IS THE British Monarchy a ridiculous, "old-fashioned" institution that simply refuses to die? Some few Britons have looked upon this Monarchy as "a royal soap opera" — so much useless pomp and ceremonial nonsense, so much "Royal flummery." They view the Monarchy as leftover Imperial trappings as an expensive drain on the British taxpayer. Others insist the British Royal Family plays an important and vital, if unenviable and (at times) thankless, part in Britain's stability in this modern, 20th century space age.
Monarchy and the Royal Wedding
A royal wedding is a poignant reminder of the tremendous popularity of the British Monarchy. It is a reminder, too, of the awesome force of example. On the very day that the coming marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer was announced, King Juan Carlos of Spain was personally engaged in suppressing an armed attempt to overthrow Spain's first democratic government in nearly half a century. A member of the Spanish government coalition, Alfonso Osorio, remarked that Juan Carlos' bold action had "proved the value of having a king." It is no secret that the king has modeled his general line of conduct on that of the British Monarchy. No British king, admittedly, has faced such a challenge for 300 years. In his book The English Constitution historian Walter Bagehot had this to say of the Monarchy: "The use of the Queen, in a dignified capacity, is incalculable. Without her in England, the present English government would fail and pass away.... The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is that it is an intelligible government. The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other." In another passage historian Bagehot wrote: "A monarch that can be truly reverenced, a House of Peers that can be really respected, are historical accidents nearly peculiar to this one island, and entirely peculiar to Europe." The House of Lords may not enjoy quite the prestige and acceptance that once belonged to it. But reverence for the Crown, accompanied by the deep affection of the great majority of Britons, certainly remains. The sovereign, again according to Walter Bagehot, has three rights: 1) the right to be consulted, 2) the right to encourage, 3) the right to warn. This is a neat and apt summing-up. The Queen today is consulted on all matters of state, and all government papers are laid before her. She naturally and effortlessly assumes the role of friend and, if need be, adviser to all of her prime ministers. But this is only one way in which the "right to encourage" is exercised. It goes, of course, beyond prime ministers to all the citizens of Britain. In this respect, one need think only of her broadcasts to the people. The right to warn has been used by Monarchy with tact and discretion.
A Declining Nation
The British Crown today presides over a declining nation. This has been said often enough before and doesn't need to be overstated now. But year after year Britain slides a little farther down the hill. In March of this year (literally for the first time in British history) a British prime minister had to admit that she could not entrust members of her own Cabinet with the secret details of the annual budget. Walter Bagehot would turn over in his grave because this makes a mockery of ministerial responsibility. And so, with declining national power, a declining national morale and the now alarming difficulty of the government trusting its own ministers — quite apart from government servants who seem to be perpetually on strike — the Crown has a bigger task than ever before. It must maintain standards of honesty and loyalty that are being everywhere undermined. The brilliant achievements of the British Monarchy should blind no one to the apathy, slothfulness and increasing inner divisions of the British community. The Royal Family soldiers on, its motto evidently to go on setting an example, in the belief that some day a great new nation can be re-created on the crumbling ruins of the old. A daunting task, indeed! For neither the Queen, Prince Charles or any other member of the Royal Family can single-handedly
The fact of family' brings the Queen, her husband and her children close to the hearts of virtually every family in the kingdom.
pick Britain out of its present trough of moral lassitude, depression and materialism. But their sterling example will live on and some day, it will be followed.
Monarchy Not Always Popular
It is sometimes forgotten that the British Monarchy has not always enjoyed the popularity it does today. Charles II, that "merrie monarche," certainly won the affections of his people, perhaps as much by his outrageous amours as by his grace of bearing and ready wit. But his brother James II was apparently a pompous bore and William of Orange was a foreigner. Then came the Hanoverians, renamed the House of Windsor only during the First World War. Several Hanoverians, spanning a period of well over a hundred years, were certainly not assets in the governance of Britain. Said Bagehot: "The first two George's were ignorant of English affairs, and wholly unable to guide them, whether well or ill.... The Prime Minister had, over and above the labour of managing Parliament, to mal1age the woman — sometimes the queen, sometimes the mistress — who managed the sovereign. George III interfered unceasingly [and] he did harm unceasingly. George IV and William IV gave no steady continuing guidance, and were unfit to give it." George IV and William IV were ruthlessly lampooned by the caricaturists of the day. The Hanoverians failed to win the sentiment of religious loyalty, or the lasting affection of the powerful landed aristocracy. Perhaps the only popular performance of the early Hanoverians was that of George II, who fought gallantly at Dettingen. When his horse insisted on bolting in the wrong direction, he dismounted and said, "At least my legs won't run away with me."
Even Queen Victoria went through a long period of unpopularity, perhaps as a result of what amounted to almost total retirement after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Then in 1863 she grievously offended many of the public by " appearing in deep mourning at the wedding of her son and heir. In fact, it was only in the reign of George V that the British Monarchy began to establish its present popularity. The King was not charismatic, but a great trier. He endeared himself by renaming the Royal House "Windsor" after that most English of castles. Once he refused medicine on his sickbed by asking, "Nurse, am I King of England, or am I not?" The late Duke of Windsor's short reign was 51 severe setback, and it was only under his brother, George VI, that the Crown consolidated the tradition set by George V of selfless service to the whole community. This shy, physically delicate man conquered his stammer and sense of insecurity and stood with his people in war. He paved the way for his immensely more glamorous and extroverted daughter to become the model Monarch of British history. The British Monarchy has never been so popular as it is today — except, perhaps, for a few short weeks in 1660, when parliamentary rule was swept away and the fountains of London, allegedly, flowed with wine.
A Truly United Royal Family
One of the greatest advantages that Prince Charles has enjoyed has been to belong to a truly united Royal Family. It is, of course, the Queen who has played the regal role. The charm of her personality is an accepted fact. There is nothing "chocolate-box" about her radiant good looks because they go with a singular dignity and grace that have made her walkabouts as well as her State appearances unaffected and totally successful. The Queen, as the members of her royal household know, is a loving and outstanding joyful mother, able to romp with her children when they were young and win their complete confidence as they have grown older. Her own parents brought her up to practice moderation and to believe in modesty. She also learned how to belong in a real home that was simplicity itself and never a matter of pomp and circumstance. The Queen's grandmother, the late Queen Mary, found her "steadfast" and "determined" as a child, and her character matured with a notable consistency. Her seriousness as a child gave way to a spontaneous readiness to smile and laugh, and she seems to have passed on this balance of character to her children. One of the characteristics that she has passed to Prince Charles is to present a "public face" that is truly happy. This goes beyond a capacity to act a part; it entails ability to regard public occasions as worthwhile and even enjoyable. The ease with which the Queen chats to children during her walkabouts is notorious. She has mastered the art of saying the right word at the right moment. But she also has a keen sense of discipline and a highly developed sense of responsibility. Being groomed for her own role, she has made sure that this has been repeated for all of her children. The Duke of Edinburgh has helped a great deal. Once or twice he has come under fire of critics for speaking his mind bluntly. But overall, his patent honesty, good sense and vigour have stood him in good stead. Maybe one of his least-noticed achievements has been to guide his children into so many interests: they are at ease in politics and public life, in their work and in the outdoors. Between them, the royal couple have created a united family. Princess Anne, happily married to Captain Mark Phillips, is increasingly becoming an asset. She has overcome an earlier unsureness, giving a remarkably convincing performance when she was installed in March of this year as Chancellor of London University. Perhaps the outstanding quality of all four of the Queen's children is that they remain unaffectedly unspoiled — a tribute to their parents' care and a sensible upbringing among children of their own age. To be royal and commoners at one and the same time may not be easy. Somehow the royal children have managed it. Walter Bagehot has also written that "A family on the throne is an interesting idea also. It brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life." Written more than a hundred years ago, these words underline a truth that holds good today. The fact of "family" brings the Queen, her husband and her children close to the hearts of virtually every family in the kingdom.
Prince Charles Himself: A Man of Parts
There is a song sung in Wales, part of Britain but a small country in its own right: "Among our lovely mountains, And from our lovely vales, O let the prayer be echoed, 'God save the Prince of Wales.'" The heir to the throne is traditionally titled: Prince of Wales. This has been true ever since 1301, when the son of King Edward I, aged 17, was officially invested with this title. (He was named Prince of Wales at birth, in somewhat ironic recognition of the King's promise that Wales be given a Prince "who can speak no English"!) Leaders of the Welsh, fiercely 'nationalistic and utterly opposed to English "invasion," had called themselves princes for a long time previously. In deference to this brave patriotism, King Henry II of England earlier recognized the right of Llewelyn ap Gruggyd to the title of Prince of Wales. Llewelyn later rebelled, but his title became "available" for enlightened political use. Prince Charles is the 21st Prince of Wales. His insignia dates from the so-called Black Prince — a coronet, a golden ring, a silver lining, along with a plume of white ostrich feathers and the motto "Ich dien," the German for "I serve." Perhaps this motto is the noblest feature of all. Only the Monarch can decide when the heir to the throne should become Prince of Wales. Prince Charles' investiture in 1969 was only the second since 1616, and the only one in this century to take place in Wales. There the prince paid homage to his sovereign: "I, Charles, Prince of Wales, do become your liege man of life and limb and earthly worship, and faith and truth I will bear unto you to live and die against all manner of folks." Perhaps more important than the investiture is the personality of the man himself. A shy 20-year-old Prince is now 32 years old and self-assured.
A Very Special Upbringing
Personality owes something to upbringing. The Prince first went to school in London at eight years of age. A year later, he moved to Cheam, one of Britain's exclusive "preparatory" schools in Berkshire. He later moved on to a private school called Gordonstoun, a tough school on Scotland's bleak eastern coast. Its curriculum included cold showers and character-development routines such as endurance tests of mountaineering and sea-rescue work. One incident at Gordonstoun: The Prince drank a cherry brandy in a pub when out with other boys. He was severely cautioned. But the essence of what he was told was not, as often reported, that his behavior was "not fitting for a future king." It was merely" unfortunate that he should have broken normal school rules. Gordonstoun found publicity about the Prince unwelcome. The whole purpose of his going to the school was for him to learn with other boys as one of them. Then at 18, the Prince went to Timbertop, a private school in Australia. It developed his physique and it brought him into touch with young men from "down under." Then to Trinity College in Cambridge where he was awarded a degree. In fact he was the first Prince of Wales to achieve a college degree.
Education Never Ends
But education never ends for an heir to the British throne. Charles' Cambridge degree may have been relatively undistinguished — a "second class, division two" — but he was an undergraduate with unusual responsibilities ahead and a special need to comport himself correctly. He was forever developing his talents. He learned to play the cello, to display unexpected talent on the stage, to captain a yacht, to become a first-class mimic, and to create his own kind of wry, dry wit. He was often asked, he related, why he stood with his hands behind his back, just Like his father, and whether this was an inherited trait. His reply was that he and his father had the same tailor, who "makes the sleeves so tight that we can't get our hands in front." In reality, he had unconsciously imitated his father's posture. There is a touching picture of him and the Duke of Edinburgh, marching in step, hands behind backs, at an official function in Scotland. Charles was seven years old at the time, and his face wore an expression of very great concentration and responsibility. Learning has produced a rounded view of life in Prince Charles. He once defined his royal role as a triple one — firstly to show concern for people, secondly to be interested in them as individuals, and lastly to encourage them in every way possible. What a task! Maybe the Prince did not realize quite how much he was taking on. He has emulated his father by sticking his neck out, this time over race relations. He called for a real effort to end prejudice and misunderstanding in order to maintain a successful "multiracial society." This, in Britain today, is a dangerous expression. His beliefs range all the way from the need for a united Europe to the importance of individualism in every walk of life. Prince Charles has played his full part in the Royal Family's day-to-day business of public engagements and continual contact with the people. He was already a very mature young man five years ago when he spoke to 200 senior officers of the Royal Navy. He explained that he was certainly the youngest person present, so he must talk about what his own generation thought. His address was impeccable, in its sense, wit and brevity. One admiral present remarked to another, "What a piece of luck to have this young man as our next king." And the answer was: "Not luck at all, just a... miracle"! Prince Charles wins esteem without undue effort, but with cautious forethought and the very best advice. He knows where to turn for counsel. He has himself spoken of his "very wise and incredibly sensible parents, who have created a marvelous, secure, happy home." His own self-discipline seems equally effortless. Prince Charles doesn't smoke (indeed, he hates cigarette fumes and ash), drinks in unselfconscious moderation, and believes in the virtues of fresh air and physical exercise. In this mixed-up era of declining values, morals and standards, the Prince has set a remarkable example of duty, loyalty and dedication.
The Matter of Succession
There has been talk in the past of the Queen abdicating at the "right" moment — in fact, when she believes that Prince Charles will be better able than herself to fulfill the royal duties. A reason given is that the Queen would not want Prince Charles to wait forever to "come into his inheritance." We are asked to consider Queen Victoria's son, Edward VII. The results of his long wait were disastrous. Edward VII had lost interest in the job long before ascending the throne. There is, however, no true parallel between the cases of Edward VII and Prince Charles. King Edward was excluded from the business of state and the functions of royalty; the Prince is kept fully informed of the problems of government and is extremely busy fulfilling engagements of every kind. As she grows older, the Queen will travel rather less, and will ask the Prince to travel more on her behalf. (It may well be that foreign travel will be the biggest challenge to Lady Diana, who is very much a "home girl" and who fled back to England prematurely from her finishing school in Switzerland.) But the Queen is healthy and hardworking, and has an aptitude for "pacing herself' in the fulfillment of arduous duties. (What bigger nonsense can there be than the accusation that royalty doesn't "earn its keep"!) And abdication is not the — habit of the British Crown; even fits of madness did not prevent George III from remaining monarch. Only serious illness could possibly lead to any early abdication. When his time does come, Prince Charles is likely to ascend the throne as Charles III. The Monarch in Britain is free to choose his title. (His grandfather preferred George to his first name, Albert, even though his close friends went on calling him "Bertie.") Charles I and II were Kings of both England and Scotland, although separately, until the two kingdoms were united in 1707 under the Act of Union. So there is no dynastic or even sentimental objection to the title of Charles III.
The World's Most Prestigious Throne
The Sunday Times Magazine referred to the. British Royal Family as "the finest and most long-lasting Monarchy in the world." Even though Queen Elizabeth is just the titular head of Britain and the Commonwealth, she and other members of the Royal Family exercise a powerful influence on their subjects. The "trappings of Royalty" are a necessary and potent influence on Britain, the Commonwealth and the world. Many foreigners, in fact, see the lack of pomp and ceremony in their own countries and secretly envy the regal splendour surrounding the British Monarchy. The truth is, just as the peacock needs the beautiful plumage with which it is so generously endowed, so Britain is enriched by the pomp and pageantry surrounding her Royal Family.
The Honorable T.C. F. Prittie was a correspondent with the Guardian (Manchester) from 1945 to 1970. and was Diplomatic Correspondent between 1963 and 1970. He has written a number of books including Germany Divided (1960); Israel, Miracle in the Desert (1967); A Biography of Konrad Adenauer (1972); Willy Brandt (1973); and Whose Jerusalem? (1981).
There is enough dull, drab monotony in the lives of the British, and a dash of monarchical splendour here and there helps to make the ordinary, somewhat humdrum life of the average Briton more bearable and more interesting. And the truth is that much of the world is also greatly enriched by seeing the pageantry of the British Royal Family on important state occasions like the royal wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana when millions will witness this moving ceremony via television worldwide. The British Royal Family is good for Britain and good for the world.
The Crown and Religion
The Queen is the titular "Defender of the Faith" — and in particular the Church of England. The assumption has always been that no heir to the throne should marry a Roman Catholic. This would automatically avoid the risk of the Royal Family becoming Catholic at some time in the future. A Roman Catholic Princess would have been an unacceptable bride for Prince Charles simply because of her religion. The title of "Defender of the Faith" dates back to the treatise written by King Henry VIII, which ironically defended the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. Henry, often wrongly supposed to have helped convert the people of his realm from Roman Catholicism to the Protestant faith, wrote his treatise in opposition to Martin Luther. It was accorded instant recognition by Rome. Henry remained a Catholic all his days. He did object to the overlordship of Rome, and his real aim may have been the creation of an English Catholic Church, independent of Rome. Walter Bagehot wrote that "The English Monarchy strengthens our Government with the strength of religion." The Monarch is "the Lord's anointed." Nor was the belief in a "sacred line of sovereigns" ever forsaken. The sacred line became an English Protestant line. But sadly it has to be said that religion plays a decreasing part in the life of Britain today. If a public opinion poll were to have been held recently on the subject of whether an heir to the throne should marry a Roman Catholic, many Britons would have abstained, and many who might have said "No" would have reacted only instinctively. There is no consensus of opinion in Britain today on any subject with a religious connotation.
Lady, Diana and Her Ancestry
Charles' bride was under the baleful glare of the public eye for months before the royal engagement was announced. To put it bluntly, she was hounded by the "gentlemen" of the press, especially those avid photographers who hung round her flat in London, her father's home in the country, and even the royal estate of Sandringham when she was residing there. Lady Diana stood up to all this with remarkable courage, poise and good humor. There was never any question of this tall, outwardly rather shy girl having a rude word for any one of her tormentors. Only 19 years of age, she handled publicity problems with complete calm and certainty. When at last the special time came to face the cameras, she was unaffectedly sincere and straightforward in her answers. When the Prince had proposed, she "never had any doubts about it," nor did she fear the future "with him at my side." Nothing original, perhaps, in these replies, but they were made with an engagingly shy grace. Lady Diana has grown up with royalty. Her father, Earl Spencer, was equerry to King Georgy VI, and after his death, Queen Elizabeth. Lady Diana was christened at Sandringham village by the Bishop of Norwich, and one of her godparents was a niece of the Queen Mother. She had only just left school, at the age of 16, when she first met Prince Charles. Less than a year later she took a job, looking after tiny tots at the Young England kindergarten in the not-so-fashionable London district of Pimlico, at a less than princely wage of $1,400 a year. Her upbringing has not been as smooth as her future husband's. Her family, indeed, were rich, with the family home of Althorp in Northamptonshire and its immensely valuable 15,000 acres of farming land. But her parents divorced in 1969 when she was at the tender and impressionable age of seven. But Lady Diana has — contrived to grow up totally unspoiled as well as relatively unaffected by her "split" family. As one member of the royal household puts it, she is "a remarkably sweet girl," and a prize even for a Prince. Charles was saying no more than the truth when he remarked, "I am frankly amazed that she is prepared to take me on." Her interests will match those of the Prince. They both love music, dancing and the countryside. Both enjoy the simple things in life; both have a well-developed sense of humor. Both have quietly orthodox taste, and this is, likely to show itself when they finally fit up Charles' Gloucestershire house of Highgrove. Both, after all, have grown up in homes where history is written large in furnishings and pictures. A note on Lady Diana's ancestry. On both her father's and mother's side, she has inherited royal blood. She is, in fact, descended by two different lines from one mistress, Lauise de Kerouaile, by two different lines from another mistress, Lucy Walters, and from a third, Barbara Villiers (or Lady Castlemaine). Reports that she has a legitimate line of descent from Charles II are, of course, nonsense. Had that been so she would have an incontestable claim to be Queen of England in her own right! She does, indeed, share with Prince Charles one common ancestor — King James I. Life in the Royal Family will not be so strange for Lady Diana.
Part of the Pageantry of Britain
The almost bewildering panoply of British pageantry cannot be detailed here. There is the solemn Opening of Parliament, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the great ceremonials of the Coronation, the Investiture of the Prince of Wales, plus royal marriages and funerals. Britain may have become a second-class power, but her ceremonial occasions are as perfectly staged and as colorful as ever. Prince Charles' wedding in St. Paul's Cathedral will be an important part of this pageantry. The Crown has always been the very heart of British pageantry, and the Coronation has been the most symbolic of all ceremonies. The first in Britain was more than 1,000 years ago, when King Edgar was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 973. The most recent was that of Queen Elizabeth, in 1953. The ceremony is traditionally supervised by the Earl Marshall, a hereditary office passed down to the holders of the title of the Duke of Norfolk. At the Coronation of King George V in 1911, the Archbishop of York declared that " The King comes not alone to his hallowing. He bears his people with him. For the national life, as well as for its representative, this is a day of consecration." The same will hold true of this 'Year's royal wedding, the first great royal ceremonial since the Queen's Silver Jubilee of 1977. It will be a splendid occasion, graced by the officers and men of the Household Brigade, the Yeomen of the Guard, the Heralds, the Royal carriages and horses, and probably all, or nearly — all, the crowned heads of the countries of the world. As always, a very few carping voices will be raised in protest against the display and the money spent. But the Royal Family has an easy conscience on the matter of expense because it is well-known that this ceremony will play a bigger part than anything else in bringing visitors to Britain. The wedding of Charles and Lady Diana will cost a lot of money, but it will more than pay its way.
The Queen Mother and the Prince
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, has been depicted as the "woman who saved the Monarchy." She helped and guided the late King George VI when he first stepped into the shoes of his outwardly more talented brother, the late Duke of Windsor. Then she was at his side in Britain's most critical days (1939 to 1945) since the Spanish Armada. When it was suggested that she should send the two young Princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret) to Canada where they would be safe from Hitler's bombs and rocket weapons, her answer was: "The Princesses cannot go without me. I cannot go without the King The King will never go. We shall all stay." By the end of the war Buckingham Palace had been hit nine times by bombs; once at least the King and Queen were nearly killed. Throughout the war they had won the total trust and undying gratitude of their people. Here, only one of her achievements needs to be chronicled — the remarkable empathy that exists between her and her grandson Prince Charles and the influence that she has had upon the Prince of Wales. Not so much "next to" the Queen, but with the Queen, the Queen Mother has been one of the two most formative influences in the Prince's life. Members of her household seem to put this down, most of all, to one particular characteristic that they have in common. This can only be described as a "nongeneration" quality. Both of them can talk with the same ease and interest to people of every age group. In the Queen Mother's case, as one of her closest advisers indicated, this has made her the "catalyst" of the entire Royal Family: "She has helped to close the gaps between four different generations." She and Prince Charles share a deep mutual love and sympathy for others. The Prince and the Queen Mother share two other links — both of them have a delightfully fresh sense of humor and both have the gift of entering into the lives of and enjoying the company of others. Along with the Queen, they "never give orders but only make requests" and invariably thank those who work for them, but whom they prefer to regard as partners. "It may sound a strange thing to say of the highest in the land," one adviser said, "but they are both humble minded, determined never to ride roughshod over the feelings of anyone" And: "They both know how to make others feel important and appreciated." The Queen Mother is on the phone to her daughter, the Queen, nearly every day — never to interfere, but to keep truly in touch. Truly a wonderful lady, who wears her years with the ease, elegance and good humor that have made her the much-loved symbol of Monarchy at its best.