Examine Monarchy’s Ideological and Political Role


May 10, 2023

Examine Monarchy’s Ideological and Political Role

As prince Charles’ coronation approaches, we ought to examine royalty’s ideological and political role before pomp and ceremony eclipses reality.

The mystique and celebrity of British royalty masks their ideological function. Centuries of deference to unaccountable monarchs has conditioned much of the public to meekly defer to power, both political and private. This deference has facilitated centuries of imperialism, colonialism and the attendant militarism that has mainly enriched aristocrats and industrialists.

This ingrained public deference helps explain the survival of the monarchy and associated institutions. While struggling to survive government austerity measures, the UK public willingly subsidizes wealthy royals and Canadians’ bankroll their costly visits with little complaint. In exchange, these luminaries offer bland rhetoric and distracting titillations.

Contrary to public perception, British royalty wields significant political power over the lives of Britons, Canadians and other Commonwealth citizens. The monarch gives royal assent after bills pass through Britain’s parliament and the Governor General does the same in Canada. This symbolism is mainly a nod to Canada’s historical connection to Britain.

However, the British monarch’s duty of royal assent is augmented by the privilege of royal consent, a process whereby the queen “is provided with advance sight of draft laws and invited to approve them.” Royal consent applies to both the fundamental powers of state and laws “affecting the revenue, assets or interests of the crown.”

While the exact origins of this practice are unclear, it creates the impression that unaccountable royalty may meddle in parliamentary affairs to further their own advantage. There is no democratic justification for such royal access.

Morgan Duchesney
Ottawa Canada