A few weeks ago my wife and I went on a short cruise to Mexico starting from the port of Mobile Alabama. Ninety per cent or more of the passengers on board the ship were American and predominantly from the Southern States – as foreigners we were something of a curiosity! Everyone was very friendly – and inquisitive in that genial if rather over well-mannered American way. Conversation wasn’t on the great issues of the day and it also, thankfully, steered clear of American politics. Once our British nationality was established there was one unavoidable direction that our exchanges would take – the Royal Wedding. The pattern varied slightly but a typical opener would be “Are you looking forward to Prince William’s wedding?” – big smile! This was the cue for one of us to launch into a gushing but respectful speech about how wonderful it was and what a nice girl Kate seemed to be and what a good King he would be one day and how proud we were – and all that crap. But that is not quite our style and lying through my teeth, even in the polite surroundings of a cruise boat restaurant, isn’t what I do. So what I actually said was along the lines of what a pleasure it was to holiday in the world’s greatest Republic and how wise the nation’s founders had been to get rid of George III and how right George Washington had been to decline the throne and what a great democratic example the United States had always been to the world. I usually finished by saying that if the US wanted to now become a monarchy they were welcome to William Windsor and his bride to get them started. The conversation tended to dry up at this point.

Over time nations mature and a key part of the maturity process is when democratic systems replace autocratic often hereditary and always unelected leaders. Students of Government would argue that a “Constitutional monarchy”, which of course is what the United Kingdom is, is a perfectly democratic model as the Monarch must always do what parliament tells them. And Parliament is subject to the will of the people – so “we the people” are really the masters. Up to a point this is true and Queen Elizabeth has been an impeccable constitutional monarch for nearly sixty years. So what’s not to like? Well let’s start with first principles about the nature of what we are as human beings. The American “Declaration of Independence” sums it up pretty well: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This is an eloquent statement of how it should be – at birth we are equal and none of us should have inherited privileges that give us the right to govern others. The key point of the Declaration is that it relates to Government – it doesn’t say that at birth we are all equal in wealth, or beauty, or talent – of course not that would be absurd. But it does say that the accident of our birth cannot confer on us the right to govern – or it nearly says that in so many words!

Those who support the principle of a constitutional monarchy in Britain would argue that even though our Queen is our Head of State she is not really governing in any meaningful way. She cannot overrule the will of Parliament – she is a symbolic figurehead and essentially harmless. My problem with this is that the idea that someone is equipped to be Head of State purely because of who their father was is intellectually and morally offensive. And, of course, the not inconsiderable point that proper democracies elect their leaders at all levels, and certainly at the very top. I am not going to argue here what type of Republic I would like to see in my country and how we would choose our Head of State. I will just argue that we are entitled to have the right to choose and until we do our democracy is immature.

The belief that “…all men are created equal” also brings with it the concomitant truth that it is up to all of us to earn the right to be listened to – if we wish to be. Take the subject of architecture for example. I am quite interested in the subject and have a few views about it. I’m not an expert and I don’t expect anyone necessarily to take any notice of my views or anyone to give me a platform on which to spout them. In that respect I am no different to the heir to the British throne Prince Charles. Charles tinkered rather weakly with the subject of architecture at Cambridge forty years ago but he is not an architect and he has no more right than you and me to speak on the subject. That’s not saying he shouldn’t speak on it any more than me but his inherited position as son of the Monarch should not confer any credibility to his views over and above mine. But Charles’ views are given publicity and a standing that they don’t deserve driving proper architects to distraction at times. As one of the most distinguished of them put it “With superlative anachronism, he [Charles] has set himself against the bulk of an entire profession”. Prince Charles is a single-handed argument against the hereditary principle all on his own. And this vain, amoral, insensitive, opinionated and dim-witted man will be our next Head of State!

The Royal Wedding is just another episode in Britain’s longest running soap opera. And like East Enders or Coronation Street the media has to have it fixes of drama to keep us entertained. “The Royals” has had its moment of “tragedy” – like the absurd “abdication crisis” or the parochial drama of poor old Bertie (George VI) so well portrayed in “The Kings Speech”. The long life of the gin-swilling old soak the Queen Mother – a classic Soap Opera character whose longevity masked her malignancy. The utter vulgarity of Prince Charles and Camilla. The tedious and repetitious collapse of royal marriages – Princess Margaret, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew… And Andrew, a person who if he had had to fight to make a living in the real world would now be on welfare so miniscule is his talent and venal his personality. That the Royal family mirrors the population at large in its weaknesses is true and republican though I am I acknowledge that the Queen has devoted her life to public service – albeit within the comfortable world of unimaginable privilege.I wish William and Kate well and hope that they can buck the trend of disastrous marriages in the House of Windsor.

I wish them well in the same way that I would wish any young couple every happiness if they decide to be married. But I will not defer to them or respect them over and above their position as people who were created equal with me and the rest of my fellow citizens. Maybe with the anachronistic meaninglessness of this ludicrous Royal Wedding it will dawn on people that the whole shebang has had its day and that when the Queen dies we should take the opportunity to abandon the offensive charade of the monarchy. Maybe – but don’t hold your breath!  

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