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The Youngest Monarchs of Europe
Four Young Monarchs; Four Monarchies
When you think of Europe, you get a picture of an old world with grand castles and magnificent palaces, aging kings and handsome princes. In this second millennium much has changed with royalties. New crops of monarchs emerged but the type of monarchy has changed to a constitutional type limiting the powers of the monarch according to the country's constitution. The monarch is neutral on party politics. It is very different from olden times when the king's will and laws were supreme. Four new monarchs of the second millennium are also the youngest in Europe and are heads of rich and flourishing monarchies.
Let's take a look at these young and dashing monarchs: Grand Duke Henri of Luxemburg, Prince Albert II of Monaco, King Philippe of Belgium and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.
Henri, Grand Duke of Luxemburg
He took the oath as Head of State of the world's second richest country in October 7, 2000 at the age of 45, immediately following the abdication of his father Grand Duke Jean. Born on April 16, 1955, Grand Duke Henri is the eldest son of Grand Duke Jean and Princess Josephine Charlotte of Belgium. He is also cousin of the current King of the Belgians, Philippe.
Luxemburg is the only remaining Grand Duchy, meaning a monarchy headed by a grand duke or grand duchess. With only half a million inhabitants and a space of 2500 km2, it is one of the smallest countries in Europe. However, it is one of the wealthiest and progressive countries in the world. This small country is also a breathtaking reminder of history with remnants of pre-history, Roman Empire and Middle Ages. You will enjoy visiting the 20 magnificent castles and Gothic style buildings. The famous Ardennes Forests are located in the northern part of Luxemburg; the capital itself, the city of Luxemburg is in the southern part.
The story of the romance between Henri and his wife Maria Teresa is one that is mostly immitated by modern royal romance movies. The beautiful Maria Teresa Mestre y Batista-Falla was born on March 22, 1956 in Havana, Cuba from Cuban parents. They moved in 1959 to the USA and settled in New York where she had her basic education and ballet and singing lessons. She met the dashing prince at the University of Geneva where they both studied political studies. The romance blossomed in the four years that they both carried on similar studies. They got married in February 4, 1981 (civil) and in the most romantic date of the year, February 14th of that year, they married in church. In a perfect royal setting, her classic gown with a foot-long train provided a drastic contrast to the gothic style of Luxemburg City's Notre Dame Cathedral.
Three decades later their five children are now grown up. The heir apparent, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume (born November 11, 1981) married his Belgian bride Countess Stephanie de Lannoy in February 14, 2012. Prince Felix was born on June 3, 1984. The third child, Prince Louis, born August 3, 1986, got married to Princess Tessy. Both have two kids: Prince Gabriel, born March 12, 2006 and Prince Noah, born September 21, 2007.
The only daughter of the royal couple is Princess Alexandra, born February 16, 1991. The youngest is Prince Sebastien, born April 16, 1992.
The Grand Ducal Palace is the official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxemburg where he performs most of his duties as head of state of the Grand Duchy. The Grand Duke sends his Christmas message from the Yellow Room of the Palace.The Ballroom is the place for social banquets. Numerous other receptions take place at the palace. The most recent of which is the introductory visit of the new royal couple of the Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima on May 24th this year.
However, the Grand Duke lives with his family at Berg Castle located in the town of Colmar-Berg, in central Luxemburg.
Prince Albert II of Monaco
Prince Albert II is the head of a monarchy known for luxurious and jetset life. The Principality of Monaco is a tiny city state half the size of New York’s Central Park. It sits on the French Riviera and is surrounded by France. The second smallest independent state (second to Vatican) in the world, the almost entirely urban state is composed of four government districts: Monaco-Ville, the old city, which sits on a rock and is the seat of the Monaco Palace; the Condamine (port quarter), Monte Carlos (business and recreation) – famous for the Casinos and two car rallys: Monte Carlos rally and Monaco Grand Prix; and Fontveielle (new industrial area built on ground reclaimed from the sea).
Monaco was in everyone’s mouth when the ruling prince, Prince Rainier III, married Hollywood’s princess and Oscar winning actress Grace Kelly in 1956. The royal marriage brought forth three children: Princess Caroline (January 23, 1957), Prince Albert II (March 14, 1958) and Princess Stephanie (February 1, 1965). Since then the media were fed with rumours and stories of the royal family. One of the most devastating of which was the untimely death of Princess Grace in a car crash in 1982. Her daughter Stephanie who was with her in the car survived. In 2004, Prince Rainier’s health deteriorated. In March 31, 2005 Prince Albert took over the duties of his father as regent since Rainier was no longer able to exercise his royal functions. Rainier died on April 6, 2005 at the age of 81. On July 12, 2005, Prince Albert’s accession to the throne was publicly celebrated after the mourning period for Prince Rainier. On November 19, 2005, Albert was enthroned at Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Royalty from 16 delegations were present for the festivities throughout the country. The evening ended with an opera performance in Monte Carlo. Prince Albert was 47 years old and the one of the most sought after bachelor royalties.
It took 5 decades before Monaco once again witnessed a wedding of a ruling prince when Prince Albert married Princess Charlene of Monaco in July 1, 2011 (civil wedding) and July 2, 2011, in a religious ceremony including Mass, held in the main courtyard of the Palace of Monaco. The ceremony was broadcast to the 3500 invited guests that could not fit inside the palace. The former Charlene Lynette Wittstock was born on January 25, 1978 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. At the age of 12, she emigrated with her family to South Africa. A former swimming athlete, she won 3 gold medals at the swimming World cup in 2002 and was a one-time Olympic swimmer for South Africa.
Prince Albert, also a former Olympic athlete, met his wife during a 2000 swimming competition in Monaco. Their romance blossomed when Charlene moved to Monaco in 2006. Since they don’t have children of their own yet, Princess Caroline, now HRH The Princess of Hannover, is the heiress presumptive to the throne of Monaco. Although Prince Albert acknowledged paternity of daughter Jazmin Grace Grimaldi (born on June 1, 2005) to American former waitress, Tamara Rotolo) and son Alxandre (born July 6, 2005 to Nicole Coste) a flight attendant from Togo, only children born from the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene have the right to succession.
The royal couple’s official residence is the Palace of Monaco built in 1191. The state rooms are open to the public during the summer and since 1960, the palace’s courtyard has been the setting for open air concerts given by Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The royal pair are giving their time and efforts to their respective foundations: Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation which mainly focuses on actions against deforestation; and Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation which focuses on the practice of sports and children’s education and development.
King Philippe of the Belgians
The latest to be enthroned, King Philippe, 53, took the oath as Head of State in three languages: Dutch, French and German, before Belgium’s legislators at the Parliamentary Building on July 21, 2013 immediately following the abdication of his father, King Albert. Aged 79, King Albert’s 20 year reign officially came to an end during a series of ceremonies in Brussels. The royal transition coincides with Belgium’s national day celebration and was celebrated with military parade. However, no foreign royals were at the ceremony. Philippe (born April 15, 1960) is the eldest son of King Albert II and Queen Paola. He was groomed for the job as leader of foreign trade delegations over the past 2 decades. In March 2001, he was appointed to the rank of Major-General in the Land component and the Air component and rank of Rear Admiral in the Naval component. He had his education at the Belgian Royal Military Academy. He has worked in the University of Oxford and the United States studying at Stanford University, and is an Air Force pilot.
On December 4, 1999 Philippe married Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz (born January 20, 1973), a former speech therapist and daughter of a Walloon Count of Belgian noble family. They met playing tennis and dated for three years but were so low key about their romance that Philippe had to assure the nation’s people that theirs was not an arranged union. The people were captivated by the surprise love match of the then shy studious 39-year old prince. The marriage took place first at Brussels Town Hall and then religiously at the Cathedral of St. Michel in Brussels. The Belgians were charmed with the bride’s striking good looks and her Belgian birthplace. Being a native gave multilingual d’Acoz a unique place in a monarchy that had produced its queens by marriages to foreigners with royal ties for centuries. The then 26-year old bride became the first Belgian-born royal consort in its monarchy’s history.
The King and Queen have four children: Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, born October 25, 2001; Prince Gabriel, born August 20, 2003; Prince Emmanuel, born October 4, 2005; and Princess Eleonore, born April 16, 2008. Princess Elisabeth, the couple's eldest child, is the first-in-line to the throne.
The Queen is also godmother to two princesses: Princess Alexia of the Netherlands and Princess Isabella of Denmark.
The Kingdom of Belgium is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU’s headquarters. Brussels is the capital city and the largest metropolitan area of Belgium. The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the centre of the nation's capital Brussels. However it is not used as a royal residence, as the king and his family live in the Royal Castle of Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels.
King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands
Completing the Benelux region, we come to the Kingdom of The Netherlands dat recently welcomed a new king, Willem-Alexander. Born in April 27, 1967, Willem-Alexander is the eldest child of Princess Beatrix and the late German diplomat Claus von Amsberg. His younger brothers are Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, born in 1968, and Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, born in 1969.
Unlike Philippe of Belgium, Willem-Alexander is outgoing and had the reputation of a boozing Casanova, ill-equipped for the throne. Due to his difficult adolescence he was sent to complete high school in Wales. He returned to Holland for military service in the Navy and to study but he soon built an image as hard-partying and troublesome royal nicknamed Prince Pils (beer drinking prince). He soon developed an interest in water management and was appointed in 2006 as chairman of the Secretary-General of the United Nations' Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.
Willem-Alexander met his wife, Maxima Zorreguita, an Argentine with Basque, Portuguese and Italian ancestry,in April 1999 during the Seville Spring Fair in Seville, Spain. He introduced himself only as Alexander so Maxima did not know that he was a prince. Their relationship began in New York where Maxima worked as investment banker. On March 30,2001 the couple announced their engagement with Máxima addressing the nation in fluent Dutch during the live televised broadcast. They got married on February 2, 2002, first with a civil wedding at the Beurs van Berlagen in Amsterdam followed with a religious ceremony at the Nieuwe Kerk also in Amsterdam. An ornate carriage across town was used to get them from one part of the ceremony to the other. Máxima's parents missed out on their daughter's wedding due to their personal responsibility for forced disappearances during the Argentinian National Reorganization Process.
The couple have three daughters: Catharina-Amalia Beatrix Carmen Victoria, Princess of Orange (born December 7, 2003); Princess Alexia Juliana Marcela Laurentien of the Netherlands (born June 26, 2005; and Princess Ariane Wilhelmina Maxima Ines of the Netherlands (born April 10, 2007).
On April 30, 2013, the Queen signed the instrument of abdication in the RoyalPalace, Amsterdam. This is the constitutional procedure by which she formally relinquished the throne. The investiture of the new King took place on the same day in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. Three days after his 46th birthday, Willem-Alexander took the title of King of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of the countries of the Netherlands, Curaçao, Aruba, and Sint Maarten. He became the first male monarch since 1890. The celebration was dimmed a bit by the situation of Prince Johan Friso who lies in coma since he was buried under an avalanche in the Austrian Alps in the last winter.
King Willem-Alexander has transformed into that of a serious, responsible family man well-loved by the people. King Maxima has added glamour and respect to the Royal house with her beauty and excellent sense of fashion. She further earned love from the Dutch people by her efforts to learn to speak the Dutch language fluently and her willingness to reach out to ordinary Dutch citizens.
The annual national celebration on April 30, Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will now be changed to April 27, Koning's Dag (King's Day) to coincide with King Willem-Alexander's birthday to start in 2014. Since that day falls on a Sunday, the King's Day will be celebrated a day earlier April 26, 2014.
The Royal Palace in Amsterdam was built as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. It is situated on the west side of Dam Square in the centre ofAmsterdam, opposite the War Memorial and next to the Nieuwe Kerk. The palace is used by the monarch for entertaining and official functions during state visits and other official receptions, such as New Year receptions.
The Noordeinde Palace, Located in The Hague in the province of South Holland, has been used as the "working palace" for King Willem-Alexander since 2013.
The royal family currently lives in Villa Eikenhorst on the De Horsten estate in Wassenaar. After the move of Princess Beatrix to castle Drakensteyn and a renovation, Willem-Alexander and his family will move to palace Huis ten Bosch in The Hague.
Youngest Monarchs of Europe
April 27, 1967
Kingdom of the Netherlands
April 30, 2013
April 15, 1960
July 21, 2013
Prince Albert II
Principality of Monaco
April 6, 2005
Grand Duke Henri
April 16, 1955
October 7, 2000