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Posted at 6:32 PM ET, 12/21/2010

An 'early coronation' for Prince William?

By Autumn Brewington

Since Prince William and Kate Middleton became engaged last month, publishers have rushed books on the royal couple into print. I'm excited about this but also wary.

A USA Today report on "William and Kate: A Royal Love Story," by "longtime royals watcher" Christopher Andersen, says the book "suggests Queen Elizabeth II might give up her throne early, thus moving up Will and Kate's turn as King William V and Queen Catherine."

Andersen, the article says, cites unnamed palace sources as saying that the queen "has agreed to at least consider stepping aside early" so that William's father, Prince Charles, "could become king at a reasonably young age." Prince Charles turned 62 last month. The queen is 84, and her mother lived to 101.

The penultimate paragraph of this story is an amusing -- if unintended -- play on British understatement: "If it happens, it would be big news, especially for the British, long accustomed to believing that the queen would never retire or abdicate before her death."

The queen is indeed unlikely to ever step down or aside from the throne. She became heiress presumptive and later sovereign because of the abdication of her extremely popular uncle, King Edward VIII, in 1936. The immediate aftermath of the abdication was a dark period for the monarchy, and she saw up close the strain it put on her parents, the new King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Addressing the British Commonwealth on her 21st birthday, then-Princess Elizabeth said (I've bolded the key phrase):

"There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors - a noble motto, 'I serve'. Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the Throne when they made their knightly dedication as they came to manhood. I cannot do quite as they did.

"But through the inventions of science I can do what was not possible for any of them. I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple.

"I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."

The queen's dedication and that of her 89-year-old husband, Prince Philip, are unquestioned. It's part of the reason that when questions arise about the future of the monarchy, the debate is often framed as what will happen after her reign.

By Autumn Brewington  | December 21, 2010; 6:32 PM ET
Categories:  Kate Middleton, Media coverage, Prince William, Royal family  | Tags:  Autumn Brewington  
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