The Queen has risked an international outcry by inviting the King of Bahrain to a Diamond Jubilee banquet despite widespread criticism of his bloody and repressive regime. The English-educated Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is on the guest list for a lunch hosted by the Queen in May at Windsor Castle. He is also thought to be among those invited to a champagne dinner given by Prince Charles the same evening at Buckingham Palace.
The invitations will infuriate human rights campaigners and MPs angry at the Gulf state’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations. The country’s despotic rulers were accused of using brute force and torture to crush the protests last year, which saw more than 50 civilians killed and thousands arrested.
Will he, won’t he?
Buckingham Palace aides said yesterday that the King of Bahrain had not yet confirmed that he will attend the Diamond Jubilee lunch, which will take place at Windsor on May 18 and which will be a historic and intimate gathering of crowned heads. During the Golden Jubilee the Queen hosted a party for the sovereigns of Europe, but this is a much wider gathering of reigning monarchs from around the world.
Palace aides said the luncheon would tie in with the ‘Big Lunch’ theme of the Jubilee celebrations which encourages the British public to organise street meals around the country to celebrate. Prince Charles has organised a dinner on the same evening at Buckingham Palace as a personal ‘thank you’ to his mother, who will celebrate her 60 years on the Throne with a weekend of celebrations in June. Aides said it was the Queen’s idea to host the lunch and she was ‘delighted’ when Prince Charles offered to throw a dinner.
It is understood that the reigning heads of Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Andorra, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands and Norway will all attend the lunch. It is believed the elderly King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, has declined the invitation but is sending the crown prince in his place.
A Palace source said, “It was the Queen’s decision to host the lunch and her decision to invite every world sovereign. It would have been very rude to have left anyone off the list and the Queen would never want to offend anyone.” Buckingham Palace refused to comment on the guest list. A spokesman said, “We can’t confirm who has been invited or who has accepted.”
The royal connection
The king’s son, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, was last year invited to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton but pulled out at the last minute in a move that spared the couple from potential embarrassment. In January, the Countess of Wessex came under pressure to return lavish jewels given to her by the Bahrain royal family during a pre-Christmas visit to the country.