The death of Queen Elizabeth II after a reign of over seventy years marks the end of an era that saw the transformation of Great Britain from an imperial power that decided the fate of nations to a ‘third rate’ power, as former PM IK Gujral once stated. Her presence on the throne ensured a continuity that will now be challenged in more ways than one. There was a time, particularly after the tragic death of Princess Diana, that many Britons were quite dissatisfied with the monarchical system. Prince Charles (now King) was quite unpopular as the heir to the throne, till such time Prince William, his son, brought back some glamour with his marriage to Kate Middleton. The latest controversies involving Meghan Markle have, once again, cast a shadow on the family.
Now that the one who held things together has gone, things could begin falling apart. One of the primary issues that will be raised is the future of the Commonwealth. Will it continue as an entity, archaic and colonial as its foundations are, or just fade away? If it continues, who will lead it – there will be resistance to keeping the British Monarch as its head. Also, those who have been demanding that the fifteen nations like Canada, New Zealand, Australia, etc., that have had Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign, should declare themselves republics will gain strength. Will Charles III command the respect necessary to hold things together, or will the relationship evolve to a more realistic one? Even in the UK, Scottish separatism was kept at bay because of the Queen’s presence – how long before the movement catches momentum again?
There can also be questions about Britain’s monarchical system and its legitimacy in the present age. However, it also must not be forgotten that the British Royalty and all that associated with it has been a boon to tourism. Without the mystique of the Royals, tourists may just give the country a big miss. Also, in an increasingly diverse society, it is the presence of someone mostly everybody bends the knee to that keeps the nation united. In the meanwhile, however, trust the British to make a grand event out of the Queen’s funeral and the new King’s coronation. That will keep the cash registers ringing in a day and age when much of traditional Britain is fading away!