Royalty



goes





It's Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday this year.  Twice ... as usual... which had made me think that ... While Jeremy Corbyn may not be my favourite politician it is at least refreshing to finally have a party leader of any hue who is an unashamed Republican.  It has been a complete mystery to me all my life why people put up with the Monarchy.  If it was up to me the entire royal family would be executed in public outside Buckingham Palace which would henceforth be open to the public all year round – ideally turned into an Art Gallery like “the Louvre” or perhaps preserved for state ceremonial occasions.
 

Some people might find the idea of public executions unnecessarily barbaric but really it’d just be like a cross between “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” and one of the millions of Death Row documentaries that fill Freeview only you’d see the injection live.  Charles Dickens campaign against public execution and torture is so yesterday anyway. 




Lethal injection may sound a bit boring but I plan to merge the Death Row format with that of Ink Master so that the Queen and Prince Charles would die of epidermal suffocation after having a full body tattoo a bit like Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger couldn't have done.  I mean come on ...if Paul Daniels could get away with faking his own death on television...

This may seem cruel but it still sounds kinder than making them both redundant so that they’re forced onto the reality television circuit and end up on “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”.  I don’t want to see them on endless reality shows being asked “Hello, and what do you do now?”  Making them redundant might sound expensive but the maximum amount of statutory redundancy pay in the UK is only £14,250 so if you ask me it would be a bargain.



Following the abolition of the Monarchy anyone would be able to walk around and through the Royal gardens.  The horrible brick wall that runs from Grosvenor Place to Duke of Wellington Place and down Constitution Hill would be demolished and people would be able to enjoy a huge walled area of London once again.  They’d be able to walk almost directly from Victoria Station to Green Park and Green Park its self would expand in size by 50 per cent.  Or that’s probably what I’m supposed to think as a Republican. 



Some of you may think I’m mean wanting to return Buckingham Palace to the people but even if the Queen no longer lived there she’d still have Windsor Castle, ...



the Palace of Holyroodhouse ...



...and Hillsborough Castle ....



...not to mention her private residences Sandringham House,...



... Balmoral Castle, ...



...Craigowan Lodge ...



...and Delnadamph Lodge ...



while the President of the United States usually just has to make do with the White House, Camp David and the President’s House.




If for any reason the Queen couldn’t find a spare room in her other seven properties she could always move in with her son at his official residence at Clarence House and if there was no room there in the three official residences that go with the Duchy of Cornwall – Highgrove House, Llwynywermod and Tamarisk – or use the Birkhall residence inside the grounds of Balmoral.  If Charles doesn’t have room for her then William and Kate might be able to squeeze her into Kensington Palace or their private residence of Anmer Hall on the Sandringham Estate.  Or perhaps Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie could find her a nook somewhere in St James’s Palace with Princess Anne.  There’s also Bagshot Park in Surrey currently housing the Earl and Countess of Wessex.  Failing that the Duke and Duchess of Kent might be able to squeeze her into Wren House.



Not President Tony Blair acting like a President


The trouble with Republicanism is as soon as you say it people automatically reply that “it’s just about envy” or “We don’t want President Blair” or “We don’t want some politician”.  The first of these is a reasonable criticism but the second two statements are not.   The problem with having the Queen as "official" head of state is that the office of the Prime Minister becomes more and more Presidential....  To the point where the First Among Equals now has Whitehouse sytle press conferences.  Then again what’s wrong with envy?  As Bertrand Russell once said ....



So first let’s shatter a few myths.
The Royal family is very good at myths.

Firstly the Queen is not the hereditary heir to throne and cannot directly trace her ancestry clearly back to 1066.  This is just what we tell tourists.  Well, she can trace it back that far but only in the same sense that I can...  back in 1600 there were only about 4 million people in England so those of us who are indigenous have a lot of the same common ancestors.  And yes I can trace my lineage back that far so technically if enough people die I could become King if wasn’t a prerequisite for the job that one should also be of German descent and married to a Greek.



Elizabeth II is only Queen because her father’s brother Edward VIII abdicated from the throne.  He had the wrong opinions for the era – like he thought divorce was okay - so in effect Parliament sacked him on the grounds this would make the head of the Church of England look silly. 



This of course makes no sense because the Church of England was only invented so that Henry VIII could get divorced but apparently while the King was allowed to divorce in 1533 and 1557 he wasn’t allowed to marry a divorcee in 1936. 



That said technically Henry VIII annulled his two marriages on implausible criteria like they’d never done it or she’s shagged his dead brother as being the head of the Church of England he had this power. 



King Edward VIII did not have this power anymore as it was lost after the Restoration.  Anyway the point is that when it becomes politically expedient to do so Parliament sacks the King.  So why is such a big deal to give the people that power?




Of course Parliament doesn’t threaten to sack the King/Queen as much for having the wrong opinion anymore so all this is now history.  Or is it?  Actually Parliament seems to do nothing else to me than insinuate it might be a good idea to sack the Queen…



Whenever there’s a Constitutional issue from Scottish Independence to remaining in the European Union to who’s going to pick the Prime Minister after a hung parliamentary election we’re exposed to a long stream of mental diarrhoea about what the Queen thinks because we have no meaningful constitution.  It the Queen thinks anything it is wrong because no one elected her so the poor woman is allowed no opinion of her own at all.



The constitutional result is that instead of a Supreme Court we have a supreme underqualified pensioner who’d meant to decide everything but is never actually allowed to decide anything.  Okay, we do have a Supreme Court now but it's hardly independent and cannot strike down Primary Legislation ...so is pretty toothless.  The Queen sounds an amusing anachronism but the political reality is it creates a constitutional vacuum allowing Prime Ministers like Tony Blair to take on virtual Presidential powers like taking the country to war on a whim with no real checks and balances on their power.  So instead of having an official body dedicated to investigating abuses of executive power we have...



...a committee of privy counsellors ...some of whom have been cogitating for so long that they've actually died on the job now.  But of course we can’t put any checks on that because we might end up with a “President Blair”.  I may have already said this ...



In reality the UK Prime Minister acts all the time as if he/she is a directly elected President but just like the Queen he isn’t directly elected.  He is simply an elected MP who’s been appointed to appoint a government from the top down.  Don’t be fooled by rhetoric about the Queen being above politics.  The Queen is nothing but an unelected politician and this is why her political opinions and those of her relatives are subject to totally relentless speculation. 



The Queen is a Constitutional red herring liberally thrown all over the place in an attempt to disguise the fact that we have no written constitution and hence no separation of powers.  Of course you could say the US system doesn't work in practice and that Hilary Clinton is just Bill's way of being President for the 3rd time (or Hilary's way of being President for the 3rd time) but at least they try...



I am he as you are he as you are me. And we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun. See how they fly.
I'm crying.

I did once try to explain the logic of the tripartite system where the legislature, executive, and judiciary are split up and how it was invented (or popularised) by French Enlightenment political philosopher Baron de Montesquieu but this resulted in an article so dull no one read it.



In the UK we have a parliamentary democracy so by definition the executive (the government) and the legislature (parliament) are intertwined since parliament elects the executive.  The Prime Minister as such is just another MP and Privy Councillor - the so called First Among Equals.  However, as close observers of David Cameron's Cabinet might have notices there isn't even any pretence of equality ...he's the boss.



Tony Blair, of course, didn't bother with the Cabinet at all ... wars were started from the sofa... Don’t even get me started on the House of Lords.  A ludicrous system whereby instead of electing people to an upper chamber each Prime Minister tries to outdo the previous one in appointing more cronies to it to even up the numbers with the result that there are now over 800 of them and rising versus only 650 MPs.



The Queen, we are told by some, is not a fan of the EU.  By others we are told she is.  Is she?  Who cares?  I doubt she would be a fan of the EU.  Following the pre-emptive arrests before the last Royal Wedding of people who might dare to protest it before they had protested the complainants in the following legal battle said that the Strasbourg court's judgement on similar matters meant the Metropolitan Police had acted unlawfully. 



Fortunately the Queen’s Court of Appeal exercised a rarely-used power to rule that it did not need to adopt a decision in a similar case at the European Court of Human Rights.  The Monarchy has real power and uses it.  The EU is a challenge to those powers.
  Really the world hasn’t changed that much – one thing you’re not supposed to protest is the monarchy... unless you want to be dragged from your bed in a dawn raid...




The system by which Parliament can sack the King or Queen is called a Constitutional Monarchy and was brought in with restoration of Charles II because Charles I being both King of England and Scotland had managed to make the two go to war with each other causing some resentment. 



After the failed experiment of Oliver Cromwell where Oliver made himself King (or Lord Protector) in all but name and kept telling parliament to get stuffed parliament agreed to have a King (or Queen) again but only if there was a check on his (or her) power. 


As a result from Charles II there is not a direct lineage of Kings.



James II (Charles II’s son) was deposed because of his Catholic sympathies and went into exile to be replaced by William III and Mary II as co-monarchs.  William was invited to invade England by the “Immortal Seven”…



....who sound like a Quentin Tarantino film waiting to be made.  William’s mother was Mary the eldest daughter of Charles I and his wife was Mary (James II’s sister) who was next in line to the throne if you ignored James II’s son James Francis Edward Stuart (the old pretender who fled abroad with his father).  Normally women were not allowed to accede to the throne unless all other options had been exhausted as they are girls and girls are silly.  So parliament had intended to make Mary Queen with William as her consort.  However, William objected on the grounds that he had the troops, Mary did not have the power to put a cap in anyone’s arse and after having gone to all the bother of invading he felt it was somewhat ungracious of Parliament to not make him at least co-monarch.


 

Mary said she wouldn’t take on the job unless her husband was made monarch too so that was settled.  Power couples …



As it happened Mary was also Williams’s cousin and perhaps because the gene pool was so small died childless as did William and so they were eventually replaced by Mary’s sister Anne (another of James II’s children) who had one child who’d died by the age of 11 so Anne also died childless in the end. 




Parliament having run out of Stuarts who weren’t Catholic by now then turned to George I (Georg Ludwig ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) in the Holy Roman Empire).  German George was a mere 50th in line to the throne but the Act of Settlement 1701 prohibited all Catholics from the position so 49 genetically better claimants were skipped over in favour of the one with the right opinions. 



After this things went back to normal sort of (at least until Edward VIII was sacked for having too interesting a sex life … something that doesn’t seem to be so much of a problem anymore) but the fact remains … it is a Constitutional Monarchy.  The King or Queen is only there so long as parliament allows it and if they have the wrong opinions they are removed.  This means that the Queen is actually nothing more than an unelected politician.



Indeed originally a politician is exactly what the King was.  Up until 1066 the Witenagemot elected the King … although it could often be like electing Gordon Brown to lead the Labour Party – there was more often than not only one name on the ballot paper.  Ælfric of Eynsham wrote in the turn of the 11th century that:



No man can make himself king, but the people has the choice to choose as king whom they please; but after he is consecrated as king, he then has dominion over the people, and they cannot shake his yoke off their necks.” 

Following the recent unification of England the Witenagemot paid some lip service to democracy or at least devolution in an attempt to convince people that having one King of England wouldn’t be more top down than having Kings of Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex.  Unfortunately this system did not result in an adequate defence policy and England was later invaded.  William I replaced the Witan with the Curia Regis or King’s Council. 



This was eventually deemed too small to make policy and eventually parliaments were called.  The point of this story I suppose is that directly elected Kings are not without precedent and what’s the difference between a directly elected King or Queen and a directly elected President.  Not a lot … just the name? 



With even Popes being fired resigning retiring these days on the grounds no one likes them they are past it one has to wonder how the monarchy still gets away with the notion that the Queen has to keep going under almost all circumstances until she falls off her perch.




It wouldn’t be so bad if the monarchy was fiscally transparent.  But it really isn’t.  Many people seem to think that the monarchy gets a series of personal cheques off the Chancellor of the Exchequer but the financial arrangements of the Monarchy are a lot more complicated than that. 



After the Glorious Revolution when being King or Queen or King and Queen stopped being a divine right and started being a job and following his invasion of the country William of Orange (and Mary) immediately started negotiating a remuneration package with Parliament.  Very generously (and in a spirit of public service) William and Mary eventually agreed to take on the onerous position of constitutional co-monarchs for the inadequate remuneration of £1,200,000 per year (including all running costs).  The Bank of England’s inflation calculator unfortunately only goes back as far as 1750 but according to that the equivalent sum of money in 1750 must have been roughly in excess of £240,000,000.  This did not include income from any land or other such assets owned by Royal Couple.   A proportion of this went into funding the “Civil List” and the rest into running costs and staff costs.  While it may seem to Republicans that the Monarchy is inviolate and immune to any criticism it should be noted that over time this sum has not kept pace with inflation.  The running costs of the Monarchy are significantly lower.  To be fair a large chunk of the £240,000,000 received by William and Mary was partly used to help run civil administration and civil government.  Over time however Parliament and the Government at the Royal Palace of Westminster decided that probably they could do things better than German George I and his increasingly eccentric sons. 

To Madness...

The accession to the throne of George III was Christmas come early for those in Parliament whose long term aim had been to seize the actual money and power of the monarchy for themselves and keep a political puppet in one of the many other Royal Palaces somewhere.  George III’s outbreaks of insanity and his son the Prince Regent (later George IV) ‘s strange and unpopular eccentricities put the monarchy in an extremely weak negotiating position. 



It didn’t help either that George II had been very bad at financial planning.  Despite the £240,000,000 a year to run the monarchy and large chunks of civil administration George II had found himself perpetually in debt to parliament ...a bit like George III and George IV now I come to think of it.... 



After a lot of argument a new deal was worked out whereby George III would surrender the hereditary revenues from the Crown Estate to Parliament for the duration of his reign, and in return Parliament would assume responsibility for most of the costs of the civil government.   Now the King really was just a political puppet in all but name.  A man who lived off inherited wealth and what had by now been named the Civil List.




According to Wikipedia the Crown Estate remains one of the largest property owners in the United Kingdom with a portfolio worth £8.1 billion, with urban properties valued at around £4 billion, and rural holdings valued at £1.049 billion, representing an annual profit of £240.2 million as at 31 March 2012.  In 2011 George “cut disability benefit by £30” Osborne  (son of a Baronet) introduce the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 which changed the previous arrangements by which the civil list was funded.  Before it was abolished George Osborne raised the cost of the civil list from £7.9 million to £13.7 million.  Superficially designed to unify all the Royal Family funding streams under one system the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 is actually just a big fat pay rise for the Royals whereby instead of negoitating with Parliament for £ the Royal Family now deals directly with the Treasury. 



Yes ... while George has pursued a policy of austerity in every other area of government the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 has meant in practice that the new “sovereign grant” has been rising each year at a rate higher than the rate of inflation.

Unspent Sovereign Grant is put into a Reserve Fund. And as one might expect from the party of free enterprise the level of the Sovereign Grant is protected by law from decreasing as a result of falling Crown Estate revenues. 

We know all this because Annual financial accounts are published by the Keeper of the Privy Purse and audited by the National Audit Office.  I suppose this is some compensation for the fact that the Queen’s accounts are not debated in Parliament as much these days and for the fact that Prince Charles keeps moaning he should be exempted from Freedom of Information when he expresses his "private views" to Ministers... 




"First, the Household spent more than it took in. Net expenditure (£33.3m) was greater than the Grant (£31 million) in 2012-13. The Household had to draw down £2.3 million from its £3.3 million Reserve Fund, leaving a balance of only £1.0 million at 31 March 2013, a historically low level of contingency. The Household needs to get better at planning and managing its budgets for the longer term – and the Treasury should be more actively involved in reviewing what the Household is doing. 

Second, the Household is not looking after nationally important heritage properties adequately. Back in March 2012, 39 per cent of the Royal estate was assessed as below what the Household deemed to be an acceptable condition. Now it is likely to be worse, with some properties in a dangerous or deteriorating condition. The Household must get a much firmer grip on how it plans to address its maintenance backlog. It has not even costed the repair works needed to bring the estate back to an acceptable condition, and the Treasury did not require an estimate. Again, the Treasury has an oversight role here. 

Finally, there is scope for the Household to generate more income and reduce its costs further. It’s certainly good news that the Royal Household has increased its income in 2012-2013 to £11.6 million. However, we think it could do more. Since 2007-08, the Household has cut its net costs by 16
per cent in real terms, but 11 per cent of that was achieved by increasing income, and just 5 per cent by reducing expenditure. With better commercial expertise in place, we think there is room to do more with less, reducing costs further and supporting The Queen’s programme more effectively." - Margaret Hodge MP

So anyway here are the figures for the Queen’s pay rises.

Year     Grant (£m)     Annual per cent Increase
2012-13     31.0     -
2013-14     36.1    16.5 per cent
2014-15     37.9     5.0 per cent
2015-16     40.0     5.5 per cent
2016-17     42.8     7.0 per cent

Royal funding has increased by
38 per cent in five years.


Of course it’s highly unlikely in any case that the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall (Prince Charles’s pad) and the Duchy of Lancaster (the Queen’s pad) should drop off due to market forces.  For one thing they have a number of special tax advantages and legal statuses.  For example should you die intestate in Cornwall and have no living relative to leave your property to it doesn’t go to the Treasury as in the rest of the country … Prince Charles inherits it.  Assets belonging to dissolved companies whose registered office was in Cornwall also pass to the duchy.  These rights to all bona vacantia property have been owned by the Dutchys since 1399.  In 2007, £130,000 was realised from the right of bona vacantia by the Duchy of Lancaster.  



Fortunately no one cares what happens in Cornwall as there’s only a couple of Mirth Control gigs there so this never changes.  In Bruton v. ICO the first tier tribunal found that the duchy was a public authority for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 allowing Prince Charles a personal veto on any architectural schemes he might find too modern.  In the words of Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives:



The Duchys are also exempt from paying corporation tax and seem to get away with this in perpetuity without anyone being too upset.  How jealous must the CEO of Starbucks be.  Prince Charles has however denied to pay income tax on his revenues at a rate of 25 per cent since 1981 and 50 per cent since 1993 although he decides what parts of his income should be taxed and isn’t required to be audited by the National Audit Office.


This article was going somewhere once but, of course, saying the Royals are silly is like saying the Emperor has no clothes.  Who will notice or care? 



Still, it’s only money.  It’s not like anyone died.  Except Princess Diana.  And that was the fault of the Press.  Even when we discovered that it was unlawful killing. 



When ordinary people get caught or die speeding it is, of course, their own stupid fault but when a girl is given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting the reason she was speeding turns out to be that she was the most hunted person of the modern age.  For it seems that while Jimmy Savile had time to act as a kind of marriage guidance councillor to Charles and Diana (yet another role for which he had no formal qualifications) he neglected to remind them both to Clunk Click Every Trip.  Yet somehow it was all the fault of the media.  Let's not get into conspiracy theories but it's funny how history seems to repeat its self.  It reminds me of George IV's estraged wife politically Caroline of Brunswick's politically convenient death...



...that was an accident too.  She wasn't poisoned.  But the worst thing about the Royals is that whenever one criticises the monarchy one is supposed to caveat it with “it’s not a criticism of them personally I’m sure as people they’re perfectly nice”.  Why?  No other politician gets this.  People don’t say well, David Cameron’s policies are cruel but underneath … oh actually they do.  Why cares?  I still think they are all monsters who deserve if not to be slain ...then voted for.  Still what can we do...?  Join...

To Republic...

...?