The Perseverance of the Monarchy
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.