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Pankaj Mishra

Reality Is Coming for Britain’s Royals

Their luxurious remove from ordinary Britons won’t play well with an increasingly stressed public.

There’s much for King Charles III to reform if he wishes.

There’s much for King Charles III to reform if he wishes.

Photographer: Danny Lawson - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Watched by millions around the world, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II demonstrated the enduring glamor of Britain's hereditary order. As recession looms, however, and the pound sinks to its lowest in nearly four decades, it is time to ask: Can the monarchy reform fast and radically enough to adapt to an age of social and economic breakdown?

The modern era began with the decapitation of a king and its main ideologies — whether democracy, socialism, market capitalism, anti-colonialism or, most recently, populism — have centered around fairness and a distrust of entitled elites. The queen’s dignified presence helped an anachronistic institution postpone a long-overdue reckoning. But the unique privileges of her family — taxpayer-funded lavishness, no inheritance tax, immunity to prosecution — will increasingly come under hostile scrutiny.