The Glasgow UN Climate Change Conference
“Climate change action has contributed to the downfall of two Australian prime ministers. It is important that it does not contribute to the downfall of our system of constitutional monarchy.
The ambitions of the Glasgow COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference were overshadowed by President Macron’s accusation that the Australian Prime Minister had lied to him. It is virtually unheard of for a head of state to make such a public accusation of the Prime Minister of another country. It is also unheard of for that Prime Minister to release private communications in his defence.
There was a time when diplomats would be used to convey an official message between heads of government. The casualness of phone and text messaging which has seemingly replaced formal channels has led to the damaging confrontation between President Macron and Prime Minister Morrison.
Insofar as the Glasgow conference is concerned, a number of people have expressed disappointment that the Queen addressed the conference. The fact is, the Queen was the official host of the conference which was partly organised by the British government and as host it was incumbent on her to make a speech of welcome. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the other realms are constitutional monarchies. In the United Kingdom the Queen is executive head of state and in the realms, sovereign head of state with the Governors-General taking the role of executive head of state in each respective country. When the Queen is called upon to speak, whatever she says must be in accord with the government of the realm calling upon her. She cannot say anything her government may not agree with or does not want her to say.
However, at the conference the Queen gave a measured speech referring mainly to the work of her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, in the environment and in wildlife protection. The majority of people seemed to agree and support Prince Philip in these endeavours. Her Majesty then spoke only of the decisions made by her governments.
The Prince of Wales, however, is extremely passionate about climate action and like so many people with a passion, exceeds the boundaries expected of him. It is one thing to talk about protection of the environment but quite another to talk about militarising action on climate change. He should not be doing this.
However, as Prince of Wales he is not bound by the conventions of the monarch but being so close to the throne and assuming many duties of it due to the Queen’s age, he should be more judicious in his comments as he is no longer so free to speak.
Over the past couple of centuries, a number of monarchs and royals have also bucked the trend in pursuing their individual passions leading to controversy and upsets. For instance, the Queen’s own grandfather, George V, when Prince of Wales, following a tour of British India with his wife, expressed disgust at the way of life of British India which he felt was racist and openly campaigned, against the British establishment of the time, for a greater involvement of Indians in the colonial government. He was also openly vocal against the 1909 budget of the then Liberal government — something even Prince Charles would not go so far as to do.
The Queen’s own father, George VI, as Duke of York was passionately involved in welfare matters and campaigned to increase working and living standards which went against the interests of the government of the day. To make his point, he toured factories and even went down mines, which were dangerous in those days. Lord Stamfordham, the King’s private secretary, asked the founder of the welfare society supported by the Duke of York if he (the founder) was going to pit the King’s son against the King’s government.
And then there were the many causes espoused by Queen Victoria’s husband, the Prince Consort, in particular the holding of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the building of the Crystal Palace which horrified the establishment of the day. Prince Albert was a forward-looking person who introduced a great number of innovations which caused tremendous controversy at the time.
So, as you can see, the Prince of Wales is following a well-trod pathway. His views seem to resonate with younger generations but controversially not so with others.
Climate change action has contributed to the downfall of two Australian prime ministers. It is important that it does not contribute to the downfall of our system of constitutional monarchy.
Both Australia and the United Kingdom have targeted net zero for 2050. As a constitutional monarch, the Queen must obey the dictates of her elected governments. If anyone does not agree with net zero for 2050, it is not the Queen they should blame but their respective governments. The Prince of Wales may speak about climate change and other matters, but he has no official authority, only influence. When he becomes King, he may only speak on those matters his governments may allow him to speak on.
A constitutional monarch, in the Westminster sense, is hidebound by convention. If he, or she, exceeds the bounds of that convention, it is the government which will caution him or her and require that only the policy of the respective government, being elected by the people, be adhered to.
We have been so fortunate in having, as our Queen for nearly 70 years, a sovereign lady who has never overstepped the boundaries of her duty. But she is an unusual monarch the like of which will rarely be seen again. It goes against nature for a person, even a monarch, to be so shackled to selfless duty.
However, as a constitutional monarchy it is not so much the individual who is the monarch that is the more important but rather the office of the Crown and the system of constitutional monarchy.
Whilst some may not agree with everything the Queen or the king in waiting may say, it is the system that is the more important. Just because you may be upset at the comments of the Prince of Wales, should never mean dumping our constitutional system and jumping into the uncertain and unknown features of a republic where those very same politicians who have voted for net zero in 2050 will become the absolute controllers of our future.
At the moment politicians must obey the constitution which, through the Crown are in the hands of the people. Just ask yourself the question, ‘will these very same politicians obey the constitution if they control it?’
Australian Monarchist League