Prince William’s wedding will not have the same iconic impact as his father’s marriage to Princess Diana because British society has changed, Tristram Hunt has claimed.
The historian and Labour MP told politics.co.uk he believed the UK had become “far less deferential” and “far less cohesive” in the 30 years since Prince Charles’ wedding.
“You will not be able to have the same street parties and community events as you did then,” he said – despite Eric Pickles’ enthusiastic deregulating of street party red tape.
“And yet there’s something powerfully alluring still,” Dr Hunt added.
“I do think that there’s been a quite understandable tendency on the left to dismiss the monarchy as this symbol of privilege and hierarchy.
“But the fact is it’s part of the British DNA and part of British history. I don’t see it going away in the near future.”
Dr Hunt has written an article for the Public Policy Research journal outlining ways in which the monarchy can become more “progressive”.
He wants Prince William to back the ongoing campaign to repeal the Act of Settlement so that if his first child is a daughter she can succeed to the throne.
Doing so would reflect Princess Diana’s struggles against palace protocol. Dr Hunt says adapting his own personal causes as his mother did, like youth drug addiction and homelessness, could improve his reputation.
“It works two ways,” he said. As a historian, we should take the role of the monarchy seriously, but also as politicians to think about how this system operates today and how it can be made more pluralist and progressive and reflective of modern Britain.”
Cutting waste from the royal purse, leaving “the bling and conspicuous consumption to the Russians and Saudis” and opening up internships to Clarence House could all be positive steps, Dr Hunt argued.
“I think it would be quite exciting that you could have some kind of national commonwealth competition for internships in Clarence House,” he said.
“Something more provocative to open things up. It is getting better there, but it could go further, I think.”
He acknowledged the system could prove complex, however, with one challenge being “to make sure everyone who applies isn’t from the Daily Mirror”.
In his article Dr Hunt outlines the difficulties a bid to replace the monarchy would actually involve. He says the government would have to clear its legislative agenda to only concentrate on this one issue for 18 months, and would only be feasible if a referendum was one after the death of a popular monarch.
“But it would have to happen – as most royal denouements have – with speed, organisation and conviction,” he added.
“A slow march towards republicanism is less probable.”