Monday, April 7, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Last week was busy with lots of traveling for the House of Windsor. The first big trip was the visit of HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh to Rome where they met with the President (“King George”) and HH Pope Francis. The visit to the Vatican was what caught the most attention both because of the immense popularity of everyone’s favorite ‘salvation through social justice’ Pope and because the visit came about during the anniversary of the Falklands War. In the weeks and months leading up to this visit Argentine President Christina Kirchner had shamelessly harangued and pestered the Argentine Pope by correspondence and in person about bringing up the issue of the Falklands with the Queen. The Pope, as a cardinal in Argentina, had also been supportive of Argentina taking the islands, however, needless to say that nothing of the sort was discussed, despite the badgering of Kirchner. The Vatican was clear that it takes no sides in such international disputes. Something else it doesn’t do is enforce the dress code anymore. The Queen was prepared to wear a black dress and veil as has long been customary for non-Catholic ladies visiting the Pontiff and as she has worn on visits to past popes. This time, however, the Vatican informed the royal party that such attire would not be necessary and to dress ‘normally’. More ‘out with the old, in with the new’ for Pope Francis.

In any event, the trip seemed to go very well and everyone was all smiles. Yours truly, however, was not smiling when learning that an invitation from the Queen for a state banquet had been sent out to former IRA commander (republican terrorist) Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. He had been invited to such a function in the past, in Ireland, but threw it back in the monarch’s face and refused to take his seat in the House of Commons when elected because he would not swear the oath of allegiance to the Queen. Why he should be extended any courtesy is beyond me. He was also quite a big-shot in the IRA at the time that Lord Mountbatten was murdered. I am all for mending fences and moving on but perhaps that is best done with someone younger who was not actually involved in criminal organizations? Happier news is that this week the Cambridge family have set out on their first visit to Australia and New Zealand with little Prince George expected to be the center of attention. Media outlets are expecting the infant Prince to crush support for a republic in Australia and New Zealand. Republicanism has been stronger in New Zealand lately but is still under 50% while in Australia they are not giving up but admit they will have to wait until the end of the current reign before they have a real chance of making a change.

On the continent, the Crown Princess of Norway talked about books and her childhood troubles, the King and Queen of Sweden wrapped up their visit to Latvia and shut the lights off at the Palace in Stockholm in honor of Earth Day. In Belgium there was quite a dust-up last week over an open letter from Queen Paola to her son Prince Laurent who is still in hospital recovering from pneumonia. This seemingly innocuous note set off a great deal of speculation and rumors of King Philip taking offense to it because it was not cleared with him first. Some of the questions are: why was the letter from Queen Paola only and not King Albert II as well? Why did she refer to Prince Laurent as “the most vulnerable person” and does this imply that he has some more significant medical problem unknown to the public? Why was the letter not issued through the palace and with the approval of the King? From my own point of view, while unusual, it seems like too much is being made of too little. Also causing controversy and no small amount of royal outrage is a book just published in Spain claiming that King Juan Carlos tried to oust the recently deceased Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez and that this was what led to the attempted military coup the King is so famous for thwarting. The palace has strongly condemned the accusations made in the book and I would say it is shameless to put out such a thing so close on the heels of the death of the former PM, effectively cashing in on two tragedies; one man’s death and the troubled state of the Spanish monarchy. On a much “lighter” note, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco had the Princely Palace bathed in blue light last week in recognition of April being autism awareness month.

Moving on from Europe, in Egypt a man has entered the political fray who is most worthy of support. He is the type of potential president I could get behind with enthusiasm as he doesn’t want to be president for long. The man in question is Hossam Shaltot and his primary goal as president would be to restore the Egyptian monarchy and, subsequent to that, to join the Gulf Cooperation Council. He has (rightly) criticized both the ousted Islamic Brotherhood President Morsi and al-Sisi who succeeded him after the military coup. Needless to say, I wish Shaltot great success in his presidential campaign and in bringing down the republican farce that has brought Egypt nothing but turmoil and misery and restoring the Muhammad Ali dynasty to its rightful place. In Saudi Arabia an agreement was made that I can also support as Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud pledged financial support to Mayor Ignazio Marino of Rome for the refurbishment of the scandalously neglected Mausoleum of Emperor Augustus. The Emir of Qatar shows no signs of backing down from the foreign policy that has strained relations with Saudi Arabia and the other gulf monarchies as he visited the Sudan, meeting with the President whose regime came to power 25 years ago with the backing of the controversial Muslim Brotherhood. Details were also released last week for a series of visits this week by King Abdullah II of Jordan to Rome and Austria as well as to Moscow where the King will discuss the situation in Syria with President Putin, the primary foreign-backer of the Assad regime.

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