The British people have had a monarchy for over a thousand years. The relationship between the monarch and the people has suffered some serious crises in the country’s history, but the monarchy always seems to recover.
Revolution: Charles I
The biggest crisis in the monarchy’s history came in 1649 when the king was actually condemned to death by parliament. Charles I wanted the monarchy to have more power, and in 1629 he dismissed the parliament and ruled for 11 years without it. In 1642 a Civil War broke out between the Royalists and the supporters of parliament, the Roundheads under Oliver Cromwell. The Roundheads won, Charles was beheaded and the monarchy abolished England was, in effect a republic for II years, governed by Lord Protector (first Cromwell and then his son). But in 1660 the age of Restoration began when Charles’s son Charles II, was made king.
When Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, the Queen suffered a terrible depression. She withdrew from public life and spent more time at her palaces in Scotland and on the Isle of Wight than she did in London. For over 20 years she performed no national duties. People became critical of the monarchy and, in the time of huge industrial and scientific progress, members of parliament began to talk about republicanism. But Victoria recovered and in 1897 her Diamond Jubilee, celebrating a record 60 years on the throne, was a great public relations success with huge processions, ceremonies and public celebrations.
Abdication: Edward VIII
When George V died in January 1936 his...
heir Edward was in love with a twice-divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson. His family and the government disapproved of Mrs Simpson, but Edward wanted to marry her. In the end he was forced to choose between his love and the throne, and he chose to abandon the throne. In December of that yean five months before his planned coronation and with war threatening the world, Edward VIII addressed the nation by radio and told them that «I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king… without the help and support of the woman I love». His brother George V took his place at the coronation, and proved to be a strong monarch. When George’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, came to the throne in 1952 monarchy was once again extremely popular.
Tragedy: Princess Diana
In modern times, people began to see the monarchy as outdated, but the royal family was given a tremendous boost in 1981, when Prince Charles married the popular Princess Diana. Diana became an international superstar; more popular than her husband from whom she divorced in 1996.
When she died in a car crash in 1997 many people accused the royal family of treating her badly during her marriage and abandoning her after her divorce.
The Queen and Prince Charles suffered a huge drop in popularity, and they were advised to modernize and become less formal and distant. Celebrations for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 were deliberately kept low-key, as the organizers feared that the public would not be interested.