It’s been a while since we’ve done a full-blown royal roundup of news, but with a few odds and ends popping up over the past week or so, today is as good a day as any to touch base on what’s been happening. The most important announcement is perhaps that Kensington Palace released a wedding date for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Mark your calendars for May 19, 2018!
The best guesses definitely had the wedding set for the second half of May so as to allow the Duchess of Cambridge as much time as possible to recover from having her third child in April. That the wedding is set for May at all makes me think that the Cambridge baby has to be due in early April, but we’ll see how it all comes together.
It’s rare for a royal wedding to be held on a Saturday – if you recall, William and Kate’s wedding was held on a Friday in 2011 – but the day allows the couple to skirt the issue of a Bank Holiday, thus allowing greater participation from the public. In other words, if you’re planning a holiday to England in the spring, I’d cross Windsor Castle off your list unless you want to be part of a complete frenzy…
In much sadder news, King Michael I of Romania passed away on December 5 and his funeral was held in Bucharest yesterday. The Prince of Wales attended on behalf of the British Royal Family, which was fitting given his affinity for Romania and the familial ties the House of Windsor has to the Romania Royal Family. Also there were the King and Queen of Sweden, the former King and Queen of Spain, as well as royals from Luxembourg, Greece, Jordan and Belgium.
King Michael had two reigns before and during World War II – a not uncommon situation for European monarchies in the first half of the 20th century. He ruled from 1927 to 1930, and then again from 1940 to 1947 before the monarchy was abolished thanks to the rise of communism. His five children, all daughters, still hold the nominal title of “Princess,” and when Charles visited Bucharest earlier this year there was an affectionate meeting with Crown Princess Margareta.
The Christian Science Monitor ran an interesting article on the Romanian reaction to the death of their last king, a snippet of which I’ve included below:
Outside the monumental former royal palace that looms over the main square of Bucharest, mourners have been laying flowers for days in tribute to a long-deposed and exiled king whom few of them ever knew.
Rows of candles flicker in the cold, and long lines snake around the building. Crowds are waiting hours to pay their respects to King Michael I of Romania, one of the last two surviving World War II European heads of state.
He died Dec. 5 at age 96, some 70 years after being forced to abdicate by the country’s Communist government, reportedly at gunpoint, and then sent into exile.
Even from Britain and Switzerland, where he spent much of his life working, among other things, as a stockbroker, chicken farmer, and commercial pilot, the former monarch commanded widespread respect among ordinary Romanians. His death has prompted nostalgic comparisons with the nation’s present-day political leaders.
“You can’t compare our current political leaders with him,” says Livia Amzar, a middle-aged engineer, as she lays flowers outside the palace where the former king, whose body was flown from Switzerland this week, is lying in state until his funeral on Saturday. That is expected to be a grandiose affair attended by politicians and royalty from across Europe and beyond.
“Maybe a few have thoughts for the country and the people, but not many,” complains Ms. Amzar. King Michael “was a man of great dignity and respect,” she adds. “Romania would be a better place if he had become king again in 1990” after the fall of Communism.
Michael’s passing comes at a time of considerable political turmoil in Romania, which joined the European Union in 2007. Despite being the fastest-growing economy in Europe, the country has seen escalating confrontations between the government and people.
In February, upwards of half a million demonstrators took to the streets to protest government moves to weaken anti-corruption efforts. Politicians quickly backed down, but subsequent efforts to amend judicial legislation have brought tens of thousands back out in anger.
Against that background, mourning for the former king provides “a moment of dignity in a confusing and noisy political world,” says Radu Magdin, a political consultant. “Romania is okay from a lot of points right now, but we have all these legislative changes and protests. Having this monarch whose main messages were ones of loyalty, principles, it’s such a huge contrast, irrespective of the generations.”
And in decidedly cheerier news, the Duchess of Cornwall hosted her annual Christmas party for the children involved with Helen & Douglas House and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, of which she is patron. Camilla has been holding this event at Clarence House every year since she married Charles and it’s become one of her most anticipated – the images from it are always festive and sweet and it’s one that is wholly her own.
The children help to decorate a Christmas tree, are served lunch and are each given a gift bag. An equerry is on hand to help place ornaments on the tree with his sword, a decidedly royal touch.
Each year, Camilla plays a very hands-on role at the party, helping to hand out gifts, fix plates and spend time with the children as they place ornaments on the tree. It’s a truly remarkable event on the royal calendar, and one that is all the more special when you consider how exciting it must be for the children to go to a “palace” and meet a “princess.”
In that spirit, ICYMI to the Christmas trees all set up at Buckingham Palace this year:
Or Windsor Castle, where Harry and Meghan will be married in just a few months. The image on the right is taken from St. George’s Chapel:
We’ll circle back on royal news later this week when the Queen’s Christmas luncheon is held.