The Crown of England

June 21, 1992

The British monarchy is said to be in trouble because members of the royal family are reported to be unhappily married. Yet one looks at the British political spectrum for the republican party in vain. The Labor Party has always harbored a few politicians who wish to reduce or remove the monarchy in the name of equality, but this is a less active period for such agitation than most.

Q. Who says the crown is in peril of being removed? A. The journalists who report that princes and princesses are unhappy. Q. Why do they say that one thing leads to the other? A. So that there will be a public-issue consequence to the private matters they report. Q. Why do the British people eat these stories up and crave more? A. Because they are fascinated by the royal family. Q. Would the British people care about these persons' private lives if they weren't royal? A. No. Unless they were telly stars. Q. Is that an argument for keeping the monarchy? A. You said it, we didn't.

Members of the press and self-appointed experts on royalty are the people who say the monarchy is in danger. They have become, in effect, the republican party of Britain. But were the monarchy abolished, they would have to find another story or subject on which to be expert. In other words, the people worrying so loudly that the monarchy is in peril are the very people (excluding the monarchs themselves) who need it most for their own careers.

The British monarchy has a constitutional role if the political process produces a chaotic result. This was predicted for the recent election but did not occur. It has not occurred in a long time. Nonetheless, Queen Elizabeth II keeps up to date on politics and government and is the best-informed Briton in the realm. She stays in readiness.

Otherwise, the monarchy plays a good will and symbolic role, cutting ribbons for all manner of things. Many Britons don't buy this, but are more likely to be indifferent than hostile. The monarchy is at the top of a lot of Graustarkian fol-de-rol, including lords in knee breeches and judges in wigs, that has more to do with making change acceptable by disguising it as tradition than with preserving outmoded institutions. The monarchy is usually defended as good for tourism, while a comparative few argue that such an argument could never justify such an institution.

Were the monarchy abolished, it probably wouldn't be. That is, it would probably be whittled down, Swedish style, over a long period of time, rather than booted out all at once. If any such thing were to happen at all. Of course, it has been happening all along. Queen Elizabeth II ain't Queen Elizabeth I, as no one knows better than she.

So don't worry about the crown of England. Oh, yes. It has one other use in the United Kingdom. It sells papers. By the millions. We're for that.

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