Will The British Monarchy Survive Another Generation?
At this point, I imagine everybody has heard about the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 9/8/2022. Although I have never had much of an opinion on her, nor the royal family more generally, I do have to admit that it is a highly significant loss — and easily the most important death of 2022. Regardless of what you think of her — and there are reasons to both love and hate her, make no mistake — it is impossible to deny that her role as the face of the United Kingdom’s monarchy was an important one, as well as one that many could only imagine her fulfilling.
Queen Elizabeth began her rule after the death of King George IV on 2/6/1952, although she would not get an official coronation until 6/2/1953, over a year later. To give everybody an idea of just how long ago that was, former President Barack Obama was born on 8/4/1961, and our current Vice President Kamala Harris was born on 10/20/1964. Liz Truss, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after Borris Johnson resigned, was born on 7/26/1975. Johnson himself has also only lived under Elizabeth’s rule, being born on 6/19/1964. Theresa May was born on 10/1/1956 and David Cameron was born on 10/9/1966. The most recent Prime Minister to have lived under a monarch other than Elizabeth was Gordon Brown, who was born on 2/20/1951.
I could continue going through world leaders who have only lived during the rule of Elizabeth, but I think the point has been made clear. At this point, one cannot imagine a monarchy without her — again, because she has been the monarch for the entire life of the majority of people on this planet at the moment.
The day after her death, her oldest son Prince Charles was quickly turned into king — becoming King Charles III. Mind you, unlike Elizabeth who had a fairly uncontroversial namesake — outside of rumors that the first Queen Elizabeth was secretly a man — Jason Campbell pointed out on Twitter that Charles does not have the same luck:
For that matter, unlike Elizabeth who was only twenty-five when she began her rule as Queen, Charles is seventy-three — making him the oldest person to become king in British history. It is not as if their are not younger people in his line of succession — Prince Williams is only forty and Prince George is currently nine — but the move from one old person to another old person should certainly strike the British public as notable.
During the final days of the Soviet Union, one of its defining factors was how often old men would become rulers. Yuri Andropov was born in 1914 and died while Primer in 1984, he was then replaced with Konstantin Chernenko who was born in 1911. Although nothing like this would happen in the British system, I still feel the need to remind everybody that a hereditary monarchy is by definition nothing more than a group of insiders — except unlike the Soviet leaders, the British royal family has had multiple decades of bad press.
King Charles is not a figure free from controversy, in his seven decades in public life he has angered people through his activism around climate change, his support for population control in third world countries, and his belief in homeopathy. Can the British monarchy survive moving from an uncontroversial elder who ruled for seven decades to a controversial one who entered office at the average age of death for the typical British citizen? The British monarchy in general is viewed as nothing more than a tradition the people of the United Kingdom mindlessly go along with, at least as anti-monarchy views became more popular the British monarchy was able to survive through having a well liked leader. Does King Charles have the same ability to be a likable and hands off ruler like his mother was? To be blunt, I highly doubt it.