Farrukh Dhondy | Why royalty in Britain works: Few in favour of a republic…

In the last week, for three officially designated days, Britain celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Wove a tangled web,
Saying “naming roads after me
Is tantamount to idolatry!”

Shivaji Maharaj
Didn’t build the Taj --
He is better known for
Resisting tyranny and more!

So, give me a name
Not related to fame
Like “Bachchoo” -- doggerel merchant unknown
Others have “followers”, he’s on his own!

From The Love Song of Shikant Singh Tr, by Bachchoo

Getting rid of the monarchy has throughout history been, to say the least, a messy business. I suppose the public stabbing of Julius by honourable noblemen was an attempt to stop him from declaring himself a dictatorial monarch. His sometime pal Brutus says he was ambitious and his loyal apostle Mark Anthony acknowledged that that was a grievous fault. Nevertheless, the Empire was soon revived and Julius’s successors mounted imperial thrones.

Something similar happened when the rebel Oliver Cromwell waged a war against Charles Stuart, defeated, captured and beheaded him. He declared the first modern republic in Europe, only to have the monarchy restored by public will soon after.

Sorry, the monarchy was not restored -- royalty was. And that royalty persists to this day with Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her platinum anniversary -- 70 years on the throne – last week.

This year, her ninety-sixth, she was incapacitated when it came to reading out what is known as the “Queen’s Speech”. Her son Charles, Prince of Wales, stood in for her and read what is still known as her speech, though she has nothing to do with it. It’s entirely formulated by the Prime Minister, in this instance BoJo and his Uncle Tom’s Cabinet. Monarchy? No! gentle-hand-waving royalty? Yes!

Historical records demonstrate this slow surrender of power and authority by the monarchy and its evolutionary path to being royalty. Queen Victoria didn’t oversee the acquisition of the Indian empire though she was crowned empress of it. Subsequently, Edward VIII, who abdicated, and his brother George VI had nothing to do with Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement or Winston Churchill’s war. They watched, though we now know that Edward (by then Duke of Windsor) actually advised the Nazis to bomb London in order to end the war. Monarchy? No! Treachery and treason? Yes!

Edward VIII got rid of himself. Czar Nicholas II of Russia and his family didn’t. The Bolsheviks did.

Was Stalin a revived Czar? And Vladimir Putin?

And so, to the Shahs of Iran: Reza I deposed by the popular rising of Mossadegh and, when that republic was subverted by the CIA and the UK, Reza II was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini, though he read the writing on the mosque wall and fled to the United States.

France uniquely abolished its monarchy with the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and, though Napoleon Buonaparte restored it in all but name, it ended as a republic after Napoleon III’s exile.

In the last week, for three officially designated days, Britain celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. (Incidentally, the word is bandied about in Bollywood as marking the survival of a film in the theatres for three or six months, the enthusiastic pronouncement being: “kya kamaal, dzooblee ho gayi”!) It was a grand occasion with street parties in every city and crowds of over 20,000 on the roads around Buckingham Palace outside which there was a grand stage on which the stars of past years, including Diana Ross of the Supremes, performed, backed by a full orchestra, with a light show over the façade of the palace and holograms in the sky as fascinating as any technical display to date.

Yes, the royal family is dysfunctional -- divorces galore, adultery, paedophilia, complaints of racist remarks from one prince’s mixed-race wife, rivalries between the brothers…

And yes, the royal family is subsidised by the taxpayer. They do cut ribbons on occasion, lend their names to good causes and worthy and necessary charities and have full schedules of appearances. Perhaps because of this, or perhaps because Britain is and always has been a society with a tribal subconscious or tribal yearnings, there is no significant republican movement and, despite Cromwell’s revolution and reform, never has been.

It’s necessary to note another significant occurrence in the UK’s body politic over the last week. Over 54 Tory Members of Parliament, the minimum number required, sent in letters to the party’s designated officials asking for Boris Johnson to resign the prime ministership.

This triggered on Monday June 6 a vote of confidence in which 148 Tory MPs voted to oust BoJo while 211 voted to keep him in office. Bojo thus survives for now, but it’s still bad news. The “Bojexit” voters will persist and, if the precedent of Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Theresa May is anything to go by, they will succeed. Then BoJo will be, as they say, toast -- badly burnt.

And just for some speculative entertainment, let’s imagine that there was a powerful republican movement in the face of which the Queen, assessing that her successors would be poor replacements for herself, declared herself to be the last reigning monarch of Britain and herself constitutionally abolished the monarchy. In its place the Lords and the Commons, by a majority vote, would appoint a President of the UK, a titular head. Gentle reader, consider that 211 Tory MPs voted for Boris. Also, that he has sent very many of his “friends” (read “donors of money to the party and to himself”) to the Lords.

Gentle reader, I remain, for now, a non-republican.

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