There was a time when the British royals thought it wise to keep their distance from their vast extended family of European cousins.
With Victoria’s eldest grandchild, the Kaiser, declaring war on Great Britain and revolution ripping through the early 20th century, the unfortunately named Saxe-Coburg-Gothas had something of a point.
But that moment has long passed, says Richard Eden.
And the latest gathering of European royals for the 18th birthday of Denmark’s Prince Christian makes today’s Windsors seem conspicuous in their stand-offishness.
Future European monarchs gather for the recent 18th birthday celebrations of Prince Christian of Norway. But where were the British royals, asks Richard Eden? From the left: Princess Estelle of Sweden, Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, Prince Christian of Denmark, Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands and Princess Elisabeth of Belgium
Known as the Grandmother of Europe, Queen Victoria and nine children and 42 grandchildren with royal offspring marrying into palaces across Europe and Russia. She is pictured here with some of her grandchildren in 1880
‘The young people who will succeed to the throne in five different countries posed for a unique portrait at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen,’ explains Eden in his latest newsletter for Palace Confidential. It was a vision of the future of Europe’s monarchy.’
Yet, as that photograph makes clear, no one was there from the British Royal Family.
‘Personally, I hope that changes,’ he continues. ‘It would be lovely if the Prince and Princess of Wales forged closer ties with their counterparts on the Continent. They have a shared interest in demonstrating that monarchy can be a force for good.’
If Victoria and Albert overhauled the British monarchy, bringing a new-found respectability after the licentious chaos of the Regency and William IV, their influence upon European royalty was also profound.
With nine children and 42 grandchildren, Queen Victoria was known as the ‘Grandmother of Europe’. Her descendants can also be found in the royal families of Germany, Russia, Greece, Romania, Sweden, Norway and Spain.
‘However, when her eldest grandchild, Kaiser Wilhelm II, led Germany into war against Britain in 1914, her dream of her descendants bringing harmony to Europe unravelled,’ writes Eden.
‘And when her granddaughter, Alexandra, was brutally murdered along with Tsar Nicholas of Russia and their five children by Bolsheviks in 1918, the British Royal Family distanced themselves from their continental cousins even further, lest they be tainted by the stench of revolution.
‘Since then, the newly named Windsors have largely kept themselves apart from the royal families of Europe.
‘They invite them to the big state occasions such as weddings and funerals but it tends to be Prince Edward, for example, who would be sent to a foreign celebration rather than King Charles or Prince William.
Prince Christian of Denmark leading the way into his 18th birthday celebrations last Sunday. His parents Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary are to each side
Prince Christian making a speech at his 18th birthday gala on Sunday
Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Estelle of Sweden attend the gala banquet at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen as part of Prince Christian’s 18th birthday celebrations
‘Last weekend, we saw a fascinating example of that when European royals gathered en masse for the 18th birthday party for Prince Christian, the future king of Denmark. But the Windsors were conspicuous by their absence.’
It is time to think of the future, says Eden. ‘And Prince George, aged ten, would have looked cute posing next to 11-year-old Princess Estelle of Sweden.’
- To read more of Richard’s expert royal commentary, click here