Friday, March 03, 2006

The Masako Problem

It has been reported in the Japanese media, normally so deferential to the royal family, that Crown Princess Masako wants to divorce Crown Prince Naruhito. Whether this turns out to be true or not, I take exception to the last sentence in the article:

"Her withdrawal from the imperial family would certainly solve a lot of problems."

By way of background: Crown Princess Masako married into the Japanese royal family 13 years ago. Educated, and accomplished, she gave up a promising career as a diplomat in order to do so. Since then she has been stifled and under pressure to produce a male heir to the Chrysanthemum throne. After eight years of marriage, and one miscarriage, she did have a child. Instead of it being the much wanted male, it was a girl. Somewhat disappointing as females cannot inherit the throne and no male has been born into the royal family in 40 years.

It should have been a happy event, the birth of a healthy baby, but it just put more pressure on Masako. As a result, she suffered what has been referred to as an 'adjustment disorder' and she has rarely been seen in public. It is highly unlikely that the Crown couple will have another child, and therefore a succession crisis has ensued, debating whether the laws should be changed to allow their only child, Princess Aiko, to inherit the throne.

Now, unless things have changed, the last time I checked, it was the male who determines the sex of the child. Females have nothing to do with it. Feel free to correct me on this. Do we see the Crown Prince being blamed for the lack of a male heir? Nope! Even though it could be said that he is more to 'blame' than she is. So why would it 'her departure solve a lot of problems'?

Marrying into the royal family might have been more than she anticipated, and departing might be best for her. Note that I said for her. Not for the royal family, not for the public. For her. Using Diana and Fergie as examples, it's difficult to marry into a royal family, especially the British royal family. But looking at the recent commoners who have married into the royal houses of Denmark Norway, the Netherlands, and Spain, some make the transition better than others. Why is this? These royal courts are far less restrictive than the Japanese one, the desire for a male child is not as crucial, and having the support of a loving husband seems to help. If nothing else, Masako seems to have the support of her spouse, but this might not be enough.

Should she divorce, Masako would become persona non grata in the Japanese court. Literally. Late last year, when her sister in law, Princess Sayako married a commoner, she gave up her royal status and her family. Masako was not born royal, but she too would effectively cease to exist, and there would be no going back. It's very likely that she would lose her child as well. Would that solve a lot of problems?

In light of the recent announcement that Princess Kiko, wife of the Emperor's second son, is expecting, this may take some of the pressure off Masako. Or it may not. Some may even think of it as a disappointment - 'Masako failed in her duty.' If this child is a boy, the traditionalists will be pleased and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. Let future generations deal with succession issues! Should this child be a girl, the debate would only be postponed by nine months.

Will that be Masako's problem? We'll have to wait until September to find out.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

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