In the last two decades historians have been increasingly interested in the modernization of the monarchy, and the nature of the republican threat. This review evaluates some of this recent literature. The first section argues that while Walter Bagehot's views about ceremony in The
constitution (1867) have influenced historical writing, these approaches do not yield much information about what the monarchy actually meant to people. The second section turns to the political powers of the monarchy, and examines the wide range of views about what the constitutional limits of royal power were. It also shows that even radical writers were often unable to dispel the monarchy from their imaginations. Finally, the review suggests that criticism of the royal family was not necessarily republican, and arose more from concern that particular figures were failing to conform to shared public values. Pure republicans were few, and did not usually focus their energies on the monarchy, but rather on the nature of parliamentary representation and the power of the Lords.
1 I wish to thank Joanna Lewis, Andrzej Olechnowicz, Miles Taylor, and Philip Williamson for their helpful comments on this review.