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Like it or not, monarchies are enduring for several reasons

Monarchs, it seems, are holding their ground in the modern world. If the amor regis displayed in New Zealand and Australia toward Prince William and family in April is anything to go by, one might conclude…

There’s no short-cut from the Queen to William and Kate, bypassing Charles and Camilla, but the monarchy is built on more than popularity. EPA/Andy Rains

Monarchs, it seems, are holding their ground in the modern world. If the amor regis displayed in New Zealand and Australia toward Prince William and family in April is anything to go by, one might conclude that monarchies are not only surviving, but thriving in the 21st century. As a politically active friend in her 20s put it:

I am a republican, of course, but I really love the royals – I’m torn!

Royalty remains an important part of the social and political landscape in many parts of the world. Why has monarchy endured? Here are five suggested reasons.

The world has many monarchs

There are 28 sovereigns across 43 countries in the world today (including the 16 sovereign domains of the British monarch).

This equates to 22% of the 193 UN member states across most regions of the world – North Africa (Morocco), sub-Saharan Africa (Swaziland), Europe (Belgium, Spain), North America (Canada), the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan), North Asia (Japan), south Asia (Bhutan), southeast Asia (Thailand, Cambodia) and the Pacific (Tonga).

None of the kings, queens, emperors or sultans linked to these countries seem to be in danger of being thrown out, although the power of the Gulf monarchies may be largely dependent on the patronage they can bestow from oil revenues and the news that the Spanish king will abdicate to his son after 40 years seems more an act of survival than of largesse toward his realm.

Yet even if a monarch was to fall (the most recent to go were the self-destructing royals of Nepal in 2008), there would be no domino effect across such a disparate group. Survival, it seems, comes through diversity.

There are different kinds of monarchs

The number of monarchs expands internationally when we consider local and religious royalty. For example, the Zulu nation is South Africa’s largest ethnic group, comprising approximately 23% of the population. The Zulu king’s support was crucial for the success of the first post-apartheid elections in 1994 and remained an important stabilising element before this year’s poll.

In contrast to this localised authority, religious monarchs often reign across borders, sometimes with a global constituency. The Pope is in every sense a monarch, his Cardinals rightly described as “Princes of the Church”, the Holy See in every way a royal institution. The same can also be said for the Patriarchates of the Orthodox Churches.

The Aga Khan Prince Shah Karim Al Husseini, spiritual leader of the worldwide community of Ismaili Shia Muslims, exercises significant diplomatic influence. This year he was invited to address the Canadian parliament and the Aga Khan Development Network is one of the pre-eminent Islamic development organisations in the world today.

The regal authority exercised by local and religious monarchs is important for millions of people, adding to the esteem in which all monarchs can be held (deserving or not).

Inherited power and wealth isn’t limited to monarchs

It is said that monarchs embody aristocratic excess and unrepresentative power, neither of which has a place in modern democratic society. On the matter of excessive wealth, royal riches across the world are indeed staggering. According to Business Spectator, the King of Thailand and the Sultan of Brunei have a combined fortune of US$50 billion.

That is substantial wealth. However, when one considers Forbes' latest estimation of 1645 private billionaires in the world today, royal riches are not necessarily exceptional.

On the issue of unrepresentative power, nothing has changed. Anyone who believes, for instance, that the much-loved William and Kate will bypass the much-less-loved Charles and Camilla via popular vote simply doesn’t know the rules of the game. As the Monty Python refrain reminds: “You don’t vote for kings!”

Arthur reminds the peasantry that ‘you don’t vote for kings!’

However, the question is whether being “born to rule” is unique to monarchy. The answer is “no”. Business, exemplified by the Murdoch and Packer media empires, is often characterised by family succession, as legacies are carried forward by feted sons and daughters.

Dynastic politics is also common. For example, if Hillary Clinton is elected president in 2016 the Bush and Clinton dynasties will have held or been near the centre of US power for a quarter of a century.

The hereditary monarch has thus become obscured in a crowd of hereditary merchants and rulers.

Monarchs have a power to unify

Most contemporary monarchs are not so much “born to rule” as “born to belong”, their once autonomous powers curtailed by national constitutions, their decrees now guided by prime ministers and parliaments. Yet as the hard power of constitutional monarchs has diminished (though not as much as we assume), their soft power – the power to persuade, to unite, to inspire, without the threat of punishment – has increased.

In this sense, the notion of “figurehead” rulers is misguided. We are better to think of a shift from coercive to persuasive powers.

Consider two nations under significant strain at present. Thailand suffers internal political pressures that threaten the stability of the state. Jordan has external military and militant pressures at its borders from surrounding conflicts.

The kings of each country are held to be “above the fray” and thus have become symbols of national unity, especially with the masses, in a time of distress. (As the purported alignment between military and royal interests in Thailand shows, there is a fine and complex line between coercion and persuasion.)

The coming crisis for the people of Britain will not be economic or military, but social and psychological, at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II who has reigned in times of war and peace, in prosperity and paucity, providing hope and dignity as the sun set on the Empire.

They may be quite lost without her, and for some time. In this see the power to unite a people over time and across generations that is beyond the reach of any political party today.

The pageant is political (and profitable)

Fredric Jameson once argued that postmodern societies would be characterised by the dominance of the image and the demise of the written word. The selfie-driven, brand-focused politics of our day has, in many respects, vindicated this view.

The “spectacle” has always been an important political tool, but in no other time have images had such rapid and global impact, unleashing an insatiable popular hunger not only for celebrity and scandal but also for Grand Beauty. Welcome the return of the royal wedding, the diamond jubilee flotilla and palace grandeur, each simultaneously revealing a gaping distance and an intimate connection between fashion-forward royals and their Instagramming subjects.

The British monarchy has become invaluable to the national economy in areas such as tourism, trade, fashion and economic diplomacy (such as helping to secure the London Olympics). Royalty is the brand of national interest, the pageant both political and lucrative.

None of the above constitutes a defence of monarchy. It is equally pertinent to note that millions of people happily live without kings and queens; that monarchies are not always neutral or benign; and that the reign of the next English king will certainly be a boon for republicans.

However, before we defend or deny monarchy we might first try to explain its continued existence in the global political landscape. What we cannot do, it seems, is simply explain it away.


This is an adapted and updated extract from the keynote address, Game of Thrones: the enduring powers of monarchy in a post-imperial age, delivered at the World History Association Conference, University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, in October 2013.

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82 Comments sorted by

  1. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Good Article, my guess would be general apathy which is rampent throughout society and the power of incumbancy/tradition/custom requires a stronger power to over turn that

    Apathy + Status Quo = Monarchy

    No doubt if the monarchs overstepped their mark that might risk upsetting the complacency in society

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  2. Robert Tony Brklje
    Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    Monarchies an anachronistic history based upon homicidal maniacs publicly torturing to death anyone who disagreed with the idea that they and their spawn were in charge.
    The only thing that keeps in going is pseudo celebrity status and holding them at the top of the pyramid of pseudo celebrity. The idea that certain individuals are superior than all others at birth, whether they be the children of royalty, the rich or their various talking head celebrities, that their words have more meaning than…

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  3. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    What the continuing British monarchy represents, to the people of Britain in particular, is a continuation of their history.
    A history that many of the sectarian opponents of the British monarchy would wish to come to an end.
    What fills the vacuum, when the history of a collective group of different nations under that monarchy comes to an end, is never mentioned, or speculated upon.
    Something very totalitarian is highly suspected, with the fore-mentioned sectarians not forthcoming with their alternatives…

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    1. Harvey Westbury

      Not being a dinosaur

      In reply to James Hill

      I have to disagree with James Hill. The French and Germans seem to get along very well without a King or Queen, as does the USA, just to name three nations without a royalty. I think Australia would also get along well without a royal head of state. William and Kate are nothing more than 'celebs'to most in this country, and those who fawn over them also fawn over 'celebs' of the red carpet or television. Monarchy is, in my opinion, an anachronism in this day and age as it sits at the top of the…

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    2. Sebastian Poeckes

      Retired

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      Surely the "mystical properties" of the coming King Charles 3 (would anyone dare refer to him as King Charles the Turd?) will prove a perfect antidote to the current fawning over the British royals? And, no, he won't abdicate in favour of his more popular son, nor step back and decline to take up the sceptre. That's not how royalty works. So sometime in the next ten to fifteen years conditions will be ideal for another run at an Australian Republic.

      This time though, let's do it properly and not permit a re-run of the Howard machinations.

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    3. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      It seems to be consistent with my argument and yours, Harvey, that the monarchy in Australia has a very feeble history.
      A couple of hundred years of incipient sectarian bigotry of The Vatican versus English monarchy variety (see reference in article) might be an explanation for this.
      The French and German aristocrats, if you will remembe,r were crushed by history, and their former nations' history continues without them.
      Yes, Australia and British Australians, in particular, can live without the…

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Sebastian Poeckes

      Leaving aside the appalling treatment meted to the mother of Charles's children, I'm looking forward to hearing King Charles give the arch-capitalists of the City of London a right old bollocking.

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      "The French and Germans seem to get along very well without a King or Queen, as does the USA, just to name three nations without a royalty"

      Not too sure about all of that - the US seemed happy to elect a Royal Family every four years or so, and French Presidents do their best to keep the tabloids as engaged as the UK Royal Family.

      If we were serious about republicanism, then we wouldn't even bother with a President - sounds too much like elevating one individual higher than the rest of us anyway. I'd rather a republic with no Head of State - can't be that hard to devise one.

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      "Monarchy appeals to social and political conservatives who cannot, as far as I can see, adequately explain their fascination with it."

      Perhaps an explanation can be developed by referring to David Bowie's 1973 song, "Big Brother".
      "Someone to claim us, someone to follow
      "Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo
      "Someone to fool, someone like You
      "We want You big brother"

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    7. Harvey Westbury

      Not being a dinosaur

      In reply to James Hill

      I know something of the history of monarchy in Thailand, and of the independence that the Thais enjoyed during the colonial era. None of that was due to the their King, as far as I understand, but everything to do with those in London and Paris. If it suited the French or Britisht then hey would have colonised Thailand - it didn't happen because of a 'gentleman's' agreement. The Thai King, and his family, have been some sort of stabilising influence during his long reign but only because his supposed…

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    8. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      Where, Harvey, given your stated interest in Thailand, did that story in the movie, Anna and the King, originate, where a British woman helped the king's soldiers to properly target their unfamiliar western artillery on some Pro French "Rebels" and so saved the "day".
      Pure poetic licence?
      Not a pure element of fiction?
      Perhaps you know more on this?

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    9. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to David Arthur

      Yes, the presidents in those systems seem to hold de-facto monarchial authority, if only for a limited period.
      Perhaps Australians, at the last referendum, were loathe to merely exchange a semi permanent monarch for a temporary one, if that, indeed, were the only real difference to be had.

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    10. Harvey Westbury

      Not being a dinosaur

      In reply to James Hill

      From a semi-frictionalised novel describing of Anna's five years, or so, in Thailand. The King and I is, of course , a harmless bit of froth and bubble about her time there, and you have to wonder why the Thai establishment and monarchy are so concerned about it that they banned it.

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    11. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to James Hill

      The referendum question did not ask "should Australia make itself a republic?"; rather it asked if Australia should adopt a particular model. Only those in favour of that particular model of republic voted in favour of the question.

      I daresay that one suggestion, a republic with no Head of State, would not be widely supported either.

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    12. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      "William and Kate are nothing more than 'celebs'to most in this country, and those who fawn over them also fawn over 'celebs' of the red carpet or television."
      Actually it's the other way round. The rise of celebrity culture rose to replace the demise of monarchy and aristocracy.

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    13. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      "I think Australia would also get along well without a royal head of state"
      We already have one. Her name is Quinten Bryce.

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    14. Peter Williams

      Retired and still kicking

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      In case you don't know, since March 28, the Governor General has been General Sir Peter Cosgrove.

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    15. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Peter Williams

      No, I did not know that (I'm O/S at the moment). So, Peter Cosgrove is our Head of State.

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    16. Peter Williams

      Retired and still kicking

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      No, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia is our Head of State. The G.G. is her representative in Australia. The Queen is essentially the current living embodiment of the Crown, who like you is living O/S. The G.G. is (since 1930) an Australian appointed by the Prime Minister and automatically accepted by the Crown as the representative of the Crown of Australia, in Australia.

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    17. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to James Hill

      So do you look upon your children with shame, than you would so readily devalue them against the children of royalty. By what right would you demand that Australia parents devalue their children against the children of the British Monarchy.
      Don't fool yourself and don't attempt to fool others because that is the true demand of monarchy.

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    18. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Robert, the concept and practice of Monarchy or kingship in the British Isles vastly predates the Norman conquest of the Anglos-Saxons, the Welsh and the Irish, and in that tradition the early Britons were given to electing their kings.
      So no great privilege granted to heredity then.
      So in order to satisfy your desire that Australian children share that particular practice from their inherited British culture then of course , they should follow tradition and elect their "leaders", in the original…

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    19. Michael Field

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Peter Williams

      Ha ha, love this argument. Much great fun to be had 'explaining' our marsupial constitution, especially to foreigners, but also to ourselves. You are not quite correct, though. The GG 'fills in' for the monarch in ceremonial functions but does not 'represent' the monarch in any other meaningful sense as the GG takes the advice of the PM, except where the GG takes the advice of Malcolm Fraser. That's why some refer to the GG as the 'Head of State'. The GG takes no important direction from the Queen but acts like she might. Some would say the GG is a non political 'representative' of the Australian people and defender of the constitution.

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    20. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      David,

      You said: " I'd rather a republic with no Head of State - can't be that hard to devise one."

      Have a look at how the Swiss do it.

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    21. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Chris Harper

      Thanks for the reference, Mr Harper, I looked it up on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_the_Swiss_Confederation).

      What the Swiss have is a Federal Council, which is collectively considered to be the Head of State. The Presidency is rotated among Council members.

      That's close to what I have in mind, which is that there is no president whatsoever. Instead, the reserve power to dissolve parliament and call elections becomes an automatic function of the Constitution.

      I'd also…

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    22. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to James Hill

      "...were loathe" [sic]? Were *loath* [adj.] would be far more appropriate, and better yet, they [Aussies] are still loath. My [l]oath they are. Don't ya just hate it?

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    23. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      Perhaps the belated banning of it [The King and I] came to pass for no other reason than that of the Thai monarchy's being at least seven kicks behind the game, not unlike the situation of my being informed via email [just a moment ago], that one of my comments on TC which featured ages ago, has now been removed.

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    24. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      I'm loath(e) allan, to question just exactly which post it is to which you refer?
      No, to be honest, don't worry, I don't really care, it doesn't seem to be very important when so out of context?

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  4. Giles Pickford
    Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired, Wollongong

    The problem with the royal family is its ever-increasing size. New royal babies are popping out all the time and each one will need a Duchy to govern, just like William and Kate.

    I think the royal family has reached plague proportions. The only way to deal with a plague is with a cull.

    I am not suggesting a slaughter like the Kings of old managed their affairs. I think it ought to be managed with a downsizing. There should be a committee of the House of Lords to manage an orderly transition.

    The excess royals could get a job or go on the welfare.

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    1. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Giles,

      It's not that bad. Anne's children not only aren't royal. they aren't even of the nobility. They are members of the gentry, although of royal descent.

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  5. Troy Howard

    Mechanic at -

    Are they really our betters? Are they so much better than us that we can't do without them?
    I challenge any one of us to look into their child or grandchild's eyes and say sorry your just not good enough, the place at the head of the Australian table is reserved for a foreign national because they're better than you.

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Troy Howard

      Perhaps "real" Aussies don't really want the Australian table to have anyone in particular at its head.
      One of the strengths of the Australian character, in former times, at least.
      Jack's as good as his master?

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    2. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to James Hill

      But we do have a head of state - table is my euphemism. Our head of state is the Queen, the Queen is a foreign national.
      Our Governor General fulfils the role of the Queen when she is not in the country.
      Why can't an Australian citizen aspire to be the head of state.
      Yes in my opinion Jack is as good as his master but the way things work our constitution has us acknowledging a foreign person as our head of state.

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    3. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Troy Howard

      The Queen isn't a foreign national, not in law anyway. Hell, she isn't even a citizen of the United Kingdom, and she certainly isn't a subject. After all, who would she be a subject of?

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    4. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to Chris Harper

      No technically I believe you are correct the Queen magically morphs into the Queen of Australia on Australian soil.
      But all these points aside do you think she is the most appropriate person to be the ceremonial head of the Australian nation.

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    5. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Troy Howard

      Troy,

      You said: “aside do you think she is the most appropriate person to be the ceremonial head of the Australian nation.”

      Difficult question. On the one hand, given that intellectually my political philosophy is pretty radical and I reject the idea that Jack even has a master, I would question whether anyone is fit for the role, or even that such a role should exist. On the other, given that I am at heart , emotionally, something of a traditionalist I kind of like having the old forms around, so long as they do no harm. I am forced to ask what is the benefit of changing the system. Will changing how the head of state is chosen make a single person, anywhere, healthier or wealthier? Apart from those who profit from a referendum campaign that is. If not, why spend the vast sums of money any such change would entail.

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    6. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to Chris Harper

      I don't think it needs to cost vast sums but unfortunately think that would end up being the case.
      I think it says something about us a nation and as a people that tug the forlock to a political/power system which has it's beginnings with the "lady in the lake" and a mystical sword.
      Can't we do better than this?

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    7. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Troy Howard

      Troy, first of all, the Queen of Australia is not a foreign national. Secondly, she is not out Head of State. Peter Cosgrove is our Head of State. Thirdly, our Constitution does not mention the "Head of State". Not even once.

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    8. Philip Howell

      Solicitor

      In reply to Chris Harper

      'What is the benefit in changing the system?' None, if the only change is to substitute a president (or temporary monarch) for a real monarch. Change only makes sense if you change the role. This is what the Advancing Democracy model does. Transfer the royal power to appoint governments and dissolve the House to the House of Representatives. Transfer the power to govern to the Government. Replace the speaker with a new G-G of Parliament who becomes head of state. Imagine a head of state who does a real job! It's all at www.advancingdemocracy.info.

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    9. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Alan I will certainly cede the point that the Queen is not our head of state, but she does appoint our Governor General.
      I will also cede that constitution doesn't refer to a Head of State so what do we have?
      If the Queen isn't a foreign national what is she?

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  6. Liam Hanlon

    Student

    The reason the monarchy is so popular in Australia and NZ right now is the branding exercise the royal family has conducted. And they've done it brilliantly. Convinced us that they're cool, like us and most importantly a benign relic of old times. They've been lucky to have Kate and William because Charles was never going to be able to sell it. Its a shame they've been so successful because it probably means a republic is a long way off in Australia.

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Liam Hanlon

      I agree that the British monarchy has successfully run a hearts and minds exercise to convince a younger generation that they are .. well just like us really.. down to earth people...except slightly richer.

      The dysfunction in the House of Windsor in the days of Charles and Diana (and the rest of the bunch) has been forgotten.

      We (not the royal "we" of course) now think they are great.. just great and like you say.. cool.

      They must have hired a clever propaganda firm to convince us of their coolness and relevance to these times.

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  7. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    It's easy to understand how a monarchy could be a unifying symbol for a national group.

    It's also easy to understand why the British monarchy held significance for the British colonisers of Australia.

    The response of younger Australians to touring royals appears to be similar to tours of other celebs - they love to see the fabulously wealthy and follow their fashions, their marriages, divorces and their activities.

    What's not so easy to understand is why, so many generations later, Australians would need or want the British monarchy as a symbol.

    Let's let them go. They could still visit, if they wanted - self-funded, of course.

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    1. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "It's also easy to understand why the British monarchy held significance for the British colonisers of Australia ... What's not so easy to understand is why, so many generations later, Australians would need or want the British monarchy as a symbol"

      Crumbs, it's not that long ago Sue. One of my grandmothers came out from England when she was 20 - a lot of Australian families would have connections as close as that. Even I remember going to the pictures and standing up while they played God Save the Queen, and I was well into high school before Australia was ever mentioned in class; it was all British history, geography and literature. After all, where did our laws, system of government etc come from?

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      "where did our laws, system of government etc come from?"

      From Ancient Rome, no?

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    3. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Didn't the Ancient Roma tribal system, upon which their laws and traditions are based not, according to their stories, come from Ancient Troy?
      Which itself is taken to have been an example of the possibly Celtic political system, overrun by the later Greeks?
      All sort of taking us back to Britannia where the emperor Claudius remarked that the chariots of the British armies where exactly like those of his early Roman ancestors, recognising the connection.
      So where, via Rome, did our laws, system of government come from, The Celts?

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    4. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      ""where did our laws, system of government etc. come from?"
      From Ancient Rome, no?"

      Was our constitution not an Act of the British Parliament?

      Didn't the colonies 'inherit' the laws of the British parliament? I think they did, eventually. And until the Australia Acts in 1986 some decisions of our High Court could still be appealed to the Privy Council.

      And why were QCs called Queen's Counsel and not Caesar's Counsel? Despite also learning Latin at school, I knew I was born (in Australia) a British subject, not a Roman one.

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    5. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      "And why were QCs called Queen's Counsel and not Caesar's Counsel? ""

      Because the Brits refused to credit the Roman-Trojan origins.

      And why were early Australians not Roman subjects? Because the British invaded Australia - not the Romans.

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    6. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "Because the Brits refused to credit the Roman-Trojan origins."

      Sue, when you walk around London, visiting the National Gallery, the British Museum and so on, what does the style of those building say, other than 'we are the heirs of the Roman empire'.

      BTW I take it back about being born a British subject (perhaps I saw my father's passport or something) because although my elder siblings were born such, I was born after the 1949 legislation [thank you Wikipedia]. My point remains though that you can't just say that our connections to the crown are all ancient history - a lot of today's Australians were born British subjects.

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    7. Peter Williams

      Retired and still kicking

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      The colonies only inherited the laws of the United Kingdom so far as they were applicable to the particular colony. In Australia, the several colonies also inherited the common law which was never covered by Acts of Parliament. Perhaps you should stop cataloguing books and read a few.

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    8. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Peter Williams

      Haven't catalogued a book for 30 years, Peter - times have changed in librarianship, not many cataloguers around now.

      You support my point - U.K. laws & U.K. common law, court system etc. is the basis of our legal system. Our British past hasn't been erased.

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    9. Peter Williams

      Retired and still kicking

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      So you propose to throw out a system that works, and replace it with what? Our British past hasn't been erased simply because it works. Just what would you replace it with?

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    10. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue,

      You said: "From Ancient Rome, no?"

      No.

      British common law systems derive from the Anglo Norman judicial rulings from roughly the 12th century onward. Roman law has a different foundation and traditions. Over the centuries the two systems have cross fertilised one another, but the English legal system is not derived from the Roman. Separate establishment, separate evolution and separate traditions.

      Ditto the system of government. Nothing Roman about it, other than maybe incidentally, here and there.

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    11. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Scots law, which all reasonable people will also recognise as British law, is said to be based upon the Codex Justinianus, which was compiled by Justinian in Byzantium.
      And the connection between the Scots and the Eastern Roman Empire?
      Maritime, one suspects, down the Atlantic seaboard and into the Mediterranean, from one Celtic nation to the next, Brittany, Galicia.
      This explains the reports of Scots missionaries from Ulster teaching the Merovingian? monarchs how to read the Gospels in their original…

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    12. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Peter Williams

      "In Australia, the several colonies also inherited the common law which was never covered by Acts of Parliament."
      No they did not.

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    13. Peter Williams

      Retired and still kicking

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Any evidence of that astounding claim. Have you ever read the Letters Patent that covered the settlement of Australia?

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  8. Karl Hewlett

    Technical Consultant

    personally I support the system of constitutional monarchy for the simple reason no one has yet come up with a better alternative.

    Look around the world and you will see no end of elected heads of state demonstrating that this is a very bad way to determine your head of state.

    And once you have an elected head of state they want to actively use that role. A figure head that does almost nothing is much better.

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Karl Hewlett

      Then why not a republic with an appointed head of state? This person could be a figurehead. Why the monarchy in that case?

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    2. Peter Williams

      Retired and still kicking

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Because you take out the Crown which means our entire legal and constitutional system needs revision and the multitude of referenda. Don't forget that Australia is a Federation of States and Territories - what happens when one State doesn't pass a referendum?

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Peter Williams

      So what! You mean we cannot make a transition to a republic because we are too closely bound to the present system?

      On that logic nothing could ever change.

      I hope we ditch the monarchy eventually after the UK queen dies.

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    4. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      It was interesting to watch the 6 June 2014 D Day Sword beach celebrations with the most powerful politicians in the world and who do they all kow tow to as the main and last entrant, but Queen Elizabeth. The world respects her for the counsel world leaders over decades have stated she shares and her ability to bring people together from all nations including a Commonwealth of seventy or so nations including the biggest, India.

      It was interesting to see how President Putin felt ill at ease amongst…

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    5. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Fair points about queen Betty Terry and I agree she has respect but it could have been Charles. With a monarchy we have no say in our "leader".

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    6. Philip Howell

      Solicitor

      In reply to Karl Hewlett

      As someone who has devised a better alternative, I get a little tired of people like Karl saying there isn't one. The problem is that the media is run by thick people who refuse to read anything longer than a press release, and don't know a good idea when it hits them in the face. So they always dumb down the debate.

      There is a fully written, comprehensive republican model at www.advancingdemocracy.info. It changes the role of the head of state and does not provide for popular election. It cleans up our existing Constitution by removing the uncertainties which arise from having written rules which are either contradicted or supplemented by unwritten conventions, the effect of which remains in dispute.

      Perhaps the more intelligent readers of the Conversation could begin by reading the Advancing Democracy model and thinking about it.

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    7. Peter Williams

      Retired and still kicking

      In reply to Philip Howell

      I've previously read your supposedly "better alternative". Do you honestly expect the majority of voters in the majority of States to vote for an entirely new constitution? You've two chances - Buckleys and none.

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    8. Philip Howell

      Solicitor

      In reply to Peter Williams

      Yes actually I do expect majority support; because it's not an entirely 'new Constitution'. Of the current 128 sections, 78 would remain unchanged after adoption of the Advancing Democracy model. The country would still be called a Commonwealth, and we would not have a president. We'd have a G-G of Parliament.

      Any change to a republic requires amendment or deletion of the 43 sections which refer to the Queen and Governor-General, so considerable textual change is required just to make that small…

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  9. John Campbell

    farmer

    Monarchs have a power to justify.

    Why people should look up to those with what amounts to huge amounts of stolen wealth is beyond me. Why are so many people seemingly happy to regard others as so superior to themselves?

    No doubt us peasants should know our place in society.

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    1. Giles Pickford
      Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired, Wollongong

      In reply to John Campbell

      Perhaps we should look to the Americans.

      "All media and all politics are controlled by the great interlocking corporations, and that is why we may never discuss real politics as opposed to sex lives. What is real politics? In one sentence: Who collects what money from whom to give to whom to spend for what? This is the question that may not be asked in a militarized society where dissent is kept to the margins. Democracy? A form of government the U.S. has never tried. We began with a constitution created by well-to-do white males to protect their property. Others were later given the franchise but the original oligarchs and their avatars are still in place and none dares challenge them."

      Gore Vidal

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    2. Georgina Byrne
      Georgina Byrne is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer at Farming

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Great quote! It's particularly relevant to Australia at the present time where the current government has reintroduced titles (not only for the GG but to her enduring shame by the outgoing one). The current government via its proposed budgetary changes, has also shown that it intends to govern for the wealthy few at the expense of the less wealthy many. If indeed we were a republic the current President, like the vast majority of US Presidents would come from the same wealthy minority supported to…

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  10. Michael Glass

    Teacher

    Yes, monarchies are amazingly resilient. Even so, they fall off the twig, one by one. Go back ten years and there was only one more monarchy, that of Nepal. However, if you go back 100 years there were a lot more monarchies.

    The trend might be glacial in its slowness, but over the centuries, the trend has been clearly downward.

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    1. Peter Williams

      Retired and still kicking

      In reply to Michael Glass

      Could you please explain the Spanish re-adoption of the monarchy then?

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    2. Mark J Taylor

      Project Director/Manager at Maritime; Defence; Infrastructure

      In reply to Peter Williams

      I would guess that there was an urgent need for unifying figure at the top of the political heap in Spain flowing the demise of the Franco regime. After nearly 40 years' repressive dictatorship, which had followed an exceptionally bitter civil war, there would have been a real danger of things just ricocheting back and forth between fragmented interest groups, or getting into a 'latin American' pattern of coup and countercoup. I can't recall who the political leaders were who sponsored return of…

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    3. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Mark J Taylor

      You said: "I can't recall who the political leaders were who sponsored return of the 'king in exile',"

      It was Franco himself. He arranged it before he died.

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  11. Baden Eunson

    Adjunct Lecturer, School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University

    The coming crisis for the Brits with the passing- i.e., death- of Elizabeth Windsor Battenberg- surely the British must anticipate this: some have-
    http://republic.org.uk- but not nearly enough. The psychological dependency of so many British to this problematic situation is serious, especially when her interference in the trial of Paul Burrell- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2400003.stm - called into question the entire constitutional raison d'etre of British monarchy- they reign but do not…

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  12. Marion Gevers

    Freelance translator and interpreter in French and English

    As a Belgian and Australian citizen, I find it interesting that Europe is mentioned as having 2 kingdoms, Spain and Belgium. Whatever happened to the royal families of the Netherlands, Denmark (where the future queen was born an Australian!), Sweden, not to mention Monaco as they don't have much of a kingdom - more a post stamp-sized principality. As far as Belgium is concerned, the royal family in this divided country is one of the few elements that still keep the country together (but for how long…

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    1. John Rees

      Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at University of Notre Dame Australia

      In reply to Marion Gevers

      Greetings Marion. Thanks for the interest in the article. The countries mentioned in that paragraph were intended to provide an indicative list of the global spread of monarchs. In hindsight, I should have added 'just to name a few' at the end of that paragraph, which was implied. The European monarchies you mentioned are indeed invaluable for our thinking. JR

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to John Rees

      Can I jump in on this commentary to ask a simple question?
      Who was Queen Elizabeth the First of Australia?
      On the Australian coins the present monarch is represented as QEII.
      Since Cook's flag claiming the East Coast was British and not English, does the fiction that there has been a Queen Elizabeth, The First of Australia, implicit in the coinage, delegitimise the whole concept of an Australian monarchy?
      Scots, for example coming as they did in large numbers to British Australia, found themselves…

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