When Americans tell me that they are envious of Britain because of our Royal Family, I can sort of understand what they mean, especially when I look across the Atlantic and see who they have for a president. The man who snatched Jerusalem from the Palestinians and also gave Syria’s Golan Heights to Israel, with no mandate to do so whatsoever, has been disastrous in terms of foreign policy. He’s also a failure on the domestic front, judging from the deployment of federal forces in riot gear using tear gas on US citizens in towns and cities across the country. And his response to Covid-19 has been, well, hopeless.
If the US electorate comes to its senses and votes for an alternative to Donald Trump in November’s presidential poll, I imagine that the world will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Apart from his cronies in Israel, there are few who will shed a tear if the former reality TV host leaves the White House in January.
However, even while Trump continues to be a divisive figure, there is a growing movement across Europe that wants to abolish the continent’s remaining royal families and replace them with elected heads of state. The appeal of having someone chosen by the people to represent the country, but not run the government, is apparently strong.
I’m sure the idea would go down well among ordinary people in the Middle East, if only they felt able to suggest it. The dictators in charge were horrified by the Arab Spring uprisings for that very reason. The very notion of democracy still drives them to fuel wars and unrest in order to destabilise the region, bringing misery to millions but keeping their own corrupt thrones intact. They are still meddling and fighting proxy wars in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Sudan. On top of that, they are trying to undermine the hard won, fledgling democracy in Tunisia.
Now, though, in Europe at least, it seems that some badly behaved royals are doing more to fuel the fires of republicanism than some lifelong anti-royal groups could not even dream of doing. Spain’s former King Juan Carlos is going into exile after revelations and allegations of financial corruption which have harmed the reputation of the monarchy and embarrassed his son, King Felipe VI. Felipe took over six years ago after Carlos stepped down in disgrace following a series of scandals.
The old king has already been stripped of his annual stipend after it emerged that he received millions of euros from secret, offshore funds with ties to Saudi Arabia’s royal family. When this was made public, Felipe renounced any claim to his inheritance from his father.
Now Spain’s Supreme Court has launched an investigation into the former king’s role in a deal in which a Spanish consortium landed a multi-billion dollar contract to build a high-speed rail link between Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia. There should, of course, be a parallel investigation in Riyadh to expose the source of this corruption, but we’ve more chance of seeing Hell freeze over because the badly behaved Saudi Royal Family get away, literally, with murder. We shall never forget the name of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — murdered by a Saudi hit squad in the Kingdom’s Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 — but sadly there are scores of others who’ve angered Riyadh and simply disappeared with neither a trace nor accompanying headlines.
I’m not sure where Juan Carlos will turn up or which country will give him refuge, but his corrupt financial affairs have dragged the name of one of Europe’s model monarchies into the mud. Swiss prosecutors are now delving into a number of dodgy accounts held by the former king and his grubby friends. Among the piles of money being looked at is a 2008 “donation” of $100 million said to be from an offshore bank account of the then King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz.
Meanwhile, in Britain, Prince Andrew has mired the image of the royal family thanks to his friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who came to a sticky end rather mysteriously last year while awaiting trial on further charges. It is alleged that Queen Elizabeth’s favourite son had sex with a teenager trafficked for that purpose. In any reasonable interpretation of the law, that has to be rape, doesn’t it? The fact that the alleged victim was just 17 at the time makes this even more abhorrent.
Andrew denies the allegations vehemently and says that he wants to help the US authorities with their investigations, but has so far failed to do so despite repeated requests from lawyers. While Juan Carlos is heading for exile due to his misdemeanours, alleged or otherwise, Prince Andrew is in virtual hiding and has been dropped from front line royal duties. He was even absent from the official photograph of his daughter’s recent “secret” wedding in Windsor, although he was at the ceremony.
Over the centuries the European monarchies have facilitated, financed, promoted and defended all sorts of international crimes, including the slave trade. Now, thanks in part to the global Black Lives Matter movement, ordinary people are beginning to question why this hereditary bunch of privileged people are still living off the backs of the rest of us.
It was a question answered with the use of the guillotine when the French got fed up with their royals during the Revolution, but I’m not advocating such an abrupt end to various reigns. I prefer the “Juan Carlos Exit Strategy”; step down and clear off for good, ma’am, preferably leaving your ill-gotten gains behind in state coffers. If we can’t rid ourselves of these parasites immediately, then the least we can do is to remove their statues and stipends, and turn the palaces over to the people.
According to republicans, the Royal Family does not make money for Britain by attracting tourists. It is an enduring myth to claim otherwise. The absence of any French royals does little to stem the flow of visitors to the Palace of Versailles.
Of course, my freedom and liberty in this country enables me to write this article without fear or favour, just as you are able to read it on your tablet, phone or computer. Sadly, censorship prevents most of the Arab world from having the same rights and ability to form their own opinions as a result.
Pointless presidents, corrupt kings and playboy princes plague us all in one way or another, but some of us more than most. That is the shameful result of “democracies” which only uphold democratic values when it suits them to do so. One result is the censorship that they claim to abhor. We’ve come a long way in such matters, but there is clearly still an awful lot more to be done.