Meet the foreign Royals with a passion for horses

By Clara Sieve on |


Queen Maxima of the Netherlands

Spanning four generations, the British Royal Family’s passion for horses is legendary. It has given the country two Olympic riders—Princess Anne and Zara Tindall—and has helped support virtually every equestrian sport, from polo and racing to eventing and, thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh, carriage driving. But the British royals are not the only ones with an equestrian connection. Many royal families from around the world have a close relationship with horses, with some reaching the pinnacle of equestrian sports in the countries. Find out who they are.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his Argentinian wife, Queen Maxima (also pictured at the top of the page), share a passion for riding. The couple met at the Seville Spring Fair in Spain in 1999 and, for a time, Queen Maxima, then Maxima Zorreguieta, was unaware that Willem-Alexander was the Crown Prince of the Netherlands. They married in 2002 and have three daughters, Catharine-Amalia, Princess of Orange, Princess Alexia and Princess Ariane.

King Willem-Alexander was a member of the International Olympic Committee until his accession to the throne in 2013. An equestrian therapy centre for disabled children in Den Dolder, The Netherlands, is named after Queen Maxima, and members of the Royal Family, including Princess (formerly Queen) Beatrice have been known to volunteer there.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima’s eldest daughter, Catharine-Amalia, Princess of Orange is also a keen rider.

Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary Of Denmark

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (née Mary Donaldson) was born in Australia and met Crown Prince Frederick at a pub in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics. Just like Queen Maxima of The Netherlands, Mary didn’t know at first that Frederick was Crown Prince of Denmark. The two share a passion for riding — Princess Mary used to compete when she was young and the Royal couple have been spotted riding both at Graasten Palace and during trips.

Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary Of Denmark married in 2004 and have four children, Prince Christian, Princess Isabella, and twins Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine. The little Princess, who loves riding, last year broke her arm after falling from her horse during a lesson.

Princess Haya of Jordan

The daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and his third wife, Queen Alia, Princess Haya lost her mother at a very young age and found a measure of consolation in her horses. She later became the first woman to represent her country in equestrian sports, winning a bronze medal at the 1992 Pan-Arabic Games and taking part both in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and in the World Equestrian Games at Jerez de la Frontera in 2002. She was elected President of the FEI first in 2006 and then in 2010 (winning the second election amid controversy over her management style).

Princess Haya is the junior wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, the founder of the Godolphin racing stables, with whom she has two children, Sheikha Al Jalila bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. She sits on the Honorary Board of the International Paralympic Committee.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the ruler of Brunei, has a real passion for polo (as well as cars — he has a gold-coated Rolls Royce). He has more than 200 ponies (which he keeps in air conditioned stables) and often asks many top Argentinian players over to Brunei for tournaments. He plays regularly at home and abroad — he has been on the same team as Prince Charles and Prince William on charity matches.

The Sultan has twelve children from his wife, Pengiran Anak Saleha, and his two former wives, Aisha Mariam and Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim. Some of them, such as Princess Azeemah and Prince Abdul Mateen, enjoy polo, too, and play alongside or against their father.

The Sultan doesn’t lack space to enjoy his hobbies — his Palace, Istana Nurul Iman, has some 1,800 rooms and is deemed to be the largest private home in the world.

Charlotte Casiraghi of Monaco

The daughter of Caroline, Princess of Hanover (and of Monaco) and the late Stefano Casiraghi, Charlotte Casiraghi started competing in Junior showjumping classes in 2001 as part of Marcel Rozier’s Team Marionnaud. She started taking part in the Longines Global Champions Tour in 2009.

Casiraghi, who has a son, Raphael, with her former partner, stand-up comedian Gad Elmaleh, is one of the official equestrian ambassadors of Italian fashion house Gucci.

Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg

The niece of both the Queen of Denmark and the former Queen of Greece, Princess Nathalie is an accomplished dressage rider.

Having trained first with Kyra Kyrklund then with Klaus Balkenhol, she represented Denmark in the 2001 European Championship, where she won a bronze medal, and in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, where she won team bronze and placed fourth respectively.

Princess Nathalie is married to Alexander Johannsmann, a German horse breeder with whom she has a son, Konstantin Gustav Heinrich Richard, and a daughter, Louisa Margareta Benedikte Hanna, and runs her own stud.

Prince Faisal Al Shalan

A member of the Saudi Royal family, Prince Faisal Al Shalan started riding as a child and won his first competition when he was seven. It was the beginning of a successful career that has seen him represent Saudi Arabia at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the World Equestrian Games in 2006 and 2014.

Prince Faisal Al Shalan won team gold at the Pan-Arab Games in Cairo in 2007 and again in Doha in 2011 before landing team silver at the Asian Games in Incheon in 2014.

Princess Madeleine of Sweden

Princess Madeleine of Sweden, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland, is the youngest child of the King and Queen of Sweden. Passionate about horses, she took part in showjumping competition using the name Anna Svensson. Later, in 2001, she created a scholarship fund to support young riders.

Married to American businessman Christopher O’Neill, Princess Madeleine has two children, Princess Leonore and Prince Nicolas. The family lives in London. Princess Madeleine’s older sister, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, also enjoys riding.

Sheikha Latifa bint Ahmed Al Maktoum

A member of the Dubai Royal family, Sheikha Latifa bint Ahmed Al Maktoum began jumping when she was 13 and went on to represent the United Arab Emirates at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and at the World Equestrian Games in lexington, Kentucky, in 2010. She also won team-bronze at the Asian Games in Doha in 2006 and individual and team-silver at the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010.

Sheikha Latifa, who trains with Eric Levallois in France, also active in raising the profile of the sport in the United Arab Emirates.

Infanta Elena of Spain, Duchess of Lugo

The Duchess of Lugo is the eldest daughter of Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos II, and sister of the current king, Felipe VI. Passionate about horses, she competes in showjumping both in national competitions and on the Longines Global Champions circuit. Even when not competing herself, she is a regular at Spain’s main equestrian events, such as the Madrid Horse Week.

The Duchess has two children — a boy, Felipe, and a girl, Victoria — with her former husband, Jaime de Marichalar. Victoria, who is sixteen years old, is a keen rider like her mother.

Prince Abdullah Al-Saud

One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent riders, Prince Abdullah Al-Saud was part of the team that won bronze at the London Olympic Games in 2012. The Prince also claimed individual and team gold at the Pan Arab Games in 2007 and team gold at the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games.

Having retired from competitive riding, he is now a patron of the King Abdullah Show Jumping Festival.

Top image: Queen Maxima of The Netherlands by Erwin Olaf, public domain


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