Why is the UK a monarchy?
ROLE & POWER OF THE MONARCH
In a monarchy where the king or queen is the head of state, the United Kingdom is a little different because it is a constitutional monarchy, meaning that creating and passing laws is a decision that belongs to Parliament and not to the queen.
The Queen has a symbolic role, she opens Parliament every year and approves the Acts of Parliament, she also has the right to use "Royal Assent" to oppose any bill, but no monarch has used it since 1708.
It organizes visits abroad, welcomes foreign heads of state and serves as a kind of national identity and unity of Great Britain. It also has some advantages such as the fact that it can do without a passport when travelling, and can drive without a licence even though it has to use a driver most of the time. Once a prime minister is in office the Queen sees him every week and gives him advice. In the absence of a majority the Prime Minister has the chance to create a government either by governing with a minority or by forming a coalition with other parties.
HISTORICAL TRADITION & NATIONAL UNITY
Religious allegiance is essential to a true monarchy - an imaginative feeling that no legislature can manufacture. It is a way of defining greatness other than with wealth and territories, it is a way of differentiating oneself from others but not only.
The institutional challenge implied a certain passion for hereditary authority, but it was the impact of Americanisation on British life that was of particular concern.
The monarchy was a kind of bulwark, a way of protecting oneself in the face of change, of coping with hardship and of dealing with doubt and uncertainty. This is still the case today with globalisation and immigration, respect for institutions has also diminished and the example of the United States, which is torn apart every four years, leads them to think that it does not want to do the same thing again because they still draw a parallel with the civil war. This reflects the national character of the British monarchy, an ancient and complicated society. And the royal family represents the love of the nation with its past even if they are ready to change if necessary by "modernising" themselves in order to make themselves more accessible and to play the game of popularity, for example by paying taxes.
In 1649 King Charles I was executed and the main European states did not yet know an alternative to the monarchy, after that revolutions remained a frightening memory for the British. During and after the First World War, when other great monarchies were falling, the royal family found a way to increase its popularity. They decided to no longer be German, abandoning their German surname in favour of the Windsor surname. They also gave up their German aristocratic titles and rights and took away British titles from their German and foreign cousins. They even stopped speaking German.
The transition from total monarchy to constitutional monarchy took place in the 1660s and power moved to Parliament. In the 1920s all British adults were given the right to vote for Parliament, a kind of first step towards a democratic system while keeping the monarchy as an honorary title. The monarchy is simply a symbol of Britain, British power and national values, creating a sense of British identity that has kept the United Kingdom together.
Contrary to what one might think the United Kingdom is perhaps the most famous and visible example of monarchy but it is not the only one, indeed, Europe still has other monarchies such as Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Spain etc....
STATUS & OPINION OF THE BRITISH PEOPLE
What is interesting to know is that the British are still officially considered "subjects" - we can distinguish this on passports that are either "citizens of the United Kingdom" or "British subjects. And there would be no document that officially designates the British as citizens.
This doesn't seem to bother the public, since less than a fifth of subjects say they want to get rid of the royal family, and this hasn't changed over the centuries. This reassuring image of monarchy is a distinctive identity sign for all Britons.
Given the changes in society we have undergone since the days when monarchies were the only way to govern a country, it might seem strange that this system of inherited privilege and power still has its place and has retained its popularity. So it would seem that despite globalisation, the United Kingdom remains attached to its customs and values, a way of reassuring itself or showing national pride.
There are, however, differences of opinion about the life of the royal family, as some would like to see it less present in British life and in the newspapers.
ENTERTAINMENT & TOURISM
The most important part of the monarchy, the monarchs and their exciting lives. Royal weddings are private amusement parks for the British and this brings money to the country in terms of tourism.
It is indeed a great entertainment value, take for example the most recent wedding in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle where hundreds of heroes have been rewarded, who would not dream of it? Especially since their unique and atypical love story of royal relations thrills us and awakens a side of rebellion in the name of love that we often lose sight of.
When there is no show there is court life, banquets, receptions, presentations etc. but also charities and public awareness efforts. Sometimes there are even certain dramas such as divorces, behaviours perceived as insulting by members of the royal family. Take for example Camilla who played the evil character to make the people who are fans of Diana the Whistle. All these stories over time have generated significant tourist revenues.
And you've all already seen how many impressive spin-offs there are from the royal family on all occasions and in all forms, some bring back as a funny souvenir after a tourist trip to London and others devote an almost passionate cult to the royal family.
If you are passionate about the history of the United Kingdom and want to know more about it you can discuss it with native speakers by learning languages on our Studenz website in the language exchange section.
Written by: Lisa Lambert, Staff Writer
- London life
- 4 Mar, 2020
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