King Farouk I, the last crowned king of Egypt, is famously known for saying, "In a few years there will be only five kings in the world - the King of England and the four kings in a pack of cards." Farouk, who lost his throne after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, was slightly off in his prediction. Having died in 1965, Farouk would not live to see the abolishment of the monarchies of Iran, Libya, Greece, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Laos, Sikkim, and Nepal. Nor would Farouk see the re-establishment of the Spanish monarchy after the death of Spain's fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
King Farouk did have a valid prognostication. Although it is difficult to believe that in the 21st century there are still kings, queens, and other potentates in the world, it is even harder to fathom such hereditary leeches on the taxpayers' balance sheets calling any political shots. However, that is exactly what Spain experienced recently when King Felipe VI weighed in on the results of a popular referendum in Catalonia that overwhelmingly backed independence for the region.
The president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, denounced the King, declaring, "The king has adopted the (national) government's position and policies which have been disastrous with regard to Catalonia. He is deliberately ignoring millions of Catalans." In a televised address to the nation, Felipe railed, "With their irresponsible behavior they [the Catalans] put their own region and all of Spain at risk." However, Puigdemont countered the King by stating the Spanish monarchy refuses to even negotiate with Catalonia, "I will repeat it as many times as necessary: dialogue and agreement are part of the political culture of our people. However, the state has not given any positive answer to those offers."
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy totally rejected Catalonia's offer of dialogue. Rajoy even accused the Catalonian government of blackmail.
King Felipe bears a lot of family baggage in coming to the support of Rajoy in his confrontation with the Catalonian government and people. It was the ideological forefather of Rajoy's People's Party, Generalissimo Franco, who placed Felipe's father, Juan Carlos I, in the position of Spanish regent, or "Prince of Spain." Although Spain's monarchy had been abolished in 1931 by the Second Spanish Republic, Franco restored the kingdom after defeating the republic's loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Franco could have not declared victory in 1939 had it not been for the assistance rendered by his two allies, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Franco made Juan Carlos his heir apparent in 1969 only after the "prince" swore allegiance to Franco's fascist Falange movement.
In choosing Juan Carlos as his heir, Franco skipped over the more legitimate Juan de Borbón -- the Count of Barcelona and son of King Alfonso XIII, the nation's last king before the republic was established in 1951. Juan de Borbón was seen by Franco as "too liberal," a euphemism for the Count having too much sympathy for Catalonia, the capital of which is Barcelona.
Juan Carlos was never very popular among the regions, particularly Catalonia and the Basque region, which suffered the most under Franco's iron fist. There is a widely-held belief in Spain that in 1956 Juan Carlos shot to death on purpose his younger brother, Prince Alfonso, at the Borbón family's estate in Portugal. Although Juan Carlos and royal aides claimed the shooting death was an accident, it was revealed that the revolver used by Juan Carlos was a personal gift from Franco. The only two people in the room when the shot was fired were Juan Carlos and Alfonso, the latter suffering a fatal gunshot wound in the forehead. The Spanish embassy in Lisbon crafted a press release that rivals any of the fake news seen today:
"Whilst His Highness Prince Alfonso was cleaning a revolver last evening with his brother, a shot was fired hitting his forehead and killing him in a few minutes. The accident took place at 20.30 hours, after the Infante's [Alfonso] return from the Maundy Thursday religious service, during which he had received holy communion."
The gunshot incident in 1956 was brought home to Spaniards in 2012, after a photograph surfaced of Juan Carlos standing in front of a dead elephant he shot in Botswana. The incident followed by a few days another in which Juan Carlos's 13-year old grandson, Froilán Marichalar, shot himself in the foot while hunting in Spain. Catalans, as well as Basques, find the gun-wielding Borbóns as repulsive as the French revolutionaries found the Spanish royal family's French ancestors, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, both of whom were separated at the neck by guillotines during the French Revolution.
During the Spanish Civil War, Franco's fascists committed horrific acts of genocide against the Catalans and Basques, punishment meted out for their support for the Second Republic. During the first decade of Franco's rule, Catalans and Basques were systematically massacred in the "White Terror," which saw as many as 400,000 opponents of the fascists fall victim to Franco's feared Guardia Civil. Franco proscribed the Catalan language, political parties, trade unions, and newspapers; abolished Catalonia's instruments of autonomy, including the Generalitat of Catalonia, the Catalonian regional government; and wiped out all vestiges of Catalan culture. It is with these historical underpinnings that Catalonia today seeks to part ways with a Spanish government steeped in fascist traditions and a blind eye toward the past genocide and national aspirations of the Catalan people.
As if to remind Catalans of the White Terror, Rajoy's government dispatched helmeted and armed Guardia Civil members to forcibly shut down independence referendum polling places across Catalonia, beat voters and protesters, arrest Catalonian government officials, and clash with Catalonian firefighters trying to protect Catalans attempting to vote. The Rajoy regime has threatened to charge with sedition Major Josep Lluis Trapero, the chief of the Catalonian police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, for failing to take the side of the Guardia Civil and other Spanish state security forces against his own people. Trapero faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Meanwhile King Felipe, anxious to protect his "realm," has served as a symbol for the stamping out of Catalonian nationhood. The Spanish royal family stands as a testament to the nepotistic corruption that shadows many monarchies. In 2016, Felipe's sister, Princess Cristina, stood trial for business fraud. Although the princess was found not guilty, her businessman husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, was found guilty and sentenced to over six years in prison. In July, Prime Minister Rajoy, who has ranted and raved about the "illegality" of Catalonia's independence referendum, became the first sitting Spanish head of government to take the witness stand in a criminal trial involving slush fund payments to his People's Party.
European integrationist supporters of monarchies in the European Parliament, including the sell-out Greens, as well as Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian chairman of the "liberal" ALDE European parliamentary group, insisted that Catalonia must remain, at all costs, a part of Spain. These so-called "liberal" and "centrist" parties made common cause with the proto-fascist Rajoy, as well as the fascist-inclined Donald Trump, who recently insisted on Spain remaining united while standing next to Rajoy at a White House press conference.
The arrogant and impetuous Verhofstadt, a major opponent of the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, is also a fierce opponent of the secession from Belgium of Flanders as an independent republic. Verhofstadt served as Belgian prime minister from 1999 to 2008, during a time when Belgian King Albert II was embroiled in the "Dutroux Affair" -- a festering scandal involving pedophiles at the highest levels of the government, church, and business. In 2013, Albert suddenly abdicated the throne in favor of his son Philippe.
Philippe has demonstrated that he, like his father, will do anything to save his throne and two constituent parts of his realm - the Flemish-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia --that wish to leave Belgium altogether. Neither region wants to have anything to do with the Belgian monarchy, with many Wallonians wishing to join the French Republic.
With his monarchy under constant criticism, Philippe has found time to criticize an online advertisement by the American fast food restaurant chain Burger King that coincides with the restaurant's entrance into the Belgian market. The advertisement asks Belgians, "Two Kings. One crown. Who will rule? Vote now... "For those clicking on the image of King Philippe, they are then asked, "Are you sure..? He won't cook you fries." The royal palace demanded Burger King pull down the advertisement, claiming the King's image is not to be used for commercial purposes. However, that restriction apparently does not apply to the King's brother, Prince Laurent, who has been conducting private business meetings with foreign leaders, including officers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo - a former Belgian colony -- without the government's permission. The Flemish republican nationalists have as much antipathy toward the Belgian royal grifters as do the Catalonian republican separatists for the Spanish royals.
Felipe of Spain, Philippe of Belgium, Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands -- who insists on retaining as his personal fiefdoms Dutch colonies in Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba; Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom -- who quietly campaigned against independence for Scotland and republic status for Jamaica and Barbados; Mohammed VI of Morocco -- who brutally oversees the repression of the stolen nation of Western Sahara; and the jihadist-supporting monarchs of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi have seen their era come and go.
Norway's Crown Prince Haakon was discovered in 2016 to be renting out apartments on his royal estate that were deemed unsafe for residents. His wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, has had past associations with drug dealers. In 2010, it was revealed that Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf's youthful past included nights at strip clubs owned by notorious gangsters and wild orgies with models. Denmark's Prince Consort, Henrik, recently said he does not want to be buried next to his wife, Queen Margrethe II, because he wanted to be named "King Consort." Henrik, another disgustingly pampered royal parasite, complained, "My wife does not give me the respect a normal wife must give her spouse." This writer's grandmother, a Danish wartime Resistance fighter, journalist, and Danish Communist Party (DKP) executive, is fondly remembered by her colleagues as calling the Danish King the "highest paid unemployed person in Denmark." The same can be said for most of the world's royals, not just those in Denmark.
Apart for his prediction that the British monarchy would continue, King Farouk was correct: the only kings, queens, and knaves in the world today should be those found in every deck of playing cards.