Going from east to west, on Sunday HIH Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan played a viola made of driftwood from a tsunami-ravaged city in Tohoku at a concert by his alma mater’s orchestra. Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress and HIH Crown Princess Masako also attended the performance of Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony”. HIH the Crown Prince displayed the viola for the crowd afterwards which was made by Tokyo violin maker Muneyuki Nakazawa which also includes part of the now famous “miracle pine” which withstood the monstrous waves in Iwate Prefecture. An image of the tree is displayed on the back of the instrument. In the Middle East, HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, released 973 prisoners to mark the start of Ramadan. In neighboring Saudi Arabia the King took the occasion to issue a statement which condemned those who committed crimes in the name of religion, doing harm to the reputation of Islam for self-interested motives. He also condemned ideological divisions and those who adhere to political parties. Some bad news for the Qatar royals came on Wednesday when the Hotel Lambert in Paris, France was engulfed in flames during renovation work. The hotel was recently purchased by the brother of the Emir of Qatar.
On the continent of Europe, King Constantine II of Greece was released from the Bioclinic in Athens after being admitted early in the week for a bladder infection while on holiday with the Royal Family in Porto Cheli in the Peloponnese. The King thanked his doctor and the nursing staff “for their attendance and care”. In Rome, HH Pope Francis is doing what many expected (and hoped for) at the time of his election by taking sweeping measures in reforming and strengthening the legal code of Vatican City, designating as criminal offenses for which Church authorities could prosecute the leaking of information, mismanagement of funds and causing harm to or having any improper contact with a minor. The laws apply to clerics and laypeople who live and work in the Vatican. Pope Francis also called for solidarity with immigrants, speaking on an Italian island that is a major thoroughfare for Africans coming to Europe, usually claiming refugee status. The Pontiff also chastised Christians for failing to see such migrants as brothers and sisters and putting personal comfort ahead of the needs of immigrants. The Pope has also been receiving a great deal of secular praise recently with Vanity Fair (Italy) naming him “Man of the Year” and even included a quote from Elton John (previously known for his scathing criticism of Benedict XVI and John Paul II) praising Pope Francis for his humility and concern for the poor.
In the Low Countries TM King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands made their first visit (as King and Queen consort) to the United Kingdom where they met with HM Queen Elizabeth II. It was also announced this week that Prince Johan Friso has left the hospital and returned home to The Netherlands where he will be under continued medical care and observation. He remains in only a semi-conscious state since his skiing accident in Austria. All our moral support still goes to his family. Meanwhile, in neighboring Belgium, all the talk continues to be about the upcoming abdication of King Albert II and the succession of the Duke of Brabant. It was announced that Albert II will retain his title of King after leaving the throne and that the Duke of Brabant will be known as “King Philippe I” rather than “King Leopold IV” (as expected). Expect this to be a cause for invented-controversy when it comes to the royal monogram as a choice will have to be made between the Dutch and French spellings of the name (“P” or “F”). It is my understanding that the official spelling will be the French version but I could be wrong. In the past, Belgian monarchs have, other than King Baudouin, tended to favor names that were the same in both languages. It was also announced this week that the Duke of Brabant will be promoted to the highest rank in the Belgian armed forces in preparation for his becoming King. Some Flemish republican politicians have already said they will be boycott the swearing-in of the new King and certainly it will be better without them. It is only a shame that all republicans do not boycott the ceremony. Both King Albert II and the late King Baudouin had their swearing-in ceremonies marred by republican hecklers. I hope, I pray that “tradition” does not continue.
In Britain, any royal news has mostly been drowned out by the extreme case of baby-mania the country has come down with. Bets are being made on the date, the name, the royal title, on almost every aspect of the upcoming event. Some of this is harmless and some of it is rather tiresome, such as the renewed talk about whether the Queen should “skip over” the Prince of Wales in the succession. There has also been talk of a possible early delivery (which the royals have pushed back against) as well as reports that Prince William will have a helicopter on standby to rush to the side of his wife so that he can carry on with his duties as a rescue pilot without any fear of being late in rushing to the side of his wife when the happy occasion comes. He is determined to be there alongside herThe Royals did attend the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace but, again, most of the headlines have been royal baby anticipation -and nothing wrong with that. Just to clear things up, it has been announced that the new addition will be titled HRH Prince or Princess of Cambridge, the most popular names for the betting types are James and Alexandra. I will confess, I would be pulling for a James over an Alexandra just because I would love to see the disappointment on the faces of all those who pushed for the succession changes who seem to think that passing a bill will automatically give them nothing but female monarchs in the post-William future.