The Slovenia Times

Long live the Queen



October 2008 visit by the Queen of England, who graciously accepted the invitation of the President of Slovenia Dr Danilo Türk, was one of the most important state visits in Slovene history. Every year the Queen makes two formal state visits, usually in spring and autumn. While the Queen's visits are no doubt a high-profile affair, and even though Slovenes reacted very favourably to her presence and greeted her with warmth and affection, there exists if but a hint of a pervading sense that the whole affair would have been even more resounding if the atmosphere in October would not have been burdened with political issues dragging along for the past month since the shift on the last parliamentary elections on 21st September and first glances at the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Yet the Slovenes embraced the British monarchs with widely open arms despite unclear situation on the home front.

Slovenia commended

The visit served to strengthen the bond between Slovenia and Great Britain, the two states of which the former is one of the youngest countries in Europe, the second one of the oldest European monarchies. The Queen commended Slovenia in her formal speech during the dinner party on her first day of visit for the country's rapid economic development, quick entry into NATO and the EU, touching the hearts of Slovenes by saying that even though Slovenia was one of the youngest European states, it was nevertheless an important country in international affairs (let us just very briefly mention the very successful stint at the helm of the EU ending but a few months earlier). The British media likewise seemed to focus on the achievements of our country; the BBC stated that the Queen's visit was a form of commending Slovenia for its success after independence in 1991, saying that the visit was a kind of a symbolic recognition of the country's overall potential, vision and determination. They also mentioned good relations between the two states and the Queen's gratitude for the Slovene contribution to peace keeping operations in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the common thread of all news seemed to be a particular noble horse; during her visit the Queen was taken to see a horse spectacle at the Lipica Stud Farm after which she was given a Lipizzaner horse, but, a great lover of animals that she is, the Queen gracefully declined the offer and stated that it would be far more humane if the animal remained in the care of the farm. Many British newspapers ironically focused on this one event, dubbing the incident to the effect that "the Queen this time around did indeed look the horse in the mouth". At any rate, the noble Lipizzaner will from now on most likely be "advertised" as the Queen's horse in a come-and-see-for-yourself type of a deal.

Praises, protocol mistakes and
bad blood

Britons are proverbially known for their deep sense of obligation and due compliance with even the strictest of conduct norms. In practice this usually translates as a very difficult and elaborate set of guidelines to be followed by the host country in order to meet their high requirements. All is good that ends well could be the slogan of this year's visit since the representatives of the Slovene protocol service received a number of compliments. Yet in all fairness, the whole procedure was not free from minor protocol mistakes, including the opening and closing of the car door by the monarchs themselves since the security guard came to the aid a trifle too late. Another rather agonizing and eternally tape-and-flashlight documented protocol slip was made by the President himself when he lightly touched the Queen's left elbow in order to motion her to a halt and prevent her from advancing forward as dictated by the protocol. But what is certain is the fact that also the Britons themselves are not immaculate when it comes to such shortcomings.

Yet all these incidents were hardly more than but a trifle annoying at worse. The real controversy that did not lay low for some time after the Queen had long left for her second state visit to Slovakia-hopefully the two countries hosting such an internationally renowned figure in succession will put an end to confusing the two countries with each other-was the dinner table list, which only added salt to injury of the ruling government that was pushed yet again into the opposition ranks by the parliamentary vote on 21st September. The SDS party champion and current, yet unquestionably-bidding-farewell Prime Minister Janez Janša criticised the dinner list by saying that almost all of the government officials were excluded and that the list of those who actually got invited included some of the former Communist heavyweights. The President's answer was short and to the point (a feature which many now associate with the style of his presidency which in many ways resembles the dignified royal manner of the Queen herself), saying that the decision who got invited to the dinner was in the exclusive right of the host, in this case the President's Office. Another issue which some wanted to address was a possible apology of Great Britain to Slovenia for a post-WWII event in which British forces handed over captured collaborators with the Germans to Yugoslav Partisans, knowing perfectly well that they would be killed without trial. The President, however, dismissed such claims as inappropriate and so the subject was never brought up before the Queen.

The Queen left Slovenia in good spirits, hopefully remembering the natural and other beauties of the country for years to come in at least half the manner in which she managed to steal the hearts of many Slovenes who came to cordially greet her. "We were duly honoured" could perhaps be the selection of royal-style words any a Slovene could direct at the longest ruling European monarch in the days following one of the most important state visits Slovenia has even witnessed.


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