Can the monarchy win over Gen Z? ‘King Charles’s saving grace is his interest in the climate’

In the days after the Queen’s death and the accession of her eldest son and decades-long heir to the throne, the Prince of Wales, 23-year-old Pablo John from London, joined the Labor for a Republic group. This is an advocacy group of Labor Party members and supporters campaigning for the political party to adopt a policy of abolishing the monarchy.

John, who works in the renewable energy sector, believes Britain should be governed by an elected head of state and not a monarchy where the crown seamlessly passes to the next in line after the monarch’s death. John says he’s spoken to his friends about the monarchy since the Queen’s death. They joked about choosing broadcaster David Attenborough or Cambridge classic Mary Beard for the position.

“The Queen is so popular and Charles is less popular. It seems like a good time for this conversation,” he says I about his decision to join Labor for a Republic now. “We’ve seen former Commonwealth countries on their way to becoming republics. Many people of my generation want an elected head of state,” he says, describing the step as “inevitable”.

The Royal Family at Windsor in 1969. Prince Edward, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen, the Princess Royal, the former Prince of Wales and the Duke of York (Photo: Fox Photos/Getty)

For most people in Britain and the rest of the world, the Queen is the only British monarch they have known in their lifetime. Following her death on 8 September at Balmoral Castle in Scotland aged 96, the end of a 70-year reign, questions about the institution’s future have unsurprisingly taken on new meaning.

This is the result of years of upset for the company; the death of Prince Philip; the Duke and Duchess of Sussex move to the United States; the release of the explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey; accusations of racism; the ongoing episodes of Prince Andrew’s BBC news night Interview; and of course the huge popularity of Netflix The crown with his often unflattering portrayals of royals behind closed doors.

The cumulative waves of these events were particularly felt among the younger demographic. A YouGov poll conducted in May 2021 found that more 18-24 year olds now want an elected head of state than a monarchy. The data showed that 41 percent of 18-24 year olds want an elected head of state, while just 31 percent want the monarchy to continue. This was a significant change from the same poll two years ago in 2019, when the polls showed 46 percent were in favour, and 26 percent preferred a chosen alternative.

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Prince William and Kate Middleton have 600,000 YouTube subscribers (Picture: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Although older demographics have also experienced fluctuating sentiments toward the Crown in recent years, they’re not nearly as pronounced as younger people. The opinion changed only slightly among 25 to 49-year-olds: half (53 percent) are in favor of a monarchy – compared to 58 percent. This clearly poses a problem for an institution looking for longevity and public support. How does the monarchy get younger people back on board?

Royal historian and author of England’s Queen, Elizabeth Norton believes the lack of relationship with the royal family is partly to blame. “On the face of it they’re not very relatable,” she says, “the new King is 73 years old, they’re more likely to go to private schools when the majority of people in the UK go to government schools, they’re just not necessarily an average 18 -Year-old on the street and at first glance there is not really anything [for people] related to”.

In recent years, the firm has struggled to think about modernization—both through the way it markets itself and the causes it aligns with. The family has multiple social media sites such as Instagram – the Queen published her first ever Instagram post in 2019 – with 12.9million followers on the main royal family account. The Queen has also had a YouTube channel since 2007. Prince William and Kate Middleton have 600,000 subscribers on YouTube.

For Dani Barker, 24, greater transparency on these platforms is beneficial to help young people learn more and understand the need for a modern monarchy – and who the different figures in the family tree are.

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“Many of us don’t understand why we have a monarchy today. What are they doing every day? Why? Who says that?” She says I.

“Kate and William get along with people, but maybe they don’t quite have Diana’s star qualities. But who really does?’ (Photo: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty)

Rather than relying on a sense of national pride as the reason for maintaining the monarchy, which may not resonate with younger people in the same way, Norton says they need to remind the public of what the royals have to offer. “We’re in a time where people aren’t necessarily driven by nationalistic pride, so they have to find another hook to get people interested,” she explains.

Norton believes there is room to do this with younger members of the royal family – including the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children – the eldest of whom, Prince George, was born in 2013. “William and Kate are really visible and play a huge role in the royal family. I think the fact that they’re younger, they have kids, and they’re seen as a pretty solid relationship helps people relate to them,” she says.

This online transparency involves sharing “ordinary moments,” like the kids coming to school that people can look at and see in their own lives — which isn’t always easy when you live in a palace. “We’ve seen the pictures of the three Welsh kids starting school and I think that’s really relatable to people, especially as the kids grow up and get into their teens,” says Norton.

Of course, much of this will boil down to causes and issues that the family publicly supports, where it supports, and how visible. “I think it’s about showing up and getting involved in causes that young people care about,” says Norton. William and Kate are involved in a lot of work in the mental health field, including leading Heads Together, a mental health initiative. You recently broadcast a ‘Mental Health Minute’ on UK radio stations to reach out to those experiencing loneliness.

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More of lifestyle

While Charles III has long spoken about the climate crisis and our relationship with the natural world. Pablo John appreciates Charles’ stance on climate. “Obviously climate change is a big issue for my generation, and I think Charles’s big salvation is that he invests in the environment,” he says. “I think if we see him taking a leadership role on climate change, that might move some of the younger people.”

Lauren Cockton, 20, and Kelce-Nicole D’Cruz, 23, of Buckinghamshire, also believe that for many young people just having their concerns heard by the monarchy is enough to get them on board. “They seem to care for the generation that’s already building a life, not the generation that’s trying to build their future,” explains D’Cruz.

In addition to working on issues and making their role more transparent, using tools like social media instead of just traditional media, ultimately bringing the individual personalities within the family into the equation.

Norton gives the example of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. “Diana really was a special character and she was inherently relatable. It came naturally to her — she hugged people and got emotional with people. She was a real person. Kate and William get on with people, but maybe they don’t quite have Diana’s star qualities. But who is really doing that?”

One factor is undeniable, Norton says, the need to enter a new era of monarchy rather than relying on what would have worked traditionally. “We have to move the monarchy forward, we’ve just come from a 70-year reign which has been really impressive, but we have to look forward now to what the monarchy will become in the decades to come.”

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