On June 6, World leaders gathered in Normandy, France, to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the day of the Normandy landings, initiating the Western allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II. Normandy was the scene of strong emotions during the first week of June as the dramatic events of 1944 were remembered.
The Day of Remembrance started at 12.16 a.m. at Pegasus Bridge, where the first troops landed 70 years ago. In their speeches, state leaders and royalty from the United States and Europe honoured the sacrifices and bravery of the allied troops, addressing themselves particularly to the families of victims and to surviving veterans. Hundreds of US, European, Scandinavian and Nordic paratroopers made commemorative jumps over the countryside of Normandy to honour allied servicemen who went behind enemy lines on D-Day.
For many veterans now in their 80s and 90s this was a unique occasion to remember the achievements of the 156.000 allied troops. Ex-paratrooper Jock Hutton, 89, celebrated by making a jump, landing on the grass in the exact spot he descended upon when he was 19 years old, but this time it was a tandem jump with a Red Devils member strapped, for safety, to his back. After this dramatic entry, he landed practically at the feet of Prince Charles, with whom he exchanged some words before joining his fellow veterans.
At 6.30 in the afternoon, the moment the landings started 70 years ago, the old ex-warriors met on the beaches to celebrate and remember with a glass (or two?) of Norman specialty Calvados. Another 89-year old veteran, former Royal Navy officer Bernard Jordan, was a naughty boy, escaping from his nursing home in south east England to join other veterans on their way to D-Day celebrations in Normandy. His nursing home staff got the fright of their lives. He was taken care of by other veterans going on the same ferry. After what he called a “marvellous adventure” he needed not to have worried about his reception back at base, because a hero’s welcome was waiting, with nursing home staff waving union jack flags.
And now to royalty. The year 2014 has seen many changes in the royal houses of Europe, starting with the abdication of Queen Beatrix in favour of her son Willem-Alexander, and King Albert II of Belgium who ceded the throne to his son Philippe. The announced abdication of Spain’s King Juan Carlos in favour of his son Felipe appears to confirm the pattern among the crowned heads of Europe. According to newspaper El Pais, the coronation of Felipe VI will take place on June 19th in a joint session in Spain’s Congress and Senate in Madrid, without the presence of foreign royals. A low key event suited to the present economic situation, but certainly a disappointment to those who adore basking in royal glory in front of the television or lining the streets to get a glimpse of crowned heads from all over the world. The coronation will be a big historical event also for us who see Spain as a second home country.
In Sweden, Princess Madeleine and her husband Chris O’Neill celebrated the christening of their baby daughter Princess Leonore on 8 June 2014. The new princess’ full name is Leonore Lilian Maria, and her royal title is the Duchess of Gotland. Members of the Swedish royal family stepped out in full force in elegant attire to attend the ceremony, which took place in the Royal Chapel at Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm. Meanwhile in Finland, a huge crowd watched the ceremony on television. Many Finns are royalists by heart and especially the women are great fans of Europe’s royal houses as well as avid readers and spectators of royal gossip in different media.