It has become more popular of late to forecast the demise of the monarchical system in Britain, particularly after the death of the late and great Queen Elizabeth II. The forthcoming coronation is already bringing forth strident proclamations on both sides. Anti-monarchists site the unsuitability of King Charles for the role, the fiasco of Prince Harry's seduction by a self-serving American starlet, and the enduring argument about the non-democratic nature of a constitutional monarchy. They tend to forget that there have been many periods in the long tenure of royalty throughout English and British history when the system has been criticised, and even threatened, but only once has it been actually disbanded - during the seventeenth century by the briefly presiding Oliver Cromwell. The less well-educated youth of today, and the uninformed foreign tourist, see only the pomp and ceremony, and the supposedly 'privileged' display of magnificent houses and luxury living inherited by the royals, and assume that all such much-publicised grandeur is merely a gigantic PR stunt to promote Britain as an anachronistic but still powerful force in the modern world.
They do not understand that the system is actually the bedrock of the nation's constitution, and one which has kept it, despite all temporary lapses and malfunctions, still one of the world's most stable and successful democracies. One might even state that it was a condition of the creation of the largest empire that world has ever seen - and before the woke brigade start jumping up and down - the word 'empire' may not automatically imply evil, oppression and exploitation. Some of the greatest eras of progress have been achieved via the patronage of empire, not least that of the British one.
Of course the system is not one that would be invented today, but its strength is that it is the result of long trial and evolution. Since the first drafting of Magna Carta in 1215, the relationship between the ruling monarch and his/her subjects has been the subject of constant debate and review, resulting in a sometimes turbulent, but far more evenly evolving partnership between rulers and subjects than exists in most other countries. It has now arrived at the point where the reigning monarch has little power over the legal conditions of his domain, whilst still appearing as the ultimate source of authority and leadership if all else fails.
And this is the whole point. This is the very essence of the fundamental relevance of the monarchical system. The British are not vulnerable to the dominance of self-serving despots from Hitler to Mao, from Peron to Ceaușescu. Nor to dishonourable presidents such as Trump or Putin. The worst that can happen in the UK is that the people are served by an incompetent or inappropriate Prime Minister, who is rapidly ejected at the polling booths. The republicans have to ask themselves, if the monarchy did not exist today, who would they nominate as Head of State? Tony Blair? Richard Branson? Jeremy Clarkson? Probably David Attenborough - which would soon guarantee the dimming of his saintly image as national treasure.
Of course, the ceremony, the palaces, the regalia, the fashion shows are all part of the mystique. They are essential to the global image of the most famous family on the planet. They are the reason that the rest of the world, whatever its political structure or religious inheritance, remains so fascinated by them. Go into any newsagents, from South America to Europe, the Far East and Australasia, and you can guarantee that half the magazines on display will be showing a picture of a British royal on their front cover - usually female, and usually the prettiest (which is why Kate's extraordinarily photogenic face and figure is so ubiquitous). The major ceremonial events, such as the Queen's Jubilee and funeral, and the new king's coronation, ensure vast TV audiences across the planet, and nothing guarantees genuinely weeping crowds such as the astonishingly moving slow drumbeat march along The Mall of the family and all its armed military escorts behind the coffin of the late queen.
But all this excess serves a purpose. It is there, not only to remind the British of their immensely influential history, but also the security of their long constitutional legacy, which ensures in the final analysis that, even if governments collapse or foreign powers threaten, there will always be a permanent authority at the head of the state who, by reason of their long-established mandate, may not be challenged or usurped. The reigning monarch in an ultimate crisis is always there to appoint a new regime or head of government. In a sense they represent a god figure, and fulfil the same role. That of a supreme power who can always be relied upon, despite his or her human failings. It is why the titles include such terms as 'Defender Of The Faith' and 'Supreme Governor', which even atheists such as myself accept as being an essential component of their ordained prerogative.
The current King Charles has a hard act to follow, which is why there are renewed calls to arms now from the republicans. But he is a far wiser and more statesmanlike figure than his detractors give him credit for, and he should remember that even his mother had her periods of unpopularity, especially after the tragic death of Princess Diana. That in itself was a seismic global event, and showed astonishingly that even unhappy rebels against the system, such as Edward VIII, Diana, and Prince Harry, attract the fascination of the masses. Furthermore, late come to the throne as he is, Charles has splendid understudies ready to step into his and Queen Camilla's shoes when the time comes. William and Kate appear as diligent and perfectly suited a pair of sovereigns-in-waiting as one could hope for. Immensely personable, dedicated yet discerning, seemingly genuinely caring and liberally aware - they should be the guarantee of the safety of the monarchy for at least another long generation, and hopefully more beyond.
Long live the King.