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.
The breaking news headline stated that, “A spokesperson for Kensington Palace says the christening of Prince Louis of Cambridge by the Archbishop of Canterbury will take place on Monday, July 9, at the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace in London”. The public might think that this is a quite straightforward news announcement. Yet, take a closer look at the text of the announcement.
“A spokesperson for Kensington Palace says…” The announcement is by an anonymous spokesperson for a family that is expected to be known by its exclusive place of abode!
“…the christening of Prince Louis of Cambridge…” A religious ritual is to be performed on a ‘princely person’ who carries no political or citizenship rights for the city of Cambridge or its county, that person being the privileged offspring of a family that has self-inferred and inherited titles, property, wealth and religious significance!
“…by the Archbishop of Canterbury…” The religious ritual is to be sanctified by the highest prelate of the Established (Christian) Church in the kingdom, an institution and a ritual that carries little significance for the majority of the constantly diminishing number of Christians in the UK and no significance for religious people of non-Christian persuasion! Moreover, it is the same archbishop who places the crown on the head of the monarch at a coronation ceremony – on behalf and with the assumed authority of the God of the Church of England and not with the formal consent of the people of the British nation state!!
“…will take place on Monday, July 9, at the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace in London”. Once again an exclusive place of abode, yet another palace, of the same family is mentioned in the despatch – this time focusing on a religious place of prayer given a royal name and significance. So too, the location of the City of London ensures that this whole (and one might say ‘holy’) announcement is situated most firmly in the centre of British privilege, power and possession.
So, well into the 21st century, the electronic media is doing the work of the ancient town crier, the royal scribes and scripts, in announcing to the world the affairs of the British monarchy. With this goes the assumption that the news will be listened to with the heightened expectation of a nationally important event and, perhaps most obviously and frighteningly, such a state of affairs will be accepted as the norm for and by the family in question.
The very means and method of this announcement are intended to be uncritically heard by the masses (after all, everyone loves to hear a celebrity ‘baby story’, don’t they?). So too, one of the unspoken assumptions behind such announcements is that the ‘masses’ are still regarded, by implication if not public pronouncement, as subjects of a monarch and not as citizens of a nation.
What is worrying about announcements of this kind, not to mention the increasing numbers and wide variety of media articles and programmes now being produced for public consumption, is the fact that little seems to be happening to counteract the royalist propaganda for which these announcements, articles and programmes effectively serve the purposes. Whether by design or opportunity, there is little by way of information, interviews, articles or actions that permit the counter-views to be presented.
Where is the republican voice? Where is the presentation of the non-Christian, or non-religious, perspective? Where is the challenge to a secretive and selective establishment? Where is the protest of ordinary people who continue to live under the subtle yolk of anachronistic cultural, religious, social and political perspectives and practices? Where is the realization that the continuing existence of a monarchy in the United Kingdom is part of the problem and not part of the answer?
What other nation on earth continues to parade its privileged class in the manner that is exercized by those who control and manipulate the strings of the British state? What other nations on earth, apart from those controlled by oil-rich, royalist dictatorships (most of which are usually void of the system of human rights we are meant by law to enjoy in the UK), permit their affairs of state to be carried out by unelected or unsanctioned officials? What other nation on earth gives so much, to so few, for so little?
It is hard to resist the notion that the manner of the recent announcement about the christening service for the latest member of the Windsor dynasty is just another example of how the controlling elite in the UK goes about its business.
The British monarchy is in dire need of democratization. This is also true of other aspects of the elite in British society. Examples of the foregoing would include the existence and functioning of the unelected House of Lords; the voting system for the House of Commons; the lack of a proper federally entrenched system of national, regional and local government; and the separation of Church and State.
The former Emeritus Professor and Director of the Global Policy Institute at London Metropolitan University, Stephen Haseler, seriously calls into question the existence and function of what he has called the ‘ancien regime’. This includes
(a) the Monarchy;
(b) the Established Church of England, of which the monarch is the head – along with being the head of the political state;
(c) a secretive Privy Council – a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom (note: the reference is to the sovereignty of the monarch, not the sovereignty of the British people through Parliament!);
(d) the Royal Prerogative – the undemocratic royal powers of the Crown within the executive process of British politics.
The foregoing are weighty matters and a reader might wonder at the link between them and an announcement of a christening service for the latest addition to the British ‘royal family’ – such as that with which this article commenced. A few moments of critical reflection, however, and the link may become less tenuous and more evident than at first thought.
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Tagged ancien regime, christening, citizen's rights, elites, established church, inheritance, Privy Council, propaganda, republicanism, royal palaces, royal prerogative powers