Amidst the turbulence and invasions, upheaval and dissent that characterise British history, one thing has remained remarkably stable. Although there are other monarchies, Britain’s Crown stands out due to the continuity of its traditions, and its ability to adapt.
There’s a reason why schoolchildren still learn about the Kings and Queens: it’s their power struggles and subtle compromises that have shaped the nation we inhabit today. When members of the Royal family go on ‘walkabouts’, they do so because monarchs stretching back to King Alfred understood the need to be seen by their subjects, and the dire consequences of remaining aloof (or abroad). When they give interviews, or accept taxes, they do so as part of a long series of engagements with other, almost-equally powerful operators: Church, Parliament, the nobility and in modern times, the media.
In this sprightly commentary on the Crown’s 1,800-year-long story, Stephen Bates provides a dazzling insight into Royal custom and ritual, whilst depicting the individuals behind the myth with compassion and wit. And as our ageing Queen prepares to pass the baton, he asks us all to consider: could we ever do without the Crown?
Stephen Bates is an award-winning author and journalist, with over 45 years’ experience on various national titles. Most recently, he was Royalty and Religious Affairs correspondent for the Guardian. His previous books include The Poisonous Solicitor (2022) and Royalty, Inc. – Britain’s Best Known Brand (2015).