Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

The King and I

The life of Anna Leonowen was even stranger than the unlikely plot of The King and I, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1951 musical adapted from Margaret Landon’s 1944 book Anna and the King of Siam. Leah Price reviews Susan Morgan's biography entitled Bombay Anna published in July 2008:

A mixed-race Anglo-Indian army brat, she managed to pass as a Victorian lady long enough to be hired as a governess at the court of Siam. Her experience in the royal harem was later parlayed into literary fame and a trans-Atlantic career of teaching, writing and lecturing.

On disembarking in Singapore as a young widow in 1859, this gifted con woman subtracted three years from her age, relocated her birthplace from Bombay to Wales, forgot her mother’s Indian parentage, promoted her father from private to major and changed her husband from a clerk to an army officer. “The most important thing in life,” she declared, “is to choose your parents.” Leonowens’s racial passing depended on her eye for detail: a letter from her waxes sentimental over the “golden locks” of two of her children, although both happened to be brunettes. Equally crucial to these reinventions was her ear for language: not simply her knowledge of Hindi, Marathi, Persian and Sanskrit but the ability to mimic a genteel English accent.

In 1861, Mongkut, the king of Siam, asked his agent in Singapore to find his children a governess. A former Buddhist monk and an accomplished scholar who had earlier allowed American missionaries access to the harem, Mongkut was seeking a woman who would teach English without trying to proselytize. With few unmarried British ladies on the spot, Anna Leonowens — apparently ladylike and genuinely widowed — was chosen. From this point on, Morgan’s heroine will remind readers of Becky Sharp, the governess who schemes her way through Regency society in Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair.” Unlike Becky, however, Leonowens turned out to be a good teacher.

At the time of her arrival, she estimated that Mongkut’s harem housed a population of 9,000: his sisters, aunts and children of both sexes, as well as consorts, concubines and slaves, and other women who had been offered to the king in order to pay debts or cement political alliances. Although she later described this city within a city as a hotbed of “Slavery, Polygamy, Flagellation of women & children, Immolation of slaves, secret poisoning and assassination,” Leonowens thrived there. She taught Mongkut’s children, then numbering about 60, including the crown prince. (Historians continue to debate her influence on the political reforms he carried out after his father’s death.) She also gave English lessons to adults and served as an unofficial secretary to the king. (Historians differ on her relations with him: did she shape his policies and draft his English-language documents or simply copy out some letters?)

After five years, Anna Leon­owens left, traveling to England and Ireland before settling in the United States, where she once again supported herself by teaching. The friends she found in the American publishing world helped her bring out two memoirs, The English Governess at the Siamese Court and The Romance of the Harem, which were sufficiently popular to open up a new career for her as a lecturer on topics from “Siam: Its Court and Customs” to “Brahmanism, Ancient and Modern” and “Christian Missions to Pagan Lands.” Leonowens sent dispatches from Russia to an American magazine; she moved to Nova Scotia to live with her daughter, and then to Germany to accompany her grandchildren to school; she wrote a memoir of India that mixed vivid reportage with autobiographical fibs; she lectured on women’s suffrage. She died in 1915.


In 1946 Talbot Jennings and Sally Benson adapted Margaret Landon's novel Anna and the King of Siam into the screenplay for a dramatic film of the same name, starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. The novel was also adapted as a hit musical comedy by Rodgers and Hammerstein, The King and I (1951), starring Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner, which ran 1,246 performances on Broadway. In 1956 a spectacular film version was released, with Deborah Kerr starring in the role of Leonowens. Revived many times on stage, the musical has remained a favourite of the theatre-going public. In 1999 an animated version of the musical was released by Warner Bros. In the same year Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat starred in a new feature-length cinematic remake entitled Anna and the King.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Emperor Akihito's 75th birthday

Japanese Emperor Akihito turned 75 on Tuesday, pledging to work for the betterment of the imperial family. Akihito, recovering from illness, was seen in public for the first time in about two weeks as he greeted some 18,000 well-wishers in three appearances at the Imperial Palace.

"I have caused you all to worry since my health declined recently. But I believe I will recover gradually," he said from a balcony, flanked by Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito, his wife Masako and other family members.

"I am concerned that many people are facing a difficult year end with many problems in the midst of a difficult economic situation," he said as well-wishers waved national flags and shouted "Banzai!" signifying longevity.

The eldest son of wartime emperor Hirohito, Akihito next year marks 20 years on the Chrysanthemum Throne.

"I would like to continue to make efforts for the sake of the country and people and in search of a better form of the imperial household, while taking the advice of doctors," said the Emperor.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What British monarchy is NOT about

1. The Popularity of the Queen: Believe it or not, it is not about Her Majesty, it is not because the Queen has been a dutiful head of state or that she is the most experienced statesperson in the world. It is not really about the Sovereign, Her Successors or the Royal Family. Preservation of the monarchy should not hinge on the specific character or personal attributes of the Monarch. Saying that we should keep the monarchy because the Queen is a lovely lady is patently absurd;

2. Promoting Tourism: Also ridiculous is defending the notion that the British Monarchy is a wonderful “tourist attraction”, as if safeguarding the institution was akin to preserving family trips to the city zoo, which has to be one of the saddest arguments ever devised in its favour. In any event, this would only be true as it relates to the United Kingdom. Canadian or Australian monarchists could not plausibly argue that the monarchy has been good for their tourism, nor could Britons convincingly make the case that tourism would suffer catastrophically if the monarchy was abolished;

3. Taxpayer’s Money: It is not because it generates revenues for the state, or costs the treasury a mint to operate, or bequeaths a sizeable net profit to taxpayers. There is no proof that a republican head of state is any more cost-effective than a monarchical one on a net revenue minus expense basis, but even if there was, who cares? I should hope that a monarchy is more costly than a republic. Magnificence comes with a price;

4. Colonialism: It is not about protecting hangovers from “colonialism”, that old canard which reveals the self-inflicted inferiority complex of those who make it. Memo to the masses: Some of us actually liked the Empire and thought it did some real good in the world. Besides, you cannot stand there and pretend you were not part of the enterprise, or that you were somehow victimised by it when your adopted country or your British ancestors enthusiastically fought for it, defended it and was loyal to it. You were not suppressed from afar, you willingly partook in the great adventure. So kindly get unstuck from your colonial mentality;

5. Sentiment and Nostalgia: It is laughable to assert that only monarchies are susceptible to cringe-inducing bouts of the most empurpled sentimentality. The “I have a dream” swooning over Princess Obama currently underway in America surely testifies to the “moist, vapid emotions of the Diana cult” that are clearly prevalent in the “Great Republic”. The lack of stoicism and emotional dignity is a plague that affects modernity in general, and is no reasonable basis for defending the monarchy. Please vote for Obama if you want your misty-eyed fairytale.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fresh look at Russian influence in Serbia

The 120th aniversary of the birth of King Alexander I of Serbia is marked with a special exhibition at Belgrade’s White Palace. The exhibition looks at the influence Russian immigrants have had on Serbian society, as King Alexander (Aleksandar) encouraged Russians to come to the kingdom of Serbs, Slovenes and Croats.

King Alexander I (1888-1934) was considered to be a big friend of the Russians, given that a lot of Russians moved to Serbia after the civil war and revolution in Russia due to the King’s especially favourable policy. The Russian immigrants saw in the young King their protector and patron.

The goal of the exhibition ‘King Alexander I and the Russian emigration’ is to represent all aspect of influence Russian emigrants, under patronage of King Alexander, made on Serbian culture, art, spirituality, science and education in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1920s and 1930s.

The exhibition can be seen at the White Palace 17-26 December 2008. The exhibition is open for visits at 10, 12 and 14 h, with prior announcement to the Office of Crown Prince Alexander II.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Greece: little confidence in the politicians' republic

Written by Professor David Flint

The Greek republic has shown itself impotent in the face of the expression of rage which followed the shooting of a Greek youth by police on 6 December. Lawyers for the police say the youth was one of a mob who attacked the police with bottles and stones, shouting "Cops, we're going to burn you alive." One officer says he fired warning shots, one of which ricocheted and sadly, struck the boy in the chest. The lawyers say ballistic evidence supports this.

Why then was Greece in a state of anarchy for over a week, with mobs waging war against the police, looting and setting fire to buildings in Athens?

What is evident is that the politicians, tainted by years of intrigue and corruption, have led Greece into a dead end. There is no one, no authority, who enjoys the Greek people's respect. Indeed, as one observer puts it, Greece is exhibiting all the signs of a failed state. And neither side among the despised politicians offers a solution. One thing is clear. The Greek people have lost confidence not only in their politicians but in the politicians' republic.

All this is exacerbated by the romantic but foolish notion, coming from the French Revolution, that salvation lies not through traditional institutions, values and beliefs, but through the actions of the mob. This idealisation of mob rule still haunts its birthplace, notwithstanding Napoleon's "whiff of grapeshot." Every few years, exasperation with France's politicians leads to an explosion of mob violence which is sometimes assuaged by a new regime, or even, yet another constitution.

And yet, this is the cradle of democracy. There is one institution which can offer the nation leadership beyond politics, something for which the Greek people so clearly yearn. This is the Crown, the throne, that mystical institution whose office holder, the King of the Hellenes, is sworn to duty and service, and who alone can unite this ancient land.

The person who embodies these qualities is King Constantine of the Hellenes, a dashing and popular figure when came to the throne at the age of 24, as indeed his son Crown Prince Pavlos clearly is. Married to the beautiful Princess Anne-Marie, sister of Danish Queen Margrethe II, The King became a national hero when he won a gold medal in sailing at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

None of the always intriguing and too often duplicitous Athens politicians can equal this - this was Greece’s only gold medal between 1912 and 1980. Indeed in his later exile The King was to play a leading and perhaps crucial role on the International Olympic Committee in the award of the 2004 Olympics to Athens.

One criticism made in the British television programme ‘Constantine: A King’s Story,’ was about a crucial event in the King’s reign. This was when he swore in a military junta in 1967. The critics ignore the fact that as at times in Thailand, the King had no realistic alternative. He has always maintained that his brief co-operation with the coup was a tactical move which he had hoped would allow him to organize a counter-coup. This was in fact launched later that year. Unfortunately it failed, at least in part because the King wanted to avoid bloodshed at all costs, so he and his family went into exile.

The dictator George Papadopoulos tried to persuade The King to return, but Papadopoulos would never accept The King's firm condition that democracy be re-established. When naval officers tried to overthrow "the Colonels”, Papadopoulos, with the support of a rigged plebiscite, retaliated by declaring a republic in 1973. In April 1974 the junta's disastrous mishandling of events in Cyprus led to its downfall, and the apparently pro-royalist leader, Constantine Karamanlis, returned from exile to become Prime Minister.

Although the 1973 republican constitution was a sham, Karamanlis continued to operate under the junta’s republican constitution. This was as inconceivable as keeping Cromwell’s constitution at the restoration of King Charles II in England in 1660. Karamanlis even kept the junta’s president, Phaidon Ghizikis, in office, at least for the time being. The reason became obvious later- Karamnalis did a deal with Ghizikis. Karamanlis clearly had an agenda to create a politicians’ republic.

Instead of observing the lawful constitution, Karamanlis then announced that a second vote would be taken on the monarchy. Although he was the leader of the traditionally royalist party, he chose not support the King. Karamanlis had had a brittle relationship with Constantine's parents, particularly when Karamnalis was accused of being an informer during the Second World War. By failing to defend the King against the patently unfair charges that he had supported the junta, Karamanlis placed the King at a serious disadvantage. He exacerbated this by not allowing him to return to Greece during the campaign preceding the plebiscite.

Karamanlis was well aware that for years, the Colonels had conducted a propaganda campaign to damage the King, and now he was being blamed for the tyranny he tried to remove. And as the principal opposition party was also republican, it was not surprising that the vote to retain the monarchy was defeated.

The King, however, has always graciously accepted the decision. In a CNN interview with Richard Quest, The King emphasised that he will never campaign for a restoration. He will only return to the throne if he is invited because the Greek people want that. His Majesty remains as he has been since he succeded to the throne, a true and honourable constitutional monarch.

The day after the vote, the junta’s President Ghizikis stood down and Karamanlis actually made himself acting President as well as Prime Minister. Although this lasted only a few days, the impropriety of one person holding both offices was glaring. An interim President was then elected by Parliament. As Prime Minister leading an ostensibly centre-right party, Karamanlis embarked on a major programme of nationalising sectors of the economy. Karamanlis subsequently twice became President, moving into what was once the Royal Palace.

Successive Greek governments have displayed both hostility and petty vindictiveness towards The King. They were reluctant to allow The King to visit Greece except under exceptional circumstances, until at last it became clear they could not stop him under European law.

One government even confiscated all his property, particularly the family estate at Tatoi, bought by King George I with his own funds, and on which King Constantine had actually been required by successive republican governments to pay taxes as owner.

This brazen theft was subsequently found to have been unlawful by the European Court. The meagre compensation paid was used by the King to endow a charity for disaster relief, the Anna Maria Foundation. The Queen, Anne-Marie, is the President of the Foundation.

The government also attempted to strip him of his nationality, and even today refuses him a passport insisting that he invents a surname. But during this time, when he briefly put into a Greek port, he was received warmly by the local people, which put the republican politicians on edge.

In the British television programme, a Greek Orthodox priest explained that Constantine will always be King. So although he accepts the referendum, The King has never abdicated.

As a private citizen, he returned to Greece for the Athens Olympic Games. He lives in London with Queen Anne-Marie, where he is a close friend of Prince Charles and a godfather to Prince William of Wales. He continues to be invited, correctly, to state functions there as the "King of the Hellenes," notwithstanding the disdain of successive Greek governments.

A noble figure, the King clearly puts the interests of Greece and the Greek people first. He is in so many ways a model King.

His son Prince Pavlos, the Crown Prince of Greece and Prince of Denmark, was born in 1967. He was married on 1 July 1995 in London to Marie-Chantal Miller, who became The Crown Princess Pavlos of Greece and Princess of Denmark.

As have the people of other countries, the time will surely come when the Greek people invite their King to resume his rightful place at the head of the Greek nation. In the meantime, it is time surely for The King to be allowed to return to live among his people.

By putting petty obstacles in his way – his name for example – the politicians are only confirming that their great fear is that once he is among them again, the people will see in their King that leadership beyond politics which they so long for, and which The King of the Hellenes alone can offer.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Patron Saint’s Day, Your Royal Highnesses!

Saint Andrew (Greek: 'Ανδρέας, Andreas) (early first century - mid to late first century AD), called in the Orthodox tradition Protocletos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the younger brother of Saint Peter. The New Testament records that St Andrew was a son of Jonah, or John, (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42). He was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee (John 1:44). Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that he will make them "fishers of men" (Greek: ἁλιείς ἀνθρώπων, halieis anthropon). At the beginning of Jesus' public life they occupied the same house at Capernaum (Mark 1:21-29).

The Gospel of John teaches that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and John the Evangelist to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40). Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce him to his brother (John 1:41). Thenceforth the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion, prior to the final call to the apostolate, they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus (Luke 5:11; Matthew 4:19-20; Mark 1:17-18).

In the gospel Andrew is referred to as being present on some important occasions as one of the disciples more closely attached to Jesus (Mark 13:3; John 6:8, 12:22), but in Acts there is only a bare mention of him (1:13).

Eusebius quotes Origen as saying Andrew preached in Asia Minor and in Scythia, along the Black Sea as far as the Volga and Kiev. Hence he became a patron saint of Romania and Russia. According to tradition, he founded the See of Byzantium (Constantinople) in AD 38, installing Stachys as bishop. This diocese would later develop into the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Andrew is recognized as its patron saint.

Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at Patras (Patrae) in Achaea. Though early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours, describe Andrew bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Christ was crucified, a tradition grew up that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called Crux decussata (X-shaped cross) and commonly known as "Saint Andrew's Cross"; this was performed at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross on which Christ was crucified. "The familiar iconography of his martyrdom, showing the apostle bound to an X-shaped cross, does not seem to have been standardized before the later Middle Ages," Judith Calvert concluded after re-examining the materials studied by Louis Réau.

Saint Andrew is the patron of Patras. According to tradition his relics were moved from Patras to Constantinople, and thence to St Andrews (see below). Local legends say that the relics were sold to the Romans. The head of the saint, considered one of the treasures of St Peter's Basilica, was given by the Byzantine despot Thomas Palaeologus to Pope Pius II in 1461. In recent years, by decision of Pope Paul VI in 1964, the relics that were kept in the Vatican City, were sent back to Patras. The relics, which consist of the small finger, part of the top of the cranium of Saint Andrew and small parts of the cross, have since that time been kept in the Church of St Andrew at Patras in a special shrine, and are revered in a special ceremony every November 30 (December 13 O.S.).

St Andrew is the patron saint of the Royal House of Karadjordjevic.

Happy Patron Saint’s Day, Your Royal Highnesses!

Friday, December 12, 2008


Today is the 50th anniversary of death of Milutin Milanković (Serbian Cyrillic: Милутин Миланковић) (also known as Milankovitch) (May 28, 1879, Dalj near Osijek, (Austria-Hungary) – December 12 1958, Belgrade) the most important Serbian scientist, geophysicist best known for his theory of ice ages, relating variations of the Earth's orbit and long-term climate change, now known as Milankovitch cycles.

Nobel Prizes 2008

Nobel Prizes are awarded for outstanding achievements in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace. An additional Prize for Economics is awarded in the same ceremony, which is held every year on the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. King Carl XVI Gustaf traditionally presents the award to each honoree.

The Nobel Peace Prize alone is awarded in Oslo, Norway in the presence of the King of Norway. The ceremony in Norway was held on the same day, December 10, 2008 in Oslo.

The winners of this year’s Nobel Prizes are:

• For Physiology or Medicine: Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Luc Montagnier and Harald zur Hausen
• For Physics: Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Maskawa and Yoichiro Nambu
• For Chemistry: Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien
• For Literature: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio
• For Peace: Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari
• For Economics: Paul Krugman

Queen Silvia, Princess Madeleine, King Carl XVI Gustaf, Prince Carl Philip and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden during the Nobel Foundation Prize 2008 Awards Ceremony at the Concert Hall on December 10, 2008 in Stockholm.

King Harald, Queen Sonja, Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon during the Nobel Peace Prize Awards Ceremony at the Oslo City Hall on December 10, 2008.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wedding of Marie-Christine of Austria

The Belgian town of Mechelen witnessed an unusual royal gathering last Saturday as Archduchess Marie-Christine of Austria married Count Rodolphe de Limburg Stirum in an elaborate ceremony at the Flemish city’s Town Hall and Sint Rombouts Cathedral.

Marie-Christine Anne Astrid Zita Charlotte, 25, is the eldest daughter of Archduke Carl-Christian of Austria and Archduchess Marie-Astrid, Princess of Luxembourg, Princess of Bourbon-Parma. Her great-grandfather was Austria’s last Emperor, Karl, and through her mother she is related to the Belgian, Swedish and Danish royal families - among others. Her grandfather Jean was reigning grand-duke of Luxembourg, her uncle Henri is the current grand-duke.

Count Rodolphe de Limburg Stirum hails from an ancient noble family, which has branched out in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France.

The couple, who are both born in Brussels, brought royalty and nobility from across Europe to the ancient town, which closed off its historic centre to accomodate the wedding guests, among them:

* Queen Fabiola of Belgium and the Duke of Brabant, Prince Philip. Marie-Christine's grandmother was Joséphine Charlotte, Princess of Belgium, and sister to Queen Fabiola's late husband, king Boudouin and current King Albert II.

* Grand-Duke Henri of Luxembourg and Grand-Duchess Maria Teresa.

* Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia and Crown Princess Katherine.

* Princess Astrid of Belgium and her daughter Princess Maria Laura.

* Princess Hélenè de France, 74, and Count Philippe de Limburg Stirum (brother of the groom).

* Prince Félix of Luxembourg, with Princess Maria Anunciata of Liechtenstein, daughter of Princess Margarita and Prince Nikolaus. Maria Anunciata was one of the witnesses at the wedding ceremony.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Prince Frederik visits the Danish NATO troops in Afghanistan

Danish Crown Prince Frederik had a long held wish fulfilled last week as the Danish govern- ment allowed him to visit the Danish NATO troops in the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand.

Frederik, 40, was earlier reported as being frustrated by the refusal of the government and the military to give him permission to spend some time with the troops, as colleagues as Spain’s Prince Felipe, Holland’s Prince Willem-Alexander and the British royals Charles, William and Harry had been able to do.

But upon his return from Thailand Crown Prince Frederik flew to Afghani- stan in the company of the Danish Minister of Defence. Frederik and the minister were able to experience first hand how the 700 Danish soldiers live at the front, eating the same food and sleeping in sleeping bags.

Most of the Danish troops are based in Helmand. Seventeen Danish soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the Kingdom of Denmark joined the U.S.-led coalition in 2002.

Princess Lalla Salma at the Conference on AIDS in Dakar

Morocco's Princess Lalla Salma, spouse of King Mohammed VI, deliverd a speech at the opening of the 15th International Conference on AIDS and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) in Africa (ICASA) in the capital of Senegal, Dakar, on December 3, 2008. International and African experts evaluated the current state of the HIV and STI epidemics with regard to science, communities and leadership.

The princess had urged in an address at the opening of the conference, which gathered about 7,000 participants, a constant mobilization and an active, joint, efficient and better targeted cooperation at the regional and international levels to combat AIDS.

She also stressed the importance of adopting a global approach that takes into account the various medical, sociological and psycho-cultural aspects. Lalla Salma also took part in the special session of the African First Ladies, which examined the role of first ladies in awareness raising about AIDS.

The princess has received the 2008 ICASA Award for her commitment to combating the disease, and was awarded by Senegal’s highest decoration, the Grande Croix de l'Ordre national du mérité, for her merits for her humanitarian work in Morocco and abroad.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Queen Maria's ring in Oplenac

The ring of Queen Maria Karadjordjevic, part of the Karadjordjevic family’s valuable jewellry collection, was exhibited in the Foundation of King Peter I in Oplenac.

The golden ring was purchased from a private collectionar by the Municipality of Topola, following the initiative from the Foundation. The handing over ceremony took place in the King Peter’s Galery in Oplenac.

Maria of Romania (6 January 1900 - 22 June 1961) was queen consort to King Alexander I of Yugoslavia. Her titles included HM Queen Maria of Yugoslavia (1929-1945), HM The Queen of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (1922-1929) and HRH Princess Maria of Romania (1900-1922). She was born in Gotha, Thuringia in Germany, during the reign of her maternal grandfather Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and during the Romanian reign of her granduncle King Carol I. She was known as "Mignon" in the family to distinguish her from her mother, Princess Marie, a daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, a son of Queen Victoria. Her maternal great-grandfather was Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Marie's father was Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania.

She married King Alexander I of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on 8 June 1922, and raised three sons. Following the assassination of King Alexander in Marseilles in 1934, she became Queen Mother of Yugoslavia and her oldest son became Peter II of Yugoslavia, the last Yugoslav king.

Maria was well educated, spoke several languages fluently and enjoyed painting and sculpting. She also drove a car by herself, which was very unusual at the time. Well loved and respected by the people of Yugoslavia, she continues to be well thought of and remains, in the eyes of the Serbian people, one of the greatest humanitarian patron's of the Balkan region. Streets are named in her memory, such as "Ulica kraljice Marije" or "Queen Marija Street", and numerous schools and other organizations still carry her name.

Marie died in exile in London on 22 June 1961 and is interred at the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore, which adjoins Windsor Castle.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Princess Mathilde in Indonesia and Singapore

HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium visited Indonesia from 22-26 November 2008, accompanying her husband Crown Prince Phillipe who lead a Belgian economic mission exploring investment opportunies in Indonesia. Belgium is one of the 30 top investors in Indonesia.

Prince Phillipe met Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo and West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan.

While the Crown Prince was attending business meetings, his wife Mathilde met with disadvantaged children of Jakarta. Along with Mufidah Jusuf Kalla, the wife of Indonesia’s vice president, the Crown Princess stopped by a school supported by Pantara Foundation, dedicated to children with learning disabilities.

For the second leg of their south Asian economic tour, Belgium’s crown princely couple went to Singapore. There, Philippe and Mathilde continued making diplomatic ties, promoting Belgian businesses, and touring the city state.

Crown Princess Mathilde visited the La Salle College of the Arts where students performed a dance for her and then went to the Singapore Botanical Garden, where she was shown a yellow orchid named after her.

Later in the evening, Philippe and Mathilde went to a dinner at the Shangri-La hotel.

Crown Prince Philippe took time to inspect the honor guard at the Istana or presidential palace in the city republic, accompanied by by Acting Prime Minister S. Jayakumar.