A modern, constitutional monarch is not going to make any grand gestures or remarks that go contrary to public opinion when their very existence as royals depends on public support preventing the politicians from legislating them out of official existence; because there is not a politician in this world, be he a senator or a local town council member who does not see a president when they look in the mirror each morning. Instead of expecting them to do things they cannot do, it is important to look at what they can do. So, this makes the little things stand out all the more if we care to notice them. For example, although there were still plenty of cheering crowds when he was alive, after Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was safely in the ground, it became clear just how much the public had turned against him. In the first post-Franco elections, his supporters received just 9% of the vote with even the formerly banned communists gaining more public support. Streets and buildings named in his honor were re-named to what they had been called before, his statues have come down and legislation was even passed banning any public official from speaking about the Generalissimo or his regime. Yet, in spite of all that, in spite of how widely unpopular the memory of Franco is in today’s Spain and how being anti-Franco is all the rage and bashing him is a quick and easy way to gain popularity, it is widely known that HM King Juan Carlos I would never permit anyone to speak ill of the late Caudillo in his presence.
|King Juan Carlos I & Generalissimo Franco|
As far as remarks go, none were probably so famous as when King Juan Carlos asked Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, “Why don’t you shut up?” when he continuously interrupted the Spanish prime minister to insult his predecessor at the job. That got all the headlines but more significant was the subtle facts about where the King was. It was the Ibero-American Summit, a meeting of the heads of state and governments from basically what was once the Spanish and Portuguese empires. He also served (as does his son currently) as President of the Ibero-American States Organization and has basically done all that it is in his power to do to foster unity between the countries of the former Spanish empire, strengthen their ties with Spain and thus with their former monarchy. The OEI was founded before the Spanish monarchy was restored but the fact that the King of Spain has become hereditary president of the organization says something about what the King was able to accomplish, in small, subtle ways, in bringing the Spanish monarchy back into a position of prominence and leadership, even if only in a ceremonial way, in the Spanish-speaking world.
When King Baudouin passed away, everyone was shocked and his funeral was one of the major events in modern royal history. The crowned heads of Europe were out in full force, the head of almost every non-reigning royal house was present and even His Majesty the Emperor of Japan flew in to attend. That was rather remarkable by itself. Also remarkable was the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As anyone who knows anything about the British monarchy can tell you, the Queen (and other British monarchs before her) does not attend royal events on the continent. The Queen does not attend weddings, she does not attend funerals but sends other members of the Royal Family to represent her on these occasions. Also keep in mind that when her beloved father, the last King-Emperor George VI passed away, King Baudouin did not attend his funeral because of lingering bad feelings over how the British had treated his own father King Leopold III. Obviously, things had improved since then, but many were rather surprised that the Queen would attend a royal funeral in Europe when she never did such things and in particular for the funeral of a man who had refused to attend the funeral of her own father. Why did it happen? Who can say? This is purely my own opinion but I cannot help but think that this was all a very quiet, subtle gesture on the part of the crowned heads of Europe to show their solidarity with a fellow monarch who had defied his ministers and popular opinion. It did not really accomplish anything, but the King had done all that it was in his power to do. All he could do was to sign or not to sign and he refused to sign. I cannot help but think that the unprecedented attendance at his funeral was a way monarchs, like Queen Elizabeth II, had of showing their special support for a king who had done what many of them would like to be able to do but cannot.
|Queen Elizabeth II|
It could also be pointed out how, after the despicable overthrow of King Constantine II of Greece, the Queen continued to treat him with all of the privileges of rank normally accorded to a King during his exile in London. He had not abdicated, after all, and this was a subtle way for the Queen to express her own opinion without actually doing so. Similarly, one might consider the immense royal turnout for the funeral of the exiled King Umberto II of Italy. Again, this is my own interpretation and some may disagree, but I think the immense royal presence, including a great many monarchs, was a subtle, silent way of making a statement. Umberto II, after all, had been King of Italy only for a very short time and a great many of the mourners came from countries which the Kingdom of Italy had been in conflict with during World War II, all of which would make some think that the funeral of Umberto II should have been a more low-key affair. The fact that it was not and was so well-attended by the crowned heads of Europe makes me believe that they were all making a quiet, subtle gesture that King Umberto II was ‘one of the club’ who had been unjustly and illegally deprived of his throne and who, despite his long years of exile, they still viewed as the true King of Italy.
|King Umberto II|
Another remark, not extreme but a simple one which raised quite a few eyebrows was spoken by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. The Queen of Denmark is one monarch in Europe who has more freedom than most in the remarks she makes and it caused a bit of s stir when she spoke with moderate caution about the program of multiculturalism going on across Western Europe. This was in the wake of the uproar over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed that sparked riots and numerous acts of violence in the Islamic world. The Queen made a simple remark about the need to stand firm and not compromise western values and not to shy away from taking appropriate measures for fear of being called racists. It was in no way an extreme thing that she said and yet it was something that, for someone in her position, took considerable courage. To understand, one need look no further than the criticism that heaped on Queen Sofia of Spain when it was reported in a book, quite unsurprisingly, that she opposed “gay marriage” and her remarks in opposition to abortion caused outrage in the usual quarters. Many, even of those in sympathy with such positions, will not be impressed by such words. For them, nothing short of unrealistic, impossible, autocratic measures will ever be enough. However, even mere remarks arouse great anger from those opposed to them and that should make it all the more remarkable when royals make them.
The point of all these examples is that, in this day and age, when monarchs are so restricted in most of the world, one must look to the little things for hope and encouragement and to see where the true sentiments of the royals are. All too often these things go by with only minor, temporary notice or no notice at all. Especially for monarchists, it should be second-nature to give monarchs the benefit of the doubt and to be quicker to praise rather than to criticize, which so many seem to enjoy doing. In different times there would be different circumstances, but this is the world we live in and the royals, the same as the vast majority of their peoples, have grown up in an atmosphere not conducive to the types of values most traditional monarchists hold dear. No longer taught privately at home, they go to the same schools that teach the same anti-traditional drivel as everyone else. It is not surprising then that they do not hold the same opinions as their ancestors. Yet, that is all the more reason to stand firmly in support of them in such difficult times and give them all due credit when they risk the popularity their place and that of their family and all future generations depend on, to say something the public may not approve of.