The Crown In The Time of Pandemic: Are Monarchies Still Relevant?

The hot issue of whether nations needed a monarch or better off without a royal court is still a matter of intense debate between royalists and republic supporters. Something that has not yet resolved even in the time of pandemic.

Whether public fascination over royals stem from the connection of the monarchy to country's glorious past or simply people want some kind of amusement and glamorous pastime, nothing is certain, but as the world edges to the more advanced era, subjects began questioning themselves if they ever need a monarchy after all.

So are monarchies still relevant especially in the time of pandemic?

There's no accurate answer perhaps because our reaction and views are influenced by our fascination toward the royals and how long we want them for an entertainment.

In the modern generation, for any monarchy to survive and thrive, being conspicuous in public is a necessity. 

The royal court cannot survive by banking on its mystical existence alone. Royals need to be relatable. They must reinforce their usefulness by constant public presence. Not to amuse us but to show that they remain the nation's symbol of unity and pride.

As what BBC royal correspondent, Sarah Campbell, commented, "The royal family's mantra is, we have to be seen to be believed". This mantra, however, has been tested in this time of pandemic when everyone needs to stay at home, including royals.

The monarchy's relevance in the modern world is gradually fading. It could be due to controversies that the royals gotten into or people are grown tired of a family that lived a lavish lifestyle under taxpayers' money. 

Over the last decades, with most of them marrying commoners, their status ultimately reduced into just celebrities. However, there are still binding forces that reinforced their popularity and people's interest toward the monarchy. 

The Hereditary Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg with their seven-month-old son, Prince Charles

The spectacles of pomp and pageantry, horse-drawn carriages, the bewitching royal appeal, the charm of the crown and the royals' constant presence in public events play a big part in sustaining their popularity. It still draws enchantment from the public.

However, this year is different. The world is ravaged by COVID-19 disease like a dinosaur on the loose. Government imposed strict government rules to curb the spread of the virus. 

Royals, even the most devoted monarch like Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, are forced to retreat from the public view and a number of royal engagement were cancelled. 

Spring time theme Christmas portrait of the Dutch royal family

Elsewhere in the continent, crown heads like King Wilhelm-Alexander of The Netherlands and King Felipe VI of Spain, began utilizing video conferences to conduct virtual meetings with their ministers.

Royal victims of COVID19

Royals were not spared with the devastation of coronavirus. March had been the most tumultuous with the first royal casualty of the disease being a Spanish princess.

Princess Maria Teresa of Bourbon Parma

It was announced that Princess Maria Teresa of Bourbon-Parma, 86, died from COVID19. She was a former University professor in Madrid, Spain. The royal house of Bourbon-Parma is a cadet branch of the Spanish royal family.

Archduke Karl von Hapsburg of Austria, the head of the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine, was the first European royal to have ever contracted the disease way back in March, He described his experience as "Annoying, but I am fine, it's not a Black Plague".

Archduke Karl von Hapsburg of Austria-Lorraine

To some, his comment might be something amusing, but for monarchists, it was a bit historical. During the pandemic of the 17th century, Austria was still a monarchy and the country was ruled by the Archduke's ancestors.

The news followed with the Prince of Wales and the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, having tested positive of the disease, also in March.

Prince Joachim of Belgium 

In June, it was announced that Prince Joachim, son of Princess Astrid of Belgium and Prince Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este, was tested positive of coronavirus after attending a party in Cordoba, Spain. 

Just recently, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, admitted he also tested positive of COVID19 in April. Something he kept private to prevent the public from getting alarmed. 

These royal circumstances gave a real scare to people, recognizing the severity of the virus, realizing that even royals are not spared from the disease.

Monarchy's Relevance

What could be monarchy's relevance in the time of pandemic? Are royals still viewed as a source of national unity and pride in this difficult period?

Belgian royal family 

The reduced presence of the royals in public this year makes us pondered if the world still ever need them. The modern society demands a more relevant people and organizations that could revolutionize the way people live and communicate and the existence of the royal court seems already outdated. 

For constitutional monarchies, their function is purely ceremonial, running the country and making decisions on what to do with the crisis are purely the job of the head of the government. 

Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein 

The status of royals during lockdown was reduced into just like that of the ordinary citizen as they are also expected to abide with the government's regulations on social distancing and health protocol - stay at home and avoid large gatherings.

However, their roles are still formidable, the crown heads received regular updates from their prime ministers, they've been constantly briefed with the real situation of the country. 

Royals actively participated in virtual conferences with cause-oriented organizations and health groups to show support on activities that help improved the lives of the many amidst the crisis. They continue to inspire and support  frontliners and vulnerable groups, their presence in virtual conferences, sparked emotional reactions from the public.

Royal family of Luxembourg 

Somehow, yes, they are still relevant and their presence is a binding force that drew people together to respond to a common cause during this trying time.

Here are some highlights of the Royals in Europe in this time of global health crisis.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip 

The Queen at 94 continues to represent her country with strong dedication to public duty even at her age. She has shown tireless commitment to serve the nation as its head of state.

However, this year is perhaps one of the most challenging years in her reign. She has to deal with two crisis, the pandemic and the departure of her grandson, the Duke of Sussex and his wife, from senior royal roles.

The Queen was forced to come up with a deal to process the smooth transition of the departure without dragging the monarchy into further controversies.

She also has to deal with the issues on her second son, Prince Andrew's involvement in the Epstein scandal, even prompting the Duke of York to step back from his royal duties.

Behind these trying times of the life of the British monarchy, is a formidable monarch, who, despite being at the prime years of her life, still the strong force that binds the House of Windsor together. We could only admire her unique strength, vigor and toughness from a far, how inspiring it is to have a monarch like Her Majesty.

The Queen delivering her annual Christmas message

The pandemic forced her to retreat to Windsor Castle in March, but she continued to make her presence felt with constant TV broadcast of her messages and virtual meetings, inspiring the nation to come together as one to help mitigate the crisis.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, joined Her Majesty in the Windsor bubble during the duration of lockdown. In June, His Royal Highness marked his 99th birthday quietly with the Queen in Windsor.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh marking HRH's 99th birthday

The occasion was marked with a portrait of him beside the Queen at the castle's quadrangle. It coincided with the Queen's official birthday celebration at Trooping the Colours ceremony at Windsor. 

In July, they attended the intimate royal wedding of their granddaughter, Princess Beatrice of York to Italian aristocrat, Edoardo Mapelli-Mozzi, at the royal chapel in Windsor Great Park at a reduced capacity.

A significant event as the Queen lent her dress and her own wedding tiara to the princess to celebrate the occasion. 

The Queen and Prince Philip at their granddaughter's intimate wedding

The royal couple skipped for a time to Balmoral castle for their annual summer holiday, then went to Sandringham for a brief period of time.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh traveled back to Windsor in November for the holiday season.  This is the first time in so many decades that they spent Christmas in Windsor. This arrangement was made after staff at Sandringham declined to remain at the estate for the entire holiday season. 

However, the year 2020 is not at all terrible for the Queen. There are happier times too. It's the year she saw another milestone in her married life. 

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November. Making her the only British monarch to reach such milestone in marital union.

Prince Philip also became the longest living consort of a British monarch in English history. He has been prince consort since 1952.

This milestone was not emulated by their grandson and nephew however. Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne, announced his separation to Autumn Kelly in February followed by David Armstrong-Jones, the 2nd Earl of Snowdon, son of Princess Margaret, confirmed  that he is on the process of divorcing his wife, Lady Serena Stanhope. 

The royal couple's portrait marking their 73rd wedding anniversary

Apart from the marriage of Princess Beatrice, another good news for the Queen's family are the pregnancies of her two granddaughters, Princess Eugenie and Zara Phillips.

Although beyond the surface, there are unsettling issues of the royal family that are not yet fixed. 

The perceived animosity between the royal brothers, Prince William and Prince Harry, the Epstein scandal that still haunt Prince Andrew, which made him retreat from royal duty, this year has been relatively a quiet life for the Queen and Prince Philip. 

Prince Harry and Prince William 

The pandemic period drew them closer to each other than any of the previous decades. The past nine months have been the longest period they've been staying with each other since they got married 73 years ago.

The Queen gave her annual Christmas day with a message of hope, diversity and faith. She reflects on the acts of kindness and heroism during this extraordinary year.

Prince Philip during the turnover ceremony of The Rifles 

This year we have also seen Prince Philip returning once more to an official public duty after retiring in 2017. He spearheaded the turnover ceremony of his role as the colonel-in-chief of The Rifles to the Duchess of Cornwall.

King Felipe VI of Spain

Spain is one of the countries in Europe worst-hit by the pandemic. King Felipe VI has continue his effort to act as a symbol of national unity. 

King Felipe VI of Spain

On the occasion of remembering those who died from COVID-19, he graced the church service with his wife and daughters. 

He continued to show family unity, despite the fact that this year the Spanish monarchy also went through with its own crisis when the king's father, King Juan Carlos who abdicated in 2014, was involved in a corruption allegation.

The Spanish royal family
The Christmas card this year released by the Spanish royal family featuring only the royal sisters, Princess Leonor and Infanta Sofia

King Juan Carlos fled out of the country and reportedly went to the United Arab Emirates for his self-exile. 

In his annual Christmas message, King Felipe might have veiled dig at his father when he mentioned briefly about "ethics are above family ties".

Prince Albert II of Monaco

When it comes to hot royal issues in the time of pandemic, nothing more controversial among the Royals of Europe than the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, Prince Albert II.

Prince Albert, Princess Charlene and their twins

In March this year, he was diagnosed of having contracted the disease. And weeks before Christmas, it was revealed in the media that he was expected to appear in court in January 2021 over a paternity lawsuit filed by a Brazilian beauty living in Italy. 

The lawsuit alleged that Prince Albert fathered a third love child in 2005 with this secret girlfriend.  What made this uncomfortable to the Grimaldi house is the fact that he was already in a relationship at that time with his now wife, Princess Charlene.

Princess Charlene sporting a punky hairstyle

Following the news, Princess Charlene was seen sporting a strange haircut that shocked royal fans across the globe. She traded her usual light blonde bob cut hair with a dark gold hair in a punky style, shaving part of her head.

Prince Albert's family and his sister, Princess Stephanie's family

Whether it was her distressing reaction to the news involving a love child or just wanted to sport a daring look, no one knows, but a week later, she was in high spirit joining Prince Albert in a Christmas gift giving and later, family snap on Christmas day.

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene have twins together born in 2014, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella.

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales

This year has been a traumatic year, perhaps, for the Prince of Wales. Might be one of his most challenging years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. 

His sons were involved in the so-called "Royal Feud", with a special participation of their wives. 

The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex continued to dish out intrigues to the public with the real score of their brother relationship. A strain that the Prince of Wales, as a father, could not fix.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

Others claimed the brothers already reconciled and fixed their differences quietly, however, the absence of them appearing together in public just like in the past continues to fuel the controversy. This speculation, however, sounds nonsense since traveling is still restricted and Prince Harry is currently based in California.

Prince Charles endured a period of isolation in March when he was tested positive of the coronavirus. After his home quarantine it was announced he was finally free of COVID-19. He slowly went back to public duties and occasionally doing virtual meetings.

The crisis he faced however did not stop there. When Netflix released its newest installment of The Crown, it resurrected one of the darkest periods of the British monarchy in modern times, the infidelity of the future king with now wife, Duchess of Cornwall.

The Highgrove Gardens of Prince Charles

As people are still unforgiving over the infidelity issues that largely defined the current royal family, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall became the subjects of intense public criticism as if it was 1990 again, bringing up the old issues of their unfaithfulness. 

However time has changed. 

It's been 23 years since the devastating car crash in Paris. William and Harry have moved on.

We all love Diana. We treasured her memory. She remains in our hearts. 

But if TV networks or any establishments continue to dig up the past, it will just resurrect ugly memories, reopen old wounds among Diana's loved ones and she might never rest in peace.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at Highgrove

Perhaps it is time to let the issue rest and let go of the past. We need to move on. We need to look forward of what's coming ahead. We need to heal.

We've been through a lot this year. We undergone the toughest of times. Many did not make it today. This holiday season is a blessing. We've been given a chance to experience life in its fullness again,

It's time to heal. It's time to forgive and let go of the ugly past. It does not mean we have tolerated the infidelity but it's in the past. Let's move ahead to appreciate what's in store for the future. We still have our own life to live. 

Humility is a virtue in this time of pandemic.

As much as we do not like seeing Camilla as she only reminds us of the pain and misery suffered by the beloved Princess of Wales, but this is the present now. 

She is the Duchess of Cornwall and Charles's wife. Nothing we can do about it but accept the fact. 

On the other hand, she is doing fine honoring Her Majesty, promoting the goodwill of Britain and the monarchy. She can be a balanced consort for the future king. 

As much as we want to hate Prince Charles forever, we cannot continue living in hate and hostility. We need to live in peace.

 Today, he is taking his future role seriously. He has been doing great as Britain's symbol of unity. He is a passionate environmentalist and conservationist who is advocating the preservation of nature. 

Let's learn to forgive. We cannot gain anything if we continue antagonizing them. Holiday season is all about peace, love, unity and forgiveness.

Other Members of the Royal Family

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are also doing their part inspiring health workers and other organizations for continue performing their job despite the threat of the virus.

They have graced several events physically and online, conducting virtual meetings with cause-oriented groups, visiting hospitals and other organizations. 

The Cambridges

They launched and supported several projects aimed to improve people's lives and the planet in general, one of these is the Earthshot prize, which is currently run by their foundation until it becomes its own entity in 2021.

Earthshot Prize aims to help repair our planet in the next ten years by turning current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism, highlighting ability of human ingenuity to bring about change and inspiring collective action.

The Earl of Wessex family volunteering in the coastal cleanup during International Earth Day this year

The Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex also did their part gracing socially-distanced events in support of the Queen.

The Greek royal family

Although no longer reigning, King Constantine II, the deposed King of Greece, and his family continue to inspire the royal world with their presence. 

The ex-king, went back to live in Greece with his wife, Queen Anne-Marie, in 2017 and helped established a restaurant business with their second son, Prince Nikolaus.

The ex-King of Greece, Queen Anne-Marie and Princess Theodora

King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie took up residence in Porto Cheli, a beautiful summer resort town near the glamorous island of Spetses.

The king however maintained he has no plan in reviving the monarchy and contented being a private citizen.

On Christmas day, Princess Theodora shared a snap with her parents relaxing at their residence's garden, perhaps taking mid-morning breakfast with wine and salad.

Princess Theodora, who was born in London, 10 years after the abolition of the Greek monarchy, supposed to marry her LA-based lawyer boyfriend in May this year, but due to lockdown, the event was postponed to an undated month.

Prince Philippos and Nina Flohr

Her younger brother, Prince Philippos, named after the Duke of Edinburgh, and a godson of Princess Diana and King Juan Carlos of Spain, however got married in an intimate civil wedding ceremony.

The wedding took place at the glamorous town resort of St. Moritz, Switzerland last December 15. The bride, Nina Flohr, is a VistaJet heiress. 

Due to Switzerland's strict COVID-19 rules, only their respective fathers, King Constantine II and Thomas Flohr, founder of VistaJet, attended the ceremony. 

Religious ceremony is expected to follow, either in Switzerland or Greece, as soon as government restrictions over gatherings ease.

The Belgian royal family

Overall, this year of pandemic has largely changed the way royals functioned in the public and in most instances, we have realized that in time like this, their roles are largely relegated only to inspiring people and symbolizing national unity. 

The big job and crisis response relied heavily on the head of the government. Royals have to abide with the government's regulations.

Norwegian royal family 

However, royal presence still gives us some form of delight and excitement and for once, they have provided us a source of entertainment and inspiration in this difficult time. 

Whether the monarchies are still relevant in the current society is a matter of personal interest.

To our avid readers: 

May the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season fill your home with all things these festivities bring: peace, joy, love, unity and good health, and may next year be a better year for the world. 

Happy Holidays! Keep safe. 🎉

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