Royal Roundup: Henrik, Earl Spencer & the Succession

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Well, that’s a weird title, but I think it hits the highlights. Where to begin with the last few days? Let’s start outside the UK where the Danish Royal Family has been dominating headlines. Denmark’s  monarch, Queen Margrethe II has reigned for 45 years, is enormously popular and is supported by her two sons and plethora of grandchildren. That support does not, apparently, extend to her husband, Prince Henrik, a Frenchman to whom she has been married since 1967.

Henrik boldly stated that he had no desire to be buried alongside his wife at Roskilde, the traditional resting place for Danish monarchs and their spouses, because he had never been granted the title of “king.” His argument is that his prevention from receiving the title is 1) his wife’s fault and 2) sexist, because female consorts are given the title “queen.”

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A younger Margrethe & Henrik

Here’s the thing: Henrik is not a special snowflake here and gender equality is not the issue. Throughout history queen regnants (that is, the monarch) are rare thanks to the tradition of male primogeniture. Thus, the established norm is a male king ruling while his wife serves as queen consort. Using the UK as our example, how Queen Elizabeth II is styled queen is not the same thing as how her mother, the Queen Mother, was queen during the reign of King George VI. Elizabeth II and George VI are equals, while the Queen Mother is on par with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Even so, both women hold the title “queen.”

The problem with styling a male consort “king” is that traditionally king has been seen as a higher rank than that of queen and you can’t have someone outrank the monarch. Some of this is a holdover from previous generations when there was a presumption that wives obeyed their husbands and thus, the marriage of a queen regnant was a tricky, nebulous thing to politically manage. Regardless, we are not so removed from those times today that we can afford to be as blithe about it as Henrik apparently is. Here are some of his choice comments this week:

“My wife does not give me the respect a normal wife must give her spouse. It is her that is making a fool of me. I didn’t marry the Queen to be buried at Roskilde […] My wife has decided that she wants to be Queen, and I’m very happy about that. But as a human being she needs to know that if a man and wife are married, they are equal.”

Personally, yes. Professionally, no. What Henrik is requesting is akin to a corporate CEO’s spouse demanding to also be named CEO by the company, not taking turns emptying out the dishwasher. It’s ridiculous in my opinion, but even if I thought his argument had merit, it’s slightly horrifying that he would embarrass his wife and children to this extent. Apparently, he’s always been a little salty about not getting top billing – when his eldest son, Prince Frederick, was given an elevated rank above his own, he left the country for a couple weeks.

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Margrethe & Henrik

Naturally this has all led to comparisons to the Duke of Edinburgh, who was never even given the courtesy title of “Prince Consort.” I think it’s fair to say the two men are not cut from the same cloth.

Moving on to Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where three other princes graduated this week: Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan, Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg and Prince Wenzel of Liechtenstein. King Abdullah II of Jordan represented Queen Elizabeth at the ceremony, a fitting role given that he is also a graduate of the school. So, too, for that matter, are the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who both graduated in 2006. The King’s glamorous and popular wife, Queen Rania, also attended with the couple’s three younger children.

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The Jordanian Royal Family at Sandhurst this week

Back to the British Royal Family and you have the latest on the Summer of Diana. Her younger brother, Earl Spencer, recently gave an interview for part of yet another TV special on her life in which he said, ” What could I have done? But you always think, ‘God, I wish I could have protected her.’ It was devastating. I always felt… intensely protective towards her.”

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Earl Spencer with Charles and Diana

This has sparked considerable backlash, particularly from former friends and members of the Princess’s staff, who noted that the Earl refused to let Diana return to Althorp, the Spencer family estate, after her divorce on the grounds that it would cause too much of a privacy and security concern for his family…who were living in South Africa at the time.

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Andrew and Sarah in Scotland this week

And speaking of ex-Princesses, the Duke of York and his ex-wife, Sarah Feguson, Duchess of York, were seen traveling to Balmoral earlier this week with their younger daughter, Princess Eugenie. Their elder daughter, Princess Beatrice, who turned 29 on August 8, wasn’t with them. Sarah’s presence at Balmoral is somewhat notable given her status as  a divorced member of the family and her continued closeness to Andrew continues to spark rumors that the two will eventually remarry. Apparently her harshest critic is her ex-father-in-law, Prince Philip, which has led to speculation that Andrew might wait to marry her until after his father passes away. God help us all.

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Oh, and apparently there’s some U.S. tabloid story on whether or not the Queen has decreed William will succeed her to the throne instead of the Prince of Wales. Has she done this? No. Can she do this? Also, no. But it’s indicative of what we always suspected would happen after months of intense remembrance for Diana – criticism of Charles and a questioning of whether he should rule.

He should, he will and it’s time to put the debate to bed.

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