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LES ECHOS

A French Lesson For Britain’s Royals

Editorial: Don’t be fooled by all the popular craze around this week’s royal wedding, says Le Monde. The British monarchy desperately needs to remake itself for the modern, multicultural world.

Queen Elizabeth II and Princes Philip, Charles, William (Rob Moment)
Queen Elizabeth II and Princes Philip, Charles, William (Rob Moment)

When Prince William marries Catherine Middleton on April 29 at Westminster Abbey, the British monarchy will have refreshed itself by welcoming a commoner within its ranks. This new member, it is hoped, will boost British interest in the Crown. But beyond the jolly atmosphere surrounding this royal fairytale, a pressing question remains: should Great Britain maintain its antiquated monarchic system, and under what conditions?

Surveys show that 70 percent of the British public say that they have no interest in the wedding. Where does this indifference come from, given that Queen Elizabeth II has never been so popular and that the republican movement has reached a nadir?

Efforts to modernize the institution, which were launched in the aftermath of Princess Diana's tragic death on August 31 1997, have only partially borne fruit. Ethnic minorities and most young people do not recognize themselves in this monarchy, even if it is more "middle class' than noble. People find its lack of interest in meritocracy shocking. The institutions associated with it – aristocracy, the army, the Anglican Church, central power – have far less influence than they once did. The media have efficiently killed most of the deference the monarchy once commanded.

Her Majesty's subjects are now British and European Union citizens. The Commonwealth – the former overseas family – has become nothing but a relic of the past, under the stronger appeal of the United States, European Union or developing countries.

Her "kingdom" has undergone an incredible transformation since Queen Elizabeth II rose to the throne in 1952, but the monarchy she heads today still embodies a white, Protestant, and imperial United Kingdom. Whereas the country is increasingly multicultural and each day less Christian, Britain's dynastic system continues to represent an England of the past, an England deeply attached to its conservative values, hierarchy, the division of the classes (or even castes, one might say), and to the privileges enjoyed by the aristocracy.

Thanks to the Windsor family's incredible capacity to adapt to internal and external changes, their power has been left largely unscathed by the blows dealt during the Thatcher and Blair eras. But, as the Queen's husband, Prince Philip himself once said, the survival of the monarchy still depends on the approval of its subjects. During the 20th and 21st centuries, a number of royal dynasties have disappeared without a trace (the only restoration was in Spain). The royal race is not eternal.

The institution must today reinvent itself – the fact that the kingdom has had its fair share of drunken, debauched or deranged monarchs without the survival of the system being seriously compromised means nothing today. This is what distinguishes the monarchy system from the republican one.

This is why this transformation needs a deep reform of the country's institutions, one that brings about greater democracy: a written Constitution, full separation of Church and the State, the abolition of the remnant prohibitions affecting the Catholic minority and direct elections of the members of the House of Lords.

Read the original article in French

photo - (Rob Moment)

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Searching For Marianna, A Pregnant Doctor From Mariupol Held Captive By The Russians

We’ve heard about the plight of the soldiers-turned-prisoners from Mariupol. Here are some traces of the disturbing fate of a young female doctor who’s been taken away.

A paper dove reads "Mariupol" at a shelter for displaced children in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine.

Paweł Smoleński

"Wait for me, because I will return…"

Marianna Mamonova wrote these words to her family, among the text messages and short phone calls that are the only remaining fragments used to piece together her recent past. We also have a photo of her, posted on Russian websites, where she looks into the lens, gaunt and exhausted, signed with a number like a concentration camp prisoner.

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Until the Russian-Ukrainian war, Mamonova’s biography was available to anyone who wanted to know. She was born in 1991, studied at the Ternopil Medical University, and later at the Kyiv Military Academy. After completing her studies, she was sent to work in the coastal city of Berdiansk. Her mother says that this is where her daughter's dream came true: She’d always wanted to be a military doctor, and worked in Berdiansk for three years, receiving the rank of officer in the Ukrainian army.

Beginning in 2014, she’d worked stints as a front-line doctor in the Donbas region, and when Russia invaded Ukraine in February she went to war again. This time in Mariupol.

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