As 1992 was about to come to an end, Queen Elizabeth II referred to the previous 12 months as an “annus horribilis” – a horrible year.
There were plenty of reasons for the monarch to feel that way, ranging from a destructive fire at Windsor Castle to the official announcement of the separation of her son Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Almost three decades later, there are lingering questions about another separation, this time featuring the United Kingdom and the European Union. Through it all, the Queen has remained one of the most beloved royals in Canada. But when Canadians are asked what should happen when she no longer reigns over us, the situation becomes a bit more confusing.
Research Co. asked Canadians this month about the monarchy. As has been the case since I first had the opportunity to review these sentiments more than a decade ago, Canadians can be assembled in three groups of a similar size.
One-third of Canadians (33%) say they would prefer to have an elected head of state, and a similar proportion (31%) want Canada to remain a monarchy. The remaining respondents either do not care either way (19%) or are undecided (17%).
Support for the continuation of the monarchy is strongest in Atlantic Canada (42%) and Alberta (40%), while the idea of an elected head of state is particularly appealing for Quebecers (53%).
While roughly the same proportion of men and women want Canada to remain a monarchy (30% and 32%, respectively), men react more positively to the notion of having a Canadian as our head of state (39%, compared with 26% of women).
Queen Elizabeth II maintains an extraordinary favourability rating of 71% across the country. Exactly the same proportion (71%) also hold positive views of Prince William, while 70% feel the same way about his younger brother, Prince Harry.
The favourability numbers are also high for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (68%) and the newest addition to the Royal Family: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (60%).
Prince Philip checks in at a very decent 54%.
Still, a problem that I have consistently witnessed over the past 11 years remains in place today: fewer Canadians have a positive view of the person who will eventually be featured on our coins and bills. Only 43% of residents have a favourable view of Prince Charles, and even fewer (32%) feel similarly about Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The differences between Canadians’ perception of Charles and their view of William are striking. In monarchy-friendly Alberta, 69% of residents have a favourable view of William, but only 37% feel the same way about his father. A similar situation ensues in British Columbia, where William’s rating (76%) towers over that of Charles (42%).
Even in Quebec, where residents are not shy to call for the end of the monarchy, the heir to the throne is clearly outranked by his oldest child (41% to 67%). Among Canadians aged 18 to 34, supposedly unconcerned about all matters royal, William also has a higher favourability rating (51%) than Charles (37%).
When Canadians are provided with a choice as to who their next monarch should be, the first-born son fares better than his father. We find that 41% of Canadians would prefer to have Prince William as King, while only 20% express a preference for Prince Charles.
In fact, no demographic in the survey selects Charles over William when given the opportunity. The father does a little bit better among those who voted for the Conservative party in the 2015 federal election (27%, with William at 41%) and Ontarians (25%, with William at 39%).
Though one-third of those surveyed would like to have an elected head of state, the views on a possible republic become more realistic when Canadians are asked to look 20 years down the road. A majority of Canadians (56%) believe Canada will still be a monarchy in 2039, while 23% – including 30% of Quebecers – expect the country to have an elected head of state.
Much has changed since I started tracking Canadian perceptions of the Royal Family, particularly the explosion of social media, the different ways in which generations are communicating with each other and the difficulty of glossy magazines to command an audience in a landscape that has shifted its focus to actors, athletes and team owners at their worst.
In this new world, only the Queen and her two male grandchildren are viewed favourably by seven in 10 Canadians. The Queen’s granddaughters-in-law are also viewed approvingly by a comfortable majority.
The heir apparent continues to struggle. Just over two in five Canadians view Charles favourably, and only a third feel the same way about his wife. If Canadians – by a 2-1 majority – currently prefer to have Prince William as their next monarch, the ascension of Charles, regardless of which of his four names he ultimately selects as King, may not be as joyous as originally envisioned. •
Mario Canseco is president of Research