Aren’t we all agog with the news of the royal pregnancy? Kate is expecting, and we subjects of the British Empire are rapt.
Her morning sickness has pushed out of the way the news of Syrian civil war, so-called fiscal cliffs, NHL lock-outs and the pipes groaning beneath our feet.
To be fair, this news is of some small historical import. The child will ultimately be third in line to the Throne of the United Kingdom, presuming that the constitutional rules are rejigged so that if it is a girl, she will inherit even if she eventually has younger brothers.
Again, this moment is only of small historical import. We have to ask ourselves if there will even be a throne for the child to inherit when his or her time comes.
The House of Windsor have most other clans beat when it comes to longevity. Some say it’s because of the Royal family’s Japanese diet. Others say it’s because of the genetic stock inserted by the late Queen Mother’s family, the Bowes-Lyons, doncha know. The Queen’s mother died at age 101. People say that, accordingly, subsequent generations of Windsors will all be an equally long-lived bunch.
Let’s apply a little morbid arithmetic, estimating that all members of the House of Windsor who are in line to the throne will achieve centenarian status. After all, people are living long these days. With more focus of personal health, more awareness of proper nutrition, advances in modern and naturopathic medicine and more comfortable standards of living, more and more of us can reasonably expect to reach 100 years of age, unless fate intervenes.
Thus, Queen Elizabeth at age 86 can expect to reign over us for another 14 years or so. This will make the now 64-year-old Charles 78 when he ascends the throne, and he shall be our head of state for a further 22. William Duke of Cambridge, now 30, would be a relatively youthful 66 (and by then, 66 will be the new 46, as they say) when he is crowned King William V. His 36-year-old son or daughter will be on hand to celebrate this coronation, perhaps thinking ahead to when he or she ascends the throne at age 70 or so, to become the 15th monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, which was formed in 1707.
For the record, I will be 120 years of age at this point — and probably still late with my City utilities bill.
A lot of history can happen in 70 years. The demographics of Britain and the former empire are changing. The world as a whole is becoming more democratic and more pragmatic. We peasants are less inclined to spend our money on pomp and circumstance, to enable an archaic aristocratic minority to maintain a life of extreme privilege based on symbolism and outmoded, decrepit tradition.
Even in Britain there has been considerable republican sentiment since forever. The countries that now make up Great Britain were even a republic for a short while, though that whole Oliver Cromwell experiment didn’t work out that well. Support for getting rid of the monarchy has ebbed and flowed — mostly ebbed, ever since. At present, it is reckoned about 13 per cent of Brits would support becoming a republic — i.e., getting rid of the monarchy. Not enough support for a peaceful revolution.
In the 15 countries where the Queen is still “head of state,” republican sentiment is higher. In Australia, the percentage favouring going republic consistently runs above 40 per cent. In Canada, it hovers around the same.
However, even though we are all fully aware of the disconnect of the monarchy from the day-to-day lives of the rest of us, even though an inherited position of superiority based on ancestry alone is ridiculous in modern context, it is true that the magic of a royal progress can still move the most jaded republican heart. Especially if royals in question are young, beautiful and newly wed. William and Kate’s visit to Canada last year (especially Kate’s) proved that.
By the same token, it seems a matter of fact that for the next three generations, the British monarch will be taking his or her place on the throne in autumn of his or her years. After a while, the magic will be gone, and the world, England and the former colonies will move on.