After the loss of Prince Philip, the Queen will come to rely increasingly on Prince Charles for advice - GulfToday

After the loss of Prince Philip, the Queen will come to rely increasingly on Prince Charles for advice

Sean O'Grady


Associate Editor of the Independent.

Associate Editor of the Independent.

Queen Elizabeth 2

Queen Elizabeth. File

The future of the monarchy always comes into focus at moments such as this. Britain, a nation greatly troubled by all sorts of divisions; disfigured by what are often branded, “culture wars”, needs its unifying figures and forces more than ever. Prince Philip was himself someone who attracted controversy and divided opinions, as it happens, but the point remains.

The United Kingdom (sadly, an increasingly ironic title), has to start looking to a future after this generation has passed – and must pay attention to what still brings it together.

The immediate impact, understandably so, will be a further outpouring of sympathy and support for the Queen. Remarkably, it is more than 80 years since the young Princess Elizabeth of York first set eyes on the Greek Adonis, fell in love with him and went to in enjoy 73 years of marriage. It was he, more than anyone (except, perhaps, she herself) who made the British monarchy what it is today: a survivor, despite its many crises.

The Queen, then, at the age of 94, is more popular than ever; and very possibly the most popular monarch in British history – an even greater achievement when the age of deference has long since passed.

It is down to her innate sense, born of long experience, of what to do and say. Her “Covid speech” last year was a remarkable reminder of that gift. “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again,” she said.

For her, and for her heirs and successors, the key to their continued survival as an institution remains what it has always been: to prove useful, and thereby, to carry the support of the people. There is no divine right of this anachronistic organisation to reign – still less rule – and a sober recognition of that is one of the reasons why the House of Windsor enjoys the status it still does.

First, the royal family has to be regarded by the public as a working family, and not to misbehave; sexually, financially or in any other way. In return for the vast palaces and the vast privileges, they have always had to do what the public expect of them – turn up and do their bit. In more recent times, they have been expected to pay their taxes, and not to indulge themselves extravagantly.

They are also, as part of this tacit bargain, supposed to act honourably and decently in their lives, including their private lives. What is acceptable or not in the private sphere varies over time and according to the case; but most of the crises in the lives of the monarchy in the last century have been no more or less than its members falling in and out of love with other people, and pursuing adulterous affairs.

There has been little, if any, politics attached to most of these crises. Even the traumas after the death of Diana stemmed from the breakdown of the marriage of the prince and princess of Wales. Prince Andrew’s involvement with Jeffrey Epstein, jetting around and keeping the wrong sort of company, was a high-profile example of selfishness and foolishness, and did the institution no good, to say the least. Although, it has to be said, any wrongdoing has been vehemently denied.

Over the next few months and years, the Queen will – as she has already – come to rely increasingly on Prince Charles for advice and guidance about the future of The Firm. He has his ideas and obsessions: all well-meaning, some eccentric, and some useful.

But the truth, in my view, is that he is the person most responsible for some of the monarchy’s crises and periodic slumps in popularity, and his father and mother mostly responsible for clearing up the mess and for getting the show back on the road.

As the chairman of “The Firm”, succeeding his father, the Prince of Wales will have to show more wisdom than he did in the past. The death of Prince Philip marks a peak in the monarchy’s popularity, and of affection for the Queen – the future is much more uncertain than it now seems.

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