Do we live in a monarchy? Some say of course we do. Watch the man straighten his shoulders as a huge metallic cap of gold and jewels is lowered over his ears: it’s our ear. Well, not really, as others say. The word “king” means a man who rules alone, and today our kings and queens are honorable, obedient to an elected parliament. But a third voice says: Not only do we live in a monarchy, but Britain is a much more royal place than most people realize.
The United Kingdom is the only remaining country in Europe whose institutions are still primarily monarchical. Power comes from the top down in Britain, not from the people. An ancient and ghostly respect reigns over cabinets, assemblies, administrations, and ceremonies. In the Middle Ages, monarchy was often “contractual”: you protect us, we will obey you, and we will fight for you. But later came the era of the “divine right” of kings: the king’s absolute, anointed, and unlimited power. In Europe, this was reversed by the French Revolution and the century of revolutions and constitutions that followed. Divine right gave way to ideas of “popular sovereignty”—sometimes real, sometimes illusory dictatorship. But England, when I grew up in Britain, missed it.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688-1996 took absolute power from the Crown and transferred it to Parliament. And it still lingers there, disguised today as an absurd doctrine of “parliamentary supremacy”. Over the past half century, efforts have been made to reduce this absolutism, mainly through the law – judicial review, the new Supreme Court. But the structure still looks owned when you click on it. Take official information, for example. In the pedantic theory, everything is secret. It is the exclusive property of the Crown, and a citizen simply does not have a general right to it, although they can now use the recent Freedom of Information Act to request access in specific cases. The Minister may choose to share a government document with him, but he is not obligated to do so. Any old-school monarch, from Charles I to George V, would totally understand that.
The reluctance to delegate power “down” is very regal. In the absence of a constitution to limit this, central authority rules as a last resort. As Enoch Powell famously said, “The energy transmitted is the energy retained.”
Thatcher abolished London’s elected government and circled the grounds to close university departments. Nothing happened to him. But in most modern countries, where the constitution provides for the rights of local government and universities, he would have been considered an enemy of the state. You can’t stop our queens and kings. Their most important privileges are immunities. Mel Brooks plays Louis XVI World history part 1He enjoys royal immunity because he uses the peasants to practice archery and squeezes the buttocks of the ladies-in-waiting: “It’s good to be king!”
(One school of thought speculates that the Windsors might be more famous if they stopped looking somber and turned out to be rich, loving, and able to summon anything and anyone in the blink of an eye.)
This king, like his predecessors, is immune to all sorts of things, from official inspections to various taxes and laws (especially laws relating to property and royal estates) that he dislikes. He can put money into the treasury, but not because he has to. The long tradition of royal immunity has spilled over into the realm of dignitaries, watered down to “a law for us and another for them”. Elsewhere, immunity is purchased through corruption. Here it is simply assumed – often, as in the case of Boris Johnson, very correctly.
The title itself describes “United Kingdom” as a royal aberration. Elsewhere, many nation-states have decentralized authorities – German provinceCanadian provinces. But these are unions, as the constitution guarantees the rights of British Columbia or Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Wales and defunct Scotland had no such rights. Tomorrow Royal Westminster could abolish the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament with a single vote. In fact, he would be afraid to do so, even though the Tories fought so hard to prevent a transfer of power and would not accept such a shift in the shining armor of the kingdom. (Quiconque regarde l’histoire televisée de Norma Percy sur Congrès de Belfast Vous vous souviendrez combien de fois Mme Thatcher, grondant as une reine amazone defendant son sein, a refusé de permettre à Dublin de partager une partie de la souveraineté Britannique sur l’Irlande from the north).
Most people in Britain think that if you remove the king and instead abolish a president, you get a republic. Given that this island is only a few kilometers away from two labor republics, France and Ireland, this ignorance is surprising. And dangerous. A true republic is a complex part of democratic architecture in which power derives from a base of “popular” sovereignty – not a monarchy or parliament. It is the principle of “subsidiarity”, a European democratic principle that has long baffled British politicians and diplomats. Republican institutions and citizens have written rights, enshrined in a constitution that is deliberately difficult to amend. The constitution is the “supreme law” and perpetrators can be tried by a supreme court.
All this is against the Anglo-British monarchy and tradition. In the 1640s, England ruled the world politically, as it did in so many other ways, when it launched the first modern revolution and beheaded the king. But being the first also means you make mistakes that later imitators can avoid. Poorly managed revolutions often lead to tyranny: Robespierre, Stalin… Oliver Cromwell’s anarchic protectorate is neither republican nor democratic. After the Revolution of 1848, France overthrew the monarchy, but slipped—instead of a stable republic—into an imperial dictatorship under Napoleon III.
A decent republic means freedom, equality and fraternity. But the second point can upset the sensitivity of the English language. Ask the young woman to choose her smartphone from the all-in-one Clapham phone. justice for all? certainly! Equality before the law? clearly. But the social equality imposed by the taxes of capital, the taxation of private education, and the general interference with the sacred property laws of England? No, wait a minute. »
In the coronation, there is a moment when a man or woman seems to faint under the weight of the radiant crown and ball and scepter. Genetic succession contains elements of Russian roulette. Thus, the British monarchy was most secure when power seemed to radiate from the crown itself as a fixed and inviolable gift from heaven, rather than from the person who wore it. But in the 21st century, it is no longer possible to think that way. Malak really screwed up, and the show ended.
The late Queen, after 70 years of brilliance and hard work, kept that fact in the background. Without indulging in the luxuries of Mel Prosky, most of the time she seemed to really enjoy her work. Ironically, partly because she was so good at her job that now, in the year 2023, the props supporting the monarchy have been reduced to just one: a one-man figure. Gloomy self-denial (“It hurts to be king!”) was not Charles III’s programme; These days, that would only upset his subjects. Instead, they would like to see him laugh as he drives the royal sword through the jungle of privilege and respect that imprisons it and harbors the paradoxes of the British state. In short, he can be remembered as the happy warrior who made his kingdom a republic.