College | Political Science | Courses
321: British Politics
Lewis, Huntingdon College. Revised 10 Mar. 2003
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developed from feudalism, but some
have outlasted that system.
Strangely, examples of female leadership,
especially in wartime.
Why have a UK monarch? Possible reasons.
Queen of Tonga and her "lunch" (Noel Coward's
description of her consort).
Elizabeth 1 at Tilbury.
Some countries have returned to monarchy
after trying other systems.
UK after 1660.
Afghanistan in 2002 found monarch valuable
symbol after Taliban.
still common even in democracies, though
increasingly constitutional rather than absolute or by divine right.
UK biggest example of Constitutional
monarchy, also Denmark and Belgium.
Sweden egalitarian: King has no parking
space in village for drycleaning uniforms.
Sometimes in democracy, public respect
depends on good behavior of monarch.
damaged by scandal (e.g. Netherlands over
Built in wartime (UK WW2, Belgium WW1 &
Sometimes traditional society not yet
Most societies run by authoritarian
governments (dictators, juntas, monarchies, principalities.)
British are traditionalists: family values,
landed wealth, Defender of Faith, armed forces, charity patronage.
It's worth the cost
Cromwell's decade of Protectorate (1650s)
was not a pleasant alternative.
Separates "Dignified" from "Efficient" institutions
Main item is Civil List, covering expenses
of public duties.
3/4 of List pays the retainers (cooks, drivers,
Royal yacht Britannia (now scuttled).
royal flight (now reduced).
rebuilding of Windsor Castle covered by taxation.
Royal residencies are state property, paid
Taxes from royalty.
removed 1910 - 1990s.
Queen now pays income tax.
Royal estates pay in lieu of taxes (Prince
Tourist revenue is in the millions.
Influence, if not power
All cabinet papers in red boxes circulated
to Buckingham Palace daily.
Weekly audience with Prime Minister.
Queen can request other information, calls
Queen receives foreign dignitaries.
Queen has received 11 British PMs -- and has
outlasted all cabinet secretaries since 1952.
Provides apolitical focus for public loyalty.
Separates living symbol of nation from political
Relieves PM of excessive ceremonial duties.
Permits greater criticism of PM.
Purely "dignified" symbolic duties that may
bind nation together:
Queen's speech at opening of parliament.
Royal assent to a bill is not consent. "La
reyne le veult."
Royal patrons of charities and of military
Some influence in public addresses, on constitutional
1977, during "I cannot forget that I was crowned
Queen of the UK of GB and N. Ireland. Perhaps this Jubilee is a time
to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred ..."
Staff made it clear she had written speech herself. Nationalists
Spring 1992, Queen addressed European Parliament
(only monarch to have been held back from doing so, by Mrs T.): Westminster
style of debate differed from Euro style, but this mattered little in context
of shared democracy. Cons Anti-Euros were inflamed.
Abdication, Succession, termination?
Queen does not believe in abdication.
Example of Edward 8, playboy and Nazi sympathizer,
who married an American divorcee.
George 6 and Queen Mum moved by sense of national
duty, especially in wartime blitz.
Sense of duty is lifelong commitment (since
Public Opinion: only 3% wanted abolition until
1990s. 3/4 supported royal family.
Queen has worked visibly hard, travelled extensively,
been diplomat, "Awaydays".
Castles and kilts work well but ski trips
and discotheque lifestyle don't serve monarchy.
BUT declining belief in monarchy after Elizabeth
royal divorces and public affairs have damaged
royal women have attracted publicity: Margaret,
Double standard may not protect princes from
traditional values include family values,
but not necesssarily Church.
decline may have ended before Jubilee 2002.
Public concerts very popular.