Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Birthday of HM Queen Anne of Romania

Friday, September 18th was the 92nd birthday of Her Majesty Queen Anne of Romania. 

She was born as Her Royal Highness Princess Anne Antoinette Françoise Charlotte Zita Marguerite of Bourbon-Parma on September 18, 1923 in Paris, France. She was the second child and only daughter of Prince Rene of Bourbon-Parma and Princess Margrethe of Denmark. Prince Rene was the nineteenth child of Robert I, Duke of Parma, who was dispossessed of his ducal throne in 1859 when Parma was annexed into the unified Kingdom of Italy; he was also the younger brother of Zita, the last Empress of Austria. Anne’s mother, Princess Margrethe, was the daughter of Prince Valedmar of Denmark and a granddaughter of the “father-in-law of Europe”, King Christian IX of Denmark. 

Though Anne and her brothers were reared in France and held titles as princes and princess of the deposed house of Bourbon-Parma, they were erroneously regarded in certain instances as members of the Danish royal family, as Anne’s mother was the cousin of King Christian X of Denmark. Particularly in the lead-up to Anne’s wedding to King Michael, some newspapers mistakenly referred to her as “Princess Anne of Denmark”. 

Anne’s parents were not especially wealthy, despite their close ties to many European royal houses. When the Germans invaded France in World War II, the Bourbon-Parma family fled to the United States. For a time, Anne worked at a Macy’s department store in New York City, but when her brothers returned to Europe to fight, she received her parents’ permission to serve in the war effort. She became an ambulance driver on the front and was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government for her efforts.  

The year 1947 would mark a significant change in Princess Anne’s life. Princess Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of King George VI of the United Kingdom, was marrying her third cousin, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.  Anne had spent time with Prince Philip and his sisters when Philip’s parents, Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, settled their family in Paris after the exile of the Greek royal family in 1922 (Philip’s father was a cousin of Anne’s mother), and was subsequently invited to the wedding. She was reluctant to attend until her cousin, Prince Jean of Luxembourg, convinced her to go. Among the galaxy of European royalty that had assembled in London, Anne met the acquaintance of the young King Michael of Romania, who had arrived from Bucharest with his mother, Queen Helen. Michael was Anne’s second cousin, once removed through their mutual descent from King Christian IX of Denmark – he was the Danish king’s great-great-grandson, while she was his great-granddaughter. Queen Helen had invited Anne and her mother to their London hotel room for a visit. Anne was reportedly unaware that Helen’s handsome son would also be there, and in her embarrassment at unexpectedly meeting the king she clicked her heels in salute rather than curtsied when she first met him. 
Despite this inauspicious first meeting, Anne and Michael spent a great deal of time with each other during their sojourn in London. By the time the couple parted ways, they had become secretly engaged. However, Michael was in an invidious position back home in Romania. The Romanian government had been infiltrated by pro-Soviet factions aimed at undermining the monarchy and usurping any possible authority from him. When Michael returned to Bucharest after the wedding and announced his intention to marry Princess Anne, the government replied that a royal wedding in Romania would be ill-advised at the present time. Just a few weeks later, on December 30, the king was summoned to a meeting with government officials and forced to abdicate in favor of a communist republic. 

When Anne got wind of her fiancée’s abdication, she tried unsuccessfully to go see him in Bucharest. Her family advised her that she ought to wait for more news, and when she did finally communicate with Michael, he and Queen Helen had fled to exile in Switzerland. Distraught over the events taking place in Romania but still very much in love, Anne and Michael forged ahead with planning their wedding. Michael’s uncle, King Paul of Greece (Queen Helen's brother), offered to host the wedding in Athens and to stand in as his nephew’s best man.     
The road to King Michael and Princess Anne’s wedding had already been marred by the king’s abdication and exile, and unfortunately another obstacle – the Vatican – now stood in their way. The Pope had been spurned by King Boris III of Bulgaria, an Eastern Orthodox monarch, and his Catholic wife, Princess Giovanna of Italy, who reneged on the papal dispensation for their marriage when both of their children were baptized Orthodox instead of Catholic as promised. The pontiff was now unwilling to make concessions for another marriage between an Orthodox king and a Catholic princess. Michael and Anne’s mothers, Queen Helen and Princess Margrethe, accompanied by Helen’s sister, Irene, Duchess of Aosta (an Orthodox princess married to a Catholic prince), visited the Pope to plead the young couple’s case. Princess Margrethe reportedly became so enraged during their audience that she pounded her fist on the pope’s table, but he refused to budge – King Michael and Princess Anne’s future children must be Catholic if the princess wanted to marry with the church’s blessing. Though he was no longer a reigning monarch, King Michael was anxious to abide by the rules of the previous Romanian constitution which stipulated that his heirs must be received into the Romanian Orthodox Church. To this end, he could not agree to the conditions set forth by Rome. In the end, Anne risked the enmity of the Vatican by marrying the king without receiving a papal dispensation, while her parents absented themselves from the nuptials after Prince Rene’s brother, Xavier, Duke of Parma, as head of the Bourbon-Parma family, expressed his displeasure at Anne’s defiance of the church. In her parents’ absence, Anne’s uncle Prince Erik of Denmark gave her away at the wedding. 

King Michael of Romania and Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma were married in the chapel of the Royal Palace in Athens on June 10, 1948. After the wedding Anne became known by courtesy as Her Majesty Queen Anne of Romania. She would not set foot in Romania, however, for another forty-four years. As a footnote to the debacle with the Catholic Church, in November 1966, King Michael and Queen Anne held a wedding mass at the Church of St. Charles in Monaco and formally received the church’s blessing. 

Settling in Switzerland (with a temporary spell in England where the family lived on a chicken farm), Queen Anne gave birth to five daughters – Princess Margareta, Princess Elena, Princess Irina, Princess Sofia and Princess Maria. After the fall of communist rule across Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, the Romanian royal family began contemplating a return to their homeland. Several attempts were unceremoniously blocked by the Romanian government, but King Michael made his first visit during Easter of 1992. The public reception that accompanied the king’s visit alarmed the government of Ion Iliescu, who subsequently banned Michael from returning for the next five years. Queen Anne herself made her first visit to Romania in 1993 and returned numerous times during the years of her husband’s banishment. Since 1997, however, King Michael, Queen Anne and their family have been allowed to visit Romania without any governmental interference. They were granted use of the Elisabeta Palace as a residence and occupy an unofficial position within the country. 

In 2008, King Michael and Queen Anne celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in Bucharest with a number of festivities and galas. Members of various European royal houses, most of whom are related to the couple, attended to mark the occasion. In recent years, Queen Anne has made less frequent visits to Romania, ostensibly due to her health. She has been seen walking with a cane for some time now and apparently has difficulty traveling. In 2011, for example, she did not accompany her husband to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton; Princess Margareta joined her father instead.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Golden Wedding Anniversary of King Constantine & Queen Anne-Marie

On September 18, Their Majesties King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece celebrate their fiftieth year of marriage. It has been a long and successful marriage for the couple, who endured the turmoil of Greek politics in the 1960s and spent over four decades in exile. Despite the challenges they faced, they have a large and happy family, and for the last decade or so have enjoyed a peaceful life with the company of their children and grandchildren.

King Constantine II of Greece was 24 and Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark had just turned 18 when they wed fifty years ago, at a time when it was still relatively common for royals to intermarry with other royals. Constantine II had ascended the Greek throne only six months before when his father unexpectedly died, and Anne-Marie, the youngest daughter of King Frederick IX of Denmark, had just completed her schooling. Their wedding saw the largest gathering of royalty Athens had ever witnessed, and the photogenic couple's pictures were splashed across newspapers around the globe.

King Constantine was supported by the Prince of Wales, the Crown Prince of Norway, the Crown Prince of Sweden, Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark, and Prince Michael of Kent. Princess Anne-Marie's bridal attendants were Princess Anne of the United Kingdom, Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, Princess Margareta of Romania, Princess Christina of Sweden, Princess Clarissa of Hesse, and Princess Tatiana Radziwill.

King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie have five children - Princess Alexia, Crown Prince Pavlos, Prince Nikolaos, Princess Theodora, and Prince Philippos - and nine grandchildren.

They went into exile following the Colonel's coup of 1967, and following the official abolition of the Greek monarchy in 1974 they set up residence in England. After years of squabbling with successive Greek governments and a successful suit brought to the European Court of Human Rights, the King and Queen have visited Greece often since the early 2000s, including attending the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. As of 2014, the former King and Queen of the Hellenes have returned to live permanently in Greece.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Greek Government to Sell Off Former Royal Estate

It appears that Tatoi Palace, the private home of the Greek royal family, is the latest casualty in Greece's ongoing financial crisis.

Situated approximately 20 km from Athens, the childhood home of the last Greek monarch, King Constantine II, and his sister, Queen Sofia of Spain, has been put up for sale by the Greek government along with other government-funded buildings, such as the former home of the London consulate, and even some islands, airports, and harbors in an effort to shore up extra funds for the debt-ridden country.

No official comment has been issued by King Constantine II, who was stripped of his ownership of Tatoi in 1994 by the government of Andreas Papandreou. The king was later compensated for a small portion of its value after successfully suing the Greek government through the European Court of Human Rights.

Tatoi was purchased in the 1870s by King George I of Greece and used as the main private residence of the royal family. The estate has remained unoccupied since December 1967, when King Constantine and his family fled into exile. The 1994 confiscation of Tatoi was justified by the Greek government on the grounds that it belonged to the state, while Constantine II maintained that his great-grandfather, George I, purchased the property with private funds from his inheritance as a prince of the Danish royal family. Tax records also showed that Constantine paid taxes on the estate while living in exile.  

Tatoi consists of the main Victorian-styled house, several outbuildings including stables and quarters for servants and estate workers, a defunct swimming pool, and a helipad. It also includes a cemetery where most members of the deposed dynasty are buried. All five of the previous kings of Greece are buried there with their consorts (save for George II, who divorced his wife Elisabeth of Romania). Also buried there is Prince Andrew of Greece, father of Prince Philip and grandfather of Prince Charles.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

European Royals Gather for Queen's Jubilee Luncheon

Royalty from across the world pose with at a luncheon honoring the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Guests include, from left, bottom row: Emperor Akihito of Japan, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Constantine II of Greece, King Michael of Romania, Queen Elizabeth II, King Simeon II of Bulgaria, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, and Prince Hans Adam II of Litchenstein. In the second row, European royals include Prince Albert II of Monaco, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, King Albert II of Belgium, and King Harald V of Norway. Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia stands in the back row, third from left.

The Queen invited members of European royal families from across the world to Windsor Castle on Friday for a luncheon to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. Many of the royal guests were distant relatives of the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip. The most notable absence, however, was that of the Queen of Spain. Queen Sofia had to cancel her invitation at the last minute on the advice of the Spanish government, who were displeased with the Queen's appearance due to an ongoing territorial dispute between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar.

It was regarded as the most impressive gathering of royalty since the Queen's coronation in 1953. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Golden Wedding Anniversary for Spanish Monarchs

Their Majesties King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain reached their fiftieth wedding anniversary on Monday, May 14. However, recent controversies surrounding the Spanish royal house have marred the anniversary, and the royal household announced that neither public nor private celebrations would be held to commemorate the milestone. 

Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece with bridesmaids at their May 1962 wedding. Bridesmaids include Sophia's sister, Princess Irene of Greece (who stands to her left), and Sophia's future sister-in-law, Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark (standing to the right of Juan Carlos). Anne-Marie would marry Sophia's brother Constantine two years later.  
Princess Sophia of Greece waves from the carriage on her wedding day, May 14, 1962. 

Fifty years ago, on May 14, 1962, Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece were married in the bride's native Athens in one of the twentieth century's grandest unions of two European dynasties. Juan Carlos was the grandson of the late King Alfonso XIII of Spain and an heir to the deposed Spanish throne, while Sophia was the eldest daughter of King Paul of Greece.

King Paul of Greece performs the Greek Orthodox tradition of holding crowns over the heads of his daughter, Princess Sophia, and her husband, Prince Juan Carlos of Spain, during their wedding ceremony on May 14, 1962.

The wedding was one of the most spectacular royal events Athens had ever seen; the only other event that would rival it would be the wedding of Sophia's younger brother, King Constantine II, to Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark two years later. Crowned heads from all across Europe attended, most of whom were related to the bridal couple. Both Juan Carlos and Sophia were descendants of Queen Victoria of Great Britain - Juan Carlos' great-grandmother, Princess Beatrice, and Sophia's great-grandmother, Victoria, Princess Royal, were daughters of the Queen.

After the wedding, Juan Carlos and Sofia (she changed the spelling of her name to its Spanish form) resided in Madrid, where the dictator Francisco Franco had given them permission to reside in the former royal palace. Franco later decided that upon his death, the Spanish monarchy would be restored with Juan Carlos as its king. Juan Carlos and Sofia became King and Queen of Spain in 1975 upon Franco's death, and since then they have enjoyed a significantly high degree of popularity among the Spanish people. The marriage has produced three children - Elena, Cristina and Felipe.

Sadly, the King and Queen's anniversary has been tainted by recent events concerning a highly controversial hunting trip the King took to Africa, and just weeks ago one of the King and Queen's grandchildren accidentally shot himself in the foot. The announcement by the royal household that there would be no commemoration of the royal wedding anniversary ignited long-standing rumors about the unhappiness of the King and Queen's marriage.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Queen Victoria's last living great-grandchild dies

Carl Johan Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg, died on May 5, 2012 at the age of 95.

Count Bernadotte was the son of King Gustaf VI of Sweden and his wife, Princess Margaret of Connaught. Princess Margaret was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, making Count Bernadotte one of the queen's 85 great-grandchildren. Count Bernadotte was also the uncle of the reigning king of Sweden and the reigning queen of Denmark.

He was born Prince Carl Johan of Sweden in 1916. His mother died when he was only three years old, and his father remarried some years later to Lady Louise Mountbatten, also a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and the aunt of the future Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Carl Johan was forced to renounce his title as a Prince of Sweden in 1946 when he married a commoner, Kerstin Wijmark. He remarried after her death to Countess Gunnila af Johannishus in 1988.

Following the death of Princess Katherine of Greece in 2007, Count Bernadotte remained the only living great-grandchild of Queen Victoria. His death at the age of 95 also makes him the longest-lived male descendant of the Queen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Birthday of Queen Frederica of Greece

Today, April 18, marks the 95th anniversary of the birth of Princess Frederica of Hanover, who later became Queen Frederica of Greece through her marriage to King Paul.

Princess Frederica Louise Thyra Victoria Margaret Sophie Olga Cecily Isabelle Christina of Hanover, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, was born on April 18, 1917 in Blankenburg, Prussia, part of the German Empire. She was the only daughter of Prince Ernst Augustus of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia. Through her mother, Princess Frederica was a granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

In 1937, Princess Frederica accepted the marriage proposal of Crown Prince Paul of Greece. Paul was Frederica's first cousin once-removed: his mother, Queen Sophia of Greece, was the sister of Frederica's grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm. Paul and Frederica were also descendants of both Britain's Queen Victoria and King Christian IX of Denmark. They were married in Athens in January 1938. She gave birth to their first child, Princess Sophia of Greece, in November of that year. Their first son, Prince Constantine of Greece, was born in June 1940, and their last child, Princess Irene, arrived in 1942.

As Crown Princess of Greece, Frederica was praised for her youthful exuberance and vivacious character, but initially gained some criticism concerning her German heritage. Crown Prince Paul became king in 1947, and for the first years of his reign Greece was plagued by civil war. King Paul and Queen Frederica worked tirelessly to aid their war-torn subjects. Queen Frederica set up the Queen's Camps to shelter and feed displaced child refugees of the war, and also braved dangerous battlefields to pay visits to soldiers. Despite her charitable efforts, Queen Frederica could never completely escape criticism. Her German heritage remained a source of contention for many Greeks, particularly after World War II, and her active political involvement also garnered detractors.

King Paul died suddenly in March 1964, and Queen Frederica's only son ascended the throne as King Constantine II. As queen mother, Frederica curtailed many of her royal duties in favor of her son's new wife, Queen Anne-Marie. In December 1967, after King Constantine unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the military regime that had seized control of the Greek government earlier that year, Queen Frederica fled Greece into exile with her son, his children and her daughter Irene.

In exile, Queen Frederica made numerous trips to India and became interested in eastern mysticism. She also spent her time visiting her growing brood of grandchildren. While her son Constantine went to live in a mansion in the outskirts of London, Frederica and Princess Irene lived primarily in Madrid with her daughter Sophia's family.

Queen Frederica died on February 6, 1981 at a hospital in Madrid of complications resulting from eye surgery (presumably done to remove cataracts). The Greek government permitted her family to bury her at the royal family's residence in Tatoi, near Athens, alongside her late husband. Frederica's son, King Constantine, and his family were allowed to attend the funeral, on the condition that they left Greece immediately after the burial.

Queen Frederica's eldest daughter is Queen Sofia of Spain, wife of King Juan Carlos. Frederica's eight grandchildren are - Infanta Elena of Spain, Infanta Cristina of Spain, Felipe, Prince of Asturias; Princess Alexia of Greece, Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, Prince Nikolaos of Greece, Princess Theodora of Greece, and Prince Philippos of Greece.