What I Think About The Monarchy

Big discussion in the office about the wedding. Mine, obviously.

Also lots of talk about the wedding that took place today.

I’m English (by birth, I guess I should now write), and I find the idea of the monarchy sickening. While the huge majority of people in the UK support it, there is a growing belief that it should be abolished.

There are many arguments for why the monarchy is a good thing, but most of these can be easily debunked, and all of them are overshadowed by the simple archaic injustice of having a person given wealth, privilege and power just because they are born into a particular family. To me, it’s wrong, and should be changed. And in a lot of cases, the argument really just comes down to that.

My Mum was a big royal-watcher. I was waving a plastic flag in the crowd when I was five and the Silver Jubilee procession came through town. Since then the thought has been growing that this isn’t right.

Here are some of the arguments, and my responses. I’m no political scholar, or experienced debater, and this list is not complete. You could say, “Ah yes but…” to most of these points. It’s just my take, as has evolved over the past few years.

They help tourism.

People do come to the UK to visit the famous Royal sites – but how much of that is to see a particular person or family? France has no Royal Family, but it still has amazing palaces and sites. There is a long list of royal tourist attractions that do not depend on having a functioning monarchy. Not to mention the endless list of attractions and institutions which have never depended on the monarchy.

They don’t have any real power.

Oh yes they do. It’s vague, and rarely used, but there are various ways in which the unelected monarch can exercise power.

It’s tradition.

Tradition is rarely the best reason to do anything. A civilization progresses, a lot of traditional things are being left by the wayside, and rightly so. I hope that in the future, we can look back and say of the UK monarchy, “That was wrong, glad we stopped it.”

They help trade.

Andrew Windsor supposedly helps with trade delegations, except that recently leaked documents show that he is more of a liability, and he has a bit of a dodgy reputation which could damage UK interests. So no. And don’t get Prince Philip started on foreigners.

They work hard.

So do nurses, soldiers, engineers and everyone else. Working hard is not a reason to be given extraordinary privilege, or to avoid having that privilege taken away. William Windsor is a search-and-rescue pilot – good for him. His grandmother does a lot of visiting and public appearances – but this is only useful because she is the monarch. Her mother visited a bomb site in the 1940’s – woop-te-do. Ditto charity work – it’s almost like they should be applauded for selflessly doing stuff they’re expected to do.

A colleague told me that William and Kate asked that wedding gifts be in the form of charitable donations. That’s good, but I think this was the only reasonable way to do it. If they hadn’t, there would have been an outcry (albeit one that was drowned out by cheering).

What’s the alternative?

The exact alternative? To be decided. But the current situation is wrong, and should be changed. That’s what it comes down to.

Would you want President Cameron or Premier Blair?

Some people might. That’s democracy for you. It would help if AV went through. I don’t want charismatic figureheads running things – I want an efficient government that uses evidence to decide policy. Perhaps we could keep a figurehead, but remove any trace of power from them.

But you’d get a politician in charge.

What the hell does that even mean? Rather a politician with experience of the system and making deals than someone who was born into the right family and is used to getting their way in everything.

Change would cause chaos.

There would certainly be a lot of change that would take some time getting used to, and it would have to be done in stages. It need not be “chaos”, and anyway, the current situation is wrong, and should be changed. I can’t imagine people running through the streets screaming, “But who’s in charge?!”

Don’t like it? Leave.

Irrelevant. The current situation is wrong, and should be changed. There are many people in the UK who think the Monarchy is a relic which should be shut down. Should they all leave? Should this political movement be ignored, or worse, stamped out?

Yes, I now live in the US. My view is now the common “outside view” that people get when they leave their country of birth. The nauseating sugar-coated coverage of the Royal Wedding that’s everywhere in the US puts one fact into sharp relief – if someone tried to establish a Monarchy in the US, it would never be accepted. People would simply not stand for constitutional hereditary privilege. Yes, there is a class gap, and there are wealthy dynasties with power and money, but that is also the case in the UK.

Put it another way – if there were no Royal Family in the UK, and one family with money and influence tried to step forward and claim that they were in charge, and the political system had to be changed to make them the top dogs, they would be laughed down.

Another colleague put it well. Americans love the UK monarchy, and all its history and glamor, but they would hate to live with the consequences.

I wish the couple well, and hope their marriage is a long and happy one – not because of their position or status, but because they are people too. But no matter how magical the occasion, and how true and pure their love, the fact remains that they are part of an institution which is based on hereditary privilege, religious discrimination, sexism and racism. No amount of pomp and circumstance, or cheap soap-opera dramatics will make up for that.