Emperor Christian Victor I

Emperor Christian Victor I

Friday, 7 March 2014

Fascinating Fridays (Abdication and Royal Retirement)

An often misunderstood topic associated with Royalty is the one of abdication. This is largely due to misconceptions of the greater topic of Royalty as a whole. In today's Friday "lecture" slot we will address this and the topic of when members of a Royal Family retire from public duty and what exactly that entails.

In January 2014, Princess Beatrice, the Dowager Grand Duchess of Hanoveria and mother of the current reigning Grand Duke announced her retirement. The expected decision came in the wake of what must have been one of the most troubling years for the ageing Royal. With the consent of her son, the reigning Grand Duke and the general Hanoverian public the Princess retired after enduring what we hope will be her last tragedy. When a Royal retires after years of serving the public it is often seen as deserved and an honourable thing to do.

When a person is born as part of a reigning Royal Family it comes with a certain set of obligations attached to the rank and title of the person. These obligatory traditions vary for each monarchy but intrinsically comes down to a "job" like any other with expenses and salary to match. The only "magical" aspect is that you are born to this job and it includes historical perks, like castles and crowns. What most of the public do not know is that like most other "jobs" one is not forced to accept it and may decline the job at any moment or retire from it after years of faithful service. In principle this is where retirement overlaps with abdication as that may be seen as a type of  retirement, however when a King declines to rule it has far greater complications especially when that king does so before he has even served at all. For this reason we will separate the idea of retirement and abdication in our analysis.

The most famous abdication story history has ever recorded was the Roswind saga that occurred in the Kingdom of Britania more than half a century ago. Above we see a formal portrait of the current Duchess of Roswind's mother who bore the brunt of her father's abdication, as he decided to abdicate even before he served as king.

The defining moment in the History of the Roswinds came when the current Duchess of Roswind's grandfather, the then Crown Prince Victor of Britania fell in love with divorcee Mrs Alice Merriweather. As first in line to the Britanian throne at the time, Crown Prince Victor faced the impossibility of having a divorcee become  his wife and Queen. This might seem silly to a modern democratic mindset but the principle of Royalty is based on the concept of “family as the core building block of society". If the King can do what he wants by disregarding the foundation of family, then why have a King and an exemplary Royal Family at all? In those more traditional and fundamental times the Crown Prince had to deny his private desires in favour of his duty to his nation or he had to step out of the way. He chose to step aside. He abdicated his right to the throne and the selfishness of his decision was clearly manifest in that he also accepted having his descendants cut from any rights to the throne not considering what impact it might have on them.

Prince Victor was created The Duke of Roswind and married his Alice. They too divorced three years later. The Duke of Roswind then married Lady Victoria Fitzherbert and they had one daughter, Princess Victoria. She became Duchess of Roswind upon her father’s death but regardless of wealth and Royal rank, always had to bear the shame of his abdication. Today her daughter in turn has made a name for herself in her own right as the current Duchess of Roswind, but the story of the abdication always follows her around. 

Now, after recounting the example of the Roswind abdication and the Princess Beatrice retirement, let us lay bare the facts and principles behind the two very different topics. Abdication literally means to renounce dignity, office, responsibility or sovereign power. Retirement means to withdraw into seclusion or from a career. Abdication is thus a form of retirement but with very specific consequences that retirement does not endure. Also the timing and reasons for either will also affect the level of "honour" the particular Royal may be saddled with after the fact. 

Several members of Royal Families have retired since the advent of this blog. One other famous example is the mother of the current Queen of Hispania. The Dowager Princess of Cataljone, pictured above, retired from official public service once her daughter mounted the international public stage after being kept under strict public censure for the initial stages of her reign for security reasons. Now that Queen Maria fulfills all the duties of a Queen her mother is free to pursue interests of her own and is not required to represent her daughter or country in any way. This does not mean that she may not choose to do so out of her own choice now and again. All retired Royals are obviously welcome to attend any function along with their other family members as they remain family. It is just not expected as they are not under obligation.

Retirement allows the Royal privacy and no official obligation to fulfill roles of state in regard to their own title or as representing their monarch or country. Due to a life of service they are also afforded a pension and are free, due to their familial ties and rank to attend relevant State functions as they see fit.

Abdication first off only involves a ruling sovereign and his/her desire to step down from the throne. This is far more serious and the consequences further reaching. However in some countries, abdication after a long life of service is nothing other than retirement and even a tradition. The complications can become dire for two reasons; first up, when a sovereign decides to abdicate outside of tradition for personal reasons. This contradicts the principle of monarchy in totality as the King is considered the servant of his nation. His own personal desires are to take a back seat and if they override the country become an affront. Normally this personal agenda may also include the sovereign not having served a long term as in the case of the Duke of Roswind who didn't serve at all. As such, the one meant to sit on the throne becomes the very undermining contradiction of the entire state of monarchy. However once initiated such an act strips the King of all dignity and rank and even funding. he now is at the mercy of the new king and government and may even be exiled. In the case of the Duke of Roswind he obtained the mercy of a demoted title and a stipend but for all intents and purposes was to keep his own pot boiling and had to endure the shame of his actions.

The second area where abdication is an issue is when a sovereign of a country where abdication is not a tradition is getting very old and people may consider it best that he should. If said monarch made an oath to the nation and to God to serve their entire life then it becomes a catch 22. Often the democratically minded populous cannot fathom this complication. It remains a simple one to solve. The monarch remains in office and once he/she becomes incapable of fulfilling their function, a Regency is declared where the heir to the throne and a council rule until the passing of the monarch.

Hopefully this explanation will help clarify some of the misunderstood concepts surrounding this often debated topic.


  1. I didn't know about this, thank you for the clear and informative post :-)

  2. Hello from Spain: interesting event. Keep in touch