Hollywood love affairs, abdications and modern monarchs: A crash course on European royals

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Tomorrow is a red-letter day for continental royalty with the Belgian crown prince, Philippe, ascending to the throne vacated by his father, King Albert II, to become the seventh King of Belgium.

TIMELINE

HOLLYWOOD TALE

1956

Actress Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier III of Monaco. They have three kids, Caroline, Albert and Stéphanie.

DARK DAYS

1966

There are violent protests as Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands marries Claus von Amsberg, a former member of Hitler Youth.

DAISY AGE

1972

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, known affectionately as 'Daisy', ascends to the throne after the death of her father, King Frederik IX.

REIGN IN SPAIN

1975

Franco dies and King Juan Carlos becomes first reigning monarch since 1931, helping steer the country towards democracy.

PRINCESS FROM WALES

1976

Miner's daughter weds Sweden's Prince Bertil, becoming Princess Lilian. The romance was long unofficial as she was a 'commoner'.

OLD GUARD

1991

Popular King Olav V, a symbol of resistance against Nazi Germany's occupation of Norway, dies after a heart attack – succeeded by his son, Harald.

REGAL CASE

2012

Inaki Urdangarin, the King of Spain's son-in-law, is accused of misusing millions in public funds given to a charity he ran.

DUTCH COURAGE

2013

Queen Beatrix, 75, abdicates saying it's time for a "new generation" to rule. Son Willem-Alexander, 46, becomes King.

GRACEFUL EXIT

2013

In a TV address, the King of the Belgians, Albert II, abdicates. The 79-year-old says he is too poorly to fulfil duties.

Profile: The record holder

On the taut face of it, the 18th Duchess of Alba appears to be a classic example of historic European royal excess.

With 44 noble titles and 150 inherited ones, María del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva – Cayetana to her pals – has been declared the planet's most-titled noble by Guinness World Records.

She has so much land in Spain that, according to El Pais, "it is reputed she could travel from one end of the country to the other through her estates".

Her romantic life has long been followed by the Spanish press, with El Pais also speculating that "there have been rumours of lovers from the worlds of bullfighting and flamenco".

Two years ago, aged 85, she married her third husband Alfonso Díez, a stylish civil servant, a mere 24 years her junior. She is believed to have given up her large fortune to her children in order to win their support for the match.

Marrying for love not money? Sounds like rather a modern royal, actually.

By Luke Blackall

How to: Marry a Euro royal

Snagging a continental royal is a bit like marrying a footballer, but for posh people – and there's less scrutiny than with the Windsors, so you can enjoy the pomp without the pressure...

You might not have to try – just be in the right place at the right time. Marie-Chantal Miller, a London heiress, met Greece's Crown Prince Pavlos on a blind date. Lilian Davies was a hostess at a gambling club when she met Prince Bertil of Sweden. So stay focused and be ready to swoop.

Royals aren't above marrying the help, as was the case with Stéphanie of Monaco and her bodyguard – and Sweden's Princess Victoria who tied the knot with her fitness trainer. Perhaps you could tend to the royal gardens, or become a dashing butler.

In 2002, journalist Letizia Ortiz was covering an oil spill when she met the heir to the Spanish throne, who was on hand helping the needy. Need we say more? Creating an environmental disaster to bag a royal might take some doing, but then, nothing in life comes easy.

By Liam O'Brien

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