River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Monarchy or Republic?

July 2002

To be or not Jubilee?

Without doubt the Golden Jubilee celebrations were a great success. What a show! The concerts in the Palace gardens and the processions with their pageantry, pomp and spectacle were truly outstanding events. The street parties up and down the country were on a scale not seen for years. It was a great weekend.

As a result of this successful weekend and a major effort on the part of the PR team, the Queen and the other Royals benefitted. It restored some of the shine to their tarnished image and they received a big boost to their popularity. I'm not quite sure why they did. Perhaps it was because the Queen graciously allowed the public into the gardens that they pay for. The credit for the weekend's outstanding events should go to those who organised them.

It is surprising to me that the same public that was so critical of the Royal Family at the time of Diana's death should now be sycophantically cheering them, but perhaps the flag waving was because the Queen provided a focus for feelings of national pride, and I am all in favour of that. I have no doubt that our present Queen has endeavoured to serve our Country in the way that she thought best. Nevertheless it does seem to me that to have a head of state appointed through an accident of birth and to have one particular family accorded so much status, as we have today, is an anachronism in a modern democracy.

My own views are clearly anti-monarchy, although not anti the person of the Queen. Republicans would presumably introduce an elected president who would probably be a politician and that does not appeal to me, I would rather have a head of state who is outside the political arena as the Irish had when they appointed Mary Robertson, but I'm not quite sure how they did that. Of course our Queen is outside the political arena and there is my dilemma.

Terence Blacker, a Norfolk man, author and journalist, is a declared Republican. Just prior to the Jubilee weekend he wrote a piece for The Independent and I did find myself nodding my head in agreement with some of what he said. Whilst his views maybe somewhat controversial I thought they might be of interest to readers and, with his permission, I reproduce that article below, with the tense modified appropriately:

"For some of us the golden jubilee weekend was a slightly tricky affair. We liked the idea of a four day holiday, fairs, bouncy castles, oak planting and loads of fun for all the family. We can hardly complain about an occasion that breaks the trudge of routine and brings communities together, even if it is in the illusion that something significant, maybe even historic, is taking place.

It was the focus of all this excitement that was the problem. Hardly had the tears dried and the little plastic flags been put away after the passing of the country's favourite grandmother when it all started again - the glutinous editorials in the papers, the hushed and reverent documentaries on TV and radio, the stupid ecstatic expressions on the faces of Her Majesty's subjects as they are revealed on the news bulletins indulging themselves in an orgy of self-abasing loyalty.

We joined in the parties, of course, republicans like to enjoy themselves like anyone else - but it was with a certain smiling aloofness, a touch of self mocking embarrassment, like a dad jogging about on the dance floor of a teenage party.

It has been a good year for the Royal Family, they say, and it must be admitted that, with a couple of deaths, a miscarriage and a general sense of national insecurity events have worked in its favour. Yet those 21 gun salutes, the absurd and expensive ceremonial of the Queen Mother's funeral have also pointed up the mismatch between the scale of apparent national devotion and the mediocrity of the dull ordinary family to whom so many accord semi-divine status.

I have only met a few members of the Royal Family - the Queen Mother at a racecourse, Princess Anne at a reception, the Duke of Edinburgh at a gathering for authors and publishers at Buckingham Palace - but what they all shared, it seemed to me, was a deep sense of boredom at what they were obliged to do. Their ancestors may have been able to get away with living a life of extreme luxury in exchange for a bit of waving and ribbon cutting, but these days all that has changed. The world looks for more from the British monarchy. It expects drama, conflict, death, an enactment of the mess of everyday life, but on a grand stage. They are of course, unable to deliver, and there is no reason why they should be expected to. As a family , the Windsors are, if anything, less intellectually interesting or emotionally evolved than the national average. Under the new pressures brought on them by an obsessed and exploitative press, their marriages crack, they make fools of themselves. Idiotic opinions are expressed, feeble bad-taste jokes told.

When, just now and then, a member of the Family tries to break out of the gilded cage and live a vaguely normal life, the press, recognising the threat to the best and easiest copy in town, turns on him or her, presenting them as odd, greedy or stupid. As the luckless Prince Edward and his wife have discovered, the media always wins on these occasions. The idea that the son of the Queen might earn a living as an ordinary, semi-successful TV executive was seen to create a dangerous precedent, and the Wessexes were forced out of work and back into the Royal soap opera, where they play minor, mostly comic, parts. The Windsors must never change. That is part of the deal. While even the smallest public relations stunt - an interview perhaps, or a minor well-publicised breach of protocol - welcomed by grovelling apologists as yet another example of a modernised monarchy, the truth is that, in all significant aspects, the Royal Family represents the most fossilised and dreary form of conservatism.

Their social circle, their views, the way they behave, the schools to which they send their children are all governed by the same thing: class. What was true30 years ago when Prince Charles attended the same university college as me and, rather than risk exposing himself to what Cambridge life could offer, moved about in an exclusive gaggle of goofy, beagling pals, is still true today. The Windsors are the living, dull eyed representatives of privilege based on birth, and, while they are at the centre and focus of national life, our society will remain as class ridden as it has ever been.

That has an influence on the way the media works and probably makes us look faintly foolish on the international stage, but the most serious damage is to ourselves. This long weekend saw a nation playing with itself, boss-eyed with self indulgent excitement, hooked on the dangerous drug of royal nostalgia."

No doubt there will be those who would wish to challenge his views, hopefully they will write to the editor of the Pump and let him know their attitude towards the monarchy.

Ron Watts

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