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What do the cards hold for British royalty?


August 19, 1996
Web posted at: 6:20 p.m. EDT (2220 GMT)

From International Correspondent Richard Blystone

LONDON (CNN) -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth, her family and advisers are reportedly laying plans for a new era, and the winds of royal change are in the air.

With a little more than a week to run in the 15-year ill- fated marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, it is nothing less than a question of survival for the queen and her family.

And, as distasteful as it may be, change may be just what the monarchy needs.


"The queen came to the throne with an agenda not to change anything. She's a deeply conservative woman. And unfortunately the events of the last 15 years have demonstrated that you can't keep it just the same," said Professor David Starkey of the London School of Economics.

The queen's advisers are said to be contemplating ways to bring the battered monarchy up to date.

The options range widely and include everything from a self- supporting royalty to equal rights for royal daughters to untying the monarchy from the Church of England.


After the Windsor Castle fire four years ago the royalty took a couple of steps toward financial self reliance. The queen started paying taxes and Buckingham Palace was opened to tourists to help pay for repairs.

The next step could be dropping that $13-million-a-year handout from parliament and letting the royals pay their own way and their own taxes with their own wealth.

As another cost-saving measure, the "royal family" could be trimmed to just the monarch, spouse and children. Minor royals, however colorful, would lose their status.


Under rules dating to the 11th century, a woman can be monarch only if she has no brother. Proposed new rules would move Princess Anne, Prince Charles's younger sister, ahead of her younger brother Prince Andrew in line for the throne.

Also in the crosshairs, is a 1701 act that forbids an heir to the throne to marry a Catholic.

Some are also questioning whether, in a multicultural society, the monarch should continue to head the state church.

"In the 20th century, the position of the monarch as head of the Church of England was given a meaning which it never had before," said Starkey. "You took the fact that the monarch was head of the Church of England to mean that the British monarchy was itself a religious or moral institution and the monarchy became a symbol of national public morality."

The royals are moral pinups no more.

The palace insists its look in the mirror has nothing to do with politics or press criticism or the liberal think tank that's called for a referendum on the monarchy every 10 years.


Nor should anyone hold their breath waiting for the first change.

One small sign that something may be afoot: the queen has threatened legal action against a class that both builds up and tears down her institution -- photographers.

For the first time, palace lawyers have threatened injunctions against four photographers if they use their long lenses on the royal family at play.

If the royals are considering a plan to pay their own way and shed their religious duties, they just may be saying to the public, 'Leave us alone.'

Somehow, that doesn't sound much like a formula for survival.


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