Friday, April 21, 2006

Charles III

The Queen, Elizabeth II is 80 today. Anyone who reaches this milestone age deserves all the birthday salutations they receive. It is a grand achievement, more so given that she has not exactly had the easiest of lives. Yes, being the head of state in a constitutional monarchy is not really as difficult as working down a pit, but all those ribbon cuttings must have led to the odd arthritic twinge. Say nothing of countless state dinners, where unpronounceable and often unpalatable leaders are wheeled in and one has to keep on smiling and pretending to have any interest in the average snow fall in the Congo. Plus, she has been doing it for 54 years. Most people are well into their retirement by their 9th decade.

Sadly her ability and skill seems to be the exception to her family and not the rule. Her uncle thought Hitler's social programme a stroke of genius, her husband can't seem to enter a factory or foreign embassy without insulting some ethnicity and her I need to explain? Well OK, Charles seems to think that the Glorious Revolution never happened and thinks himself more Charles I than III. Andrew....plays some golf, Anne...rode some horses in the Olympics and Edward, well Edward is a documentary film maker. He has made 2 films, one about his uncle the wannabe fascist and wait for it, the Windsor family tree. Original that.

The monarchy has its defenders and the Queen's service is chief among them. She has brought stability and a sense of a watchful godmother guaranteeing that no harm should befall her wards. Lets give credit where it is due, in 56 years on the throne how many mistakes has she made? One or two at the most. She has been through the dismantling of the British empire, the economic collapse of the 1970s and Margaret Thatcher. She also handed over the world cup the only time England have managed to win.

I applaud the Queen, it really can not have been easy to be a role-figure with your family background. But, the institution that she represents has had its day. There is no rational argument that can be presented that could prolong its role. It is no political power, so it can not be used as a defence to protect democracy. (As offensive as this next argument is) Its importance to British tourism can be offset by visiting figures at Versailles, or the White House. And well, that is it. There are no other proposals that have any sway. Zero.

There is one simple and compelling argument that is the King Kong of them all, and it was proposed by an aristocrat. As Tony Benn once proposed; you should gauge reaction to the following line if said on a plane, "I'm not, in fact, a trained pilot - but don't worry, my dad was." Your feet wouldn't touch the carpet as you grabbed your duty free and scuttled off.

If you want a more academic approach then I give you the English revolutionary, Thomas Paine who wrote that assigning roles and jobs by birth was as bonkers, "as that of hereditary judges, or hereditary juries; and as absurd as an hereditary mathematician, or an hereditary wise man; as absurd as an hereditary poet laureate".

Oh and if you are really not convinced by the above, dwell on this:

King Charles III

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