It would have been poor taste to write this last month, but we’re back to normal now. I am often asked about the future of the monarchy, and it is a valid topic for futurists I guess. I’ll write what I think ought to happen, and then what I think will happen.
I am not a royal basher. I am one of millions of people who respect the Queen and hope she lives a long life, but who nevertheless think the monarchy should go to the grave with her. I think it simply belongs in history. I recognise that many people like it and want it to continue, and I have no wish to offend them, I just don’t agree and would prefer it to end. It generates media and tourism revenue for sure, but that isn’t sufficient justification for its continuation, and doesn’t make up for the downsides. I can’t think of any other.
The full range of arguments for abolition and for a proper democracy don’t need repeated here, you’ll have heard most. Here is the one I prefer:
Kings and queens in our history books, mythology, even fairy stories, existed in times when you had to win battles and capture a throne, and even if you inherited it, you still had to win more to hold on to it. To do so you must solicit the support of many powerful people in battle, and unless you also win their loyalty, you’ll need far more – a volunteer is worth ten pressed men. So in a way, it was a raw and brutal sort of democracy. Either you won and kept people’s support or you couldn’t be king. It wasn’t just handed to you on a plate, nor something to lay back and relax luxuriantly in. But the last generations of course have been simple inheritance of titles, and without the hard work to win loyalty, the monarchy has lost its true authority. The royals now live in expensive style at the expense of everyone else, but haven’t earned it and give far too little back. It is meaningless. Without won loyalty, monarchy is no better than a dictatorship, and with the ability to dictate stripped away as in the UK monarchy, it has no real meaning at all. It has become an empty symbol of times gone by, the fairy story bits without any substance, empty celebrity. Time for it to go.
The rest of the aristocratic titles should go with it of course, and that would work well with the coming reform the House of Lords. We should cut our shackles and start afresh. The associated wealth needs addressed too. Anything belonging to the crown - the lands and properties, jewels, the gifts received by virtue of the position (and we could debate the full extent of what should be included in that and what rightfully belongs to individual royals) should be turned to other state uses, or put in museums.The redundant royals should receive pay-offs or pensions according to their prior positions.
What of the landed wealth, once given for favours and loyalty by past kings and queens, that has been passed down these generations, such as the country estates? An extremist might want to confiscate anything that could be traced back to the crown. I think that is too harsh and unnecessary. A more humane approach could be simply to start treating all inherited wealth the same, to abolish the trusts used by the wealthy to hide stuff from taxation, get rid of any special exceptions for farms and so on. If everyone is treated the same, inheritance can only pass down a generation or two before it is absorbed back into society. Families that pass wealth on and manage it well enough to maintain its value even after such taxation would have earned it.
If we did this, the monarchy would have a dignified end. The Queen did an excellent job and it would end on a high note. If it is allowed to continue, it will be a relic that will become increasingly unwelcome.
So much for my own views. What is likely? Well, it has some momentum, and there is insufficient demand for an early dispatch, so it will probably cling on for a good while after the next coronation, maybe a decade (a honeymoon period plus a few years), two at the most. I can’t give a date for that because I don’t know when the Queen will die. But the reign of either Charles or William (I think Charles will be crowned if he survives the Queen and will be as bad as many of us expect, and if he abdicates quickly, it will still be too late) will quickly erode the support for it, not necessarily on their own, but with the help of the full suite of royal hangers-on. People will lose patience with the associated expense and embarrassment. With a minority of support, it will be abolished and given a dignified burial. As for the rest of my wish list above, that depends very much on who is in power at the time, but I suspect it will go more or less along the lines above.