Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee Woes: Dining with Despots, Snubbed by Spain

It isn't easy being Queen.

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Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa arrives at Windsor Castle, west of London, on May 18, 2012, for a Sovereign's Jubilee Lunch hosted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

A guest list is unlikely to please everyone. And today, the Queen of Britain has displeased a lot of people by inviting the King of Bahrain to her Sovereign Monarchs lunch at Windsor Castle to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. Critics allege that King Hamad Al-Khalifa is a brutal despot who has no place nibbling tartlet of poached egg alongside the Queen and the sovereigns of 25 other countries. “How would the British feel if the Queen had invited Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi to such an occasion?” a spokesperson for the human rights group Justice for Bahrain, Mohammed Sadiq, told the BBC.

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British anti-monarchy group Republic echoed this sentiment. “This is a catastrophic error of judgment,” said Republic’s chief executive Graham Smith in a statement. “The Queen’s decision to personally invite these tyrants to lunch sends an appalling message to the world.”

As ruler of Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa took swift and severe steps to put down dissent during the Arab Spring. According to Amnesty International, 60 people have been killed in Bahrain since the beginning of pro-democracy protests in February 2011. Republic and other activists plan to hold a protest outside Buckingham Palace Friday evening, while the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will be hosting the assembled royals for dinner.

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The controversy isn’t new: last year, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa declined an invitation to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding following public protests. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be present at the Queen’s lunch today, however.

But the Bahrain debacle is not the only controversy plaguing the Queen’s royal gathering. The presence of Swaziland’s King Mswati III has also raised eyebrows, as has the attendance of royals from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, reports the Telegraph.

And there’s more. The Queen’s lunch was also snubbed by Queen Sofia of Spain, who cancelled her plans to join the Jubilee celebrations in protest over Prince Edward’s upcoming visit to Gibraltar. (Spain claims it owns the Rock — the British have disagreed and maintained ownership for the last 300 years.) Spain’s conservative People’s party has expressed “displeasure and upset” over the Count of Wessex’s trip to Gibraltar in early June, reports the Guardian. The monarchy of Spain, meanwhile, is having its own problems: the royal family is still struggling to manage the p.r.  fallout of King Juan Carlos’ elephant-hunting jaunt to Botswana in April, leaving his citizens to wallow in recession.

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