Most people that know me are well aware of my opinions on the British monarchy. I have never really been any good at making a secret of them. Yesterday I wrote a blog that was quite vitriolic even by my standards, yet today I have toned it down a bit. Why? Well I had a chat with someone whose judgement I respect a lot, and she – by no means a monarchist – seemed to think it was a bit strong, so I have diluted it a wee bit. I did so because, thinking about it, it was a bit strong and above all because I felt guilty about laying into them as I did. That guilty feeling has really crystallised my thoughts about the Windsors. Anyway here is the blog, the final part explaining a little about why this guilt thing has helped me to understand my feelings about them.
It seems to me that a Royal Family, if you insist on having one, should perform at last one of these four functions. First of all they should be the fall-back, the democratic default in times of crisis in history, secondly they should give a lead to the nation in terms of culture, music and literature, thirdly they should be role models for behaviour,and examples to us all or fourthly they should be nice to look at.
So let’s see how out very own Windsors measure up shall we.
The fall-back. Well so far we have not had the crisis of our democracy that would test our lot, but if we look at how their close family have performed it doesn’t look great. Russia – a weak, dim and arrogant Czar failed to make the reforms that were so clearly being demanded and thus let the Bolsheviks into power. Kaiser Wilhelm ran away from his post leaving a vacuum that was filled by the army and eventually led to one Adolf Hitler and his merry band. Alphonse XIII of Spain legged it to avoid the new leftist politics and the eventual civil war that led to Franco’s taking power, while Victor Emmanuel III of Italy basically gave power to Mussolini Not a great record. They tend to hand it all to the nasty guys and run away. The only major crisis we have seen in the UK was the Queen’s arrogant refusal to speak to the nation over the death of Princess Di. Tony Blair persuaded her to do it and saved the royal bacon. Perhaps he should have let them screw it up and be thrown out there and then.
So what about the cultural leadership bit? I am not sure about the quality of the mayonnaise in the Windsor family sandwich. The Queen’s favourite writer is Dick Francis, while I doubt most of her offspring can read much beyond a cheque with their name on it. Which brings me to point three. The moral leadership and being a good example. Elizabeth is married to a man who makes racist remarks in public. Of her kids, Andrew has been an expensive and clumsy embarrassment as a ‘business ambassador’ for the UK and was fired, his ex-wife takes money from individuals seeking ‘access’ to him, Charles is a serious weirdo who is profligate beyond all belief while Edward is a bit of a non-entity with a rather murky business ‘career’. Three of the four children are divorced with Charles publicly admitting adultery. He will become head of our established church. Nice. The whole family have a long history of underpaying and poorly treating their staff. Great role models.
What about the glamour aspect? Well this is simple too. They are really not a great looking bunch and have ‘bought in’ beauty and elegance such as Diana Spencer and Catherine Middleton. I feel sorry for the latter – what do they have in store for her I wonder? At least Di Hard used it all to have some bed-based fun with a series of high rollers.
Now my objections to the monarchy could be based on the four points above or on the hereditary aspect being so non democratic or the fact that they are very expensive too. But it’s not really.
With me it is much more personal as it is the Windsor family that I object to. I am much more sympathetic to the low key royal set-ups in Sweden or The Netherlands as they see quite in touch with the zeitgeist. The fact that I still feel a bit uncomfortable writing negatively about the British royal family shows the grip they have got on us. If I wrote about the sex life of some dim celebrity or about a top footballer’s failure to be a good role model, nobody would bat an eyelid and I would not feel guilty either. Yet the royal family seem to be untouchable in the UK. The Windsor family have made no effort to earn or keep our respect, they have failed to keep their side of the deal with us and they have propagated the mythology that makes us feel uncomfortable about criticising them. That is why I am a republican.
See you at the street party.