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Is this the future of the British monarchy?

January 11, 2020

I have no opinion on Harry and Meghan. Clearly The Times – which yesterday published a leader column, two op-eds and six pages of reporting about the couple’s rupture with the royal family – thinks that enough of its readers do have an opinion. Either that or it reckons that we readers have enough of an interest in the royals that an opinion can be implanted in us.

From a brief scan of the headlines in other newspapers, it’s reasonable to assume that The Times’s obsession with this story is shared by everyone else in the print media.

If I were to be really cynical, I could probably make a case that in the US, Donald Trump chose to eviscerate General Soleimani in order to divert attention from his embarrassing impeachment trial, whereas someone in our shameless government persuaded Harry and Meghan to go public with their bombshell announcement now so as to draw attention away from early signs of Brexit chickens coming home to roost.

But I’m not a cynic, and the thought never occurred to me that whereas the Americans are panicking about World War III, we in Britain are working ourselves into an equal frenzy about one branch of the royal family peeling off to do its own thing.

I do wonder what foreign observers must think of our collective nervous breakdown over the sixth-in-line to the throne. Some no doubt are fascinated, but the rest must surely think we’re barking mad.

While it’s true that there are plenty of people in my country who care deeply about the royals, as witness the popular response to the death of Harry’s mum, Princess Diana, I wonder how many of us are truly bothered, beyond a profound respect for Her Majesty, about the comings and goings of the rest of the Firm.

For sure, the newspapers would miss Harry and Meghan if they disappeared, and thousands of trolls would be devastated to lose a favourite target.

The rest of us are quite content with having a relatively inert figurehead at the apex of our society. For those looking for a little excitement from our head of state and her family, the Harry and Meghan saga is just about as good as it gets. Alas, the Crown was long ago stripped of the ability to make mayhem and stir up passions over real issues. Which is a shame, because our monarchy has a fascinating history. They don’t make kings and queens like Richard the Lionheart, Henry V, Richard III, Henry VIII, the first Elizabeth and Charles I anymore.

I also wonder what we would do if the monarchy, under the aegis of King Charles III, decided in a final constitutional meltdown to abolish itself. We would then have a republic and would have to decide between an executive presidency and another figurehead, presumably elected on a regular basis.

My guess is that the ego of Boris Johnson would propel him towards an executive head of state on the French model, Macron-style, provided that he could become president. Before Donald Trump took power, perhaps the American way would have been favoured. But the notion of the United States as a stable democracy with checks and balances between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary is somewhat discredited after three years of Trump’s wrecking ball.

The alternative, of course would be ceremonial presidency along the lines of the Irish model. Michael O’Higgins, in his role as the twinkle-eyed National Leprechaun, does a splendid job embodying the qualities of the Irish that are loved throughout the world.

But who would we select to represent our hugely diverse nation? If we were Sweden, Greta Thunberg would be a shoo-in, or possibly Saga Noren, if it were not for the fact that she’s a fictional character.

But Britain? It would help if the candidate had bloodlines from each of the four constituent parts of the UK. If I were a bit more famous, I would gladly offer up myself, since I have English, Scottish and Irish blood (though no Welsh, perish the thought). But I fear that come an election I might lose to Gary Lineker.

Perhaps the choice would be simpler, since there’s a good chance that the United Kingdom will soon no longer exist. In that case, our first president would need merely to have South Asian, African and East European ancestry as well as English and Welsh.

They would also need to speak Mandarin and have hints of LGBTI, as well as a smidgen of atheism and other distinctive identities. Most importantly, they would have to be into cricket, since they would have little else to do in the summer other than to attend test matches.

Beyond these agonising choices lies another opportunity. Since we are proud of our record of technical invention, perhaps we should consider becoming the first nation in the world to create an AI presidency. That way there would be no need for incessant elections, since the president would be in office for eternity, subject only to the occasional upgrade. Properly designed, it would be reliably independent, impervious to influence and, in the long run, bloody cheap. We already have ERNIE (above) who does an excellent job selecting the winning numbers of our premium bonds. Surely he could be tweaked?

What’s more, if AI diagnoses breast cancer better than humans and can beat the world Go champion, surely it could be programmed to kick Boris Johnson in the arse should he ever again attempt to prorogue parliament for anything other than the purest of motives.

I know I’m veering towards silliness here, but since we now live in a me-obsessed world in which the principal human right is not to be offended, surely we’re asking too much of any human being to replicate the qualities of our poor old queen, who has spent her whole life in a straitjacket of selfless devotion to the art of neutrality in all things. People like her just aren’t available anymore.

So why even try?

From → History, Politics, Social, UK

  1. Andrew Mirton permalink

    Peasants taking sides in royal disputes is an ancient tradition. Unwilling to cast myself as peasant, I’nm abstaining from this little bit of media froth.

  2. Steven, I’m ashamed of you, or maybe it’s your editor! Why? Just look at your penultimate paragraph! First time I’ve caught you slipping. Go on, tell me what you’ve done wrong?, Rachel

    • All my own editing Rachel. Apart from “can” for “could”, I don’t see it. Tantalise me not – reveal all!

  3. To instead of “too”. Too easy to miss.

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