Is the British Monarchy as bad as has been suggested by Graham Smith?


By Ian Roberts, Acting Chair and Vice Chair British Monarchist League

It has been argued that our Monarchy is distant from the people and a puppet head of state without any sort of lawful legitimacy. It has also been said that our ministers can pretty much act with impunity safe in the knowledge that there is no real checks on the power that they wield. “Lets have a President” is the call, “A President will be able to do everything a Monarch cannot do” is a further call. I suggest that this is not true and that the Monarchy is much more legitimate, much less a puppet and much closer to the British People than has been suggested.

The British Monarchy, like a lot of Constitutional Monarchy, reigns rather than rules. That is, the Monarch acts, largely, as a ceremonial figurehead with either limited powers or no powers at all. The former is true of Constitutional Monarchies like the UK and Norway, the latter is true of Constitutional Monarchies like Sweden and The Netherlands. Though the UK’s constitution is not formed into one comprehensive document, it is the sum of a number of different acts of parliament and doctrines. Parliamentary acts the likes of the 1689 Bill of Rights, 1701 Act of Settlement and Succession to the Crown Act 2013. The first two acts are important as they limit, to an extent, the power of the Monarch and give Parliament the power to decide who sits on the British Throne, the third acts being a graphic demonstration of the power to decide the succession to the Throne. The 1689 Bill of Rights is especially important as it enshrined Parliament as the supreme law making body. Accordingly Royal and Governmental power is checked to a degree. Though in some instances these checks have been found to be tired to a degree, they are still strong and relevant. Other countries, both Monarchies and Republics, have problems with their systems of governance, as such, any problems raised by critics of our own system are by no means unique. They can happen in pretty much any system. Our system is democratic and the rule of law is a fundamental principle. Though our Monarchy act largely as ceremonial figureheads, they do intervene where required whether it be to hold ministers to account or to check ill thought out elements of government acts.

Perhaps taking a slight detour, it should be noted that it was the UK that drafted the ECHR and that the UK has won the bulk of cases brought against it at the ECtHR. If our system of government was so poor then would it be asked to draft an incredibly important constitutional document and treaty or be able to win more cases at a major international court of law than any other country that contracts to the said treaty and court? I think not. Constitutional Monarchy is, legally, a valid and democratic system of government.

Moving away from legal constitutional and legal arguments, is our Monarchy distant from the people? The Queen’s response to the death of Diana, Prince of Wales may be indicative of this. This is only one example of distance and a poor one. The Monarchy is, in fact, much closer to the British people than has been suggested. Only recently we have seen during the 2012 Olympic Games, the Monarchy was very active amongst the people. Golden Jubilee events were well attended as were Royal Wedding events. One of our most revered Monarchs, George VI, remained in the UK during WW2 living on the same rations as people in the street lived on and facing bombs, doodlebugs and V2’s like everybody else unlike the great Winston Churchill who lived underground and ate non-rationed food when away on international conference. This helped to maintain morale in the UK at even the darkest of times. To this day, popular support for the Monarchy is extremely high. This is not, as Sunder Katwala, former head of the very left wing think tank Fabian, has noted, due to press manipulation but very much due to the Monarchy’s ability to connect with the British people. The Monarchy is very much in touch with the British People.


In all, the British Monarchy is far better than many a doom merchant may suggest. It is a very relevant, modern institution that is in touch with the people that it reigns over, is able to be an effective check on the elected government and has the broad support of the people of this country. By all means have a written constitution but have one that reflects the wishes of the people of this country by keeping the Monarchy in place.

edited on Feb 14, 2015 by Ruobing Wang
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