Friday, 5 August 2016

Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn to divorce

Some two hours ago, the royal court announced that Princess Märtha Louise and her husband of fourteen years, the author Ari Behn, are to divorce.
In a press announcement published on the royal website, the Princess says that their life has taken some unexpected turns and that they are both unspeakably sorry to realise that their ways ahead will be different paths as they have grown apart, that they "no longer meet as we did before" and that having tried everything over a long period of time there is nothing more they can do about it. The Princess adds that they feel guilty about no longer being able to provide the safe haven their children deserve, but that they hope to be able to remain friends. The King and Queen add that they are "fond of Ari and grateful for everything we have experienced together as a family. We will have a good relationship with Ari in the future as well".
Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn will have shared custody of their three daughters, Maud, Leah and Emma Behn, and while the Princess will retain sole ownership of the family home in Lommedalen in Bærum outside Oslo and the summer house Bloksbjerg at Hankø, Ari Behn will settle somewhere near his daughters.
The divorce will have no constitutional implications.
Contrary to what some have claimed, this is not the first divorce in Norwegian royal history, although it is the first since Prince Christian Frederik of Denmark and Norway (who reigned as King Christian Frederik of Norway in 1814 and as King Christian VIII of Denmark from 1839 to 1848) divorced Princess Charlotte Frederikke in 1810.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

My latest articles: Silver jubilee, ex-Queen Anne-Marie and Swedish royal dukedoms

The August issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 8) went on sale in Britain last week, and this month I have contributed a report on the King and Queen's silver jubilee, focusing on the celebrations in Trondheim last month, and an article on ex-Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, who will turn seventy on 30 August.
Meanwhile this year's second issue of Royalty Digest Quarterly has also been published, including an article by my hand on the royal dukedoms that are bestowed on junior Swedish princes and princesses.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

My latest articles: Empress Marie-Louise & Swedish royal dukedoms

The July issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 7) went on sale in Britain last week and this month I have contributed an article on Empress Marie-Louise of the French, Napoléon I's second wife. In the eyes of posterity she has been overshadowed by her predecessor Joséphine, but she is fondly remembered in Parma, where she reigned as duchess from 1816 until her death in 1847 and where the bicentenary of her arrival is commemorated this year.
Also just out is Royalty Digest Quarterly no. 2 - 2016, in which I write about Swedish royal dukedoms - their origins, history and statistics - which might be of some interest these days, when new dukes and duchesses are born so frequently that many find it hard to keep track.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Guðni Jóhannesson elected President of Iceland

On Saturday the people of Iceland went to the polls to elect the successor to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who will step down from the post he has held for twenty years on 1 August. The choice fell on the historian Guðni Jóhannesson, who received 39.1 % of the votes.
The incoming President, who turned 48 the day after his election, is an historian and assistant professor at the University of Reykjavik. Among his fields of research is the Icelandic presidency and among his books is one on the presidency of Kristján Eldjárn. He has also translated four Stephen King books into Icelandic.
The president-elect is unaffiliated to any political party, but this is not unusual in Iceland.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

My latest article: Bergen as coronation city

The King and Queen's silver jubilee tour reached Bergen today, two days after their visit to Trondheim, the place of their solemn blessing 25 years ago. While many assume that kings have always been crowned in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, it was in fact only in 1449 that a coronation took place in Trondheim and it was actually in Bergen that most medieval coronations took place, including the first one in 1164, I point out in an article in Bergens Tidende today, which is also available online (external link).

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Silver jubilee celebrated in Trondheim

Today is the 25th anniversary of the King and Queen's solemn blessing in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on 23 June 1991. The King and Queen are currently on a silver jubilee tour along the coast, and having visited Tromsø and Bodø during the weekend, they arrived in Trondheim on board the Royal Yacht "Norge" yesterday. Today the celebrations began with a public event in Ravnkloa, the city's old fish market, at 10 a.m. At noon the royal family attended a jubilee service in Nidaros Cathedral and in the afternoon the King and Queen hosted a garden party for 600 guests in the garden behind Stiftsgården, the city's royal residence. I have been attending today's events as press and will do a report which will appear in the August issue of Majesty, which will be out in a month.
At today's service the King and Queen were joined by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, Prince Sverre Magnus, the Crown Princess's son Marius Borg Høiby, Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn and their daughters Maud, Leah and Emma, Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild's widower Erling S. Lorentzen and his new partner Ebba Løvenskiold, as well as Princess Ragnhild's three children, Haakon Lorentzen, Ingeborg Lorentzen Ribeiro and Ragnhild Lorentzen Long, the latter two accompanied by their husbands. Rather surprisingly, none of Princess Astrid's children were present.
Yesterday the King, the Crown Prince and Princess Ingrid Alexandra posed for a photo in front of the crown jewels made for Carl XIV Johan's coronation in 1818, which are now exhibited in the Archbishop's Palace. The photo is by Torgrim Melhuus, TiTT Melhuus as/Nidaros Cathedral Restoration Workshop/the Royal Court.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

My latest articles: "St Haakon" and coronations

Today is the 110th anniversary of the coronation of King Haakon VII - the last in Norwegian history - and I mark the occasion with an article in the newspaper Adresseavisen today, in which I look at the significance of King Haakon and Nidaros Cathedral to each other, how King Haakon achieved an almost superhuman position following the Second World War and is treated almost as a saint in the cathedral. The article (external link) is available online, but might be behind the newspaper's paywall.
Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of King Harald V's and Queen Sonja's solemn blessing, the ritual that replaced coronations. The King and Queen are currently on their silver jubilee tour and earlier today they arrived in Trondheim, where they will attend a service of thanksgiving in Nidaros Cathedral tomorrow. On that occasion, tomorrow's edition of Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, carries an article I have written on the history of coronations in Norway and how King Olav invented the ritual of solemn blessing, thus ensuring that Norway is now the only European kingdom besides Britain that marks a monarch's accession with a religious ritual. The article (external link) is already now available on Aftenposten's website.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

King and Queen embark on silver jubilee tour

The King and Queen are celebrating the silver jubilee of their accession to the throne this year, and yesterday they arrived in Tromsø to embark on their jubilee tour of the country on the Royal Yacht "Norge". The tradition of marking great royal events by extensive tours of this vast kingdom was begun by King Oscar II and Queen Sophie at the time of their coronation in 1873. King Olav undertook a similar journey to mark his silver jubilee in 1982, but his son and daughter-in-law will not start quite as far north as he did and visit fewer places.
The tour began with a garden party for 300 guests at Skansen fortress in Tromsø this morning, followed by a public event in the city's square. This is the pattern that will also be followed on the rest of the tour, as the King and Queen have expressed a desire to meet as many people as possible from all walks of life.
Tomorrow the Royal Yacht will arrive in Bodø for a day of celebrations before continuing south to Trondheim, where it will arrive on 22 June. The following day, Thursday 23 June, is the 25th anniversary of the King and Queen's solemn blessing (the religious ritual that replaced coronations) in Nidaros Cathedral. In the morning of that day, there will be a public event in the old fish market in Ravnkloa at 10 a.m., followed by a service of thanksgivings in Nidaros Cathedral at noon. There the King and Queen will be joined by their children, children-in-law and grandchildren as well as by Princess Astrid and Erling S. Lorentzen, Princess Ragnhild's widower. At 3 p.m. the King and Queen will host a garden party for 600 guests in the garden of Stiftsgården, the Royal Residence. NRK will have a live broadcast from the celebrations in Trondheim from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (and I will do a report for the August issue of Majesty).
The King and Queen will ten visit Bergen on Saturday 25 June, Stavanger on Monday 27 June and Kristiansand on Wednesday 29 June. In Stavanger and Kristiansand the Crown Prince and Crown Princess will also attend the celebrations.
In late August or early September the King and Queen are expected to host a similar jubilee garden party in Oslo.

Friday, 17 June 2016

A radio documentary and three lectures

On Thursday next week, 25 years will have passed since the solemn blessing of the King and Queen in Nidaros Cathedral and to celebrate the silver jubilee they embark on a twelve-day tour of the kingdom by the Royal Yacht "Norge" tomorrow. My "contributions" to the jubilee will, except for my latest book, be a radio documentary and three lectures in Trondheim next week.
In the radio documentary, which will be broadcast by the NRK radio channel P2 as part of the programme "Museum", I tell the story of the struggle over the crown of Norway between the kings Christian I and Karl Knutsson in 1448-1450, how that power struggle made Nidaros Cathedral the coronation church for the first time and how one created a myth, which many still believe in, that this was where Norwegian kings had always been crowned. The programme will be broadcast at 6.03 p.m. on Saturday and 8.03 a.m. on Sunday, but is already now available as a podcast (external link).
On Monday at 6 p.m. I will be the guest of Trondhjems Historiske Forening (Trondheim Historical Society) in the Suhm House at Kalvskinnet to give a lecture on Trondheim as the city of coronations - more information may be found here (external link). On Tuesday at 2 p.m. I will present new knowledge of the crown jewels in a lecture at Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum (the museum of decorative arts and design) in Munkegata, about which you can read here (external link), and on Wedneday at 1 p.m. I will be at the Archbishop's Palace to give a lecture on the history of coronations and how and why they were replaced by solemn blessings - more information about that here (external link). If I have any readers in or near Trondheim I would be happy to see you at the lectures.

King Albert and Queen Paola now living in Rome

The Belgian newspaper Le Soir yesterday reported that King Albert II, who abdicated in July 2013, and his wife Queen Paola no longer live permanently in Belgium. According to the newspaper, Queen Paola, who was born into the Roman noble family of Ruffo di Calabria, has renovated a floor of her family home, Casa Ruffo in the neighbourhood of Parioli in northern Rome, and the couple now live there from September to May, while spending the summer in their house in Chateauneuf in southern France and onboard their private yacht.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Duchess of Cornwall and Duke of Cambridge join Privy Council

Queen Elizabeth II of Britain held a meeting of the Privy Council at Buckingham Palace yesterday afternoon, at which her daughter-in-law Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and her grandson Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, were made members of the Privy Council. While this is standard procedure for a future monarch - Prince Charles was made a Privy Councillor in 1977 and the then Princess Elizabeth in 1951 - this is an unusual honour for the Duchess of Cornwall, who becomes the first female member of the royal family to join the Privy Council since Princess Elizabeth in 1951. Indeed, while the consorts of female monarchs - Prince George of Denmark, Prince Albert and Prince Philip - have all been Privy Councillors, no consorts of male monarchs or heirs have been admitted to the council until yesterday,

Sunday, 5 June 2016

My latest articles: The Thai succession and Queen Silvia's 40 years

This month is high season for royal jubilees, and I mark two of them with articles in the June issue of Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 6).
While the official celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain's ninetieth birthday will take place next weekend, the world's longest-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, will have been on the throne for seventy years on Thursday. His diamond jubilee in 2006 saw splendid celebrations attended by royals and heads of state from around the world, but Thursday's celebrations will be rather low-key and without the King's presence. Both he and Queen Sirikit are in hospital, and the bulletins published during the last days and weeks give cause for concern. In one article, I investigate the issue of the succession to King Bhumibol, and how this thorny issue has become entangled with the political struggle that has engulfed Thailand in recent years. Indeed, it seems that if the military junta is still in power when King Bhumibol dies, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn may be passed over.
My second article in this issue deals with Queen Silvia of Sweden, who married King Carl XVI Gustaf on 19 June 1976 and can therefore look back at forty years as Queen this month, while I look back at her life, how she has shaped her role and her contribution to the Swedish monarchy.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Prince Oscar of Sweden's christening

At noon today, Prince Oscar of Sweden, Duke of Scania was christened in the Palace Church in Stockholm. He was baptised by Antje Jackelén, the first female Archbishop in the history of the Church of Sweden, and his godparents were Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, his aunt Princess Madeleine, his mother's first cousin Oscar Magnuson (Princess Christina's eldest son) and his father's first cousin Hans Åström. At the end of the ceremony, his grandfather King Carl XVI Gustaf invested him with the Order of the Seraphim, Sweden's highest honour.
Among the guests in the Palace Church were family members, friends of the family, courtiers, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and other members of the cabinet, Speaker Urban Ahlin and other representatives of Parliament, some ambassadors and county governors as well as representatives of organisations and institutions.
Prince Oscar's parents, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, were joined by his sister Princess Estelle, his maternal grandparents King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia and his paternal grandparents Olle and Ewa Westling. Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit also attended. Princess Madeleine was accompanied by her husband Christopher O'Neill and their children, Princess Leonore and Prince Nicolas, while Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia did not bring their newborn son, Prince Alexander.
Of the King's four sisters, Princesses Margaretha and Christina attended, the latter accompanied by her husband Tord Magnuson, their three sons Oscar, Gustaf and Victor Magnuson, their daughters-in-law Vicky and Emma Magnuson and Victor's partner Frida Bergström. Princess Désirée's eldest daughter, Baroness Christina De Geer and her husband Hans also attended. Other members of the extended royal family present were Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, the widow of the late former Prince Sigvard, Dagmar von Arbin, the 100-year-old granddaughter of Prince Oscar Bernadotte, and Count Bertil Bernadotte af Wisborg, a grandson of Prince Oscar Bernadotte, with his wife Jill.
Queen Silvia's two surviving brothers, Walther L. Sommerlath and Ralf de Toledo Sommerlath, were also present, the former accompanied by his wife Charlotte. The Queen's nephews Thomas de Toledo Sommerlath and his partner Bettina Aussems and Patrick Sommerlath and his wife Maline Sommerlath were joined by Patrick's three children, Leopold Lundén Sommerlath, Chloé Sommerlath and Anaïs Sommerlath.
Prince Daniel's sister, Anna Westling Söderström, brought her husband Mikael Westling Söderström, her daughters Hedvig and Vera Blom, the former's boyfriend Oliver Dackell, and her step-children Casper and Caisa Söderström. Other relatives of Prince Daniel present were Tommy Henriksson, Hans and Marika Henriksson, Nils and Ann-Catrin Westling, Sara Westling and Jesper Carlsson, Frida and Rickard Westling, Hasse and Anna-Britta Åström, Hans and Helena Åström, Anders Åström, Anna-Karin Åström and Christer Wigren, Erik and Birgitta Westling, Ove and Yvonne Westling, Bo and Carina Westling, and Per and Rose-Marie Westling.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

First great-grandchild for King Albert II

The former Belgian monarch King Albert II, who abdicated in 2013, and his wife Queen Paola became great-grandparents for the first time yesterday, when their grandson Prince Amedeo and his wife Elisabetta "Lilli" became the parents of a girl, who saw the light of day at St Peter's Hospital in Brussels at 3.30 a.m. She was 52 centimetres long and weighed 3.3 kg. Prince Amedeo is the eldest son of Princess Astrid and was, until his uncle Philippe's late marriage in 1999, often thought to be a future Belgian monarch but is now sixth in line to the Belgian throne.
He did not seek royal consent ahead of his marriage to Elisabetta Maria Rosboch von Wolkenstein in July 2014, but later received it retroactively. King Philippe's decision to restrict the title Prince(ss) of Belgium to children and grandchildren of the monarch and heir apparent means that the newborn will not be a Princess of Belgium. However, she may use those titles Prince Amedeo has got from his father, a grandson of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor, i.e. Archduchess of Austria-Este and Princess of Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and Modena.
Postscript: It was announced the next day that the newborn's name will be Anna Astrid, the names of her two grandmothers.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Falling support for Dutch monarchy

Yesterday was the 49th birthday of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, which since his accession in 2013 is also the country's national day. On this occasion, broadcaster NOS published an opinion poll conducted by polling institute Ipsos, which shows that support for the Netherlands remaining a monarchy has fallen to 65 percent. In 2008, 80 percent were in favour of the monarchy, while 78 % supported it in 2013, the year of Queen Beatrix's abdication and King Willem-Alexander's accession. However, only 16 percent favour a republic, which obviously means that rather many are undediced.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

My latest article: Crown-wearings

The May issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty (Vol. 37, No. 5) was published on Thursday, the ninetieth birthday of Europe's only crowned monarch, and contains and article by me about crown-wearings. Nowadays the British State Opening of Parliament, which this year will take place on 18 May, is the only time apart from a coronation when a crown is actually worn and Queen Elizabeth II puts on the crown as if it were a hat, but in the middle ages, crown-wearings were in themselves a solemn ritual. Kings wore crowns on the great religious feast days to stress not only their power and sacred elevation but their likeness to Jesus and crowns were placed on the monarchs' heads by high prelates in a ritual based on coronations. The article explores the roots of crown-wearings, how the ritual fell into abeyance and how the tradition of wearing a crown to Parliament was revived by King George V in 1913.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Service of thanksgiving for Prince Alexander

In keeping with tradition, a Te Deum was sung in the Palace Church in Stockholm at noon today to celebrate the birth of Prince Alexander on Tuesday.
These services of thanksgiving are usually held the day after the birth, but it had now been postponed by two days, apparently to allow Queen Silvia, who was attending a conference in New York when her fifth grandchild was born, to be able to attend.
Princess Madeleine, who lives in London with her family, was, however, still in New York and thus unable to attend, and as usual the newborn and his mother were not present. The new father Prince Carl Philip was joined by his parents, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, and his eldest sister, Crown Princess Victoria, and her husband, Prince Daniel. His aunt Princess Christina was also there with her husband Tord Magnuson, as well as his great-aunt, Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg, and his grandfather's second cousin Dagmar von Arbin, who celebrated her 100th birthday less than two weeks ago.
Other family members present were Queen Silvia's nephew Patrick Sommerlath, who partly grew up in Sweden and is therefore particularly close to his Swedish cousins, with his wife Maline, the newborn Prince's maternal grandparents Erik and Marie Hellqvist, his great-grandmother Britt Rotman, and his maternal aunts Lina and Sara Hellqvist.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

HRH Prince Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil of Sweden, Duke of Sudermania

In a formal meeting with the cabinet at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has just announced that his newborn grandson will be named Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil and be a Prince of Sweden and Duke of Sudermania (Södermanland). Prince Alexander, the first child of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, was born at Danderyd Hospital on Tuesday evening.
Alexander is of course a very royal name, but has not previously been used by the Swedish royal family, except that Queen Christina after her abdication and conversion to Catholicism added Alexandra to her name in honour of Pope Alexander VII.
Erik is on the other hand a name with a long royal tradition in Sweden, although it has been little used in recent years. The first King Erik was Erik the Victorious, who reigned from about 970 to 995. Very little is known about early medieval Sweden, which was deeply divided between warring factions, but around 1067 there were two rival kings, both named Erik, who were both killed around that year. In the twelfth century, two rival dynasties who have later come to be known as the Sverker and Erik families, fought each other. The latter drew its name from Erik Jedvardsson, who was King of a part of Sweden around 1158 and died a violent death a year or two later. He was subsequently considered a saint, although never officially canonised, and although the cult was for a long time only local, he was eventually promoted into Sweden's national saint. The promotion of St Erik's cult also meant that his name became rather popular among Swedish royals.
The next Erik was his grandson, Erik Knutsson, who reigned from 1208 to 1216 and was the first Swedish King known to have been crowned. His son, uncharitably known as Erik the Lisp and Lame, won back the crown from the rival Sverkers and reigned from 1222 to 1229 and from 1234 to 1250. The next Erik was Erik Magnusson, who challenged his father Magnus Eriksson in 1356 and reigned as joint monarch for a few months before his death in 1359.
His sister-in-law, Margareta Valdemarsdatter, who succeeded in uniting all three Scandinavian realms and being elected monarch, adopted her great-nephew Bugislav of Pomerania and had him made King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway under the name Erik. He was elected King of Sweden in 1396 and crowned in Kalmar the following year, the event which is traditionally held to mark the foundation of the so-called Kalmar Union, but his reign was conflict-filled and he was eventually deposed in 1439.
Thereafter, the name did not reappear until King Gustaf I, the founder of the Vasa dynasty, named his eldest son Erik. Erik succeeded his father upon his death in 1560 and assumed the name Erik XIV (a number of fictional Eriks were inventend to make the line of Swedish kings look longer and more prestigious). He was deposed by his brother, Johan III, in 1568 and poisoned nine years later.
Since then, there seems to have been some sort of stigma related to the name borne by at least two unfortunate monarchs, but the Bernadottes revived it in 1889, when the future King Gustaf V and Queen Victoria became the parents of their third son. However, this prince was another unfortunate Erik. He was mentally challenged and lived most of his life away from his family and the public eye, dying from the Spanish flu at the age of 29 in 1918.
A more recent connection is Prince Alexander's maternal grandfather, Erik Hellqvist. Hubertus derives from his other grandfather, Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus, who received the name in honour of his mother's brother, Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was killed fighting for Nazi Germany in 1943. Bertil is in honour of the King's late uncle, Prince Bertil, to whom Prince Carl Philip was very close.
As for the dukedom, Sudermania is often seen as one of the more prestigious ducal titles. It was most recently held by Prince Wilhelm, the second son of King Gustaf V. Prince Wilhelm resided at Stenhammar Palace in Flen, which was left to the state by the courtier Robert von Kraemer, who willed that it should be made available to a prince of the royal house, preferably a Duke of Sudermania (the province in which the estate is located). Since Prince Wilhelm's death in 1965 it has been used by King Carl Gustaf, but Prince Carl Philip has been groomed to take it over and it was therefore no surprise that the dukedom connected to it was given to his firstborn.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Princess Christina publishes book on Drottningholm Palace

Today Princess Christina, the youngest of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden's four sisters, makes her literary debut with a book on Drottningholm Palace. Dagar på Drottningholm, which is co-authored by Carl Otto Werkelid and illustrated by the photographer Ralf Turander, is published by Bonnier Fakta and is also available in an English version titled Days at Drottningholm.
Drottningholm Palace, which is situated on an island just west of Stockholm, was built by the great baroque architects Nicodemus Tessin the Elder and the Younger for Dowager Queen Hedvig Eleonora, the widow of Carl X Gustaf, who was a great patron of the arts. Since 1981 it is the home of King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia and since 1991, the domain is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Princess Christina has celebrated all her Christmases there and always loved Drottningholm, which was also where her and Tord Magnuson's wedding dinner and dance was held in 1974. According to the publisher, she has been particularly fascinated by the strong women who have put their mark on Drottningholm and uses historical dates as starting points for bring to life "royal figures, rooms, details and memories".
The photo is a courtesy of Ralf Turander/Bonnier Fakta.

President of Iceland to stand for sixth term

At a press conference on Monday, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland announced that he will after all stand for a sixth term in the presidential election to be held on 25 June. In his New Year's Speech, the President announced that he would retire at the end of his fifth term, but the uncertainty caused by the developments of the last weeks has made him reconsider. Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was felled by the Panama Papers revelations and parliamentary elections will now be held in the autumn of this year rather than next year as previously planned. In this situation, a wish for the experienced president to continue grew into a "wave of pressure". As the formation of a new government may prove difficult, the President wants to ensure that the country is not without leadership, he said.
The office of President of Iceland is largely ceremonial, but unlike his predecessors, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who has led Iceland through difficult times, has repeatedly used the powers vested in the President. In 2010, he vetoed the so-called Icesave deal whereby the government had agreed to compensate Britain and the Netherlands for the financial losses suffered by citizens of those countries when the Icelandic banks collapsed. The President's veto led to a referendum being held, in which the majority endorsed his veto. In February the following year, he vetoed another similar deal, a veto which was again supported by the people in the referendum that followed. Recently he also refused the scandalised Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson's request for a dissolution of Parliament.
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is the fifth President of Iceland since the country abolished the monarchy in 1944 and is already the longest-serving. For decades, no incumbent president was challenged for re-election, but in 1988, President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was challenged when she stood for a third time. Having won a resounding victory, she served until 1996, when she decided to stand down and Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson won the election to succeed her. He was challenged when he stood for re-election in 2000, but was unopposed in 2004 and then again challenged in 2008. In 2012, he announced he would not stand for re-election, but changed his mind after being petitioned by 30,000 citizens and was eventually elected with 52.78 % of the vote against 33.16 % for his closest opponent. This year he seems likely to face at least ten contenders who have already announced their candidacies.
Postscript: A few weeks later, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson again changed his mind and announced that he would after all not stand for a sixth term. This decision came after it was revealed that his wife Dorrit Mousaieff and her family were mentioned in the Panama papers. A spokesperson for the President said that the couple live completely independent lives and that he had no knowledge of her or her family's financial affairs.