Rob Fitzpatrick discusses the current mood surrounding the monarchy in Britain and why we should care about it here in Ireland.
The queen ruled for over 70 years, and despite the negative symbol she was for a lot of the world, she still managed to gain the respect of the masses. Maybe it was due to her stature as an old woman, but the way in which the queen conducted herself was one that the average Briton was able to feel proud of. Upon the death of the queen, hundreds of messages appeared from some of the most influential people in the world. From all corners of the globe there was an outpouring of affection - even from some of the places most impacted by Britain's imperial, colonial past. Of course, there were some outliers such as Critical Race theory professor Uju Anya and journalist Trevor Sinclair - but they suffered huge waves of backlash for expressing their opinions online. For the average British person, having the Queen as head of state, and by extension a constitutional monarchy was a status quo that was indubitable. Of course, with the Queen now past and a new era of British history beginning, conversations have begun to arise surrounding the system that has governed Britain since the 1600s and whether it is suitable for a modern society.
“Arguments against the monarchy are ones that fit in with the idea of modern Britain. The existence of a monarchy supposes that there is some sort of blood superiority among those born into the royal family which does not meet the equitable nature of modern British society”
British society is hugely different from the time that the Queen took the throne. Multiculturalism increased within the UK alongside the rights that are afforded to all people regardless of their skin colour, ethnicity or sexuality. Although it would be a stretch to say that all is good in modern Britain, it is certainly more equitable than the Britain of the 1950s. With globalisation and greater access to education, people have been exposed to ideas that only the lucky would have had the time to ponder and implement in the past. Alongside this is the decrease in popularity of the Church of England, a key cornerstone of the monarchy and the Divine Right to rule that enabled monarchs to keep their power and be respected by the majority. In a modern Britain that is not as curtailed by tradition and religion, with citizens being exposed to ideas of how they are governed, constitutional monarchy is something that may not appeal to the majority anymore. Of course for some it is still a key part of their national identity, and something that plays a huge role in their day to day lives.
According to YouGov polls, in the early to mid 2010s support for the monarchy was between 75 to 80% of the British public and today it has fallen to between 66 to 55%, a steep decline over the course of a few years. The Queen's personal popularity was always much higher than the monarchy at large.
“The alternative to a constitutional monarchy, a republic, offers a more democratic and representative head of state”
In the wake of the Queen's death there have already been calls for a departure from the monarchy in many commonwealth countries. Arguments against the monarchy are ones that fit in with the idea of modern Britain. The existence of a monarchy supposes that there is some sort of blood superiority among those born into the royal family which does not meet the equitable nature of modern British society. The lifestyle and funding that the royal family receives is something that is often highlighted as unfair particularly given the plight of working class Britain, particularly in the North. The alternative to a constitutional monarchy, a republic, offers a more democratic and representative head of state. Claims say it would cost the taxpayer less and provide an ambassador who was chosen by the people. Protests from Celtic fans being highly condemned and individuals being arrested for disturbing the peace during mourning processions determine that it is unclear what reception republicanism will gain. Perhaps at present, in the immediate aftermath of the death of the Queen, the time isn't the right time for republicanism.
King Charles III has the good will of the people and their sympathy at the moment. His past and his current mannerisms and actions are something for the monarchy to be wary of. King Charles was very unpopular for the way he treated Princess Diana, who was loved by the British Public due to her perceived openness, kindness and sincerity. When it was revealed that he had committed adultery, it severely impacted his public image. Following the death of Dianna, the Crown reacted in a notably subdued manner, to the ire of the British public’s view of the monarchy and even the Queen.
“While we down south may laugh at 24-hour coverage of a hearse roaming the Scottish highlands, for the people whom we share this island with, it is something that may have a deeper meaning”
The hatred for Camilla, who is now the Queen consort, arose from the People's love of Diana. Although Camilla has been involved in various charitable pursuits, she has never managed to gain the love of the people. While meme compilations make up Charles' first few days as King, the strength of the crown is still the memory of his mother and not because of any of his own actions. Charles' son William is undoubtedly more popular. Following recent events and accusations from Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the popularity of the family is one that is waning.
Once the mourning period is over and football matches can be played again, will the British people care about the monarchy? Will they resent it? Or will it sink back into the unassuming status quo that it was. If the end of the monarchy is coming then the political ramifications on Northern Ireland and Ireland will be massive. While we down south may laugh at 24-hour coverage of a hearse roaming the Scottish highlands, for the people whom we share this island with, it is something that may have a deeper meaning. Understanding the monarchy and understanding the effect it has on people's lives is the key to understanding identity in the North of Ireland, and the key to reconciliation.