By Ben Makori and Michael Holden
WINDSOR, England (Reuters) – This year’s celebrations marking Queen Elizabeth’s seven-decade reign will mask a less happy reality for the world’s preeminent royal family: Britain’s monarchy is being challenged in ways unthinkable during the major part of the last 70 years.
From the US Sexual Abuse Tribunal case https://www.Reuters.com/world/uk/what-we-know-about-virginia-giuffres-lawsuit-against-britains-prince-andrew-2022-01 -04 facing his son Prince Andrew to his grandson Prince Harry and the allegations of racism by his wife, who became queen on February 6, 1952, has been the subject of such intense scrutiny and headlines damaging.
Such is the respect for the Queen that as long as she lives, the institution which dates back nearly 1,000 years seems safe. What happens next is less certain.
“The monarchy and the queen are synonymous to most people,” Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, which has stepped up its campaign, told Reuters.
“Once we get past the end of the Queen’s reign, all bets are off as to where public opinion will go.”
He said that while a single Act of Parliament would be needed to end the monarchy, it was highly likely that a referendum would have to be held first.
The fortunes of the monarchy have had their ups and downs since their ancestor Norman King William I conquered England in 1066, but it wasn’t until the decade after King Charles I was executed in 1649 Britain became a republic.
During Elizabeth’s reign, depressions arose in the 1990s amid the failed marriages of three of her children and the 1997 death of Princess Diana, first wife of heir Prince Charles.
The highs included public outpourings of support at previous jubilees, the 2011 royal wedding of Elizabeth’s grandson – and future king – Prince William, and the birth of royal children.
Buckingham Palace said the four days of celebrations in June to mark Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee will provide “national moments of reflection on the Queen’s 70 years of service”.
A spokesman declined to comment on questions about the long-term future of the monarchy.
Proponents see the Queen as a stabilizing factor and cite the economic benefits the monarchy brings to Britain through tourism. Opponents argue that the institution is a bastion of unearned privilege, partially funded by taxpayers and undermined by the behavior of some members.
Andrew, 61, renowned by the media as Elizabeth’s favorite of her four children, was stripped 2022-01-13 of his royal patronages and military titles this month as he battles sexual abuse allegations in an American trial.
“For the monarchy, this is an extinction-level event. You can’t spend a thousand years telling everyone you’re special and then everyone finds out, in real time, in a court case, that you really aren’t,” wrote columnist Camilla Long in the Sunday Times newspaper.
Meanwhile, Prince Harry, once the most popular member of the Windsors, and his American wife Meghan gave up their royal duties to move to Los Angeles from where they delivered barbed wire attacks on the family and Buckingham Palace.
Charles has come under intense scrutiny after Michael Fawcett, his right-hand man and close confidant for decades, left https://www.Reuters.com/world/uk/uk-prince-charless-right- hand-man-quits-charity-role-after-honours-report-2021-11-12 his job as the head of one of the heir’s main charities amid allegations that he offered donations honors in exchange for donations.
Fawcett has not publicly commented on the allegations.
“I doubt (these scandals) are enough in themselves to make enough people in Britain believe that we shouldn’t have a monarchy,” said royal biographer Penny Junor.
CHANGE OF OPINION?
Polls suggest a comfortable majority think the monarchy should stay, with 83% having a positive opinion of Elizabeth, according to a poll in December. But there are worrying signs for the royal family.
Last November, Barbados relinquished https://www.reuters.com/world/prince-charles-travels-barbados-celebrate-creation-republic-2021-11-29 the Queen as head of state, Charles is far less popular and supported among young people appear to be declining, with polls suggesting a majority under 30 favors scrapping the monarchy.
“I don’t think it matters much anymore,” said student Margaux Butler, 20, of Windsor, where the Queen now spends most of her time.
“I despise this idea (of Charles being king). I don’t mind the royal family in general, but I think it’s a bit controversial and I think a lot of young people feel the same way.
However, ending the monarchy will take more than apathy towards Charles or damning tabloid headlines about Andrew or Harry. Indeed, those same newspapers now rarely publish negative stories about Charles, his wife Camilla, William and his wife Kate, all of whom have come under intense criticism in the past.
For some Britons, the scandals involving Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the turmoil of Donald Trump’s US presidency also make having an elected head of state a less attractive proposition.
The establishment also remains firmly behind the royal family.
There is no indication that the ruling Conservative party would accept an end to the monarchy, while the main opposition party, Labor, suffered a 2019 election in part because of a perceived lack of patriotism by its former leader.
Johnson remarked last year, after the death of Prince Philip, how Elizabeth’s husband of 73 years had helped his wife lead “the monarchy so that it remains an institution unquestionably vital to balance and happiness. of our national life”.
The royals themselves are also aware of how they must adapt to a changing world.
While politicians have suffered ‘brutal’ repudiation from the public at the polls, ‘for us a royal family, however, the message is often harder to read,’ said Elizabeth, who has never given an interview. during his reign, in a 1997 Speech.
“I’ve done my best…to interpret it correctly over the years of our marriage and my reign as your queen.” And we will, as a family, try together to do so in the future.
(Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Mike Collett-White)