William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

The crown jewels are looking a tad tarnished

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, warned Shakespeare. And as it happens, 2013 is turning out to be a tough year for Europe’s kings and queens.

Royalists argue that monarchism’s value lies in the seamless continuity that is provided by inherited office, whereas in other constitutional arrangements political leaders come and go. The downside, however, is that inherited power is subject to potentially calamitous disruption, with no solution except to fume or to revolt. That is what is happening here.

Last week’s coronation of a new Dutch king, following the abdication of the 75-year-old Queen Beatrix, was somewhat marred by the revelation that their supposedly thrifty ‘bicycle monarchy’ costs more than the be-ermined and bejewelled British version. In Spain there have been angry mutterings about King Juan Carlos, whose popularity is at a record low, following anger over his luxurious lifestyle at a time that his subjects struggle to cope with an economic meltdown. And Belgium’s Queen Fabiola has been exposed as scheming to avoid inheritance tax.

In comparison, the problems in Britain seem minor. Queen Elizabeth II, who last year celebrated an astonishing 60 years on the throne, has been Royalty (Pty) Ltd’s equivalent of the unflagging Duracell bunny.

This week, however, Buckingham Palace announced that the 87-year-old monarch would not be attending November’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka. Instead she would be substituted by a mere stripling, the 65-year-old Prince Charles.

Elizabeth, passionate about the Commonwealth, has been the glue that’s kept it afloat despite bitter fall-outs between member nations. She’s missed only one CHOGM in the 40 years of its existence, so this absence is significant. There is more to it than the bland official explanation of her absence merely being part of a review of the amount of long-haul travel she does.

Media speculation is that it is related to her earlier this year being laid low for a month by a yet undiagnosed illness. Whatever the reason, Elizabeth has made it clear that unlike her continental counterparts, she won’t retire. So in contrast to the euphoria around her jubilee, the queen’s CHOGM absence should remind her loyal subjects that an octogenarian queen has limited mileage, that any road ahead is going to be increasingly rocky, and that there is a right Charlie in the nation’s near future. South Africans have gone through much the same experience with an ailing Nelson Mandela, who in a republican state has earned the fealty that hereditary monarchs expect as their right.

Actually, despite being a unitary republic, SA has its own royal problems. The country’s patchwork history of vying nations has bequeathed seven official monarchs and half a dozen disputed ones. So there is always some royal rumblings in the background.

Former president Thabo Mbeki set up a commission to sort out the tangle of actual and wannabe regents. After six years it decreed seven legitimate SA kingships, being the AbaThembu, the AmaPondo, the AmaZulu, the AmaXhosa, and the BaPedi. The AmaNdebele and the VhaVenda regencies were also recognised but having no incumbents, government decided that the commission would appoint these. This process subsequently has become mired in the courts, as would-be monarchs press their suits.

There are six further kings who are recognised but whose monarchies will end with them. As one might predict, the princelings and princesses are not amused by the prospect of demotion from exalted royal to the new bureaucratic definition, that of ‘principal traditional leader’. The issue continues to simmer.

Meanwhile, this week His Royal Majesty Quinn Makhanda, living in New Jersey, demanded in that the SA government forthwith pay unspecified damages and ensure that he is ‘repatriated and acknowledged’ with immediate effect as rightful heir to the Zulu throne, him being inheritor to a line bypassed when the Makhandas were exiled in the 1960s.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini is unlikely to easily relinquish his divine rights, especially the fiercely defended privilege of having a sacrificial bull rended live from limb to limb in the annual first-fruits ceremony. Maybe the young pretender would be better served pitching for an upcoming European vacancy?

Way things are going, he’ll be able to take his pick.

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  • 24 Responses to “The crown jewels are looking a tad tarnished”

    1. “Zulu King…especially the fiercely defended privilege of having a sacrificial bull rended live from limb to limb in the annual first-fruits ceremony”
      Wow, you’ve done it again William!! In your unique mean-spirited way, you’ve once again portrayed African culture as barbaric by juxtaposing African and European royalties. I wonder if its easy to sleep at night, with such a heavy burden on one’s conscience?

      May 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm
    2. bernpm #

      “The crown jewels are looking a tad tarnished”

      You say: “Last week’s coronation of a new Dutch king, following the abdication of the 75-year-old Queen Beatrix, was somewhat marred by the revelation that their supposedly thrifty ‘bicycle monarchy’ costs more than the be-ermined and bejewelled British version. ”

      The abdication bit is correct, but maybe your knowledge of Dutch royalty is limited as the Dutch do not have a “coronation”; The ceremony is called an “investiture”.

      Reference to a ‘bicycle monarchy’ sounds a little like trying to find a denigrating comment and failing in doing so. Almost all dutch people are using bicycles. See the number of parked bicycles instead of cars at stations. It is handy, cheap to use, easy in traffic and to park.

      For a further education on Dutch royalty and the party on 30 April see:

      I cannot comment on your perceptions of the British and/or African versions of royalty. I do remember a cartoon doing the rounds when the news of Beatrix intention to abdicate was on the news. The cartoon pictured Queen Elisabeth saying over her shoulder to Charles: “you better not get ideas….”

      BTW: the words ‘be-ermined” and “bejewelled” were not accepted by my word processor.

      May 11, 2013 at 3:54 pm
    3. Tilting @ Windmills #

      Interesting article. Must say I admire Prince Charles. The only royalty I can think of worth their salt, not that as future regent he will have executive power, only lead by his high ethical and intellectual ideals, and strong environmental support for a sustainable future for the planet. At least Charles won’t let the bull that makes the organic compost be killed if he has his way.

      May 11, 2013 at 6:35 pm
    4. Feel the Love #


      I wonder how well the Zulu king sleeps at night after watching a defenseless bull killed each year by young warriors using their bare hands?

      May 11, 2013 at 7:26 pm
    5. Momma Cyndi #

      Unfortunately, the world kept the idea of royalty and forgot the age old tradition of defenestration. Good kings and queens were kept and bad kings and queens had a limited lifespan.

      I like the Brit royalty. I don’t have to pay for any of them and yet they keep me amused. That is a win/win. Our own royalty tends to irritate me though. They take the money that is from my country but don’t really give anything back.

      (still say that you should stick to the day job)

      May 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm
    6. Actually the shoving aside of the Tudor heir, James 11, and merging of the Dutch and British Monarchies under William and Mary, was done because the British East India Company had lost 3 wars to the Dutch and the British Business Capitalist Class were going bankrupt, while the Dutch East India Company was flourishing, which it did until it was wound up (averaging 18 percent return on investment for all those years).

      The merger of the 2 Royal Families ended the East Indies dispute, with the Dutch getting the trade in spices and the Brits getting India. After the Indian Mutiny, the British East Indian Company, which was bankrupt again, was taken over by the British government, which among other things, left them with warehouses full of tea which they tried to offload on the Americans, resulting in the Boston Tea Party and the tea being dumped in Boston Harbour.

      The Afrikaner parastatal system was on the similar capitalist/socialist system which had made the Dutch East India Company so much more successful than the British East India Company.

      May 12, 2013 at 4:55 am
    7. Frans Verloop #

      Having dual citizenship I regularly follow happenings in Holland on the dutch channel – ch 431 on Dstv – and I can asure William that for the foreseeable future there is no real danger for the dutch royal family. Even though, if one looks at it dispassionately, monarchy is an anachromism in a modern democratic world, a majority – more than 70% – of hollanders love it and only about 20% want it abolished. About 10% couldn’t care either way. Hollanders are a very democratic people and I guess they see the royal family as a unifying force. The King is formally the head of government but he has no potical power whatsoever, his role is mainly ceremonial.
      It is also recognised that the members of the royal family are human beings, so the occasional slip-up or foible is easily tolerated. After all they have a reputation as being very tolerant, sometimes too much for my liking.

      May 12, 2013 at 9:43 am
    8. If South Africa was one country it would have one Royal Family. The fact that SA has about 100 of them is proof that Apartheid still exists. They cost a fortune, not only to maintain, but also in the wasted land they mis-manage.

      All the ANC has done is colonise White South Africa with migrants from the Royal Black Homelands, both internal Kingdoms like the Xhosa and Zulu Homelands, and external Black Kingdoms like the Swazi and Basuto Homelands.

      May 12, 2013 at 10:01 am
    9. Mr Sarcasm #

      “If South Africa was one country it would have one Royal Family.” Amazing logic. Absolutely flawless. Real pearl of wisdom.

      May 12, 2013 at 6:28 pm
    10. The closest that SA has to a Royal is Mandela, who totally changed tack on tribalism post Mbeki’s Aids denialism and open borders policies.

      Mbeki and Zuma have done their best to re-inforce tribalism. Zuma’s whole lifestyle post-Polokwane, imitates the Zulu and Swazi Kings, and Mbeki’s last Bi-Lateral Agreement was signed with Swaziland(???)

      Mandela has been using his international and national network to detribalise and globalise Black South Africans as fast as possible.

      May 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm
    11. Feel the Love #


      Africa has 55 Countries and 165 monarchs. Who says only one monarch to one country? Apartheid has nothing to do with it. Refer your above post of May 12, 2013 at 10:01 am.

      May 12, 2013 at 7:12 pm
    12. Rodney Ian #

      Is DH saying that “‘having a sacrificial bull rended live from limb to limb in the annual first-fruits ceremony” does not happen? Is he saying that such an act is not barbaric, uncivilised and despicable?
      Oh yes, of course, he calls it ‘African culture’….which doesn’t alter the fact that, by whatever euphemism he attributes to it, it still remains a barbaric, uncivilised and despicable act.

      The way DH sucks up to the rancid effluent emanating from the ANC gravy train, one wonders whether DH has any conscience at all and how he actually doesn’t make himself sick.
      He certainly does that for us.

      May 12, 2013 at 9:30 pm
    13. @ Feel the Love

      Exactly my point. Africa is MORE than 165 monarchies (those are only the acknowledged ones, and not all tribes have monarchs) forced into 55 (or thereabouts) countries with conflicting tribes therefore always at war. South Africa needed to unite the tribes we already had, not import more of them!

      May 13, 2013 at 11:32 am
    14. Charlotte #

      Though Jacob Zuma is not one of the 7 ‘official monarchs’ of South Africa, what will go down in history as the most pronounced feature of his presidency, are his crown jewels ….. and, of course, the reckless spending and fraudulent use of taxpayers’ money (Nkandla, Zumaville)- as he heads toward heading the new kingdom of Zumababwe.

      May 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm
    15. Momma Cyndi #

      Dave Harris

      The killing of the bull was to select warriors for battle. The bravery and team leadership of individuals could be gauged by their fight with the bull. It was held during first fruits because that was a convenient time due to everyone being together. The use of it in a modern SA is illogical.

      Ancient Africa was pragmatic, not bloodthirsty. Modern Africa is just a conundrum

      May 13, 2013 at 9:04 pm
    16. Presumably Zuma’s post Polokwane lifesyle was supposed to woo Zulu voters from supporting the Royalist IFP Party to supporting the ANC. How was Zuma supposed to imitate the Zulu King without the Zulu King’s income?

      Despite the Zulu King receiving more than R50 million a year, and despite him having appropriated 1/3 of the land of Zululand for the use of the Royal Family, he is always exceeding his budget.

      May 14, 2013 at 10:14 am
    17. Enough Said #

      The borders of the countries in Africa were largely set by Europeans during the colonization and scramble for Africa. The borders of Africa should be redrawn to reflect its various tribes and monarchies.

      May 14, 2013 at 11:04 am
    18. Enough Said #

      The leaders are a reflection of the collective consciousness of the people. Whether there is a monarch or a president that gets away with abusing their power and position, you only have their subjects to blame.

      There should be checks and balances in every system.

      If there are no checks and balances in a society, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The people get the government they deserve.

      Most people who live in democracies happily vote in corrupt politicians again and again, and are not even aware they are being taken for a ride, so how much of a success story is democracy?

      May 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm
    19. Yaj #

      these royal parasites make a mockery of modern democracy. they should work and earn a living like everyone else. the same applies to the thieving banksters-the modern robbers barons.

      May 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm
    20. There was never any Killing of the Bull or First Fruits ceremony in Zulu or Southern African Bantu culture. I am sick to death of pointing this out. The First Fruit Festival and Killing the Bull Ceremony were Black American Kwanzaa Cult mythology.

      Where would all these bulls have come from anyhow? All the bullocks were killed when young, as there could only be one bull in every kraal. And what fruit were they supposed to have grown? The Bantu migrated every year to fresh pastures for their cattle. Did they dig up the fruit trees and take them with them?

      May 14, 2013 at 5:20 pm
    21. Mr Sarcasm #

      Absolutely correct Lyndall. ;-)

      May 15, 2013 at 11:07 am
    22. Truth be known #

      “First-Fruit Ceremonies, which are held annually to celebrate the new harvest, have long been part of southern African cultural life, and are still proudly celebrated by, for example, the Zulu and Swazi nations today. ………In December 2009 Animal Rights groups in South Africa attempted to halt the ceremony citing the ‘barbaric nature’ of the animal sacrifice. The courts found in favor of Zulu ‘tradition’.”



      May 15, 2013 at 11:37 am
    23. Truth be known #

      Live link to above report:

      May 15, 2013 at 11:39 am
    24. Momma Cyndi #

      Lyndall Beddy

      Certain tribes did grow crops and even the tribes who moved to new pastures still had crops. Every culture across the entire globe had various festivals relating to harvest. There was the festival of fertility, the festival of harvest, the festival of mid winter/summer etc.

      Young bulls would be traded or used for food. Never was a young bull grown to adulthood so they could be pulled limb from limb.

      May 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

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