Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The British Monarchy


Canada Day was about a week and a half ago.  Over breakfast, precipitated by the visit of those dubbed "Will and Kate" by the media, we began to discuss the Queen.  I quickly found myself on the unpopular side of the argument, but this was to be expected.

You see, I am quite happy having the Queen as the executive branch of the Government of Canada.  I see no problem in belonging to the Commonwealth of Nations.  Further, I think the United Kingdom should realise the veritable gold mine they sit on.

The most common argument I hear against Her Majesty is financial.  It is a fair point, she holds a lot of very expensive events, and it all happens on the taxpayers' dime.  There is also the oft-quoted lack of license plates on her vehicles.  However, this is not the full story.  The Queen does receive what is known as the "Civil List", money paid to her for her staff and various other sundries (around 8 million pounds).  At the same time, the Queen signs over her income to the Government of the UK.  This is not trivial either, the estate of the royal family is extensive, bringing in hundreds of millions of pounds every year.  The amount paid to the Government is somewhere north of 200 million pounds, and is currently increasing every year.  In fact, I believe it is Buckingham Palace that has needed repairs for years.  The Government was to pay for said repairs right when the financial crisis hit.  The Queen declined the money for the repairs, saying the Government needed it more.  As an aside, Canadians complain about the money spent when royalty visits, but is that not the price of good diplomatic relations?  Is that not done for elected heads of state who visit Canada?  "Of course it is!" you reply astutely, while swirling your brandy, and adjusting your monocle and top hat (I assume).

The next reason for my support of the Monarchy was a little less clear, but was articulated clearly and eloquently by Matt.  For this, we must ask why we have a monarchy.  It is a fair question, whereas various monarchies ruled the world in the past, they are now a rarity by comparison.  The reason, it seems to me, is that whenever the British Monarchy has been asked to give up power, it has.  The French Monarchy refused, and, well, that's how that went.  In a more recent example from Canada, we can consider the King-Byng affair.  When W. L. Mackenzie King was Prime Minister, I believe he had a Parliamentary vote which failed.  Rather than holding an election, Governor General Byng appointed the Opposition Conservatives as the governing party.  The new Government was quickly defeated, an election held, and (I believe) King was handed a majority government.  Soon afterwards, the Governor General, which had been Britain's representative in Canada, was stripped of all but it's symbolic power and the British High Commission became the diplomatic link to Canada.  In short, the representative of the Queen in Canada was asked to give up power, and it did so gracefully.  Sort of.  Ultimately, in the examples I have given, the Monarchy has given up power when asked.  This means that the Monarchy in its current state represents the will of the people, which is exactly what the executive branch of government should do.

Breakfast had ended, Matt decided the Monarchy was not so bad, and I was happy to have had a good exchange of ideas.  I admit there may be some disadvantages I am failing to consider.  However, I feel that if more people knew the whole story, maybe there would be less hate and disdain for the British Monarchy.


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