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So, Prince Philip is in hospital again. The 92 year old had ‘exploratory surgery’ (I don’t know what this means, but I bet it wasn’t fun), Nicholas Witchell has been wheeled out of his Royal Correspondent cupboard to dominate BBC News bulletins, and stupid stories about how long Prince Edward stayed in the hospital and what card he brought have actually made headlines.
And still, throughout all of this, the Queen remains as dignified as ever. Attending the opening of the remodelled Broadcasting House the day after her husband was admitted to hospital, she seemed calm, obviously sad, but continued on with her official engagements. At 87, the number of events she can take part in are necessarily dwindling, with her children and grandchildren taking on some responsibilities. Talk of succession is becoming more common, and with it, voices calling for Britain to get rid of constitutional monarchy get louder.
I love an old Queen as much as the next man. Anyone who can wear that many sparkles and diamonds without irony, and has the same outfit in so many different pastel shades, deserves our love, respect and adoration. I’m certainly willing to bow to any woman that can spend hours and hours clapping boats in the rain without wanting to shoot all those smiling people. Perhaps she did want to shoot them, but she didn’t, so her restraint must be rewarded. If that means she gets to have a load of huge houses, a government that technically answers to her and her head on our money, well so be it. Who else would it be? David Cameron? I shudder at the thought.
There are a load of reasons to love having a monarchy. The crown estates, given over to the government, bring in revenue for the country throughout the year (and not just through tourism). The Commonwealth, and sharing of a monarch, gives us staunch allies internationally. Prime Ministers have someone non-political with whom they can discuss and vent over events every week. The one I am most taken with is that here we have a head of state we can all rally around and support without political allegiance getting in the way.
In the United States, around half of the population didn’t vote for President Obama, with a large proportion of those hating him, and yet he now has to represent the USA abroad. In Britain, you can really hate the Prime Minister, but the Queen will always represent us abroad. Let’s be honest, do we really want to have to have another election? We would just be creating more opportunities for career politicians to misuse public funds and be mired in scandal. Head of State is a dignified role, and royalty, being untouched by politics and infighting (or, at least, keeping it behind closed doors), keeps this dignity. Also, if we got rid of the monarchy, we’d have to change our stamps, coins, notes and national anthem and that’d just be a load of hassle we don’t need.
Of course, it’s entirely undemocratic, and elitism at its worst. Why that family should have more right to be in charge than any other is hard to understand. As a social democrat I should be appalled that unelected rich white people have the ability to dissolve the government. I believe wholeheartedly in comprehensive political reform (don’t get me started on the House of Lords or our voting system) but I don’t want that to include removing the monarchy.
Perhaps I’m blinded by the diamonds and tradition. Perhaps my childhood belief that my Nana and the Queen were the same person is clouding my judgment. Whatever it is, I think Britain would be a worse place without a monarch, especially the Queen. And, although the jury’s still out on Charles, I think it’s safe to say that William and Catherine will do just fine.
One final point though. If the media could stop its obsession with showing every tiny detail of their life it would be much appreciated. I’m not sure I care what Philip had for breakfast or the size of Catherine’s bump. Let’s treat the royal family with the dignity it shows shall we?