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Q and A
Tuesday
Ben Pimlott

Ben Pimlott is author of The Queen: A biography of Queen Elizabeth II. The book is widely acclaimed as the serious royal watcher's bible.
 
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"The death of Diana acted as a kind of douche. The monarchy was already moving in a more media-friendly direction. The extraordinary response to her death significantly accelerated the pace."

Has there been any change in the British monarchy since Diana's death?
Maqsood Khan
Hong Kong

There has certainly been a significant change of style adopted by the Royal Family and there is a definite sense of movement.

The Queen recognised in her broadcast last year before Diana's funeral that there were "lessons to be learnt" from her life and both she and the Prince of Wales have tried to take a more informal approach as a result.

There has been greater attention paid to public opinion expressed in polls, a new communications officer has been taken on and there has been a real attempt to reach out to the public.

One minor example was the Queen's visit to a pub. Another was a reminder issued by the Palace that bowing and curtseying to Royals is optional.

It seems from my side of the country that Charles has moved Camilla into the place that once belonged to Diana. Will the British people stand for Camilla becoming the next Princess of Wales and step-mother to William and Harry?
Adrian Mills, 26
United States

Since before Diana's death, polls have indicated the public to be against such a marriage but there are now signs that this hostility is weakening. If both the Prince and Mrs Parker Bowles continue to show caution and tact, then I imagine this trend may continue.

The Church may come round and the marriage of two people who evidently have a strong relationship may become possible.

The Royal family is literally a joke. Diana's "neurosis," the Queen's insensitivity to her, Charles' philandering, Diana's philandering, and on and on. What purpose does the monarchy serve, save for selling newspapers and making the country look simply ridiculous?
William Howard, 31
San Diego, California

Practically every country has a head of state and there are of course many different arguments for and against that head being elected or not. In the end, the question of which must be a question of public sentiment.

An advantage of an unelected head over one which is elected - and not determined in advance - is that it takes the question of the succession out of politics. It also provides historical continuity, acting as a reminder of the nation's past in a harmless way.

Finally, an unelected head without political powers but with a high degree of legitimacy can be useful as a source of calm and neutral advice, unaffected by the pressures of the moment - but that obviously depends on the individual.

Equally obviously, a bad or inadequate monarch can be a serious embarrassment.

Would you agree that Diana's death caused a constitutional crisis that was make or break time for the Royal Family
Gemma, 16
Florida, USA

It was certainly a critical moment in the history of the monarchy. Arguably, no event has had such a major impact on the Royal Family since the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936.

There was a real sense of the monarchy under siege in the days following Diana's death and the Royal Family certainly did make mistakes in the way it was seen to be reacting.

I think it is wrong to see the crowds that formed outside Buckingham Place and Kensington Palace as Republican. However, they contained people who were bitter and critical of the surviving Royals and that was a new experience for the monarchy.

As a result, I think that the Royal establishment will always look back on the events of 1997 as a turning point.

Why don't more Britons realise that it is time to get rid of the monarchy after their treatment of Diana?
Elaine Flick, 40
Kentucky USA

Despite criticisms levelled at the Royal Family following the death of Diana, opinion polls continue to show that only a very small percentage of the British public want to get rid of the monarchy.

The Royal Family has been horrible at picking "suitable" mates for their children. It seems that every time they have interfered, the results have been disastrous. Is there any chance they will let Harry and William marry whomever they choose so long as she wasn't a Catholic or a felon?
Elizabeth Wood
USA

It is misconception to believe that the Royal Family chooses partners for its young unmarried members. It certainly did not happen in the case of Charles and Diana.

If there have been difficulties in Royal marriages, these may have come from other causes. It is undoubtedly true, for instance, that many people - however much in love - would hesitate before marrying into the Royal Family. As a career choice, it is a slightly awesome one. Those who do take it, sometimes face intolerable strains. Captain Mark Phillips, for example, was like a fish out of water after he married Princess Anne.

Where William and Harry are concerned, it is to be hoped that they will be allowed to live a more normal existence, for example, by encouraging them in orthodox careers, and allowing them to pursue professions if they want.