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