King Charles or King William? Royal wedding bellshave reignited the debate over whether Prince Charles should step aside to lethis popular son, William, be king.
Many are pushing the idea as the nation buzzesover the announcement of William’s engagement to longtime girlfriend KateMiddleton. They argue that Charles’ standing suffered irreparable harm when hismarriage to Princess Diana fell apart and details of his affair with CamillaParker Bowles went public.
Others say he is, at 62, simply too old to startan effective reign after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, dies. It’s more thanan academic question: the queen is 84 years old, albeit in seemingly excellenthealth.
There’s little question who’d win a popularitycontest between the aging prince, who has alienated many Britons, and thecharismatic young man who reminds many of his late mother, Diana. And Camilla,whom Charles married eight years after Diana’s death, is not loved by thepublic, while William’s fiancée, Kate Middleton, is cresting in popularity.
So perhaps it’s surprising that polls suggestBritons prefer to leave the line of succession as it stands.
The Monarchy by David Starkey (Cambridge University):
“Why change the rules now?’’ said HenriettaJones, 64, a retiree. “William has to wait his turn just like everyone beforehim. I think Charles really does have what it takes to be king and I think hehonestly deserves it.’’
An October ComRes poll of 2,012 adults showssupport for changing the line of succession to favor William stands at about 25percent, with just under half in favor of leaving things as they stand, withthe rest saying they don’t know.
ComRes chairman Andrew Hawkins said the pollfound more support for Charles than he had anticipated. Despite having manyvocal critics, he said, there is a solid base of support for Charles thatincludes all age groups and all parts of the country.
“Prince Charles doesn’t have a huge number ofvocal supporters, but there is a sense among the public that he has earned theright to serve as king and that he deserves it,’’ Hawkins said. “He has hiscritics but they are not in the majority.’’
The support for leaving the established order inplace reflects a go-slow approach to change and modernization in Britain, wherereforms of traditional institutions like the House of Lords have proceededslowly. Centuries of tradition suggest Charles should be next on the throne andhis would-be subjects seem unwilling to challenge that despite his maritalmisadventures.
The public is less forgiving in its attitudetoward Camilla. She is still seen by some as the “other woman’’ in theill-fated Charles and Diana fairy tale. The ComRes poll indicates Britons wouldprefer Middleton become the next queen — an inherent contradiction with theirvote on who should be king.
“These views reflect that it was always going tobe impossible for anyone to follow in Diana’s footsteps, and Camilla has notplayed the same sort of public role that Princess Diana did. She’s been muchmore in the background,’’ said Hawkins, adding that older Britons are moresupportive of Camilla than younger people.
He said Middleton would be “extremely popular’’in the near future but will have a challenge meeting high expectations.
Constitutional experts like author Vernon Bogdanorpoint out that even if Charles were extremely unpopular there is no easy way toalter the line of succession, which is not designed to bend to public opinionor respond to the whims of tabloid newspaper editors.
Prince William and Catherine Middleton appear at a photocall:
He said altering the succession would underminethe principle of constitutional monarchy, which is based on the concept thatdetermining who ascends to the throne is not a matter of individual choice.
“It would raise theargument of who is best suited to be head of state, which having a constitutionalmonarchy avoids,’’ he said.