When Queen Victoria celebrated her 60th jubilee in 1897, three generations stood ready to succeed her: her son Bertie, later Edward VII (1901-10); her grandson George, who as George V led the kingdom through the First World War; finally her great-grandchildren, Princes Edward, later the short-lived King Edward VIII (1936), and Albert, who ruled the monarchy as George VI. stabilized after his older brother’s abdication.
This week, the British are celebrating their current Queen Elizabeth II and her almost fabulous 70 years on the throne. Like 125 years ago, three succeeding generations are celebrating this time too. And as then, the British monarchy, if it makes it intact through the 21st century, faces a long line of male monarchs.
Elizabeth’s son Charles, 73, has never allowed any doubts about his claim to the throne, and his older son William has never expressed such thoughts. Whether the almost 40-year-old plans to retire as King Emeritus or, like his grandmother, wants to die in office and with dignity – three children are ready to succeed him, above all the eight-year-old Hereditary Prince George.
A male-dominated monarchy, possibly even into the 22nd century, as the historian Suzannah Lipscomb notes with a somewhat worrying undertone.
“Of course her personal character, but also her gender” contributed to the success of the Queen and the worldwide reputation of the monarchy. According to this logic, it seems all the more important to publicly bring the royal women more into play at the celebrations themselves and the upcoming succession.
The principle of male succession (primogeniture) was abolished in 2013, but too late for Charles’ sister Anne, who was overtaken as pretender to the throne by her younger brothers Andrew and Edward and their descendants.
The now 71-year-old reacted pragmatically, established herself in the shadow of her brothers and renounced the title of “Royal Highness” for her children. For many years she has been at the top of the list of appointments that the royals attend for charities and thereby add glamor to them.
Like her father Philip, the princess is “brash, attentive and practical”, has observed “Times” columnist Libby Purves and regrets that the now only 17th in line to the throne does not play a more prominent role. The woman promised in this way would certainly refuse to plead, since she is deeply suspicious of the media.
Anne shares this resentment with the woman who was briefly seen as the new face of the monarchy, but who has long since disappeared to her native California. Is there a return for Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, in the name of greater modernity?
As a Goodwill Ambassador to the Commonwealth, perhaps, as Tina Brown suggests. Her recently published book “The Palace Papers” is based on conversations with allegedly more than 120 eyewitnesses to the Elizabethan regency and pushes the 40-year-old American forward, not least in the interest of her own career. After all, writes Brown, who comes from England but has lived in the USA for decades, “whose halo is fading”.
On the other hand, the royal biographer praises Charles’ wife Camilla extensively. The Duchess of Cornwall is “charming, discreet, patient” and knows that popularity “must be earned through hard work”. But what about the Diana shadow? The heir to the throne “will never be forgiven by some for his behavior towards Diana”, analyzes the royal expert of the conservative “Daily Telegraph”, Camilla Tominay.
According to surveys, however, a quarter of a century after the accidental death of the then “Queen of Hearts”, Charles’ second wife is a plus for the monarchy: unpretentious, devoted to people, but above all an irreplaceable support for the heir to the throne. Due to his late marriage to his old flame, he mutated from an old grumbler into an “unmistakably happy man”, according to Brown’s observation.
The influence of Duchess Catherine of Cambridge has also grown steadily. According to royal records, the former Kate Middleton is only of indirect importance: as the wife of Prince William, second in line to the throne, and as the mother of numbers three, four and five, George, Charlotte and Louis.
Most of the time she smiles friendly and is eloquently silent. However, she resolutely pushes the concerns that are close to her heart, such as early childhood support and support for the mentally ill, into the public eye. Internally, the woman from a stable, middle-class family appears as a kind of balance to the Windsors, who always seem a bit mentally unstable.
Down to earth, well-balanced, less status-conscious – with these attributes, the royal women seem made to maintain the importance of the monarchy, even in an age of decreasing deference, which the jubilarian has worked for over 70 years.