The wedding between William and Kate in April put the British Royal family firmly back in the global spotlight this year – the
glitz and glamour of the occasion grabbing the attention of newspapers, magazines, and television networks for weeks on end. The interest in the US was, in part, because of the foreign concept of a real life Prince and Princess – a quirky aspect of the United Kingdom that can be stared at and enjoyed without thinking about the politics behind it. Most people in Britain are in favour of the Royal Family, I am very much in the minority with my view – the Monarchy should be abolished.
What do the following countries have in common: Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Grenada; Jamaica; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Solomon Islands; Tuvalu; United Kingdom? All of them have Queen Elizabeth II as their Head of State. The person who represents their country, the figurehead to the world, is an 85-year-old woman whose qualifications for the job(s) were: she was the eldest daughter for her Dad who had no sons – he (King Colin Firth the Stutterer) got the job because his Dad was King and his older brother wanted to marry someone who was divorced – his Dad got the job because his Dad had the job…and so on and so forth, back to some wars fought between York and Lancaster, England and France – you can get a lot of the details in Shakespeare’s historical plays if you so wish.
This is the antithesis of Democracy – France and the United States recognised the tyranny of having a Monarch control the people in the late 18th century, yet somehow in Britain it has survived to the present day. Arguments for keeping the Royal Family are as follows (my comments in italics):
Tradition – Just because the Royal Family has existed for so long, does not mean they should continue to do so;
Would you really want it to be President Cameron/Brown/Blair etc?– Despite the fact I would not, and did not, vote for any of these Prime Ministers in an election, does not mean I do not believe in the process – if a democratic election which you participate it does not have the outcome you desire – at least you have had the opportunity for your vote to count;
It’s a good tourist attraction – Britain does not need to have an active Royal Family to attract tourists. The Tower of London is still popular and that has not been used as a residence for Monarchs for centuries. Plus all the attractions in the country that have nothing to do with Royalty – would people not want to: visit museums; go to the Lake District; or Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland; have a curry on Brick Lane, fish and chips by the seaside, drink a pint in a real British Pub; go on the London Eye; attend shows at the Edinburgh Fringe – would any of these things be less appealing because there was no Monarchy?;
They do not do anything anyway – it’s just a figurehead with no real power – This one requires some expansion;
The fact that Royal Assent has to be granted on every single bill that is passed by the Government at Westminster, shows that the Queen does have real power. Because it has not actually been denied since 1708, does not mean that this potential power over all legislation should be granted to someone, merely because of the family they were born into. A Presidential veto can be overturned by two-thirds of Congress – there is no check nor balance on the power of a Monarch should they deny Royal Assent. In 1999, a bill was introduced to be debated in Westminster that would transfer the power to authorise military strikes in Iraq from the Monarch to Parliament – the Queen signaled that she would not assent to the hearing and it was dropped. It is true that she was acting on the advice of the Government – but it brings up three interesting points. Firstly, why is it the Monarch who still authorises attacks on other nations? This Commander-in-Chief is unelected and unaccountable to the citizens of the country. Secondly, Royal Assent was used as a political maneuvering tool by the Government, therefore there is inherent power in it, even if it has not been withheld in over 300 years. Thirdly, and unrelated to the main argument, this was 1999, four years before the Iraq War started – that invasion was planned for a long time.
Furthermore, The Guardian revealed that Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, has been offered the chance to veto 12 pieces of legislation in the last 6 years, for fears they would affect his own personal interests. A man who has inherited property worth around £700m, the Duchy of Cornwall and countless other castles and estates, is offered the chance to prevent bills being passed that the Governments think would be beneficial to the country – because they might make his personal wealth dip slightly.
There has been very little diversity in the demographics of the 44 Presidents of the United States – white, male and protestant defines all but two (Kennedy and Obama being the outliers). However, there is at least the opportunity for anyone who is born in the United States, to become President. In Britain, this is not the case – you cannot become the Head of State unless you are from the right family, are born first and, until a recent law change, were male (In anticipation of William & Kate’s first child, the leaders of the Commonwealth countries agreed to eliminate the sexist rule that sons ascended to the throne before any daughters, older or younger).
It is long overdue for Britain to be a democracy – and for all of the nations under the Commonwealth umbrella to have self-rule. The House of Lords (the upper chamber of Parliament – made up of appointed and hereditary peers) should be eliminated and replaced with a second elected body, similar to the Senate in the United States. The bicameral legislature would be a separation of powers to a new President, directly elected by the people (no electoral college, which makes the US a Republic, not a Democracy, by the way) and a strong judicial system to ensure that no measures are introduced by the Government which negate the rights or liberties of British citizens. Of course, this is not a revolutionary idea – or at least, it is not any longer – it was in 1787 when the Founding Fathers provided the framework of the Constitution.
Somehow, Britain has still not embraced this concept of democracy and maintains the Royal Family and worships their majesty. Not me – Kings and Queens should be for the history books, Princesses should be for Disney movies.