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WORLD | 15-09-2022 09:29

Anti-monarchists drowned out as UK mourns queen

Amid blanket media coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and wall-to-wall tributes, republican voices calling to ditch the royals have struggled to be heard in Britain.

When Queen Elizabeth II died last week, even Britain's Republic pressure group long advocating to abolish the monarchy felt it had to put out a statement saying it was "saddened."

After seven decades on the throne, the late monarch enjoyed wide popularity and her death unleashed an outpouring of national mourning.

Amid blanket media coverage and wall-to-wall tributes, the isolated voices calling to ditch the royals have struggled to be heard as the crown has passed to her son King Charles III.

Pictures of the late monarch are displayed in shop windows and on bus stops across the United Kingdom.

A YouGov poll showed 44 percent of Britons cried when news broke that the monarch had passed. 

Those who want to see an end to the monarchy remain a minority in Britain. 

In June, only 22 percent of respondents told YouGov they wanted to have an elected head-of-state compared to 62 percent who wanted to keep the royal family. 

 

'King without consent'

Those agitating to make Britain a republic have long viewed the handover to Charles – far less popular than his mother – as a key moment when they could make their case. 

On Monday, a woman brandishing a sign reading "Not My King" at Parliament in London was escorted away by police in the latest incident that has sparked criticism over the treatment of protesters. 

"He's a king without consent, and that's not right," she told AFP after being moved elsewhere.

After expressing its "condolences" to the royal family, the Republic movement quickly returned to its critical stance when Charles was proclaimed king at a pomp-filled ceremony. 

"A proclamation of a new king is an affront to democracy," it said in a statement. "Britain has changed almost beyond recognition since 1952 and the last royal succession. In this modern and democratic society our head of state cannot simply step into the role without debate or without challenge to his legitimacy."

Similar messages were posted by critics on social media. 

"The speed of accession is to avoid discussion and debate over a hereditary monarchy, a fact overlooked by TV commentators performing establishment roles," tweeted Kevin Maguire, a staunchly republican columnist at the left-wing Daily Mirror tabloid.

Republic movement director Graham Smith insisted "Charles is a much easier person to criticise" than his late mother.

"He doesn't attract the same support as the queen," Smith told AFP.

"We are seeing a lot of people talking about it. It's the case on social media."

 

'Very little support'

Unfortunately for those hoping for a change, a YouGov poll released on Tuesday indicated that Charles's popularity has already risen sharply.

The number of those who thought he would do a good job shot up to 63 percent – from just 32 percent back in May. 

Robert Hazell, a constitutional expert at University College London, was deeply sceptical about any major upheaval in the near future "so long as King Charles does not put a foot wrong." 

"In modern times, there has been very little support in the UK for becoming a republic," he said.  "The opinion polls have been remarkably consistent for the last 30 to 40 years."

And among the crowds that have flocked to Buckingham Palace, the thought of getting rid of an institution so central to Britain's identity seemed unthinkable. 

"It's so difficult to imagine something else after so many centuries," said Julie Bishop, 62, as she joined the throng. 

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by Caroline Taix, AFP

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