Thursday 30 September 2010

Prince Charles to open the Commonwealth Games – not another politician

At the beginning of this week, Prince Charles’ office sought to play down the reported row over whether the heir to the throne or Indian president Pratibha Patil would open the Commonwealth Games saying at both would have “a prominent role” in the opening ceremonies.

“The Prince of Wales will read out the Queen’s baton message, ending by declaring the Games open," it said in a statement. The reference to “declaring the Games open” left it open to interpretation, according to observers.

There is no row. Both the Prince of Wales and the president of India will have a prominent role in the opening ceremony in Delhi. The Queen has asked the Prince of Wales to represent Her at the opening of the Commonwealth Games.

Earlier The Daily Mail quoted an anonymous Indian “official source” as saying: “Although there has not been an official announcement, we have decided the president will open the Games.”

Why is it that politicians always try to set themselves in the first fiddle, when they obviously have no right to do so? There is no doubt that The Queen is Head of the Commonwealth and therefore the one and only person to open the Commonwealth Games. Her heir and successor is Prince Charles – also as Head of the Commonwealth - and he will be sent to represent Her Majesty. She did not ask the Indian president or any other politician to be her representative. India may try to override the shortcomings in the preparations to this year’s Commonwealth Games by setting new rules. But being the second biggest nation on earth does not give India the right to embarrass the heir to the throne and all other Commonwealth nations who are loyal to the principle of this free association of nations.

The only acceptable compromise could be that His Royal Highness and Ms. Patel will both proclaim the Games open simultaneously.

Saturday 25 September 2010

A majority of the Belgians want a unitary Kingdom

While the parties in Belgium are still trying to form a government after the 13th June elections, the daily La Libre Belgique published an interesting opinion poll.A demonstration in favour of a united Belgium, 16th May 2010.

According to the newspaper only 12 percent want a split of the Kingdom of Belgium. Even the Flemish aren’t really keen on a separate state. Just 22 percent desire the final end of Belgium and the birth of an independent Flanders. On the other hand 40 percent of all Belgians would like to see the unitary state back, which existed until the early 1970s. Obviously, they have enough of the internal border that is dividing the country along the languages. 32 percent favour handing over more power to the existing regions.

La Libre Belgique's comment is a big question mark : «A return to the unitary state is impossible. Why such an opinion poll ? Or is it because a re-unified structure carries, in the eyes of the people, a promise that the handling of the public affairs would be less chaotic? We noticed that the return to ‘papa’s Belgium’ was more desired by the young one than by the elderly. For those who did not live in that period, is it more desirable than the present time?»

It would not be a Belgian opinion poll, would it not show a difference in the answers given in the regions. In Flanders only 22 percent want to see the unitary state again, while in Brussels and the Wallonie 50 respectively 51 percent are in favour of the old idea.

Just eight percent favour the status quo – and that figure is the same throughout the regions.

Vive le Roi! Leve de Koning! Es lebe der König!

Discours de S.M. le Roi - Fête Nationale 21/07/2010

Thursday 23 September 2010

A Royal summit in Serbia

The website of the Serbian Royal Family is certainly one of the best of a royal dynasty – easy access, accurate and well up-to-date. Of special significance are the photos displayed on the website. All living Balkan Kings (with the exception of King Leka I of the Albanians) posed for a photo: HM King Simeon II of the Bulgarians (*16th June 1937), HRH Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia (*17th July 1945), HM King Michael I of Romania (*25th October 1921) and HM King Constantine II of the Hellenes (*2nd June 1940).

On 17th September Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander II and Crown Princess Katherine celebrated their 25th wedding. Among the guests were among others Their Majesties King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, King Simeon and Queen Margarita of the Bulgarians, King Michael of Romania, Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Margarita and Prince Radu of Romania, Their Royal Highnesses Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla of Luxembourg, Princess Irene of Greece, Princess Desiree, Baroness Silfverschiöld of Sweden and Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld, Princess Margarita of Baden, Their Serene Highnesses Prince Philipp Erasmus and Princess Isabelle of Liechtenstein and Her Serene Highness Princess Ira von Fürstenberg.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Good journalism?

To illustrate Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom on 17th September The Age had chosen three photos, the biggest showing the Pope holding his white pileolus (The Age called it “skull cap”) while The Queen braved the strong wind with a stiff British upper lip. The Age propably chose this picture because Her Majesty could be thought of having a grumpy look.

There are alternative attitudes to reporting on this visit. The Age might be more oriented to the English media. Continental European newspapers published much friendlier of The Queen, when she received her Vatican guest.

At Paper Media you’ll find 37 front pages of mainly German newspapers, all published on 17th September. Fifteen of them had a photo of the Pope with The Queen (except The Guardian, which had the popemobile instead). Out of these 15, six had chosen the same picture as The Age, but nine had opted for a much more sympathetic scene. Have a look for yourself.

It is well known that The Age follows a strict republican agenda, but don’t you feel, that sometimes they overdo their republican preaching?

This style of picture editing is hardly good journalism.

Monday 20 September 2010

Scandal-ridden republics

Canada has a proud royalist tradition, however, this does not exclude that the media try to create scandals were there aren't any. Patricia Treble of MACLEANS.CA looked at the Monarchies in Europe and came to the conclusion: Europe’s monarchies: scandal-ridden but such good fun.

When the term "scandal-ridden" comes up, republics outdo crowned democracies by miles. However, on one point Patricia Treble was fair to Monarchies. She admitted that in the end they do not come more expensive than an uncrowned head of state.
And presidents—the other alternative—aren’t any cheaper, as even the Swedish Republican Association acknowledges. (No country is nutty enough to adopt the U.S. model of combining ceremonial and political leaders into one person, so not having a monarch means having a president.) In June, Germany got a new head of state. Christian Wulff, a state politician in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, was elected after three bitterly fought ballots. With the title comes the neoclassical behemoth of Bellevue Palace, the venue of all those state dinners, receptions and official tours. The budget: $40 million.

Of course Patricia Treble - and most other foreign media people - did not cover the latest scandal concerning president Wulff. His meddling in German politics had the daily newspaper Die Welt publish an article under the headline Christian Wulff, das Problem des bürgerlichen Lagers (Christian Wulff, the bourgeois camp's problem, 17th September 2010)

Sunday 19 September 2010

The royal origin of the Oktoberfest 200 years ago

What started as a horse race at the first royal wedding of the newly created Kingdom of Bavaria in 1810 has become one of the world's best known folk festivals: the Oktoberfest in the Bavarian capital Munich, which was opened yesterday. And before you ask, yes, the Oktoberfest actually starts in September, just as the October Revolution started in November.

On 12th October 1810 Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (grandparents of the more famous King Ludwig II of Bavaria). To pep up the ceremony, a horse race was proposed and a race track built. Deutsche Welle gave an insight into the royal origin of what the French call "la fête de la bière".

Charging horses weren't the only spectacle at the ceremony, though. Munich came alive with music and decorations, and the rich feast provided by Bavaria's future king prompted archivists to describe the event as a full-scale folk festival. The horse race followed about a week later and drew 30,000 spectators. Visitors could catch a glimpse of the nobility, who entered in an elegant procession and went to a separate pavilion from where they would watch the race. They were followed by another procession of 16 pairs of children wearing the traditional attire associated with various regions in Bavaria. Each pair paid homage to Ludwig and his wife.

The festivities also served as a kind of image campaign for Crown Prince Ludwig's father, King Maximilian I. Napoleon had granted King Max I rule of Bavaria just four years prior, and there were still many foreign influences in the region which worried the nobility. The wedding and revelry were a way to strengthen solidarity in the region.

That may explain why similar celebrations took place the next year and onward. By 1819, the event was declared an annual festival. Today's Oktoberfest takes place on the grounds where the original horse race was held.

Well into the 19th century, the Oktoberfest was much more about the King's solidarity with the folk than a certain beverage with hops. Uncivilized behavior was left to the many animals at the event, including the racehorses, prize-winning bulls and rams, and the soon-to-be-plucked game that served as targets for the marksmen.

The first few carousels and swings appeared in 1818. By the late 1830's, beer and fish stands were on the lawn, but there were still few attractions and merchants. Even in 1881, records show that the festival offerings remained limited. There were 23 show booths, six rides and 12 gaming stands.

Nonetheless, the number of visitors was on the rise, with hundreds of thousands of annual guests on record in the 1880s. By then, Munich's population had increased six fold since the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig in 1810.

An expanding rail network also made it easier for other Bavarians to visit the festival, and German unification in 1871 was enticing more and more people from beyond Bavaria's borders to visit the festival.

Oktoberfest's "big bang" came in the 1890's, along with electricity and a host of clever entrepreneurs. New rides, attractions, magic shows, menageries and wax figurine cabinets shot up all across the festival grounds.

At the end of the 19th century, Oktoberfest still wasn't a beer fest - in fact, some songs that encouraged drinking were forbidden. But beer and sausage consumption was growing, and the festival was extended to more than 14 days.

Oktoberfest's 100th anniversary in 1910 was held with the rather exaggerated motto: "The biggest Oktoberfest of all time." But it was true that the event had grown immensely and visitors would have scarcely recognized the Munich experienced by author August Lewald in 1835: "The moon hanging in a cloudless sky, the mountain tops ringed with haze, forests lying nearby and the thousand city lights burning alongside a few from villages beyond."

In the new century, the villages grew together and crowded out the forest. The thousand lights became 10,000, powered by electricity rather than gas. Those on the Oktoberfest lawn were drowned in the lights from the Ferris wheels, carousels and increasingly competitive beer halls.

The Kingdom of Bavaria sadly came to an end with the Revolution of 1918-19, and Oktoberfest brought revelers a glimpse of the good old days prior to the war and the loss of the beloved Bavarian Monarchy.

Saturday 18 September 2010

King Fouad II of Egypt

Surprise no. 1: Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal published an article on His Majesty King Fouad II of Egypt.

Big surprise no 2: The article is not only fair to the Monarch in exile, but refers also to his increasing popularity in his home country:
"Farouk fever" has been sweeping Egypt. A TV soap opera on King Farouk was such a hit its producers just unveiled another series about the royals. Books set in the era are selling briskly at the popular Diwan bookstore chain in Cairo. A tour company is marketing cruises along the Nile on a yacht with a "Farouk Suite."

"You are and you left as the king," says Youssef Makar, a friend who is seated nearby. "And to us you will always be the king."

In July 1952, the young Fouad, swaddled in fine Egyptian embroidered cotton, boarded the royal yacht with his parents and three half sisters as they fled the country during the revolution. He was in the arms of his nanny, and Farouk ordered them to walk in front of him. "He is the King," Farouk declared. They landed in Capri and Fouad, carried by his nanny, was the first off the boat.
His father's "comeback" has given Fouad a new optimism. He longs to return to Egypt in some capacity—perhaps as cultural ambassador. Monarchs such as the King of Spain, Juan Carlos, have helped their countries move to democracy, he says: "It works for Spain beautifully."

Sunday 5 September 2010

A Royal Response

After last week’s Sunday Age published the result of the latest opinion poll indicating that support for a republic in Australia has slumped to a 16-year low, today’s Sunday Age published three letters to the editor. None came from a republican. The first writer points out:
"Perhaps we wonder what we'd get if we appointed our own head of state or, more likely, had one appointed for us by whichever boy's club was making decisions at the time.

"After all, in Victoria we have an unelected premier who, in the company of a couple of mates, makes decisions related to planning or public works on our behalf behind closed doors and refuses to tell us how much the consequences of those decisions will cost us (for example, the desalination plant).

"At the same time, he's entertaining people who can financially benefit from these decisions and seeking donations from them to enhance the finances of his own political party, with the intention of using that money to advertise that party [in order] to keep himself and his mates in power. Well, we wouldn't want an Australian head of state like that, would we? God save the Queen
The second asks:
"If the media has its way and we pass a referendum, what model would be adopted?

"The American public is split down the middle with their "popularly elected" president. The US president is elected by far fewer than 50 per cent of the voters. The British monarch presides over the British Commonwealth of nations of which we are a part. The current monarch has held the position since 1952. In that time, the US has had 12 presidents and are about to embark on the divisive process again. Please do not inflict that on us.

"Let us adhere to what works for us
The third has a particular demand to the editor of The Sunday Age:
"Does the new opinion poll mean that The Sunday Age will return to reporting in a fair and unbiased way on the Australian monarchy?"
The editor did not give an answer to this question. Only time will tell if unbiased journalism returns to The Sunday Age or any other Fairfax publication.

Friday 3 September 2010

"What a beautiful three days and nights"

Good old Taki Theodoracopulos was invited to attend last week's wedding of HRH Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark and Ms Tatiana Blatnik on the Greek island of Spetses.
"... King Constantine’s speech which was unsurpassed in expressing his love for his son and his country and its people without being awkward in the least. So much so I got up and told him so and he thanked me and put his arm around me.
Many of us were very moved. When I saw the king speaking to a prominent Cretan, I remembered that 69 years before,
Constantine and his sister Sophia, the Queen of Spain, were in Crete both suffering from the onslaught of Cretan bedbugs. They were two and one years of age. The royal family was retreating from the German invasion, which came days later."