Excerpt from Shane Thomas’ 2015 article Why Do We Show Such Loyalty To Royalty?
When I was about 13, the Caribbean steel band I played in had a gig which included a brief appearance by Prince Charles. I recall our manager being adamant that we had to be on our best behaviour. This wasn’t new – she had to deal with a lot of mischief making in the band – but never had it been made so explicit what was expected from us.
Is is tradition? The money they bring in? They might be factors, but there’s plenty of traditions we don’t adhere to anymore. I don’t even think the likely financial boon is what inspires such genuflection. If that was such a watertight argument, wouldn’t royal advocates ensure there was no ambiguity about the figures?
I think the key facets are the nebulous – but powerful – agents of history and heritage. Many countries have origin stories that are intended to underpin their supposed greatness. This is especially evident where imperialist nations are concerned.
Britain’s origin story is that of the small island who ruled the waves. Through wit, decorum, and derring-do, they shaped and civilised the world with their military skill and overriding sense of fair play. It matters little that Dr. Shashi Tharoor recently put that story under a piercing spotlight. Most would rather believe the lie.
The axle of this story is our monarchy, and to abolish – or privatise – them could undercut this grandiose narrative, which is an impossibility until we interrogate why they are allowed such latitude in a country that makes exhaustive spending cuts, because it’s apparently in suffocating debt.
For generations, a tacit agreement has been reached, that the Royal Family are the best of Britain. If they have an exalted position it’s because they deserve it (the same way those who live in penury ostensibly deserve it). They are the foundation wall, holding Britain’s entire class system upright.
If you’re someone who is proud of the monarchy, exactly what is it about them you take pride in?
“They cost an estimated £345 million per year. Compare that to similar but elected heads of state, such as in Ireland, and you can see that’s very, very expensive. The budget for the Irish president is around £4m a year.”Republic
While the Queen’s position as head of state is more than symbolic, it’s their symbolism that’s especially potent. One wonders how deeply we’re anesthetised by individual comfort and privilege, so that we don’t dare exhibit dissent. Is it that easy to accept the atrocities committed in the name of the English/British flag for Queen/King and country were fine because they didn’t happen to you?
People were disgusted by footballer James McClean – who is Irish – in 2015, when he made a point of turning away from the Union flag, and solemnly bowed his head as the British national anthem was played because he went against the aforementioned agreement. He dared to imply that England’s heritage might not be unequivocally positive. To a lesser extent, these issues were raised when golfer, Rory McIlroy chose to represent Ireland – instead of Britain – at the 2016 Olympics, and when Andy Murray tweeted his support for Scottish independence.
This backlash is borne from an inability to comprehend why someone wouldn’t love everything about England: Look at the history; the tolerance; the values; the inherent politeness. Where could be better than here?
Will we start to look at why consensus places the Royal Family on an untouchable pedestal? If so, would that affect our stratified class system? Can the nature of people’s birth be less of a determining factor on their chances in life? And will future generations look at the Royal Family, and wonder what was all the fuss about?
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