Written by Anoushka Patel
Edited by Annika Lilja
If the estimated 4.1 billion people tuning in to watch the Queen’s funeral was anything to go by, it is clear that Britain is still largely a nation of royalists. But as anti-monarchy sentiment - particularly among young people - attracts more attention, and as some protestors even get arrested for voicing republican views, it’s worth talking about whether the monarchy has a place in modern day Britain, or if it is time to abolish it.
According to the polls – and footage of the 10-mile queue for the Queen’s lying-in-state aired across the news – Britons are still in support of the monarchy. YouGov polls in June this year reported that 62% of the public are in favor of allowing the royal family to continue with its largely ceremonial duties. Indeed, the Queen in particular was loved by many across the political divide, including former US President Barack Obama, who remembered her for her “grace, elegance and tireless work ethic” and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who admired her “warmth and kindness.”
During the ten-day mourning period, tributes came pouring in to mark the end of an era, remembering the Queen for her “unswerving commitment” during times of both turmoil and triumph. While the splendor, tradition, and patriotism undoubtedly play a part in the monarchy’s continued appeal, so too does the fact that the monarch is seen as an apolitical figure whose entire existence is devoted to service, and therefore considered to be above much of the criticism often levied at public figures. Amidst the toxic political atmosphere during the recent leadership election race, the Queen’s passing has brought a sense of calm to the political scene, with members of all parties united in their grief.
However, some Britons are displeased with the idea of a democratic nation having a monarch, calling the accession of King Charles III an “affront to democracy.” Such people are known as republicans, who seek a national referendum on whether to keep the royal family as unelected heads of state, not just for Britain, but for members of the Commonwealth as well. In recentdays, anti-monarchy protesters have been arrested for holding up signs reading “Not my King,” which has caused concern about a breach of the right to freedom of speech by the police.
Some critics of the monarchy have used the Queen's death as an opportunity to express frustration with an institution that costs British taxpayers almost $120 million last year, according to the Accounts for the Sovereign Grant. As Britain weathers an economic crisis that has seen inflation rocket to a 40-year high, there is a sentiment among some people that rather than spending tax-payers money on the royal family for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and her funeral, the money would be better spent helping the most vulnerable British families who will have to choose between heating their homes or feeding their children this winter.
There are also those who point out that you cannot detach Britain from its empire; the
monarchy directly benefited from the slave trade, reaping the rewards without taking any of the responsibility. In fact, the Queen has never once apologised for the royal family’s role in allowing the slave trade to continue. From controversies surrounding racist remarks made by her late husband Prince Phillip, to the comments made by Prince Harry that racism was a “large part” of why his family left the UK, the royal family has often been accused of turning a blind eye and enabling racism. Queen Elizabeth II may have been on the throne to witness the abolition of the slave trade, but she was also monarch for the brutal suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in the fifties, and the Royal African Company was responsible for enslaving more Africans than any other company in the world. Commonwealth countries are echoing this sentiment, with Barbados having removed the Queen as head of state earlier this year, and Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda set to follow suit.
Another reason the monarchy may see a plummet in support is that many mourners who hold strong affection for the Queen may not feel the same way towards King Charles III. The Queen was known for being steadfastly silent on political matters throughout her 70 years on the throne, granting her immunity to much criticism. King Charles III isn’t the same – he is apassionate environmental activist and has expressed his distaste towards the government’s plan to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda. The public may not be so accepting of a monarch with strong views, though King Charles III has said that “It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply,” hinting at a dial back from his activism in favor of following the status quo.
Republicanism isn’t a main priority at the moment, which makes the abolition of the monarchy unlikely for the foreseeable future. But that could change with the will of the younger generation of voters, whose support for the monarchy has fallen from 59% in 2011 to just 33% today.
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