Constitutional Monarchy

A Constitutional Monarchy is a form of Constitutional government, where a hereditary Monarch is the Head of State, unlike in an Absolute Monarchy, wherein the King or the Queen is the sole source of political power, as he or she is not legally bound by the Constitution.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and Her Governments: In the United Kingdom many important governmental actions are done ‘on behalf of’ Queen Elizabeth II, or she exercises her own powers at the direction of the Prime Minister. These are generally things which remain within the Royal Prerogative.

A Constitutional Monarchy is a form of Constitutional government, where a hereditary Monarch is the Head of State, unlike in an Absolute Monarchy, wherein the King or the Queen is the sole source of political power, as he or she is not legally bound by the Constitution. The levels and types of power and authority held by the Monarch vary from case to case, as does the nature and guarantees of the Constitution. This is a system of government in which a Monarch shares power with a Constitutionally organised government, where the Monarch may be the defacto Head of State or a purely ceremonial leader. The Constitution allocates the rest of the government’s power to the legislature and judiciary. The United Kingdom is a Constitutional Monarchy, where its succession to the British throne is hereditary,  no longer governed by the principle of male preference, but excludes Roman Catholics from ascending to the throne. Heirs to the throne can now marry Roman Catholics with out renouncing their claim to the throne. Under the British Constitution, sweeping executive powers, known as the royal prerogative, are nominally vested in the Sovereign. In exercising these powers, however, the Sovereign normally defers to the advice of the Prime Minister or other ministers. This principle, which can be traced back to the Restoration, was most famously articulated by the Victorian writer Walter Bagehot as: “the Queen reigns, but she does not rule”.

Religion and Royal Peculiars

In the United Kingdom, The Queen’s title includes the words ‘Defender of the Faith’.This means Her Majesty has a specific role in both the Church of England and the Church of Scotland. As established Churches, they are recognised by law as the official Churches of England and Scotland, respectively. In both England and Scotland, the established Churches are subject to the regulation of law. The principle of religious toleration is fully recognised both for those of other creeds and for those without any religious beliefs.

Benefits & Pitfalls

Whilst monarchy is unelected, unlike an elected Presidency, Constitutional monarchy allows for certain powers of the Monarch to be limited and balanced by an elected body in the form of a Parliament of elected ministers, and is therefore a democratic process drawn upon an enlightened basis for government. Monarchists argue that Constitutional Monarchy possesses two central features that rarely are to be found in Presidents; while Presidents may see themselves in terms of a limited term of office, with them often being “retired” from other posts into the presidency, constitutional monarchy tends to involve a professional life-long commitment.

Whilst monarchy is unelected, unlike an elected Presidency, Constitutional monarchy allows for certain powers of the Monarch to be limited and balanced by an elected body in the form of a Parliament of elected ministers, and is therefore a democratic process drawn upon an enlightened basis for government. Monarchists argue that Constitutional Monarchy possesses two central features that rarely are to be found in Presidents; while Presidents may see themselves in terms of a limited term of office, with them often being “retired” from other posts into the presidency, constitutional monarchy tends to involve a professional life-long commitment. The other often cited advantage is that Monarchs do not represent specific political views, and that they provide stability or act as a symbol of the state or nation. The very fact that a Monarch has a lifelong professional (job) does mean that an experienced Monarch has a wealth of knowledge that governments find invaluable, although of course most monarchs do not last that long. Figures like Elizabeth II or the late King Olav V are seen as possessing an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of their state’s recent history, knowing lessons learned through error by past governments that can be passed on to future governments.

Royal Finances

Head of State expenditure is the official expenditure relating to The Queen’s duties as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth. Head of State expenditure has reduced significantly over the past decade, from £87.3 million in 1991-92 (expressed in current pounds) to £38.2 million in 2009-10. In the year 2009-10, Palace expenditure equalled the cost of just 62 pence per person. Head of State expenditure is met from public funds in exchange for the surrender by The Queen of the revenue from the Crown Estate – this was known as the Civil List.

Defend the Crown

There are many ways in which the British Monarchists Society strives to defend the crown. Whether it be through education, fundraising, events, challenging ignorance in the media and bringing awareness to world of the positive and valuable attributes of our Constitutional Monarchy, we believe that knowledge is power. In our desire to further educate and support the case for our Constitutional Monarchy, the following points support the case that Constitutional Monarchy within the United Kingdom holds more value that any other alternative government process.

A Head of State that is neutral and above party politics

One of the most important benefits of Constitutional Monarchy is that the Monarch as Head of State is able to remain neutral and above party politics, something that is extremely difficult in republics where with very few exceptions the President will always be a politician. If there was an election for the position of Head of State, it would immediately result in the political parties turning against each other to fight for party advantage and control of the position, ignoring the national interest. Whereas at present, the Monarchy is one of the few things that unites most political parties, including the three largest parties that received almost 90% of the vote in the 2010 General Election. The Queen, along with the rest of the Royal family are not members of any political party; they do not campaign for any political party and they do not even vote in elections for any individual or party. This is something that is impossible to replicate in a republic and it is why a republican system will always result in less neutral and party partial Heads of State.

A Royal Family rather than a single politician

Whilst only the Queen is Head of State, other members of the Royal family carry out many engagements on behalf of the nation too; this allows far more recognition to be given to individuals, local communities, charities, organisations and for those serving in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and Veterans. Members of the Royal family also represent the Queen and our country on foreign visits regularly; this helps strengthen cultural and economic ties with other nations. The Royal Family combined carry out around 3000 engagements a year. This compares for example to the President of Ireland who has just several hundred a year. The Royal Family are also patrons of around 3000 charities, as well as being actively involved in the creation and success of important charities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and the Princes Trust – charities that help thousands of young people every year. It also simply means a lot more to many people to see members of the Royal Family or receive recognition from them, rather than from a politician that many will dislike and not agree with due to their political beliefs and platform. This ultimately results in politicians being less respected than members of our Royal family.

The Royal Family have a life time of experience which helps provide continuity

Having a Royal family dedicated to the service of the nation means a wealth of knowledge and experience is always maintained. The Queen has been Head of State for 60 years. During her reign there have been 12 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and dozens more from other Commonwealth Realms; she has met countless world leaders and is known and respected by millions of people around the world. Prince Charles has been heir to the throne for 60 years and during that time has carried out many thousands of official engagements and represented the Queen around the world on numerous occasions. This has given him more experience than anyone to be our next Head of State, because for decades he has been doing many of the duties involved already, he even had more official engagements in 2010-11 than the President of Ireland. More recently we have seen Prince William and Prince Harry carrying out more engagements in the United Kingdom and internationally. This sort of continuity and shared experience would be impossible in a republic where we would have no certainty over who would be our next Head of State or the experience and knowledge they would bring to the position.

Monarchy is very good value for money

The British Monarchy is extremely good value for money for the British taxpayer, as it contributes far more to the nation than it costs. For the year ending March 2011, the Crown Estate (which does not belong to the Government) surrendered £230.9 million revenue to HM Treasury; this is given to be spent for the good of the nation in exchange for the Government providing the Civil list and Grants-in-aid funding for the monarchy to ensure the important role and duties of Head of State can be carried out. In 2011, the total Head of State expenditure met from public funds was £36.2 million; this includes spending on salaries for staff, maintenance of palaces and travel costs. The Sovereign Grant Act 2011 replaces the Civil List and separate grants with a single grant that will be based on 15% of the revenues from the Crown Estate which will result in a similar amount of funding as under current arrangements. It is also important to remember that in a republic there would still need to be expenditure for the Head of State, although in a republic this would include additional costs such as Presidential salaries (the Queen does not receive a salary) and Presidential pensions (the Queen will never retire), there would also be an election every 4 years costing tens of millions more if the Head of State was directly elected. The 2012 American Presidential Election cost approximately $6 Billion, roughly the same amount or more than the annual GDP of 66 different nations.

Monarchy forms part of our national identity and we are a United Kingdom

The Monarchy plays an important role in our national life and serves as a symbol of British identity which is recognised and respected around the world. It was the Union of the Crowns in 1603 (when King James VI of Scotland became King of England and Ireland) that laid the foundations for the political union between England and Scotland which followed just over one hundred years later in 1707. It was also by King James’ Royal Decree in 1606, that the original Union Flag was established as a symbol of unity for Britain. A YouGov / Cambridge University poll of 20,000 people in 2011 found that 70% thought the Monarchy was important for defining “Britishness”. It helps provide countless occasions for the nation and local communities to come together in celebration, from thousands of Royal visits to major national events like the Royal Wedding in 2011 and the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, which were of great interest to millions of people around the world, something that helps the tourism industry with so many people passionate about British heritage. In recent years there has been concern about national identity; it would seem very counterproductive to abolish one of the things that helps bind the British nation together, especially when the alternative is having another elected politician that would become our Head of State. This is something the nation is not going to be able to take much pride in or be recognised for around the world.

A Head of State that serves as a unifying force for the country.

Unlike that vast majority of politicians that divide people based on political allegiance and other factors, support for Monarchy brings the nation together across political, economic, social and geographical divides, helping to make the Monarchy a great unifying force for the country. Polls consistently show overwhelming support for the continuation of Monarchy with only a small minority wanting a republic. This helps ensure the Royal Family can lead the nation at important national events without being as divisive as a politician from one political party would be. A directly elected President would also prove deeply divisive because of the demographics of the United Kingdom, with around 80% of the UK population in England, how would people in the other nations of the United Kingdom feel if a political candidate needs only to appeal to people in England to become president. It would become a political issue used to attack the United Kingdom, whereas at present the SNP praise the Queen and say they would keep the Monarchy.

Monarchy prevents politicians from controlling the position of Head of State

No matter what system of government, there would have to be an individual that would be recognised as the Head of State. Having a Monarch rather than a politician serves as a powerful Constitutional safeguard to prevent the politicisation and abuse of the position. In many republics the president acts as both Head of State and Head of Government, in other republics the same political party may control both positions, all of which creates additional risks. There is often an element of loyalty attached to the office of Head of State in many republics, which can cause potential conflicts of interest. In our system, the Armed Forces serve the Crown and pledge loyalty to the Queen, despite the Prime Minister, Government and Parliament determining where and when they are deployed. In the United States for example, all those who serve in the military must pledge to follow all orders of the President. There is very little trust in politicians in this country, and the idea that we give them additional power is a very troubling prospect for many. It is much more safe to entrust a Constitutional Monarch that remains out of partisan politics and would have no cause to seek more power, to have heirs to the throne we know throughout their entire lives, rather than a politician that nobody can even name yet that will acquire the job if we were to become a republic.

The Queen is a great Head of State

One thing even many republicans agree on is that the Queen has served the nation with great dedication throughout her long and successful reign. Her Majesty is known and respected around the world, often praised by other world leaders and seen as a great ambassador for the nation and Commonwealth. In 2011, one poll of people in Britain showed 80% had a favourable opinion of The Queen, whilst only 11% said not favourable; a second poll showed 59% had a very positive opinion of her, with 27% saying fairly positive, 7% fairly negative and just 3% said very negative. This level of genuine support is something any elected politician would find impossible to maintain and it would mean the role of Head of State could not be carried out as effectively as Her Majesty is able to. Why would we want to replace someone that has done such a great service for our nation over many decades and has such a wealth of experience and support, which a career politician likely to become president obviously will not have.

Helps maintain our heritage and traditions

The Monarchy forms a vital part of our heritage and is one of our oldest national institutions. In a world of constant political and social change, maintaining the Monarchy helps provide an important sense of stability that the majority of the population support. It is not just a change to who would be our Head of State; so many elements of national life would be impacted if the Monarchy were ever to be abolished. From Changing of the Guard at Royal Palaces and Trooping the Colour to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Official birthday, to how events such as the State Opening of Parliament would take place. Across the country a huge amount of rebranding would need to occur, which would sadly weaken our historic legacy as centuries of tradition are washed away. For example, there would no longer be a Royal Navy or a Royal Air Force; these are not just names that can be easily changed, they help form a strong identity and link with our past that many people take pride in. This was recently demonstrated in Canada where Her Majesty’s Canadian Government reinstated the names of the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force in 2011, undoing a change made decades earlier that proved unpopular with many. So much would be condemned to the history books if the Monarchy was ever abolished and that would certainly have a detrimental effect on our United Kingdom (something else that would need a name change).

Helps maintain links with the commonwealth

The Queen is Head of State of 15 other Commonwealth Realms, sharing a Monarch in this way helps maintain and continue to strengthen our shared social, cultural and political bonds with countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The Queen is also Head of the Commonwealth, an international organisation of 54 countries, most of which are former British colonies that choose to remain in voluntary association with the shared aims of promoting democracy and development. The Queen has shown huge commitment to this family of nations, attending every commonwealth summit except one in 1971 (on the advice of the British Prime Minister), issuing annual Commonwealth Day messages, and her Christmas Day broadcasts which regularly focus on the importance of the links between the nations of the Commonwealth. The Royal family also make regular visits to Commonwealth countries, especially to other Commonwealth Realms, including during the Diamond Jubilee when members of the Royal family visited all Commonwealth Realms and many Commonwealth nations on behalf of the Queen as the primary focus of the international celebrations. It is very clear through this commitment that is made by the Queen and other members of the Royal family that it helps maintain the importance of the Commonwealth, in particular making it more relevant in the United Kingdom but also providing a respected symbol for the organisation around the world. These bonds would all be weakened if not broken, if we became a republic and that would result in the undermining the Commonwealth organisation, which would also undermine its aims of supporting democracy and development all around the world.

Wealth cannot buy someone the position of Head of State

Unlike in republics, someone cannot use personal wealth to obtain the position of Head of State. Many politicians in countries all around the world benefit from their personal financial positions to get into politics, and in the United States having millions to spend on campaigning for the job of President, clearly can give a candidate an advantage over those with less resources or those unable to get involved in politics in the first place due of their financial position. Whilst it is true the Royal family are financially very well-off, that wealth does not buy the position of Head of State which is instead determined by the line of Succession passed by our Parliament. It is the dedicated service to the nation by the Queen and other members of the Royal family that ensures our Constitutional Monarchy continues to survuve in a modern British state. With Constitutional Monarchy we can say with confidence that a billionaire businessman has as much chance of becoming Head of State as a homeless person. Can people honestly say the same in any republic?

I quite like the Queen, but why do we need other Royals?

Only The Queen is Head of State. However, one of the foremost benefits of Constitutional Monarchy is that the Royal Family are there to support the Queen in her role, and carry out important engagements for the nation on her behalf. This enables greater recognition to be given to individuals, charities and local communities. In comparison, a republic’s Head of State is in most cases a singular politician, and their reach is much more limited. For example, the President of the Republic of Ireland carried out several hundred engagements last year, but the Royal family were able to carry out around 3000. Even when less senior Royals attend events, it attracts great interest and is appreciated by many people.