The big royal news this week was, of course, the inauguration of HM King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands. It was a grand royal affair, in the perspective of the more low-key Dutch monarchy, with royals representing Belgium, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, the UAE, Thailand and Japan. The whole country turned orange as the Dutch people celebrated their new monarch and bid a happy retirement to their former queen. A meeting of Dutch republicans held at the same time attracted more reporters than members with only 9 attending the pathetic event. However, they were over-represented in the inauguration with 12 of the 142 MP’s present refusing to take the oath of allegiance and 4 declining the invitation to attend at all (why they are still allowed to hold office at all is beyond me). King Willem-Alexander has indicated his desire to be a less traditional sort of monarch, coming out against the laws protecting the Royal Family from insult, supporting the removal of the power of the monarch to appoint interim government leaders but, on the other hand, he has stated that he will, like his mother, continue to meet with the prime minister every week. He has also stated though that if the Dutch government voted to make the monarchy purely ceremonial he would support their decision. Happily, there seems little desire to do so.
In other royal news, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway has attracted some controversy over an upcoming visit to the United States by the Crown Prince and Princess, spending most of their time in Texas and California. They will attend an oil conference in Houston and then visit Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth before flying out to San Francisco. The “controversy” arises from the fact that Lockheed Martin produces the cluster bombs that have been condemned by the group “Norwegian People’s Aid” which the Crown Prince served as royal patron. Critics have said it is a violation of royal neutrality for the Crown Prince to visit such a company with one outspoken critic saying he was going to “lend legitimacy” to a business that sells “instruments of death”. The reason for the visit, of course, has nothing to do with cluster bombs but with the decision (long agonized over) by Norway to buy 52 new F35 fighter jets to replace their current fleet of F16’s. To this observer, the whole fuss over the cluster bombs make no sense; any weapon of war can be used to harm civilians and no manufacturer can be held responsible for how their products are used. It is also noteworthy that most of those criticizing the Norwegian crown prince are from the oh-so vocal republican minority. The foreign ministry has said the royal couple should not be blamed for government decisions and Lockheed Martin has denied ever making cluster bombs at all but only manufacturing a part of the ignition for such devices but that even that will be stopped within the next two years.
In Serbia, HRH Crown Prince Alexander oversaw the return to Serbian soil of his late grandmother Queen Maria of Romania. The transfer was arranged with the cooperation of HM Queen Elizabeth II of the UK, the Dean of Windsor, Anglican Church and the Serbian ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs. A special service was held for the late Queen at the Serbian Orthodox Church of St Sava in London with the Serbian Royal Family in attendance as well as the Serbian Ambassador to the UK and many others before being flown to Belgrade. The Royal Family met the casket there along with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The remains of the Queen were returned to Dedinje and another memorial service was held, officiated by His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia. Queen Marie was a great patron of charitable causes, which was often commented upon in the tributes to her and she set a fine example in her life as the model of a Christian wife, mother and queen. May she continue to rest in peace.
Another past queen consort was also remembered in southern Europe on Friday. In Rome, HH Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Queen Maria Cristina of Savoy, queen consort to King Ferdinand II of the Two-Sicilies, mother of King Francis II of the Two-Sicilies, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia, sister of Duchess Maria Beatrice of Modena and Empress Maria Anna (consort to Ferdinand I of Austria). Queen Maria Cristina died when she was only 23-years old, a few days after giving birth to the last King of the Two Sicilies but who already had a reputation for great faith and piety. In 1859 her cause for canonization was opened and 13 years later she was declared venerable. With the recognition of this miracle by the Pope the late queen is on the way to being beatified, the final step before sainthood. Religious devotion is nothing new for the House of Savoy, especially among the female members, and Queen Maria Cristina is in good company with Princess Maria Clotilde of Savoy (daughter of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy), wife of Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, who has been declared a ‘Servant of God’ and also has a cause for canonization open. Princess Maria Felicita of Savoy (daughter of King Charles Emmanuel III) had such a reputation for faith that if she has no cause open she probably should have, Queen Elena of Montenegro (wife of King Victor Emmanuel III) has a cause being considered and among the male members of the family there have been cases such as Blessed Amadeus IX and Blessed Umberto III to point to and, I would say, the case of King Charles Emmanuel IV would be worth investigating.
Finally we also have some news of the romantic variety. There is to be another American princess in the world when last Thursday it was announced by HH Aga Khan IV that his eldest son Prince Rahim Aga Khan is set to marry American model Kendra Spears who is expected to convert to Islam prior to the wedding ceremony. This is something of a family tradition as the first wife of the current Aga Khan was a British model and his father Prince Aly Khan was at one time married to the American model and actress Rita Hayworth. The family does not, it seems to me, receive the attention that it used to but, for those unaware, the Aga Khan is the hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Islamic sect, recognized as princes and princesses by their descent from the Qajar dynasty of Persia (the family which ruled prior to the Pahlavi coming to power). We wish the prince and his bride to be all the best of happiness in their life together.