Prince William's 'fairytale' love prompts republican debate
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 region.
In the former colony Down Under, the betrothal 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 head of state is Queen Elizabeth II.
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 also 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 chairman Lewis Holden said that while he wished the couple well, the news raised the question of "why someone's engagement in the UK is of any constitutional relevance to New Zealand".
Queen Elizabeth is viewed with affection Down Under but many Australians, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, believe the country should become a republic when her long reign ends.
Welsh-born Gillard was nonetheless fulsome in her praise of William and his down-to-earth fiancee, 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.
Indian TV news networks were playing non-stop clips of the happy couple announcing their betrothal at a news conference Tuesday, although the coverage was overshadowed by a building collapse in New Delhi that killed 67 people.
In Japan, whose own royal family enjoys far more deferential media treatment than is the case in Britain, the Yomiuri Shimbun described Middleton as a "popular figure from a commoner family".
"The announcement was good news for many in Britain, whose economic recovery has made only little headway," the top-selling newspaper commented.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said he was "too old to be really thrilled by this kind of thing", but looked forward to a "fairytale" wedding next year.
© 2010 AFP