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Then I was Princess Anne's assistant for a while, but I chucked that in because it was obvious they were never going to make me Princess Anne.
It's separation of patriotism and politics and I cannot commend it to you enough.—mapoftasmania, when asked "Why do you guys still have royalty?"
Head of State of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (and much of the The Commonwealth), the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II presides over a family that can, quite charitably, be described as a mix of apparently competent individuals, complete chuckleheads, and tabloid fodder. Fortunately for all concerned it was determined whether true power should rest with the monarchy or an elected parliament in 1649 when Charles I abruptly lost about 12 inches in height. Above his shoulders. This rather emphatic statement officially authorized the trend in which the King (or Queen) gradually lost to Parliament and the head of Government, the Prime Minister, and was finally accepted as pretty much fact in 1688 when Parliament invited William III of Orange and his wife Mary to invade England and seize the throne from the rather unpopular (and Catholic, pretty much the same thing at the time) James II.
Although now a figurehead and seen as generally useless in terms of running the country, there has been no real effort to abolish the monarchy in the United Kingdom, despite mumblings of it. Everyone loves the pomp and ceremony and the fact that they really can't do anything to hurt the nation (except perhaps due to embarrassing sex scandals) means there isn't a rush to get rid of them. Some Commonwealth countries, who don't even get a say over who their Head of State is, consider it a small price in exchange for having all the pageantry (and amusing antics) that someone else is paying for. Nevertheless, republicanism is stronger in the former colonies, and Jamaica is set to be the latest nation to eschew Her Majesty in favour of an elected, home-grown head of state.
For the UK, their net worth is only £600 Million, most of which comes from stuff like paintings and other things that would go to the National Trust and would have no other real benefit to the public other than there being more boring museums to drag your kids to. These things are open most of the time anyway and there is more of a tourist draw with the Royals being around rather than getting rid of them.
Although a large and sprawling family, the current membership of the House of Mountbatten-Windsor is generally considered to refer mainly to:
Queen Elizabeth II. Affectionately referred to as "Aunty Liz". Very dignified, dedicated, hardworking and by all accounts possessing an incredibly funny sense of humour in private, Liz is pretty much the ideal of the constitutional monarch, her sense of responsibility formed by the example of her parents in World War Two. Crowned in 1952 at the age of 26, she's been on the throne for 60 years and gives every indication that she'll pass Victoria's record of 63 years as monarch. As Eddie Izzard said, "I am the queeeen...I live foreveeeeer!"
Is also very much the model of a Cool Old Lady. She is apparently quite the Deadpan Snarker, and also a fan of Doctor Who. She's also a bit of a technophile - televising her coronation was her idea. More recently, there was a serious flap when President Barack Obama gave her a iPod on her first official visit; she later clarified that she specifically asked for it, as her old one was out of date. She is an accomplished equestrian, and rode sidesaddle during every Trooping the Colour ceremony until 1986. She is also the first, and so far only, female royal to hold military rank in her own right; she joined the Women's Auxiliaries during the war as a mechanic and rose to the rank of Junior Commander.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Married Elizabeth in 1947. Considered a bit of a conservative git with rather dated views on racial issues, thanks to a raging case of foot-in-mouth disease that has resisted treatment for decades. Served as a naval officer in World War Two on the Allied side and, despite being primarily of German descent, is a member of the former Greek royal family. He was recently called a German Nazi by Mohammed Al-Fayed in one of the stranger moments of the very strange Diana inquest. Due to his Greek descent is sometimes referred to as "Phil The Greek". Apparently, he is worshipped as god by inhabitants of some pacific islands. Despite, or possibly because of, his regular foot-in-mouth episodes (and thus his being viewed as reliable entertainment by the general public), and a reputation for being hardworking (created the Duke of Edinburgh award among other things) and well meaning despite being older than Christopher Lee at 90, he is rather well liked.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. The heir apparent, perhaps best known as being the husband of the deceased Diana, he's also gained a reputation as an environmentalist and perhaps a bit nutty and New-Agey. The talking to plants thing doesn't help. Has rather large ears.
The public isn't really looking forward to his ascension, with occasional but insignificant mumblings they should skip him and go straight to William. When The Vicar of Dibley finished up, Richard Curtis didn't want to strike the sets, saying that "Britain might need some cheering up when Charles becomes king." Charles himself, however, is known to have quite the sense of humour and is fond of British comedy, notably being the highest ranking fan of Monty Python in the world.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Formerly Camilla Parker-Bowles, she was the long-term mistress of Prince Charlie before finally marrying him. Having married Charles, she is techinically the Princess of Wales, but chose not to use the title, recognizing that many still identify it with Diana. There is a strong feeling by many that she shouldn't become the Queen Consort; in all likelihood, she will become Queen Consort in law, but never use the title in deference to public opinion. Apparently, this is also her idea. She does her job without any fuss and never upstages Charles. Actually reported to be a very nice person who doesn't deserve the vitriol spewed her way; unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding their marriage blight the public's opinion of her.
Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. Currently on her second marriage, Anne was the tabloid target for her antics before Diana was on the scene. Since then, "Princess Sourpuss" has mellowed considerably and has become a rather popular royal due to her constant presence waving the flag for the family. Still has a face like a horse. Speaking of horses, she used to be a rather good show rider and competed in the Olympics in 1976, where she won silver. Zara Phillips is now filling her shoes in this respect. She was almost kidnapped & killed when a man forced himself into her car and said he was going to hold her hostage. Her response to this was to sock him in the face and shout "Like hell you are!"
Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Flew helicopters in the Royal Navy, served in combat in the Falklands War, and had his own share of tabloid trouble thanks to his marriage and divorce of Sarah Ferguson. Sadly for those looking for scandal, the separation and divorce was amicable, the two are apparently still friends (and actually live beside each other), and share custody of the two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie. The two pulled off an unbelievable transformation from tabloid fodder to Model Divorced Couple. Sarah, Duchess of York, would return to the spotlight in 2010 after being caught attempting to sell access to her ex-husband. Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie win the "Craziest Headgear Award" at every royal wedding.
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Gave up a a career in the Royal Marines before it started and showed an interest in theatre and television production (going on to host several documentaries). His first foray into that, It's a Royal Knockout was a bit of a failure. Dogged by rumors he's gay, which were somewhat quieted when he married Sophie Rhys-Jones (who is apparently the Queen's favourite daughter-in-law) in 1999. Will be made Duke of Edinburgh when his father passes. He and Sophie have two children, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. First son of Charles, and second in line for the throne, William has had a bit of a rep as a playboy and concerns he doesn't take his responsibilities that seriously. However, he has mellowed out in the past few years, and his popularity is quite high. He is almost as much a master of the poker face as the Queen herself. Like his father, he's spending time in all three branches of the British military (navy, army and air force) for his future role as commander-in-chief. In September 2010, he earned his wings as an RAF search and rescue pilot. Married longtime girlfriend and "commoner" Kate Middleton, now known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, on 29 April 2011 in the biggest royal wedding since Charles & Diana, to general approval - Catherine has since become a fashion icon around the world. They live in Wales, as he is being stationed on Anglesey, and recently completed a tour of Canada.
Prince Harry (Henry) of Wales. Second son of Charles, Harry acquired a reputation as a bit of an idiot thanks to stunts like showing up at a costume party dressed in an Afrika Korps uniform. Since then has settled down as a career soldier in the British armoured corps and is apparently a very dedicated officer and small unit commander and very much a typical member of the military when it comes to beer and women. He is rumored to have threatened to make a public spectacle if he wasn't allowed to go to Afghanistan with his unit in 2007. He has since served in active duty in Afghanistan, but was brought back after certain members of the media broke silence on his being there (not cool, Aussie media). Then he took up flying helicopters, which solved the problem -- helicopters being a priority target anyway, the enemy isn't going to care if the pilot is a prince. Was in an on-again, off-again tabloid-fodder relationship with wealthy Zimbabwean Chelsy Davy from 2004-2009; they have since split for good but this has not stopped the gossip hounds one whit. Harry is immensely popular with the ladies, even more than his older brother, mostly due to being a young, hot, essentially good-hearted bad boy without a steady girlfriend.
Zara Phillips. Following in her mother Anne's footsteps, reigned as Eventing World Champion from 2006-2010, but could not defend her title due to some horrifically bad luck with her horse. She also got Sports Personality of the Year in 2006. Currently trying to earn a spot on the Olympic eventing team for Great Britain. Turns up in, of all things, the comic book V for Vendetta, as Queen Zara, all those above her in the list having been killed in a nuclear war. Recently married Mike Tindall (who plays Rugby Union for Gloucester and was at the time England Captain, in one of the most peculiar upper-crust/working-class pairings ever). When she was born she was sixth in line for the throne (now currently thirteenth), but the reason she doesn't possess an HRH title because her mother did not want her children to grow up with any which excludes her from automatic entitlement to royal status.