A Grand Duke, Indeed

When you hear the phrase “European royalty,” you probably think of the less-dignified antics of the British royals.

Yet there are European rulers who have distinguished themselves in more admirable fashion.

For example, Spain’s King Juan Carlos is credited with almost single-handedly saving his country’s fledgling democracy during an attempted coup in 1981.

More recently, his wife, Queen Sofia, stirred up controversy with her comments about the directions that democracy has taken. In a new book, she is quoted as saying that while she “[understands] that there are people with other sexual orientations,” she doesn’t think that that’s something to be proud of.

Not surprisingly, she takes a dim view of same-sex “marriage,” which was legalized in Spain in 2005. She said that people may have a right “to live together [and] dress up like bride and groom,” but it shouldn’t be called “matrimony.” Well said.

Her comments, combined with her traditional Catholic views on abortion and religious education, have some on the left calling for a reexamination of the role of the monarchy in Spanish life.

For now, it’s only talk in Spain. In Luxembourg, things have gone a lot farther. Earlier this year, its parliament, following in the footsteps of neighboring Holland and Belgium, voted to legalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. “The law would let doctors kill the terminally ill if they asked repeatedly and had the consent of two doctors and a panel of experts,” so the law read.

In Luxembourg’s system, the next step was for the constitutional monarch, the Grand Duke Henri, to give his assent to the measure and sign it. It was considered a formality.

But it wasn’t. Henri, whose official title begins with the phrase “by the Grace of God,” refused to give his assent, citing “reasons of conscience.”

This refusal for reasons of conscience is nearly unprecedented in Luxembourg’s history, but not in the Grand Duke’s family. In 1990, his uncle, King Baudouin of Belgium, refused to sign a law legalizing abortion in that country.

As you might expect, Luxembourg’s parliament didn’t take kindly to this exercise in moral leadership. As the prime minister put it, “If the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force.”

In response to the Grand Duke’s refusal, the parliament is stripping him of his constitutional veto. For having the temerity to act in accord with his conscience, the Grand Duke and his successors will be stripped of their powers.

Fittingly, the measure tearing away his power is attached to latest version of the euthanasia bill. I say “fittingly” because measures like this are only possible if conscience has been squelched. Otherwise, the evil and folly of what is being proposed becomes too obvious to ignore.

Instead, as Michael Cook of MercatorNet wrote, the Grand Duke has reminded his subjects that “euthanasia is [inconsistent] with democracy, solidarity and human dignity.” He goes on, “[Abandoning] the sick and dying at the most vulnerable moments” isn’t law, it’s lawlessness. In my opinion, Henri’s willingness to pay a high price for conscience’s sake makes him the grandest of dukes.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage