The Monarchy has deliberately resisted attempts to steer it down a show-business path. In so doing it stands as an important counter-weight to the excesses of contemporary culture. Actively engaged in charity and philanthropy, and patron to thousands of organisations, the Monarchy is the supreme champion of civic duty and the voluntary ethic. Many of the causes it espouses and the values it sustains are unglamorous and unfashionable; but this is Monarchy at is best – honouring the many individuals engaged in voluntary work (be it in soup kitchens, delivering meals on wheels, or volunteering in a local museum) and recognising the work of institutions such as the Girl Guides and St. John’s Ambulance. These are the unsung heroes of Britain. Their work appeals closely to The Queen’s own system of values and beliefs.
Through royal visits, the conferral of royal patronage and the bestowal of honours, the Monarchy is able to draw attention to institutions, causes, social needs, visible minorities and deprived groups which would otherwise be neglected by the media and the government. It encourages citizenship engagement in local communities, promotes local initiatives, highlights issues of social, cultural, environmental and spiritual concern. Importantly, the Monarchy is able to achieve this whilst remaining politically neutral. In the modern era, nothing has done more to strengthen the monarchy and make it more visible than its commitment to charitable and voluntary work.
As a champion of civic duty the Monarchy has an important role to play in the Big Society. The notion of national ideals, shared values and a common purpose have fallen out of vogue, with the responsibilities of citizenship overwhelmingly subordinate to its entitlements. The Monarchy leads by example; its charitable work and the causes it supports are vital to the promotion of civil society, social cohesion and national identity.
The Monarchy has never been more relevant to society and more finely in-tune with its needs. The Prince of Wales has a particular appreciation for, and understanding of, many of the issues facing contemporary society: environment, agriculture, education, inter-faith dialogue, architectural heritage, urban regeneration and the built environment, youth projects.
The Monarchy’s future requires it to continue to remain politically neutral whilst engaging even more with society. The Monarchy must be seen and be seen to do good.