Sunday, December 28, 2008
Royals then and now!
Everyone of us have to change with the times, adapt or perish, and Royals are no exception.
Most of the young generation today, familiar with modern liberated attitudes, would be surprised and amused that things were not the same before the two Great Wars, before Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Hard Rock; no one would be bothered today if a couple is seen kissing in public, not so some hundred years back. Up until the early 1850s betrothed couples, in Europe, could not "date" without a chaperone's accompanying the couple. A fiancee would address her paramour with "sir" and "Mister." A few good movies, with an eye for detail, will show these, now forgotten, mindset and postures and what have you, "A Girl with a Pearl Earring" a good example.
Most of us would be far more skeptic and incredulous on learning how people held their kings and princes in awe and reverence.
In the ancient East, kings sat on their thrones behind screens of silk encrusted with precious stones, so the commoner could not view their faces. When royalty walked, with nobles following, a gold threaded parasol held above, musicians leading the royal procession, commoners had to bow and touch their heads to the ground.........it was sacrilege to view the royal face!
Kings led their armies from up front, they set an example of bravery and chivalry by hard training to be the best swordsman, the best on the horse; intelligent and astute, kings planned battles, made diplomatic coups by marriage alliances, and some were very good at planning their countries' and their own finances, valued in gold and jewels, life stock and slaves, palaces and vast land holdings.
The entourage of an ancient monarch on the march, to invade a foreign land, was a spectacle.......along with ornate chariots drawn by magnificent stallions, the sacred household fire of the king leading, standards and pennants, the thousands of foot soldiers and mounted horse cavalry, mounted elephants, royal tents and furniture in gold and ivory, carried on camels and mules, there would be hundreds of musicians, priests, women of the harem, women following their husbands, or courtesans, slaves and clowns, dwarfs and jugglers.
In many parts of the world where kings ruled with absolute powers, good families 'hid' their beautiful daughters, and this no exaggeration, minions of the king would literary "pick" fair maidens off the street................in China, the Emperor was presented with beautiful women on a full moon's day.........in the novel Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, the Empress on reaching 40 moons, presents her husband, the Emperor, with a beautiful concubine!
Throughout history the most ambitious schemed and used people like soldiers on a chess board in their greed and ambition to be kings...............history is full of examples......pretenders and rogues had to be hounded down, and great generals schemed their way to the throne.......as far back as ancient Eygpt, Libyans who first assisted native Pharaohs, claimed the throne when their power went undisputed (see The Book of the Pharaohs by Pascal Vernus, Jean Yoyotte, David Lorton, Amazon books).........then Smerdis or Bardiya claimed the Persian throne in 400 B. C. when Cyrus the Great died and his spear bearer and nephew from a side line, Darius the Great had to hound down the pretender before he could be king. (see The Cambridge History of Iran by William Bayne Fisher, Ilya Gershevitch, Ehsan Yarshater, R. N. Frye, J. A. Boyle, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart.-Amazon books.)
Alexander the Great proclaimed himself Persian King of Kings and adopted Persian court etiquette.
Better known is the case of Julius Caesar who paid with his life for declaring himself the Roman Emperor, the great general of all time Napoleon becoming the Emperor of the French.
A classic example where the aspirations of people and that of the royals clashed famously is the incidents after the death of Princess Diana, when the British royals kept themselves secluded in Balmoral Castle in Scotland that so annoyed the British public, who also insisted the flag over Buckingham palace be flown at half mast!!!
In sharp contrast, at no time in the history of the world have royalty been so subjected to the public gaze as now, with the electronic media, newspapers, magazines and journals covering every move, every story of royals, their private lives, what they say or don't, a relentless chase with the public wanting to know everything.
The royals, at least most of them, haven risen to the occasion, encouraging the media to televise- their day to day life, speeches on Christmas, how their ardous duties are coped with, films of the younger generation of royals at military training, parades and visits, both abroad and within their country, palace ceremonies-investitures and parties, etc.
Royals are now trained officers in their defence forces, graduates from Universities, ambassadors for their countries, involved with issues such as Aids and HIV, credit and other charities in Africa, bankers, and human rights activists, good sportsmen and artists.
Having said this, people with a royal tag are human beings, with the same characteristics as any common man; perhaps some members of this exclusive elite take the fullest opportunity of their position to be seen as good persons, and others take the fullest advantage and are seen as undeserving, to become more unpopular and disliked, even hated.............but in all democratic constitutional monarchies there are checks and balances so the royals have to remain within certain parameters and seen to be doing so. In their private lives the minor royals are generally left to lead their own private life, but the Head of State and his/her immediate family are expected to set some high moral standards, at least definitely high ethical levels.
That brings us to the question: are royals in any way different human beings, with some pure bloodline that is assumed to give them better judgemental ability, make them better students or soldiers, or better suited to any human activity. Certainly not, anyone who believes this is believing a lot of nonsense!!!
At the end of the day, the good monarch, albiet most often trained to be one, is what he or she is on the strength of his/her's own character and sense of responsibility and commitment, ingrained patriotism, good judgement, some good level of maturity and intelligence...........in a constitutional monarchy he need not be a good leader or good executive, all that is taken care of!!!