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Traditional monarchy died with the Queen – but are we ready for a republic?

The future of the royals rests with the personality of one man – and he may be remembered as the king who paved the way for a republic

Do we live in a monarchy? Of course we do, say some. See the man clenching his shoulders as a huge metal bonnet of gold and jewels is lowered over his ears: he’s our king. Well, not really, say others. The word “monarch” means one man who rules alone, and today our kings and queens are decorations obedient to an elected parliament. But then a third voice says: not only do we live in a monarchy, but Britain is a far more monarchical place than most people realise.

The UK is the only sizeable country left in Europe whose institutions are still basically monarchist. Power flows top-down in Britain, not upwards from the people. A ghostly old deference pervades Cabinets, councils, administrations and ceremonies. In the middle ages, kingship was often “contractual”: you protect us and we’ll obey and fight for you. But later came the age of the “divine right” of kings : the absolute, anointed and unlimited authority of a monarch. In Europe, that was overthrown by the French Revolution and by the century of revolutions and constitutions that followed. Divine right gave way to ideas of “popular sovereignty” – sometimes real, sometimes a dictatorial fake. But England, as it swelled into Great Britain, missed out on this.

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