Britain's crisis of succession: Charles and the story behind the royal wedding

If you wanted to choose a time and place when the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton transformed itself from mere nuptials into the signature tactic in a full-scale crisis of succession, it was Nov. 2, 2009, in the seaside town of Cupids, Nfld. William‟s father, Prince Charles, and his stepmother, Camilla Parker-Bowles, launched their much-heralded Canadian tour with an inaugural appearance in this town, a short drive from St. John‟s, that managed to attract a crowd of exactly 57 people. The last time Charles had gone to Newfoundland, with William‟s mother, Diana, in 1983, it had been standing room only. This time, fewer than one-10th of local residents bothered to show up, and almost no one travelled to see Canada‟s future head of state. The rest of the visit was a tableau of angry protesters, riot police, empty bleachers and public indifference – a shocking reaction from a country whose people are generally the most favourable to the monarchy of any major Commonwealth country. Ten weeks later, a bold experiment was attempted, initiated by a secretive committee within the House of Windsor. Prince William, the untested grandson, was sent as a substitute for the Queen on a late 2009 tour of Australia and New Zealand, where as much as 60 per cent of the population favoured an elected president in place of the monarchy. The result was stunning: Thousands of people attended his every appearance, and he seemed to win over skeptical Antipodeans with his informal calm. British papers, and even some parliamentarians, began to discuss openly something that only had been whispered before: the possibility, constitutionally feasible but rare in practice, of “skipping” Charles and passing the line of succession to William. Behind this speculation lay a mounting fear that Charles‟s tenure on the throne could ruin the institution unless something dramatic were done. The Windsors‟ committee, the Way Ahead Group, was launched in 1994 by the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Airlie, and it includes the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and their private secretaries, as well as Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward. Its mandate revolves around constitutional issues surrounding the monarchy, such as the question of royal marriages to Roman Catholics or the end of precedence for male heirs (both, ultimately, parliamentary subjects), says Katie Nicholl, a London-based Royal Family expert with contacts within the committee. But increasingly, she says, it has become obsessed with the larger question of the monarchy‟s survival after Elizabeth II‟s death.

rather. and keep it revered and respected in the eyes of a new generation. unless its elite was able to shift the playing field by doing something dramatic. the republican cause has received its brightest gift: a potential monarch who doesn‟t shake hands and fade into the background. in the late months of 2010. But that request was vehemently overruled by his grandmother and her committee. including the Prime Minister. something pleasantly ordinary. Behind it all. And there was increasing evidence that he intended to maintain and even amplify it. one who gets in the way. that could be engineered into something more. lies another royal event that is the subject of intensive planning and anxiety in London – the eventual death of Elizabeth II. for a decade or more. dismissed this talk as “impertinent. Mr. the event that most royal watchers had expected to be the monarchy‟s big splash. When the Way Ahead Group met in the summer of 2009. “He has a genuine messianic complex. But her funeral is not only fully planned out. And then.” In this. with his infamous “black-spider letters” – so-called because of his distinctive penmanship and his persistence – at least fortnightly. after the Queen‟s demise. but regularly rehearsed. Smith says. involving a grandson and a pretty girl. Charles was becoming a serious threat to that future: Even as he was touring Canada.” said Graham Smith. On a secluded . the core question was how to prevent the monarchy from fading into irrelevance or distrust. as the matter of succession becomes uglier. the head of the antimonarchist group Republic. One wedding and one funeral William had asked his family that his marriage to Kate be a humble and low-key event. into ecological politics. lobbying more than a dozen British cabinet ministers. as he generally does at such meetings. “We can‟t underestimate Charles‟s belief in himself. village-fete-and-streetparty affair. He‟s been on a lifelong mission to reshape the country in his image.” while the grandchild‟s wedding was upgraded to a shower of opulence on a scale not seen since Elizabeth‟s coronation in 1953. of course. The hope is that this great blast of royal love will be sharply etched in the public‟s memory. was scaled down to what one commentator called “a low-key. chaired by Prince Philip. the London media were revealing that in the previous decade he had become a compulsively outspoken political actor. according to witnesses. Charles. from a hostile Parliament and an indifferent public. demanding meetings and seeking changes to legislation.And by the end of 2009. her mother lived to be 101 and the Queen is in good health. the Queen‟s 2012 Diamond Jubilee. so the worries aren‟t imminent.” and tried to steer the agenda. But by year‟s end it was apparent to everyone – except perhaps Charles – that the monarchy was facing a larger threat. His role as a political lobbyist and owner of a $50-million-a-year business empire was eclipsing his role as a future monarch. She is 85. Indeed. something dramatic materialized – or.

in case of a sudden change of Crown. The Queen herself. “is the brilliant edition of a universal fact.” For this division between the “efficient” state and the “dignified” Crown to work as a constitutional whole. which preserves its mystery. been of no party. soldiers practise carrying the royal coffin. unlike a system with an elected or Parliament-appointed head of state. … Just so. it rivets mankind. it can keep politicians and public focused on the state and its laws. in fact. and sometimes paraded like a pageant. “He should be aloof and solitary. reportedly obsessed with the matter.military airfield just outside London. A constitutional monarchy “has a comprehensible element” – the king or queen – “for the vacant many. possibly many years apart. but in neither case is it contentious.” He was speaking of just the sort of pomp we will witness on Friday. describe Queen Elizabeth II perfectly. as well as complex laws and notions for the inquiring few. used only for coronations. Bagehot added.” he wrote. Indeed. She is the embodiment of Bagehot‟s political ideal.” The Crown. and as such. a royal family sweetens politics by the seasonable addition of nice and pretty events. was recently refurbished at a cost of $157. . separated herself from business. which enables it to combine the affection of conflicting parties – to be a visible symbol of unity to those still so imperfectly educated as to need a symbol. recently switched funeral-planning firms to Leverton & Sons from the venerable Kenyons because the latter had been purchased by the French government. avoided contention – in short. The 710-year-old Throne of State. despite its flaws: By creating an air of mystery and remove.000.” Those words. as journalist John Arlidge discovered last year. The wedding and the funeral – two events. and has reigned for such a long time that we came to assume this was the natural and easily reproducible character of a constitutional monarch. at ready for her serious illness or death. the monarch must be a person capable of maintaining that mystique – else the entire system cannot work: “He should not be brought too closely to real measurement. but the Crown is of no party. they are meant to form spectacular parentheses around that far-less-encouraging event. “seems to order. The nation is divided into parties. which he argued helps to justify a constitutional monarchy. A Royal Air Force jet is on permanent standby. not hierarchy and power. the coronation of King Charles III. She has remained aloof. From Victorian mystique to ‘black-spider’ letters “A princely marriage. she has preserved the mystery. Its apparent separation from business is that which removes it from both enmities and from desecration.” the great Victorian constitutional thinker Walter Bagehot wrote. that have become tightly intertwined in the minds of the Queen and her backers: Together. but it never seems to struggle. he was explaining its precise political purpose. It is commonly hidden like a mystery. everyone agrees.

under the title Harmony. to surprisingly little public notice. for a lengthy period. have involved health. Specifically. . Last year. his personal political manifesto. he told Vanity Fair magazine that he is driven by annoyance to get involved in politics: “I don‟t know why I mind so much. who owned the site. to suggest that Charles had become unsuitable for the succession. the national budget.” As if to prove it. foreign policy and the military. last year Charles published. “alternative” medicines and housing developments. Laws that have apparently angered him into action. told The Guardian newspaper at the time. which includes nationally marketed and distributed lines of food. The heir to the throne has spent the past decade transforming himself from the morose face of regal indifference into a powerful businessman. Perhaps because it was attractively packaged with many photos. “It is not the constitutional function of members of the Royal Family to seek to take advantage of their public position to influence planning or other decisions affecting private rights and the public interest. including members of government. Sovereign sabotage “Insofar as the constitution defines any duties. then a constitutional adviser to the British government. Much of his anger seems to be directed at legislation directly related to his military regiment or his $50-million business empire. and talked them into cancelling the project just as construction was beginning. he attempted to have the Labour government abolish or radically reduce the powers of its 2000 Human Rights Act. This history of activism was enough for some observers.” Lord Lester QC. there is a clear duty to stay away from areas of political controversy. education.” Others suggested that it was not so serious.And then came Charles. outspoken political activist and aggressive lobbyist. The “black spider” letters and meetings with ministers are only the beginning. because Charles surely would step away from his financial and political obsessions once the crown had been placed upon his head. His business activism came to a head a year ago. But he himself says his political intervention is not something he really can moderate or reduce. few noticed the future king‟s urgent message. So I can only assume it‟s something that‟s sort of inherent. according to official records. because it is in his nature. But I always have done. It has emerged that he has intervened in at least four other major London projects by acclaimed architects. he got on the phone to the Qatari royal family. when he used his lobbying might to stop the redevelopment of the Chelsea Barracks in west London into an architecturally acclaimed housing project (Charles is the owner of a housing charity that builds projects in more conservative styles). successfully stopping at least one.

” Charles begins. While it remains to be seen how Charles intends to reconcile political activist. his extended family and their political supporters are not taking any chances: Friday‟s wedding is a bright flash of light intended to keep eyes away from the larger problem. not just in his commendable awareness of global warming but in his outspoken support of such thinkers as Wendell Berry. He launches a lengthy attack on most of the ideas of the Enlightenment and all of what he describes as “the deliberate demolition job carried out on traditional culture by what became known as „modernism‟ in the 20th century” – not just in architecture and art. much of the past two centuries of history. It also extends to his political advocacy: His Foundation for Integrated Health successfully lobbied the Northern Ireland government to introduce remedies such as homeopathy and aromatherapy for the treatment of such serious ailments as “musculoskeletal problems. Charles is also a great defender of Islam. and has persuaded the Boots pharmacy chain to carry them in all its stores. as well as those of other great religions and cultures.” Whether you happen to enjoy or abhor any of Charles‟s ideas (and those who embrace all of them are a small community).” He calls it a revolution in “right action” and “right thinking.” he writes.” a return to spiritual faith and a way of life founded in nature rather than in science. depression.“This is a call to revolution. Many remedies with no proven medical or scientific value are part of the Prince of Wales‟s business empire: His Duchy Originals firm makes herbal and homeopathic supplements.” Scientists and doctors have been horrified by Charles‟s lavish advocacy of pseudo-medical practices such as homeopathy and aromatherapy as alternatives to medicine. he uses his School of Traditional Arts in East London to promote “the living traditions of Islamic art. in numerous unpredictable ways. A deeply religious man. architecture and craftsmanship. Could the father be eclipsed by the son? . His is a fascinating sort of agrarian arch-conservatism that leads him to detest.” It is a job description that happens to collide violently. adding: “ „Revolution‟ is a strong word and I use it deliberately. stress and anxiety. with the one he has been waiting his whole life to carry out. urbanization and aesthetics alarm many liberals. and he intends to use all his resources to make it everyone‟s ideology. who advocate a turn away from technology and economic growth. While Charles‟s ideas about politics. he also holds ideas that offend many traditional Tory supporters of the monarchy: He is an ardent believer in radical ecology. and seek to reverse. not just in Britain but throughout the Commonwealth: “This will involve our taking all sorts of dramatic steps to change the way we consider the world and act in it. “but I believe we have the capacity to take these steps. His ideology is not just a personal faith but a mission. but in the entire edifice of thought of our age. the important message of Harmony is that he considers them his calling. supermarket entrepreneur and radical philosopher with the aloof mystique of constitutional monarch.

the heir‟s brother.But if Friday‟s spectacle is a vastly expensive experiment in image management. Edward VIII. had got in the way of his job as monarch. The result was a decade-long dynastic and political battle. To shuffle Charles out of the deck would be a difficult operation: It is a decision that could be made only by the parliaments of the . George VI. when the British public and Parliament became convinced that the personal interests of the chosen heir. has overruled the official line of royal succession. Those numbers have narrowed only slightly. What if it draws attention to what is not being said aloud? What if it reveals William to be a plausible constitutional monarch but his father as something else entirely? There have been several historic cases where the will of the people. to step down and hand the crown to a more popular young prince.” says Tim Harris. against his will. the British people have been clear in their response. his brother. Its aftermath – the crucial months afterward when William takes the public stage as figure recognized around the world. but we also have the Commonwealth. fewer than 20 per cent said they wanted Charles to be the next king. 64 per cent of Britons told pollsters they wanted William to succeed Elizabeth. with 59 per cent telling The Daily Telegraph‟s pollsters last week they wanted the monarchy to “skip a generation. charismatic prince who had risen to popular attention: The Duke of Monmouth.” The wedding could well make this view even more popular. had different opinions. and so the whole of the Commonwealth would have to agree. It is that it may prove to be all too successful. but the result was the same: Parliament persuaded the king. it also happens to be a highly risky one. a historian at Brown University who specializes in the Stuart succession crises. or Parliament. those interests were not political but romantic. Commonwealth complications However. “We now have a United Kingdom. the British government and the leaders of the Commonwealth states. which James also ruled. “There would be a similar issue today with changing the succession. the Glorious Revolution and the establishment of modern parliamentary control of royal succession. it usually does. The exclusion bills were largely a failure because Scotland. In this case. and the head of the 54-member Commonwealth. son of Charles II. it is not simply a matter of British opinion: The Queen is the head of state in 15 countries. The public preferred a young. On the day William and Kate announced their engagement last year. perhaps more than his father – will be watched with careful attention by the other members of the Way Ahead Group. The worry is not that the wedding won‟t succeed. The most dramatic was when the heir to the throne. This time around. Parliament preferred Mary II. When the people want the monarchy to move along. James. was enormously unpopular for his political and religious interference (he was a Roman Catholic) and was subject to three parliamentary exclusion bills. Duke of York. skipping a generation.” But perhaps a more useful example occurred in 1936. all of them designed to skip a generation. from 1679 to 1681.

then anything... Friday‟s wedding is a crucial volley in this campaign. but he also pours a lot of investment into The Prince's Trust which helps disadvantaged inner city children. Other mans grass is always greener.countries where he would be king. will that be read as a vote against his father? Or it could be a vote. How much will Canadians endure Charles now that the more appealing promise of William has been so tantalizingly dangled? We may start to learn the answer this summer. Now. otherwise ignored. for a historic bait and switch: an era during which a prince is in our hearts and a king. Charles has not really had a good press. he's actually a really nice guy. as his grandmother may well hope. and will endure Charles if the more stable and appealing William seems hard on his heels. Australia‟s Prime Minister. but it does not obscure the fact that Charles could alienate large parts of the realm. see how they go all gooey eyed over royalty. That actually says more about your standards than his. The chances of a republic in the UK are about zero percent. An embarrassing or unlikeable monarch could quickly disillusion Canadians as well.. who effectively represents the monarchy . when it will be William‟s turn to visit Canada. this time with his photogenic bride. given the current regime and its predilection for stuffing crooked senators into office as well as bullying/lying their way through parliament . how far would that be from an elected head of state? The House of Windsor is gambling that parliaments will see it this way. Doug Saunders is a London-based member of The Globe and Mail's European bureau. The Yanks have been a republic for far longer. even before it became a popular political soundbite. Having met him. anywhere in the Commonwealth. The chances of Canada becoming a republic probably more like 60%. Julia Gillard. and if public opinion could be transformed in monarchy-loving Canada. A lot of people think that because of his background and his accent. the G. might be possible (although such structural change would be dauntingly complex)..G. is on our money. and you'll have some banana to go with your republic. . has already said she would support having her country become a republic after the Queen‟s death. If he sets foot on the shores of Newfoundland and attracts an audience not in the dozens but in the thousands. And if they were willing to change the monarchy from one of hereditary succession to one of parliamentarily chosen succession. that it's okay to knock him. He has not only been promoting organic food stuffs and sustainable farming for decades. you take away the last 'safety valve' .

f ¾f¾° ff f– ½ ¾¾  f¾°° °½¯°––f°n€ ¾€€¾f°  ¾¾f°f  €f¯°–€ nf ¾   ° €  nf¯ f½½f½nf¾°    f¾½¾ f€° ¾¯ °°@ 9°n ¾@¾n ½¾ ¾f f°f– °° nn  ° f°–¯  ¯  ¾fnff f°n – €½ ½ °f nf¾ €¾ fn–° f° ¾fnn °  f ¾f°n¯ @ffnf¾f¾¯ f ¾f° f ¾f°¾   @ nf°n ¾€f ½ n° Df f  ½ n ° @ nf°n ¾€.

f°f f n¯°–f ½ n ½ f ¯   - – ° n ° –¯ f° ¾½  n°€¾€€°–n ¾ °f¾ °€€n f¾ f¾ °–$°– f–½ff¯ ° f ff f¾ ¾f€ f       €€ n  ½ ¾ °¾ ¯°fn f°  f ¾¯  f°f°f–  ½ n   @ f°¾f  °f ½ n€€f°–  ¾  –f–    f  ¯f°¾ –f¾¾¾ff¾– °   .

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful