I have mixed feelings about missing the long Jubilee weekend. All the media-induced fuss over the royals gets tedious but on the other hand, viewing from afar, I get the sense there has been a real sense of collectiveness.
Our media is remarkably royalist – the tabloids treat them as celebrities and much of the more serious media (the BBC, the Times and the Telegraph) revere them as fellow parts of the establishment. I’m not really sure whether it would be good to be born into the Royal Family and the responsibilty and loss of liberty and privacy this entails. You are born to rule but also born to serve. However, the expectation that we should celebrate a woman who lives a life of luxury at our expense is slightly unsettling.
I’ve written before about why I am actually a sceptical royalist and I stand by those arguments. It seems republicans lose a sense of perspective in their arguments. Britain has been remarkably stable over the last few centuries, having made a smooth transition to democracy and post-imperialism without fighting on our shores or dictatorship. I think this stability makes us get over-obsessed with small aspects of democracy. It is true that having a royal family is an anomaly in our system of democracy, but only really a symbolic one, not something which “gives vast unchecked power to the government, shutting out the people from major decisions that affect the national interest” as the Republic website says. Having an unelected second chamber is surely much more undemocratic than having a Royal Family.
The Queen is not seen as a head of state, but as part of the furniture and as a global ambassador. It is interesting here in Argentina how people know the Royal family to some extent, but as a nice symbol and quasi celebrity, not as a powerful leader. I was appalled at the coverage of the Times at last year’s royal wedding devoting so many pages to a narrative of the wedding of someone second-in-line to the throne, whilst having paltry or non-existent coverage of the Republican response. However, it’s not that the Times was brainwashing people into supporting a de facto dictatorship, but just indulging in celebrity trash. This is perhaps what Republicans should remember as they look on aghast at the past weekend’s celebrations.