London (AFP) – As a whirlwind of pomp descends on Britain for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, republican campaigner Graham Smith will heave a disapproving sigh.
Smith and other members of anti-monarchy campaign group Republic regard the May 19 event as just another showbiz sideshow.
“It’s not a lot different from the international fascination with the Kardashians,” Smith, Republic’s chief executive, told AFP this week in front of Buckingham Palace.
“It’s just another celebrity angle, if you like, or another celebrity story,” he said, as tourists swarmed outside the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II.
Founded in 1983 as a niche group with only a handful of members, Republic was officially incorporated as a campaign group in 2006.
Today they claim a 40,000-strong following which has the forthcoming fuss over the royal wedding in their sights. Smith said they see it as the latest effort to “shore up” the future of the crown.
“I’m very happy for the couple and wish them all the best. But it is a private event which they have then turned into a major public spectacle, which is going to cost the taxpayer an awful lot of money.
“And it’s going to be used for saturation PR for the royal brand and I think that’s where the problem comes in,” he said.
Smith listed the grievances his group has with Britain’s monarchy: “It’s opposed by quite a lot of people. It’s fairly divisive and it is completely unaccountable, it’s very secretive.”
“And so it projects this sort of more benign brand as a way of protecting itself from scrutiny and criticism.”
“That brand is all about fairytale romances and weddings and babies.”
– ‘Co-opted by the royal machinery’ –
According to a poll published last year by market research agency Opinium, 65 percent of British adults want to keep the monarchy while 19 percent support a republican model.
Republic propose abolishing the monarchy and replacing the Queen with an elected head of state.
As an American, divorced, mixed-race former actress, Markle stands out among royal spouses past and has been seen as a breath of fresh air for the monarchy.
But Smith remains unconvinced.
“She’s allowed herself to be completely co-opted by the royal machinery,” he said.
“She’s had her social media closed down, she’s now very much managed by people that manage the public appearances of the rest of royals.
“This isn’t the monarchy opening up to the rest of us, it’s Harry marrying one person who is then subsumed into the royal brand and the doors are then closed behind her.”
On the wedding day itself, Republic will be hosting a international conference in London — featuring allies from similar movements across the world.
Its doors will be open to anyone fed up with the royal circus and the “bills for policing and disruption to businesses”.
“On the day of the wedding we’re going to be in the vast majority of people who aren’t going to be paying any attention to it,” Smith said.