Pulling Together


Why Monarchy matters

With the transition from one reign to another one question the BBC has started to ask is whether we should have a monarchy at all. Doubtless this will lead to some republicans calling for an elected Head of State and arguing that giving it to whomever is born into a particular family is unfair.

They are, in a very real way, missing the point. The monarch does have the ear of the Prime Minister, but does not dictate government policy. Indeed, any such interference could provoke a constitutional crisis. Otherwise, the rôle is formal and functional, with no real power attached. It provides a legal fiction which legitimates government and lends authority, but does not determine policy. There is no practical reason to choose who does it. Anyone could, but because it doesn't matter who, wasting time electing somebody would achieve little.

Except that an elected official would expect to have more say. After all, an elected official can claim a mandate, and therefore demand that mandate is recognised. This would disrupt an important separation of rôles which guarantees citizens’ freedom.

Reflecting during the night on the countries which have Constitutional Monarchies, I was struck by how many of them are neighbours: Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Spain has France in between, but can to some extent demonstrate the stability monarchy provides. Soon after Franco’s death and the re-establishment of the Spanish Kingdom, there was an attempted coup. I do not recall the details but the King stepped in and insisted on constitutional order and prevented the power-grab succeeding. Even when new, the monarchy provided a stabilising effect.

I reflected further on how the separation of Head of State and Head of Government protects dissenters, for it separates loyalty to the State from agreement with government policies, protecting dissenters from an accusation of treason or terrorism, simply for opposing the government. Contrast that with the way executive presidents can silence dissent by blending the two concepts, as Hitler did and Putin has done. When the government leader also personifies the nation, dissent is easily represented as treason or worse and opponents can be rounded up and imprisoned, or worse.

So to anyone wishing to replace the King with an elected person I would warn, “Be careful what you wish for.” You might not like the result.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

Engage with the Author

If you’d like to discuss anything please send me your e-mail address and I will send you mine.

Your address will only be used for replying and will not be passed to anyone else.


If you would like to be informed by e-mail of new Pulling Together articles as they are published, please enter your address here.

Your address will only be used to let you know about new articles and will not be passed to anyone else.

Full List