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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April 2005, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Why the republican optimism?
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

Part of Republic advertisement
Will the message fall on deaf ears?
A royal wedding is meant to be a chance for the public to unite behind the happy couple and for the monarchy to shine on a world stage. So why has the republican movement launched its biggest campaign to coincide with Saturday's nuptials?

The newspapers in the days before Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles say "I do" have been salivating with the customary stories about guests, place mats, menus and hymns.

A set-piece event of this nature is usually the monarchy's trump card. When the television cameras are on them, they put on a good show, as much for the global audience as the British.

But this week's media anticipation has come a little late, and the organisational skills of the palace have taken a knock after weeks of headaches concerning legality, titles, venues and postponements.

A small reflection of this was nestled among the editorial minutiae about dresses, flowers and speeches. Some readers' eyes may have caught an advertisement depicting a caricature of the happy couple, with the title "End the royal farce".

When they're in the news for the wrong reasons, we have people who have traditionally supported them saying 'This is the last straw'
Graham Smith

This is the work of Republic, a group which wants the UK to have an elected head of state. Adverts in national newspapers and websites, plus 20,000 leaflets comprise its largest campaign yet.

Its membership has doubled since the wedding was announced, to about 800, says Graham Smith, the campaign co-ordinator.

The rise is partly because any news about the royals, good or bad, triggers interest in the cause, he says. But the mishaps befalling this particular wedding have been a further boost.

"When they're in the news for the wrong reasons, we have people who have traditionally supported them saying 'This is the last straw'.

"It's about principles for us, but we acknowledge many people are not fond of the idea of Queen Camilla and I think the whole mystique and high regard for the old monarchy 20 years ago has been whittled away."

'Don't care'

Divorce and affairs have stripped that magic and put the royals in the realm of celebrity culture, he says.

Staunch monarchists may dislike Camilla and still never waver from their support for the institution, but overall many opinions are fluid and people can be persuaded to change their views, says Mr Smith.

The Mall, 2002
Monarchists say the Golden Jubilee celebrations reflected huge support
"There are a lot of people who don't care either way but when confronted with someone they dislike, it becomes an issue."

No mainstream political party has broached the subject of abolishing the monarchy, but the campaign aims to press all election candidates to call for a debate. Tony Banks and Norman Baker are two of the few openly republican MPs.

Support in the country is about 20%, says Mr Smith, although polls suggest the figure has risen in recent weeks, he adds.

On the contrary, support for the monarchy is as strong as ever, says Bob Houston, editor of Royalty magazine.

"Look at the queues when the Queen Mother died and the Jubilee celebrations, which drew one million people to The Mall. The media has misread the public mood on this wedding."

There has been opposition to Camilla becoming Queen but the tabloids have wrongly depicted her as a scarlet woman when we actually know very little about her, he says.

"I doubt whether the man or woman in the street gives a monkeys about that. The younger generation are totally apathetic about the Royal Family, not anti.

"Their attitude is 'Why the hell has it taken them so long to get married?'"

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