• Princess Madeleine Delivers Second Child

    Royal baby joy for the win: Princess Madeleine of Sweden has given birth to a son! Congratulations to the family!

    The princess, her husband Chris O’Neill, and their daughter Leonore welcomed the newest member of their family on June 15, 2015 at 1:45pm local Stockholm time. The baby is 6th in line to the Swedish throne.

    Madeleine is the youngest child of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. Her husband Chris works in the financial sector in New York City. Though he appears with Madeleine at royal events, he is considered a private citizen and does not have a title.

  • Sweden gains a princess, but is she right for the job?

    It’s usually exciting to see a royal wedding, but the excitement is dulled this time around.

    Sweden’s Prince Carl-Philip marries next week, but the woman he is marrying has, to put it politely, a dubious reputation. Sweden stands to gain a princess, but is she right for the job with her background?

    Sofia Hellqvist, the prince’s fiancée, is a former soft-porn model. The media gleefully refers to it as “glamour” modeling, but we’re all adults here. We get it. No need to sugar-coat it. Sofia then topped off this “career” with a spell in reality television. All she needed to make her resume complete was a sex tape a la Kim Kardashian. So you can see why Sofia’s imminent marriage to Prince Carl-Philip is depressing. Her fairly recent past sucks the romance out of the whole wedding. At least he’s not next in line to the throne. We can be grateful for that much, at least.

    Despite all of this, there are many people who still want to give Sofia a chance. Often mentioned in the debate over Sofia’s suitability is the troubled past of Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, who was caught up in the underground drug scene in her younger days. She ended up as a single mother struggling to make ends meet. When she met Crown Prince Haakon and he proposed, everything changed for her. Haakon and Mette-Marit went before the press, where she tearfully expressed embarrassment about her past. It was a tough life of questionable choices and people, but she seemed genuinely sorry about it. Importantly, it was out of the limelight. Mette-Marit did not seek to profit from her lifestyle and tout it as appropriate. Sofia, however, seems to have a cavalier attitude over her past choices. She claims that she wouldn’t do anything like it now, but that goes without saying. You don’t see a princess representing her nation in a lad’s magazine each month.

    I’m glad if Prince Carl-Philip and Sofia truly love each other, but the prospect of Sofia representing Sweden as a royal princess is depressing. It lowers the bar on what a princess and a professional woman should be. Would you take the U.S. ambassador seriously if they had already spent the majority of their career prancing half-naked?

    No doubt the wedding is still on no matter what anyone thinks, so it’s best to try and look on the bright side. It’s nice to see that Sofia is willing to style herself like a grown woman with some decency. She cut that far-too-long black hair that was neither suited to her skin tone nor her face shape. It’s now shorter, softer, and lighter. Her hats are cute. Her clothes are elegant, and most importantly, they’re on.

    At least Carl-Philip isn’t next in line for the throne. Sweden gets to avoid having to explain to the world why their queen’s former title was “Miss Slitz”. The prospect of the wedding is depressing, but at least we can be thankful for small miracles.

  • Princess Leonore’s Christmas Gift: News of a Sibling!

    Princess Madeleine of Sweden and her husband, Chris O’Neill,  are expecting their second child.

    Their daughter, Princess Leonore, is almost 10 months old. She will be an older sister sometime in the summer, the Royal Court has announced.

    It is going to be a very exciting time for Sweden, notes Roger Lundgren, royal expert and editor of Kungliga Magazine. He was straightforward when it came to whether or not the birth would overshadow the June wedding of Madeleine’s brother, Carl-Philip.
    “[But] I definitely don’t think it will overshadow Prince Carl Philip’s wedding in June,” he told Sweden’s The Local.  “If it was Victoria that was having a child, perhaps it could have been enough to overshadow a royal wedding, but not Madeleine,” he said.
  • Girls’ Education Gets A Boost In Bhutan

    raven

    A raven mask. The raven represents one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    Bhutan is an amazing country, a fact I discovered while doing research for my recent article. It is beautiful and mysterious; it’s a treasure for any traveler. It is also difficult to get to, but it’s absolutely worth the journey.

    One woman decided to take that trip – not once, but twice – and she plans on returning for a third time. Krista Waddell, an American now living in Australia, decided to join a group of ladies planning a trek to Bhutan in 2012 to support girls’ education.

    After learning that the students were lacking basic school supplies – even furniture for their classrooms – the women decided to act by raising funds and getting many of the supplies there personally.  I asked Krista what it was like, and why she decided to take part in the journey.

    What inspired you to be a part of this charitable cause?

    When I first moved to Australia, I met some amazing women in a hiking group who were going to Bhutan (2012) and doing some fundraising. New to the country, I thought it would be a wonderful way to get involved in the community, even though I wasn’t going on the trip. After a month, the ladies invited me to join them for the adventure. I was thrilled! One trip and I was hooked. RENEW, the NGO established by Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, is dedicated to helping women and children in domestic violence situations. The organization focuses on education scholarships, vocational training, and shelters.

    trek-train

    Trekking through snowy terrain [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    How did you prepare for such a physical challenge?

    Hiking at altitude is extremely rigorous. To prepare, Heather [McNeice] and I do our best to over-train. We believe that if we minimize the issues with muscular soreness we are then able to focus on our breathing. Some of the schools we visit are a week’s walk from the nearest road, forcing us to cross several high passes (in excess of 5000m) along the way.

    What did your family and friends think when you told them you were going to do this?

    Everyone has been extremely supportive. Last year (2013), when we set off on the Snowman Trek, everyone was slightly worried due to the extreme conditions. My husband just asked that I keep in touch via satellite phone.

    What was the toughest part of the trek?

    Trekking at altitude is the hardest aspect, simply because you can’t train for it and you never know how your body will respond. Altitude sickness isn’t predictable, one year you could be fine and the next you find yourself sick. We’ve even had our crew end up asking us for medicine.

    What was your favorite part of the journey, aside from the joy of giving the children their much-needed supplies?

    Of course, seeing the children are on the top of the list, but personally, I love the ability to lose myself and clear my mind. Being in the majesty of the Himalayas make you realize how small you actually are. It’s important to remember that.

    kid-supplies

    Heather McNeice (left) and Krista Waddell distribute supplies [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    How are the children progressing with their schooling now that they have their supplies?

    They seem to be doing well. We’ve received school newsletters from a couple of the larger schools and next year we will be revisiting schools from the past trip. I’m excited to see the difference. In January, the Australian Himalayan Foundation will start a pilot program in Lingshi which will mirror a program already established in Nepal. The four-prong approach will include scholarships, teacher training, materials, and community outreach.

    The culture must be vastly different up in the mountains of Bhutan. What was the biggest culture shock? Was there anything that seemed to be universal?

    People are essentially the same all over the world. It’s wasn’t so much a shock, as a relief to see how truly happy most people are in the villages. People work as a community; women weave in their front yard and watch the children tend the yaks and other animals. Everyone is working to live, not living to work. Of course, there are still issues in the land of “Gross National Happiness”. Queen Mother Ashi Choden Sangay Wangchuck is working to mold the culture to expose the problems so they can be addressed.

    What was it like meeting Queen Mother Ashi Choden Sangay Wangchuck?

    queen-ashi

    Heather McNeice and Krista Waddell with the Queen Mother [click to enlarge]. (Photo credit: Krista Waddell)

    The queen is a beautiful woman both inside and out. Speaking to her I could sense her passion for the projects that she has undertaken. Having trekked through Bhutan herself, she explained to me her motivation. Apparently, a number of women spoke to her during her visits about [the problem of] domestic violence. Having not been exposed to that type of upbringing, she was appalled and realized something needed to be done.

    After chatting about the program, Her Majesty chatted about her shopping day in Sydney. She is amazingly down to Earth. Honestly, it was like talking to an old friend.

    Many thanks to Krista for her insights and her photos from her journey. You can help support girls’ education in Bhutan by visiting Bhutan Girls 2014 fundraising page or directly through the Australian Himalayan Foundation.

  • The Way of the Dragon: Bhutan’s Royal World

    Emblem of Bhutan

    Emblem of Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Bhutan’s history is vibrant, but turbulent. In 2006, after centuries of warlords, a theocracy, and an absolute monarchy, one king made a seismic decision that would change everything. Six years ago today, his son would take the reins of his father’s dreams and drive Bhutan to a more democratic future.

    Royal Roots

    Bhutan’s monarchy is comparatively young, beginning in 1907 with Ugyen Wangchuck. He ruled with support from the ever-expanding British Empire, just around the corner in neighboring India.

    The British were influential friends to have and governed Bhutan’s foreign affairs, but they remained outside of the country’s internal affairs. The two nations even signed a treaty to that effect. This lack of interference was mostly thanks to Bhutan’s geographical location within the Himalayas. It was nearly impossible to colonize, and as a result, British and other foreign influence were slim.

    Bhutanese are proud of their royals and their culture. They have the distinction of being one of the last Buddhist monarchies in the world. To retain their way of life, former King Jigme Singye and Bhutan’s leaders only recently allowed things like television and tourists within the last twenty-five years. The king felt it was time to integrate Bhutan, but swore to uphold Bhutanese culture. Cautiously optimistic, he opened the doors to the world.

    Continue Reading…

  • Happy Post-Halloween!

    No show today folks. I’m sorry!

    After suffering through a bad cold all week, then participating in Halloween with a toddler (with some singing and dancing) my voice feels shot.

    So I hope you will all pardon me while I recover. This is a bummer. On the bright side, it will give me a little more time to finish up my super-amazing royal posts coming up.

    Cheers! x

    Mandy

  • The Queen Tweets, Makes History

    The Queen Tweets, Makes Digital History

    Sent by HM herself. I wonder what Queen Victoria would make of that!

  • Singapore State Visit, Kate Amazingly Well Again

    Kate looks amazingly well. Hypermesis Gravidarum has made the Duchess of Cambridge horribly ill for weeks now, but it now looks as though it hasn’t made one dent in her spirits. It’s incredible.

    This state visit is a big event, and no one thought Kate would be well enough to attend. Happily, she pulled through just in time.

    Tony Tan Keng Yam is the first president of Singapore to make an official state visit to the UK.  He is Singapore’s former deputy Prime Minister, elected as the nation’s seventh president in 2011.

    This visit highlights the UK’s increasing economic ties to Southeast Asia.

     

  • Cambridges To Welcome Royal Baby #2 in April!

    William and Kate are expecting their second royal baby next April.

    April 29th, 2015 will mark the Cambridges’ fourth wedding anniversary. This baby will be a good wedding anniversary gift! When my daughter was born last September, we put a little gold bow on her and said she was our fifth wedding anniversary gift. Her birthday comes just one week prior to our anniversary date in October.

    What better way to celebrate than have a new baby in the family? Lots of good wishes to the Cambridges, the Middletons, and the whole Royal Family.

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