What is Majesty?

In this Jubilee Year maybe we should not ignore the question of the monarchy. I have never asked my readers if they are monarchists or Republicans. Now is your chance.

As a young man I was a reluctant monarchist. I could see the difficulties of keeping a monarchy in a democracy. I could understand why the American and French revolutions had seen the need to remove the Crown, though I abhorred the violence and extremes that powered the French Revolution to the terror and then to an autocrat. I accepted the modern monarch as a figurehead, a link to our past. The clinching argument for me was that I could not think of a better way of choosing the Head of State if you wished to preserve Parliamentary government with a powerful Prime Minister and Cabinet. I had no appetite then to move over to an elected powerful President.

My enthusiasm for the monarchy became greater as the attack on our constitution from the EU intensified. The monarchy as an institution clearly does not fit with a state which has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the EU. Though a constitutional monarch will go along with any degree of European humiliation elected politicians place on our country and will not itself be a source of strength against federalism, it is another awkward reminder or symbol of the vaunted freedoms and independence Englishmen and latterly UK citizens fought for over the years prior to 1972. That is the irony. Because Parliament took the power of the Crown away, granting back duties and money as it saw fit, the monarchy did become subject to our democracy and part of it.

The Queen has made it easier for monarchists. She has intuitively understood that the unelected monarch has to defer to the elected Prime Minister. He will pay court to her in public, but she knows he makes the decisions. She has understood that she and the leading members of her family need popular support as if they were elected, and have to avoid public hostility or disdain. She has scrupulously avoided commentary on the foibles and attitudes of her successive governments, and of her people in their various moods and fashions. Every day the royal family put themselves into the public eye, they are in a way running to retain office. It is a sign of her success that for most of her reign support for the institution of monarchy has been very high, and there has never been a serious republican movement.

One of the strange contradictions in some attitudes to monarchy relate to whether people want their monarch to have a very different lifestyle, or whether they want her to show signs of ordinary life. Some seem to like it when small details emerge of tv programmes shared, of breakfast cereal in tupperware, of travelling to an engagement by normal train. Others expect their Queen to be Queen like. Our present Queen does a bit of both. Studied ambiguity is best when the audience is so split.

For me, the important thing about a royal family in a democracy is that they should play their part in public life by staying well aside from the arguments, and by pursuing excellence and style. When the Queen visits a school or university or business, that institution usually has a spring clean, the staff turn up in smart clothes, and everyone is on their best behaviour. It is not just about the Queen. It is about them. It is their opportunity to show themselves off at their best. That is why the Queen has to turn up in smart clothes, perform her ceremonies precisely and with care, and should travel in style. I think people expect to rise to the occasion, so the Queen has to confirm that sense of occasion. The visited want her media appeal to shine briefly on them. They want her recognition, knowing it represents the recognition of the wider community.

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  1. Martin Cole
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    It is not just about Elizabeth II Queen of England, the Treaty arrangements which give New Zealand its sovereign independence, for example, are based upon treaties linked to the Queen’s ancestry. The Australian Monarchist League also has much to say on the topic.

    Our very legitamacy as an independent state is at risk because of the arrangements made with the EU, in which the role and actions of the monarchy have potentially been compromised. As the EU falls apart, (note Sarkozybeing set to abandon Schengen for political gain just yesterday,) our new trading arrangements and resulting treaty obligations will be best settled first, as a result of those, it may well be necessary to re-define the role of future British monarchs but in spite of the Diamond Jubilee, I would suggest that this year such debate is premature.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    I too as a young man I was a “reluctant monarchist” but I am far more in favour of the monarchy now. It is perhaps a parallel to Sir Winston Churchill’s quote “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. Perhaps the same in true for monarchy.

    The thought of someone like Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair or Lord Leon Brittan of Spennithorne or even Lady Thatcher as a president is surely enough to see its huge advantages. We do not want a figure head who has a known political stance as it clearly alienates part or the population rather than unites. Anyone else elected, or appointed, would surely have this old political baggage problem.

    The monarchy is, however, hugely enhanced by the Queen staying fully out of politics, as far as is possible. This she does admirably. Those in line for the crown should surely do likewise and not lecture us on green issues or tell us to limit air travel, or use alternative medicines and the likes. Particularly when it is often at such clear odds to their personal life styles. It tends just to look like absurd hypocrisy.

    It might also help were titles allocated to rather more deserving candidates (than currently) people like James Dyson for example rather than the current political place men, time servers and the sort of people who usually suffocate the country with an ever bigger state, pro EU or fake green agenda.

    But then perhaps all the best people turn them down.

    In short the Monarchy is a huge asset to the country in economic terms, it provided endless amusement and entertainment to the masses and is far better than all the alternatives.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Grant Shapps the housing minister has announced a scheme to get 95% loans to new build house buyers. Clearly however banks are often reluctant to lend even just 40% of property value to businesses and developers. What banking regulation is preventing them from wanting to lending on these low risk areas? What can the government do to sort this blockage out? Surely this is rather more important as many jobs are being lost or delayed for no good reason?

      • Caterpillar
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        I shall be a little naughty here with an edited and hopefully out of place quote from a 2004 Economist article on Peronism;

        “… a state-dominated society. Workers, business and other interest groups entered into pacts with the state rather than seeking political change. The system left little space for democratic opposition, and thus bred … political violence. Political differences were fought out within parties … rather than between them. ”

        Well we are seeing political differences fought out within parties, contributors here often feel that there is no opposition to the Lab-Lib-Con way, and now as lifelogic notes there is some kind of pact between a corporate group and government. OK I seriously exagereate but perhaps the monarchy is here to protect the UK from peronism?

        (I only feel 90% guilty at writing the above.)

      • Bernard JUBY
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        A bit off-thread here methinks!

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Is Cameron and the EU really going to force the “I the drunk to much or felt a bit under the weather while on holiday” tax on companies at a cost of perhaps £200M+. Can he “veto” it?

      Also is it true, as reported, that state sector workers get this benefit already?

      • StevenL
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        Some of the old timers still get leave based on sick leave rotas from the ’80’s.

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      We also have Lib Dem Lord reported to say that perhaps the Lords could be paid a lump sum to get them to leave as part of the Clegg reform of the HoL. What!!! We have convicted criminals who are still allowed to be Lords, decide what laws should be introduced, claim further expenses and paid by the taxpayer- what is more outrageous and demonstrate a complete lack of standards in the political system than that? Cash for questions, cash for titles and lobbying follow shortly behind.

      Corruption pervades every corner of Westminster. It needs to be cleansed. Right to recall would help bring accountability to both Houses. It has become clear no politician has the moral fortitude to exercise any form of leadership to rid people who are not fit for office.

      I used to be against the monarchy, but I would have them any day of the week to rule the country than the current crop of useless socialists who want to sell out our country to be part of a pan European state.

      Cameron thinks it is priority to change Christianity by imposing gay marriage to undermine religion, he wants government solicitors to pursue employees to the ECJ not to wear crosses in the work place, he wants to change the accession to the throne. Is this the best ideas he can come up with? Does he honestly think people will vote for him/Tory party in 2015? Or is this something to do with Mr Clegg being an atheist and his radical views to change the culture of our country?

      We have already heard the insults Mr Clegg has made about our country and its culture. Undoubtedly he wants the country to be part of a European state and insults those who think differently- his label that we are a pygmy nation springs to mind. Yet he still wants the votes of the British people to impose his extreme views. He is in charge of a small extremist party that I hope will be wiped out at the next election.

      As for his latest taxation views; why would anyone risk the financial consequences of setting up or expanding a business for a maximum 50% return after tax, NI and all the risk of regulations by the EU and accept 100% of the losses (including loss of house etc). Surely Lib Dem mathematic skills are not that bad? The Lib Dems need to start to think who are they going to fleece for tax when everyone clears off or gives up the will to continue to earn a living?

      • rose
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Disaffected one,
        Do you feel the same about the old hereditary peerage as compared to what we have now in the House of Lords?

        I worry about a coronation taking place without the old aristocracy, and find it difficult to picture. Presumably the people who got rid of the main body of hereditary peers from the house of Lords (actually, they wanted them all out in one go) knew what they were doing, just as they know what they are doing in trying to disestablish the Church. They were really going after the monarchy itself, but had to start lower down its unelected edifice as the public would not have stood for its outright abolition. We all have our own favourite example of the ghastly Bishop, and the eccentric peer, but what will come in their place when they are booted out altogether? Not a houseful of highly intelligent and patriotic Chief Rabbis, as there aren’t enough of them.

        The monarchy is going to look very lonely and exposed by the time of the next coronation, and people will be able to argue it is an anachronism that must go.

      • APL
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Disaffected: “Cameron thinks it is priority to change Christianity ”

        Ah yes, Cameron, from tax collector to apostle and now he thinks he is the messiah.

    • rose
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      But we have a President now. He is called the Cabinet Secretary. When he fancies Presiding over a Lib/Lab/Lucas Coalition, that is what the Queen will be told to send for.

      • rose
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        This mighty one could be put down from his seat if people stopped splitting the conservative vote.

        • APL
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

          Rose: “This mighty one could be put down from his seat if people stopped splitting the conservative vote.”

          There is nothing I’d like more than a Tory government, but what we have now isn’t one, the reason for that isn’t the Lib Dems either.

          It is the Socialists the foolish Tory rank and file including Mr Redwood appointed to the role of Tory leader.

          Why should I vote Tory to get a wet socialist?

          • rose
            Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            Because when you voted for Hague, IDS, and Howard, you didn’t get a conservative government returned. Even when you voted for what you call a wet socialist, you still didn’t get a conservative majority in the House.

            It is all too easy to say a full blooded conservative manifesto would have come shining through the channels of communication and won outright last time. I often say it myself, but how do we know? Hardly anyone reads right through manifestos, and the broadcasters certainly don’t.

            As I said to Lifelogic last week, pay a visit to Mumsnet to see what you are up against. This is an excellent blog, but it doesn’t exactly represent the mode of thought of the whole electorate, even if it has their interests and welfare at heart.

          • rose
            Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            And would the wet socialist have turned out a different clay with a majority? – i.e. if he didn’t have to keep the senior liberals from going off altogether with the opposition? Easy to say “of course he wouldn’t, he’s just a liberal in the wrong party”, but again, how do we know? After all, he did stick with his party through the wilderness years when he could have been lining his pockets or holding office or both – which is more than can be said of some.

          • lifelogic
            Posted March 14, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

            The moral case for small government and why it is better for all is not being put. The BBC and Cameron most tories, Labour and the Libdems are all big government.

            Most will be better off with small government, never the less. The more people doing something useful (rather than taxing & inconveniencing they) the better for all.

          • APL
            Posted March 14, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

            Rose: “Because when you voted for Hague, IDS, and Howard, ”

            Even Howard was an opportunistic right winger. That was obvious to the electorate and as a result he lost our trust.

            Hague, well what can you say about him, he has become a turncoat and totally caputulated to the EU. With hindsight his credentials were suspect too, although to be fair I didn’t think so at the time. But all that ‘schoolboy’ radicalism, all that ‘I drank seventeen pints before breakfast’ nonsense, goes to character, then we find (there are questions about-ed) his hotel expenses with his friend too.

            Perhaps the rest of the electorate have a better nose for unreliability and (word left out) that I.

            Ian Duncan Smith, may have been a good egg, since he has sunk pretty much without trace I cannot say, but during his tenure as leader he had to contend with the backstabbing of Kenneth Clarke and the rest of the Europhiles who at the time were sitting preening themselves with Anthony Blair, in his BIG traitors tent.

            Those people, Clarke et al should have been thrown out of the party.

            While people like Clarke are in the inner circle of the Tory party, I for one will not vote for them.

          • rose
            Posted March 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

            I agree with you, APL, a lot of so-called conservatives are an absolute shower and always were. I could draw up a slightly different list.

            It is worth bearing in mind that Churchill was nearly thrown in the fountains by the undergraduates in Bristol for being a left wing cad in his prewar days. He remained unenamoured of his party through the war, and he allowed Attlee and Beveridge far too free a rein to get their feet under the table and then foist the corrupting and unsustainable welfare state on us.

            Was Enoch right to advocate a Labour vote against Heath’s treason? Less prescient people at the time thought they were preventing socialism ratcheting forward here by supporting a libertarian brake on the continent – and we do owe our independent schools’ survival to it.

            I still think a conservative majority under Cameron would have been better than what we have now. What you seem to be saying is you won’ t give him one till he proves he’s a conservative. But he can’t really do that till he’s got a majority.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      How about all titles being in the gift of the monarch, nicely independent and no debts to reply and favours to win? Politicians (and others) would be able to do no more than recommend candidates.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Off topic I am delight to see that:- A locked-in syndrome sufferer who wants a doctor to be able to lawfully end his life won the right today to have his case decided by the High Court.

      Since this government is so keen on so called “equality” I certainly think he should have the rights that every other person has to choose. The religious can make their own choices, but just for themselves please, not for others as they try to do now.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      JR – What are your thoughts on the recent fallout on the Human Right Commission (for kicking into the long long grass).

      Reply I want the issue to be grasped

  3. norman
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    I don’t see why we need either a monarch or a president, so I’m neither. I daresay there are good reasons (although I can’t think of any) why the Lords and Commons wouldn’t be enough.

    As long as the Royal family keeps their noses out of my business (and all, with the exception of the eccentric Charles, seem to have grasped this) I’m comfortable how things are just now. The last thing we need is to get rid of a benign monarchy and replace it with another layer of interference which an elected president would feel it his right and duty to impose on us.

    • oldtimer
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Experience demonstrates that countries need a Head of State, just as institutions need a head. A Head of State fulfills an indispensable diplomatic function representing the country/nation. This is true whether the office holder is non-executive, as is the Queen or the Presidents of Germany and Italy, or combines the role with that of chief exeutive, as are the presidents of the USA and France.

      The Queen also provides a singular point of national identity to the inhabitants of these islands, and she has performed a remarkable and indispensable role in the evolution of the Commonwealth.

    • Bernard JUBY
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      But what about Government or Brussels having their noses in your business?

  4. Mick Anderson
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    For me, the very best thing about having a Monarchy is that it means we don’t have a President. Anti-Royalists always seem to want to replace one with the other, when we don’t really need either

    However much the Civil List costs us, the senior Royals are an asset, if only as fish in a tourism bowl.

    A President would waste a lot more money trying to “improve” things, and generally annoying governments in other countries.

  5. Matthew
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    I’m a monarchist and happy with the present system and born in the year of the coronation.

    The institution of the monarchy, although as popular as ever, is probably more fragile now than ever.
    It’s easy to be a monarchist with the present Queen as the incumbent as she’s carried off her duties so well, but it stands to reason, with an inherited system in particular, that now and again, perhaps only once a century or once every two hundred years a complete fool will succeed to the throne.

    In today’s world of media and scrutiny I’m not sure that the monarchy could survive that, as it has in the past.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      You say “perhaps only once a century or once every two hundred years a complete fool will succeed to the throne” well yes but if they were elected or appointed this might be more than one in two I imagine judging from the current lot of politicians.

    • Mark
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      I think it will. The last time we killed a monarch was 1649. Since then a variety of devices have been used to deal with unpopular ones in eras when they were much more important politically. Abdication under strong political pressure is the accepted route for dealing with the more difficult cases – see James II and Edward VIII.

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink


    Her Majesty the Queen is a wonderful institution. Like falling in love or eating Christmas dinner, it is utterly impossible to explain monarchy logically. But she is – well – like part of our family. We suffer when one of her children gets (again) into the papers. We are delighted when she smiles.

    I remember at Cambridge being taken through all the arguments against monarchy. (Yawn).

    The other evening, I went round to teach a little girl (Chinese Malay parents) English and, when reading “Drake’s Drum” I began to bore on about Sir Francis Drake and the Armada. To my intense surprise her eyes lit up! She had never even heard of him! Or of Queen Elizabeth I. I laid it all on pretty thick, I must admit.

    At the end she simply said, “What a wonderful history we have!”

    I think Republicans ought to learn a lot from her remark actually.

  7. Mr. Frost
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    The role of the Monarchy should be to uphold our customs and beliefs as per the Coronation Oath and protect us therefore from over-reaching Parliaments.

    It saddens me that the Monarchy has failed in its prime Constitutional responsibility…

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps you have a point but it is parliament that is mainly to blame for gifting powers to the EU, powers that were not theirs to give. Even now they continue heading down the same path.

      • Mr. Frost
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        Without a doubt it is Parliament that is driving this through. But it is exceeding its Constitutional remit, and the Monarchy is supposed to be the final gateway for our protection.

        We have a complete breakdown of the system: the Commons is too powerful, the Lords cannot balance the Commons and the Monarchy has become a figurehead.

        We have no protection.

  8. Electro-Kevin
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I am a monarchist and agree with everything you say here.

    The Queen provides us with a cultural focal point and is clearly very popular – I should imagine that this is to the great consternation of the likes of Tony and Cherie Blair.

    They must be most irritated that Princes Harry and William (and Princess Kate) are so photogenic and well liked.

    No wonder they wanted to replace her public with newcomers who have no connection or idea of what this is about.

  9. lojolondon
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I lived in a republic for 30 years, and nothing makes you appreciate the monarchy as seeing some undeserving, well-connected bloke get lucky and be nominated the president for life – you are always thinking ‘who are you’.
    Republicans can argue the monarchy is similar in some ways, but our royal family are trained for the role from birth, serve in the armed forces, do a lot of good, and actually when yo analyse it, face a life sentence of good behaviour and being polite to people – quite a tough call, I think!
    The exception is Charles, I have some sympathy with his architecture crusade, but his unthinking green/eco-loony stance makes him the laughing stock.

    • Gary
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      I fail to see the point. If the Monarch is powerless, then what exactly is the point ? A placeholder to occupy a seat that would otherwise be occupied by a president ? Why does the president have to be for life , why have a president or a monarch at all ?

      This is a false dichotomy. Just have a republic where there is no president, only a prime minister. There have been many of those. Better still, have cantons and have a collegial rather than presidential system

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        “Better still, have cantons and have a collegial rather than presidential system”

        Sort of like the EU Regions?

      • libertarian
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        Blimey, I agree with Gary

    • StevenL
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      The eco stuff is most likely a front for the NIMBYism.

  10. Tedgo
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Looking at Iceland and having a President able to tell the government to think again seems to be a good thing. On the other hand a different person in the role might have not intervened.

    Likewise the Queen understands her role and plays it consistently, although the Australians and Mr Gough might not agree, but the Queen’s descendants might take a different view and become a pain in the neck for future governments.

    Perhaps having no one in the position might be best, particularly if the electorate had a means of telling the government to think again through modern electronic means.

    • Mark
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      The Queen is not averse to telling a PM to think again. It’s just that the exchange remains private – unless the PM concerned breaks protocol to reveal it. In fact, if you see a PM making noises against royalty there are good odds that being warned to reconsider some item(s) of policy lies behind it – especially when that warning is motivated by a rather better reading of public opinion and the true interests of her subjects and the PM knows it.

  11. John B
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I believe in democracy so that rules out republicanism or absolute monarchy in my mind, but I can see the case for a Constitutional Monarchy.

    The UK, supposedly, is a Parliamentary Democracy with a Constitutional Monarchy which fits well.

    The Monarch’s role being the trustee and guarantor of the Constitution and ascendency of the People over its Parliament and rulers, a unifying, non-political, national mother/father figure, and most importantly, not for the absolute power it holds (it holds none) but the absolute power it denies to others.

    Unfortunately the UK is no longer a democracy, except nominally, and is part of a republican empire, with its Gauleiter Prime Minister, puppet Parliament which is incapable of representing the will of the People as it is subordinate to the essence of republicanism, a non-accountable, self-selecting body of legislators and rulers appointed by an elite class from within that elite class.

    Ever tighter are the People oppressed by the law and taxed; ever more are the People’s laws supplanted by laws not made in their Parliament; ever further are they removed from the process which decides who rules them and how.

    In that sense the Queen has failed her Coronation Oath and her Constitutional duty to defend the law and British Constitution, to defend the People from abuse by the State, defend the rights of self-determination of the People and to defend the realm from foreign intervention.

    Whilst undoubtedly the Queen has served and does serve in exemplary fashion as a figure head, she has no real Constitutional duties left, having failed to protect them.

    The Queen does act on the advice of her ministers, but she does have discretionary rights too which could be exercised if she considered something not to be in the best interests of the People or the realm. In that case it would trigger a General Election so the People could decide.

    It seems giving away wholesale, the power of the People to a foreign assembly, so they no longer enjoy the protection of her law or the right of self-determination would be one of those occasions.

    • Roy Bowden
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      What a well crafted response. Your thoughts make it all so clear. Oh to regain our sovereignty and reignite The Great Revolution!

    • Sean O'Hare
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      She has discretionary rights which should have been exercised in 1972 when she gave assent to the European Communities Act and to all the subsequent EU Treaties. As she is in breach of her Coronation Oath too my mind she effectively abdicated in 1972.

      • rose
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

        Heath lied to the Cabinet and to Parliament, e.g. when the fish were given away – at the last minute because a pistol was suddenly held to his head in negotiations, and he wanted more than anything to be able to drive over to France for dinner with his friends. We won’t know whether he lied to the Queen as well, because she doesn’t leak.

        • APL
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

          rose: ” .. at the last minute because a pistol was suddenly held to his head in negotiations .. ”

          I fear you are too kind to that old traitor too.

          If a pistol were held to his head and if he really were negotiating to get the best interests of Britain then he should have just walked away.

          But he wasn’t and he didn’t nor did he get a deal that was in the best interests of Britain.

          Another prominent Tory betrays the United Kingdom, there is definitely a pattern there.

          • rose
            Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t say he wanted the best deal for Britain. I said he wanted to be able to drive over to France for dinner with his friends.

    • rose
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      This seems to be the only comment so far which gives an impression of understanding the constitutional role of the monarchy. It is not just to be a figurehead.

      Bagehot defined it in modern times as being to warn, encourage, and advise. These are done best by the monarchy because it is above personal ambition, financial and party interest, and won’t leak.

      There is also the little matte of deciding what to do in a hung parliament or if a minister needs to be dismissed – as in the Gough Whitlam case. There are bound to be such cases where an ambiguous political situation can only be resolved by the Head of State or their representative. As with Whitlam, a bad loser generates controversy. No set of rules could prevent a similarly ambiguous situation arising here, sooner or later.

      When cabinet secretaries go around briefing that “the Queen must be kept out of politics”, they are taking her power unto themselves.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      “It seems giving away wholesale, the power of the People to a foreign assembly, so they no longer enjoy the protection of her law or the right of self-determination would be one of those occasions.”

      Indeed and certainly without the clear consent of the people in a single issue referendum. Still we got one on the absurd AV I note thanks to the Libdems always very free with their worthless promises and pledges.

      • rose
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

        And we got one from them here locally to say whether our council tax should go up one year.

        I believe they may be going to give us another to say whether we want an elected mayor. Some of them want us to say yes, and some no. Interesting to see who wins locally- the struggle to have the referendum, not its result.

  12. A.Sedgwick
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    As a keen studier of history from a young age I saw and read about the flaws in monarchies from a young age. In my comments on wilful blindness recently I nearly mentioned our monarchy but did not want to skew the point, but there is wilful blindness surrounding the Royal Family and the institution. Some of its members are to be congratulated for not having titles and making their own way in the world as opposed to following the charity and event opening career. There is great confusion in what the monarch owns and what belongs to the state/crown, to which the multipling Royals have too much access, which is unacceptable privilege. In any practical sense we do not have a Head of State, we are deemed subjects and the Monarch is our Sovereign and is titular head of our armed forces. I do not understand how the Queen can have allowed the passing of her sovereignty to Brussels at the expense of her own Parliament. I do not understand why she did not comment on our involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there is Scottish independence. What is the point of her weekly PM meetings and the red boxes and the Privy Coucil if she does not get involved very occasionally. These matters I believe were totally within her remit. She has enormous authority as shown with the collapse of the Burrell trial and I feel that in recent times she should have used it as Head of State rather than Monarch.

    Her biggest success is the Commonwealth, which successive Governments have failed to capitalise on preferring the nonsense of the EU. It is also an achilles heel for it is probable several countries will vote her successor out as their Head of State and may diminish an organisation that should have had more influence for good in the world.

    The Queen Mother’s mantra apparently was “never complain, never explain” this has to change if the Monarchy is to survive, it has to move forward. It has to be streamlined, it has to be a counter weight to egotistical political party leaders, it has to come out of the PR world started by George V and be seen to address the real problems of the country.

    • rose
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Some good points here. But how do you keep a monarchy uncorrupt, and powerful where it needs to be, if you strip it of its wealth and privilege?

      George V had hanging over him all his life the death of his Russian cousins and he fate of their country. The Prince of Wales is said to have it still. Hearsay, I know, but the memorial garden at Highgrove commemorating the butchered Archduchesses is plain to see. It is more than a PR world the Windsors, including the Queen’s consort, live in: it is steeped in terrifying history which we should all remember.

  13. Andy Man
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    The monarchy is a counter balance to politician’s excesses, foreign and domestic, and is just about the only thing that might stand between us and a Euro Kommissar as our craven government likes nothing better than to give up sovereignty at every opportunity. Given a choice between rule from Brussels or Buck House I think I know what would be best for Britain.

  14. Rick Hamilton
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    As an expat I don’t understand why the British attitude to anything good about their country is to be ashamed (Guardian readers) or dismissive (everybody else) about it.

    We should be proud of our monarchy and all the splendour and echos of our glorious past, for the very simple reason that nobody else has got it, or can even come close. Sure, they can fake it (Boukassar, Gaddafi) or dream about it for themselves (Barosso, van Rompuy etc) but we have the real thing with hundreds of years of experience. Keep it, nurture it, celebrate it.

    After all there won’t much left to celebrate after the EU has torn our country to pieces.

  15. Mazz
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Being a traditionalist, I support the Monarchy. The Monarchy is the oldest institution of government and Queen Elizabeth II is directly descended from King Egbert, who united England under his rule in 829. This is our Heritage and if the would-be republicans don’t like their own heritage they should go and live somewhere else. The Monarchy is part and parcel of the fabric of GREAT Britain.

  16. Duyfken
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    May I be permitted to add some comment about the debate in Australia?

    I have not kept up with all of the deliberations in Oz over republicanism and it does appear to have receded from the limelight for the moment. The monarchists seem to have recovered ground in recent years but it could be that in the long run the connection to the English Crown might be severed, perhaps at the next succession. In any case, I am less than impressed by all the hoo-ha generated there by those espousing republicanism, which I believe has been overdone and much passion has been wasted, being pointless.

    If, however, some may see little purpose in Australians continuing with the trappings of the monarchy, that is for the resident citizens of Oz to decide and not for the likes of me—ex-pats—, spouting from abroad.

    When the previous plebiscite was held, however, I was dismayed by the low standard and poor content of argument which was produced. Not only was it held in a frenetic atmosphere of yah-boo politics, the politics also seem to be party-led: the old guard of monarchists, mainly the Liberals, against the republicans, being old Labor and the non-Anglo-Saxon settlers (particularly Irish descendants). What a shame!

    Were Oz to opt for a form of republic, I would prefer it not to be termed as such but simply to re-emphasize that it is the Commonwealth of Australia, which really means much the same thing. It means that we all own the place and it is not the property of the Crown; this is more or less the status quo, isn’t it?

    Why do many people need to get so hot under the collar over an issue which would make such little difference to the existing establishment? Effectively now the England-based monarchy has little power over Australia’s affairs, and indeed it would be reluctant to exercise what power may remain without ensuring this accorded with Oz’s wishes (ie those of the government of the day).

    All power really lies already with the Federal and State governments, except the one real responsibility of sacking a government—Whitlam and all that. That is a worthwhile restraint to be kept, whatever one thinks of the merits or demerits of that case. Indeed, the reverse situation of the Prime Minister or Premier having the power to sack the Governor General or Governor (as is presently the case de facto) is something which should be dispensed with. Why? Because it draws party politics into an area which should be above and untainted by the sordid activities and machinations of politicians.

    All we need are persons to be figureheads for the Nation/States, persons doing much the same job as they do now. The incumbents need to be good representatives for our country, speak and act well on formal occasions, provide a rallying point for us the people, and be of sufficient character to command the respect of us all. In a word: diplomats.

    Additionally, they need to have the background and nous to be able to decide if, how and when to step into the political arena and dissolve a parliament, something which should be a most rare circumstance of course. A candidate for this role must then have the required panache, poise, education and experience. There would be many persons so qualified, although the least likely may well be any who have had a former career in politics.

    To get away from the present nomenclature which many would find inappropriate, let me call them respectively Head of State (“HoS”) and Heads of the States (“HoSS”). So, how do we appoint them?

    Not as at present by the government of the day; we have seen several times what that has led to.

    Almost as bad in my opinion is for an election by popular vote. This would be wasteful in the extreme and it is not just the expense which should be considered but the serious divisive nature of such a course. Any popular vote would inevitably descend into a party political fight, create a furore of inflammatory spoutings, reduce argument to extreme black and white terms, and fruitlessly stir public emotions. That in turn would mean that whomsoever may be elected would have the support of those who voted the person in but, more grievously, the opposition of the minority who did not. So, with a tightly fought election, the HoS or HoSS would find some sizeable proportion (albeit less than 50%) of the populace may be antipathetic (or at best apathetic). In my view that would be unsatisfactory.

    My suggestion is that the appointment should be by way of an electoral college (I say “my suggestion” but surely it is so obvious that this must have already been considered by others). The electoral college would consist of a specified number of persons, probably not more than around a dozen, who occupy one of certain posts in civic life, such as: Chief Justice, Chief of Police, Head of the Diplomatic Service, President of the Trade Unions, President of an all-faiths Council (is there one?) and so on. Once the range of offices were selected, this should be permanent but of course the individuals would change over time and it would be the individuals, not the institutions which they may head up, who would have sole power within the electoral college.

    The rules by which the electoral college conducts itself need not be considered with this general proposal but apart from choosing the HoS and HoSS from whatever procedure is laid down, the electoral college should also have the added responsibility of removing a sitting incumbent for improper conduct etc. Thus the operation of the HoS and HoSS system would have no political ties (and only one political power: that of sacking a Prime Minister or Premier). The system should be as independent of politics and of the government of the day as is the judiciary. The only way such a system could be overturned, amended or abolished should only be by another plebiscite.

    What title should these persons be given? What’s in a name? I suppose “President” is the logical, if unoriginal choice but that may rather provide confusion with other nations’ presidential systems or indeed be compared with the president of a large business enterprise. Surely an alternative could be found (I like “Commonwealth Chancellor” and “State Chancellor”) to encapsulate the roles of the HoS and HoSS.

    More than anything, I would prefer that when (I suspect it is not “if”) the country changes over, it is done without any expressed ill-feeling either within Oz or against the previous system, the constitutional monarchy. It should be a well-mannered change and not used as an excuse for hot-heads to shout their prejudices to the roof-tops.

  17. stred
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    The Queen has performed her role better than any country could have wished. When the royals were reported spending lavishly on transport or holidays, she seems to have responded. Her eldest appears not to have got the message so far. He certainly caused damage to some of his future subjects through his opinions on architecture and to the environment with his own disneylandesque developments. Perhaps, in the future a more Scandinavian style monarchy would be more suitable to the UK.

    It is interesting to compare the Queen and her husband elect our present political leaders, who are chosen for their ability to persuade the majority to vote for them by playing to PR and polling. HRH just does her job and maintians her views while he feels able to state his own opinions and use his sense of humour without really offending many and giving the rest of us amusement to relieve the frustrations.

    Any royal who can go to a cathedral service, be presented to guide dog owners and ask “Did you know they have eating dogs now for anorexics?” has to be a good advert for monarchy.

    • stred
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Oops. Omit @elect’ add ‘to’. And ‘maintains’. I actually checked this twice, but only see the mistakes immediately it goes off and re-appears. Would a 5 minute opportunity to check and edit be a possibility?

  18. oldtimer
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    The House of Windsor survived the 20th century because it was able to adapt to changing times and expectations, and to overcome the occasional scandals that beset it (such as Edward VII`s abdication). The public face of neutrality over political issues has contributed to this. Prince Charles, on the other hand, has publicly allied himself with controversial causes. This is dangerous ground for the monarchy.

    • rose
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      His grandfather George VI chose his foreign secretary and it was a good choice. George V vetoed a party’s potential leader as PM and may have been wrong, or rather done it for the wrong reasons. Even in the time of this Queen when Heath was courting the Liberals to form a coalition, it was clear who was the sovereign. It is possible the monarchy has since adapted too much to ignorant opinion of what it is there for.

      • rose
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        PS whether or not George V was right, fashionable opinion now holds that he was. At any rate, the subsequent PM turned out a great success.

        Another point to remember is that Edward VII may have been expected to turn out a not very good king, not least by his own parents. But he was a great success, and deeply mourned by his subjects when he died.

  19. Leslie Singleton
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Without a Monarch we would end up with Neil Kinnock as President–end of analysis.

    • Matt
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      Aaa agh! Can you imagine his Christmas broadcast ?

      It would make Castro’s speeches seem fleetingly short.

    • APL
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Leslie Singleton: “–end of analysis.”


      But, take note of the Greek experience.

      Greece is bankrupt, coincidentally some has-been former Greek politician who was something or other in the European Union bureaucracy gets catapulted to the role of Greek prime minister Quisling first minister.

      What on earth do you think Mandleson and Kinnock et al are doing in the Lords except massaging the public funds teat for their own benefit and waiting for the summons from Brussels!

  20. peter
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    If we had a clean sheet of paper and had to start from scratch with a new political system I cant see how we would have an unelected monarchy – but this is all linked back historically and works as well as can be expected so should be left alone.

    As lifeslogic says the thought of someone like Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson etc becoming a UK president would fill most people with horror and given their policital affiliations would alienate most of the population.

    Having someone neutral that is able to step back from politics and represent all the people has to be the best option – after we have too many politicians that think they know best already, so theres no need for another layer.

    One thing I don’t get though is how a monarchy can be compatible with a Federal European state – essentially you are talking about a monarch being subversive to unelected politicians in Brussels.

    Successive governments that were elected to GOVERN and in doing so have signed away large chunks of sovereignety without the will of the people – surely the monarch should have an obligation to step in and add some sort of safeguard to state that no sovereign powers can be tansferred to another state without being put to the people – whilst we dont need interference in domestic politics, I think the monarch should have the discretion and power to act as a safeguard to prevent poliiticians of the day crossing that red line without putting such things to the people in a balanced an unbiased way.

    Had that been the case the single European Act, Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties would have had to be put to the people in a referendum.

    Given that the Monarch is supposed to be the final signatory of all UK legistlation, I dont get how this fits in with our lords and masters in Brussels who none of us have voted for telling us what we can and cannot do – this is the major danger to the monarchy.

  21. Atlas
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink


    Does the PM have to swear an oath of Loyalty to the Queen? And if so, is it “binding” or just ceremonial?

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      This was all decided in the late 17th century during the restoration of Charles II. As the centuries wore on, a definite historical symbiosis was evolved.
      Like the rest of the constitution – which Mr Clegg does not and which Mr Blair did not seem to understand – it is a gentleman’s agreement which works. Unpick just one thread and the whole lot gets unravelled.

      • APL
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Mike Stallard: “which Mr Clegg does not and which Mr Blair did not seem to understand ”

        You can add John Redwood to that list, ‘the Great Charter is of no consequence today’, apparently.

  22. Phil Richmond
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    John – I am a total monachist. The monarchy is such an important part of our history & heritage. They should be cherished and protected.
    Putting all that aside they are fantastic for Great Britain PLC. Whether for tourism, PR or having the Royal Warrant on our brands.
    One of the most stupid and vindictive things that Gordon Brown did (there is a v.long list) was to get rid of the Royal Yacht Britannia. It was the perfect promotion vehicle for our country. Billions of ££ worth of contracts and deals were done whilst entertaining on that boat. Therefore what does the bitter socialist do?

  23. Phil Richmond
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    John – I think you can safely divide the country up along political lines as to who are the monachists & republicans.

    Labour MPs, Guardian readers, Unionists, BBC news media, Lib-Dems MPS & supporters = Republicans.
    Everyone else Monachists. Thankfully they are a vocal but small minority!

    • outsider
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      Would that it were that simple. By Unionists I take it you mean trade unionists, but this would certainly not apply to members of industrial unions, most of whom are fervently monarchist. A significant minority of members of some religions are anti-monarchist for historical and/or theological reasons and there is a substantial group of Nietzschian, atheist, free-market Conservatives who belittle the Queen at every opportunity. In my view they are naive and misunderstand the enriching nature of a monarchy that is there by public demand and not of right so it is important to keep explaining that.

    • rose
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

      Probably very like the AV result, including Oxford, Cambridge, and Islington. But maybe not South of the River.

  24. Bernard JUBY
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m an unashamed Monarchist. I wrote to H.M. suggestng that all those MEP’s and UK Commissioners pledging allegiance to the EU should be shut in the Tower as traitors. I didn’t expect to get a reply but had a charming letter from a Lady-in-Waiting acknowledging receipt.
    It will be interesting to see if Alex Salmond gets his way and/or whether he will resurrcct the Stuart Dynasty whose continued survival is, I believe, suppressed to this day?

  25. Bill
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Agree with the above, especially about becoming more fond of the institution of monarchy and the queen herself as one gets older. And absolutely agree that the last thing we want is a superannuated politician instead.

    Queues formed at the lying in state of the Queen Mother and I suspect there will be general sadness when the current queen goes. We somehow identify with her. Suicide attempts went up when Princess Diana died and my guess is that there will be measurable impact at the loss of HRH.

  26. AJAX
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Loyalty to the Crown as the eternal symbol of England is a lodestone that the nation steers itself by & would be weaker without, the family that temporarily sits under it is comparatively unimportant, as long as it doesn’t bring the Crown into disgrace by its activities

    The Windsors appear fairly harmless, but they do give the impression occasionally of a parasitical nature, which on thinking about it, maybe almost as ancient as the Royal Estate itself

    I agree with the doctrine of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, i.e. Distant Majesty, as familiarity can breed contempt. H.M.’s attempts at avoidance of income tax whilst benefitting from it, the Prince of Wales’ desire to become a “defender of faith” – thereby revealing an (ancient) Normanesque interest in England more than the English in the grave immigration debate & H.M.’s panicked auto-cue reading of the New Labour hurriedly written P.R. script on tv when the unwashed mob was at the gates of Buckingham Palace after the death of a princess in Paris, were all fairly contemptuous breeding moments, which people don’t forget.

    • rose
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

      How can the Crown pay tax to itself? Socialists who wrought that reform knew what they were doing.

  27. forthurst
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    There is of course the role of the Monarch as Supreme Governor of the Established Church, a role clearly misunderstood by someone who would like to be the defender of all faiths, or by a Cultural Marxist judge with an agenda to use his constitutional position to undermine that constitution he is sworn to uphold. That the PM appoints the bishops is clearly a weakness when one examines the possible future candidates for that office.

    Republicanism is one of many postures employed by those who hate the English or what they perceive as the English traditional establishment since they see the Monarchy as symbolic in that respect. There will even be a minority of alien descent who remember fondly the Bolshevik usurpers who murdered the Russian royal family, much mourned as they are still today by many real (Slavic) Russians.

    Republicanism is on the back burner for now since their are easier ways in which Cultural Marxists and their fellow English haters can continue to undermine this country and its traditions as part of their onslaught on Western civilisation.

  28. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Commonwealth Day is an ideal occasion on which to turn the spotlight on the Monarchy for the current monarch is certainly its champion. The fact that so many countries wish to be members of the Commonwealth, and to have our monarch as it head, certainly says much for the old country. It is something we do well on a very large international scale.

    Where as “The monarchy as an institution clearly does not fit with a state which has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the EU”, it fits like a glove in the Commonwealth.

    Today is a very good day to look to a UK future embracing the Commonwealth and standing to one side of the EU.

  29. rose
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    This, from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, ties up with your last post on railways :

    “The third and last duty of the sovereign….is that of erecting and maintaining those public institutions and those public works, which though they may be in the highest degree advantageous to a great society, are, however, of such a nature, that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual, or small number of individuals; and which it, therefore, cannot be expected that any individual, or small number of individuals, should erect or maintain.”

    (Third after the maintenance of defence and of law and order.)

  30. Julian
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    It was telling that the Queen’s Christmas Speech was all about the connections between the UK and the Commonwealth and the US. She then pointed out the Christian themes of Christmas. It was a very clear message albeit one in which much was said between the lines.
    So yes in the current climate of anti-Britishness prevalent in our own country we need the monarchy to help defend our indepenence.

  31. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I know why I am a monarchist. It means that a politician is not Head of State. A corollary is that the Prime Minister has to answer questions in the House of Commons once a week (it used to be twice a week; whatever happened to that?). No State of the Union addresses here, thank you very much.

    • rose
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      Mr Blair changed it to once a week because he was frit, and also stopped seeing the Queen twice a week too. He also changed the day of PM’s questions (from Tuesdays and Thursdays) to Wednesdays, so that they often coincided with a state visit or similar. That way he avoided having to answer many questions he couldn’t. He put Anne Taylor in as Leader of the House to do it for him. Then she turned out to be so good at it that she had to be got rid of PDQ. He and Brown still used her to answer awkward questions for them in the Lords, though, after they had sent her there. They buried her reputation so deep that people later thought Harriet Harman was the first socialist woman to have that responsibility.

  32. Charlie the Chump
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m a Monarchist, though in history lessons I found the purity of the Parliamentarian cause far more attractive then the foppish, money wasting Charles and his clan.

    If we had a republic today who would be President? Blair? Clegg?? Heseltine??? Prescott????! Appalling.
    And they would have to travel in a much larger private jet than Queen Elizabeth.

    No. Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy is the only way for me. The sad thing is that our Parliament is now so weak compared to the Executive and Civil Service.

    • rose
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      I fear it would be Richard Branson.

  33. uanime5
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    “The monarchy as an institution clearly does not fit with a state which has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the EU.”

    Spain, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all have a monarchy but they don’t have a problem with the EU.

    At present the UK is a constitutional monarchy in name only as by convention the monarch cannot refuse to pass a law, so power ultimately rests with Parliament and the Prime Minister.

    Personally I’d prefer the powers the monarch is mean to have be given to an elected President of the UK. There would still be a monarchy but it would no longer have any power over the government or to make laws.

    • rose
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      Of course Norway doesn’t have a problem with the EU. Spain has other problems which convinced her she should sponge off it, but it has turned out to be a poisoned free lunch. Denmark tried to get out, didn’t they? And Sweden is still growing out of socialism.

  34. Brigham
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I think it is very easy for the Queen to look so good, because our politicians are so awful, by comparison.

  35. Frances Matta
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    As a student of history I would ask “Why do you ask this question now?”
    The answer is simple.
    What is majesty?
    Charm, good manners and a thorough knowledge of all EU legislation if one wants to keep ones head.

    Reply: I ask it now because there is a Jubilee, and because reform of the Lords is on the agenda.

    • outsider
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      Dear Mr Redwood,

      the context in your reply to Frances Matta is important. I heard your powerful speech yesterday, vainly trying to resist the Party whips latest successful attempt to stifle dissent and silence independent voices anywhere. As one of your colleagues said, yes we outside are listening and yes we realise that the political class has reverted to its bad old ways and is determined to go further.

      In this Parliament, the Coalition has already legislated to reduce the frequency of general elections. As far as I can see, the sole substantive purpose of House of Lords reform is to eliminate the unwhipped independent crossbenchers, who speak much of the common sense on offer.

      At least the Queen is not part of this conspiracy against the people, though she feels obliged to tolerate it. I have begun to hope that one day she will “think about” some idiot piece of non-party legislation that is obviously being foisted on a people who do not want it. There appear to be several on the Clegg/Cameron agenda.

    • APL
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      JR: “: I ask it now because there is a Jubilee, and because reform of the Lords is on the agenda.”

      Reform of the Lords is simply code for hacking away another of the constitutional bulwarks that support the monarchy.

      Better REFORM the COMMONS.

      Abolish the party whip and allow free vote on ALL legislation.

      Reduce the number of MPs in the pay of the executive by about 80% and reign back the number of cabinet posts to about ten. That many is probably too many.

      Commensurate reduction in the size of the Whitehall bureaucracy too.

      This would be a good place to start.

      • rose
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Yes, APL, it is the H of C that needs reform, not the Lords. The problem has got worse this century. Its chief failure is not holding the executive to account, whereas the Lords often do, as well as performing their function of revising legislation. I notice however, that since the Lords were reformed they don’ t seem to do such a good job of thorough scrutiny as they used to – laws emerge which aren’t thought through properly. Or is it just that too many laws have recently been sent up to them to knock into shape? (Another reason to reform the content, procedures, and function of the lower house.) My main quarrel with people who just want to reform the upper house is that they never say what they want it to do. I suspect they don’t think that matters.

        • APL
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

          rose: “I notice however, that since the Lords were reformed they don’ t seem to do such a good job of thorough scrutiny as they used to – laws emerge which aren’t thought through properly.”


          It’s because the HOL now is little more than a dumping ground for failed ex MPs and sportspersonallities that have seen better days.

          I have noticed too, that as the membership of the Lords have an increasing component of dross from the commons the debates have started to resemble the same level of low party bickering that I (anyway) have come to despise and that characterize the commons debates.

          It is clear to me that Blair, the Tory traitor Strathclyde together destroyed something rather excellent with their ‘refrom’.

          I hope they both (pay for their actions-ed)

          • rose
            Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

            It was Cecil who devised the scheme whereby he could survive personally. I wonder where that gene came from. Strathclyde just continued on the same course.

          • rose
            Posted March 16, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

            And yes, if the trickle of MPs from the Commons to the Lords becomes a flood, then the ethos in the upper house will be impaired, when it used to be imparted.

    • Alan
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      “The House of Lords is useless and dangerous to the People of England”

  36. Barbara Stevens
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    After seeing some of the antics of some MPs in the last two years or so, I’m all for the Queen, long may she live. I’m not so sure about the son who will follow; and do not accept his wife at all. I do believe the crown would be better past to William and Catherine, for continuity and they are young and able. Of course it won’t happen as succession is cast via the eldest son, and that too is another point, that should remain as tradition as called. Mr Cameron is wrong to interfere in the line of succession, it should be the people who decide not politicians. The present arrangements have served us well, and is connected to the Crown and laws defined years ago, and of course the Church of England. I do not approve of Cameron’s interferance, he goes far beyond his remit without consultation with the public and dominions. No I’m very happy with the monachy, much better than some puffed up politican who will in the end keep up his/her parties will, not for the benefit of those they supposed to serve. We’ve learnt by expierience, the Royal Family are good for us and the country, kept apart from the House of Commons, and is a leveler in many things. Long may she reign.

  37. Ex airman
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    I can no longer support The Monarchy.

    When I worked, I paid the 40% income tax and all the other taxes. I accepted that the better off should pay a bigger share of taxes. I am angry that, because the richest people pay so little, people like me pay more. Never mind all the rest we should spread the tax burden more fairly. That includes stopping wealth earned here from going abroad and making the royals pay the same taxes that I pay.

    If there was a justification for a monarchy, part of it would be that the Monarch upholds the highest moral standards. That does not fit with dishonest marriage vows (or the other recent, sleazy actions).

    Reply: The top 1% of Income Tax payers pay 28% of the Income Tax, more than double their share of the income. How much more would you like them to pay? Would they stay to pay it?

    • rose
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      I thought the 1% of income tax payers who paid 28% of the tax take mostly didn’t include the super rich people who are getting away with it. This confusion needs clearing up.

      But I agree with your main point, Mr R: if the tax rates were lower, more rich and successful people would stick around to pay them instead of paying through the nose to have themselves exempted in various ways.

    • Mark
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      The settlement whereby Crown revenues accrue to the Treasury which then allows the Civil List budget gives the Queen perhaps the highest tax burden in the country. £32.1m of spending out of £210m of income gives a tax rate of almost 85%.


  38. Frances Matta
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Of the Lords, my dear, all I can say is, if Shirley Williams agrees with it, I don’t.

  39. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    To our host:
    I do hope you have noticed that there is a total support (almost) for Her Majesty on this thread.
    This is something which so very often gets overlooked, even in the year of the diamond jubilee.

    • APL
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Mike Stallard: “I do hope you have noticed that there is a total support (almost) for Her Majesty on this thread.”

      I support the Crown.

  40. Jon
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    On this issue I’m a pragmatist, yes I believe we have a unique asset for its value and wholly support our monarchy for the UK. That doesn’t mean I support monarchies per se. A Burmese prince in line liked to frequently kill subjects until the then colonial Chief Inspector General put a stop to him.

    How many people in the world are aware of Queen Margarethe II of Denmark? She has ruled since 1972. Add all the monarchs of the world together and even then they won’t have the world wide fame and affection of our monarch. Take Britain as a PLC and they are the best PR advert on this planet for not only our businesses and tourism but also for spreading democracy and good causes.

    One reason why charities around the world want their patron is the valuable network that grants. The hub of that world wide network is the royal family who work to connect these charities, provide contacts and facilitate networking events.

    You only have to flag down a tuk tuk in some remote inbetween place in Rajasthan to see a picture of pageant London being the place the driver wants to visit. Our tourism is billions the richer.

    The influent of rule of law and democracy does more through the commonwealth than the war machines ever achieve.

    Had I been a returning soldier lining up for my medal would I want a politician to pin it on my chest? Gordon Brown?? The monarch represents our history not just those who faught before but the Shakesperes, Turners, Brunels, Arkwrights, Byron, Darwin and yes Boudica. The French have a little temporary self serving politician for that job!

    Last year at the wedding I know what stirred in me when I saw the flypast over Buckingham Palace of a Lancaster, Hurricane and a Spitfire, pride and sympathy for the other nations that just don’t have that!

  41. Iain Gill
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I have a lot of respect for the current Queen. Much less respect for some members of her family. And no respect at all for the institution. I am realistic and know for a fact Harry for instance would never have been selected as an Apache pilot if he didn’t have HRH in front of his name, and for the life of me I can see no reason why such a situation is tolerated. Indeed I would give medals to the Royal Marine sergeants, who were around when Edward failed his marine officer training, for displaying true moral courage and a “without fear or favour” ethos, and I object strongly to Edward nowadays walking around in military officer uniform when he categorically failed the training in the only branch of the services able to fail a royal trainee – the marines. As a young man I was very Royalist, now older and wiser I think it’s a joke and should be stopped, I am now firmly anti the royal family. It cannot last, it will not last, and we would do well to fix it before it becomes a crisis.

    • rose
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Monarchy has always thrown up good, bad, and indifferent individuals. When we bow and curtsy to the Queen we are doing so to the institution, not the individual. It is very hard to explain to immature people why an institution should be revered and upheld. But mature people usually come to understand. It is to prevent something worse coming in its place, and to preserve our liberties and stability. Lots of people have been making a great effort all her life to help the Queen to make a success of her reign. She couldn’t have done it without them. Without her peculiar situation she wouldn’t be noticed among her subjects.

      If we were to move to a quinquennial popularity contest between billionaires who hadn’t been set apart and sustained all their lives by this sincere and conscientious collective effort to give them integrity, you might regret it.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        I am sorry but if you fail military officer training (Edward) you should not be walking around in military officer uniform.

        If youre not of the calibre to be selected to be an Apache pilot then you shouldnt get to do the training.

        Even if your arguments made any sense the way these things are handled need fixing.

  42. Robert George
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I live 50% of my time in Australia and 50% in the UK, the country of my birth and education. I firmly support the retention of the monarchy in the UK, and I equally firmly support the notion that Australia should become a republic.

    The difference is their divergent histories, cultural and institutional make up and their future roles . A President with minimal powers of the Irish or Indian type will come in Australia after the demise of the present Queen. Monarchy, and not just the British version works well in Spain, Scandinavia, Netherlands etc.

    Titular presidencies work well too. I am less keen on executive Presidents, for example, Sarkozy in France is virtually an elected monarch ( he even has more palaces than the Queen) The American or Russian model is an appalling prospect.

    For the time being I sincerely hope that the present Queen remains in her position for at least another 10 years – in the UK – and not just England.

  43. rose
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I remember as a teenager living in an African country – a French colony not a British one. The Queen came out to visit and many people were initially disappointed. They wanted to see her in her crown and robes, in a carriage, not in a hat and coat in a car. Luckily she made up for it in the evening, and all was forgiven.

  44. sm
    Posted March 14, 2012 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Perhaps something that protects us from venal politicians and reminds us of a more honourable intention.

  45. Max Dunbar
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    The Armed Forces swear allegiance to the Crown not to the government. That in itself seems as good a reason as any for retaining the monarchy.

    • rose
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      And this, Iain Gill, is why the Royal Family sends its sons into the services, whether or not they are up to it as individuals. Take it as the moral and physical support it is intended to be, not as nepotism, and be grateful.

  46. Andy
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Republican. Am I still allowed to be a conservative as well?

    Lets not forget the recent revelations of Parliamentary loopholes that mean that the unelected heir to the throne has been granted power of veto over matters that affect the private interests of the Duchy of Cornwall, including road safety, planning and environmental policy.

  47. David Langley
    Posted March 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Leadership is much better than dictatorship, the trick is to make sense of current day royalty and the future. Much of the constitutional debris relates to times when the biggest man with the biggest sword and army became king. Today we have an imported family from Germany and Greece with a largely dysfunctional family managing to hold on to a wonderful lifestyle. The crown is being robbed of any power to the extent that our royalty seem more like a Disney cast than any thing connected to ruling.
    The oath of allegiance sworn to by many, including me, refers to Queen God and Country, no mention of Prime Ministers et al. I think God may have retired, the Queen certainly is on the brink and the country seems to be shrinking each year. I do like the colour and the style of a Royal Britain, and if her Majesty asked me I would rally behind my old colours and my regimental band and have a good old clear out of the sponging elite who attempt to rob our England of its heritage.
    As for the future, we will rally behind Kate and William and make millions out of selling them to the world.

    • rose
      Posted March 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      David Langley, it isn’t just the monarchy that has become anachronistic or enervated or feminised or decadent – or whatever word you want to choose to describe its irrelevance to real power: it is the whole of society in the western world. Normally when that happens, the civilization is eventually displaced by a militaristic one, still on its way up.

      • rose
        Posted March 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

        Actually, the way the Monarchy was supported by the establishment of Church, Lords, Commons, Army, Navy, Airforce, Judiciary, Police, Lords Lieutenant, and Sheriffs made sense, trappings and all, right up until the time the New Labour vandals started to dismantle what they didn’t appreciate. All these bits of the establishment acting together, and at the same time balancing each other, were effective and didn’t sponge. They were essential for the maintenance of peace and stability. The monarch’s relations were also part of that supporting cast.

        But once the idea takes hold that not being elected is in itself a disqualification, there will be no end to the destructive process whereby the strength and independence of this once proud and prosperous nation will be lost.

        We should be objecting to the EU not because it is unelected, but because it is unrepresentative – of us and of our national interests.

  48. Stephania
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Highly energetic article, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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