From flouting lockdown to rejoining the military: How Europe’s royals have coped during the pandemic

Guy Kelly
Belgian Prince Joachim, centre, tested positive for coronavirus after breaking lockdown rules to party in Spain - Rex

Spare a thought for the royals: it isn’t easy to know what's the right thing to do in a pandemic. Get too involved and you could be accused of meddling in matters best left to experts; go into hiding and you could be accused of shirking responsibilities.

Knowing what’s the wrong thing to do is a lot simpler, and high on the list headed ‘What on earth are you playing at?’ is to fly across Europe for an internship in Spain, then instantly travel across that country to attend an illegal 27-person high-society lockdown party, whereupon you contract coronavirus and have to publicly apologise.

That was how the end of last week panned out for the 10th in line to the Belgian throne, 28-year-old Prince Joachim. On Sunday he said he deeply regretted his actions, and would accept “all the consequences” – which may include a fine, as well as whatever comes of the mild symptoms he’s been experiencing after testing positive for Covid-19.

The Queen was seen riding in Windsor Home Park over the weekend - Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Joachim’s at one end of the spectrum, then. But how have the other minor (and major) royals of Europe fared during the pandemic?

King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain

King Felipe and Queen Letizia observing a minute's silence last week with their daughters Princess Leonor (left) and Infanta Sofia (right - AFP

While young Belgian princes have frolicked around Spain, the country’s native royalty has gone back to work. Earlier in the crisis Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia were active on video calls, frequently communicating with politicians, armed forces personnel and health workers.

But now the lockdown is easing in Spain, they have resumed face-to-face engagements. And they look as chic as ever doing it: as well as masks, the pair have taken to wearing assassin-style black leather gloves in public. 

Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden

Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden - Getty

Comfortably Europe’s most attractive royal couple, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden have also been two of the most proactive during the pandemic. Princess Sofia, 35, a former model and reality television contestant, signed up to take a three-day medical course and became a healthcare assistant.

Not to be outdone, Carl Philip, 40, then rejoined the military. The King’s only son, who was a Major in the Swedish Navy, has been serving as a reserve officer at the Operations Command Centre, which is supporting and coordinating the country's response to the crisis.

Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, Duchess of Brabant

Princess Elisabeth last year - AFP

Her cousin, Joachim, may have brought some shame on the family, but the heir apparent to the Belgian throne, 18-year-old Princess Elisabeth, has only seen her star rise. Elisabeth had been in Wales studying for her International Baccalaureate at UWC Atlantic College in Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan, but returned to Belgium at the beginning of lockdown to complete her schooling remotely.

It’s since been announced that she will follow family tradition by enrolling at the Belgian Military Academy in Brussels in the autumn but, in the meantime, newspapers have reported a ‘Kate Effect’ occurring: A photograph was released showing the princess jogging in a pair of ‘Liebaert Textiles’ leggings, and within days, the independent Belgian athleisure brand was inundated with orders. One hiccup: they’d already sold out. The 'Elisabeth Effect' has begun…

Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia

Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia and Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia in 2019 - Getty

The 76-year-old wife of Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevi, heir to Serbia’s now-defunct throne, may not technically rule over anything these days, but even from voluntary lockdown in her palace in Belgrade, she remains a tireless philanthropist.

Through one of her charities, the Princess Katherine Foundation, she has donated £450,000 in medical supplies to 17 hospitals across the Republic. “I pray that as this epidemic is slowing down, our country will prove that everyone has learned ‘The Joy of Giving’,” she said. Indeed.

Princess Talita von Fürstenberg

A member of the German Princely family of Fürstenberg, ‘TVF’ (like her grandmother Diane, she is a fashion designer, and doesn’t use the ‘Princess’ title anymore as Americans don’t understand it) has had to endure having her 21st birthday party in lockdown at home in Malibu.

It didn’t look too painful, though: an Instagram post from the day shows her surrounded by cakes, balloons, flowers, an ocean vista and birthday messages from Gwyneth Paltrow and Karlie Kloss, among others. Stay strong.​

Princess Theodora of Greece

The 36-year-old actress, who was raised in London, should have married American lawyer Matthew Kumar at a star-studded (her father, King Constantine, is a second cousin of Prince Charles and godfather to the Duke of Cambridge) wedding on the Greek island of Spetses this month.

Alas, that has officially been postponed, but Theodora still posed for a photo with Kumar on what would have been their wedding day, May 26. In it, they toasted with champagne, wore the national flag's blue and white, and posed in front of, yes, a massive Greek salad.