, like the British royals, that child of the eighties became father to a son this year.  Of course, Caroline and her descendants could be moved out of the way with the arrival of a baby for Albert and Charlene but at the moment, the Princess of Hanover hovers at the foot of her country's throne. 

Caroline of Monaco got the film star looks of her mother but may yet inherit the throne of her father - at 56, she is the second oldest heir in Europe

And then we have the fortysomethings.  The honour of being the most senior of the middle aged monarchs in waiting goes to Prince Felipe of Spain.  Born in January 1968, he's reached the grand old age of 45 with still no sign of a throne.  While social media went mad, almost frenzied, in September with rumours that Juan Carlos I was about to abdicate the reality is that Felipe will succeed in the most traditional of manners.  Only death will bring him a crown.  He has been his father's heir all his adult life and remains firmly in his shadow.  Even a higher profile in recent months as Juan Carlos undergoes treatment for a hip problem has left him clearly as the second man in the Spanish royal house.  Of all Europe's heirs, he perhaps faces the hardest battle to be seen as a king - not least because of the problems facing the family he will one day rule.

Heir to the throne since the age of seven, Prince Felipe of Asturias has been one step away from his country's crown through his youth and into middle age

The Spanish king is 75, approaching 76, and will celebrate his 40th jubilee in November 2015.  Felipe is looking at remaining next in line well into his fifties.  As is Frederik of Denmark who is just a few months behind his Spanish cousin, arriving in May 1968.  His mother is 73 and descended from a mother who lived to ninety years of age.  Like Juan Carlos, Margrethe has indicated she will never abdicate her throne which means Fred could be running Charles a close second in the wait he has to be king.  Should Margrethe match Queen Ingrid then Frederik will be over sixty by the time he takes his country's throne.

He might not be doing the Copenhagen Iron Man by the time he becomes king - Frederik of Denmark is keeping on running as middle age approaches but might well be a pensioner by the time he takes his country's throne
Prince Haakon Magnus has just joined Felipe and Fred in the forties club but like them faces a wait to be king.  While the Crown Prince of Norway is named regent more often than his counterparts, his role is still the junior one in the regnant relationship.  King Harald of Norway, now 76, shares many of his political responsibilities with his heir but is still very far from handing over power meaning that Haakon is in line to be another older king
The beard might well be grey by the time it's topped with a crown - Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway in an official portrait to mark his 40th birthday earlier this year
Sweden's future queen, Crown Princess Victoria, is now 37 years old.  Her father may have just celebrated his fortieth jubilee but he is among the youngest of his generation of European kings, aged 67, and descended from kings who have regularly lived beyond the age of 90 in the last few generations.  Victoria might not take the throne which was made hers by her modern thinking father until she is over sixty.  

Victoria of Sweden on her wedding day as her proud father looks on
The fact that being a monarch is a job for life means the wait is likely, and hopefully, very long for all of them.  In cases of abdication, it becomes easier to predict when a crown might come a prince or princess' way.  The Netherlands now has the youngest monarch in Europe and the youngest heir to the throne and Catharina-Amalia, the Princess of Orange, knows that her father will most likely step aside for her at some point but not for a couple of decades at the earliest.  She will, like him, probably be around 40 when she becomes her country's regnant and is likely to pass her own crown on in a similar way.

The youthful king - Willem-Alexander is Europe's youngest monarch and has the continent's youngest heir.  By the time he is ready to hand on the throne, his daughter will be around forty
Another abdication is less certain in Belgium.  The country's new king, Philippe, was 53 on the day he became monarch and until earlier this year may well have expected to be much older as his father, Albert II, is 79 and wasn't top of anyone's abdicating monarchs list.  Whether this decision to step aside, and the smooth transition which followed, becomes customary as it has in the Netherlands can't be known for decades.  But with the heiress to the throne, Elisabeth, twelve years old the chances are that without an abdication she may join the European trend and start looking forward to being an older monarch.

Elisabeth of Belgium may well lead her country as an older monarch, following the trend being set across Europe

Kate's gone with the wind

Not for the first time, the Duchess of Cambridge has been caught out by a breeze.  She's struggled with flimsy skirts in gusty weather before and has had two wind in hair moments this month already, the latest just yesterday when she arrived at an engagement only to find her locks in her face within seconds of getting out of the car.  Today, she'd made sure that didn't happen by tying the royal hair back but almost as soon as she'd got out of her car today, she learned another royal lesson.  Why royals don't wear chiffon skirts in November.  Her flimsy frock went for an upward dive as a gust of wind caught it outside Place2Be but fluttered down just in time to spare Kate's blushes.  Which meant the only controversy about this outfit was why she'd chosen dark navy shoes with an all black outfit. 

Kate tries the bright coloured shoes with black trend and fails

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Royal round up, week ending November 10th 2013

A round up of the news from Europe's royal houses for the week ending November 10th 2013...part one...



King Harald of Norway began his week by laying a wreath in memory of all those who have been killed in service.  The ceremony, on Sunday November 3rd 2013, took place at Akershus Fortin Oslo.
King Harald of Norway honours the fallen on Memorial Day on November 3rd 2013
The king and queen left for a state visit to Turkey on November 5th 2013.  Their visit, which lasted two days began with King Harald laying a wreath at the Atatürk Mausoleum.  The official welcome came from Turkish president, President Abdullah Gül, and his wife before the king met with the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  The queen visited Saray Rehabilitation and Care Center and Ankara Sevgi Evleri Nursery School in Istanbul in the afternoon.  Later that day, Queen Sonja opened the Munch/Warhol exhibition at the CerModern Museum in Ankara before attending a state dinner with the king in the evening. 
King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway at the Munch/ Warhol exhibition in Istanbul which the queen officially opened on November 5th 2013
On November 6th 2013, King Harald and Queen Sonja opened a Turkish-Norwegian business forum on renewable energy before taking a trip to see the Bosphorus and attending a lunch with members of Turkish society.  The evening saw them hosting an event featuring Norwegian music and seafood in Istanbul. 
Queen Sonja on the second day of the Norwegian monarchs' state visit to Turkey in November 2013
On the last day of their tour, the king opened a Turkish - Norwegian business seminar before the royal couple visited Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul.  They ended their trip with a lunch hosted by Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and his wife.
The king and queen of Norway on their visit to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on November 7th 2013
On his return to Norway, the king hosted several audiences on November 11th 2013.  He held a farewell meeting with the Saudi Arabian ambassador, Khalid Alnafisee, and on the same day he met the Chief of Army staff with Prince Haakon Magnus also in attendance.  The Crown Prince had been appointed Regent while his father was overseas and in that capacity he led the Virke Conference on November 6th 2013  in Oslo which discussed finding leaders of the future for Norway.  And on November 7th 2013 he was at another conference in Arendal where he led debate about making everyone a full member of society before opening an exhibition about royal vehicles which will run at the Science Farm, near Stavnanger, in the south west of Norway until early 2014.
The Crown Prince Regent of Norway at the Virke Conference in Oslo on November 6th 2013
At the end of the week it was announced that Crown Princess Mette-Marit would undergo surgery in Oslo almost immediately to help alleviate problems with a herniated disc that has led to her withdrawing from public life for over a month.  The Crown Prince changed his plans, which had included a trip to America, to be with his wife.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway has been out of the spotlight for over a month as she is treated for a herniated disc


King Juan Carlos is also facing surgery as it was confirmed that the second operation needed to successfully treat the hip replacement that became infected will take place on November 21st 2013 at the Quiron Clinic in Madrid.  The king held one audience in the week, on November 6th 2013, when he met representatives from the Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal Foundation at the Pardo Palace in Madrid.  The foundation, which works to promote the aims of Israeli society with emphasis on vulnerable groups, had been meeting in Madrid.
King Juan Carlos of Spain with representatives of the Keren Hayesod United Israel Appeal Foundation on November 6th 2013 in Madrid
On November 5th 2013, Queen Sofia was at the Madrid offices of newspaper, ABC, where she presented several awards including a lifetime achievement prize to Antonio Burgos Belinchón.  On November 7th 2013, the queen received a prize herself on behalf of the foundation which bears her name.  The Queen Sofia Foundation was awarded the 'Espiga de Oro 2013' by the Federation of Food Banks in Spain for its work in helping those who are in need of extra support and need to get in touch with food banks.  The queen also gave out several awards on behalf of the organization at the event in Madrid.
Queen Sofia is presented with the 'Espiga de Oro 2013' for her foundation's work to help food banks in Spain on November 7th 2013 in Madrid
The Prince and Princess of Asturias also met journalists this week when they attended the 15th anniversary celebrations for newspaper, La Razon, at its offices in Madrid.  But all eyes were on the meeting between Princess Letizia and TV personality, Belen Esteban, with the princess approaching the television star at the event.
TV personality, Belen Esteban, and Princess Letizia at the anniversary celebration for La Razon in Madrid on November 4th 2013
On November 6th 2013, the prince and princess presented the 30th Francisco Cerecedo prize for journalism to Xavier Vidal-Folch at a ceremony at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid. 
The prince and princess of Asturias at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid on November 6th 2013
On November 7th 2013, the prince held several military audiences at the Pardo Palace in Madrid where he met a group of brigadier generals and admirals before holding a reception for the National Association of Disabled Military and Civil Guards on the same day.  And also on November 7th, he held an audience for members of the Air Academy.
Prince Felipe with members of the Disabled Military and Civil Guards Association of Spain at their audience on November 7th 2013
On November 5th 2013, the Princess of Asturias opened the first International Conference on countering new forms of violence which took place in Madrid.  The princess spoke about the importance of education in eradicating all forms of violence.  And on November 7th 2013, Princess Letizia presented membership of the Royal Academy of Spain to the novelist and essayist, Carme Riera.
Princess Letizia and Carme Riera at the Royal Academy of Spain on November 7th 2013
The Infanta Elena attended the annual event for a scheme set up to send toys to poorer countries on November 7th 2013 in Madrid.  She became patron of he scheme in 2005.
The Infanta Elena at the annual 'One Toy, One Dream' event in Madrid on November 7th 2013


King Philippe began his week with a lunch for the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso at the Laeken Palace on November 4th 2013.  He held his weekly audience with the Belgian Prime Minister, Elio di Rupo, on the same day at the Royal Palace in Brussels.  On November 7th 2013, the king held an audience with Park Geun-Hye, the president of South Korea who was visiting Belgium.  He hosted a dinner for the president afterwards.
 King Philippe of the Belgians with the President of South Korea, Park Geun-Hye, at the Palace at Laeken on November 7th 2013
On November 6th, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde had made their Joyeuese Entrée into Brussels - their full tour had ended in October 2013.  It followed the same format as their other visits and included a meeting with local authorities, a working lunch and a walkabout.
 King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians on their Joyeuese Entrée to Brussels on November 6th 2013
On November 8th, the king and queen paid a short visit to the Netherlands where they met the new monarchs of that country, Willem-Alexander and Maxima, with whom they have enjoyed a close friendship for many years. 
 The new kings of the Netherlands and the Belgians with their consorts on November 8th 2013
Queen Mathilde visited a programme to help disabled people into the workplace in Liege on November 6th 2013,  Le Perron has been running for 50 years and gives assistance to around 80 people every year.  On the same day, the king and his sister, Princess Astrid, were at a reception in Brussels for the trade mission to India which will begin on November 23rd 2013.  And Prince Laurent and Princess Claire represented the king and queen at the premiere of 'Marina', the new film from  Stijn Coninx which was given its first showing in Limbourg on November 4th 2013.


King Carl XVI Gustaf began his week with several political meetings and audiences.  On November 5th 2013, he held a meeting with the Minister for Financial Markets, Peter Norman, at the Royal Palace in Sweden where they discussed several issues including the housing market.  On November 6th, the king and the Crown Princess held a cabinet briefing at the Royal Palace - these take place around four times every year and ministers brief Carl XVI Gustaf about important issues and current legislation. 
King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and his heiress, Crown Princess Victoria, at the cabinet briefing held at the Royal Palace in Stockholm on November 6th 2013
On the same day, the king and the princess attended an advisory council on foreign affairs, again at the Royal Palace.  The following day, King Carl XVI Gustaf held a meeting of the organization set up to look after his 50th Birthday Fund for Science, Technology and the Environment, again at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.  On the same day, he received the Prime Minister of Turkey at the palace as part of a two day visit to Sweden by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 
 King Carl XVI Gustaf at his audience with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at the Royal Palace in Stockholm on November 7th 2013
On November 8th, the king received the credentials of four new ambassadors to Sweden - Francine Chainaye from Begium, Azerbaijan's Adish Sakit oglu Mammadov, Tran van Hinh of Vietnam and Khalid S. Baomar from Oman.
Francine Chainaye, the new Belgian ambassador to Sweden, arrives at the Royal Palace in Stockholm on November 8th 2013 to present her letters of credentials to King Carl XVI Gustaf
Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel paid a two day visit to England which included a private meeting with Elizabeth II on the day of their arrival, November 7th 2013.  Earlier that day, the couple had paid a visit to Hackney College in London to learn about apprenticeship programmes before seeing the Tech City in London and going to Google's Campus London.  They also visited Level39 which helps find investment for tech companies.  The day included a meeting with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. 
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden during her visit to Hackney, London on November 7th 2013
The royal couple were back at Level39 on November 8th 2013 before meeting the mayor of the City of London, Roger Gifford.  The day ended in Cambridge where the couple toured Seven Acres, a new residential area created by Skanska.  They went on to the University of Cambridge where they learned about the Cambridge Conservation Initiative which aims to protect and promote biodiversity around the city.
Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel during their visit to Cambridge on November 8th 2013
Earlier in the week, Prince Daniel had attended the Anders Wall lecture on entrepreneurship at Uppsala University.  The event, on November 6th 2013, ended with the prince presenting the Anders Wall scholarship to the student of the year, Kajsa Asplund.
Prince Daniel presents the Anders Wall scholarship to Kajsa Asplund at Uppsala University on November 6th 2013
King Carl XVI Gustaf appointed two court singers - Elin Rombo and Michael Weinus - and a court trumpeter, Lieutenant Colonel Olle Hermanse in a tradition that goes back to 1773.  And the royal household also released new photos of Princess Estelle, taken at the end of October.
The princess and the pumpkin - new photos of Estelle of Sweden taken at the Haga Palace in October 2013 were released this week