The end of an era and an establishment. Autumn news, summer flashbacks, and more.
Chronicling the lives of influential and often forgotten figures.
A King in the People's Palace
The Trajectory of Global
Dear History Lover,
As a nation's banner waves in the air, it appears to transmute; shifting in form, but not in function. It may look shapeless, however, it simultaneously upholds a symbol of structure. Recently, we
have witnessed a shifting political and governmental landscape. The past two months have been particularly awe-inspiring for our friends across the pond in Great Britain. Our insatiable fixation for 24/7 news means that one might have to be living in a cave, or, at least, off the grid, in order to have missed the headlines regarding monarchies and Downing Street as of late. It makes one wonder... will monarchical establishments survive?
To provide a balanced investigation of the trajectory of global royalty, one must first consider the opinions
of varied demographics. Fortunately, I have spent the last two months interviewing some UK citizens and, in doing so, can impart what I have learned from a varied selection of the population. Learning the opinions of a naturalized English citizen, who also maintains U.S. citizenship; an English-born engineer, who emigrated to Germany; and a middle aged UK couple visiting Boston whilst on a foliage cruise, I was surprised and similarly intrigued by the variance and range of opinions. Although
this article focuses on British royals, who are indisputably the most famous on earth, the content may also be applicable to the establishments of Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Monaco, Japan, Belgium, Belize, or any of the other 35 monarchies, other than those listed above, that still exist today.
I asked only two questions during the interview:
"What do you feel is the role of the monarch in Britain's day-to-day
"How do you anticipate the monarchy will move forward within the century?
A Monarch's Role
"A symbol of what many Britons believe makes the UK great," writes Molly Garboden, a naturalized Brit, who simultaneously reminds me that the overarching opinion amongst many of
her 35-45 year-old British-born compatriots, is that the institution "... spends lots of money that could be much more useful being spent on other things..." It "forms part of the national identity, not just as British people see it, but also as far as other people are concerned," states J.P., an Englishman, who has lived in various European nations throughout his life.
J.P.'s comment broaches an indelible question: Is it important to maintain the monarchy in order for a foreigner, such as an American, to understand the British identity? A husband
and wife visiting Boston onboard the Oceana Cruise Line might agree. When I asked them about the monarch's role, they mentioned the revenue earned by means of tourism and merchandise sales. Suddenly, my memory transported me back to Buckingham, Kensington, and Windsor Palaces, and to all those gift shops, where I could not but help secure several souvenir commemorative plates for prominent display in my home. Not only does the price of admission yield
money, but so does the swag sold in stores all over Great Britain. Is this enough to offset the costs? Unlikely.
Commemorative plates purchased while on a visit across the pond in 2014. Left to right: Commemorative plate with royal seal for Queen Victoria; Commemorative plate and royal seal for Queen Elizabeth II; Commemorative plate and royal seal for King William IV.
J.P. mentions that, "People, in general, are less accepting of members of a family that are privileged by birth... Meghan and Harry... [for example] have started a new life in another country and are still receiving funding from 'the Crown,' although not carrying out any
official duties on behalf of the country paying for it." The cruise ship guests admitted, "Our son hates the whole establishment and thinks it should be dismantled." It seems that serving as a tourist attraction will only take Charles III so far in his tenure on the throne.
Is King Charles to blame? Of course not. In fact, Charles was known to express a desire to trim the fat even during his marriage to Diana, while still being personally reliant on countless courtiers and "men in gray suits" (as Diana referred to them) in order to carry out his
daily tasks. When Princess Diana was persuaded to accept the terms of divorce, she maintained her Kensington Palace residence, funded by the Crown, but refused the Crown-funded police bodyguard, for she feared the Monarchy would continue to keep tabs on her whereabouts. "It must be slimmed down," states the leaf-peeping tourists. "Charles should do that, but it will definitely happen with William and Kate."
The Prince and Princess of Wales William and Kate. Source: tsaiproject.
How Will the Monarchy Move Forward in This Century?
I found myself asking, "Why does Charles III get a pass?" Is it because he is 73 years old and most certainly will not compete with the longevity of his esteemed Mother? Or, is there another, more sinister reason at play?
Queen Elizabeth II, "seemed very nice, and the fact that she was there... was stabilising and reassuring... She had a long history... and came to be a pleasant reminder of times when Britain was triumphant... the Queen built up a lot of public good will, simply by living for
so long, and following all the rules of decorum," states Garboden, implying that the, not-so-simple, act of living to the age of 96 may get you a pass for any indiscretions incurred in the prior 70 years of rule. It would, indeed, be difficult to imagine Britain without the face of their longest-serving monarch. Even J.P. states that we "see the face of the Monarch every day when we exchange money, which always carries an image of the ruling monarch (or their predecessor), unlike the Euro which,
as it is used and produced in many different European countries, will rarely carry the likeness of the Monarch..." The Royal cypher is visible everywhere you look, including on mail boxes, letterhead, official documents, and even postage stamps.
A theatrical set piece at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom, located in the Africa portion of the theme park shows the royal cypher of Great Britain.
One cannot help but consider the sinister perils of colonization.
Perhaps, as a product of British colonization, I am hard-pressed as an American to celebrate a colonial way of life in the sense of its true implications (we often use the word "colonial" to indicate the era between settlement and independence, though the accurate term for that era would be "17th and 18th century life"). In fact, throughout the calendar year, a different country celebrates independence from Great Britain roughly every six days! That, in itself, has largely reshaped the British
monarchy during the last 250 years or so and should continue to do so; yet the monarchy is embedded not only into the visual fabric of society, but also into the religious and political fabrics as well.
"There is no one to vote them in so they can't be voted out," explains our cruise shippers from abroad, while J.P. reminds us that, "alllaws to be passed or abolished must finally have the approval of the Monarch," though it is unlikely a Monarch would stand in the way of the Houses
of Parliament. Even when Harry and Meghan left the nation to take up residence in California, the best tabloid name that Fleet Street could come up with was "Megxit," likening a British Royal's departure from the nation as synonymous with England's exit (or "Brexit") from the European Union itself. If that does not imply synonymy between the Royals and the nation, nothing does.
All in all, the evidence of the generational rift amongst the interviewees proves that, although nearly all Britons agree that something must be done, very few people are putting any pressure on Charles III to do it. And then there is the topic of a rapid succession of Prime Ministers over the last two months to further lambast the security and confidence of a nation. Our middle-aged
voyagers' final remarks were, "Our generation largely likes them. They are the establishment. We can count on them being there." Certainly, when you can't count on a Prime Minister residing at 10 Downing Street for more than 6 weeks, it helps to not only know that Charles and Camilla will be in residence at Buckingham (or any of the other eight palaces, castles, and stately homes in the Monarch's possession). Additionally, unlike Denmark's Queen Margrethe, British Queen Consort Camilla most
certainly will not strip away the titles of her adopted grandchildren: Princes George, Archie, Louis, and Princesses Charlotte and Lilibet.
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