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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
'The Queen has never been more secure'
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By Andrew Roberts
Author and historian
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The Queen Mother's death last month provoked a wave of public support for the once beleaguered Royal Family. So what does the future hold for our Monarchy?

In the first of a series, author and historian Andrew Roberts argues that the monarch has never been so popular.

King's Lynn in Norfolk might not seem - with its royal connections and proximity to Sandringham - to be a likely hotbed of republicanism.

Queue for the Queen Mother's lying-in-state
Many thousands queued to pay their respects to the Queen Mother
But on Thursday, 4 April Channel 4 News did a "vox pop" feature on it which purported to show that its residents could not have cared less about the death of the Queen Mother, and had feelings ranging from uninterest to contempt for the Royal Family.

I was asked on to the programme along with the republican Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland to explain this phenomenon, but could only bluster out my belief that matters would improve once the lying-in-state began.

Mr Freedland meanwhile said that this was a watershed for the Crown and showed how irrelevant the Royal Family was in our exciting modern meritocratic age.


Visions of the Monarchy

In our three-part series, writers assess the Royal Family's future

  • Wednesday - Historian Andrew Roberts on why the Monarchy has never been so popular   Thursday - Author Hilary Wainwright says republicanism will return   Friday - Economist Michael Jacobs on why modernisation is still important
  • How spectacularly wrong he and Channel 4 turned out to be. The nine days between the Queen Mother's death and funeral proved that the British people have the same kind of relationship with the monarchy as an old married couple who bitch about one another occasionally, but fundamentally love and are proud of one another, especially when family events such as births, weddings and funerals are taking place.

    It is republicanism that seems an irrelevant, outmoded fad, a rather dated minority interest like Esperanto, plane-spotting or the League of Nations Union.

    The New British, who proclaimed that Cool Britannia would be unveiled at the Millennium Dome and would bury Old Britain, were routed in April 2002, when they came up against the catafalque, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the crowds stretching back to Hungerford Bridge, and the love of the British for history, romance and tradition.

    The Queen Mother, ever the doughty old fighter, even in death saw them off in style, as we might have known she would.

    The Queen
    Jubilee celebrations in June will be a test of the Queen's popularity
    Her obsequies prove that it is not uncool to be grateful to the Crown for the work it does.

    The Golden Jubilee will be immeasurably aided by this revelation, and I predict the Queen's procession through the streets of London on Monday 3 June will be one of the great occasions of British post-war history.

    It will confound the republicans once again, because they cannot argue that it would attract the same interest and enthusiasm if conducted by an elected president, probably some former politician who half the nation has voted against for years.

    It is precisely the undemocratic, unrepresentative, unmeritocratic nature of the institution of monarchy - the fact that it is so unlike everything else in our modern world and age - that makes it so fascinating and attractive.

    Charles steps up

    It shows that there is still somewhere a part of the historical continuum that connects us to the ancient.

    Prince William
    Prince William helps appeal to a younger public
    In the short term, as Prince Charles takes on more of his mother's duties after the Jubilee the Queen will be able to enjoy some more spare time as a septuagenarian deserves.

    Prince William's good looks will meanwhile protect the popularity of the monarchy when Prince Charles finally marries the only woman he has ever truly loved.

    If any political party were to embrace republicanism it would probably have already happened in the monarchy's difficult days of 1992-98.

    Today it would be suicidal, because the prospects for the Monarchy look better than at any stage since the Silver Jubilee a quarter of a century ago. Even in King's Lynn.

    Andrew Roberts is author of The House of Windsor, published by Cassell.


    Has enthusiasm for the monarchy increased?

    I think the royal family does a good job promoting the UK, but then I have always felt that way. Many here talk of privilege but few mention the price the royals pay. I, for one, would not want everything I do to be under scrutiny in the public eye. Unlike me, they do not have the freedom to choose any life/career path they desire. For this reason I do not begrudge them a penny of the money they get from the state - I wouldn't want their job!
    Sarah, UK


    The monarchy defines Great Britain, and reminds us that our country and countrymen are unique

    Darren, UK
    For once I wish we could be more like the USA. Americans see no shame in feeling proud of their roots and heritage, while we Brits seem to feel the need to thrash ourselves with nettles in penance for being part of something great. The monarchy defines Great Britain, and reminds us that our country and countrymen are unique, so lets stop watering down everything we have before we become Bland Britain.
    Darren, UK

    The enthusiasm for the monarchy hasn't changed. Monarchists are the silent majority.
    Gem, UK

    The enthusiasm will be short lived. As soon as one of the 'royals' does something stupid and in clear conflict with their so called duties opinion will turn against them. They attract popularity the same way a pop star or movie does. If it's in the news looking glamourous and interesting people will say they like it. If it causes controversy and upsets people they will hate it. For the rest of the time most simply won't care.
    Graham, UK

    I will always support a constitutional monarchy... Constitutional monarchy provides us with an apolitical, powerless figurehead that can be looked up to by anyone, no matter the race, religion or economic background. I believe that the Queen has fulfilled this mandate to the best of her ability during her 50 year reign. I would far rather a constitutional monarch than a smarmy, corrupt politician that has to canvass and lie to voters in order to get elected. We already elect the people who matter.
    BC, Scotland, U.K

    The historical relevance and tradition of monarchy cannot be imitated or pretended. It is unique in all the world. My heritage would be greatly diminished by its loss. Being a proud American must also mean taking pride in British achievement. The United States would do well to remember its roots and relish the continuing majesty of the Mother country and her graceful presence on a world stage cluttered with loathsome political monsters of modern creation.
    James Keefner, USA


    It's about time we seriously consider becoming a Republic.

    Adrian Murphy, England
    It's about time we seriously consider becoming a Republic. Furthermore, I think the UK should now drop out of the Commonwealth and concentrate efforts on the EU. The monarchy and commonwealth simply keep imperialistic values alive. We simply do not need to be worrying about countries such as Zimbabwe. The UN is there to step in if things go completely pear-shaped. This is not to say that we should drop our strong relationship with countries such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and NZ. I think Europe as a whole should as a whole, try and extend non-european relationships.
    Adrian Murphy, England

    I have never subsided in my feelings for the Queen and all the Royals. Long live the Queen.
    Liane Mill, U.S.A.

    I am an avowed monarchist for the simple reason that the presence of a monarch ensures that at least one position in our national life is beyond the reach of politicians, their cronies, and the people who fund them. That it is also beyond the reach of everyone else is a small price to pay.

    What republicans invariably fail to put forward is the alternative to a monarch - because that alternative would be a president who either would be a politician or a political crony. That is inevitable. And it is inconceivable that any such president could ever even command majority support, leave alone match the 70-odd percent support the Queen routinely receives.
    John Birch, England

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