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Royally stuffed II
Prince Charles was once as popular as Prince William.
The Herald on Sunday's latest poll on the head of State issue is another reminder of the challenges facing both the monarchy and our campaign for a New Zealander as head of State. The question asked is certainly an improvement on TVNZ's poll prior to Charles million-dollar publicity tour in November (which asked if New Zealanders wanted to "keep the Queen as head of State"). 74% of respondents to that poll wanted to "keep the Queen". TVNZ's polls have always shown much higher levels of support for the Queen than any other poll. At the time, we faced the usual shower of childish gloating from the monarchists. This time they've been pretty quiet.
The question asked by the Herald on Sunday - whether New Zealanders want Prince Charles as their next head of state - can be interpreted as meaning New Zealanders want the monarchy but with Prince William instead, or that they want a New Zealander as head of State. This is probably why those who answered no totalled 43%. 19% were undecided, with the remainder (38%) saying "Yes." Contrast this with a poll conducted by the weekday Herald earlier last year, which found that in a two-way split between Charles, William and a undecideds, Charles only scraped in 22% of respondents, while William had 61% with the rest sitting on the fence. In the monarchy versus republic question, 55% wanted a British monarch as head of State while 29% supported a New Zealand head of State. William is actually more popular than the monarchy, which in itself shows that popular royals can't save the institution.
Underlying all of this is the reality that Charles will become King once the Queen's reign ends, unless something changes before then. That means there will be a lot of disappointed supporters of Prince William, who will have to wait decades for him to get to the throne - assuming the Queen lives as long has her mother, Wills will probably be his fathers age by the time he gets close. And, as we know, royal popularity is often fleeting. William could easily be just as unpopular as his father is today - remember, it wasn't long ago that crowds throned to see Charlie at Auckland Airport (above).
The big challenge for the monarchy in New Zealand though is the growing sense that the monarchy is simply a celebrity institution. While its local proponents will try to emphasise the institutions alleged "New Zealand" attributes, the growing sense of New Zealand's identity will undermine the monarchy further.
The challenge for our campaign is to show why our alternative - a New Zealand head of State - is better than simply making the British monarch our head of State.