The accession to the throne of Charles III is fraught with risks both for the popularity of the institution of the monarchy in Great Britain, and for the Commonwealth of Nations as a whole. Why – RBC figured out
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The death of Queen Elizabeth II, monarch of Great Britain and the 14 Commonwealth realms, who has been on the throne longer than any of his predecessors, marked the end of an era and the emergence of new risks for the institution of the monarchy. More than one generation of Britons and subjects in other countries has grown up with the image of the queen created over 70 years, the guarantor of stability and the face of the monarchy. Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recalled seeing the Queen for the first time at the age of five, when his father, Pierre Trudeau, also the country's former prime minister, took him to London during the G7 summit in 1977.
< p>Elizabeth II was not only the most popular member of the British royal family, but also the most popular public person, leaving behind both her contemporaries and such icons of the era as Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama. In the second quarter of 2022, 75% of Britons viewed the Queen positively, while only 42% viewed her son Prince Charles positively, according to YouGov. Almost a quarter of the British were completely negative about the future Charles III. The rating of his son Prince William significantly exceeded that of his father— 66% of Brits love it.
The ascension to the throne of the unpopular Prince Charles after 70 years of his mother's reign (which is slightly less than the age of the king himself) is fraught with a number of risks.
In addition to the UK, 14 other countries, including Canada, New Zealand and Australia, recognized Elizabeth II as their queen. At the same time, when the 25-year-old Elizabeth only ascended the throne, the number of these countries was much higher: during the period of her reign, a number of states refused to submit to the British monarchy, and ceremonial functions were transferred to their presidents. Barbados became the last country to leave the Queen's citizenship, this happened in 2021 (however, the process of abandoning the institution of the monarchy in the former British colonies was launched even earlier— India renounced citizenship under Elizabeth's father, King George VI).
The question of the relevance of preserving the monarchy is periodically raised in all states that recognized Elizabeth II, including in the UK. Even the current prime minister of the country, Liz Truss, spoke out in her youth in favor of abandoning this institution. Events within the “firm” (as working members of the royal family are often generalized in the country) the last few years, including the accusation of Prince Andrew of sexual assault and the refusal of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to perform royal duties, followed by a move to the United States, have had a strong impact on the mood of young Britons. A survey conducted in May 2021 showed that only 31% of young people aged 18 to 24 would like to see a king or queen at the head of the UK. Prior to the events mentioned, this figure was 46%. However, a strong increase in republican sentiment in the UK is unlikely to threaten: as of 2022, 62% of the population supports the monarchy, although its popularity among young people is still at a low level.
Read on RBC Pro Pro Why the US is losing the digital currency race to China and Turkey Who to study for Pro Instructions What operations on foreign accounts are now allowed for Russians Instructions Pro HR technologies: just three steps to sabotage their implementation made $1 billion in student loansThe probability of abandoning the monarchy with the arrival of Charles III is much higher than the remaining 14 countries. Thus, the publication Politico recalls the traditionally strong Republican sentiment in Australia, where the current Prime Minister Anthony Albaniz promised to hold a referendum on this issue in case of re-election for a second term. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also spoke in the spirit that the country would become a republic during her lifetime. Jamaica appears to be the weakest link in the Commonwealth chain. Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Prince William of his intention to free himself from British citizenship when he visited Jamaica this March.
Elizabeth Brough, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, believes that many of the Commonwealth countries remained loyal to Elizabeth II largely due to her personality, and not commitment to the institution of the monarchy as such. “Countries kept her head of state for much longer than they could because they felt more loyal to her personally,” — the expert explains.
On the way to the “King of all Britons”
In addition to external factors, the threat to the reign of Charles III may be his personal characteristics, as well as a controversial family background, which still largely influences the British perception of the new king. An unsuccessful marriage to Diana Spencer and her tragic death, a forbidden romance with Camilla Parker-Bowles and her subsequent marriage are still the most high-profile events of recent decades in the British royal family. It was they who largely influenced the image of Charles III, which was formed in British society.
The history of this love triangle in recent years has been widely reflected in the cinema— in particular, in 2021, the feature film “Spencer” was released. about the life of Princess Diana, and in the popular TV series The Crown, which started in 2016 and is still being released, several episodes were devoted to her relationship with her husband. Thus, the events of almost 30 years ago received a second life, which is unlikely to have a positive impact on the perception of the new king.
If Elizabeth II during her reign was able to become a figure who stands above political issues and unites the British, then Charles III is still far from this image. An obstacle to the status of “King of all Britons” may be, paradoxically, his active social work, in particular in the field of environmental protection. Prince Charles, during the reign of his mother, repeatedly called for the fight against climate change and even turned to British ministers with requests to lobby for certain green initiatives. Prince Charles' famous speech at the Glasgow Climate Summit in November 2021, in which he detailed the measures needed to combat climate change and called for change, also went beyond the standard speech of the British monarchy. The 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, spoke about how Prince Charles enthusiastically convinced him of the importance of environmental issues in connection with the latter's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement: instead of 15 minutes, the meeting lasted 90, and, according to Trump, he talked most of the time Charles.
However, this shows that Charles is capable of acting outside the box. And if, under Elizabeth II, the “company” was an extremely closed institution, and the queen herself observed the maximum social distance, then the first appeal of the new king to the nation testified that Charles III was able to openly express his feelings in public. The video with his address, which was watched by more than 20 million people, contributed to the creation of a positive impression of the successor of Elizabeth II: 65% of the British considered that he would be a good king. Even if this is a temporary surge in popularity, it is very significant for the monarch, whose popularity in recent years has been significantly lower than that of other members of the royal family.
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