Queen Elizabeth II is in her late eighties, and has a busy schedule ruling all her dominions. She’s been The Queen for over 60 years and is the most recognizable woman on earth (yes even more so than Oprah), as well as one of the most personally wealthy and influential, if not actually powerful.
Is it time for The Queen to take a step back, retire and let someone else get on with the job of being monarch?
Kind Juan Carlos of Spain is making way for his son. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated in 2013 in favor of her son, just as her mother abdicated in her favor before reaching 70. King Albert II of Belgium abdicated in favor of his son on the Belgian national day of 21 July 2013. Even Pope Benedict “abdicated”, giving us Pope Francis and confusing everyone who thought that being Pope wasn’t a temporary appointment.
The Queen is of course, entitled to abdicate any time, but will she?
(Photograph by me, painting by Sir Alfred Munnings 1878-1959)
The Queen In Politics
The Queen has outlived many a Prime Minister. In the UK 12 Prime Ministers have served under her reign, which isn’t a record, but is more than Queen Victoria. The Queen isn’t just Queen of England, Britain or the UK. She’s Queen of the Commonwealth too, so she’s had just as many Prime Ministers in Australia, more in New Zealand and only one less in Canada, and that’s before we start to worry the rest of the realms, and those nations that she has previously been Monarch for.
In the UK the Queen meets with the Prime Minister every week, usually face to face, but via telephone when that’s impossible. Prime Ministers tend to value those meetings, not because the Queen tells them what to do, or has any strong political agenda to push, but because she’s been around so long, seeing so many politicians and ideas come and go. A week may be a long time in politics, but a 60 year memory is invaluable.
The Queen has trodden a careful path during her reign, maintaining a dignified approach, staying out of politics, and connecting with people on a personal level. At 87 she’s settled nicely into the role of “national Grandmother”, earning affection and respect, as well as empathy.
In the week after Princess Diana died it all looked like it could go very wrong. The Queen stuck to protocols and stayed out of the way, staying with her then young grandsons. No-one was prepared for the bizarre mass hysteria that Diana’s death would unleash.
This film covered that week, what happened, how it was handled, and how the Queen navigated uncharted populist waters. It’s worth a watch.
Who Will Take Over From The Queen?
Whether The Queen abdicates voluntarily, or if she dies, she’ll leave the job one day. The next person in line to the British Throne is Prince Charles, who would become King Charles III (unless he dies before The Queen).
If Charles dies before the Queen, then Prince William is next up, and if all goes well for everyone in the family over the next few weeks then his baby, George, born in July 2013 will be next in line after him.
Due to recent legal changes, it dis not matter whether William’s baby was a boy or a girl, the first baby would be the monarch, even if she was a girl and had a whole football team of younger brothers. This could have been a first as previously it was the eldest son who took the throne, daughters only counting if there were no boys. As it turned out George was a boy, so we have more time to get used to the new rules.
More legal changes mean that William’s child can marry a Catholic, or someone of the same sex. Both are legal possibilities, but unlikely to become realities. Let’s not put that amount of pressure on baby George just yet.
An interesting debate the would be whether there will be a Queen Camilla. There’s no reason why Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, shouldn’t be Queen, but she may choose not to take that title, despite being legally married to the King.
Some elements of the British press are really quite unpleasant about Camilla. She may choose to be called Princess Consort, rather than Queen to minimize controversy, but it would be her choice to make with Charles.
Had Diana, Princess of Wales, survived she would not be Queen as she was divorced from Charles. Things may have been a little different as Charles may not have re-married if she was alive.
One of the roles of the English Monarch is to be Supreme Governor of The Church of England, a church that permits divorced people to remarry, but does so whilst holding its nose.
The Other Abdication
The Queen is only The Queen because her father was King. Her father was only King because his brother abdicated. This wasn’t a great time in their family history. The Queen’s father “Bertie” had not been raised to be King and didn’t want to be. The Queen’s uncle “David” as Edward VIII was known inside the family abdicated the throne.
Edward VIII abdicated primarily because the neither the British establishment, nor the Commonwealth nations would consent to his marriage to the twice divorced American, Wallace Simpson. The last British King to get divorced was Henry VIII and that didn’t work out well at all, resulting in quite a body count, so there was understandable concerns about the King marrying someone who divorced with such regularity.
Other concerns about his laziness, Wallace’s seeming complete control over him, and his Nazi sympathies were all swirling around, but it was his insistence on marrying Wallace that did for him.
The whole episode was damaging for the monarchy and upsetting for the family at a time when Britain and the Commonwealth was preparing for war. The Queen lived through all of this, although she was only ten, and it seems to have strengthened her will to shoulder her duty without too much worry about her personal desires.
This fabulous film explores the time of the abdication from the reluctant Duke of York’s perspective as he battled his speech impediment and nerves before facing the nation as King George VI.
When Is It Time To Go?
Even among people who do think the Queen should abdicate, opinions differ on when would be a good time, and what would be a good trigger for abdication.
What If Prince Philip Dies?
Prince Philip is 92 so it’s perhaps not surprising that he’s had a few health scares lately. He has been very much part of The Queen’s reign, by her side throughout. He had to give up his naval command when his wife became Queen, having had successes in the Royal Navy throughout World War II.
If Prince Philip dies during The Queen’s reign it will have no legal bearing on her position, but it may make a change to her motivation, and like anyone who loses a spouse, it could affect her health. It has been suggested that The Queen might abdicate if Prince Philip dies, feeling unable to carry the responsibility alone, but I’m not convinced.