Sunday, 29 December 2013

Royal Review of 2013 - a year of surprises

Europe's royals have had a busy year.  But when the dust settles and the ink dries on the history books, 2013 will be remembered for the arrival of a future king and the departure of two monarchs.  The impending birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby was known about as the year began but the abdications of Beatrix of the Netherlands and Albert II of the Belgians were both unexpected in their own ways and changed the royal landscape of Europe rapidly and decisively.

Memories of times now past - the reigns of Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands and Albert, King of the Belgians both came to an end in 2013
The abdications brought the continent two new monarchs, two new consorts and two new families of young princes and princesses.  Overnight, the average age of the continent's monarchs and heirs dropped by several decades.  But the events also changed attitudes towards monarchies and suddenly questions were asked about the ongoing reigns of just about every other European king or queen and the likelihoods of them, too, leaving their posts for a younger generation to fill them were raised.  Nowhere more so than in Spain where in a strange day in September the country was set abuzz with whispers, unfounded and wrong, that Juan Carlos I was about to leave his palace by a back door and his crown with his son and heir. 
Three generations of Spanish royalty together and, despite a day of fevered rumours, there was no change in the order of seniority in the family in 2013
The Spanish king did have to contend with ill health and with more controversies around his family.  If 1992 was an annus horribilis for Elizabeth II, 2013 is added to a list of similar bad years for the Spanish royals who spent the year experiencing the same turbulence that hit them in 2012 and 2011 as well.  It was a more peaceful year for the Norwegian and Danish royals with regular public appearances and some high profile overseas trips including King Harald's visit to Turkey and Crown Princess Mary's humanitarian trip to a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark meets young Syrians in a refugee camp in Jordan earlier in 2013
And the personal part of royal life was in the spotlight as well.  Mathilde of Belgium began the year with her focus on her fortieth birthday, perhaps not knowing that within six months she would become the first Belgian born queen of her country.  In the Netherlands, the royal family was left devastated by the unexpected death of Prince Johan Friso.  The second son of Beatrix died of complications of the injuries sustained in an avalanche in Austria in 2012 - he had been unconscious since the accident and died in the Netherlands after being brought back there from treatment in London earlier in the year.
Prince Johan Friso, brother of the king of the Netherlands, died in 2013 at the age of 44
In Sweden the royal family was at the centre of the country's life for the whole of 2013.  Princess Madeleine's wedding, in June 2013, was greeted with widespread celebrations and the announcement of her pregnancy just a few months later brought more happiness.  But it was the year of events marking the 40th jubilee of King Carl XVI Gustaf that really focused the joy of a nation on the royal family.  The year ended with the 70th birthday of Queen Silvia and more national celebrations which topped a spectacular year for Sweden's royals.
King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, with Queen Silvia at his side, toasts his people on September 15th 2013 - the 40th anniversary of his accession to the Swedish throne
But it was the birth of a future king in Great Britain that captured the most attention.  While Monaco had also welcomed a possible future ruler when Andrea Casiraghi and Tatiana Santo Domingo welcomed a son in March, it was the birth of George Alexander Louis of Cambridge that really caught the popular imagination around the world.  The arrival of a fourth generation of monarch in the British royal family secured the succession well into the 22nd century in the year that Queen Elizabeth II marked the 60th anniversary of her coronation.
The first glimpse of a boy who will be one of the most photographed in the world - George of Cambridge leaves hospital on July 23rd 2013 with his parents
Over the next few days, there's a chance to look back at these royal highlights and plenty more in the Royal Review of 2013.

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