Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bicentennial of Sweden's Bernadotte dynasty

February 2018 marked two hundred years since the House of Bernadotte ascended to the throne of Sweden, and the story of this dynasty's rise is all the more unique as its founder was not of royal birth nor even a Swede. In fact, the first monarch of the House of Bernadotte was an ambitious French soldier who had plenty of luck on his side. 

The origins of Sweden's 200-year-old royal house can be traced to the town of Pau in southwestern France, where Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte was born in January 1763, the son of the town's prosecutor. Bernadotte enlisted in the French army and rose through the ranks to become a general. 

After Napoleon crowned himself Emperor and established the First French Empire, Bernadotte was appointed a Marshal of the Empire. His success in the victorious Battle of Austerlitz came with a princely reward - the Emperor named Bernadotte Sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo, a small principality Napoleon had created after invading the Italian peninsula and crowning himself King of Italy.  

Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, later King Carl XIV Johan of Sweden
In 1810, Bernadotte came across an opportunity that would elevate him beyond the rank of a French marshal and the ruler of a small Italian principality. In Sweden, the aging King Charles XIII was left without an heir and a royal lineage on the verge of extinction. The king looked abroad to adopt a foreign prince as his successor, but his first attempt at this failed, as his initial choice, the Danish prince Carl August of Augustenburg, had fallen ill and died. The Swedish parliament, the Riskdag, pressured the king to appoint a new heir, and unexpectedly the name of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte appeared as a candidate. Bernadotte had been acquainted with a number of Swedish soldiers, who had remembered him as being a fair and just captor when Bernadotte took them as prisoner in the German city of Lubeck. Furthermore, the Riksdag felt that a soldier would be an ideal candidate for their future king, and a marshal of the French Empire with connections to the most powerful man in Europe made Bernadotte an even more attractive prospect. 

Reluctantly, King Charles XIII agreed in 1810 to appoint Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte as Crown Prince of Sweden. Bernadotte gave up his rights as Sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo and moved his family to Stockholm. His wife, Désirée, was not the least bit impressed with life at the Swedish court and kept herself in southern Europe as often as she could.

Upon the death of Charles XIII, Bernadotte succeeded to the Swedish throne on 5 February 1818 as King Charles XIV Johan of Sweden. What King Charles thought of his position is not always clear; he is reported to have said once "Who would have though that I, who had been a Marshal of France, am now only King of Sweden?" Nevertheless, he reigned until his death at the old age of 81 and was succeeded by his only child, born as Joseph Francois Oscar Bernadotte but crowned as King Oscar I of Sweden. Oscar I married Josephine of Leuchtenberg, a granddaughter of Napoleon's first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais. 

From Charles XIV Johan's accession in 1818, the House of Bernadotte ruled over not only Sweden but also Norway in a personal union. The bond between Sweden and Norway was broken in 1905, when the Norwegian parliament voted for independence and invited a Danish prince to become its first independent modern king as Haakon VII (Haakon himself was the son of a Bernadotte princess, Louisa of Sweden).     

The monarchs of the House of Bernadotte are: 

Carl XIV Johan (Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte)

Oscar I (Francois Oscar Bernadotte) 

Carl XV

Oscar II

Gustaf V 

Gustaf VI Adolf

Carl XVI Gustaf

The present king, Carl XVI Gustaf, has been on the throne since 1973. This year, he will become the longest-reigning Swedish monarch in history, surpassing the forty-five year reign of King Magnus IV in the fourteenth century. King Carl XVI Gustaf came to the throne with his monarchical powers restricted considerably, as the Swedish parliament voted during the reign of his grandfather, Gustaf VI Adolf, to reduce the powers of the monarch down to that of a ceremonial figurehead, with virtually no political authority. However, out of respect for the elderly Gustaf VI, it was decided that the monarch's reduced status would not take effect until the reign of his successor. 

The House of Bernadotte is set to continue in the next generation with Crown Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of King Carl XVI Gustaf and his wife, Queen Silvia. In 1980, a new law came into effect that changed the succession to the throne to absolute primogeniture, meaning that the firstborn child of a monarch, regardless of gender, would become heir. The King and Queen already had two children at this point, Victoria and her younger brother, Carl Philip, who had been born as crown prince, but once this law came into effect Victoria usurped Carl Philip, as the second-born child, and became crown princess of Sweden. Second in line to the throne is Victoria's daughter, six-year-old Princess Estelle, followed by her brother, two-year-old Prince Oscar. 

King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden with their children and grandchildren.
The popularity of the House of Bernadotte has fluctuated in recent decades. It is believed that the monarchy in Sweden holds about a 70% approval rating, not particularly stellar when compared to its Scandinavian neighbors, Norway and Denmark, whose monarchies are both quite popular. Crown Princess Victoria enjoys a high approval rating, and there have been some calls for the aging King Carl XVI to step down in favor of his daughter. However, the royal court has indicated this is unlikely to occur. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Beauharnais family – unexpected royal conquerors

Joséphine de Beauharnais with her children, Eugène and Hortense.
When Emperor Napoleon dissolved his marriage with Joséphine de Beauharnais over her inability to sire an heir for his newly minted imperial throne, it was sufficient to say that her legacy would probably be a tarnished one. Though her beauty had been renowned and her charm was indisputable, she had been put aside by the most powerful man in all of Europe. She perhaps went to her grave four years later believing she had failed in her duty. Ironically, the lineage that Joséphine had felt such pressure to continue would die out prematurely, while her own descendants from her previous marriage made surprisingly advantageous marital alliances with various royal houses of Europe. As it stands today, Napoleon has no surviving legitimate descendants, while Joséphine’s descendants currently occupy the thrones of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Furthermore, two of her grandchildren were consorts to past monarchs of Brazil and Portugal. One of her grandsons even managed to follow in Napoléon’s footsteps to become Emperor of the French. So who were the Beauharnaises, the unexpected conquerors of royal Europe?

In 1779, a Caribbean-born French aristocrat, Alexandre de Beauharnais, Viscount de Beauharnais, married Rose Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie, who like her husband had also been born in the Caribbean to a prominent French family. Together they had two children: Eugène de Beauharnais and Hortense de Beauharnais. Alexandre lost his head at the guillotine in the Reign of Terror phase of the French Revolution, and his wife Rose would most likely have been sent to the guillotine herself had Maximilian Robespierre not been executed just five days later, bringing an end to the Terror.
Empress Joséphine

Alive but widowed and destitute, Rose returned to her children and did what she could to navigate the murky waters of the precarious new world that had been created by the Revolution. After cultivating lovers from various corners of high French society, Rose married a young Corsican army officer named Napoleon Bonaparte. She was not particularly bowled over by him, but he was ambitious and helplessly in love with her. They married in 1796, at which point Napoleon insisted that she begin calling herself by her middle name, Joséphine. Though she was not passionately in love with Napoleon, Joséphine was happy to be settled financially and especially appreciated the devotion her new husband felt for her two children. Little could Joséphine have known at this time that this marriage would catapult her to a place she would never have imagined in her wildest dreams. 

By 1799, Joséphine’s husband had become the most powerful man in France as “First Consul”, which he eventually turned into consul for life. Then, in 1804, Napoleon made the audacious move to proclaim the First French Empire and crowned himself as Emperor of the French. Joséphine, in turn, became Empress of the French. Yet Joséphine now faced the pressure of giving her husband an heir to inherit the throne, and her inability to sire any other children led Napoleon to serve her with a divorce. When Joséphine died four years later, Napoleon, by this time forced into his first exile on the island of Elba, fell into a depression after learning of her passing. 
Emperor Napoleon crowning Joséphine at their coronation, 1804.

Even after his divorce from their mother, Napoleon continued to act as a paternal figure to his stepchildren, Eugène and Hortense, and always kept an affectionate relationship with both. Eugène was appointed viceroy of Italy after Napoleon invaded the region and crowned himself King of Italy, and has long been regarded as one of the most politically astute of Napoleon’s relatives. As for Hortense, she not only was Napoleon’s stepdaughter but eventually would be his sister-in-law. Hortense married Napoleon’s brother, Louis Bonaparte, who was created King of Holland after Napoleon’s armies invaded the territory that is nowadays the Netherlands. Louis and Hortense were the parents of Napoleon III, who followed in his uncle’s footsteps to become Emperor of the Second French Empire from 1852 to 1870. Napoleon III's only son died young without having married, and Hortense's royal lineage ends there. 
Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg

Eugène de Beauharnais contracted a successful royal marriage of his own with Princess Augusta of Bavaria, daughter of King Maximilian I of Bavaria. Having received the hereditary title Duke of Leuchtenberg from his father-in-law, Eugène and Princess Augusta had seven children who ingratiated themselves into Europe’s royal menagerie. Their eldest daughter, Joséphine, named for her grandmother, married King Oscar of Sweden; their eldest son, Auguste, married Queen Maria II of Portugal, and their third daughter, Amelie, married Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. Two of their other daughters married minor German princes, while their youngest son, Maximilian, married one of the daughters of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

Through the children of Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg, and Princess Augusta of Bavaria, the Beauharnais line traveled down primarily through Sweden’s royal lineage. In fact, the current royal family of Sweden, the House of Bernadotte, has a Napoleonic connection of its own. The dynasty’s founder was a French general named Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte who later served as one of Napoleon’s marshals and was also married to Desiree Clary, who was briefly Napoleon’s fiancé before he married Joséphine. Bernadotte was later chosen to become crown prince of Sweden and ascended the throne as King Carl XIV John. King Carl and Queen Desiree’s son, King Oscar I, married Eugène’s daughter, Joséphine of Leuchtenberg. Through the Swedish royal line, the current monarchs of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and Luxembourg are descendants of King Oscar I and Joséphine of Leuchtenberg. 
Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland

Ancestry from Eugéne de Beauharnais to the present Queen of Denmark: Eugéne de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg à Joséphine of Leuchtenberg, Queen of Sweden à King Charles XV of Sweden à Louise of Sweden, Queen of Denmark à King Christian X of Denmark à King Frederick IX of Denmark à Queen Margrethe II of Denmark

Ancestry from Eugéne de Beauharnais to the present King of Sweden: Eugéne de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg à Joséphine of Leuchtenberg, Queen of Sweden à King Oscar II of Sweden à King Gustaf V of Sweden à King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden à Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden à King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

Ancestry from Eugéne de Beauharnais to the present King of Norway: Eugéne de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg à Joséphine of Leuchtenberg, Queen of Sweden à King Charles XV of Sweden à Louise of Sweden, Queen of Denmark à King Haakon VII of Norway à King Olav V of Norway à King Harald V of Norway

Ancestry from Eugéne de Beauharnais to the present King of Belgium: Eugéne de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg à Joséphine of Leuchtenberg, Queen of Sweden à King Oscar II of Sweden à Prince Carl of Sweden à Princess Astrid of Sweden, Queen of the Belgians à King Albert II of Belgium à King Philippe of Belgium

Ancestry from Eugéne de Beauharnais to the present Grand Duke of Luxembourg: Eugéne de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg à Joséphine of Leuchtenberg, Queen of Sweden à King Oscar II of Sweden à Prince Carl of Sweden à Princess Astrid of Sweden, Queen of the Belgians à Princess Josephine-Charlotte of Belgium, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg à Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Prince consort versus king consort

The recent death of Prince Henrik, consort of Denmark's Queen Margrethe II, has brought attention to an aspect of European royalty that has been addressed several times but often leaves confusion among those unfamiliar with royal protocol. For better or worse, the late Prince Henrik will definitely be known for his well-publicized annoyance with never having been made king consort. “My wife has decided that she would like to be Queen, and I’m very pleased with that,” he declared in a 2017 interview. “But as a person, she must know that if a man and a woman are married, then they are equal.”  

In many ways, it is difficult to argue with the prince's logic. The wife of a king is typically (barring exceptional circumstances) made queen consort, accompanied by holding the feminine equivalent of his title, the privilege of being addressed as "Your Majesty", and sharing equal ranking alongside him. For the husbands of reigning queens, however, this has not usually been the case. An official title such as Prince Consort might be granted, but these men have rarely been elevated to the rank of king, remain as "Your Royal Highness" rather than "Your Majesty", and are expected to walk one step behind their wives and bow to them as all other secondary members of the royal family do.  

Perhaps the best way to explain this is to consider the fact that historically, most monarchs have been male, and a man who holds the title of King has generally been considered to be the reigning monarch and thus in the position of power over all other members of his family. This would include a king's wife, even though she may be his equivalent by rank she nevertheless does not share his power. The argument could be made then that if a woman succeeds as a reigning Queen, and her husband were to be made King, it leaves the assumption that he holds the royal authority over his wife. The specification would have to be made, therefore, that he is King consort and not the reigning King. 

Surprisingly, there have been instances in history where the husband of a reigning queen has been made king. The best examples have taken place in Portugal and Spain. Only one man has ever been a consort to a reigning queen in Spain's history - Francis of Bourbon, Duke of Cadiz. He married Queen Isabella II, at which point he became His Majesty King Francis of Spain. He did not take on any constitutional responsibilities and did not share authority with his wife, but he was nevertheless made king. 

Portugal had two female monarchs in its history (both named Maria), and during the reigns of their wives both of their husbands were regarded as co-monarch alongside their queens. However, there were specifications for a male consort becoming king under Portuguese law. The queen's husband could only become king after his wife gave birth to a male heir. The first queen, Maria I, was in fact married to her uncle, Pedro, a Portuguese prince in his own right. They were already married and had a son before Maria ascended the throne, so he automatically became King Pedro and her co-monarch when she assumed the crown. The second Portuguese queen, Maria II, was already on the throne when she married her two husbands. Her first husband, Auguste de Beauharnais (a grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte's first wife, Josephine), was named prince consort upon their marriage but died before he and his wife could have children, thus never becoming king. Maria II married a second time to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, who was also created prince consort on marriage but became King Ferdinand upon the birth of their eldest son. 

The scenario of having a king consort actually occurred in English history once before. Queen Mary I, the eldest daughter of King Henry VIII, married King Philip II of Spain. Philip was technically her king consort though he was permitted to be regarded as co-monarch provided that all of his actions as king were performed jointly with the queen. The case of William of Orange, who became King William III and reigned jointly with his wife, Mary II, was an exceptional one in that he had been invited to take the throne by Parliament and continued to reign in his own right after his wife's death. Mary II's sister, Queen Anne, married Prince George of Denmark but he did not become king consort, instead remaining a prince and given the additional title of Duke of Cumberland. The husbands of Britain's next two female monarchs also remained princes during their wives' reigns - Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, was given the title of Prince Consort, while the present royal consort, Prince Philip, holds the additional title of Duke of Edinburgh. In the cases of Prince George, Prince Albert, and Prince Philip, neither of them held any constitutional responsibilities, neither of them could supercede their wives' authority, and neither of them were eligible to inherit the throne for themselves through their wives (though Prince Philip had in fact been very distantly in line for the British throne in his own right, as a descendant of Queen Victoria). 

Is it possible that the husband of a female monarch could be named king in the future? Certainly. The high number of female royal heirs means that, in a few decades, Europe's monarchical landscape will be dominated by reigning queens. Norway will one day have Queen Ingrid Alexandra, Sweden's next monarch will be Queen Victoria, followed by her daughter the future Queen Estelle, Belgium's next monarch will be Queen Elisabeth, Spain's next monarch will be Queen Leonor, and the Netherlands' next monarch will be Queen Catharina-Amalia. Who is to say that the future husbands of these upcoming queens regnant could not be kings consort? It only takes one for other monarchies to base precedent upon. 

HRH Prince Henrik of Denmark, 1934 - 2018

The Danish royal family is in mourning for the death of His Royal Highness Prince Henrik, the husband of Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II. The consort passed away at the age of 83 on Tuesday, 13 February after having been hospitalized since January with a lung infection. His health deteriorated considerably in recent years, most significantly with the announcement in 2017 that he had been diagnosed with dementia. 

Prince Henrik's passing comes a year after the death of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Burleburg, the husband of Queen Margrethe's second sister, Princess Benedikte. The only surviving husband of Denmark's trio of royal sisters is 77-year-old King Constantine II of Greece, the spouse of the youngest sister, Queen Anne-Marie. 

Denmark's first-ever male royal consort lived a life that was anything but ordinary. Born as Henri de Laborde de Monpezat in France, he spent part of his childhood in Vietnam, then part of French Indochina, and later returned to Asia as an adult to study. Service in the French army during the Algerian War preceded his work in the diplomatic service. Henri was posted to the French embassy in London when he met Princess Margrethe of Denmark, eldest daughter of King Frederick IX and heir to the Danish throne. They married in June 1967, at which point Henri changed his name to Henrik, was given the rank of a Danish prince, and changed his faith from Catholicism to Lutheranism. Prince Henrik and Princess Margrethe welcomed two sons within the next two years - Prince Frederik (born 1968) and Prince Joachim (born 1969) - and he became the royal consort with his wife's accession as queen in 1972. 

Henrik's Gallic temperament, artistic flair, and cosmopolitan tastes in many ways made him an ideal match for his wife, who is renowned for her artistic abilities and could arguably be regarded as Europe's best-educated monarch. Nevertheless, he found it difficult to fully acclimate himself within Danish society even five decades after marrying into its royal family. The Danish press took to lighthearted mocking of his prominent French accent, but more seriously were his numerous outbursts over his subordinate position to his wife. 

In 2002, he quite openly stropped off to his vacation home in southern France after the royal court chose his son, Crown Prince Frederik, to host a New Year's banquet in place of the indisposed queen. The prince consort took offense at being bypassed in favor of his son, venting his frustrations to the press from his self-imposed exile in a manner not often seen from royalty. He even refused to accompany his wife to the wedding of the future King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Eventually he reneged and came back home to Denmark, but the incident marked the prince thereafter. His willingness to speak frankly about his unhappiness stands in marked contrast with his British counterpart, Prince Philip, who rarely if ever took to publicly expressing his well-known frustrations with being a male consort. 

Prince Henrik's behavior in recent years had attracted more unflattering attention. His wife's announcement that he would be stepping down from public duties in 2016 was followed by more public outbursts later that year, in which he derided the fact that he was never made "king consort" and claimed he was the subject of gender discrimination since the wives of male monarchs are made queen and he was stuck with remaining as simply a prince. Then Henrik declared that as a result of having been denied equal footing with her in life, he would not be buried beside the queen in Roksilde Cathedral, the traditional burial place of Danish monarchs and their consorts. Such behavior did not appeal to the unassuming Danes, and even Queen Margrethe often responded to her husband's rants with a roll of the eyes. 

The Danish people's considerable admiration for their queen, however, meant that there would always be some amount of respect for her husband, and in this sad time they have paid tribute to their widowed monarch and her late husband with a modest outpouring of affection that is typical of the country. Whatever their feelings towards him in life may have been, there can be no denying that Prince Henrik brought a considerable amount of flavor and zest to the Danish royal family. 

50th Birthday of HM The King of Spain

On 30 January, His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain turned fifty years old. 

The King is Europe's most recently enthroned monarch, having accepted the crown on 19 June 2014 upon the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos. Together with his glamorous wife, Queen Letizia, Felipe VI has worked hard at restoring the prestige of the Spanish monarchy. Though King Juan Carlos enjoyed widespread public approval for much of his thirty-nine-year reign, the last of his years on the throne were marred by scandal and accusations of corruption. It was hoped that Felipe's accession would revitalize the House of Bourbon and help clean up the royal family's tarnished image. By most accounts, it appears to be working. 

As part of the commemorations for this milestone birthday, King Felipe formally bestowed the ribbon and collar of Spain's highest order, the Order of the Golden Fleece, upon his eldest daughter and heir, Princess Leonor. The 12-year-old Princess of Asturias was invested into the Order back in 2015 on her tenth birthday, but this ceremony on her father's fiftieth was the first time she had actually received the order's corresponding regalia. It was also intended to mark the first step in formalizing the young princess's public role as heiress to the throne. 
King Felipe VI of Spain bestows his eldest daughter, HRH The Princess of Asturias, with the ribbon of the Order of the Golden Fleece on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday.

Leonor, Princess of Asturias curtsies to her father, HM The King of Spain.

Felipe was born on 30 January 1968 in Madrid, the third child and only son of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain (as he was known as then) and Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark. His father was the elder son of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona and Princess Maria Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. His mother was the eldest child of King Paul of Greece and Princess Frederica of Hanover. He has two elder sisters, Infanta Elena and Infanta Cristina.
The names he received were reflective of Spanish royal history as well as his own family lineage - Felipe, in honor of King Philip V, who was the first Spanish king of the House of Bourbon; Juan, in honor of his paternal grandfather, Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona; Pablo, in honor of his maternal grandfather, King Paul of Greece; Alfonso, in honor of his great-grandfather, King Alfonso XIII, who was the last Spanish king to rule before the abolition of the monarchy back in 1931. Felipe's godparents were his grandfather, Juan, and his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain (wife of Alfonso XIII), who was a granddaughter of England's Queen Victoria. 

At the time of Felipe's birth, Spain was still under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, though the following year, Franco formally declared that upon his death the Spanish monarchy would be restored with Juan Carlos as king. With his father's accession to the throne in 1975, Felipe became first in the line of succession and was granted the title Prince of Asturias. 

The handsome 6'6 prince attracted considerable media attention regarding his personal life, and the Spanish media linked to a number of women. Yet he surprised everyone when he announced his engagement to Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a news anchorwoman. Not only was Letizia the first bride of a future Spanish king to be born a commoner, and the fact that she was divorced raised plenty of eyebrows. However, the Catholic Church in Spain reported that since Letizia's previous marriage was a civil union and did not take place within the church, she could marry the Prince of Asturias religiously and still receive the church's blessing. 

The wedding of the Prince and Princess of Asturias was held on 22 May 2004 at the Almuneda Cathedral in Madrid, the first royal wedding in the Spanish capital since the 1906 nuptials of Felipe's great-grandparents, King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. That wedding had been marred by a terrorist's bomb which narrowly missed the bridal couple and could have potentially killed half of Europe's royalty. Luckily, this wedding ceremony was only marred by inclement weather. 

The Prince and Princess of Asturias had two daughters - Leonor and Sofia. Succession to the Spanish throne runs along the line of male-preference primogeniture, meaning males take priority over females, and female offspring of a Spanish monarch can succeed if they have no brothers to supersede them. Thus, their eldest daughter, Leonor, is first in the line of succession but would be displaced as heir to the throne if her parents were to have a son. 

In 2014, with his popularity declining along with his health, King Juan Carlos announced that he would be stepping down in favor of his son. Felipe ascended the throne on 19 June as King Felipe VI, with his wife becoming Spain's first queen consort to not be born into royalty. Their daughter Leonor thus became the Princess of Asturias and their younger daughter Sofia is second in line to the throne.