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Patrick Edward Martin McCleary
RCPS , GCHA, GCEM, RCST
Presently the monarchical system is declining, even today in the monarchical fortress of Europe; the ideology of the monarchy is considered something that should be left in 15th century. This, however, is not the case everywhere. One of the various reasons why many Royal Houses were and are overthrown in the modern era is due to the fact that the subjects of a particular Royal Dynasty feel or are lead to believe that they have no choice but to have a monarch, this of course leads to resentment. This resentment is then used by the government who would like to oust a proven and fair political system. The new Republican system of government then tells its citizens that now they are a democracy and a more equal distribution of wealth and opportunity will occur, of course this is always not necessarily the case.
Countries with reigning monarchs are some of the most stable and prosperous in the world these include Great Britain, The Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium among others. This is tangible proof of the good that monarchical system can bring.
One of the few examples of an re-elected monarch is that of King Norodom Sihanouk. The King who, throughout his forced exile, has supported his country and his people by fighting to be independent of both French colonialism and the aspirations of the communist party. The King, who since his abdication has taken the title of King Father has held so many positions that he is recorded in the Guinness Book of records as the politician who has served in the world’s most varied political offices.
The King Father’s popularity with his people has always been that of a loving father and son. A monarch such as this can do wonders for a people who have devastated by poverty for more than half a century.
Today the country is under the sovereignty of HM King Norodom Sihamoni, who was virtually outside of Cambodia until he was chosen by the Succession Council, to reign as the next King. The Sovereign who was previously a professional dancer, so well endowed with the sense of a true King that when the situation of his crown came into question before his coronation (it should be noted the official Royal Crown was lost during the 1970’s), he stated that recreating the crown is out of the questions because of his nation’s great poverty.
Even though we currently live in a somewhat republican age where those in a republic claim to be happy with what they claim to be a democracy, but none the less countries with a monarchy are among the happiest countries in the world. These of course in include the obvious suspects such as Britain, Sweden and Luxembourg, but the star with this elite group is Bhutan. Bhutan is a small, landlocked nation nestling in the Himalayas tucked into the gap between India and Chinese-occupied Tibet. This country has been virtually inaccessible to the outside world for decades partly due to its geographic location and to the fact that tourism was banned in the countries, the ban which has now been lifted paved the way for the countries first airport which opened very late in the 20th century. Within this somewhat feudal nation the Kings’ reign is not judged by the economic situation of his country but to the people’s well being. To westerners it is odd to judge a ruler or a government not on their achievements in social or economic affairs of the country but on the people themselves. It comes down the conundrum ‘Can money make you happy’, from this information obviously not! Due to Bhutan’s restriction on tourism much of its beautiful landscape, ideals and way of life have been preserved, Bhutan has not yet been enticed by the western style of living. This is perhaps one reason why the monarch is so highly revered.
The current ruler of Bhutan is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck at the time his accession he was one of the World’s youngest heads of state. After his coronation his first order of business was to oversee the democratization of his country through a number of reforms and creating a viable election system. The young King traveled extensively all over Bhutan encouraging mainly the youth to take an active and positive attitude towards the reforms. The King is known abroad for his charming personality and dashing good looks. With the support and blessing of his people this King is taking his country into the 21st century.
Another example of a monarch instigating democracy is the form of HM King Juan I of Spain. Spain at the time of Juan’s ascension as King had been under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Franco had come to power after the Spanish Civil War; he insisted (when ever asked) that Spain was still a Kingdom even though at the time the Royal Family was exiled in Rome. The current heir at the time was Juan de Borbon(father of king Juan) however Franco did not trust Juan as he believed him to be against his regime. After much deliberation Franco decided to skip a generation and name Juan Carlos (current King of Spain) as his successor.
During the young princes time as heir apparent he partook in a number of official functions on the suggestion of Franco, Franco had hoped over time the young Prince could be swayed to his values and ideals. Whether he succeed in this Is another matter entirely. On 22 November, following Franco's death the Cortes Generales proclaimed Juan Carlos King of Spain. After Franco’s death Juan quickly instituted a number of reforms, which he hoped would make the country more open and democratic. This at the time was not to the liking of many conservative monarchists who had hoped he would at least regain some of the absolute political power he had inherited from Franco. In 1977 the country held its first democratic election for decades; this was done at the insistence of the King who strongly believed that the people should choose their political leaders.
In 1981 some disgruntled senior military officers attempted a military coup, which ultimately failed due to the King broadcast supporting the elected government. It was at this time that we can see the true purpose of King, which is unify the country. After the failed coup Santiago Carrillo remarked ‘God Save the King’ the communist leader who at the time of Juan’s succession nicknamed him ‘Juan Carlos the Brief’, predicting that the monarchy would soon be swept away with the other remnants of the Franco era. He later remarked "Today, we are all monarchists." In times of crisis and dissolution a monarch stands as beacon of hope and lantern of unity.
Many will ask what the purpose of a monarch is in the 21st century, I say the purpose of monarch is to serve It’s not what you can do for your sovereign but what he/she can do for you’. Monarchs are reared from birth to know their responsibilities and what is expected of them. As such you can almost always guarantee you will have a monarch that is hard working and that is constantly thinking about his/her subjects. Unlike Presidents and Prime ministers (which are essentially elected monarchs) whom come and go a monarch is a bench mark of which history can be seen and interpreted. Queen Elizabeth in her reign has seen more than 10 Prime ministers (PM) entering and leaving Downing Street. She has stood as a adviser of the failings of the, advising the PM of the good and the bad of British politics over the last 5 decades.
Today there are a number of Royals all over the world who were illegally removed from power (as such still keep the right to grant honors) trying to support their people politically and through charitable aid. This again reaffirms that monarchs are reared to serve even when they no longer officially reign.