Monday, January 27, 2014

Royal News Roundup

A rather light week for royal news was this last, but here it is. In the British Isles the biggest news was that HM the Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales are merging their media teams in what is being taken as a further move towards Prince Charles taking over for the Queen in her many royal duties. Some have even gone so far as to mention the “a” word but let’s not be hysterical. The Queen, I have no doubt, will remain Queen until God calls her home but as the years take their toll it is only natural that she should share more of the burden with her eldest son and successor. And speaking of time marching on, we found out this week the name of Princess Royal Anne’s new granddaughter; she will be known as Mia Grace. Across the North Sea, the King of Sweden attended the Society and Defence National Conference this week while his youngest daughter, Princess Madeleine, was attracting attention at her office in New York City with her increasingly noticeable “baby bump”. The King also visited Tacloban City in the Philippines to assess the damage caused by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The King had earlier organized a fundraising program for victims of the storm. And, in neighboring Norway, King Harald V was visiting the unfortunate residents of Laerdal after a recent terrible fire, talking with the locals and congratulating the response teams on their work.

In the Low Countries, the King and Queen of the Netherlands welcomed President Hollande of France to their country early in the week and later met with the Prime Minister of Italy. In neighboring Belgium, Princess Claire celebrated her 40th birthday on Sunday the 19th and her husband Prince Laurent of Belgium (yes, the one who always seems to step in it) put out a press release saying, “…from the bottom of his heart how happy is to have met her, that he respects her, how much he loves her and how grateful he is to her for the beautiful children that fill their hearts with happiness and pride.” The Prince also said, “Each day that pass is a pleasure to share my life with her”. Prince Laurent may not always make good decisions but he certainly made a good one when he married Princess Claire and he is intelligent enough to realize that. Good for them and congratulations to the Princess on her birthday. Finally, in Luxembourg, there has been some confusion over a coin released by a German firm bearing the images of Prince Felix and Princess Claire (another one) as the Royal Court in Luxembourg says that they gave no permission for the use of the images of the newlyweds and will have to see if the couple themselves knows anything about this. And, further south, in the Kingdom of Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has expressed his support for HRH Infanta Cristina who is set to testify as a suspect in court in a few weeks. Rajoy said that he expects things will go well for her and that, “I’m convinced of her innocence”. Nice to see some loyalty on public display in the ‘Land of the Setting Sun’.

The biggest event in southern royal news may have passed unnoticed in most of the media but it was a major event. First of all, there was the official ceremony for the beatification of Queen Maria Cristina of Savoy at the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Naples, Italy. Blessed Queen Maria Cristina was the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia, the Queen consort of King Ferdinand II of the Two-Sicilies and the mother of Francis II, the last King of the Two-Sicilies. However, this event was preceded by another important royal event in Naples which was the signing of a document of reconciliation between the two rival branches of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies. The Duke of Noto (acting for Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria who is in frail health) and the Duke of Castro signed the “peace treaty” of sorts which states that they will effectively share leadership of the house for the present with each head of each branch to be treated equally. As for the succession, it is not considered a significant issue as the Duke of Castro has only daughters and the eldest son of the Duke of Noto, Prince Jaime, is now learning Italian and will in future take on a larger royal in family affairs. This is very good to see, it comes after about a year of meetings and negotiations and is the first time such a dispute has been settled by mutual agreement from both sides. They will now work on the (hopefully not more difficult) task of reconciling their followers. Hopefully this will also set an example for the House of Savoy which is in a similar situation.

Finally, in Asian royal news, it was a fairly quiet week. Tensions remain high in Thailand with internal matters and in Japan with international matters but both monarchies remain, thankfully, tranquil. In the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan the young monarch presided over the opening of the second session of the second parliament this week, which is all well and good but is still breaks my heart that Bhutan ever started down this path of parliaments and political parties. And in the federal Kingdom of Malaysia, the presiding “King”, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam has spoken up for the first time in support of a court ruling that forbids non-Muslims to use the word Allah to refer to God. This has heightened religious divisions in the country. Last October a court upheld the ban, overturning a previous decision that had allowed a Catholic newspaper to use the word Allah in its Malay-language edition. Muslim leaders have called for action against Christians who do not comply with the order (Christians being about 9% of the population of Malaysia). A Catholic priest is currently under investigation for sedition for denying the ban. In a recent speech Sultan Abdul Halim said, “In the context of a pluralistic society, religious sensitivities especially related to Islam as the religion of the federation should be respected”. After the order first came out a few churches were fire-bombed and government officials said that areas where Christians are concentrated would not be forced to comply with the order, however, this most recent ruling and the words of the King have caused many to doubt whether that will be the case.

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