Startling news has reached us from the Kingdom of Nepal – news which may just save the monarchy.
It was reported last week that His Majesty King Gyanendra Shah, who now prefers to live in the new luxurious mansion he built in Nagarjuna on the outskirts of the capital, had made a rare unannounced visit to the Narayanhity Royal Palace in central Kathmandu.
Flanked by two aides de camps, the king, looking glum, spent a long time in the grounds of the palace, watching the peacocks bred inside at play. Our man still behind the Royal drinks cabinet there says that it looked like His Majesty had a lot on his mind, and that the appearance had the feeling of a farewell visit. Despite riots in the south of the country, presumed by republicans to have been instigated by royalists hoping to delay the constituent assembly elections planned for June, the government remains adamant that the polls will proceed on time – and all commentators expect the first session to vote for the abolition of the monarchy. Time appears to be running out for the 238-year-old Shah dynasty.
However, there may yet be another dramatic twist in the gripping soap opera that is the story of Nepalese monarchy as it starts to become clear what was occupying the King’s mind so much as he stared at his beloved peacocks and ruefully surveyed his once secure palace. Opinion poll data consistently suggests that ordinary Nepalese citizens are still attached to the institution of monarchy – despite the best efforts of almost every politician to pretend that a republic is inevitable – but are hostile to the person of King Gyanendra himself after his disastrous period as absolute monarch. Therefore, in a desperate bid to save the monarchy, it is reported in today’s Nepalese papers that His Majesty has offered to abdicate in favour of his four-year-old grandson Prince Nava Yuvaraj Hridayendra and leave the country. Apparently his son and direct heir, Crown Prince Paras, who is even more unpopular than himself (due to his penchant for high living and, erm, dangerous driving – allegedly), has agreed to renounce his claim to the throne – preferring golf and partying to kingship.
With the Maoist guerrillas starting a new campaign from next week for a republic and the nationalisation of Royal family members’ property, the King has been holding a series of hectic consultations with royalists to find a way out. It is reported that, before the interim constitution was promulgated last month, he tried to meet Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala with his abdication plan. However, the meeting is said to have fallen through at the last moment. Then, about two weeks ago, Maoist chief Prachanda told his guerrillas in southern Nepal that the King had sent an emissary to him, suggesting a meeting and saying he was ready to abdicate. However, apparently the conditions laid down for such a meeting were not acceptable to Prachanda.
It is also rumoured that if the King’s plan were to be accepted, he would almost certainly move to London. Apparently a Royal son-in-law, who was present in the Narayanhity Palace during the infamous massacre when Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father King Birendra and almost the entire royal family (although the present Crown Prince Paras was miraculously left completely unscathed), is already living in the grounds of the Nepali Embassy in Britain’s capital city.
We at the RCC are sure that King Gyanendra would receive a warm welcome should he come to London (and apparently our man presently behind the Royal drinks cabinet in the Narayanhity Palace would be interested in applying to become His Majesty’s press & communications director in exile). However, we hope of course that this step will not be necessary and that the Nepalese people will quickly come to their senses. God save the King.