For Britain to truly govern its own affairs, it must cast off the shackles of Monarchy

29 May 2014

A government minister makes comments that cause international outrage: he is fired. If the PM did this he would likely resign. Prince Charles does this and he is only warned to not speak out on matters of ‘public controversy’. Many were angered at his comments; some even called for his abdication. However, the really issue is not what Charles said about President Putin, but why what one man said matters so much. After all, he has no political power. If the Monarchy is not unnecessary, then why does Britain hold onto it? Perhaps now, in the wake of Charles’ comments, republicanism can begin to grow.

 

Monarchism is a medieval and outdated concept that does not fit in with today’s increasingly secular and egalitarian society. It seems a hypocritical standpoint to support a Monarchy whilst championing equality and promoting equal rights. The British Monarchy is not symbol of ‘Britishness’, it is rather a ludicrous anachronism that has no place in today’s society. For one thing, the Monarchy isn’t the core of national identity that a lot of British people seem to think. The ‘British’ Monarchy are of German heritage. Until the 1917, the British Monarch’s name was ‘Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’. It was only changed to the more British sounding ‘Windsor’ by George V because of the war against Germany. The Monarch, who relied on family history to keep him on the throne by means of hereditary succession, turned his back on his heritage to maintain popularity. 

The Monarchy is unelected, yet wields political power that MPs- democratically elected for the people, by the people- can only dream of. The reigning Monarch gets to meet with the Prime Minister of the UK every week, so as to spread their influence into politics. They are an embodiment of anti-democracy. They are supposedly representatives of the people of the UK; however, the people have no say in their appointment. They are also an embodiment of a time gone by in British history; Divine Rights, class systems and unearned and extreme wealth and power- all inherently unjust concepts we should be casting off, not embracing. The Monarchy is even exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (2000) so the people, who they represent, can’t find out what goes on behind the closed doors of the palace of tyranny. 

The Queen has been exposed before. In 2010 it was revealed that the Monarchy requested some of the £60 million grant set aside for poverty stricken families to heat the palaces and residencies of the Queen. This was turned down, fearing a public backlash. Also, the Queen is the owner of the seabed surrounding Britain, so takes in considerable sums in grants for offshore wind farms. This seems unjustifiably unfair. Farmers who own fields where onshore farms are being built do not receive anything even remotely similar to that received by our unemployed Monarch.

There is also a common misconception that the Queen brings in a substantial amount of money from tourism. The history of the Monarchy and the architecture that was produced for their benefit is of undeniable significance and attraction. Yet it is the architecture that brings in tourists to the UK, not the slim chance that they might see the Queen from a distance. The UK currently ranks number seven in the world for tourism, with roughly 35 million people flocking into the country every year. It is not just the Monarchy that accumulates that sort of tourist intake. The Peak District, Cotswolds and Cornwall are all massive contributors to the tourist industry. Removing the Monarchy would not even dent our national income. France is number one in the world for tourism, with nearly 90 million visitors per annum. It has no Monarchy. It merely has the empty palaces of a bygone era. Turkey, the USA and Italy also rank higher- without Monarchies. The palaces of France are great tourist attractions, but when you look at the UK, the Monarchy is not the central pillar. Just looking at London, the Queen is not the main attraction. The London Eye, Tower Bridge and Big Ben are all key parts of London’s tourism heritage. The top five of attractions of British tourism are all museums. The Royals do not even break the top ten. Are they really as invaluable to the British tourism industry as we have been led to think? Of course not.

The Monarchy costs the people. The Queen alone costs £30 million a year, not including security and contingency measures. The taxpayer pay this; pay for an undemocratic, unelected leader whilst our armed forces fight abroad to depose ‘despotic’ governments. Whether or not it’s agreed that democracy is the way forward, it cannot be allowed for this hypocrisy to stand. The Royal Wedding cost over £30 million to put on. It’s estimated that the combination of the Wedding and the Jubilee cost the British economy £10 billion. This is of course unacceptable.

The charity work that the Royal Family perform is of course well appreciated. However, what is the difference between a Royal and an ordinary citizen performing an act of charity? It is not a requirement that one must be a Royal to do work for charity, so why is their charity work hailed as so admirably different compared to regular citizens of the UK? None of the UK’s top ten charities have the title of being ‘Royal’, so removing the Monarchy would not lead to a drop in donations. The charitable work of the Monarchy is held so highly, yet is largely irrelevant.

Of course, the Monarchy’s removal would leave gaping questions that are challenges to fill. Issues such as the housing of the ex-royals, their pensions, security, the House of Lords, the Commonwealth etc. all would have to be addressed. However, these aren’t impossible to overcome. If the people of Britain want to live in a fair and equal society where democracy gives power to the people, the removal of the Monarchy is essential. This week, anti-EU party UKIP won the European elections in Britain, showing people’s desire to govern themselves, not be dictated by a distant pseudo-democracy. The people of Britain want to abide by their own laws; to be governed by their own elected officials. The Monarchy is a barrier to this desire, and a barrier to the development of democracy in the UK. The citizens, not subjects, of the UK need to be freed from hereditary inequality, and need a future that disposes of the medieval tradition of a Monarchy. 

By Rhys Cahalane

 

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