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I want an English republic. (I didn't say "I'm a Republican" for fear of misunderstanding.)

The Guardian has at least two big essays this morning on how us English Republicans must seize the moment and start preparing for an English Republic now the Queen has turned 80.

But I'm afraid we've missed our chance. We should have struck in the 90s. The monarchy had reached an all-time low. Diana Spencer (alive and dead) was our standard bearer.

And now the Queen is entering the autumn of her reign. Like Victoria before her, she's become the Grandmother of the Nation.

Inertia takes over. Establishing an English Republic would mean reworking the Constitution from top to bottom. I can't see any Prime Minister having the heart for it.

Especially since removing the monarch means an end to the Royal prerogative, which gives the Prime Minister of the day quasi-regal powers, including the right to declare war without putting it to a parliamentary vote.

So we're almost certainly stuck with the Windsors for the forseeable future.

The Queen could last another 20 years, which means that Charles, if he lives that long, will be over 70 when he succeeds and Grandfather of the Nation from day one.

The only thing that could turn everything around is a big royal scandal. And I wouldn't put it past Charles or either of his two boys to supply us with one.


Sep. 2nd, 2005 08:39 am
poliphilo: (Default)
George Bush reminds me of those useless late-18th century kings, George III and Louis XVI. He has no instinct for leadership; he has to be told what to do. "Say, Mr President, don't you think it would be a good idea if you flew down to the Delta and put in an appearance?" "Awww...do I have to?"

A natural-born leader would have been down there, mingling with the refugees, just as soon as it was safe to fly.

Sooner or later every dynasty throws up a man unsuited to the job.

George III was a successful farmer and Louis XVI had a talent for watchmaking and George Bush- if left to his own devices- would have cut the mustard (just)in the lower levels of middle management.

Did they tip the tea into Boston harbour for this? I think not.
poliphilo: (Default)
We just passed by the anniversary of Princess Diana's death.

Nobody made any fuss about it.

This is a new century and we have concerns of our own- thank you very much.

Diana has joined all those other royal beauties who briefly lit up the night and then departed, leaving nothing behind.

Princess Alexandra, anyone? "The sea King's daughter from over the sea?" Anyone remember her?

At the time I piously collected all the newspapers with stories about the accident and the funeral and stashed them away in a bottom drawer. "Some day," I told myself, "these will be of great historical interest."

Seems like I was wrong.

I had a major clear-out last year and they all went in the bin.

Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan.
poliphilo: (Default)
The heir to the throne marries his long-term lover in a registry office. The ceremony has been pushed back a day to make way for the funeral of the Pope. The population at large is more interested in the outcome of the Grand National horse race.

It's not exactly a hole in the corner job, but it's a far cry from the pomp of the last royal wedding.

We English had our revolution in the mid 1600s. Afterwards we brought the royal family back, but on the understanding that there'd be no more of that Divine Right of Kings nonsense. Monarchs from Charles II through to William IV were servants of their public, not particularly feted, but key elements in a cobbled together Constitution. When they were dull or ridiculous (as some of them were) they got laughed at.

This changed at the end of the 19th century. Britain was now an Empire and needed a glorious figure-head. Traditions and ceremonies were invented to elevate the monarchy and for the next 100 years or so the kings and queens- most of them spectacularly dull as people- were accorded a quasi divine status and respect. It became bad form to laugh at them. This was the golden age. These people had no power to speak of, but they were very ornamental. They couldn't fly, but their tail feathers were gorgeous.

The coronation of Elizabeth II was the high spot. Fittingly, symbolically, it coincided with the "British" conquest of Everest (by a Sherpa and a New Zealander.) Then began the decline. Britain no longer had an Empire and the imperial trappings were looking increasingly irrelevant and silly. Respect and deference seeped away. The media began to treat the royals the way they treated other celebs. Then came the scandal of Charles and Di....

There is lingering respect for the old Queen, there is a feverish excitement surrounding the boy-band glamour of the young princes, but the wedding of Charles and Camilla is a sure sign of the way things are going. We care less and less and, while it's unlikely that we will ever axe the monarchy (once is enough), we are now going to let it fizzle and fade. It will return to what it was before Disraeli reinvented Victoria as Empress of India and maybe, not so very long from now, we'll be seeing the royals riding their bicycles down the Mall.

That is, if we can be bothered to turn our heads and look.


Oct. 24th, 2004 10:33 am
poliphilo: (Default)
Prince Harry comes out of a night club. The paparazzi mob him. He lunges at one and cuts the man's lip. Pictures are published showing a red-faced prince being restrained by his bodyguards. Oh dear!

He is driven away with his head buried in his hands.

The British monarchy has had its good times and its bad times. This is one of the worst. Ever since the death of Princess Di the family has been under close and hostile scrutiny.

This very bad patch follows a very good patch. From about 1890 to 1970 the royals were a national asset. Though practically powerless they embodied the national myth. Their strength as symbols depended upon the rest of us knowing very little about them as people. And this depended upon the media keeping us ill-informed or- in other words- failing to do its job.

When I was a kid the Queen was a woman in fancy dress with a porcelain complexion who appeared on biscuit tins. She was only marginally more real than the tooth fairy. The adults around me talked of her as if she and Jesus were closely related.

And now the media intrudes and the Royals are hunted like foxes. The Queen is a sour faced old lady with an inexplicable taste in hats. She has managed to preserve a little of her aloofness, but the rest of her family have been pitilessly exposed as dim, sulky, arrogant and out of touch. Charles is widely despised and hated for the way he treated his wife. Even those who don’t hate him think he’s a bit of a clown.

They’ve been told they must change- preferably by going down the Scandinavian route and exchanging the coaches and limousines for bicycles and bus passes. But they don’t and they won’t. There’s no very strong public appetite for getting rid of them, so the show seems set to limp on and on.

More yobbishness outside night-clubs, more tabloid exposes, more butlers’ tales.

More low-grade entertainment.

Who does it serve and what’s the point?


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