As a Brooklyn born kid who grew up in Coney Island I know little about royalty other than what I read in the papers. Class differences are so important that no one is really permitted to talk about them freely.
In my corporate career I have never met royalty, but I have met nobles.
When I was about 30 years old I was part of a small team examining the books of the Rothschild Intercontinental Bank in London, which my employer (Don’t leave home without it!) was considering, and eventually did purchase. The portfolio consisted of a smattering of sovereign credits which is what one would expect of a Rothschild bank.
It was headed up at the time by one Ralph Thomas George Stonor Lord Camoys, just a few years older than I, who later served as Lord Chamberlain of Great Britain from 1998 – 2000. The Lord Camoys traced his ancestry back to the Baron Camoys who commanded the left at Agincourt, is a direct descendant of Prime Minister Robert Peel and the family that founded Brown University in Rhode Island on his father’s side. On his mother’s side he is descended from Charles II through his illegitimate daughter Charlotte Lee, Countess of Lichfield. I’m sure he didn’t even notice me reading and commenting on his loan files. We made some small talk; he asked about my family and growing up. He was more than polite especially considering that I hadn’t the faintest idea who he was until a Brit on our staff clued me in.
He would, after the purchase was consummated, join the Board of my employer.
Lord Camoys’ father would die several years later in his early sixties after having to sell his ancestral home where the family had lived for 900 odd years because he could no longer afford the upkeep.
In New York I met the Graf zu Eulenberg who headed up my employer’s key German operations. His grandfather served and was a close confidant to the Kaiser, his father the Wehrmacht and one of his ancestors a Prince before there was a Germany. I swore I heard the faint sound of heel-clicking whenever other Germans of a certain age met him. They knew who he was. I didn’t.
Six years or so ago I wrote a post when Prince George was born. The gist of my thinking was that while many would consider him to be a blessedly lucky child, I was not so sure. He had been born with no choice in the matter into a life time job with a myriad of rules and while his cage was gilded, it was still a cage. He was born only to be King.
After all, the ultimate purpose of the British royal family is to procreate; its prime duty is to produce at least one heir to the throne. Each heir has to provide a child that will guarantee the survival of the monarchy.
Yet what are the chances of Prince George ever becoming King?
The evidence at first sight appears to be overwhelming in favor yet a poll taken at the time of his birth indicated that only 53% thought England would be worse off without the monarchy. The Queen was the most admired member of the royal family while younger folks wanted the crown to go to William and Kate after her passing.
So while on the surface the monarchy seems safe, I wouldn’t bet the crown jewels on George ever becoming King.
Firstly there is a difference between the monarchy and the monarch. Supporting monarchy is supporting the institution; supporting the Queen is quite different. Being sovereign is a form of celebrity and celebrity is everything. The Queen is clearly one of the world’s top brand images.
Yet oddly, the world only has a superficial view of the Queen, unlike her children and grand-children who are common gossipt fodder for the tabloid press – adulteriers, two sons of an adulterer, perhaps a child molester.
The Queen is very different. When she ascended the throne at age 26 the public at large knew very little about her and she has carefully kept her distance. Today she is viewed as a kindly figure “so good at her age” though probably no one in England can remember more than two things she has said over the last 60 years. The flack she received over her actions during Diana’s funeral have been largely forgotten.
Not so with Charles, Prince of Wales. The press have covered just about every little detail of his life and the public appears to be clearly divided over Charles and Camilla. When he ascends the throne I suspect the monarchy will suffer; he will not get the expressions of loyalty shown his mum.
Prince Andrew has already stepped back from his royal duties over his association with Jeffrey Epstein and William/Kate now seem to be at odds with Harry and Meghan. She has already signed to do voice overs for Disney.
The public shows little support for the wider royal family, with the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie being the butt of jokes and figures of fun, reducing the solemnity of the monarchy as 9th and 10th (I think) in line for the throne after Harry and Archie. Correct me if I’m wrong on this.
Given the longevity of royal family members, little Prince George might be well into his sixties before taking the throne. In the meanwhile, great change and reform may come to other institutions.
After the Queen passes, both Canada and Australia will vote for republicanism, no longer considering the monarch as head of state. The Commonwealth will survive but the reigning monarch will have much less power and influence.
The need for a House of Lords will also come under scrutiny – why have a hereditary second house at all? Why have the monarch open Parliament with the “My government shall do this” speech?
Will the Church of England be separated from the government with the monarch no longer “Defender of the Faith?” The monarch is still Supreme Governor of a church in decline and losing members while the Queen has adulterers and divorced family members.
After Charles and Camilla will come William and Kate. While universally popular among the young they may be well into middle age before he wears the crown. Other than anecdotal evidence there is little to suggest that they have improved the image of monarchy. The Queen has done that. They are celebrities as are Harry and Meghan.
Today there is a meeting of the Queen and the three Dukes to decide the Palace response t0 Harry and Meghan’s recent announcement to “step back” from royal duties and spend half their time in North America, presumably Canada.
The most frequently cited reason for Harry and Meghan’s decision is their discontent with the media coverage they receive. As the son of a future king and an idolized prince, Harry has been in the public eye his entire life. Meghan, an American with with a white father and black mother, has been subjected to enormous scrutiny in the press. The famously aggressive British tabloids heaped a unique level of criticism on her, some argue, that at times trafficked in racial tropes and occasionally dipped into explicit racism.
Another common explanation for the couple’s decision is a perception that they didn’t particularly care for the ceremonial elements of royal life. One can get quite tired of waving, smiling and cutting ribbons. As sixth in line for the throne, Harry is unlikely to ever become king. This gives him a freedom that his older brother, William, who’s behind only his father, Charles, in the line of succession, doesn’t have. Others have accused them of wanting all of the financial and fame benefits of royalty without taking on any of the work that comes along with it.
““They’ve made no secret of their plans to monetize and trade upon their status, from spending their six-week holiday ‘break’ in a $14 million waterfront mansion in Vancouver … to trademarking ‘Sussex Royal,’ which will allow them to slap their brand on everything from clothing to books and magazines to anything you can think of, really.” — Maureen Callahan, New York Post.
Yet the royal brand is clearly on the rocks these days.
It wasn’t too long ago, maybe 20 years, that no one outside of Stanford University had heard the word Google. Today it is a verb. That’s how fast institutions and ways are changing. For the past 300 years institutions that supported or needed monarchy have evolved. Today they change altogether or disappear, for few any longer accept their values.
Monarchy’s job today appears to be defining the nation. Sixty years from now national identity and what defines it will be radically changed. Monarchy will simply go out in the ebb of that identity change. It will have served its purpose.
There will be no crown for Prince George to wear.
But hey, what do I know. I’m just an old cranky American living in Florida.