Saturday, December 10, 2011

Royal News Roundup

HIH Crown Princess Masako of Japan celebrated her 48th birthday this week and spoke out about her struggles with stress, nerves and the resulting mental illness inflicted on her. HIH Crown Prince Naruhito was alongside, supporting his wife. The Crown Princess has been a bit more visible lately but admitted that while she has made progress she is still not fully recovered. Her medical team said, “We cannot expect a quick recovery as far as the situation is not improved” which says to me that as long as she is a public figure, with the accompanying attention and scrutiny that goes with it, her situation will not change. I also would not say that anyone is expecting “a quick recovery” considering that it has been nearly a decade since the Crown Princess more or less went into hiding. She is still undergoing a routine of medication and counseling sessions. The Crown Princess also spoke about the March earthquake and tsunami disaster saying, “I shall deeply bear in my mind feelings of people in the disaster-hit areas and continue to watch over the path to recovery,” and saying that the whole disaster was, “too shocking to put into words”. Of course we wish the Crown Princess a happy birthday and all the best on her continued treatment and, hopefully, recovery.

In Thailand, HM King Bhumbol Adulyadej turned 84-years old this week and despite his very fragile health as of late, showed that duty comes first when he made his annual birthday speech on Monday, surrounded by his supportive family, from the balcony of the Royal Palace in Bangkok. He took the occasion to call on Thais to unite in the face of the devastating floods that have hit the southeast nation kingdom. The venerable monarch said, “The most important thing is you should not be split or fighting each other. We need to inspire and give each other confidence so that the work we do will be fruitful for the well-being of the people and the stability and security of the country.” The King of Thailand has been one of the outstanding royal figures of my lifetime and an example of the immense great good that even a constitutionally limited monarch can do when he is properly supported and respected. We wish him all the best. Someone who may not have such warm feelings is the Thai-born American Joe Gordon who was recently sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for translating and posting on-line a defamatory biography of the King which accuses the revered monarch of effectively being a tyrant and hampering the “progress” of Thailand. In an extreme show of what unmitigated gall some people have, he pled guilty (so he admitted to committing a crime) in order to get a shorter sentence (still hypocritically portraying himself as a victim to the media) and then applied to the King for a royal pardon. So, in other words, this man who spread a book that attacks the King for having too much power has appealed to that same King to use his royal power to overrule the legal system to get this man out of the punishment incurred by the crime he admits to having committed. I mean…seriously…the nerve of some people.

In the Arab royal world, HM Queen Rania of Jordan handed out her annual Excellence in Education awards at the Applied Science Private University in Amman this week, something she has been doing since 2005. Perhaps hinting at recent events beyond education the Queen said, “Change for us is an opportunity. An opportunity to learn from the past, and set modern plans for our future”. A worthy endeavor to be sure. Meanwhile, all the way over in Morocco, HM King Mohammed VI put down a new foundation stone in the port/fishing city of M’diq for a new social center to be built, part of an overall project, on-going to renew and refurbish the city.

In southern Europe, TRH the Prince and Princess of the Asturias were in fine form as they presided over the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace in Madrid, the Prince cutting a fine figure in his uniform and the Princess wearing a dress of a G.I. inspired hue. However, tensions remain high in Spain due to the economic crisis and spiraling debt of the country with reports emerging that the government will cut down the number of those included amongst the paid members of the “Royal Family” with only the King, Queen, Prince and Princess of the Asturias and their children remaining included. No one is set to lose any titles of course but they will no longer receive an allowance from the government. It should also be noted that if such a thing happens, it is going to be self-imposed as the reports coming out about this all come from the royal court and not the government. That being said, Zarzuela Palace has said in a statement that this is a matter of long-term consideration and no immediate decision is on the horizon. Also on the Mediterranean front, the Prince and Princess of Monaco traveled to South Africa this week for a number of events related to the charitable causes and environmentalism dear to each of them. More on those events can be found at Mad for Monaco.

The Kingdom of Belgium has been busy this week. The ever troubled Prince Laurent was opening a new homeless shelter for people with beloved pets this week when reporters flooded him with questions over a recent scathing documentary on the Prince. His faithful wife Princess Claire leaped to his defense and brought the press conference to a sudden end. “Enough is enough, Laurent,” she told her husband. “The project did not interest them.” The Princess went on to tell the reporters how hurt she and her family were by the constant accusations made against the Prince. And that was the end of that. However, the big news of course was on Tuesday when HM King Albert II swore in a new government, ending 541 days of political deadlock due to the fall of the last government and the victory of Flemish nationalists in the last elections. The new prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, speaking in French, Dutch and German made his oath, “I swear fidelity to the King, obedience to the constitution and to the laws of the Belgian people”. The King has labored long and hard to see his country through this crisis and admitted that there is still a lot of work to do.

In the far north, HH Prince Sverre Magnus of Norway, second and youngest child of TRH Crown Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit of Norway, celebrated his 6th birthday last Saturday. Congratulations and happy birthday wishes to the promising young sprout.
Such good news has not been widespread, sadly, in the royal circles of Scandinavia. It has been a very bad week for the Swedish Royal Family with recordings coming to light purporting to show the King and a friend attempting to pay off a night club owner with mob ties to induce him to take back stories that the monarch attended “adult parties” (wink, wink) at his establishment. The King had previously denied any such behavior and the recordings have, frankly, made him seem more than a little dishonest and public confidence in the monarchy has fallen to a new low with over a third of the public saying they have lost faith in their monarch according to a new poll by Swedish television network TV4. Considering that King Carl XVI Gustaf has only a strictly ceremonial role in his country, it would be difficult to say he has not done his “job” well over the years but, nonetheless, it seems that Crown Princess Victoria will have her work cut out for her in improving the image of the monarchy in Sweden. Will this latest revelations mean she might get the job sooner than expected? The rest of the Royal Family is certainly not pleased. Rumor has it that Queen Silvia is furious (which would be natural) and that this is part of the reason why Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine have been staying abroad so much. It is a sad state of affairs and we can only hope that the reputation of the monarchy can be salvaged. It is bigger than one man after all.

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