Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Book Learning #27

On Royalty By Jeremy Paxman.


Americans may feel free to disregard this post.

Oh Blimey.

There's nothing like a superbly written analysis of the monarchy to make you rethink most of your comfortably held beliefs about the hereditary principle, democracy, representative government, The Duke of Edinburgh and that Royal Wedding party your mum made you go to in 1981.

I am confused.

I am a republican.

Arent I?

Monarchy, in the modern world is at best a hangover from a feudal age, at worst a joke in poor taste. The hereditary principle, when taken beyond haircolour and the size of your feet is an outdated concept.

Eveyone agrees on that.

So why do we still have one?

Paxman come up with a wealth of great arguments, both for and against the idea and practise of Monarchy. He also regales us with some insider gossip about hanging out with The Prince of Wales, The late Princess of Wales and (most amusingly) the Duke of Edinburgh. He delves back to examine what happens when you finish a royal family or kill a king (I learned a hell of a lot about the trial and execution of Charles I).
This book is a serious piece of journalism tackling a subject often left to the gossip mongers and tabloid editors.

But it's also a book that makes you think about something you've probably not thought about for ages, something you've left in the back of your head;
Monarchy= stupid, crap and wrong.
Now I'm less than sure. Do I care enough to get rid of them?
Would I prefer an elected president, some wanker like Richard Branson?
Would you want another layer of electoral politics, either for a meaningless figurehead or for a powerful president?
Do the British need a monarch to portray them in the wider world? Surely we are more mature as a nation. Or are we?

Surely there are more important things to worry about.

3 comments:

weasel said...

Is the fact that we might elect a braggart or a shithead a reason to decline the chance of having an elected head of state?

We don't have to have an imperial presidency like the US, or Venezuela. There are plenty of precedents in the Commonwealth and Europe of quite decent limited-powers presidencies. But when we have a presidential style entrenched in Number 10, does it really matter?

Whenever you are ready, I'd love to read it. And as much as this spoils the surprise, don't buy "Thatcher & Sons" by Simon Jenkins yet; I want to get it for you for Christmas. I know its lame to say so but I also know you wouldn't be able to walk past it in a store.

Mondale said...

Paxman tries to answer such questions, Is it worth having a well intentioned nobody as an elected head of state, a powerful US style president or a tried and trusted hereditary one?

He also acknowledges the scary precedent of a totally unsuitable monarchy such as Edward VIII .

The best bits are Paxman's own soul searching, along the lines of mine in the post.

As soon as Frau Random Doubt is done it'll be in the mail.

You should also read the notes at the back, lots of fascinating bits of info.

Tillerman said...

I think that the UK is on the right lines. Have a head of state that at worst is mostly harmless and at best is good for a laugh.