Judith Ireland June 09, 2012
The Queen's diamond jubilee this week has reminded everyone why it's so great to have royals. For starters, you get to use the word ''pomp'' in sentences in a non-ironic capacity.
You also get holidays and concerts featuring both classic and contemporary pop acts. Heston Blumenthal makes picnics with fancy coronation chicken and 1000 boats sail down the Thames … in the rain!
Then the royal family waves serenely at you from a balcony while you cheer heartily back. Because people really dig the Queen.
Gone are the days when she was viewed as an out-of-date old lady presiding over a bunch of divorced and dysfunctionals.
Elizabeth II has become the go-to gal for duty and quiet dignity.
In an age when politicians regularly disappoint and organised religion is not so organised, the Queen provides people with something dependable and heartening. Her constitutional bizzo is mostly hidden behind closed doors, but at 86, the Queen is out and about, still accepting posies from small children.
Indeed, her majesty's life-long work schedule puts paid to the idea that she is just another indolent noble, living off the public purse.
In Australia, the Queen has (re)developed such an ardent Betty Windsor fan club that we have become too squeamish to have a serious debate about the republic.
Last year a Morgan poll found that support for constitutional change in Australia was at its lowest for 20 years. Of those surveyed, 34 per cent were pro-republic, compared with 55 per cent who preferred to keep things just the way they are.
As Julia Gillard pronounced during the 2010 election, there's no appetite for re-approaching the republic while the Queen is on the throne.
''I think the appropriate time for this nation to move to be a republic is when we see the monarch change,'' Gillard said. ''Obviously I'm hoping for Queen Elizabeth that she lives a long and happy life, and having watched her mother I think there's every chance that she will.''
In the opinion of some patient republicans - such as Malcolm Turnbull - our love for the Queen is more about her than the actual monarchy.
''As someone once said to me, 'there are a lot more Elizabethans in this country than there are monarchists' and I think that's probably a keen insight,'' Turnbull said last year. But for those counting on a post-Queen republic, William and Catherine are ridiculously popular too. Ever since William started to walk, talk and shake hands there has been a growing suggestion that he take over from his grandmother.
This week, a survey of 1000 Australians by genealogy website Ancestry.com.au found that 81 per cent of respondents want William to be the next British monarch. It's not hard to see why. Despite their privileged upbringings, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge seem like down-to-earth trippers.
They do their own shopping at a supermarket. They have a little house in Wales and an apartment in London and they both looked a bit terrified when they got married in front of billions of people. Just like you and me.
Plus, they are almost as glamorous as those Monaco royals when they want to be: Kate with her just-stepped-out-of-the-salon hair and Alexander McQueen frocks and Will, with his military get-up and dashy good looks. Of course the idea that William should be next is not simply because he is such a babe and is so in touch with common folk.
It's because the Prince of Wales - fairly or unfairly - is seen as so unappealing. It may be based on things he did as far back as the 1980s, but something about Charles does not inspire. His public persona is stuffy, conservative and a little awkward. And he replaced ''our Di'' with ''that Camilla''. It's safe to say that when his first marriage failed in spectacular fashion, Diana triumphed in the ensuing PR war.
So while Charles is also just like you and me, it's not in a way that makes us feel warm and fuzzy about ourselves. But for the Elizabethans and Williamites out there, here's the rub: the point of having a monarchy is that you don't get to pick. No matter how democratic the Westminster system is, the royal set up is a hereditary one. And there's a fairly well established (centuries old) pecking order about who gets to wear the big crown. It's fine to revel in the pomp, glamour and comfort of a modern monarchy.
But while we are reminded of how great it is to have royals, they aren't light entertainment. Or elected representatives. Or pets.
Just because Will is cute, Kate is a nice girl and Charles isn't so cuddly doesn't mean we can just skip one. There is a material reality to having a monarchy. You get what you're given. Dig it or not.
Judith Ireland is a Canberra Times journalist.