The Enduring Crown?

The Enduring Crown?

Posted on January 30 by David Johnson
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Royal watchers have much to look forward to in 2018. Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their third child in April. And just a month after this happy occasion, the world will watch as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchange their wedding vows.

Monarchists will revel in these events. The media, both nationally and internationally, will give them wall-to-wall coverage, and public opinion polling will probably indicate that popular support for the institution of the monarchy in Canada, Britain, and other parts of the Commonwealth, has increased.

It’s long been said that the greatest legacy of Elizabeth II’s 65-year reign is that she held the monarchy together in trying times. Over tumultuous decades of social change in Britain and across the Commonwealth — marked by heightened concerns for social equality, meritocracy, a decline of deference, an increase in public scrutiny and criticism of those in positions of power and authority, and growing disbelief toward those professing to be working for the common good — the Queen has done the seemingly impossible. She has taken an institution rooted in traditionalism, privilege, pomp, and ceremony, and kept it alive in an age of egalitarian cynicism.

At some point over the next decade or so, she will pass on to her heir apparent the Crown, storied in myth and history, with a political and constitutional legacy dating back over a millennium; a symbolic manifestation of the state, its power and authority, and the living link between Crown and country, between leaders and citizens. 

This passing of the torch, however, will not go unquestioned. The very popularity of the younger generation of royals, Will and Kate, Harry and Meghan, poses a problem for thinking monarchists, those who think beyond the celebrity status of the royals. Of course, the “problem” to these monarchists is very simple.

When Elizabeth II passes away, the Crown will go not to the “oh so popular” Prince William, with the lovely Catherine becoming the next Queen. Rather, the Crown will go, by right and tradition, to the monarch’s eldest heir, the 69-year-old Prince Charles. Our next Queen will not be the now 35-year-old Catherine, but Camilla, currently aged 70.

To thinking monarchists, this is the problem of celebrity and youth culture in an age of egalitarian cynicism. Devout monarchists will welcome Charles and Camilla as our next King and Queen, looking forward to how Charles reigns with his unique interests and passions. But many others — currently lukewarm supporters of monarchy and die-hard republicans committed to the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a Canadian republic — will likely look upon the new King with feelings ranging from disbelief and perplexity, to scorn, to anger. Do we really want to live under King Charles III? Or is it time to have a Canadian as our head of state?

The Battle Royal between monarchists and republicans in this country is coming.

David Johnson

Posted by Dundurn Guest on March 21, 2017
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David Johnson

David Johnson, a professor of political science at Cape Breton University, has studied and taught Canadian politics, government, and the constitution for over thirty years. His columns appear regularly in the Cape Breton Post. He lives in Sydney, Nova Scotia.