How did some of the earlier kings of England deal with women whom they divorced, or whom they preferred to get rid of in exchange for new queens? They killed them.
Executing queens went out of fashion for British royalty sometime back, but the fact remained that British royalty had retained residual traces of the former arrogance that led them to kill their wives.
Perhaps, loyalists told royalty that it is important to keep this mystical veneer of power, especially at a time when the monarchy had been reduced to purely symbolic proportions. When there is no real power to speak of, it would have helped to put on a mask.
With time however, the facade came face to face with a changing reality. Being comfortable in that intersection was an uneasy challenge for any powerful firm.
Today, there is a mounting challenge for the British monarchy to disband. The monarchy lost its respect quite sometime ago, but the fact that it was a bit of a quaint institution helped its survival.
However, in modern democracies, the tide of public opinion is never static, and the rulers who ignore the eddies and currents of the vox populi are doomed.
For a while, rulers can brush dissent aside. But, with the death of a princess, the sentiment against royalty is racing to a new peak now. The press wants the arrogant family to atone by weeping, but it doesn't seem to be possible that the royal family can cry to order.
But, republicans in Britain perhaps know that republics have their own malaise as well. For instance, the French Republic had to go through several transformations before it morphed into its current form. In these parts of the world, republics with executive presidents are in a peculiar quandary because there is always that element of uncertainty about the degree of power that the executive should be granted by the creators of the republic.
And here at home too, public opinion sways in uncanny ways.
The ruling institution can be unpopular or on the decline, but can nevertheless be tolerated. The analysts say the British monarchy may not survive the angry wave of public opinion that has been building up against it, since the only common thread that seemed to bind royalty to the subjects is now gone.
When Marie Antionette said "if you don't have bread, eat cake,' the dawn of the French revolution was a matter of time. "People don't live to eat,'' said a former Prime Minister here in Sri Lanka, but quickly the people threw out that regime unceremoniously for the next seventeen years. Articulated arrogance regularly brings about quick results.
Though it's not easy to draw parallels, the outpourings of outrage against ruling institutions may be intermittent, or sporadic, but yet, that may only be symptomatic of the depth of public apathy towards constitutional institutions, and unpopular (albeit symbolic) sovereigns.
The lesson in it may be that it is always difficult to predict the public mood. Collective sentiments against the executive presidency in this country now, in hindsight, seem to have been ephemeral, for instance. The institution of the presidency lived to fight another day if not another term, at least.
But, its difficult to imagine that the public mood against the institution of the presidency has died.
Perhaps, the sentiment entered a latent stage, and what's necessary is for a catalytic event to take place for a real challenge to be mounted against the presidency in this country.
Admittedly, there is a lure to seek parallels in other political systems and in global events. None of this, granted, may strictly fit into our frame of things.
But that's also no excuse to ignore lessons and parallels from events that are taking place in different theatres. The example of Britain shows only too well that there are no perfectly enlightened societies. Certainly, there are no perfectly enlightened rulers.
But, in Britain it's the arrogance of a symbolic monarchy that the people are sick and tired of. The queen cannot raise the price of bread, or tie the hands of parliament. An executive president can. Executive presidents can prorogue parliament, even though, agreed, a queen cannot be impeached.
The people can ask their monarch to weep, or get out. But, when it comes to executive presidents, the issues are bigger than being teary in public.
Yet, the concerns elsewhere may be just the ones facing the British royals. Those entrenched, don't want to abdicate. Presidents once entrenched, only talk about new constitutions. Like entrenched royals, they prefer to survive with the discontent.
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