The long weekend is over, the party done with and the bunting can go back in the box until the Platinum Jubilee/King Charles III’s coronation – whichever is earlier.
Whilst I didn’t personally do anything to celebrate – painting walls and ceilings doesn’t count – and chose to avoid watching any of it on the tellybox with the exception of the concert, I’m well aware that plenty of people had a good time at parties. Others watched the flotilla from the banks of the Thames in typical British Bank holiday weather and yet more filled The Mall to watch the concert on Monday evening. It seems that those who did something had a good time and I’m not going to rain on their parades.
Generally though the whole thing passed me by – mostly through lack of interest rather than because of any particularly strong feelings on the matter.
From the outside, the Monarchy seems to be a gilded cage – and thus not something I would envy those born into it or those who choose to marry into it. I imagine that it can be a thankless job at times, especially when you are attacked in the media by politicians, comedians and various lobbying groups who know that you are unable to publicly retaliate.
With the current Monarch it is easy though to forget that when she was born she was but the eldest child of the second in line to the throne – easily displaced by a younger brother should her parents have had one or any issue from her uncle, the then heir. If her uncle hadn’t abdicated it is probable that she would have spent her life as a minor royal, with much the same status as her sister’s children have today.
As for the so-called cost, this doesn’t bother me as the ‘public’ money to fund the family (with the exception of the heir to the throne and their family) comes from the Crown Estates* which is a property portfolio owned by the Crown but whose revenue is surrendered to the Treasury. In return an annual grant known as the Civil List is paid. This will change come 2013 when the Civil List is replaced by the Sovereign Grant, the size of which is initially set at 15% of the profits made by the Crown Estate. This is expected to be about £34m in the first year, estimating the size of the Estate at approximately £227m. I make that a profit to the government of almost £200m.
Say though that the Monarchy in this country does come to an end. How would we fulfil the role of Head of State instead?
If we are to stick to the tried and tested model as used in many other countries then this means a President. But which type? Do we take the American** model where the elected Head of Government is also the Head of State or the Irish** model where the elected Head of State is a constitutional figurehead?
Say we take the first approach. Do we elect someone above the Prime Minister or do we simply make the PM the Head of State? For the former a constitutional upheaval to split out the executive from the legislature would appear to be needed. With regard to the latter, it must be remembered that we do not elect a Head of Government but rather the leader of the largest party is invited to try and form a government. If this isn’t possible, others may also be asked and if a government falls or a PM resigns an election is not always necessary. The hullabaloo in some quarters which surrounded the appointment of Brown as PM showed that this has either been forgotten or that it will not be tolerated any more. Imagine then if that happened for a Head of State, not just a Head of Government? Add to this the thought of (depending on your political allegiances) President Thatcher, President Blair, President Brown or President Cameron… ***
What then about the second approach? The political class would no doubt try to fill the position with their own people but given the general disgust with which they are held in this country the turnout would undoubtably be small. The other option would be a non-political figure but with the way the British public is at present I’d suspect we’d end up with either David Beckham or a dancing dog…
With all of that in mind, am I a Republican or a Monarchist? Given the choice I think I’ll stick with the latter. That doesn’t mean that I think that the Monarchy is the greatest thing since sliced bread but rather that the current alternatives – as I see them – are likely to be worse.
** Obviously there are other examples of both.
*** Note, I’m not an constitutional lawyer and am approaching this purely from what little understanding I do have. Feel free to shoot me down.