There could not have been a greater contrast between the two British royal visits overseas last week.
Across Northern and Southern Ireland, Charles and Camilla were universally welcomed, with some reporters even claiming that the crowd in Waterford chanted ‘We want Charles’. For that we only have to take their word for it.
Meanwhile, in Jamaica, Prince William and the Duchess, formerly known as Kate Middleton, were met with large, vocal anti-slavery protests.
However, looking at both visits, it’s hard not to come to the same conclusion: It’s all over, isn’t it?
The royal train will not end tomorrow or next year. It can linger for decades. But the institution, which has survived for centuries, is on borrowed time and not even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can save it.
This is serious business because for the royals, William and Kate are as good as it gets. They are young, not stuffy, with as much humility, humanity and humor as one would expect from one of the strangest and wealthiest families in the world. But even that is not enough to keep the forces of change at the gate.
It wasn’t just the protests in Jamaica. There are always protests. The Jamaican Prime Minister has publicly addressed some of the same issues. “We’re going further,” he even remarked dramatically, speaking of his country’s desire “in a short space of time… to achieve our goals and fulfill our true ambitions as an independent country.”
It was quite a statement. Like other countries, Jamaica will wait for the crown to pass before acting because there is still respect and affection for Queen Elizabeth among older Jamaicans; Her personality has held the Commonwealth together against all odds. But she won’t be there forever.
William could arguably make a difference as king. The “deep sorrow” he expressed at slavery and his gratitude for the contribution Black West Indians have made to British life were perfectly sincere, if short of the required apology. However, barring an unforeseen tragedy, he won’t be on the throne for long.
Queen Elizabeth is now 95 years old and her ailing health is already the subject of speculation. Her own mother lived to be 101 years old. Taking that as a guide means that Charles (73) will be almost 80 years old when he takes the throne.
There have always been suggestions – call them hopes – that the Prince of Wales might step aside and allow his elder son to take his place in the line of succession; but there is no evidence that Charles intends to do so. On the contrary, plans for his coronation have already been leaked.
If Prince Charles lives as long as his grandmother, then William could be in his 60s before taking the throne, about the age that the disgraced Prince Andrew is now, a far cry from the fresh young prince who will Today is.
God only knows the scrapes his own children, then in their thirties, got into in the intervening years, further tarnishing the brand. Maybe it was their turn oprah flog their bad luck stories too.
By then it will be Charles on the throne, and last week’s trip to Tipperary and Waterford offered another glimpse into the kind of monarch he will be. Agreeable enough but not particularly exciting as he and Camilla went for the usual walks; meet school children; whiskey and cheese tasting; awkwardly playing the bodhrán.
Even by the usual humiliating standard of official Irish sycophancy towards foreign dignitaries, this embarrassingly anachronistic spectacle is sure to make most people cringe.
With the best will in the world, Prince Charles will never show the same respect or affection as Queen Elizabeth.
Even as the head of a slimmed-down monarchy with fewer followers, he is doomed to always look out of place in the 21st century. Watching him potter around with Camilla was like watching Pathé News from the 1940s.
Of course, it is difficult to talk about these issues in Ireland without giving undeserved help to some of the worst people politically imaginable.
Republicans have long loathed royals as a symbol of Brits, only pretending to be tolerant of their presence because they know how bad it would look if they didn’t.
This does not reflect the middle ground in Irish attitudes towards royals, which tend towards tolerant forbearance rather than harshness.
Although Britain and Ireland have “walked a difficult path together,” as Charles was forced to say diplomatically during his visit, there have been no protests to match those in Jamaica, and it would be strange if there were. Virulent anti-royal sentiment is more of a minority sport here.
Caution is also warranted because since Brexit, anti-British sentiment in Ireland has been stoked to dangerous levels, often by people who should know better. Again, the only beneficiaries of this rising wave of toxicity are all thoroughly horrible individuals.
But equally, one must not allow the desire not to fuel Republican hatred to get in the way of acknowledging reality.
Polls suggest support for an inherited monarchy has fallen to 53 per cent among 25-49 year olds in Britain, dangerously close to 52/48 Brexit territory. The hope of the monarchists is that as the youth grow older, they will become less keen on revolution; but there is little evidence that they become more conservative with age, as they may have done in the past.
Younger people today will also grow older against the backdrop of having Charles as head of state instead of Queen Elizabeth. This will inevitably affect their attitude towards the institution.
It’s not as if an elected head of state would be a particular improvement. There are advantages to having a hereditary figurehead above politics.
But that’s another part of the brand that Charles has tarnished by taking strong positions on issues like climate change. William has also strayed outside the bounds of strict impartiality. It’s not just Harry and Meghan speaking out about their favorite causes. It’s just not in the nature of the younger generation to be dutifully silent for the sake of national unity.
But whether the grass would really be greener on the other side of the constitutional fence is not the question.
The hard truth is that neither model of future royalty offered in Jamaica and Ireland last week looks particularly healthy.
If William and Kate can’t savehe royal family, then nothing can.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/two-versions-of-british-royalty-were-on-display-last-week-but-the-omens-arent-good-for-either-41491043.html Two versions of the British royal family were on display last week, but omens are not good for either