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The Future of The British Royal Family

Feb 4, 2022
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23
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On February 6th, the 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth will celebrate her 70th anniversary of being the queen of the United Kingdom.

In this episode, we’ll ask ourselves what happens next, how will the next king be different, and what the future holds for the British Royal Family.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:00:29] On February 6th of this year, just a couple of days after this episode is set to be released, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her 70th year on the throne of the United Kingdom, and in April she will celebrate her 96th birthday.

[00:00:47] She has had quite the formidable life, and reign, but even the most formidable of reigns must, at some stage, come to an end.

[00:00:57] So in this episode we are going to ask ourselves what comes next.

[00:01:02] Who will be king of the United Kingdom, and how will they be different from Queen Elizabeth, and why, and what does the future hold for the British Royal Family?

[00:01:15] OK then, The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:01:21] The British Royal Family is often thought of as a business, and indeed Prince Phillip, the Queen’s late husband, used to refer to it as “The Firm”, the firm is another word for a business.

[00:01:36] So, let me paint you a picture for a minute.

[00:01:40] Imagine that you have a family business which is both old – at least 1000 years old – and valuable. Above all, its brand is unique. People from all over the world know about it.

[00:01:56] Imagine that you are the chairman and chief executive, you’re the boss. 

[00:02:01] You have run this business practically all of your adult life, and you are now approaching the end of your tenure, it’s time to retire

[00:02:12] Like any responsible family business owner, you want to ensure that you hand the business on in good order to your successor

[00:02:22] So far, so good. 

[00:02:23] But, in the case of the British Royal Family there are some major complications and unusual factors. 

[00:02:33] Firstly, unlike with most family businesses, the leadership is hereditary; in other words it is handed down from parent to child. It goes to the first-born, no matter who that person is. 

[00:02:49] Secondly, and here is another extremely unusual feature of the family business that we are discussing, you don’t ever actually retire, the job only stops when you take your last breath.

[00:03:04] As a result, the boss of the family business we’re talking about is 95 years old and her successor, the person who will take over from her, is well into his 70s - most people his age have already retired

[00:03:21] Thirdly, there are almost 70 million owners, shareholders, of this family business, every person in the United Kingdom. Sure, British people don’t “own” the royal family, but the royal family relies on the support and approval of the British people to continue existing.

[00:03:42] And finally, the “service” that this business provides is unusual, and hard to measure. It provides stability, continuity, and it is also estimated to bring in around 20 billion Euros to the country’s economy. 

[00:03:59] But there are plenty of people, plenty of its owners, in fact, plenty of shareholders, who argue that it is a business that simply shouldn’t exist.

[00:04:11] It is a strange situation indeed.

[00:04:14] Now let’s just get a couple of things straight before dive right into the question of the future of the British Royal family.

[00:04:22] On a purely practical basis, what will happen when the Queen dies? Who will the crown be passed to?

[00:04:31] To remind you, the queen has four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. Charles is the eldest, so he is first in line to the throne

[00:04:43] He also has two children, William and Harry, and they both have children of their own.

[00:04:50] I’m addressing this because lots of people think that there is an option for the crown to pass directly to William, skipping Charles out completely, but that simply won’t happen, or if it does it won’t happen immediately.

[00:05:07] When the Queen takes her last breath, assuming her son Charles is still alive, the throne will immediately pass to Charles, and he will become king, King Charles III. 

[00:05:19] We’ll discuss shortly what some of the implications of this might be, but on a practical level this is what is extremely likely to happen.

[00:05:31] The other thing to remind you of is what the King or Queen of the United Kingdom actually does. 

[00:05:38] The UK is a constitutional monarchy, which means that a monarch shares power with a constitutionally elected government.

[00:05:48] But on a practical level, the monarch simply says yes to whatever the government says, and there is the expectation that the monarch has absolutely zero involvement in the day-to-day running of the country. The British people elect a government, and it governs the country, not the king or queen.

[00:06:11] And the monarchy in the UK is still very popular. Or should I say, the Queen of England is still very popular, because for many people the monarchy is inseparable from the current Queen.

[00:06:25] She has been on the throne for almost 70 years, so the vast majority of the country will only ever have known her as Queen.

[00:06:35] In terms of quite how popular she is, recent surveys have shown that around 76% of the British population like her, 13% of people have a neutral opinion of her, and only 7% of the population dislike her.

[00:06:54] And most people think she has done a good job as queen - 23% of people think she has done a fairly good job, quite a good job, and 59% of people think she has done a very good job. 

[00:07:09] These are ratings that most politicians would die for, they would love to be viewed as positively as the queen.

[00:07:17] And although she has certainly had her fair share of difficulties, and points when she was not as popular as she is now, she will certainly go down in history as one of the most popular monarchs the country has ever had.

[00:07:33] This poses a problem for who comes next, Charles.

[00:07:38] He has had a lifetime in the public eye, over 70 years, yet his approval ratings are significantly worse than his mother’s, at 45% vs his mother’s 76%.

[00:07:53] Put simply, the British people just don’t like him nearly as much as his mother, or even his son, William, who has an approval rating of 66%.

[00:08:05] Few people are saying that Charles is an inherently bad man, but that he is on the dull and unimaginative side, it seems. 

[00:08:15] He isn’t inspiring, and he seems old and out of touch even to people of his generation.

[00:08:23] He has also been shown to have tried to interfere with British politics by writing letters to politicians urging them to put in place particular policies that he believes in.

[00:08:36] Now, Prince Charles does have many beliefs that now seem rather forward-thinking, that now seem rather modern. He has always been an advocate for the environment, for planting of trees, and a general supporter of environmental issues. 

[00:08:54] But the point isn’t that he was urging MPs to take action on the wrong issues, it’s that he was interfering in politics at all - this is considered to be taboo for a British monarch, and his mother is viewed to have kept her nose firmly out of politics.

[00:09:14] Now, Charles has evidently had his entire life to consider what he would do as king, so let’s move on to look into our crystal ball and think about some of the actions that he will likely take when the crown is placed on his head.

[00:09:32] Firstly, he will probably slim down the official Royal Family, the number of people who are actually on the payroll, and official members of the royal family will reduce in number.

[00:09:45] He will do this for two reasons.

[00:09:48] Firstly, because there is already debate about the purpose of minor royal family members, and their cost to the British taxpayer through things like police protection. 

[00:10:00] There is a long list of people who could theoretically become king or queen, and given that we don’t live in the Middle Ages now and they aren’t going to be killed in battle or die from disease, there simply isn’t the need to have so many official members of the royal family, we don’t need to have all these “back-ups”.

[00:10:23] Secondly, because it is clear that the more official members of a family you have, the more chance there is of one doing something wrong and reflecting badly on the royal family as a brand, on the royal family as a whole.

[00:10:40] We are seeing this at the moment with the Queen’s disgraced son, Charles’ brother, Prince Andrew, and his relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

[00:10:51] Indeed shortly before I started writing this episode Andrew was officially stripped of his royal duties, and time will tell whether he actually ever faces trial and even goes to prison.

[00:11:06] And although this incident with Andrew is certainly the worst, he, and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, have caused significant upset and controversy to the royal family over the years. 

[00:11:19] His wife was photographed sucking a man’s toe, then several years later offering to sell access to the royal family to an undercover journalist.

[00:11:31] You might be thinking…why hasn’t this happened before, why didn’t they already reduce the size of the official royal family, if there were members that had caused such embarrassment? 

[00:11:43] Well, there was certainly scandal in the Royal Family before, perhaps scandal even worse than that of Prince Andrew, but it was simply a lot easier 100 or 200 years ago to keep these scandals quiet, so they weren’t public knowledge. 

[00:12:00] Out of sight, out of mind, so the saying goes.

[00:12:05] So, Charles might understandably think, let’s reduce the number of royals, let’s keep the core, most important, reliable ones, and keep only those we really need and can trust to behave well and the country can be proud of.

[00:12:23] This would not be in any way an original or surprising thing to do. You only have to look across the North Sea to see what happened to Northern European monarchies after the Second World War. They underwent self-imposed slimming down processes, and this has certainly helped their survival.

[00:12:44] Moving on to our second prediction, or at least possibility, this relates to how Charles will deal with his son, the next in line to the throne, Prince William.

[00:12:56] When Prince Charles becomes King Charles he will be at the very youngest, 73 years old.

[00:13:03] Although he has been waiting for this chance for his entire life, most 73 year olds don’t want to start a completely new job that requires them to travel up and down the country, shake thousands of people’s hands every week, travel around the world and sleep in a different bed every other night.

[00:13:24] There is one possibility that he might rule semi-jointly with William, so that Charles is still king and does the main official duties of the king, such as meeting with the Prime Minister and meeting foreign leaders. 

[00:13:40] But William would do the foreign tours, the opening of public buildings, and be the public face of the monarchy, all while remaining a prince.

[00:13:52] He is, after all, popular with the British people, and he’s only 39 - certainly not too old to be put to work.

[00:14:01] And the British public do tend to see William, not Charles, as the future of the British monarchy.

[00:14:09] Although the British public is split over who should actually take over as king, there are the same amount of people who say Charles as who say William, 65% of people think that William would have the most influence over the future of the royal family vs only 10% saying Charles.

[00:14:31] So, this is certainly a possibility that would seem to allow Charles to get what he wants - to rule as king - and to allow the British monarchy to look like it is modernising through having increased access to the media-savvy Prince William, and his young family.

[00:14:50] Now, this brings us nicely on to our next point, our next prediction, which is about the Royal Family becoming more open to the public, increasing access to it, and making it seem like more of a normal family.

[00:15:07] The Queen, to her credit, actually set the wheels in motion for this as early as the 1960s, when she decided to allow documentary makers into Buckingham Palace for the first time to film the private lives of the queen and her family.

[00:15:26] This documentary, released in 1969 and simply called “Royal Family”, was a roaring success. It attracted 30 million viewers in the UK and has now been seen by over 350 million people worldwide.

[00:15:44] Of course, there are many more ways for people in 2022 to have a glimpse into the private lives of others, and Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, have proved to be very skillful with portraying themselves as normal parents, like any other.

[00:16:03] And just like with the 1969 documentary, people love it. 

[00:16:10] It is this slight contradiction that the royal family only exists because it is a special family, existing in that position for no reason other than birth, yet the public love to see how, behind all of the royal palaces and expensive clothes, the members of the royal family are just like them. 

[00:16:33] They watch TV, they play with their kids, they are, after all, human beings.

[00:16:39] So, what will this “opening up” mean in practical terms? 

[00:16:45] Prince Charles might well decide to make Buckingham Palace open to the public.

[00:16:51] There is no need for him to spend time there. Charles has been an advocate for sustainable living, and he already has five royal residences, so there is no need to live in a palace with 775 rooms.

[00:17:07] And if it were open to the public, it would certainly bring in even more tourists, and reduce the burden on the taxpayer, so it would be an easy win for the Royal Family. 

[00:17:21] Let’s move on to the relationship between monarch and parliament, and ask ourselves the question of whether the UK will ever get rid of its monarchy.

[00:17:32] Charles, as we heard earlier, has made no secret of his political beliefs, and has actively tried to influence government policy. 

[00:17:43] For the sake of the longevity of the British monarchy, he will need to stop this. 

[00:17:49] He will rule only because he is allowed to rule, and the minute that the British public feels that he is overstepping the mark, that he is doing more than he should be, there will be questions about the role a monarch plays.

[00:18:05] It just so happens that, at least about things like environmental protection, he has proved to have been right, or at least his views are now the views of the majority of the British people.

[00:18:17] But it will be different when he is king and has, in theory at least, real power. 

[00:18:25] Ultimately, the continued success, or at least the continued existence, of the British monarchy is likely to come down to one thing and one thing only: the actual people in the British Royal Family.

[00:18:39] In the past couple of centuries dozens of countries around the world have got rid of their monarchies, some peacefully, some not so peacefully.

[00:18:50] And in the United Kingdom, the main reason debate about whether or not the country should actually have a monarch has been so quiet comes down to Queen Elizabeth, the current queen. 

[00:19:01] She has been consistent, silent, and present

[00:19:06] When she took the throne she was 25 years old. The country was emerging from the aftermath of a world war, the British Empire was disbanding, the world was changing rapidly, and the world has continued to do so for the entirety of her reign

[00:19:25] It was far from an easy situation.

[00:19:28] Her role was to be constant, to be a beacon of stability in a sea of change. And she performed this role very well.

[00:19:39] Now, there are question marks about whether this is the sort of role that the future monarch should play, to be in the background while the world changes. 

[00:19:49] Evidently, the fact that Charles will become king when he is already in his 70s, and might rule for 20 years if he is lucky, complicates the situation.

[00:20:00] But looking even further ahead, past Charles, past William, and to whoever might come in the future, the collapse of the British monarchy, whether it is in 10 years, 100 years or 500 years, seems most likely to come when the British public decides that it doesn’t like whoever is on the throne

[00:20:21] The debate about the role of the monarchy will come because of who is on the throne, rather than the existence of the throne itself. 

[00:20:32] Now, there is little doubt that the next British monarch will be Charles, Charles III of the United Kingdom.

[00:20:39] And, given that he’ll be Charles III, you’ll know that there have been two King Charles before.

[00:20:46] The first one was so terrible that he was the only British monarch to be publicly executed, and after his death the monarchy was actually abolished for 11 years.

[00:20:58] The second was a notorious party animal, nicknamed the Merry Monarch, and left at least 12 illegitimate children behind him.

[00:21:07] Time will only tell what sort of monarch King Charles III will be.

[00:21:14] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:21:20] If you’re listening to this episode on the day it comes out, then well done, you are on top of things, and you have just two days to wait until an important day for the UK.

[00:21:31] If you’re listening to this on February 6th of 2022, then you should raise a glass to the 70th anniversary, the Platinum Jubilee, of Queen Elizabeth II.

[00:21:43] And if you’re listening to it after that, perhaps even when there’s a King Charles or even King William on the throne, then you’ll be able to see for yourself how these predictions fared against reality.

[00:21:56] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:00] What do you think lies ahead for the British royal family? Who should become the next king, Charles or William, and why? 

[00:22:09] What does the royal family need to do to survive, and is it even right for it to continue to survive?

[00:22:16] I would love to know so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:22:20] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:29] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:22:34] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:00:29] On February 6th of this year, just a couple of days after this episode is set to be released, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her 70th year on the throne of the United Kingdom, and in April she will celebrate her 96th birthday.

[00:00:47] She has had quite the formidable life, and reign, but even the most formidable of reigns must, at some stage, come to an end.

[00:00:57] So in this episode we are going to ask ourselves what comes next.

[00:01:02] Who will be king of the United Kingdom, and how will they be different from Queen Elizabeth, and why, and what does the future hold for the British Royal Family?

[00:01:15] OK then, The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:01:21] The British Royal Family is often thought of as a business, and indeed Prince Phillip, the Queen’s late husband, used to refer to it as “The Firm”, the firm is another word for a business.

[00:01:36] So, let me paint you a picture for a minute.

[00:01:40] Imagine that you have a family business which is both old – at least 1000 years old – and valuable. Above all, its brand is unique. People from all over the world know about it.

[00:01:56] Imagine that you are the chairman and chief executive, you’re the boss. 

[00:02:01] You have run this business practically all of your adult life, and you are now approaching the end of your tenure, it’s time to retire

[00:02:12] Like any responsible family business owner, you want to ensure that you hand the business on in good order to your successor

[00:02:22] So far, so good. 

[00:02:23] But, in the case of the British Royal Family there are some major complications and unusual factors. 

[00:02:33] Firstly, unlike with most family businesses, the leadership is hereditary; in other words it is handed down from parent to child. It goes to the first-born, no matter who that person is. 

[00:02:49] Secondly, and here is another extremely unusual feature of the family business that we are discussing, you don’t ever actually retire, the job only stops when you take your last breath.

[00:03:04] As a result, the boss of the family business we’re talking about is 95 years old and her successor, the person who will take over from her, is well into his 70s - most people his age have already retired

[00:03:21] Thirdly, there are almost 70 million owners, shareholders, of this family business, every person in the United Kingdom. Sure, British people don’t “own” the royal family, but the royal family relies on the support and approval of the British people to continue existing.

[00:03:42] And finally, the “service” that this business provides is unusual, and hard to measure. It provides stability, continuity, and it is also estimated to bring in around 20 billion Euros to the country’s economy. 

[00:03:59] But there are plenty of people, plenty of its owners, in fact, plenty of shareholders, who argue that it is a business that simply shouldn’t exist.

[00:04:11] It is a strange situation indeed.

[00:04:14] Now let’s just get a couple of things straight before dive right into the question of the future of the British Royal family.

[00:04:22] On a purely practical basis, what will happen when the Queen dies? Who will the crown be passed to?

[00:04:31] To remind you, the queen has four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. Charles is the eldest, so he is first in line to the throne

[00:04:43] He also has two children, William and Harry, and they both have children of their own.

[00:04:50] I’m addressing this because lots of people think that there is an option for the crown to pass directly to William, skipping Charles out completely, but that simply won’t happen, or if it does it won’t happen immediately.

[00:05:07] When the Queen takes her last breath, assuming her son Charles is still alive, the throne will immediately pass to Charles, and he will become king, King Charles III. 

[00:05:19] We’ll discuss shortly what some of the implications of this might be, but on a practical level this is what is extremely likely to happen.

[00:05:31] The other thing to remind you of is what the King or Queen of the United Kingdom actually does. 

[00:05:38] The UK is a constitutional monarchy, which means that a monarch shares power with a constitutionally elected government.

[00:05:48] But on a practical level, the monarch simply says yes to whatever the government says, and there is the expectation that the monarch has absolutely zero involvement in the day-to-day running of the country. The British people elect a government, and it governs the country, not the king or queen.

[00:06:11] And the monarchy in the UK is still very popular. Or should I say, the Queen of England is still very popular, because for many people the monarchy is inseparable from the current Queen.

[00:06:25] She has been on the throne for almost 70 years, so the vast majority of the country will only ever have known her as Queen.

[00:06:35] In terms of quite how popular she is, recent surveys have shown that around 76% of the British population like her, 13% of people have a neutral opinion of her, and only 7% of the population dislike her.

[00:06:54] And most people think she has done a good job as queen - 23% of people think she has done a fairly good job, quite a good job, and 59% of people think she has done a very good job. 

[00:07:09] These are ratings that most politicians would die for, they would love to be viewed as positively as the queen.

[00:07:17] And although she has certainly had her fair share of difficulties, and points when she was not as popular as she is now, she will certainly go down in history as one of the most popular monarchs the country has ever had.

[00:07:33] This poses a problem for who comes next, Charles.

[00:07:38] He has had a lifetime in the public eye, over 70 years, yet his approval ratings are significantly worse than his mother’s, at 45% vs his mother’s 76%.

[00:07:53] Put simply, the British people just don’t like him nearly as much as his mother, or even his son, William, who has an approval rating of 66%.

[00:08:05] Few people are saying that Charles is an inherently bad man, but that he is on the dull and unimaginative side, it seems. 

[00:08:15] He isn’t inspiring, and he seems old and out of touch even to people of his generation.

[00:08:23] He has also been shown to have tried to interfere with British politics by writing letters to politicians urging them to put in place particular policies that he believes in.

[00:08:36] Now, Prince Charles does have many beliefs that now seem rather forward-thinking, that now seem rather modern. He has always been an advocate for the environment, for planting of trees, and a general supporter of environmental issues. 

[00:08:54] But the point isn’t that he was urging MPs to take action on the wrong issues, it’s that he was interfering in politics at all - this is considered to be taboo for a British monarch, and his mother is viewed to have kept her nose firmly out of politics.

[00:09:14] Now, Charles has evidently had his entire life to consider what he would do as king, so let’s move on to look into our crystal ball and think about some of the actions that he will likely take when the crown is placed on his head.

[00:09:32] Firstly, he will probably slim down the official Royal Family, the number of people who are actually on the payroll, and official members of the royal family will reduce in number.

[00:09:45] He will do this for two reasons.

[00:09:48] Firstly, because there is already debate about the purpose of minor royal family members, and their cost to the British taxpayer through things like police protection. 

[00:10:00] There is a long list of people who could theoretically become king or queen, and given that we don’t live in the Middle Ages now and they aren’t going to be killed in battle or die from disease, there simply isn’t the need to have so many official members of the royal family, we don’t need to have all these “back-ups”.

[00:10:23] Secondly, because it is clear that the more official members of a family you have, the more chance there is of one doing something wrong and reflecting badly on the royal family as a brand, on the royal family as a whole.

[00:10:40] We are seeing this at the moment with the Queen’s disgraced son, Charles’ brother, Prince Andrew, and his relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

[00:10:51] Indeed shortly before I started writing this episode Andrew was officially stripped of his royal duties, and time will tell whether he actually ever faces trial and even goes to prison.

[00:11:06] And although this incident with Andrew is certainly the worst, he, and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, have caused significant upset and controversy to the royal family over the years. 

[00:11:19] His wife was photographed sucking a man’s toe, then several years later offering to sell access to the royal family to an undercover journalist.

[00:11:31] You might be thinking…why hasn’t this happened before, why didn’t they already reduce the size of the official royal family, if there were members that had caused such embarrassment? 

[00:11:43] Well, there was certainly scandal in the Royal Family before, perhaps scandal even worse than that of Prince Andrew, but it was simply a lot easier 100 or 200 years ago to keep these scandals quiet, so they weren’t public knowledge. 

[00:12:00] Out of sight, out of mind, so the saying goes.

[00:12:05] So, Charles might understandably think, let’s reduce the number of royals, let’s keep the core, most important, reliable ones, and keep only those we really need and can trust to behave well and the country can be proud of.

[00:12:23] This would not be in any way an original or surprising thing to do. You only have to look across the North Sea to see what happened to Northern European monarchies after the Second World War. They underwent self-imposed slimming down processes, and this has certainly helped their survival.

[00:12:44] Moving on to our second prediction, or at least possibility, this relates to how Charles will deal with his son, the next in line to the throne, Prince William.

[00:12:56] When Prince Charles becomes King Charles he will be at the very youngest, 73 years old.

[00:13:03] Although he has been waiting for this chance for his entire life, most 73 year olds don’t want to start a completely new job that requires them to travel up and down the country, shake thousands of people’s hands every week, travel around the world and sleep in a different bed every other night.

[00:13:24] There is one possibility that he might rule semi-jointly with William, so that Charles is still king and does the main official duties of the king, such as meeting with the Prime Minister and meeting foreign leaders. 

[00:13:40] But William would do the foreign tours, the opening of public buildings, and be the public face of the monarchy, all while remaining a prince.

[00:13:52] He is, after all, popular with the British people, and he’s only 39 - certainly not too old to be put to work.

[00:14:01] And the British public do tend to see William, not Charles, as the future of the British monarchy.

[00:14:09] Although the British public is split over who should actually take over as king, there are the same amount of people who say Charles as who say William, 65% of people think that William would have the most influence over the future of the royal family vs only 10% saying Charles.

[00:14:31] So, this is certainly a possibility that would seem to allow Charles to get what he wants - to rule as king - and to allow the British monarchy to look like it is modernising through having increased access to the media-savvy Prince William, and his young family.

[00:14:50] Now, this brings us nicely on to our next point, our next prediction, which is about the Royal Family becoming more open to the public, increasing access to it, and making it seem like more of a normal family.

[00:15:07] The Queen, to her credit, actually set the wheels in motion for this as early as the 1960s, when she decided to allow documentary makers into Buckingham Palace for the first time to film the private lives of the queen and her family.

[00:15:26] This documentary, released in 1969 and simply called “Royal Family”, was a roaring success. It attracted 30 million viewers in the UK and has now been seen by over 350 million people worldwide.

[00:15:44] Of course, there are many more ways for people in 2022 to have a glimpse into the private lives of others, and Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, have proved to be very skillful with portraying themselves as normal parents, like any other.

[00:16:03] And just like with the 1969 documentary, people love it. 

[00:16:10] It is this slight contradiction that the royal family only exists because it is a special family, existing in that position for no reason other than birth, yet the public love to see how, behind all of the royal palaces and expensive clothes, the members of the royal family are just like them. 

[00:16:33] They watch TV, they play with their kids, they are, after all, human beings.

[00:16:39] So, what will this “opening up” mean in practical terms? 

[00:16:45] Prince Charles might well decide to make Buckingham Palace open to the public.

[00:16:51] There is no need for him to spend time there. Charles has been an advocate for sustainable living, and he already has five royal residences, so there is no need to live in a palace with 775 rooms.

[00:17:07] And if it were open to the public, it would certainly bring in even more tourists, and reduce the burden on the taxpayer, so it would be an easy win for the Royal Family. 

[00:17:21] Let’s move on to the relationship between monarch and parliament, and ask ourselves the question of whether the UK will ever get rid of its monarchy.

[00:17:32] Charles, as we heard earlier, has made no secret of his political beliefs, and has actively tried to influence government policy. 

[00:17:43] For the sake of the longevity of the British monarchy, he will need to stop this. 

[00:17:49] He will rule only because he is allowed to rule, and the minute that the British public feels that he is overstepping the mark, that he is doing more than he should be, there will be questions about the role a monarch plays.

[00:18:05] It just so happens that, at least about things like environmental protection, he has proved to have been right, or at least his views are now the views of the majority of the British people.

[00:18:17] But it will be different when he is king and has, in theory at least, real power. 

[00:18:25] Ultimately, the continued success, or at least the continued existence, of the British monarchy is likely to come down to one thing and one thing only: the actual people in the British Royal Family.

[00:18:39] In the past couple of centuries dozens of countries around the world have got rid of their monarchies, some peacefully, some not so peacefully.

[00:18:50] And in the United Kingdom, the main reason debate about whether or not the country should actually have a monarch has been so quiet comes down to Queen Elizabeth, the current queen. 

[00:19:01] She has been consistent, silent, and present

[00:19:06] When she took the throne she was 25 years old. The country was emerging from the aftermath of a world war, the British Empire was disbanding, the world was changing rapidly, and the world has continued to do so for the entirety of her reign

[00:19:25] It was far from an easy situation.

[00:19:28] Her role was to be constant, to be a beacon of stability in a sea of change. And she performed this role very well.

[00:19:39] Now, there are question marks about whether this is the sort of role that the future monarch should play, to be in the background while the world changes. 

[00:19:49] Evidently, the fact that Charles will become king when he is already in his 70s, and might rule for 20 years if he is lucky, complicates the situation.

[00:20:00] But looking even further ahead, past Charles, past William, and to whoever might come in the future, the collapse of the British monarchy, whether it is in 10 years, 100 years or 500 years, seems most likely to come when the British public decides that it doesn’t like whoever is on the throne

[00:20:21] The debate about the role of the monarchy will come because of who is on the throne, rather than the existence of the throne itself. 

[00:20:32] Now, there is little doubt that the next British monarch will be Charles, Charles III of the United Kingdom.

[00:20:39] And, given that he’ll be Charles III, you’ll know that there have been two King Charles before.

[00:20:46] The first one was so terrible that he was the only British monarch to be publicly executed, and after his death the monarchy was actually abolished for 11 years.

[00:20:58] The second was a notorious party animal, nicknamed the Merry Monarch, and left at least 12 illegitimate children behind him.

[00:21:07] Time will only tell what sort of monarch King Charles III will be.

[00:21:14] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:21:20] If you’re listening to this episode on the day it comes out, then well done, you are on top of things, and you have just two days to wait until an important day for the UK.

[00:21:31] If you’re listening to this on February 6th of 2022, then you should raise a glass to the 70th anniversary, the Platinum Jubilee, of Queen Elizabeth II.

[00:21:43] And if you’re listening to it after that, perhaps even when there’s a King Charles or even King William on the throne, then you’ll be able to see for yourself how these predictions fared against reality.

[00:21:56] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:00] What do you think lies ahead for the British royal family? Who should become the next king, Charles or William, and why? 

[00:22:09] What does the royal family need to do to survive, and is it even right for it to continue to survive?

[00:22:16] I would love to know so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:22:20] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:29] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:22:34] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:00:29] On February 6th of this year, just a couple of days after this episode is set to be released, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her 70th year on the throne of the United Kingdom, and in April she will celebrate her 96th birthday.

[00:00:47] She has had quite the formidable life, and reign, but even the most formidable of reigns must, at some stage, come to an end.

[00:00:57] So in this episode we are going to ask ourselves what comes next.

[00:01:02] Who will be king of the United Kingdom, and how will they be different from Queen Elizabeth, and why, and what does the future hold for the British Royal Family?

[00:01:15] OK then, The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:01:21] The British Royal Family is often thought of as a business, and indeed Prince Phillip, the Queen’s late husband, used to refer to it as “The Firm”, the firm is another word for a business.

[00:01:36] So, let me paint you a picture for a minute.

[00:01:40] Imagine that you have a family business which is both old – at least 1000 years old – and valuable. Above all, its brand is unique. People from all over the world know about it.

[00:01:56] Imagine that you are the chairman and chief executive, you’re the boss. 

[00:02:01] You have run this business practically all of your adult life, and you are now approaching the end of your tenure, it’s time to retire

[00:02:12] Like any responsible family business owner, you want to ensure that you hand the business on in good order to your successor

[00:02:22] So far, so good. 

[00:02:23] But, in the case of the British Royal Family there are some major complications and unusual factors. 

[00:02:33] Firstly, unlike with most family businesses, the leadership is hereditary; in other words it is handed down from parent to child. It goes to the first-born, no matter who that person is. 

[00:02:49] Secondly, and here is another extremely unusual feature of the family business that we are discussing, you don’t ever actually retire, the job only stops when you take your last breath.

[00:03:04] As a result, the boss of the family business we’re talking about is 95 years old and her successor, the person who will take over from her, is well into his 70s - most people his age have already retired

[00:03:21] Thirdly, there are almost 70 million owners, shareholders, of this family business, every person in the United Kingdom. Sure, British people don’t “own” the royal family, but the royal family relies on the support and approval of the British people to continue existing.

[00:03:42] And finally, the “service” that this business provides is unusual, and hard to measure. It provides stability, continuity, and it is also estimated to bring in around 20 billion Euros to the country’s economy. 

[00:03:59] But there are plenty of people, plenty of its owners, in fact, plenty of shareholders, who argue that it is a business that simply shouldn’t exist.

[00:04:11] It is a strange situation indeed.

[00:04:14] Now let’s just get a couple of things straight before dive right into the question of the future of the British Royal family.

[00:04:22] On a purely practical basis, what will happen when the Queen dies? Who will the crown be passed to?

[00:04:31] To remind you, the queen has four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. Charles is the eldest, so he is first in line to the throne

[00:04:43] He also has two children, William and Harry, and they both have children of their own.

[00:04:50] I’m addressing this because lots of people think that there is an option for the crown to pass directly to William, skipping Charles out completely, but that simply won’t happen, or if it does it won’t happen immediately.

[00:05:07] When the Queen takes her last breath, assuming her son Charles is still alive, the throne will immediately pass to Charles, and he will become king, King Charles III. 

[00:05:19] We’ll discuss shortly what some of the implications of this might be, but on a practical level this is what is extremely likely to happen.

[00:05:31] The other thing to remind you of is what the King or Queen of the United Kingdom actually does. 

[00:05:38] The UK is a constitutional monarchy, which means that a monarch shares power with a constitutionally elected government.

[00:05:48] But on a practical level, the monarch simply says yes to whatever the government says, and there is the expectation that the monarch has absolutely zero involvement in the day-to-day running of the country. The British people elect a government, and it governs the country, not the king or queen.

[00:06:11] And the monarchy in the UK is still very popular. Or should I say, the Queen of England is still very popular, because for many people the monarchy is inseparable from the current Queen.

[00:06:25] She has been on the throne for almost 70 years, so the vast majority of the country will only ever have known her as Queen.

[00:06:35] In terms of quite how popular she is, recent surveys have shown that around 76% of the British population like her, 13% of people have a neutral opinion of her, and only 7% of the population dislike her.

[00:06:54] And most people think she has done a good job as queen - 23% of people think she has done a fairly good job, quite a good job, and 59% of people think she has done a very good job. 

[00:07:09] These are ratings that most politicians would die for, they would love to be viewed as positively as the queen.

[00:07:17] And although she has certainly had her fair share of difficulties, and points when she was not as popular as she is now, she will certainly go down in history as one of the most popular monarchs the country has ever had.

[00:07:33] This poses a problem for who comes next, Charles.

[00:07:38] He has had a lifetime in the public eye, over 70 years, yet his approval ratings are significantly worse than his mother’s, at 45% vs his mother’s 76%.

[00:07:53] Put simply, the British people just don’t like him nearly as much as his mother, or even his son, William, who has an approval rating of 66%.

[00:08:05] Few people are saying that Charles is an inherently bad man, but that he is on the dull and unimaginative side, it seems. 

[00:08:15] He isn’t inspiring, and he seems old and out of touch even to people of his generation.

[00:08:23] He has also been shown to have tried to interfere with British politics by writing letters to politicians urging them to put in place particular policies that he believes in.

[00:08:36] Now, Prince Charles does have many beliefs that now seem rather forward-thinking, that now seem rather modern. He has always been an advocate for the environment, for planting of trees, and a general supporter of environmental issues. 

[00:08:54] But the point isn’t that he was urging MPs to take action on the wrong issues, it’s that he was interfering in politics at all - this is considered to be taboo for a British monarch, and his mother is viewed to have kept her nose firmly out of politics.

[00:09:14] Now, Charles has evidently had his entire life to consider what he would do as king, so let’s move on to look into our crystal ball and think about some of the actions that he will likely take when the crown is placed on his head.

[00:09:32] Firstly, he will probably slim down the official Royal Family, the number of people who are actually on the payroll, and official members of the royal family will reduce in number.

[00:09:45] He will do this for two reasons.

[00:09:48] Firstly, because there is already debate about the purpose of minor royal family members, and their cost to the British taxpayer through things like police protection. 

[00:10:00] There is a long list of people who could theoretically become king or queen, and given that we don’t live in the Middle Ages now and they aren’t going to be killed in battle or die from disease, there simply isn’t the need to have so many official members of the royal family, we don’t need to have all these “back-ups”.

[00:10:23] Secondly, because it is clear that the more official members of a family you have, the more chance there is of one doing something wrong and reflecting badly on the royal family as a brand, on the royal family as a whole.

[00:10:40] We are seeing this at the moment with the Queen’s disgraced son, Charles’ brother, Prince Andrew, and his relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

[00:10:51] Indeed shortly before I started writing this episode Andrew was officially stripped of his royal duties, and time will tell whether he actually ever faces trial and even goes to prison.

[00:11:06] And although this incident with Andrew is certainly the worst, he, and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, have caused significant upset and controversy to the royal family over the years. 

[00:11:19] His wife was photographed sucking a man’s toe, then several years later offering to sell access to the royal family to an undercover journalist.

[00:11:31] You might be thinking…why hasn’t this happened before, why didn’t they already reduce the size of the official royal family, if there were members that had caused such embarrassment? 

[00:11:43] Well, there was certainly scandal in the Royal Family before, perhaps scandal even worse than that of Prince Andrew, but it was simply a lot easier 100 or 200 years ago to keep these scandals quiet, so they weren’t public knowledge. 

[00:12:00] Out of sight, out of mind, so the saying goes.

[00:12:05] So, Charles might understandably think, let’s reduce the number of royals, let’s keep the core, most important, reliable ones, and keep only those we really need and can trust to behave well and the country can be proud of.

[00:12:23] This would not be in any way an original or surprising thing to do. You only have to look across the North Sea to see what happened to Northern European monarchies after the Second World War. They underwent self-imposed slimming down processes, and this has certainly helped their survival.

[00:12:44] Moving on to our second prediction, or at least possibility, this relates to how Charles will deal with his son, the next in line to the throne, Prince William.

[00:12:56] When Prince Charles becomes King Charles he will be at the very youngest, 73 years old.

[00:13:03] Although he has been waiting for this chance for his entire life, most 73 year olds don’t want to start a completely new job that requires them to travel up and down the country, shake thousands of people’s hands every week, travel around the world and sleep in a different bed every other night.

[00:13:24] There is one possibility that he might rule semi-jointly with William, so that Charles is still king and does the main official duties of the king, such as meeting with the Prime Minister and meeting foreign leaders. 

[00:13:40] But William would do the foreign tours, the opening of public buildings, and be the public face of the monarchy, all while remaining a prince.

[00:13:52] He is, after all, popular with the British people, and he’s only 39 - certainly not too old to be put to work.

[00:14:01] And the British public do tend to see William, not Charles, as the future of the British monarchy.

[00:14:09] Although the British public is split over who should actually take over as king, there are the same amount of people who say Charles as who say William, 65% of people think that William would have the most influence over the future of the royal family vs only 10% saying Charles.

[00:14:31] So, this is certainly a possibility that would seem to allow Charles to get what he wants - to rule as king - and to allow the British monarchy to look like it is modernising through having increased access to the media-savvy Prince William, and his young family.

[00:14:50] Now, this brings us nicely on to our next point, our next prediction, which is about the Royal Family becoming more open to the public, increasing access to it, and making it seem like more of a normal family.

[00:15:07] The Queen, to her credit, actually set the wheels in motion for this as early as the 1960s, when she decided to allow documentary makers into Buckingham Palace for the first time to film the private lives of the queen and her family.

[00:15:26] This documentary, released in 1969 and simply called “Royal Family”, was a roaring success. It attracted 30 million viewers in the UK and has now been seen by over 350 million people worldwide.

[00:15:44] Of course, there are many more ways for people in 2022 to have a glimpse into the private lives of others, and Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, have proved to be very skillful with portraying themselves as normal parents, like any other.

[00:16:03] And just like with the 1969 documentary, people love it. 

[00:16:10] It is this slight contradiction that the royal family only exists because it is a special family, existing in that position for no reason other than birth, yet the public love to see how, behind all of the royal palaces and expensive clothes, the members of the royal family are just like them. 

[00:16:33] They watch TV, they play with their kids, they are, after all, human beings.

[00:16:39] So, what will this “opening up” mean in practical terms? 

[00:16:45] Prince Charles might well decide to make Buckingham Palace open to the public.

[00:16:51] There is no need for him to spend time there. Charles has been an advocate for sustainable living, and he already has five royal residences, so there is no need to live in a palace with 775 rooms.

[00:17:07] And if it were open to the public, it would certainly bring in even more tourists, and reduce the burden on the taxpayer, so it would be an easy win for the Royal Family. 

[00:17:21] Let’s move on to the relationship between monarch and parliament, and ask ourselves the question of whether the UK will ever get rid of its monarchy.

[00:17:32] Charles, as we heard earlier, has made no secret of his political beliefs, and has actively tried to influence government policy. 

[00:17:43] For the sake of the longevity of the British monarchy, he will need to stop this. 

[00:17:49] He will rule only because he is allowed to rule, and the minute that the British public feels that he is overstepping the mark, that he is doing more than he should be, there will be questions about the role a monarch plays.

[00:18:05] It just so happens that, at least about things like environmental protection, he has proved to have been right, or at least his views are now the views of the majority of the British people.

[00:18:17] But it will be different when he is king and has, in theory at least, real power. 

[00:18:25] Ultimately, the continued success, or at least the continued existence, of the British monarchy is likely to come down to one thing and one thing only: the actual people in the British Royal Family.

[00:18:39] In the past couple of centuries dozens of countries around the world have got rid of their monarchies, some peacefully, some not so peacefully.

[00:18:50] And in the United Kingdom, the main reason debate about whether or not the country should actually have a monarch has been so quiet comes down to Queen Elizabeth, the current queen. 

[00:19:01] She has been consistent, silent, and present

[00:19:06] When she took the throne she was 25 years old. The country was emerging from the aftermath of a world war, the British Empire was disbanding, the world was changing rapidly, and the world has continued to do so for the entirety of her reign

[00:19:25] It was far from an easy situation.

[00:19:28] Her role was to be constant, to be a beacon of stability in a sea of change. And she performed this role very well.

[00:19:39] Now, there are question marks about whether this is the sort of role that the future monarch should play, to be in the background while the world changes. 

[00:19:49] Evidently, the fact that Charles will become king when he is already in his 70s, and might rule for 20 years if he is lucky, complicates the situation.

[00:20:00] But looking even further ahead, past Charles, past William, and to whoever might come in the future, the collapse of the British monarchy, whether it is in 10 years, 100 years or 500 years, seems most likely to come when the British public decides that it doesn’t like whoever is on the throne

[00:20:21] The debate about the role of the monarchy will come because of who is on the throne, rather than the existence of the throne itself. 

[00:20:32] Now, there is little doubt that the next British monarch will be Charles, Charles III of the United Kingdom.

[00:20:39] And, given that he’ll be Charles III, you’ll know that there have been two King Charles before.

[00:20:46] The first one was so terrible that he was the only British monarch to be publicly executed, and after his death the monarchy was actually abolished for 11 years.

[00:20:58] The second was a notorious party animal, nicknamed the Merry Monarch, and left at least 12 illegitimate children behind him.

[00:21:07] Time will only tell what sort of monarch King Charles III will be.

[00:21:14] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Future of the British Royal Family.

[00:21:20] If you’re listening to this episode on the day it comes out, then well done, you are on top of things, and you have just two days to wait until an important day for the UK.

[00:21:31] If you’re listening to this on February 6th of 2022, then you should raise a glass to the 70th anniversary, the Platinum Jubilee, of Queen Elizabeth II.

[00:21:43] And if you’re listening to it after that, perhaps even when there’s a King Charles or even King William on the throne, then you’ll be able to see for yourself how these predictions fared against reality.

[00:21:56] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:00] What do you think lies ahead for the British royal family? Who should become the next king, Charles or William, and why? 

[00:22:09] What does the royal family need to do to survive, and is it even right for it to continue to survive?

[00:22:16] I would love to know so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:22:20] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:29] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:22:34] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]