Danish princess riding high on royal award

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2001, 12:00am

You know how these Scandinavian royals can be for jumping on bicycles and public transport.

Well, Princess Alexandra of Denmark - the closest Hong Kong has come to royalty - has gone and got herself an elephant.

In fact, the princess - formerly Alexandra Manley of Discovery Bay - is only the second woman in history after Queen Margrethe to own one.

The Kingdom of Denmark's Order of the Elephant, or Elefantordenen, is believed to have been established in about 1462 with today's statutes laid down by King Christian V in 1693.

The award is presented to members of the Danish royal family, heads of state and similar distinguished individuals.

Women have been admitted only since April 9, 1958.

Denmark's Prince Joachim married the then Ms Manley - a former Island School pupil and daughter of a British father and Austrian mother, with a paternal Chinese grandmother - on November 18, 1995.

The Order of the Elephant is believed to be a product of Denmark's especially close historical relationship with Thailand.

The white, or albino, elephant is the Thai Royal family's most sacred emblem.

The elephant is said to represent purity and chastity because the Thais (and apparently the Danes) do not believe that elephants do it like the rest of us.

In the colonial period, the Thais, believing that they could not permanently fend off Western efforts at colonisation, avoided being swallowed up either by the British from the West or French from the East by cosying up to the one European country they felt was least likely to try to colonise them - Denmark. Denmark would then act as their sole window to the West and hopefully a deterrent to the voracious imperial powers of the period.

At the time, only Danish traders were invited to set up shop across the Chao Phraya river from the Thai royal city of Krung Thep.

The ploy appeared to work as Thailand remained one of the few countries in the region to escape colonisation. And it also helped Princess Alexandra of Denmark get an elephant.

Party time: The call from President Jiang Zemin for more businessmen to join The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may have fallen on a few deaf ears.

At a recent meeting, the founder of a sizeable mainland-based private business was asked if he was interested in joining the CCP, an offer once highly coveted in the past.

The answer was a resounding 'no'.

'There would have been so many meetings to attend after joining the Party that I probably would not have enough time to care for my own business,' he said.

Perhaps Mr Jiang should mind his own business.

The whole cab-oodle: How many phones have you left in a taxi? Two, three? What about laptop computers?

London's black cabs are a black hole for millions of pounds worth of mobile phones, laptops and personal digital assistants (PDAs), according to a survey. Forgetful travellers have left 62,000 mobiles, 2,900 laptops and 1,300 PDAs in London taxis over the past six months.

Cabbies found an average of three phones per taxi in that period, according to the survey by the Taxi Newspaper and security experts Pointsec Mobile Technologies.

Many people appeared to be relaxed about getting their mobiles back, with just half of the lost phones eventually being reclaimed.

But this was not the case with portable computers and PDAs, with owners coming back for 93 per cent of laptops and 85 per cent of PDAs.

Items left in taxies also included, sadly and bizarrely, a little girl, a basket with a cat in it and a goldfish in a water-filled bag.

On the plus side, one driver discovered a suitcase full of diamonds while another found GBP2,000 (about HK$22,681) in cash - although both were returned to their rightful owners.

Mmmm, Lai See can't quite see that happening here.

Graphic: whee03gbz