Is Queen Elizabeth II and the Rest of the British Royal Family Overrated?

They are one of the world’s longest-lasting institutions and for many, the British royal family is a symbol of power and familial strength. While there is no strict legal definition of what constitutes a member of the royal family, the term generally includes Queen Elizabeth II, born in 1926, and her relatives. While the royal family has regularly come under fire for various reasons over the years, scrutiny regarding the necessity of the royals has increased in recent years and the public is now generally divided on the topic of the royal family.

Public perception of the royal family

Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice, Lady Louise Windsor, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Charles, Duke of Sussex, Duchess of Cambridge, Duke of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Savannah Phillips, Prince George, and Isla Phillips

Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice, Lady Louise Windsor, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Charles, Duke of Sussex, Duchess of Cambridge, Duke of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Savannah Phillips, Prince George, and Isla Phillips | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As with any governing body, royal or not, public opinion is a tide that goes through ebbs and flows. While many polls done in Britain reveal that in general, in spite of the expense, people support the monarchy, there have been several notable periods in recent history where the opinion of the royal family has suffered.

During her lifetime, Princess Diana was responsible for both some of the most positive reactions to the royal family and some of the most negative. When she was married to Prince Charles, Diana was known as “the people’s princess,” for her dedication to charitable causes as well as her sweet, welcoming persona. The public was drawn to Diana, and the royal family enjoyed a period of generally positive reception, especially while Diana was still married to Prince Charles. However, when Princess Diana passed away under suspicious circumstances, the royal family took some of the backlash. The public blamed Prince Charles and even the Queen for the stress of Diana’s later years and criticized the way the royal family handled the aftermath of Diana’s death. It wasn’t until the Queen herself went on television to memorialize Diana and state how upset the monarchy was by her loss that the press started responding slightly more positively to the royals family.

The wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

When Diana’s son Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle in May 2018, the world underwent another wave of pro-royal family sentiment. Prince Harry was praised for bringing more inclusion to the royal family, and for their wedding featuring such a blending of cultures. The Queen, in particular, enjoyed some of the positive public sentiment, especially when it was revealed that she broke several long-standing royal traditions in order to make Markle more comfortable. One such occurrence was in 2017, before the big royal wedding, when Markle and her mother, Doria Ragland earned invitations to the royal Christmas celebration, a gathering that had traditionally been reserved for relatives only.

Does the Queen have any real powers?

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II | Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

One criticism that the royal family frequently faces is that the Queen isn’t the “real” power in England. While it is true that much of the governing power in the country comes from Parliament, the Queen does have certain powers and privileges┬áthat are afforded to no one else.

A few of the Queen’s unique powers include the ability to open and close Parliament sessions, signing off on new laws (laws proposed by Parliament), pardon criminals, commanding the British military, and bestowing honors on individuals. As for the Queen herself, she has frequently come under fire from the press, who claim that she’s excessively frugal, cold, and too connected to the past.

No matter how you feel about the royals, it is clear that their influence on the world cannot be denied. Whether you think they are highly overrated or are firmly a member of the royal family fan base, with a new royal baby on the way and a whole new dynasty being built, their reign could be just beginning.