ROYALTY The Allure Endures

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By George and all his kin, it will be a royal Bicentennial. In fond, forgiving tribute to the nation that rejected monarchy 200 years ago, nine of Europe's ten reigning families will have visited the U.S. by year's end. Preparing for one of the biggest convergences of royalty since the days when regal retinues descended on Paris or Vienna for filet Empire, monarchs in palaces from Copenhagen's Amalienborg to Madrid's Zarzuela are brushing up on such transatlantic lore as Queen Elizabeth's relationship to George Washington (second cousin seven times removed) and the name of U.S.S. Monitor's designer (Swedish-born John Ericsson)—or on the nuances of the English language as it is spoken in Paris, Texas, and Vienna, Ill.

Their Majesties' speeches and itineraries are being prepared with surpassing delicacy, bearing in mind that most Americans' forebears were happy to flee monarchical regimes. Once here, the visitors will be interminably gossip-columned, misquoted, misaddressed and mispronounced. Yet wherever they go, they will excite the special rapture that republican hearts seem to reserve for crowned heads.

Belgium's King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola were the first sceptered pair to visit the U.S. in 1976, followed this month by Sweden's rambling Rex, Carl XVI Gustaf, on a 26-day, 26-stop itinerary that would sap a Saab. Denmark's Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik will arrive May 9 for a nine-city tour winding up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were hornswoggled from their country for $25 million in 1916. Norway's Crown Prince Harald and Princess Sonja will explore Leif Ericson's land in June; earlier the same month, Spain's new King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia will visit President Ford in Washington; so, commemorating 1776 not 1812, will Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Monaco's Prince Rainier and Princess Grace will be in New York for Independence Day.

Times and thrones have changed since Walter Bagehot, the 19th century British political analyst, said of royalty: "In its mystery is its life. We must not let daylight in upon magic." Royal houses, which once saw outside light only when their occupants were wedded, beheaded, deported or deposed, today are almost constantly floodlit. Queen Elizabeth's younger sister Margaret is squired by a swinger 17 years her junior, and the princess's rift with Photographer-Husband-Antony-Armstrong-Jones-the-Earl-of-Snowdon reigns supreme on front pages and TV for days on end. Princess Anne, 25, the Queen's second child and a contender for Britain's Olympic equestrian team, cracks a vertebra in a fall from her horse and makes news bulletins worldwide.

Queen Juliana's consort is accused of pocketing payola, and the unsubstantiated charge prompts fevered speculation about the future of the 400-year-old Dutch royal house. In Spain, as Juan Carlos stumps the boondocks as tirelessly as a Castilian Jimmy Carter, the young King's every word and move merit Delphic scrutiny. Britain's Prince Charles dates a new girl, and her bloodline is examined as closely as a yearling filly's. Monaco's 19-year-old Princess Caroline keeps squads of paparazzi employed.

Still, the magic persists, though democratic Kings and Queens often wield less executive power than a welfare caseworker.


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