Ben HowlettChief Executive, Chamber UK
Former MP and Cllr, Ben Howlett reflects on the Coronation and raises concerns about the future of the Monarchy.
My lasting memory of this Coronation is not what you would expect as a former Conservative MP. It was not the history – although spectacular, it was not the gold set with some of the biggest rubies that a gay man has ever seen.
No, it was the image released yesterday of Royal Family members invited to join the group photo. Notable faces missing aside, the photo of The King with two of his siblings and cousins alongside his son and daughter-in-law shows a monarchy in transition.
The King has dedicated his whole life to passions that have ‘bucked the traditional royal trend.’ Jamie Oliver once dubbed the then Prince Charles a ‘hippy’, but in seriousness his life-long dedication towards the environment and sustainability will see the monarchy move to champion causes close to the hearts of millions of younger people. For those who watched the Coronation Concert in the back garden of Winsor Castle – slightly larger than the ordinary suburban semi – the focus on the environment and sustainability was apparent. The light show where drones formed to make a whale is something that will go down in history as one of the most impactful visuals of all time.
Did anyone else notice that not even Katy Perry was allowed to let off a firework during her song?
The Monarchy has a problem
However, the other reason the photo will be a lasting memory for me is not so positive. The monarchy has a problem – and it is not a popular argument to make with the British public after a certain interview with Duke of York and a book that sold millions of copies last year.
There just aren’t enough Royals…
In that group photo just two were under the age of 50. Luckily for the Royal Family, they are the phenomenal Prince and Princess of Wales. However, the fact that Princess Alexandra needed to be steadied by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh is telling of an aging Monarchy.
Now that the Sussex family has decided to decamp to the states, the ‘firm’ is going to be under a lot of pressure in the coming years with events, ribbon cuttings, performances, school visits etc. It is going to be a lot harder in the years to come to book your favourite Royal for the next event. Simply, that is because there aren’t enough of them, and their numbers are dwindling.
This is a perfect storm for the new King, younger members of the Royals have taken the decision to enter the world of work, and the older ones will retire.
The King is keen to see a slimmed down monarchy, but that may not be such a good idea given the circumstances…
This is a tricky balancing act, the King needs to show that in times of economic instability, the monarchy is not deaf to financial hardship at home. However, with two members of the firm unable to perform their duties, this leaves a hole in the family’s ability to deliver the volume of engagements that they have been renowned for.
Remember the late Queen Elizabeth’s adage “You have to be seen to be believed.”
While there is hope on the horizon in the form of the next generation of Princes and Princesses, George, Charlotte and Louis. There is only so much time in the day.
Coronation Achievement: The Big Help Out
Nearly six million people volunteered their time this weekend for the Big Help Out. What a phenomenal achievement. Obviously, the organisers hope that this will mean more people helping charitable causes – reversing the trend since the pandemic as fewer people volunteer.
For Parliamentarians and Councillors across the country, it is so important to continue this leadership into the coming years. I remember getting involved in social action campaigns once organised by people like Wendy Morton, now MP in the West Midlands and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. Over the last five years, I have seen less of this kind of activity from political parties, perhaps the Coronation will act as a turning point in local leadership.
For those of us watching the events of this weekend, there is so much that we will never forget. From the Ascension Choir in Westminster Abbey to Prince Louis’s slow clapping on the Buckingham Palace balcony, the street parties and the huge concert, this weekend is hard to summarise.
One thing is clear, this level of activity is unsustainable without the people there that the public want to watch. The King will need to think again about the slimmed down version of the Monarchy, question how to bring some of the younger royals into the fold and encourage more of them to visit schools, community groups and get them volunteering around the country.One thing is clear, IneOIn
Whilst this hopefully will not be the last Coronation in my lifetime, The King and Queen have a terrific opportunity to ensure its future is safe under Kings William and George.
(Image: Hugo Burnand/Buckingham Palace)