Uneasy Crowns

2 minute read


In 1971, as he dictated the modernization of the country, the Shah threw himself a nationalistic “party of the century” at the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis. The guest list was glittery, and the extravagance made many gag: peacock stuffed with foie gras was a main course. A costumed parade of Iranian history, however, failed to mention Islam–a blind spot that became the Shah’s ultimate undoing.


It may be one of the world’s smallest countries, but the Monegasque ruling family generates more tabloid fodder per square mile than the Windsors. The saga of Caroline and her younger sister Stephanie is low rent compared with the Brits’, but their celebrity and notoriety help attract tourists–as did their father Rainier III’s 1956 marriage to the actress Grace Kelly, who died in a 1982 crash. If only brother Albert could find a bride like dear old Mom–and sire an heir. Otherwise, France has the right to gobble up Monaco.


Crown Prince Naruhito (with his wife Masako) is heir to a clan that claimed divinity until Japan’s defeat in World War II. Imperial brides till then had come from the nobility. But the Prince’s mother, the Empress Michiko, is a commoner, as is Masako.


Juan Carlos was an unlikely monarch. His branch of the Bourbon dynasty was impoverished and living in Rome. It was eligible for the kingship only because the direct line was tainted with the hemophilia gene inherited from Britain’s Queen Victoria. Needy and apparently pliant, he thus became the acceptable heir to Francisco Franco, military dictator of the kingless kingdom of Spain. At Franco’s 1975 death, Juan Carlos, above, at his 1962 wedding, took the throne. Spaniards expected little. But the King pressed the move to a constitutional monarchy. When militarists opposed it and attempted a coup in 1981, the King himself rallied the troops to save democracy. Few Spaniards now question the need for Juan Carlos.


Like the Spanish Bourbons, the Romanovs inherited the hemophilia gene from Queen Victoria. But striking the heir Alexis, it proved fatal to the dynasty. The Czarina Alexandra fell under the influence of the Siberian wonder worker Rasputin–and she interfered with policy with disastrous results. Well-meaning but weak, Czar Nicholas could only give way to war, upheaval and finally the Bolsheviks, who massacred the family in a cellar on July 16, 1918.

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