Monday, February 10, 2014
Royal News Roundup
In the United Kingdom, it was announced last week that the Queen will be attending D-Day ceremonies in France this summer and will soon be paying a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican. It will be after a morning meeting with the President of Italy and will be at the Pope’s Santa Marta residence (his choice of abode rather than the Apostolic Palace) and will be, according to reports, a very informal and ‘low-key’ affair. Of course it will be, that seems hardly newsworthy. I think it is safe to say at this point that Pope Francis will not ‘put on the dog’ for anyone. Also last week the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge joined forces to put out a message in opposition to the illegal wildlife trade just before the Duke went down to Spain on a hunting trip to shoot some of that wildlife (not that the two are in any way similar). There is also still some consternation over the discovered remains of the late King Richard III as there has still been no decision on where his final resting place is to be. Personally, I don’t know why this is being handled the way it is. I would have assumed that the Palace and the government would be much more involved. Like him or not Richard III was King of England, a former head of state, and should be treated as such and according to the same procedures. The Prince of Wales also visited flood-damaged Somerset, which he said was shocking and where he got his nose pinched by a toddler.
The biggest news, however, was the Olympics with the 2014 Winter games beginning in Sochi, Russia. With many world leaders, such as President Obama, boycotting the games and others worried about terrorist attacks this has been called the “No-Show Olympics” but the royals did not seem all that bothered and made a good showing. Among those on hand for the opening ceremonies were Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco (both former Olympians themselves), King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands, King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Grand Duke Henri and Prince Felix of Luxembourg (presumably with their better halves though I did not see them) and Princess Royal Anne from the United Kingdom who was less than impressed with the opening ceremony saying that they have gotten rather out of hand to the point that the focus is no longer on the athletes. I must say I agree. It seems every Olympic opening ceremony must now include a complete reenactment of the entire history of the host country (which Britain is guilty of as well and just as I didn’t appreciate making the Soviet-era look like a happy time of young people waving in cars, I didn’t think highlighted sources of British national pride should have included American TV shows and the NHS). A greater focus on the athletes in the future would be welcome.
In the Middle East, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia enacted tougher jail terms of 20 years in prison for those caught belonging to terrorist related groups in an effort to crack down on the Saudi nationals joining such organizations. Amnesty International, not surprisingly, criticized the new law saying that it could be used to suppress internal dissent. It was also announced that President Obama will visit Saudi Arabia in March where he has been less than popular lately over his acquiescence to Iran developing the potential for a nuclear arsenal as well as his failure to intervene in Syria. In the United Arab Emirates, the brother of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, President of the UAE, said the head of state is doing “well” after an operation last month following a stroke. The Kingdom of Bahrain has announced tougher jail sentences for those found guilty of “offending” the King, the country still being somewhat on edge after the Shiite-led uprising of three years ago. Human Rights Watch issued a new criticism this week of Kuwait over similar laws which restrict criticism of the monarch.
In East Asia it has been a somewhat odd week for monarchy-related news in the State of Japan. Some things were perfectly normal, pleasant events such as the visit by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter to the Imperial Palace. He was received by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress at the start of four days of events to mark the 150th anniversary of the first treaty of friendship and commerce between the Swiss Confederation and the Empire of Japan in 1864. HIH Crown Prince Naruhito attended a performance of the opera ‘Carmen’ by the late Georges Bizet at the New National Theatre in Tokyo but then there was also the rather strange and tragic story of the week. The latest member of the management board of NHK, Michiko Hasegawa, picked for the position last year by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has caused some controversy by making positive statements about the suicide of conservative activist Shusuke Nomura in the offices of the liberal Asahi newspaper in 1993 in exasperation for its mockery of his organization. Writing that it was only to God that people could offer their lives, Ms. Hasegawa wrote in a document recently found and posted online, “If it is devoted in the truly right way, there could be no better offering. When Mr. Shusuke Nomura committed suicide at the Asahi Shimbun headquarters 20 years ago, he …offered his death to God”. Prior to shooting himself three times in the stomach, Shusuke Nomura said a prayer for the prosperity of HM the Emperor which Ms. Hasegawa referred to saying, “His Imperial Highness, even if momentarily, became a living God again, no matter what the ‘Humanity Declaration’ says or what the Japanese constitution says”. The Abe government has refused to take action because of any of this, saying that members of the board are entitled to their own opinions and freedom of speech, however, it has caused many on the left to accuse the government of trying to make the NHK a bastion of conservative nationalism. I will only point out that NHK, like most major media outlets in the world, has had a noticeably left-leaning bias for a very long time which those complaining now seem to take for granted.