Royalty watching can be fun. The Duchess of Cambridge is in her tenth month, and the British press is having a field day speculating on why the kid refuses to budge. It’s all in good fun (except for her, but she get’s paid for her trouble), primarily because the Royals haven’t actually ruled Britain since the 1830s. It’s the entertainment value that counts. Other Royals from other countries are similar.
At least on the north shore of the Med, that is.
You can actually see Saudi Arabia from Eilat. It’s on the left looking south from the beach. They have Royals too, thousands of them, in fact, and 99% of them are no more powerful than the Duchess of Cambridge or the Duke of York, but it’s the other one percent that are fascinating, they had a coup of sorts the other day, something nobody expected except maybe the participants, and what happened and why is something everyone in the Middle East should know about.
The House of Saud goes back nearly 300 years, but they only managed to get control of the country in 1932. A century and a decade ago, a defrocked prince named Abdul Aziz ibn Abdul Rahaman ibn etcetera Ibn Saud, and a few of his friends, armed only with scimitars and flintlocks, snuck into Rashidi Arabia and started to take back the country his incompetent father lost a quarter century before.
It’s a pretty remarkable story, really. He was a religious fanatic, and his followers were similar to ISIL or the Taliban, and as such, he was totally okay with slavery and polygamy. That means that when he was finally finished conquering the country, he already had something like 50 kids with 20 or so wives (to be fair, he’d only have four at a time, and most brides were sent home with a “package” and a pension, it was considered good politics back then), and by the time of his death in 1953, he had nearly a hundred, 45 or so were sons.
Abdul Aziz has been dead for over sixty years and they finally got to the last one, which brings us to this week’s coup.
Saudi Arabia had become gerontocracy. Unlike Great Britain or Spain, Saudi’s succession went from brother to brother and there were fights among them. Most of the Princes were the products of solemnized one-night stands and barely knew each other, or were more like second cousins. Prince Maqrin, the baby among the senior princes, is one of these.
King Salmon is not. Abdul Aziz had a REAL wife, Hassa bint Ahmed Al Sudairi, who gave him ten kids, seven of whom were boys. They are a “real” family of full brothers, and most of them have eight or ten kids. It The so-called “Sudairi Seven” and their progeny became the most powerful faction in the House of Saud.
Now the first of the Sudiaris to become king was Fahd, but the next prince on the list who wasn’t either a lunatic or a stinking drunk was Abdullah, who wasn’t, and as it was the king who chose who became second in line (an unworthy prince could be bought out of his inheritance for a billion shekels or two) he chose his full brother Sultan.
Now Sudirais control the Interior and Defense ministries, and Sultan and his brother Nayif began filling them up with loyalists. Then Sultan pretty much forced Abdullah to appoint Nayif deputy crown prince, and when they died within months of each other, Sultan, brother number six, stood up to the plate.
Abdullah had had enough of Sudiaris. There was one brother left who wasn’t unworthy or a Sudiari, Prince Maqrin. He became deputy crown prince in 2013.
Now, Abdullah was 90 years old and very sick. Salmon, who may have been faking Alzheimer’s, and his numerous sons and legion of nephews, knew very well the danger the clan faced from Muqrin, who could very well give them each a golden parachute and throw them out the palace window.
So they had a plan. Abdullah’s people got wind of it, but it was too late.
As soon as the old king died, the new King suddenly became bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Muqrin became Crown Prince, he couldn’t prevent that, but everyone who could be arrested was, and those who couldn’t were fired. One of the top Sudiaris, Muhammad bin Nayif, was made deputy crown prince and Salmon’s favorite son, also Muhammad, was showered with offices and sinecures.
There was work for everyone! That is except for the Crown Prince. Now how to get rid of him?
Now the king and the two Muhammads didn’t go to war in Yemen just to get rid of the Crown Prince. That actually was all about Yemen, and to some extent Iran, but the war didn’t go particularly well, and there is opposition. While there is solidarity in the House of Saud, with literally thousands of princes out there, Sudairis included, who would very much like to see someone else be king,
But in order to get the Sudairi branch of the House of Saud a monopoly of power forever, poor Muqrin, who was a nice guy and a hard worker, simply had to go.
Muhammad bin Sultan is in his early thirties and could still be king in 2070, by which time, the rest of the House of Saud would be no more than the equivalent of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Still, Muqriin seemed to be a decent fellow, sad to see him go.