They are not being easy months for the European monarchies. To the controversies in which some of the members of the royal houses have frequently been involved—such as the controversial documentary about Prince Henry of England and Meghan Markle—we must add the delicate state of health in which several of their monarchs. Up to three have been operated, either scheduled or urgently, in just three days. The first to go through the operating room was Carlos Gustavo from Sweden (76 years old), who underwent heart surgery on Monday, February 20; the next, unexpectedly, was the princess – former queen – Beatrix of Holland, 85, who suffered a broken wrist while she was skiing; The last to enter the operating room was Margarita from Denmark (82 years old), in a scheduled intervention to alleviate her back problems. It is now when a debate is opened on the forced generational change within the royal families, which are going to experience foreseeable changes in the coming years. The first of these took place last September with the death of Elizabeth II, the longest-lived queen in the history of European royalties. But now what?
The royal houses have experienced forced changes in recent decades, in many cases, parallel to the transformation of society. Institutions that, despite being one of the oldest in the world, have tried by all means to adapt to changing times and get closer to their people. Even so, the age of the monarchs prevents its total renewal. The professor of Contemporary History at UNED Angeles Lario explains why: “The society of information and social networks, of the immediate spread of privacy, seems to require being at that level of updating so as not to be outdated. But, in the case of the monarchy, the family and hereditary character is combined with the institutional one, making it more difficult to get away from the pink world, from indiscriminate dissemination and with a tendency to personal issues”.
In 1969, the BBC tried to humanize the British royal family in the documentary royal family, which would end up being withdrawn by Buckingham’s decision. 54 years have passed since then and little has changed in the institution. The monarchs, who in many cases remain on the throne until their death, leave as heirs their children who have been preparing a lifetime for that moment and who become kings at an advanced age; One only has to look at Charles of England, who has come to the throne at the age of 74. Harald of Norway, at 86, is the oldest of the European monarchies, after 32 on the Nordic throne. In 2020, the king underwent cardiac intervention to replace a valve placed in 2005 in open-heart surgery; and in 2022, he was again hospitalized for both infections. In the periods in which he has not been able to carry out his work, he has been replaced by his son and heir to the throne, Haakon of Norway, at 49 years of age —after the resignation of Marta Luisa of Norway to be queen—, who increasingly has a more complete official agenda, closer to the owner of the throne than to an heir.
Carlos Gustavo de Suecia has also been on the throne for half a century. Immersed in the celebration of his Golden Jubilee, the king has had to postpone his schedule to undergo an urgent catheterization. He is not without controversy. At the beginning of the year he made some harsh statements about the succession to the Swedish throne: after the abolition of the Salic law, in 1979, his daughter Victoria became the heir instead of his son, Prince Charles Philip. It will be she who is in charge of the king’s official agenda while he recovers from the intervention.
The new generation of heirs to the throne is already preparing for the functions that, in a few years, they will have to perform officially when they become kings. The generational change is more than evident in these new representatives, who are increasingly moving away from what is traditionally stipulated in the institution: now it is normal to achieve higher education, marry someone who is divorced, lead as ordinary a life as possible and even rub shoulders with each other. with the people A tradition that is becoming more and more widespread, as explained by Cristina Barreiro, a professor of History at the CEU-San Pablo University: “The heirs receive training in foreign schools from a young age and study at the University. Globalization makes their social and friendship circle widen far beyond what is royalty, where they are all cousins and relatives. They want to resemble the people and that, in my opinion, is inconvenient for the monarchy because it loses the aura of something unattainable for mortals”. And she adds: “In monarchies things have a historical foundation that should not be renounced.”
Another of those who has recently gone through the operating room is Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, at 85 years of age. Last Friday, while she was skiing, the former queen suffered an accident in which she broke her wrist. It is not the first time that a similar mishap has happened to her while she is practicing mountain sports, nor is it the first that she has had to undergo surgery for the same reason. She left her role a decade ago, delegating it to her son. The citizens, who in many cases have not known another monarch, are preparing for a possible change in royalty that, as has already happened with the kings Guillermo and Maxima of Holland, is opening up and getting closer to the people with the intention to modernize the traditional institution. A generation of kings begins to say goodbye to their functions.