Abdication in the name of Love
Like something out of a rom-com, rumours are going around that the former king of Malaysia, Sultan Muhammad V, abdicated due to a mysterious love affair with a 25-year old Russian beauty queen.
Love makes people do crazy things and, in this case, has incited the first resignation in the Malaysian monarchy since the nation gained independence from the UK sixty years ago.
Following his failure to attend a public event on November 2nd, the 49-year-old former king has been subject to months of speculation and suspicion in regards to his alleged marriage to Oksana Voevidina, Miss Moscow 2015.
While his public absence was officially due to an undisclosed "medical condition", by the end of the month, photographs and video footage surfaced showing what appears to be a wedding ceremony in Russia with the Sultan marrying Voevidina.
Twenty days after his public absence, the wedding ceremony was conducted in a Moscow concert hall.
“The bride wore a white gown, her bridesmaid court was dressed in blue and the king wore traditional Malay garb. Voevidina reportedly converted to Islam last April” – (People Magazine)
Amid these claims, the National Palace stated that the King's resignation would take effect immediately and left no explanation as to why he was resigning.
"His Majesty tells the people of Malaysia to continue to be united to maintain unity, tolerance, and work together," a statement from the palace reported.
It added that the King, who took the throne in December 2016, was "ready to return home to the state of Kelantan", while Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, would continue as acting King until the Council of Rulers selects a new monarch.
The nation of Malaysia
Malaysia has one of the unique monarchies in the world in which its King is elected to serve the country on a rotational basis.
"The nine members of the Conference of Rulers elect the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or Supreme Ruler, who will serve for five years. The nine are the hereditary Malay Rulers from the states of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Perlis, Perak, Selangor and Terengganu.
The rotation system was suggested by Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong; an idea borrowed from Negri Sembilan where the nine region chiefs take turns to be the Yang di-Pertuan Besar." –(The Star online)
Despite kingship being mostly ceremonial, with sovereign power resting in the hands of parliament and the Prime Minister, this traditional custom is highly revered and prestigious.
The role of an elected Yang di-Pertuan Agong is essential to the Malay people, particularly amongst the country's Malay Muslim majority, as the elected king is believed to be upholding Malay and Islamic tradition. Criticism deemed to incite contempt of the king can attract a jail term.
The dichotomy between these two religious and political powers resembles the tensions between the Church and state in the western world. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has had a tense relationship with the Sultans ever since he returned to office in a shock election victory last May when he attempted to limit their authority.
In the world of Kings and Queens and paupers and peasants, this is not the first time that love has overcome class. Where the lines between the proletariat and the aristocracy are blurred; Karl Marx would be happy.
Much like the scandalous story of the British King Edward VIII and his divorced American sweetheart, Wallis Simpson, love has often defied social barriers.
Much like King Edward, Former Princess Ayako of Japan faced significant repercussions in 2018 when she married Kei Moriya, a commoner and employee of a major shipping company.
Although the law of Japan's Imperial House mandates that female members of the royal family must surrender their title, fortune, and place should they choose to marry a commoner, Princess Ayako was neither the first nor the last to give everything up.
Ayako's second cousin, former Princess Mako, followed in her footsteps and also relinquished her title to marry a commoner, Kei Komuro, in 2020. She officially left her status in September 2017 for her college sweetheart, a graduate student from the International Christian University in Tokyo, after the couple met at a study-abroad event in Shibuya — a district in Tokyo.
The wedding was postponed due to feelings that they had rushed the decision to marry: "It is because of our immaturity and we just regret it," the couple told CNN.
Formerly, Princess Sayako had married a commoner in 2005 and became the first Japanese royal to relinquish their royal status.
Her husband Mr Kuroda, a town planner who worked for the Tokyo metropolitan government, was both a childhood acquaintance of the princess and a close friend of her brother, Prince Akishino.
While there is little known about their relationship, the couple attended the same Tokyo university and are said to have a shared interest in wildlife.
As a result of these women and their remarkable stories, issues of gender roles have surfaced with the Japanese public, with questions emerging as to why women are unable to ascend to the chrysanthemum throne and why they must relinquish their title to marry, where male monarch do not.