The Chair of the New Zealand Republican Movement, Lewis Holden, reflects on Prince William's tour of New Zealand and Australia.
The Republican Movement executive decided last week when Prince William's two-day disaster tour was announced that we wouldn't comment, out of respect for the people of Christchurch and the victims of the February earthquake. Friday’s memorial was certainly very moving and appropriate following what has become the fourth greatest loss of life in one disaster in New Zealand's history.
One of the most poignant moments from the memorial service for the victims of the Christchurch Earthquake was an unscripted performance by Kiwi music legend Dave Dobbin. His melodic song, Welcome Home, was played as the memorial was winding up and contained the above line. It ironically contrasted with another round of gushing over Prince William's disaster tour of New Zealand and Australia; as if the Empire was alive once more and not in its swansong.
Comments on the Stuff Facebook page were incredible, painting a very different picture from what the media was saying. Our Patron, writer Keri Hulme, told The Guardian that the tour appeared to be a "designed to enhance politicians' profiles". Keri told the paper that Prince William meant well (and I believe he did),
"…but he's here today and gone by Saturday. And in the meantime, and for years and years coming, it's Aotearoa New Zealanders and their friends (we will not forget the massive outpouring of support from around the world, and we especially are thinking of the Japanese rescue teams at the moment) who will be the ones slowly rebuilding places."
Keri further said the prince's presence was an anachronism:
"We are making our own customs of memorialisation, our own ways of comforting each other. And the sheer secularity of the archipelago means that older practices become irrelevant."
Another great aspect of the memorial service was the inclusion of all religions, from Muslims, Buddhists, Baha'i, Judaism and Christianity.
Meanwhile in the Christchurch daily paper The Press, journalist Vicki Anderson reflected a familiar theme in comments about the place: she questioned the timing of the memorial service, calling it "a grandiose, empty gesture starring so-called VIPs".
Auckland's New Zealand Herald carried a front-page story on William, stating he "Brightens a rainy day". We're sure he did – after all, he is his mother's son. But the public forgets (or does not know) that it's the New Zealand Government who invites the Royals to New Zealand, so any tour will always have political undertones. Luckily, William himself confirmed that this was not in fact a "homecoming" (that's what opponents of change spin Royal tours as these days) by saying:
"I asked him who he thought would win the Rugby World Cup. He said, 'I'll probably get my throat cut when I get home', but announced he thought the All Blacks would win."
Meanwhile in Saturday's edition of the The New Zealand Herald:
He will be aware it is on shaky ground, it has become a conventional view in both countries that a republic is inevitable, but not in the Queen's lifetime. In all likelihood, though, the institution will survive the Queen with ease. It may even enjoy a new lease of life in the tributes for her and the reflections on another long Elizabethan era. Interest will also be sustained by the coronation of Charles, who promises to be a fairly interesting king.
This is the rub: while William is undoubtedly popular at this point in time – especially with women – he is in the same position his father was in in 1981. If he became King within the next five years, we could agree with the Herald's analysis. However, he's not likely to sit on the throne for another twenty to thirty years. His father will likely become King in the next five or so years. Given his age, and the longevity of the Windsors, it's likely Charles will reign for fifteen to thirty years. That means William won't be king until he's in his late-50s—the same age his father is now.