“A hereditary monarch is as absurd a position
as a hereditary doctor or mathematician.”
The Queen of England is dead—or as her former subjects in Ireland put it: “Lizzie’s in a box.”
Here we are in the year 2022, and instead of zipping around in flying cars and weekend-tripping to the moon, tens of millions of us—in the U.K. and its former colonies, in Spain, in Belgium, and the Netherlands, in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and in Japan—are still bowing to a king or queen. And not the Lebron James or Beyoncé kind that dominates through their talent and skill in sports or music, but the kind that dominates other people based on whose uterus they fell out of.
Bowing itself is so medieval. Who or what is so sacred that we should all bow in front of him or her or it?
I knew my church days were numbered as a boy when I rolled my eyes at having to kneel before the altar—never mind the whole opening wide for the priest so he could insert a bit of Christ into my mouth…
Kneeling before a god is one thing (if such a power exists), but bowing to a fellow human, or even a statue?
That the Brits still kneel at the foot of a throne is one reason why, in spite of all their class, their history, their heritage, their air of refinement and civility, we Americans will always look down our noses at those Tea Timers. And Probably the main reason is that us Yanks fought them pretty hard to have the right not to kneel to their king or ANY person on earth.
Lizzie was 96, so no one should’ve been caught off-guard by her croaking.
What surprises me though is how people still hold such reverence for the hereditary rulers of England.
Her fans keep saying how good a queen she was, but I don’t know what that means. To me, “good queen” has to mean Liz either bettered the lives of her subjects, or ruled in such a way that ensured the continued reign of her family, the House of Windsor, which is what England’s German rulers have called themselves since the First World War, when having the last name “Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” became as fugly as those spiked helmets.
When people start to resent something in society, just giving it a pretty name usually calms them down.
The Windsors are part of a powerful extended family, with cousins ruling over practically all of Europe.
As the great-great-grandaughter of Queen Victoria, Liz was related to King Harald V of Norway; Queen Margrethe II of Denmark; King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden; King Felipe VI of Spain; Kaiser Wilhem II, the last emperor of Germany; Michael I, the last king of Romania; Constantine II, the last king of Greece; Peter II, the last king of the former Yugoslavia; and Leopold II, the bloodthirsty Belgian king who terrorized the Congo and was Grandma Vicky’s first cousin.
Liz was also loosely related to Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, and God knows who else. I wouldn’t be surprised if her son Charlie shares some distant relation with Emperor Naruhito of Japan or the House of Saud.
Charlie, his dead mom and their direct ancestors have been wearing the English crown on and off since Henry the 8th’s dad killed a guy for it in 1485. By the Windsor Family Rulebook, apparently, death can crown a king or queen—or uncrown them.
A lot has been said about how the British monarchy was enriched through colonialism, how Lizzie didn’t lift a finger to stop the brutal repression of the Mau Mau rebellion against her colonial rule in Kenya, or the brutal repression of a rebellion against her colonial rule in Cyprus, or how she never whispered a word against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, which had been something like a British colony when Liz was queened.
But all those crimes are beside the point. I don’t really care about the colonialism (which is a weird thing for a Puerto Rican to say). What makes me wanna start a fire is that there is someone somewhere who thinks, or forces other people to think at least, that there is something special in their family’s blood that not only makes them fit to rule over 67 million people, but gives them the right to do it.
Thomas Paine, who was the voice of the American Revolution against the British King George (Lizzie’s great-great-great-great-grandpa), said hereditary rule was as dumb as “hereditary judges, or hereditary juries,” “as absurd as an hereditary wise man; and as ridiculous as an hereditary poet laureate.”
He also said that “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”
Smart dude that Paine.
Imagine if all you needed for a driver’s license was to show up with a parent’s license. Or if the only qualification needed to be president was that your dad was president. Voters in the United States would be waking up on Election Day in 2024 faced with a hard choice between Hunter Biden and Don Jr.
Who would be the lesser-evil candidate in that scenario: the crackhead or the Trump? I’d probably just flip a coin or stay home and start praying.
I can stomach some rich person’s kid being born into wealth, but a powerful person’s kid being born into power is too dangerous to tolerate. At least with the rich kid, you can hope he or she spends it all or doesn’t know how to use the wealth to gain raw power.
With a prince or princess, however, you gotta pray they grow up to be good and smart, or at least halfway decent and not completely stupid, or at the very least too stupid and lazy to do much damage. Either that or they die early and get replaced by someone in their family less dangerous.
But with all the resentment toward privilege these days, I can’t imagine that the privilege enjoyed by a royal family will fly with the Brits much longer, especially the younger ones. I mean, what self-respecting Millennial or Gen Zer is going to bow to another human being—or teach their children to bow? What woke young queen is going to bow to King Charles or his sons and grandsons?
I began writing about the British royals and all monarchies in general without realizing that Thursday, September 15, is the International Day of Democracy. So I guess it’s only fitting that I publish this rant today with the hope that, now that the Brits have finally put Lizzie in a box, they’ll chuck the whole concept of hereditary privilege in with her, along with the 29 dukes, 34 marquesses, 191 earls, 111 viscounts, 443 barons, and all of the other rotten leftovers still stinking up the place.
Featured image: Official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II before the start of her 1959 tour, wearing the Vladimir Tiara, the Queen Victoria Jubilee Necklace, and the blue Garter Riband. (CC BY 2.0)