Inevitably in the UK, with this royal wedding, there have been discussions around the role of the monarchy.
With regard to the wedding itself, I must admit I’m not a big fan of weddings in general (I think I’m going back to childhood to think of the last wedding I attended, apart from my own). But I know how hard it is to make a marriage work, so I wish them the very best of luck. Just as if it were your wedding, I’d wish you the best of luck.
So you could take from that, that I certainly think the royals have a right to exist. I think there are big question marks surrounding inherited wealth, but that’s a different matter. You can have a similar argument about the UK’s benefit from something like slavery. None of us alive today, have had anything to do with slavery, and yet we live quite happily with the benefits that were accrues during that time. For me, these questions summarise why I think the concept of a state is something more than just the individuals who comprise it. It’s one of the areas where I think the state has a responsibility to involve itself.
Returning to the monarchy, where I’d draw my line is the involvement of the monarch (I’m being careful not to mention the queen here, since I don’t think this is about a person) in the machinery of state, for want of a better term. In things like lawmaking, in terms of royal prerogative, for example – the amount of power a prime minister can wield as a proxy of the monarch. We should be clear that these items benefit the state, not the monarch. When parliament debates and passes a new law, for example, the final act of royal assent is purely ceremonial. And, of course, we have people (Sinn Fein MPs) who have been duly elected, and who refuse to take up their seats because they won’t swear allegiance to a monarch. That seems a silly reason to me, and I think we need to be clear whether these people have been elected to serve the voters or the monarch. My own view is that the voters have priority, every time. So if you have a conflict, then the monarch gives way. And it might be fine for the prime minister to have special powers (again, an argument for another day) but we should be clear that these powers are because they are themselves the de facto head of state, rather than the monarch’s proxy.So I think we need to look at public service, and ask whether the service is provided on behalf of the monarch, or of the state.
So great news for the royal family about the wedding, but I think we also need to think of their context in our lives. God sabe our gracious state, anyone?