Social Affairs

A progressive monarchy is impossible

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For days, the British press has been consumed by an unravelling drama within the royal family. Reports came in that Harry and Meghan’s announcement to leave the royal fold had upset the Queen so much that a big family get-together was arranged to discuss a resolution to the issue. 

In a statement issued on their website and a further Instagram announcement post, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex proclaimed they had a new, ‘progressive’ vision for their role. This vision has so far included retaining their HR titles, serving the Queen and maintaining royal duties. Thus, in adhering to the ties and commitments to the monarchy, their plans do not appear all that revolutionary. Rather, there is no change in their commitment to upholding the royal institution. Instead, there is more of a departure from the high level of their involvement. 

Harry and Meghan claim they would like to earn an income and be free from funding generated by the taxpayer. The Daily Mail has reported that just six months ago, new ‘Duke of Sussex’ branding was imprinted on various merchandise items like bookmarks, socks and various stationary. A profitable enterprise is on the horizon, it seems. Are they merely using this opportunity to capitalise on their royal titles abroad – whilst maintaining a distance from responsibilities? It seems likely. 

It appears then, that in wanting to maintain their HR titles they are merely embarking upon a new business, which will serve their own financial interests, whilst being able to claim they are ‘progressive’ by no longer relying on the monarchical institution for funding. However, they have well and truly already reaped this privilege. Just last year, the couple had their residence, Frogmore Cottage, conveniently renovated with £2.4 million worth of taxpayers money. 

Moreover, Harry and Meghan’s demands do not correlate with their vision of a ‘progressive’ monarchy – they have enjoyed monarchical privileges, and it seems they will continue to do so. Those who argue this is a step towards a monarchy of modernity should reconsider – that notion merely acts as a justification to preserve the institution, when it is certainly not fit for modern means. 

Having an established monarchy in modern society is simply irrelevant. Apart from being a provider of pomp, ceremony, rumour, speculation and a symbol of drastic wealth inequality, the monarchy serves no purpose. But for some reason, this keeps it thriving. Before MPs, local government and the police force, the monarchy had a place. But now, it is devoid of political purpose and only serves as a mirror into our past and reminder of the ongoing inequality in British society. The Duke and Duchess’s announcement, therefore, is not the pathway to a progressive monarchy, but a reinvention of its barren existence.

Harry and Meghan’s plush new website showcases their devotion to helping communities, the Commonwealth and serving the royal family. In elegant formatting, the website alludes to their sense of care for societal and global issues. In presenting their lives in this light, they are clearly trying to portray themselves as being in touch with ordinary issues. However, their patronage of these issues comes from a position of power.

Being born into a life devoid of financial worry gives members of the monarchy a lot of free time and reserves to do a great many things. Thus, it is only logical that they support all these charities and have the time and money to embark on voluntary projects across the world. I wish I could too. 

I have no problem with the couple’s ambitions to detach themselves slightly from royal life. However, I take issue with them labelling their decision as ‘progressive,’ when they are simply maintaining monarchical privileges and endorsing the institution as still being fit for purpose. 

The monarchy as an institution is inherently steeped in privilege, power and lack of accountability. Only last month did Britain learn of Prince Andrew’s close friendship with sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. The interview with Emily Maitlis revealed the lack of accountability that comes with being in a bubble of privilege.

Seven in ten Britons continue to defend the British monarchy. A slight distancing from the royal family will not dissolve an institution that is so established in British society. Furthermore, if Harry and Meghan wanted to do something ‘progressive’ then they should abandon it altogether – and not simply turn their current royal status into something more profitable. 

Until the monarchy dies; its engines of privilege will continue to turn. Simply upcycling royal privileges does not make Harry or Meghan better people, nor does it improve the monarchy. Until the monarchy ceases to exist, it will always be a beacon of inequality. Until its players begin to desert it, they will forever be stuck in a rut of trying to make it progressive. 

23, aspiring writer/journo and history graduate. My interests include national politics, areas of social inequality, culture, and anything literature related. Tweet me: @vdaniels_

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