There is no rational place for a Queen in a free society. The two concepts are incompatible and exist on antithetical foundations: one on liberty and equality and the other on natural superiority and subsequent inequality. In the Declaration of Independence, the document that severed the ties between the Colonies and the Crown, Thomas Jefferson encapsulated the essence of freedom in the statement, ‘All men are created equal.’ If all men are created equal, it does not follow that one man may have inherent superiority over his companions. But, the United Kingdom has a Queen. How can this be reconciled with natural equality and democracy? What merit–other than genealogy–justifies the existence of Royalty in a free society?
The role of the monarchy in the United Kingdom has evolved (for the better) since the passage of the Bill of Rights 1689, which asserted the rights of parliament and limited the power of the monarch. Today, the head of state is effectively the prime minister, not the Queen, and the laws are debated by the parliament, not the Royal Family. So, what is the role of the monarch in present times?
Is it possible that the monarch is just a symbolic figure? Perhaps, but it would be a very expensive show of symbolism. Queen Elizabeth II has an estimated net worth north of $500 million and earns approximately $50 million (tax dollars) annually. The Royal Family are official state representatives. Prince Philip, who will soon retire from public service, has conducted 637 solo overseas visits. I will not judge his performance as a state representative, but I do know that he was not elected for the job. He married into it. Of course, the United Kingdom is not alone. Many other countries with democratic systems of government also have monarchs–Spain, Netherlands, Denmark etc.
I was taught that respect and reverence is not deserved, but rather earned. Not long ago, the Queen’s representative in Canada, David Johnston, breached protocol by touching the Queen’s elbow (she is 91 years old) as he escorted her down slippery stairs. Johnston’s egregious error prompted the media to broadcast his mistake. In this case, obsolete protocol trumped safety and common sense.
Maybe the neglect of principle and reason is related to money. According to research by Brand Finance, the Royal Family contributed 1.15 billion GBP to the UK’s GDP in 2015–mostly from tourism. Is money a good enough reason to cast aside principle?
It would be unfair to claim any wrongdoing on the Royal Family’s behalf. Prince Philip has worked diligently on behalf of the United Kingdom through his many overseas engagements. Prince Harry served in the Royal Military and spent 77 days fighting in Afghanistan; Prince William served in the Royal Air Force Search and Rescue as a helicopter pilot. These are all honorable duties. However, all these accomplishments are equally as honorable when done by common citizens.
A monarchy is an anachronism in a free society. In our times, the Queen is no longer necessary for the maintenance of government or the people. Tradition or not, a monarch presents a striking discrepancy in ideals. The sanctity of freedom and equality are sacrificed by bowing to a king or queen.
Akiva Rockland is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org