Britain's Royals Roll With The Times

A look at the royal family in the 21st century.

ByABC News
December 10, 2008, 12:45 PM

LONDON, Jan. 29, 2009— -- During 56 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II has had 11 Prime Ministers, visited 128 different countries, launched 17 ships, and sent roughly 37,500 Christmas cards.

The majority of us cannot remember life without the Queen.

"She is essential to being British," 74 year-old, Ann Campbell from Edinburgh, told ABCNews. Reverence towards the Queen is by no means unique to Britain, or to the countries she reigns over, she commands respect wherever she goes.

The prominent members of the British monarchy span three generations: the Queen, her son Charles, and her grandsons', William and Harry.

Bridging the generation gap, Charles, the Prince of Wales, celebrated his 60th Birthday on November 14. Being the first in line to the throne is no easy position: "The Queen is an incredibly difficult act to follow," Sky News Royal Correspondent, Sarah Hughes, told ABCNews.

But Charles, once seen as fuddy-duddy, is finally achieving respect. At the age of 40, his marriage with Diana, the Princess of Wales, was breaking down amid rumors of infidelity. At 50, just a year after the death of Diana, there were still a huge amount of raw emotions surrounding the Royal Family.

Now, Charles has been able to marry Camilla, his former mistress; and his interest in homeopathy and climate change has proved to be pioneering. He is enjoying success in The Prince's Trust, which helps underprivileged youths; in his entrepreneurial feat, the organic brand, Duchy Originals; and in having raised the Princes, William and Harry, as a single father.

It is William and Harry who generate the real interest, and adoring fans. Like father, like son, the Princes are the nations' most eligible bachelors. Groups, such as facebook's "I'd Marry Prince Harry....and Prince William" are brimming with members eager to take William's advice and imagine him naked (at a charity launch last year this was the Prince's tip to a nervous speaker). Their polo-playing, jet-set lifestyles – textbook pastimes for princes - appeal to some, but not to all.

Indeed, in this age of equality and meritocracy, the survival of a hereditary monarch is pretty incredible, or, as republicans would say, abominable.

One anti-Royal website, has the motto: "They're overpaid, inbred spongers, that's why it's only a matter of time before they're Throne Out." A more formal option,, simply reads: "Campaigning for a democratic alternative to the monarchy". Republic has specific targets, such as, "BBC your Royal reporting is biased and deferential" and "Royal Finances: calling for transparency and accountability".