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With the abdication announcement from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands earlier this week I began to look at the history and tradition of abdication within all monarchies, not just the Netherlands. I grabbed a note-book and began listing the Emperors, Empresses, Kings and Queens etc, that have abdicated through the centuries. Wow, there were many more than I realized. Too many to mention in this blog post. One thing I have noticed is that there were many forced abdication in the past centuries and few voluntary abdication. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, King of Spain is an example of a voluntary abdication. In the past, abdication were overwhelmingly done for political and not personal reasons.

For a few years Queen Christina of Sweden (1632-1654) desired to abdicate citing she wanted to rest and she was tired of being pressured into marriage. At first her councilors objected but in 1654 she abdicated in favor of her cousin who became King Carl X Gustaf of Sweden. Health problems, in the form of gout, moved Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to abdicate his thrones. He gave spain to his son who became Felipe II of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire went to his brother Ferdinand.

These are a couple of examples of voluntary abdication. Often monarchs have abdicated because they had little choice. Emperor Nicholas II of Russia is a prime example. His country was in shambles because of World War I and he was not popular and with the rise of the provisional government his abdication was essential for a smooth transition. His cousin, German Emperor Wilhelm II (1888-1918) refused to abdicate the throne as his empire was crumbling at his feet. His Imperial Chancellor, Prince Maximilian of Baden, announced the Emperor’s abdication for him, which outraged the Emperor. Wilhelm II eventually signed abdication papers weeks later after he was in exile.

I see the abdication of King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a semi-voluntary choice. Yes, he had a choice and as we all know he chose to abdicate to be with the woman he loved. He lived in a time were marrying an American who was twice divorced was socially unacceptable. He did have a choice but one that really wasn’t fair in my opinion.

It was in the 20th century where monarchies began to see abdication by voluntary means. Luxembourg has a tradition of abdication that began with the abdication of Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg in 1919. Marie-Adélaïde’s abdication to her younger sister Charlotte was not voluntary. It was due to political pressure resulting from her cordial relationship with the Germans that occupied Luxembourg during World War I. In 1964 her sister, Grand Duchess Charlotte voluntarily abdicated to her son Jean. In 2000 Grand Duke Jean abdicated the throne in favor of Henri, Luxembourg’s reigning Grand Duke.

In Britain Elizabeth II will never abdicate. The abdication crisis left a sour taste in her mouth and her coronation oath and her dedication to duty will not leave abdication as an option. This is the case for most of the remaining monarchies of Europe. Next week I want to look more in-depth at the Kingdom of the Netherlands where a tradition of abdication has developed. I also want to look at the pros and cons of abdication itself.

Tuesday I will continue my examination of the Legal Succession to the throne and on Thursday of next week I will continue to look at the concept of Abdication.