The Monarchy; tell me…what comes to your head when you hear those two words? Extravagance, patriotism, the crown, a duty. Or more simply, a family that, for hundreds of years, has captured the hearts of every generation.
It’s easy to trace the monarchy back thousands of years as the figureheads of our society. We as humans gravitate towards having a greater being rule us. It’s difficult to live on our own – the likes of Hobbes articulating it well; our natural state is war, distrust, and savagery. A governing body is imposed as a force to stop us; to sanction us. And as mankind has developed, the monarchy – a feudal disposition – has been a consistent main source of power and main source of governance.
But we live in different times now. Though many of us can easily recall names of famous sovereigns, their policies, their wives even; a new order is bubbling. We’ve seen the way empires have risen, fallen, and how religion has been twisted and instrumentalised to fit ideals and agendas. Should the continued existence of such an archaic institution really be the representative of our so-called democracy?
In the past 5 centuries, the British monarchy has endured a lot to remain standing. It has allowed for the rise of a parliament, non sex-based primogeniture, the direct heir to-be is a divorcee, and of course an African-American gained the much sought after title of Duchess. For a country that has witnessed ruthless revolutions in her neighbouring countries, it’s easy to see that the monarchy knows making the slightest bit of change is enough to keep us grounded and quiet. However, this begs the constitutional conservatives to change their answer to the ever pressing question of, what part of the monarchy are we trying so hard to maintain, and what type of power they yield. If Boris Johnson’s proroguing of government tells us anything, the Supreme Court’s ruling simply shows that the Queen lacks any decisive political power or moral authority, and must rely on the Prime Minister to wield it for her.
It’s easy to see the highs of our beloved nation. The pride when we see our kin alike, hoisted atop Olympic podiums, shaking trophies in their hands, the absolute glory from defeating every form of extremism, from fascism to communism and thus reaping all rewards from war. And what do we celebrate with: our national anthem, the very ode to our beloved Queen. The words ‘God Save the Queen’ rings in our ears, at every major event; it reminds us that there is a divine being, and we are her subjects.
It’s easy to forget the atrocities. The embers of everything that has burnt at their hands. From our glorious Queen Victoria, to the familiar King Henry VIII, and the two Elizabeths that supposedly changed the course of history within their reigns – from defeating the manic King Phillip II to ruling over the defeat of Hitler and Stalin.
Though the monarchy holds little to no power, they hold power over our prideful, patriotic hearts. There’s a certain zeal in wanting to know everything about them; the dirty secrets behind the gated Buckingham Palace – a place that has housed racists, Nazi sympathisers, rapists, traffickers. They have driven out unworthy candidates, killed those who knew of their secrets and supported unjust causes.
It’s easy to accept the smoke screen they put up. They are beautiful, mystifying… something that we can never be. Queen Victoria, the Empress’ memorial is a beautiful place to visit, but it is tainted by colonialism, and the barbarity of seeking the largest empire in the world at the expense of millions of displaced lives.
We see her memorial, but do we really understand it? The two eagles on each side, what are they? Do they connote strength and bravery, or do they promote cruel domination – commemoration of years of oppression and enslavement? The British Empire, though taught to us as Britain’s prime time, reinforced by the words of our hero Churchill, and echoed by the likes of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Thatcher, was in fact, a period of cruelty. A 187 year exploitation of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the dividing of India for 89 years and the crippling Opium Trade in East Asia, enabled a view of oppression not humanity.
‘The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.’Boris Johnson, on Africa, 2002
We see it in the flags raised in the homes of immigrant families; the hoisting of the British flag, a desperate attempt to assimilate into the moulds of a Eurocentric society. The thousands of men joining our armies to fight for our Queen, to gain some sort of solidarity in the land that they tried so hard to enter despite the admonishments. Perhaps some of us see it when we hold our mother’s jewellery, and we think back to the glorious Queen Victoria stealing the Koh-i-Noor, the largest cut Indian diamond, for her precious crown, or maybe when we’re on school trips learning about the magnificence of the Monarchy, yet looking at the 69000 stolen African artifacts for the culturally rich British Museum.
Queen Victoria’s Memorial
St. James Park
The World’s Largest Cut Diamond
I’ve noticed throughout my life that the monarchy and its relevance is a messy topic – it has the ability to divide and cause quarrels. Some look to them as a guide – the pride of our nation – whilst others see them as archaic, outdated figures with no place in a democratic world that values meritocracy. Glorify them if you please, sing the anthem as much as you desire, but at the end of the day, would you rather God save the Queen, or save all of us?
Written by Abida Noshin