The Queen is dead! Long live the King!
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has begun her spirit journey after serving as monarch for a record number of years. Her 70 years on the throne has seen remarkable human achievements, immense technological change and monumental historical events—not least of which is her longevity on the throne.
So long has she reigned that her son and heir, Charles Prince of Wales now King Charles III, is the oldest monarch to ascend to the throne and has endured the longest waiting period of any heir—some might suggest that was a blessing.
Now reigning over Great Britain, Charles III also now stands as head of the Commonwealth (elected to the post in 2018), an international organization that includes 56 nations, of which he will also become head of state for 15. The Commonwealth is an organization that was nurtured and expanded by his late mother; an awesome responsibility.
Queen Elizabeth II was admired by most of her “subjects,” but it was an admiration based more on her royal majesty’s clear dedication to her subjects and a devotion to duty through which she weathered many storms, both political and personal.
The monarch is supposed to rise above things political, that is the purview of Parliament in a Westminster parliamentary system of democracy. Another Charles learned that the hard way, literally losing his head for poking his nose into politics and taxation. His son, also a Charles, found himself stripped of those powers completely when the monarchy was restored.
In his first speech to the realm following his mother’s passing, Charles III made it clear that he intended to follow closely in his mother’s footsteps in all things regal—and why not? Hers was a reign credited with restoring faith in the institution. Charles himself could have been said to have been a bit of a headwind, given the controversy during his marriage and subsequent divorce from Princess Diana Spencer, although those tribulations were recently overshadowed by the scandals of his younger brother Prince Andrew.
This should serve as comfort to the Government of Great Britain, as Charles was wont to make statements that impinged into the political realm, particularly in regards to how he uses his tours of Canada as a way to help draw attention to youth, the disabled, the environment, the arts, medicine, the elderly, heritage conservation and education—and is patron to over 400 charities and organizations. In the aforementioned speech, the newly ascendant King Charles III also apologized for no longer being able to give attention to the charitable work that has marked his royal career to this point.
While King Charles III will not likely be able to rise to the level of affection in which his mother was held across the Commonwealth and indeed the globe, he clearly intends to make every effort to devote the remainder of his life to duty and service to the realm.
Canada is a parliamentary democracy and the “Crown” holds an important role in our system of government. The challenges of our changing our constitution make it very unlikely that will change any time soon. There is little appetite for a republican system among the body politic.
Canada doesn’t send money to the monarch (although we do pay the freight for our Governor General and Lieutenant Governors), although republican supporters like to claim otherwise, and the cost of any replacement system would likely far outweigh those costs. We also pay the costs for visiting royalty, but then again we do the same for other visiting heads of state and important dignitaries—so no savings there either.
Truth be told, there really isn’t any actual need for a physical monarch in Canada, although they do serve as the physical embodiment of the Crown. In its function these days the Crown is really an abstract concept at this point in our national development.
The most likely impact for most Canadians will be the struggle to sing ‘God Save the King” instead of “God Save the Queen”—and that’s just fine.