Vital Signs

A King for France?

Kings and dynasties seemed to be buried and forgotten when two recent events revived interest in them. On a frivolous but historically significant level, it was the series of scandals of the House of Windsor that brought Europe's ruling families brutally in the limelight. The general trend of desacralization is voracious for frequent feeding, and when prelates supply their share of scandals, inevitably the princes join. Who can indulge in more sex and divorce, play hide-and-seek with cameramen any better, and make more shocking declarations to the press?

The other recent event was more serious and significant. When the Berlin Wall fell, near and remote candidates to the vacant thrones of Europe knocked with an unseemly haste at their respective country's door, arguing that the orphaned nations would eagerly turn to them; after all, they had not been involved in the events of the past 40 years or more. The other royal argument was that ex-kings and new pretenders stood above the turmoil, were thus impartial, forgave all the recent actors—that they had learned much about democracy while in Western exile. They would, of course, point to the one restored royal democracy, Juan Carlos in Spain, forgetting that not popular will but a dictator had put the youngster back in power; they would also point to the permanent kingly and queenly stalwarts in Belgium, Holland, and Scandinavia. As if the position of a king of Greece, let's...

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