I cannot believe I have to write this in 2022, but I will be celebrating the country I was born in having the same monarch for 70 years.
On reflection, I suppose my disbelief should be easily suspended. Life is short, and cultural memory is usually shorter. Thus, the century and a half of political and cultural Marxism easily trumps over a millennium of monarchy for many. But I am glad to say, not for all.
Republicans will dispute that claim and observe:
Monarchy is no longer what a great majority of people want. There is a significant medium-term trend downwards in popularity of the royal family, as shown by the graph below taken from here.Dr Doug Belshaw
However, even with a 60% approval rating, the lowest point in the statistical data, it is still a majority. History also shows, in 2005 approval for a monarchy stood at 65%, that downward trends also have a habit of reversing, such as in 2012 when approval for a monarchy stood at 80%. Thus, the balanced view of the data is not to infer that monarchy is no longer what a great majority want. Rather, as the source Wikipedia page observes, with support for a republic accounting for ‘around one fifth of the population, this figure… has consistently remained a significantly less popular position than maintaining the monarchy.’
I have a lot of time for Dr Belshaw, and that we are often on opposite sides in a debate acts as a marvellous foil against which to duel. Building on his article 5 reasons I won’t be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, I present my 5 reasons, among others, why I will be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
1). I am a believer in democracy. I have seen first-hand, and through my work in the archives, the havoc that can be wrought upon a nation when it is bent to the will of a tyrant. The difficulty with an elected head of state, is they are frequently self-made people who believe in their creator. When one thinks of the horrific dictators of the twentieth century — Hitler (let us not forget he enjoyed a sizeable democratic vote before declaring a one-party state), Stalin, Mao, et al — they all came to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of monarchy. Closer to our own time, the venal self-serving sycophancy of a Trump or Biden does nothing to increase my ardour for an elected President.
2). A constitutional monarch is accountable. Which is more than can be said for many presidents, who are elected by the power of a lobby group: by definition elitist, undemocratic and unfair. Instead, love it or hate it, a constitutional monarch is compelled to support the government of the day. A government that draws its mandate from regular and free elections. Royal prerogative also enables an elected government to better resist the popularism that to which all Presidents are prey.
3). The royal family are net contributors to the UK treasury. In 2011, the cost to maintain the monarchy was ~£40 million a year. But the rent from Crown lands, that the government pockets, is ~£200 million a year. But you may think, why not boot out the royals and keep 100% of that cash? I’ll let the fabulous CP Grey explain it better than I can:
4). Our national anthem is representative. In that there is no national anthem, only a royal anthem which is sung as a matter of tradition and not because it is authorised. The importance of this is hard to overstate because tradition, as Edmund Burke observed: ‘It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue; and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.’ With tradition transcending ourselves and our time, it is the surest way to safeguard a society from the fads and presumptions of any one generation who assumes it knows best.
5). Having a state religion is reactionary. Reactionary, as any good Marxist will tell you, is simply that which is opposed to revolution. The trouble with revolution, as the note above on tradition implied, is that a clique of individuals seeks to uproot what countless generations have steadily built up, with no resort to asking ‘the people’ what they want, only to foist upon them what they need; or would need if they did but know it. Thus far from bolstering extremists, it is one of the surest antidotes to extremism. This is because the purpose of the Monarch, the church, and the state, is to act in unison to adopt gradual reform. A process more likely to safeguard the national interest than the sudden ripping up of social norms and replacing them with the latest beliefs.
So, I encourage you, as we come towards the end of the reign of one monarch, to support the idea of ensuring we witness the peaceful transition to the next monarch. A process that is more than a millennia old, and which history teaches us provides greater prosperity for the many than when revolution and political violence stalk the land.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.