The big royal news in the Far East has been the royal transition in the Kingdom of Malaysia. HM King Mizan Zainal Abidin ended his 5-year term on Monday as the thirteenth King, or more precisely as Yang di-Pertuan Agong or “He Who Is Made Lord” of Malaysia. The Prime Minister congratulated the out-going monarch (who of course remains Sultan of Terengganu, don’t panic) on his able leadership, smooth and steady reign and his personality humility and good character. On Tuesday the formal installation ceremonies were held for his successor, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah of Kedah, who now has the unprecedented honor of being the King of Malaysia for the second time in his lifetime. His is 84-years-old, making him the oldest King Malaysia has ever had, and he’s a Sinatra fan. Also in Asia, this week the King and Queen of Bhutan attended the start of a new tradition, the Dochula Druk Wangyel festival, which honors the fourth King of Bhutan and the Bhutanese army for defending the country. There were traditional dances and special prayers were sung which had been written by the King.
On the southern European front, Spain was hit by a royal scandal. Iñaki Urdangarin, Duke of Palma, husband of HRH Infanta Cristina, had been accused of embezzlement in his role as head of a non-profit organization from 2004-2006. The Duke said that he regrets the trouble this has caused the King and Royal Family who had nothing to do with his activities in that regard. The Duke maintains his innocence but has been excluded from any formal royal duties because of his connection to the scandal, which has caused particular outrage in Spain which is deeply in debt and has a huge unemployment problem. The scandal and the class warfare (for lack of a better term) being stirred up have caused the Spanish monarchy considerable harm. So far, King Juan Carlos himself is still respected (as he consistently has been throughout his reign) but support for the monarchy overall has dropped recently. Yet, the royal duties continue. On Tuesday, the King and Queen attended the opening of a new exhibition at the National Library of Spain and on Thursday Queen Sofia was on her own attending the ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Special Operations Command of the Spanish military. HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover was honored for her humanitarian work on Monday in Germany. Meanwhile, her eldest son, Andrea Casiraghi, was inducted into the Order of the Golden Tankard by his uncle Prince Albert II, patron of the group, and the other members of the beer appreciation club at the Hotel de Paris. Prince Albert and Princess Charlene later carried on another time-honored tradition in Monaco by handing out Christmas presents to Monegasque children at the Princely Palace.
In the Low Countries the biggest news this week was the tragic mass murder in Liege, Belgium. Five were killed and dozens wounded on Tuesday when Nordine Amrani, a Moroccan Belgian and ex-con, went on a killing spree before taking his own life. Authorities are still trying to determine a motive for the tragedy and have stated it was not an act of political terrorism and that Amrani was not a practicing Muslim who didn’t even speak Arabic. The King and Queen visited Liege that very evening to meet with survivors and the families of the victims. On Wednesday TRH Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde traveled to Liege University Hospital to also visit the victims recovering there and sign the book of condolences. The monarchs of Luxembourg and the Netherlands as well as a number of other government leaders in Europe sent message of sympathy to the Kingdom of Belgium over the tragedy.
In Scandinavia the big royal event was the Nobel Prize awards. On Saturday, in Oslo, the King, Queen, Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway met with the three ladies who won the Nobel Peace Prize before attending the award ceremony. The winners this year were President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia along with Tawakkul Karman, a journalist and political activist from Yemen. The rest of the prizes were given out in Sweden. The awards presentation was attended by the King and Queen, Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip, as well as the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg who were there to congratulate one of the winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine, a Frenchman born in Luxembourg. On a different note, HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark visited London this week to take care of her Christmas shopping and enjoy a little private time away from it all. Other than shopping the Queen took in a performance of “Richard II” at Covent Garden.