The crowned heads of Europe

For centuries monarchs have decided the fate of Europe, but now it seems they are under the axe of the continent-wide social and political crisis. Yet with Europe’s national leaders falling by the wayside on an almost monthly basis, and the EU proving itself to be a debating society incapable of taking decisive actions, the monarchs have the opportunity to rise to the occasion as symbolic, if not substantial, leaders. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, has been struggling against the economic crisis that has reduced the Buckingham Palace budget and forced the government to fire thousands of public employees. But the recent Diamond Jubilee pageantry gave her subjects a fleeting boost of morale. The problem for King Juan Carlos I of Spain is one of reigning over a failing state. Unfortunately, while it was failing, he happened to be taking potshots at elephants on another continent. In Belgium the symbol of national unity got caught on the wrong foot as the “capital of Europe” experienced a protracted political stalemate, with the specter of a split into two, forcing King Albert II to intervene. Yet in two countries, the Netherlands and Sweden, the monarchs have presided over relative stability. If what many are calling a crisis in democracy worsens in Europe, these two countries may encourage their republican neighbors to reconsider.