Saturday, September 4, 2010

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the far north again, HM King Harald V of Norway started the week promoting reading, writing and Norwegian literature. These events are part of a number of celebrations being held across Norway to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the passing of Norwegian author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. The King gave a speech at the opening of the Bjørnson Festival geared toward reviving interest in Bjørnson’s poetry and “social action” (the poetry is fine but the social action part makes a bit nervous). The next day (Monday) Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit handed out awards from the Crown Princely Humanitarian Fund, a charity established to promote diversity in Norway, fight poverty and promote education abroad. I should probably reserve comment on that one.

Moving across the border, HRH Princess Madeleine of Sweden seems to be getting back to normal, going to South Africa to attend a reception for the World Childhood Foundation in Cape Town on Wednesday. The princess was all smiles and loveliness and stayed until Friday on WCF business at which time she left for the United States to see about the activities of the Foundation (started by her mother the Queen) here. It has been commented on that this increased charitable work is helping Princess Madeleine get past the breakup of her engagement to Jonas Bergstrom. I hope that works out for her, my only words of advice would be to forget him! He isn’t fit to clean your skis Highness! Meanwhile, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden presented the 2010 Polar Music Prize in Stockholm on Monday. The King and Queen were both on hand for the event as well.

Turning south, HRH the Prince of Orange was in uniform on September 2, for a working visit to special guard brigade (BSB) of the royal military police. He was briefed and given a demonstration of new violence-control techniques by the special squad as well as witnessing a demonstration of airline security techniques (Dutch air marshals on duty!) and observation advances to spot potential terrorists before they strike. The Prince even participated in some of the drills. He also met with the staff officers and had lunch with the management team to discuss the challenges Dutch security faces and the measures being undertaken to deal with them. Across the border to the south Belgian Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde took their three eldest children back to school for their first day of classes this year. After saying their goodbyes both royals went about their other duties. King Albert II, meanwhile, has been kept busy with the continued efforts to form a coalition government which have, so far, been unsuccessful.

What could a tiny, officially Catholic and effectively near-absolute monarchy in the Alps have in common with gigantic, communist dictatorship of mainland China? Business -and what else matters these days right? HSH Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein was in the People’s Republic of China on Monday meeting with Vice President Xi Jinping to congratulate the Beijing government on mainland China achieving the status of a full market economy. The Prince was accompanied by the prime minister of Liechtenstein to sign new economic agreements between the two countries. All parties spoke of their appreciation for their good relations and their hope for ever stronger economic, trade and tourism ties. Afterwards the Prince and the PM went to Shanghai to visit the World Expo where the Liechtenstein pavilion has been quite a popular attraction.

On Thursday His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI gave an audience to President Shimon Peres of Israel at the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo. Cardinal Secretary of State Bertone and Archbishop Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States also met with the president. The Pontiff expressed his hope that the peace talks in Washington will be successful in bringing peace to the Holy Land and the two discussed relations between the Holy See and Israel as well as the international politics of the region. Matters of particular importance to the Pope included the presence of the religious communities in Israel and their contribution, through charitable houses and schools, to all people of the region, Israeli and Palestinian.

Crossing the Mediterranean to Africa, HM King Mohammed VI of Morocco visited a reform school for juvenile delinquents in Casablanca on Monday. He inspected the programs being used to reform the wayward youths and handed out awards to the ten best students and one high school diploma. Afterwards the King presided over the signing of a new agreement to train inmates in certain fields where they will be needed and can find quick employment once their debt to society has been paid. Later, on Wednesday, the King opened a new center for victims of domestic violence in Casablanca. On Monday, at the other end of the continent, King Mswati III of Swaziland attended the annual Reed Dance, a traditional 8-day event in which young women, royal and common alike, cut reeds to give as gifts to the Queen mother. The King can choose a new wife from the dancers at this event though he refrained this year. Perhaps his (estimated) 12 current wives are keeping him busy enough.

HM King Abdullah II of Jordan has been in the United States this past week, meeting, along with host President Obama, with the Israeli prime minister and president of the Palestinian Authority for the renewed peace talks. The Jordanian monarch stressed that time was of the essence and that neither side in the on-going conflict can afford further failure of such negotiations. The King said, “Our peoples want peace, and we can do so if we approach these negotiations with good will, sincerity and courage”. All sides have given at least tacit approval of the “two state solution” as the basis for a new peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. I have my doubts about this being a success but we can only wish them the best in these efforts.

In the Himalayan region, Thursday saw the end of the first Tibetan National General Meeting. HH the XIV Dalai Lama addressed the meeting which reaffirmed their support for his “middle way approach” and urged the exiled monarch to retain his leadership of the Tibetan community. On Friday at Bylakuppe, India (home of the largest Tibetan settlement in India) the Tibetan people and government-in-exile honored the Dalai Lama with the “Golden Seal” for his leadership in the Tibetan struggle for freedom and democracy. The event was held as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Tibetan democracy. The Dalai Lama accepted the award from the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan parliament in exile. Across the border in Nepal the central bank announced that the currency bearing the image of deposed King Gyanendra will be phased out completely by the end of next year. In 2007 the new republican government officially replaced the old royalist bank notes with new ones featuring a picture of Mt Everest in place of the King but the old currency has remained in circulation since that time. The King left the throne in 2008.

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