Well, sure I do! Who do you think I am, Barak Obama?
I always pay attention. Readers matter much to any writer–especially Ms. Johnson, who may be British because she calls us, “you Americans,” (but I’m not sure). She could be British, could be Australian, could be Canadian, could be from the Solomon Islands, could be from Jamaica or the Bahamas–wherever the Union Jack flies or has flown in some form. Maybe even Chalmette, Louisiana. Or maybe she is just a monarchy-admirer. Anyway, here is the snippet Ms. Johnson wrote about my article that suggested that Queen Elizabeth II might pass over her son, Charles, Prince of Wales, to place the popular and now-married Prince William and Kate Middleton on her throne instead:
"You Americans are so out of touch with what the monarchy is it is frightening. The Queen does not have the power to put Wills on the throne over Charles. Parliament would have to change the laws, and in a country that is so steeped in tradition what are the chances? Slim to nil. Chances are pretty good that Philip did not ask the Queen to do this, just as it is unthinkable that the Queen would ever retire. The laws of succession are iron clad and nothing is going to change Charles attaining the throne unless he passes before the Queen."
Prince Charles, William and Kate Middleton, British royalty, Princess Diana
Well now! I really appreciate readers getting involved, and I love it when they make it personal, and use words like “unthinkable.” But hey, I just did think it, so it can’t be “unthinkable.” And the reason I wrote about the Queen jumping Wills over Charles is that this is what lots of people, not just “you Americans” are talking about. Princess Diana talked about it before she got whacked, uhm...I mean, unlawfully killed in a tragic traffic accident. Diana talked about it on the BBC in her Panorama interview, right before the Queen ordered her and Charles to divorce.
Yes, the Queen ordered her son and daughter-in-law to divorce. The Queen has vast power over her immediate family. William could not have married Kate Middleton without the Queen’s approval, and that is just a fact. Nobody in line for the throne can marry without first asking the Queen, and nobody in line for the throne can divorce without the Queen’s permission, either. Parliament is consulted on these matters, and Parliament consults because they do wish to avert things like a constitutional crisis. And averting constitutional crises in a nation that really doesn't have a written constitution at all can be tricky. But Parliament’s powers are also vast, and it has exerted these over not just family members like Charles, but over the monarch his or her self, and also over subjects and non-subjects who want to marry their kings and queens.
Parliament usually controls the monarch with the issue of money, and this type of control dates back to the feudal barons who, standing in a meadow in a place called Runnymede, forced King John to attach his royal seal to the Magna Carta in 1215. Prior to this, the biggest restraint on the British monarchs was the Church. When the Tudors tired of the Church and made themselves head of one they invented by themselves, for themselves, and of themselves, their own archbishops then attempted to exert some control over them.
But I digress.
Just for the record, I don’t think that I said that the Queen would "retire." The technical word is "abdicate," and no, in England, they usually don’t do this. The Netherlands are a different matter, of course, and the present Queen Beatrix (known as "Trixie" to her adoring subjects) was made queen after her mother, Queen Juliana, decided to step down, and Juliana became queen after her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, decided to step down. Wilhelmina reportedly ceded her throne to Juliana because of bad health that coincided with Holland’s loss of its prized colony, Indonesia (which had inconveniently declared its independence); Juliana then ceded her throne when her husband was accused of accepting a huge bribe from Lockheed Corporation for the purchase of fighter jets. Queen Trixie has not yet abdicated, although things got a bit rocky when she married Klaus, a German prince who’d joined Hitler Youth and fought for the Wehrmacht in a Panzer division in Italy. However, Klaus became an honest German diplomat when the war ended, started spelling his name with a “C” rather than the more Nazi-looking “K,” met Trixie at a family wedding and, as Trixie’s Prince Claus, became quite beloved by the Dutch.
However, the British royal house loathes abdication. They are more mystical than Dutch royalty, and have taken great pains not to marry anyone directly German in quite some time. More significantly, British royals believe that the reigning king or queen is literally possessed by the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit only leaves the body of the reigning monarch at the moment of his or her death, and then goes directly into the next monarch who will then reigning, via the anointment at the coronation. Hence, abdication isn't really a choice. The monarch who is possessed of this Spirit then promises to serve their subjects until their last dying breath, at which time the process goes on again.
Is it possible for the Holy Spirit to "jump" a generation, and bolt into William rather than wait for Charles and Camilla to return from Tuscany?
I don’t know. The Holy Spirit doesn't give interviews.
But I’d guess that the Holy Spirit can do as it pleases.
I agree with Ms. Johnson that the chances of Wills jumping over Charles to take the throne are "slim." But Charles and Will are only in line themselves because Queen Elizabeth II’s own father Bertie was “jumped” over his older brother, David, for king solely because David wanted to marry a divorced American woman and thought that because he was rightfully king, he should be able to do as he pleased and choose his own bride.
Boy, did David’s own family and Parliament ever teach him a lesson! And it was a lesson that had previously been taught to David and Bertie’s own father, King George V (Elizabeth’s grandfather).
The laws of succession only APPEAR to be "iron clad." Despite England indeed being "so steeped in tradition," stranger things have happened. And not just once!
Something strange happened when David, the eldest son of King George V, took the crown following his father’s death, but was then not allowed to marry the woman he loved and still remain king. Why could he not do this? Especially if the laws of succession are “ironclad?”
While it’s true that David, who was crowned as King Edward VIII, had fallen in love with a married woman, this situation was not unknown to monarchs. Nor was it unknown for sad yet fortuitous accidents and events to befall the married woman’s spouse, so that she suddenly found herself unwed, and able to marry the king, or someone who would be in line to be king. Nor were all such matches “love” matches.
David’s own mother, Princess Mary of Teck, had originally been promised to David’s uncle, Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Nicknamed "Eddy" within his family, Prince Albert was the then-Prince of Wales’s eldest son, making him the heir apparent of the heir apparent. But Eddy rattled the Royals by first claiming he’d fallen in love with a French Catholic princess, and because marriage by a Church of England royal to a Roman Catholic was thought to still be the stuff of which violent revolutions were made, Eddy was told to keep playing the field. Things then become murky. Rumors abounded that Eddy had been playing the field with boyfriends. Eddy was suspected not only of being a homosexual but of being involved in a homosexual prostitution ring, which would have left him, the Crown, and Parliament itself open to blackmail. A royal equerry, Lord Arthur Somerset, had been named as a “john” in the ring and he in turn was said to have implicated Eddy as a “john.” Also, Eddy was rumored to have picked up a bad dose of syphilis along the way. And, most incredibly, Eddy was suspected of being the serial killer, Jack the Ripper.
Whew! Howdja like King Eddy sitting on the British throne? Creepy!
How fortuitous, then, that Eddy suddenly came down with the flu one month before his planned wedding to Princess Mary of Teck, and that flu turned into pneumonia, and then Eddy died, leaving the throne open to the monarch’s second son, Eddy’s younger brother, Prince George, who not only took Eddy’s place in the line of succession, but also took Eddy’s perfectly good fiancé, Mary. Eddy’s former fiancé thus became Bertie’s wife and then became Queen Mary, the grandmother of Elizabeth II.
How did all this happen?
Mary was not considered a great catch at the time. Her parents had little cash, no great estates of their own, and were relatively minor royals with a heavy dose of German. Her mother, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, was nicknamed “Fat Mary” for obvious reasons, and she had married her husband, the Prince of Teck, at age 30, which back then was quite late in life, and an indication of her general undesirability. But Mary Adelaide never let the fact that she was fat stop her! No, Mary Adelaide was a modern royal girl to whom we can all relate. As the daughter of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, Mary Adelaide was still a “princess of royal blood.” Her father was the last surviving son of King George III and his Hanoverian wife, Charlotte, so Mary Adelaide made the most of her best assets, which were her cheery outlook and her royal bloodline. She and her moneyless, landless husband had four children, created a merry family life, and traveled the world to live with richer relatives, always staying two steps ahead of the bill collectors.
All this served to make her daughter, Princess Mary of Teck, a lot less picky about men than she might have been had her parents been wealthy royals.
Fat Mary Adelaide was so sparky and well-liked that, when she let her first cousin, Queen Victoria, know that she wanted her daughter Mary to marry Victoria’s grandson Eddy, the Prince of Wales, Victoria said, “Tally Ho!” and Eddy, being possibly syphilitic, homosexual, and a serial murderer suspect, went along. Mary Adelaide’s daughter Mary was neither fat nor beautiful, but she was roundishly attractive and intelligent, and knew a good thing when she saw it. Her engagement to Prince Eddy was announced and a wedding quickly planned to take place about ten weeks later (what with all those horrid rumors about him frequenting homosexual gentlemen’s clubs, having syphilis, being Jack the Ripper and whatnot). But then, just two weeks before the planned wedding, an influenza pandemic intervened, and Eddy became sick and never recovered.
Rumors persisted that Eddy had really died from tertiary syphilis complications. Rumors also emerged that Eddy’s end was sped up by fatal doses of morphine.
The story became more complex when James Kenneth Stephens, a young bachelor intellectual who had been Eddy’s “dear friend” and personal “tutor” for several years, refused all food and drink for 20 days after he was told of Eddy’s demise, and starved himself to death. He’d already been locked up by his family in an insane asylum at the time. Handsome and hypnotic-eyed, Stephens was well-known for his verses of misogynist poetry evincing a great hatred for women. Some experts suspect that Eddy and Stephens acted together, and also with the aid of courtiers, in committing the “Ripper” murders and then covering their tracks.
But who knows for sure?
All we can tell you is that, rather than let a perfectly suitable German-British princess go to waste, the Royal Family encouraged Eddy’s younger brother, George, to marry Mary after a decent interval, and George, wishing to keep everyone happy, did exactly that. After a decent interval of official mourning, George and Mary announced their engagement in May, 1893, and were rapidly and quietly married on July 6, 1893, in a small chapel at St. James’s Palace.
George and Mary seem to have been happy together, and as George V, George took the throne that would have been Eddy’s when his own father, Edward VII, died in 1910. George and Mary had six children, the first and first son of which was David, who became crowned as Edward VIII–the one who wanted to marry the divorced American woman, Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson.
Do you see the circle?
Once again, because of Mrs. Simpson’s alleged deficiencies and unsuitability to sit on the throne, both David’s own Royal family and Parliament forced him to abdicate. Thus, the Royal Family agreeably jumped David’s younger brother, Albert (Bertie the Stutterer), over David, the rightful king. Bertie the Stutterer was then crowned as King George VI, and his eldest daughter, Elizabeth II, is the present monarch, mother of Charles, Prince of Wales (former husband of the beauteous Diana), and grandmother of Prince William.
The only remaining question is whether the Windsors have stopped jumping for now. And as Ms. Johnson wrote, “In a country so steeped in tradition, what are the chances?”
I’d say they are slim, but stranger things have happened in the Royal Family, and more than once.
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