Which country still has a royal aristocracy?

Aristocracy: The transfigured image of the nobility is deceptive

The minister takes a brisk step to the standing desk, a sergeant major yells “Ladies and gentlemen, the minister”, the minister says “Grüß Gott” and proclaims without stuttering: “I was always ready to fight, but I have my limits Powers reached. ”Then he explains the“ question of whether I can still meet the highest demands that I place on my responsibilities ”. No matter how high these demands may have been - the minister did not meet them and is therefore already an ex-minister at the time. The previous week's appearance and departure of Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg in the pillared hall of the Berlin Bendlerblock shook all of Germany, but especially the "Bild" editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann. “The gray mediocrity at the levers of power felt threatened by the success of the exceptional politician,” explained the passionate Guttenberg Gutfinder and warned: “The fall of the defense minister marked a turning point: the alarming alienation between ruled and ruled, between the population and politics . "

While the gray mediocrity was preparing to demolish democracy in Berlin, blue blood was foaming on the Internet: Alexander zu Schaumburg-Lippe, head of a noble family from Lower Saxony, commented on the resignation of the German defense minister on Facebook with a shaken "The sad end of an unprecedented human hunt". Johann Georg Kuefstein, an Austrian professional representative, assisted himself: "It is time to question whether the republic of the parties has been replaced by the republic of the media."

Whether Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was partly to blame for his own departure was unfortunately not further questioned on the occasion. But that could hardly be the case, after all, the 39-year-old exceptional politician is a pure, neither married nor adopted aristocrat of the old sex. There can be no doubt about its noble motives and moral indisputability. Nobility empowered. And by birth, he had an attitude towards life that Johann Ferdinand Kuefstein, son of Johann Georgs and board member of the Association of Nobles in Austria (VEÖ.), On the occasion of the founding of the association in 2005, defined this to profil: “Traditional values, solidarity with home, Catholic convictions, the conviction that aristocracy actually primarily obliges - to take responsibility and to fulfill leadership tasks. "

In other words: aristocrats are better because they were born state leaders. Even if a somewhat transfigured view is sometimes required to prove this fact and, if necessary, a few details have to be left out that are more than just footnotes. Current example: "The King’s Speech", with four Oscars big winners at this year's Academy Awards. The film shows the British King George VI. in a difficult phase: his brother, King Edward VIII, renounces the crown in order to marry his mistress Wallis Simpson; George has to step in, although he would have preferred to stay in the background because of his severe speech impairment; after all, a world war is looming in Germany, which the stuttering king does not feel quite up to. On the way to the princely happy ending, director Tom Hooper and his screenwriter David Seidler take a few shortcuts - especially when it comes to the role of the short-term king Edward, who in reality sympathized extremely emphatically with Hitler, in 1937 after his wedding to Wallis Simpson in Nazi Germany traveled, paid a friendly visit to the "Führer" on Obersalzberg and even had himself photographed while he was greeting Hitler.

But also Edward's brother and successor George VI. would have preferred to form an alliance with Hitler for a long time than go to war against him; he supported the appeasement policy even after German soldiers had penetrated deep into France and Scandinavia. It was not until late that George came up against the royal resistance, the symbol of which he became in the war years. The English historian Andrew Roberts finds correspondingly harsh words about the historical picture of “The King's Speech”: “The audience should know about the many blatant and monstrous mistakes and warmed-up myths that this otherwise very charming film chewed up.” Also the publicist Christopher Hitchens commented the dramaturgical omissions from “The King's Speech”, not least with regard to the impending dream wedding between George's great-grandson William and the higher daughter Kate Middleton: “Practically the entire moral capital of this relatively strange little German dynasty became most noble in this myth of their participation in Britain Hour invested. If it had been up to them, this hour would never have taken place. "

This relatively strange dynasty has only existed under its current name since July 17, 1917, when the then King George V found that his family name - Saxe-Coburg and Gotha - was no longer really compatible with the anti-German resentment that was rampant in the British Empire during the World War (especially after German long-haul Gotha G.IV aircraft bombed London).

By decree, George, the grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, decided that his family should be called Windsor with immediate effect. Later decrees preserved the new name even after the marriage of today's regent Elizabeth II with Philip of Greece and Denmark, who actually belongs to the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg house and once complained bitterly about his tragic fate: “I am nothing than a damn amoeba. I am the only man in this country who is not allowed to pass on his own name to his children. ”At least Philip retained his talent for deep insights and striking one-liners. On the occasion of a visit to China in 1986 he warned British students: “If you stay here longer, you will all get slit eyes.” During the great British recession of 1981, he was puzzled by the complaints of his compatriots: “Everyone always meant them need more free time.

Now they are complaining that they are unemployed. ”During a factory visit in Edinburgh he was amazed at a slightly deranged fuse box:“ It looks like an Indian built it in. ”And he politely asked an Australian Aborigine in March 2002: "Do you still throw spears?"

But despite his diplomatic lack of insight, the strange Prince Philip also has fans. Not only in Europe: He is worshiped as a god by the Yaohnanen tribe who live on the South Pacific island of Tanna. He and his wife visited the island nation of Vanuatu in 1974, and the Yaohnanen tribal leader Jack Naiva identified him with no doubt on board the MS Britannia: “I saw him standing on deck in his white uniform and knew that he was the real Messiah. "

In this sense, the Queen herself is also convinced: “We are not expected to behave like human beings”, which is why she had a lamp built into her Rolls-Royce that gave her a “supernatural shimmer “Should lend. Diana biographer Andrew Morton recently formulated the core competence of the Royal Family in an interview: “They are like actors. You have a role: you are doing your king's job. And then they kick their shoes off, lounge on the sofa and watch TV. ”But they obviously also like to have a good time: Morton said that Prince Charles regularly had six breakfast eggs cooked to eat exactly two of them , and once let a basket of plums fly from his garden in Highgrove to Balmoral Castle when he felt like it: “Charles is excessive and contradicting itself. A difficult person. "

It is correspondingly difficult to always correctly differentiate between fiction and reality with the royals. But mostly in the case of the Windsors it's not about questioning their real characters and intentions. The success of "The King’s Speech" shows that the British princes (like most of their European peers) function primarily as upscale entertainment. Most observers do not care whether the line between dream and reality is blurred. “Deep in the collective British unconscious, a special place is reserved for the dream that the Queen will come over for tea,” writes the “Economist”. It can therefore be assumed that Helena Bonham Carter, who appeared in "The King’s Speech" Georges VI. Mrs. Elizabeth plays, not fooled, when she told the BBC on the occasion of the Academy Awards how some passers-by recently looked down in awe in front of her: "As if I were really the Queen Mum."

The real royals meanwhile have other worries:
How can you squeeze thousands of guests from European royal families and state chancelleries, British dignitaries, friends from the army and university days as well as reporters from all over the world into Westminster Abbey on April 29? How can Kate Middleton's wedding dress remain a secret until the moment she steps out of the limo in front of the cathedral? Preparations for the wedding of Prince William, the 28-year-old son of Prince Charles, are in full swing. Thirty years after the dream wedding of Charles and Diana, the nation, suffering from the credit crunch and savings budget, is once again to be royally enchanted. Officially, people profess to be modest and speak of an "austerity wedding" (economy wedding); in fact, of course, there is no slouch: 1,900 guests were invited to the wedding, 600 guests to lunch in Buckingham Palace and 300 guests of honor to the evening wedding celebration. The wedding day itself, April 29, was declared a national holiday.

Not all Britons are enchanted by the prospect of the upcoming prince wedding. Graham Smith, leader of the British Republican Movement, stands in front of Buckingham Palace and explains why he would like to retire the Queen today: “We are fighting for the abolition of the monarchy because it makes us a deeply undemocratic country . Power is given to the government by the queen. In practice, the Prime Minister rules for them. And not for us, the people. We have to establish a proper constitution in which the constitutional monarchy no longer appears. "

One sees it similarly even in parts of the Anglican Church, whose head is the Queen. After the engagement of Will and Kate became known, the London Bishop Peter Broadbent urged on Facebook: “We need a party in Calais for all good Republicans who cannot stand the disgusting nonsense surrounding this event. I managed to avoid the last slow-motion disaster between sailing ear and porcelain doll - and I hope that I can do the same this time as well. ”He also described the Windsors as“ philanderers ”and the principle of succession as“ corrupt and sexist ” - In the spirit of the former press spokesman for Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, who had declared in the mid-1990s: “For me, the royals represent everything that is wrong in this country: the class system, title addiction, the vain dress code, nepotism and the arrogance of never elected power. "

Nevertheless, the Republicans in Great Britain have a tough stand. A large majority of the British are in favor of maintaining the constitutional monarchy. In 2009 it was 78 percent in a survey. British society is traditional, conservative and class conscious. The royal family with their bizarre hats goes perfectly with this. Much more stable than the class consciousness of the population, however, is that of the lords and ladies. Even if the status of the British nobility is increasingly wavering, as the British sociologist Frank Furedi says: “Historically, it was certainly their usual position to feel superior and to represent a noble order. And they are still aware that they have certain privileges. But there is also a defensive stance behind it. The Lords feel that their role is no longer appreciated and that there is great unease in society about their traditional privileges. Their lifestyle, etiquette, and language are despised. Most British lords feel more welcome abroad than at home. "

Charles Spencer, the ninth Earl Spencer and brother of the late Princess Diana, gave a nice insight into the traditional self-image of the British aristocracy in an article for “Vanity Fair” in January 2010: “As the owner of one of the great, inheritable titles in Britain, you actually had to just do what is expected of you and then die. ”What was expected: a marriage befitting one's rank, public influence in the Royal Court or House of Lords, cultivating family farming (the traditional main source of income for the British nobility), expanding the family art collection, successful inheritance. Unfortunately - especially recently - fewer and fewer affected people are sticking to this proven career model: Jasper Orlando Slingsby Duncombe, for example, the firstborn son of the sixth Baron Feversham and presumptive heir to Duncombe Park, a 150-room property in Yorkshire with a value of 50 million euros, was sentenced to three years in prison in the 1990s after he - with a false beard - raided a security camera shop. At the time, his attorney pleaded for decreased sanity because Jasper failed to come to terms with the death of his mother, who died of an overdose when he was eight years old. The family seat went to the second born anyway. Today the baron earns his money as an internet entrepreneur - with the "High Class Erotica" site relishxxx.com.

For the audience, this is undoubtedly an entertaining story, and in fact, peers also understand the royals primarily as entertainers: The Austrian Margrit Methuen has lived in England since her wedding to Lord Robert Methuen in 1987 and knows exactly why every movement of the royal family with eagle eyes is pursued: "We all have to work hard, the prices in England are usury, most people have a huge mountain of debts that they have to work off, the weather is always gray and cold, it rains all the time - and the royals at least bring something." Glamor in this sadness. "

Their glamor function is unaffected by the European aristocratic houses; After all, entire branches of industry live from it. It becomes much more problematic, however, when aristocrats, fully feeling their own infallibility, not only disregard the boundaries of decency, but also violate bourgeois laws. Austria, too, where (thanks to the generous distribution of letters of nobility by Emperor Franz Joseph) over 20,000 Aristos live, knows a few relevant examples. For years Andrea Herberstein was courted as a Styrian society “Countess” - the daughter of a polar explorer had married Otto Graf Herberstein after his first marriage had remained childless. With state funds and ÖVP connections, Herberstein created a flourishing mixed enterprise consisting of a zoo, castle park and art collection, which she subsidized with millions in taxpayers' money. For years, the count's family believed that it was no one's business how much money they withdrew from their company accounts. The week before last, the always resolute lady was remorseful for the first time. "I stand here in front of you as a 57-year-old woman, formerly seen by politics and the media as a maker, but above all as the mother of three children," Herberstein sobbed into the microphones. The Supreme Court was unimpressed and sentenced the zoo owner to two years' imprisonment, 16 months of which was conditional, for fraud in connection with improperly used funds.

Profil has also reported extensively on the various businesses of the forester, hunter, gun lobbyist and management consultant Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly. The 57-year-old has already been in pre-trial detention twice in recent years, and authorities in Austria, Great Britain, Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic are investigating and investigating, among other things, fraud, money laundering and false testimony. Proceedings are pending; the presumption of innocence applies.

Are these the "highest demands" that the innocent Mr. Guttenberg spoke about last week in the most beautiful squire tone? The “traditional values” that the Association of Austrian Nobles dreams of? Or is it just an example of the extent of high-born self-glory? And do you really have to see it all in such a terribly negative way? After all, there is another way of doing it: The playing card company Piatnik, for example, is selling a Kate and William card game for the upcoming dream wedding and declares the royal event to be an "event that will cheer up even the most lousy misanthropes" in the blurb. Because that's exactly what it is, the meaning of the monarchy: Prozac for the people. Prince Philip already knew this in 1969 when he announced on a state visit to Canada: “It is a complete misunderstanding to believe that the monarchy is in the interests of the monarch. It is not. It is in the interests of the people. If at some point a nation concludes that the system is unacceptable, it is up to them to change that system. ”Wise words.

Collaboration: Tina Goebel, Gunther Müller

In profile 10/2011 you can read a background report on why British King Edward VIII spent his honeymoon in Nazi Germany.