As with all my previous blogs, this one is purely my opinion. I hope it combines my own personal recollections and experiences with research of the subject matter in hand. I hope you find it interesting and as usual, you are free to comment.
Please do remember to keep your responses respectful and consider others. I hope to build a happy community of readers and believe we should all be able to contribute comments, even when disagreeing, without the need to resort to coarse expletives, offensive insults or explosive language.
This time, I want to discuss a very topical subject – the dawn of a new era. The United Kingdom of Great Britain, the Commonwealth countries and territories have a new King as Head of State.
I think it is worth detailing a little of the back-history of the new Monarch.
Queen Elizabeth II invested (the now) King Charles III as Prince of Wales in 1969.
At the time, he was 21 years old.
King Charles took over management of the Duchy of Cornwall around the same time, a mantle he has now passed on to his oldest son, Prince William, the new Prince of Wales.
I want to pause just a moment to mention this interesting landmark in history.
There are a lot of anti-Monarchists complaining at the ‘cost’ of such a system.
When King Charles (then Prince of Wales) took over managing the Duchy of Cornwall, it became his primary source of income, so he has never drawn anything from the Civil List (abolished in 2012).
In a recent news article, much was also made of the Royal Family’s ‘riches’.
The Crown Jewels belong to the Crown, not the Royal Family themselves.
The King inherited the Sandringham estate in Norfolk and Balmoral in Scotland.
King Charles also owns a property in Romania, Highgrove House and Dumfries House, a property in Scotland.
There was a recent TV broadcast about the King’s acquisition of Dumfries House (which is now open to the public), but in case you didn’t get to see it, I want to mention a few things that came out of that program.
When the (then) Prince Charles acquired the property, it was extremely rundown and in need of extensive repairs and renovations.
At his own expense, King Charles instituted an extensive restoration.
In addition, by buying the property and house contents, the King preserved 10% of the remaining pieces of Chippendale furniture still existing.
In the process, the King has created apprenticeships for a number of dying skilled professions.
Some of the Royal Family rent or own property, but by and large, the rest of the palaces and houses belong to the Crown, not the Royal Family.
The news article bundled all Royal Family properties, Crown jewels and grants to seem like the Royal Family grasp every bit of money when many are struggling.
Did you know the new King donated ALL of the profits from the wind farms on his properties to help UK good causes?
The King has directed he wishes to oversee the money benefits those who need it the most.
This is not the action of a greedy person, surely?
I can recall as a young person hearing the older adults discussing Prince Charles’ talking to plants, or his stance on saving the planet.
At the time (probably in the mid-70s), Global warming was considered with the same smiling indulgence as the belief in the existence of the little people of Lilliput.
It’s hard for some to credit Prince Charles (as he was then) was a man ahead of his time.
When it comes to countering negative publicity, the new King has borne more than his fair share.
There are many books, authorised and not about the new King.
It is not my intention to rake over the old ground of character interpretation.
From what I have observed, the new King has faced many challenges over the years, and I am sure his new Reign will test him some more.
I want to examine the question of whether it is appropriate (in the modern age) to have a Monarchy?
The United Kingdom of Great Britain has an unwritten Constitution.
It exists by way of tradition, precedent and by acceptance.
There is a delicate three-way balance between the Monarchy, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, along with a three-way separation of power between the State, the Executive and the Judiciary.
There is an unwritten rule, none should impinge or interfere with the others.
Over the whole presides the Monarch and this system of rule has rolled over (relatively without much of a ripple of trouble) since the Restoration.
There are many people today who question why the Monarchy still exists – they argue why do we need a Head of State?
What exactly does the Monarch do?
As a country, the UK needs to transact business with other countries.
To do so, we have trade agreements and trade envoys and all sorts of diplomatic interactions to help businesses manage, obtain and continue trading so they can make a profit.
Many countries manage to do so through the medium of a President or Government Ministers.
However, some countries still use their Monarch to host events, galas, State banquets, State visits and the like, and this is partly to fight their ‘trade’ corner.
It is quite possible for a Prime Minister to host such occasions, but it doesn’t have anything like the same kudos as a State banquet hosted by a King or Queen.
There again, sometimes there may be an awkwardness politically for a Government Minister to publically front an event where some of the prominent attendees belong (or used to) to a formerly illegal political group.
If the host is the Queen (or as now, King), it takes the sting out of meeting at such an event.
Can you imagine how you would act and react if you had to host an event and meet and greet some of the key attendees who may have belonged to such a group and directly impacted your own family?
Being the Head of State isn’t entirely the cosseted pampered easy ride it might first appear.
There is of course the question of status.
Like it or not, the Monarch is a symbol of wealth and power.
Originally, it proclaimed to the rest of the world the country had wealth and an army.
Former Kings and Queens have exploited this to the country’s advantage.
Over the centuries, Britain has gone to war (and mostly won) to press home that power and wealth.
What do you suppose might have happened if a President or Prime Minister had been in charge?
Of course, in each of the foregoing instances, the Monarch, Royal Palaces, Crown Jewels and other Crown assets are used in the business, trade, diplomatic or State occasions.
We also expect our Monarch (and working Royals) to act as promoters for thousands of good causes, charities and to be ‘on tap’ for any key events.
We expect them to open shopping centres, name newly built ships, host an annual garden party, open Parliament and honour our War dead.
A look at the Court diary would tell you, all these duties keep the Royal Family busy.
Instead of ‘paying’ for these services, we expect them done for free, ‘paid for’ out of public taxation?
As I’ve mentioned, it doesn’t quite work like that.
The Queen (now the King) receives an income from the Duchy of Lancaster, which supports the Monarch’s household and expenses.
The Prince of Wales receives income from the Duchy of Cornwall, which is used to support household and expenses, and those of the other working Royals, who will also derive a grant or income from other sources.
In exchange for abolishing the Civil List, the Monarch pays taxes on a portion of their income.
The UK Government does not charge the new Monarch inheritance tax (or death duties) because the Monarch’s property devolves automatically to the next in line of Succession.
This is because the Monarch is a figurehead and the caretaker of the Monarchy for the next generation to follow on.
Before I leave the money-question for other arguments, just consider this: during the long weekend of the imminent Coronation on 6th May 2023, conservative estimates are the event itself will bring in an estimated £1bn in revenue for UK businesses.
Contrast this with the new King’s determination his coronation will be considerably smaller in scale and cost compared with that of his late mother, the wonderful and respected Queen Elizabeth II.
Another question for the anti-Monarchy lobby: if the UK disbanded the Monarch as titular Head of State, who would take his or her place?
Who would replace them at all the various functions, events, State occasions, travel overseas for all manner of visits, diplomatic, civic or key milestones in another country’s history?
If, for example, you were to take a mean average of 90 visits, events, functions, etc per working Royal, who else could fulfil those in place of the said working Royal?
Let’s do the maths: there are currently 7 working Royals – the King, Queen Consort, Prince and Princess of Wales, Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal.
The Princess Royal, Princess Anne regularly tops the poll of hardest working Royal, usually completing almost 300 Royal engagements every year.
However, if we stick to the mean average of 90, the replacement attendee would have to go on 450 engagements in one year.
There are only (at the most) 365 days in a year.
If the UK Prime Minister is the envisaged replacement, when is he or she going to be available to run the country?
What happens if the UK Government is looking at pursuing a certain course of action, yet the proposed engagement flies contrary to the Government policy?
How does the UK (and the rest of the world for that matter) reconcile a representative putting forward a certain view to (for example) a meeting of Heads of State, when the UK Government or some portion of it is clearly pursuing a different path?
If we return to the 450 (mean average) of engagements, none of the working Royals are paid for attending them.
There are expenses for getting to (and from) the engagements, and obviously, they need to look smart for the event.
However, what would the alternative be?
There has been enough scandal over MPs expenses over the last decade to convince me at least transferring responsibility over to a Government representative would be fraught with similar issues.
Another issue to contend with is the fact that currently when the King hosts a banquet or State event, the King can welcome attendees into the splendour of a Royal Palace.
The King can describe the items on display, the antique furniture, beautiful wall hangings or paintings.
The King can explain their significance and origins because the ancillary trappings of Monarchy are more than a physical display of wealth.
They represent over a thousand years of acquired history and tradition.
If you feel inclined to dismiss either, just consider what a Government appointed representative could bring to the party.
How would an otherwise unremarkable appointee put across the symbolism, the deeper meaning behind the instruments used for the State opening of Parliament, for instance?
The Monarch, at such times, on such occasions, is much more than a figurehead.
The Monarch is a physical embodiment of a method of Rule stretching back to the Plantagenets.
By disbanding the Monarchy, this link is destroyed and with it, centuries of forebears striving to create it.
If by getting rid of the Monarchy, the purpose is to ditch the thousand or more years it took to reach today, the sad fact is, the process will be in vain.
History is merely a record of what came before, and while we humans are here, none of us can accurately foretell what will come next.
None of us has the 20/20 vision of hindsight before the event.
If anyone did, they could claim absolute genius in predictive terms.
Thousands of good and bad choices pepper the human race’s history.
Wherever you look in history, there are many points at which things would have been different, but for someone’s choice.
Take, for example, the point in the Battle of the Bulge, where the German forces offer the American forces terms of surrender, and the US General in charge spoke the legendary word: ‘Nuts!’
At the time, the situation looked grim, and it could be argued from today’s perspective, it seemed foolhardy to reckless to carry on, but if the US General had made a different choice, the world would be very different today.
The new King has shown himself to be wise because he saw, spoke of and took up the baton of climate change long before the rest of us caught on.
The new King is hoping to show the rest of us he is inclusive, tolerant and compassionate through his new administration and the symbolism of his Coronation on the 6th of May 2023.
What I want to ask is this: why don’t we all try to follow his lead?
Why don’t we all try to do something, however small, for our fellow humans (whoever they are) regardless of creed, culture, race or religion?
Who knows, we may all feel and become the better for it.
Friday, 28th April 2023