Long Live the Kings

Article excerpt

As everyone knows, the British public periodically goes ape over silly things like cricket, Twiggy, the occasional sunny day, Guy Fawkes night, and the not-so-direct descendants of King James I, whom Guido (his real name) tried to blow up on Nov. 5, 1605, along with both houses of Parliament. Although James I was a Stuart and Elizabeth II is a Windsor, the latter wins the popularity stakes hands down in view of the fact that old Jimmy believed he was appointed by God, which brought him into conflict with Parliament, not to mention the Mayflower pilgrims who left for America saying goodbye to all that eight years into his reign.

This June, under constant rain, foods, and the threat of a transport strike, the Brits yet again went ape over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, marking her 60th year on the throne. Watching her going down the Thames on a barge festooned with gold leaf and all sorts of heralds, shields, crowns, and whatever the Brits stick up on walls to show that they were once an important nation was almost touching. I say almost because it was a show to please the masses, draw tourists, sell newspapers, and mark appreciation for the number one draw to this wet and gloomy island. There she was, an 85-year-old lady standing for hours on end in the cold, smiling and waving and occasionally sneaking a look at her 91-year-old husband, Phil the Greek, who bravely stood up like the man that he is and ended up in hospital soon after.

Except for the Middle East, monarchies today are largely ceremonial. Royals have become the appendix of the body politic. Most seem to exist to sell gossip magazines and keep the fashion industries humming. Simeon II of Bulgaria was an exception. He ascended to the throne as a child in 1943, was forced into exile by the communists three years later, but ran as Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and was elected prime minister of his country for two terms beginning in 2001. Simeon is very learned, modest to a fault, extremely polite, and a man I respect very much.

My good friend King Constantine of Greece lost his throne in a 1974 referendum rigged by the fathers of the politicians who have run my country into the ground. Had he been head of state, I like to believe he would have called a halt to the corruption that saw EU money distributed to buy votes rather than invested in infrastructure. …