Now the UK is not unique in having a Monarchy but its history and function does have a degree of uniqueness about it, certainly within Europe. Its function, compilation and place within British society and culture has changed over the years.
Monarchies themselves are often seen as confusing entities, especially in the US. It’s asked why would you have an institution appointed by God, kept in one family with so many perks in life who seem to do very little? Surely it’s better to have an elected and accountable system of Government at the top running things and a properly elected head of state who is chosen by and accountable to the people?
Personally I am a republican (not a Republican as in the GOP, I’m not insane). I’m a republican in the original sense in that I favour having no Monarchy and having a democratic system of electing a head of state who is held accountable to the people and their powers kept in balance to Government and the Judiciary. Much like how some aspects of the US system (however there are many flaws there and the President isn’t even properly elected democratically, *electoral college, cough*)
However I will give credit where credit is due and the UK Monarchy has been able to change and change how it functions and what its actual place in society is. For starters it was able to survive the wave of revolutions against European Monarchies that swept through Europe right from the French Revolution in 1789 to the Russian one in 1917. The UK Monarchy was able to remove itself from being the autocratic institution that the French and Russians ones were and it allowed and accepted the development of Parliamentary Sovereignty. It allowed the control of taxes, money and political power to come away from it and come into the hands of an elected body in the form of Parliament.
Over the years the UK Monarchy has become more accessible and open to the people; especially since the reign of the current Monarch Elizabeth II. We know far more about them now than we ever have and many members of the Royal Family don’t shy away from the media (in fact some are too close). Looking at the Royal Family from this perspective, I would argue that the current Royal Family are in a odd sense democratic.
Not in a sense that we elect them or have a say in who can be in it but they embrace the fundamental principles of democracy in the form of accountability, accessibility and flexibility.
In terms of their actual necessity and how useful they are, I’d say whilst they may not be totally necessary, they do have many uses. These range from being patrons and runnings of hundreds of charities, being responsible for and maintaining vast areas or natural beauty, bringing in millions of pounds worth in tourism and creating amongst most, a strong sense of pride and patriotic feeling in being British. Even though the family are mostly of German descent…
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