King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 70th birthday

Balcony appearance at the palaceYesterday, 30 April 2016, King Carl XVI Gustaf celebrated his 70th birthday throughout the whole day; ending a series of events marking his milestone during the week.

The day began with Te Deum, a thanksgiving service, in the Royal Palace Church at 10 AM. The service offered a brief programme of psalms, readings and an address from the recently installed Chief Court Chaplain of the Royal Parish, Johan Dalman, known for being one of Sweden’s most relaxed and humorous bishops and who lives for the spread of his message of “pray, care and celebrate mass”.

At 10:30 the annual military-themed ceremony at the Outer Courtyard took place. The King, watched by his family and a host of guests who stood on the side, oversaw a musical programme by defence musicians and oversaw and inspected the changing of the guards. A 21-shot salute was fired from Skeppsholmen near the Royal Palace at noon.

After the military-themed annual event at the Inner Courtyard, the Royal Family walked through the Royal Palace to the other side of it where they came out on the balustrade of the palace entrance at Lejonbacken, facing the bridge Norrbro that passes the parliament building. At Lejonbacken a choral tribute to the King took place, a gift from the City of Stockholm.

Balcony appearance at the palace

At 12:15 PM about 2,000 people from the massive choir “Kör för alla” (“Choir for everyone”), with the founding idea that anyone can join the choir regardless of their singing skill and without having to pass a test, started a performance of songs for the King and his family and guests who joined him at the balustrade above. Prince Oscar, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel’s second child who was born this March, joined the Royal Family in his mother’s arms as he made his official début at this event. It ended by everyone gathered below to see the King singing “Happy birthday” and a small thank you speech from the King, who with a glimpse in his eye said that it was interesting to see that most of the gathered people were female and that it made him quite happy.

Balcony appearance at the palace

At 1 PM King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia left the Royal Palace by horse-drawn cortège to the City Hall where the City of Stockholm gave a birthday luncheon with officials, royal guests and famous Stockholm people on the guest list. The Tensta Gospel Choir put smiles on everyone’s faces as they performed “All you need is love” for the King and guests at the arrival reception inside.

Start of cortège to City HallBack at the Royal Palace at 3:30 PM, the King and Queen welcomed the Speaker of the Parliament and Prime Minister for a presentation of the nation’s gift to the King’s 70th birthday. The gift is one dinner plate service set and one glass service set, both with the royal couple’s double monogram. The design for both sets is inspired by the King’s interest in the environment and nature. The plates, designed by Daniel Hassila and made at Gustavsbergs porslinsfabrik (Gustavsberg porcelain factory), are decorated by a border of stylized relief trees, and the glasses, designed by Carina Seth Andersson and blown in led-free crystal at Skrufs glasbruk (Skruf glass works), in their shape resemble a small forest pond.

At Grand Hotel before banquet

At 7 PM the King and Queen hosted a banquet for over 600 of their royal colleagues, select official representatives and friends. The menu offered

  • Marinated pike-perch bakes in browned butter with sooted and cooked white asparagus, egg and trout-roe
  • Reindeer calf sirloin with toasted almond, marinated and lightly smoked filet of reindeer with a variation of carrots and a grape sauce
  • Rhubarb mousse with poached rhubarb, rhubarb sorbet with liquorice root covered in white chocolate and rhubarb syrup

The only ones of the King’s five grandchildren to make an appearance at his 70th birthday where Princess Estelle, who attended the Te Deum and choral tribute appearance, and Prince Oscar, who attended the choral tribute appearance.

At Grand Hotel before banquetRoyal guests from reigning houses were Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Princess Takamado of Japan, Hereditary Prince Alois and Hereditary Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía of Spain, Prince Albert of Monaco, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and husband Mr Behn, Prince Raad bin Zeid and Majda Raad from Jordan, Prince Hassan bin Talal and Princess Sarvath el Hassan from Jordan.

Royals from former houses included Crown Princess Margarita and Prince Radu of Romania, Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia, Prince Leopold and Princess Ursula of Bavaria, Prince Manuel and Princess Anna of Bavaria, Prince Andreas of Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha, Hereditary Prince Hubertus and Hereditary Princess Kelly of Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha, Duke Max Emanuel and Duchess Elizabeth in Bavaria.

The King’s four sisters along with some of their children and in-laws were on the guest list, as were unusually many Bernadotte af Wisborg descendants – for example the (adopted) children of the late Count Carl Johan Bernadotte af Wisborg, the widow and son of the late Count Sigvard Bernadotte a Wisborg and from Mainau came Countess Bettina Bernadotte af Wisborg and Count Björn Bernadotte af Wisborg with their spouses. Prince Daniel’s and Princess Sofia’s parents were invited, as was Christopher O’Neill’s mother Eva. Other notable Bernadotte descendants in attendance during the day were Madeleine Bernadotte Kogevinas and Dagmar von Arbin.

My own day consisted of arriving at Lejonbacken at the Royal Palace around 9 AM to guard the best spot to stand, a lot of waiting, watching the royal appearance at the balustrades of Lejonbacken for the choral tribute at noon, a lovely three-course spring lunch at the Grand Hotel Veranda opposite the water and Royal Palace, then quite a lot of waiting again on the other side of the road outside the Grand Hotel to watch guests leave for the banquet. A lot of time on my feet and a lot of waiting, but I had a nice day together with my friend Martin and we met with Ken and wife from the UK and our Stockholm-based friend Pia during the day.

All of my photos can be seen in this Flickr album. For professional photos I refer to Utrecht and PPE.

Order of the Seraphim’s bell tolling for Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern

Last Saturday, 12 March, I attended the Order of the Seraphim’s bell tolling in memory of Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern (1932-2016), husband of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s sister Princess Birgitta, at the Riddarholmen Church in Stockholm.

As per tradition, the bell of the Riddarholmen Church tolls for one hour between noon and 1 PM on the funeral day of a knight or member of the Order of the Seraphim, during which members of the public may visit the church and pay their respects. At some point after the service, the seraphim shield of the deceased is then mounted on the walls of the church. Since 1807 the Riddarholmen Church is no longer an active church but functions only as a royal resting place and church for the Order of the Seraphim, making the bell ceremonies after the death of a knight or member of the order one of the very few times one can hear the bell toll and visit the church as an active one.

Order of the Seraphim's bell tolling for Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern (1932-2016)

King Carl XVI Gustaf had ordered flags to be flown at half-mast at the Royal Palace of Stockholm, Drottningholm Palace and Slottsbacken 2 until 1:30 PM on this day. Prince Johann Georg’s seraphim shield was taken from the Royal Palace to the Riddarholmen Church by a grenadier escort and placed on a table at the chancel of the church where a small group of musicians from the Life Guards were positioned. The bell tolled for one hour during which the musicians performed a few pieces of music and Tom Bergroth, senior curator at the Royal Orders of Knighthood, read out the basic details of the prince’s life in Swedish and German.

Order of the Seraphim's bell tolling for Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern (1932-2016)

Prince Johann Georg was, together with his brother Fürst Friedrich Wilhelm (d. 2010), appointed to Knight of the Order of the Seraphim in connection with his marriage to Princess Birgitta in 1961.

Order of the Seraphim's bell tolling for Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern (1932-2016)

Prince Johann Georg’s funeral took place at the Hedinger Church in Sigmaringen, part of a former Franciscan monastery and the final resting place for the Sigmaringen branch of the house of Hohenzollern. Apart from the widow Princess Birgitta and members of the Hohenzollern families guests included King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, Princess Désirée Baroness Silfverschiöld, Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld, Princess Christina Mrs Magnuson and Sibylla von Dincklage represented Princess Margaretha Mrs Ambler. From the German houses guests included Margrave Max of Baden, Duke Franz of Bavaria, Duke Max in Bavaria, Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Prince Andreas of Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha.

Order of the Seraphim's bell tolling for Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern (1932-2016)

Order of the Seraphim's bell tolling for Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern (1932-2016)

Prince Carl Philip engaged to marry Sofia Hellqvist

Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, screen caption.

Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, screen caption.

On Friday last week, 27 June 2014, the Royal Court summoned members of the media to a press conference at the Royal Palace of Stockholm, and without telling them the reason for it. The given time was 4:30 PM in the afternoon and the media duly arrived at what looked to be a very spontaneous and not very well planned event…

After much waiting the media could see Prince Carl Philip and Sofia walking into the palace from the inner courtyard and almost an hour after the set-out time they (and the live-watchers, as the media were live on internet TV) were told that the couple were inside speaking to King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.

Members of the media were taken to the small baroque park at the Royal Palace, looking down at the water below its stairs, the same place where Crown Princess Victoria arrived to the palace as a newly married bride on the royal barge in 2010. After a long wait the royals finally came out from the palace.
– Hello everyone, as you understand I’ve had the great honour of getting engaged to this wonderful young girl. A day that is completely amazing. We’re both overjoyed. A little nervous of course, but very happy. It feels great, Prince Carl Philip said as they approached the hoard of media waiting.

The proposal had apparently been made on the morning of the same day, on the countryside at a place which they both love. The couple stood in front of the gathered media and took questions to cameras and microphones stretched forward.
– Sometimes it feels good and right. Today it did, the Prince said about the timing of popping the question.

– I was very surprised. I thought I was on my way in to work and would have a completely normal day, but that didn’t happen. I was overwhelmed with joy, Sofia Hellqvist told the media.

– The day has been great. I don’t think I’ve had time to digest everything just yet, as said, this just happened a few hours ago. Then it was bang-on, then I was supposed to stand her and meet you. Great, but completely new for me. It’s been busy. Tomorrow I think we’ll sit and stare each other in the eyes, wondering what we’ve done, Sofia explained her experience of the day that far.

Asked what they fell for in each other, Prince Carl Philip replied that Sofia has an enormous heart, is wise, warm, humble and makes him feel comfortable and at home, while Sofia said that Carl Philip is the most humble person she has met and that this was one of the traits he fell for in the beginning, and that he has one of the most beautiful hearts she has ever met, a very warm person.

King Car XVI Gustaf & Queen Silvia, screen caption.

King Car XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, screen caption.

King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were seen arriving at the Royal Palace just before the appointed time of the press conference. As they stepped out into the baroque park around an hour after the set time they were also asked to comment.

– We have gotten to know Sofia during a number of years and we think she is a nice person and we have always had a very nice time together when she has visited us together with Prince Carl Philip. This will be great for us in the family. It’s all very nice, the King remarked.

– We got to know about this rather late also, so it was all very secret, the Queen said.

Around the same time as the press conference, the Royal Court’s website released the following statement via their website:

Engagement between Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist

The Marshal of the Realm is delighted to announce the engagement between Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist.

After His Majesty The King of Sweden had given his consent to the marriage between Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist, His Majesty requested the approval by the Swedish Government, in accordance with the procedures set out in the Swedish Constitution.

– Sofia has today said yes to the question to spend the rest of her life together with me. Today is a very happy day for Sofia and I, says Prince Carl Philip.

The wedding date has not yet been decided but it is planned to take place during the summer of 2015.

Svante Lindqvist
Marshal of the Realm

Sofia Hellqvist was born in 1984, grew up in Dalarna County from the time she started school and has two sisters. The Prince and Sofia supposedly met for the first time in 2007 and began dating in 2009 after his break-up from girlfriend of ten years, Emma Pernald, in February of that year. The Royal Court confirmed their relationship in 2010 an they have lived together since May 2011. Sofia has, unlike previous royal partners, been invited to several official royal events, the first being Princess Estelle’s christening in May 2012.

It is believed that Prince Carl Philip and Sofia will renovate Villa Solbacken on Royal Djurgården, the former home of Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian left to him in Bertil’s testament. The court has already said that Sofia’s first official appearance will be on Crown Princess Victoria’s birthday which is celebrated on the island of Öland on 14 July. The wedding will be held in the summer of 2015 and Sofia will probably be made Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Värmland; that is if the King keeps with his gender-neutral ideas and reminds himself that Jonas Bergström was announced to be made a HRH and duke of his future wife’s duchies upon the marriage that never happened.

Spain has a new king, Felipe VI

Yesterday evening in the Hall of Columns at the Royal Palace of Madrid, King Juan Carlos signed into law the special legislation passed by both chambers of the Spanish parliament (Cortes Generales) that enabled him to abdicate the throne for his son Felipe.

Signature ceremony for King Juan Carlos abdication.

Signature ceremony for King Juan Carlos abdication.

The signing ceremony was a simple and poignant affair, at times with a melancholic and bitter-sweet feeling. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia approached the palace by car as the Spanish national anthem was played and an honorary salute was fired. It was King Juan Carlos’ last car-ride to the palace as the reigning monarch. One can only imagine the emotions of voluntarily giving up the duty as king after overseeing so much development and change in Spain and Europe; being at the helm of a democratic development since the death of Franco in 1975.

The family closest to the old and new royal couples, seated to the right.

The family closest to the old and new royal couples, seated to the right.

Around 160 guests from official Spain were invited to oversee the historic signature. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were seated at the front centre, in front of the gathered guests, together with the (then) Prince and Princess of Asturias. The closest family was seated together on the right side: the (then) future king’s children Infanta Leonor and Infanta Sofia with their aunt Infanta Elena, the sisters of King Juan Carlos, Infanta Pilar and Infanta Margarita with husband. Also present were Infanta Alicia, Dowager Duchess of Calabria, and her son Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria, with his wife Anne. In the audience of guests one could spot King Simeon of Bulgaria and King Constantine of the Hellenes together with his wife Queen Anne-Marie.

The old and new royal couples after the signature.

The old and new royal couples after the signature.

A seemingly tired and frail King Juan Carlos left his walking stick to an aide and made his was to a table on the left side of the room. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy read out the legislation and the King subsequently signed it, with a counter-signature by the PM. Back at the royal seats King Juan Carlos greeted his family, especially his son Felipe with whom he exchanged a big bear-hug, before receiving a standing ovation lasting for several minutes. The signature ceremony ended with the Spanish national anthem, less than twenty minutes before the event started.

At midnight, 00:00 hours, the legislation came into effect as it was published in the official official state gazette (BOE, Boletín Oficial del Estado), and this the Prince and Princess of Asturias became King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain and their eldest daughter, Leonor, the new Princess of Asturias.

Today, on the morning of a public holiday in Madrid, the formal investiture and proclamation ceremonies for the new king started. At 9:30 AM in the audience room of the Zarzuela Palace, King Juan Carlos handed over the sash of the captain general of the Spanish armed forces; signifying that they have a new leader. This was another short ceremony were King Juan Carlos simply tied the red sash around his son’s waist while Queen Sofia, Queen Letizia, the Princess of Asturias, Infanta Sofia, Infanta Leonor, Infanta Elena and her oldest child Froilán, stood behind watching.

King Juan Carlos and King Felipe at the ceremony at Zarzuela.

King Juan Carlos and King Felipe at the ceremony at Zarzuela.

About an half an hour later, a car cortège transporting the royals to the centre of Madrid started; a journey that took them to the palace of the lower house of the Spanish parliament. There the new King and Queen together with their children were met by a military honour guard and the national anthem. After an inspection of the guard, King Felipe VI and his family briefly posed for photos on the palace stairs before entering the building.

King Felipe VI holds his proclamation speech in front of Queen Sofia, the Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia.

King Felipe VI holds his proclamation speech in front of Queen Sofia, the Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia.

On a large podium in front of the seated politicians and balcony of guests, the new royal family were seated. Jesús Posada Moreno, Speaker of the Congress of Deputies of Spain, held an introductory speech to mark the occasion. Queen Sofia, seated above on the balcony of guests together with her daughter Infanta Elena, received long standing ovations – all while her granddaughter Infanta Sofia noted her grandmother up there and told her sister the Princess of Asturias before they gave her a little wave.

The Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia.

The Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia.

Also seated on the balcony of guests, near Queen Sofia and Infanta Elena, were the sisters of King Juan Carlos, Infanta Pilar and Infanta Margarita with husband, King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria, with wife Anne, and Infanta Elena’s oldest child Froilán.

Queen Sofia speaks with close family and friends after the proclamation.

Queen Sofia speaks with close family and friends after the proclamation.

With the Spanish crown and sceptre from the eighteenth century placed on a stand just next to the seated royals, King Felipe VI rose and made his solemn proclamation. His two young daughters, whose feet didn’t touch the ground when seated on their chairs, did their best to listen to their father’s long following speech. After standing ovations and the national anthem, the ceremony was over. The proclamation ceremony was followed by a military defilé outside the palace of the congress.

King Felipe, Queen Letizia, the Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia.

King Felipe, Queen Letizia, the Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia.

At around 11:30 AM the new king and queen took their places in an open Rolls Royce which was then escorted, with the royal horse guards, to the Royal Palace. King Felipe VI stood up in the car during the whole cortège route and Spaniards lined the whole route.

King Felipe waves to people along the cortège route, Queen Letizia sitting down next to him.

King Felipe waves to people along the cortège route, Queen Letizia sitting down next to him.

As King Felipe and Queen Letizia arrived at the palace they received a gun salute from the gardens of the palace and people standing at the drive near the palace shouted “Viva El Rey” and “Felipe, Felipe”. The bells of the Almudena cathedral tolled and thousands of people stood with flags and cameras in the front park of the Royal Palace where.

King Felipe, Queen Letizia, the Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia on the balcony.

King Felipe, Queen Letizia, the Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia on the balcony.

Shortly after noon King Felipe and Queen Letizia and their daughters stepped out on the balcony for a very rare balcony appearance (in Spain this isn’t as common as in other countries). A considerably moved King Felipe received the ovations of the people with his wife and their two daughters who were both squinting their eyes at the strong sun as they waved and look out onto the crowds. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia joined them for a short while.

King Felipe's proclamation

The afternoon was concluded by a private reception for two-thousand guests from various sectors of Spanish life at the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Videos from the above events can be watched at the official royal Spanish YouTube account.

Princess Leonore’s coat of arms and monogram

Princess Leonore's coat of armsIn connection with her christening yesterday, it was announced that Princess Leonore’s coat of arms and monogram have been approved by King Carl XVI Gustaf for future use.

The coat of arms, drawn by the heraldic artist of Riksarkivet (The National Archives) Henrik Dahlström, consists of an oval shaped shield with four fields that split the arms, a middle heart field and a ducal/princely crown adorning it to mark the royal dignity. The four fields show the Lesser National Coat of Arms (fields one and four), the Folkunga dynasty’s arms (field two) and the coat of arms of Princess Leonore’s duchy Gotland (field three). The heart shield shows the Bernadotte coat of arms.

Princess Leonore's mongram The province coat of arms of Gotland (landskapsvapen in Swedish) is a blue field with a standing silver ram with golden horns and hoofs, carrying a golden stick decorated with a cross and a flying banner in the same golden colour, decorated with a red field and five flaps of gold. This motive stems from the first known seal of Gotland from 1280 and reminds us of the Agnus Dei motive. The landscape coat of arms is in its usual function crowned with the ducal/princely crown.

The monogram, drawn by the former heraldic artist of Riksarkivet (The National Archives), Vladimir A. Sagerlund, consists of the simple initial L that is adorned by the ducal/princely crown to mark the royal dignity.