Elizabeth II. . . and tales of royalty
Syed Badrul Ahsan |
June 01, 2022 8:50:17 PM
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is in the seventieth year of her reign as monarch. The excitement of the platinum jubilee celebrations of her years as sovereign is therefore perceptible throughout the country. For the Queen, these seventy years have been remarkable, given that her first prime minister was Winston Churchill, the latest being Boris Johnson.
Of course, there have been all these difficulties which, in recent times, have plagued the monarchy. Or step back in time, when the monarch’s sister Margaret caused a stir with her endless romantic escapades. There is the story of Diana Princess of Wales. And lately, media reports of her son’s involvement in a sex scandal haven’t gone down well with Buckingham Palace. Add to that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle’s decision to step away from the royal family and be on their own. Meanwhile, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died. And speculation is rife over whether the Queen will abdicate in favor of Prince Charles. There are certainly those who tend to believe that Charles, who is now an elderly man, will never be king and that his eldest son William will succeed his grandmother.
The biggest story in the historical narrative is that the British monarchy endured. With the exception of the execution of Charles I in 1649, the monarchy continued. And judging by the determination with which the British people have clung to tradition, the monarchy will be here for a long time to come. Which leads to the prediction, possibly apocryphal, attributed to the late Egyptian king Farouk. He reportedly said at one point that the only monarchs who won’t leave are those at Buckingham Palace and those treated in card games.
This prediction remains to be translated into reality. Farouk himself was ousted in a revolution led by General Naguib and Colonel Nasser in 1952. Today, we have indeed observed the rapid and often systematic way in which monarchies have bitten the dust all over the world. world.
Since the fall of Louis XVI in the aftermath of the French Revolution, and since the collapse of the Russian monarchy by the revolution of 1905, kingdoms and empires have been in free fall. The rise of republican government around the world has been a major contributing factor to the demise of monarchies in our time. Nothing illustrates this truth better than the downfall of the Shah of Iran in the face of the Islamic Revolution in his country in 1979.
The fall of the Shah was only a follow-up to a few earlier incidents in the life of monarchies, most notably the violent overthrow of the Iraqi royal family in the 1958 coup. unbridled blood brought men like Karim Kassem to power. In 1967, the coup d’etat in Greece, led by a cabal of colonels, sounded the death knell for the monarchy. King Constantine was never able to regain the throne, as the fall of the colonels in 1974 was quickly followed by the inauguration of a republic in Athens.
Afghanistan’s King Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin Sardar Mohammad Daoud in a 1973 coup. During the time of Hamid Karzai, he returned to Kabul as a restored monarch, but stripped of power old majesty. It is a similar story to that of Norodom Sihanouk, whose future was thrown into grave uncertainty when Lon Nol led a successful coup in Phnom Penh in 1970. Sihanouk then made a comeback, but with his improperly trimmed wings.
The rise and fall of monarchs have been deeply associated with how they ruled or not ruled at all. King Idris of Libya, who is not renowned for bringing laudable change in the lives of his subjects, was overthrown in September 1969 by a young colonel named Muammar Gaddafi. Under Gaddafi’s rule, Libyans continued to enjoy the fruits of republicanism, with the young leader espousing his own brand of politics which he laid out in his Green Book.
The eccentric nature of monarchs, some of them, has been a source of amusement to millions around the world. Think of Reza Shah Pahlavi’s celebrations of the 2,500th anniversary of the Iranian monarchy in October 1971, ostensibly to convince the world that he belonged to the long line of Persian emperors up to that time. He was Shahinshah Arya Mehr, but it was nothing more than a fairy tale, at best illusory and at worst an invention.
And then there’s the comedy associated with the rise and fall of Jean-Bedel Bokassa. Having seized power in the Central African Republic, he suffered from the illusion that he could transform the country into a monarchy, with himself as the reigning monarch. He called himself Emperor Bokassa I, imitating the late Napoleon Bonaparte and leading the country to ruin. Eventually ousted by the army, he went into exile but returned home after a few years. Tried and sentenced by the state, he went to prison.
The Japanese Emperor Hirohito, revered as a god-emperor, was brought back to earth by the Americans, who rightly viewed him as a war criminal in light of his role in Japanese militarism during World War II. His life was spared and he remained as a monarch who was only a figurehead. Today, his grandson Naruhito reigns over the Chrysanthemum Throne in Tokyo. But while monarchs these days are nothing more than powerless rulers, the monarchy in Thailand continues to wield a considerable degree of authority.
Lèse-majesté is however liable to prison sentences in Bangkok, even though students and young people have been demanding for a few months reforms of the monarchy, today led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the son of the late Bhumibol Adulyadej. Monarchs — Queen Margrethe II, King William Alexander, King Carl XVI Gustaf, King Harald V, Prince Albert II, Prince Hans-Adam II — rule over Denmark, Holland, Sweden , Norway, Monaco and Liechtenstein, in that order . In Saudi Arabia, the monarchy rules with a stern and ruthless hand, with few signs that the country will soon turn into a republic. The same goes for Morocco and Jordan, where King Mohammed and King Abdullah wield absolute influence.
Revolutions and coups have often swept monarchs from power and history. And yet there is the feeling, comfortable for traditionalists and observers of history, that Queen Elizabeth II and her heirs will be here for a long time to come. People in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland love their queen, even if they are put off by the embarrassment caused by some members of the royal family.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee promises to reinvigorate Britain’s royalty and political heritage. Oliver Cromwell is only mentioned in a footnote in the historical account. Which is just as well.