Why the Divide?: A Fractured Royal Family Fails to Heal Royal Rifts

In a nation that is viewed so synonymously with the crown, why did this coronation divide the population to such an extent?

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After hours of intricate traditional ceremonies, nearly 20 million watched as the diamond-encrusted 1661 St. Edward’s Crown was placed on the head of King Charles III on May 6. Tens of thousands crowded the streets of London, waiting for a glimpse of the new king descending the steps of Westminster Abbey. Newsstands were adorned with plastic crowns and Union Jacks, while magazines and newspapers were plastered with photographs of Charles III. Some might call this the event of the year or, really, the century. However, not all were cheering for the new monarch and his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. In a nation that is viewed so synonymously with the crown, why did this coronation divide the population to such an extent?

Endless streams of courtiers prepared every corner of Westminster Abbey and each seating arrangement, amounting to an approximately $125 million ordeal. This staggering extravagance stands in cruel contrast to the living crisis that has plunged millions of people into huge economic strain this year. An estimated 14.4 million people are now living in poverty in the UK, which represents 22 percent of the population. As a result, approximately 500,000 UK public sector workers have been on strike for wages that keep pace with soaring inflation this year. There has been no response from any royal family member, only a ceremony paid for by the same taxpayers who are protesting because they cannot afford the cost of living and millions squandered in a two-hour event hanging on to antiquated traditions of the past.

Calls to abolish the monarchy have been increasing for a few years now. A survey conducted by the National Centre for Social Research shows that 45 percent of the British population either support the abolition of the monarchy, believe the monarchy is not at all important, or believe it is not very important, a clear increase from the same survey conducted only two years ago. Though some philosophic types have always argued against one bloodline having such power over a country, most have accepted the crown as a simple part of their lives. In no other country is the monarchy so inextricably linked to the culture and symbolic meaning of its nation. The monarchy serves as the ultimate symbol of structural inequality in Britain, which was built on the back of the prolific history of slavery in Britain. From the 15th century to the early 19th century, the monarchy greatly profited from and protected the trafficking of human beings. This has, again, never been fully addressed by any member of the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth II was a widely respected and even loved figure in British society. This is vastly different from the reception Charles received leading up to his coronation, and even now, after his installation as King. Many simply do not like him. His wedding to Diana Spencer in 1981 was one of the most anticipated weddings ever, a representation of a true fairy tale to many at the time. Diana aptly captured the hearts of millions through her youthful beauty and charm, and soon, she was coined the princess of the people, easily overshadowing the future king. When the BBC publicized news of Charles’s private conversations with his mistress, Camilla, Diana was solidified as the victim in a scandal of enormous reach. After she tragically died in 1997, many blamed Charles and his caddish actions. Diana’s story loomed over the coronation, already tarnishing the very short reign of King Charles III.

Will the struggle and division over the coronation of King Charles III cast a shadow over his coming reign? Public opinion of Charles is already low, and the popularity of the monarchy, in general, is decreasing. The monarchy has yet to acknowledge its ill-acquired wealth and how that has impacted millions of its citizens. Even though many regard the monarch as a figurehead of sorts, the crown holds immense power, and yet little of this is being used effectively. The monarchy cannot stay silent on its complicity in the repulsive actions of its past.