While abdication is synonymous with “crisis” in the UK, in the Netherlands they take a different view.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
It’s the question we have been asking as a country for decades. Will the Queen abdicate? Now in her mid-80s, with years of smiling and waving and keeping shtoom while gaffes abound around her, is it time for her to relax with the corgis and escape the noxious stench of freshly applied paint?
That question has been thrown into sharp relief by the abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who has just announced she is stepping down in favour of her son Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander. In making this decision, she is following in the footsteps of both her grandmother Wilhelmina, and her mother Juliana, who passed the crown on in 1980, aged 71, with the comment: “As one gets older, one realises sooner or later that one’s powers decrease.” The simplicity of that statement reflects the fact that while abdication is synonymous with “crisis” in the UK – a result of the tumult surrounding Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 – in the Netherlands they take a different view. Although there were protests on the day of Beatrix’s investiture (there was anger regarding the dearth of affordable housing in the Netherlands at the time), this tradition generally seems to be met with equanimity. Monday’s announcement has prompted tributes to her popularity rather than any sense of panic.
Could the same be true in Britain? Lord Norton, professor of government at the University of Hull, thinks not. In the UK, he says, abdication remains a major contention, because it’s “completely alien to our system, and it’s also alien to our law, which stipulates who will succeed – so the Queen remains the queen until such time as she dies, and then the succession is automatic”. Unless there was a legal change, he says, the Queen couldn’t simply abdicate by choice. There would have to be an act of parliament.
This would be potentially tricky, given her role as head of the Church of England and also because of the ramifications for all the other realms of which the Queen is head of state. “Would the other [countries] necessarily accept it if she just said: ‘I want to go’?” says Norton. “Presumably there would need to be consultation with the other states, as happened with the Royal Succession bill. So it’s not a unilateral decision”. In the Netherlands, the precedent is set, “so once you do it, it’s much easier a second time, in the sense that you can accommodate it, whereas you wouldn’t regard 1936 as a precedent on which one would want to build”.
From the monarchy’s point of view, that certainly seems the case. It looks like the Queen will be gamely trekking around the country, Prince Philip in tow, for the foreseeable future.
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