“Make Elizabeth the last”. As the United Kingdom celebrates, from Thursday June 2, the platinum jubilee of its queen, anti-monarchy posters* flourished all over the country, calling for Elizabeth II to be the last ruler of her dynasty. The operation launched by the Republic movement, which campaigns across the Channel for a president elected as head of state in place of the monarch, is far from popular.
>> Follow Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee live in our live
But her supporters hope that the celebrations of the 70 years of reign of the queen will be an opportunity for the British to question the future of their political system. “We live in a system where some inherit privileges and powers only by birth”denounces James Armstrong, a supporter of the abolition of the monarchy. “We must put an end to this undemocratic regime, put an end to the aristocracy which generates many inequalities”, he shouts.
In Great Britain, the republican movement remains a minority. However, recent polls show that the monarchy has fallen out of favor with part of the population. Several Commonwealth states could also consider, after the death of the queen, to free themselves from the British crown. From there to imagine a domino effect to the United Kingdom? Nothing is less certain, procrastinate specialists interviewed by franceinfo.
Never has a British sovereign reigned so long. To celebrate the seven decades of reign of Elizabeth II, the streets of the cities and countryside of the United Kingdom have been transformed, decorated with portraits of the queen and facades in the colors of the Union Jack. “Residents took a long time to take an interest in the jubilee, but now we feel a great fervor around the event”, ensures Joe Little, editor of Majesty Magazine. “It’s one of those times when the country puts aside its crises to celebrate what unites it: the queen and the monarchy,” adds Robert Hardman, author specializing in the British royal family.
It is not certain, however, that all of Her Gracious Majesty’s subjects will be in the spirit of the party. According to a YouGov* poll commissioned in May by the Republic movement, 54% of respondents said they were not interested in the jubilee. A study* by the British Future think tank reveals that 58% of Britons support the monarchy, while 25% favor a republic after Elizabeth II. The margin is much lower among young people (40% against 37% for a republic), ethnic minorities (37%-33%) and Scotland (45%-36%).
For Isabelle Baudino, lecturer in British civilization at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, this disenchantment among certain sections of the population is the consequence of the scandals which have tainted the royal family in recent years.
“The estrangement of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, accusations of racism within the monarchy, Prince Andrew accused of sexual assault… All of this does not meet the values of the MeToo generation and Black Lives Matter. “Isabelle Baudino, UK specialist
As for the Scots, their weaker support for the crown seems consistent with the history of their country. “Since the 1970s, with ‘Devolution’, Scotland has gained more political autonomy with the creation of its own Parliament. There has always been a greater detachment from the monarchy,” recalls Isabelle Baudino. A detachment observed at the ballot box: in 2021, the separatists won the legislative elections and promised to organize a referendum on self-determination.
The future of the monarchy is an even more pressing question in Commonwealth countries – theintergovernmental organization made up of 54 states, almost all former territories of the British Empire. In November 2021, Barbados declared itself a republic, no longer recognizing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. In March, tensions between the crown and its former colonies were further heightened during the Caribbean tour of the Prince William and his wife Kate. The couple had to cancel the first leg of their stay due to protests. Locals have called on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to apologize for the UK’s slavery past.
Jamaica could imitate Barbados. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said his country’s transition to a republic was “inevitable” and was only one “a matter of time”. “The work on the legacy of slavery, the inequalities generated, is very present in the Caribbean. This has enabled these countries to seek reparations”, explains researcher Isabelle Baudino. Nevertheless, “due to the longevity of her reign, the Queen still wields considerable moral authority in Commonwealth countries”, nuance Philippe Chassaigne, historian specializing in the British royal family.
“It is very likely that with the death of Elizabeth II, the question of the maintenance of the dynastic link between Commonwealth countries and the monarchy will accelerate.”Philippe Chassaigne, historian
These independence movements of the former colonies are also “natural”Judge Joe Little, of majesty Magazine, and began shortly before Elizabeth II acceded to the throne in February 1952. In 1947, the United Kingdom was already seeing India leave its empire, becoming an independent republic. In 1968, Mauritius in turn took its independence, like Trinidad and Tobago (1962), Guyana (1966), the archipelago of Fidfji (1970) and Dominica (1978).
“Subjection to the monarchy is also debated in New Zealand, Canada and Australia, where republican currents are stronger”, precise Joe Little. On May 31, the new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appointed in his government a Minister Delegate for the Republic, symbolic step towards an exit from the monarchy.
But the transition from monarchy to a republic is far from easy. In 1999, the Australian Labor Party organized a referendum to defeat the Queen of England as head of state, without success. “People no longer wanted a monarch, but didn’t know what they wanted instead. A president elected by direct universal suffrage, or elected by representatives?”recalls Robert Hazell, professor specializing in the British Constitution.
In Jamaica, the transition to a republic is proving just as complicated. It requires reaching a favorable two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate and organizing a referendum. In Britain, such a change seems unlikely at the present time. “We should organize a referendum, change the Constitution. No party or elected official is in favor of it. It is not the priority of the moment”summarizes Robert Hazell.
“Even though the monarchy has had its ups and downs, it remains overall very popular among Britons. In 1,000 years of existence, it remains a stable political system, which has seen very little challenge.”Robert Hazell, Constitutionalist
“The British also differentiate between their sovereign, who is the head of state but does not govern, and the Prime Minister who makes decisions”, continues Philippe Chassaigne. In 70 years of reign, Elizabeth II “did not show any political preference, knew how to remain neutral. A large majority of his subjects are grateful to him”, says the historian. According to an Ipsos* poll published on May 31, 86% of respondents say they are satisfied with the work of the queen.
Another asset: its adaptation to changes in society. “The Queen authorized the remarriage of her son Charles to a divorced woman and the marriage of Prince William to a commoner, which was unthinkable at the start of her reign”, supports Kevin Guillot, founding journalist of the French website monarchiebritannique.com. Elizabeth II also overcame many crises. When the Queen came to the throne, Britain was the world’s first colonial empire. Today, the kingdom must manage post-Brexit and a unity weakened by the rise of separatists in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
“Elizabeth II embodies stability, continuity. It is a cultural, political symbol, very important in British identity.”Robert Hardman, expert on the royal family
Above all, few of his subjects would risk criticizing the 96-year-old monarch, whose fragile health is the subject of much speculation in the kingdom. The evocation of his death is moreover approached there only half-word. “We don’t talk about this subject during the week of the jubilee! Prince Charles will succeed him, he has been prepared all his life for this”evacuates the biographer Robert Hardman.
The heir to the throne, however, does not enjoy the same popularity as his mother. According to a YouGov* study, Prince Charles receives only 19% positive opinions, less than his son Prince William (55%).
“When Prince Charles takes the throne, he will be over 70 years old, while his mother was 25 when she was crowned,” recalls Robert Hazell. Part of the British press remains very critical of him since Diana’s death. “It is likely that the press will order polls to put him back to back with his son William for the succession, and suggest an abdication”, assumes the researcher.
“Prince Charles has expressed his opinions on several subjects, such as the environment. He will find it difficult to have a neutral position once king.”Robert Hazel
In view of this transition, the Prince of Wales has assured that he intends to reduce the cost of the royal family for taxpayers, by focusing on the monarch and his heirs. According to Daily Mail*Prince William would like to make the monarchy a “unifying force” when it is his turn to wear the crown. For Robert Hazell, there is no doubt that “the monarchy will resist the departure of the queen”. The question is more to know “Which heir will be best able to make it last”.
* All links followed by an asterisk lead to content in English.