Her full title is Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith.
Of course, we just call her Ma’am. This utterly benign and inoffensive woman, a kindly yet stoic grandmother recognized by everyone everywhere, is under attack by her own countrymen. Why? Because they’re just sick of her and her kind. That’s why.
You’d think that we Americans would understand Britain’s beef with the Queen. After all, nobody dethrones royals and then makes snotty comments about them better than we do. We invented the practice.
Yet ironically, we have more respect and devotion for the House of Windsor than Britain does. The Brits trot out plenty of arguments for getting rid of their own royalty. They’re a throwback. They don’t represent brown people. They exemplify achievement without merit and they cost too much. Is it true?
Let’s review some pro’s and cons of British Royalty:
– They are living links to Britain’s illustrious past.
– They drive a lot of tourism and charity.
– They represent the pride of Western Civilization and embody its achievements.
– They do all this without interfering in the political process.
– They happen to be a pretty fucked up family.
– They cost a fortune.
– They represent a monarchical system that everyone hoped had died in WWI.
– The average Briton wouldn’t feel much pain if the royals got the boot.
So, how do the scales look? Before you decide let’s delve a little deeper in the lives of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (they changed their name to Windsor in WWI to avoid appearing too German).
The Royal Cavalcade of Fail
The Queen’s sister Princess Margaret decided to fall in love with a married man named Peter Townsend. While Henry VIII typically got away with shit like that, the Windsors don’t have Henry’s gravitas. As things started careening toward Margaret wrecking a family to marry this guy, the Queen put her foot down. It’s just so…untoward.
The fickle public – who had originally agreed that Margaret should find a more suitable mate – suddenly flipped a 180 and decided that Margaret should marry whoever the fuck she wants to marry and that the Queen was a total bitch for standing in the way of love. You just can’t win in the British court of public opinion.
Margaret begged off the marriage and went on to marry and divorce some other schmuck and to later link herself with a couple of other dudes until the British public could no longer make any sense of the woman. A neurotic mess, she chain-smoked herself to death. Not exactly a storybook princess.
I really want to like Prince Charles. In 1989, he published A Vision of Britain, which stands as one of the most sensible and passionate defenses of humane civic design ever written. Chuck is smart and Chuck genuinely loves his realm and all its people.
As a child, he had every earthly need met except one: the warmth and security of a loving Mum. This failure has manifested itself in a man who has no idea how to behave around women. His first wife was totally hot, incredibly intelligent and adored by every human being on Earth. Only Charles and his weird family were immune to her charms. She was frozen out of the family and ended up splattered all over a Paris tunnel with her Arab boyfriend.
Not only did Charles hound Britain’s beloved princess into the arms of an Egyptian playboy, he was also busy wooing his horse-faced mistress by saying he’d like to be her tampon. Now, I’m no prude. I’d like to be Leelee Sobieski’s tampon! But I would never tell her that. It’s so…gauche. And I’m not even a member of the royal family!
Charles, I tried to like you but you are a Class A fuck-up. Seriously.
The Queen’s husband Philip is a walking, talking caricature of what the British aristocracy once was. For that alone he has value as a living insight into history. Unapologetically racist and elitist, Philip realizes that he shouldn’t say mean things, but by God sometimes these things just need saying, what?
I admit a smirking admiration for this man. At 90, he’s not long for this world and we’ll be poorer when he leaves. Here’s a few of his pearls:
- To British students in China: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed!”
- “If you travel as much as we do, you appreciate the improvements in aircraft design of less noise and more comfort – provided you don’t travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly.”
“If it has four legs and it’s not a chair, if it’s got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it’s not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.”
To a group of Aborigine businessmen: “Do you still throw spears at each other?
Of course, the Brits don’t find this to be particularly cute when they have to fork over £200M a year so Philip can enjoy his private jets and non-Cantonese fine dining.
Prince Harry and Prince William
Before Princess Diana died, she managed to produce two worthy heirs to the throne: Princes William and Harry. William is clearly his parents’ son: he has his mother’s good looks and his father’s lousy hairline. But Harry? The ginger wunderkind? He’s as related to Prince Charles as I am. Word has it he’s the son of Princess Diana and her secret lover James Hewitt. Is it true?
Um, yeah. It is true. Just another bump on the road in the lives of the royal family. And despite the youthful frivolity of the boys, they do offer some hope that the Windsors can evolve. Diana (and Hewitt!) may have provided the fresh blood needed to move the monarchy to its next phase. But are the British people patient enough to wait for it?
Queen Elizabeth II
It’s easy to lay the blame for this fucked-up family at Elizabeth’s feet. But to a certain degree, she was behaving exactly how she was programmed to behave. She took the throne when she was 26, an age when most of us are still playing bass in a shitty garage band. And she was dead serious about making this thing work.
Along the way, she was distanced from her family and her people. Sidelined but always needed, she walked the line she thought best to maintain the dignity of the office. “Duty first” and all that rot.
Trouble is, she refused to change with the times. She provided an anachronism when her country cried out for a modern figure. There is not an evil bone in her body, but she is certainly rather cold. Someone should have told her that about 40 years ago Britons became weary of being diffident and cold and decided to be warmer and more outgoing like their American cousins.
She could have learned a lot from Buffy St. Marie. Where were you when we needed you, Buffy?
While British sentiment towards the monarchy tends to go up and down, a recent poll shows only 30% of Britons actively desirous of abolishing the monarchy. Other polls put the number as low as 20%. Thus, despite much public fury and grandstanding about the waste of maintaining an irrelevant British monarchy, most Brits plan to keep calm and carry on.
I agree with the 70%. Sure, the Queen is old and uncool. And yeah, Prince Charles is a massive douchebag. And sure, the whole damn family is a huge burden. But what republican Britons need to understand is that without the colonies and their industrial base, Britain no longer has very much to offer the world.
It costs an American like me about $4,ooo to visit Britain for 2 weeks. That’s almost £78! And for that kind of money, I want to visit a land whose storied history still breathes.
I’ve been to Vienna and visited the crypt of the Emperors. You can read the names and smell the dust. But it’s all dead. The Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburgs, their reach and their quirks are lost forever, washed away in the blood of WWI. Are there any Habsburgs alive today? Yeah, but nobody knows and nobody cares.
Britain, you have a chance to keep the one thing that sets you apart: your storied history.
If you get rid of the monarchy, what do you have left? What are you going to feature on your tourism brochures?
Certainly not the armies of chavs that infest every High Street from Inverness to Exeter. Get rid of the royals and this will become your most notable cultural touchstone. Think about it.
We certainly aren’t getting all geared up to visit your godawful council estates. There is so much shitty architecture in the United States it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars to see something even worse.
I know this sounds like a Visit Britain tourism board ad campaign, but you Brits would be well-served to listen: the Royal Family may not be great, but they are all you have! We’re all slowly crumbling as the global economic system tips us underwater. Do you want to be just another gray crumbling monolith or do you want to stand out from the rest? What shall be the mark of the United Kingdom: a nation that still salutes its living crown or a nation that punches pub-goers in the face with a sovereign ring?
This American votes for the former.