08 June 2014

The Last Summer of Monarchy

Grand Duchess Olga Nicolaievna
One hundred years ago, the young princesses, archduchesses and grand duchesses of Europe were attending balls and fretting over which distant cousin their parents would select for their husbands. As the summer progressed, they cruised the Mediterranean or the Black Sea or the Baltic dreaming about their futures. By the end of the summer, those dreams would turn to ashes. For many, there would be no princely husbands, for some, there would be no future at all.

The calls for a referendum on the Spanish monarchy in the wake of King Juan Carlos' recent abdication announcement has put me in mind of the summer of 1914 and those weeks before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated at Sarajevo. I often wonder what if Tsar Nicholas had not doted so much on his children and instead insisted that Grand Duchess Olga marry her cousin, the future King Carol II of Romania--and if only his gorgeous mother Queen Marie had not thought Olga too plain. The marriage would likely have been unhappy, but Olga, at least, would not have died in the House of Special Purpose.

The Summer of 1914 was the last real summer of monarchy, as many of Europe's largest and oldest monarchies fell as a direct result of World War I.  The Portuguese king had already been replaced by a Republican coup in 1910, but the years of the First World War saw the demise of the European thrones in Russia, Montenegro, Germany (including 22 principalities, grand duchies and kingdoms), Austria-Hungary, Serbia, and Ukraine. Both Greece and Albania fell a few years later, were restored and fell again. Spain lost its monarchy in the Civil War of the 1930s, only to have it restored with the current king in the 1970s.

Then, World War II sounded the death knell for several more: Albania, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Italy, Bulgaria and Romania.

So, today we are left with only ten hereditary monarchies* in Europe: Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kindom.  How many will we have after the Summer of 2014?

* Andorra and Vatican City are also technically monarchies but their princes are elected/selected.

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