I AM surprised at how much pain I feel at any suggestion of doing away with the monarchy. I don't think this is just fear of change, or of ending up with something worse, but more because of my sense of the dedication and transparent integrity of the Queen. That apart, I sense that the institution of the monarchy runs deeper and is a more stabilising agent than any of us quite know. I think we are lucky to have a focus, a representative figure who is not identified with a political party, to whom all may, if they wish, offer loyalty.

The price royalty pays for this is to become woven into our fantasy lives. (I have noticed that even those most cynical about the Royal Family love gossiping about them.) The younger members in particular are used to supplying a sort of poetry (fairy-tale romance, etc), to becoming living myths, the victims of our huge projections.

When they fail to live out the romance, the media fall violently upon them (not just the vulgar tabloids; there is often much more viciousness in middle-class television programmes such as Spitting Image or Have I Got News for You?) and the cruelty expended upon them is terrifying. It's as if we are punishing them for turning out to be ordinary people like ourselves.

Myth is powerful stuff and cannot be abandoned at a whim, or even by Act of Parliament. But we could move in the direction of dismantling it somewhat. Without expecting the Queen to live quite as the rest of us do, I think her style could be less feudal, closer to the ideals of a democratic society.

There is a sense of anachronism in her overweening wealth, the many houses, the huge pomp, the negligible opportunity most of us ever have to meet her. (In spite of having lived in London most of my life, I have never actually seen the Queen, except once by chance at the theatre.) The monarch is turned, at huge cost to herself, into a goddess, the not-quite-human.

Without wanting to see the Royal Family on bicycles in The Mall, I feel that less splendour would make them more lovable, and perhaps make their lives happier. I would like a simpler, cheaper, more human monarchy (in particular, I resent the thought of all that money being spent on St George's Hall, which most of us will never see inside, when the health and education services are desperate for cash and the streets of most big cities are full of homeless people). I think I would like a disestablishment of the Church of England, and some disestablishment of the Establishment itself, which feels as snobbish, sexist and oligarchic as ever.

What I think would be an act of violence to our settled traditions and our sense of identity would be a republic. I want Prince Charles to become king. I believe he would do the job responsibly and well, and he would certainly have my loyalty.

(Photograph omitted)

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