The Monarchy In Britain
A brief guide
What Excuses Do the Monarchists Offer?
The wildest excuse for the existence of the monarchy is that "it interprets the nation to itself!" If that is so, we are a dysfunctional people, who lack the confidence needed for self-government, and prefer inherited status to success achieved through talent and hard work.
The monarchy also is commonly said to be a unifying force.
This argument is in part based on the idea that a head of state who is not elected is, therefore, non-partisan. An elected president, it is said, would not have the support of those who voted for another candidate. She would be unable to act as a unifying force therefore. This argument has always lacked force for republicans in particular as they are necessarily alienated by an hereditary head of state. Monarchist law bars them from parliament, the judiciary, the police and some military posts.
What credibility was left for this part of the monarchist case was eliminated in September 2002 by none other than the heir to Britain's chief public office, Charles Windsor. It was revealed that he had been making determined efforts to use his status as the monarch's son to persuade the government to change a number of its policies to match his beliefs. He had taken partisan positions on such issues as human rights laws, government regulations and the proposed ban on hunting foxes. The idea that as head of state when his mother died he would united the people of Britain as no politician could was shown to be invalid.
Monarchists have also claimed that the monarchy holds together the nations that make up the United Kingdom
Monarchical Britain has in fact been coming apart at the seams for some time. Scotland has successfully demanded its own parliament and may be moving towards independence. Wales has a strong nationalist movement. And Northern Ireland spent many years until recently in a state of near-war because of the desire of many of its people to unite with the republican majority of Ireland. During the weekend of queen Windsor's 2002 jubilee celebrations her most loyal followers in Northern Ireland were rioting and shooting at the police.
Learning from Europe
Those who wish merely to reform the monarchy often point to the low keyed monarchies of continental Europe as models for the Windsor family. One such European royal family is that of the Netherlands.
The hopes of the reformers were undercut a little in February 2003 when scandal hit that family. Fred Lammer, a biographer of the Dutch royal family told the Independent that "This is all a nightmare come true; for years the Queen prided herself on avoiding the type of thing which has so damaged the British monarchy. Now it seems the skeletons are being rattled and, if anything, what's emerging here is even more damaging."
What had emerged, in a feud between Queen Beatrix and estranged family members, are accusations that the queen had ruined their livelihoods with a sustained campaign of slander that involved the use of the courts. So-called Princess Margarita, niece to the queen, alleged that Beatrix was a tyrant who had ignored and insulted her and her husband because she disapproved of their marriage. Margarita’s husband said that he had been the victim of "psychological terror." He described the queen as drinking excessively and falling asleep at her birthday party. The couple also say that their home was bugged and their mail intercepted by the Dutch intelligence service.
The lowest argument that the monarchists use is that when the monarchy is abolished Britain will lose tourism revenue. They offer no evidence for that. Since there is no reason for the tourist attractions associated with the monarchy to close when the Windsors are sent packing, there need be no fear that tourists will go elsewhere. In fact republics are just as able to draw visitors to their historic sites as are monarchies. Indeed, they have the advantage of being able to open the palaces to tourists and put on show the treasures that now grace the royal homes.
There really is no need go without fully democratic institutions in order to attract tourists.
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