Laurent and Harry look saintly next to these other royals - GulfToday

Laurent and Harry look saintly next to these other royals

Prince Laurent, Prince Harry

Prince Laurent, Prince Harry

Helen Coffey, The Independent

I am preparing a new life. I would like to change my current position. I want to be less involved in public activities. It is no secret that one day I want to live abroad.” These words might sound attributable to a disgraced politician caught with his hand (or other appendage) in the cookie jar, but were in fact uttered by 60-year-old Prince Laurent of Belgium, marking him out as another royal who — like the UK’s Prince Harry — would rather get the hell out of dodge than continue to be subject to the whims of an overzealous, controlling institution. As King Philippe’s younger brother and Belgium’s very own “spare” rather than heir, Laurent has perhaps been even more vilified by his country’s press than our own Duke of Sussex. Lumbered with the unflattering moniker the “cursed prince” after a string of controversies and failed business ventures, he hasn’t even vaguely attempted to hide his distaste for being part of Belgium’s answer to the Firm.

Thought Harry’s autobiography was damning? Laurent’s extremely public outbursts have previously included comparing life as a Belgian royal to living under a dictatorship; accusing his father and brother of “sabotaging” his life and watching him “like the Stasi”; and revealing he sought exile in Libya before the fall of his mate Colonel Gaddafi, a path he would have infinitely preferred to his current “job” (even with its €307,000 annual salary). More recently, he claimed royal protocol was breaching his human rights, saying: “I have a cousin who is head of state (Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg). If I want to see him, I have to ask the government for permission. Isn’t it illegal to ban human contact?”.

But though Laurent has been a vocal supporter of Harry — condemning the British royals’ “unacceptable” treatment of him — and would certainly like to emulate the Sussexes by swapping his duties for a slice of la dolce vita in Italy, he insists his plans are based on business, not bitterness. “I think I can do more for society and make myself more useful if I can live that new life,” he said. “I’m not proclaiming this because I’m angry.” While Laurent may have been branded “cursed”, a swift glance through the weird, wonderful and wacky back-catalogue of European monarchy members reveals that, were one to compile a list of royals vying for black sheep status, he’d be lucky to even make the top 10. In fact, the sheer number of them embroiled in bonkers, telenovela-worthy scandals is genuinely impressive.

Monaco has perhaps the richest seam of salacious stories; Prince Albert’s wedding to South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in 2011 was notable for the fact she was in floods of tears throughout, amid rampant rumours that she had attempted to flee the country several times in the run-up to her nuptials. Andrea Albert Pierre Casiraghi, eldest grandchild of Prince Rainier III and American actress Grace Kelly, earned the media nickname “enfant terrible” after a number of tabloid exploits, including having his driving licence revoked for speeding. Only this year accusations of corruption arose after he and his brother Pierre allegedly “strong-armed” their way into owning some of Monaco’s most lucrative business interests. And that’s before you even get into the mind-boggling backstory of Grace Kelly’s daughter Princess Stephanie, which there simply isn’t the time or space to do justice to here: romances with Rob Lowe and Jean-Claude Van Damme; a song with Michael Jackson; literally running away with the circus after striking up a relationship with an elephant trainer, who she later traded in for an acrobat 10 years her junior… The word “icon” springs to mind.

Heading south to Spain, you’ll find a family blighted by not one but two tasty tax fraud scandals. Former King Juan Carlos I abdicated in 2014 and exiled himself in 2020 after accusations emerged (his son, the current King Felipe, cut off his pension and inheritance in response), while the apple seemingly doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to dodgy finances. Juan Carlos’s daughter Princess Cristina and her former husband Iñaki Urdangarin Liebaert stood trial for tax fraud in 2017. Though she was acquitted, he was sentenced to six years’ jail time. Then there’s Sweden’s former wild child Prince Carl Philip, who raised eyebrows in some quarters when he married a glamour model and reality star in 2015. His marriage to Sofia Hellqvist, who famously once posed topless with a python wrapped around her neck, is still going strong and resulted in three children — proving that maybe love really does conquer all. Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik also finally managed to shake off his “party prince” image when he married Australian-born Princess Mary, but was rocked by rumours of a sordid affair just last year after pictures emerged of him on a night out in Madrid with Mexican socialite Genoveva Casanova.

Meanwhile, the Dutch royals’ popularity has taken a well-publicised nosedive since the pandemic, when King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima nipped on holiday to Greece as the rest of the country was forced to adhere to strict travel bans. They compounded it by throwing their daughter a lavish 18th birthday party that also broke Covid rules, just to rub everyone’s noses in it. Ill-judged, undoubtedly, but their bad decisions pale somewhat in comparison to Prince Johan Friso of Orange-Nassau’s choice to wed Mabel Wisse Smit in 2004 — a union that was mired in scandal thanks to her rumoured former romantic ties with a known drug baron. Parliament did not grant permission for the marriage, resulting in the prince renouncing his place in the line of succession. He tragically died aged just 44 in 2013, after being caught up in an avalanche while skiing.

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