14 February 2012

Royal Splendor 101: King Abdullah's Accession

If you follow mostly European monarchies, you’re probably familiar with lines of succession and laws of primogeniture - the ways in which a throne descends down a family line. And for the most part, the crown continues tumbling down the family tree in whatever fashion the law directs (oldest child to oldest child, for example) and the current monarch doesn’t have much say in the matter. But this is not the case in every monarchy, and Jordan is just one example of a different process. There is a law determining who can be king, but the current king has a say in it. He can appoint his own heir apparent (and can cause some family drama while at it).

Abdullah and Hussein
As the first son of King Hussein, Prince Abdullah became the heir to the throne when he was born in 1962 because the constitution stipulates that the throne is inherited by the oldest son. But unrest in the country three years later prompted Hussein to move the royal family to a more secure standing by removing the crown prince title from his young, half-British son (Abdullah was born to Princess Muna, née Antoinette Gardiner, Hussein’s second wife). He introduced an amendment to the constitution that allowed the king to select a brother as heir apparent instead, and appointed his brother Prince Hassan. For more than 30 years, Hassan would be Jordan's crown prince, preparing to rule.

And then, Hussein changed his mind. Just weeks before succumbing to cancer, he sent his brother a public letter stripping him of the crown prince title. Rumors swirled that there was friction between Hussein's fourth and final wife, Queen Noor, and Hassan’s wife, Princess Sarvath, and that Noor’s influence led to the decision. It was widely stated that Noor wanted her own son, Prince Hamzah, to be king one day (though he was only 18 at the time of his father’s death).

On January 25, 1999, Hussein named Abdullah as his heir. On February 7th, Hussein died and Abdullah became King Abdullah II. He was 37 years old and had two young children; two more would follow later. He proclaimed his wife, Rania, to be queen on March 22nd (as the title is not automatically conferred on the king's consort in Jordan).

In another difference from many existing monarchies - especially those that garner the greatest attention - Jordan's monarch has actual political power. Thus, Abdullah's accession was followed by a series of visits and tours to secure and reassure relationships, a particularly important gesture given the unrest in the region, as well as early modernizations in Jordan's infrastructure.
Coronation Day
The accession was formally celebrated later, on June 9th. The new king and queen rode through the streets of Amman in the same limo that carried them on their wedding day (and had also carried the king's parents on their wedding day). Arriving at Raghadan Palace where other members of the royal family were waiting, the king reviewed a Guard of Honor before greeting guests and dignitaries in front of his throne. He also awarded Rania the Al Hussein Ben Ali medal, the most prestigious medal in Jordan. Abdullah wore his ceremonial military uniform; Rania wore a stunning gold gown from Elie Saab and Queen Alia's Cartier Tiara.
Coronation Day
Ten years later they celebrated the anniversary of the king's accession. Rania wore the same dress.
The 10th Anniversary
Since Abdullah’s accession, change in the line of succession has continued. Exercising the same rights his father did, he named his half-brother Hamzah as crown prince when he became king, as this was reportedly his father’s wish. But in 2004 he did the same as his father did and sent his brother a letter removing the title, stating that it was “holding him back”. After several years without a declared heir apparent, Abdullah gave the title to his own eldest son Hussein in 2009. Crown Prince Hussein is now 17 years old.
With their children, left to right: Princess Iman, Crown Prince Hussein, Queen Rania, King Abdullah, Prince Hashem, Princess Salma

 Photos: Royal Hashemite Court/Petra