There’s something inherently absurd about the idea of hereditary rulers, but in a world where millions of people still believe in flying zombies it’s certainly not the most peculiar of the beliefs out there.
I’m an instinctive republican, principally because I find the idea genetically predetermination distasteful and the dei gratia nonsense ridiculous. But that’s not why I think we should abolish the royal family.
In fact, it’s because I feel sorry for them.
Politicians, film actors, and pop stars all suffer the inconveniences of life in the public eye, but that’s a choice they make. Members of the royal family, by contrast, are born into celebrity whether they wish it or not. They live their lives constrained by public oversight, tradition, and legal restrictions that would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights if applied to the rest of us.
Prince William expressed no intention to join the military in May 2003, and indicated that he would prefer to do environmental work in Africa. A few weeks later, there were intimations that he might consider an Army career. A year later, he said that ‘a career in the armed forces would be the best thing at the moment’.
So, did he just change his mind, or was pressure exerted on him? You’ll have to make your own mind up.
Meanwhile, his brother joined the army straight out of school, acquiring an officer’s commission and becoming a Troop Commander. He expressed his wish to serve with his unit in Iraq rather than ‘sit on my arse back home’.
However, due to Harry being a royal prince, his presence in Iraq would have placed both himself and his unit in extraordinary danger; the Army thus decided that he would not deploy with them.
We should cut them free and let them get on with their lives as normal young men. It won’t happen immediately, but perhaps the next generation of Windsors might then be able to live their lives as they themselves wish.
Having done that, we could sort out our government. Having a royal family hasn’t stopped the UK from having a presidential style of government. Instead, Tony Blair has operated as a de facto president without any of the usual political structures that accompany and circumscribe that position. Rather than protecting us from political demagoguery, the constitutional monarchic system has shown itself to be particularly vulnerable to it.
Liberate a family and fix political representation. It won’t happen, but I can dream.