The dust now seems to have settled on the result of the Scottish referendum on independence from the UK. For the time being, at least, Scotland will remain as a part of the union.
As to be expected, Elizabeth Windsor, Head of State for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the correct name for the union comprising Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England), made a statement on the matter. Part of that statement, issued from the monarch’s estate at Balmoral, Scotland, on 19 September, 2014, read as follows:
“For many in Scotland and elsewhere, there will be strong feelings and contrasting emotions – among family, friends and neighbours. That, of course, is the nature of the robust democratic tradition we enjoy in this country. But I have no doubt that these emotions will be tempered by an understanding of the feelings of others.”
There are those, of course, whose emotions will not be greatly tempered by the current monarch’s use of the term “the robust democratic tradition we enjoy in this country”. There is something extremely ironic in the use of such words by a Head of State who enjoys a position due to the historically privileged position of her family, who, moreover, is not, and has never been, subject to democratic election, has tenure of privileges and position for a lifetime, and is substantially reimbursed for all this from the public purse. Not much democratic tradition there, then!
I am not in a position to comment in detail about Elizabeth Windsor’s emotions and her promise that she and her family “will do all we can to help and support you in this important task to work constructively for the future of Scotland and indeed all parts of this country.” Of one thing I am certain, however, Elizabeth and the entire Windsor clan will take no part in doing something constructive about removing the undemocratic situation in which the family finds itself and to which it tenaciously clings.
Speaking of Elizabeth Windsor and her family, what is, or should be, their position vis-à-vis the so-called “bedroom tax” and any “mansion tax” brought in by a future British government?
After all, many of the homes the family live in have far more bedrooms than can possibly be required and most, if not all, are valued well in excess of what a mansion tax will set as a minimum limit. At a time when all major British political parties are speaking of further austerities within the public purse, is there not a case to be made for royal downsizing and austerity?
Indeed, is it not time for radically separating the tasks that a Head of State is required to perform from the ostentatious celebrity charade that is the Royal Family?
Related to the above is the question of when was the actual beginning of this royal charade? In his currently running BBC television programme, “The Long Shadow”, the historian David Reynolds gives us a clue.
Reynolds reviews the post-First World War period and, particularly, examines how political and ideological divisions came about in the immediate aftermath of World War 1. He looks at the three competing visions that developed across the western world in this period – Lenin and communism, Hitler, Mussolini and fascism, and Woodrow Wilson and democracy. He notes the toppling of numerous monarchies throughout Europe.
Most interestingly, Reynolds comments on how, in the UK, politics moved towards the ideological centre and party coalitions were formed, with the consequences of mainstream policy formation and decision making. In the process, the German background of the existing monarchical line was airbrushed out of the picture and George V was repackaged as a “symbol of the nation”.
David Reynolds considers that the architects of this rebranding were various figures of the British “establishment”. This would necessarily include politicians, the Anglican Church, the judiciary and, very likely, the military. A single figure, the head of state – a monarch, was successfully transformed into “the royal family”. The myth continued but in a new guise.
This “royal irony” could be the mother of all ironies!