Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding: Do monarchies still matter?
Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding may have tinges of the turreted-castle fairy tale. But from romantic to ruthless, more than 40 modern monarchies, including Prince William's family, still influence global realities for better or worse.
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And yet Emperor Akihito is part of a link in a long chain, Japan's 125th emperor. In his ceremonial role, he has embarked on delicate and symbolic foreign missions to heal old wounds, including those that occurred under his father's reign during World War II.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The kings and queens of modern monarchies
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During a 2009 address to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his accession to the throne, Emperor Akihito reminded his people of the lives lost during the war and the country's hard period of reconstruction. He said: "We must not forget that present-day Japan is built upon those huge sacrifices and pass this history on accurately to those born after the war. I believe this is important for the future path of our country."
The Middle East is where royalty still holds political power, for better or worse.
Back in 1948, as anticolonial fervor swept the globe, King Farouk of Egypt is said to have opined: "The world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five kings left – the King of England, the King of Spades, the King of Clubs, the King of Hearts and the King of Diamonds."
King Farouk was overthrown in 1952. But monarchy has survived in the region, from the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia to constitutional monarchies in Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, where true power resides within the ruling families.
But with the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt rattling the status quo in the region, these monarchs are feeling heavy internal pressure for reform. In Jordan, King Abdullah II named a new prime minister to help quell protests in early February, and he was facing erosion of support even among traditional supporters.
"Because of the petroleum resources, the Gulf monarchies are still probably the most relevant as political institutions and the tensions they're in, they're all going through growth spasms at this point," says Joel Gordon, a political and cultural historian who directs the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Arkansas.
Mr. Gordon says the modern monarchies of the region, particularly in the Gulf States, "are consolidating a hold on vast resources, Arab media, and popular culture."