Wednesday, 29 April 2015

King Salman appoints new crown prince and consolidates power

Three months after he came to the throne following the death of his brother Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia today dismissed his half-brother Muqrin as Crown Prince and replaced him with his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, while his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. King Salman thereby consolidates power in his own branch of the royal family while ensuring that the succession will move to the next generation after his own death.
Since the death of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul-Aziz (Ibn Saud) in 1953, the crown has passed among his many sons (approximately 45). Among these sons, the so-called "Sudairi Seven", seven full brothers whose mother belonged to the Sudairi family, have been particularly powerful, yet they have not taken all power for themselves until now.
For instance, when King Khalid appointed the eldest of the Sudairi Seven, Fahd, Crown Prince, he also appointed a non-Sudairi, Abdullah, second deputy prime minister, i.e. effectively second in line to the throne. As King, Abdullah in turn appointed three Sudairis Crown Prince, first Sultan, who died in 2011, then Nayef, who died in 2012, and then Salman, who succeeded him in January. But Abdullah also appointed a non-Sudairi, his ally Muqrin, to the new post of Deputy Crown Prince in April last year, thereby apparently trying to uphold the balance between Sudairis and non-Sudairis. There was speculation that Salman upon his accession would remove Muqrin in favour of Prince Ahmed, another Sudairi, but Salman immediately confirmed Muqrin as the new Crown Prince, while appointing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is the son of the late Crown Prince Nayef and the son-in-law of the late Crown Prince Sultan, and thus so to speak twice a Sudairi, Deputy Crown Prince.
At the same time, King Salman appointed his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Defence Minister and Lord Chamberlain, and by promoting him to Deputy Crown Prince today, King Salman has made the Sudairi branch almost all-powerful. The new Crown Prince also holds the important post of Interior Minister.
King Salman today also relieved Prince Saud bin Faisal of the post of Foreign Minister, which he has held since 1975, replacing him with Adel al-Jubeir, until now ambassador to the USA.
As things now stand, King Salman, who is born in 1935, will be succeeded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is 55, and thereafter by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to be in his early thirties, but Mohammed bin Nayef, who himself has no sons, may choose to appoint another heir when he becomes king. The influence of the Allegiance Council, which was set up by King Abdullah in 2007 to oversee the appointment of heirs, seems to be negligible.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Swedish royals meet the Pope

On Monday, the Pope received Queen Silvia, who was accompanied by Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill and their daughter Princess Leonore, in audience in the Apostolic Palace. The Queen and Princess Madeleine are in Rome to attend a conference on trafficking, a cause they have both been closely involved with and which Pope Francis singled out for attention in his New Year address.
This was Princess Leonore's first major public appearance, and the photos of Queen Silvia seated with her granddaughter, who clutches the Pope's finger, reminds one of the photo of Princess Madeleine at the age of seven, standing on her toes as she is kissed on the head by Pope John Paul II, a photo Queen Silvia keeps on her desk.
Interestingly, Queen Silvia chose to abide with the dress code for papal audiences that stipulates a long black dress and veil for women other than the Catholic wives of Catholic kings, who wear white, although other Protestant queens have abandoned it in recent years. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark wore a grey day dress and hat for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, while Queen Elizabeth II of Britain wore a mauve day dress and hat when she and Prince Philip were received by Pope Francis a year ago.
Chris O'Neill rarely accompanies his wife to official events that are not family events, but in this case his presence was clearly due to the fact that he is a Catholic. Queen Silvia, who was born in Germany to a German father and Brazilian mother and raised in Brazil, is a Lutheran and has always been so. Her Brazilian mother's funeral was held in a Lutheran church in Heidelberg, Germany, which suggests that her mother was also a Protestant.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Queen Margrethe's 75th birthday celebrations on Norwegian TV

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark turns 75 tomorrow and I will, as for previous royal events, be the commentator during NRK's live broadcast of the celebrations. The broadcast will begin on NRK1 from 8.10 a.m. to 8.45, when Queen Margrethe will be awakened by song at Fredensborg Palace and appear in her bedroom window, and will continue from 12.15 to 1.40 p.m. and thereafter on NRK2 from 1.40 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. before it returns to NRK1 from 2.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The broadcast in the afternoon will cover the carriage ride through the streets of Copenhagen and the performance at Copenhagen's City Hall.
The celebrations have begun tonight will a state banquet at Christiansborg Palace, attended by, among others, the royal family, representatives of the Danish state, the King of Norway, the King and Queen of Sweden, the King and Queen of Spain, the King and Queen of the Netherlands, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and the President and First Lady of Iceland. Unfortunately the Prince Consort has fallen ill with the flu and will miss all of the birthday celebrations.