by David Korzinski | April 23, 2023 9:00 pm
April 24, 2023 – As King Charles prepares to have his title formalized at the May 6 coronation – expected to be a toned-down affair as Charles “is very aware of the struggles felt by modern Britons” – many in Canada wonder if it’s time to split from the monarchy.
New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds half (52%) of Canadians do not want their country to continue as a constitutional monarchy for generations to come, nearly all (88%) of whom believe it’s worth opening the constitutional can of worms to sever the country’s royal roots.
Charles’ mother Queen Elizabeth II would have turned 97 last week. Canada’s affection for the longest-serving British monarch in history was well documented. While her role as Canada’s head of state passed down to King Charles, Canadians’ warmth to Elizabeth did not. Three-in-ten (28%) Canadians say they have a favourable view of their new King; half (48%) do not. In fact, a majority (60%) oppose recognizing Charles as King and all that entails. And when this recognition is broken down to is individual elements – swearing an oath to him and singing “God Save the King” at official ceremonies”, putting his face on currency – opposition is even higher. Overall, a majority of Canadians (52%) believe Charles will be a worse monarch than Elizabeth.
There has been debate in England as to what to call Charles’ wife Camilla. Last year, Queen Elizabeth said it was her “sincere wish” for Camilla to be known as Queen Consort. However, the palace wants to drop the “Consort,” referring to her only as Queen Camilla on invitations to the coronation. In Canada, both the titles of Queen (21%) and Queen Consort (19%) lose out to “she should not be referred to as ‘Queen’” (60%). This comes as two-third (66%) say they oppose Canada recognizing Camilla as queen of their country.
The couple next-in-line to the throne, William and Kate, are viewed more favourably by Canadians, but the positivity is flowing from those who believe Canada should continue as a constitutional monarchy. Four-in-five in that group have positive impressions of Prince William and Princess Kate. Those who want to see an end to the royals’ rule over Canada are more negative (William, 36% favourable; Kate, 41%).
The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.
When Queen Elizabeth II died on Sept. 8, 2022, her son Charles, the Prince of Wales immediately became King. After being the longest serving Prince of Wales in the title’s history, he had to wait a little longer for his new title to be formalized. That comes with the coronation on May 6 at Westminster Abbey in London. However, the preparations for this event date back to long before the Queen’s death last year. Officials had been meeting annually to plan Charles’ coronation even while Elizabeth was alive under the codename Operation Golden Orb.
For most Canadians, this will be the only such coronation they have witnessed in their lifetime. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth was 70 years ago in 1953, the first coronation that was fully televised.
A majority of Canadians (59%) say they will be paying some attention to King Charles’ coronation. However, only one-in-ten (9%) say they are really looking forward to it. One-in-five (20%) are interested to tune in to some of it, while three-in-ten (29%) say they’ll catch up after the proceedings.
Ontario is home to the most enthusiasm for the coronation, with one-in-seven (14%) saying they’re very excited for the event. Meanwhile, a majority in Quebec (55%) could not care less:
Women over the age of 34 are more interested in the coming coronation than other demographics. Men and women under the age of 35 are about equally enthusiastic for the crown to be placed on Charles’ head, while men aged 35 to 54 are the most likely (54%) to say they don’t care at all:
Though a majority of Canadians admit to some interest seeing Charles’ oath, few have it triple circled on their calendar. One-in-ten (9%) Canadians say it is one of the biggest events of the year. More – three-in-ten (28%) – say it is an important event among many others. One-in-five (22%) believe it to be not that important despite their own interest in it:
Women over the age of 34 are more likely than other demographics to believe the coronation to be an important event this year (see detailed tables).
One-quarter (26%) in Quebec describe it as an important event, the fewest in the country (see detailed tables).
Personal connection to the Commonwealth appears to play a factor in how important Canadians view this event. Those who were born in another Commonwealth country, or a former English colony, are more likely to view Charles’ coronation as one of the biggest events of the year (14%) or at least important (30%). Those with no personal connection to Commonwealth countries other than Canada are far less likely to view the coming coronation as notable (see detailed tables).
Canada’s affection for Queen Elizabeth was well noted. In data taken on the eve of her 96th birthday in April last year, three-in-five (63%) Canadians told the Angus Reid Institute that they viewed her positively. Three-in-five (59%) at the time said they would feel sad when she died, including three-in-ten (30%) who said they would be quite affected by her death.
Related: The Queen at 96: Canadians support growing monarchy abolition movement, would pursue after Elizabeth II dies
Canadians have never shown that level of affection to Charles dating back to his time waiting in line for the throne. In January 2020, two-in-five (39%) Canadians said they had positive impressions of Charles, a high-water mark for his favourability. Now, three-in-ten (28%) say the same while nearly as many (25%) offer no impression as his coronation nears.
Charles’ favourability is buoyed by Canadians over the age of 54 (35%) and drained by those under the age of 35 (21%, see detailed tables).
This lack of affection has consistently been paired with majority opposition to seeing Charles as Canada’s head of state. At most, in the wake of Elizabeth’s death last year, half (48%) of Canadians supported recognizing Charles as King of Canada. With some distance from the emotions of the Queen’s death, opposition has risen to three-in-five (60%), closer to levels seen in recent years:
The monarch’s role in Canada is multi-faceted and while many oppose recognizing Charles as King of Canada overall, more oppose the individual facets involved. Approaching two-thirds say they oppose swearing an oath to the King (64%) and singing “God Save the King” (64%) at official ceremonies. More than three-in-five (62%) do not want to see Charles on their $20 bills or toonies.
Even among Canadians older than 54, who as noted above profess more enthusiasm for the royals in other aspects, support for these recognitions of King Charles rises to at most two-in-five (38%). Indeed, among all demographics, a majority oppose swearing an oath to Charles and singing “God Save the King” at official ceremonies, and putting his face on Canadian currency (see detailed tables).
Those who were born in another Commonwealth country, or a former English colony, are more likely than other Canadians to support recognizing King Charles at official ceremonies and on currency. However, only in the latter case does support rise to half (50%). Comparatively, fewer than one-third of those who have no connection to former colonies support these various recognitions:
Charles has some big brooches to fill as the monarch following in Elizabeth’s footsteps. More than half (52%) of Canadians believe he’ll fall short, believing he’ll be a worse monarch than Queen Elizabeth. Fewer than one-in-20 (3%) expect him to surpass his mother:
Charles may be the reigning monarch, but it is his wife Camilla who will assume the title of Queen vacated by the well-liked Elizabeth. Traditionally, the wife of a King is known as the Queen Consort, a differentiation from ruling Queens such as Elizabeth II who gain the title through a familial line of succession. Queen Elizabeth said in February 2022 that it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla became Queen Consort when Charles became King.
However, the royal family said that Camilla’s title was only initially Queen Consort to distinguish her from Queen Elizabeth after her death last year. She will be Queen Camilla after the May 6 coronation, a change with some controversy given the origins of Camilla and Charles’ relationship.
Three-in-five Canadians believe Camilla should not be a Queen of any sort, while similar sized groups prefer the titles of Queen (21%) and Queen Consort (19%).
Older Canadians, perhaps with the scandalous headlines of the Camilla-Charles affair in memory, are more likely to believe Camilla should not be called Queen or Queen Consort. More than half of Canadians under the age of 35 agree, but more among that age prefer Camilla be assigned the title of either Queen or Queen Consort:
Charles’ first wife was Diana, the much beloved Princess of Wales. The two divorced in 1996 and Diana tragically died in a car accident in 1997. Charles and Camilla first met in 1970, and rekindled their romance in 1986, when Charles was still married to Diana. Perhaps this history is still influencing impressions of Camilla, which are overwhelmingly negative among Canadians, especially older ones:
Canadians’ general dislike of Camilla is seen in the widespread opposition to recognizing her as Queen of Canada. Two-thirds (66%) do not want to see Camilla become Queen of Canada. Two-in-five (39%) 35- to 54-year-old women support her gaining that title, the most among all demographics:
Beyond feelings towards the individuals, the institution itself is problematic for many Canadians. In recent years, there have been serious questions about the royal family acknowledging and atoning for its roles in historical atrocities such as slavery and residential schools.
While those important questions linger, there is a persistent sense for many Canadians that the royal family are not relevant to them personally (49%) or becoming less so over time (28%). A smaller group, one-in-five (20%), believe the royal family are as important they used to be, while few (3%) see them growing in consequence:
This sense that the royal family is immaterial among Canadians is more common for those with no familial connection to a Commonwealth country or former colony other than Canada. Those who were born outside of Canada in former British entities are the most likely to believe the royal family’s relevance is ascendant:
Women are less likely than men to call the royal family irrelevant to them personally. But across all demographics, the majority opinion is either the House of Windsor’s importance is evaporating or evaporated:
Perhaps on a related note, more Canadians believe the royals reflect outdated values (45%) than modern ones (6%). One-quarter (24%) believe they are representative of both. When compared to data taken last year, there is a growing group of Canadians that believe the royals reflect neither of those values at all (14% vs. 7%):
After Queen Elizabeth’s death, King Charles officially became Canada’s head of state. Given the role is more symbolic than not in modern times, there is a growing movement within the Commonwealth for countries to disconnect from the monarchy. The Caribbean countries of Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis have announced plans to remove the royal family as their head of state. They are following the example of Barbados, which officially became a republic in 2021.
Three-in-five (61%) Canadians believe it is the right decision for those countries to sever ties with the monarchy. One-in-ten (11%) disagree and say those countries are going down the wrong path. A majority of all demographics believe it is correct for the half dozen countries in the Caribbean to move forward without the royal family as their head of state, but older Canadians are more likely to say those countries are making the wrong choice:
Two-thirds (64%) of those who were born in another Commonwealth country or former colony say it is the right choice for the Caribbean countries to sever ties with the monarchy. A similar proportion of Canadians who identify as visible minorities agree:
The calls for Canada to end its connection to the monarchy have come in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death. In October, the Bloc Québécois brought forward a symbolic motion in the House of Commons to cut ties with the royals. BQ leader Yves-François Blanchet described the monarchy as “an anachronism” and “a coat of paint in a living room that is starting to fade in the corners.”
Half (52%) of Canadians agree with the BQ motion and believe Canada should cease being a constitutional monarchy. This belief has grown since April 2016, but has been at a similar level in the recent years. One-quarter (27%) disagree and believe that Canada should be a constitutional monarchy for generations to come:
Blanchet’s home province of Quebec is the most likely to want Canada to sever itself from the British royal family at two-thirds (66%). One-third (34%) in Ontario prefer Canada continuing as a constitutional monarchy, the most in the country but still a minority opinion:
Canadians with familial connections to other Commonwealth countries or former British colonies are more likely than others to say Canada should continue as a constitutional monarchy. However, pluralities among those groups disagree.
Indigenous peoples and those who identify as visible minorities are more likely to want Canada to sever ties with King Charles than Canadians who do not identify as such:
Whether or not Canada continues as a constitutional monarchy is the country’s decision. However, the current system of government is enshrined in Canada’s constitution. The process to change that foundational document is difficult and would likely raise other long-standing concerns. Given that changing the constitution requires approval of the House of Commons, the Senate and each of the provincial legislatures, the likelihood of Canada moving on from the monarchy has been described as “somewhere between none and zero.”
Still, most Canadians (88%) who want Canada to sever ties with the monarchy believe changing the constitution is worth it even if it is difficult. Overall, more than two-in-five (45%) Canadians want the country to open the constitutional Pandora’s box. One-third (33%) believe the best course is to stay a constitutional monarchy for generations to come.
Men over the age of 54 (52%) are the most likely to believe it is time to reopen the constitution to sever ties with the crown despite all that entails:
Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-reigning monarch in British history and had been so since 2015, seven years prior to her death. She was also the second-longest reigning monarch in world history. His mother’s preternaturally long rule meant Charles served as heir-apparent for an extraordinary long time. He is the oldest monarch at age of ascension at more than 73 years old.
As shown with his favourability above, Charles’ familiarity bred contempt within the Canadian public. The new heir, Prince William and his wife Princess Catherine, however, are viewed with much more favour, especially among those who wish Canada’s constitutional monarchy to continue for ages to come.
However, that positivity is not nearly as pronounced among those who wish Canada sever ties with the monarchy. In that group, as many view Prince William positively (36%) as negatively (38%). Princess Kate is viewed slightly more favourably than not (41% vs. 29%):
The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from April 10-12, 2023 among a representative randomized sample of 2,013 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.
For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.
For detailed results by respondents’ familial connections to Commonwealth countries and former British colonies, and by whether they believe Canada should continue as a constitutional monarchy, click here.
To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.
To read the questionnaire in English and French, click here.
Image – Dan Marsh/ Flickr
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