Only a few days passed after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled Britain for 70 years, and then voices began to rise about the future of the monarchy in England.
Indeed, the monarchy faces several challenges that cannot be underestimated at such a critical time. The first and most important of these challenges is the low popularity of King Charles III compared to the popularity of Queen Elizabeth.
A poll in May put Charles’ national approval rating at 65%, 21 percentage points lower than the Queen’s rating. That’s because for decades the British have traditionally reduced the monarchy to the beloved queen. Some individual incidents also showed the decline in the popularity of Amber Charles. According to the Guardian, one protester disrupted an announcement made on Sunday in Oxford about the king’s proclamation, leading to his arrest, while another was arrested in Edinburgh in a separate incident.
The second challenge is the desire of the anti-monarchists to seize the opportunity to proclaim a republic. This desire was made clear in many statements by supporters of the republic following the death of the queen. For example, in a statement to Reuters, Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, a group that campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy, in Reading, England, said, “The queen is the monarchy for most people. After she dies the future of the institution is in serious jeopardy,”. In similar statements also to some local newspapers, Smith asserted, “We will be campaigning pretty hard from not long after the funeral through the coronation.”
This is not the first time that calls for turning Britain into a republic have risen. More recently, in 1991, Tony Bean, a prominent leftist MP, tried to persuade Parliament to vote to abolish the monarchy. In 2000, The Guardian led a campaign to create a republic, hoping to stimulate public debate. Both attempts have failed for years, but many activists today maintain that the announcement of King Charles’ accession would represent their best chance to win support for their cause.
More importantly, Britain’s prime minister, Liz Truss, who took office only a few hours before the Queen’s death, has been an advocate of abolition. This is where The Independent published a clip of Truss at the age of 19, saying at one of the protests, “But only one family cannot provide for a head of state. We, liberal Democrats, believe in opportunity for all. … We do not believe that people should be born to rule.” We’ve had enough.”
Indeed, Truss has recently expressed remorse for such an opinion, describing it as a “mistake”. However, political fluctuations are unpredictable, especially with a prime minister whose political positions contradict from time to time. For example, in her youth, Liz Truss belonged to the left and then fell back to the conservatives. Also recently, Truss has succeeded in winning the support of conservative activists by presenting herself as a die-hard Brexit enthusiast. This is even though it supported remaining in the European Union in the 2016 referendum.
Also one of the challenges facing the monarchy in Britain after the death of the queen is the desire of many countries belonging to the British crown to secede. Charles III still commands 14 other kingdoms today, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. But successive statements by officials in these countries and opinion polls confirm that this will not last long.
According to Reuters, in Canada, recent polls indicate that about half of Canadians believe that the country should end its relations with the monarchy after the death of Elizabeth. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in 2018 that she expected New Zealand to become a republic in her lifetime. Commenting on the Queen’s death, Ardern said: “There is no doubt that a chapter is closing today…she was extraordinary.”
Also, just after the Queen’s death, Gaston Brown, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, a Caribbean country still a Crown vassal, said he would call a referendum on the country becoming a republic within three years.
In addition to all of the above, the divisions within the royal family are also among the most important challenges facing King Charles. Undoubtedly, Harry and Meghan’s decision to step down from their royal duties in 2020, and later criticize Buckingham Palace and accuse a member of the royal family of racism, may work against members of the royal family and erode their popularity.
Many do not know that Britain had already turned into a republic in 1649 when King Charles I was overthrown and executed in Whitehall Palace following the victory of the Puritans revolution led by General Oliver Cromwell, and the republic was declared. But this republic did not last more than nine years and then the monarchy returned. Therefore, the transformation of Britain into a republic is not outlandish or far.
The coming days hold a lot. Will King Charles be able to maintain the monarchy in light of many political and economic challenges, especially at such an age of 73, as Charles is the oldest king of the royal family to take office, or will King Charles be the last king of Britain?
Dr. Marwa El-Shinawy Assistant Prof. at International American University for Specialized Studies(IAUS)