Saturday, April 14, 2012
Royal News Roundup
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Thais gathered to pay their respects at the funeral services for HRH Princess BejaratanaRajasuda Sirisobhabannavadi, the King’s cousin and only child of the late King Vajiravudh. Although the Princess died at the age of 85 in July of last year, this week had been chosen by the court astrologers as the most auspicious time for the funeral ceremonies to be held (not at all uncommon in that part of the world). In a rare public appearance, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej attended, despite his very frail health, accompanied by HM Queen Sirikit who has also suffered some health setbacks lately due to an assortment of ailments as well as her exertion in taking care of the King. The ceremonies included multiple processions, a symbolic cremation, 50 chanting Buddhist monks, a 21-gun salute by the Royal Thai Artillery. On the second day HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn oversaw the ceremonies and on the third day the relics of the late Princess were returned to the Royal Mausoleum at Wat Ratchabophit.
On Wednesday, in a lavish and colorful ceremony, the new King of Malaysia, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah of Kedah, was formally enthroned as “Yang di-Pertuan Agong” (He Who Is Made Lord) in the throne room at the national royal palace in Kuala Lumpur. The Sultan is the 14th King of Malaysia and this is actually the second time that the 84-year-old Sultan has been through this ceremony as he had previously served as King in the 1970’s. The new King took his oath to rule Malaysia fairly, ensure justice in government and uphold the Islamic faith. In his speech the newly enthroned monarch called on all Malaysians to do their part for national prosperity rather than depending solely on government programs. The King also said, “The competition in today’s world is very stiff and challenging. So the people should be prepared to shoulder their responsibilities and discharge their duties to the best of their ability”. Congratulations to the King and the loyal people of Malaysia!
In Japan, doctors last Friday issued a report on the troubled condition of HIH Crown Princess Masako saying that the 48-year-old who has been mostly absent from public view for the last ten years is, “in a situation where her health condition can easily worsen due to accumulated fatigue”. Doctor Kyoji Komachi was quick to add that, “It does not mean that the Crown Princess’ conditions are getting worse. I would like people to warmly watch the Crown Princess”. They recommended more rest before slowly returning to royal engagements. The former diplomat married HIH Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993 and since 2003 has rarely appeared in public or undertaken any royal duties due to being, more or less, overly stressed. What she has to be stressed about these days (the pressure to produce a male heir being relaxed) I cannot say and, as this has been going on for a decade now, I cannot say I realistically hold out much hope anymore that she will ever be a “normal” royal consort. One thing that does seem evident to me, if she has had this much difficulty with the relatively sheltered life of the Japanese Imperial Family, she should thank the Shinto gods she didn’t marry into a European Royal Family where the public scrutiny is constant and the media less than respectful to say the least.
In the southern African absolute monarchy of Swaziland there have been new protests planned by labor activists and student pro-democracy advocates against the government. In the last year such protests have become a frequent occurrence in the African nation where activists have drawn a sharp contrast between the poor of the population (currently enduring a financial crisis) and their traditional King Mswati III who made Forbes magazine list as one of the 15 wealthiest monarchs in the world. Most revenue in Swaziland comes from the Southern African Customs Union but customs receipts have been sharply declining recently. At the height of the financial crisis King Mswati III claimed it was unfair that South Africa did not grant Swaziland an economic “bail out” when the same was being done for countries in Europe. The government recently closed down the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland and dissident groups have been banned. However, trade unions, student groups, religious groups and NGO’s are still vehicles for the opposition who are preparing for upcoming elections. Observers, however, doubt these groups will have much immediate success.
On the European front, there was a scare for the Spanish Royal Family this week when the King’s 13-year-old grandson, Felipe Marichalar Borbon (son of HRH Infanta Elena) accidentally shot himself in the foot while learning to use a shotgun on Monday at a royal estate in north-central Spain. The boy was moved to a hospital in Madrid and has been doing very well but the incident has aroused criticism of the boy’s father, Jaime de Marital (who is divorced from Infanta Elena), for allowing the boy to handle a firearm before he was legally old enough to do so. Spanish law says that children under 14 are not allowed to use firearms and Felipe is still 13, he will be 14 in three months. Infanta Elena and HM Queen Sofia have visited the boy in the hospital who is currently fifth in line to the Spanish throne. The accident, coming so near Easter, brought up memories of Easter week in 1956 when the future King Juan Carlos witnessed the accidental shooting and death of his younger brother Prince Alfonso in Portugal.
There was also a scare in Britain this week when Lady Louise Windsor, 8-year-old daughter of TRH the Earl and Countess of Wessex, was rushed to the hospital after falling from her pony. She was wearing a hat and back brace and her injuries were not serious. The Countess of Wessex canceled an engagement to go to the hospital with her but Prince Edward stuck to his established schedule. Buckingham Palace issued a statement but did not say where the accident occurred or where Lady Louise is being treated.
HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark went on a 3-day visit to Rome this week and along with the Danish Minister of Culture met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the Quirinale Palace on Thursday. In Norway a recent poll showed continued support and confidence for the Royal Family. An NRK poll returned a heartening result that 93% of Norwegians approve of the job being done by HM King Harald V (numbers which would be absolutely impossible for any republic). HM Queen Sonja was given an 81% approval rating, the Crown Prince 89% and the Crown Princess 79%. Unfortunately the controversial (though unjustifiably so) Princess Martha Louise had only a 25% approval and her husband a mere 5% but, of course, they are kept somewhat apart from the rest of the Royal Family so such numbers are really of little importance. The overall evaluation is an extremely encouraging with a vast majority of Norwegians approving of the job their Royal Family is doing and how they represent the Kingdom of Norway. Truly they should be congratulated for a job well done.