The jury is now out on Charles's right to succeed

As many as 41 per cent thought William should succeed, while 19 per cent didn't want the monarchy

Share
Related Topics

The monarchy is now on probation. This is the conclusion one can draw from the polls last week in the aftermath of the announcement of the forthcoming marriage between Charles Windsor and Camilla Parker Bowles. Even to the question "do you approve of Charles marrying Camilla?", 27 per cent of the respondents in one poll said that they did not.

The monarchy is now on probation. This is the conclusion one can draw from the polls last week in the aftermath of the announcement of the forthcoming marriage between Charles Windsor and Camilla Parker Bowles. Even to the question "do you approve of Charles marrying Camilla?", 27 per cent of the respondents in one poll said that they did not.

It is interesting to take the question out of the royal context and consider it as if it referred to members of one's own circle of family and friends. A 27 per cent disapproval rate of an intended marriage between two divorcees would surely be considered unusually high. Moreover the detail of the poll showed that respondents in the 18- to 24-year-old category were just as unimpressed as those aged 65 and older.

Fifty years ago one would have said that such a result measured middle-class shock when confronted by aristocratic disregard for the sanctity of marriage. But that ancient class distinction vanished a generation ago.

The truth is that Charles Windsor and Camilla Parker Bowles are thought to have behaved reprehensibly by contemporary standards. Some shrug their shoulders and say that they might as well marry; a minority is less tolerant. How will this discomfort with the Royal Family be resolved?

The question is rendered more acute by the answers given to the question, "Who would be more of an asset to the Royal Family as Charles's wife: Camilla or Diana, if she were alive?" Overwhelmingly people said Diana would have been the greater asset, with the young somewhat more enthusiastic than the old.

In other words, if we are to continue having a king and queen, then people want them to be a bit special. For what Diana turned out to have is what royalty needs today more than any other quality, empathy. Charles himself isn't able to do empathy. Being an absentee father to one's motherless children, as he has shown himself to be, is the very opposite.

The poll results are all of a piece, and they suggest that a constitutional crisis is slowly approaching. If Mrs Parker Bowles is not seen as much of an asset, then it follows that there is no great enthusiasm for her performing royal duties. A majority were in favour of her doing so, but only in the proportion 56 per cent "yes" to 40 per cent "no". But then we come to another unexpected aspect of public opinion.

"Should Mrs Parker Bowles be given the title Her Royal Highness?" What the title means according to the rules of behaviour in the presence of royalty is that we subjects are supposed to bow or to curtsy when we are introduced to such a personage. I have always found the convention ludicrous. Showing reverence for a head of state, whether in a constitutional monarchy or a republic, is very natural. But also for members of the head of state's family? At all events, 58 per cent of respondents to the poll objected to the title Her Royal Highness being conferred on Mrs Parker Bowles. Even 51 per cent of respondents over 65 years old said no.

In another poll that posed the same question, the results were just as severe: 47 per cent of respondents said Mrs Parker Bowles should not be accorded a royal title of any kind and should call herself by her present name or Mrs Windsor. What does this rejection tell us? Partly that people don't respect Mrs Parker Bowles. But it may also signal a distaste for having to bob up and down when minor royalty approaches to carry out some ceremonial duty. Antique protocol isn't doing the monarchy any favours.

Even more dynamite is contained in the answers to the question: now Charles is marrying Camilla, should he still become king? One poll says "yes" by a margin of 55 to 40 per cent. That is not an impressive majority. But a poll in The Daily Telegraph gave a more explosive result. Only 37 per cent were in favour. As many as 41 per cent thought that Charles's elder son, William, should succeed instead. And 19 per cent of the respondents didn't want to continue with a monarchy at all.

I am not surprised by this last finding. The hereditary principle is essentially a game of chance employed to select the head of state. Hitherto the nation has accepted whoever is next in line come what may. But now we seem to wish to fix the system. Prince Charles won't do, we say, so let's jump a generation to somebody about whom, as it happens, we know absolutely nothing. The absurdity of proceeding in this way is bound the strengthen the ranks of the sceptics.

When the moment comes, therefore, if public opinion is of the same mind as it is today, a very difficult situation would arise. Accession by the next in line is almost instantaneous, but Parliament can, if it chooses, stop the machinery and give itself time to think. In this there is the making of a major constitutional crisis. Curiously the marriage announcement has unexpectedly emphasised the difficulties that lie ahead. It's like a car accident. One can see that there is going to be a crash and one cannot get out the way in time.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor