By Jake McNeill
For Modern Britain
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”
Do the Windsors have a future as the most popular tourist attraction in Britain,
and, oh yeah, as the patron monarchs of Britain? Yes they do. The Royal Family makes a priceless contribution to Britain in many ways. I will discuss some of their major contributions. The Royal Family provides continuity and a stability in an ever-changing unsure society. The Royal Family provides glamour and a face to a dull and sometimes boring and stuffy political arena. The Royal Family also doesn?t interfere in politics, but lends tone to it. Most of all, Britain?s Royal Family is a guarantee of their national identity, who or what could replace that?
First of all, the British have more history on their little finger than any other country that can be thought of, and the monarchy is a living testament to that. In most people?s minds the idea of Buckingham Palace brings to mind Shakespeare, Dickens, and Chaucer. The British people have no bill of rights or constitution to rely on, and is thus based on inherited rights and privileges. The monarchy is a large part of British heritage. To abolish the monarchy, although Oliver Cromwell had tried it, would be to really trash the whole system that has been going on for centuries. Some would argue that it is dragging down the nation, but I disagree. They aren?t involved in politics directly and still Head of State and Defender of the Faith, because the nation has an official religion. And again I ask, what would they replace it with?
Tourists from all over the world flock to Britain just to see the changing of the guard and other Royal activities. I included, have been to England to see all the “Royal Tourist Traps”, as we lovingly refer to them. At any rate, the revenue generated from tourism alone is enough to justify keeping the monarchy. They are the number one tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, as well as the rest of the world. Disbanding them would hurt the United Kingdom as well as outrage tourists.
Since the signing of the Magna Carta, the monarchy has been gradually passing down the power of rule. Today the monarch does not take part in day-to-day politics, but chooses to stay neutral. The monarch is not powerless, as is often thought (and is often true in many other countries with monarchies). Here, for example, are things that HRH Elizabeth II or her ministers may do as an exercise of the royal prerogative, without choosing to make themselves accountable to the Commons or to voters (1):
1. Make orders in council
2. Declare war
3. Make peace
4. Sign and ratify treaties
5. Grant pardons
6. Grant charters
7. Confer charters
8. Confer patronage appointments
9. Establish commissions
10. Select and appoint Prime Minister
The list on the opposite page shows that the monarchy is not all glitz and glamour, but does retain some responsibilities, though hardly ever exercised. Realistically, we probably won?t ever hear a monarch declare war without first consulting someone, but it can be done within the confines of the British political system.
The monarchy is something you do not find in presidential governments. The monarchy is something that a presidential government, like my native United States, could use in some capacity. The Royal Family are the goodwill ambassadors to the world from Britain, and thus perform all the diplomatic ceremonies that you would otherwise see a president performing, thus freeing up the real policy makers time to work on other important issues and still give spectators an entertaining show. With all the functions required of a head of state, it is a wonder how they can even find time to study the political issues that face them, let alone carry them out effectively. It will, in effect, make the Prime Minister Tony Blair, more actively involved in politics, more accessible to his constituents, and free up his time to be more read-up on the political issues at hand. The Royal Family takes the burden off the Prime Minister so he can tend to the affairs of the state. Most anyone would prefer to shake the hand of a member of a Royal Family member than Tony Blair?s anyway.
Many of these things – red telephone boxes, unarmed “bobbies”, unending courtesy – are now just a few of the tourist attractions in England that people just flock to see as tourist items, rather than realities. There is one item of England that remains unaltered and really proves a point about the future of the monarchy. Neither the English nor their foreign fans know quite what the full name of the country is. Most nations all have an agreed name. But we do not know whether this nation inhabits England, Britain, Great Britain, or whatever. I, for one, never found out what the real of this country is until I saw it stamped. It is the one name that I have never used to name this country– The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Try saying that three times fast, or writing it as your return address on an international letter! It is the word “kingdom” that is my point. It lends the tone of royalty. The British actually define their country and their society as, first and foremost, a monarchy!
The monarchy can be found in all parts of British life. The ruling party forms Her Majesty?s Government and the opposition makes up Her Majesty?s Loyal Opposition (1). The right people speak Queen?s English. The Queen?s Peace is kept, at least as far as the defence of the realm goes, by the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force and a number of royally commissioned regiments. No letter can be mailed without a stamp from the Royal Mail with a picture of, who else, Her Royal Highness. Even Beer and other products bear the slogan “By the commission of HRH Queen Elizabeth. You see what I am getting at. It would be nearly impossible to remove the monarchy, and who would want to?
Probably the best part of the monarchy is how it always raises morale and it always is there when you need it. Take Elizabeth II, for example, who comforted the United Kingdom in 1991 during the gulf war:
“It seems to me there is one deep, overriding anxiety for all of us, on which we should reflect today. That is the threat of war in the Middle East. The service men in the Gulf who are serving Christmas at the posts under this threat are very much in our thoughts.”(2)
Not to mention how she heeded the call after the death of Princess Diana, almost too late say some of her critics. Even looking back on World War II, when people were telling the Royal Family to get out, they stayed. Not only did they stay, but they surveyed the damage regularly and comforted families when they needed it most. The Royal Family doesn?t think that they are “too good” for the commoners, otherwise they wouldn?t have done that. They aren?t the rich neighbours down the street, they are your country embodied, who serve you twenty four hours a day for the rest of their lives. Take for example what Queen Elizabeth said of this recently:
“I don?t think that you can stay in London all the time. You have to visit other parts of the country to either find out what is going on or to try to encourage people in different areas, some of which have unemployment, some of which have new factories. I think that the possibility of meeting more people is very important.” (2)
The monarchy, especially in England, will trumpet on in the 21st century, just as it has in the past nearly 1000 years before now. It will continue to be a thriving tourist attraction and still have a small place in politics and have a place in the religious aspects as the “Defender of the Faith”.
There are other monarchies in the European nations, and it is true that England?s is a little more expensive, but it has a more splendid nature, and most importantly, IT EARNS MONEY AND TOURIST REVENUE! Who knows who the Kings or Queens of Scandinavia or Holland are? I know I couldn?t point them out in a line up if they walked up to me and announced who they were!
The late King Farouk of Egypt once predicted that by the end of the 20th century, there would be only five monarchs left in the world: The kings of England, hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades(2). With over 25 monarchs left in existence today, he was wrong about 24 other countries, but not jolly old England.
Partridge, Ben. Can Monarchy Survive in the 21st Century? www.rferl.org:80/nca/features/1999/02/F.RU.990222142810.html
Date accessed: 26/02/99.
Note:all references are noted by the number listed.