Hugo Vickers

The problem with a slimmed-down monarchy

[Getty Images]

When he was Prince of Wales, the King began to advocate the need for a slimmed-down monarchy. The perception was that there were too many royals, an image confirmed in the eyes of the media and the public when they all appeared together on the balcony following the Trooping the Colour. The ill-informed man in the street would go away thinking the taxpayer was supporting all these disparate family members. This was a misconception, but it lingered. At the time of the Diamond Jubilee, the Queen’s advisers were delighted when only a handful of royals appeared on the balcony after the service at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2012 – the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry (the Duke of Edinburgh was in hospital at the time). This image was what media advisors would describe as a better ‘optic’.

The Queen and Prince Philip had many patronages and presidencies which it is proving a problem to fill

Then at the time of the Platinum Jubilee a new category was devised – the so-called working royals. These were the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess Royal (accompanied by Sir Tim Laurence, her husband), the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra. So there it was – the slimmed-down monarchy just as the King-to-be had always wanted.

Frankly, I never thought it would work. Nor did the Princess Royal (who is always worth listening to). Last year she was asked about it. ‘Well, I think the “slimmed-down” [monarchy] was said in a day when there were a few more people around to make that seem like a justifiable comment… It doesn’t sound like a good idea from where I’m standing, I have to say.

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