Could A British Abdication Be Next?

This week, jokes are on the table that Prince Charles is kicking his mother under the table at breakfast following the news of King Juan Carlos of Spain’s abdication “in favor of a new generation.” Twitter and other social media sites flared up wondering the same question – is Elizabeth next?

The answer is no.

Juan Carlos’ intention to abdicate in favor of his son, Georgetown grad Prince Felipe, follows a string of abdications around Europe.

The string began with Pope Benedict XVI, who abdicated for health reasons on February 28, 2013. He was the first pope to abdicate in almost 600 years. Typically, a pope carries out his duties until death.

Benedict XVI was swiftly followed by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who abdicated two months later in favor of her son, Willem-Alexander. Unlike the papacy, abdication is a tradition in the Netherlands. Beatrix’s mother Juliana abdicated after almost 30 years, as did her grandmother Wilhelmina. Willem-Alexander is the first male leader of the Netherlands since the nineteenth century.

Two months after that, King Albert II of Belgium abdicated. Like the Pope Emeritus, he abdicated for health reasons. He was succeeded by his son, Philippe.

Fast forward a year later, and King Juan Carlos I of Spain announces his plans to call it quits. Juan Carlos was restored as monarch of Spain following the death of Francisco Franco, and was considered a beacon of hope following Franco’s treacherous and oppressive rule. If you’ve seen the film Pans Labyrinth (2006), the film takes place in the early Francoist period, and the general in the film is loosely based on Franco himself.

Juan Carlos, 76, believes the monarchy, which is currently seemingly very unstable right now in the Iberian peninsula, should be taken into newer, younger hands.

Why then, is an octogenarian still leading the British people?

The answer is perseverance. The British monarchy is mostly symbolic, and it is surely a symbol of strength, determination, and finishing the course. Few British monarchs in over 1,000 years of history have abdicated – Richard II and Edward II were forced off the throne, James II is considered to have abdicated, and Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 in favor of a marriage not supported by the government.

If all continues to go according to tradition, Europe will continue to see abdications across the continent, and Britain may very well celebrate her first Platinum Jubilee in 2022.


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