July 24

Why we’d rather have a Prince than a politician


The birth of the baby Prince is of great importance and significance to Australia.  It reinforces our oldest institution – one of the fundamental pillars of our nation – the Australian Crown.

One of the fascinating aspects of our monarchy is that it constantly renews itself.  In recent years we have seen – with many millions around the world – the Royal Wedding of William and Kate and later that year the visit of The Queen farewelled by well over 100,000 on the banks of the Swan River.  Now we have the birth of a Prince – the third in line to the throne.  It is the monarchy’s unique ability to unite the nation, old and young and those from different cultures and religions, which ensures that it continues to remain as relevant today as it has been for centuries.  In fact, after the aged, the lowest support for a politicians’ republic is to be found among the young and those new to our country.

Aside from their long held affection for The Queen, Australians intrinsically understand that the Crown provides leadership beyond politics.  As Sir Winston Churchill noted, the Crown is important not so much for the power it wields, but for the power it denies others.

In these times of political turbulence, whatever their political persuasions, Australians cherish an institution which unites rather than divides.  Just as they do that other wonderful symbol of national unity – the Australian Flag.

Australians are also fascinated by the Royal Family who are always, as Walter Bagehot indicated – and the media interest testifies – interesting people, doing interesting things.  And there is a very human level connection that an event like a Royal Birth offers.  It reminds us that the Royal Family is, underneath it all, just like everybody else.  The fact is reinforced by William and Kate expressing their intention to be much more hands on parents than other monarchs have traditionally been.

Further, the birth of the baby Prince demonstrates the centrality of the Family in our society.  The attention of the nation is concentrated on the birth of a child in the same way that constantly occurs in families across Australia.
This emphasis on the Family is a feature of The Crown and not something for which the political arm lends itself.  Our politicians, understandably, put their families in another more private compartment.  And why do they almost invariably use their family when they explain their premature retirement on generous superannuation?  This is almost always followed by vast consultancies, directorships and other jobs for the boys and girls.

In a constitutional monarchy, the Royal Family is an integral part of the system.  And the succession determines who is to become the Sovereign.  Republicans may say that this is not in accordance with their values, but they forget that becoming Sovereign in a modern constitutional monarchy involves a life of service and dedication – as The Queen herself has long demonstrated.

The Royal Baby is born – some would say doomed – to a life of service.  Americans are astounded that Prince William and Prince Harry see it as their duty to serve in the defence forces – few children of the leading American families would do that.  But that is our Royal Family – they have long lived to serve.

Republicans who think that the end of the reign will mean that Australians will change the constitution forget that their movement has gone backwards.  At least in 1999 they were able to explain to the nation precisely what form of politicians’ republic they wanted.  Today, apart from vague talk about national identity, they are unable to give one detail about what kind of republic they want.  Instead, they have different proposals for taxpayers to fund their search for a model which would scrape through a referendum.

But Australians remain uninterested.  The Prince of Cambridge will only reinforce that.

Jai Martinkovits is Executive Director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.  Follow Jai on Twitter at @jaimartinkovits.

[An edited version of this piece was first published in The Daily Telegraph on 24 July 2013.  To access the online version, click here.]


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