Is it time to abolish the British monarchy?
A symbol of solidarity or an outdated relic?
By Megan Haf Donoher
Image courtesy of JImmy Harris via Flickr
The royal family has an enduring importance in Britain. Monarchists argue that they embody the country’s human identity and roots, perpetuating a nation’s history. Monarchs are considered symbols of unity in times of crisis, and they exemplify the human values that a country stands for. This powerful image extends to the voluntary union of the 54 countries identified within the Commonwealth of Nations. While politicians come and go, a successful royal family creates a sense of human continuity at the heart of a society.
And yet, the recent revelations of the ongoing devastation from Covid-19, the economic fallout of Brexit, and the allegations of sincere inhumanity that were brought to the forefront during Meghan and Harry’s interview have, in turn, spotlighted the cracks in the British monarchy. Is it any wonder that Britons are left questioning whether the institution is becoming an outdated relic?
Admittedly, the Queen has served the country admirably throughout her almost 70-year reign, which explains why the majority of British subjects still support her being a political figurehead. That being said, Statista reveals that only 42% of 18-24 year olds feel that way, hinting that the institution is lacking in accommodating modern paradigms. There is a further irony in that working-class citizens believe that they can truly be represented by birth-given power and wealth.
When we break it down, the role of the British monarchy remains primarily ceremonial, since it no longer fulfils any political or executive roles, despite the Queen meeting regularly with the PM and being briefed on matters of national importance. The long-standing argument that the royal family brings political stability to Britain battles for relevance if the duties of the monarchy can be transferred to somebody who can theoretically represent the ideas of the public.
There’s further concern for British taxpayers about the increasing cost of the family, 41% up from 2018-9 to be exact. Upon weighing the value placed on the benefits of travel/tourism, pensions, and security, can the $82+ million used annually to support the family continue to be justified? The recurring argument that the royal family bring tourism to the UK becomes incredibly trivial when they’re costing us more than they’re bringing in.
The British Monarchy failing to represent a country that is deeply divided—and instinctively oppressed to discuss its role and relevance in modern times—creates an urgent need for reform. This was reaffirmed by Harry’s comment in the Oprah interview in which he claimed that his brother and father remain trapped within the system. On the Queen’s golden wedding anniversary, she too implied that bringing the monarchy closer to the British people would be an ideal approach, since the elected government and hereditary monarchy are complementary institutions. Should the monarchy downsize, it would not only become more tolerable, but would cost significantly less.
Additionally, the idea of patriotism being preserved and existing independently of a head of state has been demonstrated as viable by many other countries for decades, and therefore becomes an appealing alternative for the UK. Ultimately, the argument about what kind of monarchy we want to have is really an argument about what kind of society we want to live in.
Perhaps it’s finally time Britain ought to mature as a democracy and move into a world that is truly post-empire.