Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Queen of the South

Bonnie Malkin writes:

Less than a week before Prince William and Catherine Middleton are due to marry at Westminster Abbey, a poll of 1200 voters conducted for The Australian newspaper found that support for a republic had slumped to 41 per cent, its lowest level since 1994, with just 25 per cent strongly in favour of dropping the Queen as head of state.

Some 39 per cent were opposed to a republic and one fifth had no opinion either way. However, the prospect of Prince Charles as head of state seemed to boost the republican cause, with 48 per cent in favour of a republic when the Prince is on the throne. Prince William enjoyed slightly stronger support, with 45 per cent in favour of a republic when he becomes King. The fall in support for cutting ties with the Crown comes after Prince William undertook a whirlwind tour of flood-ravaged parts of Australia last month, where he enjoyed a rapturous welcome from thousands of fans.

Interest in the royal wedding has also reached fever pitch in Australia, with some commercial channels sending more than 40 members of staff to cover the event. Friday night football, an almost sacred weekend ritual, has been bumped to digital TV so that four free-to-airchannels can stream the ceremony live. Millions are expected to tune in. While interest in the impending nuptials is likely to have coloured the results of the poll, momentum for a second referendum on the monarchy - the first in 1999 delivered a resounding “no” - has failed to build in Australia over the last few years, in part due to a lack of enthusiasm among politicians. Julia Gillard, the prime minister, is an avowed republican, but has repeatedly said there will be no new vote while the Queen is on the throne.

However, Australia is still seen as a potential foil to changes to the Act of Settlement, which gives male heirs priority in the Royal line of succession. While changing the law is popular in Britain, any amendments to the Act would also have to be approved in all nations where the Queen is head of state and there are fears that it could prompt a campaign to remove the monarchy in Australia.

That very last part is correct, although the part before it is not: just as any Commonwealth Realm may abolish the monarchy at will, so it may also alter its Law of Succession to suit itself, although I should of course be the first person to caution against its ever doing so.

If the neoconservative nightmare of vast neoliberal "republican" federations across Europe, North America and Australasia were ever to become a reality, then expect the same person to remain Head of the former United Kingdom or whatever entities it was divided up into (each with the Union Flag still somewhere on its own), of each of the former Australian states and of New Zealand (all retaining their Blue Ensigns, the monarch's status in each Australian state being entirely distinct from that at federal level), and of at least some former Canadian provinces (several of which also retain the Union Flag somewhere on their own, and the Crown in right of each of them being, again, entirely distinct from the Crown in right of Canada). The Australasian one might very well include other parts of the Pacific likewise still so headed and so flagged.

"Not until the present Queen dies" is not only an utterly unprincipled position, yet tellingly now the only one ever articulated anywhere where she is the monarch, but it is also, as those expressing it must surely know, founded on a fallacy: the succession happens in an instant. In any case, Prince Charles has never been as unpopular as those who regard him as a generational traitor, and who were attached to the rather silly figure of his late ex-wife, would have us believe, and Friday's events will only strengthen his standing as a National Treasure in at least 16 nations.

The monarchy was hugely unpopular, not least in Australia, in the middle of the Victorian Period, with that Queen branded "a
hausfrau" in Antipodean newspapers. The monarchy was hugely popular, not least in Australia, by the time of the Diamond Jubilee. Next year, there will be another Diamond Jubilee.

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