Think how weird it must be if the only way to get a promotion is for the boss to die. Now, consider if that boss is a parent. Likewise, parents want to see their children succeed and flourish in their career. But what if the child is never actually able to do the complete job, at least while the parent is alive to see it. It’s got to be really strange to be on a throne or in line for one. The recent abdications of European royal thrones shine a light on aging monarchs and those who, like Simba, “just can’t wait to be king” but are withering while waiting.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos, 76, announced this week that he is abdicating his throne later this month. This makes him the third European monarch to give up their job in 14 months. King Albert of Belgium and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands made similar moves. In addition, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar made a similar move and, in some ways, so did Pope Benedict.
King Juan Carlos said he was abdicating in favor of his 46-year-old son, Prince Felipe. He reportedly told staff that he doesn’t want his son “to wither waiting like Prince Charles.” It may be a catty and biting comment, but he does have a point. Not that much younger than Spain’s King, Prince Charles of the United Kingdom is 65, the age many retire, and the oldest heir to the British throne in 300 years. But Queen Elizabeth, 88, has made it clear that she has no intentions of vacating the throne while she is breathing.
In his announcement, the Spanish King told his nation that the time was right for a new generation to “move to the front of the line.” That is clearly the feeling in the Netherlands, where abdication has been more common, at least is the past 100 years or so. In her announcement last year that she was passing the crown to her then 46-year-old son, Queen Beatrix said it was time for “a new generation” to hold the throne.
Those moving into the thrones are well educated:
- Phillipe of Belgium, 54, was educated at Trinity College, Oxford, got an MA in political science from Stanford University in California, was trained as a pilot in their air force and speaks three languages fluently.
- Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands received an MA degree history at Leiden University, served in the navy and speaks four languages.
- Felipe of Spain attended high school in Canada, received a law degree from a university in Madrid before obtaining a Master’s degree in international relations at Georgetown University in the U.S. and was trained as a military officer as well. At the Barcelona games in 1992, he was a member of Spain’s Olympic yachting team. The future King reportedly speaks five languages.
The first two have already stepped up into their new regal roles, and Felipe of Spain will June 19.
For those curious where else in Europe, besides the United Kingdom, there are aging monarchs, there are three countries – Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Their monarchs, like Queen Elizabeth supposedly have no intention of stepping down. However, the recent throne abdications by other nearby nations are calling more attention to the aging leaders and shine an increasingly bright light on those waiting in the wings who “just can’t wait to be king.”
By Dyanne Weiss