Saturday, they will be a thousand Britons gathered in London on Trafalgar Square, dressed in yellow or riddled with yellow stickers, carrying yellow signs, with the same words: “Not My King” (Not my king). Among them, Graham Smith, the director of the Republic group. “We do not intend to disturb the passage of the royal procession, he assures, with his usual rapid flow. Our only ambition is to make noise, perhaps to boo Charles as he passes, and more generally to make the world understand that we are not a country of fervent monarchists. »
20 years of fighting
Graham Smith, 49, has been involved with Republic since 2003. After living in Australia for a few years, he says he felt “like a culture shock” on his return in 2001. “Even if I had grown up here, suddenly noticing the generalized deference to the monarchy and members of the royal family was quite alarming. I said to myself that something had to be done. I discovered the existence of Republic, then hardly anything more than a small group. And I said to myself: why not be the one who will take this question head on? »
The organization, of which he became the first full-time employee in 2005, took off on November 16, 2010, when the marriage of the then Prince William and Kate Middleton was announced. “Our membership began to grow rapidly,” he recalls. But that’s nothing compared to the influx of supporters since the Queen’s death. This brings us a lot more financial means. »
A strategy of attrition in question
Not far from Trafalgar Square, the most famous square in London, is the statue of Charles I, one of the major kings in British history: he was beheaded in 1649 and the monarchy was abolished in the process. An example to follow ? Not really, reassures Graham Smith. “Our objective is to obtain public support and to press for a referendum to be organized on the abolition of the monarchy,” he explains. The government does not need to support it. David Cameron offered us three referenda and did not support change in any of them. He won two and lost the last on Brexit. »
Is a regime change possible? “Yes, given the decline in popularity of the monarchy, which has lost its star player, the queen,” smiles Graham Smith. According to the poll published this week by the YouGov institute, 62% of Britons are in favor of the monarchy, after a peak of 75% in 2013 following the birth of Prince George, the eldest son of William and Kate, and 25 % would like an elected head of state, compared to 17% in 2013. A slow evolution.
But Graham Smith’s moderate methods no longer seem to satisfy the youngest Republicans. No More Royals, a small group of students who position themselves as “the most radical wing”, according to their representative Riz Possnett, has appeared. In mid-March, the 19-year-old jumped onto the royal bed during a tour of Windsor Palace and greedily kissed her girlfriend there, both dressed in ‘No More Royals’ T-shirts (” [On ne veut] more members of the royal family”). Patrick Thelwell, 23, was meanwhile sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid community work after throwing five eggs at Charles III, without touching him, during his visit to York in November. All will be present in London this Saturday.