Political science at Huntingdon College
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Union JackPSC 321: British Politics

Monarchy Notes

Prof. Jeremy Lewis, Huntingdon College.  Revised 10 Mar. 2003

  • Comparative Monarchy
  • developed from feudalism, but some have outlasted that system.
  • Strangely, examples of female leadership, especially in wartime.
  • 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 overwhelms republicanism.
  • depends on good behavior of monarch.
  • damaged by scandal (e.g. Netherlands over Lockheed scandal).
  • Built in wartime (UK WW2, Belgium WW1 & 2.)
  • Sometimes traditional society not yet democratic.
  • Most societies run by authoritarian governments (dictators, juntas, monarchies, principalities.)
  • Why have a UK monarch? Possible reasons.
  • 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 (Bagehot).
  • Costs:
  • Main item is Civil List, covering expenses of public duties.
  • 3/4 of List pays the retainers (cooks, drivers, secretaries.)
  • Royal yacht Britannia (now scuttled).
  • royal flight (now reduced).
  • rebuilding of Windsor Castle covered by taxation.
  • Royal residencies are state property, paid for separately.
  • Taxes from royalty.
  • removed 1910 - 1990s.
  • Queen now pays income tax.
  • Royal estates pay in lieu of taxes (Prince Charles notably.)
  • Tourist revenue is in the millions.
  • Functions
  • 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 experts.
  • 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 head.
  • 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 units.
  • Some influence in public addresses, on constitutional issues:
  • 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 were inflamed.
  • 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 before coronation.)
  • 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 II.
  • royal divorces and public affairs have damaged belief.
  • royal women have attracted publicity: Margaret, Diana, Fergie.
  • Double standard may not protect princes from scandal.
  • traditional values include family values, but not necesssarily Church.
  • decline may have ended before Jubilee 2002.  Public concerts very popular.
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