He was not exempt from controversy, but during the 70 years that his reign lasted, the respect that the figure of Elizabeth II raised was more than enough to relegate the demands of those who advocate having an elected head of state to the background rather than imperceptible. TO Charles III, however, the republicans They consider him “the weakest link”, for which they wanted to take advantage of all the expectation generated by the coronation to demonstrate that in United Kingdom In his opinion, a “process of change” has begun.
But hours before the demonstration called in the central Trafalgar Square, the main leader of the anti-monarchy movement was arrested along with other volunteers. Republic CEO Graham Smith and six other associates went to court at 6:30 a.m. Apparently, the activists would have been identified carrying megaphones in what would be a violation of recent anti-protest laws enacted by the “Tory” government, which prohibit the use of amplifiers.
Despite this setback, about a thousand people dressed in yellow and black gathered in Trafalgar to shout as the royal entourage passed “this is not my king.”
Founded in 1983, the organization now claims to have around 80,000 members. Revenues, Smith explained before the coronation, have almost tripled in the last two years, from £106,000 in 2020 to £286,000 in 2022, much of which (around £70,000) was recorded in September, the month in which he died Isabel II.
“The pressure has to come from the people. Only if the citizens ask for a change can we get a referendum. The government that is in place at that time does not have to be in favor of the republic. When David Cameron was prime minister called three referendums [cambio sistema electoral, independencia escocesa, salida de la UE] and I was not in favor of any of the changes that were being proposed,” Smith, 49, clarifies.
Republicans represent a minority (barely 26% compared to 58% who advocate maintaining the Monarchy, according to the latest YouGov survey). But it is a minority that is constantly growing. Therefore, if the Royal Family cannot persuade those under 24 (almost 40% prefer an elected head of state), their future could be in question. Brexit has already made it clear that the British are not necessarily against major constitutional changes. Therefore, according to experts, Raising now the possibility that in the future the Monarchy could be abolished may not be so far-fetched.
Smith claims that Carlos III “has not inherited that deference that people had for Isabel IYO”. “He has a backpack full of scandals. It is a figure that creates division. And no matter how much some are interested in showing her son Guillermo and Kate as an idyllic image, they do not arouse that admiration and respect that the late monarch achieved, ”she qualifies. Therefore, she believes that the chances of Prince George [segundo en línea de sucesión] becomes king are increasingly rare. “The Monarchy is a weakened institution. It is an increasingly leaky boat. If we keep pushing, she will go under,” she notes.
The British capital has not been the only point of demonstration. Protests were also called in other cities such as Cardiff, Nottingham and Oxford. In Scotland, where the highest levels of opposition to the Monarchy are recorded, there were protests in Edinburgh and Glasgow while the ceremony was taking place Westminster Abbey.
To achieve “full democracy,” Smith advocates a parliamentary republic like the ones in Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Germany, or Austria. “These are countries where if the government does something that is unconstitutional, the head of state elected at the polls can annul it. What we are proposing is not particularly radical. It is simply a democratic model, ”he points out.
In recent years, republicanism has been fueled by family feuds involving Prince Harry and the scandal over Prince Andrew’s alleged sexual abuse. Also, the fact that the coronation of Carlos III will suppose around 100 million pounds to the public treasury -according to press estimates- at a time when the cost of living is the highest in the last four decades, which makes it difficult for many families to make ends meet, has also become a matter of controversy.
Some organizations ensure that the cost of the Monarchy is exceeded by what the institution contributes to the economy each year, as a promoter of tourism. According to the consultancy Brand Finance, 1.766 billion pounds in 2017. But Smith assures that they have discredited all the facts and figures that exist.
The truth is that there were always many doubts about the future that would hold for the institution once Elizabeth II was no longer in charge of the Crown. But the transition is taking place more than calmly and Carlos III’s popularity ratings have skyrocketed. According to the latest survey published by The Times, and62% of the British believe that he will be a good king, a more than significant increase compared to March last year when only 39% believed that he was a good value for the Monarchy.
However, where the republican movement is going at a higher speed is in the commonwealth, one of the oldest transnational associations in the world, with Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the most important countries. Founded in 1949 and directed by the king George VI, the union is made up of 56 member states which, with the exception of Mozambique and Rwanda, share historical ties with the United Kingdom. When Elizabeth II acceded to the throne in 1952, she was head of state in 32 of those nations. But at the time of her death, she was only 14, not counting the UK itself.