Ostensibly, much of the republican movement’s ire stems from disappointment that people want a prominent figurehead and enjoy the associated pageantry. But there is little evidence to suggest that abolition would do much to counter the public’s need for these things. In the United States, which has gone more than two centuries without a monarchy, the Hamiltonian conception of the presidency has nonetheless won out. This is in part because presidents have built up the office from within; but it is also because the people have built up the office from without. Were Britain to elect its head of state, would the vacuum really remain unfilled?

Indeed, the prospect of such a vacuum appears to worry those who wrestle with the question of republicanism. In Australia, where the level of support for the monarchy is a relatively low 55 percent, the 1999 referendum on abolition faltered in part because it failed adequately to answer the question, “And then what?” It is all very well to destroy an institution, but with what to replace it? Polls showed that Australians comfortable with breaking royal ties were not as comfortable with the system proposed to replace them.

As the Britons’ enthusiasm for the recent Jubilee demonstrates, while Elizabeth II sits on the throne, groups such as Republic are fighting a losing battle. Seventy-six percent of British citizens support the monarchy — a number that has been almost constant during the incumbent’s 60-year reign.