Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdication has brought up the question over whether the present Queen should follow suit. Unlike the Netherlands, abdication is not a tradition in the British royal family. After the abdication crisis of 1936 it is regarded as the equivalent of a dirty word, a sign of selfishness and a lack of dedication. But the attitude towards the 1936 abdication was based on the circumstances and associated scandal. Would it have been different if Wallis Simpson were not in the picture? Had it been any other monarch, such as Victoria, would she have been as pilloried for stepping down?
Although I'm not as familiar with the Dutch royal family, I do not get the sense that Queen Beatrix is in any way less than dedicated to her role as sovereign. Nor do I get that sense from Wilhelmina and Juliana. Does anyone think less of them for having abdicated or is it simply an acknowledgement of their mortality and a desire to pass the torch while still capable of doing so in a dignified way.
There is not a shred of doubt that the Queen will not abdicate. Dare to mention the idea and people will remind you how she dedicated herself to the service of her people in 1947, quoting her famous speech in the process. Not to mention her Coronation oath in 1953. She took a vow and was sacredly anointed. Although I am on the fence about becoming a republican, I can acknowledge that she is well respected and her dedication is unquestioned. The Queen stepping down will not happen. Period.
That doesn't mean she shouldn't.
Not to diminish those sacred oaths but the Queen is human and mortal. She is not a martyr. After 60 years on the throne, who could blame her for changing her mind in the interim? Would we hold it against her if she did? I know I wouldn't.
The Queen will turn 87 this year and she is, by all appearances, in good health. Her mother lived to 101 and there is no reason the Queen could not reach that age herself. And that would be a wonderful achievement. Not to mention a sigh of relief for people who question Prince Charles' capability to reign. But longevity aside, how effective would she be? Would she be doing the future of the monarchy any favors by continuing to reign despite her age? It may not be questioned now but just watch when she starts to approach 100.
The concept of the Queen abdicating because of her age is not a factor. The idea of her abdicating is muddled by the personalities of those involved. Whether Charles is suitable to become king. Not to mention how Charles should stand aside for William. As if the monarchy is some sort of popularity contest. That is not what this article is about. If the Queen does live as long as her mother, Charles could be in his 80s and Prince William could be in his 60s or 70s when he ascends the throne himself. How frustrating would it be to know that neither will make any meaningful impact as sovereign because they were not given the chance to? In the long run, how does the monarchy stand to benefit from that?
In her speech Queen Beatrix explained her decision to abdicate: "I do not abdicate, therefore, because the task has become an onerous one, but
because I am convinced the responsibility for our country should now be placed
in the hands of a new generation.
Even Queen Elizabeth would find it hard to ignore the wisdom in that.
© Marilyn Braun 2013
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