Elizabeth II became the Queen of England in 1952, and if anyone’s taking bets on if and when she might abdicate the throne to Prince Charles, (or Prince William, if Prince Charles were unavailable to serve), we’re all in with: ‘no and never’. Here’s why.
Last year, The Daily Mail floated a titillating headline asking, “Is the Queen Preparing to Abdicate?” As it turns out, the story was really about rumours the Queen planned to appoint Prince Charles as ‘Prince Regent’ when she turns 95, however, British history makes clear that appointing a regent is not equal to abdicating. Further, the Queen isn’t even legally empowered to appoint a regent, which happens only under very specific circumstances as outlined in the Regency Act of 1937.
While some royal families have a tradition of monarchs stepping down after he or she reaches a certain age (such as the royal family of the Netherlands), there’s no such tradition in the United Kingdom. In fact, abdication has been said to go against informal rules of the monarchy’s set-up. Indeed, it was considered a constitutional crisis when Prince Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson.
On her 21st birthday, Queen Elizabeth II promised England she’d be their Queen for life. “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she said. That’s a big promise, but she’s kept it for over 70 years now.
Experts on the monarchy, such as Sarah Bradford, author of Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life in Our Times, confirm the Queen feels that reigning is her life’s mission and duty. “She’s never even contemplated abdication,” Bradford told The Week.
A long time ago, the people might have supported the Queen’s abdicating. That was back before Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage imploded for all to see, says The Week. “It wasn’t until the end of the 1990s that the Prince’s reputation began to pull out of its nosedive.” However, public support for the Queen’s turning the throne over to the Prince of Wales has not risen significantly. Recent surveys show that a full 70 per cent of the United Kingdom would prefer the Queen remain in power for as long as she lives.
The public’s love for the Queen does not equal the public’s love for the monarchy. So, while the public would like to see Queen Elizabeth II remain Queen for her lifetime, they may not necessarily wish to replace her with another monarch. As The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee writes, “Let [Queen Elizabeth II] reign as long as she lives. But let her be Elizabeth the Last.” It is hard to imagine the Queen would hand the reigns over amid such sentiment.
Even if the public were in favour of putting a new monarch on the throne, Prince Charles is next in line, and that’s considered problematic. “We know far too much about his foibles and past errors to revere him as we revere his mother,” wrote The Daily Mail’s Allison Pearson. In addition, people have their doubts about the ability of Prince Charles to maintain the requisite royal neutrality on certain political issues. While the Queen could abdicate in favour of her grandson Prince William, there is no historical precedent for passing over the current Prince of Wales (the traditional ‘on-deck’ role) in favour of his child.
Even if the Queen was to abdicate due to her age, the Prince of Wales is already in his 70s. And in the opinion of some palace insiders, including Paul Burrell, former butler of Princess Diana, the public perceives Prince Charles as too old to take on the role of King.
Apart from all the talk about whether Queen Elizabeth II will abdicate, one of the hottest royal topics is whether Camilla Parker Bowles will be known as ‘Queen’ if and when Prince Charles ascends the throne. Traditionally, the King’s spouse is referred to as ‘Queen’. However, public sentiment isn’t exactly supportive of a ‘Queen Camilla’. Although in 2005, Prince Charles assured the public Camilla would never be known as ‘Queen’, (she would instead go by the title ‘Princess Consort’), he’s since retracted his statement, going as far as deleting it from his official website.
Would Queen Elizabeth choose to stir up that hornet’s nest? Our gut feeling is ‘no’.
When Prince Philip retired in May, people began to wonder if the Queen would join her husband. In fact, the absence of such a declaration by the Queen would appear to be proof of the opposite.
As a result of Prince Philip’s retirement, Queen Elizabeth II has been accompanied at many public events by her son and grandsons. With Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry taking on the role that Prince Philip once played, the monarchy automatically has been giving a bit of a facelift, appearing younger and more vibrant as a result.
The Queen has lately been delegating more and more of her duties to her children and grandchildren. In doing so, she’s demonstrating her capacity to rule, as well as her effectiveness. Why would the Queen take the much more extreme step of abdicating if she’s able to take the smaller steps of delegating her duties to the younger royals?
In 2018, the government performed a dress rehearsal for the Queen’s death, according to the Express. “Ministers practised the groundbreaking protocol for the very first time and even gave it the code name ‘London Bridge’,” and the first day after the Queen’s death has been given the code name D1. It certainly doesn’t sound like there are any plans afoot for the Queen not to be Queen at the time of her passing. In fact, it seems that quite the opposite is true.
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