Only a few hours before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge landed in Sydney for the start of their much-hyped royal Australian visit, Barry O’Farrell, the popular Premier of New South Wales, stunned the nation by resigning. His reason? He couldn’t remember having quaffed a bottle of wine. (No ordinary wine, mind you, but a bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange, valued at around GBP 1,700.) In years to come, no doubt among Barry’s many regrets will be the fact that he didn’t get to hob nob on the harbour with the glam royal couple.
A timely coincidence, because what links these two events goes to the heart of why Australia’s constitutional monarchy is so popular. The polls are unequivocal. Down under, the monarchy is ‘in’, republicanism is ‘out’. As the latest Fairfax Nielsen poll has it: “more than half of all Australians now believe the switch to a republic is unnecessary with 51 per cent opposing any such move and only 42 per cent backing it.” Which represents “the lowest pro-republican sentiment in 35 years.” Even more astonishing: “Just 28 per cent of respondents aged between 18 and 24 years, backed the idea of an Australian head of state, whereas 60 per cent said no to the idea.”
Believe it or not, it’s the kids who dig our kings and queens. How much of this is down to Wills’ and Kate’s undeniable celeb status (Kate Windsor? Kate Moss? Katy Perry?) or the current popularity of TV shows such as Game of Thrones is immaterial. The point is, from an emotional point of view, an entire generation is perfectly relaxed about our quirky, ‘anachronistic’ constitutional arrangements.
No wonder. Their Majesties represent everything our political classes do not. They offer stability, tradition, respect, star quality and dignity.