February 18, 2020

Saving the monarchy

          WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

Saving the monarchy

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Thirty-one years ago, Princess Diana thrilled the British public and the world with the first glimpse of her firstborn son, William. Diana was 20 years old, and the years that followed were mostly unhappy ones, ending in her premature death in a car chase. William’s wife, Kate, is 31 years old, and he has chosen well. The public loves her, and when the young couple appears with their newborn son, they are the embodiment of the modern monarchy the royal family has worked hard to build, learning from their mistakes with Diana, and with Prince Charles.

Those who wanted to do away with the monarchy have been silenced. Polls show the British public by an overwhelming majority wants it to endure. The tourist benefits are obvious, but there are other benefits that Americans don’t tend to notice. The monarchy is the physical symbol of the country, the one institution, and the one person – the Queen – around which everyone can rally. “God save the Queen” conveys the message.

Americans have an eagle, a majestic symbol, but we don’t say, “God Bless our bald eagle,” and chances are not every school child in the U.S. relates to this part of their heritage. In England, everybody knows everything about the Queen, and the royal family.

The concept of a living symbol is not unlike religion; it’s something to hold onto when times are tough, and the royal family has been assiduous in protecting that role. During World War II, the King and Queen stayed in Buckingham Palace in the heart of London, standing with the people. This was no small thing. Over 40,000 people died in London during the Blitz. Every family who was able sent their children out of the city, but not the Queen, who rejected advice from the Cabinet to send her two daughters to Canada. “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.”

When King George died in 1952, their daughter, Elizabeth became Queen. She was 25 years old. Over a 60-year reign, she has handled herself with typical British reserve, departing from the script just once when she dubbed 1992, her 40th anniversary as Queen, annus horribilis. That was the year Windsor Castle burned and the British public wasn’t sure they wanted to pay for the reconstruction, two of her four children were separating and divorcing, and a tell-all book, “Princess Diana: Her True Story,” exposed all the unhappiness in Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles with X-rated details and tapes to follow.

It is a tribute to Elizabeth and to the two boys that Diana and Charles brought into the world that the monarchy is now fully recovered, and looking ahead to a bright future with William and Kate. If you asked the British public who they would like to see inherit the throne, it would be these two, especially now that they’ve had their first child. Is it likely in the near future, or even possible?

The trend among European monarchs now is to abdicate and the reason is longevity. Kings and Queens want to turn over the keys to the castle before their sons and daughters are senior citizens themselves. The 79-year-old King of Belgium just abdicated for his 53-year-old son, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abruptly announced she was stepping down three days short of her 75th birthday, turning over the throne to the oldest of her three sons.

Prince Charles is 64 and deeply unpopular with the British public. In deference to Diana, an icon in death, his wife, Camilla, would not receive the title, Queen, should he ascend to the throne. The question is whether Elizabeth, keenly aware of how the monarchy is regarded, would risk turning it over to her son – or whether she would abdicate only if he relinquishes his right to the throne, and turns it over to William. It’s a family drama with implications for a nation’s identity.

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

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