Monday, March 17, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Starting with the House of Windsor, Prince Andrew is NOT engaged to a supermodel, Prince Harry IS an item with Cressida Bonas (not exactly “news”) and Prince Edward celebrated his fiftieth birthday last week. HM the Queen presided over Commonwealth Day celebrations, we learned that the IRA threatened to assassinate Prince Philip and the Queen met with King Philip and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians who made an official one day visit to London. There was also news that the private correspondence of the Prince of Wales may be made public and the usual suspects were clamoring for this and shouting that the public must know in exactly what way the future King will not be politically neutral. Needless to say, I think being royal should not mean the complete forfeiture of all privacy but I would also like to know why none of these people were shouting when the Prince of Wales took up the global warming/climate change/whatever we are calling it this year campaign? After all, as soon as governments began passing legislation on the issue (because of course politicians can control the weather why not) it certainly became “political” and yet no royals have ever been scolded for speaking their mind and having an opinion on that subject. I find that rather revealing.

More distressing news, unfortunately, is added to that from last week concerning New Zealand where the government recently announced that it will be holding a referendum to scrap the national flag in favor of some new model that does not include the Union Jack. For former colonies worried about being considered “real” countries, I can only say once again that “real” countries do NOT just change their national flags to keep up with the times. When a country changes its national flag it is usually because there has been a violent and ugly revolution (China, Russia, France) or because there was something horribly shameful about their previous flag that they have broken all ties with (Germany) and none of these apply to New Zealand. The whole issue is absurd. Thankfully, the Foreign Minister of Australia has said that they will be having none of it saying, “its not an issue that draws much attention in Australia”. Unfortunately, she didn’t say it was because of immense pride and the national history of Australia and later said there were no plans to change it “for the time being”, which is not exactly as strident a statement as I would like.

On the Scandinavian front, the family of the Crown Prince of Norway along with the King and Queen had some family time on the ski slopes last Sunday. Later in the week the Crown Prince and his son Prince Sverre Magnus visited the Children’s Art Museum in Oslo. The Swedish Royal Court unveiled their official YouTube channel and Crown Princess Victoria celebrated her name day but it was little Princess Estelle who was the real center of attention. Further south on the continent, the Belgian royal couple, as mentioned, visited London and in Luxembourg the Grand Duke and Duchess along with Prince Guillaume and Princess Stephanie hosted a special dinner for members of the government. In Spanish royal news, HRH the Prince of the Asturias was in Santiago for the inauguration of the new President of Chile while at home the King, Queen and other royals attended special services remembering the victims of the Madrid bombings which occurred ten years ago (and that makes me feel old). Also getting older was HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco who turned 56 on Friday. In Rome, there were reflective moments looking back on one year since HH Pope Francis assumed the Throne of St Peter.

In the Middle East, it was women troubles in Saudi Arabia that dominated the news. The ex-wife of King Abdullah, Princess Alamoud Al Fayez, has come forward with allegations of abuse against her four daughters by the King. After they were divorced the mother moved to London but the girls remained in Saudi Arabia and their mother says they are being held prisoner, have no freedom and are “hanging to life”. How they are any more like prisoners than any other women in Saudi Arabia I do not know -let us be honest, there is no gender equality or feminism in Saudi Arabia, and the daughters are not so secluded that they have not been able to communicate with the media, in this case the British media, via cell-phone and email. I have to say about this, as someone not of that country, culture or religion, I find the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia appalling, particularly given what licentious lives their male counterparts are allowed to lead. Yet, at the same time, I cannot help but note that the international protestations against this flies in the face of so-called liberal, western “values” of tolerance and diversity, at least as we are told they are today. So many of the same people who love to talk about respect for other cultures and multicultural diversity and respect for non-Christian religions always also seem to be telling people in other countries that they should stop doing things the way they have always been done and be more like the rest of the world.

And finally, in East Asia, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress led the country in marking the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami disaster. Their Majesties led a moment of silence and HM the Emperor gave a special address on the occasion, expressing sympathy for the victims, concern for the survivors and pride in all those who have come together in support of each other during such a difficult time. His Majesty conveyed his hope that the disaster would never be forgotten, that Japan would learn from it to become a safer country and his hope that peace and quiet will return to the afflicted regions.

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