What Role Should the Royals Play in Politics Today?

20th November 2019.

Given the proroguing of Parliament in late August of this year, the role of the monarch in modern British governance and politics has again become subject to debate and scrutiny. The constitutional role of the royals in politics appears to contradict the democratic model Britain has adopted, as several technicalities of the legislative process seem to depend upon the approval of an un-elected monarch.

Therefore, the Queen’s involvement in the most recent proroguing of Parliament can initially be difficult to understand. Prorogation is the formal ending of a parliamentary session, an action which technically falls under the royal prerogative. Whilst proroguing Parliament is commonplace, the monarch has been dragged into controversy, as she had acted on the advice of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, only a month before the (now updated) Brexit deadline. The timing implies that the action was related to the continuing failure to negotiate an appropriate Brexit deal. Though several prominent Conservative spokespeople deny that the action was a device to ensure the prevention of a deal being debated within the Commons, the timing of the prorogation is suspicious.

The monarchy represents a traditional and historical perception of Britain that feels nostalgic.

It is important to acknowledge that in reality, the monarch holds no actual influence over the passage of legislation or governance – the Queen’s actions are solely a conventional formality. However, her role as Britain’s unelected Head of State remains unnecessary and uninvited. Thus, the question arises – why do we allow the continued involvement of the royals in our political process and considering this, why do we continue to hold our monarchy to such outdated standards and tropes?

The monarchy represents a traditional and historical perception of Britain that feels nostalgic. Since Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952, she has established a tame, non-political presence, despite technically being commander-in-chief during periods of political turmoil. This is perhaps why the royals remain well-liked and supported among the general public – they represent a popular apolitical perspective, and therefore they are considered excellent international representatives. Essentially, the royals represent a long-established British ideal and image of sophistication. Perhaps it is for this reason that new additions to the royal family, such as Californian-born Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, who naturally stray from the traditional expectations of royals, have been portrayed as outsiders and subsequently ostracised by the British media.

Simply, the monarchy is anachronistic and representative of the inequality that exists in Britain today.

Through the marketing of expensive royal events, such as weddings and jubilees, the royals have managed to successfully convince the population that they are the pinnacle of British culture. Simply, the monarchy is anachronistic and representative of the inequality that exists in Britain today. However much this may be the case, people continue support the institution regardless. Thus, abolition is out of the question, for now.

By Aisha Sembhi

Image by Archives New Zealand.