By Imogen Bole
There are so many fabulously British things about this little island: crumpets, battered fish, The Beatles, and, of course, the Monarchy. Except these are not all fabulous. My qualm, however, is not with crumpets or the battering of goods or a certain 1960s pop band, but instead with our crumbling royals.
Culturally, we have gained much from the Monarchy: music, architecture, the Church of England (which was formed by a monarch). And think how little material Shakespeare would have to draw upon without the historical turbulence of royal succession. However, having both a democracy and a monarchy is a sociopolitical paradox. Ending the hereditary right of peers to sit in the House of Lords was a step in the right direction, but still there lies a discrepancy at the helm. Whilst we have Queen Elizabeth on the throne we may be happy to overlook that contradiction, but will we feel the same way with Charles?
Having both a democracy and a monarchy is a sociopolitical paradox
Most of the arguments against the abolition of the monarchy are focused on the tourism it brings to the country. Americans lap up the pomp and ceremony of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, making their ridiculous stereotypes of all Brits living like the Granthams at Downton Abbey an ostensible reality. With the gradual attrition of the once-rigid class system, however, all that fanfare and pageantry is merely perpetuating the myth of an outdated social structure, which most of us fail to identify with. I imagine Windsor Legoland sees far more British visitors than Windsor Castle.
It is fair to say that the Queen reigns but does not rule. Her role is merely symbolic and is required to do no more than inspire awe whilst suppressing opinion, which she does very well. My concern lies more with her son. With a penchant for ‘putting his foot in it’ by writing to government on political matters, Charles is far from neutral. When I think about this deeply unfashionable institution with Charles at the helm, I cannot help thinking that we would be better off scrapping this ‘Divine Right’ malarkey and electing someone we might actually respect.
I imagine Windsor Legoland sees far more British visitors than Windsor Castle
There are those who argue Charles should abdicate and the Crown should skip a generation, but if we’re going to deviate from the age-old structure of monarchical rule because we think he’s a bit of a nitwit, why bother? It may as well be anyone. And my vote’s with Attenborough.
Without a codified constitution, the Queen maintains her prerogative powers, including the right to appoint a PM, summon and dissolve parliament, and to take us to war. These prerogatives are upheld in a customary and conventional sense rather than a legal one, and though she chooses not to exercise them, it doesn’t mean a future monarch will do the same.
This engagement will result in the silencing of a once-ardent campaigner for humanitarian issues and gender equality
Even the general public are becoming disenchanted with the increasing ‘normality’ of the royal family. Under the mourning veil that shrouded the country on 31st August 1997, Tony Blair referred to Diana as the ‘People’s Princess’, which, although it offered comfort to the public, revealed the incompatibility of monarchy and modern society. When it was announced that Prince William would be marrying a ‘commoner’, all kinds of social snootiness was stirred up, even though Kate’s upbringing was far from ‘common’.
And now, even with Harry and Meghan Markle’s long-awaited proposal, it is still not the beginning of a new and all-embracing society – despite what the tabloids may want us to believe. The union has been publicised as a symbol of the monarchy making positive strides towards tolerance and integration, but it will nevertheless result in the silencing of a once-ardent campaigner for humanitarian issues and gender equality. And so the monarchy’s professed progress in one area is immediately cancelled out by its constitutional obligation to bridle progress in another for no reason other than archaic tradition.
This is not a call to arms. There’s no immediate cause for concern. Rather this is an invitation to consider phasing them out. Still, I’m not holding my breath for Prince George’s coronation.
Photograph: Ted Eytan via Flickr and Creative Commons