Should we abolish the monarchy?

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Yes – Patrick Wilson

A view I take: Kim Kardashian has done more to deserve cultural status than the Queen has. Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s an unfair comparison. On the one hand you have a woman who’s done nothing to warrant her position, accruing fame and wealth for seemingly just showing up at events in odd outfits and marrying another cultural regent to match her unearned prestige, and on the other, you’ve got Kim Kardashian.

Kim K attained her stature (mostly) with a sex tape. The Queen? Being born. Same for any royal, bar those marrying in. And as the Queen hasn’t followed Kim’s example (to my knowledge), at least Kim’s done something towards validation.

Feels disrespectful, doesn’t it? Talking of the Queen like that. But it’s only felt because of centuries of subservience from us lesser people, us royal subjects, to a family whose blood is better, divinely touched. I have no beef with the individuals. They’re all benefactors of some sort, but that’s not the point. Lovely and altruistic or villainous and greedy (see: history), they’re royal: privilege due to parentage. Is there a clearer symbol of social immobility than that?

So the Queen, during my final exam of final year, visited Lancaster. Four emails I received: “Bus routes are being shut, factor in more time for travel, no exceptions if late.” In short, a superior human is arriving, change your plans. And though it pragmatically meant nothing, and though she probably is a nicer person than me, it’s microcosmic: those trying to get somewhere based on their work and merit are secondary to a family to whom the concept of merit doesn’t apply.

Yet, all public opinion polls show royal support. It’s very on-trend to love thy monarch, like dungarees or Hitler Youth haircuts. Even the dead monarchs. Even the dead-so-long-Shakespeare-wrote-a-play-about-him one, who reigned for two years and was found under a car park in Leicester. People trotted the globe to ‘pay their respects’ to Richard; this wasn’t historical intrigue, this was royal adoration. If those same people, when watching Loki’s speech in the Avengers – “You were made to be ruled. Is this not your natural state?” – didn’t fervently agree then they’re hypocrites who should be put to death. Only joking. We’ve stopped that now. But ‘paying respects’ to a rubbish King? It’s vogue.

I disagree with the main monarchist arguments. First is that they’re doing a service, and we might be sympathetic toward their unconventional life. The self-evident solution: relinquish their ‘service’, giving them a ‘conventional’ life. Elected bodies and charities are already mostly equipped to take over. Second is that they have no real power. So why keep them? Why gift a powerless family a chunk of the economy? Why, in Austerity Britain, was the Queen awarded a 5% pay rise in 2014? Why are royal refurbishments publicly subsidised, when (notwithstanding mammoth personal finances) opening Buckingham Palace to the public for two months in 2013 raised £11.6 million? Ask the bloke down the street to help pay for your second kitchen. Follow the royal example.

Argument three: they bring in more money than they take. Again, not mentioning the cost of the 2012 Jubilee to the taxpayer (oh, okay, have an extra million, from an annual £32 million to £33 million), tourists aren’t actually coming to ‘see the Queen’. They’re coming for the history: the palace, the crown jewels… These things aren’t going anywhere, and nor should they.

The economics of the situation isn’t separate from the principle. All men are born equal? Forget it. We celebrate the concept that “some people are born better than others”, and prove it by paying. As long as we have the monarchy, whose apparent raison d’être is anti-democratic and anti-meritocratic, the idea that all men are born is equal will always be on its knees.

 

No – Harry Fenton

Getting up at 7 o’clock in the morning is not a nice thought for me, just like with most other students, but Friday, Week 6 was an exception because I couldn’t miss a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Queen in person.

I got to the forecourt of Lancaster Castle before 9 o’clock, nearly two hours before she arrived, and it was already really busy. Fortunately, I managed to get near the front of the crowds with some of my friends and get a good viewing point where I could see most of the event. The crowds continued to build up outside the castle gates and there was a growing sense of excitement as we waited for Her Majesty to arrive. There were a few hundred people outside the castle alone with many more lining the streets of Lancaster waiting to catch a glimpse. The cadets then formed a guard of honour along the path to the castle and two mounted soldiers rode along the path in full ceremonial uniform.

Around half past 10, Her Majesty arrived amongst the convoy of cars and hundreds of people erupted with loud cheers, waving Union Jacks and Duchy of Lancaster flags to greet her. And then, that brief and partly surreal moment came when the Queen was driven past me in her car as she smiled and gave me the royal wave. I’ll never forget the moment I saw in person one of the most famous women in history and it was worth the two-hour wait.

I and my friends thought it would be a great idea once the Queen went into the castle to go into Café Nero, only to learn there that she had left Lancaster even though I was hoping to catch a glimpse of her going through. The royal visit was the perfect combination of Britishness, with the cadets, two mounted soldiers, Range Rovers (which are a British make), the Queen, and of course the heavy rain and waterproofs.

I am a huge fan of the British monarchy for many reasons but here are a few of the most important. The Queen is a non-partisan head of state, is above political and factional interests, and is a powerful focus for national unity while being an enduring symbol of Britain globally. As Head of the Commonwealth, covering a third of the globe, she can foster international co-operation and reinforce links between Britain and much of the world whilst maintaining the role of a global matriarch. Therefore, the monarchy is invaluable diplomatic asset.

Also, the monarchy has provided Britain with continuity and constitutional stability for virtually all of our national history (except the 11 years under Cromwell), the likes of which very few nations have enjoyed. During that time, many of our much loved traditions and customs have grown around the monarchy, and these traditions not only bring our country together but attract millions tourists from across the globe who put billions of pounds into the national economy.

Finally, the monarchy has little taxpayer funding despite the urban myth that they are largely taxpayer-funded. The Queen does receive 15% of the Crown Estate’s profits from the government, but she could officially claim the whole lot.

I very much hope that the monarchy will never be abolished in the UK or any other country, although I do believe that the institution of monarchy, in Britain and abroad, must adapt to the needs of the 21st century while retaining their traditions (and surrendering political authority in the case of a few authoritarian ones).

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