by Craig Harris

October 24, 1992

It is absurd to think that the British monarchy has outlived its usefulness, or that it should be abolished. The Royal Family makes a priceless contribution to Britain in many ways. I will discuss some of their major contributions. The Royal Family provides continuity and stability. The Royal Family provides glamor and pageantry. The Royal Family does not interfere in politics, but lends tone to it. The Royal Family is preferable to the caprices of presidential government. The Royal Family is a guarantee of the national 'identity'.

The British make more history than they can consume locally, and the monarch is the living emblem of a considerable past. In most peoples minds the idea of the Palace and the Coach is commingled with Shakespeare, Dickens, the country house, the castle, the paintings of Constable and the choir of King's College Chapel, to form a reassuring, organic and pleasing whole. The British people have no written constitution or bill of rights upon which to rely. All of British society is based upon inherited rights and privilages. The monarchy is a large part of British heritage. To abolish the monarchy would to be to trash the whole system.

It was once said of the use of cavalry in modern warfare that it lent tone and dash to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl and the royal spectacle is an element of color in a canvas that often seems in sore need of it. Tourest's from all over the world flock to Britian just to see the changing of the guard, and other royal pagentry. The revenue from tourism alone is enough to justify keeping the monarchy.

Since the signing of the Magna Carta, the monarchy has been gradually passing down the power of rule. Today the monarch wisely does not take an active part in politics. The monarch is not powerless, as is often thought. Here, for example, are all the things that her majesty's ministers may do by means of an exercise of the Royal prerogative, without choosing to make themselves accountable to the Commons or to the voters:

1. Make Orders in Council

2. Declare War

3. Make peace

5. Sign and ratify treaties

6. Grant pardons

7. Grant charters

8. Confer charters

9. Confer patronage appointments

10. Establish commissions.

This list is not exhaustive, but nor is it a record of impotence. It might, give pause to those who think that the monarchy and its functions are purely decorative and ceremonial.

The monarchy is something you do not find in presidential governments. The monarchy is something that a presidential government, like the U.S. government could use. The Royal Family are the goodwill ambassadors to the world from Britain. They can perform all the diplomatic functions that the U.S. president must perform. With all the goodwill functions required of a head of state, it is a wonder that they can even find time to study the political issues that face them. The Royal Family off loads much this burden from the prime minister so he can attend to the affairs of state. Most anyone would prefer shake hands with a member of the Royal Family than John Majors' anyway.

The English have long been convinced that they are admired and envied by the rest of the world for their eccentricities alone. Many of these eccentricities - red telephone boxes with heavy doors, unarmed policemen, courtesy in sporting matters - are now more durable as touristic notions than as realities. But there is one special and distinctive feature of the English that remains unaltered. Neither the English/British nor their foreign admirers and rivals know quit what the country is called. Most nations, ancient and modern, all have and agreed name. But we do not know whether this nation inhabits England, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, Albion or the United Kingdom. The only accurate nomenclature is the one that nobody uses - 'the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. The words express the hope of a political and historical compromise rather than the actuality of one. If it were to read 'The United State of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' it would provoke unfeeling mirth. And the United Republic would sound absolutely awful. It is the word 'kingdom' that lends the tone. The British actually define their country and implicitly their society as, first and last, a monarchy.

The monarchy can be found in all parts of British life. The ruling party forms Her Majesty's Government and the opposition parties make up Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. The right people speak Queen's English. The Queen's peace is kept, at least as far as the defence of the realm goes, by the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force and a number of royally commissioned regiments. No letter of parcel may be sent without a royal endorsement in the form of a Queen's head. The term 'right royal' means anything that is extra good, as in the 'Royal' National Theatre. The monarchy is a traditional part of British government and society. It would be nearly impossible to remove the monarchy, and who would want to.