|You are in: Talking Point|
Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
What's the enduring appeal of the royal family?
The British Queen Mother has been attracting the crowds to her 100th birthday celebrations.
She has not given an interview in more than 70 years. She hardly ever leaves Britain. And yet, she has an enviable number of fans in every corner of the world.
And so does Queen Elizabeth. And so did, of course, the late Princess Diana. Despite many attacks in the media, the royal family appears to be as popular as ever with the general public.
Why? What is their enduring appeal? Does society need these national figures or are they an expensive anachronism in a modern age? What makes a King or Queen different from a president? Is their future secure in the 21st century?
We have been discussing this issue on Talking Point ON AIR, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online.
Select a link below to watch or listen to Talking Point On Air
Well, with political lightweights like Tony Blair in office, it's not a surprise that folks wax nostalgic for the old traditions!
It is nice for Britain to have a Monarchy, because it's a symbol of the traditions and everything that represents Britain as a whole. It's something that gives your nation a support and a continuity no matter what government or what situation the world is in.
Chris, Reading, UK
If I was alive a few centuries ago, then I would have been happy to pay much attention to the Royal Family back then, because things were so different. But now, there is absolutely too much attention being paid and idolising of the Royal Family, to what avail are they to the common people? When I look at the Royal Family, I sense a hint of fascism, and I'm British myself yet I idolise nobody, its beyond me why people have pictures on walls of the Royals.
I would like to see the money that has been spent on the Queen Mothers' pomp and circumstance spent on the 1000's of elderly people sitting forgotten and lonely in homes up and down the UK. Maybe then we could better remember the importance of family than spending so much money on one woman who has everything already anyway.
Whether people are in favour of the Royal Family or not, there is one very uncomfortable fact that the pro Royalists might like to think about. None of the elderly Royals will ever be forced to sell the homes they have worked for all their lives to pay for such basic human rights as nursing care when they become incapacitated.
William, Darien, CT, USA
For the British people who agree with the Monarchy - that's only because you've never experienced having a president.
I have no problem with the Royal Family, even though I am not a staunch monarchist. The Queen does a good job as head of state and there's no need for a democratically elected person to do the job because she has a diminutive influence on the governing of the country.
John Ake, USA
Where do all these Americans get off praising the Monarchy? Weren't they the ones that wanted a Republic?! Personally, I'm indifferent to the raging Royal debate; I don't care if we keep them, I don't care if we don't. But it infuriates me SO MUCH to see Americans coming in here and telling Brits what we should and shouldn't do, ESPECIALLY when they've done the exact opposite! Go away, and worry about the state of your own country!
I cannot believe that in a country that claims to have the 'Mother of Parliaments' and goes on proclaiming that it created modern democracy, continues to widely support these parasites. What the hell has this family done to deserve such prolonged popular acclaim? In my opinion, nothing. We eulogise Prince William for reaching 18 and his great grandmother for 100, but why? They have had the best of everything that life has to offer and they have not done a days' work for it.
William Keevers, USA
With a constitutional monarchy we have a head of state that is not tainted by the petty, trendy issue of current politics. They are the heart of national tradition and represent the core nature of the state. For all their human foibles, they are people we can respect and believe in. They are constant in a silly, over-political world.
Get real and move with the times. The whole 'family' are a bunch of spongers! Don't give me all this revenue through tourism nonsense. No-one comes to the country to see any of the Royals, it's the castle they come to see. The castles would still be there if we done what the French and Russians did! The Royals themselves bring in no revenue through tourism and that's a fact!
My wish is for a country which has rid itself of a range of expensive, archaic individuals who are (in my opinion) only of a basic education and somewhat damaged. Scotland can never be independent whilst it has truck with the royals. Their "aura" is rapidly diminishing! If the Americans love 'em ... they can have them.
Adrian C Carroll, England
I don't think Colin Wright quite understands how the British Constitution actually works. Stripping the monarchy of its few residual powers will not make Britain a "true democracy". The exercise of the Royal Prerogative is, in practice, never more than a ceremonial rubber stamp upon the decisions of the government of the day. You should be worrying about who makes those decisions and how they are reached - not worrying about the rubber stamp.
Colin Wright, UK
Reading some of the other contributions, you'd think the UK was the only country with royalty. The Belgians, the Dutch, and others get on quite successfully with hereditary heads of state without all this brouhaha.
The legacies of personalities such as Shakespeare, Newton and Bertrand Russell have endured without their descendants. The very idea that a country needs a living person for its tradition and culture to continue shows those traditions will have difficulty in standing on their own.
I have recently been in the UK. The newspaper headlines were stating that
senior citizens were to get a 75 pence a week pension increase, the royal
family 7.9million. Where is the equality in this? The royal family are very wealthy, why are they subsidised by the British tax payer?
It's not the monarchy that I object to but some of the personalities. Maybe if Prince Harry became King instead of Charles the popularity of the royals would increase.
I'm not surprised the queen mother has reached 100 years old. She had never had to do a days work in her life and suffer the NHS!
It's a bit of a joke to note how many Americans support the British Royalty family and it's continuation. This coming from people who are citizens and not subjects, have a written constitution, and can vote out their head of state via the ballot box - it's called democracy! I wonder how many Americans would want to give all of this up and have our wonderful British system instead! Not a lot eh? Thought not!
Tim Benham (A Brit living in Sweden)
We are now in the 21st Century. Why are we still glorifying an anachronistic and dated regime?
People should remember that these people should be called the German Royal Family NOT the British Royal Family due to their ancestry.
As I work for the Inland Revenue I find it disgusting the fact they try to avoid paying Income Tax where I don't have any choice.
Get rid off the lot of them !!!
Here in western Australia we call HRH the Queen Of Western Australia. We have been allies of Britain since day one and always will be while there is a monarchy, but I can't see us having the same allegiance to some like Tony Blair and his interfering wife. We respect the royals yet we are a modern country, and could never be seen as living in the past.
Any institution is as good as the people in it. The Queen Mother is a
shining star in the Royal Family; she has been a constant example of service
and grace with a genuine interest in people. I wonder how differently
Britain would have come through the war without the presence and loyalty of
the King and Queen.
I am a Fulbright scholar from Cameroon, residing in
Columbia, SC. Coming from Africa, I have a lot of respect for
tradition, that is, positive and perceptive tradition.
I think the basic conflict between the monarchy and
democracy is in line with the present priorities of
the world today. Yet, there is a significant current
of awareness that, even with the cyber syndrome over
taking us today, there is evidence from Hollywood to
Jerusalem to justify a certain bias for the
resurrection, if not the maintenance, of tradition.
In current modern politics in Britain, I feel the royal monarchical structure has lost its values. In the modern democracy of Britain to have a continued royal structure is a contradiction in terms.
Unless Britain extricates itself
from the socialist EU, the monarchy will
ultimately be abolished or diminished by
external forces, ie, the unelected grandees
We are very pleased with our monarchy system even if they are involved in every aspect of our economical and political life. They are not just a symbol but they are involved in internal and external affairs. I believe the majority of people love our monarchy in Jordan.
I think generally speaking, I would come down on the idea of stability and continuity as being represented by the monarch who at least, in a British context, is above politics. In that point of view, I think they represent the embodiment of the nation - a kind of focal point.
Please keep your royals - it's a wonderful tradition and heritage and adds to tourism in England.
We had a referendum recently in Australia whether Australia should become a republic and a lot of Australians were in favour of a republic. It did go down and it was lost because the republican view was split and Australians are notorious for killing referendums as well. I voted for a republic because the person who represented the people should be selected by the people is more democratic and show's our nation's aspirations.
I am a conviced republican yet a subject of a constitutional monarchy! What bothers me even more concerning the British royal system is that the queen is also head of the church, this seems medieval to me.
Personally I don't agree with the Prof's view about the Royal Family. Let the British know that the saying, 'You never miss your water until well runs dry' is still. But then they can only find out how useful the monarchy is after throwing it out. A very expensive way of learning.
The British monarchy will never go away, even if you shoot kings and
queens they come bouncing back! There is a pretender to the throne of
France. A Russian Czar in a Lada somewhere and an Habsberg emperor,
working as a stockbroker I believe. Better by far than some elected
flavour of the day, good god that cold have given us Paul Gascogne as
head of state!
I cannot understand Republicans who want to throw the
British CULTURE overboard in one fell swoop. Perhaps the
British culture is better understood by those of us overseas
who see other cultures and appreciate them, and of course
look at our own and thank God we have a depth of culture
that we often long to be a part of.
From what I see, to have a president really costs more in taxes than to have a monarchy in taxes. I talked to one of my former English teachers and she complained that her taxes were too high and we're under a president. I've begun to notice that most people in Great Britain want a president rather than a Queen. But you should consider yourselves lucky to have a Queen because our taxes are too high.
At least arrogant politicians have to keep looking over their shoulder, because they know that when they get too big for their boots, the people will unelect them. Conversely, certain members of the Royal Family revel in the fact that they can be as obnoxious as they like, with complete impunity.
To all you republicans in the UK, may I just say one thing: "President Blair".
I think that's enough to bring on the pro-monarchy sentiment in everyone!
From a continental point of view, it is the splendour and the dignity of the ancient royal ceremonies and the continuity with which they are performed that make up our fascination. It is not only that. I think from a British point of view there are many reasons to keep the monarchy.
I think that the whole British family is the most disgusting, repulsive, and anti-democratic force is Europe today. The Queen has no political power, and does virtually nothing for society other than give people who have a huge void in their life something to talk about and admire, by waving her hand once in a while. The royals are a massive money wasting, anti-democratic force. A monarchy and democracy are diametrically opposed forces which cannot co-exist.
One point in support of the royal family in the UK and other royal families
is a continuity of focus, especially in time of turmoil. Such a continuity
is rare in a republic, a democratic one at any rate.
Look to what the Queen Mother did for the UK in WWII, not to mention the
support, the focus of resolve and purpose provided by other European royals
of that era. It is a role that continues to this day.
Jill Riotor, Paris, France
We had a referendum recently in Australia whether Australia should become a republic. I voted for a republic because the person selected by the people and voted for by the people is more democratic.
It is sad that a tiny few who benefit from privilege lives and gross
inequality are seen by non-wealthy people as something to admire and
celebrate, for there is no question that the existence of a minority who
enjoy great wealth are the cause of a majority who suffer great poverty.
I am British but have lived in Europe for over 15 years. I cannot support the Royal Family as they contribute to social equality and the lack of change in British society.
Whilst being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Britain has older
housing and more poverty than the majority of other european countries.
I would welcome a British Republic and believe the people of the UK would benefit from this.
When Germany invaded Denmark they ordered all Jews to wear the yellow star. The first person to put one on was the king. The next day everyone wore
one. In a totally different but comparable situation, Prince Charles'
stance against genetically engineered food - just when Tony Blair was
advertising it - has made a huge difference to the growing presence of
organic food in this country. If a royal happens to be a good person (or a
bad one, I suppose) his or her voice rings out with a power exceeding all
What makes the Queen and her family so special and loved is that royalty today has an almost fairy-tale like ring to it. To Britons, the Queen is a proud emblem of their nation. To the world, she is a symbol of Britain. Without the Monarchy, where would Britain be?
Hats off to the globally renowned British spin doctors who have brainwashed the rest
of the world into believing that the ancient, antiquated, anachronistic theocratic British
monarchy who reigns over the United Kingdom, aided and abetted by a legislative chamber of superior birth is, in fact, a democratic, cool Britannia! Time for the beasts of Bolsover to multiply and replenish the earth!!
The worst form of leadership, except for all the others: Few peanut farmers, actors or lying lawyers are trained in leadership from birth. The Royal Family are a fine example of commitment to service.
What is the enduring 'appeal' of the Royal Family?
That it endures. Nothing, not Parliament, clearly not political philosophy, not even the predominant religion (which only secured its place with the conversion of King Ethelbert in 597) predates our monarchy.
Our monarchy incarnates the past, present and future years of Britain. It is a beautiful part of a shifting world. That is why we love it.
Whether people respect the royal family for who they are or what they do is irrelevant. The fact that taxpayers money is being used to fund the Queen Mother's pageant brings home the real truth which I cannot accept - that people are not born equal in our society. As long as the monarchy exists in any form, the longer our society will have to wait until it becomes a true meritocracy.
The royal family is just everything that is British. At the end of the day they are a family just like all the rest of the families in the World. They have their personal triumphs and setbacks and have to contend with them. In many cases they should just be left alone to deal with these setbacks and not hounded by the press.
Daniel Hartley, Tokyo, Japan (British ex-pat)
We've had to put up with this nonsense for most of the last millennium: at the start of a new one it's high time to ditch this family and consign them to the dustbin of history.
I don't think that the royal family are that loved it's just that the media keeps telling us how wonderful they are and how much they mean to us all, and that is not necessary so, may be one or two are but certainly not all of them.
Its laughable to see the anti monarchists use the financial reason to get rid of them. If the monarchists were 'got rid of' then our taxes would actually rise (due to Crown of State). The civil list is comparably small to the inward investment to the country they bring. So those who don't like, please try and use a real argument.
The Royal family is a part of England and to take it away would be like taking a part of England away. The Queen has no real powers anyway, and she hasn't done anything wrong that would affect us in day-to-day life. The Monarchy hopefully will live on for another century at least, and will continue to be popular with our tourists.
The Royal Family may generate a lot of tourism
in London, but how much of that money makes it to other parts of the UK?
Based on the comments of bigoted republicans, one might assume the UK is the only monarchy in the world.
A quick look at the rest of north-western Europe reveals Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands and Belgium, constitutional monarchies all. The appeal of a monarchy is clearly international.
On the other side are France, Germany and the Irish Republic. Among these, the Germans had republicanism forced on them, against their will. Moreover, considering that republicanism in France led to Napoleon and in Germany led to Hitler, its record is questionable at best.
From what I see and experience, the Royal Family have and deserve no special respect - they are normal people who live a very abnormal life on account of an accident of birth.
As a British comic says, our national anthem is "God save the Queen" - she lives in a house guarded by armed soldiers and paid for by us - that's one saved Queen. I'd prefer something that we could all ascribe to like Jerusalem - at least you could mean the words when you sing them.
The Royal family is the best system of government for the UK, an apolitical head of state is ten times better than a president. Look at the various examples the US etc and tell me they are better. To me the greatest argument against republicanism other than the monarchy is the republicans themselves. As can be seen by all the anger, filth and hatred they spout.
The UK is held together by the crown. Get rid of the monarchy and you would have a few third rate powers. The monarchy is cheaper than many republics to run.
Your saying this gang of layabouts is popular doesn't make it so. When was the last time the Brits were asked if they wanted them or wanted a republic ?
Robert Leggat, Bedford
I cannot see how we can get rid of them anyway. Take away their titles people will still refer to them as their titles, taking away Buckingham Palace and their other homes would be like eviction from a home owned by someone and should not be allowed to happen, as it will break several International Laws.
Monarchs provide a link with the history and traditions of a nation's past, and thus help to create a sense of nationhood and national identity. Monarchs, who unlike presidents are not partisan politicians or political appointments, can serve as apolitical symbols for the nation in times of joy and celebration. Constitutional monarchies are a stable form of government that have consistently provided its citizens with relative peace and justice. The division of powers makes it much more difficult for one individual or level of government to misuse their authority.
Lesley, Oregon USA,
When I think of the Royal Family, I immediately think of a thin man in a naval suit and a kindly-looking woman plucking through the bombed waste of the East End. I think of a young princess working on jeeps and trucks for the war effort. I think of a Prince of Wales who -- though I disagree with his viewpoints -- has introduced the subject of architecture into the world cultural dialogue.
Finally, when I visit Britain, as an American with deep British roots, and I look at Buckingham Palace, the proud history of Britain is made manifest. It makes me envy the people of Britain their good fortune.
Do you Britons ever quit complaining about everything? I find nothing wrong with the Royals. They care/do more for their country than most of their fellow countrymen do, and without complaint. The USA has always had a fascination with the British Monarchy, our founding fathers even saw fit to ask a member of the Stewart Royal Family to become the King of the USA after the Revolutionary war. We don't come to England to see the average everyday citizen, we come to see Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, etc. As the British saying goes "they are a good value for the money"
The only reason they are seen to have such an "enduring appeal", is that the media never shuts up about them!! They are constantly forced down our throats, as people we should respect and look up to!! Why?? Because they were born with the right name? What right does that give them to tell us how we should live and behave? I find this constant coverage very boring, and the whole religion aspect of royalty is insulting. I don't believe in god, why should I sing a song about he/she saving someone I have no feelings for?
Steven Vernon-Browne, Munich, Germany (UK)
Royalty appeals strongly to our deeper psyche. The nobility of chivalry, the admirable dedication to excellence in the interests of the people governed, the solemnity of ceremony and the sacred covenant between the governing and the governed. This is all in the mix, although they do not explain it all.
The aristocratic principle was not all bad - it had its day. But we've invented something better!
All credit to the Royal Family for keeping us entertained with their TV soap opera, but nobody should mistake it for real life. The Great British Public are too conservative to dump the Windsors at the moment. But I think the series will emit its last episode when somebody REALLY embarrassing plonks their bum on the throne, and what a great day that will be for British democracy.
Many of the contributors to this discussion have likened the Royal Family to a "living soap opera". What's so bad about that? I'm sure we pay far, far more for Eastenders, through our licence fee, than we do to maintain the Royals, and I'm sure more people are interested in them than in TV!
As an American who lived in
Britain for two years, I can say
that the Royal family are very
important symbolically and as a
tourist attraction. The Royal
family plays an important role as
heads of state and perform the
ceremonial functions of government,
leaving the Prime Minister free to
carry out the business and un-
glamorous work of government.
Abolishing the Royal family would
throw the United Kingdom into a
constitutional crisis, the likes of
which has never been seen before.
The British are afraid of change and regard it as always damaging to their status. The Royals personify this fear and so we continue to defend a comic and highly regressive institution. The corollary is that we don't have a country built on sound principles and democratic standards. One day a government will have the courage to create a proper constitutional basis and then we will have the freedoms Americans got 230 years ago.
I am sick of the "Media Brainwashing us" attitude. A sizeable proportion want the Royal Family, that is why papers like "The Sun" bring us Royal News. When will the abolitionists learn that their opinions are no more valid or valuable than those who are supporters, and that the majority (Supporters) should make the decision not the few. And they have the cheek to preach about democracy, ironic isn't it?
Zoe Warrington, UK
As a patriotic Scotsman, I find the idea of bowing and scraping to the English monarchy quite pathetic.
Interestingly, a few years ago on an ITV special poll, Scotland voted against the Monarchy while England, Wales and NI voted to keep them.
I think Scotland should be independent and have an elected president. Let the English keep their Royals if they want them.
I don't understand how you bash this great asset to your country. Not only do you make money on tourism but the Queen surrenders the Crown Estates to the Government and accepts in exchange a meagre civil list of which she pays back much. Here in the U.S. our head of state/government (President) only costs us money and embarrassment.
I cannot believe some of the pro-monarchy comments appearing in here. Things like the Royals contribute to Britain's wealth because tourists come to this country specifically to see them. What tosh. The tourists come to this country to see the sights, and if the royal family were abolished, the sights would still be there. It's about time the British public woke up to the huge brain washing exercise being carried out by the British media on behalf of these over-paid, over-pampered, over-privileged parasites, and got rid of this birth-right nonsense.
Richard, Nottingham, UK
Be careful what you wish for Britannia, because it may one day come true. Before you embrace the idea of an elected head of state, take a good hard look at American politics. We do not have a head of state - we have an elected politician whose #1 goal is getting himself re-elected and supporting his political party. And, I should mention, Mr. Clinton's airplane alone costs more each year than your entire monarchy. You have the best of all worlds - an elected head of government and a hereditary (and non-political) head of state. Rejoice in your good fortune.
As a Brit living in the US, I really didn't realise what everyday things I missed until I left the UK. Fish'n'chips, Coronation St., Harrods and London itself. I would watch everything on American TV to do with the Royals, the Weddings, The Trooping of the Colour, Changing of the Guard and then it suddenly struck me. It's not the Royals I miss, it's the pageantry. Unfortunately as displayed with Diana's funeral, nobody does it better than us Brits. If only we could keep the ceremonies and get rid of "The Firm".
I do not believe that the monarchy encourages the class system. They are quite a different beast altogether. In any case, the class system is as much perpetuated by the "working classes" as by the "upper classes" these days. In my work in London I do not perceive class in this sense, rather in the sense of people who have made an awful lot of money and those who haven't. I would much rather have an apolitical head of state than an elected politician.
The EU has a number of countries which are republics. If the 20% or so of the UK who prefer this method of government believe in it so much then they should just move to a republic. I am sure poverty will disappear, a cure for cancer will be found, and everyone will live happily ever after. Meanwhile, I choose to live in the monarchy which is Great Britain. As the majority of British prefer having a monarchy over not having one, I believe that the monarchy IS a democratic institution. Yes, most of my friends feel this way. And by the way, we are all under 35.
I think the anti-monarchists are missing the point somewhat. Sure, taxpayers' money is used to fund part of their duties, but it is a tiny amount compared to the investment in tourism and industry they help secure. The value of the monarchy is more than commercial; it gives the British people a national identity. This important in at a time when devolution and Europe is eroding "The Nation".
According to both the latest polls by MORI and ICM, the majority of those expressing an opinion one way or the other support the continuation of a Monarchy in the UK. I suspect that should a referendum be proposed, that the Monarchists among us would win handsomely. The income to the state from Royal Estates is over 130M pounds per year. The published cost of the Monarchy for last year was 30M pounds
Therefore the Monarchy generated 130 M pounds last year without tourism or any other factors taken into account.
I believe that the Royal Family are a statement that whilst the UK is a democracy the values of times gone by are honoured at a minimal cost. The values may be not what we think of as contemporary but they are of use for the youth to gauge against.
Matt, Canterbury, UK
They symbolise our national identity and the sense of continuity from 1000 years of heritage. They are great value for money: just compare the cost with that of the Dome, or one week's worth of the National Lottery. The alternatives would be drab, or politically compromised - or both.
The monarchy brings joy to millions. What actual harms do they do to our society to make some the ant-monarchist comments in this forum so vociferous? Rather than arguing against the monarchy, can anyone actually make a valid argument for a republic? I hope this great institution continues to work for the nation
and Commonwealth for a long time to come.
Top Talking Point stories now:
Links to more Talking Point stories are at the foot of the page.
|E-mail this story to a friend|
Links to more Talking Point stories
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>> | To BBC World Service>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy