What will become of the British monarchy after Elizabeth II? It’s a question that many would prefer not to ask. But the Queen is 95, her husband died earlier this year and she’s pulling out of engagements she’s rarely missed in 69 years on the throne. More honest royal sources confirm the obvious: she’s had to take another significant step away from public life. From now on she will conduct more duties over video calls. She’ll save her energies for key events such as the Christmas broadcast.
Which leads us to the thorny matter of her succession. Queen Elizabeth has managed to sustain the prestige and influence of the crown in an obsessively democratic age. Will her heir, Prince Charles, and his sons be able to replicate that remarkable achievement? Recent years suggest that the answer might be no. We all know the grubby allegations about Prince Andrew. We’ve also watching another tabloid drama with an American subplot unfold: the House of Cambridge vs the House of Sussex, Kate and Wills vs Hazza and Megz, ‘brothers at war’, etc.
To sustain interest — or engagement (buzzword) — a modern monarchy must offer some soap operatic elements. At least that’s what Palace PR wizards believe. But the clash between the younger royals threatens to turn the whole Windsor show into reality TV, a ghastly clash between drama-queen princes and their feuding wives. It’s titillating stuff, no doubt. It’s also vulgar, which is dangerous for an institution that is meant to be the opposite. At some point people grow bored and turn off.
The chief problem is that Harry and Meghan appear to have been driven mad by fame — an unfortunate twist given their efforts to publicise mental-health issues. Last week, Prince Harry revealed that he, a postmodern Cassandra, had warned Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey that ‘his platform was allowing a coup to be staged’ ahead of the 6 January riot in Washington, DC.