The Perseverance of the Monarchy

It survives!

It is good that it does. There is nothing to say that Britain, Australia or any other country has to have a monarchy. It would be perfectly understandable if Australia decided to break its monarchical ties with Britain. There are many who would argue that it would be an essential step in Australia’s coming of age, the point at which it would finally outgrow its colonial master. There are few in Britain who would seek to stand in the way of Australian republicanism.

Yet monarchy has proved remarkably durable in Australia. We are nearly a generation on from 1999, when Australians voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to retain the monarchy, defying the wishes of a Constitutional Convention of appointed worthies. In the event, every state bar the Capital Territory rejected the proposed appointed presidency. There is little indication that the result would be any different now. While some polls have put support for a republic at just over 50 per cent, the polls in 1999, too, showed republicanism on course for victory. In the end, however, the public denied the political class what it wished for — which was its own aggrandisation.

That is the point about republicanism — in Britain, Australia and elsewhere. While it can seem notionally attractive, its appeal tends to wane when people realise what would almost certainly replace it: a party politician as head of state. ‘Would you like Britain to be a republic?’ is a question which is sure to elicit a different answer to ‘Would you like Tony Blair or David Cameron to be installed at Buckingham Palace and to swan around the world representing Britain?’ The current incumbents of the White House and the Elysée Palace do nothing to promote the cause of republicanism — one a narcissist and the other with the air of Napoleon. It is marked how modest, both in lifestyle and cost to the taxpayer, Elizabeth II — and all other monarchs of western democracies — seem in comparison.

The best part is how it was basically saved by its millennial generation. It’s actually so strong that Charles may not even have to abdicate and let it pass him by, which some people suspected would be the only way it could be saved.

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20 thoughts on “The Perseverance of the Monarchy

  1. I think it also helps that Elizabeth has lasted as long as she has, and has been able to rehabilitate her image and her family’s over the past 15 years. If Charles had been in charge for most of the period after the annus horriblus & Diana’s death, I dare say things would be different.

    (I also think Tony Blair deserves some credit for being a centre-left pro-monarchist 3rd way fusionist at the exact time the monarchy needed that the most).

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  2. The article, or at least the quoted portion, seems to conflate the presidential and quasi-presidential systems of the US and France with what I imagine was proposed in Australia: a mostly-ceremonial “head of state” president. If all that’s asked for is a ceremonial head of state, then why not stick with what you already have? And as others have pointed out, Elizabeth 2.0 has rehabilitated the institution as well.

    That said, if what was proposed for Australia was more than just a ceremonial head of state, then the calculations are definitely different.

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    • IIRC, one of the reasons the Republic vote in Australia failed is because there wasn’t a consensus on some of the specific mechanics o the republic. There was a disagreement between whether the President should be elected or appointed by Parliament (those of you who know a little about the drafting of the Constitution might find this dispute familiar).

      You have the essential dilemma down – if the President is appointed by Parliament then they’re really no different than the Governor General. But there’s also a lot of people in this part of the world who don’t want to copy the US or France, and in my opinion there are good reasons not to.

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      • But there’s also a lot of people in this part of the world who don’t want to copy the US or France, and in my opinion there are good reasons not to.

        Yeah, I’m moving toward the side of supporting reforms to the US constitution that would make its government more parliamentary-ish. Not that those reforms would get much traction here.

        ETA: Thanks, by the way, for informing me on some of what was being debated in Australia.

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  3. The thing about the millennial generation saving the royal family is that they will age out of their adorableness. Feelings about Prince Charles were much the same, until one day he woke up as a middle aged privileged white guy. Now he isn’t even that. He is a old privileged white guy with a history of shouting at clouds. Prince Harry is the youngest of the next generation, and he is 34. His clock is ticking loudly. Getting a hot wife will give him a few extra years, and apparently she is preparing to start popping out babies. Everyone loves babies. So that will help. Also, he has good hair. That puts him up over his older brother, who I suspect benefits from Harry drawing most of the attention nowadays.

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