On the occasion of the upcoming royal wedding the April issue of Prospect magazine has several articles dealing with the British monarchy, among them an interesting essay by Simon Jenkins on “What’s the point of the monarchy?”.
There is also an interesting opinion poll about attitudes to the monarchy, conducted by YouGov. The polls fails to ask the direct question of how many support the monarchy and how many want a republic, but when asked who they would “prefer to succeed the Queen as monarch”, 13 % answer “no monarch”, something which at least gives an (imprecise) indication about the level of current republicanism.
To the same question 45 % reply that they want the Prince of Wales to succeed his monarch, whereas 37 % think Prince William should be the next monarch and 5 % do not know. This is an interesting development from the same poll six years ago, when 37 % supported Prince Charles as the next monarch and 41 % Prince William, while 3 % did not know and 19 % wanted no monarch to succeed the current Queen.
That there is no yearning for an immediate change of monarch is clear from the answers to the question about whether Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 85 last week, should “stay on as monarch”. 65 % think she should, 25 % think she should step down and 10 % do not know.
56 % think the monarch should “continue as head of the Church of England”, while 30 % think she should cease and 14 % do not know. 61 % are in favour of the monarch remaining “head of state of Commonwealth countries”, whereas 26 % are opposed and 13 % uncertain. 71 % think the monarch should “be allowed to marry a Catholic”, while 16 % are against the idea and 13 % do not know.
The upcoming wedding has naturally led to concerns about the current laws of succession, which mean that a first-born daughter of Prince William will be bypassed in the succession by a younger brother. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently said that changing this has been discussed and the poll suggests that there is wide support for such a move – indeed 75 % are in favour and only 17 % are opposed.
The problem is however that such a change must be carried out not only in Britain but also in the fifteen other kingdoms of which Elizabeth II is Queen and in some of this such a move might open a can of worms, which even happened in staunchly monarchist Denmark when the succession was changed two years ago.
It is interesting to note that there is a rather distinctive difference between the opinions of men and women on this question. While 83 % of the women are in favour of gender-neutral succession, only 65 % of the men support it. 27 % of the men and 7 % of the women are uncertain, while 8 % of the men and 10 % of the women are opposed.
Equally interesting is the fact that the younger the responders get the more they are opposed to such a change. Among those older than sixty 80 % favour the reform with 14 % opposing and 6 % uncertain; among those between 40 and 59 years of age 78 % are in favour, 15 % opposed and 7 % uncertain; among those between 25 and 39 years of age 72 % are in favour, 18 % are opposed and 10 % do not know; but among those between 18 and 24 years only 60 % support such a change, while 27 % are opposed and 13 % are unsure.