Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Royal Olympians

On Friday, XXX Olympiad, -- the Summer Olympics -- will begin with the Opening Ceremonies in Stratford, East London.   The competitors will include Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter, Zara Phillips, and Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, a German princess who competes for Denmark.  She is the daughter of Princess Benedikte of Denmark, and Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgensten-Berleburg.  Princess Nathalie,  a Danish citizen, is the niece of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

This will be the second Olympics for Princess Nathalie.  She was a member of Denmark's dressage team at the 2008 Summer Games and won a bronze medal.

At the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm, Sweden,  Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland, younger brother of King Gustav V, organized the equestrian events.  His nephew, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, served as the organizing committee's honorary President.

Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia became the first member of a reigning royal house to win a medal at the Olympics.  He was a member of Germany's Equestrian Jumping team which won the Bronze medal. 

Prince Friedrich Karl was born at Schloss Klein-Glienecke in Potsdam, the third child and second son of Prince Friedrich Leopold of Prussias and Princess Luise Sophie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenberg, who was a younger sister of Wilhelm II's wife, Empress Auguste Viktoria.

The Prince was 19 years old when he won the medal, riding Gibson Boy.  During the first world, Prince Friedrich Karl flew patrols.  His plane was hit by a bullet on March 21, 1917.  He was forced to land the plane in an unsafe area.   He managed to get out of the plane, despite injuring his foot, and was running back toward German lines, when he was shot in the back by Australian troops.  The Australians captured him, and he remained as An Australian prisoner of war until he died from his injuries in April 6, 1917 at Saint Etienne du Rouvray.

The bronze medal must not have been a big deal for the family (the Olympics Games was not a media event in 1912) because there is no mention of it in Friedrich Karl's mother's memoirs.  Princess Friedrich Leopold (Luise Sophie) was the author of Behind the Scenes at the Prussian Court, which was published in 1937.   

Princess Luise Sophie wrote that her son had "thrown himself into his aviation training with his usual zest and had been sent straight to the Western front."   It was on the evening of March 21, when Fritz Karl's equerry arrived at Glienecke to speak with his parents.  The prince and princess were told that there was a rumor that Fritz Karl had been taken prisoner.   Princess Louise wrote that the "days were so full of anxiety," and she could not remember how she learned the details - from King Alfonso XIII or from Daisy, the Crown Princess of Sweden, whose mother, the Duchess of Connaught, was the sister of Prince Friedrich Leopold.

Friedrich Karl was able to write to his mother, and have it sent through the British censor. He wrote the letter shortly before undergoing a serious operation.  "He thanked us all for what we had done for him during his short life, and sent us all his love; he never mentioned the pain he was suffering."


In 1912, Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich of Russia also competed in equestrian events, but he did not win a medal.

Prince Ernst of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst (1891-1947)  represented Austria in fencing in 1912.   He competed in individual Mens Sabre, but only made it as far as the quarter-finals.  Prince Ernst was the fourth child of Prince Egon of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst and Princess Leopoldine Lobkowicz.

Crown Prince Olav of Norway became the second member of a reigning royal family to win a medal at the Olympics, when he won the Gold Medal Sailing (6 meter class) at the Summer Games in Amsterdam.   Olav's Gold Medal diploma is now on display at the Norwegian Olympic Museum in Lillehammer.

Sailing was not the only thing on Olav's mind during the Olympic Games.  It was during the Amsterdam Games that the future King Olav V became engaged to Princess Martha of Sweden.  


His son, Crown Prince Harald, competed in sailing events at the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Summer Olympic Games, although, unlike his father, he never medalled.   He also carried the Norwegian flag in the Opening Ceremonies at the 1964 Games in Tokyo.  Thirty years later,  Harald's only son, Crown Prince Haakon lit the Olympic cauldron at the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

At the 1964 and 1968 Games, Crown Prince Harald took part in the Mixed 5.5 metres class, where he finished 8th and 11th respectively.  At the 1972 Munich Games, the Crown Prince competed in the Mixed Three Person Keelboat, and finished in 10th place.

Sailing has been the choice of most of royals who have taken part in the Olympic Games.  Crown Prince Constantine of the Hellenes, who succeeded his father as King in 1964,  won the Gold Medal in Sailing (Dragon Class) a the the 1960 Games in Rome.

The 20-year-old Crown Prince Constantine had only been sailing for two years when he won Greece's Gold medal, sailing his Dragon Class Nirefs to "first place in that class."
Associated Press

Constantine's finish "was the most exciting," due to his limited time as an experienced sailor.  The Greek Royal Family watched and cheered for Constantine from "their palatial yacht."

On September 12, Crown Prince Constantine returned home a hero, and was welcomed in Athens by more than 300,000 people.   Constantine's older sister, princess Sophie, was a reserve for Greece's sailing team at the 1960 Summer Games.

Princess Sophie married the future King Juan Carlos I of Spain 1in 1962.   Juan Carlos was also a passionate sailor.  In 1972, he competed in the Dragon Sailing Class competition in Munich, where he finished 15th.  He represented Spain.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia have three children: Elena, Cristina and Felipe, the Prince of Asturias.  Infanta Cristina was a member of Spain's sailing team at the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea in 1988.  Both were members of the sailing team.  Felipe was also a member of the sailing team that took part the Summer Games at Barcelona in 1992.   Felipe finished 6th in the Soling class.

At the 1992 Games, the Prince of Asturias was no different than any other competing athlete. Several days before his competition, his "name came up by chance as the member of the Spanish  team to be called upon to be tested for drugs."   The New York Times noted that the Prince "had no problems with the process."

Felipe said: "I feel it is correct to have a random check.  It helps that your sport is treated as all the others.  I do not think sailing is a sport where you have problems with drugs, but it should be treated the same."
He was quite happy for the games to be in Barcelona. "The level of sports is excellent here, and the Olympics are good because they showcase Spain. "

In an interview with Felipe in Hello magazine prior to Barcelona Games, his father said: "I was a competitor in the Munich Games in 1972 and I'm happy to be here to see the young people competing now."  He told Hello: "To represent Spain in the Olympic Games, especially in Barcelona 1992, is, as you can imagine a very great pleasure for me.  But more than that, it is a superb reward for all the hard work myself and the team have put in right up until the last moment."


Infanta Cristina's husband, Iñaki Urdangarin is also a Summer Olympian.  He was a member of Spain's handball team, competing in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.  The Spanish team won the bronze medals in the 1996 and 2000 Games.

Queen Elizabeth II's only daughter, Princess Anne, is also an accomplished Olympian.  The 61-year-old Princess is a member of the International Olympic Committee and the head of British Olympic Committee.   She worked tirelessly and played a major role in lobbying for London to win the 2012 bid. 

Sebastian Coe, a gold medalist in sprinting, heads London's organizing committee, said of Princess Anne: "Her commitment and passion for this is absolutely extraordinary.  When we had a board meeting at midday, she had often opened two hospitals and a school by then.   Britain's Olympic Minister Hugh Robertson agreed with Lord Coe's statement.  "She is one of the great unsung heroes of this whole process. She played a key role in delivering the bid, she is president of the British Olympic Association, she sits on Seb's board and she has 30 years experience of international sport.  Because she is who she is she never asks for any thanks or praise, but she has played a remarkable role in this, and it is completely unheralded and largely unthanked."

The Princess Royal will be seen at many venues at the upcoming games, but, of course, it will be the equestrian events that will command most of her attention.

The Princess was a member of the 1976 Summer Olympic team at Montreal, Canada.  She competed in the Individual and Team Three Day Events. Riding Goodwill, Anne finished 24 in the final standing of the Individual Event, but she did not finish the team event due of a fall off her horse.

The Princess suffered a "mild concussion, a bruised right arm and a bruised cheek.  She spoke to the press the next day, and said that the rest of the race was "a blur."

"I don't remember anything at all after the fall," she said.

More than half of the 49 horses in the competition "fell on the mud-slicked course." 

Making the Olympic team had been a life long dream for the Princess who said she was "Disappointed obviously."  At the time, she added that Montreal might not be her last Olympics "If I have another horse as good as this one."
When the Prince of Wales and his younger brother, Prince Edward, joined Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew at the 1976 Olympics, it was "believed to be the first time that the United Kingdom has been without the Queen and all her immediate family at once, ccording to the New Yokr Times.

 Her daughter, Zara, also a European champion in eventing,  will ride for Britain at the London Games.

The Princess Royal's daughter, Zara Phillips, and her teammates will miss the Opening Ceremonies as their competition starts on Saturday.  "I'd rather get on with my competition than go to the opening ceremony.  It will be great to be a part of the Olympics and the atmosphere and the buzz of being a part of it."

Zara will be living in the Athletes' Village.  Zara missed the last two Summer Games due to her horse, Toytown, who was injured.   She told reporters that "MY family are very proud and right behind me.  I wouldn't be here without them."

Princess Nathalie will be riding Digby, a 15-year-old horse, bred by the family in Bad Berleburg.  Earlier this year, the princess was profiled by the Danish magazine, The Horse Rider's Journal.  She said: "Digby has a special place in my life.  I've known him since he was a foal.  As with every foal you have so many hopes and dreams ..."  Princess Nathalie told the interviewer that yes, Digby's a "bit spoiled, he always receives a lump of sugar before I mount.  I spoil him and in return he gives me one hundred percent in the arena."

Several royals have competed in skiing.  Prince Constantin of Liechtenstein finished 99th in Alpine skiing at the Winter Games in 1948.

Prince Albert II of Monaco, an active and enthusisatic sportsman, competed in the Two-Man Bobsled competition in five Winter Olympic Games, from 1988 in Calgary to the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

The Olympics is in Albert's DNA.  His maternal grandfather, Jack Kelly, remains one of America's greatest scullers.  He won Gold in the Single and Double sculls at the 1920 Summer Games.  Four years later, at Paris, he won the Gold in the Men's Double sculls.

Prince Albert's wife, Charlene, swam for South Africa at the 2000 Summer Games.  She competed in the 200M backstroke, but her qualifying times were not good enough for the final eight.

Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, son of the late Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and Princess Ira of Fürstenberg, founded the Mexican Ski Federation in 1981.  He competed for Mexico for the first time in Sarajevo in 1984.  He qualified for the 2006 Games at Turin, Italy, but Mexican officials decided not to send a one-man team to the Games.    He competed in three more Olympic Games, including the Winter Games in Vancover,  2010.

As the only member of the Mexican team, Prince Hubertus carried the Mexican flag during the Opening Ceremonies.  He finished 78th in the Giant Slalom and 46th in the Men's Slalom.   He was 51 years old at the time, which made him the oldest athlete at the 2010 Winter Games.

Hubertus' uncle, Prince Max of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1931-1994), represented Liechtenstein in the 1956 Winter Games. The then 24-year-old prince finished 45th in the Men's Downhill.

Other non-European royal Olympians include Prince Karim Aga Hahn and Prince Haya of Jordan.  Prince Karim,  now the Aga Khan, competed for Iran in Alpine Skiing in the 1964 Games at Innsbruck, Austria.    He finished 59th and 53rd, respectively, in Men's Downhill and Giant Slalom.  He did not make the final runs in the Men's Slalom.

Prince Haya is an equestrian, who competed in Mix Jumping at the 2000 Summer Games, where she finished 70th in the Qualifying round.

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