Far be it from me to tell Brits how to govern themselves. But Brits are not nearly so shy in telling us how much better it is to have royalty about the house. No, I’m afraid it isn’t. Not for America. As the Brits like to say, “Poppycock!”
The Queen’s death last week makes folks like me wonder again why we fought a Revolutionary War to rid ourselves of a monarch only to fawn all over the British crown after we defeated them.
Let’s stipulate a couple of things, shall we? I liked the Queen personally. She was a bit of a fuddy-duddy with her little purses and too precious hats, but she seemed kindly enough.
Ready to bake grandmom’s sugar cookies for you, but baking was, of course, inappropriate for a Queen. That’s the thing about royalty. The nation mandates they do nothing and get paid for it. “Paid,” as in the Queen being one of the richest women on earth. No “quietly quitting” for monarchs. There’s no job to quit.
The monarchists insist I’m very much wrong. Kings and queens have lots to do, they say. Strictly speaking that’s true, only if you count ceremonial duties. There’s all those receptions, pretty garden parties, innumerable engagements where greetings are exchanged and hands are shook. None of it very significant. Most of it very boring. The Queen did them all with a stiff upper lip. Dear Princess Di tried to escape the tediousness of it all and died trying. Just think of the highlights of 70 years of the Queen’s reign that were plastered over TV last week the day after she died. What exactly did that nice lady do through seven decades when the world was in various stages of turmoil? She performed at ceremonies. And she insisted on preserving rituals and conformity with an obsession that caused Diana to flee for her sanity and her grandson’s wife to do the same. For her stern devotion to a cause that has created much havoc in the world, we duly worship her. Queen Elizabeth II never took a vacation from being the Queen of England.
The very randomness of it is what should open our ideas to the recklessness of a monarchy. Bad enough, our country actually chose the corrupt incompetent Donald J. Trump. In England, a Trump-like’s blood line could keep him in Buckingham Palace for 70 years, KFC willing, only to be replaced by Donald Trump Jr. when dad passed. What would we be saying about Britain’s monarchy if Queen Elizabeth II had been a Trump-like witch ruling for 70 decades?
Britain’s monarchy is discriminatory. No Catholic may ascend to the throne. After all, only about 4% of British residents are Catholics. Wouldn’t be proper.
Because monarchy does not love democracy, there is no good way to get rid of corrupt kings and queens without merciful natural death or outright assassination. Did having a beloved monarch to rally around prevent rising inflation or the coming of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister in Britain? Did the monarchy prevent Germany’s devastating blitz of London? Was it the monarchy or Winston Churchill’s bravery and persistence — with some allied help from Russia in Stalingrad and Ike’s armies in Western Europe — that helped defeat Hitler?
Some anti-monarchists argue against the high cost of funding the Royals. In 2020, the total cost of funding British royalty was estimated at $96,280,000 in American dollars. And the cost keeps rising, fueled in part by a 10-year project to overhaul Buckingham Palace. The infrastructure of the Palace was last updated 70 years ago. Fairness compels me to note, however, that the Palace has generated its own cottage industry that appears to pay for itself. Idolatry pays big. But it’s the scandal underlying the glamor of Royals that makes the institution more than harmless puffery.
None of monarchy would make our country a better place. All of the royal players perform their parts without choice. They seem, even when you include the Queen, folks who exhibit little joy. Some of them, as we’ve mentioned, having famously escaped. For as great as is devotion, it must have a cause — a real cause. You may say Britain was the Queen’s grand cause. But it really wasn’t Britain; it was conformity and tradition … the kind of things that raise the issue of which utensil to use to a level much larger than it has any right to become.
Royalty belies democracy. A constitutional monarchy is an oxymoron. It survives on pomp and circumstance. The two ideas can only exist together in an artificial lab. And while democratic leaders must survive on merit, they are overshadowed by a King or Queen who demands loyalty on the basis of where a sperm cell landed.
What the British royals are is a cracking good story. But even here the recent drama has devolved around a tawdry infidelity … an infidelity that in the end awarded the adulterer with the crown and killed the unhappy princess who was better than all of them.