It’s as if the English Revolution never happened
spiked editor Mick Hume in The Times (London) on the petty debate around the royal wedding.
- I keep hearing that the fiasco surrounding this week’s royal wedding provides ‘the best argument for a republic’.
As a loyal supporter of the British republican movement (regicidal maniac wing), I’m afraid that if this really is the best argument we have, the Crown has little to fear.
Many of us have enjoyed a good laugh at the Windsors’ inability to organise a banquet in a castle. But let nobody kid themselves that the monarchy will be brought down by unfunny caricatures of Charles mounted on his steed Camilla, or by unshocking reports that the Prince of Wales is a graceless curmudgeon (what we might call a horse-bites-man story).
The reaction to the royal wedding reveals the impoverished state of republicanism today. The public mood is more one of cynical indifference than opposition to the monarchy, a collective shrug of the shoulders that poses about as much of a threat as the fake bomb delivered to Windsor Castle by a newspaper.
The ‘debate’ about monarchy is continually trivialised on both sides. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money! It only costs you the price of a small loaf! Charles is an arrogant waster! He does a lot of good work for charidee! Camilla is a stony-faced home-wrecker! She’s a rock like the Queen Mum!
Spare us this petty, penny-pinching palaver. The monarchy debate should be about the great issues of sovereignty and liberty and democracy. The English Civil War was not fought over King Charles I’s ghastly taste in wigs or women.
Amid the endless gossip about the Royal Family’s internal wrangling, when was the last time you heard anybody mention the Royal Prerogative? This is the constitutional device that allows Her Majesty’s Government to wage war and much else without reference to parliament. It is the continued sovereignty of the Crown that enables Mr Blair to act like a medieval monarch.
In the end it doesn’t much matter what we think of Charles, Camilla or any of them. This is about how we see ourselves. As one letter-writer to The Times recently pointed out, we are not citizens but ‘subjects of the Sovereign’. He seemed proud of that subordinate status. Each to his own.
Political attitudes towards the monarchy have always been tellingly symbolic. Back in the 1920s, when old Labour was supposedly at its radical peak, Leon Trotsky observed that Labour leaders had no hope of changing society ‘if they dare not refuse pocket money to the Prince of Wales’. New Labour leaders, for all the talk of far-reaching constitutional reform, still toady to the royals like those butlers who hold Charles’s specimen bottle.
Watching the British establishment drop everything and decamp to Rome, a colleague exclaimed: ‘It’s as if the Reformation never happened.’ Following the flaccid arguments around the royal wedding, it is as if the English revolution never happened either. The paucity of the monarchy debate captures the state of political life on the eve of the election, almost devoid of principle or passion.
Michael Foot was told by his father always to judge a man by asking yourself whether he would have fought for Parliament or the King at Marston Moor. That still seems sound advice. The trouble today is that many would probably be standing on the battlefield sidelines, carping about the catering arrangements, tut-tutting about who’s paying for the Cavaliers’ fancy uniforms, or shouting at the Roundheads ‘Who cuts your hair – the council?’
- If you want to be part of a something big and passionate on Saturday, my tip is to forget the royal wedding and join in the Shared National Experience of losing money on the Grand National at Aintree.
However, the animal rights zealots, emboldened by successes against foxhunting and animal research, have once again got the National in their sights. ‘The time has come,’ the man from Animal Aid instructs us, ‘to dump it in the dustbin of history, along with hunting and cockfighting.’
Such killjoys always remind me of Lord Macaulay’s observation that the Puritans opposed bear-baiting ‘not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators’. The only thing I look forward to dumping in the dustbin of history tomorrow is my betting slip.
Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)
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