Over the past few years I’ve chopped and changed my views about the monarchy. Surely a republic would be more suitable now, especially if it brought in with it a clearer statement of our democratic rights? But then, I love all the royal ceremonial, for one thing, even if it is in the same way as I dote on papal ritual – I don’t really believe in any of it, but it moves me. On the other hand, as many have pointed out, changing the constitution by getting rid of the monarch would involve a lot of expensive trouble. After all, we’ve done it before, and learned that kings can be – must be – controlled.
Perhaps the monarchy is in real terms insignificant. The pact agreed with the Elector of Hanover, when he came to Britain to become George I in succession to Queen Anne in 1714, probably amounted to an agreement that thenceforward all decisions would be made, albeit in his name, by parliament. In other words: reign but do not presume to rule. It has adapted over the years: I suppose that Victoria was the last sovereign to whom we ceded any political power at all. As Bagehot said, the monarchy is not the ‘efficient’ branch of our government. For now, the institution is tolerated, and loved by many. Whether that will survive the death of the present queen, no-one can say.
So Prince William might or might not become king. For now, most of us don’t mind the ambiguity and we wish him and Ms Middleton all happiness on the day of their engagement. We know we can do so with a greater degree of realism and confidence than we had in 1981.
The media is showing too much regard for that precedent. Why compare Kate with Diana? From what I see about her, she is a strong-minded, careful, confident and experienced woman in her late twenties bearing no resemblance to the ill-educated, not all that bright, very young flibbertigibbet who gave birth to William. Princess Katherine will make a better partner for the heir to the throne than ever the ‘people’s princess’ was, just as William appears to be somewhat less strange and conflicted than his father.
So have a good life together, guys. Don’t mind the flim-flam, just exploit it. Make yourselves a family away from the Windsors and enjoy it. Oh, and I have some suggestions about the music for the wedding…