“Ultimately, the survival of the British monarchy will depend on the support of the government and the people”

Ihe coronation of Charles III will make him the thirteenth British monarch since the union in 1707 of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. Few institutions elicit such a deluge of comment and gossip as the British monarchy. Few are also those who are so misunderstood.

Of course, there are the details. During the coronation, the holy oil intended for the anointing of the sovereign and his wife will be taken with a spoon from the XIIe century, in a container in the shape of an eagle. And we are the last country in Europe to crown a new sovereign with great fanfare.

And then there is the substance: the monarch continues to play a major role in the constitutional system of the United Kingdom. Which is more important than ever in these turbulent constitutional times. While our divorce from the European Union has polarized Britain’s politicians and people, heated wrangling over the Brexit process – including, in 2019, Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament [suspension des sessions parlementaires pour un temps limité] – have raised questions about the role the king could play if called upon to intervene.

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Even today, the monarch retains certain formal powers, including that of declaring war, concluding treaties and dissolving Parliament. However, he can only do this “on the advice of the Prime Minister”which means, in practice, that it is the latter who exercises power.

A fragile system

But what if political leaders don’t play by the rules? When Boris Johnson’s government was staggering to ruin, rumor had it that he might try to dissolve parliament and call a general election to avoid being kicked out of the window by his own MPs. At the time, people were gossiping that the queen claimed to be ” unavailable “ if by chance the Prime Minister had tried to contact her to ask for a dissolution. This is not the sign of a solid balance and control mechanism, but of a fragile institutional system.

The problem is, among other things, that the monarch stays away from politics to stay away from problems. But if the political world has problems, no one knows how it could react. For that reason alone, the character and opinion of our new king is of paramount importance.

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The monarch also plays a significant diplomatic role. The decision to choose France and Germany for its first royal visits reflects the government’s determination to improve relations with its major European allies, in the wake of the ‘Windsor Framework’ agreement. [signé le 27 février entre le premier ministre, Rishi Sunak, et la présidente de la Commission européenne, Ursula von der Leyen, et concernant les dispositions post-Brexit en Irlande du Nord].

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