Monday, March 24, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Starting in the United Kingdom, last week TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge handed out shamrocks to the First Battalion, Irish Guards on St Patrick’s Day, which is a long-standing tradition. Later in the week the couple made a £5,000 donation to flood victims and Prince William knighted the doctor who delivered little Prince George. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall opened a children’s hospital and later visited Kent and East Sussex while, back at the palace, work is already underway for the festivities to mark the 93rd birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh, which promises to be quite a grand affair -and no one is more deserving. The Royal Marines are set to play a major part, also only fitting as Prince Philip is their Captain-General. If the Queen and Prince consort have not been such out and about much lately, that is to be expected with the Prince set to turn 93 and the Queen 88 very soon. The Palace has confirmed that their schedule is being steadily reduced with the Prince of Wales and younger royals taking on more duties. It is expected that this summer’s commemoration of the D-Day landings in France will be the last overseas trip for the Queen, God save her.

On the continent, the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway made a visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, visiting Hanoi, Hue and Saigon on what the Crown Princess called a ‘journey through the history and economic development’ of Vietnam. The invitation was made by Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan to encourage greater trade and economic ties between Norway and Vietnam. The royal couple have also said they want to convey a desire for more openness in society, speaking to the lack of freedom in the communist dictatorship (and I cannot help but point out that prior to the First Lady Michelle Obama visiting Communist China this week it was stated at the outset that human rights would *not* be discussed). Meanwhile, in Denmark, Queen Margrethe II and all the Danish Royal Family put on their best to entertain the visiting President of Turkey, in the grand, old fashioned style that no one quite does like the Danes anymore. The President pointed out that the 65,000-strong Turkish community in Denmark is the largest minority group in the ancient kingdom (uh huh).

Moving south, there was not much major news from the Netherlands. The children will not be joining in the celebrations for King’s Day and it was announced that President Xi Jinping of the People’s Bandit Republic of China will be making an official state visit. Belgium was busy though with Princess Astrid in Oman, congratulating the Sultan for joining the convention against anti-personnel mines. While in the country the Princess also visited the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and later visited Saudi Arabia where the Princess was met by the Crown Prince and applauded the inter-faith initiative of King Abdullah. In more unhappy news, Prince Laurent was admitted to the hospital in Brussels for what has only been said as exhaustion and King Philip received a pile of speeding tickets from police in the French Republic along with a threat to confiscate his car if he doesn’t pay up! In Luxembourg the Grand Ducal family got together to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their local chapter of the Red Cross of which the Grand Duchess is President. And, on the southern front, HM Queen Sofia of Spain visited the Central American republic of Guatemala last week and was very well received.

In East Asia things have been very busy lately, though the biggest story was not directly royal-related but was, of course, the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a jet liner from the Kingdom of Malaysia bound for Peking. More contentious, and involving royalty directly, was the announced return to politics of Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh, son of the late King-Father Norodom Sihanouk and former leader of the royalist party. His new organization will be called the “Community of the Royalist People Party” and, while he is popular throughout much of the country, many are murmuring of something devious in his sudden return to politics. The primary accusation is that the Prince is being brought back by the dictator-in-all-but-name Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Cambodian People’s Party to split the opposition to his rule since the primary opposition party (Cambodian National Rescue Party) recently gained some seats. Hun Sen was originally installed by the Vietnamese after they invaded Cambodia and drove Pol Pot from power and has remained in control virtually ever since. Usually, around election time, there will be some border tensions with Thailand that “necessitates” calling out the army as a way of intimidating voters to support the ruling leftist party.

Finally, it was a busy week in Japan as well. On Monday Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress received the Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and First Lady Mai Thi Hanh at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. A banquet was held later that evening for the guests with an address by HM the Emperor, thanking the President of Vietnam for his concern for the earthquake and tsunami victims and highlighting the long history of friendly relations between Vietnam and Japan (though I will point out here that was mostly between the Nguyen Lords of the south whose descendants later founded the imperial dynasty this communist president’s predecessor drove from power and tried to destroy entirely -ahem). And, in much happier news, HIH Princess Aiko, the only child of TIH Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, graduated from Gakushuin Primary School on Tuesday. The 12-year old princess attended the ceremony with both of her parents and is set to enroll at Gakushuin Girls’ Junior High School in April. They grow up so fast. The Princess has studied English and enjoyed playing basketball and the cello in the school orchestra. Congratulations to Her Imperial Highness on this milestone.

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