Colin Brazier: Love for the monarchy is not evenly spread
How do the royals stop themselves being on the wrong side of demographic history as their older supporters die off?
To the dismay of abolitionists, the British monarchy remains enduringly popular. But the love is not evenly spread. For one thing, the young are less fervent than the old; a division that has deepened since the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah Winfrey and THOSE allegations of racism.
And the Palace has another problem. Scotland is more inclined to republicanism than England. Not by much, but enough to give courtiers sleepless nights, especially with another independence referendum looming. This is the context for the Queen’s presence in Scotland today – for what’s known as Holyrood week.
Our sovereign was visiting an Irn Bru factory in Cumbernauld yesterday, flanked by Prince William. Her Majesty’s sparkling reign is now in its twilight. But what about her grandson? What kind of kingdom, how much of a kingdom, will be left for King William the Fifth.
Part of the sovereign’s Scottish problem is the way she sounds. Her ancestry may be Scottish, but for a new breed of nationalist, accent can seem like a hallmark of authenticity. She can’t change the way she speaks, nor can William. He went to school in Eton not Easterhouse. But there are other ways to show your love of country. By living there, for instance.
William studied at St Andrew’s University, it’s where he met his future wife, and our future Queen, Kate.
And after a recent tour around Scotland by the couple, there were reports in the papers suggesting they might be rolled out north of the border as a sort of secret weapon to blunt the point of separatism.
But occasional visits won’t wash. A few weeks in Balmoral over the summer will not convince wavering Scottish royalists that the institution of monarchy is as committed to Aberdeenshire as it is to Ascot.
William and Kate, and their beautiful children, should MOVE, and LIVE, and WORK in Scotland. Otherwise it might be that other William – William Wallace – who gets his wish after all.
And what about the young? How do the royals stop themselves being on the wrong side of demographic history as their older supporters die off?
The Queen, famously, once said she had to be seen to be believed. But there are different ways of being seen. Harry and Meghan seem to think the occasional spectacular TV interview, or Netflix series, or internet webinar will do it. And certainly, in a vast country like America, reaching an audience in person is hard to do.
But in Britain it’s feasible. A YouGov study in 2017 found that the Queen, over the course of her long reign, had been seen by 20 million Britons. Twenty million subjects who see her and then tell their family and friends all about it. That 20 million undergoes a compounding effect because, when you meet the world’s most famous woman, you want to tell people about it.
It’s surprisingly hard work, the walkabout. In 2019 Prince Charles alone did 521 public engagements. It involves a lot of smiling and listening. The Sussexes want to tell stories, not hear them. They might reason better one interview with the Queen of American TV, than dozens of functions with another Lord Lieutenant. But on our small island, seeing can still mean believing. For me, better the Windsor walkabout than the Sussex woke-about any day.