On February the 6th, 1952, Princess Elizabeth, the King's eldest child, was in Kenya with her husband Philip. It was him who had to tell her the news : her father, King George VI had just died. Past the grief of a 25-year-old daughter, Elizabeth knew from then what would soon be upon her head : one of the world's most prestigious crowns. Being the head of state, the figurehead of dozens of nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. From now, she would be The Queen. This was 60 years ago. Queen Elizabeth II is still here, one of the world's longest-reigning monarch, and the second only to Queen Victoria (nearly 64 years) considering British monarchs. Her reign has seen (as of Jan., 2012) twelve Prime ministers (from Sir Winston Churchill to David Cameron, including Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair) and U.S. presidents (from Harry Truman to Barack Obama). Eight presidents of France, from Vincent Auriol to Nicolas Sarkozy. Many major events have occurred in her country and in the world during her tenure as the constitutional monarch of 16 countries (she doesn't have any real political power but is a symbol of historical continuity and national unity).
60 years... It means... three generations... and a Diamond Jubilee. Nearly 140 million subjects today... And a legitimate question : will they all rejoice ? Six years ago, the year of the Queen's 80th birthday, I decided to find out. I was then a 21-year-old student from France - so please forgive any misformulation or error in English since it isn't my mother language. I read several articles about the monarchy. Including one about an organization called Republic. And I decided to e-mail questions to Mr Graham Smith, their campaign manager. With no prejudice, but curiosity. Here's the text. Exclusive F21-PdA report. Phil Defer. EXCLU
EXCLUSIVE - PAROLES D'ACTU
WHO WANTS TO ABOLISH
THE MONARCHY ?
(Photo : Gala.fr)
Q : 30/06/06
A : 05/07/06
Paroles d'Actu : Could you please introduce yourself ?
Graham Smith : My name is Graham Smith, I am Campaign Manager for Republic, which campaigns for a democratic alternative to the monarchy.
PdA : What's at the origin of REPUBLIC ? What are your main claims ?
G.S. : Republic has been around for over twenty years. In the past few years it has been transforming itself from a small club into a serious campaign organisation.
Our one and only claim is that the monarchy is undemocratic and unacceptable. We call for its abolition in favour of a democractic republic.
PdA : Are your claims widespread in the United Kingdom ?
G.S. : In the UK about 20% consistently agree with Republic. In Scotland that figure is closer to 50%. Most people in the UK do not have strong views on the issue.
Our mission, as set out in our constitution is as follows :
1 - to mount a successful campaign to persuade a majority of voters to support the replacement of our hereditary monarchy with an elected head of state.
2 - having done so, to participate in and try to guide the process of change.
3 - to promote democratic republican forms of government, and to facilitate a debate on the best model for a future republic.
PdA : Can't you find any positive aspect about the British monarchy, in its past and present ?
G.S. : No, Republic believes that the inheritance of public office is not only wrong in principle but also bad in practice. Democracy provides accountability of power that monarchy cannot provide. The only benefits of monarchy are enjoyed by the Windsor family.
PdA : Don't you think, like (philosopher Edmund) Burke said, that monarchy is a way of maintaining a certain continuity in British traditions and history, between past and modernity ?
G.S. : No, Britain is quite capable of maintaining its traditions and history without the Windsor family taking a place in our constitution. Continuity - for what it's worth - is maintained by the practices and values of the people, not the existence of the monarchy.
PdA : You are against the system of the monarchy, but do you have anything to reproach to the Queen and the Royal family personally ?
G.S. : We are very definitely against the institution. We only criticise the individuals if they do something wrong in the context of their constitutional position.
PdA : What do you think about Queen Elizabeth II as a person ? What about her family ?
G.S. : I've never met any of them and - as I implied in answer to the last question - we don't regard their personalities as part of the issue.
PdA : What would you wish her for her 80th birthday ?
G.S. : A long and happy retirement.
PdA : You seem to imply that an elected president would be the solution to everything. But what do you think on what is sometimes said about the "monarchisation" of regimes with strong presidents, like in France, with François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac ?
G.S. : We certainly don't suggest that a republic would be the solution to everything. To quote our website, "While Republic has no illusions about creating some sort of Utopia, we are confident that the British people are capable of replacing an undemocratic constitution, stuck in the past, with one that is democratic, fair and open, and looks towards our future."
We propose a system closer to that of Ireland, where the parliament and government have the power and the president is ceremonial. If the French are concerned about the 'monarchisation' of the presidency they do still have democratic control over the system. If it's broke, fix it. In this country we have no such control.
PdA : If you succeeded, what would be the future of the Windsor family ?
G.S. : In a British republic the Winsor family would be free and equal citizens just like the rest of us. Their futures would be up to them.
PdA : What political system do you want for the U.K. exactly ? A ceremonial president with a P.M., a president with most executive powers, etc... ? What about the Parliament ?
G.S. : As I said to an earlier question, we propose a system like in Ireland, where we have a president and PM, but where the president is almost entirely ceremonial. (similar systems can be found in Germany, Austria, Italy, Israel etc)
PdA : What would be the seat of the presidency ?
G.S. : If you mean where would their official residence be - I don't know. I personally hope it would be somewhere suitably humble but also fitting for state occasions.
PdA : Free question, if you want to add anything.
G.S. : Only that I hope the British people can one day enjoy the same freedom as the French and most Europeans, of choosing their own Head of State, and of being masters of their own political system. Democracy is never perfect, but it's a lot more perfect than monarchy can ever be.
I want to thank again Mr Graham Smith for his answers. I tried to contact him for another set of questions recently, but sadly had no response. I'd be happy to ask questions to other people, British or not, on the issue. If you're reading this article and are willing to answer my questions, please feel free to contact me. What the questions are, basically : 1. Who are you ? 2. How do you feel about Queen Elizabeth II ? 3. Would you be given the choice between keeping the monarchy or being able to elect your head of state, what would you vote for ? I won't conclude before wishing the primary subject of my article, whether you want her to be called Her Majesty the Queen or Elizabeth Windsor, a happy jubilee celebration, and many additional years of healthy life ! A happy new year to you all !!! Merci !!! Phil Defer
Article edition on June the 26th, 2012. New edition on July 31, 2013.
Times New Roman > Georgia : 02/10/12