Monday, June 30, 2008

Constitutional monarchy: better than the alternative

Manoutchehr M. Eskandari-Qajar is Associate Professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern History, and Chair of the Department of Political Science, at Santa Barbara City College, California.

Iranian and Austrian experience suggests to this observer that the argument for constitutional monarchy against republicanism is most convincing on pragmatic grounds.

Monarchy is part of my heritage on both sides of my family. While my link with Iranian monarchy is indeed personal - our family ruled Iran until 1925 - Austrian monarchy has also left its indelible mark on me, as it has on most every aspect of Austrian life to this day. This mixed heritage has allowed me to give the question of monarchy serious thought.

Austria and Iran without their monarchy are not hypothetical questions, but lived realities for one with my background. On the one hand they created in me an apprehension of absolute monarchy. On the other, not a sympathy for republicanism, but an appreciation for the value of constitutional monarchy instead. I firmly believe both countries would be better off with this form of government than with the ones they presently have. Personal and familial reasons aside, what can one say in favor of constitutional monarchy in either country?

Both Austria and Iran rejected their monarchy, but in their rejection chose very different paths. Iran was robbed of its constitutional monarchy once in 1925, in the name of strength and progress. It became an absolute monarchy instead. Then in 1979 it rejected absolute monarchy, but replaced one absolutism with another. In so doing, it missed out on the stabilising effect of monarchy while also missing out on the democratising effect of constitutional rule, and so, ended up with neither.

Austria abolished its monarchy by blaming its fate on its king rather than on the larger structural forces that brought about the conflagration of the Great War. The turbulence of the post-war years gave Hitler the opening he needed. With a monarch, Austrians would not have looked to a Fuhrer for greatness - witness the Danes during that same period for a case in point. There is today no weighty reason for Austria’s continued rejection of its monarchy. The only weight is that of habit from over eighty years of living without. Would Jorg Haider have this kind of appeal if his conservative followers had a constitutional monarchy to support?

Odd as it may sound to republican ears, constitutional monarchy has been an unqualified success story wherever it has thrived. The success alone of this form of government therefore, should be a sufficient argument in its favor. But this is not enough for its opponents, and their arguments against it are multi-layered, and complex.

The core of the republican argument against constitutional monarchy is this: obsolescence and redundancy. The argument from obsolescence is that of anachronism. The argument from redundancy is more complex. It takes the form of this question: What additional role does monarchy play in a democracy that is not already covered by the roles of existing institutions? Those defending monarchy have spent precious energy outlining what this role is, to no avail. The reason is that the republican argument really masks another question: Why should this person be there by heredity and not by popular choice? To that there is no satisfactory answer in a republican age. Therefore, what should proponents of constitutional monarchy say when faced with the challenge of justifying its existence?

They should ask their opponents to look at how countries with constitutional monarchies have fared, and ask by what criteria their opponents have established that without these monarchies those countries would be better off. Here the argument from expense will not do as republics are just as expensive. Neither would the argument from elitism, as republics are just as prone to elitism, though more awkwardly perhaps!

In great anticipation of worthy answers, we monarchists remain, therefore, all ears!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Vidovdan (Видовдан) is a religious holiday, St. Vitus' Day, whose feast is on June 15. Where the Eastern Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar, as in Serbia, that date coincides, in the 20th and 21st centuries, with June 28 in the Gregorian calendar.

Vidovdan has long been considered a date of special importance in Serbia and the Balkans, because of the historical events that happened on that day. By far the most important is the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, the death of Prince Lazar and the so called demise of Serbian empire. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Serbian church commemorates the event as the Day of Holy Prince Lazar the Great Martyr.

The origin of word Vidovdan has several interpretations, none of which has been scientifically proved. According to one, it represents continuity of celebrating the Slavic pagan deity Svetovid, the god of plenitude and war, who might had been the supreme deity of the Serbs. Another version claims that reverence of St. Vitus (lat. Sanctus Vitus) was brought into Serbia by the Saxonian catholic miners, and the saint was customized to local populace. Svetovid was also worshiped in Polablje (region in today’s eastern Germany), where his temples were converted to the churches dedicated to St. Vitus.

According to the third interpretation, related to the tradition and myth of Kosovo battle, the clash of the two armies happened on the day when it was to be seen (videti in Serbian) who is faithful, and who is infidel. From then on, the day was named Vidovdan.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Being royalist the Danish way

Solana Larsen, member of the board of openDemocracyUSA, contributes regularly to Danish national radio and other media, and has been a collaborator in numerous global internet activism projects.

The bond of affection between monarchy and people in Denmark is grounded in a shared sense of the national character.

Like Carlsberg, Danish bacon and Lego, the Danes will boast about most things that put them on the world map. And the monarchy is one of them. A thoroughly Danish expression is hyggelig, which means cozy, nice and jolly all wrapped into one. And that is how many Danes choose to characterise their monarchy. Refusing to get into the politics of it all, they like to think the Queen, the Princes, and the traditions that follow are not something to be taken too seriously.

Queen Margrethe II is admired by most in her own right. She has, after all, designed ballet costumes for the Royal Danish Ballet, and lent her art to posters and calendars for various charitable causes. She’s translated books, and even illustrated a 1977 version of The Lord of the Rings. She smokes like a chimney, and the people take bizarre pride in the fact that she only smokes Danish (‘Prince’) cigarettes. Indeed, it would be unseemly for a Danish queen to smoke anything else.

Danes hate for anyone to think they are better than them, blue-blooded or not. Regents of the past have found an irreverent approach to regal privileges to be the way into people’s hearts. My grandmother often tells the story of how her mother, as a little girl, was handed a piece of chocolate by the King Christian X on one of his early morning outings. He ruled during both World Wars, and was famous for riding his horse alone around the streets of Copenhagen - even at the time of the German occupation.

Likewise, the public responds with a friendly and irreverent approach to the Royal Family. Urban myths flourish. Everyone will tell you how the recently deceased Queen Mother, Ingrid, was a shoplifter and that her bodyguards would pay for everything she pocketed. A persistent rumour decrees that the Queen’s French husband, Prince Henri, is gay. When the young Prince Regent, Frederik, complained he could not go to a bar without anyone notifying the press, a national tabloid printed posters for bars and cafés to display, headed: “Freddy is free”. For weeks an atmosphere of unity prevailed over allowing the prince his privacy.

Velvet seriousness

At New Year, the Queen delivers a televised speech to the Danish public. She is not allowed party political views but has made a firm tradition of pondering cultural and ethical issues. Last year’s speech was especially meaningful. Along with much of Europe, Denmark has seen growing electoral popularity for the far right. A rather fearful debate about immigrant issues has dominated politics in recent years. Who else but Her Majesty would tell Danes to be nice to one another?

“History has shown far too many examples of how insecurity and fear has nourished prejudice and caused differences between people,” she said, remarking that it can be just as difficult for foreigners to adapt to Danish society, as for Danes to admit that it has changed. “Standing together is not something which can be achieved from one side only. It requires something of us all, because it is not always easy to recognise your neighbour behind a different appearance and unknown customs.”

How unusual and wonderful to have a monarchy that relates directly to the public. Danish royals go to public schools, drive their own cars, and lead independent productive lives, as well as representing Denmark in situations where politicians have little real purpose. And while no one really expects the present Queen’s descendants to be as popular, the monarchy is not something the Danes would likely bid farewell to. Like fairy tales, ice cream and beer, it plays an important role in Danish culture. But then, we like to think, most hyggelig things do.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Future of the monarchy

Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at Oxford University, one of Britain's foremost constitutional experts

A constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a hereditary head of state reigns but does not rule. In separating the role of head of state from that of head of government, a constitutional monarchy ensures that the head of state is free from party ties. This, surely, is of inestimable value in an age when politics has come to invade almost every aspect of our national life, choking all too many activities in its unnatural embrace.

It is because of her political neutrality that the Queen can act not only as head of state but also as head of the nation, or, perhaps more accurately, as head of the various nations which comprise the United Kingdom. At times of national commemoration such as the anniversary of D Day or VE Day, the Queen speaks for all, whatever their political allegiance. She alone is in a position to interpret the country to itself. A president could not easily do so because of the political baggage which he or she would carry. Republicans have, admittedly, been searching, rather desperately, for a modern analogue to the late Lord Franks, a member of the great and the good without any party history, whom they can propose for the British presidency. The trouble is, however, that Margaret Thatcher demanded that the great and the good stand up to be counted. They were either for her or against. Since then, the great and the good seem mysteriously to have disappeared.

But in any case no figure, however eminent, could aspire to the presidency without acquiring the support of a political party. Indeed, with a directly elected president, as in France, the parties would put all their energies into getting their own candidate into Buckingham Palace. This conception of the presidency, however, as political leader as well as head of state, would radically alter our political system. Politicians here would be no more likely to agree to it than they were in Australia where last year's republican referendum offered the alternative of a president chosen not, as in France, by the people but, as in Germany and Italy, by parliament.

A president chosen by parliament would most likely be a retired politician, a party warhorse who could be relied upon not to cause trouble. Names such as Neil Kinnock and Tony Newton spring to mind, although the Conservatives might just conceivably be prepared to risk Margaret Thatcher, hoping perhaps that high symbolic office would put a stop to her wilder utterances. One cannot help feeling, however, that the appearance of Mr Kinnock, Mr Newton or even Lady Thatcher on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the anniversary of VE Day, would not have had quite the emotional resonance of an appearance by the Queen.

There is, in much of the western world, a distinctly anti-political mood, as voters come to feel that they can make better decisions for themselves than politicians acting on their behalf. It was indeed partly for this reason that the Australian referendum resulted in a defeat for the republicans. In the United States the legitimacy of government has been severely damaged by the confusions in Florida that remind us of the dangers of a political system in which every office has a party taint, even the courtrooms being stuffed with political appointees. If the answer is more politicians, we are, as John Major once said, asking the wrong question.

The unifying role of the monarchy has become even more important with devolution which has made Britain an explicitly multinational state. In Belgium, it is sometimes said that the king is the only Belgian, everyone else being either Fleming or Walloon. Similarly, in Britain a president would be either English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish - most probably English, since the English comprise 85% of the population. The Queen alone can belong, not to any single one of the nationalities comprising the United Kingdom, but to all of them.

There is a further feature of our monarchy which is often ignored: its international aspect. The Queen is the symbolic head of a multiracial Commonwealth of 54 countries representing around one-third of the world's population. Most of these countries are former British colonies who have chosen, entirely voluntarily, to continue their association with Britain. While lacking formal powers, the Commonwealth is not without influence, enabling Britain, in Douglas Hurd's words, to „punch above her weight“ in diplomatic affairs, through her connections with Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Caribbean. An elected head of the Commonwealth, however, would probably seek a more positive leadership role which the Commonwealth would be unable to sustain, while a rotating head, as once proposed by Tony Benn, might have allowed Idi Amin of Uganda to traverse the world as head of the Commonwealth. Thus the device by which the Queen is a symbolic head enables it to avoid what could prove an embarrassing constitutional problem.

It is because the arguments for constitutional monarchy are so powerful that republicanism has not been a serious political force in Britain since the 1870s, when Joseph Chamberlain confidently told his Radical colleague, Sir Charles Dilke, that: „The republic must come, and at the rate at which we are moving, it will come in our generation.“

The 1870s, however, proved to be the high water mark of republicanism, and, in the 20th century, the left has disdained it. The Labour party conference last debated the monarchy in 1923 when republicanism was defeated by 3,694,000 votes to 386,000. In the aftermath of the abdication, in December 1936, a republican motion in the Commons could muster only five votes in its support.

Today, however, republicans have come up with a new argument. They claim that monarchy, whose roots lie in the past, symbolises deference and hierarchy, thereby underpinning values which hinder the modernisation of Britain. It is the idea of the crown, insists Stephen Haseler, chairman of Republic, which „stops us from seriously modernising our polity“.

It is hard to take this argument seriously. Denmark, Norway and Sweden, after all, are monarchies, yet more markedly egalitarian than such republics as France and Germany. Italy is hardly more modern than Norway, nor is Portugal noticeably more efficient than the Netherlands. Moreover, the experience of Japan shows that a monarchy of a highly traditional kind is perfectly compatible with economic success. The truth is that, in Britain, the monarchy has become the latest and the least convincing of the many scapegoats which the left has produced to account for its failure to win the people to its cause.

There is indeed no correlation between republicanism and modernisation. Constitutional monarchy yields not conservatism but legitimacy since it settles beyond argument the question of who is to be head of state, putting that position beyond the reach of politicians. Wise leaders of the left, from Gladstone to Blair, have always understood that because change is bound to be disorientating, a reforming government needs the monarchy even more than a government committed to the status quo. It is for this reason that the hopes of modern republicans are likely to be dashed as cruelly as were those of Joseph Chamberlain 130 years ago.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Present-day constitutional monarchical status

Though many of Europe's past and present leftist parties contain anti-monarchy factions, to date few have openly declared a preference for flat-out monarchical abolition, and instead use their powers to curtail and reform alleged un-democratic or prejudiced elements of the monarchy. For example, in recent years the age-old tradition of „males first“ order of succession to the throne has been abolished in some European constitutional monarchies, allowing for eldest daughters to assume the throne before their brothers.

One view as to why modern constitutional monarchies continue to survive is that the individual royal families themselves have remained popular. Today, most contemporary monarchs work to be the embodiment of the state, and the focus of national unity. For example, in many constitutional monarchies the monarch's birthday is a national holiday, and an event marked with public patriotic events and parties; these events can also foster tourism. The sovereign, along with the larger royal families, project a modern image to the citizenry of a monarchy that is both caring and interested in the people and their country. Many members of modern royal families attempt to provide example, frequently making donations or participating in charity events, visiting poor or sick citizens, and making public appearances at high profile sporting or arts events. As long as a monarchy can remain popular in the public eye, there is little reason for the politicians to meddle, and those who do can easily find themselves at the receiving end of harsh public criticism.

In recent years many royal families have also become popular targets of tabloid journalism and gossip, which although often argued as being intrusive and destructive, continues to prove that many find royals interesting simply as celebrities. A further argument speculates that abolishing a popular monarchy may be a pointless endeavor anyway, as even a „deposed“ royal family could presumably still live their royal lifestyle and capture public attention, making any republican replacement seem illegitimate. Historically, when monarchies have been abolished the royal family was usually exiled to a foreign country to prevent their presence from interfering or distracting from the new republican government. However, such moves were usually done during periods of conflict and turmoil with the monarchy.

If a democratic country were to abolish its monarchy today, an exile for the royal family would likely be denounced as cruel, and would thus not be seen as a practical option. Moreover, some previously exiled royal families (such as the Habsburgs in Austria) won legal cases by arguing that exiling a person from his or her homeland solely based on family origin is a severe violation of human rights. In Bulgaria, the fall of Communism enabled the former Monarch not only to return from prolonged exile but also to engage in active politics (without seeking to regain his throne).

In the 20th century, a much more politically sophisticated view in favour of preserving constitutional monarchies has often been argued as well. As mentioned above, many constitutional monarchs continue to hold some political powers, even though these may be never used in practice, or only exercised symbolically. However, some have argued that as long as monarchs retain these powers formally, the „threat“ of political intervention is still strong enough to dissuade politicians from acting in an overly autocratic or illegal manner. The fact that many constitutional monarchs still retain the ultimate power to fire a prime minister is often cited as the most useful emergency check against tyranny.

Arguments for monarchies

Monarchists make the following arguments, among others, in support of monarchy:

  • A hereditary monarch is likely to be a more competent head-of-state than is an elected president, because the former may have been prepared, from childhood, to serve as such.
  • A monarchy may be less costly to maintain than a republic because it spares the state the expense of holding presidential elections, and because the royal family's private fortune may be enough for its own support, compared to the public expenditures the accommodations, pensions and other maintenance of a republic's presidential incumbent and former presidents.
  • The competition and criticism to which republican presidents typically are exposed, as elected officials and especially during the election campaigns themselves, damages the reputation and dignity of the head of state.
  • Because republican presidents are typically members of a political party, while monarchs typically stand outside of politics, a president is less well able to serve as a neutral representative of a country and its people.
  • Presidents are obliged to act in accord with the policies and ideas of their political parties or supporters, while monarchs can reign more independently.
  • A monarch makes a better visible symbol of national identity and unity than does a president.
  • In a republic the continual changes of head-of-state create political uncertainty, which they contrast with the symbolic continuity of having a monarch. Some monarchists even argue that monarchy not only symbolises continuity, but actually guarantees of political stability, and instance, to support this view, historical cases where the abolition of monarchy has been followed by civil wars and the rise of totalitarian systems, such as Jacobinism in France, Nazism in Germany, and Communism in Russia and China.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Libertarian Monarchist?

Malcolm Bracken,

Libertarianism is the political theory which states that the individual is the owner of his life, and that he should be allowed to seek his best interest in so far as they do not interfere with the rights of others. Underpinning this are property rights and rules governing acceptable behaviour, which distinguish the Libertarian (or more specifically the consequentialist Libertarian) from the anarchist. Libertarians accept that man must to a limited degree, be governed. The question is therefore how.

Democracy is clearly the best system yet devised, but it is prone to the illiberal baying of the mob. Checks and balances must be put in place to counteract the tendency to majoritarian tyranny. That is why there is often a revising chamber in bimarcal systems whose members have longer terms or even life tenure. In addition, many countries have constitutional courts, which check that law is compatible with the constitution.

There is no reason why the hereditary principle needs to lead to poor governance - indeed it could be argued that as people outside the democratic process, like Lords (appointed or hereditary) Kings and Queens are ideally placed to oversee lawmaking in a dispassionate way. Currently the Queen has no real political power and that is as it should be, however she retains the ability to refuse assent. I.e. she has power of veto. It is an unused nuclear option but there, should a demagogue ever gain the keys to number 10, she could refuse assent to an enabling law. Then again, she might not, but she'd do a better job than politicians, who have rarely voted for less power!

This is not rosy-eyed wishful thinking. Countries in Europe which still have Kings and Queens tend to be the ones with the longest liberal traditions of good governance: the UK, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. They have old institutions precisely because they have not had revolutions. In many less stable countries, Spain for example, Monarchs have been a positive influence. King Juan Carlos intervened to introduce democracy. In times of crisis, Kings have provided better rallying points for Governments in exile than more controversial political figures - compare King Haakon VII (an elected monarch) and De Gaulle

Monarchy is an abuse of a number of libertarian principles - Clearly the Queen cannot be said to be the owner of her life, nor can her Children, especially the Prince of Wales. The Royal Family is a victim of the system of Monarchy, not its beneficiary but there is no reason to suppose that the people of the country suffer in any way for not being able to choose their symbolic head of state.

Then there is the personality of the current incumbent of the position. A better and more selfless example of service to the country cannot be found. I would rather have her as a guarantor of my rights, overseeing and guiding the lawmaking process than than an unaccountable and changeable document, or heaven forbid, the EU, which will inevitably be deeply flawed.

I am also a conservative, for the same reason I am a libertarian. I believe the state to be in most instances incompetent, therefore constitutional inaction is usually preferable. Basically, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Monarch does a good job as figurehead and without many of the disadvantages of more partisan political figures - especially in her ceremonial roles as head of the Armed forces and fount of honour. Any replacement of the Institution of monarchy would require a written constitution, which in the current political climate would resemble not so much the admirable document which underpins the USA, as a leftist wish-list of positive rights, which would render any future libertarian government totally impotent.

I am a Libertarian. I am a Monarchist. Are these two beliefs compatible? No, in theory, but Yes in practice. Constitutional Monarchy - better than all alternatives.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Arguments for the Kingdom of Serbia (4)

Dragoljub Mihailović, 30.11.2006
(by e-mail,

Having in mind that the United States have no countenance to monarchy as a form of government, in general, and that the European Union (constituted, among other countries, by 7 monarchies) also has no serious interest in Serbia becoming a stable state, I still think that KINGDOM IS A BETTER FORM OF GOVERNMENT THAN REPUBLIC FOR SERBIA IN THE 21. CENTURY.

Despite the fact that the communists, and their children, and their grandchildren, and their mutated successors, have to a great extent managed, through frenzied propaganda, to alienate the idea of monarchy from the citizens of Serbia, and that the very mentioning of a king or monarchy drives a certain proportion of the citizens into amok, I still think that KINGDOM IS A BETTER FORM OF GOVERNMENT THAN REPUBLIC FOR SERBIA IN THE 21. CENTURY.

Being aware that HRH Crown Prince Alexander speaks bad Serbian, that he does not get on well with other members of the Royal House, that his sons live abroad, and that the agents of mutated communist secret services are in his closest surrounding, I still think that KINGDOM IS A BETTER FORM OF GOVERNMENT THAN REPUBLIC FOR SERBIA IN THE 21. CENTURY.

Taking into consideration the possibility that, if by a miracle the mutated communists agreed to the idea, constitutional parliamentary monarchy might not gain sufficient number of votes by a freely expressed citizens’ political will in a referendum, I still think that KINGDOM IS A BETTER FORM OF GOVERNMENT THAN REPUBLIC FOR SERBIA IN THE 21. CENTURY.

BECAUSE the King, who is not elected, and who does not owe his position to any political party, will express the state unity of Serbia better than any president of republic, who is elected, either directly, or in parliament, by a „majority“ of 51%, which, in fact, represents a significantly lesser part of the electorate.

BECAUSE the King
, descendant of Serbian Kings and relative of European Kings, will represent Serbia in the country and abroad better than any president of republic.

BECAUSE the King, who is independent of any political party and impartial to all of them, will be more objective in upholding and defending the constitution than any president of Serbia.

BECAUSE the King, grandson of the King who had led Serbia into its greatest military victories ever, will command the Army more convincingly than any president of republic.

Arguments for the Kingdom of Serbia (2)

Prof. Dr. Slobodan Vitanović (1928–2007), February 2003:

„Not only monarchy has the indisputable long history and exceptionally important role in the development and progress of Serbian state, but it also has doubtless advantages in the present and in the immediate future.

Serbia was a false republic within communist Yugoslavia, for its representatives were elected as life long, which by no means is a characteristic of republican form of government. When Serbia began trying to become democratic and parliamentary republic, its weaknesses emerged: conflicts between different political options that can’t be solved, between personal ambitions and ambitions of the leaders, possibility of candidacy of highly dubious characters, far too often and expensive election campaigns that only divide, depress and demoralize people, turning them against each other, finally, even the impossibility to elect the head of state. Furthermore, even if the head of state was elected, he would represent only an unconvincing majority, or more precisely, minority of the people. The advantages of a democratic parliamentary monarchy in that respect are becoming more than obvious. In addition, a monarch, who is the symbol of the state, its supporting pillar, represents the nation’s entity and his reign is not subjected to the mentioned election tests. By his very personality, his descent, his reputation and his natural connections with other monarchs and other heads of states in the world, a monarch has greater weight than any other politician who managed to get enough votes.

Contemporary monarchy has its roots in tradition, but also a well-matched fitting into modern age tendencies. The connection of the Crown and the Altar is tradition, but separation of the State and the Church is reality. The Crown unites and reconciles both. Monarchy is bound to the religion and the Church through its origin, but through its democratic and parliamentary determination it is laicistic.”

Arguments for the Kingdom of Serbia (1)

Prof. Dr. Predrag Palavestra, member of the Crown Council, September 2001:

„In the unsettled and uneasy circumstances that we still live in, the Crown might, step by step, present itself as a legitimate conveyor of the necessary changes in the national politics of the Serbs, as an acceptable solution to the long Serbian drama. For many citizens who are tired of overthrows and defeats, of bullies and partisanship, the Crown might be the appropriate form of the stability of the state. The form based on democratic principles of the rule of law, on steady and sensible government, on simple and consistent principle of the equality of all citizens, respect of every individual and good management of the country and the people.”

April 2002:

„Urban strata are the first to seek stability, for they want a better life at their homes. They don’t want to renounce their national identity and dignity, and despite everything, out of pure patriotism and with apparent risk and sacrifice, they stay in the country in order to achieve an open democratic society, rule of law and peaceful technological and economic reintegration of Serbia into world courses and European civilization. Stability, guaranteed by the Crown, above all political divisions and ideological zeal, in the state ruled by law and democratic principles, might attract to the Crown all those citizens who by inertia say that monarchy is obsolete form of government and that history never repeats.”

„The Crown should have support of the civil society adherents. The Crown stands above the divisions and does not lower itself to the street; it represents the principle of stability, not games in the power struggle. The Crown does not enter political and party competition, but is generally acceptable solution for everyone, in a settled parliamentary country ruled by law, and a democratic society.”

Monday, June 9, 2008

Does Serbia need a king?

Prof. Dr. Radoslav Stojanović, Radio Free Europe, 11 January 2004.

The English people once restored the monarchy to prevent dangerous people such as Cromwell from coming to power again. Regrettably, there are many people like him in today's Serbia....

I think that, in our case, the restoration of the monarchy abolished after World War II would be more than a symbolic gesture of reconciliation, but also a confirmation that the civil war among Serbs is finally over, and that things are back where they used to be. Whether we want to admit it or not, the Serbian people are still divided between the royalist chetniks and the communist partisans, and restoring the monarchy might restore its identity.

I am talking about a contemporary European model of a monarchy. As we all know, eight members of the European Union are monarchies. It is absolutely clear that a monarchy with prerogatives enabling the king to become a tyrant is out of the question today.

I cannot accept the legitimacy of the 1945 vote to abolish the monarchy. The monarchy was rejected in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and maybe in Macedonia, but that was not the case in Serbia. I talked about this in two public speeches, first in front of 200,000 people and then in front of 100,000. I remember well the ovation I received when I mentioned the restoration of the monarchy. People react that way today simply because they never accepted the way the monarchy was abolished in 1945. Searching for its identity, the people have to overcome their divisions.

Members of dynasties – whether Karadjordjevic or any other – aren’t superhuman. They share all human weaknesses. Affairs are omnipresent because human relations suffer from passions and weaknesses. However, I have more confidence in a man with a pedigree than in someone who appeared out of nowhere to preach to us. Let us not forget the recent legacy of these „nobodies,“ the crimes they committed and the shame they brought upon the Serbs.

Of course, it is close to any democrat’s mind that it’s better to elect a head of a state than to have somebody make a claim for life on the basis of his birth. But one should not forget about Hitler and other elected leaders who went on to commit crimes. And in the Serbian case, we cannot compare King Aleksandar's royal dictatorship with the much bloodier one the communists imposed in 1945.

Friday, June 6, 2008


This paper explores monarchies through a corporate branding lens. It is based on extensive field interviewing of individuals with knowledge and experience in what we (not they) term managing the Crown as a brand, including senior members of the Swedish Royal Court and the Swedish Royal Family. It also draws from literature regarding monarchies across a range of disciplines beyond management; we found no previous brand–related literature on the topic.

The principal questions we examined were:
  • What makes the Crown (monarchy) a brand (especially one similar to a corporate brand)?
  • How has the positioning of the monarch and monarchy (the Crown) evolved over time in terms of relationships with the nation and the people?
  • What are the essential attributes of the Crown as a brand what we term the royal 5Rs?
  • What are the core values and the brand promise of a monarchy, its covenant with its people?
  • What roles can communications play in supporting/defending the Crown?
  • How are concepts from branding employed to build and protect the Crown?
  • How does and should a monarchy judge How are we doing?

Read the paper at:


Monday, June 2, 2008

The Foundation of King Peter I

Oplenac (Serbian Cyrillic: Опленац) is the historic place of the mausoleum of the Serbian Karađorđević Royal Family located in central Serbia near the town of Topola. It is known for the St. George Church.

In the 19th century this area was covered in woods. The term Oplenac most probably derives from "oplen", meaning wooden parts on ox cars. Karađorđe had settled here, built vineyards and orchards, and established the defence of the nearby Topola town. His son Alexander built new buildings and renewed his father’s vineyards and orchards. It was not until the arrival of King Peter I of Serbia that this place got its true importance.

Besides the Mausoleum (St. George church), there are other objects that encompass the Foundation of King Peter I – King Peter's House, King’s villa, Queen’s villa, Vineyards, Vineyard Keeper’s House, etc. Visitors can also visit the historic town of Topola located nearby, a traditional stronghold of the Karađorđević family, ever since the time of Karađorđe, Leader of the First Serbian Uprising of 1804. There they can see what remains of the old Topola town, Karađorđe’s church and Karađorđe’s monument.

St. George Church

Peter I, upon assuming Royal Duties in 1903, chose a spot 337 metres (1106 ft) on the top of Mali Oplenac for the location of his St. George Church. In 1904 the cornerstone was laid, and the Charter dedicated to St. George was placed in the foundation. On May 1, 1910 construction started following the Kosta J. Jovanović’s plan, and on September 1, 1910, the foundation was mostly completed. In 1911 the building process continued at a fast rate, and the church was already under the dome. In the autumn of 1912 the church was generally complete and ready for consecration. The Serbian Archbishop Dimitrije consecrated the church on September 23, 1912.

During pauses of the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars and the First World War, there was also a pause in the construction of the church. When Austria-Hungary occupied Serbia in the winter of 1915, the church was looted, and using the excuse that important records might be hidden the occupiers desecrated the graves in the crypt.

Returning to the liberated homeland and to the historical creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Peter I was not able to see completion of his foundation. The king died on August 16, 1921, and his successor Aleksandar I took over its completion. He modified the original plan.The church was once again consecrated in September 1930. Church services were held until 1947. After that it was declared an exceptional cultural monument and open to visitors.

The architecture and design of the church

The church is a five-domed structure. The interior length of the temple is 30 metres (98 ft), and the height of the arch is 27 metres (89 ft). The width of each narthex is 9 metres (29 ft), and so is the span of the central dome. All four façades were made from white marble, which comes from the Venčac Mountain. Copies from 60 Serbian medieval churches and monasteries had been brought to the St. George church at Oplenac. The entire mosaic has 725 painted compositions (513 in the temple and 212 in the crypt), on which there are 1500 figures. The entire area of the mosaic is 3,500 square metres (38,000 sq ft); with 40 million various coloured pieces of glass which have 15 thousand different varieties of colour, making the most vivid artistic impression.

The mausoleum

Apart from the two tombs inside the church (Karađorđe’s in the southern apse; and King Peter I in the northern apse), there are 20 other members of the Dynasty whose eternal place of rest is in this Mausoleum. Six generations of the Karađorđević family have been buried in this church:

The first generation is Marica (born Živković), Karađorđe's mother;

The second generation is Karađorđe (in the tomb in the church), and his wife Jelena (1772–1842);

The third generation is Karađorđe’s son Prince Alexander, and his wife Princess Persida (1813–1875);

The fourth generation – the nine children of Prince Alexander and Princess Persida, as follows: Kleopatra (1835-1855), Aleksije (1836-1840), Svetozar (1841-1847), King Peter I (in the tomb in the church), whose wife Princess Ljubica also known as Zorka (1864–1890), former Princess of Montenegro, is buried here in the crypt; moving on with Prince Alexander’s children: Jelena (1846–1867), Andreja (1848–1864), Jelisaveta (1851–1852), Đorđe (1856–1888), and Arsenije (1859–1938).

The fifth generation, the children of King Peter I and Princess Zorka : Milena (1886–1887), Đorđe (1887–1972), his wife Radmila (born Radović, 1907-1993); King Alexander I of Yugoslavia (1888–1934), Andrija (1890–1890 – lived only for 23 days).

The sixth generation: son of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia – Prince Tomislav (1928–2000).

Out of the ten children of Prince Alexander and Princess Persida, only their oldest daughter, Poleksija (1833–1914), was not buried here. Out of the 22 tombs of the Karađorđević Dynasty, four of them belong to rulers: Supreme Leader Karađorđe, Prince Alexander, King Peter I, and King Aleksandar I. It is an important place of Serbian history.