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2003-12-05 postprandial (utc)

Lock up your kronprinsessor!

We do not approve of this:

Kronprinsessan Victoria beordrades i går kväll att ställa in ett planerat besök på svenska kulturcentret i Paris - av säkerhetsskäl.

En militant fackförening hade hotat att ta sig in i kulturcentret för att demonstrera mot nedläggningen av en svenskägd fabrik söder om Paris.

Kronprinsess Victoria was instructed yesterday to cancell a planned visit to the Swedish culture centre in Paris - for security reasons.

A militant trade union had threatened to occupy the culture centre to demonstrate against the shutting down of a Swedish-owned factory south of Paris.

Or this:

Kronprinsparet flytter snart til Skaugum, og en tronarving fødes om noen få uker. Politiet foretar nå en ny trusselvurdering av kronprinsfamilien.

The [Norwegish] Kronprins-couple will soon be moving to [la-di-dah] Skaugum, and an heir to the throne will be born in a few weeks. The police are now concerned by a new threatwarning of the kronprinsfamily.

Sigh. Since when does "and they lived happily ever after" include "under guard from heavily armed police persons"? Call that progress? Cos I don't.

[Tack to Anna Louise and Citoyenne K for the prinsessgossip.]

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2003-12-05 samwidge (ham; utc)

Peace and goodwill, or else!

Megan Danna are adventing up to Treetime, and bring glad tidings of great silliness:

Four years ago, Birmingham city council made the decision to try to include those of all faiths (and none) in the winter festivities by lumping the various Christmas, Channukah, Eid and (insert other religious winter celebration here) celebrations under the Winterval instead of the purely Christian Christmas.

According to contemporary coverage hos BBC (1998 webpage alert!):

Winterval has particularly exasperated the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev Mark Santer ["Ho ho ho"]. In a message to all the churches and clergy in his diocese, he said: "I wonder what madness is in store for us this Christmas?
"I confess I laughed out loud when our city council came out with Winterval as a way of not talking about Christmas.
"No doubt it was a well-meaning attempt not to offend, not to exclude, not to say anything at all."
The message continues: "Now it seems, the secular world, which expresses respect for all, is actually embarrassed by faith. Or perhaps it is Christianity which is censored."

They are not, we may conclude, big on sequiturs at bishop school. (If religions are a means of self-improvement, incidentally, why are the top ranks of Religiondom so heavily infested with charmless and self-important dickheads? It's one of life's great mysteries, for sure.)

You have to love the comeback, though:

A council spokeswoman defended the name. "Birmingham City Council wants people to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is the very heart of Winterval," she said.
"Far from not talking about Christmas the events within Winterval and the publicity material for it are covered in Christmas greetings and traditional images, including angels and carol singers."

That's just perfect: "Oh, come on, we've even got a tree! How much Christmassier can you get?" Deliver with a straight face, and retreat to a safe distance to enjoy the show. (Remember: Never return to a bishop once the fuse is lit, kids!)

(Twinkletree - which owes nothing to this silly Winterval nonsense - is celebrated much further afield than Birmingham, of course: Shoppingharbour has one, and there's even a webcam.)

But rather than continuing to abuse religious leaders at this time of ill-tempered barging in retail outlets, let's hand over to Archbishop Christodoulos to hear about the real spirit of the season:

The head of the Orthodox Christian Church in Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, has provoked a diplomatic storm with neighbouring Turkey by describing Turks as barbarians who should not be allowed to join the EU.

Yeah, plus they're muslims and we know how irrational and intolerant they are.

[Shoppingharbourtwinkletreelinkage via David TEFLsmiler and Birgitte, tack.]

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2003-12-05 still morning (utc)

It's beginning to look a bit like Twinkletree

Scots snö (« la neige écossaise ») has been pounding Australia, a former British colony off the coast of Papua New Guineau, whose modest but sport-mad population is home to the second best rugby team in the world:

Swifts Creek Senior Constable Bob Williams says the hailstones were the size of marbles.
"Quite a few up to the tom bowler size, if anyone used to play marbles they'll know what that is, and one or two were around the golf ball size," he said.

The tom bowler size, you say? Good heavens!

Meanwhile, Denmark is rilly rilly going to have some snö this weekend (» weekend «), it promises:

Vinteren er lige om hjørnet. Den rammer landet med årets første snebyger i weekenden.

Winter is around the corner. It hits the country with the year's først snöshowers at the weekend.

Now that's more like it!

[Tackerna till PF och Birgitte for vädernyheterna]

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2003-12-05 morning all (utc)

Trafalgan Treetwinklage

It was lit last night. I'm going to London tonight and I'll certainly make the pigrimage at some point over the weekend.

Meanwhile Francis links the Stockholm tree, which is frankly a bit Swedish for my tastes. Are there trees in Shoppingharbour and the Oosh, one wonders?

(The top google hit for "juletræ olso" (without the quotes) is this very 'bladet.)

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2003-12-04 computer downtime (utc)

Island greetings, slightly scrambled

Hawaiian has five (5) vowels (a,e,i,o,u with essentially their IPA or Italian pronunciations, although by all means boggle at more accessible descriptions) and only seven (7) consonants (h,k,l,m,n,p,w) and the glottal stop notated by a symbol to which ` is close enough to be getting on with (so there are really eight (8) consonants if you count things that exist rather than things that map conveniently onto an irrelevant orthographical tradition), and a syllable structure restricted to CV (consonant vowel).

So, in loan words from languages such as English which are more hospitable to consonant clusters, additional ("epenthetic") vowels are inserted between consonants that would otherwise be indecently adjacent, and "s"es get mapped into "k"s, because you've got to do something with them.

In other words, the "Mele kalikimaka" of the celebrated song:

Mele kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas day
That's the island greeting that we send to you
From the land where palm trees sway
Here we know that christmas will be green and bright
The sun will shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele kalikimaka is Hawaii's way to say merry Christmas to you

("Christmas" is a festival celebrated by Merkins and other barbarians over the Twinkletree period which commemorates the placing of an especially auspicious newborn infant in the feeding trough of some animals borrowed for the purpose. Your guess is as good as mine, quite frankly, although in modern ritual a doll usually replaces the neonate.)

is an entirely regular borrowing. And anyone who knows anything about Japanese and nothing about the methodology of historical linguistics will be wondering if the two languages are related. I've always assumed they should be, if only in tribute to the iconic status that Hawai`i-born man-mountain Konishiki ("The Dumptruck") acquired in the noble sport of sumo (he eventually achieved the rank of yokozuna, even if he was never a match for the peerless Chiyonofuji).

(Sumo is an idiosyncratic form of rugby played in Japan in which no ball is used and teams consist of one (1) player per side. Like its better-known UKish precursor, however, it is a sport of enormous subtlety and skill which consists of very large men running into each other.)

At the same page, you can learn many useful phrases in Hawaiian, such as "Come to Tiffany's baby shower luau" ("Hale mai Tiffany's pepe kuaua luau"). A "luau" is of course a feast; we are not sure what a "baby shower luau" is but have been assured that despite the ritual cannibalism that is at the centre of the Christmas cultistes' religious rites it is not a matter of feasting on babies in celebration of the bounty that nature has showered on the celebrants.

Tiffany's is of course a very well known jewellry shop ("store") in New York, but we have not yet been able to establish its precise role in this baby-feasting tradition.

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2003-12-04 15:12

Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?

Prince, n'enquerrez de semaine
Où elles sont, ni de cet an,
Que ce refrain ne vous remaine :
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan ?

from "Ballade des Dames du temps jadis", François Villon

The snös of yesteryear, then; where are they? A question that unites this snökaos-fixated bladet, medieval France's greatest poet, and the United Nations environment programme ("program"):

Many ski resorts face economic hardship as a result of climate change, the UN environment programme Unep has warned. The winter climate warming means that snowfall ["snöfall"] is becoming less reliable, especially in lower altitude resorts.

Even the legendary pistes of Kitzbühl are threatened! Ski Sunday just wouldn't be the same without the trip to that insane plunging start, although for all I know it might already not be the same since I haven't seen it for about a decade.

Luckily the only really important skiing competition - the utterly beserk Four Hills ski-jumping contest held over Twinkletree - is unlikely to be affected, because you can always fake that much snö.

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2003-12-04 last night (utc)

Smörgåspost

§1.

I recently discovered the way to type '§' on my Linux box. Expect to see more of them in the future.

§2.

Warner Bros., bless them:

Harry Potter-bøkenes oversettere er under sterkt press fra Warner for ikke å forandre navn i bøkene. Alle har måttet gi fra seg rettighetene til egne nyord.

Translators of the Harry Potter books have been put under great pressure from Warner not to change names in the books. All have been made to give up their rights to their own coinages.

Essentially, letting persons change names would complicate the marketing of the global phenomenon, and you mess with a multinational corporation's brands at your peril. So they've made translators sign contracts saying they'll use the English names from now on, presumably for characters so far without established names in various Forrens.

Trying to find information about "Den internasjonale oversetterføderasjonens 50-årsfeiring i UNESCOs hovedkvarter" where this has been debated has defeated even my Google Fu, however.

Anyway, publishers round the world have shown an admirable willingness not to stop until they've wrung dry every possible market:

Máire Nic Mhaoláin er i ferd med å oversette den første Harry Potter-boken til irsk gælisk, på oppdrag fra Rowlings forlag Bloomsbury.

- Det er viktig for forlaget å vise til at suksessen brukes til å stimulere små språk. Bøkene blir også oversatt til walisisk og skotsk gælisk, forteller den irske språkeksperten.

Máire Nic Mhaoláin [for it is he or she!] is finished with the translation of the first Harry Potter book into Irish, commissioned by Rowling's publishers Bloomsbury.

"It's important for the company to show that the success is being used to stimulate small languages. The books are also being translated into Welsh and Scottish Gaelic," says the Irish language expert.

Breton and Occitan are not on the list: how about it Gallimard?

§3.

Looking fer stones in all the wrong places:

An arc of buried megaliths that once formed part of the great stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire has been discovered.

[...]

The stones show up clearly on computer images and the National Trust has been able to identify their sizes, the direction in which they are lying and where they fit in the circle.

They don't say what technology is behind the "computer images", but we're confident it is very clever indeed. They're a bright bunch, archeologists, for sure:

"These stones were erected over 4,500 years ago and the world of archaeology suspected that most of these stones had been demolished and lost forever.

"Until now, no-one had realised that some of these stones had survived intact and that they actually lay buried in the earth, next to their original locations."

Certainly, the last place you'd think of looking for a bunch of really enormous and hard to move stones that have unaccountably gone missing from a stone circle is in the general vicinity of where said bunch of really enormous and hard to move stones had previously been.

You might think, in fact, that a puzzle as fiendish as this would probably never be solved, but you'd be reckoning without the cunning of archeologists, who cracked it in mere centuries!

§4

Hate speech doesn't kill persons: persons kill persons, but hate speech is sometimes culpably implicated:

Three Rwandan media executives have been found guilty of inciting violence during the genocide of 1994.

Two worked for a radio station which broadcast lists of people to be killed and revealed where they could be found. The three were given long jail terms.

[...]

Ferdinand Nahimana, who was sentenced to life in prison, and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who got 35 years, helped set up a private radio station - Radio Television Libres des Mille Collines (RTLM) - which urged Hutus to "exterminate the cockroaches".

There are, of course, those who hold that the transcendent importance of free speech outweighs any right you might have thought you had not to have your whereabouts broadcast to a machete-armed mob of persons who have been incited to exterminate you, but - perhaps fortunately for the civility of our own discourse - they are all Merkins and we were already ignoring them for a variety of other reasons.

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2003-12-03 now (utc)

Le Chaos de la neige fondue

(Ou: pendant nous, le déluge)

France is reeling (in chaos!) from the effects of rain (UKish snö), which is close enough to snökaos for a slow year:

Five people are reported to have died in torrential rain and flooding across much of south-eastern France.

Forecasters warn of further downpours after floods blocked roads, disrupted rail services and forced more than 4,000 people from their homes.

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2003-12-03 post-prandial (utc)

Translators and other wizards

Chez Beeb, news of 'Arry Potteur in ze French:

Publisher Gallimard Jeunesse said it had printed one million copies of the book, which was published in English six months ago. More than 250,000 copies have already been reserved in bookshops, they said.

[...]

French translators [sic] of the book were only given copies when the book was released in June in order to prevent plot leaks.

The French translator is of course Jean-François Menard, and the number of Jean-François Menards that there are is of course one (1).

And from the International Harry Potter fansitebookpage we learn somewhat belatedly that:

The Dutch translation of the latest Harry Potter book broke all records over the weekend as it went on sale for the first time.

More than 400,000 titles were sold after the official opening of trading at midnight on Friday. The book, "De Orde van de Feniks" (The Order of the Phoenix), is the fifth in the hugely popular Harry Potter series.

If the Netherlands (pop 16.1 million) can sell 400,000 in a weekend then surely France (pop. 59.5 million) is going to need more than a million copies.

In fact, speaking as an applied mathematician, we note that the Dutch figures correspond to one book each for 2.48% of the population, and a corresponding response in France would lead us to expect 1.47 million sales in the first 48 hours, although starting on a Wednesday is likely to slow things down.

According to Amazon.de, the German translation came out on the 8th of November, but I didn't notice the Beeb covering that release either. Following linkage from the Internationalistes again, then, we note that Germany (pop. 81.9 million) a rather larger first pressing:

Carlsen Verlag, the German publisher of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, has completed a first run of 2 million copies, and hopes that will sate the most hungry of German fans for the moment. More copies are already being printed.

Each of the first four books in the Harry Potter series had a print run of between 3.4 and 4.6 million copies.

I am close to demanding that someone tabulate initial print runs as a percentage of population for the new book (and final figures for the previous ones) and publication date for all languages of EU and EEA countries into which they have been translated (including Catalan and Swiss German, for sure). But that someone isn't going to be me, and don't think that it is.

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2003-12-03 early lunch, yum yum (utc)

Mette-Marit: My secret carpet hell

(Being a satire on the journalistique standards of the Tyska trashbladets, in which no disrespect to the Priceless Porcelain Heir-Cosy is intended.)

Plucky prinsess Mette-Marit has been afflicted with a disfiguring disease that is turning her into a human carpet, but has resolved to battle through it, experts say:

- Det är bra att hon jobbar på, så länge kroppen orkar med, säger Anne Tandberg, överläkare på Kvinnokliniken på Haukelands sjukhus till VG.

"It is good that she is working through this, so long as her body can take it," says Anne Tandberg, Overdoctor at the Wimminsclinic at Haukelands hospital to VG [a Norwegish tabloid].

Hoorah!

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2003-12-03 morning (utc)

Literature and other things in translation

Other things first. Germany is just crazy about Australian fiction, reports the Sidney Sydney Morning Herald:

Silvia Kuttny-Walser of Blanvalet, a mass-market imprint of Random House Germany, has 10 Australian authors on her list, including Tara Moss and Canberra crime writer Alex Palmer.

She published Agapanthus Tango, by David Francis, an Los Angeles- based Australian. "It has a similar feeling as The Thorn Birds. German readers always want The Thorn Birds - it really made an image of what Australia was like in the '20s and '30s. I've just republished it in paperback."

Having been, as I was in my youth, a boy, I was excused from reading The Thorn Birds (hoorah!), so I will pretend not to pass judgement on German taste.

Meanwhile, in the Junkudo bookshop ("bookstore") in Osaka, which bloody well is too Japan's second city and I dare you to come outside and say it isn't, punk:

The second floor of the immense bookstore is filled with endless shelves of popular culture -- books on film, theater, and pop stars of every kind -- as well as current Japanese fiction. But when one reaches the third floor, the display of intellectual fare is striking. When I visited, I looked to see how many books were available from not only the authors my own house publishes but also many of the others who are basic to Western intellectual life. Shelf after shelf, containing 20 to 30 titles, could be found entirely devoted to the works of Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, et al.

To be sure, the books grow in translation, so that the four volumes of Foucault's Dits et Ecrits have become 10 slimmer volumes in Japanese, an investment for the reader of close to $400. A little book based on interviews with Chomsky has already sold 20,000 copies. Even Arendt's neglected books, such as her life of Rahel Varnhagen, are available in Japanese, showing that publishers have sought to find every one of her books -- closer to the thoroughness of German publishing than to the far more haphazard patterns of the Anglo-Saxons.

I've probably been to that bookshop ("bookstore"), but Japanese bookshops ("bookstores") are not the easiest or most profitable places to navigate for the non-reader of Japanese, which I most certainly am, so I didn't notice all this stuff. And, as the article goes on to remark, nobody is actually reading it, so you won't see it anywhere else.

[linkages via La Muselivre]

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2003-12-02 post-prandial (utc)

The Herrings of Hansa: Unsung no longer

Well I've played the wild merchant for many a year
And I've spent all my moneys on herring and beer
And now I'm returning with barrels of fish
And soon I'll have all of the ale I could wish!

And it's hooray herring
When salty or plain,
I'll always be asking
For herring again!

[Trad., arr. O'Schütte-Kiesow]

It seems that the full skinny on the league of Hansa will have to wait until I've got the hang of German (which I am still working on, of course). Until then, though, lets cheer ourselves up with a nice song, and some historical remarks on the leagues' influence on the medieval beer trade:

Créée au douzième siècle, la ligue hanséatique est une confédération de marchands allemands. Harengs, sel, métaux, miel, ambre, bière et vins... La ligue hanséatique transporte de tout grâce à sa flotte privée, car c'est avant tout une puissance navale. La capacité d'un bateau de la hanse qu'on appelle des "hansa cog" est de 120 tonnes, et l'équipage comprend 14 à 25 hommes.

Created in the twelfth century, the Hanseatic league was a confederation of German merchants. Herring, salt, metals, honey, amber, beer and wines... The Hanseatic league transported everything thanks to its private fleet, because it was first of all a naval power. The capacity of the Hansa boat called a "Hansa cog" was of 120 tonnes and the crew consisted of 14 to 25 men.

The herrings of course were from the Baltic, but you will be anxious to hear, no doubt, where the beer came from. Calm yourself, Varied Reader, for the information you crave is at hand:

En 1500, six cents brasseries sont dénombrées à Hambourg, si bien que la ville y a gagné le surnom de "brasserie de la ligue hanséatique".

In 1500, six hundred breweries were counted in Hamburg; so many that the town was nicknamed "the brewery of the Hanseatic League".

Baltic herrings and German beers: as visions of Yoorp go, you could do a lot worse, for sure.

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2003-12-02 lunch (utc)

Prinsessgossiproundup

Kronprinsesselect Knudella of Denmark continues to make the headlines:

Mary er netop kåret som månedens mest elegante kvinde i det engelske blad Hello!Magazine.

Knudella ("Mary") is exactly voted as the month's most elegante woman in the UKish bladet Hello!Magazine.

(But is she snyggare än någonsin? Enquiring minds need to know!)

Meanwhile, former partyprinsess-turned-swot Madeleine of Sweden has been doing some sums:

Prinsessan Madeleine har fått sin första lön.
Och betalat skatt för första gången i sitt liv.

The prinsess Madeleine has had her first paycheck.
And is paying tax for the först time in her life.

She earned 38 700 kronor (2,989.53 GBP - the official international currency code for the pound sterling, the currency of the UK, and don't think I'm happy about that, because I'm not) last year, which is enough to fund approximately 20 of your earth minutes' worth of her lifestyle, probably. But the Swedish royals haven't paid tax at all up till now, so this is a precedent. (Have they officially had paid employment up till now?)

There is, you will be relieved to hear, a nice picture with this story. [Update: Further scrutiny of Madde's assets.]

[Thanks to prinsessspotters Anna Louise and Birgitte for the linkage.]

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2003-12-02 morning (utc)

Yoorp, Optional

Another day, another BBC article on Yoorp.

The hook this time is right at the bottom: a chart of the percentage of persons in various members of, immanent members of, and applicants to join the EU who declare themselves to be Yoorpeans as well as or instead of members of a national group.

Needless to say, even with Turkey, Malta and Cyprus on the list the UK (30-ish%) still comes bottom by a country mile. And I bet they don't declare themselves as UKish, either.

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2003-12-01 post-prandial (utc)

Indo-Yoorpean, Obsfuscated

A new article in Nature has been doing the rounds: here are some pertinent details:

Auckland University researchers have stunned academics around the world by tracing the origins of the English language to Turkish farmers.

[...]

Gray, an evolutionary biologist within the university's psychology department, said his results showed only the latter theory could be correct.

Gray said he had used computational methods derived from evolutionary biology to study the problem for the past five years.

(Emphasis added.) A lesser journal than Nature might have invited some historical linguists to review the submitted article, but why let being utter bollocks get in the way of announcing newly-broken ground in a shiny new interdiscipline? "Turkish farmers" means "farmers in what is now Turkey," of course, and we can put that one down to the journalistes, but we will note with not inconsiderable hilarity that:

Gray was encouraged that his research had been supported in the United States by Stanford University's eminent geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza.

When evolutionary psychologists and prominent geneticists agree, what business could historical linguists possibly have objecting?

(I'll link a comprehensive scholarly debunking when I get one.)

[Thanks to Anna Louise for the heads up that this one has now escaped into the Ordinary Press.]

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2003-12-01 still lunch (utc)

Dressrehearsal Drama

Kronprins Haakon of Norway, better known in these parts as Mette-Marit's husband, is being called upon to do an honest day's work:

Kronprins Haakon vil være regent i den tiden kong Harald er sykmeldt. Det betyr at han også må holde nyttårstalen.

Kronprins Haakon will be regent during the time king Harald is off sick. That means that he'll also give the newyearsspeech.

King Harald has cancer of the bladder, and, while he isn't a prinsess, we nonetheless wish him a swift recovery: much as we love Mette-Marit, queens just aren't as much fun as prinsessor, and we are in no rush to see her promoted.

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2003-12-01 lunchtime (utc)

Det bara regnar

(It just keeps raining.)

This is the traditional British form of snö, of course, but I remain unpatriotically unenthused about it. It's wet and not at all pretty: it's only when you walk in in the rain that you appreciate how far it is to walk. Too far, is how far it is.

Now I am going to go out, into the rain, to get a samwidge from, as you will appreciate, the nearest samwidge shop.

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2003-12-01 09:30 (UTC)

Quels bijoux portera la future mariée ?

And what sparklies shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow's weddings?
A hand-me-down set from who-knows-where
To all tomorrow's weddings

It's good to have Point de Vue back, for sure, although the coverage of the alleged President of the FDRUSA is the most politicised and acerbic I've ever seen them.

More importantly, though, there's in-depth coverage of the Knudellasparklyproblem: the downside of marrying random proles - however jolie - is that they come unequipped with trousseaux of a standard becoming a prinsess. So whence is to be procured a tiara?

Well, Désirée Clary, having been jilted by her erstwhile fiancé Napoleon Bonaparte, found comfort - and a husband - in Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, and when he was elected king (dilly dilly) of Sweden she became queen. And she wore a sumptous ruby tiara/crown thingy and was very royal indeed, notwithstanding.

And when she died, she bequeathed said sparklies to her daughter-in-law, Joséphine of Sweden (the grand-daughter of the Joséphine for whom she was jilted, in fact) who left them in turn to Louise, queen of Denmark in 1906. Who in turn gave them to Ingrid (a Swedish prinsess) for the occasion of her marriage to the kronprins of Denmark.

When Ingrid passed on in 2000, though, the divvying up of the spoils between her daughters, Margrethe II of Danmark, Queen Anne-Marie of Greece and the prinsess Benedikte de Sayn Wittgenstein Berleburg, left the rubilicious sparklitude other than accounted for, and it's a racing certainty, according to insiders, that they're being polished up for Knudella's big day. So there you go.

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