by Julia James ’25
Published Nov. 5, 2022
“London bridge is down” were the code words uttered to Prime Minister Liz Truss on September 8th. The phrase relayed the passing of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, and by Thursday afternoon, it had the entire world in a crestfallen shock.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II, through its woeful spotlight on the House of Windsor, has ushered in the question of this archaic tradition’s relevance in a modernized England. As Britons reminisce on this now-bygone era, the late Queen’s 70-year reign becomes a testament to both the contentious and unifying nature of the monarchy.
In times of crisis, from the Second World War to the pandemic, the monarchy is meant to symbolize “national identity, unity, and pride; [to give] a sense of stability and continuity,” said the official website of the Royal Family. Although nationwide mourning reflects this view, for some, the Queen’s passing marks the needed death of the monarchy itself.
A large portion of this disdain is rooted in the controversial ascendency of King Charles II, with the hashtag “NotMyKing” gaining traction on social media. As the shift ensues, public opinion on this dated institution, coupled with its sensitive imperialist history, becomes dependent on King Charles’ capacity to win the favor of Britain. Republican demonstrators, while comprising a minority of public response to this tragedy, are indicative of a new wave of British disillusionment with its age-old tradition.
Furthermore, the generational decrease in the popularity of the Crown is apparent. According to Time, Gen-Z support for the monarchy has fallen from 59% in 2011 to just 33% [at present].”
In the past, slumps in the British perspective often followed PR scandals, such as Princess Diana’s death and familial divorces. In the digital age, popular media has dramatized the family, creating celebrities that are semi-political figures. The Royal Family, then, morphs from figureheads to real-time soap opera characters, making them more susceptible to public scrutiny.
Although it is widely recognized that the monarch has no real political sway in parliamentary and diplomatic relations, the privilege and grandeur of the royal lifestyle have also gained the contempt of the nation. According to PBS, under 14% of Britons younger than 35 believe the monarchy is “very important.”
Spanning 37 generations and 1200 years, kings and queens have been a cornerstone of the national image of Great Britain. The rise of Gen-Z, however, threatens to bring the monarchy to an end.