In the past week, allegations have arisen relating to attempts by Prince Charles to influence government policy. Supposedly, the heir to the throne tried to persuade the former education secretary, David Blunkett, of the importance of grammar schools in the UK. Charles went onto communicate with other ministers during the Blair government, offering his ‘advice and opinions’. The content of such political activism is, ultimately, irrelevant: the main issue highlighted by these allegations is the fact that a member of the monarchy tried to wield more than he is constitutionally entitled to. The Prince is of course not a stranger to political controversy; in recent years he has been particularly vocal, expressing opinions regarding government failings, foreign hostility, architecture, the list goes on. Reactions to said activism have been predominantly negative: one republican campaigner, Graham Smith, went as far as to claim that the Prince’s meddling is “completely unacceptable in a democratic society”.
For me, this quote beautifully illustrates everything that’s wrong in the way that we approach and treat monarchs: here stands an advocate of democracy, stating that a citizen should be unable to actively participate in democracy. The hypocrisy?! And yet, Smith isn’t alone in his opinion: countless other articles and activists have condemned the activity as ‘wrong’.
I can’t help but disagree.
When I speak, I speak from the perspective of an anti-monarchist: I hold the inexorable belief that the monarchy (an icon of aristocracy and privilege) should be dissolved. I am willing to engage anyone in deep discussion as to why I am inclined towards such beliefs, but for the purpose of this text all that needs to known is this:
1. I believe that all people equally share the right to participate in democracy, and thus shape the future of their own lives.
2. The concept of a monarchy (in my opinion) exists in contradiction with the above principal.
So, why would I defend the British monarchy? The answer to this question lies in how we define a monarchal system. According to the little dictionary on my computer, a monarchy is: “a form of government with a monarch at the head”. In this regard, when I use the word monarchy, I am simply referring to the ‘concept’ of blood-related ruling family. I could not care less for the physical manifestation of this system (i.e. Charles and Elizabeth and the like). The leaders of a monarchy, regardless of their aristocratic tendencies, are but citizens in my eyes: just like you and me. Citizens which deserve the right to influence government policy.
For this reason, the reaction of the press to Prince Charles’ political activism is exactly the opposite to what I would desire to see. If we wish to dissolve the monarchy, to reduce them status of ordinary human beings, we must first begin by raising them to a platform upon which they can speak equally amongst the other citizens of the UK. Make no mistake, political negotiation should not happen in shady rooms behind closed doors: for this the Prince is at fault. But by creating separate rules for a monarchy, we are reinforcing the idea that the royal family are somehow ‘special’. And in doing so, we are jeopardising the very system which we seek to protect: democracy.