Friday, 4 August 2017

Denmark's princely huff over graves is a right royal row

Prince Henrik of Denmark is nothing if not good value for money. Just when you think royal season has gone quiet on us, up he pops in a row of his own making that makes people laugh and shake their heads in equal measure. Henrik, now 83, has never got over the fact that his marriage to the Queen of Denmark makes him a prince and not a king. He's stropped off to France about it before, he's given endless and ultimately dull interviews about why he's so hard done by and now he's thrown the ultimate royal consort hissy fit and said he's not going to be buried with his wife when the time comes in protest. You've got to admit the man is trying.

And trying is an appropriate word for Henrik right now. This latest self induced frenzy of pity has brought him ridicule and criticism in equal measure and it's not hard to see why. Firstly, it's a bit of an insult to his wife of fifty years - never mind a lifetime of love, if you won't give me what I want I'm off to spend eternity elsewhere in a sulk. Queen Margrethe is clearly a better woman than me - I would have handed him the shovel and told him to start digging.

Secondly, it makes his whole Royal Family a bit of a laughing stock. The quiet summer months usually see some kind of public stocktake of a country's institutions, a time to reflect on what they offer and achieve. Denmark won't be looking at some of the major royal accomplishments of the past few months. No, Henrik has offered them endless opportunity to lay into the monarchy with his self seeking protestations about a grave that hasn't even been dug yet.

Thirdly, there's cost here. Modern monarchies wobble when money is called into question. The royals of Denmark have already spent quite a bit on a fairly horrible sarcophagus for Margrethe and Henrik to share. Cue the familiar arguments that involve the words public, cash and waste. Yep, Henrik's latest offering to his wife, family and adopted country is a big steaming smelly row that will last all summer long.

But putting that aside, does he have a point? Henrik wants to be king, arguing that a woman who marries a monarch becomes a queen. He says it's a matter of equality and that he's being treated unfairly. Looking past the absolutely hilarious notion that not being called king is as damaging to someone's credibility and sense of self worth as the often endemic sexism in the 21st century workplace that often sees women paid less and promoted more sparingly than men purely because of their gender, there is a debate here about how we see the world.

There seems to be some notion that Henrik, or any other male consort, can't be a king because then he would outrank a queen. Really? Sorry to sound ever so slightly naive here, but since when did a man automatically outrank a woman in anything? If queen is the female equivalent of king then king is the male equivalent of queen. That's all there is to it. If you're a queen regnant you get a king consort, if you're a chap wearing a crown then the missus is queen consort. Why, in 2017, are we giving more power to a four letter word because it describes a man than a five letter word that describes a woman?

The idea that we'll all suddenly start ignoring a queen regnant because her husband is called king rather than prince is faintly ridiculous. Modern monarchy has to be as relevant and appropriate for the age it lives in as possible. The walking anachronism that is the assumption that a king automatically outranks a queen is a dangerous one. Those countries with a constitutional monarchy place the office of Head of State in the sovereign of the day. If that's a woman, she's called queen and if it's a man, well you do the maths. But to say that calling a female monarch's consort king would somehow dilute her role and alter the whole aspect of a constitution seems to have come straight from the Middle Ages. And that's where it needs to remain.

In the 21st century, what is a name? We've had this debate before, around the role Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will play when her husband becomes king. We've known since 2005 that she will be called Princess Consort and yet we all know she automatically becomes Queen Consort and have heard many a discussion as to why she should be allowed to use that title when the time comes. If a king's spouse automatically becomes queen consort then why can't a queen's spouse automatically become king consort? What would we call the same sex partner of a king or queen? Let's get with the programme and stop being so prissy about all things royal. The successful monarchies of history have adapted to survive. Men and women are equal and that means that when a woman marries she has as much power to give a name and title to her husband as a man does. Stop diluting the power of the royal women by pretending they would be nothing if we called their husbands something different.

We're heading into a royal world where, within a generation, the continent of Europe will be dominated by queens regnant. And we're really going to trek through the 21st century saying that their hubbies can't be kings because it might make the girls weaker? Lose the prince consorts, bring on the kings if we want to really embrace equality.

But not for Henrik. Henrik stays firmly on the naughty step and he's not getting his Haribo back either. Queen Margrethe now has to spend a summer dealing with a husband acting like a four year old and we all know how to deal with them. When they strop, the last thing you give them is their own way. Let's hope Daisy packs him off to France and settles down with a nice G&T or two to work out what else she can put in the glass tomb made for two that is currently being constructed. Henrik can have his single stone in protest if he wants. But he needs to remember something else. Women tend to outlive men. The final word on this might well still rest with the Queen of Denmark.

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