Prince William's 'fairytale' love prompts republican debate

17th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Monarchists in Australia Wednesday seized the opportunity to knock back their republican rivals as news of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton was cheered in the Asia-Pacific.

In the former colony Down Under, the royal romance between the second-in-line to the British throne and the commoner daughter of a wealthy businessman was welcomed by the group Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.

"Everybody loves a wedding," national convenor David Flint said.

"They're both attractive, glamorous young people -- that will cause interest.

"And of course it confirms the monarchy in people's minds because people will be reminded that he will one day be king of Australia."

Australians voted against becoming a republic in a 1999 referendum but a visit by Prince William earlier this year proved wildly popular among the public, with some commentators seeing it as a boon for the royalist movement.

The Australian Monarchist League said the nuptials would "undoubtedly" set back the republican campaign, with "huge interest" among younger people in the nation, whose official head of state is Queen Elizabeth II.

"We saw this when Prince William visited Australia earlier this year -- young people came out enthusiastically to greet Prince William," said chairman Phillip Benwell.

"It's really bringing home to people that we have a royal family and it's our royal family as well," he added.

But the Australian Republican Movement argued that the wedding between the 28-year-olds next year would reignite serious debate on the country's constitutional future.

"What happens is whenever we get these British moments as far as the royal family is concerned, the debate about Australia becoming a republic warms up indeed," movement spokesman John Warhurst told ABC 24 TV.

"It will be in fact an ideal time, when attention is on a matrimonial event, to have a political and constitutional debate in Australia."

Most Australians still trace their ancestry to Britain, but waves of immigration from elsewhere in Europe and more recently from Asia have weakened the link down the years.

In New Zealand, another former British colony where the queen presides as head of state, the group Monarchy New Zealand said the engagement was exciting news.

"They're part of New Zealand's royal family, now Kate's going to be the newest part of that family," spokesman Simon O'Connor said.

But Republic New Zealand spokesman Lewis Holden said the engagement raised the question of "why someone's engagement in the UK is of any constitutional relevance to New Zealand".

"We wish them all the best with the engagement on a personal level, it's terrific for them, but it's irrelevant to most New Zealanders," he said.

Queen Elizabeth is viewed with affection Down Under but many Australians, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, believe that when she dies or abdicates the country should become a republic.

Welsh-born Gillard was nonetheless fulsome in her praise of William and his down-to-earth betrothed, saying he was a "young man of great charm and a high sense of duty who is able to connect with working people".

"Today we look beyond the pageantry to see two young people very much in love and we personally wish them well," Gillard said.

In Japan, another country with a long-ruling royal family, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said the engagement was "truly wonderful".

"As I have seen on TV, he is quite a handsome boy and she is beautiful," the top government spokesman said. "It's going to be like a fairytale."

But he added: "I'm too old to be really thrilled by this kind of thing, but I think it's great."

© 2010 AFP

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