Wednesday 6 June 2012

and god save your mad parade....

There’s a guy at my gym that I see almost every time I’m there. He used to work in the same building as me, so I recognise him from having seen him around the office… but the main reason that he stands out is that he always seems to be wearing an England football shirt.  Now, if this was just his gym kit, then perhaps it wouldn’t be so remarkable, but I’ve seen him arriving at the gym in an England away shirt and then change into a home shirt for his workout. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he also seems to have an England football branded towel that he uses in the showers. I suppose you could excuse this in a seven year-old, but this guy is forty if he’s a day.

He can wear what he wants, of course, it’s just that it seems a little strange to me that someone who is old enough to think for themselves would choose to define their own sense of who they are so tightly with their national football team and to display that so obviously to everyone else.  John Terry - should you need reminding - is a member (and former captain) of the England football team.  Is that the kind of person you want to represent you?  Not me.  The towel, it seems to me, is the finishing touch too much. Perhaps he doesn’t fancy a three lions tattoo on his calf?  (or maybe he's already got one somewhere else....)

I mention this because it strikes me that a similar kind of mentality has been on display all weekend as people have celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I don’t really have an axe to grind against the Queen herself: this woman has dedicated her life to her country. For all the wealth and privilege her role has brought her (a personal fortune of over £300m, an art collection valued at £10b, Property worth £7b….) a gilded cage is still cage…. She’s 86 years old now, and it looks as though the only way she will ever escape from her cage is by dying. Until then, her life will continue to be about smiling, waving and showing polite interest in anything that she’s pointed at (including, it seems, about six hours worth of boats floating down the Thames. Each one as fascinating as the last, I’m sure….I can’t help but wonder if the Duke of Edinburgh’s bladder infection is tactical and he can be found being ‘treated’ at the Old Navy club in Mayfair?).

I didn’t watch one second of the weekend’s festivities. I’m grateful for the extra Bank Holiday, to be sure, but I certainly felt under no obligation to spend it celebrating the life and reign of the Head of State. If you watched every moment of it, then good for you… but I must admit to being more than a touch baffled by the people I heard interviewed who had spent 24 hours in the rain to get a good position to watch the flotilla, and then another 24 hours making sure they got a good spot on the Mall. “Things like this: it’s what makes Britain great, isn’t it?”

Um. Not really.  Not for me, anyway.

You remember when Kim Jong Il died and the world genuinely marvelled – and laughed in bemusement – at the millions of North Koreans who took to the streets in a mass display of national grief? This weekend, that was us; the rest of the world was looking at us and shaking their heads in amazement at the hordes of people standing in the rain to celebrate a moribund institution.  A relic.

I have a fundamental problem with our monarchy. It’s nothing personal, but the Queen represents something that I believe has no place in a modern democracy: she personifies the principle that some people are simply born better than others. All those people out waving union jacks in the street are effectively tugging their forelocks in a display of class-ridden deference to an inequality that is ingrained in our society. You can argue all you want about the tourist dollar the royal family brings into the country (and as long as Windsor Legoland has more visitors than Windsor castle, you’ll never convince me on that point either), but for me it’s a much more deep-seated problem; a boil that we really should get round to lancing.  America doesn't do everything right, but enshrining in the constitution the right of any natural born citizen to become president is one of the things that Franklin, Jefferson and John Adams got just about bang on.

I’m sure she’s an amazing woman, but her silence and inscrutability have allowed people to reflect onto the Queen any virtue that they wish. Stoic, noble, dignified… well, if you like, but on the other hand she happily reads out the words given to her by whichever party happens to be in power, and in her Christmas Speech of 1997 she spoke more of her sadness for the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia than for the death of her grandchildren’s mother.

Apparently the monarchy is currently enjoying an approval rating of 88% and it seems unthinkable that Britain will ever change. Well, let’s see, shall we? Some of those people interviewed on the banks of the Thames and queuing on the Mall were asked what their views were on a possible King Charles…. Their response? A long and significant pause before a somewhat terse “no comment”. That’s the thing about a hereditary monarchy: you don’t get to choose who comes next. No matter how much you love Wills and his “commoner” wife (and what a festival of snobbery that wedding was by all concerned, the hoi polloi most guilty of all), you don’t get to have him next. And if you don’t like the idea of Charles and his current wife sitting on the throne, then you’re not much of a monarchist, are you?


  1. I fled into the wilderness and risked hypothermia on the Pennine Way in order to avoid all the jubilee bollocks. The continued survival of the monarchy is one of the most frustrating, baffling aspects of living in this country. How can anyone say they support the royal family when we haven't got a fucking clue as to what they actually believe? But then there's the argument that their beliefs are (rightly, for some reason) forever to be a mystery to their subjects, and that the important thing is what they represent: self sacrifice, decorum and duty. Qualities more attributable, in my opinion, to the public servants that are currently getting such a kicking from the government and press. Doctors, teachers and police literally sustain fabric of our society, but attempt to maintain pensions: despicable parasites - Queen and family members somehow bestow intangible pzazz to our pathetic lives, granted half a dozen palaces, world's best ever stamp collection, etc., etc. : bloody marvelous. I just don't get it.

  2. ...and let's not forget that the same newspapers that put amusing Kaiser helmets and things on the front pages when we play/beat the Germans at anything, are the same ones currently covering their pages in flags celebrating our German royal family.

    Oh, and apparently the public fork out something like £200m a year for her security and transport and suchlike. She does now pay some tax, apparently.... but how much is not disclosed. Pah.

    I'd get rid of them full stop, but why can't they just have no public role, no public funding and just ride bicycles like some of the european royal families?

  3. Personally I think Saxe Coburg De Gotha is one of the coolest names ever, very sad that they're so insecure about it. After all, what are they without their heritage? And, yep, the hard cash that we shell out to maintain this farce is an obscenity.

    The Queen's supposed constitutional position is a load of mumbo jumbo, the idea that she might not give the royal assent to a bill. If she didn't she'd be gone in a week. But there can be no rational debate, we mustn't tamper with the delicate workings of the British State as it has evolved over the centuries, we might break it. For fuck's sake, we chopped a king's head off a while back.

  4. The writing was on the wall for the British monarchy as early as 1215, to be honest. Concede a few rights to your subjects and all it takes is a couple of depositions and *BANG* you're a parliamentary monarchy before you know it. Bloody King John, eh? Magna Carta was the beginning of the end.

  5. we had some proper radicals at the time of the English Civil War, too. Chopped the King's head off and had a real chance at making a go of a Republic a good 150 years before anyone else thought of it.... but we blew it.

  6. and in case you had forgotten, or hadn't heard him mention it over the last 12 months, David Cameron slept on the Mall before the wedding of Charles and Diana! Man of the people, Dave. I'd have him up on the guillotine too.

  7. The worst thing about the current set up is the thought that the queen does actually wield some kind of political power. The absence of Blair and Brown from the recent royal wedding meant something.

    If she doesn't, then she's in it for the trappings. Can either position be acceptable?

  8. Sorry having lived my life in and under the United States and it's unhealth care system. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a corporation has the same rights as a person. I would gladly trade places with you or Canada.

    I Love my county and served in it's Army, for 19+ years. It's not that I would move. But I can't afford to see a doctor, one trip can cost me $600. dollars, if I were to go to the hospital it's has cost me no less then $5,000.00 dollars the most so for was $20,000.00 and I didn't even stay over night! It's cheaper to put me in the ground or in a box. Last time you went to the Doctor what did it cost you, and what did your medicine cost you?

  9. I hear you Mary - I receive several thousand pounds of free drugs from the NHS for my MS every single month, so I know all about how lucky we are in this country to have healthcare that is free at the point of access. Trust me, I know. The thing is though that this has nothing - NOTHING - to do with our royal family. The NHS was put in place by an elected government and has been maintained (to a greater or lesser extent) by successive elected governments in the years since. The Royal family have not been involved. At all. Not even a little bit. In fact, think how much more money we might have been able to put into our health system if we weren't busy maintaining the royals and their palaces and their art collections.

    The US health system, for better or for worse, was also put into place by governments elected by the American people.... in fact, lots of Americans think that the NHS is a socialist nightmare and wouldn't want anything like it in a million years.

    I'm sorry about your healthcare situation, really I am, but this post is about the British Royal Family and the intrinsic inequality that they represent. My only mention of the USA was to say that is it not more just that any natural born citizen can aspire to the top job? After all, I'll never be king, but you could be president.

  10. You do have a point, but sadly that is the carrot placed firmly just out of reach, for 99.97% of the people. Now that corporations have the same rights as a citizen does. As for the President honestly he has about the same power as your Queen. All power the President is given to him by the U.S.Congress, made up of 535 of the richest lawyers in the land. Guess what I'm trying to say but doing it so badly, is that the grass always seems greener on the other side of the pond. Cheers