BRUSSELS, Belgium — Monarchies are easy to mock.
Buckingham Palace's use of the royal easel rather than Twitter to announce the new prince's birth, the pomp of Sunday's swearing in of Belgium's King Philippe — complete with bearskin-bedecked cavalry and 101-gun salutes — and Spanish King Juan Carlos's unpopular elephant-shooting spree in Botswana all look quaintly anachronistic in the 21st century.
"Expensive, unaccountable and a drag on our democratic process, the monarchy is a broken institution," declares the campaign group Republic, which claims to represent up to 12 million Brits who want to dump their monarchy.
However, the world's kings, queens, emperors, emirs, grand dukes, princes and sultans have some thoroughly hard-edged modern statistics on their side, suggesting a global shout of "vive la republique" might be premature.
Although monarchies make up less than a quarter of the world's states, they represent half the top 30 countries in the United Nations index of global well-being. They hold no fewer than seven of the top 10 places in the International Monetary Fund's ranking of countries with the wealthiest populations.
All but three of the 10 leading countries in the annual democracy ratings produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit are monarchies. They also take up 12 of the top 20 spots among least corrupt countries in Transparency International's corruption perception index as well as four out of the leading five in a UN happy country ranking released in 2011.
So does the success of countries like Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and Japan suggest that being ruled by a centuries-old dynasty brings more benefits than simply having a head of state who sports dashing uniforms, or the chance to fill your kitchen with souvenir royal baby mugs?
Naturally enough, in the land of Will, Kate and brand-new George Alexander Louis, there are plenty who think so.
"The British political system is the most stable in the world," says Phillip Blond, director of the London-based think tank ResPublica. "It's a lesson for all nations."
And he means all, suggesting that Britain's cousins across the Atlantic were less than wise back in 1776 — but still have time to make amends.
A well-known political commenter whom Prime Minister David Cameron once described as "at the cutting edge of progressive thinking," Blond believes the English monarchy is developing into a “global monarchy.”
"Countries that don't have monarchs need them," he said in an interview. "All you've got in America is a failed French system of democracy that just delivers oppositional results and prevents government from achieving anything."
"Americans share great common values, but their tragedy is that they've got nothing institutionally that reflects those common values,” he added. “That's the role that the monarchy has played ... so they need to develop a more British constitutional system."
The United States may not be about apply for membership of the British Commonwealth, despite the American media's fixation with all things royal baby, but in most of Europe's 12 monarchies, support for sovereign rulers is riding high.
Just 17 percent of Brits favor the United Kingdom’s becoming a republic, according to a poll published last week — a rate that's been pretty constant over the past 20 years.
In Sweden, 70 percent support the monarchy — although a growing number would like to see 67-year-old King Carl XVI Gustaf follow the recent example of the Dutch, Qatari and Belgian monarchs and abdicate, in favor of Crown Princess Victoria.
And in the Netherlands, three-quarters of citizens want their country to remain a monarchy — according to a poll published on the eve of King Willem-Alexander’s accession to the throne in April — even though half of those polled believe the monarchy should be modernized.
That wouldn’t be good enough for Anjo Clement, chairman of the New Republican Society in the Netherlands, who told GlobalPost that "it’s time to upgrade Dutch society with an elected president" rather than a royal family that "may be cute" but has no responsibility to the electorate.
The picture is less rosy for the royals in Belgium, where parties supporting the creation of a breakaway republic in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region took 44 percent of votes there in the 2010 elections.
King Philippe appealed for national unity at his swearing-in on Sunday, but the republicans are tipped to do well again when Belgium returns to the polls next year.
Juan Carlos is also facing challenges in recession-bound Spain.
His extravagant big-game hunt in southern Africa on top of allegations of embezzlement against other members of the royal family have prompted the monarchy's popularity to tumble. It scored just 3.68 out of 10 in a May opinion poll on its performance.
There are mounting calls for the 75-year-old king to step aside in favor of his son Felipe, Prince of Asturias.
That wasn’t always the case. Juan Carlos' accession to the throne in 1975 marked a rare example of a country returning to royal rule after a period as a republic. The only other country to do so in recent decades was Cambodia, with the return of King Sihanouk in 1993.
For all the talk of monarchies guaranteeing stability and national unity, however, there are few signs of other royal comebacks on the horizon.
That hasn’t stopped some people from trying in the most unlikely of places.
"Of course we believe there is a need for the monarchy, it is the political system which is nearest to the natural order of things," said Patrick Cosseron de Villenoisy, spokesman for France's Alliance Royale.
In an interview from Paris, he acknowledged the alliance has only 500 members, but says there are many more supporters despite "200 years during which the French have been intoxicated by the Republican system."
France's small but clamorous monarchist movement is also divided between those supporting the Bourbon line of King Louis XVI, who was guillotined during the French Revolution 220 years ago; backers of the House of Orleans, which briefly ruled during the 19th century; and fans of Emperor Napoleon who are anxious for a Bonaparte restoration.
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Cosseron de Villenoisy is adamant that once on the throne, the restored French kings should not adopt the mostly decorative and ceremonial roles of their neighbors.
"We're not talking about a monarchy of the Old Regime," he says. "We'll be democratic, but we want a king who really reigns, who has more or less the same prerogatives as our current presidents."
That will be tough going. Cosseron de Villenoisy was the movement's candidate in the country’s presidential election last year, but failed to secure a sufficient number of signatures to run.