Category Archives: People

Princess Madeleine has given birth to a daughter

Princess Madeleine's wedding

While most Swedes were sleeping away in the darkness of another winter night, Princess Madeleine gave birth to a baby daughter in New York, USA, while it was still late evening on the other side of the Atlantic. The baby girl was born at 10:41 PM EST on 20 February 2014 at the Weill Cornell Medical Center at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Sweden woke up to the news of the royal birth this morning, 21 February 2014, when the media were full of the news and the Royal Court published the official announcement by the Marshal of the Realm on the royal website. The first salutes for the baby girl were fired at noon (CET) today from Skeppsholmen in Stockholm and tomorrow four other Swedish cities will follow suit.

Shortly after noon local New York time (EST), just after 6 PM in Sweden, the proud father Christopher O’Neill held a short press conference. It was an unshaved, casual and clearly very tired father who told the media that the little girl weighed 3,150 grams and was 50 centimetres tall at birth. It was a normal birth and Mr O’Neill attended the whole process which took just about “the whole day” according to a doctor present. The proud father further told the gathered media that the little girl has dark hair and dark eyes and resembles his mother; something he had apparently been hoping for. Mr O’Neill was the one who cut the umbilical cord and he has already taken many photos with his mobile phone. A name has already been decided but he was (of course not) allowed to share it. After a rather improvised press conference of a few minutes and not the best sound, Mr O’Neill showed the cameras a footprint of his daughter on one of his arms. He also said that he had prepared a little gift for the new mother, probably a piece of jewellery as is the custom (a box was mentioned).

In Sweden the Royal Court has confirmed that King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia got on a plane during the day to fly to New York and meet their second grandchild. The traditional cabinet meeting which the King calls after a royal birth to announce the name and titles will probably be held sometime next week. Instead of the traditional witness confirmation, an ancient ceremony where the Speaker of the Parliament, Prime Minister, Marshal of the Realm and Mistress of the Robes confirms the royal birth and that its genuineness in a document signed with seals, two doctors who attended the birth in New York will write a document of confirmation to the King. A Te Deum, the traditional thanksgiving service held in the Royal Palace Church after a royal birth, will be held on Sunday 2 March at 2 PM and invitations went out already before the birth.

Ever since Princess Madeleine’s pregnancy was announced in September 2013 there have been ongoing discussions and speculations on her and Prince Carl Philip’s (possible future) descendants and the future composition of the Royal House. The issues at stake here are possibly enormous and not just about this particular child.

The Swedish Act of Succession only specifies that those in the order of succession need to be of the evangelical Lutheran faith and be brought up within the realm; leaving many questions behind and perhaps also room for interpretation? Since members of parliament did not do a very good and thorough job at examining the articles and considering the future when the legislation was changed in 1979/1980, and now the special circumstances of a royal birth abroad – the room for discussion feels like a great void.

A statement by the King’s lawyer, Axel Calissendorff, made to Svensk Damtidning only shortly after the announcement of the pregnancy is the only hint we have so far as to what the King and his advisers have been considering for the future. But on the other hand one wonders how well thought out the answers in that interview were as Mr Calissendorff seemed to suggest that children of a Royal Highness would somehow also naturally be a Royal Highness. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that following that line of reasoning would very quickly lead to a very large Royal House and no correlation between styles and titles and actually working for Sweden and representing the monarch.

To be brought up in the Lutheran church will pose no great obstacle but what has hopefully been investigated behind closed doors in recent time is what it means to be “brought up” in Sweden, as the Act of Succession puts the requirement for succession rights. Would it for example be enough for children in line of succession to live in Sweden from their school age and forward? What is also of interest is what citizenship(s), surname(s), style and title(s) this baby and future grandchildren of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia will have. Looking at our neighbouring monarchies, Denmark and Noway, we can see that there are different roads to take. Perhaps the King’s inability to create new noble titles is of hindrance in the discussion of the future of the monarchy, the Royal House and extended Royal Family?

Princess Madeleine’s baby girl is now born – questions and confusion still remain. Hopefully the King and perhaps also the government will be able to clear the clouds when the special cabinet meeting is called – whenever that will be….

Obit: Landgrave Moritz of Hesse (1926-2013)

Landgrave Moritz of Hesse at the wedding of Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in 2011.

Landgrave Moritz of Hesse at the wedding of Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in 2011.

Yesterday it was announced that Landgrave Moritz of Hesse passed away in the afternoon at a hospital in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, after suffering from lung problems for some time.

Named Moritz Friedrich Karl Emanuel Humbert, he was born at the royal residence Racconigi in Piedmont, Italy on 6 August 1926. He was the oldest child and first son out of three sons and one daughter of Landgrave Philip of Hesse and Princess Mafalda of Savoy, making him a grandson of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, and a great-grandson of Emperor Frederick III of Germany and his wife Victoria, Princess Royal.

Moritz spent his childhood first in Rome, Italy, and then in Cassel and Kronberg im Tanus, Germany. His mother died in the concentration camp of Buchenwald in 1944, to which she had been brought after being arrested upon returning from a visit to her sister Queen Giovanna of Bulgaria who had just lost her husband Tsar Boris, while his father survived after an imprisonment. Moritz received military training but was as a prince not allowed to take part actively in the war, and afterwards he finished high school studies in Darmstadt and then went on to study agriculture in Kiel. Subsequent to that that Moritz managed the estate of Gut Panker in Schleswig-Holstein.

Church arrivals, 18 June afternoon

Landgrave Moritz with Princess Tatjana and granddaughter Madeleine at Princess Nathalie’s wedding in 2011.

In 1968 the two main branches of the House of Hesse, the Hesse-Cassel and Hesse and by Rhine (Hesse-Darmstadt), were united under the headship of Moritz’s father when Grand Duke Ludwig died without heirs. The Grand Duke had during his lifetime, in 1960, adopted Moritz as his son and heir, and upon his father’s death in 1980 Moritz assumed the headship of the full House of Hesse and took the title Landgrave.

In 1964 the then Prince Moritz married Princess Tatjana zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, daughter of Fürst Gustav Albecht and his wife Fürstin Margareta (née Fouché d’Otrante of Elghammar in Sweden) and thus sister of the current Prince Richard (married to Princess Benedikte of Denmark). They had four children: Mafalda (b. 1965), Heinrich Donatus (b. 1966), Elena (b. 1967) and Philipp (1970). Moritz and Tatiana divorced in 1974 but remained best friends, raised their children together and accompanied each other to events.

Landgrave Moritz lived at Schloss Wolfsgarten in Langen south of Frankfurt-am-Main and spent time at family homes in Italy. He devoted himself to his passions for garden culture, art and dogs (pugs). As head of the Hessian House Foundation, now under the headship of son Heinrich Donatus, Landgrave Moritz remained active and devoted in managing and developing the properties and collections inherited and united from the Hesse branches. The foundation manages a large and prominent art collection, some of which can be seen at the Schloss Fasanerie near Fulda.

– We descendants of Victoria see each other at weddings, funerals and parties, Langrave Moritz once said. Now it’s sadly time for the Landgrave’s own funeral service, to be held at the Johanniskirche (Johannis Church) in Kronberg am Tanus on 3 June at noon.

Landgrave Moritz is survived by his former wife Princess Tatiana, four children, ten grandchildren and his sister Countess Elisabeth von Oppersdorff.

An update on Princess Madeleine’s wedding

Princess Madeleine and Christopher O'Neill. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier/The Royal Court.

Princess Madeleine and Christopher O’Neill. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier/The Royal Court.

The Royal Court has today issued several updates on the coming royal wedding between Princess Madeleine and Christopher O’Neill on 8 June. They have also published a special wedding section on their website and made a more thorough official biography of Christopher O’Neill available.

Christopher O’Neill’s title

The Marshal of the Realm, Svante Lindqvist, today issued a press release announcing that Christopher O’Neill will not receive a title subsequent to his marriage with Princess Madeleine. The wording of the announcement, translated from Swedish by me, reads:

Mister Christopher O’Neill is and remains an American citizen, and he intends to continue his business activities as before after he has entered marriage with H.R.H. Princess Madeleine. According to the policy of the Royal House a member of the Royal House should be a Swedish citizen, and not hold a position of responsibility in the business world.

This means that Mister Christopher O’Neill – according to these principles – cannot bear the title H.R.H. Prince of Sweden or Duke of Gästrikland and Hälsingland.

With reference to these demands Mister Christopher O’Neill has respectfully requested to remain a private citizen and not be bestowed with royal dignity.

The title announcement is perhaps not very surprising in my opinion; I really hadn’t expected anything else. What remains to be decided and announced is how they will handle the couple’s future children. The Swedish Act of Succession states that princes and princesses should be brought up in Sweden, the question is what legals experts would argue that it entails in today’s world. Princess Madeleine will not give up her H.R.H. or lose her position in the Royal House after the marriage.

Princess Madeleine & Christopher O'Neill's monogram by Vladimir A Sagerlund.

Princess Madeleine & Christopher O’Neill’s monogram by Vladimir A Sagerlund.

Joint monogram

The heraldic artist at Riksarkivet (The National Archives) Vladimir A Sagerlund has composed the couple’s monogram. It consists of their intertwined and mirrored initials with a princely/ducal crown adorned with Vasa vases and sceptres resting above the M.

Lysning

Lysning, the traditional announcement of an impending marriage in the church, will be held for Princess Madeleine and Christopher O’Neill this coming Sunday 19 May in the Royal Palace Church at 11 AM. The lysning announcement will be made during the Royal Court Parish’s weekly Sunday service but afterwards a reception for invited guests will be held at the Royal Palace at 2 PM.

Wedding celebrations

On Friday 7 June a wedding dinner will be held at Grand Hôtel which lies opposite the Royal Palace, just across the water. This will be a private dinner for family and friends.

On Saturday 8 June the wedding will take place in the Royal Palace Church at the Royal Palace at 4 PM. The Chief Court Chaplain Lars-Göran Lönnermark and the Pastor of the Royal Court Parish Michael Bjerkhagen will be officiating.

The Prime Minister and parliamentary party leaders are invited to the wedding.

After the ceremony is over a salute of 21 rounds will be shot from Skeppsholmen near the palace. The bridal couple have not announced a balcony appearance but will travel from the palace to Skeppsholmen in a cortège with military lining the route. From Riddarholmen the couple and invited guests will travel to Drottningholm by boat.

At Drottningholm a wedding dinner will be held, responsible chef is the court’s usual choice Stefano Catenacci from Operakällaren in Stockholm.

Sveriges Television (SVT) will air the wedding ceremony but not the dinner. It has not (yet) been announced if they will be allowed to film anything from the inside at Drottningholm, such as the speeches, but they will cover the arrivals there.

Obit: Baroness Elisabeth Palmstierna (1917-2013)

Baroness Elisabeth Palmstierna (in red hat) with an Aide-de-Camp, First Lady of the Court Baroness Kirstine von Blixen-Finecke (white hat with black bow), Mistress of the Robes Countess Alice Trolle-Wachtmeister (in pink) and Court Marshal Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg (right, in red) at Princess Madeleine's 25th birthday in 2007.

Baroness Elisabeth Palmstierna (in red hat) with an Aide-de-Camp, First Lady of the Court Baroness Kirstine von Blixen-Finecke, Mistress of the Robes Countess Alice Trolle-Wachtmeister and Court Marshal Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg at Princess Madeleine’s 25th birthday in 2007.

Today the family pages of Swedish newspapers announced the death of Court Marshal Baroness Elisabeth Palmstierna on 6 April.

Palmstierna’s death happened almost exactly one month after that of her boss and companion Princess Lilian, who died on 10 March, and her passing concludes an amazing sixty years of loyal service at the Royal Court.

Baroness Elisabeth Palmstierna was as loyal as they come and was until 2012, many years after the princess had been retired from public life, seen coming into work at the palace. With her residence at the Royal Mews, not far from the palace, she remained active until the end when she was assisted at her appearances.

Eva Margareta Elisabeth Tham was born on 28 April 1917 as the second daughter of Wilhelm Tham (of untitled nobility) and Countess Margareta Hamilton. She would come to have three sisters and one brother and father Wilhelm was a well-decorated chamberlain for Crown Princess later Queen Louise and later Court Marshal for King Gustaf VI Adolf.

Elisabeth started her working life in the service of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for which she worked as a secretary at the Swedish embassies in Helsinki, Warsaw and Rome between 1940 and 1950. In an interview connected to her 90th birthday in Svenska Dagbladet in 2007, Elisabeth remembered the horrors of Warsaw at the time of her posting; all the ruins, the ghetto, the horrible stench on the streets and sometimes having to talk over human body parts.

After her foreign service Elisabeth worked for companies AB Nobelkrut, Bofors and Sveriges Kreditbank before being interviewed for a position at the Royal Court. In 1953 she started in a clerical position at the Office of the Marshall of the Court. In 1962 she became Prince Bertil’s secretary and after experiencing condescending treatment in her contacts with the male dominated world both at court and in civil service, Elisabeth herself went to Prince Bertil and asked if it was possible to give her a titled position so that people would take her seriously. So in 1974 she was given the title Court Intendant, from 1979 First Court Intendant, and her task was to handle the Prince’s office work and later also that of his wife. In 1991 King Carl XVI Gustaf promoted her to Court Marshal – the first female such ever.

In 1959 Elisabeth married Baron Carl-Fredrik Palmstierna (1903-1993), a historian and Ph.D. who was King Gustaf VI Adolf’s private secretary and manager of his vast personal library. The couple had one child, daughter Margareta who was born in 1960.

During the years in royal service Palmstierna travelled around the world with Prince Bertil and later Princess Lilian for their official business. As their trusted companion as well as manager of their official business, Elisabeth was always a given guest at the smaller official dinners that the princely couple hosted at the palace as well as at birthday celebrations. As the prince became weaker in health during the 1990’s Elisabeth’s relationship to Princess Lilian was cemented even stronger, she really became a close friend and companion. In 1992 when Prince Bertil had to cancel his attendance at the Olympic Games in Albertville, it was Elisabeth who went with Princess Lilian and stayed with her.

In 1986 Elisabeth was awarded H.M. The King’s Medal in the 12th size with the ribbon of the Order of the Seraphim, the third-highest grade of the medal, for her royal services.

Obit: Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

Chris Collins/The Margaret Thatcher Foundation

Chris Collins/The Margaret Thatcher Foundation

Yesterday the news of the death of Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, created headlines and discussions around the world. Many people, myself included, obviously felt that her demise marked the end of an era and wanted to talk about it. Because no matter where one is in the world or in what political direction one’s heart leans – Margaret Thatcher evoked feelings and opinions. She left this world with the epithet Iron Lady, and she certainly was one.

Thatcher came from a regular middle class family, she never could get rid of the calling name “grocer’s daughter”, but her image was completely different. With her unique high-pitched and clearly elocuted upper class English and an elegant, conservative style she always made an impression. In reality, on photos and via radio. Paired with an elegant style that included the trademark handbag, just like the Queen, pearls, large hats and well-cut suits – it all made her one of a kind.

With this unique image Thatcher made her way into politics in England; a very male dominated world where the upper class boys attend the same posh schools and them meet again at leading positions, in the House of Lords and at private gentlemen’s clubs. After first making her way into parliament, Thatcher became a minister and then, in 1979, she became the first democratically elected female head of government of a large western country.

She became known for her market-oriented economic policies and a sceptic attitude towards what is now the EU (still today lingering on in the conservative party in the UK). Thatcher strengthened her country’s position in the world as she became good friends with Ronald Reagan and championed against communism. Through her relative approval of Mikhail Gorbachev she also brought her own country and the USA closer to Russia. Much can be said about the domestic policies and the battles she fought on the home front, some which led her to be hated by some and loved by others, but Thatcher way always true to herself.

Thatcher may not have been a uniting political character, even if not intended, but then again that’s not the Prime Minister’s role in the United Kingdom but more that of the monarch’s. She held her line and made no excuses, the political landscape was divided into strong ideologies. Perhaps then people thought she was too extreme and unwavering in her ways, and ultimately this was what looks to have caused her downfall, but today her iconic status could also signal that people miss politicians who are unique, steadfast and ideological.

After eleven and a half years as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher left office in 1990. After being challenged in her leadership she left the positions as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party voluntarily. On the steps of 10 Downing Street Mrs Thatcher said goodbye to some wonderful years and pointed out that she handed over the country in a better shape than it had been when she had taken over in 1979.

After leaving the big political arena Thatcher remained a strong character both at home and around the world. She wrote books, endorsed political candidates in elections and travelled widely to support causes, give interviews and appear at conferences. Few have been honoured with as many prominent portraits as she and Thatcher proudly unveiled most of them.

Queen Elizabeth II, who is said to not always have been at ease with her rather high and strict character (the court curtsies Thatcher performed were infamous), honoured Thatcher with a peerage and in 1992 she entered the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. Thatcher was also appointed to the Order of the Garter, an incredible honour, and before all of this even happened Thatcher’s husband was given an hereditary baronetcy in an extraordinary measure.

Despite the divided different opinions of Thatcher and the huge amounts of prizes and accolades she received through the years, her memory will be that as the United Kingdom’s first (and so far only) female Prime Minister and the Iron Lady. A resolute and strict woman who made an enduring impression on both her lifetime and the future; an achievement that very few politicians succeed in today.

The last few years Lady Thatcher lived a pretty quiet and secluded life. Her daughter Carol openly talked to the British media of her mother’s dementia but friends and colleagues bear witness of how she remained very sharp about her own political life until the end and with great interest followed the political life both from a distance and up-close. She suffered several strokes and other health problems but even after officially retiring from public life about a decade ago Lady Thatcher appeared when her health permitted. The last time she was seen as her representative self in higher circles was in 2010 when she could attend for example the Garter Day in Windsor. In April 2011 she was invited to Prince William’s wedding but her health did not permit her attending.

Monday 8 April 2013 Margaret Thatcher passed away at The Ritz in London. Flags at official government buildings, Buckingham Palace included (the Queen was at Windsor) were lowered at half-mast. After her own wishes and the Queen’s permission Thatcher will receive a ceremonial (not state) funeral next Wednesday 17 April at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, attended by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by a private cremation.

Baroness Thatcher changed the game in UK politics and opened doors for women. True to herself she was seen as a strong and determined politician but not played down as “a strong woman” as can be the case for many today. Thatcher left this world as an icon and will so remain into the future. “She stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered”, President Obama said yesterday of her legacy.

Margaret Thatcher is survived by two children and two grandchildren.