Skip to main content

Spain's king to quit: Will UK's queen follow suit?

By Victoria Arbiter, Special to CNN
updated 6:55 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • King Juan Carlos has announced he is abdicating after almost four decades on Spain's throne
  • It follows the 2013 abdications of Belgium's Albert II and the Netherlands' Queen Beatrix
  • Victoria Arbiter says Queen Elizabeth II swore on her 21st birthday to serve her whole life
  • Britain's Queen, Arbiter says, would only step down were she incapacitated

Editor's note: Victoria Arbiter is CNN's royal commentator and has reported on Britain's royal family for many years. Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely hers.

(CNN) -- European monarchs appear to be falling like dominoes.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands set the ball rolling in April 2013 when she stepped down in favor of her son and heir Prince Willem-Alexander following a 33-year reign.

In July 2013, 79-year-old Albert II of Belgium gave up his throne citing advancing age and health issues, and now comes word that King Juan Carlos of Spain, 76, has decided to abdicate after a reign that has spanned almost four decades.

The popularity of the Spanish monarchy has nose-dived in recent years.

Juan Carlos's secret luxury trip to Botswana to hunt elephants at the height of his country's financial crisis in 2012 didn't help ... especially given his role as honorary president of the World Wildlife Fund.

Then there's the ongoing investigation of his son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, who faces preliminary charges of embezzling millions of euros in public funds through his charity. Through his lawyer, Urdangarin has denied the charges, which could still be dropped. Add to that the king's slew of health issues -- five operations over the course of two years -- and it seems rather a sensible decision to hand over to his son, Prince Felipe, 46, who has seen his own popularity steadily increase.

A look at the reign of King Juan Carlos
Rey de EspaƱa se despide de la corona
Dutch Queen Beatrix abdicates throne
Why Queen Elizabeth will never abdicate

While Juan Carlos's abdication comes as no surprise, it does beg the question: Will Britain's Queen Elizabeth II follow suit? She has after all put in an impressive tenure, 62 years to be precise (today marks the 61st anniversary of her coronation). She's currently enjoying a surge in popularity -- always better to go out on top -- and at 88 she has surely earned the right to put her feet up and bask in her twilight years. So will we see her throw in the towel next? In a word, no.

In 1947, on the occasion of her 21st birthday, during a tour with her parents to Southern Africa, a then Princess Elizabeth made a pledge in a broadcast to the Commonwealth in which she said: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."

In a speech to both houses of parliament commemorating her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the queen rededicated herself to her country and its people, vowing to serve,"... now and in the years to come." The queen is a deeply religious woman, and in 1953 she took her oath before God. For her that means a lifetime of commitment.

Due to her advancing age, Prince Charles has stepped in to represent his mother at several high profile engagements over the last year, most notably at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka last November, but this by no means indicates that he's planning a coup.

Queen Elizabeth continues to fulfill a jam-packed royal schedule and will travel to France later this week to mark the D-Day commemorations alongside her "strength and stay" Prince Philip who will celebrate his 93rd birthday next week.

The Queen is for all intents and purposes the royal equivalent of the Energizer Bunny and the only way she will ever step aside is if she becomes incapacitated.

Come September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will surpass Queen Victoria's record as Britain's longest reigning monarch, and if one was to think optimistically, should she live to the ripe old age of 108, she would break former King Sobhuza II of Swaziland's reign as the world's longest serving monarch.

While that is a record that stands to remain unbroken, you can rest assured that as long as she remains healthy, the queen is not going anywhere, and for that we should be immensely proud and grateful.

I quit, says king who defied coup

Juan Carlos: All you need to know

Belgium's King Albert II gives up throne to son

The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of Victoria Arbiter.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The tragic killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a bitter public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 8:27 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
More than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation, Unicef has warned.
updated 8:22 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Boko Haram's latest abductions may meet a weary global reaction, Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi says.
updated 5:34 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Drops, smudges, pools of blood are everywhere -- but in the computer room CNN's Nic Robertson reels from the true horror of the Peshawar school attack.
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT