Saturday, 31 March 2012

The French Royalists and the presidential elections

The French are in the middle of a presidential campaign that is not only costlier than ever, but also nastier. Incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy is trailing behind the Socialist competitor François Hollande.

The French Constitutional Court has approved ten candidates to run for the presidency in elections starting on 22nd April. Former prime minister and foreign minister Dominique de Villepin is not among them, because he did not succeed in convincing 500 dignitaries of the French republic to support him with a "parrainage" (sponsorship). He very bitterly complained that he, who held high offices in the first decade of the third millennium, could not find 500 French dignitaries to give their signature for his candidacy - due to pressure from the ruling conservative party (UMP) and arch-enemy Nicolas Sarkozy with whom he sat at the same cabinet table.

De Villepin pointed out that "fantasist" candidates of all sorts had an easy go to fulfil the parrainage requirement. He aimed not only at the Trotskyite or the Revolutionary Communist candidates, but also at Jacques Cheminade. The 71-year-old - who first sought the presidency in 1981 - is again running as an independent. In 1995 he secured 0.28 percent of the vote. But he is hardly an independent candidate, he is the head of the ominous LaRouche movement in France and spreads their bizarre theses.

This year there is no outspoken Royalist candidate who tries to make it to the Elysée Palace. In 2007 Yves-Marie Adeline, chairman of the Alliance Royale, failed to find 500 signatories. Although he could convince 250 dignitaries to endorse his candidacy, he had to give up his attempt to present a Royalist alternative to the voters. This year his successor Patrick de Villenoisy failed to find 500 godfathers to endorse him.

However, in 2012 there is one candidate, whom the Italian news agency connects with Monarchists:
The Constitutional Court has confirmed that there are officially 10 candidates for the French elections, after the official deadline for the presentation of 500 signatures of at least 30 departments of local administrations. ... and monarchist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.
Strangely enough Monsieur Dupont-Aignan's party is called Debout la république and he could collect 708 signatures.

On the other hand, the royalist organisation (and semi-party)La Nouvelle Action Royaliste (NAR) last week endorsed Nicolas Dupont-Aignan:
Élection présidentielle - COMMUNIQUÉ de la Nouvelle Action Royaliste
Dans le souci primordial de restaurer l'État dans son indépendance et sa dignité, la Nouvelle Action royaliste confirme son rejet de
Nicolas Sarkozy et appelle à en délivrer la France. Elle s'oppose, non moins fermement à la propagande xénophobe de Marine Le Pen qui nie la tradition nationale du droit du sol et qui viole, par ses diatribes antimusulmanes, la lettre et l'esprit de la loi sur la laïcité.

Pour le premier tour de l'élection présidentielle,
la Nouvelle Action royaliste appelle à voter pour Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, proche de ses positions sur les questions institutionnelles et européennes.

Paris 26 mars 2012

Friday, 30 March 2012

Already ten years...

This Friday the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and other senior members of the Royal family will attend a service of thanksgiving for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The service will mark the 10th anniversary of the deaths of Queen Elizabeth on 30th March 2002 and Princess Margaret on 9th February 2002.

Born on 4th August 1900 as ninth of ten children of the Earl of Strathmore, Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was descended from the ancient kings of Scotland. Robert the Bruce was a forebear and Stuart blood ran in her veins.

There is an immense lesson of duty to be learned from the Queen Mother. More importantly, this can turn out to be of significance even to countries that are republics, led by presidents.

Initially she refused Prince Albert, second son of King George V and Queen Mary, as she had set her heart on the Hon James Stuart, a son of the Earl of Moray, a dashing war hero. But the formidable Queen Mary had earmarked Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon for her second son and she was not to be disappointed. But even then she was never meant to become Queen. She married Prince Albert, Duke of York, in 1923. The abdication of her husband's brother, King Edward VIII, in 1936 changed everything.

Contrary to King Edward’s lack of responsibility, she brought a constant sense of duty to the royal family. She had a genuine love for her people, and she reinvented the role of the royal family.

During World War II she became a national figure symbol of resistance. Her refusal to send the children to a safe place outside Britain are still well known: "The children won't leave without me. I won't leave without the King, and the King will never leave."

After King George’s death, she served for 50 years of public work for her people, in support of her daughter, the Queen. She became an exemplary grandmother and great-grandmother. She was much loved by Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry.

When Queen Elizabeth died, there was a huge outpouring of affection for the "Grand Old Lady of the House of Windsor", which was a solace for the Queen. The United Kingdom had lost not only the Queen Mother, but with her the last Empress of India had left!

The Queen Mother as Queen of Australia

To mark her 100th birthday Australia Post issued a special souvenir cover (see above). The cover featured Australia Post’s 1999 Queen’s Birthday stamp which also celebrated the life of the Queen Mother. The stamp featured images of both the Queen and the Queen Mother and was the first time mother and daughter had appeared together on an Australian stamp.

The cover itself shows Her Majesty on her 96th birthday; at six years of age; and in 1937 as Queen, beside King George VI at the time of his coronation, and with her daughters.

The postmark (Strathmore in Victoria) was selected because the Queen Mother’s father was the 14th Earl of Strathmore. A thistle is used in the design because the Queen Mother also became the First Lady of the Thistle.

The then-Duke and Duchess of York arrived for the first time in Australia on 26th March 1927. By 1927 the Federal Parliament had moved to the new Federal Capital, Canberra, and the main duty of the Duke of York was to perform during this tour the opening of the first session of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Duke and the Duchess attended the new Parliament House in Canberra on 9th May. This grand occasion, which Dame Nellie Melba got underway with a rendition of the national anthem, finished with a fanfare of bugles and a twenty-one gun salute at noon.

The Queen Mother performed another visit in 1958. Flying in from New Zealand, she arrived at the RAAF Station Fairbairn, Canberra on 14th February. Later she visited the Australian War Memorial to lay a wreath on the Stone of Remembrance. She paid visits to every Australian state and left the country again on 7th March by flying out from Perth.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Australia's Queen's Diamond Jubilee stamps

From 3rd April the Queen's Diamond Jubilee stamps will be available at Australia Post offices. Usually at this time of the year Queen's Birthday stamps are issued, but for this special occasion of the Monarch's Diamond Jubilee, the jubilee takes precedence of Queen Elizabeth's birthday, which is on 21st April, but will be celebrated in most Australian states on 11th June 2012.

Australia Post's official presentation gives justified credit to Australia's Queen:
One of the major celebrations of 2012 is the Diamond Jubilee of the accession to the throne of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Australia Post has produced some very special products for collectors. The stamp issue presents a young monarch on the base rate stamp with the international stamp featuring the Queen as we know her today.

Royal jubilees celebrate significant periods of a monarch’s reign. In 2012, Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years as Australia’s sovereign. She acceded to the throne on 6 February 1952, following the death of King George VI.

Throughout her reign the Queen’s priorities have been loyalty and service to her people. The Diamond Jubilee provides Australia – along with Britain and other Commonwealth countries – the opportunity to celebrate her dedication to duty, and the grace and strength she has brought to her public life and role of monarch.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tongan King fare welled

This Tuesday, the Tongan people laid their monarch to rest. The body of His Majesty King George Tupou V was placed on a large wooden bier at noon after lying in a casket in the throne room of his palace where locals observed an overnight vigil.

The pall bearers, who according to an official programme for the funeral number 1,000, were drawn from former students of Tonga's Tupou College and villages throughout the country's main island of Tongatapu.

The Free Wesleyan Church bell began to toll as a Tonga Defence Services detachment led the procession as a guard of honour, followed by royal musicians, officiating clergy and church leaders and then the royal bier.

In 2006 a memorial service was held for the late King's father, His Majesty King Tupou IV and a surprising hymn was sung: Austria's Imperial Anthem, "Gott erhalte" in Tongan. (The German republics took Haydn's hymn and transformed it into their national anthem.)

The following message was sent by The Queen to King Tupou VI of Tonga:

It is with great sadness that I learnt of the death of your brother, His Majesty King George Tupou V. King George was a true statesman who served his country with distinction.

On behalf of the people of the United Kingdom,
Prince Philip and I wish to convey to your family and to the people of the Kingdom of Tonga our deepest sympathy at this sad time.


His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester represented the Queen at the funeral of King George Tupou V.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Arguments for an Upper House of Parliament

Contrary to other editions, today's Saturday Age contained a letter to the editor that is worth considering:
Queensland voters today may deliver electoral devastation not only to the ALP, but to significant voices of opposition - as the state continues without its upper house. Yet the major parties refuse to restore that second chamber of Parliament, which was abolished in 1922.

Upper houses accommodate significant smaller and opposing voices who can restrain government. They promote accountability, unhurried consideration and better public consultation.

Family First, One Nation, the Greens and the Australian Party want to restore the Queensland Legislative Council - but they may not gain any representation under existing arrangements.

David d'Lima, Sturt, South Australia

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visiting the Kingdom of Norway

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall were guests of honour at the banquet at Oslo's Royal Palace.

The Prince said it was "such a pleasure" to be in Norway again, as he began his tour of Scandinavia with his "darling wife"

The Prince's speech raised a laugh from the 74 people attending, as he told them: "I have the fondest memories of my first visit to Norway in August 1969 when my sister and I came with our parents in the old Royal Yacht Britannia.

"It was then that I discovered three memorable and endearing things about the Norwegians.

"First of all that virtually every house seemed to fly the Norwegian flag, secondly that our anthems are exactly the same, and thirdly that Norwegians tend to stay up all night during the summer.

He described the "incredibly close and multiple family ties" shared by the British and Norwegian royals through their shared ancestor Queen Victoria and his pride that they stand "shoulder to shoulder" within NATO.

The Prince, who had already privately expressed his condolences to King Harald over the death of five Norwegian Air Force officers in a crash in Sweden last week, publicly extended his "most heartfelt condolences" to the families of those who lost their lives.

King Harald told the guests, who included Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and AUF leader Eskil Pedersen, who survived the Utoya massacre, that the two nations are "united by history and the North Sea".

He paid tribute to Queen Elizabth's reign, adding: "She has served the British people with unfailing devotion, dignity and distinction."

King Harald told The Prince and The Duchess: "We are more than friends. We are family."

20th March 2012

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall praised the bravery of survivors of the Utoya massacre when they arrived in Oslo for the first day of their tour of Scandinavia in Oslo.

The Royal Couple visited the Norwegian capital's Nobel Peace Centre on the first day of their tour of Scandinavia as part of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

They were introduced to members of Labour youth league the AUF who were on the island of Utoya for a summer camp on 22nd July last year when right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik launched an attack, shooting dozens of people.

The 33-year-old has confessed to the attacks on Utoya, and a bombing near government offices in Oslo, that left 77 people dead, but denies criminal responsibility

Mari West, 26, an AUF member and international co-ordinator for the Norwegian Labour party, told her: "We've talked to each other and also to professionals."

The Duchess asked: "Have you written a diary about what happened? I always think it's a good thing to do, while it's still fresh. Because as time goes on, you forget things."

Asmund Aukrust, 27, vice president of the AUF, replied: "I think we were recommended to do it. I didn't, and now I regret it."

The Duchess discussed when it was that those on the island realised what was happening and asked if the survivors still suffered nightmares, which some admitted they did.

Stian Valla Taraldsvik, 19, a political adviser for the AUF, added that the massacre was "a great challenge" to the organisation and said: "Some had nightmares and some have blind spots."

AUF leader Eskil Pedersen, 28, told The Prince in his discussion with the royal: "People have been through quite dreadful things.

"A lot of people were on the island up to the point where the gunman was taken into custody. Others swam or were taken on the boats.

"I think it's safe to say that these people have gone through the most dramatic thing in Norway since the Second World War. But at the same time, it is important to say that we don't want it to dominate our thoughts every day.

The Royal Couple also took part in discussions on youth engagement and enjoyed a performance by Norwegian musician Mikhael Paskalev, who trained at Liverpool's Paul McCartney Institute for Performing Arts, at the Nobel Peace Centre

21st March 2012
The Norwegian city of Bergen was the second stop on The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall's tour of Scandinavia today.

Known for its rain, the city did not disappoint and The Duchess of Cornwall and Queen Sonja of Norway braved the conditions at an outdoor nursery in Norway's second largest city.

The pair met school children who have their lessons in a forest environment in all weathers. It was a particularly foggy and wet day, and The Duchess said to one child in an anorak: "I wish I had my wet weather gear on."

The Prince and King Harald of Norway went on board the M/V Brennholm to see the work the Institute for Marine Research is doing to encourage sustainable fishing.

His Royal Highness's own International Sustainability Unit recently launched a report on sustainable fisheries and The Prince has for many years been concerned about global fish stocks.

The Prince and The Duchess then accompanied The King and Queen for a cultural performance at the Hakonshallen, a medieval hall first visited by The Prince with Queen Elizabeth in 1969. He had specifically asked to go back to the hall because of his earlier trip there.

They listened to musical performances on the recorder and harpsichord, songs performed by a choir and watched an African-inspired dance.

Their Royal Highnesses met familiar faces when they went on a walkabout in the Bryggen area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Prince was given the chance to show off his skills with an axe when he visited a workshop on the Bryggen. Watched by The Duchess, he stood astride a log - to be used as part of a beam to support the wooden buildings - and wielded an axe to split it.

Their Royal Highnesses stopped to speak to locals as they made their way around the historic area.

The Prince then made his way to HMS Liverpool, while The Duchess and The Queen of Norway visited Troldhaugen, a wooden villa overlooking a fjord which was used as a summer house by composer Edvard Grieg. They were given a private piano recital of his work and had afternoon tea at the villa, which is now a museum.

Here is a video of The Prince's speech given during a visit to HMS Liverpool, in which he thanked the crew ahead of the ship's decommissioning.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Belgian Crown Prince Philippe ready to be King

Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium is ready for the throne. King Albert II’s oldest son told journalists that he is ready to take over the reigns as our country’s head of state when the time comes.

Prince Philippe added: “My father is doing a good job and I try and help him as much as I can whenever he asks me to do so. I would be ready, if I were asked to step in”.

King Albert II was born 6th June 1934, the second son and third child of King Leopold III and Queen Astrid of the Belgians. On 9th August 1993, after the death of King Baudouin on 31st July, Prince Albert, Duke of Liège, was sworn in as sixth King of the Belgians.

Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant was born on 15th April 1960. On 4th December 1999 he married Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz, daughter of a Walloon Count of Belgian noble family and female line descendant of Polish noble families.

The couple has four children:
Princess Elisabeth Thérèse Marie Hélène, born 25th October 2001, heiress presumtive,
Prince Gabriel Baudouin Charles Marie, born 20th August 2003,
Prince Emmanuel Léopold Guillaume François Marie, born 4th October 2005,
Princess Eléonore Fabiola Victoria Anne Marie, born 16th April 2008.
Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee address

The Queen's address to both Houses of Parliament, 20th March 2012

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

I am most grateful for your Loyal Addresses and the generous words of the Lord Speaker and Mr. Speaker.

This great institution has been at the heart of the country and the lives of our people throughout its history. As Parliamentarians, you share with your forebears a fundamental role in the laws and decisions of your own age. Parliament has survived as an unshakeable cornerstone of our constitution and our way of life.

History links monarchs and Parliament, a connecting thread from one period to the next. So, in an era when the regular, worthy rhythm of life is less eye-catching than doing something extraordinary, I am reassured that I am merely the second Sovereign to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.

As today, it was my privilege to address you during my Silver and Golden Jubilees. Many of you were present ten years ago and some of you will recall the occasion in 1977. Since my Accession, I have been a regular visitor to the Palace of Westminster and, at the last count, have had the pleasurable duty of treating with twelve Prime Ministers.

Over such a period, one can observe that the experience of venerable old age can be a mighty guide but not a prerequisite for success in public office. I am therefore very pleased to be addressing many younger Parliamentarians and also those bringing such a wide range of background and experience to your vital, national work.

During these years as your Queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure. Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide. He and I are very proud and grateful that The Prince of Wales and other members of our family are travelling on my behalf in this Diamond Jubilee year to visit all the Commonwealth Realms and a number of other Commonwealth countries.

These overseas tours are a reminder of our close affinity with the Commonwealth, encompassing about one-third of the world’s population. My own association with the Commonwealth has taught me that the most important contact between nations is usually contact between its peoples. An organisation dedicated to certain values, the Commonwealth has flourished and grown by successfully promoting and protecting that contact.

At home, Prince Philip and I will be visiting towns and cities up and down the land. It is my sincere hope that the Diamond Jubilee will be an opportunity for people to come together in a spirit of neighbourliness and celebration of their own communities.

We also hope to celebrate the professional and voluntary service given by millions of people across the country who are working for the public good. They are a source of vital support to the welfare and wellbeing of others, often unseen or overlooked.

And as we reflect upon public service, let us again be mindful of the remarkable sacrifice and courage of our Armed Forces. Much may indeed have changed these past sixty years but the valour of those who risk their lives for the defence and freedom of us all remains undimmed.

The happy relationship I have enjoyed with Parliament has extended well beyond the more than three and a half thousand Bills I have signed into law. I am therefore very touched by the magnificent gift before me, generously subscribed by many of you. Should this beautiful window cause just a little extra colour to shine down upon this ancient place, I should gladly settle for that.

We are reminded here of our past, of the continuity of our national story and the virtues of resilience, ingenuity and tolerance which created it. I have been privileged to witness some of that history and, with the support of my family, rededicate myself to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come.

This was the monarch's sixth address to both Houses of Parliament. She gave similar speeches in celebration of her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Silver Jubilee 25 years earlier in 1977.

The Speakers of both houses lauded the Queen's dedication to her subjects. Introducing the Queen ahead of her address to Parliament to mark her Diamond Jubilee, the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, praised the monarch for "sixty years of stability. Sixty years of security. Sixty years of certainty. Sixty years of sacrifice. Sixty years of service."

The Lord Speaker, Baroness Frances D'Souza of Wychwood in the County of Oxfordshire, who is also President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, stressed the Monarch's dedication the the Commonwealth.

Lord Speaker addresses Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, are assembled here today to celebrate sixty years of Your reign. We record with warmth and affection our appreciation of Your dedicated service to Your people, and Your unequalled sense of public duty over the years - service and duty to which You have only recently, and so movingly, re-dedicated Yourself.

We celebrate too Your stewardship of Your high office. You have personified continuity and stability while ensuring that Your role has evolved imperceptibly, with the result that the Monarchy is as integral a part of our national life today as it was 60 years ago.

We rejoice in this Jubilee and we give thanks for all that it represents.

At the same time, we record our gratitude for the support which You have received throughout Your reign from His Royal Highness Prince Philip, for in this year of jubilee we celebrate his service too.

This is one of the first of many celebrations to be held up and down the land. In the coming months You and the Duke will travel widely throughout the Kingdom. But today You have come to Parliament, the constitutional heart of the nation, and granted us the privilege of being the first of Your people formally to honour Your Jubilee. And where better to begin the celebrations than here, in the splendour of Westminster Hall - a hall of kings and queens for almost a millennium.

While this Hall has seen many historic events, few are permanently commemorated. So we look forward with great anticipation to the unveiling of the stained glass window which members of both Houses have commissioned in honour of this day. When placed in the window above the great doors, Your Coat of Arms and Royal Cypher will bathe the Hall in colour and be seen daily by members and staff as they walk through to their offices—and by the many thousands of visitors we receive here weekly, from both home and abroad.

For we must remember that Your Jubilee will be celebrated with joy in Your other realms and territories, and throughout the rest of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth as we know it today is of course one of the great achievements of Your reign and under Your leadership continues to flourish, with a membership of 54 countries. It is still growing. It is a tremendous force for good in the world and we are aware of its special personal significance to You.

Many of us present here today take an active part in the work of the United Kingdom Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We work to share our experiences, to learn from one another, and to promote democracy. But our efforts are as nothing compared with those of Your Majesty in the service of Your beloved Commonwealth. Over the years You have visited all but two Commonwealth countries—some, many times—and attended all Heads of Government meetings since 1997. We look on with admiration and pride at the triumphs of some of Your recent tours and it is significant that members of the Royal Family are representing You this year at the Jubilee celebrations being held in all those lands in which You are Head of State.

Your Majesty, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament Assembled give thanks for this Your Diamond Jubilee. We look forward to the years to come and we pray that You and Your realms may enjoy the peace, plenty and prosperity that have so distinguished Your reign.
During the event a Diamond Jubilee window - a gift from the members of both Houses - was unveiled to mark the monarch's 60-year reign. It will be installed above the North Door of Westminster Hall later this year.

King Juan Carlos praised the 1st Spanish Constitution

On the 200th anniversary of the promulgation of The Spanish Constitution of 1812, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia praised the first Spanish Constitution. The constitution is known as the Constitución de Cádiz or La Pepa, since it was adopted on 19th March 1812 by the Cádiz Cortes, the national legislative assembly (Cortes Generales) of Spain, while in refuge from the Peninsular War. This constitution, one of the most liberal of its time, was effectively Spain's first. The 1812 Constitution established the principles of universal male suffrage, national sovereignty, constitutional monarchy and freedom of the press, and supported land reform and free enterprise.

In his speech, King Juan Carlos said,
Today we are commemorating the bicentennial of the first Spanish Constitution, an essential reference for the unity, sovereignty and freedom of our citizens, and one of the most important episodes in the history of our country.

We pay tribute also to Cádiz and the Cortes, a decisive link in the effort for the liberation of the homeland and symbol of a collective enterprise that benefited Spain, Latin America and the rest of Europe.

There is much that the cause of freedom owes to a people who decided to become masters of their destiny and not bowed to the difficulties.

They were times of struggle for our nation, a nation that was well above the highest authorities and noted for its dignity, its heroism and generosity.

As before the face of adversity, the Spanish people learned to give the best of itself and turn a really difficult task whose fruitful political and social lessons to our own lifetimes.

The success of the representatives in Cádiz was also possible thanks to the spirit of harmony they shared at the Oratorio San Felipe Neri which served as a refuge and meeting place for the Spanish Cortes.

No doubt those members, as representatives of national sovereignty, were guided by the highest degree of patriotism and civic engagement.

They knew how to articulate with great intelligence and high-mindedness that retained legal formulas and stimulated national sovereignty depositing it in its rightful owner, the Spanish people.

Sovereignty was asserted about the unity of the nation and recognized the rights and liberties. Pillars of coexistence between the Spanish who, then as now, remain vital.

It is fair therefore to recognize those in the midst of great uncertainty, faced political responsibility and led a formidable company of national improvement.

The flame of liberty was kept alive in Cádiz during those years of siege. The people of Cádiz encouraged and accompanied the men of state with their support and collaboration.

Reflecting on all this I cannot overemphasize the collective work of the Spanish that, less than four decades ago and in a situation of great complexity, we knew that with a firm spirit of concord, solidarity and unity, to affirm the rule of law as expressed in the 1978 Constitution.

In the work of Cádiz, realised in an historic hard transformation, we can find the reference and inspiration to tackle the serious difficulties that our country is experiencing today.

At the height of the second decade of the Twenty-First Century, the Spanish are fully aware that there are good and powerful reasons to trust ourselves.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this celebration we must emphasize the historical dimension and the Latin American vocation of the Constitution of Cádiz.

Prepared by members "of both hemispheres", our first Constitution was a key reference and influential for the Newly Independent States of Latin American, and for many of Europe.

In this regard we are pleased to note the weight and the international projection of the Iberoamerican Community of Nations [the Spanish Commonwealth of Nations] as a forum for cooperation and coordination that currently links more than twenty nations of America and the Iberian Peninsula and sets us apart in a world that is increasingly interdependent.

We are a family of peoples who share a wealth of historical, language, cultural affinities and, above all, principles and values ​​that include those which began to take shape in 1812.

Strengthening these ties and enhancing our cooperation will lead to greater prosperity for all.

Within a few months in this city of Cádiz which now so warmly welcomes us, we will receive the Heads of State and Government on the occasion of the Twenty-second Ibero-American Summit will encourage and continue exploring the best ways of sharing progress between our countries .

Ladies and gentlemen,
This beautiful city opened the door to the modern, democratic Spain. Here was the starting point of the long journey to our rule of law. In this first national parliament, which the painter Jovellanos called "the largest Congress, free and respectable that could be conceived."

Let us move forward with the inspiration of the great achievements of the past, for unity, freedom and welfare of all Spanish.

Palabras de Su Majestad el Rey en el acto institucional conmemorativo del Bicentenario de la promulgación de la Constitución de Cádiz de 1812

Conmemoramos hoy el bicentenario de la primera Constitución española, un referente esencial de la unidad, la soberanía y la libertad de nuestros compatriotas, y uno de los episodios más relevantes de la historia de nuestro país.

Rendimos así tributo a Cádiz y a sus Cortes, eslabón decisivo en el esfuerzo por la liberación de la Patria y símbolo de una empresa colectiva que benefició a España, a Iberoamérica y también al resto de Europa.

Es mucho lo que la causa de la libertad debe a un pueblo que decidió ser dueño de su destino y que no se doblegó ante las dificultades.

Fueron tiempos de lucha para nuestra Nación, una Nación que estuvo muy por encima de sus máximas autoridades y que destacó por su dignidad, su heroísmo y su generosidad.

Como en otras ocasiones ante la adversidad, el pueblo español supo aportar lo mejor de sí mismo y transformar una realidad difícil en una fecunda tarea cuyas lecciones políticas y sociales llegan hasta nuestros días.

El éxito de los constituyentes gaditanos fue también posible gracias al espíritu de concordia que compartieron en este Oratorio que sirvió de refugio y de lugar de reunión a las Cortes españolas.

Sin duda aquellos diputados, como representantes de la soberanía nacional, se guiaron por el más alto grado de patriotismo y de compromiso cívico.

Supieron articular con enorme inteligencia y altura de miras fórmulas de legalidad que conservaron y estimularon la soberanía nacional depositándola en su legítimo propietario, el pueblo español.

Se afirmó la soberanía en torno a la unidad de la Nación y se reconocieron los derechos y las libertades individuales. Pilares de la convivencia entre los españoles que, hoy como ayer, siguen siendo fundamentales.

Es justo, por tanto, reconocer a quienes en medio de grandes incertidumbres, afrontaron la responsabilidad política y culminaron una formidable empresa de superación nacional.

Durante aquellos años de asedio, en Cádiz se mantuvo viva la llama de la libertad. La sociedad gaditana animó y acompañó a estos hombres de Estado con su apoyo y colaboración.

Al reflexionar sobre todo ello no puedo dejar de resaltar la obra colectiva de todos los españoles que, hace menos de cuatro décadas y en una coyuntura de gran complejidad, supimos con firme espíritu de concordia, solidaridad y unidad, afirmar nuestro actual Estado de Derecho en torno a la Constitución de 1978.

En la labor de Cádiz, realizada en un difícil trance histórico, podemos encontrar la referencia y la inspiración necesaria para afrontar las serias dificultades por las que nuestro país atraviesa en la actualidad.

A la altura de la segunda década del siglo Veintiuno, los españoles somos plenamente conscientes de que hay buenas y poderosas razones para confiar en nosotros mismos.

Señoras y Señores,
En esta conmemoración histórica debemos subrayar la dimensión y la vocación iberoamericana de la Constitución de Cádiz.

Elaborada por diputados "de ambos hemisferios", nuestra primera Carta Magna fue un referente clave y de gran influencia para los nuevos Estados independientes iberoamericanos, y también para otros muchos de Europa.

En este sentido nos congratulamos al constatar el peso y la proyección internacional de la Comunidad Iberoamericana de Naciones, como espacio de cooperación y concertación que liga actualmente a más de veinte Naciones de América y de la Península Ibérica y que nos distingue en un mundo cada vez más interdependiente.

Una familia de pueblos que comparte un rico acervo de vínculos históricos, de idiomas, afinidades culturales y, sobre todo, de principios y valores entre los que destacan aquellos que comenzaron a forjarse en 1812.

Estrechar estos lazos y potenciar nuestra cooperación redundará en una mayor prosperidad para todos.

Dentro de unos meses, en esta misma ciudad de Cádiz que hoy nos acoge tan calurosamente, nos daremos cita los Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno iberoamericanos con motivo de la Vigésimo Segunda Cumbre para seguir explorando y fomentado los mejores caminos del progreso compartido entre nuestros países.

Señoras y señores,
En esta bella ciudad se abrió la puerta de la España moderna y democrática. Aquí se situó el punto de arranque del largo recorrido hacia nuestro Estado de Derecho. En este primer Parlamento nacional, que el ilustrado Jovellanos calificó como "el Congreso más grande, libre y respetable que pudo concebirse".

Sepamos seguir avanzando, con la inspiración de los grandes logros del pasado, a favor de la unidad, la libertad y el bienestar de todos los españoles.

Muchas gracias.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The King of Tonga has passed away

King George Tupou V (Tongan: Siaosi Tupou V, full name: Siaosi Tāufaʻāhau Manumataongo Tukuʻaho Tupou V; born 4th May 1948) passed away on 18th March 2012. He inherited the crown following the death of his father, King Tupou IV, on 10th September 2006.

His Majesty's coronation as King of Tonga, took place on 1st August 2008 in the capital Nuku’alofa (see report and photos here).

Only a month ago, His Majesty paid a visit to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Tonga's new King ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho was born 12th July 1959 as the younger brother of King George Tupou V of Tonga and was officially confirmed as Crown Prince by the latter on 27th September 2006. He also served as Tonga's High Commissioner to Australia, and resided in Canberra until the death of King George Tupou V on 18th March 2012, when ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho became King of Tonga.

While in Australia the then Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka of Tonga visited the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Programme (AACAP) in Mapoon, Queensland on 27th August 2009.

The new Crown Prince is His Royal Highness Prince 'Ulukalala, who married Sinaitakala Tu'imatamoana Fakafanua in August 2011, als reported here.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Her Majesty's Commonwealth Day Message 2012

Monday,12th March is Commonwealth Day 2012.

As Head of the Commonwealth Her Majesty sent this message to the Commonwealth nations:

One of the great benefits of today’s technology-based world is the range of opportunities it offers to understand and appreciate how others live: we can see, hear and enter into the experience of people in communities and circumstances far removed from our own.

A remarkable insight we gain from such windows on the world is that, however different outward appearances may be, we share a great deal in common.

Our circumstances and surroundings may vary enormously, for example in the food we eat and the clothes we wear, but we share one humanity, and this draws us all together. The joys of celebration and sympathy of sadness may be expressed differently but they are felt in the same way the world over.

How we express our identities reveals both a rich diversity and many common threads. Through the creative genius of artists - whether they be writers, actors, film-makers, dancers or musicians - we can see both the range of our cultures and the elements of our shared humanity.

“Connecting Cultures”, our Commonwealth theme this year, encourages us to consider the special opportunities we have, as members of this unique gathering of nations, to celebrate an extraordinary cultural tapestry that reflects our many individual and collective identities. The Commonwealth treasures and respects this wealth of diversity.

Connecting cultures is more, however, than observing others and the ways in which they express themselves. This year, our Commonwealth focus seeks to explore how we can share and strengthen the bond of Commonwealth citizenship we already enjoy by using our cultural connections to help bring us even closer together, as family and friends across the globe.

To support this theme, a special song has been composed for the Commonwealth, ‘Stronger as One’. There are any number of ways in which that single piece of music alone can be played or sung anywhere in the Commonwealth. And by sharing the same music with our own personal interpretations and contributions, the wonderful human attribute of imagination is nourished, and we gain insights of understanding and appreciation of others.

The Commonwealth offers a pathway for this greater understanding and the opportunity to expand upon our shared experiences in a wider world. A world in which paths to mutual respect and common cause may also be explored and which can draw us together, stronger and better than before.

Queen Elizabeth attended the Commonwealth Day Observance at Westminster Abbey, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Countess of Wessex.

This Monday is a public holiday in Victoria (as well as in the ACT and Tasmania): Labor Day, and it usually coincides with the annual Commonwealth Day. This holiday is to commemorate the granting of the eight-hour working day for Victorians. It also recognizes workers’ contributions towards the nation’s economy. 12th March also happens to be Commonwealth Day and this year's theme that has been agreed by the Queen is Connecting Cultures.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Victoria needs more pomp and circumstance rather than blandness

The Age’s and The Sunday Age’s dislike for anything royal is well-known. But this Sunday’s attack takes it to a new level. In today's editorial Return to vice-regal pomp risks alienating Victorians The Sunday Age ridiculously praises governors who breached their Oath of Allegiance by “proposing changes to the constitution that would remove references to the monarchy to allow a transition to a republic”. It might be added doing so without any reference to the people.

Too much pomp? Governor de Kretser inspecting a guard of the Royal Australian Navy.

What was Governor Alex Chernov’s crime according to The Sunday Age?
Mr Chernov wants functions at Government House to be run on a 'non-commercial basis'. Yet at the fashion festival launch, he acknowledged the festival was 'a significant major event' and one of the 'world's leading events of its kind'. It is also an important part of the economy, and subsidised by taxpayers - as is the Governor himself while he holds the office and lives in his elegant residence with its landscaped gardens. (At the fashion party, Mr Chernov invited guests to inspect some of the rooms.)”
For The Sunday Age only a republican governor is a good governor. But the editorialist goes further by deciding what is relevant to Victorians and what is not. It’s in the same logic that s/he determines: “They [vice-regal appointments] exist for historic and legal reasons but also represent a world view and system of government that is no longer relevant to many Australians.” By the term “to many Australians” it is clear, that the opposite is equally true: To many Australians vice-regal appointments are a significant part of the political structure for the state and the federation itself. While the Monarch is absent, the Governors(-General) represent the crown. It is highly bizarre that the Fairfax editorialist expects them to act as promoters of republicanism.

Significantly The Sunday Age’s agitation led nowhere. When checking the editorial on-line, the RadicalRoyalist was the only one reading it. Doesn’t say that all about The Sunday Age's relevance?

Swearing-in ceremony of Victoria's 28th Governor

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Costly presidential retirees

Yesterday police searched the home of Germany's former president Christian Wulff and seized computers as part of an investigation into his dealings with wealthy business friends . Several officers from the Lower Saxony criminal police searched the premises with the consent of the former president, meaning they did not have to obtain a warrant.

Christian Wulff stepped down as president on 17th February just hours after prosecutors said that they would seek to lift his immunity from prosecution. Despite the dishonourable "retirement" the 52-year-old will receive an annual stipend of 199,000 € annually for the rest of his life, despite the fact that he had stepped down after less than two years in office, 598 days, to be precise. Should he die before his wife, his widow, who is only 38 years old, will step in and receive the full pension for life.

But it is not only this generous pension that infuriates the German public, it is the fact that all formers presidents plus one widow – six all in all – are entitled to an office, staff and a chauffeur driven limousine. Per ex-president this adds up to one million €, or six million € in total for the state pensioners.

Graphic: What Wulff shall receive.