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When the Queen was briefly hospitalized in October, you could hear tea cups rattling across Britain.

Say what you will about the rest of her family, but the Queen remains much loved in her country. In fact, there is enduring respect and admiration for her around the world. But she is 95 and her supporters are bracing for the day when she is no longer with us.

Bracing for the day when the crown weighs heavy on the head of her far less popular, 73-year-old son, Prince Charles.

And that prospect comes at a time when the monarchy is once again under scrutiny: Barbados recently removed the Queen as its head of state and became a republic. This incited a fresh wave of polling in Canada around the question of whether we should follow Barbados’ lead and sever our constitutional ties to the monarchy as well. There are now only 15 countries that still have the Queen as their monarch.

More than 50 per cent of Canadians polled recently by Angus Reid said Canada should not remain a constitutional monarchy indefinitely. However, the same poll indicated that as long as the Queen wears the crown, 55 per cent supported continuing to recognize her as head of state.

Other polls have indicated even less support for a monarchy. In one conducted by Ipsos in March, 66 per cent of respondents said the Queen and Royal Family should have no formal role in Canadian society.

There are many in Britain who believe the Queen is the only thing keeping the monarchy together. She has always handled her duties with aplomb. In 69 years on the job, amid numerous crises, she has been a beacon of stability. She has been the object of much empathy too, especially amid the many family dramas – some sordid and highly embarrassing – that have played out around her.

Charles, of course, has been at the centre of a few of them. His sham marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, all but assured that he would forever be regarded by legions around the globe as a selfish, deceitful heel. His portrayal in the popular Netflix series, The Crown, only cemented this view in the consciousness of the public. Prince Andrew, meantime, has effectively gone into hiding since getting caught up in the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal.

More recently, the decision by Prince Harry to flee The Firm, as the Royal Family is known inside Buckingham Palace, didn’t help the worldview of Charles either. In particular, the charge by Harry and his biracial wife Meghan Markle during a primetime interview with Oprah Winfrey that someone in the family – many believe it was Charles, although he has denied it – wondered aloud about the potential skin colour of the child they were expecting raised eyebrows. For many, it confirmed the view that the monarchy long ago reached its best-before date.

Some biographies of Charles have also not been kind, depicting him as a pampered and privileged twit. (He reportedly travels with his own leather-covered toilet seat.) He hardly seems like someone destined to reinvent the monarchy after his mother to make it more contemporary and relevant.

Every discussion around the notion of Canada severing its ties with the monarchy bumps up against a hard reality: breaking up is hard to do. Our association with Buckingham Palace is written into our Constitution and to remove it would need the unanimous support of the provinces. Beyond that, deciding to change political systems is a major decision that involves great upheaval. Becoming a republic seems like a wonderful idea until you discover what’s actually involved.

It took two decades of talking about the idea for Barbados to finally follow through with it. There hasn’t been anything like a serious movement to do the same thing in Canada.

But after a few years of the reign of King Charles, who knows?

I’m sure there are more than a few people, including those whose livelihoods depend on the future existence of the monarchy, who are hoping that Charles’s time as head of the Royal Family is a brief one. There seems to be much more support for his eldest son, William, to assume the job.

His strained relations with his brother Harry aside, William and his wife, Kate, have avoided any ugly controversies. He also seems temperamentally suited for the job.

For now, however, the position remains in the hands of arguably the most popular British monarch in history. By the time her reign is over, she will have made her shoes exceedingly difficult to fill.

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