Monday, May 5, 2014

Royal News Roundup

Last week started off with the double canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome with, for the first time in history, two living popes (Francis & Benedict XVI) participating in the mass together. The remaining Catholic monarchies were well represented at the ceremony. In attendance were King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians, Prince Hans-Adam II, Princess Marie, Prince Nicholas and Princess Margaret of Liechtenstein, Grand Duke Henri, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, Prince Louis, Prince Sebastian and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie of Luxembourg. The two new papal saints were also not without some, indirect, royal connections. Although both were of humble backgrounds, Pope John XXIII was a particularly good friend to Princess Giovanna of Italy, later Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria, when he was Apostolic Visitor to that country and Pope John Paul II, whose father was an officer in the Imperial-Royal Army of Austria-Hungary, was named after Blessed Charles I, the last Hapsburg Emperor.

Also in southern Europe, the Princely Family of Monaco is stressing again their disassociation from the upcoming film on the late Princess Grace which is about to have its premier in Cannes. The film, which stars Nicole Kidman as Princess Grace and Tim Roth as Prince Rainier, focuses on a difficult period in Franco-Monegasque relations and the invitation to Princess Grace by Alfred Hitchcock to return to acting. The Princely Family was initially supportive of the project and even helped bring attention to the film as well as providing information and details on the life and important events to be covered in the movie. However, the filmmakers repeatedly disregarded the facts and ignored corrections which the Palace, helpfully, provided in an effort to make the story more “dramatic”. After a certain point, the House of Monaco cut ties with the project and denounced the film as an inaccurate piece of fiction simply trying to cash-in on the name and image of the late Princess Grace.

In the north, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden celebrated his 68th birthday and in Denmark the authorities announced an investigation into claims that credit card transactions by members of the Royal Family were leaked to gossip magazines. The King of Norway announced he will be attending the D-Day ceremonies this summer and both Sweden and Norway hosted a visit by King Philip and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians this week. For the House of Windsor, the biggest yet least interesting story (for yours truly at least) was the break-up of Prince Harry and his South African girlfriend. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall also led mourners at the funeral of Duchess Camilla’s brother Mark Shand who died after falling and suffering a head injury in New York. Later in the week, for the wedding of a friend, Prince William and Prince Harry were in Memphis, Tennessee where the two princes also took time to visit “the King’s castle”, Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. Prince Harry also made a splash at the party scene in Miami, Florida.

Africa made some royal news when Grammy-winning hip-hop singer Erykah Badu (from the United States) gave a special concert for the birthday of King Mswati III of Swaziland. Badu is described as a “human rights activist” and was criticized by many people for hypocrisy for singing for the King and giving him a gift of a hundred dollars and a stone supposed to contain properties to ‘lift his spirits’. The singer responded via Twitter that she was not paid by the King and knew nothing of the political situation in Swaziland (and to be fair, before this hit the news, I had never heard of Erykah Badu so…). As most know, King Mswati III is the last absolute monarch in Africa and is the focus of a great many accusations of tyranny and corruption. Over in the Middle East, Princess Haya of Jordan, secondary consort of the Emir of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, celebrated her 40th birthday last week. She is also president of the International Equestrian Federation and so popular that in the same week that organization changed its rules to allow the Princess to run for a third term in that position. In Saudi Arabia, a new Minister of State took his oath of office and a new website was unveiled by which the people can petition the King directly.

In Asia, a Thai comedian and red shirt activist lost his appeal after being convicted of a slur against the King in a political speech. He is not the first and many of the red shirt supporters of the fugitive former Prime Minister Shinawatra are claiming that the authorities are using the lese-majeste laws to persecute them. However, that is nonsense as members of the yellow shirts have been punished for the same offense and it is simply a fact that the red shirts are less supportive and reverent of the monarchy than their political rivals. Also in southeast Asia, making quite a bit of news last week, was the “unveiling” (no pun intended) of the new sharia law code by the Sultan of Brunei. We have discussed this before and it covers the usual items, fines for indecency, pregnancy without being married or failure to attend Friday prayers, provisions for corporal punishment and stoning and all that stuff. Not many news outlets or international watchdogs mention that the new law code applies only to Muslims, who are of course the majority, and not the non-Muslim minority in Brunei, most of whom are Chinese. Finally, last week HIH Princess Akiko of Mikasa visited Turkey and was presented with a special album of photographs from the sinking of the Ottoman frigate “Ertugrul”. This relates to a famous incident that brought Ottoman Turkey and the Empire of Japan together in 1889 when the Turkish frigate, after a visit to Japan, was sunk in a storm off the coast. Japanese fishermen rescued the survivors and treated them with such kindness and dignity that the event is remembered every five years and has been a source of Turkish-Japanese friendship ever since.

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