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If the Royal family is not quite at the 11th hour… it is perilously close: An impassioned warning from RICHARD KAY that can’t be ignored

All in all, this has been the most wonderful week for republicanism since a ­petulant Harry and Meghan flounced out of the royal landscape four years ago.

Media outlets around the world have run excoriating commentaries mocking Britain’s Royal Family. Public-service broadcaster France Info sneered at the ongoing ‘fiasco’ while Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper scornfully questioned the monarchy’s credibility.

The New York Times, which rarely misses a chance to attack Britain and its ­institutions, gleefully reported on the ‘storm of questions’ and gave a po-faced warning that the King’s family faced ‘a lingering credibility gap’.
If the Royal family is not quite at the 11th hour... it is perilously

Even the Wall Street Journal, not normally noted for its royal coverage, weighed in with an incontestable observation. Citing the late Queen Elizabeth’s mantra that the monarchy had to be ‘seen to be believed’, it pontificated: ‘Now the family is faced with a more ­intractable problem: the British public doesn’t believe what it is seeing.’

The troubling fact is that, after the past few days, most dispassionate observers would be hard-pressed to disagree.

t all began with the best of intentions — the release of a charming Mother’s Day snapshot of the Princess of Wales and her children —before rapidly descending into what royal ­historian and commentator Dr Ed Owens described as a ‘debacle’.

This was the first official photograph of Kate since she went into hospital for planned abdominal surgery two months ago. If it was meant to douse weeks of speculation about her wellbeing, it had the opposite effect.

Kate’s admission that she had doctored the photograph, and her apology for doing so, were the latest self-inflicted wound by the House of Windsor, for which trust and integrity are fundamental commodities.

While many royal fans complained about what they saw as the trivial nature of the ­incident — as witnessed by the huge ­postbag the Daily Mail has received in the princess’s support — the overriding impression is bleak.

Would any other member of the Royal Family have enjoyed such stalwart defenders as Kate? I doubt it.

Take away the fact that the princess is a much-loved figure recovering from an invasive medical procedure: there remains a ­widespread and growing disenchantment that so much has gone wrong for the royals — so quickly.


The photograph issue, while small in itself, nevertheless exposed tensions that lie close to the surface in the family, as well as the fragility of an institution that for decades seemed impervious to any external threat.

But if we are not quite at the 11th hour, we are ­perilously close. There still may be time for the high tide of public disapproval to recede, but the cost to the royal image and to individual reputations has been high.

More concerning still, such crises no longer seem the exception, but the rule. A fortnight ago, the sight of a grinning Prince Andrew and his ex-wife leading this now-diminished family into church for the ­thanksgiving service for the late King ­Constantine of Greece prompted disbelief.

‘Like the cast of a ghastly pantomime,’ was how one of the King’s most trusted friends described it to me. ‘Thank God for the European royals who added a bit of decorum.’

As well as Kate’s absence, that of the King — who is receiving treatment for ­cancer — has contributed to the sense of vulnerability.

Yet the problems go beyond the two medical emergencies. Family cohesion and other certainties that we once took for granted are fast disappearing.

When the Queen passed away in 2022, there was still — despite the shock and ­sadness at her death — a broadly held view that the institution she had spent 70 years upholding was eternal.

For a time, that judgment held true. There was a ­seamless transition to the new reign as, amid private grief, the King acted with grace and dignity as he assumed his role as monarch.
If the Royal family is not quite at the 11th hour... it is perilously

He was warmly received as he travelled the country, ­skilfully heading off what might have been an early constitutional upheaval when his first Prime Minister Liz Truss was forced to resign after just seven weeks in office

And he demonstrated ­nimble footwork over his non-attendance — on prime ministerial advice — at the Cop27 climate summit by hosting a pre-gathering reception for many of the main players at Buckingham Palace.

The textbook Coronation of the King and Queen almost a year ago already seems like a distant memory of happier, more stable times.

Now, there is something of a power vacuum. When the King is unavailable, who is in charge? Is it Camilla or ­William? No one can truly say, maybe because everyone is waiting — or at least hoping — for the two stars of the show to rally and return.

These unavoidable ­sabbaticals have presented the royal household with a shivering reality test. ­Confidence in the institution comes from the top.

Elizabeth — and Philip, before infirmity finally forced him to take a back seat, aged 96 — embodied the traditional view of duty. Everyone took their lead from them.

Yet change was always going to come. The Queen and her husband were of that wartime generation for whom obligation was the sine qua non.

Their loss has only exposed what mighty characters they were in our nation’s royal story. And what we have lost.

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