Reflections on Shelley's famous poem, Ozymandias, which refers to Ramses the Great. Image Source: Hamilton Wiki.
In all the debates about what will happen in Egypt with the current régime, one possibility that is pointedly not being discussed, at least in the press, is the potential reinstallation of the last reigning member of the House of Muhammad Ali, Fouad II, and the transformation of Egypt into a constitutional monarchy.
When it comes to political ideologies that take the longest view of history possible, royal houses have to be number one. This must seem odd, given that recent research reported in light of Prince William's impending marriage to Kate Middleton found that being a king or queen is possibly the most dangerous occupation there is. Given the mortality rates of European monarchs from 600 to 1800, the study found that almost a quarter of monarchs died in violent circumstances. (The study, by Cambridge University criminologist Manuel Eisner, is "Killing Kings," which will appear in the British Journal of Criminology.) Being a king or queen is therefore more dangerous than being a solider fighting in the front lines of a warzone.
Perhaps it's all the more puzzling, then, that royal houses are a study of how human politics can fashion itself seminally around familial dynasties, and how incredibly long those dynasties can endure. In terms of commitment to a particular idea of power over time, monarchies persist even as laws, states and governments change. When ousted from power, royals bide their time, sometimes waiting decades or centuries before stepping back into their captured palaces, which seemingly welcome them back as though they had never left. This is what happened in Spain with the House of Bourbon after the death of Franco. There are signs that the members of Houses such as the Romanovs and the Habsburgs take a similarly long view.
Coat of arms of the House of Muhammad Ali of Egypt and Sudan. Image Source: Wiki.
Royal houses have had a tough time of it for the past two centuries especially (there is a list of deposed monarchs in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries here; a list of current pretenders here; and a general list of regnant and non-regnant royal houses here). But when republics and dictators falter, there is always a question of alternatives. As for Egypt, the Wall Street Journal interviewed the country's last king in September of last year. Ahmed Fouad II, or Fouad as he prefers, lives in Switzerland.
Ahmed Fouad II. Image Source: The Wall Street Journal.
From the report on King Farouk's son:
See my related posts: Google and Twitter Work Around Egypt's Internet Blackout.[W]ithin Egypt, new signs of longing for a monarchy many Egyptians never knew are emerging. "In the past, we were more or less pariahs," Fouad says. "They used to say so much that was bad about my family. Now it has completely changed." ... "Farouk fever" has been sweeping Egypt. A TV soap opera on King Farouk was such a hit its producers just unveiled another series about the royals. Books set in the era are selling briskly at the popular Diwan bookstore chain in Cairo. A tour company is marketing cruises along the Nile on a yacht with a "Farouk Suite."
In his Swiss hideaway, Fouad lives the odd life of a king without a throne. For an entourage he only has his companion and aide, an amiable Swiss widow named Nelly. He likes to take walks in the countryside, occasionally watches TV—mostly Egyptian programs, CNN and old Westerns—and when he dines, he'll simply pull up a chair in the kitchen.
He has a passport from Monaco that identifies him as His Royal Highness Prince Ahmed Fouad Farouk. He also has an Egyptian passport that lists his name, no title. In egalitarian Switzerland, many call him "Mr. Farouk." A small group of loyal Egyptian friends insist on addressing him as "Your Majesty" or "King Fouad." Fouad says this is "kind of an embarrassment."
"You are and you left as the king," says Youssef Makar, a friend who is seated nearby. "And to us you will always be the king." ...
Several exiled monarchs are scattered in Europe and the U.S. Reza Pahlavi II of Iran, the son of the late Shah of Iran, has an office in Virginia and has openly criticized Iran's ruling mullahs. King Constantine II of Greece fled his country in 1967 when the junta abolished the monarchy, and resides in London. King Michael of Romania for many years couldn't even go back to Romania, which he had ruled until 1947. He lived in Switzerland but in recent years he was invited back to Romania.
Fouad says he doesn't really hang out with them: "People think there is a brotherhood of exiled monarchs, but there isn't," he says.
Fouad has travelled to Egypt several times and is free to come and go, but he worries about "causing trouble" and is careful to avoid raising red flags. "I don't want people to think I have political ambitions," he says. "And sometimes when I go there, it gets very emotional."
Now Fouad finds himself swept up in the tide of longing for his father's era. Last spring, he was a coveted guest at Cairo receptions, offered special access to ancient monuments and addressed as "Your Majesty" in some quarters. ...
His father's "comeback" has given Fouad a new optimism. He longs to return to Egypt in some capacity—perhaps as cultural ambassador. Monarchs such as the King of Spain, Juan Carlos, have helped their countries move to democracy, he says: "It works for Spain beautifully."
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