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17 May 2016updated 28 Jul 2021 5:18am

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


By Matthew Elliott

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.

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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.

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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.