The Festive season brings the Danish and Greek royal families together
The Danish and Greek royal families gathered at Fredensborg Palace to celebrate Christmas. The rare occasion, uniting the extended family, was commemorated with the release of an official portrait. This year the festivities were held at Fredensborg Palace on the island of Zealand as Amalienborg Palace is currently undergoing restoration work to its roof.
Queen Margrethe’s New Year message
A few days later Queen Margrethe spoke to the nation in the New Year’s Eve broadcast. Her Majesty spoke on a wide range of topics including the need to help one another across society, encouraging schoolchildren to return to their studies with renewed enthusiasm and thanking Danes who serve the nation in foreign realms.
A noteworthy passage was given to the plight of refugees: “Recently, thousands of refugees have come to Denmark, very many from the horrifying and protracted civil war in Syria. Everywhere throughout this country a major effort is being made to help the refugees. The task may seem daunting: to receive so many people from foreign countries and different cultures . . . It is not enough to take care of them, we must also help them to feel at home in society so that they can gain a foothold and manage on their own. Help alone is not enough. We must also encourage newly arrived persons to build a new existence where they can take responsibility for themselves and do their best to feel at ease in the foreign country, be it for a long or a short period of time.”
A break with tradition
In Britain the Royal Family gathered for the traditional Christmas service at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Joining the royal party were the Duchess of Cambridge’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, as well as her siblings Pippa and James. However, there was some disappointment for the crowd of several thousand gathered to see the royals at the church with Prince George an absentee due to his boisterous nature. Kate explained to a well-wisher: “I’m sorry we didn’t bring George but you would have heard him in the church.”
For this year’s celebrations the Duke and Duchess had Christmas lunch at their new home, Amner Hall, rather than at Sandringham House. Kate was keen to enjoy the afternoon with her family and the practicalities of limited accommodation at Sandringham House made Amner Hall the ideal choice.
Queen Elizabeth calls for reconciliation
The Queen, who will surpass Queen Victoria as the UK’s longest reigning monarch on September 9, 2015, looked forward to the year ahead in her Christmas speech. The theme was reconciliation and the state visit to Northern Ireland in 2014 was recalled: “My visit to the Crumlin Road Gaol will remain vividly in my mind. What was once a prison during the troubles is now a place of hope and fresh purpose; a reminder of what is possible when people reach out to one another . . . ” Since the end of the Northern Irish conflict, the gaol has become a tourist attraction and conference centre, a symbol for a new era of peace.
However, as Her Majesty’s vast experience has taught her, politics always brings new challenges and the aftermath of the independence referendum in Scotland also calls for reconciliation: “Of course, reconciliation takes different forms. In Scotland after the referendum many felt great disappointment, while others felt great relief; and bridging these differences will take time.”
In a largely secular age Her Majesty’s faith remains central to everything she does: “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.” That the annual royal broadcast remains relevant was demonstrated with some 8.3 million viewers, making it the third most popular Christmas broadcast, only slightly behind soap operas Eastenders and Coronation Street, which are also national traditions in their own way.
Government ends support for Princess Cristina
For some scions of Europe’s royal families 2014 ended with less than good cheer. King Juan Carlos’ daughter Princess Cristina learned that she will stand trial on tax fraud charges as part of the Noos Case centred around her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, Duke of Palma de Mallorca.
Cristina has also lost the goodwill support of the Spanish political classes. In an interview published in the El Mundo newspaper Rafael Hernando, leader of the Popular Party, said: “Cristina should reflect on whether she should renounce her rights of succession.” Following the indictment Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who had previously said he was convinced of HRH’s innocence, said: “I can’t get involved.” These are tough times for Princess Cristina, whose younger brother King Felipe has made it clear that the judicial process should run its course.
Prince Andrew cited in US abuse lawsuit
For the Duke of York the year has begun with the re-emergence of a long running scandal, with HRH being cited in a Florida lawsuit involving a former friend, financier Jeffrey Epstein. The US businessman has a prior conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution. The allegation is that “Epstein sexually trafficked the then under age Jane Doe (a name used in U.S. legal proceedings for people with anonymity), making her available for sex to politically connected and financially powerful people. Epstein’s purposes in ‘lending’ Jane Doe (along with other young girls) to such powerful people were to ingratiate himself with them for business, personal, political, and financial gain, as well as to obtain potential blackmail information.”
However, Prince Andrew is not a party to the proceedings, a claim for damages against the US government, which it is asserted failed to protect victims’ rights when it entered into a plea deal with Epstein. Buckingham Palace responded to the news with an unequivocal denial: “This relates to long-standing and ongoing civil proceedings in the United States, to which the Duke of York is not a party. As such we would not comment on the detail. However, for the avoidance of doubt, any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.”