The British royal family has had many reasons to celebrate since April 2011. Not only did it have, not one, but two royal weddings, in addition its popularity previously hit by the Diana crisis, seems to have been finally restored. Indeed, the wedding of Prince William and Miss Middleton has produced a happy end to the old feud between “The People’s Princess” and the royal establishment. It was this occasion that allowed the British public to make their peace with the past and indulge in this romantic celebration of a British fairy tale. Nevertheless, and even amidst the countdown to the royal wedding, concerns about the role of the institution of British monarchy continued to be heard. We are, therefore, going to try to deal with the question of whether such an institution is still relevant in the 21st century. In order to answer this question, we shall first discuss the arguments disparaging the British royal family, then we shall look at the arguments appraising it, and last but not least we shall analyse the special status of the British monarch-not as a tyrant, but as the guardian of British constitutional democracy. Let us start with some of the major reasons for criticising the institution. First, within a democratic mind set, it is hard to conceive of hereditary titles or non-elected representatives. Second, while the British monarch is supposed to be non-partisan and above party influence, its mere existence reinforces conservative values. Third, the monarchy used to be considered as expensive, benefiting from a privileged lifestyle, not earned but inherited. While the same thing is true for any wealthy individual throughout the world, or even for the less wealthy ones; as not just money but also education, manners, knowledge and character are all transmitted by the family that we are being born to, royals in general are still being singled-out for the historical character and the origin of their wealth. Moreover, the purely ceremonial character of the functions of the Queen in government as well as her prerogative to grant honours have been deemed absurd by those who assert that the Queen does not even write her own opening speech. While obviously this argument would see most politicians, chief executives and other-simply untalented people in writing off their position, it points to the fact that the Queen cannot control the content of what she is supposed to represent. Indeed, this raises the issue of the usurpation of the royal prerogative. It means that government in general and the British Prime Ministers in particular act in the name of the monarch. Indeed, lending its moral weight for different governmental needs may result in a lack of accountability on the part of those acting in Her Majesty’s name. The example of the kitchens in the National Health Service is being given in order to show that even an obvious health hazard cannot be prosecuted in court as it is run by the crown in theory, though by the state in practice. However, this is only partially true, the whole of the NHS cannot be prosecuted, but a particular kitchen manager can be. Nevertheless, usurping the royal prerogative has been a common practice on the behalf of the executive and Prime Ministers in the UK. It has been argued, that Prime Ministers forget about the elected character of their power and instead, behave like kings or queens. This point brings us to the advantages of the British monarchy.
In order to deal with the positive aspects of British constitutional monarchy, it would be worthwhile noting that some of the arguments against it could also serve as its positive points. This is particularly true when it comes to the fact that the monarch is a long standing non-elected head of state. Indeed, one of the obvious outcomes of the separation between an elected head of the executive and a permanent nationally unifying symbol is that in moments of social unrest or civil strife, like during the 1980s, it would have been very...
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