With the formal coronation of King Charles less than two weeks away, a new survey suggests Canada’s new monarch could have a tough road ahead when it comes to winning over Canadians — and support for his wife, Camilla, appears even weaker.
Though the May 6 event is likely the first coronation many Canadians will have a chance to watch themselves — the last one was when Charles’s mother, Elizabeth II was crowned 70 years ago in 1953 — the number of Canadians who say they’re looking forward to watching the event is small.
A new poll from the Angus Reid Institute suggests most respondents (60 per cent) oppose even recognizing Charles as King. Just 28 per cent say they have a favourable view of Charles, while nearly half (48 per cent) do not.
And the news is equally bad when it comes to how they feel about Charles’s wife.
Following the death last September of Queen Elizabeth, there was much speculation and debate about what Camilla would be called with Charles becoming King. At first, she was Queen Consort, a title the late Queen endorsed before she died. But when the invitations to the May coronation were sent out by Buckingham Palace, she was just Queen Camilla.
“During the period of mourning, there was potential for confusion if the [title] Queen was used to refer to both the late Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Camilla,” Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris told CBC News earlier this month.
“With the coronation, there is only one King and Queen, Charles III and Queen Camilla.”
That clearly doesn’t sit well with some Canadians.
Two-thirds (66 per cent) of respondents to the Angus Reid Institute survey said they’re against even recognizing Camilla as Queen of Canada. A majority (60 per cent) say she should not be referred to as “Queen.” Only 21 per cent think she should carry the title of Queen, while 19 per cent said she should be referred to as Queen Consort.
“Canadians are fairly unequivocal around their views of whether the monarchy represents a modern institution, and indeed an institution that they wish to see sit at the top of Canadian law, politics, constitution for generations to come,” Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, told CBC News.
“And the answer to that is no.”
Support for the monarchy down
Support for the monarchy overall in Canada has been on the decline, and lowest in Quebec.
In this latest poll, more than half of respondents (52 per cent) said they don’t want Canada to continue as a constitutional monarchy for generations to come, and of them, the vast majority (88 per cent) said they’d be fine with opening the constitution to break the ties. In Quebec, 66 per cent of respondents are against Canada remaining a constitutional monarchy.
Overall, 45 per cent of respondents said they’d support opening the constitution to sever ties to the monarchy, while only one-third (33 per cent) think Canada should remain a constitutional monarchy for generations to come.
Perhaps not surprisingly, then, tuning in to the coronation isn’t necessarily at the top of Canadian to-do lists.
While a majority of those who responded to the survey (59 per cent) said they’ll pay some attention to the May 6 coronation, only nine per cent said they’re really looking forward to it. One in five (20 per cent) said they might tune in for some of it, while 29 per cent said they may read about it, but really aren’t that interested.
Kurl said these numbers would have those at Buckingham Palace feeling uneasy.
“It’s not as though Canadians are in the streets preparing to protest against the monarchy, but the amount of ambivalence and the ‘meh’ factor in Canada — which represents a very significant country within the British realm — it would be fairly concerning.”
It comes down to relevance, Kurl said.
“There’s less and less connection to the monarchy among Canadians than there was 70 years ago, when the Queen herself ascended to the throne and became monarch. At that time Canada was a country with extremely close, both cultural and familial ties to the United Kingdom … Today, Canada’s demographics are vastly different.”
Greater affection for Queen Elizabeth
While Canadians may never have felt great affection for Charles, they did embrace his mother, right up until the end of her life.
Angus Reid Institute surveys from around the time of her 96th birthday one year ago found 63 per cent of respondents said they had a positive view of her, and 59 per cent said they would be saddened by her death.
But none of her potential heirs — including Charles’s son, Prince William — are as popular.
Only three in 10 told the Angus Reid Institute they view Charles positively (28 per cent), and more than half (52 per cent) believe he will do a worse job than his mother as monarch. About one in five (21 per cent) think he’ll do about as well as his mother, while only three per cent think he’ll do a better job.
Robert Finch, chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, told CBC News it’s not surprising the transition is facing some challenges, given that the monarchy and Queen Elizabeth became essentially inseparable from one another during her long reign.
He believes that over time Canadians will come around to supporting Charles like they did his mother as they learn more about him.
He cited some of the initiatives Charles undertook as prince.
“Things such as reconciliation with Indigenous people, working with young Canadians and their entrepreneurship, the whole environmental movement — I mean, Charles was an environmentalist long before the green movement became mainstream,” Finch said.
“Those are Canadian values that people would look at and say, yeah I can relate to that.”
According to the poll, Prince William and his wife Catherine are seen more positively than Charles, but still fall short of the support Elizabeth garnered. Among Canadian respondents overall, 53 per cent have a positive view of William while that number is 56 for Catherine.
However, among those who said they don’t support Canada continuing as a constitutional monarchy, support for the couple dropped to 36 and 41 per cent respectively.
Of note, though, is that among those who said they support Canada remaining a constitutional monarchy, far more have a favourable impression of William and Catherine (83 per cent support for each) than for Charles (62 per cent) or Camilla (43 per cent).
The Angus Reid Institute surveyed a representative randomized sample of 2,013 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum online from April 10-12, 2023. A probability sample of this size has a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.