December 9, 2023

Richard Palmer Speaking on the Express’s Royal Roundup

The Royal Family is in danger of “abolishing itself by stealth” by spending less time engaging with the people of Britain, a shock report reveals. King Charles has been warned the monarchy is at risk of becoming “too distant” from the nation it seeks to serve after a dramatic slump in the number of public engagements.

Death, scandal and resignation are blamed for a 40 percent drop in ribbon-cutting and hand-shaking duties over the past decade, says a study by an influential think tank.

And it predicts that if missing junior royals don’t do more to support the new King the monarchy could easily “collapse”.

The stark warning comes just three weeks before the eyes of millions will be on the King and Queen Camilla for the Coronation.

The spectacular ceremony and celebrations will allow him to lead the royals into a new chapter in their long history – but the bombshell report raises concern there is much work to do.

The tally of UK-based engagements has slumped from 3,338 in 2014 to just 2,079 last year, according to analysis by Civitas.

And last night royal author Margaret Holder backed the report, warning a lack of a public presence could “herald the demise of the institution”. Queen Elizabeth II famously believed she had to be “seen to be believed”.

Fears over Royal Family on brink of collapse (Image: Getty)

But the think tank is concerned the Royal Family could “disappear from public view”.

It has been rocked by the death of the Queen and Prince Philip, the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to the US, and the Duke of York stepping back from royal duties amid scandal.

Now the King is being urged to appoint more “working royals” who will meet people across the country.

Frank Young, the Civitas report’s author, said: “The Royal family as we know it is on the brink of collapse and risks abolishing itself by stealth if the King doesn’t take steps to boost visits that have fallen radically over the last decade.

“Through death, scandal and resignation the Royal family is increasingly reliant on a few hard-working members, with Charles, Anne and Edward, doing almost half the work.

“We now need new working royals or will have to accept a Royal Family that is more distant from the people than at any time in the past 100 years.”

The King and Princess Anne are named as the “hardest working”, with the latter having a slight edge in the total number of UK-based engagements between 2012 and 2022.

The research is based on data compiled by Tim O’Donovan, a retired insurance broker who has recorded engagements listed in the Court Circular since 1979.

Civitas claims family members over the age of 70 are responsible for the greatest share of engagements and warns of a potential “shortage of royals”.

The Duke of Kent is 87, Princess Alexandra is 86, the Duke of Gloucester is 78 and the Duchess of Gloucester is 76.

It fears that the number of royal engagements could “shrink to barely 1,000 a year” over the next decade.

The number of royal engagements could shrink (Image: Getty)

Prior to becoming King, the monarch was widely expected to favour a “slimmed down” Royal Family but Mr Young warns against it.

He said: “The King’s ambition might be misplaced and potentially misjudges the true public mood.”

Civitas suggests Princess Beatrice should be considered as a potential “full-time working royal” and adds the Princess Royal’s daughter Zara Tindall would be a “popular addition” as she is “steeped in the school of Princess Anne”.

Royal experts expect the King to pay particular attention to the problems encountered by struggling families. But he is keen to reach out to non-Christians in a switch from a “magical monarchy” to a “public service monarchy”.

A source said: “The King is very much aware of the need to be visible and in touch with the people at home and across the Commonwealth.”

And King Charles is said to be fully aware of the need to strike the right balance at a time when millions of people find it hard to make ends meet.

A royal watcher said: “His Majesty knows he needs to be among the people and be seen. But he will need more support from other royals.”

Mr Young claims the number who think the monarchy should be “modernised” has “actually fallen by a third since 2000”, adding: “More people want the monarchy to remain unchanged than reflect changes in British life.”

Royal author Margaret Holder warned that the country has “reached a stage where some royals are well past retirement age and will surely reduce their duties in future”.

King Charles is “aware” of what is needed of royals (Image: Getty)

She said: “Along with scandals and feuds, a lack of public presence could herald the demise of the institution which is already under republican attack.”

Suggesting the King should give bigger roles to younger royals, she added: “He could pay an attendance allowance and expenses. Beatrice, now a Counsellor of State, and her sister Eugenie could be given occasional duties.”

But royal broadcaster Michael Cole disagreed, saying: “Slimming down the Royal Family is in tune with the tough times faced by millions.

“Never again will we witness more than 20 members of the Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham palace.

“The King knows instinctively this sends the wrong message. And he’s right.”

Comment by Frank Young – Editorial Director at Civitas

The Royal Family risks abolishing itself by stealth if the King doesn’t boost its working membership.

The report covered exclusively in the Sunday Express shows domestic engagements are in danger of fizzling out and calls on the King to halt the dramatic decline in royal visits.

These numbers have been crunched by my colleagues at Civitas and it will be no surprise that the Princess Royal scoops the title of hardest working royal of the past 10 years.

She pips her brother, the King, by just over 100 engagements since 2012. This workaholic pair account for one in three outings.

Project forward another decade, royal visits could easily fall below 1,000 a year. Ten years ago the figure was well over 3,000.

Over the past decade, dukes and duchesses few have heard of accounted for almost one in five engagements. But their average age of 82 raises questions over how long they can keep going.

Through scandal, resignations and death we already have a “slimmed down” Royal Family. Ten years ago there were 15 working members. That figure is set to fall by half over the coming years.

Royals over the age of 70 account for almost two-thirds of all engagements. The average age is now nudging 70, so some new recruits are needed.

Obvious youthful candidates include Princess Beatrice and her sister Princess Eugenie.

The late Queen understood that for the monarchy to prosper she and her relatives had to be “seen to be believed” but as of today there are too few royals.

A few new members are needed to pick up where Her Majesty left off.

The public demands it.