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Queen Elizabeth prepares to celebrate her platinum jubilee amid animosity  

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony marking her official birthday in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain June 12, 2021. Chris Jackson/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

This year’s celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s seven-decade reign will mask a less cheerful reality for the world’s most powerful royal family: the British monarchy is being questioned in ways that have been inconceivable for most of the last 70 years.

The news: The family of 95-year-old Elizabeth, who became queen on Feb. 6, 1952, has rarely faced such scrutiny and negative news, from her son Prince Andrew’s sex abuse court case to her grandson Prince Harry and his wife’s charges of racism in the royal household.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Queen Elizabeth, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Anne stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as they watch a fly past to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force in central London, Britain July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Radburn
  • The queen is held in such high regard that the nearly 1,000-year-old institution appears to be safe while she is alive. What happens after that is less certain.
  • “The monarchy and the queen are synonymous for most people,” said Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, which has stepped up its campaigning.
  • “Once we’re past the end of the queen’s reign, all bets are off as to where public opinion is going to go.”
  • While simply an act of parliament would be required to remove the monarchy, he predicted that a referendum would be required first.
  • Since her ancestor Norman King William I’s invasion of England in 1066, the monarchy’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed, but Britain has only been a republic for the decade following King Charles I’s execution in 1649.
  • Low points of Elizabeth’s reign occurred in the 1990s, when three of her children’s marriages failed and Princess Diana, the first wife of heir Prince Charles, died in 1997.
  • The public outpourings of support at past jubilees, Elizabeth’s grandson – and future king – Prince William’s royal marriage in 2011, and the birth of royal children were all highlights.
  • The four-day celebrations in June to honour Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee would offer “national moments of reflection on the queen’s 70 years of service,” according to Buckingham Palace.
  • When asked about the monarchy’s long-term prospects, a spokeswoman declined to answer.
FILE PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip pose for a portrait at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain in 1952. Picture taken in 1952. Library and Archives Canada/National Film Board of Canada fonds/e010975988/Handout via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip pose with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain, June 5, 1961. Picture taken June 5, 1961. U. S. Department of State/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum/Handout via REUTERS

What’s going on: Supporters regard the monarchy as a stabilising force, citing the economic benefits that tourism offers to the country. Opponents contend that the organisation is a bastion of unfair privilege, partially subsidised by taxpayers and tainted by the actions of some members.

  • Andrew, 61, was deprived of his royal patronages and military titles this month as he defends charges of sex abuse in a U.S. lawsuit. He is rumoured to be Elizabeth’s favourite of her four children.
  • “For the monarchy it is an extinction-level event. You can’t spend a thousand years telling everyone you’re special and then everyone discovers, in real time, in a court case, that you are really not,” columnist Camilla Long wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper.
  • Meanwhile, Prince Harry, once the most popular member of the Windsor family, and his American wife Meghan left their royal duties to relocate to Los Angeles, where they have launched a scathing attack on the royal family and Buckingham Palace.
  • Following charges that he offered honours in exchange for donations, Michael Fawcett, Charles’ right-hand man and long-time confidant, resigned from his position as director of one of the heir’s major charities.
  • Fawcett has remained silent about the allegations.
  • According to one December poll, a comfortable majority of people feel the monarchy should be preserved, with 83 per cent favouring Elizabeth. However, there are some concerning indicators for the royals.
  • Barbados deposed the queen as head of state last November; Charles is far less popular, and support among younger people looks to be waning, with polls indicating that a majority of those under 30 favour abolishing the monarchy.
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth visits the National Memorial to the Few in Folkestone, southern England March 26, 2015 in Folkestone, England. REUTERS/Chris Jackson

What’s important: It will take more than ambivalence toward Charles or embarrassing tabloid articles about Andrew or Harry to bring the monarchy to an end. Indeed, critical pieces about Charles, Camilla, William, and Kate, who have all been heavily criticised in the past, are now rare in those same newspapers.

  • For some Britons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s scandals and Donald Trump’s tumultuous administration in the United States make having an elected head of state a less appealing prospect.
  • The royals have the support of the establishment as well.
  • The ruling Conservative Party has shown no evidence of supporting the abolition of the monarchy, but the main opposition Labour Party was hammered in the 2019 election, partially due to its former leader’s apparent lack of patriotism.
  • After Prince Philip’s death last year, Johnson noted how Elizabeth’s 73-year-old husband had assisted his wife in steering “the monarchy so that it remains an institution unquestionably crucial to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
  • The royal family is also aware of the need to adapt to a changing environment.

While politicians face “brutal” public rejection at the polls, “the message is frequently difficult to decipher for us, a royal family,” Elizabeth, who has never given an interview during her reign, remarked in a 1997 address.

“I have done my best … to interpret it correctly through the years of our marriage and of my reign as your queen. And we shall, as a family, try together to do so in the future.”

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