Republicans beware! Royal happiness ahead?
Republicans might well be furious. Without wishing to jinx anything it seems almost impossible now that the Royal Wedding is going to be anything other than a success. Not that Republicans wish marital misery on anyone. It is just what comes with the collective happiness that will worry them.
To most people the couple seem likeable enough, with few of the oddities and aloofness of previous generations. The crowds might not be as feverish and in love with Kate Middleton as they were with Diana thirty years ago, but there is going to be a feel-good factor to Friday. The new princess has beauty, elegance and apparent modesty. She is clearly intelligent and will be the first Queen to have a degree. Her own background has gone from being portrayed as nouveau and slightly vulgar to self-made, middle class, aspirational. She is already the new superstar of the House of Windsor and unlike Diana is onside with the rest of the family, for now at least.
So has the Royal family pulled off the great turnaround of modern times? Well opinion polls would suggest so. They all say a vast majority think the country is better off with the monarchy than without it. There is no great appetite for elected Heads of State. The apparent contradictions of our leading politicians wanting social mobility, meritocracy and House of Lords reform while being apparently content to stick with a Queen or King don’t seem to trouble too many people.
Through the divorce soap-operas and the handling of Diana’s death the Queen has regained her place in the nation’s hearts. The deaths of the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and the successful Golden Jubilee combined with a real sense of marvel that a woman her age keeps on at the rate she does have meant a renewed affection towards the Queen in many households. So now William and Kate are coming along with such ease it’s a slam dunk for another hundred years of this right? Well maybe. Maybe not.
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Although there is nothing explicit to say Prince William and Kate are ultra-modernisers the hints are there. William’s insistence on living “ordinarily” in Wales, his pride at going to the shops himself, getting takeaways and videos, of being one of the lads and his ease with modern culture are striking. His choice of a girl from a self-made family with working class roots speaks volumes. His respect for her as an equal, in contrast to the way Charles sometimes appeared towards Diana in those early interviews is obvious, and new.
But before the pair are allowed to get their down to earth, “we’re just like you really” grip on the way the monarchy functions Charles and Camilla are going to have their go. And for all the talk of Charles being a great potential moderniser the older he gets the harder it could be to pull off. His understandable dislike of the media is increasingly obvious, while William’s is increasingly hidden. And although those who have met her tend to say Camilla is a huge and likeable asset Charles could be forgiven for being over-protective, defensive even about her. Even his great love of architecture and organic living could start to seem old-fashioned if he does not move to obviously modernise.
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In short the King could find himself struggling to keep up with the expectations of change set by his son and daughter in law. His great risk is that he appears out of touch, not just with the United Kingdom, but with his own family. The demand for William to take over before his father’s death might once again surface just as, it is said, Diana wanted.
So Republicans need not drown their sorrows just yet. The popularity of William and Kate might pose serious problems for their cause in the short term, but it might equally have the unintended consequence of destabilising a future King Charles. British public opinion can swing violently and quickly. Who knows which side should be more concerned for their futures?!
You can follow Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Twitter @krishgm