Relevant or relic?

May 14, 2023

In recent years, there have been calls for the British monarchy to be reformed or abolished altogether.

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he future of the British monarchy has come into question in recent years, with the decline in public support for the institution after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. While the monarchy continues to enjoy broad support, the National Centre for Social Research has found that those who believe the retention of the monarchy is “very important” stands at just 29 percent, the lowest proportion on record.

In general, the British monarchy remains a popular institution in the UK, with over 60 percent of respondents to surveys conducted in the past year considering it to be important, according to the annual British Social Attitudes Survey. The institution’s apparently enduring popularity may be tied to the personal popularity of Queen Elizabeth II, who won over many critics with her constancy and self-effacing public persona.

Some argue that the monarchy serves as an important symbol of national unity and continuity, providing a sense of stability in times of political upheaval. They also point to the economic benefits of the monarchy, including increased tourism and trade opportunities.

Despite being perceived as an anachronism, the British monarchy remains a popular political institution in the UK. Its future under King Charles III will depend on his ability to maintain its relevance and win over the public with his personality and policies.

King Charles III, who recently delivered his first public address, has big shoes to fill in this context. India and Pakistan, former British colonies, have expressed sadness at the queen’s death and paid tribute to her largely passive and uneventful role in these countries’ affairs. Elizabeth II’s policy of non-interference helped maintain cordial relations between the countries and the British monarchy. Many people in these countries have remained positive about their relationship with the monarchy, despite the gruesome servitude endured during the colonial era, and have praised Elizabeth II.

The controversy around the plundered diamonds and ivory displayed during King Charles III’s coronation has only highlighted the institution’s complexity, with the public invited to participate in the event sparking backlash. Princess Anne, sister of Charles III, claims that the monarchy provides long-term stability, which is difficult to achieve in any other way. The future of the institution may rest on King Charles III’s ability to persuade the younger generations of the monarchy’s value, as just 32 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds believe that the monarchy should continue, according to TIME magazine. The cost of the monarchy and its association with colonialism and slave trade have come under scrutiny in recent years.

Critics of the monarchy argue that the institution is outdated and irrelevant in modern society. They point to the cost of the monarchy, its history with colonialism and the slave trade, and the scandals that have plagued some members of the royal family. They also argue that King Charles III is not as popular as his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and that the younger generation is increasingly indifferent to the monarchy. Furthermore, not everyone is ready to gloss over Britain’s colonial past and the continuing influence of the monarchy in modern times.

The fact that King Charles III is now on the throne has also raised some concerns. While he is widely respected for his work on environmental issues and his charitable activities, he is also seen by some as being out of touch with modern society.

Princess Diana, the former wife of Prince Charles, was a prominent and beloved figure in British society. Her tragic death in 1997 led to an outpouring of grief and a reassessment of the role of the monarchy in the public consciousness. Diana was known for her humanitarian work and her willingness to challenge convention, which won her a devoted following both in the UK and abroad. She was seen as a breath of fresh air in the often-stuffy world of British royalty, and her legacy continues to inspire people to this day. The controversy surrounding Diana’s death and the public’s perception of Charles’s role in it could potentially contribute to declining popularity for the monarchy. Many people still hold strong feelings about Diana and her tragic end and some blame Charles for her untimely death. Additionally, the monarchy’s response to her death, including the initial reluctance to public mourning and the delayed flag-lowering at Buckingham Palace, created a rift between the royal family and the public, further damaging the monarchy’s image. Her life and death highlighted the personal struggles and vulnerabilities of the royal family.

In recent years, there have been calls for the British monarchy to be reformed or abolished altogether. Proponents of reform suggest that the monarchy could be made more accountable and transparent, with a greater emphasis on public service and civic engagement. Others argue that the time has come to move towards a more modern and democratic form of government, with an elected head of state and a written constitution.

The debate over the future of the British monarchy is likely to continue for some time. While there is no doubt that Queen Elizabeth II was a popular and respected figure both at home and abroad, the question remains as to whether the monarchy can remain relevant and effective under King Charles III. The monarchy’s association with birth right, its historical association with colonial plunder and its continuing association with a class system that leaves the aristocracy and gentry owning nearly a third of all English land are other issues that detractors point to.

The writer is a doctoral student at the London School of Economics.

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