English historian Paul Kennedy: Today, young people are less attached to the crown: the monarchy will be worth less
We lose a queen loved by the people and who was a beacon of stability at a very difficult time for Great Britain: very high inflation, risks of economic depression, an energy crisis that affects it more than other European countries, from France to Germany to Sweden. But I have faith in king Charles III: I will try to keep the country united, even if it will not have the same charm as Elizabeth and he will have to work to build an image of impartiality similar to that of his mother.
Paul Kennedy, the English historian transplanted to the United StatesMade famous above all by the worldwide success of his Rise and Decline of the Great Powers, he reflects from his cottage at Yale, the university where he has taught for forty years, about the disappearance of Elizabeth II and the future of the British monarchy.
After so many years living in republican America, what feelings do you have towards the crown?
I’m certainly not an inveterate monarchist: I was born and raised in the working-class neighborhoods of Newcastle upon Tyne, like saying Genoa or La Spezia in Italy. In an environment of socialist tendencies. The love for the crown was breathed elsewhere, in the countryside. Welfare was more important to us. But I understand and share the great esteem that Elizabeth II enjoyed and I think that the monarchy can still be useful to Great Britain. There are few constitutional monarchies left in the world. But some of them are very decent, worthy. They are respected, they help maintain order in society in turbulent times, they strengthen democratic institutions. I don’t have much faith in today’s Tory and Labor political leaders. I believe that the monarchy, while losing weight, can still be a glue. Tolerable, with fewer flaws than the current US presidential system. It is not conceivable that it will be replaced in the short term by another institutional structure.
Seventy years of reign: for the British Elizabeth was the monarchy, they have known no other sovereigns. Carlo not a leap in the dark?
I appreciated Elisabetta for her institutional balance and because, thanks to her temperament and dedication, she was much loved. This helped keep the country united. I remember that many years ago, it must have been 2003, stopping in a Sussex village, I was invited to a party to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee in which the whole population participated with enthusiasm: Elizabeth loved by all because decent, this word that means a lot with us, in the hand, not snooty, interested in the life of ordinary people, God-fearing, not corrupt, not ideological. A monarchy perceived not as a threat but as something reassuring in a bad world. Charles will be different, the monarchy will count less. But I believe it can still be successful.
How to do? Not very popular nor does it have the image of Elizabeth’s impartiality, given the political views she has expressed over the past 50 years, from the strong environmentalist commitment to the criticism of the conservative government that wanted to send many asylum seekers to Rwanda.
For popularity I think he will lean on and give a lot of space to his son and heir, Prince William, and to Kate, who are much more loved than him. For the rest, he will change his regime as a sovereign: he will assume the attitude that we English call buttoned up, buttoned. He will no longer speak on political issues, although everyone will remember how he thinks about certain issues. But he won’t be leaking her point of view with press rumors.
And the centrifugal temptations of Scotland and Northern Ireland? Elizabeth managed to dab them. Will Carlo be able to do it too?
I am not sure, but the troubles here depend above all on the mistakes and on certain unreasonable choices of conservative governments. I hope they do not repeat themselves with the new premier Liz Truss, but I am not at all sure. We could have serious problems in Ireland if we persist in creating trade barriers with the EU. There is also a Scottish question, because of the independence temptations: we will see what happens in the next 5-10 years. Scotland has a loyalist tradition. We will understand in the future whether it was loyalty to Elizabeth, to the dynasty, or to the monarchical institution. The conservative party, which should be strengthened, is a monarchist. The Scottish National Party wants independence, but also to maintain a link with the Kingdom in the Commonwealth. Only the Republican left for total rupture. But a minority.
There is also a generational division. Surveys say that three-quarters of seniors like the monarchy but only 24 percent of 20-year-olds.
This is also a serious problem: young people are less traditional and less sentimental. This is why I say that, in any case, the monarchy will lose weight. But here the problem goes beyond the monarchy: it affects other fields, from religion with the churches of every denomination that have lost an entire generation, to politics: non-ideological, more attentive to their particular, often not very interested in the management of public affairs, young people can casually shift their vote from one extreme to the other.
September 12, 2022 (change September 12, 2022 | 10:03 am)
© REPRODUCTION RESERVED