The messy exit of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from the royal family marks the third great crisis of the British monarchy in the past hundred years – following the abdication of Edward VIII to marry an American divorcee in 1936 and the breakup of Charles and Diana’s marriage in the 1990s. Michael and I discuss the ramifications for the monarchy, Britain, the empire, and the world, situating the disaster in the context of the crown’s central role in the long-running struggle to redefine Britain as it loses its imperial status. Since the reign of Victoria, the monarchy has lost its political “hard” power but has correspondingly gained in the “soft” power of social influence and celebrity, rising to become the primary symbol representing the British nation to itself, and forcing the monarch to navigate the tension between Britain’s place at the head of the multi-racial Commonwealth and its connection to Europe. The appearance and quick departure of a bi-racial American woman in the royal family serves as a test of the monarchy’s supposed embrace of a color-blind future.
Link to beginning Vernon Bogdanor’s lecture series at Gresham College on the monarchy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZUQd22OdVk
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