The Future

You'll notice, however, that I say it was the beginning of the end of real British royalty. Britain isn't the only country to have a monarchy, and other nations seem to have dealt more successfully with the relationship between the Crown and the people. King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway gave an interview to the BBC in 2005 in which they explained that they could go to the cinema if they wanted to and that if they fancied a McDonald's meal, it was unheard of for them to have to send someone else to collect the Filet-O-Fish. It isn't that Norwegians don't respect their monarchy, it's just that the House of Oldenburg has more successfully moved with the times; as a result, it's much more popular than its British counterpart. Their future Queen Consort was a single mother before she married the Crown Prince, and the King's grandson doesn't even have an HRH - it's all very un-British. Queen Margrethe of Denmark often wanders the streets of Copenhagen with just a bodyguard to keep her company. It isn't only Scandinavia, though: in The Netherlands the relationship between Queen Beatrix and her subjects is one of great respect and - dare I say it - love. Her approval rating must make her cousin Elizabeth drool with envy, and the Dutch monarch enjoys such a special relationship with her people that her Silver Jubilee was more a case of "We just called to say we think you're bloody marvellous" than "Oh well, I suppose we'd better do something for it." Not that the British don't have their moments. Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee was a spectacular display of admiration, but was it for the institution itself or, as I suspect, actually a display of affection for a lady most of us have grown up with?

The Queen won't abdicate. Of that I am almost certain, and I think she's right. She'll be Queen until she draws her last breath. Her funeral will be vast and elaborate, and I'll be genuinely devastated to see her gone. She's been a model of composure, level-headedness, and intelligence, and those qualities have earned her the respect of the British people. In the haze of the funeral march, we shall offer our comfort to her son Charles, the King, with Camilla, his Queen Consort - and here is where the grand egg-timer of Royal shelf-life gets turned over and we enter the twilight years of the House of Windsor. I have absolutely no doubt that Charles and Camilla will be amazing as a team, because they are now. Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, call her what you like - but admit that Her Royal Highness really does deserve those three little letters before her name. Every engagement has been handled with a style and a professionalism that reminds more than just Gyles Brandreth of the late Queen Mother. Whether it's a state banquet or Royal Ascot, Camilla shines, and she makes the Prince of Wales more acceptable to us because he has lost the surly, sulky image that was presented to us during the Diana years when he found himself fighting for the spotlight. Charles actually looks as if he could be King now, and he appears ready for the job. Camilla seems able to support him in that role, and his many years of experience, coupled with her unaffected charm, will make them excellent ambassadors for our nation. But bounce another branch down the family tree, and if you can see them through the beer bottles, you'll find the real reason I'm no longer hopeful for the monarchy and why I think it better for the House of Windsor to go out on a high note after King Charles III has shuffled off the ermine-trimmed coil of royal life.

Prince William has got to be the most boring thing to grace our TV screens since Sir Patrick Moore said, "I think I'll buy a telescope." Boring can work - the Queen isn't exactly lively, and the contrasts between Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret can also be made quite convincingly between William and Harry - but something just doesn't sit well. The question has to be asked - what does William actually do? He isn't really learning to be King yet, and he isn't doing anything particularly useful in the Army, because as we now know, the change in the way of world warfare has rendered it impossible for our senior Royals to go into active service in battle zones. The same goes for Harry, who seems to be taking the whole "We won't be sending you to Iraq" thing very well by getting rat-arsed every night and falling out of a variety of nightclubs without so much as a "Well actually I was looking for Osama Bin Laden." My problem with the boys first originated from their complete uselessness combined with a sorry lack of direction. But recently things have got even worse with the ghastly interview churned out by Channel Five in which they seemed to adopt a Harold Wilson-type "We're men of the people" attitude. News flash, guys - you're not men of the people. William is apparently going to be King one day, and Harry......well, we like Harry. But liking them and giving them our allegiance are different things, and some of us will begin to look elsewhere for our future leader. 

William and Harry may not have a lot to offer, but compared to their relatives who seem to be taking on a distinct Paris Hilton air, they're possibly the best of a tired bunch. Princess Beatrice has well and truly marked her cards by stating that she wants to be a "mini-mummy." Beatrice, dear, your mummy wasn't that mini, and she had all the diplomacy, tact, and charm of a boiled whelk; that's why she was unpopular with the British people. Aiming to be Fergie Mark II spells disaster. Eugenie doesn't promise much either. Peter is about to marry a Catholic. Zara tries her best but seems to have shacked up with a regular from Only Fools and Horses - will she be racing greyhounds next, we ask ourselves? With no really decent monarch material, where else can we look? Is it really time for Britain to become a republic?


If Britain did become a republic, I'd be genuinely sad. It would be an end to tradition, pomp, and pageantry, and of course we'd lose the safety net of the constitutional benefits the monarchy brings. Or at least, that's what I've always believed. Recently, though, I've been looking more and more closely into the workings of the European Union. And I saw a possible future for Britain in one tiny country - Latvia.

The outgoing President of Latvia is a lady called Vaira Vike-Freiberga; her typical Baltic build and chestnut coiffure have earned her the affectionate title of "Latvia's Queen." She has been President for ten years, and with her smart two-piece outfits and imposing hats, she has racked up an impressive trophy cabinet of foreign gongs from esteemed heads of state such as King Albert II of Belgium, as well as earning the adoration of the Latvian people. When I showed my grandfather a picture of her greeting King Albert, he asked me, "Is that the Queen of the Netherlands?" On the contrary, she was the president of a Republic: an elected Head of State with the bearing of an Empress. The only snag is that we can't be assured of securing our very own Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and it's here where I waver. How could we be sure that we get the leaders we want? Well, we'd use the ballot box. Instead of having a House of Commons, we would have a unicameral Parliament; there would be no Lords who have paid their dues to get their bums on the soft red plush in order to delay legislation. There would be just one legislative body with one elected Prime Minister, who in turn would appoint the Cabinet. Parliament, in turn, would elect a President who would serve five-year terms. But unless we want a re-run of megalomaniac Mayor Ken Livingstone, I believe there would have to be term limits; otherwise it defeats the object of having a republic, and we revert to having a Head of State who serves a life sentence in the role. There would be a constitution for which the people have voted.

The whole thing seems very appealing and workable. It therefore pains me to declare that my allegiance to the House of Windsor has suddenly been stamped with a sell-by date. With the younger royals behaving like third-rate celebrities, I see that the old royal ways personified by Princess Alexandra and Princess Alice are sadly dying. This is the  perfect opportunity to call it a day with dignity - and, being English, I like things to have a little dignity. Charles has been trained for the job, it's a job he'll do well, and it's something he's spent his whole life being prepared to do; to me, it would be unfair to deny him what looks increasingly to be a very short reign. If a referendum were held after the death of King Charles III, I'd plump for Baltic-style democracy any time. I never thought I'd actually see the day when I became a republican, but it looks as though that day has come. Once the House of Windsor loses the two iconic monarchs of the previous 50 years, their duties carried out well and their affairs put in order, I believe it'll be the right time to move on. Until that time, all I can say is - God Save the Queen!

Photo Credits

Queen Elizabeth: Reprinted with permission from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Princess Alexandra: Photo by Mark Stewart, reprinted with permission.
Princes William and Harry: Reprinted with permission from HRH The Prince of Wales.
Vaira Vike-Freiberga: Public domain.