Monday, December 31, 2012

Trine Villemann Takes a Swipe at the Increasing Uselessness of the Danish Royals: This Could Be the Start of Something Beautiful: Will Readers Yawn, Or Rally to Force Reform?

"What the f*** did you just say?"

In the 29 December 2012 edition of Politiken, the widely respected, left-leaning broadsheet, our friend Trine Villemann wrote an essay railing against the royal family. We here at DRMW and at Royal Dish know and love Trine and her husband (Trine's book 1015 Copenhagen K is a must read). She wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter: the royals today are increasingly archaic and unless there are significant changes in their behaviours and structure, they should be stripped of their position as the nation's First Family. There will be many readers who will most likely agree that there should be some changes to the status quo, but will the message gain traction? Eventually, with more of such widely published essays, yes. Trine has good company in the critical writings of others such as here, here, here and here.

Trine has made a name for herself, not just for being a top journalist, but really for her morph into what seems to be a professional critic of the royal family, the only one in Denmark and therefore in a tricky position. She's seen by her own critics as a one-note musician, as perfectly pitched as that note may be to the rest of us. Her argument to ask for reform is smart. There are certainly republicans in Denmark who agree wholeheartedly with her, but are afraid of wrangling with the royals. To truly rally people to her side, I wonder if a more constant, fairly repetitive and detailed case could be made for true, real and lasting reform - with historians, legislative aides and budgetary consultants as her co-authors - with the royals being sacked if they can't perform within the new settings. Most Danes are reasonable and fair-minded, and reasonable and fair-minded people don't fire someone after an offense without sitting them down for a discussion of employment conditions. However, reasonable and fair-minded people also give others a fair opportunity to make good faith efforts at reform. Trine should rally others to her side, just based on unemotional presentation of options about what to do with the royals, and have those columns be published once every few months for as long as it takes for the information to sink into Danish skulls.

It's a big damn deal of course to completely change a country's governmental system from that of a 1000 year old constitutional monarchy to a republic. That is a valid choice for the citizenry to make if they so decided, but it is not a decision to be made hastily or taken casually. Everything will change, including - maybe especially - the Danish psyche, so wound is it with the royal house - in stark contrast to most other western monarchies. The Danes should first discuss and implement reforms that very clearly and firmly keep the royal house living in the true spirit of fairness, modernity and Jantelow. The relationship of the royals to private industry is a truly damaging and corrosive one, and this aspect of royal life in Denmark is the one that would most likely still be an issue if there were an elected President as Head of State. So, no need to be too quick to kick the royals to the curb just because the queen smokes too much, her husband is seen as a ridiculous poof, her son is a depressive addict and her daughter-in-law is a greedy, narcissistic hillbilly. Unroyal features, to be sure, but a reminder after all that royals are human, and anyone at the top of the social food chain will be ripe for public humiliation, whether via inherited or elected position. Trine and others play a vital role here.

As for some specific, starting suggestions: Ban gifts to the royals valued over 500 kroner. The royals pay taxes on private income, not their appanages. No more VAT refund, which may cost the state as much in administrative fees as it does in refunds. Salary freezes after cost-of-living adjustments that may lower their pay. The state keeps a separate account to keep up the state-owned buildings that the royals occupy. Maybe the royal house's staff has govenmental oversight personnel assigned to them to make sure the books are airtight.

Article: Trine Villemann for Politiken

Time Has Seriously Stalled in the Royal House

The Queen reminds us again that she manages a fossilized part of democracy.
Soon Queen Margrethe will again put her handbag to the left of the chair at the desk in the office located at Amalienborg to propagate the heart warming, Greenland and the Danish minority south of the border.

She also did this last year. And the year before.
Only Her Majesty's dress and hairstyle reveals gradually that we are not staring at a rerun.

Time went by really stuck in the royal family in 2012.
We saw this most clearly when Denmark at the beginning of the year gave Her Majesty a big party on the occasion of the 40 years of reign of the one who signs its laws, 'We Margrethe the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Denmark'.

As the label prescribes, she was giving interviews to the right and left.
Several times Margrethe refuted the idea of modernising the monarchy by writing the royal family out of the constitution.
And to underline the message was cut a heel and cut a toe in the legislative process, so that Her Majesty could hold her 500th State Council on the anniversary day of 15

The selection of the 40 years on the throne was of course an overwhelming royal promotions. During the first week was Queen Margrethe out in virtually all media platforms to sell her eldest son, as if he were on offer at Lars Larsen.Some would argue that Crown Prince Frederik's job security is 100 percent, but his own mother may feel less confident since she found it expedient to explain to anyone who held a microphone up to fim that Frederik would one day become a great king.

As was shown several times in 2012, there lies a gradually fading hope that there is something behind those motherly recommendations. We saw more and more of a crown prince who is frozen in a universe of trivia, where duties are acting only as a diversion for pleasures. A human vacuum, but also a parody of a modern democracy, where politicians' reluctance to improve the tradition left a major player as a screen clown in an absurd contemporary drama.

We at least saw this on 13 June, when the crown prince attended the controversial European Football Championship in Ukraine and did not even bother to follow the state law rules that provide the framework for his family and work. The then-Minister of Culture Uffe Elbaek turned down an official VIP room and sat down in the stands along with the Danish fans.

The Culture Minister's choice of seat would signal that even though Denmark is not - and unlike a number of other EU governments - choosing to stay away completely from the tournament because of Ukraine's careless with human rights, he distanced himself anyway from the handlebars. In the 90 minutes the crown prince spent in the VIP stands as the representative of Denmark, he was so described with politician Per Clausen's words: "The royal family's own foreign policy which ran counter to the government's official line". He probably never heard a bad word about it from Amalienborg, since the royal incense acts as a fool's narcotic on politicians.

It was probably also why our elected officials again in 2012 were so eager to please that they completely forgot to save an institution that annually costs taxpayers in the neighborhood of half a billion kroner. The royals received a total salary increase of 4 percent.

In Spain, they went the opposite way. Here was King Juan Carlos and his son Crown Prince Felipe who cut 7 percent of their respective apanages, recognising that it is untenable for a monarchy and the monarch to rake it in while the people suffer.

Some would call it grandstanding, and Margrethe's salary will also soon be eaten up by inflation, but our dead tired monarchy is no more powerless than when they do not insist on giving us the symbolism that makes a nation in financial crisis move closer together.

In Norway, on the other hand, they have a crown princess with her own personal profile on Twitter. She uses it diligently to bring people and ideas together. In Norway there is a crown princess who also took it upon herself and with their own resources bought a flight to India to care for newborn twins, while their gay parents had to purchase visas so they could fly out and pick up their children to take

In Denmark we have Mary. In 2012, she made it to 40 years - and it was probably the most spectacular thing our Crown Princess did this year. Billed-Bladet followed Her Royal Highness of Hobart through thick and - mostly - thin and supplied the royal couple's visit to China in early December with this precise depiction of the Crown Princess's efforts."The Crown Princess started the day in Hong Kong in a beautiful blue dress and with a new hairstyle, which was aired for the first time at the 'Business of Design Week' fair. The recently shorn hair was a hit among the locals, and also the many Danes at the fair seemed excited about Mary's new look."

And that's the depressing status here at the end of 2012. The monarchy is reduced to an empty shell. The Queen's speech will again this year just remind us that she manages a fossil that has grown on top of our democracy.

The question is whether those of us who are royalists in our hearts, can convince the republican in our brains that monarchy is still worth fighting for, when even the people who are born to manage our common heritage seem to have given up?


  1. It was a positive surprise to read Trine Villemann in Politiken after a long pause. And a column as you suggest based on unemotional presentation is a good idea.
    The discussions about the Danish Royal House are rising in Denmark. Latest through this book: Det koster et kongerige by Jens Høvsgaard.
    And also this article is about the royals advertising for firms who sponsor their living
    In 2013 we will hear a lot more from the "slow Danes".

    Wish you a happy new year and thanks so much for an excellent blog.

    1. Thank you, dear Anony, for your kind words and for the link to Høvsgaard's latest article. As I mention in this post, the link between the royals and business interests is particularly corrosive. I hope this little snowball keeps building as it rolls down Mt. Reform.

      Happy new year to you and yours!