2013 was a year of change in the world of monarchy and more than anything else it will probably be remembered as the year of the abdication. Monarchs were abdicating left, right and center in 2013. This was the year royals said, “I quit!” and the first was the most surprising when in February HH Pope Benedict XVI abdicated. This was the first time in roughly six hundred years that anything even remotely similar had ever happened so, that was certainly big news. Benedict XVI cited his age and poor health as reasons for the abdication, saying that he simply did not have the ability to continue on anymore but would devote the rest of his life to prayer. That, of course, was just the beginning. In a much less surprising move, in April HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated, becoming Princess Beatrix which has become rather traditional for Dutch monarchs. The last Dutch monarch to reign until death was King Willem III who died in 1890. Next was the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad who abdicated in June having held the throne since replacing his father in a coup in 1995 so, at least it was peaceful this time. Lastly, less than a month later HM King Albert II of the Belgians abdicated which was a bit more unprecedented given that only one Belgian monarch before him (his father, King Leopold III) had abdicated and that was under rather unhappy circumstances. So, it was quite a turnover year for monarchy and fairly soon one could be forgiven for turning on the news each morning and wondering who would be abdicating today.
As for the major royal events of 2013, the year started with some legal vindication for the Prince of Monaco who was awarded 300,000 pounds plus legal expenses by a French court over salacious stories printed in the media that spread ugly rumors about his wedding. A well deserved win for him in the struggle against slander. However, bad or at least sad occasions would be numerous. Also in January the remains of King Peter II of Yugoslavia were brought home for reburial in Serbia, a solemn occasion but one which saw considerable support for the former monarchy. In February, the late King-Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia had his formal burial after his death in October of 2012. To some this might seem strange but, in that part of the world at least, it is quite common for burials to take place a fairly long time after the death of the person in question on a date chosen by the court astrologers to be auspicious for the occasion. February also saw the beginning of what would be a year of trouble for Spain with the husband of the Infanta Cristina being hauled into court on corruption charges (yet to be proven) and what seemed like a never-ending struggle to somehow drag the Royal Family into the quagmire. From the Queen being booed in public to republican protests in the streets and another round of hip surgery for the King, 2013 was not a good year for the Spanish monarchy. Hopefully, things can only get better from here.
March saw the papal conclave to elect a replacement for Benedict XVI and with the election of Pope Francis the Catholic Church had, for the first time, a Jesuit pope, and the first pope from the “New World”. Ever since his election, according to polls, both the Catholic Church and even non-Catholics and the non-religious have been in love with the ever-so-humble pontiff. However, it has also been a year of explanations on the part of many in the Church virtually every time the Pope opened his mouth. It was also in March that Sacha Grimaldi was born to Andrea Casiraghi (son of Princess Caroline of Hanover, nephew of Prince Albert II of Monaco) and his girlfriend Tatiana Santo Domingo. As his parents were not married at the time, little Sacha did not immediately gain a place in the Monegasque succession. However, plenty of news was made in the royal succession of Great Britain and the Commonwealth Realms in April when HM the Queen gave royal assent to the “Succession to the Crown Act 2013” which did away with male primogeniture as well as the previous rule that those marrying Roman Catholics would lose their rights to the throne. The monarch is, of course, still required to be a Protestant.
In the month of May there was a religious milestone for the former Italian Royal Family as Pope Francis confirmed a miracle for Queen Maria Christina of Savoy (consort of King Ferdinand II of the Two-Sicilies), moving her along in the process of canonization as a saint. In the Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander had his formal inauguration amidst much celebrating. Meanwhile, in Great Britain, Christians seemed to be told to take a step back as it was announced that, when the time comes for the Prince of Wales to be crowned king, an inter-faith coronation would be held in recognition of what a multicultural and multi-faith country Britain has become. In June, Princess Madeleine of Sweden was married to New York investment banker Chris O’Neill who refused a Swedish title or Swedish citizenship. Down in Belgium, King Albert II was hit with a paternity suit by a woman who has long claimed to be his natural daughter and on the Iberian Peninsula the Prince of the Asturias and HIH Crown Prince Naruhito met to mark the 400th anniversary of Spanish-Japanese relations. The month of July was quite eventful with World Youth Day in Brazil though what really grabbed the headlines was an informal interview with Pope Francis in which he said of homosexuals, “who am I to judge?” This was referring to celibate homosexuals in the priesthood but media all over the world heralded it as the Pope basically saying that it is “okay” to be gay. However, by far the biggest royal news in July was the birth of Prince George of Cambridge, first child of Prince William and Duchess Catherine of Cambridge who will, God willing, be King of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth Realms one day.
August saw little Sacha Grimaldi become the third in line for the Monegasque throne (at present) when Andrea Casiraghi and Tatiana Santo Domingo were married. In Britain, police launched a probe into the death of the late Princess of Wales over allegations of government involvement in her demise. Needless to say the investigation eventually found such rumors to be completely unfounded. In Thailand the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great was released from hospital after four years of treatment and observation. August also saw the passing of Prince Johan Friso of Orange-Nassau in The Netherlands who had been in a coma since February of 2012 after being buried in an avalanche while skiing in Austria. The biggest news event for the world, however, was certainly the prospect of western intervention in the civil war in Syria with President Obama threatening to intervene but finally backing down after an agreement was brokered by Russia. The Syrian civil war caused a massive flood of refugees into the Kingdom of Jordan and caused tensions for many monarchies in the area. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was particularly interested in seeing the pro-Iranian and pro-Russian dictator of Syria removed. A proposal to intervene was voted down in the British House of Commons and in the United States it became clear that the public had no interest in getting involved in another Middle East conflict. Local monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have nonetheless continued to support the rebel forces.
There was happier news in the month of September with Prince Felix of Luxembourg getting married to Claire Lademacher, HM the King of Sweden marking forty years on the throne and with the announcement that his daughter Princess Madeleine was ‘with child’. Things were a bit more mixed for the family of HH the Aga Khan. There was good news with the marriage of Prince Rahim Aga Khan to former model Kendra Spears (hence known as Princess Salwa) of the United States but this was followed, only the next week, by the announcement that Prince Hussein Aga Khan divorced his own American wife Princess Khaliya (formerly Kristin White). There was also political turmoil in the Kingdom of Cambodia with the main opposition party boycotting the new government and urging King Norodom Sihamoni to get involved but to no avail. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party under the dictatorial leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen has held power ever since he was put in charge by the communist Vietnamese following their invasion and overthrow of the regime of Pol Pot. There were also big changes taking place in Africa with the little but notoriously absolutist Kingdom of Swaziland announcing a new governing system called ‘monarchial democracy’. Later, for the first time, opposition parties even gained seats in the parliament in Swaziland, the only remaining absolute monarchy in Africa.
There was a warm welcome for Prince Harry who visited Australia in October and in France there was a Romanov Celebration Gala to mark the 400th anniversary of the start of the reign of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. Throughout the year there were a number of events to highlight this year and the former Russian monarchy. In other news, the world was shocked when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia turned down a seat on the UN Security Council, the first time such a thing had ever happened. The Saudis explained their choice by saying that the UN Security Council was more or less worthless, pointing to the lack of action in Syria as an example and probably also having in mind the inability of the UN to stop the development of nuclear weapons in Iran (something Saudi Arabia opposes strongly) and for basically the same reason, that being that China and Russia stand ready to veto any UN action against the Syrian or Iranian dictators.
November was a busy month for royalty around the world. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall made a visit to India and political divisions caused a great deal of storm and stress in the Kingdom of Malaysia. Earlier in the year they had also been troubled by a small-scale invasion by Filipino royalists loyal to the Sultan of Sulu (or at least one of the claimants to that title). A political firestorm was set off in Japan when an activist politician handed HM the Emperor a letter highlighting the alleged dangers surrounding the imperiled nuclear reactor in Fukushima, a breach of protocol and an effort to involve HM the Emperor in a political matter, something one is certainly not supposed to do when dealing with he who ‘reigns above the clouds’. In Great Britain a secularist group announced they were considering legal action to stop the tradition of the coronation ceremony, saying it excludes the non-religious. Most troubling, however, was the news that HM the Queen’s representative in Australia revealed herself to be a traitor. In a statement released as her time as Governor-General draws to a close Quentin Bryce voiced her support for both gay “marriage” and for Australia to become a republic. In happier news, the new King and Queen of The Netherlands were given a warm welcome touring the Dutch West Indies and in Great Britain the Countess of Wessex hosted a special reception at Buckingham Palace to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic sci-fi television show “Dr. Who”.
From the end of November throughout the month of December there was a great deal of turmoil in the “Land of Smiles” as protests broke out in the Kingdom of Thailand over efforts by the government to pardon a former prime minister who fled the country after being found guilty of corruption. There was happier news though as the revered King of Thailand celebrated his 86th birthday. On the world stage, the Obama administration announced an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran to lift sanctions on that country in return for stepping down their nuclear program. After the fact it was revealed that the talks came about thanks to the Sultan of Qaboos who acted as an intermediary. Britain’s Prince Harry trekked to the South Pole for the benefit of wounded veterans and in a rather odd turn of events, Pope Francis was voted “Person of the Year” by both TIME magazine and one of America’s leading homosexual periodicals. The Dutch celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, secularists advanced their cause of separating Church and State in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and to close it out Charlotte Casiraghi made her mother Princess Caroline of Hanover a grandmother for the second time in one year with the birth of her son Raphael.
Overall, 2013 was a rather mixed bag for the monarchies of the world. The Middle East has remained in turmoil because of the civil war in Syria and the nuclear threat from Iran, a cause of great worry for the monarchies there and that it on top of the occasional unrest still left over from the “Arab Spring”. In Southeast Asia every monarchy has been torn by divisive politics, in Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia while in Northeast Asia, the only remaining monarchy, Japan, has been pressured by increasingly unfriendly attitudes from Korea and China, which was partly why such high hopes were placed on the imperial visit to India. In Europe there were signs of strong support for monarchy, The Netherlands having huge crowds come out to mark their change of monarch but in almost no country is there not a republican presence and they will take advantage of any misfortune to advance their cause. This can clearly be seen in the bad year that the Kingdom of Spain had. Pope Francis certainly brought about a change in the way the papacy, if not the Catholic Church, is treated, attracting more worldly praise than I have ever seen for a pontiff. The story that caused the most headlines and world attention though was certainly the birth of Prince George of Cambridge and a royal birth is always a happy occasion. It also showed how rather silly all that government urgency to change the succession law was. With or without it, at least the next three monarchs the English-speaking world will have will be kings.
Since 2013 saw the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the death of Nelson Mandela, it was a year of more than usual president-worship which your ‘old school’ monarchists find hard to tolerate. With governments all across the First World going ever deeper into debt, monarchies have been scrutinized for their cost. There also seems to be some cultural chauvinism at work as monarchies such as Japan and Thailand have been criticized by westerners for basically being too respectful toward their monarchs and not treating them with the casual flippancy seen in the west. Most troubling for me about 2013 was the further deterioration of tradition and traditional values. Royal children born out of wedlock, “inter-faith” coronations and so on. Belgium and Luxembourg both have openly homosexual prime ministers and in little Luxembourg bigger changes are planned with the current government such as legalizing gay marriage, gay adoption, removing religious classes from the public schools and doing away with Catholic services as part of National Day celebrations. The King of The Netherlands says he doesn’t want to be called “Your Majesty”, the Prince of Wales wants an “inter-faith” coronation and the Pope is talking about income inequality and driving a Ford. In all the good and bad we have seen in 2013, it is safe to say that those supporting tradition and monarchy, in Europe in particular, need to step their game up in a big way.
That was 2013, wishing everyone a happier 2014
The Mad Monarchist
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