Friday, February 27, 2009

Engagement of Crown Princess Victoria

Swedish Crown Princess Victoria has become engaged to her boyfriend Daniel Westling, the royal palace announced Tuesday, ending years of speculation. The princess, 31, has been dating Westling, 35-year-old gym owner from Ockelbo — a small town unheard of to most Swedes — since 2002.

"Daniel and I have become engaged, the King and the government have given their consent to our marriage and the wedding is being planned for spring or early summer 2010," Victoria told reporters.

They met at the gym. Seven years later Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and her former personal trainer Daniel Westling told the world they are engaged to be married. It's hardly standard procedure for royal matchmaking, but Tuesday's announcement shows how relaxed the monarchy has become in this egalitarian welfare state.

"It was a friendship that grew and became love," a beaming Victoria told reporters at the Royal Palace in a joint news conference with her soon-to-be prince.

The princess is first in line to the throne now occupied by her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and the king has no political power. Victoria became the heir apparent in 1980 after a reform of the constitution meant that the throne would be inherited by the monarch's eldest child without regard to gender.

For Westling, marrying the next queen of Sweden will mean a major change in lifestyle — even if the monarch is a figurehead with purely ceremonial functions, like handing out the annual Nobel Prizes. For one, he will get a royal title: Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland.

He said his life now would be focused mainly on "supporting the Crown Princess in her important work for Sweden" and that he would not continue in an active role in business.

Conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said he was informed about the wedding plans Sunday. In an uncharacteristic display, Reinfeldt said he was moved by the news.

"I felt that love had been victorious," he said. He told reporters that the announcement was a ray of hope in a dark and dismal time for Sweden and for much of the rest of the world.

"I think we can all feel the warmth of the love these two exhibit for each other," he said.

Sweden's monarchy traces its origins back more than 1,000 years, though the current royal family assumed the throne in the early 19th century, when French marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became King. He had been elected as successor to the Swedish throne by Sweden's parliament in 1810.

Carl XVI Gustaf has been King of Sweden since 1973. The last Swedish royal wedding was in 1976 when he married German-born Silvia Sommerlath, whom he met at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

The court announced the engagement after informing government ministers Tuesday. In a televised address, the king said he had given his consent to the marriage and requested the approval of the government, in line with Sweden's constitution.

"Obviously it is a special day for us, but also a special day for Sweden," the monarch said. Queen Silvia added she fully backed Victoria's choice. "We welcome Daniel into our family with open arms," she said, describing her future son-in-law as "wise" and "full of energy."

Royal expert Jenny Alexandersson, who has reported on the crown princess for the celebrity magazine Svensk Damtidning since 2003, said the wedding would be "fantastic" for Sweden, especially considering the current economic crisis.

"The fact that Sweden's heir to the throne will marry will give echoes around the world. It will be a great big wedding with more than 1,000 guests, including representatives from all big royal families," Alexandersson said.

She also said the wedding would be important for the Swedish monarchy.
"We have seen in our neighboring countries Norway and Denmark that the popularity of the monarchy has risen at times of royal weddings," she said.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Royal Palace in central Stockholm, where workers for the tabloid Aftonbladet handed out balloons and T-shirts with Victoria's and Daniel's initials and the word "congratulations" in the blue and yellow of the Swedish flag.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


On Monday, 22 February 1882 (OS) in the morning, just when the clerks, traders, professors and students were about to take a break in the warm pre-spring sun, everybody stood to a halt, listened and looked up, as if they wanted to ask flocks of frightened sparrows and pigeons what had happened. Right after that, from the direction of the Parliament, hummed the joyful voices and cries. Waves of people who had gathered in no time, flooded Terazije square and stopped in front of the Palace. At that moment, the Parliament proclaimed Serbia a kingdom, and Prince Milan Obrenović IV – the King of Serbia, Milan I. By proclaiming the Kingdom, Serbia got not just the royal titles, but many institutions of culture as well. The Lyceum became The Advanced School, the law on compulsory elementary education and organization of high-schools was passed. Serbian Learned Society became Serbian Royal Academy, with Josif Pančić as its first president.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Meeting of Our Lord

The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus, and falls on or around 2 February. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (lit., 'Meeting'). Other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Church of England, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a Principal Feast celebrated either on 2 February or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February.

The event is described in the Gospel of Luke 2:22–40. According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.). Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, the Holy Family encountered Simeon the Righteous.

The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that "he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord." (Luke 2:26) Simeon prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon then prophesied to Mary: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against—yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35). The elderly prophetess Anna was also in the Temple, and offered prayers and praise to God for Jesus, and spoke to everyone there about Jesus and his role in the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:36-38).

Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates this day according to Julian calendar, on 15 February. On the Meeting in 1804, The First Serbian Uprising began. On the same day in 1835, the first democratic constitution was brought, and since 2006, The Meeting of the Lord is Statehood Day of Serbia.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Royal wedding gives hope to Georgians

A prince and a princess from Georgia's ancient Bagrationi dynasty were wed in a lavish ceremony in Tbilisi on Sunday, bringing together two feuding strands of the royal house that once ruled this Caucasus nation.

Spanish-born Prince David Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, 32, and Princess Anna Bagrationi-Gruzinsky, 31, were married before hundreds of guests in Tbilisi's Trinity Cathedral as crowds of well-wishers gathered outside.

The marriage is expected to bring an end to feuding over who is the rightful heir to Georgia's centuries-old throne and to boost a campaign to transform this ex-Soviet republic into a constitutional monarchy.

The bride wore a flowing white dress and the groom was in traditional Georgian costume, with a khanjali dagger belted to his waist. Georgian flags waved in the background as the pair exchanged vows before a priest of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Princess Anna’s father, Nugzar Bagrationi-Gruzinsky, said the wedding marked an historic day for his country. "The most important thing is that this day will be beneficial for Georgia's future," he said.

The wedding was celebrated on the day Georgians commemorate King David the Builder, who ruled from 1089 to 1125 and is revered as the country's greatest king.

"This is a double holiday as we are celebrating both King David's day and the wedding of representatives of our royal Bagrationi dynasty that was abolished by Russia," one of the guests, opposition Conservative party co-leader Zviad Dzidziguri, told journalists before the ceremony.

Claiming descent from the biblical King David, the Bagrationi dynasty ruled a large chunk of present-day Georgia from at least the 9th century until the country was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the early 19th century. A noble family in Tsarist Russia, many of the Bagrationis were scattered across Europe after the Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet takeover of Georgia in 1921 following a brief period of independence. Many of those who stayed were killed or thrown into Soviet concentration camps. Various branches of the family have laid claim to the Georgian throne, with the Mukhraneli and Gruzinsky branches considered the most likely contenders.

David Bagrationi-Mukhraneli is the son of Jorge de Bagration y de Mukhrani, a prominent racing driver whose branch of the family settled in Spain after World War II. A cousin of Spain's King Juan Carlos, the father died in 2008 after settling in Tbilisi.

Despite having spent his entire life in Spain and not speaking Georgian, David settled in Tbilisi in 2003 and obtained dual citizenship. His bride, Anna Bagrationi-Gruzinsky, is the daughter of Nugzar Bagrationi-Gruzinsky, a Tbilisi theatre director. The two houses have long feuded over their claims to the throne and historians say any children from the marriage would resolve the dispute.

It comes as support is growing for Georgia to adopt a constitutional monarchy in place of the presidential system it adopted after gaining its independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The influential patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Ilia II, has promoted the restoration of the monarchy and a recent phone-in survey on Georgian Public Television showed more than 40 percent of callers backed the idea.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Monarchy and tolerance (2)

Charles and Camilla visit the Dawoodi Mosque in London

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited a Muslim community in London on Wednesday.

Numbering over a million and settled in over 40 countries, the Shiah Fatemi Ismaili Tayyibi Dawoodi Bohras are a denomination of Islam with a distinct identity, culture and ethos that preserves their Islamic beliefs while aiming to integrate and assimilate with the cultural fabrics of the countries in which they have made their homes.

There are over 6,000 Dawoodi Bohras in the UK, mostly from Indian or Yemeni descent. In London, they number more than 3,000, although the Dawoodi Bohra Mosque in North-West London welcomes large numbers of visitors from all over the UK, Europe and the World.

The Prince and The Duchess are practising Anglicans. Over the years His Royal Highness has worked tirelessly to encourage inter-faith dialogue in the UK and overseas and regularly visits different faith communities.

Prince Qaidjoher Ezzuddin, the son of the Dawoodi Bohra's leader, praised The Prince in a speech to the gathered people in the mosque in Northolt.

"It is heart-warming for our community and all Muslims residing in the United Kingdom that the Heir to The Throne of the country they live in values their religion and traditions in the way you do. It is an inclusive and sincere approach, not born out of a political need or even a sense of responsibility as the future monarch, but a wish to seek out the best that the rich diversity of your subjects can offer."

Their Royal Highnesses slipped off their footwear inside the building located close to a snow-covered park in the quiet suburban area of London.

After being shown the large prayer hall in the mosque, The Prince and The Duchess were taken to a Madrasah based on the first floor of the mosque where young children are taught religious and cultural lessons two evenings a week and every Saturday.

Before Their Royal Highnesses left they were presented with traditional shawls made from wool and cotton which were draped around their shoulders. The Prince was also presented with a traditional cap called a topi.

Wearing the garment, The Prince stood up to speak and said: "I suspect it's no coincidence that members of your community are among the most successful businessmen and professionals in this country.

But most importantly, I cannot applaud enough the invaluable example of your belief that patriotism is part of faith. This makes an enormous contribution to modern British society."

Monday, February 2, 2009

European Princes at The World Economic Forum

HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and HRH The Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attended the Annual Meeting of The World Economic Forum, which was held in Davos, Switzerland, from 28 January to 1 February 2009. The theme of this year’s meeting was "Shaping the Post-Crisis World".

Among the record number of world leaders taking part in the Annual Meeting, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addressed participants on the opening day. Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany; Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and Premier Taro Aso of Japan also addressed sessions of the Meeting. Public figures included 41 heads of state and government, 17 ministers of finance, 19 central bankers, 22 trade ministers, 16 ministers of foreign affairs, 15 ministers of environment and energy, 9 EU commissioners and the heads of 30 international organizations.