The Monarchy reminds politicians of their
rightful place

Last weekend I enjoyed ‘Our Queen At Ninety’ on ITV, and in a time when many are calling a constitutional monarchy ‘out of date,’ I think it’s worth exploring what value the monarchy still holds.

I would argue that the monarchy has survived and continues to be useful because having a politically neutral, ceremonial head of State, who is not simultaneously the head of the executive branch of Government, is a stabilising and healthy part of our constitution as it subordinates the role of elected politicians.

The Monarch is above the Prime Minister. It is right and good that the Prime Minister is not the head of the British state. It makes the office of Prime Minister more obviously one of public servitude in a way that the office of the American President does not seem to be.

In the UK, because the Queen and her extended family cut ribbons, elected politicians don’t. In the United States, executive decisions are made by unelected members of the President’s Administration whilst the President carries out ceremonial commitments. Aside from the democratic deficit that creates, it is important that politicians don’t forget that they are public servants. Taking politicians away from their service and making them cut ribbons turns them into VIPs. This seems to advance a sense of grandiosity and hubris in politicians who already need no encouragement.

There is a cult-like reverence around anyone who holds power. People like powerful people for no reason other than because they have power. I’m glad the UK focuses most of that energy on a politically neutral head of state rather than any politician. Wrapping the ceremonial trappings of a head of state with the powers of the executive branch removes a check of executive power.

In 2008, Cato Institute scholar, Gene Healy, wrote a book called ‘The Cult of The Presidency’ documenting the serious abuses of executive power by the Presidency. If the USA did not have a written document specifically limiting government power, the Constitution, this aggrandisement of the head of executive power could have made the American government bigger and the office of President more autocratic. All the worst ever politicians have tried to make themselves cult leaders because it makes them untouchable.

In the ‘Our Queen at Ninety’ programme it mentioned that the Queen had seen no less than twelve American Presidents come and go. Whether you like her or loathe her, it feels like the Queen has been around for an age. It is healthy for politicians to have a reminder that they are transient, public servants just around to do a job, and can be replaced easily whilst the show goes on without them.

Politicians are divisive and usually, the more effective they are, the more divisive they are. The monarchy has undeniably been a unifying and stabilising influence on the United Kingdom and has helped shape the British identity. This is useful because it means divisive politicians can only divide up to a point, with the Monarchy acting as a rallying point for healing division and emphasising a common status as British subjects.

For these reasons, merging the head of state with the head of the executive branch of government would be unwise. I can easily see how this role being carried out by a celebrity family is considered anachronistic. If the monarchy is ever replaced, however, it should be replaced with an elected, ceremonial, and politically neutral head of state for the sake of the subordination of overarching elected politicians.


Sara is a journalist, art apprentice, and neo-decadent poet. Follow her on Twitter: @Sayde_Scarlett

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty

  • Stuart Murray

    Ben, you have completely (conveniently?) overlooked the influence that the monarch holds – and her family – in political matters. We know she commented on the Scottish referendum, it’s said she has a Brexit view on the forthcoming referendum – private conversations with politicians who she could probably influence. Prince Charles is well documented in his intervention with ministers on a whole range of subjects and is always pushing his own agenda. Who needs reminding they are public servants?? The electorate can remind politicians that they are dispensable – we have no opportunity to do that to an influential family that exert influence effectively through nothing more than accident of birth.
    Usually I can’t find fault with what you say!! :)

  • Sara Scarlett

    Ben did not write this article.

    Your comment deals with the soft power/hard power question. I didn’t deal with it because it’s another blog post for another day.

  • Marilyn

    Interesting article.

    I just want to point out that the president of the US has a cabinet who administer various divisions of the government such as Health and Human Services under the direction of the President. He appoints them and the Senate confirms his selection by a simple majority of votes. He can dismiss them at his will and they report to him. He also has advisors and aides who are just that: They aid and assist him, but carry out his directives. They are not there to make the crucial decisions, or are not supposed to since that is not their purpose or the intent of their positions. Congress and the President work together (or that is what they are supposed to be doing) to enact laws. The President vetoes or approves legislation. If Congress receives a veto with or without an explanation for the veto, a bill will either die or be reworked or can be passed unchanged if it goes through both houses with a 2/3 majority of votes, thus overriding the veto. So, the position of chief executive (President) is an active, not a passive, ceremonial one. If you are interested in exploring this in greater detail:

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/executive-branch

  • matt

    “The Queen and her extended family cut ribbons” You omit to say how much this costs? at least with politicians we can get rid of them every five years or so.
    What real purpose in a supposed democracy besides “cutting ribbons” are the royal family for?
    ” Constitutional Monarchy” we don’t have a written constitution.
    You aught to read your history of Monarchy to see how many of them have persecuted their ‘subjects ‘and have had them executed for having different religious views, and for a host of other reasons, also having their wives, brothers, and other relatives and many countless people sent to their death in order to maintain them believing in the ‘Devine Right to Rule’

  • Ann Bok

    That’s History Matt, Now we have heads of state that order decapitation and punishment to us of the lower order, plus others of the higher order that get in their way.
    You don’t have a constitution but you do have a Magna Carta!
    The UK has a fantastic History, part of which is the Royal Family don’t knock it. You haven’t got a Zuma.

  • Sara Scarlett

    Thank you, Marilyn, for your thoughtful comment.

    Matt, off the top of my head I believe the Queen and the Prime Minister cost less combined than the President of the United States costs per citizen. I’d need to look into that more to be certain.

    Our Constitution isn’t written but we do still have one.

    I know a lot about the history of Monarchy, I also know that many American Presidents owned slaves. What happened in the past isn’t a good measure of the value of our institutions now.