Last autumn was a crazy time for the House of Windsor, so an update on Princess Haya that I had planned for November fell through the cracks. Now that the dust has settled on Sussexit, let’s catch up on where we left off. As background for those new to this issue, Princess Haya is the estranged wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. She “fled” Dubai for Europe over the summer and has subsequently settled in London with the couple’s two children where she’s now fighting for custody and other protections.
Tomorrow King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will kick off a two-day state visit to the UK, during which they will meet with the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. On Tuesday evening the two will also attend a state banquet held in their honor at Buckingham Palace, which will serve as home base while they are in London.
The short is answer is yes (and yes), but this issue never fails to confuse thanks to a lack of familiarity with how titles work and the fact that they are rarely represented correctly in the media. Even here I’m guilty of being casual about it – while I might refer to Kate as “the Duchess of Cambridge” I certainly don’t say “HRH The Duchess of Cambridge” and I usually refer to the Queen’s children by the names for which they are best known.
I came very close to covering the recent wedding of Prince Christian of Hanover last weekend, but ended up skipping it. Then, lo and behold, we have more news coming out of the extended Monegasque Royal Family once more so here we go, let’s wrap it all up into a quick post.
First, the news: Charlotte Casiraghi announced her engagement to her boyfriend, Dimitri Rassam. Charlotte is 31 and has been dating Dimitri, 36, for a little over a year. Dimitri is a French film producer whose mother is Carole Bouquet, a well-known actress.
As we did with the Swedish Royal Family yesterday, we’re going to take a look at the Norwegian Royal Family, members of whom the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are due to meet in a few days when they visit Oslo.
A couple weeks ago we covered the life of Edward VII’s daughter, Maud of Wales, Queen of Norway. After Maud’s death in 1938, her son ascended the throne as Olav V in 1957. He and his wife, Märtha of Sweden, had three children, the youngest of whom was a son and heir. When Olav died in 1991, this son succeeded him on the throne as King Harald V and is still reigning today.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t pay close attention to royal families outside of the UK. While I get the gist of the Swedish Royal Family, I certainly don’t know the ins and outs, so the for the purposes of being prepared for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s upcoming visit to Stockholm, I thought we could all do with a refresher. The SRF is probably the European monarchy that comes close to rivalling the Windsors in popularity, which is thanks to its informality, steadiness and not one but three young (and growing) families. So, let’s get into it.
Back in 2009, historian David Starkey gave an interview in which he said:
“One of the great problems has been that Henry, in a sense, has been absorbed by his wives. Which is bizarre. But it’s what you expect from feminised history, the fact that so many of the writers who write about this are women and so much of their audience is a female audience. Unhappy marriages are big box office.”
At first blush that statement may seem a bit offensive – a trivialization of female historians, efforts to shine a light on the role of women throughout history (including within the monarchy) and how women consume scholarship and literature. It was said in the midst of a still-ongoing debate about how seriously women writers are taken and a centuries-old side-eye with the “types” of books some women read.
The first time I came across that quote I saw it out of context, which is unfortunate. Starkey’s full point is actually much fairer and has more to do with historiography. But the issue with the specific “feminization” of the study of the British monarchy is not only the lens through which we view it in any given era, but also with how they choose to present themselves. The two are intertwined, but they also bear separating out to fully understand how we find ourselves, for example, in the recent saturation of history focused on women, particularly historical fiction.
Not too long ago there was some furor (which we briefly covered here) when Queen Margrethe II’s husband, Prince Henrik, announced his decision to forgo burial next to his wife in the traditional resting place of the Danish Royal Family. Instead, he made it clear that his decision was directly tied to the fact he had never been made king, which he viewed as unfair given that female consorts are named queen. A few weeks later it was made clear that Henrik is suffering from dementia and perhaps those strongly-worded statements can be attributed to his health.
Recently we discussed changes to the succession laws in 2013 that allow the eldest child, not just the eldest male, to inherit the crown. Because the rules aren’t retroactive, Princess Charlotte is the first female member of the British Royal Family to directly benefit from the rule change, meaning that even if she is followed up by a younger brother, he won’t trump her in the line of succession.
So, in honor of that, we’re going to go back and look at the elder daughters who could have ruled if absolute primogeniture had been in place from the get-go – well, from the Norman Conquest.
Last month, in a nod to the upcoming royal visit, I posted about Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain, the last marriage alliance between Britain and Spain. Now, days out from the arrival of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, I thought it appropriate to offer some background on these two, as well as what we know so far about the itinerary July 12-14.