Monday, February 3, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Things were rather busy last week in the monarchies of the world. Starting in the English-speaking world, it was announced that HM the Queen will be making a special tour this year to mark the centenary of World War One. The biggest news, however, was the Queen’s household coming under fire from lawmakers over how they have handled their money, pointing to the estimated 50 million pounds needed to repair crumbling tombs and palaces and the like. Some suggested that the Queen rent out palaces or make Buckingham Palace open to the public more often as ways to raise money. However, the chancellor did come to the defense of his monarch, implying that the report was rather unfair and that the Queen’s household has been rather good at managing money and stretching their budget. However, in other areas, it seems more spending is always needed and the biggest area that always seems to need more is the National Health Service with the Prince of Wales speaking out for better food in British hospitals (-fighting the urge to make joke about British food-). The heir to the throne also said that climate change skeptics were like “headless chickens” which would presumably include yours truly. But, that’s okay, I’ll still support the Prince of Wales even if he does think me a headless chicken because that’s what loyalty is all about. Also, British Prime Minister “Call me Dave” Cameron said that he finds his weekly visits with the Queen very valuable because of her many years of experience. Of course, we all know that. The Queen at least is old enough to remember the days when seasoned statesmen rather than mere boys like little Davy Cameron or the bubbly bungler Tony Blair were elected prime minister. Finally, in a change that couldn’t come soon enough, the Queen has a new representative in the Land Down Under as retired General Peter Cosgrove, former defense forces chief, was appointed Governor-General of Australia. He is bound to be a drastic improvement over the last one. He is at least described as a “staunch monarchist” but, when asked about a republic (and why they insist on bringing up the subject at every opportunity is beyond me, especially considering that support for a republic is now at its lowest ebb in the last two decades) the new Governor-General said, like his sovereign, that “the will of the people” would decide. Yawn.

Moving on to the continent, HM the King of Norway attended a special commemoration for Holocaust Day last week and then joined up with the Queen to visit fire damaged areas in Flatanger while, back at the cabin, Crown Princess Mette-Marit tried her hand at weaving. On the Danish front Princess Marie brought cheer to the people of Ethiopia on her recent tour and over in Sweden one needed one’s Wellingtons to wade through all the royal gossip. Crown Princess Victoria visited Hamburg on crutches, still recovering from her ski accident but there have been rumors of wedding bells in the future for little brother Prince Carl Philip. It’s not the first time so we will have to wait and see on that one. The most shocking, however, was King Carl XVI Gustaf being named as a murder suspect in a Danish gossip rag. The editor-in-chief said it was “a draft that shouldn’t have been published” but it has still caused plenty of outrage and rightly so.

Down in the Low Countries things were fairly quiet last week but one story certainly needs addressing. The Belgian media seems to relish beating up on their Royal Family. Stories were out reporting on a *rumor* that former monarch King Albert II is boycotting events because he is upset at not getting a desired pay raise for his retirement. There is no basis, I repeat, *no basis* for such an accusation and yet it is getting mentioned all the time, even in relation to other stories the former monarch has nothing to do with. For example, King Philip and Queen Mathilde met with a group of Belgian dignitaries and in the description of the news clip it said more or less that, ‘all the Belgian royals were there, except for King Albert who is all huffy because he’s not getting more money’. Yes, it was as bad as that. In the English video at least, they had the former monarch so ‘on the brain’ that the announcer even bungled the name of the actual Belgian monarch, referring to “King Albert and Queen Mathilde”. All the palace has said is that the former monarch is not boycotting anything, he is not upset with anyone but merely wishes to stay out of the limelight in order for King Philip to have center stage. It really is quite ridiculous.

On the southern front, the biggest news this week was the second wedding of Andrea Casiraghi and Tatiana whateverlastnamesheisusing. It was a far cry from their first, low-key, exchange of vows in Monaco, held at a Swiss resort with a star-studded guest list and such activities as a fondu party and a torch-lit ski down the mountain. Tatiana wore a Valentino wedding dress and both returned to the hotel wrapped in white furs in a horse-drawn carriage. The bride walked down the isle in an 11th Century convent founded by the Order of Cluny on a carpet of rose petals to the serene sound of “Ave Maria”. The day before the ceremony the couple also appeared at the nearby church of St Joseph to have their son Sacha baptized into the Catholic Church. Princely uncle and aunt Albert II and Charlene were there of course as was little brother Pierre, sister and new mother herself Charlotte Casiraghi (along with her baby-daddy Gad) but of course pride of place went to the mother of the groom HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover. Others on the guest list included royals and celebrities from Prince Nicholas of Greece to Uma Thurmon. We wish them the best, especially since Andrea is next in line to the throne of Monaco until Prince Albert and Princess Charlene get busy and do their duty. And, speaking of church matters, the magazine that recently featured the surviving Boston bomber terrorist on its cover, yes, “Rolling Stone” last week bestowed that dubious honor on everyone’s favorite Catholic Pope Francis. However, the Vatican was less than pleased with the actual article which, while effusive in its praise of Pope Francis, contrasted that with a very negative portrayal of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Everyone is probably familiar with this, ‘Pope Francis is so warm and friendly and open and tolerant, nothing like that scary, rule-quoting conservative Benedict’. Since it was “Rolling Stone” the official Vatican response, I believe, was, “That’s totally not cool man”. And finally, in Spain, there was one small bit of good news for beleaguered Infanta Cristina as a judge ruled that she may drive to the court room rather than walk through a herd of media sleaze. It is not much, but at this point, the poor Spanish Royal Family will take what small favors may come.

On the continent of Asia, royal relatives are taking up the slack in the United Arab Emirates. As UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is recovering from surgery after suffering a stroke, his brother Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is running things to ensure stability. The Emir of Qatar attended the graduation ceremony for the Air College last week and it was announced that King Abdullah II of Jordan will meet with President Obama in California this month. Further to the east, HM Queen Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema of Bhutan graced with her presence the ground breaking ceremony for the Democracy house, Election Commission of Bhutan head office building in Kawa Jangsa. Moving still further east, although not concerning the monarchy directly, events in the Kingdom of Thailand are worrisome. Elections were held, or were at least attempted, as protestors demanding the resignation of the prime minister tried to block polling stations. The monarchy is in no danger from the protestors but what the prime minister’s party may do as a result, in the name of suppressing disorder, is a cause for concern. Finally, in the Land of the Rising Sun, the government is looking for some new aircraft as the Boeing 747-400s used by His Majesty the Emperor and the prime minister are being retired after more than 20 years service. The aircraft known as “Japanese Air Force One” (in some circles anyway) is used by the prime minister on official trips, was used by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress on the recent visit to India and was even used to evacuate Japanese citizens from Algeria when terrorists seized a natural gas facility in that country. And, also this week Their Imperial Highnesses Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko were received by President Ollanta Humala of Peru on Sunday as part of a 4-day official visit to mark the 140th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Peru and Japan.

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