Russian Easter Eggs

Thanks to two befriended Dutch royalty-watchers I just happened NOT to miss a great exhibition in the Drents Museum in Assen, a Dutch town less than 20 minutes by train from my hometown. Apart from an exhibition about the Russian painter Kazimir Malevich (sorry, not really of my interest) they also had a wonderful exhibition called “Kostbare eieren uit het Tsarenrijk” (Precious eggs from the Empire of the Tsars), only on show from 23 November 2014 to 1 March 2015. The collection is on loan from the Landesmuseum in Liechtenstein. The original collector was Adulf Peter Goop (1921-2011), who loved Russia. Decorated Easter eggs were symbols of faith, hope and love, and after Tsar Alexander III ordered his first egg at Fabergé in 1885, the tradition of giving your beloved ones an an egg on this most important orthodox feastday blossomed. It was the way to wish each other “Christos Woskresje”. The imperial family and nobility wanted them as extravagant and expensive as possible. They were ordered at Easter up til World War I. At the end of the 19th century the imperial family also liked it to present eggs with their initials to the people.

eastereggs1The exhibition starts with the biggest and probably one of the best eggs: the Apple Blossom Egg. The industrialist Alexander Kelch ordered it at Fabergé in 1901 as a present for his wife Barbara. But the exhibition shows many more Easter eggs from a variety of designers, including the Imperial Porcelain Factory. Some are small, others bigger. They are made of porcelain, gold, silver, glass or papier-mâché. And they are all richly decorated with religious motives, imperial initials, birds, flowers … and of course the most precious gemstones. Below is only a small selection of the eggs shown at this impressive exhibition.


The King and Queen of the Netherlands visit Two of Their Provinces

Once in a while King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, like many of their European colleagues, pay a visit to a part of one of their provinces. The Netherlands has twelve provinces and on Tuesday 17 February they spent the whole day in the peat-colonies of the Provinces Groningen and Drenthe, in the northeast of their country. As usual they learnt to know the area, its history, initiatives and problems.One problem wasn’t really heard during this visit, however the King had already spoken to people about it earlier. In Groningen there are earthquakes regularly, because of the exploitation of gas, and they become somewhat heavier and more regularly nowadays, causing damage to peoples houses and make that people don’t feel safe anymore.

Groningen and Drenthe don’t see that many royal visits yearly, and certainly not these parts of the provinces. The enthusiasm among the locals was therefore big and many people showed up everywhere to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. Sometimes they even stood there for some hours, although the weather was awfully grey and in Stadskanaal even a bit rainy. The people thought it was wonderful that the royal couple visited their part of the country and took the time to hear about what is going on in the area. And they much admired Queen Máxima for managing to brave the cold weather without wearing a coat.

provinces1The visit started at 10am in the town of Veendam, where many people waited on the square in front of the museum. In the “Veenkoloniaal Museum” the King and Queen learnt about the history of the area where peat was gathered since the 16th century up till the 20th century. They were also told about the co-operations between the municipalities in the east of the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe, especially in the inovative co-operation AVEBE, that unites Dutch and German farmers, and processes potatoes.

provinces2 provinces3 provinces4In Stadskanaal Willem-Alexander and Máxima visited the social workplace Wedeka, that helps people with some distance to the labour market to get a regular job, by offering them courses and intermeditation. The unemployment in the north of the Netherlands is pretty high at the moment. The royal couple toured the company and spoke with people working there. Outside again they took their time to greet the public.

provinces5 provinces6 provinces7Around lunchtime a private meeting was arranged with as theme the wind energy. Not all people are happy about having windmills spoiling the landscape. The meeting must have been very interesting and the food too good, as the royal couple arrived in Emmer-Compascuum almost half an hour late. Lots of schoolchildren, people and even the local carnival society were waiting patiently. The children sang the “Koningslied” (which was very much criticized in April 2013) and Prince Carnival offered the royal couple some herring, which by the way was refused, as they had just eaten. The Multifunctional Center De Deele does have a municipality shop and also offers day care for little children and old people. The visit started in the library with a film about the participation and initiatives of citizens.

provinces8 provinces9 provinces10 provinces11 provinces12The visit ended in the town of Emmen, where the couple visited the Stenden Hogeschool, a school that is very important for the area and offers education in technical science, tourism and hospitality, logistics and commerce. The royal couple met with children of a primary school who with help of students of the school learn about technical science. They also met with entrepreneurs who told about their companies. The visit ended with a short reception. It had been a long and interesting day for the King and the Queen, who left Emmen more than one hour after the estimated time.


Kate Middleton … Kate who?

The news section for the British Royal Family  of the British newspaper Daily Telegraph says in its header “Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 but continues to carry out an exacting range of duties with Prince Philip. They are ably supported by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and increasingly by Princes William and Harry – the sons of Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales – and William’s wife, still affectionately known as Kate Middleton.” [thanks Mandy of Mandy’s Royalty for noticing].

Nothing affectionately about it, rather plain lazyness to my opinion, or probably media thought nobody would know anymore about whom they were writing when using her proper title, after having written about Kate Middleton for years. She was of course born Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, better known at the time as Kate. But no way she kept her maiden name after her marriage. Calling her Kate Middleton is to me simply not accepting her marriage, nor accepting that she is allowed to use a title now, which is much higher than her birth name, which was of course not at all a title. But whatever royalty experts write, media keep on calling her Kate Middleton, which is rather annoying to read.

I wonder whether the British Royal Court was helpful at all when announcing that Catherine wouldn’t mind being called by her first name, or as Princess or Duchess after her marriage. It simply is as it is written on the website of the British Royal Family: “On the occasion of his marriage, The Queen conferred a Dukedom on Prince William of Wales. The Duke received the titles of Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. As a result Miss Catherine Middleton became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn and Lady Carrickfergus.” (notice the lack of her first name in that row of titles). No matter what the audience calls her, she is neither Duchess Kate, nor Princess Kate, and surely not Kate Middleton anymore. As both her husband Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, and the Royal Palace call her Catherine nowadays, even Kate might not be correct anymore, at least not when you officially write about her.

Actually if her husband hadn’t been given a Ducal title she would have been called Princess William of Wales, as in Great Britain it is still quite normal to name wives by their husband’s name. Even when I think that is totally old-fashioned nowadays, at least in most other parts of the world. But she nowadays is simply The Duchess of Cambridge, because it is her husband’s title, but it isn’t Catherine’s personal title. As wife she is simply allowed to use his titles … Her husband used to be His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales and because he kept his princely title upon his marriage he became His Royal Highness Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus. But as a palace spokesperson explained on the day of the marriage: “She [Catherine] is not a princess in her own right. That title has not been conferred on her. Her title is that of duchess. So she is not Princess Catherine. And to call her Princess William of Wales is misleading.”


Merry Christmas & A Royal 2015!

christmascard2014 has been a year full of royal events with as a highlight of course the abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain and King Felipe ascending the throne there. Royals were born, got married, died … The most important births were Princess Leonore of Sweden on 20 February, Princess Amalia of Nassau (Luxembourg) on 15 June, Princess Noor bint Hamzah of Jordan on 5 July, Princess Halaevalu Mata’aho of Tonga on 12 July … and on 10 December the long awaited twins from Monaco were born at the Centre Hospitalier Princesse Grace de Monaco in Monte Carlo. They were named Gabriella Thérèse Marie, countess de Carladès, and Jacques Honoré Rainier, marquis des Baux. The latter one is the heir to the throne, even when he was born two minutes after his sister. And surprise, surprise, announced on Friday, Princess Leonore is having a brother or sister in Summer 2015. Princess Madeleine of Sweden is pregnant again. Also expected is the second child of Andrea Casiraghi (Monaco) and Tatiana Santo Domingo.

Married were amongst others Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Zeina Lubbadeh (his third) on 4 January, Andrea Casiraghi and Tatiana Santo Domingo religiously on 1 February, Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco and Oum Keltoum Boufarès on 15 June and 14 November, Prince Amedeo of Belgium Archduke of Austria-Este and Nobile Elisabetta Maria Rosboch von Wolkenstein on 5 July. O yes, also the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini was married to his sixth wife Zola Zelusiwe kaMafu on 26 July and some time also King Mswati III of Swaziland and Sidiswa Dlamini (his 14th wife). We’re looking forward to the marriage of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist in Stockholm on 13 June 2015. Sadlier Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand and his third wife Srirasmi Suwadee have divorced or are to divorce. He already seems to have a mistress he wants to marry to. Srirasmi was stripped of all her titles this month.

The world had to say goodbye to the Japanese Prince Katsura on 8 June, Princess Lalla Fatima Zahra of Morocco on 10 August, Princess Kristine Bernadotte on 4 November and Queen Fabiola of Belgium on 5 December. Also several German heads of royal and noble families died.

Burial of Count Alois von Waldburg-Zeil

On 14 December Count Alois von Waldburg zu Zeil und Trauchburg died aged 81. He was born at Zeil Castle on 20 September 1933 as son of Erich August Fürst von Waldburg zu Zeil und Trauchburg and Monika Princess zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg. He is mourned by his wife Clarissa née Countess von Schönborn-Wiesentheid, three of his five children and his twelve grandchildren. He was a younger brother of Georg Fürst von Waldburg zu Zeil und Trauchburg.

He was a politician and longtime member of the “Deutsche Bundestag”, 1980-1998.

The funeral service took place in the Parish Church St. Georg in Ratzenried on 20 December, followed by the burial at the cemetery of Ratzenried.

aloiswaldburg1 aloiswaldburg2 aloiswaldburg3

The Secret of Dresden

dresden9On Friday 12 December Queen Máxima of the Netherlands opened the exhibition “Het Geheim van Dresden. Van Rembrandt tot Canaletto” (The Secret of Dresden. From Rembrandt to Canaletto) in the Groninger Museum in Groningen, in the northeast of the Netherlands. I had been looking forward to the opening, also because the museum usually has wonderful exhibitions and this one had a bit of a royal theme, but it was not to be. Shortly after the death of Queen Fabiola of the Belgians it was announced that 12 December would be the date of her funeral. Not that I was going to travel to Brussels, but as I had to work, and the opening of the exhibition was held at the same time as the funeral, I stayed at home sitting behind my laptop in front of the television half of the day. Luckily on Thursday  journalists could already have a look, and so I managed to see the exhibition already before Queen Máxima did.

dresden1Dresden has been on my “to-go” list for some time already. The capital of the former Kingdom of Saxony seems to be worth a visit, because of its palaces, gardens and art collection. Not that I am really very interested in art, but in connection with royalty I am always happy to have a look. And as said the Groninger Museum always had beautiful art exhibitions in the past, and I must admit has definitely shown me art can be beautiful: Nordic Art 1880-1920 (2013), J.W. Waterhouse (2009), Russian Fairy Tales (2008), Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Magic of Finland (2007), Russian Landscapes (2004) … The museum was built when I was studying in the city, and although it is very modern and is situated between old houses you slowly get used to it.


Elector Friedrich August I of Saxony, King August II of Poland (1670-1733).

Elector Friedrich August I of Saxony, King August II of Poland (1670-1733).

Elector Friedrich August II of Saxony, King August III of Poland (1696-1763) and his wife Maria Josepha, Archduchess of Austria (1699-1757).

Elector Friedrich August II of Saxony, King August III of Poland (1696-1763) and his wife Maria Josepha, Archduchess of Austria (1699-1757).

But why “The Secret of Dresden”? Many Dutch people don’t seem to have discovered this pearl in the east of Germany, former East Germany, yet and hardly know what a special art collection is present in this old royal capital. Actually between 1697 to 1763 Saxony even was the most important state within the present boarders of Germany. From a simple electorate it became a significant European metropolis when the Electors of Saxony managed to become King of Poland too. The city of Dresden flourished economically and cultural during this time. The royal court in Dresden became the place to be for many artists, and not only did the kings ask artists to come to Dresden, the artists also sent in art themselves in the hope to be invited. August II The Strong and his son August III were big music and art collectors, and especially the latter one loved to collect paintings. Their collection became one of the biggest and notable ones in Europe. The museum closed during World War II, and towards the end of the war the art collection was kept in old mines. After the war the city was totally bombed by the Germans and Allied troops (remember February 1945), and the galery and other important buildings in Dresden had disappeared as had the art collection. The Soviets had taken them to the Soviet Union, and only returned the collection some ten years later. They were not only on display in Moscow in 1955, but also in Berlin. When the galeries (partly) had been restored, the collection could slowly return to Dresden itself. However with closed borders between the East and the West not too many Western tourists came to see the collections. Only in November 1989 the borders were open again for everybody. Who comes to Dresden nowadays just has to visit the Royal Palace, the Albertinum and the Zwinger. The last one (or actually the Semper Building) houses the “Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister” (Gallery of Paintings Old Masters), which at the moment undergoes an extensive renovation and modernization. A good time also to organise traveling exhibitions. The exhibition that is now on show in Groningen already visited Munich, Germany, and afterwards will go to the Belvédère Museum in Vienna, Austria. The modern setting in Groningen however is unique and gives you a totally different perspective on the paintings shown.

dresden4 dresden5 dresden7 dresden6This exhibition is really worth a visit. Don’t miss the beautiful wall and floor decorations, based on decoration that can be found at the Zwinger. Just walk slowly and enjoy all the works of art by big and less big painters like Rembrandt, Velasquez, Titian, Canaletto, Carracci, Wouwerman, Van Ruysdael. I especially loved the big paintings showing what Dresden looked like at the time, including a painting by Bernardo Bellotto of the ruins of the “Kreuzkirche” (Cross Church), dated actually 1765, which lots of small details. There are also portraits (of course also from both Electors), Italian landscapes, paintings with a mythological theme, still lifes, some with beautiful flowers. Remembering my experiences at previous exhibitions you better come early as I am certain this exhibition with 18th century paintings will once again become a huge success.

The exhibition is organized by the Groninger Museum in conjunction with the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden from 13 December 2014 to 25 May 2015.