Sorry, Ma'am, but it is time for you to go; Column One

Fay Weldon writes an open letter to the Queen
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The Independent Online

Be assured I address you as a loyal subject. I am no longer a republican. A small nation perched on the edge of Europe will need everything it can muster in the way of separate identity and history if it is not to meld silently into the rest.

The danger is that a hundred years from now we will be a faceless entity: we will be no more than the NWF, the Northern Workforce. We will need to know our roots as a nation in the same way we do as individuals.

Even in these days of cyberspace, we have a physical reality: personally I feel reassured by the solidity of Buckingham Palace, with your great-grandmother Queen Victoria glowering down the Mall, the trappings of empire carved in marble all around.

Since Diana's death the Union Jack now flying above the Palace (though that was none of your doing; the mob clamoured for it and got it) is a useful reminder that we are still an imperial power. Together with our friends the Americans we are cultural imperialists, still trading by force majeure: we plant international corporations rather than garrisons throughout the world, but otherwise it's business as usual: our armies strike from the air, not land or sea, we send Stealth Bombers not gunboats: it's safer and cheaper. Bombs over Belgrade ensure that the rest of the world takes our new religion of multi-culturalism on board, no matter what the primitive beliefs of the native population.

I am not protesting: I acknowledge, as I'm sure you do, the expediencies of survival. But we do need you there to put a gloss on things: to make us believe in the dignity of our enterprises. Hypocrisy is better than nothing: a semblance of morality is better than no morality at all. God save the Queen!

But that said, you must go, you must abdicate in favour of your son Charles and you must do it now, in the interests of the survival of the institution you represent. Not because you have failed us - on the contrary - but because if you don't the monarchy is in danger of being swept away.

Those are not winds of change ruffling the Royal Standard, they are veritable hurricanes. If the House of Lords is to lose its hereditary principle, how can Royalty be justified? It can only appear to the tax-payer as a marriage appears to a marriage counsellor - an absurd and irrational state of affairs, the sooner dissolved the better. But if you were to go now - suddenly - before the millennium, in one swift sidestep upstaging government, Dome, and British Airways' Ferris Wheel, I bet the PR shot-in-the-arm would give the monarchy another couple of hundred years at least.

Charles is newsworthy, you are not. Headlines n anathema to your generation n are the nourishment monarchy needs to survive. This is the media age. Quiet dignity and forbearance are no longer enough. Charles makes an increasingly sympathetic figure: he got there before the rest of us. To embrace trees once seemed bonkers, now it seems normal enough. Leave Buck House, ma'am, while it is still yours, trust your eldest son, let him move in, let his Camilla refurbish the place as Jackie Kennedy once did the White House. (To read the accounts of the young Princesses and Duchesses who have variously lived and suffered there, it is a dreadfully draughty and uncomfortable place.) And as Queen Mother, no longer Queen, it would be easier on the protocol to ereceive' Camilla, which for everyone's sake needs to be done. The world moves on: terms such as ehusband' and ewife' begin to sound old-fashioned. Even those formally joined in holy matrimony tend to use the term epartner' instead. The marital upsets of

your family once caused consternation amongst your subjects: now we cease to turn a hair. We just want everyone to be happy.

Abdicate not just for our sake, but for yours. Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once, before we and you wake up one morning and find the monarchy has been eased out of existence altogether: that Her Majesty's Inland Revenue has become National Tax and Buck House allocated as a Presidential Palace. It is roomier and more appropriate than Downing Street, where you and yours could all too easily fit in. The Prime Minister, we read, no longer has time for the formal weekly meeting with you. It was a ridiculous ritual: no-one denies it. He might well turn up to see Charles, though, and Royalty thus be fortified. Those who rule the headlines rule the world. And Tony Blair, if only by virtue of the steadiness of his personal life, tends to lose out.

you and I share certain things in common. At the end of the war school children were made to watch footage of the carnage of the concentration camps. We were shown them so we'd know just what people were capable of, even in so called civilised countries: so we would beware. These things were never to happen again. I seem to remember that you and your sister Margaret were shown them too. We were all traumatised together.

Now the footage is shown to the nation's blas children as stuff for examinations, and they are left with the idea that evil is confined to ethe Nazis' and that the Second World War was fought eto save the Jews.' Anyone who was around at the time knows that that good turn was purely coincidental. What we did know, after seeing the film, was just how right we had been to fight the war. We understood, moreover, why there had to be a European Community, nations joined together in a common economic and social interest. There must never be a war in Europe. the new generation understands so little it is understandable why you are reluctant to go.

More, it was during that war that your family become a symbol of what the nation was fighting for: forget pomp and circumstance n these are luxuries - but for the simple enduring placidity of our daily life, then under great stress. You don't, we notice, make State visits to Germany. Your mother goes further: a couple of years back she endorsed the new statue to Bomber Harris, destroyer of Dresden, in the Strand. She's too old to change her spots, you perhaps are too honest: Charles is in a better position to forget the old antagonisms and become a true European.

We need the monarchy, ma'am, do what you can to save it. You are there in the group unconscious. Your family packs a powerful punch of archetypes. All over the world you feature in the anxiety dreams of housewives the Queen of England is coming to tea. Is the house clean? Will she notice the bed I haven't yet made? But there are few housewives left in the world: time to pass the royal baton on to Charles; let him enter the twenty-first century as the archetype of the new man, the wronged father, focus of our ecological guilts.

you can't stay: your Royal Crest becomes a farce, a tourist trap in lights on Harrod's now vulgar shop-front: under good King Charles it can appear on the tasteful packets of organic Dutchy oatcakes which already stream out of the Home Farm at Highgrove and grace the tables of the knowledgeable.

you represent to us the second half of the twentieth century: for God and the Nation's sake let the Millennium ring in the golden reign of King Charles Third. A coronation will be something to hold on to once midday of January 1st 2000 has come and with it the great let-down, when we realise that nothing has changed at all.