Can love affair with UK royals outlast Elizabeth II?

Fri Jun 1, 2012 7:50am EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - When Britons sing "God Save the Queen" over four days of celebrations to mark Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne, monarchists may have cause to roar the line "long to reign over us" more heartily than ever.

Polls show the much-loved 86-year-old sovereign remains enormously popular and cherished by Britons, but questions linger about the future of the monarchy when she is gone and her already 63-year-old son Charles becomes king.

Republicans, royal watchers and even those with strong sympathies for the monarchy say that the future may pose a king-sized problem for an institution which relies on personal public appeal to stay relevant in the modern world.

"Monarchy is only as good as the people doing the job," said royal biographer Robert Lacey.

"The British have cut off the head of their king, the British have lived as a republic for 11 years under Oliver Cromwell. We could do it again."

Elizabeth became queen aged 25 on February 6, 1952 on the death of her father George VI, while on tour in Kenya with her husband Prince Philip. Winston Churchill was her first prime minister.

She inherited the throne from an enormously popular king, whose reputation for steadfast duty helped the royal family overcome the scandal of Edward VIII's abdication for the love of a divorced American and endeared itself to almost every strata of society during the course of World War Two.

During her 60 years on the throne, Britain has undergone dramatic change, from the austere postwar 1950s through the swinging 60s, the greed is good 80s and former Prime Minister Tony Blair's three-term New Labor era.   Continued...

Britain's Prince Charles (C) introduces his mother, Queen Elizabeth, to his school teachers and fellow pupils at the Hill House School Sports Day in west London, in this 1957 handout photograph released on May 31, 2012. The photograph is part of a personal tribute to the Queen from Prince Charles which will be shown on BBC One on Friday as the curtain raiser for the Jubilee weekend. REUTERS/British Pathe/Handout