Thursday, 2 December 2010

There is still a place for the monarchy in Britain

The following is my opening speech to be delivered at the annual Schools' Debate on Tuesday 7th December, the motion being: There is no place for an unelected head of state in 21st Century Britain". Our team has been chosen to oppose the motion. 

N.B. This is not my personal opinion. In a formal debate, one is assigned a side for which to argue, one does not pick. I am personally a republican, as I have said in this post

Inscribed on the shield of the United Kingdom’s coat of arms is the British monarchy’s famous motto, “Dieu et mon droit”. It is French, meaning “God and my right”, and it alludes to an age-old tradition of the Divine Right of Kings – the belief that our monarchs were appointed by God, and therefore infallible. It is, of course, nonsense. The Queen was not picked by some divine force, nor has any sovereign in the history of the British Isles ever been subject to heavenly selection. They are in their position solely because of birth. Random chance. This, as we all know, has not always been an accepted viewpoint. In the past, the Divine Right of Kings was a solemnly held belief, and anyone who dared contest it was likely to find themselves either chained up in the Tower or swinging from a noose. But times have moved on. Progress has been made. And we have now reached a stage in our history where the Queen or King is not seen as God’s representative on earth and an unquestionable, supreme figure of absolute authority.

Some people, however, would have you think differently. Militant republicans often act as though we were still living in the past, still the citizens of an undemocratic country, being ordered about by a hereditary tyrant. But the truth is that the monarch has no real power. Not anymore.  The Queen or King, I concede, still has to sign legislation to make it law and still has to “ask” whoever wins an election to form a government in his or her name. But the point is that these are mere formalities, traditions that we’ve chosen to keep. If the monarch ever dared to publicly express a political opinion; to refuse to make something law after it had been passed through our democratic, legislative system or forbade the winning party from forming a government, then I would not be defending their role in modern Britain. If anything of that sort ever happened, it is certain, absolutely certain, that the government and the people would immediately have the monarchy abolished. As citizens of a democracy, we rightly expect and demand freedom and justice. The monarchy does not infringe these rights, and if they ever did, then they’d be scrapped sooner than you can say, “Grab the corgis, Phillip; we’ve a revolution on our hands!” The monarch, in today’s Britain, is merely a figurehead – a representative without any power, but rather under national order to remain neutral at all times.

What is more, the Royal Family earns this country millions of pounds every year through tourism. Go to Buckingham Palace on any day and you are guaranteed to find an American gentlemen in an unwise shirt and with an ostentatiously large camera taking pictures of the royal residency and hoping to catch a glimpse of the Queen in her dressing gown and curlers. The monarchy is this country’s main attraction. The global community flock to This Sceptred Isle year upon year to marvel at royal castles and palaces; jewels and paintings; garden and halls et cetera, et cetera. Abolish the monarchy and you do a great ill to 21st Century Britain's ailing economy - and you also put millions out of work: the tour guides, the experts, and the charming BBC Royal Correspondents like Jennifer Bond, among others. 

In addition, the monarchy is to the UK what an argument is to a dinner party – it makes it that little bit more interesting. In an increasingly republican age, I think that maintaining our heritage, keeping our traditions alive and not defaulting to a rather dull presidential system is something to be encouraged. The royal family makes this country unique, it makes us fascinating. The UK, more than any other state in the world, is renowned and famous for its monarchy. Getting rid of the Royals may well damage our national identity, our power and purpose as a player on the world stage, and thus be deleterious to our position in the 21st Century.  

In conclusion, I believe there is still a place for our monarchy in modern Britain. The Royal Family was stripped of political power long ago, and any attempt to reclaim it on their behalf would undoubtedly result in abolition. The political procedures in which the monarch must participate are mere tradition, and as much a part of the United Kingdom as tea and conversations about the weather. And what exactly is wrong with a bit of ceremony? It’s attractive, it’s uplifting and it’s an integral aspect of our national heritage (not to mention the millions of pounds it generates annually). The monarchy, however old-fashioned, however traditional, is still part of our modern identity. The royal family is a central thread of cotton in the great tapestry of Britain, and I for one don’t wish to unravel it. Though on a personal note, ask me again when it’s Camilla’s turn to take the throne, and my opinion may have differed.  


S said...

i'm so glad you're blogging again :)

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant! I love it, well done! Particularly like the "unwise shirt" bit - they do always seem to favour such garments don't they? ;)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sam .. this is really good - and the treasures the Monarch hold on our behalf are unique .. we're still finding out parts of the world's history from those.

I endorse your post totally .. good for you & I hope you win - you should do .. we'd do ourselves a huge disservice if we lose our pomp and circumstance.

Thanks .. enjoy the debate .. and good luck .. cheers Hilary

Pat Tillett said...

Hey Sam! Nice to see your post.
I love what you've written. The tradition of monarchy is so foreign to America, yet so many Americans are love every word they hear about the royal family. To me, they are like living history.

NabilaHazirah said...

Even though I'm not familiar with this particular subject, I have to admit this a brilliant speech! All the best on Tuesday!

Abby Rogers said...

I agree! What would England be without the monarchy? Just another boring democracy :( America is great, but I must say she lacks a certain pizazz.

Feel free to check out my British blog:

You'll find hundreds of lovely photographs from around Great Britain, British recipes, and quirky facts from a true Britophile!

J said...

I think we should abolish the monarchy. Not because it saves money though. I think that is not a convincing argument for the British public. The reason I want rid is because without the monarchy, we would be a lot less snobbish and divided as a nation. Britain is very snobbish. Certain people are looked down on and called common because of their accent and background. This causes low self esteem which leads to all sorts of problems; including low social mobility. Many people feel powerless and disrespected in Britain because they feel there is this establishment 'up there' which they don't belong to. Let us have the Prime Minister also being head of state and let us get rid of special titles and honours like 'Duke' and Lord'; let us call the second chamber, the senate, and the first chamber, the house of representatives.