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Reigning for dummies

22 October 2011

6:24 PM

22 October 2011

6:24 PM


What is the Queen’s secret? She seems to defy political gravity. Right now, an English monarch is in Australia being feted by her subjects, who seem delighted by this very un-modern constitutional arrangement. Paul Keating, the former
Prime Minister of Australia, recounts in The Times today the time he advised the monarch to let go. “I told the Queen as politely and gently as I could that I believed that majority of
Australians felt the monarchy was now an anachronism; that it had gently drifted into obsolescence.” This was 18 years ago. There is no such sign of this now, with just 34 per cent of Australians being in favour of dumping Her Majesty – the
lowest figure for 20 years. Why? You’ll find no explanation in political science.

But there is a formula. At the risk of letting daylight in on magic, it is revealed in the cover story of this week’s Spectator. Robert Hardman, who was granted unparalleled access to the
monarchy for his book Our Queen, says that there is a ten-point code. It’s
about being ‘head of the nation’ rather than ‘head of state’ and the code was drawn up by the author of Yes, Minister, Sir Anthony Jay, when he was observing the monarchy
for the film Elizabeth. His book simply codified the principles of monarchy he saw being used around him: how a monarch behaves in an advanced democracy. It is ‘reigning for dummies’, a
guide to hand down when needs be. There is a great paradox that this 85-year-old is one of the most popular and unifying figures in the opening years of the 21st century. Her Diamond Jubilee next year will celebrate the incredible success of her reign, and an approval rating that Britain’s political
class (and, for that matter, America’s) can only dream

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