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Is The British Monarchy In Danger? – OpEd

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Following an unchanging ceremony dating back to 1536, the Queen left Buckingham Palace on Monday, October 14, 2019 to travel to Westminster in her carriage, accompanied by a platoon of horse guards. Dressed in the crown diamonds and in an ermine coat, she was greeted by the Lord Grand Chamberlain. The 93-year-old sovereign then went to the House of Lords, preceded by a sergeant-at-arms carrying a mace on the shoulder and shouting “Hats off, strangers!” Elizabeth II then delivered the Speech from the throne (Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech), a text whose words are not hers, but which is her responsibility to read to the nation. For the duration of the ceremony, the Royal flag will then float on the building instead of the Union Jack. 

In the midst of the current political chaos, this ceremony will seem reassuringly timeless, as if the monarchical pillar were the only one not wavering. And yet, that is not true the monarchy is split from within with intense feuds that could, in the long run, if not solved, create formidable threats for its stability and the wellbeing of the country.

Monarchy in crisis

At 93, the Queen of England is far from being spared. In addition to dealing with a complex political crisis amidst an endless Brexit, Elizabeth II faces one of the biggest family scandals in its history since the tragic death of Princess Diana. Some even claim that the Sovereign lives the second “annus horibilis” of her reign, after 1992, the year when three of her four children had announced their divorce.

Long implicated in the Epstein case, Prince Andrew, the youngest son of the Queen of England, has again “categorically” denied the accusations of a woman who claims to have been forced to have sex with him when she was a minor.

Since the Epstein affair broke out, a photo showing the prince and a young girl named Virginia Roberts holding each other by the waist has been widely reported in the media. In the background appears Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of media tycoon Robert Maxwell, presented as the “recruiter” of the American financier, a friend of Prince Andrew, who was Epstein’s partner. Buckingham Palace has repeatedly denied any inappropriate behavior on the part of Prince Andrew.

In an unprecedented nearly one hour interview, filmed at Buckingham Palace and broadcast in full on the BBC, the second son of the Queen of England says he has “no memories never to have met his accuser. “

Virginia Roberts, claims to have been forced to have sex with Prince Andrew in London in 2001 when she was 17, then twice in New York and on an island owned by Jeffrey Epstein in the Caribbean in 1999 and 2002 when she was Epstein’s sex slave. “I can categorically, absolutely tell you that it didn’t happen,” stated emphatically Prince Andrew, 59, who said he was ready to testify “under the right circumstances.”

File photo of Prince Andrew. Photo Credit: Northern Ireland Office, Wikipedia Commons
File photo of Prince Andrew. Photo Credit: Northern Ireland Office, Wikipedia Commons

He denied, also, dancing with the young woman in 2001 at a London club called Tramp. “She said she was dancing with you … And you were sweating a lot,” questions Emily Maitlis. The prince replies that since a traumatic event suffered in 1982 while he was a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy, he had not been sweating. “I had suffered what I would call an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War, when I was hit by a bullet and I just … It was almost impossible for me to sweat,” he said. Since this confession, the English press, notably the tabloid, has asked several specialists if an anhidrosis could have a psychological origin – it seems so – and carefully examined all the photos of Prince Andrew from the early 2000s in circumstances where he has a heat stroke. No halo to note.

According to documents made public by the New York prosecution, Prince Andrew had sex with the girl on the private island of Jeffrey Epstein in the Caribbean, then in her apartments, in London and Manhattan. The Duke of York is also accused by another woman, Johana Sjoberg, of touching her breasts inappropriately. The Palace denied these accusations against the eighth in the order of succession to the throne.

The facts are however overwhelming for the prince. He had met Epstein in the late 1990s through a friend, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was the girlfriend of the New York financier. According to the indictment, the beloved daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell, who died in mysterious circumstances in 1991, was the chief recruiter of underage girls to brighten up the nights of Epstein’s friends. Maxwell denies the accusations.

In addition, Epstein was photographed in the presence of the prince in Central Park after his release from prison after being sentenced to 18 months in prison for pedophilia.  Andrew’s former wife, the Duchess of York, admitted that Epstein had paid her bank overdraft up to $ 15,000 at the request of the prince’s cabinet. The couple divorced in 1996.

Andrew has also been linked to the sons and sons-in-law of dictators like Ben Ali and Gaddafi or to the Caucasian autocrats. In July 2011, he was forced to resign from his post as British foreign trade representative due to his financial ties to disreputable businessmen from the former USSR.

The queen, in addition to the Brexit affair which could force the sovereign to abandon her political neutrality, her family again gives the 93-year-old head of state concerns. And as if that were not enough, Meghan is also in the crosshairs of the media. The Duchess of Sussex produced the September issue of Vogue by choosing the fifteen most influential women on the planet. The press on the right denounced the ideas on the left – ecology, feminism, human rights – that mark this selection. The nationalist leader Nigel Farage, founder of the new Brexit Party, accused her of having transformed her husband, Prince Harry “into an insipid crowned head“.

‘Megxit’ Crisis

In the midst of a monarchical crisis, Meghan Markle decided to set sail for a good reason: she will join her son left in Canada. In the meantime, Prince Harry is managing the crisis and is trying to find a solution to the complex situation created by the announcement of their desire to withdraw from the British royal family.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Photo by Mark Jones, Wikimedia Commons.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Photo by Mark Jones, Wikimedia Commons.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry dropped a bomb on Wednesday, January 8, 2020. The couple announced that they wanted to withdraw from the British royal family. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wish to work and thus be independent, at least financially. This announcement was made after their return from Canada. The family had taken refuge there for six weeks, with the blessing of the Queen of England. But the return was very complicated for everyone.

Meghan and Harry’s announcement angered the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William who were not notified of the couple’s decision. The Duchess and Duke of Sussex preferred to put their son Archie away from this crisis in the British monarchy, leaving the eight-month-old boy in Canada. It was Jessica Mulroney and the nanny who took care of him for a few days, proof, among many others, that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry do not intend to stay long in London. As soon as she arrived in the UK, Meghan Markle flew back to Canada to find her son and best friend Jessica Mulroney.

Prince Harry is expected to stay in London for a few more weeks. The Queen asked her team, that of Prince Charles and Prince William, to work to find a quick solution to the crisis caused by this surprise announcement. A solution that will have to be found in a few days and not a few weeks. In addition, the son of Princess Diana still has a few obligations on his agenda, including the draw for the Rugby Union World Cup on January 16. Meghan Markle is free as the air, she could therefore stay with Archie and Jessica Mulroney while her husband manages the crisis with the rest of her family. 

In the midst of a royal storm caused by his desire for independence, Prince Harry displayed a united front with his older brother William before a meeting organized by Queen Elizabeth II to bring the British monarchy out of the “Megxit” crisis.

While the subject makes the headlines of almost all British newspapers, the queen’s two grandsons issued a joint statement denouncing a “false story” published recently and the “offensive and potentially dangerous use” of words “incendiary”.

If they do not specify which newspaper is involved, The Times reports evidence that Harry felt rejected from the royal family because of his brother William’s “aggressive” attitude. 

This unusual joint statement comes in the midst of a storm in the royal family. “Injured” according to the newspapers by the shock announcement of Harry and Meghan, the head of the family, and head of state, Elizabeth II, reunited her son Charles and her two grandsons in her residence in Sandrigham ( east of England).

At 93, the sovereign wants, with her family, to quickly lay the foundations for the new status claimed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex who want to keep a foothold in the monarchy (and certain advantages) while obtaining the right to earn money, living part of the year in North America.

The episode brought back memories of the abdication in 1936 of King Edward VIII to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American woman – like Meghan. He had ended his life in exile in Paris.

Harry, anxious to get away from a ruthless tabloid press with his wife, had previously distanced himself from his brother. He had moved from Kensington Palace where he previously lived with William and Kate and had broken with the foundation where the two couples worked together.

What future for the monarchy ?

When Princess Diana died in 1997, the Queen was widely criticized for being cold, not as sad as everyone, especially when all the English people lamented her sudden disappearance and cried in public. At that time, there were many calls to abolish or reform the monarchy. Since then, the queen and the royal family have taken care of their image. They have become more affordable and closer to the people. People, now, can see much better that behind this crown and behind this coldness, there is this old lady with a good sense of humor.

The pinnacle of that was in 2012. For the London Olympics, the Queen did this famous scene with James Bond. She received him at Buckingham Palace with her dogs and then she was seen  get into a helicopter and everyone thought to see her parachuting in the stadium, but, then, suddenly appeared in the royal box. The fact that she did something like that to represent the nation but in a quirky style, brought out her humor.

The Queen has always had a sense of humor, but nowadays she and her family are much more aware that they have to look nice to the whole nation, to be loved and cherished sincerely. 

Queen of the hearts

Yes, especially right now when Brexit is been total chaos and nobody knows where it’s going especially that half of the government that has to enforce Brexit doesn’t believe in it at all. This is an extreme case, but the queen has always been there and reminded these politicians that they are there for a few years, that they are fleeting, indeed.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II

The queen assumes this role of constant figure who never expresses political opinion, except humorously, with gusto and courage. A year ago, when she had to announce Brexit before Parliament, with a speech written by her government, she chose to wear a hat in the colors of Europe, blue with golden stars. It was great! She has no right to express herself so she does it with much humor with such calculated  gestures.

Every Tuesday she welcomes the Prime Minister to Buckingham Palace. There are a lot of very funny stories of those she liked and disliked. She did not like Margaret Thatcher very much, whom she found horribly snobby and pretentious. She annoyed the queen a lot. She even dared to tell the queen that they had to consult each other for the colors of their outfits during the ceremonies!

The queen is therefore there to listen, to read the speeches written by the government at the opening of Parliament, to announce the government’s program, but she has no influence on it. She is just there to represent the nation, a bit like a living flag. But, all in all, the queen is a landmark of a great country, once an empire over which the sun did not set. The queen is a living symbol of a world-famed democracy and culture. And most importantly she is the symbol of unity and togetherness. She is loved by the whole world for her flegmatic personality and colorful dresses and hats that express a boundless joie de vivre and internal peace and love. Long live the Queen…

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Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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