Monocolumn: Royal Wedding – The Rebublican Conundrum

The marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton may have gripped many in the United Kingdom, but for the 20 per cent of the population that would rather the UK became the Republic of Britain (or RoB), it has been slightly awkward.

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

There’s a wedding happening today, apparently. The marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton – or Catherine, as she now appears to be known – may have gripped many in the United Kingdom, but for the 20 per cent of the population that would rather the UK became the Republic of Britain (or RoB), it has been slightly awkward.

Can republicans enjoy the extra day off, or is that hypocritical? And at a time when most people are wishing the happy couple good luck is it a bit rude for republicans to suggest Wills and Kate should never be King and Queen?

Actually, few are likely to suggest that publicly. Despite republicanism’s relative popularity – 20 per cent is 12m people, after all – it is a movement without any leaders. Most republicans appear rather shy about their beliefs, particularly when the rest of the country is hanging up Union Jack bunting.

Several members of the cabinet in the last Labour government were thought to be republicans, but none of them ever felt comfortable espousing their preference for a democratically elected head of state. Even when out of office, Labour’s republicans appear reluctant to speak out.

Jack Straw, who spent five years as foreign secretary under Tony Blair, ummed and ahhed about his well-known republican views when quizzed on Radio 4’s Today programme.

A large part of this is down to the Queen. Even the most hardened republican would find it difficult to say a bad word about her. She refused to visit South Africa during the apartheid years and a few Christmases ago produced a far better speech about the merits of multiculturalism than any politician has managed. If the Queen stood for election, even most republicans would probably vote for her. Not her son, of course. And that’s the point.

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Image by Gerard Stolk en route

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