Royal author and journalist Phil Dampier told Yahoo this week that there’s “talk” the Queen will turn over the reins of power to the Prince of Wales in two years, when she turns 95. The move wouldn’t be an abdication, but would rather bring the Regency Act into effect – the Queen would still be queen, and Charles would take over the majority of the work.
The full quote is:
“There is talks that when she reaches 95 in a couple of years she may slow down and possibly the Regency Act will be brought in. She will still be Queen but Prince Charles will, in fact, take over most of the duties. He is starting to do that already, being at the state opening in Parliament and the Commonwealth conference. He is starting to take over a lot of the duties and doing the investitures.”
The examples noted in this article are a little problematic, since Charles has attended Parliament’s state opening many, many times over the years, and a few other members of the Royal Family handle investitures. But the heart of it – that the Queen has begun sharing more duties with Charles – is true, though that also began years ago, and there hasn’t been a marked change recently.
The idea that Queen will step down in some fashion has been raised a few times over the last couple of years, and it tends to divide people. In fact, the specific idea of a regency isn’t even new – this exact thought circulated in August 2017 just after the Duke of Edinburgh retired. The general consensus is that abdication is out of the question for this particular monarch, though it’s worth noting some think it’s a possibility. More tend to think that we’ll continue to see the trend we’ve already seen – the Queen handing over power gradually.
The idea of a regency falls somewhere in the middle (in my opinion), and may well just be a formalizing of that gradual hand over. I think the idea merits some thought before being discarded, because the fact of the matter is that in addition to having the longest reign in British history, the Queen is also the oldest monarch. Given the longevity of her mother, the Queen may well have another decade, and while that’s a good thing, it’s not unreasonable that she may want to retire – literally and figuratively – even if not out of necessity.
Even more, doing so would streamline Charles’s accession, which will be a jarring moment for the public. Putting aside his popularity issues over the years, the Queen’s reign is the only one the vast majority of people know and her death and the launch of a new reign may well be traumatic.
It’s a situation the Royal Family has never had to face before thanks mostly to historical life-expectancy, and so I think it’s worth thinking through. This would be a bigger deal than Philip retiring, but it wouldn’t be nearly as catastrophic as the future George IV stepping in for his father thanks to George III’s mental health in 1811. Or the PR nightmare the monarchy endured in the 1860s after Prince Albert’s death when Queen Victoria refused either to be seen in public or share any responsibility with her son, the future Edward VII.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I think the Queen will do this, but 1) I wouldn’t be unduly shocked and 2) I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea. If the Regency Act is implemented – formally or not – I think the Queen still being alive and occasionally visible will help calm the waters as Charles assumes his new duties, and make any other changes less startling.
It would be a major moment for the history books, to be sure, but in a way that’s a bit in-keeping with the Queen’s reign – she’s already overseen a significant evolution of the monarchy, much of it positive and necessary. This wouldn’t have to be any different.
That said…I think the above quote needs to be taken with a large grain of salt, and the most likely outcome remains, well, nothing changing at all 😉