Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Queen at 80 -- Revolution postponed

By Aussiegirl

Well, it looks like Prince Charles, accompanied by his lovely bride, will ascend to the throne after all.

The Queen at 80 | Revolution postponed | Economist.com

Why the monarchy is stronger today than ten years ago

FOR most of its history, Britain's monarchy has attracted a healthy amount of criticism and satire. Kings have repeatedly been lampooned as lazy, ineffectual, greedy, vain or stupid. When King George IV, who was thought to possess most of these vices, died in 1830, the Times reckoned that “there never was an individual less regretted by his fellow creatures than this deceased king.” Yet Queen Elizabeth II, who celebrates her birthday on April 21st, attracts almost no hostility from mainstream politicians or the press, despite being born into a job that is subsidised, extravagant and seems largely pointless. [....]

Compare the fortunes of the monarchy with those of another established institution with an ambient role, the Church of England, and it becomes clear that the royal family is doing rather well. It has recovered from a Princess Diana-fuelled dip in the late-1990s: polls show that more people now think the monarchy will be around in ten years time. Yet attendance at Church of England services has continued to decline. Why is the queen prospering while the Church (outside its cathedrals and evangelical movement) languishes?

One reason is that the monarchy thrives on indifference, while the Church is hurt by it. [....] But because the royal family is the monopoly provider of a something trivial, it hardly seems worth opposing. The Church, by contrast, offers a vital service to its 1.7m members—spiritual succour—and operates in a competitive confessional market where dissatisfied Christians can shop around. Indifference is thus a threat.

A second reason is that the queen's avoidance of controversy (she never expresses political views) and of the press has reinforced the institution she embodies. [....] The Church, on the other hand, cannot avoid damaging controversies even when it wants to, as the divisive row over ordaining gay priests reveals.

Third, the monarchy has benefited from a decline in party allegiance and a dilution of ideology in British politics that has not similarly helped the Church. Vigorous anti-monarchism was associated with the hard left, and has atrophied with it. Britain has only one sizeable anti-monarchy club these days—Republic, which has a thousand members—yet when the Prince of Wales had marital problems in the 1870s, 84 were founded.


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