Prince Henrik, husband of Danish monarch, dies at age 83

Danish Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik greet well-wishers from the balcony on the occasion of the Queen’s 76th birthday celebration at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen in this April 16, 2016 photo. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Prince Henrik, husband of Danish monarch, dies at age 83

COPENHAGEN: Prince Henrik, the French-born husband of Danish monarch Queen Margrethe who publicly vented his frustration at not being the social equal of his wife or their son in line to become Denmark’s king, died late Tuesday. He was 83.
He was diagnosed with dementia last year and his health has worsened recently. Henrik had been transferred earlier in the day from a Copenhagen hospital to the family’s residence north of the capital, “where he wishes to spend his last moments,” the royal palace had said.
A later statement said Henrik died at 11:18pm in his sleep and that the queen and their two sons were at his side.
In one of the world’s oldest kingdoms that prides itself on having a stable royal house with no scandals, Henrik caused one in August 2017 by announcing that when he died he did not want to be buried next to Margrethe in the cathedral where the remains of Danish royals have gone for centuries. The queen already had a specially designed sarcophagus waiting for the couple.
Born on June 11, 1934, in southwestern France to parents with the noble titles of count and countess, Henri Marie Jean Andre de Laborde de Monpezat married Denmark’s future queen in 1967.
Henri became Henrik and converted to Denmark’s state Lutheran Church. However, he found it difficult to fit in with Denmark’s egalitarian lifestyle.
He was titled prince consort — the husband of a reigning queen but not a king — and he was not in the line of succession — his oldest son Frederik being the heir.
Shortly after the royal marriage, media criticized Henrik because he had openly aired his views that spanking was good for children. In the mid-1980s, Henrik publicly said he wanted a paycheck instead of relying on the queen, who gets annual allowances.
The law was eventually changed to give him roughly 10 percent of the annual allocation Parliament makes to royals each year.
In a 2002 interview, Henrik again stunned Danes by saying he felt he had been pushed aside in his own home, not only by his wife but also by his son. This followed the annual royal New Year’s reception for foreign diplomats, where Frederik had been host because his mother was unavailable due to a broken rib.
“For many years I have been No. 2,” Henrik told Danish tabloid B.T. “I have been satisfied with that role, but after so many years in Denmark I don’t suddenly want to become number three and become some kind of wearisome attachment.”
Henrik lived his first five years in French Indochina. He graduated from universities in Paris, learned Mandarin and Vietnamese and spent a year at the Hong Kong University from 1958-1959.
After his move to Denmark, Henrik, a keen pianist, was active in different organizations and wrote poetry, memoirs and books, including a coffee table book on French gastronomy in 1999.
Margrethe and Henrik also owned a chateau in southwestern France where they retreated every summer.
As a member of Denmark’s royal family, he held honorary ranks of general in the Danish army and air force, and was an admiral in the navy.
In September 2017, the palace announced that Henrik had undergone tests at Copenhagen’s university hospital. The diagnosis was dementia and “the extent of the cognitive failure is greater than expected,” the palace said.
In January, he was admitted to a hospital with a lung infection.
On Friday, the royal palace said his condition had “seriously worsened” and Crown Prince Frederik, a member of the International Olympic Committee, was rushing home from the Winter Games in South Korea.
Henrik is survived by his wife, sons Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim, and eight grandchildren.


Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

Updated 23 May 2018
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Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

  • Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish
  • Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy

KABUL: One of the only Qur’ans ever made from silk fabric has been completed in Afghanistan — a feat its creators hope will help preserve the country’s centuries-old tradition of calligraphy.
Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish.
Bound in goat leather and weighing 8.6 kilograms, the Qur’an was produced by Afghan artisans, many of them trained at British foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul.
“Our intention was to ensure that calligraphy does not die out in this country — writing is part of our culture,” Khwaja Qamaruddin Chishti, a 66-year-old master calligrapher, said in a cramped office inside Turquoise Mountain’s labyrinthine mud-brick and wood-paneled complex.
With the Qur’an considered a sacred text, calligraphy is highly venerated in Islam and Islamic art.
“When it comes to art we cannot put a price on it. God has entrusted us with this work (the Qur’an) ... and this means more to us than the financial aspect,” Chishti continued.
Using a bamboo or reed ink pen, Chishti and his fellow calligraphers spent up to two days carefully copying Qur’anic verses onto a single page — sometimes longer if they made a mistake and had to start again.
They used the Naskh script, a calligraphic style developed in early Islam to replace Kufic because it was easier to read and write.
The decoration around the script, known as illumination, was more time-consuming, each page taking more than a week to complete.
A team of artists used paint made from natural materials, including ground lapis, gold and bronze, to recreate the delicate patterns popular during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries in the western city of Herat.
“All the colors we have used are from nature,” Mohammad Tamim Sahibzada, a master miniature artist who was responsible for creating the vibrant colors used in the Qur’an, said.
Sahibzada said working on silk fabric for the first time was challenging. The locally sourced material — all 305 meters (1,000 feet) of it — was treated in a solution made from the dried seeds of ispaghula, or psyllium, to stop the ink from spreading.
Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy.
It hopes the silk Qur’an will generate demand for more handmade Islamic religious texts that could create employment for its artisans and help finance the institute.
“We will show it to other Islamic countries to see if it is possible to create job opportunities for graduates to work on another Qur’an,” said Abdul Waheed Khalili, the organization’s Afghan director.
For now, it will be kept in a specially made hand-carved walnut wooden box to protect its delicate pages from the elements at Turquoise Mountain’s offices, which are in the restored Murad Khani, a historic commercial and residential area in Kabul’s oldest district.
There Turquoise Mountain has trained thousands of artisans with the support of Britain’s Prince Charles, the British Council, and USAID.
“The copying of the Qur’an onto silk is very rare,” country director Nathan Stroupe said.
He said the project has been “an amazing way to train our students at an incredibly high level in a very traditional type of work.”
“If a book collector in London... was interested in it, we would be thinking in the $100,000 to $200,000 (price) range,” he added.