Archive October 2010
Halloween is one of several holidays where Christian rituals have been timed to coincide with (and, it was hoped, replace and wipe out) pagan celebrations. Unlike others, such as Christmas and Easter, Halloween has managed to retain its pagan flavour; the holiday is full of ghosts, skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, and witches.
Sheikh Saqr al Qasimi, the ruler of Ras al Khaimah, one of the smaller states making up the United Arab Emirates, died earlier today, 27 October, after being ill for several months. He was in his early 90s and had been ruler since 1948, making him the world’s oldest ruler and the second longest reigning monarch after King Bhumibol of Thailand, who has reigned since 1946. His death means that Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who became queen in February 1952, is now the world’s second longest reigning monarch.
The Prince of Asturias Foundation is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The Foundation has two main purposes: first, to provide a way to link the Prince of Asturias to the principality, and second, to grant awards in recognition of international excellence in the fields of culture, science, and the humanities.
Belgium is a political mess, there’s no way around it. For about four years now, the country has basically been paralysed by the differences and tensions between the (politicians of the) two main populations of the country: the Flemish and the Walloon. After months of difficult negotiations, the water seems deeper than ever. And at the margins of the chaos caused by these childish politicians who put ego before country, the role of the one man who has been a constant in this political turmoil is brought into question.
Last week The Sun newspaper reported that the Queen had cancelled the Christmas party for around 600 staff members that was due to take place on 13 December. A palace spokesman explained that in light of the difficult economic climate, ‘’it was appropriate for the Household to show restraint.” Palace staff members, speaking anonymously, have expressed disappointment, suggesting that not everyone at the palace believes they should be showing restraint, at least not in this particular case.
October demonstrates the shifting façade of nature; it brings with it a spectacular array of varying and vibrant shades of autumn hues. It is only appropriate that October’s gemstone is one which has an impressive array of hues as well. The opal shows an ever-changing display of colors because light is diffracted from arrays of tiny hydrated-silica spheres within the stone. Milky white opals occur when tiny inclusions of gas bubbles are present. A yellow or red body color is due to the presence of iron oxides in the stone, and the spectacular and rare black opals, with their intense play of color, contain manganese oxides and organic carbon. The “harlequin” pattern, which is comprised of large angular patches of red, yellow, and green, is the most valuable type of opal.
The recent death of Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon Parma, Carlist claimant to the Spanish Throne, has highlighted some of the longstanding tensions and rivalries involved in the Carlist movement. When Prince Carlos Hugo died, his younger brother, Prince Sixte Henri, posted a very ungracious message on his website; for whatever reason, he and his eldest sister Princess Marie Francoise did not attend the funeral. This family division, with Prince Sixte Henri and Princess Marie Francoise (and their mother, Princess Madeleine) on one side and Prince Carlos Hugo and his three younger sisters on the other side, has its origin in the rival Carlist claims of the two brothers. The Carlist movement has divided families for a long time now.
On 7 October 2000, Grand Duke Jean of Luxemburg abdicated in favour of his son, then 45-year old Hereditary Grand Duke Henri. Today Luxembourg celebrates 10 years of Henri’s reign, which already had some major ups and downs.
Prince Henri was born on 16 April 1955 as eldest son and second child of then Hereditary Grand Duke Jean and Hereditary Grand Duchess Joséphine Charlotte, née Princess of Belgium. Barely nine years later, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg abdicated in favour of her son, making Henri first in line to the throne. The Hereditary Grand Duke was educated in Luxembourg and France. He studied Political Sciences in Geneva and took military training at the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst in the UK.
I’d heard good things about this book, and I must say it lived up to expectation. Lucy Worsley is the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that manages several ex-royal residences including Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Banqueting House, and Kew Palace. She is responsible for the Enchanted Palace exhibition at Kensington Palace, a creative attempt to bring royal history alive (blog), and her enthusiasm for the human side of royalty is very much in evidence in this book.