The Monarchy is a bankrupt and hopelessly anachronistic system that is cruellest of all to the Royals themselves

Nicholas Mutch April 30, 2014 8
The Monarchy is a bankrupt and hopelessly anachronistic system that is cruellest of all to the Royals themselves

Nick Mutch argues that the worst victims of the British monarchy are the Royal Family themselves.

To everyone from my home country of New Zealand who has recently been posting vapid Facebook statuses about how they just “loooove the royals”, or that “Kate’s’ dress is so PRETTY”, or “the Prince is so CUTE”; I’m sorry, but they don’t love you back. In fact, they probably hate you and with good reason. You are the reason that Prince Harry can’t have a stag night in Vegas, or smoke a bit of weed without naked pictures of him surfacing in a magazine.  You are the reason that Kate cant sunbathe topless in isolated private property without some voyeuristic creep of a photographer deciding it is in the ‘public interest’ for us to be able to ogle the breasts of a young woman: just because of who she is married too. Alastair Campbell’s diaries reveal that Prince William thinks you are the reason his mother died, and that he has a “total hatred” of the public obsession with royalty. He’s likely right. The ugly side of our obsession with the royal family is the same that it is with every celebrity. For all we may celebrate them, we viciously turn on them whenever they fail to live up to our manifestly unrealistic expectations. A little hint of that dark side cropped up when newspapers started reporting that Prince George had gained a roll of fat on his Antipodean tour, a bizarre story of absolutely no consequence to anyone’s life, but necessary to feed the public’s insatiable appetite for the junk food that is royal gossip.

The media obsession with the intimate details of the lives of celebrities such as film stars or music icon is also completely vacuous, and utterly devoid of any public interest. But at least with these kinds of public figures it is generally accepted that for better or worse intense media scrutiny of one’s private actions comes with the job description. Members of the royal family do not choose their position. They rather have it thrust upon them for no other reason than their birth in a perfectly normal, unremarkable upper middle class British family: but for a freak historical accident.

Members of the royal family do not choose their position.

To declare, I am firmly republican. The Windsors should be a normal, average, everyday family with nothing to distinguish them from the rest of British society. I don’t think I’m alone. By insider accounts, Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton give every indication that they would rather live a quiet private life, and that royalty is a desperately heavy burden which they bear with gritted teeth. In one of her last interviews with the press before her death, Diana said that William had told her how lucky she was to be able to give up her royal status. Prince Harry is in a similar position. By all indications, he is a patriot who would have gladly served his country on the frontlines in Iraq, as he was planning on doing before the military decided that he would have been a “high value target”. Monarchy is cruellest of all to the monarchs who have their lives and autonomy curtailed to serve in a pathetic, anachronistic, unending pageant.

Republicans have no qualms with the Windsors. It is the institution of monarchy and the hereditary principle that we so detest. We are the only ones who would let them live the dignified private lives they so clearly crave. It is monarchists who want to turn the most intimate and emotional moments of their lives – the births of their children, their grieving for lost loved ones, and their weddings – into grotesque public circuses. The royal wedding, which was celebrated both as the rebirth of the monarchy for the 21st century and as an intensely romantic moment, was in fact watching two people who would have far preferred to celebrate their love in peace and privacy play out our own romantic fantasies by proxy.  I rarely write about feminism, but I heard a well-known talk show host on New Zealand radio say something that incensed me. “Why aren’t young girls choosing Kate Middleton as a role model rather than celebrities known for reckless living and drug taking?” She asked? It was a sentiment well supported by her co-hosts. Ah yes. Young woman should choose a role model whose defining characteristics are being pretty, well-behaved and a public figure purely as a result of the man she married: not a woman who has reached her position because of her talents or attributes. This is yet another example of how our obsession with monarchy naturally brings out our most reactionary tendencies.

Republicans have no qualms with the Windsors. It is the institution of monarchy and the hereditary principle that we so detest.

Jeremy Paxman put it best when referring to the freedom of expression being invoked to defend the publication of Kate Middleton topless. “The struggle which began with Socrates and continued with Magna Carta, Milton, Voltaire and John Stuart Mill ends in a paparazzo pointing a long lens at a young woman sunbathing in private.” The monarchy as an institution only exists today to pay service to some of our species most negative characteristics; our incessant need for scandal and drama and our romantic delusions. If you actually loved them, you would give them what they desperately want, which is the privacy and dignity that all human beings deserve. But you don’t actually love them.

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  • Paul Vickers

    The Queen has proved to be a better leader of our country than virtually every one of the Prime Ministers who have served under her.

    Proof that genetics beats populism: ask any breeder.

    Then look at the current dog’s breakfast that is Blair’s House of Lords – and compare it with the pre-1999 one.

    ‘Nuff said.

    • Matthew Sumption

      But the Queen and the Prime Minister have completely different powers. The Queen is a ceremonial head of state, the Prime Minister is the de facto leader of the country, so your comparison is spurious.

      It would be like saying the President of Italy (ceremonial head of state) has been a better leader of Italy than its Prime Ministers. They’re not comparable positions, so the argument is of no merit.

      If you look at the current composition of the House of Lords it is much more representative of the political spectrum of parties supported in the UK than it was pre-1999 (which had a big Conservative bias), and has become a much more effective refining and reforming chamber, as the peers seem to have more legitimacy to question and send back government bills. Look at the number of rebellions in the laws post 1999, and the way that the government has responded to make sure they have the support of the Lords before a bill goes to the Upper House. Meg Russel of the UCL constitution unit has some great figures on this.

      Equality of opportunity beats a hereditary system every day of the week.

      • A. P. Schrader

        The question really is whether an elected politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch. The late Baroness Thatcher once observed that, anyone who thought in the affirmative “might perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians”.

    • A. P. Schrader

      Well said, Mr Vickers!

    • Tariq

      It’s very difficult to make that statement without separating the things that have been uniquely down to the queen, and that no PM can take any credit (/responsibility/blame) for. I can think of no such examples, but I would welcome hearing some.

  • FreedomFrom

    They’ve singularly failed in their duty to uphold common law and keep the common man free.

  • AnonymousCoward

    Kate and Diana both chose to marry into the family. All the others could abdicate. So if they want out they can get out, if they never wanted in they shouldn’t have married in.

  • Robert Neve

    I would dearly like them to have the private lives they so deserve. Not to mention the queen has gone well beyond any reasonable retirement age but still continues to serve us. But they do it out of a duty to the country and us Royalists believe the country is better off with them. Yes I agree it’s not fair to them and I certainly wish the celebrity culture would die off but I fear where this country would be under an elected president. They would no doubt cost us much more while serving us much less.

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