Why the monarchy must go

Will Self – Prospect Magazine March 23, 2011

I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet. This isn’t just because I’m a republican. I’m not such a zealot that I think ideologies which I have no sympathy with cannot still form the backdrop to compelling drama—I loved Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of Hitler in Downfall, so why shouldn’t I enjoy Colin Firth’s Georgian shtick? No, I haven’t seen it because whatever the disavowals of its makers, it serves royalist interests in an infuriatingly ingenuous way. It doesn’t matter if it portrays the Windsors as individuals, the net result is that its audience is more inclined to acquiesce to an institution that has a stultifying effect on our political culture.

Even watching the trailer, I could feel it wreaking this sinister effect on me: as Colin-cum-George stammered in front of an expectant crowd I could feel tears pricking my eyes; this was, I realised, exactly the sensation Winston Smith must have had as he looked up at the poster of Big Brother and realised he loved him. But at least Orwell’s protagonist had rats applied to his face before giving in. We Britons are conditioned from birth to accept there’s only one form of government being held up for us—constitutional monarchy—no matter how many others we can see.

Monarchism is the default setting for the way we think about our constitutional settlement. Those of us who question it are subjected to the usual blah-blah about the evolutionary character of the British constitution: the way our law is based on concrete precedent rather than Frenchified abstract principle, the way our democracy has grown incrementally and organically from Runnymede to the present day, the way our Queen’s prerogative exists as a means of negatively inferring the real source of executive power, and so on. The overall message is: see that noble oak over there? That’s our system of government. What kind of a foul oik are you to chop it down with your regicidal axe?

Another favoured argument of the default royalists is: Ooh, I know it’s not a perfect system, but what would you have instead? I mean, imagine having a head of state like Sarkozy/Bush/Gaddafi (delete where appropriate). This is another appeal to inertia. The political classes often agonise as to why there’s so little popular interest or enthusiasm for politics but part of the answer, surely, is this unreal counterfactual constantly waved in the air. We cannot, after all, have any of these heads of state because we aren’t France, the US, or Libya.

After years of espousing republicanism, I know that trying to dig out the suppressed premises from this Duchy Originals mulch is a wearying and thankless task. Besides, the default royalists don’t really want to debate the issue at all. That’s the nature of the default: a get-out-of-thinking-about-it card for constitutional change in general, not simply the monarchy. “Oh, a republic—we’ve had one of those already,” the default royalist smiles her patronising smile, as if truly representative rule, embodying popular sovereignty at every level, were some kind of teenage fad. And so the West Lothian question comes into being, and so we slide towards greater European integration with less democratic accountability, and so we have a pig’s ear of a second chamber.

I’m not going to engage here with the true-blue royalists who actually believe that the congenital characteristics of the Windsor family make them fit to be our heads of state; they’re too silly to waste words on. Far more influential are the politically savvy but lazy who, while acknowledging the royals are about as dysfunctional a mob as ever took part in a reality television show, nonetheless insist that monarchy is a necessary cynosure for the patriotic feelings of the citizenry. The not especially covert assumption here is a ghastly, patronising, de haut en bas attitude: we all know they’re ciphers, but Mr & Mrs Little-People need decorative mugs, street parties and all that palaver. It’s an attitude that makes a mockery of our pretensions to democracy.

It is, of course, the ever-closer convergence between the home life of the Windsors and shows such as I’m a Celebrity and Big Brother that has allowed the monarchy to adapt, survive and grow even stronger: Diana Spencer was their preeminent saviour, their Peter Bazalgette. Post-Diana, the Windsors are the foremost example of people who are feted in the media for accidental reasons, and not by virtue of any talent, let alone determination to succeed. People unconsciously understand this: for them, marrying into the Windsors is the genealogical equivalent of winning the lottery: the odds are virtually nonexistent, but wouldn’t it be amazing.

This abandonment to Goddess Fortuna masks the extent to which the monarchy infantilises the public and squats like a fat toad atop the still-existent hierarchy of class in British society. Think on it: without royal titles, the existence of other forms of ennoblement become utterly redundant. The great success of the establishment in co-opting those who might otherwise be critical of it rests in the handing out of such baubles to commoners. No monarchy means no more of those most egregious solecisms, “Labour lords,” let alone the equally ridiculous spectacle of religious leaders sitting in the upper chamber. And frankly, if you can think of a more asinine sight in the known world than John Prescott or Peter Mandelson caparisoned in ermine, answers on a card please. In the current political climate, we could all do with a rich belly laugh.

Lastly, to return to the King’s Speech principle. In the last few months (Andrew’s blunders aside) the Windsors have pulled off two spectacular PR coups: the upcoming commoner marriage, and, equally influential, the Duchess of Cornwall’s walk-on part in The Archers. The Windsors—or their savvy advisers—understand full well the virtues of soft marketing. I’ve known plenty of people who should know better who’ve relapsed into the default position purely because they’ve been exposed to the Windsors’ soft offensive: they’ve pitched up for a garden party, accepted a gong, or stood for the loyal toast, because not to do so would seem somehow ill-mannered, and therefore un-British. But you have to ask yourself, if your principle of government is determined by not wishing to violate social etiquette, how can it ever hope to cope with rude truth of the contemporary world?


10 responses to “Why the monarchy must go”

  1. I would love to see the back of these German royals but what would the price be? I am certain that when Liz and Phil go the journey any day now the whole concept of royalty will diminish to “Hello” magazine levels. This is surely all part of the big plan though? Stripping nations of their sovereignty and identity in order to pave the way for the globalist order to move in with their insane idea of governance? I would have no objection to a true royal family from say the Arthurian line but this lot disgust me they’re rotten to the core. Almost every person who they’ve ennobled have henceforth been given a cloak of immunity from atrocities and crimes committed mainly against children home and abroad and there are at least two major royals who have partook themselves. Why aren’t the most staunchest royalists outraged at the sight of Charles and jimmy savile sauntering along on a royal estate in Scotland with a man who also looks very like Thomas Hamilton or the friendship between Andrew and epsteiin? And one more thing- What exactly were Liz and Phil doing to indigenous children in Canada during a visit in the 60s?

  2. very relevant article at the present time
    i dug in and found this beauty

  3. Well said Will. I am increasingly aware of how the media carefully grooms the Royals for Public consumption. Clearly Wills and Kate are currentlybeing set up for their seamless transition from perfect parents to perfect King and Queen. Re soft marketing, both Mary and Kate looked absolutely ecstatic in Saturdays paper about her forthcoming starring role in Mary Berries Christmas. On second thoughts, maybe it’s not the mulled wine, could be she is still amazed about winning that lottery and marrying into the Windsors!
    I thought the monarchy’s purpose in today’s world was to present a long term view and keep Britain on a steady course. After enduring the chronic Brexit soap opera, I feel deeply disappointed by the Royal Family. Like the government and House of Lords, they appear to be just another expensive show to keep us common ciphers, en bas.

  4. On top of all of that their sovereignty jurisdiction officially ended on 25th December 1950: it’s been a scam ever since then https://deuteronomy4verse2.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/121-legal-jurisdiction-ended-in-1950/

  5. Will Self is NOT a republican and never has been………He has always been a self entitled far left Socialist BIGOT of the do as I say not as I do type! Of course He hates the Royal Family because hates ANYTHING that is British…………Time you cleared off to your Socialist paradise in Venezuela because in Britain you are a waste of air

  6. I guess jews don’t like competition, they want to be top dog: well guess what: that is never going to happen, the sheeple are waking up, and once again, you are about to be sent back to the pit, were you all belong. God Save the Queen.

  7. He says ” an infuriatingly ingenuous way.” He means/meant ‘DISingenuous.”

  8. Apart from anything else, these leeches, and parasites, cost a lot. Each has to have a massive residence. Buckingham palace alone would house thousands of homeless Brits..