Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Royal Question

Last week I was asked by a Facebook friend for my views on the Monarchy.  I dutifully gave a short answer with a promise of a longer response to be posted here.  This is that answer.
Actually, the question cropped up at an opportune moment as I had been running through my addled brain some ideas of where, if at all, the Monarchy would fit into The Enlightenment Project’s political group’s discussions.  I am not exactly a fence-sitter on the subject of the Royal family, despite not really liking or disliking them.  I personally think that they still have a place in British society; I just think that it is not the same place that they have held in the past.
I will probably surprise some readers with my belief in the need Britain has for the Monarchy.  They bring a great deal of tourists to the UK, being only one of a small handful of Western countries that still has a monarchy, and the UK needs the revenue that such tourist trade brings in.  However, more than this, Britain needs to keep the Monarchy for the link to its own history; for good and for bad, the Monarchy is inextricably linked with everything the UK has become.  Monarchs have given a true sense of majesty to this country’s history and have even brought about changes in the way religion was observed.  Was it not Henry VIII who gave us the Church of England to get around the tricky subject of divorce when the Pope refused to grant him one?  Without Henry VIII, England, at least, would be a Catholic country and our unwanted troubles with Ireland would never have occurred; a whole generation of British citizens could have had much less eventful lives, free of the fear of terrorist bombings by the IRA.
The other obvious advantage of keeping the Monarchy is the fact that we would otherwise be in the inevitable position of having a Presidential-style leader.  Would many people want to visit here if we had President Cameron, for example?  I would hazard a guess that the answer would be a resounding no.  Yes, it is true that we are, in fact, ruled by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers but the Queen is our figurehead leader and her family, for good or for bad, are our constants in an ever changing landscape.
The Queen is also the UK’s most respected and hard-working ambassador.  There is no party political agenda behind her as, regardless of her own political views, she acts in a non-partisan way; it would be difficult, if not impossible, for her to act in any other way with the regular changes in the administration of Government.  Queen Elizabeth II is respected by world leaders around the globe and it would be ridiculous to divest ourselves of her now.
That said, however, there is a real need for the Monarchy to change, especially in these times of austerity.  The Royal family is a drain on the public purse despite having some of the richest people in the country in their ranks; this is hardly fair on the poor and middle income families who are struggling to make ends meet.  One example of this financial drain is the £10,000 or so spent on decorating the university dorm of Prince Andrew’s daughter.  Why could she not have gone to Homebase or some such DIY supply store and buy some paint with some of her father’s cash?  I want my house redecorated but I am pretty sure that the public purse will not pay for it.
It is time for the Royal family to live off the riches they have stored away and the income from their business ventures so that the public funds they currently receive goes to the people and institutions that need the money.
There is a compelling argument for getting rid of the Monarchy and that is the fact that most of the Royals are now more of an embarrassment to the UK than a positive.  In fact, Queen Elizabeth II is probably the last of the truly ‘royal’ Royals.  She conducts herself with dignity, quite a mean feat considering the constant embarrassment doled out by her children and husband.  The Queen is someone who would probably have made an excellent ruler in the absence of an elected Parliament, someone you could look up to as a role model, but sadly that was never on the cards.
The change that the Monarchy must undergo is one of instilling the regal-ness and majesty that is currently lacking in the younger members of the Royal family, especially those closest to the throne.  The high jinks that Prince Harry gets up to may be quite normal for a young man of his age but are quite out of the question for a young man in his position; his mistakes, easily swept under the carpet by an ‘ordinary’ person, make headlines and erode the respect we should have in ‘our’ Royals.  All Royals should be groomed, as was Queen Elizabeth II, into the roles for which, one day, they may be called.
If the Monarchy is to remain a part of British society, they must start to live on their private funds and regain the respect they once had in the past or forever remain buried there, an anachronistic institution.
Until next time…

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