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Elizabeth II’s Jubilee: The Four Pillars of the British Monarchy

France has proved it: without a people, there is no monarchy. The very controlled communication of Buckingham palace also underlines the extent to which the image given by the royal family within public opinion imported. But to date, the crown is doing quite well in the hearts of the British. According to a May poll, 60% of them want to keep it against 27% who want to abolish it.

Still, they question where it belongs, as William and Kate’s trip to the Caribbean revealed last March. The princely couple was greeted by demonstrations and the parades in Land rover and military uniforms, considered as relics of the Empire, showed their limit. But the strength of the British crown still rests on the extent of its reach: the monarch is the head of state of 14 countries, and the head of the Commonwealth which represents 53 states.

Some countries find an advantage in this situation. “When Pierre Trudeau became Prime Minister of Canada in the late 1960s, he considered making it a republic,” comments Robert Morris, professor in the constitutionality unit at University College London. But he realized that it was up to him to choose the governor general who represents the queen, and that the latter was not a political threat, unlike what an elected president might have been. So he changed his mind. On the other hand, others feel infantilized, such as Barbados, which became a republic in 2021. Aware of this reality, the royal family seeks a balance between the standing specific to its image and the need to reduce its pomp, one of the missions that Prince Charles has given himself.

The heir to the crown could also revisit one of the other pillars of the monarchy: the Anglican Church, the state religion in England. The sovereign became the religious leader in the 1530s, when King Henry VIII decided to no longer submit to the pope who had refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. “Today, the Queen is the supreme governor of the Church and she appoints all the leaders of the clergy, specifies Andrew Blick, professor at King’s College London. The House of Lords (equivalent to the Senate) has 26 bishops and around a third of schools in the UK are religious. »

But if there is fusion between the State and the religion, Christianity is in decline for a long time. Prince Charles, who is interested in Islam or Buddhism, is aware of this. “For him, faith is something important in the life of an individual, but he is not in favor of a religion. A separation would make sense from a societal point of view, but would create problems: what to do with these bishops, these schools? Will marriages in the Church still be civilly recognized?…”

The other ancestral pillar of the monarchy is of course the army : military force made the power of a king. “All British soldiers swear allegiance to the Queen,” recalls Robert Morris. This underlines the impartial and apolitical character of the army in this country. The Queen is Colonel-in-Chief of many regiments and maintains close ties with them. Although the queen does not make military decisions, she represents, in theory, the ultimate legal authority.

Many members of the royal family have also served in the military, such as Princes Philip, Harry and Andrew, the Queen’s second son. But Prince Andrew lost his military titles because of the sexual assault case against Virginia Guiffre, and Harry had to give back some of his titles by ceasing to work as a representative of the royal family. It remains to be seen what link will be established between the armed forces and the hard core of the young generation.

On the other hand, if the last pillar, the charity, is the most recent in the history of the monarchy and it is also the one with the most future. “This interest developed from George III who reigned from 1760 to 1820, emphasizes Robert Morris. Many Britons consider welfare to be an important part of the royal family’s contribution to democratic life, because they have access to people that politicians do not have access to, such as crack addicts or prisoners, for example. »

But the charity is also a minefield for the royal family. “Support for such and such an association will be scrutinized according to its values ​​and its donors”, warns Andrew Blick. In 2021, Michael Fawcett, one of the closest collaborators of the Prince of Wales, had to resign from his post as director general of the Prince’s Foundation for having obtained a donation from a Saudi in exchange for an honorary title.

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