It may shock some people who peruse this site to realise that, despite some misconceptions to the contrary, it is not the nature of the British Monarchy for its kings to be chosen by popular vote.
World-shattering, I know, but please, humour me.
By law, by tradition, and by expectation, the next King (or Queen) of the United Kingdom, and by agreement, the rest of the Commonwealth Realms, will always be the eldest child of the current reigning monarch. Or, lacking any immediate issue, the next eldest relative.
For better or worse (and I personally think the former), this is how the British Monarchy has operated for centuries, ever since the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.
Slight hiccups or alternative arrangements here and there notwithstanding. We’re looking at you, Lord-Protector Cromwell.
As such, it rather confounds and unsettles me whenever I hear someone spout something along the lines of “Prince Charles should really step down and let Prince William take over” or, worse, “Let’s just skip Prince Charles entirely”.
Now, I can expect this attitude from Republicans, who already have little reverence for the monarchy and its ways as it is, and already believe that heads of state should be elected, not born. I can even forgive mere royalists from holding to this sentiment, because they’re simply people who enjoy some aspect or another of the Royal Family, rather than professing any commitment to the British Monarchy as an institution within the British government.
You can enjoy a Royal Wedding without necessarily believing in royalty. Americans do it all the time.
However, it distresses me greatly when I see other monarchists announce that Prince Charles should be deprived of his rightful inheritance, as by rights they should know better.
“I Didn’t Vote For You (And Nor Do I Want To)!”
I’d like to repeat myself – British kings are not elected.
I emphasise this because people seem to have gotten the idea that we can, if we wish, skip a generation should we decide we like the next one better. In a recent poll conducted on Twitter, it was found that around 52% of 600 respondents would rather see Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge be crowned monarch before and instead of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
But that’s not how the British Monarchy works, nor should it be.
We are a hereditary monarchy. The monarchy passes from one generation to another. While by no means perfect, it provides a smooth and seamless transition of power.
It means that our monarchy is not, unlike our parliament, marred by the dirt of partisan politics. The Queen never had to court with political factions or powerful interests to secure her throne. She achieved it solely by the Grace of God. It is her vocation; she is meant to be wearing that Crown and no one else.
I know the Divine Right of Kings is about as fashionable as ruffs, garters and codpieces, but there is an advantage in having a head of state who doesn’t owe their position to anyone but God. For one thing, their power can truly be exercised for the good of all, without needing to be divided between the various kingmakers. The monarch is not in any earthly debt, and neither have they incurred the wrath of a scorned faction who had placed their bets on a losing side. There is no contest, no conflict, and no contempt.
The transfer of power is thus prompt, painless, and completely peaceful.
Even if you believe in God about as much as you believe in the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, there’s a tangible benefit in this.
And this, in my mind, is what is so dangerous about the sentiment “We don’t like the Prince of Wales, so he should not become King”. It threatens this whole system.
The moment we start along the lines of “Let’s have this person rather than that person because they rank more highly in the polls”, we stop being a hereditary monarchy. We become, in essence, a Republic dressed in ermine.
While we’re at it, why not abolish the coronation and just have a swearing-in ceremony officiated by the Prime Minister rather than the Archbishop of Canterbury? Why not get rid of the Crown, Orb and Sceptre, and replace them with a copy of the British Constitution? Why don’t we get rid of the phrase By the Grace of God, and replace it with By the Vote of the People? Why not get rid of the title Monarch of the United Kingdom and have President of the United Republic instead?
However, I’m not just concerned out of my beliefs as a monarchist either.
I also think this presents a grave disservice to the Prince of Wales himself. For reasons I can only guess, His Royal Highness has the reputation of being something of a joke. Myself, I think this is completely unfair, and I’m confident Prince Charles will make a great king in his own right.
King Charles III — Or King George VII, We’re Not Sure Yet
Withholding Prince Charles from his inheritance is wrong in the respect that we’re unfairly denying him any chance to prove himself when his time comes.
His Royal Highness has an undeserved reputation for being a bit air-headed, but the truth cannot be further from that. The Prince of Wales is highly erudite, having written or co-written many works relating to philosophy, religious thought, the environment, and British architecture. If anyone has had the opportunity to hear him speak on such topics, or speak in general, he quickly reveals himself to be very thoughtful and insightful.
At a time when concerns about the environment, both natural and manmade, are reaching a point, I think Prince Charles will be exactly the monarch we need. He has spoken extensively on the importance of conservation long before any other major public figure thought to.
Furthermore, he’s shown himself to be thoughtful and sensitive to other people and cultures, a trait that will be invaluable in a country that’s increasingly become home to many different religious and ethnic groups. To say nothing of his realms that are already like this. Prince Charles’s sincere and earnest desire to connect with cultures different from his own will allow him to connect to his future kingdom in a way Queen Elizabeth II may not have been able to.
Not to a better degree. But a different one.
And ultimately that’s what Prince Charles’s reign will be – different and an adjustment. Each monarch brings their own style to the British Monarchy. The Queen has her way of doing things, Charles will have his.
It will be a matter of getting used to the change, like getting used to the feel of a new coat or a new car. Before long it will become routine. Before long, it will be what we expect of the monarchy. Everything will be right and well.
Finally, there is one last reason Prince Charles must be king. The matter of his son and grandson.
No Need or Desire to Rush
If you think about it, just why exactly would Prince William even want to succeed before his father?
I don’t even need to appeal to a sense of Confucian filial loyalty, either. The Duke of Cambridge probably doesn’t want to be anywhere near the throne until such a time he has no choice but to accept it, for the simple reason that he’d probably want to live his life first.
The man is only just into his thirties. He’s not long been married to the Duchess of Cambridge. The Prince has just started a new career as an air ambulance pilot. Both his children are still young, with Prince George barely even in school and Princess Charlotte barely independently mobile. There’s a good chance there may be an additional child as well.
With all this considered, it should be apparent that Prince William would not want the disruption, chaos and stress that a premature accession would cause.
The moment Prince William becomes King William V, he will no longer be able to commit to his family, his career and his own interests as much as he would like. The Crown is all consuming, and by wearing it, he will be forced to sacrifice many things. What he desires himself will be moot. The Monarch can only do what his Monarchy demands.
Prince William of Cambridge would die, and King William of the United Kingdom must take his place like some terrible changeling.
If you truly profess a love and affection towards the Cambridge family, therefore, you would not wish an immediate succession upon them. You would want, and they would most definitely appreciate, the Cambridges to enjoy as many years away from Buckingham Palace and its dreadful protocols, traditions and demands as possible until such a time the family has grown.
Give them that valuable chance to be a family, to enjoy the life that brings, and to settle into the inevitability that one day it will end and duty will begin in earnest.
Prince Charles has done all that already. He’s raised his family – successfully despite everything – and he’s ready for the next stage of his duty to his country. For the sake of the monarchy, for the sake of his son, and for his own sake, Prince Charles must become King.
And we, as his people, must welcome and support him in that.