Why I’m a reluctant Royalist

Yesterday someone asked me for my view of the Royal Family. Given that I care passionately about equality of opportunity, it surprises even me that I am an ardent royalist.

I am, at heart, a progressive traditionalist. I need a sense of continuity and history, while also recognising that humanity can and should be doing better – and for the last 20 years I’ve been working hard to make it so.

I’ve had many encounters with the Royal Family, largely through my work with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which helps young people build self-belief and self-confidence while taking on challenges and following their passions. I’ve found the Royals – particularly Prince Edward, who has largely taken on his late father’s mantle – to be hardworking and cheerful.

And when I received my MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, which sounds rather Bill and Ted, but whatever) from Prince William, he made me feel relaxed and at ease – so much so that I nearly forgot to curtsey.

They have a hard job. You couldn’t pay me enough to trade my privacy and freedom for all their wealth and privilege.

More pragmatically, they’re a massive tourism magnet. People from all over the world flock to the UK to catch a glimpse of palaces, attend events, and soak up the royal vibe. All those visitors mean big bucks for hotels, restaurants, and local businesses. They’re estimated to boost the British economy by up to £2 billion annually, while costing the taxpayer roughly 1p per day.

However, some aspects make me a little squeamish. On Remembrance Day, singing God Save the King, I was fine with “happy and glorious”, but not so fine with “victorious”, which smacks of war and conquest.  Historically, monarchy has been associated with colonialism and British exceptionalism, although it was arguably more the fault of early entrepreneurs and corporations like Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain James Cook, and the East India Company. Whether money or monarchy was to blame, it’s a chapter of our history that we need to acknowledge, and where possible, make amends.

The King’s country residence, Highgrove, is in my constituency of the South Cotswolds, and it was his mother, the late Queen, who was largely responsible for inspiring me to enter politics. It was the day of her funeral, as I reflected on her life of tireless devotion to public duty, that I decided to stand for Parliament.

I can understand why large Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada may no longer want a distant monarch as their head of state, but for us in Britain, I hope the Royal Family is with us to stay.

Our international reputation is battered and bruised after the embarrassing behaviour of our current government – and okay, some Royals can also be embarrassing, or worse – but on balance, they are a cultural treasure, economic superheroes who also happen to wear crowns.

Quote of the Week

“Power without a nation’s confidence is nothing.”
— Catherine the Great 

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