Lèse majesté

In a ill-informed and poorly argued article, The quirks that could prove royalty’s downfall, in the Irish Times, a number of European royal houses are examined under somewhat bizarre categories, leading to an equally bizarre quasi-insinuation. Such an article in any other nation would rightly lead the author to being accused of lèse majesté, and facing the consequences for this.

He notes that “A week of political manoeuvring in the Netherlands, it now seems inevitable that Queen Beatrix will be stripped of the Dutch monarch’s traditional entitlement to become involved in the negotiation of governments”. He goes on to note that “Labour is in favour of removing the queen’s ability to “interfere” in the formation of governments and also in favour of removing her as head of the Council of State, it believes her removal as head of the state would be a step too far”. It hardly needs to be said but the fact that the Dutch monarchy, like so many others that remain, enjoy consistent, widespread support from all but a tiny minority of insignificant cranks.

He adds that the change in the Dutch constitution are as a result of Queen Beatrix’s desire “to step down in the not-too-distant future in favour of her son, Crown Prince Willem Alexander”. Firstly, the heir apparent to the Dutch throne does not have the title, Crown Prince, but Prince of Orange. One would expect that a certain amount of knowledge would be necessary in order to make one’s point valid. Starting off on such a poor footing does little to aid one’s cause.

Secondly, there is a nasty habit in some monarchies of abdication. While the opposite view can be taken to extremes, for example in the United Kingdom, the other side of the coin is routine abdication. Regrettably this seems to be common in The Netherlands and Luxembourg. The easiest solution would be for the reigning monarch to appoint the heir apparent as regent above a certain age. This would avoid routine abdications and allow the next generation plenty of time to practice before becoming de jure monarch.

The writer of the article then notes that “there is growing public pressure in some quarters for a younger, ‘more modern’ monarchy – for which, in political terms, read one without any remaining political influence”. Such ridiculous statements are ill-informed and have little or no basis in reality. The monarchies in the Low Countries have made every effort to be more modern, indeed this has, at times, been taken too far, as was the case in Denmark. The writer then seems to contradict his own point saying that in the case of Queen Beatrix that she “restored their image as an unassuming so-called ‘bicycling monarchy’ when she succeeded her mother, Queen Juliana”.

The writer then goes through most of the crown heads of Europe by estimated wealth and some of their personal problems or notable issues during their reign but never seems to fully answer his own insunation.

The remaining monarchies are an important link with our past and while not perfect preform duties that a politican should never be allowed do. Monarchies represent a nation at its best and can be a great source of national unity and pride when other institutions fail.

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