British monarchy – Should they stay or should they go? Yona Oshrat The nurse Jacintha Saldanha was looking after Prince William’s wife Kate – who was suffering from morning sickness – when two Australian DJs called the hospital impersonating The Queen and Prince Charles. Believing the call was genuine she then transferred the call to the ward where Kate was staying where another nurse gave information about Kate’s condition. The nurse found hanged after the hoax call to the hospital – she committed suicide.
The British Royal Family is well known all over the world, partly due to the fact that Britain once ruled large parts of the world, but also because of all the scandals and difficulties that have made bold and sensational newspaper headlines nationally as well as internationally. The Briton’s interest in the Royal Family varies from being totally obsessed by them to being highly ignorant about them. So, the question I pose is whether or not the monarchy has served its purpose and whether or not it is the system of state we need for the 21st century? Should they stay or should they go?
It is the question that has surrounded the British monarchy for years. The issue tends to raise its head during events of major royal significance. I would like to make a few remarks concerning the monarchy in Britain. Firstly, a hereditary monarch representing the society of medieval England is intolerable in a modern democratic state. It represents the high class system in Britain, promoting social division, snobbery, and separating them form ordinary hard working people. Britain will never become a meritocracy, where people are given opportunities according to their ability, not according to their birth, if the monarchy remains.
As long as the monarchy survives, so will the class system in Britain. Secondly, it is unacceptable that the British tax payer should be paying ? 75,000,000 a year to support one of the richest families in Britain (wealth accumulated of course form the people during previous centuries). It may generate income form tourism, but this would increase to unprecedented levels if we were to abolish the monarchy and open up all the palaces as museums, hotels or restaurants. When people are forced to sleep on the streets, we cannot justify spending ? 75,000,000 on a relic that serves no purpose.
Thirdly, the monarchy encourages the continuation and acceptance of outdates traditions and beliefs. Apart from the image we project abroad of an outdated nation living in the past, it is a relic of an age which no person living in Britain should be proud of. The British empire signifies all that is wrong with society. Whilst Britain as a nation prospered and the monarchy lived a sheltered life of luxury, those who created the wealth, the working classes, were forced to live in unimaginable suffering. Is this really an institution we are expected to show loyalty to?
For reasons of balance, I’ll briefly summarize the main arguments put forward by those in favor of keeping the monarchy. First of all, as long as we believe in nation states and so long as we need governing systems to govern nation states, then we will continue to need Heads of State: people who can represent the nation to itself and to the world. A Head of State can provide a personal identity to an impersonal State, and a collective sense of itself. A Head of State who does not owe his or her position to either patronage or a vote can more properly represent all the people.
Consider that a President who has been elected, often by a minority of a minority of the electorate, cannot adequately speak for the people who did not vote for him or her. So, the accident of birth is the best means of appointing a Head of State. Someone who has no party political axe to grind, or special favors to repay to a vested interest. Someone whose allegiance is to the people. Not just allegiance to the people who voted for him or his political party, but allegiance to all the people of the country equally.
Far from being “incompatible” with democracy, a Monarchy can thereby enhance the government of the land. Moreover the annual cost of around ? 37 million is good value for money. In any case, Monarchy is meant to be majestic, yet there seems to be a deliberate move to diminish the majesty of the Monarchy. So long as the Monarch remains a symbol of the nation, then no expense should be spared. A nation which values itself will treat its national icons with prestige and respect. In addition The Monarch is a national icon.
An icon which cannot be replaced adequately by any other politician or personality. This is because the British Monarchy embodies British history and identity in all its aspects, both good and bad. When you see the Queen you not only see history since 1952, when she took the throne, but you see a person who provides a living sense of historical continuity with the past. A living continuity between the past, the present and the future. That’s something that no politician can provide. All politicians come and go, but Monarchy is forever.
With its traditions, its history, its ceremonial, and with its standing and respect throughout the world, the British Monarchy represents a unique national treasure, without which the United Kingdom would be sorely impoverished. The monarchy has existed in its current form since the 10th century. Although the monarch plays only a ceremonial role, having lost all political power, the monarch is still the head of state. This basically makes the case that inheritance of public office is wrong in principle, it doesn’t work in practice, it generates greed and deference and it corrupts those it touches.
More important, is the question of ‘power and politics’. The monarchy isn’t just some harmless decoration, it is the core of the British constitution. It is the source of all political and legal power in this country, it is what allows the Prime Minister to take us to war or to sign treaties without the consent of parliament. It is what enables parliament to whittle away our rights and freedoms without the consent of the people. The Crown is all powerful. It has been placed in parliament. But the PM’s control over monarchical power doesn’t make it any more acceptable.
The Monarchy has sometimes been described as an expensive institution, with Royal finances shrouded in confusion and secrecy. In reality, the Royal Household is committed to ensuring that public money is spent as wisely and efficiently as possible, and to making Royal finances as transparent and comprehensible as possible. Each year the Royal Household publishes a summary of Head of State expenditure, together with a full report on Royal public finances. There is also certain individuals in Britain are stuck in a time warp of jingoism and isolationism.
National boundaries have no relevance in the world, they only serve to prevent progress. The monarchy and national pride is unproductive, and legitimizes (indirectly) racism. Our immediate future is as an integral part of the European Union. However, the monarchy is the last remaining relic to a past where Britain could stand alone, and the last remaining barrier to a future where we most definitely cannot. To conclude, having discussed hereditary monarch representing the society of medieval England in a modern democratic state, the value for money in the British monarchy and the Relevance of the monarchy as an institution.
We can now answer the question, which is deals with whether or not the monarchy has served its purpose and whether or not it is the system of state we need for the 21st century? I’ll briefly summarize the main arguments put forward by those in favor of keeping the monarchy. It serves no function, so it is harmless, it frees the prime minister from pointless ceremonial affairs, leaving him free to govern the country, it acts as a source of national pride and as a source of national loyalty. The biggest supporting factor is of course the fact that no one can agree on an alternative.
Since it serves no purpose, it can do no harm, and so time should be devoted to more urgent considerations. However, I argue that it does a lot of harm, and that the issue needs to be addressed urgently if Britain is to be seen as a modern and influential state. There are a number of options for change. A considerable scaling down of the monarchy could begin to remove the parasitical ‘hangers on’ could begin. A complete modernization to remove political ceremonies such as the state opening of parliament and the audiences with the monarch could begin, with all political functions being transferred to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Or, we could completely abolish the monarchy, reposes the palaces, lands and funds that belong to the nation, and elect a head of state to fulfill the ceremonial position that the monarch currently inhabits. And so it goes on and on. This debate is neither new nor of any particular threat to the present British monarchy. Experts say it is not very likely that there will be a change as long as Queen Elizabeth II reigns. After her death– maybe, but pessimists say there will be no time for any referendum right after her death, which in return will mean: Long live the King.