“Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, that’s Australians for C-O-N-S-T-I-T-U-T…” You get the idea: my employer’s name is a bit of a mouthful. Once upon a time it was “Leadership Beyond Politics: Australians for Constitutional Monarchy”. So every time I have to spell it out to someone, I remember “it could be harder”.
Those words, “Leadership Beyond Politics”, encapsulate the great advantage conferred by constitutional monarchy. Authority in Australia — what makes the difference between an armed man stopping your car and a lawful RBT — is vested in the crown and exercised by its officers… But I’m running away with myself and before you know it I will be into the finer points of constitutional law and history — in particular the famously abrupt end of a prime ministership (probably not the one you think I mean).
Crikey asked me to write something on the barbecue I attended in honour of Prince William, held in Sydney yesterday. By royal request, the guests were overwhelmingly younger Australians. Everywhere you turned there were people from different organisations all excited to be there.
One guy I met sitting out in the blazing sun (I lasted about two minutes before fleeing for standing room in the shade) told me he had contemplated wearing a Sex Pistols T-shirt. Perhaps he would have got more than he bargained for if he had.
The event was MCed by Daniel MacPherson, who joked that seeing the informality of the Prince’s dress he didn’t mind that he himself was wearing no tie and had left his jacket backstage. The Prince heckled him with a pointed remark about the tightness of MacPherson’s jeans. Time was when royalty got a ribbing from the stage about rattling the jewellery — the tables seem to have turned.
The Prince spoke for barely a minute. Things were already running late, no doubt because HRH wanted to greet pretty much everyone he could on the way to the venue as well as among the guests.
It was the speech by Premier Kristina Keneally that was the revelation. She rehearsed a personal history — one ancestor fought under George Washington against the British — and spoke of the bonds of friendship that unite the English-speaking peoples. I braced myself for the “but” — the obligatory “republic is inevitable blah blah not relevant to modern Australia blah blah” and it never came. Good for her. You don’t use the limelight to attack the bloke who is drawing the limelight to you.
I don’t doubt that one day Prince William will be King of Australia and provide that leadership beyond politics I mentioned earlier. How fitting that for once Australia’s usual politicking about royalty was forgotten.