Waking up to the news that Prince Phillip died on the morning of April 9th, 2021 was shocking, but also simultaneously not. At 99 years old, Prince Phillip definitely lived a long life. Despite his age, his death came as a surprise because he and Queen Elizabeth seem immortal, reigning over England for an eternity. Prince Phillip’s recent passing serves as a reminder that the Queen cannot serve the monarchy forever and calls into question what this means for the future.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip represent an age of the monarchy and a generation that is quickly dwindling from this world. Their ideals are traditional, formal and most would say outdated. As the Queen is aging with each passing day, it brings up the impending question of the relevance of the monarchy and where it fits in the progressive culture we are living in today.
The crown is no stranger to controversy. Beyond Phillip’s racist and misogynistic remarks such as "I don't think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing," or "If you stay here [in China] much longer you'll all be slitty-eyed.” resurfacing on social media after his death, more recent racist remarks and disregard for mental health has brought the monarchy into mainstream conversation more than it had been in the past few years. Arguably, the monarchy is as relevant today in America as it was when Princess Diana died. Instead of a Princess for the People, we now have America’s Duke and Duchess in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as their horrendous treatment from the monarchy has led to widespread empathy for the couple.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sat down with Oprah in March to discuss their treatment after they stepped down from their royal duties and to discuss the racist remarks brought against Meghan and their children. Since then, the monarchy has been under fire, at least by Americans. People have been speculating about who made the racist statements wondering how dark the skin of Archie, their son, would be when he was born. Harry has received praise for doing what is best for him and his family by escaping the toxic culture of the royal family. The royal family even refused help to Meghan when she was suicidal. The royal family and the culture of the monarchy is broken, shrouded in racism, misogyny and the classic “if we ignore it, it will go away” mentality when discussing mental health and various other issues.
This ancient and long-lasting mentality is not something that can continue to survive, let alone thrive, in the culture focused on social justice that we have been moving towards in the last few years. Even with the resurgence of the mainstream discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement this past summer, the monarchy was noticeably quiet following the interview, remaining silent and only speaking out saying they were “saddened to learn” everything that happened with Meghan Markle. Not only has the royal family contributed to modern racism, failing to defend Markle from the racist tabloids comparing her to Kate Middleton, but the crown has also never apologized for its racist past, which is extensive. Not only were they one of the biggest colonizers, but but they were also a part of the slave trade in the 1500s and have never acknowledged, apologized, or actively worked against racism.
With Charles next in-line for the throne, it is difficult not to question the relevance of the monarchy today. It seems as if the crown has become more of a source of drama and tabloid headlines than of actual purpose and power in the latter years. As people living in America, it is difficult to conceptualize what power the monarchy actually holds.
The royal family is one of the last pillars of traditionalism that is quickly fading from our society today. With blatant institutionalized racism, misogyny, and mental health neglect, the monarchy is faced with two options: crumble under the pressure of dying traditionalism or shift its narrative to foster a more accepting and inclusive environment to mirror the actual country and people it represents. Personally, I don’t see how quickly the monarchy will be able to change. With speculation that Charles was the one to make the racist comments about Archie, as well as the turmoil within the royal family, including Harry and William reportedly not being on speaking terms and Charles ignoring Harry, it seems as if the monarchy doesn’t want to change. At least in America, there is a growing dislike of the monarchy (except, ironically, of the Queen, who people have sympathized with after the passing of her beloved husband). If the Queen is the last relevant and liked member of the royal family, besides Harry and Meghan who have removed themselves from the narrative, this begs the question: will the monarchy outlive the Queen or is the death of the Queen the death of the monarchy itself?
Prince Phillip’s death was an important reminder that Queen Elizabeth cannot rule forever. His passing serves as the start of a ticking clock, pressuring the monarchy to change its ways before it falls under the social pressures to fight racism, misogyny, quieting mental health, classism and many more issues the monarchy has perpetuated in the past. I think that the death of the Queen will lead to the demise of the monarchy, unless they change under the pressure of acceptance and equality.