With all the royal hubub over Prince William’s 21st birthday with it being crashed by an OBL impersonator, the Out of Africa Theme and copious amounts of photographers and biographers all wanting to see and hear one thing. That being “Do you (William) even want to take on the challenge of being king?”
His answer in short, " It is my duty, it is what I was born into, to become King"
Sounds rather empty if you ask me. I wonder if he really wants to be king. A few Questions come to mind.
What would British society be like without the royal family?
What if William ultimately decides, “No, I do not want to take the role?”
What if his reasoning revolves not around lack of respect for his riteful place but out of a self-desire to do more, to say: Pick his own wife, be out of the public’s eye, have a job/career?
What would this mean for the House Of Windsor? I mean Doesn’t he have the mentality of a Windsor afterall?
Antiquarian, I’m hardly an expert on the British political or social trends, but here’s my own very broad-brush view:
Brits are traditionalists to a much greater degree than is the national sentiment in most other places. That’s not to say that they’re wedded to tradition, just that they tend to be very conservative in making radical changes to things that have become traditional, preferring instead to adapt the tradition’s impact and implications to changing times.
In every free, representative government, the question arises, What are you going to do with those quasi-dictatorial powers that need to be in place for the once-a-century crisis that calls for their use, but should not be accessible to every power-hungry politician that scrambles to the top of the heap.
If you don’t have a mechanism for controlling them, you end up with a government that is no longer free and representative, but represents the views of the politician who has convinced himself that he is essential to coping with the current crisis, and finds the impact of Lord Aston’s famous maxim tasty.
In the case of the U.K., those powers are vested in the Monarchy. Since the Glorious Revolution, it’s slowly evolved that the King/Queen is to him/herself have no voice in the government save a behind-the-scenes right to be informed, to give opinions, and to warn of possible problems – he or she must go along with the government policies. That’s just as well; E2R probably has no clue how increasing the present tax rate would impact the average Mancunian or Glaswegian.
But she retains the official right to appoint and to dismiss the Prime Minister, to call and to dissolve Parliament, and a few other prerogatives. Note that the P.M. she appoints needs to be one who commands a majority in Commons – which means that 99% of the time she’s faced with Hobson’s choice.
But (not to invoke Godwin’s Law but because it’s the best-known example of a person coming to power by democratic means and converting the country to a dictatorship) if a P.M. tried the process Hitler used in 1933 to retain emergency powers, and there was widespread protest at this, she – Elizabeth II, not the abstract “Crown” that is usually her being a figurehead for the P.M. or the party that controls Commons – has the right to dismis the P.M. and/or dissolve Parliament and call for a new general election.
And, thanks to the attitudes inculcated into Victoria and George V and handed down like family heirlooms, the Royal Family sees their jobs as sacred duties entrusted to them by the nation, to be done whatever the personal cost to themselves. What the objective validity of this attitude might be is debatable, but the fact of the matter is that they do see themselves as having those duties.
And Wills is, I guarantee, probably more aware than anybody on this board of the events of England 1936, when Edward VIII put love above duty.
Among the things that drew Elizabeth to Philip were his dash, his determination, and his forthrightness. One of the things that endeared Diana to the world was her compassion – whatever you might think of her lifestyle during and after her marriage, she was sincere in making her charitable work mean something. (Contrary to popular opinion, Charles has a similar attitude.) Both these traits are evident in Wills, to the extent that a 21-year-old whose public speeches have to be circumscribed by custom can be analyzed. Charles in his college years made a point to study intensely the reign and acts of George III, the last king to attempt to make an impact on the political life of the nation; the lingering distaste for his breakup with Diana will no doubt mitigate against his having any public support for changing the role that George VI’s shyness and Elizabeth’s tendency to go with the flow have led the monarchy into taking. But William, if he avoids controversial actions for the most part, has the public’s love and affection – and his one public stance in his teens – in rebellion against his grandmother and monarch, no less! – of insisting on following his mother’s coffin in her funeral procession, says a lot about what sort of man he’s grown to be, inside.
The greater question of whether the U.K. will keep the monarchy at all is one that a citizen over there who’s observed trends across a broad spectrum of the populace will need to answer. There is a growing sense that the monarchy is an irrelevant excrescence that costs more than it is worth. I personally feel that the symbolism inherent in it (in terms of British patriotism), the reservoir of objective experience available at need to the government, and the emergency-powers-reservoir concept that I outlined above constitute good reasons for retaining it.
But at rock bottom it’s up to them.
Another question, though, is how long the “dominions” will continue in that role. Canada and Oz and N.Z. are quite comfortable with the Governor-General role – but any sense of a real connection with the U.K. or with the Royal Family is really lacking in what I see. My sense of their attitudes is that it’s much like the role of the Washington Monument in D.C. – it’s there, it isn’t hurting things, it has a nice historical symbology, so why ditch it?
Not much different, for all the histrionics which would go on as its abolition loomed. Because their constitutional powers are now almost solely ceremonial, their primary function is to be in the newspapers. They are tourist magnets and high-level ambassadors, nothing more. While I believe the salary for this job should be rather lower and the monarch’s land ownership should extend solely to the grounds of its official residences, I don’t see any great benefit to republicanism. Sure, a monarchy is irrelevant and anachronistic. But its also harmless and charmingly weird, like a 16th century pub.
Then he abdicates, like Edward in the 1930’s. No big deal. Harry, or wotserface Wessex, or Beatrice (?), or whoever, gets the job.
What if it does? He knows what the job involves, and he can abdicate any time. As his uncle found out, commercial interests are almost impossible to keep separate from the job, so best abdicate if he wants a different career.
There’s plenty of them left: republicanism is by far the greater threat to them. Personally, I’d prefer these inbred German weirdos to President Blair but, then again, I wouldn’t be too perturbed if their body parts were eBayed to Americans in the manner of London Bridge.
AHH I see the there is some animosity still lingering there around the house of Windor… When I went to Exeter in the late 80’s early 90’s I dated a girl who was deeply infatuated with Diana. She was a dodgy individual who insisted on being near her whenever she was making an appearence. I didn’t last long with that character because she was almost obsessed with the woman. Being an American I look at the whole situation as being more of a coming of age for an elderly system.
I think the sense that the populace at large thinks the monarchy is irrelevent is spot on, however ‘they’ (I say this loosly) seem to covet the symbolism and this I believe is the life blood of the reign. Old symbolism does not die an easy death. Most royals seem to be guilded in steel much less gold with the amount of heartache and strain and stress they have endured over the millennia.
As someone who has dug up many bits of the collective past on the Sceptred Isle, I see no inclination that William will not take on the duties bestowed upon him. He has the relevance of a king, and the certitude to make the position decidedly modern. But will the British people accept him then? When he wants to make the royal family create new more modern tradition?
Excuse me, no we’re not. There was and still is substantial republican sentiment in Australia, that has found little expression of late due to the general knowledge that we’re not going to get anywhere with our current PM in power. However, 3 of the 5 largest political parties here support a process to move Australia to a republic, and there is support amongst politicians in the other two parties, including our deputy PM. To suggest that we’re comfortable with having the representative of some other country’s queen as a de facto head of state isn’t at all accurate.
The British monarchy is an anachronism…however, the pagent of royalty is probably worth the cost-just think what it brings in in tourist revenue!
Plus, when you have a good-looking kid like William,it is a plus.
Now, if I could just get Emperor Franz Josef III to accept the crown of the dual monarchy…
Historical trivia: Winston Churchill’s mother was a Virginian. Princess Diana was Churchill’s granddaughter. If and when her son William comes to the throne, he will be the first British monarch in history with American ancestors!
Do you have a source for this, Glutton? I found this a surprising enough proposition that I Googled it briefly.
As far as I can see, the first Lady Diana Spencer (1710-1735) was granddaughter of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.
Also, Winston Churchill’s daughter was called Diana, who committed suicide in 1963.
Suffice to say, they are not the same person. I think this is another “fun fact” with which to surprise one’s dinner party guests, when in fact the only reason it is fun or surprising is because it isn’t a fact at all.
King William… Or does he choose a new name when he accepts the title?.. He would probably like his grandmother keep the monarchy alive.
The duty answer may seem like a reluctant answer but I don’t think it is. The royals are born and raised to assume the mantle before them. There is a great seriousness accorded to those positions and the royals seem to take that attitude.
From what I have read those in the family are taught from an early age that it is an important job with great responsibilities and while a privilege by birth it must not be seen as just that.
If William clapped his hands together and said “can’t wait!” or “goody goody for me!” I’m sure there would be plenty of raised eyebrows. He gave the standard answer which, when he is coroneted, he will repeat as a pledge. He will do his duty.
There is another thing about the royals admire. They do their duty well. Prince Andrew was visiting Toronto and while everyone is avoiding the place like a plague city he did not fob off his visit.
He went to visit the hospitals visited patients and spoke with the staff at a great length despite the fact that was the greatest area of risk for catching SARS. It reminded me of the Royals who visited dying AIDS patients back in the 80s.
Such acts are signs of true leadership and I for one am a born again monarchist because of them.
What’s up ralph124c? Got bored with not debating anything in your own thread so you decided you’d not debate anything here instead?
If the OP doesn’t mind, I’ll try to respond to the questions raised in a rearranged order:
What if William ultimately decides, “No, I do not want to take the role?”
William won’t need to make a decision about whether he wants to be king for several decades. Cast your mind back to when you were 21 – would you have wanted opinions you had expressed then about your career and future family expectations to be binding for the rest of your life? I’m certainly not doing the job I studied for at university.
If William was to decline the role as monarch, someone else would be waiting in line. If nobody wanted the job, or if the monarchy was formally abolished, I expect there would be an interminable series of empty-headed complaints about how things were better before.
Ironically, the greatest threat to the monarchy doesn’t come from republicans but from monarchists. They are the engine behind the excessive media intrusion that killed William’s mother and may be giving him cold feet now. The paparazzi are like big game hunters – the rarer the tiger, the more they want to be the one to shoot it, and the people who buy the magazines are the ones who are destroying the institution they claim to love. Personally, if the Queen were to walk into this room now I wouldn’t even look up from the screen unless she wanted to talk with me in person. That leaves my conscience clear.
What if his reasoning revolves not around lack of respect for his rightful place but out of a self-desire to do more, to say: pick his own wife, be out of the public’s eye, have a job/career?
I don’t see that it makes much difference why he chooses not be king if that turns out to be his decision. He’s likely to have more say in those aspects of his life than his father did, but in the end marital stability is always going to be difficult to achieve living in a goldfish bowl. Look at Hollywood.
What would this mean for the House of Windsor? I mean doesn’t he have the mentality of a Windsor after all?
There were things I didn’t like about Princess Diana, but one important thing she got right was in spotting the severely dysfunctional aspects of the family upbringing of most of her in-laws. She chose radical changes to the education of her sons in comparison to their father’s and was far more openly affectionate towards them than the Queen was to Charles and the others. So perhaps he doesn’t have the mentality of a Windsor, but that would be a good thing not a bad one and it needn’t have any impact on his career choice.
What would British society be like without the royal family?
Unfortunately, the monarchy/republic debate in the UK is frequently sterile and infantile. It rarely rises above the level of name-calling and relies on a number of self-serving assumptions.
Tourism seems to sustain a disproportionate share of the pro-monarchy lobby. To begin with, the way the British constitution is structured should not depend on what tourists want anyway, but I look at it this way: I’ve been to Paris often enough and I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower. But I’ve never been to Paris with the sole, specific intention of going up the tower. So if they’d never built it, or had demolished it after the Paris Exhibition as originally intended, then I would have found some other attraction to visit instead. Monarchists claim, conveniently, that any tourist who includes Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle on their itinerary would have stayed away from Britain altogether if we didn’t have a functioning monarchy and that every penny they spend should be included on the credit side for the Windsors. That is clearly nonsense. Republicans are not generally proposing an Ekaterinburg solution – there would be decades of life left in the monarchy as a tourist attraction even if its constitutional role was scrapped tomorrow.
Apart from a few fanatical monarchists from Canada or Australia, I don’t believe that anyone visits the UK simply to gawp at a working monarchy. You could just as easily watch the Changing of the Guard or Trooping the Colour even if the queen or king had no political role whatsoever. If it was too expensive to maintain the present number of royal palaces and castles as family homes, some of them could be confiscated or sold. That applies whether the monarchy itself were abolished or not. Other purposes could be found for these places – the French ones are mainly museums or art galleries now and are very popular as such.
The pro-monarchy “argument” usually consists of lavender-scented, deckled-edged nonsense about the Windsors being so lovely and Britain being the envy of the world for having them on board. That point of view is never supported by any independently-verifiable evidence, in fact it’s hard to see how it could be proven, but the delusion continues for those who want to believe it.
The weakness in the republican stance, however, is that it is all too often inspired solely by resentment at the conspicuous material consumption of the House of Windsor and the anti-meritocratic nature of their inherited power and wealth. It is easy enough to complain about these things, but the projected cost-saving does not require abolition of the monarchy, and in any case, very little consideration seems to be given to the constitutional implications of an elected presidency. “Anything better than this lot” seems to be the mantra, but there have been very few plans made for what powers a president ought to have or what they would be expected to do, or even whether a presidency would be cheaper than a monarchy.
An elected president does not have to be a politician as SentientMeat has implied – we do not have to choose a President Blair, or Bush or Chirac (and in my opinion we should not). Ireland’s president is not usually a politician and the Swiss don’t have a single head of state at all – their system involves an annual rotation of representatives from each canton. There are numerous alternative models, but they are rarely discussed. There is no point in having both a prime minister and a rival political president, but few plans seem to have been made about who should carry the once-in-a-lifetime power that Polycarp mentioned, and which was used to crush a military coup in Spain in 1981 for instance.
I’ve been listening carefully for well over twenty years, but I’ve never heard a single credible name put forward for prospective British president. Not one.
The anti-monarchy position often claims that the Windsors are an anachronistic embarrassment that makes the British a global laughing stock. Again, that’s impossible to prove independently, and relies on anecdotes from people who have no personal interest in the consequences of constitutional change in this country. It seems bizarre to me that there is so much interest in the British royal family from Americans either way.
One criticism of the royal family that I would not like to hear again is that they are not really British anyway. The last ancestor of the queen who was born outside this country was five generations ago (Prince Albert). My ancestors weren’t British five generations ago either, but if somebody told me that meant I wasn’t entitled to my own nationality I’d be inclined to chin them. If their ancestors were Jamaican or Bengali rather than German, would people even dare to say it? Sadly I can imagine the sort of person who would. Of course, the reason why people do repeat it is because the monarchy claims its entitlement as an inheritance, but it’s still an ugly accusation and we could do without it IMHO.
The Windsors have always had an awkward relationship with the media and increasingly with the State. Their income and tax responsibilities are particularly controversial, but those things can (and have been) reformed without abolition, and that process can continue if we choose. We certainly need a better reason to abolish the monarchy that saving a few quid.
Since my own instincts are republican, I would like to see the British people choose their own head of state. But before that happens, we need to consider what powers that person should have and who would be the best person to carry those powers.
It makes no sense to subject ourselves to a constitutional crisis by making the life of the head of state a misery. So I say let William choose his own way and let the rest of us consider our future in a rational manner.
It’s optional. They are normally Christened with a handful of names and can pick any one they like when the time comes. You’ve probably heard that Charles thinks that’s an unlucky name for a king and that he’s planning to be George VII when/if it’s his turn.
everton’s got the name thing correct (though I hadn’t heard that about Charles). Historically it’s been about 50:50 whether they pick a new name (which does not have to be one of their string of baptismal names) or stick with the one they were known by.
Not quite true – Queen Alexandra was, of course, a Danish princess by birth. And, for the two heirs to the throne, one would have to note Prince Philip, also ethnically a Dane though legally a Greek until he was naturalized. Both, of course, spent extensive time in Britain and were not considered “foreign” by most people at the time of their marriages.
And the duty point was one that I didn’t focus on adequately in my earlier answer – for generations the Royal Family has raised its heirs with a focus on their duty to the country that coddles them financially and socially – that, whatever their personal wishes, they have an unshirkable obligation to do the jobs that they are expected to do under the customs surrounding the Royal Family. Prince Edward, for example, could not legally take a stance on a politically controverted issue in the field that he actually trained for and presumably has a bit of expertise in. And however William may feel about eventually becoming king, and living out a series of years in a fishbowl with no power and no right to voice opinions before then, he has been brought up with the understanding that it goes along with getting a rather enormous salary from the Civil List and being the guest of honor anywhere his grandmother or father are not in attendance – it’s an obligation that he may not decline.
This gets tricky. Earl Spencer, and hence Diana, are descendants of one Spencer line. The first Duke of Marlborough was the last Churchill in male descent, and he had only a daughter, who married a Spencer. By male descent, the Dukes of Marlborough, including Sir Winston’s paternal grandfather, are Spencers, who adopted the surname “Spencer Churchill” (two words, no hyphen, and indexed by the “Churchill”) by deed poll. Sir Winston, whose middle name was Leonard, was a Spencer Churchill by birth. They’re very distant cousins by male lineage (not to say that they might be closer by having maternal ancestors who were sisters, or some such).