Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Introduction to the Royals!

Picture: the British Crown of St Edward used during the coronation of the British monarch.

If I begin to list the reigning or ruling royal families of the world it won't take me too long:

In Europe:
Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Luxembourg (the world's only Grand-Duchy-head of state a Grand Duke;) Liechtenstein, Monaco (both are Principalities-head of state a Prince;) the Vatican, and Andorra, with ecclesiastic (clergy) Head of State, the Pope of the former, and the current Bishop of Urgill is co-Prince of Andorra with the current French President as the other co-Prince!!!

In Africa:
Morocco, Lesotho, and sub-kingdoms(!)-Ashanti, sub-kingdom within Ghana, Cokossian monarchy within Togo and Wogodogo monarchy within Burkina Faso; Toro, Bunyoro, Ankole, Buganda and Busoga are sub-kingdoms- monarchies within Uganda.
In Asia:
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates-with the seven Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Umm al Quwain and Ras al Khaimah; Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, all these make up the Arabian peninsula. Further east is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Leaving the Middle East, further east in the Far East- Malaysia- with the constituent Sultanates of Perak, Selangor,Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengannu and Johor electing from themselves a Yang di Pertuan Agong-King of Malaysia for periods of five years; the Sultanate of Yogyayarta in Indonesia, then Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei, and Japan form the monarchies of the far east.

In the Pacific, the Kingdom of Tonga, the only independent kingdom in the region. And the Maori kingdom has some sort of recognition within New Zealand.

Besides, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain is Head of State-Queen.

The huge island of Greenland is a member country of Denmark, and Netherlands Antilles and Aruba in the Caribbean Sea are part of the Netherlands.

Why do some countries, societies and peoples continue with the monarchic system when the republican system is the norm and affords any citizen becoming a Head of State, usually called President? This is a very difficult question.

Perhaps, the answer lies in the cultural make up of people; the traditions, culture, history and political set up of the country the deciding factors to continue with the monarchial system.

Moreover, every country or people with a continuous bad economic record and very stubborn monarchical traditions that allow little or no freedom for its people, have got rid of their royals! Some countries like Australia, Canada, and others have seriously debated the choice of moving to republicanism, the charisma and personality of the present Queen a deciding factor against any change.

And people who love pomp, pageantry, colour, medals and uniforms, glitter and jewels, with a benevolent "father" figure as monarch, who lives up to every body's expectations, a radiant charismatic personality, with little or no political interference, a long dynastic record of good governance, with "winning the people's heart," royals who fit these parameters are still reigning in many parts of the world.

Of late, with far more exposure from the "electronic" mass media, most royals are subject to more attention than ever, and the stories are more often unpleasant, exposing individuals' private lives, and details that surface, more unsavoury and embarrassing for all concerned...........divorces, with the private sex lives not private in the least sense of the word, property and other money scandals, arrogant and undiplomatic behaviour of individuals within the family.

Chased by the paparazzi, it even cost Princess Diana her life; this remarkable woman known throughout the world for her various causes and for her compassion and concern for the underprivileged, nevertheless led a private life that could fetch millions to people who could photograph her private moments and her life details after her divorce with Prince Charles.

In spite of these new setbacks with exposure to the media, some royals also considered dyfunctionals, most "subjects" in the majority of countries with the monarchic system, prefer to continue with a king , queen, prince, shaikh or sultan..........and are opposed to the republican main reason being, along with patriotic and cultural considerations, the monarch is now a figurehead, and the country is committed to a constitutional democratic form of government led by an elected executive and legislature.

In spite of functioning as a figurehead, a majority of monarchs are well informed of their government's political and functional record and goings on, very often giving discreet and timely advice to their prime minister/head of government.

Besides, the monarch is not above the "system", with laws and statutes that require, for example, permission of the government of the day, for marriage alliances of family members, (including the monarch's,) and the 'status' to be accorded to the new entry in the family(!)

It is the government of the day who will decide whether the new Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles, (second wife of Prince Charles) be designated Queen Consort or continue with a lesser title after Prince Charles becomes King because she is a divorcee.

The Monarch's privy purse, his salary, is fixed and reviewed by the government!

The monarch's public speeches have to be cleared by the government; the palaces, crown jewels, art objects belong to the State, the monarch paying Income Tax on his/her personal wealth..................the British Queen pays Income Tax on her personal income........she owns estates that are run on professional lines- agriculture, dairy, life stock and meat, and this generates income for her...........the Queen is a farmer of sorts!!!

Most of the rulers/monarchs in the Middle East are absolute or near absolute rulers, and further east, the Kings of Thailand, Cambodia and the Japanese Emperor have a certain degree of "divine" status bestowed on them, an altogether different relationship with their people..................untill recently the Japanese Emperor was considered a god in the pantheon of Shinto gods (Shintoism is native to Japan.) The Maori hold their royal family in great regard, but it is very private between the people and their king (untill recently the previous monarch was a queen), and the Maori king rarely figures in New Zealand public life.

The Thai revere their King, Bhumibol Adulyej, in times of unrest the King's word of caution brings any controversial issue to an amicable close!!

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