Ding Dong, the Queen is dead! It was these very words that blazed through my common room as my fellow classmates chuckled at the array of Tik Tok memes that had engulfed every meta platform within hours of the Queen’s death. Sifting through the multitude of sepia images of Her Majesty, some felt it necessary to hang up commemorative pictures of the Queen around the school whilst others merely skipped past the bombardment of articles, more consumed with latest celebrity gossip. Even within my own family I was witness to a spectrum of reactions as my auntie tearily watched the live streamed ceremony of the Queen’s funeral whilst my uncle argued why this signified the right time for Australia to become a republic. And if I’m being honest, despite my admiration for the Queen, I found myself feeling partially indifferent to the whole situation. Did I really want Charles to be our next king? Did others? Or better yet, did we care?
In observing the chaos of that week, I was struck by the diverse array of responses. It appeared, whether we liked it or not, we had all been thrown into the compost heap of royal family life, or better yet the ‘Royal British Garden’. Whether we had flocked to our social media pages or retreated behind a blissful ignorance, all of us fell into one of the three main categories or ‘species’: the fruity flies, the media maggots and the solemn snails. Now, I should probably explain what the hell I mean.
If you’re a fruity fly you most likely aren’t reading this article because the truth is you don’t care. Unfortunately, the fruity flies reflect a growing sentiment amongst many young people who feel apathetic towards the monarchy. Most of them find little ways to relate to both the individuals and the values the monarchy represents. So why is this the case? Well it can be attributed to a few things, one being that many are ill-informed on the basic constitutional role the monarchy plays in our government. Unfortunately, many young fruity flies only see snippets of royal tours and weddings, vaguely able to recall a paddington commercial which featured the queen. I hate to say it, but this seems to be a pervading mood of our generation. As a result, how can we expect Australians to care about the Queen’s death when they don’t even know how she connects to our political system?
Secondly, in an ever-evolving multicultural country where different voices have become a hallmark of national identity, many ask themselves whether the monarch represents or even appeals to all Australians. Whether this be a sentiment further reinforced by media trends, we do ask the question, should the monarchy reinvent its outreach if it’s going to sustain itself as a valuable and meaningful symbol for our culture?
However, it is not apathy alone that poses a problem but rather the ways it fosters a blatant disrespect towards this important institution. A clear example of this is showcased by the vulgar front page headline of the Honi Soit which displayed a photoshopped image of the Queen in the morgue. This certainly sent a message, one that reveals the dangers of a fruity fly frenzy that has seen hearts grow cold to our very own leadership. Moreover, King Charles has not been met with much enthusiasm either. Rather, many are left divided, with the new King receiving an approval rating of half that obtained by his mother, according to the Guardian Essential Poll. So we must ask ourselves, are the fruity flies subconsciously internalising these disrespectful portrayals of the monarchy and to what extent is the media responsible for the desensitisation of this fruity fly generation?
Despite the apparent apathy from the fruity flies, the monarchy is far from irrelevant!
With 73M account views of the ‘Crown’ and more than 1.4M sold copies of Harry’s memoir, ‘Spare’, the royal family has managed to proliferate on almost every entertainment platform. However, within this, many of us have been caught in the dizzying storm of fuzzy wuzzy narratives and counter-narratives becoming media maggots as we navigate the rotted heap of royal tales.
Upon Charles’ succession to the throne, we have inherited a scrambled omelette of family drama as the internet recycles gossip over ‘Diana the Darling and Charles the Cheat’. Dare I be treasonous in saying that even I found myself cheering Diana’s revenge dress as a member of Gen Z, 30 years later. And although Harry’s book poses excellent conversation starters, I wonder if our laughing remarks about Harry’s ‘frostbitten penis’ Tik Tok trend at our Sunday BBQ shows a promising future for the royal family.
Nonetheless, despite Harry and Meghan’s noble intent to challenge the corruption within the royal family and the media, they fail to see how they are simultaneously propagating it. Through a series of publicity campaigns including his Netflix documentary and interviews with Oprah, Harry has continued the collection of backstabbing and childish confrontations. Only now, the public seem to be privy to the royals’ very own lounge room. Like an episode of the Keeping up with the Kardashians, we all anxiously await new drama, picking and choosing our favourite characters to bet on. Personally, I think we need some more screen time from little Prince Georgie.
All jokes aside, if we fast-forward through the last century of media narratives promulgated by members related to the royal family including controversy sparked by Wallis Simpsons’ memoir, Dianna’s BBC interview in 1995 and now Harry’s story, it is evident that media has facilitated a capacity for the royal family to control and alter public opinion. However, attempts to hone political discourse date back long before our Technological Age and right into the Mediaeval times of Queen Elizabeth I. In the latter years of her rule, the parliament attempted to reinstate an admiration for Elizabeth by dispersing a series of pamphlets, poems and paintings which constructed the Golden Glorianna legacy of a virginal, youthful and commanding Queen. This was largely successful in rehabilitating her fading relevance, boosting national support significantly.
However, something like Harry’s memoir has had an arguably different effect on the public. Personally, I believe it has challenged the symbolic virtue that many monarchists themselves claim to be the essence of the royal’s place and role in contemporary society. Simply scrolling an article of the SMH “the biggest bombshells from Prince Harry’s memoir” seemed to entail a web of family gossip. The most notable included Harry and William’s physical confrontation, Charles’ insistence on wearing boxers and Harry’s rocky relationship with Camilla. With sub-headings like these, many media maggots are left to feast on the decaying morality and stability of the monarch, questioning if this is the family we should choose as the symbol for national identity and pride. Heck, if the royal family can’t get a grip on their own problems, how do we expect them to understand ours?
But it ain’t all doom and gloom in the British Royal Garden. Our final species – the solemn snails – represent our fellow monarchists. Despite their zeal in defending the crown, younger monarchists, specifically, are criticised for being ignorant to mainstream public discourse, portrayed as defenders of colonial history, racist and just plain irrelevant. In a web of media trends and woke culture, it is becoming increasingly hard for monarchists to appeal to Millennials and Gen Z.
At first, we might assume the solemn snails are a dying breed but does the monarch have more hidden supporters then we might think? Well, let’s look at the facts. According to the Roy Morgan SMS poll which undertook a survey of approximately 1,000 Australians, 60% were in favour of the monarchy while only 40%, a decrease of 5% in recent years, were in favour of a republic. Further, according to the Guardian (2022), polls indicate that support for a republic does not increase above 50% in any state, eradicating the capacity to achieve constitutional change which would require a majority in four of the six states.
So how has the monarchy still managed to yield so much support from Australians? When survey respondents explained why they felt in favour of the monarchy, many voiced an apprehension to spiralling into a republic model simulative of American politics. With the monarchy serving as an apolitical stronghold, many Australians expressed a distrust of politicians to pave the way for a republic. Further, as surmised by Michael Levine (CEO of Roy Morgan), the monarchy has provided a longstanding stability in Australian government, “Why Change? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
So then, do these surveys reveal a counter-truth to that propagated by the media maggots? Well, yes and no.
Whilst evidence suggests that the solemn snail population may be larger than we thought, the survey does reveal a bleak truth for the future with younger people more likely to be in favour of a republic than those who opposed one (51% to 24%). And to be fair, this isn’t surprising.
With young people inheriting over 30 years of scandal, the media has been largely successful in villainising the new King, painting him as an unrelatable and incompetent jerk. Further, recent pushes to establish a more inclusive and representative government, elucidated by the implementation of ‘Voice to Parliament’ reform, show a shifting priority within a generation that privileges steps towards equality above tradition. Unfortunately, many can’t detach the monarchy from the other harmful symbols of colonisation that it represents, and in a post-BLM world, finding a way to reinstate the monarchy’s virtue is increasingly challenging.
SOME FERTILISER FOR THE FUTURE?
I suppose the question that evolves from this is how in the world do we make sense of the compost heap that has become our Royal British Garden? Is it possible to reconcile the fading ‘gloriana-esque’ image of Queen Elizabeth II with the stench of the rodent-infested trash being tossed about during Charles’ succession? Will we ever return to the respectable and glorified days of the monarchy’s past? In a generation crippled by media noise, is that even possible? And to those who exist as fruity flies, do we even want to?
The truth is, I have no clue. So, I suppose this is a call to all monarchists, conservatives and Australians more broadly to re-evaluate the ways our younger generations are perceiving the royal family. With left-wing media reinforcing an anti-monarchy rhetoric, how do we expect current and future Australians to see the monarchy as a positive symbol for national identity?
Would it be worthwhile for the King to consider a new marketing campaign? Should he adopt the royal trick of ancestors’ past to resituate himself on the ‘right’ side of the media? Or will Charles forever be engulfed by controversy and media chaos?
If we look even further into the future of the monarch with Prince William, recent polls suggest that this future King is closer to matching the level of public support seen under Queen Elizabeth II. So maybe, as historical record will show, the British monarchy is simply experiencing the ebbs and flows of public criticism. If we wish for the monarchy to remain a stalwart institution in our lives, it is the job of us monarchists to highlight the strengths of the monarchy in response, in a way that resonates with as many Australians as possible.
Jen Pilarinos is a member of the University of Sydney Conservative Club