I had the pleasure of celebrating the Coronation of King Charles III in London this weekend. It was a special experience – I attended a party at my club, persisted through the wet weather for a brief glimpse of our new King and Queen, and even got to walk on the street in Piccadilly. But it is my experience in a small pub, where I went for drinks with a friend during the Coronation Concert, that has perhaps impacted me most.
While we debated the serious implications of our recent council losses, the pub put the Concert on television. Singers came and went, and yet people seemed largely nonplussed, content to continue their own conversations. It was only when William, Prince of Wales, took to the stage that a slow but noticeable hush fell over the crowd. People stood from their seats and walked closer to the television in order to better hear what he was saying. As William spoke of his father’s care for environmentalism, our little group was dead silent, listening with rapt attention. The pub was entranced. And yet, as quickly as the moment came over us, as soon as he left the stage and the next act began; the spell was broken. This was the ‘Royal Impact’ in all of its majestic glory.
Meanwhile, throughout our weekend of celebrations, there were many people protesting and exercising their right to free speech. Coronation day saw many protesters, members of a group named Republic, arrested. The Met claimed they intended to severely disrupt the Coronation Procession; by spooking horses and throwing paint on those taking part. This exceeds our right to free speech but is beside the point. How is it that a group of people could be so incensed by our historic system of government, something which is, for all intents and purposes, our “bread and butter”, that they felt the need to endanger the public, the very people they claim to care so deeply about? This got me thinking: does this group highlight very real issues with the monarchy? After all, they pose the fair question of how Britain can claim to be “modern” and yet put forth an archaic system of government based on the principles of divine right. These two ideas do seem mutually exclusive.
The answer, however, is simple. There is no other form of government better suited to our great island nation than a constitutional monarchy. The monarchy, as it exists today, lends a sense of stability and strength to a country which would otherwise fall victim to the divisive factionalism found within the United States and mainland Europe. In times of political and global upheaval, it is the monarchy we turn to in search of comfort. I am reminded of the poignant words spoken by our late Queen Elizabeth II at the outset of the global pandemic, “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.” As a scared 18 year old girl, whose life had just been upended, her words provided me with a sense of company in an otherwise dark and solitary time. My grandparents, born during the Second World War, have similar memories of her father, King George VI. They speak of him being a father to a nation under siege, giving his people the strength they needed to go on in the face of Nazi terror. Simply put, the Royals are Britain’s strength and stead. Without their presence, we would surely be worse off. Their service goes beyond simple comfort. Princess Anne, for example, has dedicated her life to serving causes and charities which would otherwise stand largely alone. In her lifetime, the Princess Royal has supported over 300 charities, dedicating thousands of hours of her time to these noble causes. This work went widely unrecognised until recent years. What other mode of government focuses so deeply on giving back and connecting with the people? I, for one, can’t find an answer.
The monarchy also provides a sense of much-needed stability in these uneasy times. Unlike the United States, where the President is both head of state and head of government, the United Kingdom separates these offices. Conservative and Labour governments may rise and fall, but the monarchy will remain. This provides timeless stability, allowing the head of state to truly speak for, and represent, all of us. Theirs is an apolitical role, which enables such focus on public service, as there is no motivation for self-interest. Such continuity marks the United Kingdom as unique. It is also one of our greatest strengths.
Finally, I present the simplest of arguments; that of tradition. Why must we have change for the sake of change? There is something to be said for maintaining tradition. Millions of British men and women have died for King and Country over the last millennia. Who are we to make these sacrifices meaningless? What right do we have to spit in the face of tradition and all that it stands for? Why must Britain become unrecognisable and abandon that which makes it great in order to be accepted in the ‘modern world’ with open arms? The truth is, the monarchy is the United Kingdom. It represents the best of British character and stands for every British and Commonwealth citizen. To abolish the monarchy would be to divorce ourselves from the very principles of honour, service, and nobility which have defined our people for hundreds of years. In this increasingly unstable world, now is the time to remember our roots and our identity, not to sweep it under the rug and relegate it to the dark annals of history.