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The Crown in our republic

Recently, the institution of the British Monarchy has been the particular subject of considerable discussion, and it is evident that younger generations’ support may be, in fact, dwindling. The absence of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away last September, may also signal that King Charles does not have the same level of support as his mother.

Modern republican discourses often argues the case for the abolition of the monarchy on the basis that it represents ‘exclusion, elitism and hereditary power and privilege at the expense of everyone else.’ I value and respect their perspectives, yet respectfully disagree. First and foremost, someone elite, affluent, and from a privileged upbringing can be perfectly elected as head of state, and this will not solve the issue at hand. Secondly, a massive logistical-administrative operation in itself, dismantling the British Monarchy could well turn to be an expensive mistake that could jeopardise our prosperity and stability as a nation. 

Turning the status quo upside down is expensive, but also unnecessary. For one thing, the Crown, is so much more than just the bejewelled item that Charles III wore on his head last May 6th; it is also the transcendental symbol of unity and permanence of the State, at the service of the common good, on which it depends. In our days there is no Divine Right of Kings anymore, but one can argue that the Royal Crown prevails due to popular consent. 

I completely agree with the words of the director of British Future, Sunder Katwala, a former republican and one-time secretary general of The Fabian Society, who writes for The Guardian: ‘we should place a higher premium on the symbolic value of institutions that help us to transcend our political divides.’ At present, the Royal Crown represents -and is at the service of- the people’s re(s)publica, our public affairs, our livelihoods.  The expectations it creates render it as a multi-faceted symbol of the unity of our community, politics, and public affairs.

We shall achieve the concord we require during this difficult time with the Crown as our common denominator, as we always have done as a nation. This all the more important, especially now. UK’s institutions are currently the target of increasing criticism and divisiveness. According to the most recent Office of National Statistics poll on government trust in the UK, only 35% of the public trusts the Government, well below the average of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (41%). Another interesting instance is that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and the Constitution’s report An Independent Judiciary-Challenges Since 2016 among others noted ‘the troubling appearance (even if it is only an appearance) of the politicisation of the judiciary’. The courts of law are a cornerstone of our democracy, and they must be as impartial as possible in practise and in the eyes of the public. 

 I support the people’s re(s)publica, not a republic of the state. The Royal Crown unites us in a manner that no elected politician can, and in so doing protects our way of life in a way that any eventual establishment of a Republic cannot. We, the people, are the State’s skeleton, on which the legislative, executive, and judicial institutions lie, while the Crown is the flesh that binds everything together. There is definitely justification for continuing to preserve the people’s republic through the Crown in the king’s person. The will of the majority, in the form of a perpetual referendum, has preserved it generation after generation. In fact, there has never been a single time in the last thirty years when the republican choice was more than 25%, whereas the monarchy option has always been in the 60% and higher. For the Republic, a Royal Crown.

None of the aforementioned, obviously, makes me uninterested in the viewpoints and arguments of my republican friends. This is especially the case given the highly contentious arrests of republican demonstrators. The argumentative counterbalance should be considered with all its implications. I believe that it is critical to listen to republican points of view in the same way as we would do to pro-monarchists, because there is room for everyone in our democracy. Equally true, it is important to remember that the arrests were prompted by the Public Order Act 2023, passed just a few days before the Coronation.

The British Monarchy then serves as an unbiased centre of gravity for the entire country in the royal person, performing vital ceremonial responsibilities and yet remaining impartial from the controversies of politics. When it comes to Charles III, he certainly has had his fair share of controversies, minor and major… but is any of us free of similar things? Let them who are without sin cast the first stones! Charles, the Prince of Wales, he was at the time; he is now Carolus III Rex [King Charles III, in Latin]. We ought to offer him, as we would to any newcomer, the chance to do what he has been working towards for most of his life.

Is the motion ‘Monarchy or Republic’ useful to help improve the country we live in? Perhaps we should instead start considering how the Crown might improve its role as a rallying point in order for British democracy to become more vibrant. Perhaps we should consider how the monarch’s diplomatic functions can be enhanced to attract more financial investment. Perhaps the British Royal Family should be more involved in promoting affordable housing programmes to aid the vulnerable. All these possibilities underline that a new focus on improving an existing status quo can be more useful than destroying the very system that allows all of us to be free, that has witnessed the emergence and development of our democracy and keeps the ship stable amidst the storm.

Herein lies the secret to the Crown in our republic. 

God save the King.

Image Credit:Firebrace//CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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