In my English textbook, I read the following joke. A member of a club for noblemen and gentlemen publicly said, "I appeal to the nobleman who has taken my umbrella to put it back in place."
"But how do you know he was a nobleman?" somebody asked.
"Because this is a club for noblemen and gentlemen, and the person who took my umbrella was certainly no gentleman."
By definition, noblemen were regarded as different from other people. In the modern world where people have been stripped from privileges, we could expect members of the old aristocratic families either to be like everybody else or to try to be even better, "noblesse oblige". But in fact modern noblemen are quite like their ancestors and think they needn't obey the laws and moral rules valid for the plebs. They would be just a nuisance if they were stealing only umbrellas, but unfortunately they steal much more, given the opportunity.
We in Bulgaria have unfortunate experience with Simeon II Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. After the 1943 death of his father, the popular king Boris III, 6-year-old Simeon was crowned as king of Bulgaria. Three yeas later, Communists forged a referendum for republican rule and sent the boy into exile. Throughout the communist era Simeon was a symbol of the old Bulgaria which freedom-loving people dreamed to resurrect one day. After 1989, Simeon was saught and interviewed, many groups of citizens were asking for his return. However, his charm soon began to fade in the eyes of thinking Bulgarians. He said virtually nothing against the Communists. He didn't take part in the 1996-97 campaign to overthrow the Communist
Videnov government which reduced the monthly incomes to one-digit dollar equivalents. After we managed to get rid of that government and midterm elections were called in early 1997, Simeon came to Bulgaria and supported - guess whom! - Ahmed Dogan, rightfully called "The curse of Bulgaria", head of the Turkish party DPS and agent of the Communist State Security. At that time, the last thinking Bulgarian monarchists jumped to the Republican camp, agreeing that even if we are to be ruled by a piece of scum, it's more fun to elect that piece of scum ourselves than to have it installed over us by rules of heredity.
Unfortunately, thinking people are not a majority in Bulgaria. The rightist government formed after the 1997 elections was the best we had seen. Economy and incomes were steadily growing, rule of law was generally OK. However, as the short-minded began to forget the terrible 1996/97 winter, irrational anti-government sentiments accumulated. They seemed to be of the same kind as the equally irrational European anti-Americanism. The media fanned the flames. And as regular elections were called in 2001, a new actor emerged: Simeon returned to Bulgaria, formed a party - NDSV ("National movement Simeon II") and registered for the elections. His platform was a masterpiece of primitive populism; he promised "immediate and non-symbolical increase of incomes" and "end of the conflicts between political parties". Opponents pointed out that the first promise was incompatible with laws of economy, while the second one was against the multi-party system, the fundament of democracy. But voters said, "Fuck economy, fuck democracy, the King will solve our problems". Simeon enjoyed a sweeping victory.
The rule of Simeon's government was marked by freezing of incomes, out-of-control stealing, institutionalized corruption and degradation of rule of law. Simeon used his privileged position to "restore his ownership" over land and buildings worth about $ 200 millions. In fact, this property used to belonge to the Crown (i.e. the Bulgarian state), not to the person Simeon II. Simeon's son arranged a deal that made him rich but increased the already huge external debt of Bulgaria.
At the regular election in 2005, Communists (Socialists) received most votes but not enough to form a government. So they formed a coalition including Simeon's party NDSV and the Turkish party. It is curious that this coalition is headed by a triumvirate which doesn't include a single Bulgarian (Socialist leader Stanishev is a Russian, Simeon is of German origin and Ahmed Dogan is an ethnic Turk.) Dr. Shterev who said that cancer patients shouldn't be treated is a member of the NDSV parliamentary group. Economy, incomes, rule of law, everything continues to stay frozen at a very miserable level.
Now, a very sweet scandal in unfolding in Italy around a local umbrella-stealing nobleman: Prince Victor Emmanuel, son of the last Italian king and cousin of Simeon. You can read details e.g. at http://www.sundayherald.com/56281. The Prince was "accused of corruption, criminal conspiracy and exploiting prostitutes" and spent several days arrested (now under house arrest). "The prosecution claims the prince is leader of a criminal group and had used his contacts to corrupt Italian officials responsible for granting licences for electronic gambling machines. In some cases, the machines were allegedly tampered with to reduce punters’ chances of winning. Emmanuel and his associates are accused of procuring Eastern European prostitutes for clients of the Campione d’Italia casino... Prosecutors also claim dodgy slot machines were distributed in Libya and Russia and that Emmanuel used his connection to his cousin, the former Bulgarian prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and bribery to bid for contracts to build a hospital and to provide telephone services in Bulgaria."
That hospital, as it was projected, had a cost 6-7 times more than the real price of a hospital of this class. Guess where the difference would go. Thank Heavens and some vigilant people, this particular scheme to rob Bulgarian taxpayers was stopped in time.
Also, from Italy came information that Simeon received from his cousin's group money to fund his 2004 election campaign.
Frankly said, after Simeon's rule began in 2001, at moments I fully understand the West-European revolutionaries who were cutting noblemen's heads in past centuries. Not that I really recommend this practice; but why does the average person still tend to regard noblemen as superior? He'd better be wary when they are around, or his umbrella may go...