Tuesday, August 30, 2016

70th Birthday of HM Queen Anne-Marie of Greece

Her Majesty Queen Anne-Marie of Greece turns seventy on August 30, 2016. The wife of former
King Constantine II of Greece, she has led a remarkable life, from her beginnings as a princess of Europe's oldest monarchy to becoming the young queen of a politically unstable kingdom before facing nearly fifty years of exile. Despite such misfortunes, the Queen has drawn comfort from a loving marriage, a happy family life with five children and, later on, nine grandchildren, and the privilege of retaining close family ties to the other reigning houses of Europe.

She was born as Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark on August 30, 1946 at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, the third and youngest daughter of King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid. Her father was the son of King Christian X, while her mother was the only daughter of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden. Through her mother, Anne-Marie is a great-great-granddaughter of "the grandmother of Europe", Queen Victoria of Great Britain, and through her father, a great-great-granddaughter of "the father-in-law of Europe", King Christian IX of Denmark. Her eldest sister, Margrethe II, is the reigning Queen of Denmark, and her second elder sister, Princess Benedikte, is married to the German prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. 

King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie in the early years of their marriage.
Anne-Marie met Crown Prince Constantine of Greece, her third cousin and a fellow descendant of both Queen Victoria and King Christian IX, when she was thirteen years old and he was nineteen. They met again a few years later, when Anne-Marie was fifteen, and became unofficially engaged. The Danish king and queen asked the couple to wait until their daughter had reached maturity before marrying (King Frederick reportedly locked Crown Prince Constantine in his bathroom after being told of his intentions to propose), but the sudden death of Constantine's father, King Paul, and his ascension to the Greek throne sped up their plans. On September 18, 1964, two weeks after her eighteenth birthday, Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark married King Constantine II of Greece at the Mitropolis Cathedral in Athens. Upon marriage, she officially became Her Majesty The Queen of the Hellenes, and also the world's youngest queen consort.

King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie at their golden wedding anniversary celebration in 2014 with their children and their spouses. From left: Princess Alexia, her husband Carlos Morales; Crown Princess Marie-Chantal, Crown Prince Pavlos, Queen Anne-Marie, King Constantine, Prince Nikolaos, his wife Princess Tatiana, Princess Theodora, and Prince Philippos.

The new Queen of the Hellenes only spent three years in her new kingdom before a military coup in April 1967 and the King's failed counter-attack in December of that year forced the royal family to flee into exile. They stayed in Rome and with the Queen's family in Denmark before finally settling in a mansion outside of London, where they stayed until 2013. Between 1965 and 1986, Queen Anne-Marie gave birth to five children - Princess Alexia, Crown Prince Pavlos (who were both born in Greece), Prince Nikolaos (born in Rome after the family's exile), Princess Theodora and Prince Philippos (both born in London). King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie visited Greece in 1981 for the funeral of Constantine's mother, Queen Frederica, and again in 1993 on a sailing trip that led to the Greek government buzzing their yacht with warplanes and stripping the family of their citizenship and private property. A lawsuit filed in the European Court of Human Rights led to a cash settlement with King Constantine, who donated the funds to a charity entitled the Anna-Maria Foundation, named in Queen Anne-Marie's honor and with her serving as chairwoman.
Queen Anne-Marie, her sisters Queen Margrethe II and Princess Benedikte, and their mother, Queen Ingrid.

In 2013, King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie returned to live in Greece. Though they have been deposed since 1973, they retain close family ties to the other monarchies of Europe. Anne-Marie is still a member of the Danish royal family, often present at events such as her sister Queen Margrethe's birthday and jubilee celebrations, and the wedding of her nephew, Crown Prince Frederik, in 2004. Anne-Marie's sister-in-law is Queen Sofia of Spain, consort of King Juan Carlos until his abdication in 2014. Anne-Marie and her husband attended the 2004 wedding of their son, the current Spanish king Felipe VI, and were also present at his enthronement ceremony in June 2014.

King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie with their son and daughter-in-law, Crown Prince and Crown Princess Pavlos of Greece, and their grandson, Prince Constantine, preparing to attend the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.

In true modern fashion, Queen Anne-Marie was celebrated on social media by members of her family. Her daughter Princess Theodora and her son Crown Prince Pavlos took to their respective Instagram accounts to post birthday greetings for their mother. 

Funeral for Queen Anne of Romania

Her Majesty Queen Anne of Romania, the late wife of Romania's last monarch, King Michael, was buried on Saturday August 13 in a ceremony described by the international media as the biggest royal funeral since that of Queen Marie of Romania back in 1938.

While it was not a state funeral, the Queen, who died on August 1 in a Swiss hospital, was given a guard of honor by soldiers of the Michael the Brave regiment. Members of Anne's family were in attendance, along with representatives of various European royal houses. A service held in front of the former Royal Palace in Bucharest (now the National Museum of Art) preceded the Queen's burial at the cathedral of Curtea de Arges. Absent from the service were King Michael, who was advised by doctors not to attend as he is currently receiving extensive treatment for cancer, and Anne's daughter, Irina, who lives in the United States but was arrested in 2013 and convicted of engaging in illegal cockfighting.

Below are photographs from the ceremony.

Coffin of Queen Anne arrives at the Cathedral of Curtea de Arges.

From left: Queen Anne's second daughter, Princess Elena; Prince Radu and Princess Margarita, Queen Anne's eldest daughter and her husband.

From left: Queen Anne's youngest daughter, Princess Maria, comforts her sister, Princess Sofia.

Nicholas Medforth-Mills, Queen Anne's grandson. Nicholas, the son of Princess Elena, was previously styled as HRH Prince Nicholas of Romania following his 25th birthday in 2010, as King Michael had designated him to be third in line to head the Romanian royal house, behind his mother and his aunt Margarita. In 2015, however, the King stripped Nicholas of his title and revoked his place in the succession for undisclosed reasons.

Princess Maria, followed by her nephew, Nicholas Medforth-Mills.

Princess Maria weeps as her sister Princess Sofia comforts her.

Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma, Duke of Parma; he is the current head of the royal house which Queen Anne was born into.

Various royals in attendance, including Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (second from left), the current head of the deposed Russian imperial house, and next to her Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, current head of the House of Hohenzollern, the deposed imperial house of the German Empire and the dynasty from which the Romanian royal family descends.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tribute to Her Majesty Queen Anne of Romania, 1923-2016

Queen Anne of Romania, a Franco-Danish princess born from a deposed Italian royal house and married to a deposed Romanian king, has died at the age of 92. The Queen passed away on August 1 at a Swiss hospital with four of her five daughters at her side, while a statement issued by the royal household said her 95-year-old husband, King Michael, had been with her each day of the past week. A second cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Philip’s father and Anne’s mother were first cousins), Queen Anne lived a colorful life buoyed up by her independence and informality. Born as Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in 1923, she descended from the ruling house of the dissolved Italian duchy of Parma, and through her Danish mother she was closely related to the kings of Denmark. Yet from a young age, she was exposed to a decidedly un-royal life. Escaping the Nazi invasion of France and fleeing to the United States, the Bourbon-Parma family joined the workforce; Anne was even employed for a time at a Macy's department store. When her brothers returned to Europe and joined the Allied armies, she begged her parents for the chance to participate in the effort. She did so as an ambulance driver, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government after the war ended.

Unlike most of her royal relatives, Anne was exposed to something of a "normal" life, having to work for a living and serving with the armed forces. It was this difference that no doubt enhanced her appeal when she was introduced to her future husband, King Michael of Romania, at the royal wedding of England's Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in November 1947. She agreed to marry him not long after, but by the time the couple saw each other again in 1948 things had dramatically changed. Michael lost his throne on December 30, 1947 when the communist party forced him to abdicate in favor of a socialist republic. Having already had their marriage plans marred by Michael's abdication, the young couple then faced another obstacle when the Pope refused to grant a dispensation for Anne, a Catholic, to marry her Eastern Orthodox king. In the end, Anne defied the church and married King Michael in an Orthodox ceremony held at the Royal Palace in Athens, Greece. Settling in Switzerland, they raised five daughters - Margareta, Elena, Sofia, Irina, and Maria. King Michael worked a number of jobs, Queen Anne took the children to school, and for all intents and purposes the exiled royals looked set on a life of quiet, permanent exile.
The collapse of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime and the end of communist rule over Romania in 1989 scuttled those plans. For the first time since their wedding, the international press came calling on King Michael and Queen Anne. As was the case with other deposed Eastern European monarchs, the idea of a royal restoration in Romania after 1989 seemed not entirely impossible. Unaccustomed to the spotlight, Anne nonetheless undertook the opportunity to offer her services to the Romanian people in any way she could. For a woman who held the title Her Majesty The Queen of Romania out of courtesy for forty-four years, it was not until 1992 that she actually set foot on Romanian soil. Her husband had been banned the previous year after his visit generated a turnout from the citizens of Bucharest that left the sitting government less than thrilled, but Queen Anne’s discreet forays into her “homeland”, along with frequent visits by her daughters, were billed as humanitarian efforts and only served to appeal the long-exiled royals to a population still shattered by brutal communist dictators. By 1997, the restrictions on King Michael’s entries into Romania had been lifted, and the royal couple visited with increasing regularity. Their repeat trips led to the Romanian government taking the unprecedented step of offering the vacant palaces for the family to occupy again; Michael and Anne chose to use Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest as their base when in the country. Since then, they have visited the country for holidays, state occasions, and family celebrations such as their sixtieth wedding anniversary in 2008. Queen Anne’s last publicized visit to Romania was for the king’s 90th birthday in 2011, but her increasingly frail health kept her back in Switzerland.

The author Peter Kurth, in a 1990 profile on King Michael and Queen Anne, wrote about Anne’s appearance at a Geneva church service attended by numerous Romanian émigrés; when a Romanian teenager shot during the 1989 revolution was wheeled to the church, Queen Anne swept over to the young man and held his hand, despite the fact that she spoke not a lick of Romanian. The event is characteristic of her straightforwardness, some might say even feistiness; it is easy to understand why a character as serious and duty-bound as King Michael found his ideal match in this woman. She might not have commanded the unbending love of the Romanian people in the way her husband’s grandmother, the flamboyant and legendary Queen Marie, did back in the darkest days of World War I, but for a country struggling to reclaim its identity, Her Majesty Queen Anne was a quiet symbol of hope and dignity. What effect her death will have upon her husband remains to be seen, but it can be assumed that in his frail health, he may not last much longer with out the support, strength, and assurance he received for the sixty-eight years they lived together. May Her Majesty rest in peace, knowing that whatever the future holds for her husband and children, her devotion to them and to the Romanian people, from whom she was separated for so many decades, shall not be forgotten.