Saturday 2 November 2013

Queen Sofía turns 75

Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain celebrates her 75th birthday today. She was born Princess Sophia Margarita Victoria Friederika of Greece and Denmark nearly exactly three years to the day that Greece had voted in a referendum to restore the Monarchy (3rd November 1935). King George II of the Hellenes had returned after 12 years of exile, but he and his Romanian born wife Queen Elisabeta had no children, therefore Princess Sophia’s father Pavlos was Crown Prince of Greece. In 1947 the Crown Prince ascended to the Greek throne as King Pavlos I. When she was born Princess Sophia was second in line to the Greek throne until her brother Konstantinos was born on 2nd June 1940. He succeeded his father in March 1964 as King Constantine II of the Hellenes.

Princess Sophia with her father, King Pavlos, and sister Princess Irene 1948.

The Greek Royal Family was again forced into exile in 1941, when German and Italian troops invaded the Kingdom. In an adventurous escape Crown Princess Friederika and her two children fled first to the island of Crete, then to Egypt and finally to South Africa, where the family stayed until in 1946 another referendum affirmed the Monarchy in Greece.

During the Greek civil war and the years of reconstruction in the 1950s Princess Sophia fulfilled her duties as a member of the Greek Royal Family.

Royal wedding in Athens in May 1962.
On 14th May 1962 she married Prince Juan Carlos of Borbón y Borbón in a colourful ceremony in Athens. The Greek parliament has approved a $300,000 tax-free dowry for Princess Sophie. The bill was passed by a show of hands. Two parties, the Union of the Centre and the Pro-Communist United Democratic left, abstained from the voting. Opposition leaders "denounced the practice of granting dowries and anachronistic and barbarous."

Between 1963 and 1968 the couple had three children: Infanta Elena (* 20th December 1963), Infanta Cristina (* 13th June 1965) and Infant Felipe (* 30th January 1968).

Queen Sofia cuddles a panda bear in the Madrid zoo.
After General Franco’s death Prince Juan Carlos was proclaimed King of Spain and the return of the Monarchy, which had been approved in a referendum in 1947 was completed in November 1975. A new democratic constitution was drawn and accepted by the Spanish people in a referendum. In the difficult years of the renewed the Monarchy as well as democracy and various attempted coups that were tried by adherents of the old regime Queen Sofia was at her husband’s side to encourage and inspire him. On the occasion of his 30th anniversary as King, Don Juan Carlos thanked Queen Sofia "for her constant support, sensitivity and commitment”.

Queen Sofia behind the wheel of the Peugeot iON, a zero-emission electric vehicle with a battery life of 80 miles.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Prince Charles' charity to open South Australian office

The Prince of Wales’s charity organisations Foundation for Building Community will open an Australian office, which will be part of a "landmark urban development project in South Australia". According to Adelaide’s The Advertiser, The Prince's Foundation “will open its first office outside of the United Kingdom in SA in the near future.

What began in 1987 when His Royal Highness aired “Vision for Britain” - a documentary on the BBC which detailed the contemporary design and planning in Britain - turned into part of the group of charities known as the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community.

It astounds me to think that it was over twenty-five years ago that I started on the rather rough road towards what has now become my Foundation. It seemed to me then, as it does still, that the nature of our built environment has a crucial impact on our quality of life and our physical and mental well-being,” commented Prince Charles on the Foundation's website.

The trust, along with Renewal SA, will construct six terrace houses which would "demonstrate attractive, low-carbon and medium-density living" as part of a government drive for better housing and "best practice design". According to the Housing in the City policy released by Premier Jay Weatherill, it would also benefit the building industry, which would gain from "detailed design, pre-construction and construction work".

The Prince became interested in undertaking city revitalization projects after his visit to Adelaide with the Duchess of Cornwall in November 2012.

"I am delighted that my Foundation combines education with championing community-building worldwide ... to create long-term, practical solutions to the communities in which we live,” Prince Charles commented via The Prince of Wales' website.

The Prince's Foundation for Building Community has undertaken projects throughout Britain, Haiti, Sierra Leone and The Galápagos Islands.

It also offers courses through Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education, the University of Wales and Construction Skills, as well as internationally in such places as New Orleans and Vancouver according to Prince Charles's website.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Australian national rugby league players received by Prince Charles

The Prince of Wales speaks with Australia's national rugby league team manager Gareth Holmes (l.). and Captain Cameron Smith (c.) during a reception for the Rugby League World Cup at Clarence House.

The Prince of Wales met players and representatives from the 14 countries competing in this year's Rugby League World Cup.

Brian Barwick, chairman of the Rugby Football League, told His Royal Highness: "The critical thing for Rugby League is that it is being talked about."

Andrew Henderson, who plays for Scotland, said he was excited about the match against Fiji. "We have prepared really well for the match. We had a warm up game against Papua New Guinea which we lost, but we drew important lessons from it and we got a feel of what to expect tonight."

Cameron Smith's tweet.

Prince of Wales to be patron of Australian wildlife body

His green credentials are well known and today the ABC reported that Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, has accepted to become patron of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC).

The AWC says his patronage will bring global attention to the plight of Australia's threatened native species and efforts to halt animal extinctions.

"A lot of Australians don't even know we have the worst mammal extinction rate in the world," says the conservancy's CEO Atticus Fleming. "I think it's the Prince saying that he has a special bond with Australia and the bush, and he recognises Australia's biodiversity and wildlife is globally significant, and that it needs help. We need help to put the spotlight on the loss of of wildlife in Australia, and he's going to help us do that."

Prince Charles will be the first official patron of the AWC, which has been in operation for more than a decade.

Chairman Martin Copely says the Prince has a lifelong record of supporting conservation: "He will play a vital role in raising awareness of the need for decisive, practical action to protect Australia's threatened wildlife. As patron of the AWC, His Royal Highness also becomes guardian of species like the greater bilby, strengthening the Royal family's connection to this iconic Australian animal. Australia has named a bilby breeding enclosure at Taronga Zoo in Sydney in honour of (Prince Charles' grandson) Prince George."

The Australian Wildlife Conservancy owns and manages three million hectares of conservation estates in the Kimberley, the Top End, Cape York and Central Australia, most of it former cattle station land.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

A message from The Prince of Wales to the volunteer Firefighters of New South Wales

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is making a contribution to the Australian Red Cross to help them support people affected by the bushfires in New South Wales.
The Prince has also sent a message to New South Wales Rural Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons who The Prince met during his visit to Australia in 2012.
A Message from The Prince of Wales To the Volunteer Firefighters of New South Wales
Having had the great pleasure of meeting some of the volunteer firefighters of New South Wales at Bondi Beach last year, I just wanted you all to know that you are very much in my thoughts as you battle courageously against such appalling bushfires around Sydney.
My wife and I so greatly admire the selfless service you provide in such incredibly dangerous and distressing circumstances and our hearts go out to all those – including firefighters – who have lost their homes in this terrible conflagration. My wife joins me in sending you our special wishes, and heartfelt encouragement at such a difficult time.
The Prince of Wales

Sunday 20 October 2013

Queen sends message over NSW bushfires

H. M. Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, has expressed her admiration for the firefighters, volunteers and emergency workers battling the wildfires in New South Wales as she sends her sympathies to all those affected.

In a personal message to the people of the State conveyed through NSW Governor Marie Bashir, the Queen sent her sympathies to those hit by the fires.

I would like to convey my heartfelt sympathies to all those who have been affected by the devastating bushfires across New South Wales.

My thoughts are with the many people who have lost their homes or livelihoods in the fires and I have the greatest admiration for the firefighters, volunteers and emergency services officers who are working tirelessly to control the situation.”

Devastating bushfires rage across New South Wales.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Prince Philip renamed the world's oldest clipper ship "City of Adelaide"

The City of Adelaide on a barge.
According to mariner superstitions, to rename a ship without appeasing the gods of the sea and the winds will bring bad luck to the ship at sea. In 2001, the clipper's name reverted to City of Adelaide but without a ceremony. After having been named Carrick in 1923, a renaming ceremony is now needed as the City of Adelaide is about to proceed on her first international voyage since 1893.

Prince Philip during the renaming ceremony.
On Friday, 18th October a Renaming Ceremony was held in the presence of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh KG, KT in front of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, hosted by the South Australian Agent General and Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd. (CSCOAL).

The City of Adelaide was built in 1864 and carried migrants to South Australia in the late 19th century.

In the 1920s she was renamed HMS Carrick and used as a navy training ship in Scotland, and was left there to rot until a restoration project began.

Prince Philip bestowed the clipper's original name.
During the ceremony, Prince Philip bestowed the sailing ship's original name back upon her.

After a long battle the clipper is now returning to Adelaide via London. It is hoped it will be back in Australia early next year.

Federal support had been held up since the change of government in Canberra, but now has been finalised.

Commemorating the ceremony.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Queen Marie-Antoinette murdered 220 years ago

Queen Marie-Antoinette of France was born on 2nd November 1755 and murdered on 16th October 1793. 

Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793/1774-1792) with her children, painted in 1787 by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
King Louis XVI was tried and executed in January 1793. Queen Marie-Antoinette's eight-year-old-son was taken from her and brain-washed until he accused her of sexually abusing him. He later died of hunger, illness and neglect. The Queen had several opportunities to escape alone but refused to do so without her family.

Marie-Antoinette before the Revolutionary Tribunal.
She was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on 14th October 1793. The outcome of the trial had already been decided by the Committee of Public Safety and she was declared guilty of treason in the early morning of 16th October, after two days of proceedings. Back in her cell, she composed a letter to her sister-in-law Madame Élisabeth, affirming her clear conscience, her Catholic faith and her feelings for her children.

The Queen on her way to the execution.
On 16th October 1793 Henri Sanson, the executioner, arrived at her cell to cut her hair and prepare her for execution. She left through the doors of the Concièrgerie for the last time. Unlike her husband who was driven in a private coach to la Place de la Concorde, she was seated facing the rear of a common wagon, hands tied behind her, during the long ride through the streets of Paris. Marie-Antoinette was beheaded by the guillotine. The famous royal head once renowned for beauty and splendour, now the white haired head of “Widow Capet”, as the bloodthirsty revolutionaries called her, was then shown by the executioner to the cheers of the Paris multitude assembled.

Queen Marie-Antoinette's fare well.

Only for the records: Contrary to legend, Queen Marie-Antoinette never told the hungry peasants to eat cake. She certainly never wore Manolos, as Kirsten Dunst did when she played the Queen of France in Sofia Coppola’s frothy film.

The revolution exposed in her unsuspected depths of fortitude, courage and loyalty. By contrast, the Jacobin “democrats” and mobs who took over in 1793, acting in the name of common humanity and “the rights of Man”, demonstrated little but pettiness, bad faith and viciousness.

The reign of terror ("La Terreur" was the official policy of the revolutionaries) did not happen under Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette - it was a republican practise.

French Royalists commemorate the murder of Queen Marie-Antoinette on the Place de la Concorde (in 1793: Place de la Révolution), where the guillotine stood.

Monday 7 October 2013

After Prince Harry's success in Sydney ...

The Australian republicans are funny. No, that’s not correct, that would assume they have a sense of humour. But they make Monarchists smile, when they start complaining about divisive politics. They, of all people should know how divisve they can be.
Prince Harry among the Abbott family.

What upset the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) was Prime Minister Tony Abbott welcome to Prince Harry last Saturday in Sydney. He said: "I regret to say that not every Australian is a monarchist, but today everyone feels like a monarchist. You grace us as your family has graced our nation from its beginning. It is quite fitting on a day such as this when we think back over 100 years of the Royal Australian Navy that you are here as the crown is a symbol of continuity, decency, stability in our public life."

It was clear – and Tony Abbott knew that in advance – that the republicans would not agree and they would opject to every single word of his speech. And they fell into the trap and started a protest. Had they kept silent or made a funny remark about their inclusion as secret Monarchists, well, they may have gained some points. But they behaved as could be expected. ARM’s chairman Geoff Gallop called Mr. Abbott’s welcome speech "totally inappropriate". "The Fleet Review was a day for all Australians to celebrate, whatever their views on the Constitution, and certainly not a day for divisive comments from the Prime Minister. It is in order to defend Australia, not Buckingham Palace, that the navy exists. Of this the Prime Minister needs to be reminded."

The Romans knew: Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses (In English: If you had remained silent, you would have remained a philosopher), but keeping silent is not the republicans’ cup of tea. And certainly they do not want to be seen as philosophers.

Prince Harry was a crowd puller in Sydney.

Sunday 22 September 2013

King Juan Carlos has to undergo another hip surgery

It was the top news of the Spanish evening news on Friday: King Juan Carlos has to undergo a hip operation on a suspected infection that is hampering his ability to walk.

Miguel Cabanela, a specialist surgeon who flew in from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, will lead the operation on Tuesday at Madrid's Quiron hospital, a palace statement said.

Cabanela said surgery on the left hip is needed to clear up a problem that is causing the monarch considerable discomfort. It will be the 75-year-old's third hip operation in less than two years.

The King was last seen in public on 18th September, when he and Queen Sofía welcomed the new Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima at the Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid.

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherslands and Queen Máxima paid a first visit as monarchs to Spain.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

An Australian republic is not inevitable

Benjamin T. Jones, co-editor of Project Republic, teaches history at the University of Western Sydney. He is pessimistic about his group's efforts to establish a republican regime in Australia. On the ABC's Drum, he explains, why an Australian republic is not inevitable.
"The inevitability of an Australian republic is a myth so often spouted that it is accepted as fact with little scrutiny.

"Set against a Cold War back drop in 1954, when the Queen first visited Australia she was seen as a symbol of freedom and democracy as opposed to slavish communism. Country MP, Hugh Robertson gushed that her presence affirmed 'our faith in our democratic systems'. When she returned in 1988 to open our new parliament house, opposition Liberal leader, John Howard acknowledged her as 'the pinnacle of our democracy'.

"This is precisely why a republic is not inevitable. The British monarchy has a proven record of remarkable adaptability to suit the times. Despite the dictatorial powers afforded to the British monarch in our constitution, through protocol and practice, it is seen as a powerless and inoffensive titular head that is worth preserving. Despite the inherent elitism and privilege, monarchy has somehow morphed into a symbol of Westminster democracy."
Good to see some realism in the republican ranks. Her Majesty has outlived all republicans who one thought while they were in office they could topple her. The transition to King Charles III, whenever it may come, will be a smooth one and his reign will be as successful as his mother's.

Sunday 15 September 2013

King Carl Gustaf 40 years on the throne

The Sunday newspapers reported on the King's death.

On the death of King Gustaf VI Adolf on 15th September 1973 his grandson, Crown Prince Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus, Duke of Jämtland, became King of Sweden at the age of 27 . As motto for his reign he chose the motto: För Sverige - I tiden (“For Sweden - With the times").

Prince Carl Gustaf was born as heir presumptive on 30th April 1946. He was son of then heir presumptive Prince Gustaf Adolf, who died in a plane crash in Denmark on 26th January 1947, and Princess Sibylla of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha, who died in 1972. 

King Carl XVI Gustaf's proclamation on 19th September 1973.

In 1971 the Riksdag (Parliament) had decided to strip the Monarch of his last powers. The changes did not take place under the old king, but came into force in 1974, one year after King Carl Gustaf ascended to the throne. The (technically) advisory Council of State (Swedish: Statsrådet) was changed into the collegial Government (Swedish: Regeringen) in which all executive power was vested, and thus the Monarch was stripped of all executive powers, while still retained as purely ceremonial figurehead with residual executive authority over only his own court and household. Responsibility for appointing and dismissing the Prime Minister was transferred to the Speaker of the Riksdag. The Prime Minister now appoints and dismisses his ministers at his or her sole discretion. Bills passed in the Riksdag become law without having to acquire royal assent: two Cabinet Ministers in unison sign it "On Behalf of the Government" (Swedish: På regeringens vägnar). Thus, in Sweden, unlike most constitutional monarchies, the Monarch is no longer even the nominal chief executive.
His Majesty opening the Riksdag at the request of the speaker. (here in 2012)

As Swedish Head of State the King has purely ceremonial functions. According to the Swedish Constitution, the King has a number of constitutional duties. The Monarch formally, at the request of the Speaker, opens the annual session of the Riksdag and chairs a special Cabinet Council in a session that establishes the new government following a general election or major cabinet reshuffle. He also chairs this Council approximately four times a year to get information from the Cabinet apart from that given by the Prime Minister. The Monarch also chairs the Advisory Committee for Foreign Affairs (Swedish: Utrikesnämnden), a body which serves to officially inform the head of state and the leaders of the opposition on foreign affairs.

For the past 40 years, The King has received foreign ambassadors who have submitted their credentials, and — together with The Queen — has hosted and carried out many state visits.

Sweden celebrates the anniversary of King Carl Gustaf's accession to the throne.