OPINION: This week New Zealand is hosting the man who one day will become the King of England.
When he ascends to the throne occupied by his octogenarian mother Queen Elizabeth II, he will also become New Zealand's head of state.
It's fair to say that the latter point will be of secondary importance to Prince Charles, but from our perspective it is an issue which is bound to assume increasing importance.
Opinion is divided on whether we continue to need a head of state whose only qualification for the role is one of birthright. There is a constant call from some that when the Queen's reign is over, our constitutional ties with the royal family should be severed.
As a small, isolated country half a world away from Britain, our ties with the "home country" are not as strong as they were after two world wars.
An increasing number think the time has come for a New Zealander to become our head of state.
Whether that call is increasing in volume is dubious, however. New Zealanders have a genuine affection and respect for the Queen.
Every time she tours here huge crowds flock to get a glimpse of the most famous woman in the world and there is no doubt the bond between her and her loyal Kiwi subjects is a strong and enduring one.
The genuine fondness felt by many towards her is something that Charles, and his second wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, have yet to capture.
During Charles' apprenticeship of 60-plus years, we have witnessed his marriage break-up to Lady Diana, shared the sadness of her death, and watched Princes William and Harry grow up without a mother.
What is not in dispute though is the institution of the monarchy. That has stood the test of time and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton only enhanced that.
New Zealand this week has the opportunity to appreciate the slightly eccentric charms of Prince Charles and his wife.
As the successor to the crown, it is probably unfair, albeit accurate, to note that his reign will be substantially shorter than Her Majesty's. Within 20 years or so it is likely that Prince William will become King William, and with the Duchess of York by his side the two may well rejuvenate the throne.
While opponents may well point to a perceived diminishing popularity, it's interesting to note the protocol that members of the royal family should not visit us during an election year.
Prince William is an avid rugby fan, and was reportedly desperate to attend the Rugby World Cup here last year.
Plans to do just that were quietly scuttled, and given the performance of the English rugby team that was probably a blessing for the young prince.
But for now, we will just enjoy the week with the prince and the duchess.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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