Monarchy is considered one of the oldest forms of governance. Yet it was eliminated as a theory due to its tendency to breed dictators. Hence, it is almost miraculous that the monarchy still survives in Great Britain, whose parliamentary democracy is taken as a model in drafting democratic constitutions. For instance both republican constitutions adopted by Sri Lanka after independence in 1972 and 1978, were heavily influenced by the British Westminster system.
Great Britain, a country which has inherited a historic liberal democracy even without owning a written constitution, restores a constitutional monarchy, which is interpreted as “The Queen is the sovereign.” It further explains, “The Queen does not rule, but reigns.” However, what does not fit the picture is that the country with its exemplary method of governance also nurtures a monarchy; whether it is nominal or otherwise is another matter.
True enough, it may be a showpiece place of duty that does not require the bearer to make decisions on behalf of the state or deal with policy-making, yet, for people, it bothers to be ‘reigned.’ In the country, where they were born, bred and have the right to live, they are still ‘subjects’ of the Queen. The irony of Britain’s liberal democracy is that, people pay their hard-earned moneys for an individual to subjugate them. Thus, the outcry that is rising against the monarchy and the expensive lifestyle of the Royal family is not directed at the individual called Queen Elizabeth II or her family. It is the office, the people want to do away with.
Secret of survival
Contrary to the picture of contemporary France, the revolution that took place in Britain was more industrial than political. The outcome was that when France could see a complete elimination of the monarchy and establish a republic, Britain had to satisfy with clipping the royal wings. The result today is, when Britain was compelled to allocate bulks of public money for the Royal diamond jubilee celebrations, France was getting ready for the final phase of the presidential elections; whether the public finds a solid reason to ‘celebrate’ it is another matter.
Britain and the rest of the world
During her reign from 1952 to date, she had greeted or at least seen eleven presidents being elected in the United States of America. There were many colonies and dominion states that attained complete independence from English rule. Yet, the traditionalist Brits did not or could not embrace fully the liberty ensured in their constitution. There has been the Queen, who symbolizes hierarchy. It is rather questionable as to how the British government endorses and preaches democracy and republicanism to other countries while glorying in a cobwebbed royalty that hardly promotes the country’s good governance.
While babysitting a frail monarchy, the British government had the audacity to send the so-called ‘Royal British Army’ on NATO missions to topple the dictator-rule of other countries. May be the slain heads of states, Saddam Hussein and Col. Muammar Gadaffi, were totalitarians at one stage of their rule; yet they were elected into power by the public vote through a democratic process of elections. Thus, it gives very little right to Great Britain to send a ‘royal’ army on a mission to kill a leader elected by people in a sovereign state. Leave alone, Britain’s mission to help maintain world peace by overthrowing legitimate governments in the process, will the British citizens be given the same choice had they wanted to do away with royalty, is a question worth pursuing.
Besides, Britain has no moral basis to slash out at the actions and behaviours of the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Iran’s Ahamadinejad who are often labeled as arbitrary rulers. They might at least have the support of the people who would die protecting their rulers, whereas, in Britain, despite a traditionalist minority no one else would tolerate being a ‘subject’ when they ought to have been citizens.
What the future holds
The royal family has become a mere decoration; a tourist attraction as good as the infamous Stonehenge that attracts crowds. The lifestyles of the members of the royal family are fodder for tabloid journalists who thrive on controversies.
Inevitably, the Royal family has become a unit where scandal is bred; though of course not by their choice. However, not even the amount of entertainment they provide could erase the fact that, the royal family is a white elephant despite the preservation of traditions and showpiece importance.
Yet, none of this could underrate the fact that, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is a woman of dignity who rose to the occasion without much wavering. She performs her duties without much hassle and wins respect in abundant doses. She has directed her family to the method of being closer to the ordinary people, a mould initially broken by Princess Diana, later adapted by the others; perhaps, good PR is an essential for their survival. Yet, the fact remains that the office hardly gives Great Britain the authority to boast of a liberal democracy she ought to be enjoying.