Thursday, January 20

Did Meghan and Harry bring the monarchy to an end? If only | Monarchy

WWill this be the moment? Will Meghan and Harry do to the monarchy what Diana threatened but never quite accomplished, shaking the institution so severely that it eventually collapses? Those who believe that the British should be able to elect their head of state have waited patiently for the crisis that finally unravels the House of Windsor, but this week they indulged in an emotion they have not known since the 1990s. Polls are stubbornly consistent, showing support for a flat-line republic about 20%But could Oprah’s interview and everything it revealed spark a change? Could this finally be?

The case for Republican optimism begins with the recognition that this latest turn is unprecedented. On the contrary, each generation seems to have its own iteration of the same plot, a love and marriage story that reveals a cold and closed institution that frustrates the happiness of its young people. It was Edward and Mrs. Simpson for my grandparents; Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend for my parents; Charles, Camilla and Diana for me, and now the Sussexes for my children. The public is divided along generational lines, the young people shake their fists in the palace while the royalists feel a tremor of fear, eager that the public will finally turn against the institution and demand its abolition.

Usually it’s about nothing, but, says the optimistic Republican, this time it’s different. Harry and Meghan have introduced a new radioactive element into the mix: race and racism. The next generation will not tolerate that, just as they will not forgive insensitive rejection of an avowed mental health problem. It’s true that Diana made that last complaint too, but attitudes toward mental health have advanced since then. From this point of view, the Windsors have crossed two lines which, for younger Britons, should never be crossed and which could destroy the public consent on which the monarchy rests.

The accusation of racism is particularly deadly, because conventional remedies are not available to royalty. They cannot promise to “prioritize diversity” or ensure that their staff “better reflect Britain in 2021” because that is not how a hereditary monarchy works. He assigns his main job, and therefore ours, by lineage. The role is reserved for members of a single white Protestant family. You cannot “modernize” to get out of that old fact, which contradicts everything we tell ourselves about our society. We like to talk about inclusiveness, but we forget that the role of head of state is determined by genetic exclusivity.

Meghan could have represented something of a response to that, bringing some diversity to the family. Instead, Republicans may be relieved that the monarchy has had a chance to deepen its support among black and mixed-race British – and screwed up. Furthermore, the palace cannot be consoled that this week was unique: the Sussex bombing could well continue, with Netflix as the launching pad.

Also relevant is the fact that the monarchy’s prized asset is a single mortal individual. Malcolm Turnbull, the former Australian Prime Minister who led the failure 1999 referendum campaign To remove the Queen as head of state of that country, she told me this week of “the enormous reserve of respect and affection” that exists for the monarch and that has long blocked the way to change. That’s even more true in the UK, where Elizabeth serves as the last symbolic link to what is the founding event of modern Britain: 1940, our best hour – and responds to a deep need for constancy and continuity, connecting the present with an almost unrecognizable past.

But the Queen will turn 95 next month; the second Elizabethan era will one day come to an end. His success has been based on meticulous neutrality and the mystique of silence, two qualities that his eldest son will not be able to replicate: we know where he stands because he has spoken so much.

All of which allows Republicans to hope for change. And yet, while I share your conviction that in a democracy we should elect our head of state, I have no hope that a breakthrough is imminent. First, there is the story. The Windsors have survived challenges far greater than an Oprah interview: Edward VIII abdicated and Diana ended up dead, the latter sparking a wave of fury that engulfed the streets instead of Twitter. For the Mirror to call this week’s events “worst real crisis in 85 yearsIt shows nothing but forgetfulness.

Second, revelations of family dysfunction do not undermine the monarchy as much as they explain its enduring appeal. One of the advantages of royalty over choosing an old eminence for president, Ireland-style, is that it provides a soap opera, a perpetual source of gossip, human drama and distraction. “It’s a reality show,” says Turnbull. Dysfunction is part of their role. Real breakups and scandal are not a mistake; they are a feature.

Which means that Republicans do not win when they support the case against the monarchy on the shortcomings of those who currently inhabit it. It is much better to state the case in principle. In Australia, that’s easy because the principle is very simple: Australia’s head of state should be Australian. The case here, that Britain can never be democratic or equal when the highest rung of our national ladder is under the permanent control of a single family, is also strong, but it can quickly sound abstract or dry, lost in the arid wastelands of ” Constitutional reform”. This is the Republican paradox: exciting arguments don’t work, powerful ones are boring.

Some reformers believe their time will come when the Queen’s reign ends. Once it is no longer about her, people will be receptive to the Republican argument. That forgets, however, that the system does not allow such an interval for the debate on the merits of Carlos III. It will be: “The Queen is dead, long live the King.”

There is a reason the monarchy has stood for so long. Despite all the Windsors’ glaring shortcomings, the odds are still in their favor. Republicanism is a just cause, but, for now at least, it seems like a lost cause.

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