By Dillon O’Toole
The Queen is dead.
Yes, if you somehow haven’t heard the news, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom died on September 8th, 2022 at the age of 96. Well, saying she was the Queen of the United Kingdom is actually excluding quite a bit. You see, Queen Elizabeth II was actually Queen of 15 countries at the time of her death. In order of decreasing population, these countries included: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Jamaica, Solomon Islands, The Bahamas, Belize, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Tuvalu. I bet you didn’t even realize that many of these countries were in fact monarchies, and in some cases, you probably didn’t even know they existed (I’m sorry Tuvalu). Honestly, it was shocking news that she had died. Of course, I knew she was really old, but the news was a surprise nonetheless. With the news of the Queen’s death, her son Charles succeeded her as King Charles III, and with that succession I have seen a renewed call for republicanism on the internet.
For those of you who may not know, republicanism does not mean installing Trump as head of the United Kingdom (Thank God). The term actually refers to the form of government in the United Kingdom. According to Merriam Webster, a republic is “a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch.” Now, in the modern day, the term republic is typically associated with a form of democratic government. While many republics may indeed have a democratic government, the definition of the word does not require a government to actually be democratic.
To get back to what I actually want to talk about, some people believe that since the Queen is dead it is the perfect time to install a republican government in the United Kingdom. I, however, disagree with this notion and I hope my upcoming thoughts may help inspire some of you to further research and perhaps even reexamine your own positions.
Before I go any further in this article, I do want to state that when I refer to my support of monarchies, this only extends to constitutional monarchies. I’m not going to advocate for any sort of authoritarian regime in this article, as I myself believe in democracy and the will of the people. Whether that democracy is a republic or a constitutional monarchy is up to the people of each country to decide.
One point that I want to discuss first actually corresponds with what is, in my opinion, the best argument for abolishing monarchies. This argument is that no family should be born above any other. While I agree with this idea in theory, in practice I don’t see how this fact alone is enough to abolish a monarchy. In republics, people can still be born to immense wealth and power. There is a reason that the Roosevelt, Rockefeller, Bush, and Clinton families are referred to as “political dynasties.” Even in governments that explicitly prohibit the gathering of immense familial wealth, i.e. communist governments, a ruling elite still forms which possess privileges not afforded to the common people. While I wish for a world where everyone is truly equal, my own observations of the world and its history have led me to believe this is not possible. Additionally, I do think there is a benefit to having a ruling family in a country, which is a point I plan to expand on.
Another point used against monarchies is the cost of upkeep. As any libertarian will tell you, “Why should my tax dollars go to supporting such a thing?” Besides the fact that some libertarians will say that about anything, it is an important point to discuss. After all, taxes can be a driving force in a populace’s desire for change. So why should your tax dollars go to supporting a monarch’s family? Well, if the money isn’t going to a monarch’s family it’s likely just going to go to supporting the family of the new head of state. Even if the new head of state doesn’t absorb the taxpayer money afforded to the monarchs, the amount of money saved would not outweigh the benefits of having a constitutional monarch as head of state.
What benefit might there be to having a ruling family? In any country, democratic or not, having something that can unify the populace of the country is extremely important. In some cases, this unifying factor may be shared religious or cultural practices. In others, it might be a common ethnicity. Yet in other countries, it may be a shared ruler. In an authoritarian country, a ruler might try and unify their country behind them through any of the above methods. China is an example of a country that emphasizes unity through ethnicity. This emphasis has gone so far that China is actively committing genocide against the Uyghurs in an attempt to homogenize them into Han Chinese culture. North Korea, on the other hand, actively promotes a cult of personality around the ruling Kim Family as the unifying force of the nation. Looking at some democratic nations instead, a shared culture has helped maintain the unity of some states. In the case of Germany, the shared German culture was what propelled East and West Germany to push for unification after the Cold War. Had those two states not shared a culture, the support behind unification would have been much less powerful.
Having discussed some aspects of national unity, I want to move onto the role of leaders in democracies and how they can affect national unity. First, let’s talk about how constitutional monarchs are a benefit to a country. Constitutional monarchy can help create unity within a nation, and I also believe that this unity is deeper than anything an elected individual can create. In a modern constitutional monarchy, the monarchs themselves take a largely apolitical role. This helps them in their role as a head of state since the lack of a political stance means there is also a lack of political polarization around them. Compare this to an elected leader in a republic. In the United States, for instance, the role of head of state belongs to the office of the president. Joe Biden is currently in that position, and in my opinion is probably the most bland and inoffensive politician who could have taken that role. Yet, despite this inoffensive nature, a loud minority of people within this country vehemently despise him. The political polarization within the United States has made it such that a large minority of the people will never be happy with the head of state. This isn’t exclusive to the United States. Countries like France, Brazil, and Turkey all have large minorities of people who are unhappy with their heads of state. Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that monarchies can’t be a polarizing political topic. Just looking at various nations’ histories would prove that wrong. Instead, I argue that a mostly ceremonial figurehead is less likely to polarize a population than an elected head of state.
Earlier I mentioned that I did not believe that the tax money saved from abolishing a monarchy was worth the downsides of not having a monarchy. As I have since discussed, I believe that a monarch can help create national unity, and as such I believe the cost of a monarch’s upkeep is actually a cost to provide unity in a nation. This is important, as a country that has unity is also more likely to be a stable country. I especially like this form of creating unity because it doesn’t come from a source harmful to the people living in the nation (such as forced cultural and ethnic assimilation).
Now, you may be wondering what I think should be done with republican forms of government around the world. In truth, I don’t think anything should be done unless it is backed by a popular referendum. I’m still a strong believer in democracy, and as such I am not going to force my opinions on the best form of government on the world’s masses. I am, of course, not the only one who believes in the restoration of monarchies. Movements of various sizes exist in many countries. Unfortunately, some of these movements are authoritarian in nature, but not all of them are. In two countries with larger monarchist movements, Romania and Georgia, the movements explicitly call for constitutional monarchies like those seen in Western Europe. If, instead, you are more interested in my personal opinion on a country’s monarchy or potential monarchy, feel free to ask me at one of our club meetings. I’m always willing to have a civil conversation with others.
I think the renewed interest in republicanism following the Queen’s death is ultimately flawed. My own take on the subject has led me to believe that monarchical systems within constitutional democracies are superior to the alternative of a republican democracy. Nevertheless the will of the people must still be listened to, whatever that may be. Whether that results in a change of government remains to be seen. Until then:
Long live the King!