Off with its head

When does an institution become more trouble than it’s worth? And when can you cut the head off of a body in order to save the rest of the body?

We just watched The Queen – the Oscar Award (Best Actress) winning movie about Queen Elizabeth II’s reaction and non-response to the death of Princess Diana. It’s really quite entertaining, if you’re into any aspect of anglophilic nature or British history.

One of the topics touched upon in the movie is the growing hostility towards the Crown. Simply put, it’s an outdated institution that costs the nation millions of dollars each year and gives nearly nothing but drama in return. It’s a position of privilege gained by nothing more than birthright. It’s a source of anti-nationalist views, obviously, and many wish it would just go away.

And usually, I would be with them. The constitutional monarchy model – which takes away complete control from the monarchy but still gives them a slight, puppet-head decision in governmental procedure – doesn’t really make sense in today’s democratic world. I should be against the monarchy. Throw them out on the street. Tell them to get a job. Stop feeding them so much money and letting them live in the lap of luxury.

But I can’t do that. Because I’m so in love with the history – the idea that these people are somehow descended from the monarchial greats – I can’t do much more than forgive the extravagance that has led to the monarchy being overpaid and under worked.

In The Queen, both sides are shown through Tony Blair’s character – a reform P.M. that, by the end of the movie, really feels a certain soft spot for Liz the Second. There’s a need to get rid of the monarchy, yes. But what would England lose?

For those of us on this side of the pond, we equate the royalty with England. And many on the home front probably feel the same way. It’s more than just a fictitiously slanted head of state – it’s part of the identity of England. It’s a huge part of its history, of its sensibility and of its allure. It’s the movie star effect – worthless in act but brilliant in action.

I don’t have the same perspective as most would have. I am watching all of this from afar, and for all I know there isn’t as much uproar to displace the Royal Family. I’m sure Tony from Other Men’s Flowers would have a much better view on the entire process.

But as someone who fell in love with country, who finds a great allure in knowing the current Queen, granddaughter of Victoria, is in some way directly connected to the Henrys, the Williams, Elizabeth I and all of the rest of the great names in English extravagance, I’d hate to see the monarchy go.

I hate the monarchy almost as much as I love it. And I think that’s a pretty common opinion to have.

It wouldn’t be so hard if they’d just do something to warrant sticking around.


For an interesting take on putting the monarchy out on the street, read Sue Townsend’s The Queen and I – a book about the royal family living in dire straits after being thrown out of Buckingham Palace. It’s wickedly funny and, actually, kind of sad at times.

This was lovingly handwritten on April 10th, 2007