The death of Queen Elizabeth II has caused great sadness in Australia. But this is already certain: under King Charles III. The subject of the republic and the abandonment of the royal family will explode again.
A woman in a home improvement store south of Sydney has tears in her eyes. She operates the cash register with a slightly shaky hand. “I can’t believe it,” she told her client, “the queen is no longer here. Just go.”
The TV presenters are all dressed in black, live from London, non-stop. Australian politicians shared their experiences and meetings with His Majesty. “She was a lot of fun,” recalled former prime minister Kevin Rudd.
Australia mourns Queen’s death
Flags are flown at half-mast in the gardens of public buildings and private homes. On Friday evening, 96 gun salutes were fired in the capital, Canberra, every year of Her Majesty’s reign. The next two weeks are officially considered the mourning period.
Parliament has canceled its sessions. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced that he would travel to London in the next few days for the King’s abdication and initial talks with King Charles III.
Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on television that one of the Queen’s biggest concerns was “guaranteeing the welfare and continuity of the Commonwealth”.
The King visited many of the 54 countries that now make up the Commonwealth whenever his health permitted.
Various observers over the years have suggested that the Regent’s death would also spell the end of the Commonwealth if many countries broke away from the Crown and became republics. In Australia, one of the largest and most important countries in the Commonwealth, it came close in 1999.
However, the referendum resulted in a No vote in the Republic. Australia is less inclined to adopt a monarchy. Many voters feared that a politician would be president in the event of a republic. The queen, on the other hand, was seen as a guarantor of stability, reliability and incorruptibility. “Why change it when it works?” This was the rhetorical question of the supporters of the monarchy at the time.
That might change under King Charles III. Change. The King’s death was no sooner known than Australian Green Party leader Adam Band demanded “we become a republic” via the text messaging service Twitter.
The request so soon after the king’s death was described by commentators as “honourable”. However, his testimony suggests that the republican debate will soon be revived in Australia.
Egg vs Queen
In New Zealand, too, people reacted with shock to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was deeply saddened by the news, but deeply grateful to the monarch. “Here is a woman who gave her life entirely to the service of others.” Ardern ordered flags to be flown at half-mast.
Over the years there have been repeated protests against the monarchy in New Zealand – above all by the first inhabitants, the Maori. In 1981, the Queen was the target of an assassination attempt in the South Island. In 1986, eggs were thrown at his car. Although voices continued to call for New Zealand to become a republic, there were no serious attempts to secede from the Crown under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Various observers have speculated that a second referendum on the republican issue could end in a yes. Not necessarily since 1999, when the country broke away from the monarchy. On the contrary: Australia has been run for years by conservative governments loyal to the monarchy – sometimes a very enthusiastic monarchist: Prime Minister Tony Abbott was born in Britain.
Instead, the republican movement could benefit from King Charles III. When the prince is not as famous as his mother.
Charles’ criticism comes from an unexpected direction. On Friday, hours after Queen Elizabeth II’s death, former foreign secretary Alexander Downer warned King Charles III on Australian television.
The former politician was not the only Australian to disparage Charles’ past involvement in environmental issues. Downer was not only a leading Conservative, he was also a staunch monarchist.
“Wannabe pop culture fanatic. Zombie advocate. Entrepreneur. Internet evangelist. Alcohol fanatic. Typical travel buff.”