This year Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, or so is afforded her by the Royal Titles Act of 1953, will become 90 years of age. Today, Dr Anna Whitelock made bold claims to suggest that after Queen Elizabeth eventually expires we will see the end of the monarchy in this country. Her claim is based upon the idea that affection for the monarchy lies with the personage of the Queen herself and in the aftermath of her death a “constitutional crisis” will erupt. The eventual result: the United Kingdom will become a republic and we will no doubt have to lose the ‘Kingdom’ title as well. She also believes that with the death of the older generations the monarchy will cease to be relevant any longer. Is she correct?
People often ask the probing questions of “What is the purpose of the monarchy?” and “Why can’t we elect our own Head of State?” Having passed through the Reformation in Britain, the Cromwellian Protectorate and the Age of the Dissenters, the Killing Times in Scotland and then the eventual Enlightenment we consider ourselves to have shed the yoke of barbarism and to have accepted the mantle of Whig Liberalism. Into the nineteenth century we saw the great tumult of Industrialisation and the reaction of the Luddites, the birth of the Chartists and collective bargaining, and then eventually the arrival of Socialist thought. Through all that, post Restoration, this country had a monarchy. Through all the glory, and destructiveness, of the British Empire this country had at its head a hereditary monarch. Should that continue?
The Whig view of history coupled with Leftist demeanour might argue that the monarchy will eventually render itself complete useless and an archaic and anachronistic institution. As the monarchy is at this present time, headed by a woman who was in the flower of her youth during the 1950s, we might argue this to be the case. However, the argument that a Republic is unquestionably more suited and more representative of the people as a whole is a claim wholly unfounded in reality. As it stands we have three simple options, amongst others:
- Continue with the monarchy in its current from – better the Devil you know.
- Take a Burkean or Fabian approach to affairs – based upon Empirical investigation.
- Advocate an immediate societal shift away from the current model – Revolutionary ideal.
It is clear that society in its current form and the monarchy in its current form have their shortcomings. However, this is more based upon the quality of characters who govern these institutions. An immediate, what we will call, ‘revolutionary’ shift away from the current model is also paved with uncertainty. The path has not been trodden and a such we are unsure that it will yield the results we so desire. A Republic guarantees an elected Head of State but it does not remove the current hurdles which plague the political sphere today namely a lack of worthwhile engagement with the populace and a drive for egotistical improvement on the part of politicians. We bemoan the election of our own Prime Minister let along what we might say electing our own Head of State. The Constitutional Monarchy can really have no interest outside of maintaining its own ceremonial and philanthropic position in society as it is. It does not seek re-election so it has no message to broadcast other than to be a viable and cohesive Head of State. The Burkean approach may yet be the answer.
Edmund Burke was an Irish eighteenth century conservative and sought to introduce change based upon one single philosophy: Empiricism. Thus he was against the French Revolution in the form that it appeared because it caused such great changes to society for which it had not prepared itself and thus it resulted in almost a century of upheaval and bloodshed. Burke and his Leftist equivalent, the Fabian Society, sought to usher in change through small and concentrated changes based upon what was guaranteed to succeed rather than theory.
The monarchy in its current form is bloated and prone to too much excess – rather than being a scourge of the oligarchs and social immorality it merely sits back. This is not down to the monarchy itself – decades of anti-monarchical sentiment and political correctness have rendered the monarch without the right to have an opinion. The monarchy must make itself more relevant in a modern United Kingdom. A republic would have the same challenges to face and the assumption that it would not is based upon this Whig view of history – an uncalculated one. The view that we tend towards a more enlightened and free society assumes very little of human nature – there is no final victory. Human nature itself is the very thing we are trying to overcome. Look around the world and we see gross abuses of ‘Human Rights’, the environment and wealth and you realise that the Whig assumption has made people complacent against their own nature. The monarchy is not the issue but the monarchy must make itself worthy of its place – wealth will not do this.
Societies will always have an establishment. Soviet Russia and Maoist China lapsed very quickly into having an establishment with the only difference being that this was the ‘Revolutionary Establishment’. We no longer have nation states small enough to enact societal changes based on Classical philosophy or agrarian anarchism – we must make do with what we have. The nation states of today are far too big to enact great localist democratic policies.
Even if the monarchy chooses not to prick up its ears and listen to the clamour outside ridding ourselves of it immediately would result in a farce. Politicians would clamber over anyone to have the right to lead this country. If this country truly mourns the loss of its empire and its greatness then it must make itself great again by making itself relevant. The monarchy can be part of that change or they run the risk of being forced out by those who think they know better.
Image credit: flickr.com/lac-bac