Saturday, 20 November 2010

Do we need a Monarchy?

You may not have noticed but there was a wedding announcement in Britain this week. Two extremely rich and privileged young people have decided to get married and the news upstaged a political summit, an economic crisis and a flood disaster. The announcement was only eclipsed by the father of the groom shocking the public by telling an American journalist that his wife (a divorcee!!) will probably one day be Queen.

Yes, I’m talking about the Royals - an increasingly endangered species living in a luxurious, media infested, cage. Kate Middleton, the future HRH Princess William of Wales has just said goodbye to freedom and all the things we ordinary mortals take for granted - she can no longer pop out to the Co-op for a loaf of bread, drop into Harvey Nicks for a latte and she will have to drive around with an armed member of the secret service in the passenger seat of her car. Kate will also have to put up with tabloid newspapers criticising her hair, her choice of clothes, her relatives and the amount of money she and her husband spend.  Even her wedding isn't really her own to plan.  And the image of the groom's mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash while being pursued by photographers, will cast a big shadow over what should be a very happy, personal event.

Personally I think the caged Royals should be released into the wild. They have personal fortunes large enough to ensure their survival and they could lead normal celebrity lives, have normal opinions and make normal mistakes without the general public getting on their tabloid horses and complaining that the Royals should live on some unrealistically high moral planet because they are paying for it.

There is no logical place in a modern democracy for any kind of hereditary power. Make no mistake - the Queen still possesses a lot of constitutional powers - the fact that she doesn’t make much use of them is not the point. A lot of her powers are exercised by the government of the day without reference to parliament in a very undemocratic way. When I hear that legislation has been passed ‘By Order in Council’ (the Queen’s privy council) it sends a chill down my spine.  The Queen has wisely chosen not to meddle personally in politics, but her successor might make a different decision and there is nothing in the constitution to stop them. The consequences could be disastrous.  Look at it this way, with a President you can vote a new one in every few years - with a monarch you might have to wait 50.

When I was in New Zealand, the Prime Minister stated that when the Queen died, NZ would become a republic. He thought the Queen was quite a nice person, but didn’t like ‘the rude old Duke’ or the prospect of Prince Charles, who was always making gaffes . Australia has also indicated it wants to go the same way.

One of the main arguments for monarchy in this country is that it brings in loads of money for tourism, but not having a royal family hasn’t stopped countries such as Russia or France making a mint out of their empty palaces and royal art collections. Wouldn’t people pay more to see around Buck House if they could see all of it?

I’ve nothing against the Royals at all - I just want them to be happy and I think they’d be a lot happier let loose in Celebrity Land. The queen could spend time with her horses - the real love of her life - the Duke could be rude to whoever he wanted to without causing a political storm - Charles could spout his mouth off about architecture and eco systems and no one would make any kind of fuss. They could all spend millions on booze and betting (as the Queen Mother apparently did) and it wouldn’t be anyone else’s business.

And, best of all, two young people could get married just as they want to and have a life of their own without us peering at them through the cage bars.  Does anyone out there agree with me?

8 comments:

  1. Yes, yes, yes. Bring on the republic. I've nothing against the Royals personally and sometimes feel sorry for them since their lives are lived in the arena. Monarchy belongs to the past.

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  2. I love the political edge to your posts. I find the whole RW thing embarrassing. It infantilises us all. As you say, we have to be sorry for the whole lot of these poor, somewhat limited emotionally imprisoned royal folks, born to bring (they say) surrogate colour and glamour into our boring little lives. See you soon.
    wx

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  3. Somehow down this end of the world the Windsors should seem less relevant. Yet we cling to the Queen too.
    The scary thing our government WAS rolled by the Queen (or at least her representative in Oz) in 1975.

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  4. Well, amen to all that. The late Claire Rayner, an ardent republican, once said that we're grown-ups now so we really don't need fairy princesses and all that nonsense. Nor curmudgeonly princes, come to that. But as to the likelihood of the UK taking the first brave steps towards becoming a republic, I can't quite see it happening and certainly not as long as the media keeps churning out royal-related drivel and fuelling people's appetite for it.

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  5. Perhaps, but then the Royalty might just like it. The masses might have masses to debate about their likes/dislikes, cagedness or freedom, but they seem to still go on. The countries the royals took over, and put their stamp on them still go on paying tribute to a non-existent monarchy. In my humble opinion, they do provide a lot of entertainment if nothing else. In Nigeria the government blames everything on the British, and the common man follows suit, at the same time raping the English language and twisting it around their braids.

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  6. Dear All - many thanks for your comments. I think 60goingon16 put her finger on it when she said 'fairy princesses' - perhaps there's something in us all that loves fantasy. Words also said 'they provide a lot of entertainment'. There does seem to be agreement on their political role though, or rather the idea that they shouldn't have one! Thanks to all of you for your contributions to the debate - it's one that going to be more and more important in the future I think.
    Words - I'm really intrigued by your comments on Nigeria. I lived out in West AFrica for a while and I have to say I felt a big chunk of British Colonial Guilt for what has happened out there. We British have a lot to answer for in the world - but it's not US, it's our inheritance. We live with what our ancestors did and their view of the world. Sad, but inevitable.

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  7. It is an inheritance, and I see many expats here trying to come to terms with it in odd ways. There are those who still have anger resonating within and treat their staff with ruthless disregard, and then those who pay way over the norm disturbing an existing system, leaving their employees gasping when they leave. It is a difficult inheritance, somewhat like a crumbling mansion, you pay towards its upkeep, and you want to break it down to make way for new buildings.

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  8. That's a really good metaphor. That's exactly what it feels like.

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