There seems to be a resurgence of confidence and interest in constitutional monarchy across Europe, particularly in Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom and surprisingly, among the French when they look with envy at the unifying role of the Crown in Spain and, no doubt, in the UK. Perhaps they should also look at Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In Sweden, The Local, an internet on line newspaper, reported on 24 March 2006 that the Social Democrats are involved in a “row” over the monarchy.
The report says that one of the Social Democrats’ leading figures thinks it’s time to stop demanding a republic. The Chairwoman of Social Democrat women, Nalin Pekgul, thinks the monarchy is good for democracy.
In an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, Pekgul highlights the king’s positive role in combating xenophobia in Sweden and the manner in which he unified the country following the tsunami disaster. She also expresses her irritation at feminists who want to abolish the monarchy just at the time when the heir to the throne is a woman. The king is especially important to immigrants, writes Pekgul, who regard the argument that it shouldn’t be allowed to inherit power as meaningless, since the king doesn’t have any power. The position of the King in the Swedish Constitution has been changed, a matter we have commented on previously.
Meanwhile the visit of King Juan Carlos to France encouraged the French media to ask what the King’s role in Spain was. In a series of interviews on France 2, rebroadcast in Australia on 28 March, 2006 on SBS, both with Spaniards and commentators, the message was loud and clear. The King is seen as the rock on which Spain has become the successful democracy she is today. There is great respect for him across the political spectrum, from left to right. And there is great confidence in the succession of the popular Crown Prince Felipe.
The French will no doubt contrast the role of the Crown in Spain, and no doubt the UK, with the role of the French Presidency
A new biography about President Chirac sold almost 200,000 copies in two week. The book, La Tragédie du président : Scènes de la vie politique (1986-2006), is by a political journalist, Franz-Olivier Giesbert. He says that M. Chirac has been transformed with age into the incarnation of French decline, leading from the rear.
In the United Kingdom, the Labour Prime Minister, the Rt.Hon. Tony Blair is a strong supporter of the monarchy. On his visit to Australia, the Daily Telegraph on 27 March 2006 also refused to buy into the republic debate, telling the Nine Network: "I think it’s your decision. You guys decide…The one thing you learn about issues like this because of their sensitivity is just to stay right out of them…I’m afraid you’ll get the safe political line, at least on this one."
In July,2005, the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, strongly defended Prince Charles against a campaign by some politicians on the House of Commons public accounts committee.
Now even the press concedes the significant role which Prince Charles can play. A British reader has drawn my attention to The Times’ leader of 27 March, 2006 :”A royal success:Charles and Camilla have proved skilful ambassadors in the Middle East. “
The editor says: ”Subtlety, tact and understanding — these are qualities not normally associated with the Prince of Wales by those who focus only on his spats with the press, his diaries and his crude lobbying of ministers. But on his present tour of the Middle East and India, Prince Charles has shown that, in areas where he is engaged and can speak with authority, he can prove extraordinarily effective in conveying the right message at the right time.”
Times are changing, and the brief flirtation with republicanism in the nineties is passing.