Could this be when future generations will look back in the history books and read about the pinnacle moment when a stable institution began to crumble? Is 2019 the year that marked the beginning of the end of a structural Monarchy which has been unchanged for hundreds of years? Has the Royal Family transformed into the Royal Circus, with the Queen sat upon her throne, clowns to the left of her, jokers to the right and herself propped in the middle pulling out her hair in complete confusion and frustration.
To say the past year has been anything but happy and glorious for The Royal Family would be an unreserved understatement. From the consistent dramas surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the arguably more damning behaviour of Prince Andrew, the one question Her Majesty the Queen has always feared when it comes to her beloved institution is now sitting uncomfortably on the lips of the British public. Is it worth it?
There are some, preferably those who wish for an elected Head of State instead of an inheritable one, who would answer with a resounding ‘no’ and that is to be expected. But when Monarchists - those who respect and celebrate the presence of the Royals - no longer answer with a definitive ‘yes’, then surely the consistent precedent must change.
With headline after headline causing unwavering embarrassment for the Monarchy, this once steady and unmoveable establishment has begun to fracture at an alarming rate.
First came the constant reporting on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The relentless fallout over private jets, spending sprees and ‘woke’ ideals has placed this once ‘golden couple’ into the unsustainable position of polarising opinion. And when it comes to the Royal Family, the last thing they want is to be seen diverging the public’s sentiment.
Sadly, when it comes to Harry and Meghan, it seems that the drama is set to rumble on. The couple’s ongoing legal battle with the media, over what they perceive as an organised attack to discredit them, is only just beginning. Add the decision of the Sussex’s to skip Christmas at Sandringham this year, amongst the ongoing rift between Harry and his brother Prince William, and you’re left wondering what on earth is still to come?
But whilst the fallout around Harry and Meghan is frustrating for the Queen, the behaviour of her son Prince Andrew is utterly contemptable. His recent interview with the BBC was a devastating train wreck that has rocked the stability of an institution dating back 1000 years. In the wake of his metaphorical detonation of a self-imposed nuclear bomb, the damage has been disastrous for Andrew’s position within the Royal Family.
Patronages have abandoned him. His own mother essentially fired him from the firm that has defined his life. Even his royal standard has been removed from Royal Lodge – the official residence of the Duke of York. The removal of Prince Andrew from the Monarchy has begun, and it is hard to see how he can return, especially after a recent set of damaging polls.
Only 28% of the British public believe that the Prince should continue to attend public events like Trooping the Colour and Remembrance Sunday – 51% think he shouldn’t. A measly 8% believed that the Duke of York was telling the truth in the unprecedented interview compared to the 54% who thought he was lying. If the royals need any more evidence of how catastrophic that interview was, then this poll should confirm their darkest fears.
Considering the past year, dubbed the Queen ‘Annus Horribilis 2.0’ and the key players, it is of no surprise that the YouGov poll confirmed that those involved have seen a drastic fall in popularity. Prince Harry for example, who once topped polls as the UK’s most beloved and popular royal, has seen his rating splinter from 77% in 2017 to 65% this year. His wife, the Duchess of Sussex has an inaugural number of only 40%. Prince Andrew naturally has an abyssal approval rating of only 5%.
Compare these numbers with those members who have remained at arm’s length from any drama and the results couldn’t be more different. Prince Charles’ ratings have soared to 57%, his highest number in decades. The Duchess of Cambridge has steadily increased her rating to 75%, but it is her husband Prince William who has topped the list behind his Grandmother with a huge rating of 79%.
But whilst these individual rankings for members of the Royal Family is intriguing, there is one result which could determine the appearance of ‘the Firm’ well into the future. Whether the Monarchy ‘needs a bit of improvement’, 59% agreed leading to the suggestion of whether the Royal Family should be slimmed down. In light of the Prince Andrew scandal and the incoming court battle between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Mail on Sunday, it’s beginning to feel as though the only answer is yes.
Many royal experts have claimed that this outcome is now an inevitability no longer subscribed to ‘if’ but ‘when’. And the recent poll numbers suggest that Harry and Meghan could also be for the Royal chop as well as Andrew.
The Monarchy has endured many scandals and the individuals who have enacted them. It does so by cutting them loose and when doing so the Royal Family never uses a blunt knife. Surviving is always placed above thriving. Rock the boat too much and you’ll quickly find yourself as decommissioned as the Royal Yacht Britannia.
There could be a saving grace for Harry and Meghan however, one which is no longer afforded to the Duke’s disgraced Uncle. Prince Charles could choose to keep the Sussex’s in the royal fold considering that one day Harry will be the son of a King. But if the rift with William continues or even worsens, it is worth remembering that the Duke of Cambridge has an invested interest in the survival of the Monarchy he will one day lead. In the same vein of Charles’ decision to oust Andrew from the institution for the sake of its continuity, could William be forced to do the same to Harry?
Whatever the future holds for the Monarchy, it’s becoming more and more difficult to see how it can continue in its current state. With so much noise emanating not only from the Press but from within the Palace, patience is running thin. That is why a streamlined Monarchy is now the only card left to play to survive. The Royals cannot afford any more drama and instead must focus on those who are a stable foundation, not an uncontrollable earthquake.
The Queen has served her country and her Monarchy with a dignity shamelessly lacking from some of the younger generations. She has continued and endured without self-gratifying fanfare or despairingly pitying herself. The time has come for her to lean into those who share the same sentiments, who will support her position not actively bring it into question.
When time does begin to write those history books, she as Queen can determine what the pages say, and if it is the time for change, whether by choice or not, she must ensure that those who failed when it mattered are gone – and gone for good.