The Wedding of Maria Carolina of Bourbon Parma

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The picturesque Basilica San Miniato al Monte in Florence, central Italy, provided a beautiful setting for the marriage of HRH Princess Maria Carolina of Bourbon-Parma and Mr. Albert Brenninkmeijer. The marriage was attended by many of Maria Carolina’s royal relations, including Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands Princess Maria Carolina, 38, is the daughter of Princess Irene of the Netherlands, younger sister of Queen Beatrix. Princess Maria Carolina is the youngest child from Princess Irene’s marriage to Prince Carlos Hugo. The wedding, which took place in 1964, was controversial as Carlos Hugo was the Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne and a Catholic. Dutch constitutional tradition from the 16th century had forbidden a Catholic from the throne. Irene’s mother, Queen Juliana, tried to put a stop to the wedding. Eventually Irene got her way but only after losing her rights in the line of succession. Carlos Hugo and Irene were married in the Borghese Chapel at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. No one from the Dutch royal family attended, nor were there representatives from the government of General Franco’s Spain. The couple went on to have four children but the marriage ended in 1981. Carlos Hugo passed away in August 2010. For Princess Irene’s daughter there were no such complications. The political and royal landscape of 2012 is very different and Princess Carolina’s beau Albert Brenninkmeijer is a commoner, albeit one from a renowned family of merchants. The Brenninkmeijer brothers, August and Clemens, founded international clothing chain C&A in the mid nineteenth century. An innovation for the time was that the clothes were sold ready to wear and the venture prospered. The brothers’ business talents have been passed down through the generations and today the Brenninkmeijers are amongst the wealthiest families in Europe with a fortune estimated around £19 billion. A head turning prospect for any bride but Princess Maria Carolina has pursued her own career. She studied political science at the University of Amsterdam and Harvard University before going on to work at the United Nations, during which time she has been stationed at the UN headquarters in New York, as well as troubled regions such as Eritrea, the Gaza Strip, and Acheh (Indonesia) after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. She currently works in Geneva for the Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Princess Maria Carolina’s status as a royal reflects her complicated family background. A princess from her birth in 1974, her father bestowed the title Marchesa di Sala (Marchioness of Sala) upon her in 1996 and in 2003 added the Carlist title Duquesa de Gernika (Duchess of Guernica).

On the Dutch side, in 1996 Princess Maria Carolina was brought into the Dutch Nobility by Queen Beatrix. Although she does not belong to the House of Orange-Nassau or the limited Dutch Royal House, as a niece of Queen Beatrix, she is an official, member of the more extended Dutch Royal Family. All of which meant that the guest list for the big day included an impressive roll call of royal relations. The bride‘s immediate family: her mother Princess Irene; her siblings Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma, Princess Margarita of Bourbon-Parma, Prince Jaime of Bourbon-Parma. Guests from the extended royal family included Queen Beatrix, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Crown Princess Maxima, Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien, Princess Margriet, Prince Maurits and Princess Marilène, Prince Bernhard and Princess Annette of Orange-Nassau and Princess Mabel. The bridal gown also referenced the family connections. Created by Dutch designer Addy van den Krommenacker, who also dressed the bride’s mother and sister, the bridal gown’s most notable feature was the heirloom Bruges lace. The lace was worn by Princess Irene at her wedding in 1964. Restored by the designer it was adapted for Princess Maria Carolina’s gown. The short sleeves and bodice were all made of lace and the gown was topped with a long veil secured by a tiara from the House of Orange: the diamond Laurel Wreath Tiara. (Extract from Royalty Magazine Vol. 22/08)