The headlines said it all: “Prince Harry shattered over Remembrance Day snub”; WREATH SNUB FOR HARRY; “Prince Harry snub: The Duke of Sussex ‘deeply saddened’ as ‘wreath request refused’”; “Harry ‘heartbroken’ following BRUTAL snub!”
In case you were for some reason following certain other news stories, the “wreath rift”—something of a visual tongue twister, as it’s almost impossible not to type “wreath wrift” (and just try saying it, or even typing it, three times fast)—played out last weekend. It was reported that the Duke of Sussex’s request that a wreath be laid on his behalf at London’s Cenotaph for Remembrance Day had been denied. Ouch. Harry, after all, served 10 years in the military and has been laying Remembrance Day wreaths for even longer. The Duke and Duchess instead marked the day by bringing flowers to the Los Angeles National Cemetery during what they portrayed as a “private visit”—albeit one involving an official photographer, naturally—and soon enough, images of them, dressed in black and looking studiously somber among the headstones, were made available to the media. “It is easy to see why Harry and Meghan wanted a new life for themselves, and who can blame them?” wrote Jan Moir in the Daily Mail. “Yet Harry cannot have it both ways, especially when it comes to matters of protocol and privilege. He wanted to be an ordinary citizen and he got his wish. There is no way back on to the royal balcony now.” This appeared under another headline that said it all: Here lie the ruins of their reputation.
Kate Bingham, the head of the U.K.’s coronavirus-vaccine task force, will be leaving her post at year’s end. The hiring of the biochemist and former venture capitalist had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she’s married to Conservative minister Jesse Norman, who is an Old Etonian chum of Boris Johnson’s, and that Bingham was at Oxford with Johnson’s sister, Rachel. And her departure has absolutely nothing to do (says the government) with the report last weekend in The Sunday Times that Bingham had spent around $880,000 on what the tabloids were gleefully calling “boutique relations consultants” and the uproar that followed. Mere coincidence, apparently, like so many things.
Unless you’ve tried it, you can’t really appreciate how hard it is being the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. Or, anyway, how hard it’s been lately. Traditionally, nine sultans alternate in the role—and a largely ceremonial role it is—as part of a five-year rotation. But when Sultan Muhammad V unexpectedly abdicated, in January 2019, Abdullah Sultan Ahmad began his tenure two years early. Now Abdullah, 61, Sandhurst- and Oxford-educated, a former member of the FIFA Council, has been thrown into serious politics, of all things, following the collapse of the Malaysian government, whose titular head had been 95-year-old prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The upheaval comes at an inconvenient time for the constitutional monarchy—the global pandemic and all that—and, predictably, at least some of the blame lies with a former Miss Moscow. The 49-year-old Muhammad V, whose abdication triggered these events, had privately married the 2015 beauty-pageant winner Oksana Voevodina, 25, in Malaysia two years ago. He stepped down soon after, and Sultan Abdullah now finds himself paddling around in the deep end. In March he appointed a new prime minister, who has been hanging on to a slim majority in parliament. Malaysia’s opposition leader recently petitioned to form a new government but was refused. As for the Voevodinas, the couple have divorced.
A Saudi princess is being treated for shock at Georges-Pompidou Hospital after having returned to her Paris apartment to find that her supply of Hermès handbags had been reduced by around 30. Also AWOL from her apartment, which is near Avenue George V in the 16th: a Cartier watch worth nearly $10,000, along with furs and jewelry, the whole lot valued at about $720,000. The unnamed 47-year-old princess had been away in the South of France since August. According to Le Parisien, investigators said there was no evidence of a break-in, but that a set of keys to the apartment was missing, and that one suspect is a man who had been staying there.
Anyone who doubts whether the minutiae of Danish politics could make for terrific television obviously hasn’t seen Borgen. Perhaps the recent news out of the real-life Borgen, Denmark’s seat of government, also known as “the castle” but officially called Christiansborg Palace, will persuade them to give the series a shot. (Especially since a new season is in the works.) Stranger than fiction? Not necessarily, but certainly sleazier.
Frank Jensen, Copenhagen’s Lord Mayor for 10 years, resigned last month after having admitted that concurrent with his three-decade career in politics he’d enjoyed a three-decade career in harassing women. Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod—the man who in 2019 informed Donald Trump that Greenland could not be bought for “dollars, yuan or roubles”—has (so far) fought off calls for his resignation over a 2008 incident: he’d had sex with a 15-year-old intern. (The age of consent is 15 in Denmark; Kofod, who was then 34, apologized and was stripped of some duties, but continued his career.) The Times of London reported that Karsten Lauritzen, a former tax minister, had recently apologized to a female journalist for having in 2018 “plac[ed] a hand on her thigh as they sat together in a bodega close to the castle. He conceded that this had been ‘poor judgement’. He also admitted to having apologised to ‘a handful’ of other women for similar misbehaviour.” And Morten Østergaard, leader of the Social Liberal Party, resigned last month after Lotte Rod, a fellow lawmaker, said, “I have removed hands from my thigh and I can name several examples of inappropriate behaviour,” and Østergaard admitted, “It was my hand she removed from her thigh almost a decade ago.”
The fallout, in a country proud of its gender equality and whose current prime minister is a woman (Mette Frederiksen), has cut across political parties and generations. But why is Denmark having a #MeToo moment now? Well, in September the newspaper Politiken published a letter, signed by 700 women, in support of Sofie Linde, a popular TV personality who had just spoken out about the harassment she’s endured. (A day later, the number of names under the open letter had grown to 1,600.) Before you could say “national soul-searching”—or, technically, nationalt sjælesøgning—there came the deluge, with more accusations and admissions expected.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL