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As King Charles era begins, British anti-monarchists claim to have growing support

Tan KW
Publish date: Sat, 24 Sep 2022, 11:27 AM
A UK anti-monarchy group says it has seen more public support, raised extra funds and recruited new members since Queen Elizabeth died and Charles ascended the throne as king.
King Charles has yet to enjoy the same level of popularity as Queen Elizabeth, who died on September 8 at age 96. She was Britain’s longest serving monarch, having ruled for 70 years.
The queen was laid to rest on Monday after a historic state funeral in London attended by hundreds of world leaders, royals and other dignitaries. More than 250,000 people queued round the clock to view her casket as it lay in state for four days. 
Her death has prompted discussion in Britain about the future of the royals with Charles as king.
British republicans, who want to see an end to the monarchy and replaced with a democratically elected head of state, believe an opportunity for their movement has arrived.
“Charles’ accession is a game changer really because he doesn’t enjoy the same deference and sycophancy as the queen,” Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, a UK antimonarchy campaign group, told South China Morning Post. “People don’t mind what you say about him, he’s more difficult to like.
“Over the past few days we have raised £40,000 (US$45,000), had hundreds of new members and thousands of new supporters.”
Smith said Republic planned to work towards holding a large protest at King Charles’ coronation next year. However public and police tolerance for such a protest has yet to be tested.
In June, only 22 per cent of respondents told YouGov they wanted to have an elected head of state compared to 62 per cent who wanted to keep the royal family.
More recent opinion polls suggest that older Britons were the biggest supporters of the royals, but younger people not so much.
One YouGov poll last week found 31 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they were proud of the British monarchy. The same number said they were embarrassed by it.
With regard to the new monarch, 43 per cent in the younger age group said they thought Charles would do a good job, while 43 per cent had a negative opinion.
Some public perceptions may pose a challenge for Charles, who at 73 is the oldest person in British history to become king. He needs to shore up support for the institution he now heads and keep it relevant.
“The impossible question to answer is what, in the medium to long-term, is the monarchy’s future in a society that is so different now than it was 70 years ago,” social historian and author David Kynaston told LBC radio.
“I think it’s not impossible major change lies ahead. In society now arguably the big division is between university educated people and non-university educated people.
“What I’m picking up among young university educated people is that it (the monarchy) is not having such a big emotional message.”
Anthony Taylor, a professor of modern history at Sheffield Hallam University, agreed.
“They (the royals) are aware their popularity is not as strong among the young,” he said.
“I can see the response would be a scaled down ... Scandinavian version of the monarchy.”
He was referring to the smaller, more modest European monarchies of countries like Denmark and Sweden.
“Slimming the monarchy down would be a very British compromise - a fudge in other words,” he said. “It (abolition of the monarchy) can’t really even be contemplated until a major political party adopts a platform of republicanism.”
Currently, the only party in the UK to advocate for the abolition of the monarchy is the Scottish Green Party, which hopes to glean support from the Scottish National Party.
The Labour Party, the largest opposition party in Britain, has been keen to show its support for the monarchy over recent days, even though many of its members and even some of its MPs are in favour of an elected head of state.
“The Labour Party won’t touch abolition with a 10-foot barge pole - they have only debated it once, and that was in 1923,” Taylor said.
There are also questions about whether the kingdom can remain united, and if there will be more or less support in Scotland for independence from the UK.
Last week during a visit to Cardiff in Wales, King Charles met Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, an avowed republican, and there was isolated booing on the streets after the new monarch was quick to declare his son William, who is the next in line to the throne, the new Prince of Wales.
In London, a woman brandishing a sign reading “Not My King” at Parliament was escorted away by police.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, a man was arrested for calling King Charles’ brother Prince Andrew a “sick old man” during a royal procession.
Among King Charles’ first challenges will be managing public disdain for Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who was accused of sexual assault by American woman Virginia Giuffre.
Giuffre alleged convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein lent her out for sex with his wealthy and powerful associates, including Andrew, when she was 17. Prince Andrew denied Giuffre’s allegations, but settled her case out of court in February.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, the king is planning to allow only working monarchs to stand in for him should he be unable to carry out his duties.
The move would rule Andrew out from a stand-in role. He was stripped of his royal duties in the wake of the Giuffre scandal.
Princess Anne, the king’s popular sister, would likely take on a more prominent role in the hierarchy, as would Prince William’s wife and future queen Catherine, the Princess of Wales.
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