European monarchs appear to be falling like dominoes. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands set the ball rolling in April 2013 when she stepped down in favour of her son and heir Prince Willem-Alexander following a thirty-three year reign. In July 2013, seventy-nine year old Albert II of Belgium gave up his throne citing advancing age and health issues, and today comes word that King Juan Carlos of Spain, 76, has decided to abdicate after a reign that has spanned almost four decades.
The popularity of the Spanish monarchy has nose-dived in recent years. Juan Carlos’s secret luxury trip to Botswana to hunt elephant at the height of his country’s financial crisis in 2012 didn’t help…especially given his role as honorary President of the World Wildlife Fund. Then there’s the on-going investigation of his son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, who stands accused of alledgedly embezzling six million Euros in public funds through his charity. Add to that the king’s slew of health issues – five operations over the course of two years – and it seems rather a sensible decision to hand over to his son, Prince Felipe, 46, who has seen his own popularity steadily increase.
While Juan Carlos’s abdication comes as no surprise, it does beg the question: Will Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II follow suit? She has after all put in an impressive tenure, sixty-two years to be precise (today marks the sixty-first anniversary of her coronation). She’s currently enjoying a surge in popularity – always better to go out on top – and at eighty-eight she has surely earned the right to put her feet up and bask in her twilight years. So will she be next to throw in the towel? In a word, no!
In 1947, on the occasion of her twenty-first birthday, during a tour with her parents to Southern Africa, a then Princess Elizabeth made a pledge in a broadcast to the Commonwealth in which she said, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Sixty-five years later, in a speech to both houses of Parliament commemorating her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Queen rededicated herself to her country and its people, vowing to serve, “…now and in the years to come.” The Queen is a deeply religious woman, and in 1953 she took her oath before God. For her that means a lifetime of commitment.
Due to her own advancing age, Prince Charles has stepped in to represent his mother at several high profile engagements over the last year, most notably at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka last November, but this by no means indicates that he’s planning a coup. She continues to carry out a jam-packed royal schedule and will travel to France later this week to mark the D-Day commemorations alongside her “strength and stay” Prince Philip who will celebrate his ninety-third birthday next week. The Queen is for all intents a purposes the royal equivalent of the Energizer Bunny and the only way she will ever step aside is if she becomes mentally or physically incapacitated.
Come September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will surpass Queen Victoria’s record as Britain’s longest reigning monarch, and if one was to think optimistically, should she live to the ripe old age of one hundred and eight, she would break former King Sobhuza II of Swaziland’s reign as the world’s longest serving monarch. While that is a record that stands to remain unbroken, you can rest assured that as long as she remains healthy, the Queen’s not going anywhere, and for that we should be immensely proud and grateful.