Monarchy is hailed as an element of continuity in a changing world.

Monarchy has been around for a long time. Some say since 1066 but we had kings and queens before that. When one monarch has reigned for 70 years, we can think of her as a constant in our lives. However, you would be wrong if you thought the monarchy never changes.

Monarchy seems changeless

It is easy to look at all the uniforms and ceremonial costumes and think they are historic. You might think all the traditions go back to the Middle Ages at least. You would be wrong. A lot were invented in Victorian times. Few go back before Elizabeth the First. Most have been adapted in each reign, as even the greatest traditionalists sometimes have to compromise with practicalities.

The monarchy apparently opposes change

You might think kings and queens are highly conservative and resist every change. If so, you are wrong! They adapt to circumstances. At least, British monarchs do. That is why we still have one. Many monarchs in other countries failed to adapt and… oops! Of course, some changes are subtle and gradual, but others have been quite dramatic.

When has the monarchy changed?

The Tudors transformed the nature of the monarchy, and many other aspects of life. They took more power than previous rulers had had, partly by breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church, but also made more use of parliament as an ally.

The monarchy changed a lot in the 17th century

Charles I tried to put the calendar back a century or so and provoked a civil war. That is the background to my novel Blood and Secrets. Even after losing, Charles failed to compromise to survive and err… didn’t. This led to a decade when parliament tried to rule without a king, which did not go well. In order to reestablish the monarchy, Charles II in exile issued a proclamation, promising to be a good king and not do certain things his father had done. In other words, the king was setting out a manifesto. He was negotiating with the people. It worked.

Some wanted an old-fashioned monarchy

In the 18th century, the Jacobites wanted to get rid of the Georges, who were ruling with and through parliament and respecting the law. They wanted to restore the Stewarts who wanted the sort of country Charles I had tried to make. Many people concentrate too much on the religious differences between the two sides and miss this essential point. The early Jacobite rebellions provide the background to my series of novels, Highwaypersons.

What about the monarchy in the 19th century?

After the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria became something of a recluse. The prime minister, Disraeli, had to put a lot of pressure on her to take a more active role in public life or people might realise they didn’t need her. Her son, Edward VII liked dressing up and was generally outward-going. He made monarchy more showy with lots of ceremony.

Should the monarchy change?

I could give lots more examples, but those should be enough to make the point. Whilst I want a certain amount of continuity in life, I think everybody and every body needs to adapt to the world around us. The church, the police, the education system, the trades unions, and parliament (don’t get me started). I hope King Charles III will bring in the right changes to make the monarchy relevant to the 21st century. I have suggested that giving him more power, in a constitutional framework, could safeguard our democracy.

Just remember, there has never been a time when the monarchy has remained unchangeable. That’s why it’s still here.