The Nature of the Monarchy

This story caught my eye on the front page of the Guardian yesterday. A Labour backbencher has filed a report proposing to make changes to the nature of the monarchy which will allow a non-anglican monarch, and put an end to male precendence in the royal heirarchy.

Of course I welcome such changes. The law as it stands is clearly a long way away from public opinion on equality. SNP Leader and First Minister of the Scottish Parliament Alex Salmond reportedly gave this comment.

“I welcome these moves. The Act of Settlement is an 18th-century anachronism that has no place in a modern 21st-century constitution. The SNP first raised the issue over a decade ago, the Scottish parliament united in 1999 to call for this long overdue reform, and I hope the prime minister follows through in early course.”

What very few people seem to be recognising is that the monarchy itself is an antiquated anachronism that has no place in a modern 21st-century constitution. We shouldn’t be looking at reforming the monarchy to fit in marginally better with the values and principles of a liberal democracy, when the principle it’s based on (that of being born into such institutional power and wealth) is totally at odds with them! It reeks of hypocrisy. We should be working on getting rid of the monarchy altogether. My two penneth, anyway.


4 Responses to The Nature of the Monarchy

  1. Tim Mills says:

    Well said.

    Of course, as anti-democratic institutions go, I think the House of Lords is in even more urgent need of reform. At least the monarch has no real power in practice. The Lords do. The unelected Lords – including a contingent of representatives of the state religion!

    Grr. Makes me angry, that a country of (normally) sensible and enlightened folks can have such anti-democratic anachronisms blighting its government. (Of course, my home country of Canada is little better – though at least we don’t have reserved seats for bishops in our parliament.)

  2. grammarking says:

    Don’t get me started on the Lords, Tim. You wouldn’t like me when I get started on the Lords… 😛

  3. Curtis Powell says:

    We should all bear carefully in mind the constitutional safeguards inherent in the monarchy: In England while the Queen occupies the highest office of state; no one can take over the government. While she is head of the law, no politician can take over the courts. While she is ultimately in command of the Armed Forces, no would-be dictator can take over the Army. The Queen’s only power, in short, is to deny power to anyone else. This sentiment was borne out by the actions of King Juan Carlos of Spain who, in order to prevent a right-wing coup personally took control of the armed forces and singly handedly saved democracy in Spain.Winston Churchill one of the greatest democratically elected leaders of all time was of this view

    ”If the Allies at the peace table at Versailles had allowed a Hohenzollern, a Wittelsbach and a Habsburg to return to their thrones, there would have been no Hitler. A democratic basis of society might have been preserved by a crowned Weimar in contact with the victorious Allies….This war would never have come unless, under American and modernising pressure, we had driven the Habsburgs out of Austria and the Hohenzollerns out of Germany. By making these vacuums we gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of its sewer on to the vacant thrones.”

    Second, as an historical fact the loss of monarchies has rarely benefited the “people”. Russia under Nicholas II, with all the survivals of feudalism, had opposition political parties, independent trade unions and newspapers, a rather radical parliament and a modern legal system. Its agriculture was on the level of the USA, with industry rapidly approaching the West European level. In the USSR there was total tyranny, no political liberties and practically no human rights. Its economy was not viable; agriculture was destroyed. The terror against the population reached a scope unprecedented in history. The monarchy is a political referee, not a political player, and there is a lot of sense in choosing the referee by a different principle from the players. It lessens the danger that the referee might try to start playing. Much of modern constitutional theory has been an attempt to, however awkwardly, replace the monarch. An elected President who tries to step above politics, like the French President, is no substitute for a King who has stepped in by right of inheritance. Still less is an active politician, like the President of the United States, a substitute. We can damn the Government and cheer the King.

  4. grammarking says:

    Thanks for the interesting response, it’s refreshing to hear an argument other than “but they bring in so much money from tourism!”

    I agree that a Head of State plays an important role, and it was in part the abolition of the Presidential office by the Nazis under the weak Weimar constitution which allowed such extreme policies to be formed. Where I disagree is that an unelected, hereditary monarch is the best person to carry out that function. I don’t see the logic. Surely it would be more democratic to have a an elected representative with a longer term (perhaps by a more proportional system which creates balance), which can still do the same job. I don’t see much problem with the French semi-presidential system, it seems to be doing well. I do agree that the HoS should be chosen under a different system to the HoG; I disagree that that leaves hereditary monarchs as the only option.

    The main thrust of my counter-argument would be that although in the past (or rather the recent past – many monarchies have a long history of oppression) they have done good things (nothing that an elected Head of State couldn’t do, I might add), they have no democratic mandate to do so. If the elected representatives (ie, the people) choose to do something, a monarch has no mandate to step in, no matter how much they disagree with it. An elected representative would.

    I appreciate that as far as monarchs go, ours is a pretty good one, and never (AFAIR) uses her power. Neither do I suggest that ridding ourselves of the monarchy is an urgent matter we should address immediately (as Tim rightly says, the second chamber should be of more concern). I just think it’s daft to get a splinter out of one eye, only to ignore the log in the other.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: