We bid adieu to Queen Elizabeth, but does the monarchy go with her too?10 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
You have almost certainly heard about the passing of Queen Elizabeth ll. The 96-year-old monarch (we will get into what this term means and signifies as you make your way through this article) was at her beloved castle Balmoral in Scotland when she breathed her last on September 8.
People around the world mourned as this public figure, who, let’s face it, had been around for all our lifetimes, was put to rest. While her family, the British Royals, grieved her death, there was a lot going on in the background — plans, decisions and more plans that had been in the works for decades before this sad day.
Her funeral service at Westminster Abbey was attended by 2,000 people, including leaders and dignitaries from around the world. Thousands of people then lined the streets as her coffin was transported to Windsor Castle where a service was held. She was buried later, alongside her late husband the Duke of Edinburgh.
From central and local government departments to military and religious authorities — representatives had been preparing for this day for a while. There was the looming question of what would happen to the other 14 countries where she was also head of state.
But before we get into that, let’s understand what has transpired since September 8:
1. Operation ‘London Bridge’ went into effect
The plan following Queen Elizabeth’s death, according to multiple reports, is code-named ‘London Bridge’ —although it’s not such a secret anymore.
2. The press was ready ages ago
Most major outlets—including the British tabloids—had obituaries and news stories ready to go for public figures who are very old. As morbid as it sounds, it makes sense to be prepared for what happens when the queen dies—and coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s death is even more important for the British press to get right.
3. The queen had a massive funeral
On the tenth day after her death, the queen’s body was moved into Westminster Abbey for an elaborate state funeral, to be attended by dignitaries from throughout the world. The day of the funeral was an official Day of Mourning in Britain.
4. UK has a new king — King Charles III
Perhaps the most important of all events is that Prince Charles automatically became King upon the death of his mother. He will be known as King Charles III. He is now head of state not just in the UK, but in 14 other Commonwealth realms including Australia and Canada. He will also become head of the 56-member Commonwealth, although that is not a hereditary position, after his succession to the role was agreed by Commonwealth leaders at a meeting in London in 2018. He has become head of the British Armed Forces, the judiciary and the civil service, and he is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The King is the UK head of state. However, his powers are symbolic and ceremonial, and he remains politically neutral.
5. The line of succession will change
Now that Charles is king, William (one of Queen Elizabeth’s grandchildren) will move up and take the position of heir. The title Prince of Wales is traditionally given to the next-in-line to the throne. This would make Kate the Princess of Wales. The queen’s death puts William and Kate’s children, Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandchildren, at second (George), third (Charlotte) and fourth (Louis) in line to the throne. Prince Harry remains below them in fifth place.
6. The Queen’s beloved dogs
The Queen was an animal-lover and had dozens of corgis and dorgis during her reign and they all enjoyed a pampered life as royal pets. The royal pups are continuing their reign by joining the household of one of the Queen’s children, Prince Andrew, and the pups are doing just fine.
Phew. Now that we have covered most of our bases, let’s get into the big question. What happens to the monarchy, and how much power does it hold in today’s world? Let us first understand what the monarchy is:
A monarchy is a form of government that has a single person known as a monarch at its head. Monarchs use such titles as king, queen, emperor, or empress. Monarchies were once common throughout the world, but now they are rare. Monarchs generally reign for life, and most monarchies are hereditary.
In India, the monarchies were abolished on the establishment of the
Republic of India in 1950
Queen Elizabeth and the monarchy
Britain has changed majorly in the 70 years since Elizabeth II’s rule started, and she had the difficult, perhaps impossible, task of preserving an institution – monarchy — that was being abolished in most of the world. At various points, Elizabeth allowed attempts to modernize the monarchy while still preserving the trappings of the past.
How did the monarchy change and evolve under her rule?
While Queen Elizabeth upheld a lot of the royal traditions, she also did make attempts to modernise things. The modern media made Elizabeth and her family global celebrities. Since then, the monarchy has continued to reinvent and readjust while all the time relying on the Queen as a symbol of continuity. But the task of creating a thoroughly modern monarchy remained a challenge.
What power did the Queen have, and will her successor have the same power?
The monarch’s powers today are rather limited – although they still have significant symbolic importance. It is interesting that among the Queen’s final public duties was to accept the resignation of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and to ask Liz Truss (remember them from the article about the elections? If not, read it here) to assume the job. Now, it will be interesting to watch how Charles will be able to keep the monarchy’s symbolic role in modern British life going.
What is the process for the transfer of power for the monarchy?
Over the next weeks, a number of rituals will mark the end of one reign and the beginning of the next. One distinctive feature of the modern British monarchy is its love for ancient and rituals and pageants so as to show the world what it means to be a monarchy, and also to carry those rituals with them as the years roll on. In the future, it will be interesting to see how successful these ritual performances are.
Will the change in the monarchy affect the relationship between the UK and other countries?
Over the last few decades, different forms of governance have risen in many parts of the world. Here are some examples below:
How much were you able to understand about the words written above? Try the puzzle below to understand the different kinds of democracies!
Therefore, rather than the kings and queens and massive palaces we read about in history textbooks and storybooks, we have prime ministers and presidents more commonly in power.
As you might have read in the story about the Commonwealth, the history of British rule brought with a lot of suffering and trauma. Hence, most of the occupied nations are now independent and with their own heads of state. But even among the Commonwealth nations that retained the Queen as the symbolic head of state, there has been some discontent brewing.
How many more of these nations, in the absence of the personal affection and admiration for Elizabeth II will now choose to separate themselves from the crown and become republics?
People suspect that even in Britain, which has seen some economic and social problems in the recent past, there may be voices of dissent against the monarchy.
The question may emerge that when there are many other pressing matters to focus on, is all new focus on the royal family just a distraction from bigger issues?
Sources: BBC, CNN, Rutgers University, NPR, Vogue, Time Magazine