Finland’s State Visit to Sweden
On Tuesday, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö and his wife, Jenni Haukio, made their state visit to neighboring Sweden. The purpose of their visit is to strengthen links between the two countries. Not that they need much strengthening – Finland and Sweden have had close, friendly relations for many years.
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Arriving at Arlanda airport, the Presidential couple were welcomed by Prince Daniel. They then went to the Royal Mews, where they met with Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. The four couples traveled to the palace in a horse and carriage procession.
After the official welcoming ceremony at the palace, President Niinistö and First Lady Jenni Haukio went inside where they met Crown Princess Victoria. The Finnish couple and their Swedish hosts then posed for the media.
Then it was time to get down to business. Lunch was served at the palace, and afterward, Niinistö went to Swedish Parliament where he met with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. He later gave a speech at the Stockholm School Colleges where he talked about the subject of “Northern European Perspectives”.
While that was happening, Queen Silvia took Jenni Haukio to the the Museum of Modern Art to see the exhibition Parallel worlds of Eija-Liisa Ahtila. It was right after their visit that the place was the scene of a bomb scare. The museum has been a center of controversy over a cake in the shape of a black woman, which offended the Afro Swedes’ Association.
In the evening, there will be a state gala for the Finnish couple. The King and Queen will attend as will Prince Daniel.
For tomorrow, Sauli Niinistö and his wife will tour Swedish institutions such as Karolinska Institute, the Sweden Finnish school and Stockholm’s Finland Institute. They will return to their country at the end of the day.
Niinistö is Finland’s 12th president who came to office on March 1st.
Sources: Kungahuset, Expressen
Charles & Camilla’s First Official Visit to Sweden
On Thursday, Britain’s Prince Charles made his first ever official visit to Sweden. Although His Royal Highness has made numerous private trips to that country in the past, this was the first he went there on behalf of the British government. He and wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are doing a Scandinavian tour to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
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Upon arriving at Arlanda airport in Stockholm, the couple were greeted by Prince Carl Philip. It was there that the Swedish air force showed Charles and Camilla their Gripen jets, which were part of NATO’s air strikes in Libya in 2011.
Later on, the couple went to the royal palace where Queen Silvia greeted them. As Queen of Sweden of 36 years, she had long been waiting for this moment.
“It’s very nice since Prince Charles during my time, unfortunately, hasn’t had the possibility to visit earlier,” she reportedly said according to the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet. “But we have a very close contact with the British royal family and so we’re very happy about their visit.”
At the palace, they also met with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who took Charles and Camilla to Fyrahuset, a major community center in Stockholm. There, they met with local youths and showed their basketball shooting skills. Unfortunately, for Prince Charles, his shots were more or less forgettable.
On Friday, Their Royal Highnesses returned to the palace, this time to lunch with the royal family – including Crown Princess Victoria who made her first public engagement since giving birth to daughter Princess Estelle one month earlier. By looking at her in her bright green dress, one would never had guessed Victoria recently had a baby.
During that lunch, Prince Charles gave a speech where he discussed the close ties between the United Kingdom and Sweden. “I need hardly say that it is the greatest pleasure to return to Sweden after what seems to have been far too long an interval and for what my staff tell me is my first official visit. On this occasion I am so pleased to be able to introduce my darling wife to your country.”
“Your Majesties, within the European Union Britain has no better partner than Sweden in promoting our shared values and goals. Together, the friendship and partnership between our two countries provides a solid foundation on which to continue to build inclusive and responsive societies, fit for purpose in the 21st century.”
After the lunch, Queen Silvia and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited Stockholm’s British International Primary School.
In the evening, Charles and Camilla toured Drottningholm Palace Theatre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Prince got a try at operating the theatre’s antique machinery, such as its wind and thunder machines.
Saturday will see Their Royal Highnesses head to Denmark, their final stop on their Jubilee tour.
Sources: CBS/AP, The Local, Press Association
Christmas Speeches from the Monarchs of Europe
For Christmas Eve and Day, most of the reigning heads of state in Europe spoke to their people. They wished them a good Christmas, reflected on 2011 and talked about what to look for in the following year.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s televised message spoke mainly of the state and goodwill visits she and her family made this year. She brought up the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to North America, her historic state visit to Ireland and the recent tour of Australia.
Click here to read the Queen's Speech in its entirety.
“The spirit of friendship so evident in both these nations can fill us all with hope,” Her Majesty said. “Relationships that years ago were once so strained have through sorrow and forgiveness blossomed into long term friendship. It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today, and so give us hope for tomorrow.
“Of course, family does not necessarily mean blood relatives but often a description of a community, organisation or nation. The Commonwealth is a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals”
The Queen then mentioned briefly the two weddings the House of Windsor saw this year – Prince William’s and Zara Philips’.
“The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together.”
Finally, Queen Elizabeth touched on the need to forgive one another. “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”
Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf spoke about this year’s state visits from Estonia and to Botswana. He also mentioned visiting Swedish troops in Afghanistan. “After one such trip, I am even more convinced that we must not give up. We must continue to problems and conflicts should be resolved. Peace and reconciliation are powerful forces that can win over hatred and violence.”
Read the King's Speech here (its in Swedish)
The King also talked about something he mentioned in his Christmas message two years ago. In it, he brought up how he and Queen Silvia wanted to open a forum to discuss children’s issues. 2011 saw the second such forum in Stockholm at the palace.
“Over 400 participants listened to representatives of various child rights issues,” His Majesty said. “It was an important day, the whole palace was filled with dedicated people who talked about how children’s rights can be strengthened in practice.”
King Carl Gustaf went on to discuss the importance of monarchy in Sweden. “My ambition is that the Royal Palace to be alive and help to tell us about our heritage and history of our country. We continuously organize exhibitions, seminars, lectures and tours of the castle. This past year we have had almost one million visitors. The royal palaces in Sweden, I would like to be open so that everyone has an opportunity to take part of our shared history.”
“Sweden is a small nation. To build a sustainable society is the importance of working across borders. That is when we reach the big goals.”
The King then ended his message with a nod to Crown Princess Victoria, who will deliver her first child next year.
King Juan Carlos of Spain’s speech was broadcasted Christmas Eve. In it, he discussed the difficulties the country has experienced with its economy and high unemployment rate.
Click here to read (in Spanish) the King's speech
“We have several years mired in a severe economic and financial crisis whose complex causes are not always easy to understand, but whose negative effects are evident to all. For many, sadly too obvious by their hardness. It is a crisis that is likely to modify call habits and economic and social behaviors,” His Majesty told his people.
“If Spain has achieved in recent decades the highest levels of progress and welfare of its history, we now recognize with humility to know what were the behaviors in which, as individuals and as a group, we could be wrong. Only after this recognition, and the best values of our society before we can begin to overcome this crisis.”
In addition, Juan Carlos touched on the distrust many Spaniards have for what he said was “some of our institutions”. Some translate this as him giving Spain his thoughts on the recent scandal involving his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin.
“I also greatly concerned about the distrust that seems to be spreading in some sectors of public opinion regarding the credibility and prestige of some of our institutions. We need rigor, professionalism and exemplary in every way. Everyone, especially people with public responsibilities, we have the duty to observe appropriate behavior, exemplary behavior.
“When misconduct occurs that do not conform to the law or ethics, it is natural that society reacts. Fortunately we live in a state of law, and any objectionable act should be tried and punished under the law. Equal justice for all,” said the King.
To end his message, King Juan Carlos talked about the recent elections, his heir Prince Felipe’s efforts in representing Spain and gave his condolences to the victims of terrorism.
Over in the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix voiced her concern for stewardship of the earth and the distribution of wealth. “Our precious planet is handled carelessly and what they give us is badly distributed,” she told the Dutch people.
Click here to see video and read the speech (in Dutch)
She went on to talk about how personal gain and abusing the environment undermine the world’s sense of community. But she was optimistic.
“Everywhere people are already taking their own initiatives to a more conscious way of life. This offers hope for a new perspective. It is the youngsters who encourage us to do so today,” said the Queen.
“Entrepreneurs focus more and more responsible production and take into account the climatic effects. Many people work towards the conservation and teach children closely at the irreplaceable treasures of the earth. For the connection between agriculture and environment put many will enthusiastically. In all these possibilities, we can address each other. Old and new media information and call us to take responsibility, each at their own level. What starts in the small can grow into a new culture of concern for the future. Who wants to change the world, must simply begin with himself.”
Her Majesty also quoted Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi – “The earth has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.”
With that, Queen Beatrix wished the Dutch a happy Christmas.
Sources: British Monarchy, Kungahuset, Casa Real, De Telegraaf
NOTE: Once the English versions of the speeches are available, I will link them.
Swedish Royals Attend Academy at Stock Exchange
On Tuesday, most of the Swedish royal family were at the annual gathering of the Swedish Academy at the Stockholm’s Stock Exchange.
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Founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, the Swedish Royal Academy is a cultural institution meant to promote Swedish language and literature.
Everyone, minus Princess Madeleine, showed up for the formal gathering. Crown Princess Victoria wore a lovely black velvet dress which showed her baby bump nicely.
Her mother, Queen Silvia, recently spoke to Svensk Damtidning about her daughter’s pregnancy.
“She should take it easy and give herself more personal time,” said Silvia.
The Queen also spoke happily about the prospects of being a grandmother.
“It will be wonderful, very fun!” she said, adding that she looks forward to babysitting the future royal baby.
Crown Princess Victoria is due in March. The child, regardless of gender, will be second in line to the throne behind her.
Sources: Svensk Damtidning
2011 Nobel Prizes Given Out in Sweden
Over in neighboring Sweden, the rest of the Nobel Prizes were handed out, with the Swedish royal family witnessing the event. While some may see the Nobel ceremony as a time to honor the achievements of the winners, others see it as a major a fashion event, especially for the royal women.
Check out more photos at Daylife.com
King Carl XVI Gustaf, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel and Prince Carl Philip were present for the ceremony. The Queen wore the same gown she wore to the pre-wedding events of Victoria and Daniel back in June 2010. The Crown Princess looked stunning in a deep blue sequined dress which flaunted her pregnancy. She is six months along, by the way.
Also in attendance, as guests, were the Grand Ducal couple of Luxembourg. Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa were at the Nobel ceremony because one of the laureates was from Luxembourg.
During the event, at the Stockholm Concert Hall, King Carl Gustaf personally gave the prizes to the recipients in the areas of medicine, literature, economics, physics and chemistry. The winners were:
Medicine: Canadian Ralph Steinman, who died just three days before it was announced he won. His wife, Claudia, took home the medal in his place. The other two were Bruce Beutler of the United States and Luxembourg-born Frenchman Jules Hoffmann
Literature: Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer
Economics: Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims of the United States
Physics: Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess of the United States and US-Australian Brian Schmidt
Chemistry: Daniel Shechtman of Israel
The Nobel Prize laureates take home a gold medal, a diploma, and 10 million kronor ($1.48 million dollars, 1.10 million euros), which is shared if there is more than one recipient.
After the ceremony was complete, the royal family escorted some of the winners out of the Concert Hall and led them to the banquet where 1,400 guests gathered for fine dining. The menu consisted of lobster with pickled winter vegetables and Jerusalem artichoke purée, Guinea hen with porcini mushrooms and lingonberries, poached pearl onions with parsley roots and velouté sauce Mandarin and white chocolate mousse on a cinnamon-spiced cake with raspberry marmalade and fresh raspberries.
Sources: AFP, NobelPrize.org
Swedish King’s Gangster Ties Creates Crisis for Royal Family
Since the publication of the book The Reluctant Monarch last November, speculation over King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden’s ties to the Mafia has grown. It has certainly grown louder this weekend with the release of recordings show the King and a longtime friend tried to pay off a sex club owner, who is a gangster, to retract claims that Carl Gustaf attended sex parties there.
The recordings have lead to many in Sweden to urge the King to come clean about his Mafia ties and apologize to the country for lying about the connections.
Even Constitutional Committee chairman Peter Eriksson, MP, is calling for the truth from the royal family.
“If it does not happen, we’ll see what we do,” says Peter Eriksson told Expressen.
The recordings have the King’s friend, Anders Lettström trying to broker a deal through Daniel Webb, an associate of Mille Markovic, the nightclub owner. King Carl was looking to pay to stop the story of him attending sex clubs from continuing to swirl. He was also looking to prevent Markovic from publishing the photos of him at the clubs.
“After our meeting on Kungsholmen, I talked to the King during the evening,” Mr Lettström said, according to Aftonbladet. “Then I told him that Mille had said that he could take back what he said, and that he wanted to be paid I thought it was between one and two million Kronor.”
Previously, the King spoke to TT news agency and denied knowledge of Lettström’s ties to the Mafia.
But with those recordings coming to light, it looks like he lied to Sweden, and the royal court is helping out.
“Our comment is that we do not comment on this further. There is data that has existed for a year,” says the court’s head of information Bertil Ternert to Expressen.se on Saturday morning.
But there is no stopping the urge for the truth, with it coming from Swedish politicians.
“I think it’s a difficult situation as the King got into, even before this last one with Lettström. A prerequisite for the monarchy to remain as true today is that there is some sort of confidence in the foundation of politics, citizens and the royal family,” said MP Peter Eriksson.
Click here for photos of Crown Princess Victoria
“If it is true, it is extremely serious,” said Ulf Bjereld, professor of political science at the University of Gothenburg. ” It would show that King lied to the entire Swedish population. Then it’s a huge crisis of confidence because he is the country’s head of State and shall represent the Swedish people in all contexts.”
Some are wondering if this could lead to King Carl XVI Gustaf’s abdication.
“If it is true that Lettström spoke to the King,” said Lawyer Peter Althin, who is a member of the Republican Association. “It means that our head of state has lied to its citizens straight up the face, and this is not acceptable. The natural thing would be King, if that his friend talked to him about these contacts, realize that it is unacceptable and then should he abdicate.”
If the King abdicates, that means Crown Princess Victoria will become Queen of Sweden while either in the last stages of her first pregnancy or with a newborn child.
It is being reported that all the Swedish royals are upset with Carl Gustaf. Queen Silvia cannot forgive him and does her best to keep up appearances.
Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine are doing all they can to stay out of Sweden and avoid their father. Carl Philip has been abroad either vacationing in Thailand or representing his country in South Africa as he did recently. This scandal may explain why Madeleine has been spending so much time in New York City.
Prince Daniel is reportedly doing everything he can to be supportive of his in-laws, particularly Victoria.
Sources:Telegraph (UK), Expressen