Queen Elizabeth the Last
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has put in a fine performance as our sovereign for the last 70 years. She is certainly in the top three English monarchs of all time but it’s time for something new.
Her Majesty was gracious and noble, happy and glorious and she reigned over us for a very long time. It’s appropriate that we give her the dignity of a splendid funeral and the appropriate respect and gratitude for her long and splendid reign.
It would be inappropriate to criticise her reign before her funeral has even been conducted and before the nation’s grief has turned to remembrance. In any case, I have no criticism to share.
However, this post is not about Queen Elizabeth. It is about the institution of the monarchy and whether it is appropriate for wealth and power to be handed down from mother to son, generation after generation. I believe it is corrosive to the ideals of democracy to allow Charles Windsor to inherit such power as a result of an accident of his birth.
Several journalists have said that it is inappropriate to question whether we should hand over the controls of the Ship of State to an unelected monarch at this time. The BBC neglected to even acknowledge that it might be an issue. Meanwhile, Charles has taken over as Head of State without debate in parliament or discussion in the Privy Council or any public debate. He was confirmed as King Charles III without even a vote in the Accession Council. His £20m per year income estate was passed — without inheritance tax — to his eldest son. If we can’t criticise it now, when can we criticise it?
I think we got very lucky with that lovely lady who lived in the palace at the end of The Mall in Westminster. Elizabeth’s 70 years of grace and wisdom have blinded us to the possibility that not all monarchs might be so wise. Perhaps Charles will prove to be wise and gracious too (although his outburst at his inauguration does not bode well) but what if it were not Charles? What if it were King Andrew reigning over us? What if nazi-sympathizer Edward VIII had kept the fancy hat that Kings wear? What if the next king is a baby? Would we still be so royalist?
Whenever I bring up these objections, someone always claims that it is better to have the Royal Family representing us than a politician like, say, President Trump, President Macron or (gulp!) a future President Johnson. Of course, an executive president is not the only alternative.
Many countries have an elected, ceremonial president — something like the Lord Mayor of London — who gets to ride around in a fancy coach and greet visiting dignitaries without having any political power at all. Germany, Italy, Israel and Ireland manage perfectly well with an elected, non-executive Head of State. We can too. Perhaps Charles could stand as a candidate in the election.
The second questionable claim is that the Royal Family is a source of tourist income. Perhaps they do bring in some tourist income, but not as much as the French with their Palace of Versailles and other vestiges of the royalty that departed 140 years ago. Imagine how much money we’d bring in if we converted Buckingham Palace to an Airbnb.
Finally, the people who claim that tradition requires us to continue to accept a hereditary monarchy might consider that tradition once also required us to accept slavery and denied the vote to women. We fixed those abuses against democracy. We can fix this one too.
As we consider the best way to choose our supreme ruler, we might think about replacing the current monarchy with one of those furry mascots that run onto the field before sporting events in America; something like San Jose Earthquakes’ mascot, Q, or Sharkie who leads the San Jose hockey team with dignity and grace. The children would love this and it might engender a new respect for our beloved nation. It would be entertaining for visiting heads of state too.
I think Paddington Bear would make a great candidate or perhaps a cuddly Beefeater to remind us of past glories. Maybe we could rotate between much-loved children’s characters like Noddy and Captain Pugwash with annual votes to choose the next one. It’s a little bit ridiculous to be represented by a furry character but no more ridiculous than the current fancy dress party where old men with funny hats reign over us from golden chairs.
PS. Can we get rid of that awful anthem while we are here? Maybe we can have Elton John write us another version of Candle in the Wind instead.