Can the Monarchy Survive Without Queen Elizabeth?

A new book predicts Her Majesty "will be the last Queen of England."

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Queen Elizabeth is celebrating the 69th anniversary of her accession to the throne this weekend and with that, comes a renewed focus on what will happen to the Crown when Britain's longest reigning monarch dies. From her very first day as Queen on Feb. 6, 1952, she has been steadfast in her devotion to the Crown and careful about retaining the mystery and magic the monarchy needs to survive. In recent years, however, the House of Windsor has been embroiled in so much family drama (Megxit) and scandal (Prince Andrew's association with Jeffrey Epstein), giving the public a peak into The Firm's private lives and power plays behind Palace curtains. All of this has raised questions about whether Prince Charles will have the necessary support to successfully reign as King.

Under the Queen's reign, the monarchy survived and ultimately thrived due largely to the public's great affection for her. With 72-year-old Prince Charles as her heir and Prince William second in line, there is great concern among some royalists that it could all fall apart when she dies. Will Charles be accepted by the public as King? Could William (with his extremely popular wife, Duchess Kate, and their brood) jump the line of succession? Read on for some surprising answers. And for more on what's to come with the royals, check out The Queen Won't Give Prince Harry Back His Military Titles, Insiders Say.

The Queen is always the one to reassure the public.

queen elizabeth addresses coronavirus on television
The Royal Family / Twitter

Princess Elizabeth was only 25, and a newlywed, when she became Queen. Today, the 94-year-old monarch is still the voice of calm and unity. She's often the one offering words of comfort and support to the British people, like when she took to the airwaves in April of last year to make a rare televised and encouraging message to her subjects to keep calm and carry on amid the devastating affects of COVID.

"Together, we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it," the Queen said in a prerecorded address from Windsor Castle. "I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge."

At the moment, most polls indicate William is the most popular royal, with the Queen following closely behind (75 percent versus 73 percent of votes). Meanwhile, Charles still lags far behind his mother's and son's popularity at No. 7 with 47 percent. "It is difficult envisioning Charles inspiring that same level of devotion," said one biographer. And for more news about the Prince of Wales, check out The Controversy Behind the New Casting of Prince Charles on The Crown.

Prince Charles has been criticized for his luxurious lifestyle and sense of entitlement.

Britain's Prince Charles walks with the British ambassador to Germany Jill Gallard arriving at Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schoenefeld on November 14, 2020.
ODD ANDERSEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Unlike his frugal mother, Charles has been severely criticized in the media about his luxurious lifestyle despite his championing causes like the climate crisis and his longstanding plea that more products be made sustainably. According to The Daily Beast, when Charles toured Europe to promote awareness of climate change, he flew to Rome, Berlin, and Venice on a private jet, leaving a carbon footprint of 52.95 tons, when using commercial flights would have reduced emissions by 95 percent.

In contrast, William and Kate and their brood often fly commercial when off-duty and have even taken budget flights with the general population. "It is not a time for excess even for the royals," said an insider. "Charles, despite his good works, has an unmistakable air of entitlement, which has never sat well with people." And for more on the Cambridges' early days, find out why Prince William's Friends Gave Kate and Pippa Middleton This Rude Nickname.

The public still has anger toward Charles—and Camilla—over Princess Diana's death.

Marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles - Service of Prayer and Dedication - St George's Chapel
Alamy

The death of Princess Diana shook the House of Windsor to its core. For the first time in her long reign, the Queen misjudged the mood of the people when her ex-daughter-in-law died, choosing to ignore the public's need for a period of very public mourning. Just before it became a Constitutional crisis, she righted the ship, agreed to a public funeral, and took to the airwaves the night before to express her admiration for the Princess of Wales. William and Prince Harry were the focus of intense worldwide sympathy and will forever be thought of as "Diana's boys."

Charles has fared far worse, however. He instinctively knew he would be the focus of people's anger over Diana's death—and he was right. When she died in 1997, Charles had to put aside his plans to go public with this relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles. His popularity has never fully recovered and a large swath of the public has been adamant that they do not want the Duchess of Cornwall to be Queen. And for more on the Princess of Wales' mark, check out Diana and Meghan Markle Made the Same Shocking Claim About the Royals.

The general public in the U.K. favors William over Charles as their next King.

Prince Harry, Prince William, and Prince Charles sit in the front row during the global premiere of Netflix's 'Our Planet' at the Natural History Museum in Kensington, London, hosted by Sir David in 2019
John Sibley / PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

With one poll ranking Duchess Kate as more popular than the Queen, the public's affinity for the Cambridges' has been soaring, especially during COVID, thanks to their endless Zoom meetings with NHS workers, struggling parents, doctors, and community leaders. There has also been more talk about the public wanting William to become King, not Charles. A survey published last December showed 41 percent of adults wanted to see William ascend the throne next, slightly higher than the 37 percent who wish to see Charles do the same.

But unless he is incapacitated in some way, Charles will become King. "Whether it's for five months or five years, Prince Charles will be King," a Palace insider told Best Life. "He has waited in the wings his entire adult life. He feels it is his duty."

Making William King instead of his father would require an act of Parliament. The rules of succession clearly state that the oldest child of the sitting monarch should inherit the throne. Besides, William is happy with his life as it is, said a source. "He is preparing for the role in his own way but relishes the time he can spend with his children now," the insider said. And for more regular royals updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.

A royal expert believes Queen Elizabeth will be Britain's last monarch.

Queen Elizabeth leaves St. Mary the Virgin church in Hillington, near royal Sandringham estate, in Norfolk, Britain January 19, 2020.
Chris Radburn / REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

There's a clear lack of faith that Charles will be able to take over when the Queen passes. According to The Daily Mail, Clive Irving, author of The Last Queen, said in an interview with Australian show Today Extra that the Prince of Wales is "entirely unsuitable" for the throne, referring to his future rule as "driving [the monarchy] over a cliff."

"The Queen seems more modern than Charles. She's very much timeless, whereas Charles is an 18th-century figure. It wouldn't be a problem if he didn't try to impose his taste on other people," Irving said, according to the website Honey. The author also claims Charles "prefers to have sycophants around him, which isn't a good sign of a future ruler." That's why Irving opens his book with the assertion that Her Majesty "will likely be the last queen of England." And for more about the Queen, check out The Secret Nickname Prince Philip Has for Queen Elizabeth.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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