The Royal family are having a bit of a battering at the moment, loving and hating them is a bit of British spectator sport. Overwhelmingly, the country loves the Queen and the institution of the Royal family but watching the twists and turns of the family dynamics is the longest running soap opera there is.
The latest episode with Prince Andrew, and now the decision of Harry and Meghan to give up royal duties in return for some degree of privacy and normality to their lives adds to the saga. I’ve got a degree of admiration for them, they have to have the right to shape their family in the way they want. It’s a shame that the ravenous appetite of the media can’t leave them alone, they should be allowed to be themselves and remain part of the “official” family. One of Diana’s legacies was to bring the common touch to the royal family, making it more accessible and more relevant to the ordinary citizen, Harry seemed to pick up the mantle from his mother. With their retreat from public life the strength of the institution for a modern world will be somewhat diminished. However, the Royal family has learn’t how to adapt, it will work it out I’m sure.
My leanings have traditionally been towards republicanism (in the non USA sense), it seems to me a contradiction to the ideals of democracy to have a hereditary monarchy. However, the recent shenanigans in British democracy have highlighted the fault lines that runs through our democratic system, democracy is not very robust. How would I feel right now if our head of state was King Boris, my stomach churns! Despite the ups and downs of the royal family there is something stable about it, bringing a level of stability that an elected head of state doesn’t. Although the Queen is the focus of our constitutional leadership, the turbulence of the family around her gives us a sense that they are normal people (I know there is nothing normal about them), they have their own struggles like every other family in the land.
As a leader, the Queen tries very hard to articulate stability, she does this by following tradition and adapting where she needs to. She has no right of reply, she doesn’t articulate her opinion, she just has to be constant and consistent. Although most leaders normally get to set direction and strategy, this trait of monarchical leadership is worth reflecting on. Leaders in any institution must somehow rise above any presenting trouble and communicate constancy and consistency, this gives followers some level of comfort and hope that they want.
The current drama of the royal family is a gift to the writers of Netflix’s “The Crown”, but actually has made me come to the conclusion that I am a reluctant royalist.