A right Royal confusion

Jill Segger
By Jill Segger
22 Nov 2010

It is not surprising that the hype around the engagement of William Windsor and Catherine Middleton should have been followed by polls commissioned by papers cashing in on the current wave of sentiment.

A Harris poll for the Daily Mail shows 48 per cent of respondents want to see the crown skip a generation whilst the figure revealed by the ICM News of the World poll gave a figure of 55 per cent taking the same view.

All the world loves a lover and whatever opinion one may hold about monarchy, there is little which is superficially unpleasing about this rather bland young couple.

But it is in comparison with his father, and with the ill-matched and ill-conducted union which he contracted, that the second in line to the throne has captured the public mood.

William Windsor has a proper job – and a search and rescue helicopter pilot is probably the least destructive of military roles. Physically, he resembles his mother, who was for so long the nation's sweetheart and to date, he has expressed no opinions which could offer hostages to fortune, nor has he indulged in the kind of youthful excess which attracts lasting opprobrium.

His fianceé has not been required to fulfil the role of sacrificial Protestant virgin which was the fate of his mother, and though she could hardly be described as an ordinary woman who has had to make her own way, Ms Middleton appears to be on a more equal and mature footing with her future husband than was the 19 year-old Diana who had quickly to come to terms with the fact that Charles Windsor had not married her for love.

If the present Queen shares in the longevity of her mother, she may well outlive her son. But over the next decade, it is unlikely that Charles will become less petulant, cranky and meddlesome. His popularity, already low, is likely to wane as the years render him less attractive and more out of touch than he already is.

Add into the mix all the over-excitement of a royal wedding and the birth of children to a couple perceived to be modern and blessed with reasonable looks, and the comparisons will become less and less favourable. There are few signs that the public is going to warm to the prospect of King Charles III.

But the surge of popular feeling generated by the engagement has pointed up the public inability to think rationally about the institution of monarchy.

The law of succession has nothing to do with the perceived attractiveness of the heir. Acquiescence in the absurdity of an hereditary head of state entails acceptance of what that system delivers. If the country wants to choose its head of state, it must accept the implications of that choice.

The weekend polls may not be the death knell of monarchy, but they are perhaps a first step towards the logic of a republic.

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger

Keywords: monarchy | republicanism
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