Modern monarchy is a contradiction in terms. British monarchy in that sense should be an oxymoron. But the outpouring of love and respect that the people of Britain have shown at the death of Queen Elizabeth II is remarkable.
What does it signify? if anything, the sadness over the death of the queen is more like the death of a parent rather than that of someone in authority.
The British or any other monarchy in Europe is no more a symbol of authority or power. But the people there love it as part of their tradition. For a monarchy that has also power cannot and should not exist in modern times, at least in a democracy. If they do exist at all that is like a relic of the past as they still do in some European democracies and Japan.
So, the question that many political observers are raising about the challenges facing the new British monarch, King Charles III, after his accession to the throne on Saturday is essentially an exercise in storytelling and subjective analyses to fill the pages and airtime of the story-hungry print and electronic media for some time.
Even so, the monarchy still has some stakes in that it has to keep its exalted image as an institution representing national unity and history. And such image is important because it is a time when republicanism both in the United Kingdom and in the realms under the monarchy, though ornamental, is on the rise. If this is a challenge for the new British monarch, King Charles III, then he must know the limitations of his time as well as those of his own.
For the new British king knows full well that the era of keeping a stiff upper lip and the mystique surrounding the royal family are already over. Actually, his late mother's coronation in 1953 as Queen Elizabeth II was made public through television for the first time in that country's history. With that publicity, the air of aloofness and mystery shrouding the British royal family was gone. The present king himself has brought the royal family under the full glare of the media during his younger years, not least at the time of his scandalous marital breakdown with Princess Diana following his extramarital affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Queen Consort. Also, his past activist role on various issues ranging from organic farming to climate change to that of a lobbyist has, to some measure, weakened the status of the royal family as the symbol of integrity and stability that his mother, the late queen, tried so ardently to preserve.
Evidently, the British monarchy has meanwhile lost much of the aura the late queen could maintain with her personal charm and an impartial, apolitical role as head of state. And so far as the royal duties of his progeny go, it has been shrunken markedly.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have withdrawn themselves from royal duties from their personal choice, while Prince Andrew, Duke of York, was made to cede his public duties due to his connection with the convicted American sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.
So, to the public eye, the British monarchy will lose much of its appeal in the post-Elizabeth era. And that is more so because the present king and his heirs apparent look more like lesser mortals with their human frailties.
Though monarchy in democracies is fast losing its relevance, it is not so where democracy could never have a chance.
For in some countries of Asia and Africa, monarchies and potentates reign supreme.
And in the absence of a movement for change inspired by a revolutionary ideal, these Asiatic monarchs' and other dictators' grip on state power across the world is increasing, rather than decreasing.
In that sense, the decline of the British monarchy, which has been so gracious and liberal, is dispiriting, indeed!