12 May 2023

Did the pomp and pageantry win more royal fans or turn them off?

| Ross Solly
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Royal Family

Just like your family portrait: everyone wears their best, smiles awkwardly and some invites get lost in the mail. Photo: Supplied.

Let’s get this out of the way early – I’m not a monarchist, although I fully understand why those who feel a connection or an understanding of what the royal family is all about feel so strongly.

I dipped in and out of the television coverage of the King’s coronation last Saturday night. I was turned off both by the over-the-top fawning on some networks and the over-the-top negativity on others. I’m not sure any network actually got it right.

For sure, there needed to be a balance struck. By all means mention the exorbitant cost, the historical behaviour of the royal family, the monarchy’s relationship with Australia and our Indigenous population. But there will be plenty of time for those discussions in the weeks and months ahead.

Anthony Albanese got the call right, despite criticism from some republicans. He might have felt uncomfortable doing it, but as our Prime Minister, it was only right that he not only attend but also swear allegiance. Saturday night was all about being respectful. And besides, the royal family and its ‘Spare’ provided enough distractions of their own.

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What I saw on Saturday night was a lot of centuries-old traditions that have not aged well. I’m sure a lot of younger generations were left scratching their heads at some of the pageantry on display, wondering how in 2023 people still felt this was the way to act.

Of course, those who love the royals or just love watching how the other half live lapped up every minute. It was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, although we will likely get another sometime in the next 20 or so years.

As the dust settles, now is the time to begin the conversation about what happens next for Australia and its relationship with the monarchy. It will be interesting to see whether the pomp and ceremony won the royals more Australian fans or turned people off.

The Albanese Government has already indicated Australia’s ties to the UK will be an issue for a second-term government. The timing will work much better than going to the people while the events of last weekend remain fresh in everyone’s minds.

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Charles seems to be more popular than many people expected. He has already shown he will continue to speak out and push for the issues he has felt strongly about, in stark contrast to the Queen who, to this day, very few people actually knew what she believed in.

He is a keen campaigner for the environment and has strong views about sustainability and architecture – issues that are likely to win him more friends than lose him.

And William and Kate are definitely pushing all the right buttons as they wait patiently in the wings to get their chance to lap up the coronation carnival.

It all points to what could be a much closer discussion and eventual referendum vote for Australians on the monarchy. One thing is for sure, the republican campaigners will need to get their question right and have a very clear position on what will replace the monarchy.

Last time they completely stuffed it up. This time the pressure will be even greater because if they lose the next referendum it will be years before Australians will even want to begin the conversation again.

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Charles is not an environmentalist, despite the spin that tries to promote that image. He is one who lectures others and makes no personal sacrifice. He doesn’t compromise on his personal luxuries, travel demands or holidays. The Royal Estates in England have some of the most degraded land in the country, thanks to mismanagement (mainly to have their grouse drives & other archaic traditions). There is a growing push in England for the Royal family to walk the walk rather than talk the talk on the environment; but to date they are remaining ensconced in their privilege.

Sounds like Adam Bandt and every tree hugging wannabe I know!

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