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Could restoring a bunch of kings solve Europe’s democratic deficit?


In 1948, four years before his forced abdication, King Farouk of Egypt remarked there would soon only be five kings: of hearts, spades, clubs, diamonds and England.

By this measure, kings have done better than might have been expected over the past century or so, but they’ve also done little to combat their gradual decline as a political model. Even today, with governments all around the Mediterranean struggling with crises of legitimacy, no one has been brave enough to fight fire with fire, to embark on a massive program of democratic deficit spending, to replace the whole hated political elite with one unelected regnocrat. No one has been brave enough to propose bringing back the monarchy.

Which in its small way is rather puzzling. Europe’s neighbourhood has few strong suits these days – but it does have an excellent squad of dynamic, well-educated and undervalued kings just dying to get off the bench and into the game. From Athens to Sirte, there is barely a political crisis for which there isn’t a top quality king waiting in the wings.

Here are a few of them.

Konstantinos B, King of Greece

Konstantinos B (in Greek, they have regnal lettering, the hipsters) fled Greece in 1967 after trying and failing to orchestrate a counter-coup against the military junta, and lived in Hampstead a few streets away from Glenda Jackson before returning to Greece in 2013.

On top of nine years of royal experience, his credentials include a gold medal in sailing from the 1960 Olympics, and, most importantly, no taint of association with the EU, the ECB, the IMF, PASOK, SYRIZA, or really anyone apart from his cousin, Prince Phillip.

Less positively, he has sued the Greek state for €500m, which probably isn’t the approach to fiscal matters that the Greek electorate is looking for. And he’s not actually Greek, but Danish. And his cousin is Prince Phillip.

Restoration Rating: One crown

Fouad II, King of Egypt and Sudan

Fouad became King as part of desperate ploy by his father to appease revolutionaries in 1952, reigning for just under a year despite being too young to walk, talk, or convincingly hold a sceptre. He fled to Switzerland, and then to Paris, where he married Dominique-France Picard in 1976, who gave him three legitimate heirs.

Since their divorce, Fouad has moved back to Switzerland living an unglamorous life as a consultant out of an apartment in the suburbs of Geneva. Awkward and shy by nature, he is considered a recluse by his fellow exiled kings, and reportedly rarely attends their get-togethers (oh to be a fly on the wall when they’ve had a few and sing karaoke from The Lion King).

Capitalising on growing nostalgia for the monarchy in Egypt, Fouad has become a successful after-dinner speaker in Cairo, but is quick to deny any kingly ambitions of his own. His latest goal to become a cultural ambassador, and possibly curate a museum of the Egyptian monarchy.

Restoration Rating: One crown

Mohammed El Senussi, King of Libya

Mohammed is a second generation exile King, inheriting the throne from his father after his great uncle was overthrown by Muammar Gaddafi. He has lived in London most of his life, although he briefly worked at the Libyan Ministry of Agriculture before becoming King in 1992, which isn’t a million miles from Prince William’s degree in Land Economy.

Since the overthrow of Gaddafi, he has been quietly lobbying behind the scenes for a return to constitutional monarchy in Libya, and has had his citizenship restored by the interim government. If anyone on this list has a chance of becoming King (and let’s face it, they don’t) he is the man.

Restoration rating: four crowns.

Louis Alphonse (legitimist), Henri d’Orleans (orleanists), Jean-Christophe Napoleon (Bonapartists), Kings and Emperor of France

In one of the great bald-men-fighting-over-a-comb-disputes of our time, three men currently claim the title of King of France.

Louis Alphonse traces his ancestry right back to Hugh Capet, the first King of France, and is supported by the legitimist faction. He has juggled his work as the ambassador of Louis XVI to the Society of the Cincinnati (no, us neither) in the US with a career at BNP Paribas. In a show of impressive modesty, he continues to have his heirs baptised in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

Restoration rating: one crown

His main rival for the throne is Henri d’Orelans, who sued him over his illegitimate use of the royal arms in 1989, and has repeatedly attacked him as being Spanish, an illegitimate pretender to the throne, and a charlatan.

Henri is a keen amateur painter, and has launched his own brand of perfume, the aptly named Royalissime, which retails for the less than princely sum of £55.Partially conceding his divinely ordained right to rule, he ran unsuccessfully for the European Parliament in 2004 on the Alliance Royale ticket, receiving 0.031% of the vote. His main policy was a referendum to elect a new King – no prizes for guessing who his preferred candidate was.

Restoration rating: zero crowns

Jean Christophe Bonaparte, who inherited the imperial throne from his grandfather aged 11, has worked in both London and New York as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley, and is currently attending Harvard Business School.

He is a freeman of the City of London, and requests his friends do not use his full title, “His Imperial Highness, Prince Napoleon”. He has not yet been sued or libelled by Henri d’Orleans, but then he is only twenty-nine.

Most importantly, he is reportedly single, and much better looking than either of the leading contenders for the French presidency. His time may yet come.

Restoration rating: two crowns

This article is part of the New Statesman's Monarchy Week. Find more here.

Photo: Getty
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Leaving the cleaning to someone else makes you happier? Men have known that for centuries

Research says avoiding housework is good for wellbeing, but women have rarely had the option.

If you want to be happy, there is apparently a trick: offload the shitwork onto somebody else. Hire cleaner. Get your groceries delivered. Have someone else launder your sheets. These are the findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but it’s also been the foundation of our economy since before we had economics. Who does the offloading? Men. Who does the shitwork? Women.

Over the last 40 years, female employment has risen to almost match the male rate, but inside the home, labour sticks stubbornly to old patterns: men self-report doing eight hours of housework a week, while women slog away for 13. When it comes to caring for family members, the difference is even more stark: men do ten hours, and women 23.

For your average heterosexual couple with kids, that means women spend 18 extra hours every week going to the shops, doing the laundry, laying out uniform, doing the school run, loading dishwashers, organising doctors' appointments, going to baby groups, picking things up, cooking meals, applying for tax credits, checking in on elderly parents, scrubbing pots, washing floors, combing out nits, dusting, folding laundry, etcetera etcetera et-tedious-cetera.

Split down the middle, that’s nine hours of unpaid work that men just sit back and let women take on. It’s not that men don’t need to eat, or that they don’t feel the cold cringe of horror when bare foot meets dropped food on a sticky kitchen floor. As Katrine Marçal pointed out in Who Cooked Adam Smiths Dinner?, men’s participation in the labour market has always relied on a woman in the background to service his needs. As far as the majority of men are concerned, domestic work is Someone Else’s Problem.

And though one of the study authors expressed surprise at how few people spend their money on time-saving services given the substantial effect on happiness, it surely isn’t that mysterious. The male half of the population has the option to recruit a wife or girlfriend who’ll do all this for free, while the female half faces harsh judgement for bringing cover in. Got a cleaner? Shouldn’t you be doing it yourself rather than outsourcing it to another woman? The fact that men have even more definitively shrugged off the housework gets little notice. Dirt apparently belongs to girls.

From infancy up, chores are coded pink. Looking on the Toys “R” Us website, I see you can buy a Disney Princess My First Kitchen (fuchsia, of course), which is one in the eye for royal privilege. Suck it up, Snow White: you don’t get out of the housekeeping just because your prince has come. Shop the blue aisle and you’ll find the Just Like Home Workshop Deluxe Carry Case Workbench – and this, precisely, is the difference between masculine and feminine work. Masculine work is productive: it makes something, and that something is valuable. Feminine work is reproductive: a cleaned toilet doesn’t stay clean, the used plates stack up in the sink.

The worst part of this con is that women are presumed to take on the shitwork because we want to. Because our natures dictate that there is a satisfaction in wiping an arse with a woman’s hand that men could never feel and money could never match. That fiction is used to justify not only women picking up the slack at home, but also employers paying less for what is seen as traditional “women’s work” – the caring, cleaning roles.

It took a six-year legal battle to secure compensation for the women Birmingham council underpaid for care work over decades. “Don’t get me wrong, the men do work hard, but we did work hard,” said one of the women who brought the action. “And I couldn’t see a lot of them doing what we do. Would they empty a commode, wash somebody down covered in mess, go into a house full of maggots and clean it up? But I’ll tell you what, I would have gone and done a dustman’s job for the day.”

If women are paid less, they’re more financially dependent on the men they live with. If you’re financially dependent, you can’t walk out over your unfair housework burden. No wonder the settlement of shitwork has been so hard to budge. The dream, of course, is that one day men will sack up and start to look after themselves and their own children. Till then, of course women should buy happiness if they can. There’s no guilt in hiring a cleaner – housework is work, so why shouldn’t someone get paid for it? One proviso: every week, spend just a little of the time you’ve purchased plotting how you’ll overthrow patriarchy for good.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.