In the previous article (see: A right-royal carve-up…) I referred to the plethora of television programmes that rehearsed the lives of the British monarch in particular and the royal lineage in general.
I made the comment that an outcome of the seemingly constant barrage of historical movies, television series and popular literature serve the purpose of inuring the public through a process of constantly thrusting the royals into their faces. It might also be that the opposite is true. These productions serve to promote both the traditional roles and contemporary disguises of the royals in order to maintain their privileged and un-earned status in society – the continuation of what could be termed the “Windsor’s false consciousness”.
Reviewing that article brought to my mind a piece published a number of years ago in the blog of the British Republican Movement (britishrepublicanblog.org). The said article was written following the birth of George (born 22 July, 2013), the first child of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and William, Duke of Cambridge. The title of the article was: Every child should be born equal. It was written by Zachary Adam Barker and, in part, what is written below reflects that article and its author.
The article began with a questions posed by a BBC Radio Bristol presenter, “Surely the birth of the third person in line to the throne can only be a good thing?” The question was, of course, in reference to George Windsor, and was asked as though it was a self-evident truth. In actual fact the birth of anyone is generally a good thing. The emergence of new persons into the world presents endless possibilities. What personalities will they display? What will be their role and function in life? Will they have a family? What will they become? What will be their contribution to human growth and development?
The above questions are applicable to babies born to members of the royal family as much as to any family. However, in the case of George Windsor and unlike the vast majority of the citizens of the British state, most of these questions had already been settled even before baby George emerged. The same may be said, though with a less-concerned voice, for his siblings, Charlotte and Louis.
The baby’s being, warts and all, will have been heavily filtered through the ruthless efficiency of the palace’s PR machine. Eventually the person that boy George is in the process of becoming, as “third in line to the throne”, will be required to be the progenitor of others in the royal line in order to ensure the continuity of the British monarchy. In due course, he could also become the British Head of State – whether desired or deserved, or otherwise.
All of this puts a hefty burden on the child that came into the world just a few years ago and entered that world through a route designed for all babies, regardless of wealth or privilege. It also automatically grades any other British child as unworthy of or unsuited to take on, or volunteer to take on, that burden when they come of age.
Perhaps what might be considered as the most objectionable aspect of the question: “Surely the birth of the third person in line to the throne can only be a good thing?” was what it implied about the state of British democracy. Are we so disillusioned with our democracy, and those who we elect to represent us, that we are ready to walk away from the ballot box and sell our souls and our labour for an idea that is the very antithesis of explicit rule by the people?
The idea of monarchy presents a contradictory picture of human nature. It implies that those elected can be nothing more than mere “common” human beings, while those in the royal line, those appointed to the ultimate non-elected and honorific roles, are gracious and noble, happy and glorious, virtuous and victorious – and with a longevity of carefully constructed and cultured lives to permit the expression of these personal and professional characteristics. It suggests that we can aspire to be only the second-class subjects of a monarch rather than the first-class citizens of a nation-state.
The monarchy is supposed to be an example to us all. Implied in this exemplary royal performance is that members of the extended royal family model what is to be expected of the “citizen class” of the nation. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the concept, the ideal, of “duty”.
Whether we speak of the “big society” or simple citizenship it seems that the ordinary people of the nation are expected to do their duty and to be personally satisfied with doing so, with, perhaps, the incentive of receiving a royal honour on such occasions as the celebration of the reigning monarch’s birthday. Yet this idealism is offset by the fact that the roles and duties of the royals seem to be defined and transacted against a background of wealth, privilege and subtle political manoeuvring – hardly the situation-in-life of ordinary people!
It is heartening to consider, however, that what is described above paves the way for the expression and promotion of democratic discontent.
The existence of the British monarchy carries with it the message that our hard fought democracy and its values may be considered as simply not worth fighting for or have the outcomes expected. The existence of the British monarchy and its staunchest supporters and beneficiaries, endeavours to persuade us that our individual and collective lives are enhanced by the retention of and dependence on those whom history has privileged and empowered to rule – directly or otherwise, by accident or design. We tend to forget, however, that we have a choice in the matter.
Whilst it is not unusual to suspect elected Members of Parliament of fraudulent expense claims and other forms of self-aggrandisement, we seem to consider that occupants of and heirs to the throne – with suspect tax arrangements and a history of lobbying of Parliament – are assumed to be above such illicit practices. Expense anomalies for MPs are pounced on, whilst public expenditure on private royal transportation and some royal wedding expenses, including the cost of excessive amounts of security, not to mention the exorbitant and spiralling cost of maintaining a monarchical system, are shrugged off.
This system speaks ill of human possibility and counts against the continuation of an outdated and undemocratic monarchical system.
It is accepted that all people are corruptible – the high and the mighty, the meek and the lowly, those elected and the unelected. But integrity and freedom are worth fighting for. As a great man once said “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. Vigilance and action are required for the realization of a genuine democracy, one that includes the eradication of the system of inherited wealth, privilege and social esteem known as monarchy – and a “royal family” as its constitutional exemplars.
Is every child born equal? Or, are there some more equal than others? If so, then why? Surely, it remains true and self-evident, that all human beings are born equal and should be treated as such.