Will The British Monarchy Remain Viable?
WILL THE BRITISH MONARCHY REMAIN VIABLE? by: RUBIN ROTHLER LL.B, LL,M
With an heir to the throne whom few, if any, respect or even take seriouslly, who has a grossly unpopular wife, a morally discredited brother, and a son who quit royalty, can there be another British Sovereign, titular head of Anglicanism, and figurehead of the Commonwealth, who anyone will pay any actual attention to?
Charles, Prince of Wales, lacks sufficient popularity and credibility to even perpetuate the monarchy as a tourist attraction, much less a time tested
venerated institution. Even other much disrespected monarchs in British history such as James I (and VI of Scotland) , the Hanovarian George III, and Charles I, all commanded at least some degree of prestige and loyalty. Now there is a widely perceived vaccum, only unlike as in ages past, one that is amplified by mass and social media.
The British monarchy faces a fundamental crisis in proportions arguably not seen since the first Jacobite rising and the Glorious Revolution of 1690. Challenges persist on several fronts. The Queen has enjoyed a popular reign. She is the longest reigning monarch in British history, surpassing even Queen Victoria. Her success greatly resides in the mystique that she captures as a largely unknown persona. She has carefully crafted this impression by declining to air her personal opinions in public. As such, she is deemed as being beyond politics. While in reality she employs significant influence over successive administrations by confidential weekly consultative meetings with each Prime Minister. Although longevity runs in her blood, the ripe old age of 95 is 95 – and mortality of course confronts us all. The passing of her spouse Prince Phillip was seen as the end of an age of sorts. Phillip was the wise Captain of the Royal ship, stealthily and carefully guiding its members through the currents of change. When the Queen passes, her direct heir – Prince Charles lacks the sufficient support that she was accustomed to.
Dating back to the turmoil surrounding the dissolution of Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana, Charles became an unpopular figure amongst a vast sector of the British public. He refused to be the first Prince of Wales to not have a mistress. This became a scandal akin to the troubles that led King Edward the eighth to abdicate due to his relations with the American divorcee Wallis. Princess Diana revealed to journalists how her husband’s extramarital affair with Camilla Parker Bolwes had devastated her and was the proximate cause of the breakdown of their marriage. This led most of the public to side with Diana and consider her a victim of Charles. Camilla has remained castigated as a marriage wrecker in the popular conscience and thus she is extremely unpopular with the public. It is categorically agreed that she cannot be queen. In an interview, Diana herself pronounced that Charles was not fit to be King and that the title should instead skip a generation to their son William. This was a view that came to be endorsed by much popular opinion.
The scandal engulfing Prince Andrew is yet another source of precarious extreme embarrassment to the institution of the Monarchy. When he was born, Andrew was second in line to the throne. Exacerbating this saga is the fact that his accuser is relentlessly civilly litigating against him in New York. At the time of writing Andrew is ‘hiding behind the loophole of a dead sex trafficker’ (Jeffrey Epstein) to evade civil liability. The conviction of his close friend Ghislaine Maxwell has brought matters to a head. Lawyers for Prince Andrew are arguing that the civil case against him brought by Virginia Guiffre should be dismissed at a hearing in New York. They are trying to use the wording of an agreement between Epstein and Guiffre that released all other potential defendants as grounds to have the case thrown out all together. If it does go to trial it could result in significant damages. But regardless of the judicial outcome, the damage to the Royal’s reputation has already been done. Her allegation of involuntary sexual intercourse speaks for itself. There will be plenty of time to explore the allegations during the discovery phase of the trial.
This article began by comparing the current royal crisis to the events leading up to the Glorious Revolution of 1690. At this juncture it is pertinent to very briefly summarize this historical impasse by way of comparison. When James the second succeeded to the throne there was a constitutional crisis deriving from the fact that he was a Roman Catholic, and by this time it had been settled that England was a Protestant nation. The crisis emboldened with the birth of a son that would have cemented a Catholic heir to the throne. Parliament and its allies in the City of London could not tolerate this state of affairs. They thus conspired to invite the Protestant William of Orange from the Netherlands to replace King James. The plan was for him to marry James’ daughter Mary and to rule as joint Sovereigns. William sailed with an army to Torquay on the southwestern coast of England. In the meantime Protestants in London rioted. Knowing that a Williamite army was marching on the capital, and losing his grip on the population drove James to abandon the City and flee to France. There with the assistance of his ally King Louis, James raised an army in an attempt to reconquer England. The plan was to land in Catholic Ireland as a staging post to invade the mainland. The only thing stopping James from securing Ireland however was the Protestant colonies in the plantation of Ulster in northern Ireland. The besieged Protestant defenders of Derry resisted the Crown forces until William’s army arrived and decisively defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne. Similar to James, Charles is breaking away from convention and historical tradition as he deems himself as defender of the ‘Faiths’ rather than defender of the Christian Faith only. This may further add weight to the vindication of the proposal that the throne should skip to William.
In terms of a prognosis for the future of the Monarchy – it would be prudent to place all bets on William succeeding to the throne as the best possible chance for future success and the survival of the Monarchy. In the future the institution must change and adapt its role along the lines of popular sentiment, that demands a slimmed down royal family like the Dutch Royal family. That there be a small number consisting of the core nuclear family. The age of the ruling class aristocracy has come to an end. As Prince Harry has demonstrated, there is more currency in celebrity than royalty for all but the direct heir to the throne. Harry’s spouse, the American divorcee Meagan Markle is often disliked by the British public. She resigned from her royal duties alongside Prince Harry for what appears to be a life of leisure in California. Many believe that Meghan was oblivious of the role she had adopted in the Royal Family, ignorant of the expectation to perform such a duty for life.