Queen Elizabeth II funeral: can King Charles III and the royal family survive an uncertain future? – The Australian Financial Review

These remain minor factors as compared with what really matters. The success and stability of the late Queen owed everything to the fact that she stuck to the letter of the constitution dating from the 1701 Act of Settlement. The constitutional monarch was required to secure a Protestant state and, and mindful of potential disaster, parliament took authority over the succession, displacing the hereditary principle. (It also enshrined a prohibition of Roman Catholic participation, only coming to an end in 2011 via the Perth Agreement).

The deal bought forward the model of a constrained British constitutional monarchy, placing a two-clause responsibility on the monarch: a) to keep one’s opinions to oneself; and b) to keep one’s mouth shut on anything that could become even remotely political.

What kind of monarchy will Charles leave for the following generation? Getty

(The one notable exception came in the late 1980s over South African Apartheid and white minority rule, where, luckily for the monarchy, the late Queen was on the right side of history.)

Which brings us to omens for Charles III. The new King has spent half a lifetime testing, often carelessly, the model that his predecessor perfected. A liberal use of handwritten treatise, missives and lectures became his standard operating procedure, targeting and embarrassing ministers and public figures who did not know where to turn.

He is now under pressure to curtail these habits. Personal restraint will need to be accompanied by considerable institutional effort to ensure that he keeps to his lane. The doubters are numerous, and indeed many are counting on the new King’s unintentional contribution to the republican cause.


Former prime minister and republican champion, Malcolm Turnbull, advised patience until after the death of the Queen, sensing coming indiscretions in which King Charles’ antics would do all the heavy lifting.

Currently, for instance, to address the global energy crunch, many governments are having to trim their previously declared plans for carbon transition. Charles’ instinct will be to use his considerable influence as the Environmentalist King to engineer different outcomes.

Furthermore, the early 2020s are a precipitous time to take over. The UK is facing a multitude of political and policy challenges at home and internationally. At the core lies an acrimonious, ideologically driven dispute over managing relative economic decline. Pessimism looms large, especially when coupled with a bitter (and still unfinished) Brexit legacy.

A shrinking Commonwealth

The contrast with early 1950s, when his mother acceded, is stark. The young Queen symbolised the new post-war chapter in Britain’s national autobiography. The retreat from Empire counts as one of the greatest results of the first decade of her reign, although one in which she sensibly played no part.

Charles now faces the challenge of a shrinking Commonwealth. Several members have recently quit or given notice contingent on the end of the Queen’s reign.


The King has set it as his personal mission to keep Australia in the fold. He has met Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Governor-General David Hurley and ten prominent Australian public leaders, some of whom may well confess sympathy with ending ties.

The monarchy’s inglorious links with British colonialism will prove much harder – this is a subset of Britain’s willingness to address its post-imperial reckoning. It is the stuff of fierce political dispute – frequently presented as “culture wars” – so, for the avoidance of constitutional doubt, the remedy really is beyond Charles’ reach.

It smacks of a classic trap for the new King. Drawing on his inner circle, Charles will feel bullish that such a debate could be managed successfully among Commonwealth nations. Yet this judgment overlooks the reality that several Caribbean members are headed for the exit in the thinly disguised belief that it cannot be reformed. Charles’ own lobbying in 2018 to become its head would have underscored their scepticism.

The Albanese administration’s inclusion four months ago of a ministerial role to deal with the republic issue now seems curiously well-timed. The public decision to tackle Australian constitutional reform, starting with the Voice to Parliament, looks less astute – but one that can be easily rejigged. A joint referendum, packaged into a modernisation agenda, could yet be a smart move.

For many Australians, the longest of reigns has provided certainty, continuity and more than a dose of magic, making it risky for politicians to cut ties. But, to work, it was an arrangement that involved flatly denying the country’s Indigenous identity and comprehensively ignoring its Indo-Pacific neighbourhood.

For Australians, the simplest option is to let Charles try his hand at modernisation, but without getting dragged into a calamitous row should he fail.

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