I’ve tried, really I have. But I just can’t. And I’d prefer to leave well enough alone, except… unless there are major constitutional changes, he’s going to become my King. And I’m going to be his subject.
It’s not his fault. He was born to this, trapped in his little golden cage. As was his over-bred father. His grandmother, the current CEO, wasn’t born to it—it was dropped on her father’s head when she was just ten years old, as a result of her uncle’s playboy ways and eminent unsuitability to the rôle. Her father, who also considered himself unsuitable and (now famously) overcame a debilitating stutter to lead his nation through the Second World War, didn’t want the job. She has held the position now for nearly sixty years, and if her own mother’s extreme longevity is any guide, will probably continue to do so for another fifteen years or so, achieving Britain’s first seventy-year reign.
To be fair, there have always been valid arguments supporting the current constitutional monarchy. In placing ultimate power beyond the reach of personal ambition, while strictly circumscribing the direct authority of the sovereign, a system of checks and balances is created which parallels the republican congressional model of the United States. As sovereign not only of the United Kingdom and its colonies, but of sixteen nations including my own, the British monarchy and the Westminster System of government have given stability to governments across the world for over a century.
Yet much of it remains an anachronism that would not be tolerated in any other area of public life. Under the 1701 Act of Settlement, the monarch is the titular head of the Church of England, and may marry a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Methodist, an Atheist, even a Warmist—but not a Catholic. Anyone in the line of succession to the throne in so marrying, removes themselves from it.
Then there is the issue of male primogeniture. That a younger brother has not leapfrogged an older sister to the throne is an accident of history that circumstances have not yet called into question; however, if (soon to become) Princess Catherine bears a daughter and then a son, it will precipitate an impossible constitutional dilemma. There is almost unanimous public agreement in Britain that the eldest child of William and Catherine, whether male or female, should inherit the throne. However, under the 1931 Statute of Westminster, the line of succession can only be altered with the passage of parallel legislation through the parliaments of all sixteen nations of which the Queen is the sovereign (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as the United Kingdom)—a nearly impossible task to achieve, given the likely imminence of the issue. Already, Australian and Canadian parliamentarians have publicly indicated there are more pressing local issues to fill their busy legislative schedules, not to mention the fact that the issue is certain to be seized upon by parliamentary Republicans. And so that particular gender inequity is set to remain for another generation.
Should William produce no heir, the throne will pass from him to his younger brother Henry (Harry). The elephant in his particular room is the issue of his paternity. Although according to most accounts, Princess Diana did not commence her affair with Major James Hewitt of the Royal Household Cavalry until a year after Harry was born, they could well have been lying. And there are reports of letters between Diana and Hewitt which mention Harry but not William. Would the British public accept Harry as their King? I have the feeling if William does die childless, Harry’s DNA test will make Obama’s birth certificate look like a non-issue.
Personally, I wish the newly-wed couple well. I have nothing whatsoever against William, who seems a perfectly nice, well-adjusted young man with a genuine sense of duty to the position in which he has found himself. Catherine too, seems a delightful and sensible young woman, with the maturity in which her late mother-in-law was so singularly lacking. For that matter, I have nothing against Harry either, who seems a fine lad and whose circumstances are absolutely no fault of his own. It’s just that I believe that my nation has come of age, and can be trusted to choose one of its own as its de jure, as well as de facto head of state.