(L-R) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince George of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (R) watch the fly-past from the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the Trooping The Colour ceremony on June 13, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Artillery Row

Down with the Crown

The Sussexes are just one minor factor among a number that could ultimately lead to the demise of the monarchy

I realised the contempt certain royalists harbour for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had surpassed that for Camilla Parker Bowles during the previous marriage of the Prince of Wales, when an ailing monarchist said: “These are two lives that don’t matter”. This was a royalist who’d attended street parties for jubilees and celebrated the weddings of the princes Charles, Andrew, William and Harry.

Rumours are the Queen will hand over the reins to number one son in 2022

When these ancient British royalists die the reverence will go with them, as the rising generation has little interest in the Royal Family. The surviving adulation for the Queen doesn’t extend to other members of the House of Windsor, including the heir apparent. This poses the question that will gain momentum when the Queen retires or dies: Should the British monarchy be abolished? Or, at least, should it go when the Queen goes? Rumours are she will hand over the reins to number one son in 2022, the year of her Platinum Jubilee.

In the distant past these questions were posed by those dismissed as mavericks, like the Labour MP Willie Hamilton (he described the Queen as “a clockwork doll”). Back then it was an even more undemocratic, anachronistic institution defined by pedigree, bloodline and wealth; the top tier of a class system in which the most loyal royal subjects were the poor proles at the bottom of the pile.

Over time some of us republicans developed a grudging respect for the Queen because of her longevity; an approach to duty and decorum that grew more apparent as her male offspring became identified by their absence of purpose. The rich history of her reign, the prime ministers she has seen come and go and the major political events she has been privy to are documented in The Crown (the fourth series is broadcast on Netflix today).

As each instalment moves the royal saga along, the more the monarchy is exposed as a tired, hackneyed institution. Arguably it looked pretty quaint in the early-1950s, with the masses living in the aftermath of austerity and the final days of rationing. Prince Charles plans to fillet the team and create a slimline model, with the young of the breed embracing a thoroughly modern monarchy that reflects the twenty-first century. But how about we truly jump into the present and get rid of it all together?

Were there to be a referendum the royalists would walk it

It’s odd that the tiresome upper-middle-class protestors that take to the streets in the name of democracy, equality and class war never rally against something as class-based and undemocratic as the monarchy. They have a destination, a palace in the heart of the capital where they could assemble and make the case for the cause. It would doubtless take that or trending on social media for a republican movement to attract attention, as previous online campaigns clocked up paltry numbers of clicks.

Were the proposition to be seriously considered it would be as lengthy as the business of abolition itself – a political and constitutional nightmare. Were there to be a referendum the royalists would walk it, as a YouGov report revealed that seven out of ten people support the monarchy. But this might not be the case in ten- or twenty-years’ time.

A number of long-term republicans from the left suddenly became royalists when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. Columnists at The Guardian fawned over the new royal bride because she has a black mother, and naturally the criticism later levelled at her was entirely attributable to racism. The causes the couple champion chime with the left and the aforementioned middle-class protestors, even though these are contradicted by a lifestyle that reveals them as hypocrites to everyone else.

Once Markle had secured her future with a wedding ring and a child, a greater ambition emerged that was beyond her royal rank, talent and ability. Holed up with Zoom in Montecito, she takes the kind of folksy platitudes found on the lips of Michelle Obama and addresses professional women, whose titles and expertise dwarf that of a “Duchess” globally famous for marrying a rich royal.

Prince Harry recently talked of the racism his privileged, wealthy wife incurs on a daily basis, while declaring the Black Lives Matter “train” was one that everyone needed to be on. Clearly throwing those flag-waving honkies that turned up for the wedding, and helped pay for it, underneath it. Those still fond of the Sussexes feel antipathy towards the family they feel pushed the couple into exile, which further depletes the royal following. No matter how often the Cambridges bring smiles and amazed looks to children in wheelchairs drawing rainbows, their appeal is to the older, dying monarchist.

Historically, when the popularity of the British royal family is on the wane, a PR machine goes into overdrive in cahoots with much of the mainstream media in a bid to bump up the positives. Even during dips in popularity following the death of Princess Diana and around the wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles, the “firm” managed to ride the storm. Dead princesses were forgotten along with the infidelities of future kings.

2020 might be another annus horribilis when the Queen makes her Christmas Day speech. Covid-19 has left her and everyone else grounded. The ongoing drama around Prince Andrew and the Epstein scandal has brought sleaze to the public image. Then there’s the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, two titled chancers cashing in on the royal brand while destroying it abroad. At the wedding the Queen was captured staring at the bride seated in the pew in front of her, as American celebrities the couple barely knew or had never met passed by. It was a steely, scrutinising look as though she was wondering if this one might be trouble, just like Wallis Simpson and Diana Spencer.

If this was in fact her instinct, she’s been proved right. But the Sussexes are just one minor factor among a number that could ultimately lead to the demise of the monarchy. Thankfully, the Queen won’t be around to see it. Fortunately, some of us republicans might be.

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