In the Far East, last Saturday Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited Okinawa for the first time in eight years where Their Majesties met with survivors of the battle there and paid their respects to those who lost their lives in the brutal battle that saw the largest amphibious assault of World War II in the Asia-Pacific theater. This was the fourth visit of the Imperial Couple since His Majesty became Emperor of Japan. During the four day trip Their Majesties visited the peace memorial, the national cemetery for war dead and had exchanges with several groups of survivors. One such survivor was Masakatsu Takara who lost nine family members on the Tsuchima Maru, a civilian ship evacuating civilians which was sunk by an American submarine, taking the lives of 1,400 people on board, about half of whom were children. This tragedy bears a special significance for the Imperial Couple who say a special prayer every year on the anniversary of the sad event. All those present were deeply touched by the concern of Their Majesties and hoped they would visit again. A diary, just made public, revealed that His Majesty the Showa Emperor had previously sought to visit Okinawa shortly after it reverted to Japanese control but was never able to do so. Also, in a recent interview, HIH Princess Hisako of Takamado spoke of how she still misses her late husband, Prince Takamado, even ten years after his death. And, to the south, on Sunday, President Obama and Secretary Clinton visited HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great of Thailand at the Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok where the King has been staying since 2009.
In the Middle East, despite the near war in Gaza, the embattled King of Jordan remained in the news. In a meeting with former British PM Tony Blair, King Abdullah II called for, “the need to speed up regional and international efforts to bring an immediate halt to Israeli aggression and military escalation” and called the Israeli air campaign against Hamas rocket sites and leaders a, “dangerous threat to the security and stability of the region, increasing the suffering of Palestinians in the strip”. He called again for a “two-state solution”. However, his own problems closer to home remain as the people protesting in the streets take on a more anti-monarchy tone. Some still claim the King is not the target of their anger but demonstrations increasingly include chants of “Down, down with the king”. Protests have turned violent and have provoked clashes with police forces. The howling mob blame the democratic reforms the King introduced for not going far enough. One member of the Muslim Brotherhood stated that they were not calling for the overthrow of the King but held the anger against him out as a warning to give in to their demands.
On the European front, TSH the Prince and Princess of Monaco presided over National Day celebrations with HSH Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein as their special guest of honor. In the Low Countries, Belgian Crown Prince Philippe and Crown Princess Mathilde came to the Commonwealth of Australia at the behest of the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency and which includes a delegation seeking closer ties between Australian and Belgian universities in several areas. In The Netherlands, HRH Princess Margriet was awarded an honorary law degree by McMaster University in Canada for her lifelong commitment to humanitarian causes. Closer to home, there may be signs of a turnaround for Prince Friso who has been in a coma for the last nine months following a skiing accident. Previous reports seemed to say to expect the worst but now tests have shown “signs of limited awareness”. The second son of HM Queen Beatrix is being treated in Wellington hospital in London for severe brain damage after being buried in an avalanche for 25 minutes. His wife, Mabel, said, “This is the most challenging period of my life. My love for Friso, the support of family and friends, and the many signs of compassion give me strength in these difficult times”. On a happier note, Princess Maxima of Orange and her girls were on hand to welcome Santa Claus (or Sinterklaas) to Scheveningen as part of a long standing tradition honoring the national patron St Nicholas.
Up in Scandinavia, HM the King of Norway is still apologizing over that medal controversy from last week. In Sweden, HM King Carl XVI Gustaf handed out the Prince Eugen medals for artistic achievement while the Queen met with leaders from North Africa. HRH Princess Madeleine, back in the USA, visited Lawrence County, Ohio to check in on the GRADS project that supports teenage parents (“mothers” would probably be more accurate, I saw no dads in the pictures). Across the North Sea in Britain, HRH the Prince of Wales has agreed to a secret out-of-court settlement to the butler who claims he was “bullied” for refusing to work at Clarence House. The Prince of Wales also said that if he we don’t all embrace the “green” movement we’re pretty much all going to die! I for one am quite confident I’m going to die in any event. A recent poll showed that HRH the Duke of Cambridge is the most popular royal in recent history with HM the Queen taking second place in “job approval” and Prince Harry coming in third. And in a bit of heartwarming news HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this week making Her Majesty the longest wedded monarch in British history.
In more sober news, HM King Juan Carlos I of Spain entered the hospital on Friday for hip replacement surgery, his sixth operation in two years and the most extensive I think so far. However, His Catholic Majesty was his usual casual self about it, joking with reporters that, “Today I am definitely going into the workshop” as he entered the San Jose Hospital in Madrid. All of this comes at a difficult time for the Spanish monarchy as economic problems have caused many to lash out in any direction and seize on anyone as a focus of public anger. It does not help that the King’s son-in-law is now facing a four million euro bail payment and that the King’s private (and privately funded) trip to Africa was overblown to such an extent. Protests against government cut-backs have become common, with many of the protestors carrying republican flags and there has been growing support for the secession of Catalonia. God save the Kingdom of Spain.