21st Century Wire
It is a measure of the late Queen’s longevity that there are very few people alive who remember a time when Queen Elizabeth the second was not on the throne of the United Kingdom. She reigned longer than any monarch in known British history, and like her namesake Queen Elizabeth the First, she defined an era.
Whatever ones personal views on the monarchy an institution, the Queen conducted herself in public in exemplary fashion. Her passing though will present something of a challenge for the monarchy because the new King is nothing like as popular as his Mother. The Prince of Wales became King Charles III this afternoon when the Queen took her last breath, there being no possibility of an interregnum in the unwritten constitution. Love him or loathe him he is now King.
Nevertheless, there will be speculation that he abdicates in favour of his far more popular son William, possibly even before his own coronation. However, having waited 60 years for the Crown this is highly unlikely. There is also the question of his second wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who has been widely accepted by the British people as the valid consort to Charles, but it remains to be seen whether her title becomes one of Majesty as Queen or a lesser Queen consort coronation.
Credit: Steve Parsons/Press Association, via Associated Press)
The challenge Charles faces is that the Monarchy in Britain does not enjoy anything like the same level of public support that it did when Elizabeth ascended to the throne herself in 1952. Generations have passed since then. Moreover, Elizabeth herself commanded tremendous personal loyalty and respect including from people and influencers dubious about the institution she embodied. There will inevitably be calls for a referendum on the future of the monarchy and Republicans will be emboldened by her passing. However, while as a younger woman Britain’s new prime minister Liz Truss called for the abolition of the monarchy herself, the chances of there being any such vote are zero.
King Charles has indicated that he wishes to slim down the monarchy with his brother, the disgraced Duke of York, his sister the ever loyal Princess Royal the Princess Anne and spare part Edward (whose wife Sophie was particularly close to the Queen) all likely to be sidelined to varying degrees. Charles wants the focus to be on himself, his son and heir (who now becomes the Prince of Wales) and William and Catherine’s children. While there are royal duties to be carried out by peripheral members of the royal family, Charles’ intention appears to be to reduce the import and status operation of the peripheral members of “the firm”.
Operation London Bridge, the multi agency procedure to smooth and organise the arrangements now that the Queen has died is in full swing and the Queen’s funeral will doubtless be an elaborate, decorated and high protocol affair. A ritual to underline the power and significance of the Sovereign.
The Queen is dead. Long live the King!
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