Category Archives: Who Knew?!

Dining With The Royals

by Scott Mehl

The Dining Room, Clarence House

The Dining Room, Clarence House

How about a nice meal with some of your favorite royals? No need to bring out the good china… just a good cookbook! Through the years, many foods and dishes have been named for royalty, and some have become rather well-known and can be found on menus and grocery store shelves around the world. How many of us have nibbled on a Marie biscuit – many without even knowing that they were named for Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, later the Duchess of Edinburgh, and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha? Or perhaps enjoyed a snifter of Napoleon Brandy, not realizing it was a nod to the vertically-challenged Emperor himself?

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of foods named for royalty, ranging from soups and sauces, to entreés and desserts. Whether you’re planning a formal, multi-course dinner or just a snack, it’s easy enough to bring some royalty to your meal. Below are just a few examples…

If you want to start simple, it could just be a matter of changing out your bread for a roll. A Kaiser roll, that is! As with many of the foods and dishes named for royals, there is some disagreement as to the exact source of the name. In doing some research, I’ve found some sources attributing them to Emperor (Kaiser) Franz Joseph I of Austria (1848-1916); others to Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (1765-1790); and even some as far back as Holy Roman Emperor Frederik III (1452-1493)!


Veal Oscar.  photo:

One of my favorite dishes is Veal Oscar. Sauteed veal with crabmeat and asparagus, topped with béarnaise sauce. Little did I realize, it was named for King Oscar II of Sweden. Turns out, it was made specifically for the King, combining several of his favorites into one meal. And to add possibly a second royal connection, many believe that Béarnaise sauce was named as a nod to King Henri IV of France, a native of the Béarn region of France.



Pizza Margherita.  photo:

Another favorite food of mine is pizza… any kind of pizza is good as far as I’m concerned. But I’m partial to Pizza Margherita. According to legend, in 1889 Queen Margherita of Italy was presented with three different kinds of pizza by a local pizza maker. She chose as her favorite the pie with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil – representing the colors of the Italian flag. It was quickly named Pizza Margherita in her honor. There has been research in the last few years which seems to debunk this legend, but who doesn’t love a good story? (and pizza!)


photo: BBC

Battenberg Cake.  photo: BBC

Moving on to a few desserts, let’s start with Battenberg Cake. It’s made by slicing long strips of cake (usually dyed yellow and pink) and stacking them in a checkerboard design, with a thin layer of jam between them. This is then all covered in marzipan. There are several stories as to the name of this tasty dessert. The cake was served at the wedding in 1884 of Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine to Prince Louis of Battenberg (later the Marquess and Marchioness of Milford-Haven, and grandparents of the Duke of Edinburgh). Many believe this is where the name originates. Others suggest the four squares of the cake were meant to represent the four Battenberg princes – Louis, Alexander, Henry and Francis. There are many variations – I’ve seen them made with 25 squares, and often in colors or designs other than the traditional yellow and pink.


photo: C'est Doux

Charlotte Russe.  photo: C’est Doux

You prefer a custard? Charlotte Russe is just one of hundreds of variations of Charlottes. The original would have been made with bread or cake, lined in a mold and then filled with a mix of fruit and custard. I grew up knowing it as Icebox Cake. Supposedly Charlotte Russe was created by a French chef, who had previously worked for King George IV of the United Kingdom, and currently worked for Tsar Alexander I. He named it for George IV’s daughter – Princess Charlotte of Wales – and also in reference to his current employer (‘russe’ being the French translation of ‘Russian’). It is made with Bavarian cream set in a mold lined with ladyfingers, and often garnished with fresh fruit. A tasty alternative uses swiss rolls instead of ladyfingers and is referred to as a Charlotte Royale.



Queen Mother’s Cake.  photo:

Perhaps some chocolate is more to your liking? Then Queen Mother’s Cake should be on your menu. In the 1950s, the famed pianist Jan Smeterlin, a close friend of The Queen Mother, had come a cross this recipe in Austria and made it for Her Majesty. She insisted on having the recipe and was known to serve this to guests at most of her homes. Made with just chocolate, sugar, eggs, almonds and salt, it’s a deliciously rich dessert, sure to satisfy even the sweetest of sweet-tooths!

Wilhelmina Peppermints

Wilhelmina Peppermints

And here is one of my favorites. In 1842, Willem Hendrik Fortuin started the Fortuin confectionery company in Dokkum, Netherlands. It quickly gained recognition when it developed what would become the DF peppermint – ‘the original English peppermint’. In 1892, to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, they developed a new peppermint candy. Imprinted with a portrait of Queen Wilhelmina, they named it the Wilhelmina Peppermint.

The first box of these new candies was presented to the Queen, who loved them. She later granted a royal warrant to the company, as Purveyor to the Queen. Fortuin retains that warrant to this day. Over the years, Fortuin has put out dozens of tins featuring photos of the royal family, usually in recognition of major events in the Dutch Royal Family. The most recent line of tins featured photos of the new King and Queen.

Growing up, my grandmother always had a tin of these which she would bring out when I would visit, and she would tell me stories about the Queen whose image was on the mints. I’d forgotten all about them until I began to write this article. Two days later, I received a package from a friend (and long-time member of Unofficial Royalty), who’d recently visited the Netherlands. In it was a Wilhelmina Pepermunts tin, much like the ones I remember from my childhood. Total coincidence, and an amazing surprise!

Who Knew?!

A Full House in Belgium…

photo credit: Zimbio

Aside from the expected changes involved in one monarch stepping down in favor of another, the upcoming abdication in Belgium will create a situation which hasn’t been seen in the European monarchies in over 60 years. As of July 21st, Belgium will have three Queens – Mathilde, Paola and Fabiola!

The last time this occurred was in The United Kingdom in February 1952, upon the accession of Queen Elizabeth II. She was joined by her mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and grandmother, Queen Mary until the latter’s death in March 1953.

Here’s a few other times where there have been 3 Queens:

Greece – between accession of King George II in 1922 and death of Queen Olga in 1926:
– Queen Olga (née Olga Constantinovna of Russia, consort of King George I)
– Queen Sophie (née Sophie of Prussia, consort of King Constantine I)
– Queen Elisabeth (née Elisabeth of Romania, consort of King George II)
(It could have been 4 Queens for that timeframe, however Aspasia Manos, consort of King Alexander, was never titled Queen.)

Spain – during the brief reign of King Amadeo from November 1870 to February 1873**:
– Queen Maria Vittoria (née Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo, consort of King Amadeo)
– Queen Isabella II (deposed in 1868, formally abdicated in 1870)
– Queen Maria Christina (née Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, consort of King Ferdinand VII)
(** Amadeo and Maria Vittoria did not retain their titles as King and Queen, instead reverting to their earlier titles of Duke and Duchess of Aosta)

Sweden and Norway – between accession of King Carl XIV Johan in July 1859 and death of Queen Desideria in December 1860:
– Queen Louise (née Louise of the Netherlands, consort of King Carl XIV Johan)
– Queen Josephine (née Josephine of Leuchtenberg, consort of King Oscar I)
– Queen Desideria (née Désirée Clary, consort of King Carl XV)

Russia – between accession of Tsar Nicholas I in December 1825 and death of Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna in May 1826
– Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (née Charlotte of Prussia, consort of Tsar Nicholas I)
– Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna (née Louise of Baden, consort of Tsar Alexander I)
– Empress Maria Feodorovna (née Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg, consort of Tsar Paul I)

Sweden and Norway – between accession of King Carl XIV Johan in February 1818 and death of Queen Charlotte in June 1818
– Queen Desideria (née Désirée Clary, consort of King Carl XIV Johan)
– Queen Charlotte (née Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp, consort of King Carl XIII)
– Queen Frederica (née Frederica of Baden, consort of King Gustav IV Adolf)

Sweden – between accession of King Carl XIII in June 1809 and death of Queen Sophia Magdalena in August 1813
– Queen Charlotte (née Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp, consort of King Carl XIII)
– Queen Frederica (née Frederica of Baden, consort of King Gustav IV Adolf)
– Queen Sophia Magdalena (née Sophie Magdalena of Denmark, consort of King Gustav III)

In addition, and although not actually Queens, in Liechtenstein from March 1805 to June 1809 there were three Princess Consorts:
– Josepha of Fürstenberg-Weitra, consort of Prince Johann I Joseph
– Karoline von Manderscheid-Blankenheim, consort of Prince Aloys I
– Leopoldine von Sternberg, consort of Prince Franz Joseph I

A “Full House” you may ask?  Yes, indeed.  As of July 21st, Belgium will have Three Queens…and Two Kings!  Could this winning hand be a sign of good things to come for Belgium?

The last time we’ve had two Kings in a European monarchy was also in Belgium. In 1951, King Leopold III abdicated in favor of his eldest son who became King Baudouin.  In recent memory, two other European kingdoms have had two living Kings:

Romania – King Carol II abdicated in 1940 returning his son King Mihai I to the throne. There were two Kings until Carol’s death in April 1953.

Greece – Because of the continual upheaval of the Greek monarchy, there were several periods of time with two living Kings:
– March 1863 – July 1867 – King Otto and King George I
– June 1917-October 1920 – King Constantine I and King Alexander
– September 1922 – January 1923 – King Constantine I and King George II

In addition, Luxembourg currently has two Grand Dukes living – the current reigning Henri and his father Jean, who abdicated in 2000.

Who Knew?!

Born on the Fourth of July

At Prince Michael of Kent’s christening: Princess Alexandra of Kent, The Duke of Kent, The Duchess of Kent holding Prince Michael, Prince Edward of Kent (the current Duke of Kent), Photo Credit –

Prince Michael of Kent, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, was born on July 4, 1942.  Prince Michael is the youngest child of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece.  Because Prince Michael was born on American Independence Day, the Duke of Kent asked President Franklin Roosevelt to be one of his son’s godparents.  President Roosevelt accepted and the baby prince was named Michael George Charles Franklin.

Telegram regarding Prince Michael’s christening:

Prince Michael was christened on August 4, 1942 at the Private Chapel in Windsor Castle.  His godparents were:

Sadly, six weeks after his son’s birth, on August 25, 1942, the Duke of Kent died in a Royal Air Force plane crash in the service of his country. See Unofficial Royalty: Tragedy in the British Royal Family at the End of August (scroll down).

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“I Name This Ship…”

In 2013, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge launched Royal Princess, an ocean liner for Princess Cruises.  It was rather special in that the previous Royal Princess was launched by her late mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales.  The naming or christening of ships has long been a royal tradition in most of the European monarchies, especially in the United Kingdom. Traditionally these were Navy ships, however, with the advent of the ocean liner, we now see a lot more private vessels being sponsored by Queens and Princesses.

The United Kingdom likely has the most vessels launched by royalty, going back hundreds of years.  There are records of The Prince of Wales launching HMS Prince Royal for the English Navy in 1610.  Queen Victoria launched several British Royal Navy ships, including two launched together in 1891 – HMS Royal Arthur and HMS Royal Sovereign.  Prince Albert launched one of the first non-Navy ships – The Great Western Steamship Company’s SS Great Britain in 1843.

And the tradition continues to the present.  As of this date, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has launched 21 ships and a few lifeboats – including 5 Cunard ocean liners, several oil tankers, a Royal Yacht, and a vast array of British Royal navy crafts.  Her first was in November 1944 – British Royal Navy’s HMS Vanguard.  Her most recent was in October 2010 – Cunard Line’s RMS Queen Elizabeth.

Amongst many shipping lines, two have maintained very close ties with Royalty – Cunard Line and Holland America Line.

Cunard Line
The Cunard Line has had 8 ships launched by British royals.  The first was RMS Queen Mary, launched in 1934 by Queen Mary herself.  This was the first merchant ship launched by a member of the British royal family.  According to many sources, thanks to radio and Newsreels, this was the first opportunity that many Britons had to hear The Queen speak.  This video includes a speech by King George V and then the naming of the ship by Queen Mary.

A few years later – in 1938 – Queen Elizabeth (later The Queen Mother) launched RMS Queen Elizabeth, named in her honor.  After a brief speech, she was presented with a gift by the Cunard Line and then named the ship.

In 1947, just a few weeks before her marriage, the then-Princess Elizabeth, accompanied by Lt. Philip Mountbatten, launched RMS Caronia.

Princess Margaret launched RMS Carinthia in 1955.

Queen Elizabeth II launched the new Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1967.  Traditionally, ships didn’t take on a number.  The ship was intended to be called Queen Elizabeth.  However, during the naming ceremony, Her Majesty called her “Queen Elizabeth the second”, thus giving the ship her famous nickname – QE2.  Despite the name, it isn’t actually named for her.  It is named after the previous RMS Queen Elizabeth.

HM The Queen at the launch of RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (photo credit: The Guardian)

The Queen launched the RMS Queen Mary 2 in 2004.  It was decided to keep with the new tradition of adding the 2 to the ship’s name.

HM The Queen at the launch of RMS Queen Mary 2 (photo credit BBC)

In somewhat of a break from tradition, RMS Queen Victoria was christened by The Duchess of Cornwall in 2007.  Up until this point, all of Cunard’s ‘Queen’ ships had been launched by the actual Queen at the time.  This was seen as a nod toward The Duchess’ future role as Queen Consort.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at launch of RMS Queen Victoria (photo credit: Hello)

The last of the Cunard ships – the RMS Queen Elizabeth – was launched by The Queen in 2010. Again, the ship is named for the original RMS Queen Elizabeth, this time without the addition of a 2 or 3.  Incidentally, Her Majesty was in attendance for the launches of all three of the Queen Elizabeth ships, having accompanied her mother when the first was launched in 1938, and herself launching the other two.

Holland America Line
Holland America Line has the largest number of royal sponsors.  Eleven of their ocean liners have been named by Dutch royals, beginning with the SS Statendam(III) in 1929 by Prince Hendrik and the latest being MS Nieuw Amsterdam(IV) in 2010 by Princess Máxima.

SS Statendam(III) – christened 1929 by HRH Prince Henrik, The Prince Consort
SS Nieuw Amsterdam(II) – christened 1937 by HM Queen Wilhelmina
SS Statendam(IV) – christened 1957 by HRH Princess Beatrix
SS Princes Margriet – christened 1964 by HRH Princess Beatrix
SS Rotterdam(V) – christened 1958 by HM Queen Juliana
MS Prinsendam(II) – christened 1973 by HRH Princess Margriet
MS Nieuw Amsterdam(III) – christened 1983 by HRH Princess Margriet
MS Rotterdam(VI) – christened 1997 by HRH Princess Margriet
MS Oosterdam – christened 2003 by HRH Princess Margriet
MS Eurodam – christened 2008 by HM Queen Beatrix
MS Nieuw Amsterdam(IV) – christened 2010 by HRH Princess Máxima

As mentioned at the top of this article, Princess Cruises has had two royal sponsors – The Duchess of Cambridge and Diana, Princess of Wales – both of whom christened ships named Royal Princess.

Princess Grace of Monaco is the only non-British royal involved with a Cunard Line christening.  In 1977, The Princess christened MS Cunard Princess.  The ship had previously been named MS Conquest.  She also participated in another re-christening ceremony in 1982.  Back in 1956, the then-Grace Kelly sailed to Monaco on the SS Constitution, for her wedding to Prince Rainier.  Years later, after a complete overhaul for its new owner, The Princess was asked to re-christen this ship, which she did in Taiwan, accompanied by Prince Rainier.

And one last tidbit which I find rather ironic.  Despite its name, the Royal Caribbean Line has only one Royal sponsor.  In 1992, MS Majesty of the Seas was launched by Queen Sonja of Norway.

Who Knew?!

The Berlin City Palace (Berliner Stadtschloss)

Berliner Stadtschloss c1920. Photo credit: Wikipedia

On Wednesday June 12, 2013, the foundation stone was laid for the reconstruction of the Berlin City Palace, once a principal residence of the Kings of Prussia.

The Palace was first built between 1443-1451 by Friedrich II, Margrave and Elector of Brandenburg (known as Irontooth). It included a Catholic chapel, later elevated to a parish church, and consecrated by Pope Nicholas V. The original palace was torn down in 1538 by Margrave Joachim II, who had a new, larger palace built in the Italian Reniassance style, with further alterations continuing over the next 175 years.

In 1699, Friedrich I, King in Prussia, had the palace overhauled again in the Baroque style, with the building enclosing a courtyard. In 1845, the dome was finally added, during Friedrich Wilhelm IV’s reign. This would be the last major change to the exterior of the palace.

Berliner Stadschloss c1900. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Stadtschloss became the primary palace of the newly created German Empire in 1871, and remained so until 1918 when the German Socialist Republic was announced from a balcony at the palace (following the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II).

For some years, the palace was used for museum space, as well as official functions, before sitting empty for many years leading up to World War II. It was heavily bombed by Allied forces in 1945. Being within the Soviet Union zone after the war, the building was used as a backdrop for a Soviet movie – ‘The Battle of Berlin’. Live artillery was used during the filming of the movie, which further damaged the building. Finally, in 1950, the building was razed by the Soviets, with the open space now used as parade grounds. The only part that was saved was the balcony from which the German Socialist Republic was proclaimed. This was moved to the Council of State building, forming the main entrance.

In the 1970s, a new building was erected on the site – the Palace of the Republic (‘Palast der Republik’), however it was later closed and torn down. After the reunification of Germany, several groups promoted the rebuilding of the original Stadtschloss, most suggesting the exteriors being recreated with more modern space inside. Finally, in 2007, the German Parliament voted to reconstruct the palace. Three of the exterior façades will be rebuilt, while the interior will be a modern structure.

So this week, the foundation stone was laid. Construction is expected to take 5-6 years, at a cost of approximately 590 million Euros ($786 million). The new name will be The Humboldt Forum, and the space will be used primarily to exhibit non-European artifacts from collections of other Berlin museums.

Who Knew?!

Royals On Ice… literally

We all know of buildings, streets, or parks named after various royalty.  Even here in the United States, several cities and a few states take their names from royals of the past.  But last year was the first time that I remember an area of land being renamed.  In honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, It was decided that a large area within the British Antarctic Territory would be renamed Queen Elizabeth Land.  What I didn’t realize was that this wasn’t the first time she’d received such an honor.  In fact, she already has another ‘Land’… and a mountain range.  She’s also in good company!  Quite a few of her family are represented, including some of her European cousins.

Since the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, the continent is divided into several territories and dependencies:

British Royals
The current Queen was first honored in 1931, when Princess Elizabeth Land was discovered and named for her in the Australian Antarctic Territory.  After becoming Queen in 1953, she was Patron of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1956-1958).  A mountain range was discovered in the Ross Dependency (NZ) and named The Queen Elizabeth Range in her honor.  A few years later, one of these peaks was named ‘Prince Andrew Plateau’, in honor of her son, Prince Andrew, now The Duke of York.

Going back, the first British Royal to be honored was Queen Victoria.  In 1841, an area bordering what is now the Ross Dependency was discovered and named Victoria Land.  A mountain range within the area was also named the Prince Albert Mountains, in honor of Victoria’s beloved husband.

Future generations were also recognized.  King Edward VII Land is a peninsula in the unclaimed territory known as Marie Byrd Land (named for the famed explorer’s wife), and was discovered in 1902.  Within the area are the Alexandra Mountains, named for his wife.  Queen Alexandra is also recognized with another mountain range, known as the Queen Alexandra Range, named for her around 1908.  Most of this area is overseen by the Ross Dependency.

King George V and Queen Mary are represented by George V Land and Queen Mary Land, both discovered and named in 1912, within the Australian Antarctic Territory.

King George VI is represented by George VI Sound and the George VI Ice Shelf.

German Royals
There is also Kaiser Wilhelm II Land, which was discovered in 1902, and named for the Kaiser who had funded the German expedition.  This is part of the Australian Antarctic Territory.

Russian Royals
Peter I Island was first sighted in 1821 on the initial Russian expedition to Antarctica, and was named for Tsar Peter I of Russia (Peter the Great).  However, it wasn’t until 1929 that the island was first explored, by a Norwegian expedition.  They claimed the island and shortly after it officially became a Norwegian Dependency.

Alexander Island was also sighted on the first Russian expedition, and named for Tsar Alexander I of Russia.  It was initially named Alexander I Land, as it was believed to be part of the mainland.  In 1940, it was discovered that it was actually an island and renamed.  Alexander Island is the second largest uninhabited island in the world.  It is claimed by the United Kingdom, as well as Argentina and Chile.

Norwegian Royals
But it’s the Queen’s Norwegian cousins who make up most of her neighbors.  Queen Maud Land is a dependency of Norway, initially named for Queen Maud in 1930.  The area was disputed for some years, as Germany had laid claim to an area called New Swabia, which included some of the same land.  Later, in 1961, the land became part of the Antarctic Treaty System and formally claimed as a dependency of Norway.

Queen Maud Land is divided into 5 sections, all named for Norwegian Royals:

In addition, the waters off the coast of Queen Maud Land are known as the King Haakon VII Sea.

Queen Maud Land contains the Queen Maud Mountains, a major range which include the Prince Olav Mountains, named for the future King Olav V.

Belgian Royals
And in a nod to the more distant relatives in Belgium, Queen Maud Land is the home of Princess Elisabeth Antarctica – a polar research station opened in 2009, and named for Princess Elisabeth of Belgium (daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Brabant).


In addition to the Antarctic regions, there’s also a few on the other end of the globe – the Arctic. Thanks to our own donald1941 for the additional info!

Franz Josef Land is an archipelago of 191 uninhabited islands in the Arctic Ocean. It was probably first discovered in 1865 by some Norwegian sealers, however it wasn’t officially recognized until 1873. Two Austro-Hungarian explorers on the Tegetthof Expedition, Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht, officially explored the islands and named them the Franz Josef Land, after the Austrian emperor. Since the expedition was not officialn the islands never became Austrian colonies. In the 1920s, the islands were claimed by both the Soviet Union and Norway, with Norway naming them ‘Fridtjof Nansen Land’, after a Norwegian explorer who had visited the islands in the mid-1890s. In 1929, the Soviet flag was raised, and Franz Josef Land was delared part of the Soviet Union, and are now part of the Russian Arctic National Park. Most of the islands were named during the initial expedition in 1874, honoring members of the Austrian Imperial Family and other aristocratic and noble families.

The Queen Elizabeth Islands are a group of over 2,100 islands within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. They are primarily part of the Nunavut territory, with the rest being part of the Northwest Territories. Initially known as the Parry Archipelago, they were renamed in honor of Queen Elizabeth II upon her coronation in 1953.

Who Knew?!

From The Royal Box to the Service Box

photo source:

It’s a very familiar sight for any tennis fan – the Royal Box on Centre Court at The All England Club, Wimbledon. One most any given day during the two-week Wimbledon Championships, there are usually a few royals in attendance. The Duke of Kent is the most prominent, as he serves as President of the All England Club, and typically presents the winners’ trophies. On occasion, some of the more senior royals have attended and presented the trophies, including The Queen and The Princess Royal. Diana, Princess of Wales, was also a regular visitor. In this photo, taken just before her marriage to the Prince of Wales, Lady Diana is seated in the second row, with Prince Albert and Princess Stephanie of Monaco next to her. In front are Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco next to the Duke of Kent.

But in 1926, along with some royals in the Royal Box, there was also one on court! The Duke of York (future King George VI) was a participant in the Mens Doubles Tournament, partnering with Sir Louis Greig, a close friend and equerry.

Sir Louis had gained a place in the tournament after winning the Royal Air Force Championships and asked the Duke to be his partner. With The Duchess of York watching, and dressed in his Wimbledon whites, the future King took to the court with Sir Louis, only to be beaten quite easily (6-1,6-3,6-2) by another pair of Brits across the net. It would be the first, and so far last, time we’ve seen a royal participant in the Wimbledon Championships.

Who Knew?!

The Former Monarchs

After last week’s Who Knew?! posts about the various ‘Her Majesties’ and ‘His Majesties’, it seems only right to round things out with a discussion about Europe’s living former sovereigns. Beatrix joins Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, Kings Constantine II of Greece and Michael I of Romania, and Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria.  Beatrix and Jean abdicated voluntarily, while the others were forced from their thrones, sometimes more than once!

nl-beatrixQueen Beatrix of the Netherlands was born in 1938, the daughter of Princess Juliana and Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, during the reign of her grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina. She married Claus Van Amsberg in 1966 and they had three sons. Her mother abdicated in 1980, bringing Beatrix to the throne. She just recently followed the precedent set by both her mother and grandmother, and abdicated in favor of her eldest son, the new King Willem-Alexander. In keeping with the tradition in the Netherlands, upon abdication she returned to her previous style, HRH Princess Beatrix.

Wikipedia: Beatrix of the Netherlands

Visite S.A.R. le Grand-Duc Jean et S.A.R. le Prince Guillaume au Home Scouts à StrassenGrand Duke Jean of Luxembourg was born in 1921, the eldest son of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma. Schooled in Luxembourg and Canada, he joined the British Army, with whom he served during World War II. In 1953, he married Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium, and the couple had 5 children. He became Grand Duke upon his mother’s abdication in 1964. In turn, he abdicated in 2000 in favor of his eldest son, the current Grand Duke Henri.

Wikipedia: Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg

King Constantine II of Greece was the last reigning monarch of Greece before abolishment of the monarchy. Born to King Paul and Queen Frederika (née Princess of Hanover) in 1940, he became King upon his father’s death in 1964. Soon after, he married Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark and the couple had 5 children. Just three years later, in 1967, the monarchy collapsed and Greece was ruled as a dictatorship. Constantine and his family fled Greece, never to return again as King, although he remained titular King of the Hellenes until 1973 when the monarchy was formally abolished. However, King Constantine never formally abdicated. He was stripped of his citizenship and barred from entering Greece for many years, with one exception allowed in 1981 to attend his mother’s funeral and burial. At one point his citizenship was restored, only to be stripped again in 1994. However, he has regained some of his possessions and properties in Greece, and freely travels on a Danish diplomatic passport. Constantine and Anne-Marie reside near London, and enjoy a close relationship with the British royal family.

Wikipedia: Constantine II of Greece

King Michael of Romania served as King twice. He was born in 1921, the son of the future King Carol II and Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark. Just a few years after his birth, his father renounced his right to the throne, making Michael heir to his grandfather, King Ferdinand. Upon Ferdinand’s death in 1927, Michael became King at just 6 years old, ruling under a Regency led by his uncle Prince Nicolae of Romania. However, in 1930, his father returned and claimed the throne, with Michael being ‘downgraded’ to Crown Prince. Upon turning 18, Michael took a seat in the Romanian Parliament. However, less than a year later, King Carol II was overthrown, and Michael was returned to the throne. He would reign until the end of 1947, when he was forced to abdicate.

Just a month earlier, he had attended the wedding of his cousins, the future Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom. It was here that he met his wife, Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma. The couple married in Greece in 1948, and have five daughters.

He briefly returned to Romania twice – in 1990 and 1992 – but did not have his citizenship restored until 1997. He also had several properties returned to him, including the Elisabeta Palace where he resides part of the year.

Wikipedia: Michael I of Romania

Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria was the last reigning monarch of Bulgaria, from 1943-1946 when the monarchy was overthrown. He was the son of Tsar Boris III and the former Princess Giovanna of Savoy, daughter of King Victor Emanuel III of Italy. His father died when he was 6 years old, making him Tsar (although actually ruled under a Regency led by his uncle, Prince Kyril).

The monarchy was overthrown in 1946 and the family was exiled, although Simeon never actually abdicated. He attended school in Italy and Spain, and later The Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with the rank of Second Lieutenant. He went on to study law and business in Spain.

Simeon married Doña Margarita Gómez-Acebo y Cejuela in 1962 and the couple have four sons and a daughter.

It wasn’t until 1990 that Simeon was issued a new Bulgarian passport, returning to his homeland in 1996 for the first time in 50 years. By then, several properties in Bulgaria had been returned to the royal family, and Simeon returned to Bulgaria and got involved in politics, serving as Prime Minister from 2001-2005.

Wikipedia: Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Who Knew?!

Europe’s ‘HIS Majesty Club’

As a follow-up to my last post – Europe’s ‘Her Majesty Club’, it’s only fitting that we give a nod to Europe’s ‘HIS Majesty Club’ as well.

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Photo credit: CNN

The newest member is King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Following his mother Queen Beatrix’ abdication, Willem-Alexander became the first Dutch king in nearly 123 years – the last was his great-great-grandfather, King Willem III.

Willem-Alexander joins Kings Albert II of Belgium, Harald V of Norway, Juan Carlos I of Spain, and Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. Willem-Alexander is also the youngest reigning European sovereign, having just turned 46 a few days before his investiture.

Here is a brief introduction to the five kings.  And even though they don’t claim membership to the ‘Majesty’ clubs, I’ve also included a bit about three other sovereigns of Europe:

King Albert II of Belgium

  • born in 1934, the second son of King Leopold III and Princess Astrid of Sweden
  • born just months after his father became King
  • married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria in 1959
  • three children – Philippe, Astrid and Laurent
  • became King in 1993 upon the death of his brother, King Baudouin I
  • heir: Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands

  • born in 1967, the eldest son of Princess Beatrix and Claus van Amsberg
  • born during the reign of his grandmother, Queen Juliana
  • married Miss Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in 2002
  • three children – Catharina-Amalia, Alexia and Ariane
  • became King in 2013 upon the abdication of his mother, Queen Beatrix
  • heir: Princess Catharina-Amalia, The Princess of Orange

King Harald V of Norway

  • born in 1937, only son of Crown Prince Olav and Princess Märtha of Sweden
  • born during the reign of his grandfather, King Haakon VII
  • married Miss Sonja Haraldsen in 1968
  • two children – Märtha Louise and Haakon Magnus
  • became King in 1991 upon the death of his father, King Olav V
  • heir: Crown Prince Haakon

King Juan Carlos I of Spain

  • born in 1938, elder son of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona and Princess Maria Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
  • at the time of his birth, his grandfather King Alfonso XIII was in exile, the monarchy having been overthrown in 1931
  • married Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark in 1962
  • three children – Elena, Cristina and Felipe
  • became King in 1975, upon the death of General Francisco Franco, reestablishing Spain as a monarchy
  • heir: Infante Felipe, The Prince of Asturias

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

  • born in 1946, only son of Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
  • born during the reign of his great-grandfather King Gustaf V
  • as his father had died when Carl Gustaf was less than a year old, he became heir apparent when his grandfather became King in 1950.
  • became King in 1973, upon his grandfather’s death
  • married Miss Silvia Sommerlath in 1976
  • three children – Victoria, Carl Philip and Madeleine
  • heir: Crown Princess Victoria

As Principalities (Liechtenstein and Monaco) and a Grand Duchy (Luxembourg), the other three European monarchies don’t fall under the ‘Majesty’ title. However, they are still just as royal as the rest.

Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein

  • official title: HSH The Prince of Liechtenstein
  • born in 1945, eldest son of Prince Franz Joseph II and Countess Georgina von Wilczek
  • married Countess Marie Aglaë Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau in 1967
  • four children – Alois, Maximilian, Constantin and Tatjana
  • became Prince of Liechtenstein in 1989 upon the death of his father
  • heir: Hereditary Prince Alois

Prince Albert II of Monaco

  • official title: HSH The Sovereign Prince of Monaco
  • born in 1958, only son of Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly
  • became Sovereign Prince in 2005 upon the death of his father
  • married Miss Charlene Wittstock in 2011
  • heir: Princess Caroline, The Princess of Hanover (his elder sister)

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg

  • official title: HRH The Grand Duke of Luxembourg
  • born in 1955, son of Grand Duke Jean and Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium
  • married Miss María Teresa Mestre y Batista in 1981
  • five children – Guillaume, Félix, Louis, Alexandra, Sébastien
  • became Grand Duke in 2000, upon the abdication of his father
  • heir: Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume

Who Knew?!

Europe’s ‘Her Majesty Club’

photo: Daily Mail/AP

photo: Daily Mail/AP

The newest member of Europe’s ‘Her Majesty Club’ is Queen Máxima, consort of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. She joins Paola and Fabiola of Belgium, Margrethe II of Denmark, Sonja of Norway, Sofia of Spain, Silvia of Sweden and Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. And unlike Margrethe, Sofia and Elizabeth who were born royal, or Paola and Fabiola who both come from artistocratic families, Máxima is more in the mold of Sonja and Silvia – ‘commoners’ who ended up becoming Queen.

Now, just for the record, I really hate the word ‘commoner’. And, to me, it doesn’t apply. I can promise you there is nothing ‘common’ about any of these women!

An interesting connection between Máxima and Queen Silvia of Sweden – both are direct descendants of King Afonso III of Portugal (1210-1279). So despite the ‘commoner’ label both have some royal ancestry (albeit 800 years ago).

Let’s just touch on each one and their beginnings:

Queen Fabiola of Belgium

  • born Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón, daughter of a Spanish Marquess and Count
  • became Queen upon her marriage to King Baudouin in 1960

Queen Paola of Belgium

  • born Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria, daughter of a Prince and Duke in the Italian nobility
  • married the future King Albert II in 1959
  • became Queen upon her husband’s accession in 1993

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark

  • along with Elizabeth II of the UK, the only two current Queens Regnant in Europe
  • born Princess Margrethe, daughter of King Frederik IX (then the Crown Prince) and Princess Ingrid of Sweden
  • was not in the line of succession, as only males could inherit the Danish throne. However, in 1953, the laws were changed, making Margrethe the heiress presumptive.
  • married Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat in 1967
  • two children – Frederik and Joachim
  • became Queen upon her father’s death in 1972
  • heir: Crown Prince Frederik

Queen Máxima of the Netherlands

  • born Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti, daughter of an Argentian politician and his 2nd wife
  • married the future King Willem-Alexander in 2002
  • became Queen upon her husband’s accession in 2013

Queen Sonja of Norway

  • born Miss Sonja Haraldsen, in Norway, daughter of a clothing merchant and his wife
  • married the future Harald V in 1968 (after his insistence that if not given permission to marry, he would remain single, bringing an end to his family’s reign in Norway)
  • became Queen upon her husband’s accession in 1991

Queen Sofia of Spain

  • born Princess Sophia, daughter of King Paul of Greece and Princess Frederika of Hanover
  • elder sister of the former King Constantine II of Greece
  • married the future King Juan Carlos in 1962
  • became Queen upon her husband’s accession 1975

Queen Silvia of Sweden

  • born Miss Silvia Sommerlath, in Germany, daughter of German business man and his Brazilian wife
  • became Queen upon her marriage to King Carl XVI Gustaf in 1976

Queen Elizabeth II of The United Kingdom

  • along with Margrethe II of Denmark, the only two current Queens Regnant in Europe
  • born Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the future King George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
  • became Heiress Presumptive when her father became King in 1937
  • married LTt. Philip Mountbatten (formerly Prince Phillippos of Greece and Denmark) in 1947
  • four children – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward
  • became Queen upon her father’s death in 1952
  • heir: HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales

Who Knew?!