Royal rumbles: Europe's other feuding families

From left, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark; King Felipe VI of Spain; and  Princess Märtha Louise of Norway
From left, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark; King Felipe VI of Spain; and Princess Märtha Louise of Norway Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz
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The unhappy royal families of Spain, Norway and Denmark aren't immune to a bit of infighting either.


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The opening line of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’ seems to be a maxim that even royal families can’t avoid. Particularly if you’re a member of the British royal family.

This week, excerpts of Prince Harry’s upcoming tell-all memoir ‘Spare’ were leaked to the press. Among the most salacious of tidbits leaked are incidents where Harry claims his king-in-waiting brother Prince William attacked him and encouraged him to dress in a Nazi uniform for Halloween, and King Charles III not hugging him after his mother Princess Diana died.

Prince Harry’s claims will keep gossip columns filled for the next few weeks at least. But the British royals are not the only royal family in Europe.

And all unhappy families are unique in their own way, as Tolstoy told us. So let’s take a quick dive into the different ways other European royals have exacted misery unto their kin in recent years.

Spain’s disgraced ex-King

Last year King Felipe VI of Spain renounced any future personal inheritance he could receive from his father King Emeritus Juan Carlos I. Felipe also took the opportunity to strip his father of his annual stipend of €194,232.

Why did Felipe take such severe action to separate himself from his father?

Juan Carlos reigned as King of Spain from 1975 to his abdication in 2014. While he started his career as a monarch dismantling much of the fascist Francoist regime that preceded him, his reputation has taken a big hit since.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP
King Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe, right, attend a military ceremony in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, outside Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, June 3, 2014.Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP

Juan Carlos’ time on the throne was cut short following a public controversy over an elephant hunting trip in Botswana that was funded by a Syrian businessman, and an embezzlement scandal with the King’s daughter.

Since then, corruption allegations have started to swirl around the ex-king that he had received €88 million from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah in 2008.

Felipe was then implicated in the scandal when he was named as a beneficiary of the offshore fund with €65 million gifted from Saudi Arabia. Felipe denies any knowledge of the fund and has now taken the measures to distance himself from his father.

But Juan Carlos isn’t the only Spanish royal causing trouble. In December, police investigated Felipe’s nephew Felipe Juan Froilán de Marichalar y Borbón for his involvement in a nightclub fight. It’s the third nightclub fight that Felipe’s nephew has been implicated in. You’d think he’d learn to hang out in other places.

Norway’s Shamanist Princess

It’s not just Prince Harry who has been deserting his regal family to seek pleasure in less constricted environments.

While Harry has decided he’d rather a lifestyle of gossip columns, Netflix shows and book deals, Norway’s Princess Märtha Louise gave up her royal duties and privileges for a far more peculiar deal.

The 51-year-old Princess gave up all but her title when she got engaged to “6th Generation Shaman” Durek Verrett in June last year.

In Norway, Verrett has received widespread criticism, with many labelling him a conman and a conspiracy theorist for his ‘alternative medicine’ practices. His book ‘Spirit Hacking’ claims that cancer is a choice, and on his website, he sells a “Spirit Optimizer” medallion which he claims helped him overcome Covid-19.

The television guru has previously stated that he feels that racism is to play in much of the controversy surrounding the couple’s relationship.

It’s not the Princess’ first dalliance in pseudoscience though. She has routinely supported alternative medicine and even claimed she was clairvoyant and could communicate with angels in 2007.

That said, the pairing is a historically significant one for the Norwegian royal family as Verrett is one of the only Black people to marry into a European royal family. Verrett said “it will set a precedent for my people that we are not to be forgotten”.


Denmark’s title-less royal grandchildren

On the 1st of January this year, four of Denmark's Queen Margrethe II woke up no longer able to call themselves princes or princesses.

Nikolai, Felix, Henrik and Athena are the children of Margrethe’s youngest son Prince Joachim and in September she decided they were surplus to the requirements of a royal family.

Steen Brogaard/AP2007
Denmark's Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik with their grandchildren (from left) Nikolai, Christian, Felix and newborn baby Athena in 2007.Steen Brogaard/AP2007

While she has no plans on excommunicating them, Margrethe intended to streamline the Danish monarchy, reducing the number of official royals and give her grandchildren more opportunity to “shape their own lives” free of “the special considerations and duties” of royalty.

The news wasn’t taken well. Their father Joachim outwardly expressed his disappointment to the Danish media and Nikolai told journalists he was saddened and confused.

Unlike the warring families of Spain or the UK, at least the Danish monarch had the generosity of apologise for any hurt caused.


“I have made my decision as Queen, mother and grandmother, but, as a mother and grandmother, I have underestimated the extent to which much my younger son and his family feel affected,” said Queen Margrethe.

“That makes a big impression, and for that I am sorry.”

She didn’t reverse the decision, but at least one royal knows how to say sorry.

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