Are Harry And Meghan The Reason Support For A Republic Has Dropped?
It pains me to say this, but as an avowed republican -- the Australian kind, not the American -- my opposition to the monarchy is receding faster than William’s hairline.
I’m not the only one. Newspoll this week shows support for an Australian republic has fallen to its lowest level in 25 years. Fewer than one in seven Australians now have a strong attachment to change.
It’s terrible news for the Australian Republican Movement, which is trying hard to build a support base for an Australian head of state. I still support republicans in their noble quest. But this just isn’t the hill I’m willing to die on.
Most Australians won’t climb that hill with them either. They’ve struggled to excite people behind the cause; whilst some Change.org petitions amass more than 300,000 signatures in less than a week, the Australian Republican Movement closed its petition after struggling to reach 15,000 signatures in two years of campaigning on the same platform.
Michael Cooney National Director of the Australian Republic Movement said, "A republic is not inevitable -- democratic change never is. Australians should have a say in who is our next head of state.
"Without a republic, that decision is out of our hands."
It was always the principle of monarchy I opposed, and never the people, who can’t help their accident of birth any more than a pauper. In a meritocracy, birth doesn’t dictate status -- and the institution of the royal family fundamentally contradicts this.
But it’s the new generation of royals who are changing the game; especially the sons of the late loved Princess Diana.
Many are calling this royalist resurgence the Harry and Meghan effect. Their recent triumphant tour Down Under included the wonderful Invictus Games and a pregnancy announcement and brought joy to everyone from war widows to children with Down Syndrome.
It’s difficult to envision any Australian head of state competing with this master PR stroke. Australia smiled and buzzed; even the most sour-faced anti-royalist cannot deny it.
Diana would be bursting with pride at her two sons, always her priority, her pride and her joy. Prince Harry sure has matured into a fine young man since he went in fancy dress as a Nazi. His honesty about his mental health struggles will break down important barriers to men sharing such things.
And Prince William committing to tackle homophobic bullying and appearing on the cover of Attitude, a British gay magazine to which I had a subscription, won me over -- testing my anti-monarchist principles and throwing me into a state of confused cognitive dissonance.
I previously vowed never to watch a royal wedding and compromise my republican integrity. But then my royalist boyfriend and I had an argument over the remote, which he ended up winning. And I concede, I was unexpectedly won over all over again, this time for the younger son. This tweet from my best mate back in Blighty nails why. Cold cynics warmed the minute that gospel choir struck up.
Labor this week announced that, if elected, it'll fund a $160 million national plebiscite on an Australian republic in its first term.
If the Harry and Meghan effect lives on, the Republican movement is going to have to pull an extraordinary trick out the bag to convince those who’ve downgraded their republicanism to something closer to fence-sitting.
However, I think there’s a greater weapon in the arsenal of the royals: a juggernaut whose glitz and quiet charisma surpasses even the sparkle of Meghan Markle: the Queen herself.
Sixty-five years in a job where she has barely put a foot wrong. And when she did, delaying lowering the flag to half mast when Diana died, she still rescued the institution and her family from PR crisis and reputational damage.
While everyone around her -- her husband, her children, her extended family, some members of the royal family’s staff -- has on occasion spoke out of turn, philandered, blurted, blundered, offended, insulted, misjudged and come a cropper, she’s consistently been next to flawless.
While celebrities have overshared, grown out-of-control egos, fell victim to the trappings of fame, said stupid things and atoned for them, the Queen has retained a grace and dignity fully expected of her in a role she never asked for, but has carried out with elegant aplomb.
Thirteen British prime ministers and 15 Australian prime ministers have come and gone under her reign. Her steady, gentle guiding force in times of instability is always there, asking nothing of us and providing more than the younger republican me ever appreciated.
The number of times that incredible 92-year-old woman must’ve bitten her tongue, suppressed an eye roll, hid her exhaustion, spoken to people when she didn’t feel like it, succumbed, in short, wholly to her duty -- would be countless.
If Labor wins the next election, as I cast my likely ‘Yes’ vote to an Australian republic, I’ll admit my hand will hover precariously over those binary choices for a few minutes. I’ll consider her majesty and all she has sacrificed. And I’ll be genuinely torn.