A royal referendum is needed

April 11, 2023 1:41 pm(Updated 1:42 pm)

Camilla Parker Bowles had to fight hard to rebrand herself. Once viewed with suspicion because of her relationship with Charles, she is now seen by many as a hardworking royal – and has been duly rewarded with the title of Queen.

Camilla chose not to take on the title of Princess of Wales when she married Charles. It was a simple but effective way of not attracting undue comparisons with Diana. It was always understood that when Charles ascended to the throne, Camilla would be known as Princess Consort.

But just seven months before her death, Queen Elizabeth declared it her “sincere wish” that Camilla be known as Queen Consort when Charles inherited the throne. It has now been confirmed – and encircled in wildflowers and squiggly calligraphy on the King’s Coronation invitation – that Camilla will henceforth be known as Queen. Consort? No, thank you.

Camilla will not hold a position in the structure of government or be able to see official state papers. Her role, according to the Palace, is to “provide companionship and moral and practical support to the reigning monarch”. In short, exactly what she was already doing.

It all seems like a meaningless game of syntax to feed the ego of the elite. The Royal Family offers titles and medals to each other like there’s no tomorrow. Take Colonel Kate, who has never stepped foot on a battlefield but jingles like a heroic veteran at events.

And while removing a single word may not seem like such a big deal, it epitomises what is wrong with the monarchy: King Charles can do what he wants because he’s King and the tax-paying public do not get a say.

Charles is quite literally on a pedestal, completely out of reach, and this insistence to fulfil the fairytale of Camilla becoming Queen serves the public in no real way.

Besides, hasn’t he got more important things to think about?

Just last week, an unearthed document found by historian Dr Brooke Newman proved William III bought £1,000 of shares in transatlantic slaving firm Royal African Company. After the palace caught whiff of the 1689 document, a vague statement was released claiming the royals are supporting a research project into the monarchy’s slavery ties.

A spokesperson added: “This is an issue His Majesty takes profoundly seriously. Historic Royal Palaces is a partner in an independent research project, which began in October last year, that is exploring, among other issues, the links between the British monarchy and the transatlantic slave trade during the late 17th and 18th centuries.”

The reality is, however, that if Charles really did take his family’s history seriously, action would have been taken sooner. Instead, the monarch has relied on carefully-worded statements that dodge his bloodlines’ accountability.

In 2018, while attending an ex-slaving fort in in Ghana, the King dubbed the slave trade as an “appalling atrocity”, but failed to mention how monarchs were part of said atrocity.

William used a similar tactic last year. During an address to Jamaica’s prime minister, he said: “Slavery was abhorrent and it never should have happened… I strongly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history.”

Of course, on the surface, William is right. Slavery should never have happened. It was abhorrent. But his speech falls short of owning up to his family’s history. Is he talking about us collectively as a country, or as the family directly involved and still unwilling to pay reparations?

And then of course there is the question of the Coronation and how much that might cost. Despite previous claims of Charles slimming down the monarchy and having a “no frills” Coronation, reports now suggest the event will cost an estimated £100m. I think a fair few frills could be bought with that. But would it not be better to use that money to pay repatriations to the families affected by the royals’ involvement in the slave trade.

That’s the only way Charles can properly address his “profound seriousness” on the issue. Otherwise, it’s just empty words. Something the public won’t continue to accep.

Attitudes towards the Royal Family are changing, exacerbated by Queen Elizabeth’s death. No longer can unequivocal support for the Royal Family be taken for granted. The younger generation is already turning their back on them, and with each damming new scandal, a new wave of Republicans is rising.

According to a 2021 YouGov survey, at least 41 percent of people aged 18-24 said they would prefer an elected head of the state, compared to just 31 percent who wanted a king or a queen.

These numbers show a royal referendum is needed. Even the most ardent royalists cannot argue that having an unelected head of state, or two for that matter, based purely on an elite bloodline is democratic. We are no longer in thrall to kings – or queens.

Liam Gilliver is a journalist and columnist specialising in LGBTQ+ issues and the Royal Family

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