Saturday, November 27, 2010

Royal News Roundup

This week celebrations in Cambodia were marred by tragedy in the long suffering kingdom. HM King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the water festival, held for centuries to commemorate the victory of King Jayvarman VII in the 12th century. Everything started out normally for the 3-day event with prayers over the rice harvest, boat races and the King pardoning 558 prisoners. However, on Monday, the last day of celebration, a canon shot to warn the public to clear a bridge near the royal palace caused a stampede that resulted in the deaths of more than 330 people. Prime Minister Hun Sen called it the greatest tragedy Cambodia has suffered since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime.

In the Middle East, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia slipped a disc and suffered a blood clot that left him hospitalized and forced to pass some royal duties to his son. Later this week the King and a large retinue traveled to New York for medical treatment leaving national affairs in the hands of his brother Crown Prince Sultan who has also suffered a number of health problems recently. The 86-year-old monarch has reportedly been suffering increasingly lately from physical ailments and the ravages of old age leaving many nervous about the succession and the future of the Saudi monarchy. Rumors have been rampant lately of discontent among the 7,000 princes of the Saudi Royal Family as well as increasing criticism from the fundamentalist clerics who have opposed many of the recent reforms enacted by King Abdullah.

Monday marked the 35th anniversary of the proclamation by the Cortes of “Don Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon” as King Juan Carlos I of Spain upon the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. This act also marked the beginning of the transition of Spain from an authoritarian state to a parliamentary democracy. Congratulations to HM Juan Carlos on this occasion (royal restorations being a rather rare thing). Viva el Rey! Also this week the Prince and Princess of the Asturias traveled to the South American republic of Peru for a visit to strengthen ties between the two countries. In Rome a media frenzy was unleashed when the Vatican newspaper leaked a quote from a new book of a German reporter interviewing HH Pope Benedict XVI which was heralded as a reversal of the official Catholic position against the use of condoms. Of course, the Pontiff had done no such thing and the piece quoted was of a hypothetical situation judging, more or less, the lesser of two evils. The Pope went on to stress that condom use was no solution to the real problem of a disordered view of sexuality. Last Saturday HRH Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma, son of Princess Irene of the Netherlands and Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma, held his religious wedding in Brussels to Annemarie Van Weezel. The Prince, as Carlos V, is heir to the former Italian Duchy of Parma.

In Great Britain HRH Prince William and fiancĂ© Catherine Middleton have announced the time and date for their wedding next year which will be held on Friday, April 29 at the historic Westminster Abbey. The House of Windsor and the Middleton family will be covering the expense of the wedding with the government responsible only for security (and remember that these policemen would be on duty anyway if there was no wedding so this is not an “extra” expense). They have also set up a lottery system by which members of the general public will be chosen at random to receive an invitation to the royal wedding in order to include as diverse an array of guests as possible. HM the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh also undertook a trip this week to the United Arab Emirates to strengthen ties between the two countries. Also in northern Europe, in Sweden a poll taken by the newspaper Expressen showed increased support for HM King Carl XVI Gustaf who has had to deal with some bad press as of late. The survey found 69% of Swedes in favor of the monarchy, an increase from the 63% who gave the same answer earlier this year.

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