Long Live the King?
Queen Elizabeth II has been the longest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, but what will the monarchy look like when her son, Prince Charles of Wales, ascends to the throne?
While the monarchy is mostly a symbolic institution for the state and the government, the role of the monarchy within the Unites Kingdom is meant to remain political neutral; showing no favorability of one party over another.
The UK is a constitutional monarchy, meaning that the monarchy has some technical state authority; however, it must be in line with the constitution.
The UK gives royal assent to Parliament who then has the power to create and enforce legislation.
Within a Parliamentary system, people vote on a political party who has its own leader.
The leader of the winning political party then becomes the prime minister and is made official by the monarch.
The prime minister meets weekly with the monarch to inform him or her of the current matters of state, but the monarch does not have the ability to set any political policies, at least not officially.
Queen Elizabeth is well known for her lack of public political views.
But her son is something different.
Prince Charles seems to be challenging the political role of the monarchy by showing a large involvement in politics and voicing his opinions.
Some are worried that he may try to be a political force when he eventually takes the throne. (Queen Elizabeth is 90 years old)
Prince Charles has been more transparent about his political views after the publishing of his letters to government ministers from 2004-05, also known as the “black spider” memos, about a variety of his political views in 2015.
In the memos, Prince Charles states his political views concerning problems ranging from dairy-farming to the UK’s armed forces in Iraq.
He has also in recent years become a strong supporter of taking aggressive action in combating climate change.
Even though the monarchy is meant to be apolitical, it seems strange that the rulers of a democratic society, where free speech is considered a natural right, are meant to keep opinions concealed.
Monarchs do not even have the ability to vote in this case because of their duty to remain neutral.
Why is this exclusive group meant to remain quiet?
If a monarch were to present opinions regarding matters of state and sway the opinions of citizens to be in favor of one particular political party, the monarch would then have some control within matter of state and forming legislation.
While they are meant to act as figure heads and a symbol of national unity, this could be viewed as undemocratic in the sense that monarchs are not democratically elected by the people, and would be in violation of the constitution.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, a well-known journalist and strong defender of the monarchy recently launched a campaign to get Charles to step aside and allow his oldest son- Prince William take the throne.
This doesn’t seem to be a real possibility.
However the idea of a King who gets too involved in contemporary politics is a thought that has pierced through the British zeitgeist before.
In 1993, the British version of House of Cards ran a four episode miniseries titled “To Play The King.” In it, Conservative Prime Minister Francis Urquhart has to fend off a popular and strongly liberal King.
(Spoiler alert: Urquhart is able to win in the end because the British public grew uneasy with a King who involved himself so deeply in politics.)
Prince Charles is also considered “revolutionary” in the fact that he was divorced.
While Prince Charles is widely known, his ex-wife, Princess Diana, stole the attention and hearts of millions across the globe acting as an inspirational link between citizens and the monarchy.
Previously, it was frowned upon for monarchs to get a divorce, let alone be in a relationship with a divorcee.
This was the main reason Prince Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, causing his brother to take the throne and later his daughter the current queen.
Times have changed, but the perception of monarchs getting a divorce is not looked well upon, nonetheless the scandal surrounding the marriage of Charles and Diana.
Charles is also scandalous in the fact that it is rumored he was having an affair with his current wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall, while still married to Princess Diana.
Public opinion of a “King Charles” fell after the divorce and sudden death of Princess Diana.
Would the British public abide a King who tried to push a political agenda?
We might get a chance to find out.
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Cover Photo Credit: Steenbergs/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)