March 13

Mary’s Visit A Disaster For Republicans

Constitutional monarchists and especially republicans must read The Australian to-day. If we said it, and we have, the media would dismiss our views.

But now a leading republican, Dr Mark McKenna, who wrote a history of Australians republicanism has drawn two conclusions from the visit of Princess Mary.

It is published under the title, STILL CAPTIVATED BY A CROWN: The Australian, 13 March, 2005

They are unpalatable for republicans. First, he says, Australians are not (and never have been) anti-monarchical. Second, Marys popularity in Australia demonstrates the infinite capacity of monarchy for reinvention. And, as is so often the case, it is a young female royal who takes us beyond the ordinariness of everyday life into the world of our childhood dreams. While her popularity would seem to augur well for the republic, he says it would be superficial to conclude that Australians are crying out for their own head of state. He says the message for republicans a little more complex? Now a Danish citizen, she is not, unlike a president, a politician. As one royal watcher in Canberra said:

Its fantastic that someone just like us, just an everyday Australian, [is] fitting into royalty. In other words, Mary’s popularity is not simple celebrity; it is the distinct appeal of a young Australian woman becoming royal. One of us for princess. One of us as the future queen of Denmark. He imagines the very scenario republicans must in the heart of hearts fear most. Prince William marries a young Australian. What chance, he asks, an Australian republic against youth, beauty and one of us as Williams queen?

This he says points to the chief flaw in the arguments for a republic. An Australian head of state alone is not enough to get the republic over the line. An Australian head of state is a consequence of becoming a republic, not the reason for change. Republicans, he says, can say what they will about the anachronism of monarchy. But for more than 150 years the monarchy provided a powerful form of symbolism and served as an embodiment of our most cherished civic values. (Remember this is a republican speaking)

The monarchy, he says, was the central symbolic force in our Constitution and our public culture. And he admits that republicans have not found an argument for change of similar depth and purpose. He argues for other more radical reasons for a republic.

But most of these could be achieved –if the people wanted them-under our own constitution! It was refreshing at last to hear some good sense about the magic of monarchy from a leading republican intellectual.

Until next time,
David Flint


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