My republic-monarchy mash-up may greet you as stuck on the fence, strange, or maybe even absurd; though this is only due to the archaic nature of the current status quo. Let me start by stating that I do not dislike the Monarchy. I am not an anti-monarchist of Mark McGowan‘s Artist Taxi Driver‘s type. Even though the Monarchy have links to Freemasonry, with too many Royal Masonics about to facilitate denial, I do not seriously engage with the hairy goat-legged Queen parody. Despite approving of the humorous imagery, the allusion to collusion, and ironic political counter-demonisation, Queen Elizabeth II has been a rather nice constant throughout my life. I have seen her transformed from a middle aged mother to an aged great-grandmother. I have witnessed her beautiful young portrait on a crisp £1 note reconstructed to become the old worn profile on £1’s worth of discoloured brass-nickel alloy. Up until I sought to understand the truth beyond the dogmatic fairy tale, and even now to some degree, the Queen and monarchy seem to be rather benign and inconsequential.
It is probably true to say that my personal level of indoctrination to monarchism is far more acute than that of religion. From the photographs in the family album of my little fingers grasping a miniature flag at the Queen’s silver jubilee to Private Hitch’s denouement of a Victoria Cross in ‘Zulu’ it seems the sensation of the old empire did a real number on me. My youthful questioning regarding my grandfathers’ grieved silences about WWII received the old chestnut “All what they did, whatever they did, they did it for King and Country.” As a child it seemed more appealing to fight for a tangible king, or Queen in my case, than it did to fight for the abstraction of a ‘country’. Maybe watching all those black and white films during school holidays round my grandmother’s house set the scene for my imagination. “Protect the King!” drummed home, even when the portrayed monarch was a tyrant. Like the ex-theist’s absurd idée fixe of a god’s judgement, I feel stuck with the spectre of royal necessity. Despite being an atheist, and a firm rejector of dogma, the fantasy of monarchy still gives me volume, and overt hypocrisy, when vicariously singing ‘God Save The Queen’.
So with all this, and more besides, republicanism is entering my thoughts more and more. It seems the only stumbling block to my committing to republicanism is the prospect of a politicised alternative. I suppose the Queen could be regarded as conservative when you consider her adherence to tradition, but she definitely does a good turn at liberality when you hear the disjointed guff she conveys year after year at the state openings of parliament. Yet, those proto-politics only seem endearing irrelevancies when you contemplate the prospect of a monarch with a clear political party affiliation. When I look at presidencies around the world they do not really fill me with the confidence that a better democracy would follow the Monarchy’s abolition.
The current constitutional monarchy is like a systemic love-in where the population of the Commonwealth are only invited to be voyeurs. We British are led ignorantly to believe that the Queen represents us through the old ritualised ‘election’ farce that is the Coronation. ‘The servant of the people’ is a myth. In the Coronation Oath the monarch “… swear[s] to govern the Peoples… according to their respective laws and customs…”, which basically means according to the government, judiciary, and Church of England. What do the Church of England’s customs hold for a Humanist like me? And what governance does the monarch have beyond ceremoniously rubber stamping every law approved by parliament? Well, the Church of England is a collectivist organisation, but on the grand level they are only interested in maintaining their privileges e.g. the ability to appoint bishops to the House of Lords to affect laws; and the monarch’s so-called governance only comprises a perpetual deferment to parliament that maintains Royal privilege.
In the post previous to this I inventively alluded to the weirdly sinister nature of the oaths taken by parliament, the judiciary, the Church of England, the police, and the armed forces. They all swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch, and to varying degrees each other. But, with all the oaths and affirmations they swear none are unambiguously sworn to the people. This more, or less, results in a democracy where none of the people’s representatives actually commit themselves to serving the people. So where is the democracy? An elected government minister can act against the people with no weight on their conscience. The police can prevent the protestations of a nation with no contrition. The judiciary can deny freedom to an individual with apathy and detachment. The army could even kill their own countrymen whilst ‘just’ following orders. Some of these may seem far-fetched, especially the latter when you consider the reverence currently offered to the armed services, but they have no direct commitment to the population. They are all only committed to the narcissistic machinations of a privileged clique; namely the monarchy, government, and the judiciary.
What I favour is reworking. A Coronation Oath without the episcopalian and religious input would be a good start. Dogma, no matter how innocuous it may seem, will always produce ambiguity. The rest of the oath can remain the same, albeit with the important addendum that the people take precedence over the government and judiciary in the hierarchy of committal. Nevertheless, the Monarchy is inconsequential. Let them and their descendants continue to shake hands with other heads of state. Let them sit in their special boxes at sporting events. Let them claim their expenses. Let the country sing to their long life. Let them collect flowers outside hospitals. Let the Church of England clergy swear their oath of allegiance. But, parliament, the judiciary, the police, and the armed forces must affirm their allegiance to the people; and the people only. How else can we believe in a commitment to the people until they all actually make that commitment?
Not wanting to be presumptuous, as I am sure better resolutions than my naive offering must exist, but if the proposition proves unworkable a republic is what there must be. For the sake of the precedence of people the current hangover of the Restoration must be cast aside in favour of the Republic. Though, I really hope progression would be favourable to an unsentimental divorce of Monarchy from State. It is people that make a country. It is people that make a society. A monarch is what you put on stamps and sell to tourists. Change is needed.