As all eyes focus on Britain for the royal wedding on April 29, the signs that the monarchy is getting more political are there for all to see. Though Queen Elizabeth II herself is careful to keep her head above the fray, her heir Prince Charles has never felt so constrained.
And third in line, Prince William, who will marry “commoner” Kate
Middleton in a multimillion-dollar spectacular full of British pomp and ceremony, has showed an independent streak that worries constitutionalists who believe the only way the monarchy can survive is to stay strictly nonpolitical.
“Prince William is putting his money where his mouth is unlike a lot of other public figures,” respected royal blogger Marilyn Braun tells Newsmax. “He doesn’t live or die by the popular vote.”
To Americans, William’s public utterances may seem inconsequential. His most controversial came when he spoke out about the homeless last year. He spent a night on the streets of London for the charity Centerpoint and then said it had helped him understand the issue and that homelessness is “a call to arms for all of us.”
But in Britain, the Royals aren’t meant to have any views about anything. The prince immediately caught flak for his comments. Royal aides scrambled to limit the fallout, saying he was merely “speaking from the heart.”
A few months later there was more controversy when William took advantage of an overseas trip with Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby him not to scrap the Royal Air Force’s search-and-rescue service.
Braun, who runs Marilyn’s Royal Blog and hosts the Internet radio show “The Royal Report,” acknowledges that the controversy over the homeless could have been a lesson for the future king.
“People may have seen it as a stunt,” she says. “William has stated that he wants to keep his private life private, and that may well include not revealing his political leanings to anyone.”
That could be because William knows he still has a lifetime of royal duty ahead of him and needs to feel his way without ruffling feathers, Braun says.
In Britain, the Royal Family’s impartiality is a way of life. As the right-of-center Daily Telegraph’s Mary Riddell put it: “The monarchy is supposed, by constitutional convention, to be above the fray. For the queen to intervene in political decisions, which she does not, would be intolerable. For [Prince Charles], and now his son and heir, to do so is stretching their remit, and the country’s goodwill, to their limits.”
That does not mean that the monarchy cannot move with the times. Three decades ago, when Charles and Diana were getting married, Buckingham Palace was at pains to point out that Diana was a virgin. But with William and Kate having lived together on and off since their days at St. Andrews University in Scotland, nobody is making such claims about this royal bride.
But other changes are more troublesome, in British eyes. Charles is regularly criticized for ignoring the no-politics rule by sending memos to leading politicians with his thoughts on the issues of the day, especially his support for tree-hugging “green” causes.
Above it all, the queen has kept her views under her crown throughout her 59 years on the throne.
“We don’t know her views on politics, nor will we ever know them,” Braun says. Who knows, with all the scandals her family has endured, she may be a closet republican, waiting for someone to pull the plug.”
But the political outlook of Elizabeth’s small group of friends among the British aristocracy — all strictly conservative — may give a hint to what she really thinks when she can unwind with no fear that her private conversations may be leaked.
In the United States, she is closest to William Farish, former U.S. ambassador to London, who in turn is best friend of President George H.W. Bush.
In those circles, it can be guaranteed that homelessness is virtually never mentioned over cocktails.
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