Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Public holiday reading: the Queen’s Birthday

What explains the fascinating and “strange persistence of monarchies”?

Where faith lies? (darkday/Flickr)
Where faith lies? (darkday/Flickr)

Publishing will be light on Monday for the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in Australia (the present occupant on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II, was actually born on 21 April). By coincidence of timing, this holiday follows soon after the decision by the new Labor government to appoint for the first time an Assistant Minister for the Republic, Matt Thistlethwaite, pledging to “start to think about what comes next for our country” as the Queen “comes to the twilight of her reign”.

Australia’s republic debate has been in cold storage since a 1999 referendum failed to garner support. But as the republican issue gradually thaws, Dennis Altman’s recent short book God Save the Queen: the strange persistence of monarchies makes for fascinating reading if you’re looking for a weekend distraction.

Altman doesn’t limit his exploration to Australia or the United Kingdom, but looks at monarchies around the world, particularly in Asia, from Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei and elsewhere. “Why do they survive?” he asks. Grandeur, emotional attachments, faith in a person to stand outside politics. Or to put the question another way, in light of the recent effort to topple the British PM, “would a President Boris be worse than a Prime Minister Boris?”

The Interpreter will be back with normal transmission from Tuesday.

You may also be interested in