Queen Elizabeth II was a symbol of national unity and purpose, said Worrell Professor of Politics and International Studies Mark Vail, and a symbol that will be hard to replace. Vail, an expert in British political economy and political and economic history, explains the challenges facing the British monarchy, why Americans should care about the monarchy, and how the monarchy influences international relations. He studies Britain’s social and economic policy, its financial systems and its relationship with the European Union. He has published several articles on Great Britain in specialist journals, including the Journal of Common Market Studies and British politics. His most recent book, Liberalism in Illiberal Stateswas published by Oxford University Press in 2018. His broader expertise includes European politics and comparative political economy.

What are the most important challenges facing Charles III?

Charles III arrives on the throne in a period of crisis (inflation and energy crisis, erosion of the legitimacy of the British political class, social unrest, etc.) which somehow resembles that experienced by his grandfather George VI, who reigned in the later part of the Depression and throughout World War II. And, he does so at a time when the prestige and legitimacy of the monarch himself is at an all-time low (at least in the modern age), following the scandals that have plagued the royal family, especially in the over the past five years. , but really since the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Thus, Charles will face the challenge of restoring a lasting sense of national unity even as he is forced to consolidate the fragile foundations of the monarchy itself.

Why should Americans care about the British monarchy?

Americans should care about the British monarchy, not only because of our long and deep historic relationship with Britain (what has traditionally been called a “special relationship”), but also because the monarchy reflects a model of national identity and common purpose that transcends partisan politics, something sorely lacking in the contemporary United States (as well as elsewhere). It’s also important, I think, because it acts as a symbol of the potential gains from engagement with the rest of the world. Ever since Elizabeth helped create the Commonwealth as the Empire crumbled, she’s helped turn a horrific colonial legacy into something more constructive. Whatever one’s opinion of the monarchy as an institution, it should be noted that Britons from all ideological backgrounds mourn his death, experienced as a real loss. It offers lessons for our own country, which is riven by partisanship and political acrimony and has lost much of its sense of common identity.

What is the impact of the monarchy on international relations?

Even though the monarch does and should not get directly involved in day-to-day political decisions (that is not their role as head of state), he or she sets the tone for the Grand Britain compared to the rest of the world. The monarch is important to international politics, enabling a sense of national community and purpose that rises above specific political conflicts and helps foster an image of national unity and continuity, as well as a sense of unity in relationships with others. countries. Even those who are not monarchists – and there are a growing number of Republicans in the UK – often identify with this role, which is filled in non-monarchies by other figures, such as the German president. It’s a role that we don’t really have here in the United States. The president is invariably a partisan figure, and has probably been for decades.

How will Charles III’s monarchy deal with the negative legacy of Brexit, and how can or will the monarchy act to foster the development of a new, more constructive Britain outside the UK? ‘European Union ?

Brexit was an ‘own goal’, like British soccer (i.e. ‘soccer’) fans could use the term – meaning it was a sloppy and unnecessary act that hurt his own team. Exiting the EU and the chaotic way in which this divorce was undertaken by the UK had long-term political and economic costs that many of its supporters had not anticipated. Charles III will face a deeply divided country suffering from economic decline and growing cynicism about politics. Continuing his mother’s legacy as a figure of national unity and shared identity will not solve these issues, but it could create space for constructive dialogue about how to begin to address them.

More information about Vail’s research, publishing and teaching can be found here.