By Roxanna Brealey, BA History and Politics
It was on the 7th of November that King Charles III opened parliament with an impartial pitch of Rishi Sunak’s legislative agenda.
It’s often accepted amongst the public that the monarchy plays an entirely neutral and ceremonial role within the self-proclaimed British ‘democracy’. However, that could not be further from the truth. The theory of democracy is that elected legitimate representatives govern the country and make necessary political decisions. During general elections, they are then held accountable at the voting booths every five years. The question is, who is there to force accountability upon the monarchy for any faults that they commit? No one. Who is there to provide them with legitimacy? Only their hereditary bloodline which is based on them being superior to the rest of the British public. The monarchy is not compatible with democracy.
“The monarchy is not compatible with democracy“
The issue of accountability is particularly important as, behind the closed doors of Buckingham Palace, the monarchy does have an impact on political decisions. Through the convention of royal assent, the monarch is forced to sign a bill, but it does not mean they can’t exercise soft power to change laws. Take the example of the late Queen Elizabeth II who was concerned about a proposed bill in 1973 that would make it easier for people to view the true value of her finances and therefore increase scrutiny on her extremely high and unrelatable net worth, inevitably damaging the royal prerogative. Due to this, the royal lawyer succeeded in removing this clause after liaising with politicians at the time. Not only did an unelected monarch pressure for a policy change that the British public entrusts elected politicians to make, but she did it for the sake of self-preservation which weakened financial transparency that, as head of state, she would have some morality to provide.
However, the scarcity of scrutiny is also extended to the moral blunders of the royal family. For instance, the seven-year-old Ethiopian Prince Alemayehu was taken hostage and subsequently buried in the Windsor Catacombs and the requests for his remains to be returned have been consistently denied. It is without contest that the Prince deserves to be repatriated to his home country so his family can bury him with the dignity he deserves instead of being laid to rest in a foreign country which was unconcerned for his well-being.
Whilst both examples are relatively old, they’re outstanding examples of the monarchy committing political and moral blunders for which they will never be held accountable as they will always remain through their hereditary bloodline.
Additionally, the issue of tax-payer money being used to fund an unelected and unaccountable family is, again, another important political impact the monarchy places upon the public. It was reported that the sovereign grant given to them from 2022/23 was £86.3 million pounds, which came straight from the taxpayer’s pocket. It has since been used to fund a lavish family’s lifestyle without the consent of the taxpayer when it could instead be redirected towards public services such as the dwindling NHS.
Often these issues go unnoticed due to the current public relations campaigns of attempted relatability. Take the Prince and Princess of Wales and their functional and pleasant nuclear family which appeals to the average person, and understandably so. Never mind the cheating allegations, pay them no mind.
Democracy should be based on legitimacy, accountability, and representation. Contestably, there are many more issues that contribute towards the decline of democracy in Britain, but the significant role of the monarchy towards this cannot be ignored.
Photo Credits: The British royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (Credit: Openverse)