Saturday, October 15, 2011

Royal News Roundup

First of all we have happy news in the Far East. His Majesty the fifth Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel of the Wangchuck Dynasty was married, on Thursday, to Jetsun Pema (from henceforth the Queen of Bhutan) a 21-year old native of Thimphu. The Buddhist wedding ceremony was held at the fortress-palace Punakha Dzong amidst much celebrating and Himalayan-style pomp and ceremony. The Queen-to-be arrived first, escorted by her family, folk singers, a white horse and Buddhist monks. As per tradition, the monastery was “guarded” by two small elephants. Inside, the King and his father the former King were ushered into a sacrosanct chamber holding the remains of the Tibetan lama Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan, where both were presented with blessed scarves and a chalice of ambrosia symbolic of the wish for eternal life. The couple came together and the new Queen was given her scarf and both husband and wife drank from the chalice. The King, of course, wore his ‘Raven Crown’ and the new Queen was given a silk crown for the occasion and both were presented with a number of symbolic gifts. Once all was over the two left the palace to walk among the crowd and greet the people. The charmingly shy new Queen stayed mostly behind her husband who, as is usual for him, was touching hands, talking to people and holding babies. In a post-wedding interview the King said he and his wife shared a love of art and that “it’s great” to be married. Three days of festivities have followed. The wedding was not an international affair as are most royal weddings, rather appropriately for a nation like Bhutan, the King said he wanted the celebration to be for and with his people. The Mad Monarchist send congratulations to the happy couple. Bhutan has a very lovely new Queen.

Meanwhile the news has not been so happy in the Kingdom of Thailand which has been hit hard by flooding, worsened by damage to dams and embankments. However, the Royal Family, though still in the midst of 100 days of mourning after the death of HRH Princess Bejaratana in July, has taken active measures to meet the crisis. HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and HRH Princess consort Srirasmi have established food kitchens in the hard-hit region of Ayutthaya. The Crown Princely couple is also collecting donations in the name of their son by using the HRH Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti Fund which was named after the boy. Donations can also be sent directly to the Bangkok Bank. The Crown Prince has also opened up the local university campus to refugees who have lost their homes in the flooding as a temporary shelter. HRH Princess Chakri Sirindhorn is also pitching in, visiting Ayutthaya with medical teams to bring relief packages to the local populace and care for anyone needing medical attention. As the revered King has become increasingly frail, the Crown Prince has taken on more and more royal duties such as presiding at the traditional plowing ceremony and the opening of the Thai parliament. HM Queen Sirikit has also been looking considerably thinner lately, which causes me some concern. I hope in her tireless care of the King she is not allowing her own health to deteriorate.

In Europe, on Wednesday, the Spanish Royal Family was out in force for National Day. The King and Queen, Prince and Princess of the Asturias, the Infanta Elena and others all turned out for the traditional military parade. HM King Juan Carlos, though still needing a cane since the operation on his Achilles tendon, remained standing at attention throughout the ceremony to salute the Spanish royal guard and members of the armed forces as they marched past the royal box. The royal-military pageantry provided a much needed splash of color in Spain which has been forced to adopt austerity measures to deal with overspending and enormous debts. HM Queen Sofia and HRH Infanta Elena did without new outfits for the celebration this year, to set an example for frugality. Following the parade a reception was held in the throne room at Zarzuela Palace where the Spanish Royal Family shook the hands of one thousand government representatives. National Day in Spain is held on Columbus Day in honor of the founding of the Spanish colonial empire, and a way of reaching out to all other Hispanic nations. It is also Armed Forces Day, hence the large military aspect of the celebration. iViva el Rey! iArriba EspaƱa!

In northern news we have another royal visit to the United States. On Wednesday Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway arrived in St Paul, Minnesota to kick a 10-day visit. Former Vice-President Walter Mondale, among other local dignitaries, were on hand to greet the royal couple. Minnesota, like much of the Midwest, has a large Norwegian-American population. The King of Norway lived in the United States during World War II (when Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany) and has said he considers the country his second home. In fact, he lived in the White House part of the time those many years ago. The King met with members of the Norwegian-American community, met with officials and visited a number of establishments. The Norwegian monarch is currently in Iowa (is he running for President? I’d vote for him!) where His Majesty spoke at the Luther College in Decorah. The King was presented with the “Spirit of Luther Award”. During his tour the Norwegian monarch will also visit the Mayo Clinic and other areas before going on to New York to pay his respects at Ground Zero and will finish the trip at a gala celebrating the anniversary of the American Scandinavian Foundation.

And finally there is my favorite story: a drunk Frenchman being sentenced to 6 days in jail in Monaco for insulting the Prince. Read about that at Mad for Monaco - Don’t Mess with Prince Albert!

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