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

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

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh  

Scottish independence: Forget Yes and No — what about a United Kingdom of Independent States?

Ben Judah
Francois Hollande at the Paris summit on Iraq with ministers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on 15 September  

What's going to happen in Syria and Iraq? A guide to the new anti-Isis coalition's global strategy

Jonathan Russell
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week