More than one way out

 does a banking blog — subversively sub-titled Going native in the world of finance —  on the Guardian‘s Comment is Free.

Today he has escaped onto the main editorial page:

Queen Beatrix’s abdication: too ‘typically Dutch’ for the Windsors?

The abdication of a monarch comes naturally to the Dutch, while the British maintain a martyrish attitude to succession

Is there something unhealthily martyrish about the British “Queen for Life” system? I can’t be the only foreigner who wasn’t even aware that the British queen is like the Catholic pope; only death gets you a new one. But then on Monday, Queen Beatrix of my native Netherlands announced her abdication, and now British people are asking me if the Dutch will consider this a dereliction of duty. Will this damage the monarchy?

Malcolm on the subject of monarchs? Shome mishtake, shurely?

No, it’s the dodgy history and the British queen is like the Catholic pope; only death gets you a new one.



  1. the Empress Matilda, effectively Queen of England from 7th  April to 1st November, 1141. Went on another quarter-century before her death at Notre Dame du Pré, Rouen. Whatever dispute historians may have about her right to the title, the Lady of the English had few doubts.
  2. Louis le Lion was offered the throne by the English barons and invaded Kent in May 1216. A month later he held the old Saxon capital of Winchester, and controlled the southern half of England. Only on the death of King John did the regent William Marshall rally the barons to support the infant Henry III. After being defeated in battle at Lincoln (20th May 1217) and at sea, off Sandwich, (24 August 1217) was Louis bought off. he got 10,000 marks to go away and be a good King of France  — which he probably wasn’t, as Louis VIII, from 1223 to 1226.
  3. Richard II was nominally King from 1377, though Old John of Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster did the business for much of the time. Henry Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt’s son, invaded England in 1399 and soon deposed Richard. Out of a job, Richard was accommodated in the Tower of London and then at Pontefract Castle (where he allegedly spent time starving to death). His body was brought from Pontefract,  and displayed in old St Paul’s on 17th February 1400.
  4. In 1422 Henry VI got the job as a babe-in-arms, on the death of his father. He was deposed by Edward IV in March 1461, and only regained his position — very briefly, before the Yorkists did for him and Edward IV was re-enstooled, in 1470-71.
  5. 160px-Coat_of_Arms_of_England_(1554-1558).svgPhilip II of Spain became, in law, King of England when he married Mary I at Winchester (25 July 1554). Coins were issued, parliament summoned,  Acts of Parliament dated in their joint names. The royal arms (as right) represented the joint monarchy (Philip as male taking the priority). When Mary died (17th November 1558), his tenure was concluded. He lived on as King of Spain until 1598.
  6. Should we not include Richard Cromwell? He became Lord Protector on his father’s death (3rd September 1658) and received the title “His Highness”. Unfortunately for ‘Tumbledown Dick’ the Army took umbrage at his lack of military experience, and not being paid because of the financial crisis (the Commonwealth was £2 million in debt). So Richard Cromwell found himself  under house-arrest. The French Ambassador offered him military support (which he refused) and Richard resigned as Lord Protector on 25th May 1659. He exiled himself in France ( 1660 to 1680/1) and lived on, largely forgotten but with a state pension and a private income from his diminished estates, until 1712.
  7. Aha! here’s a good’un. James II & VI inherited the throne from his brother in February 1685, and was deposed (this will get another mention later) in the Glorious Revolution of December 1688. He lived, as a dependent of the French King Louis XIV, as ‘The Old Pretender’ until 1701.
  8. After that, and the formal union of the English and Scottish crowns, we have only one further candidate: Edward VIII. He succeeded on 20th January 1936 and abdicated 11th December the same year. He and the much-married Mrs Simpson then became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He died near Paris, 28 May 1972, and his body was returned for burial in the Royal Plot at Frogmore.

So, Meinherr Luyendijk, you generalise about death being the only way out. Wrong: there have been other methods: not quite one a century; but Britain has been somewhat lax in dispensing with redundant royals since we brought in the Germans.

One further wrinkle from that Comment is Free piece:

So should Britain allow and encourage its monarch to retire? That’s up to the British people, of course, but I’m quite sure that the House of Orange is more than happy with the status quo. With all its spectacular dysfunction, the British royal family makes for fantastic spectacle. Meanwhile, royals all over the world will be thinking: thank goodness for the House of Windsor, they make us look almost normal.

Did you spot it?

Willem III van Oranje was Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel from July 1672 until his death on 8th March 1702. He arrived with his Dutch and mercenary army at Brixham, in Devon, on 5th November 1688 (curiously, several days before he’d left the Netherlands — because of the conflict of the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar still in use in England). On 11 April 1689 he and his wife were crowned at Westminster Abbey as William II and Mary II.

So, never let it be said the House of Orange was always more than happy with the status quo.

Nor is a good republican, such as Malcolm.

[Thanks to a useful poke from Doubting Thomas, Malcolm would add two more candidates to the list. See Comments, below.]



Filed under Britain, Comment is Free, Guardian, History, Republicanism

4 responses to “More than one way out

  1. Doubting Thomas

    I suppose it was technically a death but we did execute Charles Stuart to get rid of him. Meantime, maybe a little malicious pleasure may be gained from the thought of our own much loved and admired Kronprinz sitting in the spartan lounge at Highgrove or tucked up in bed at Clarence House watching the recording of dear Auntie Beattie’s abdication and thinking how different, how very different from the home life of our own dear Queen.

    • Malcolm Redfellow

      At the time it crossed my mind that Charlie One could have qualified. He was, after all, made redundant when he surrendered to the Scots at Newark. That’s 1647, so the sad end of 364 years and a day ago were, in part, his own doing. Suicide by chop, or something.

      I see Edward II was also omitted, and perhaps should be in the list. He abdicated 24th January 1327; and was then confined at Kenilworth and Berkeley Castle until (it is presumed) Isabella and Mortimer sent in the poker (or whatever).

      That would make it ten in a millennium. When comes such another?

      • Doubting Thomas

        I did have hopes that the Kronprinz might be the last of line which would self destruct through his self indulgence but I fear that the Williamses have entrenched monarchy for a while yet unless Harry makes a feck up.

  2. Pingback: Marry and burn | Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service

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