The newspapers over the last couple of days must have made interesting reading for Prince Charles.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has unexpectedly announced that she will step aside to allow her son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, to come to the throne.
The popular 74-year-old Dutch monarch went on television Monday to say that it was time to hand over to a new generation, leading some British newspapers to rather mischievously ask whether Queen Elizabeth might do the same. Others poked fun at Prince Charles.
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“Queen Gives Up Her Throne to Son” was the headline in the Daily Mirror. Then, in smaller type, “Easy, Charles… It’s Queen Beatrix of Netherlands.”
The Daily Mail lead with “Queen abdicates in favour of her middle-aged son!….(no sorry, Charles, not THAT queen . . . the one in Holland).”
Queen Beatrix may have decided to take retirement, but don’t expect the same thing to happen in Great Britain.
The Netherlands is a relatively modern monarchy, founded after the French Revolution, and plays an almost entirely ceremonial role. Beatrix’s mother and grandmother both handed over their crowns. A British monarch traditionally only ascends to the throne after the death of the previous king or queen.
Despite occasional speculation over the years that Queen Elizabeth might abdicate, or even pass the throne straight to Charles’s eldest son, Prince William, Buckingham Palace has always rejected such suggestions.
In her Golden Jubilee year in 2002, the Queen dismissed speculation that she might step down by making clear her determination to continue to serve as head of state. Royal observers point to her sense of duty, religious conviction and commitment to her coronation vows.
Another reason is the unhappy precedent that her uncle, Edward VIII, set when he decided to give up the throne in 1936 so that he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The ensuing constitutional crisis threatened the existence of the House of Windsor.
All of which means that the 64-year-old Prince Charles, heir apparent for the past 61 years, can only watch as the 45-year-old Prince Willem-Alexander inherits the Dutch throne later this year.