The English aren’t really royalists

Why was it necessary for the media to carry stories of the will of the Duke of Edinburgh being sealed for ninety years? As much as there was no public interest to be served in the details of the will being made public, there was equally no public interest yo be served in the will being locked away. Whose business would it have been to know who received bequests from the late Duke?

As much as they might lay claim to be royalists, many, if not most, English people seem to regard the monarchy with intrusive curiosity rather than with solemn allegiance.

The relationship between the people and the Crown has often been shaky.

The execution of King Charles in 1649 would not have been possible if it were not for the fact that the Parliamentarians commanded the support  of a large element of the  ordinary population. Forty years later, the fact that James II was the reigning monarch was not sufficient to prevent seven leading peers to invite the king’s son in law, William Prince of Orange and his wife Mary, daughter of James II to take the throne. Religious conviction far outweighed allegiance to the king.

Twenty-five years later, after the death of Queen Anne, George Louis of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the Elector of Hanover, was invited by the Whig government to become king. King George I was not popular, he was said to mistreat his wife, and to devote too much of the Crown income to the maintenance of his two German mistresses.

George IV, who reigned from 1820-1830, and who had been Prince Regent during his late father’s illness, prompted one biographer to write, “With a personal income ‘exceeding the national revenue of a third-rate power, there appeared to be no limit to his desires, nor any restraint to his profusion.” His wife Queen Caroline, had to suffer the indignity of her carriage being stoned in the street.

In more recent times, the public reaction against the Crown at the time of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales suggested a people very fickle in their loyalty.

The story did not go away, there are people who still believe that there was a plot to murder Diana. Motivations which were advanced for such a conspiracy include suggestions that Diana intended to marry Dodi Al-Fayed, that she intended to convert to Islam, that she was pregnant, and that she was to visit the holy land. Organizations which conspiracy theorists suggested were responsible for her death included French Intelligence, the British Royal Family, the press, the British Intelligence services MI5 or MI6, the CIA, Mossad, the Freemasons, or the IRA. It was suggested that the intent of some of the co-conspirators was not to cause death. Alternatively, Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed were believed to be alive and living incognito! None of which speculation suggests a respect and trust for the Queen who would have needed to be complicit with any of the fantastic ideas proposed.

Much loyalty to the Crown probably owes much more to the extraordinary dignity and integrity of Queen Elizabeth, than to inherent royalist sentiment. When she is gone, it is hard to imagine what will happen.


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6 Responses to The English aren’t really royalists

  1. Sackerson says:

    The English dislike absolutist rule, which is why the Stuarts were not loved, having brought with them Celtic attitudes to kingship.

    It’s also muddled up with a hatred of Catholicism, in part powered by the fear of the Protestant ascendancy that the Church might want back what they stole.

    Cromwell cured us of the alternative to monarchy.

    • Ian says:

      Charles Stuart must have been exceedingly annoying for my yeoman forebears to fight with the Parliamentary forces. Is the anti-Catholicism more about a suspicion of foreign institutions than about theological conviction?

  2. Chris says:

    I have a friend who splutters wildly when mentioning The Monarchy, muttering dark threats and incantations when indiscretions and narcissism become apparent. As a whole, they are not blessed with an abundance of brain power and have more regard for themselves than is necessary; humility is sometimes useful as is the realisation that life is not a Hollywood show. Put some in and you will get some out is a reasonable concept.

    I then mention the prospect of President Jeremy Corbyn and VP Diane Abbott and he goes quiet.

    HM the Q is a class act, and I shudder with the thought of King Charles III.

    • Ian says:

      The Prince of Wales as monarch will be an interesting prospect – what name will he take? Scots believe Charles III has already reigned. Charles’ grandfather was David, but chose George, from among his names, as his title. Charles could choose Philip, Arthur or George

  3. AC Harper says:

    I suspect that the majority of people are not really ‘monarchists’ but small c conservatives who appreciate traditional arrangements done well.

    • Ian says:

      Your suspicion would concur with the Contention of Walter Bagehot, a Langport man and writer of The English Constitution.

      Bagehot believed there were two arms of government, the “efficient” and the “dignified”. The function of the monarchy is to play the role of the dignified, and people dislike it when that role is not performed well.

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