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Monarchists Should Stop Confusing King and Country

Source: Ansel Bayly

Following the coronation of King Charles III, News Editor Ansel Bayly argues that monarchists confuse their patriotism with support for the monarchy.

There were many slogans I expected to hear chanted when I turned up to protest King Charles’ coronation. Not my king – expected. Down with the crown – cheesy, but fine. You can shove your coronation up your arse – bit on the nose but, yeah, more or less.

Free Graham Smith. Who?

At first, I didn’t chant. I didn’t know who Graham Smith was, nor what he had done. The answer, it turns out, is that Graham Smith is the CEO of the largest anti-monarchy organisation in the country, Republic, and was arrested for, well, nothing. And if you don’t believe me, believe the Met Police, who have since dropped all charges and apologised for the arrest.

Mr Smith was one of 52 people arrested on the day of the coronation in relation to possible disruption. At 2am, three women’s safety volunteers were arrested for handing out rape whistles, with police claiming “intelligence” that individuals were planning on using said whistles to disturb the horses involved in the procession. Around 6:40am, Mr Smith, along with six other Republic staff, was arrested for “going equipped for locking on” – an offense created under the Public Order Act 2023, which came into effect just four days before the coronation.

Take a moment to consider these events. Dozens arrested. The head of the country’s leading republican organisation among them. Volunteers arrested for carrying rape whistles.

So it grates, just a little, when you hear the monarchists claim that the coronation – with its many traditions and unparalleled pomp – represents the best of Britain. Is this really the best Britain can do? For many monarchists, the coronation represents a living connection to our past, a moment to be proud of our nation, its traditions and its history. To them, I ask what traditions, exactly? What history, exactly, are we proud of? The arbitrary subjugation of a people to one supreme leader? To an institution that is yet to apologise for its role in the transatlantic trade of enslaved Africans, or for the horrors of colonialism? The embodiment of hereditary privilege in our head of state? Are we proud of the estimated £100 million spent on the coronation of an individual already worth £1.8 billion, while 13 million people in the UK live in poverty? Are we proud to see peaceful protesters in handcuffs? Are we proud of a family that footed the reported £2 million bill for an out-of-court settlement of an accused sexual offender?

To say all this, to criticise the monarchy and all that it stands for, so often means to be accused of being unpatriotic. That argument is tantamount to saying that there is nothing in this country worthy of our patriotism, worthy of our pride, outside of the monarchy. Frankly, that’s a pretty grim and, you could say, unpatriotic view itself.

When I think of what we ought to be proud of about Britain, I think of diversity. Then I remember the hounding of Megan Markle by a racist tabloid press and the silence of the monarchy. I think of freedom of religion, then I remember the King’s oath to “maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion, established by law”. I think of the NHS, of its egalitarian principle that everyone, regardless of their wealth, has a right to healthcare. And I remember the nurses using food banks while the King rides in a literal golden carriage. I think of democracy and freedom of speech. Then I remember the despondent silence of peaceful protesters in handcuffs and the roars of “God Save the King” in fealty to an unelected, antidemocratic head of state.

The monarchy is antithetical to these things that make Britain great. And yet when we feel a sense of patriotism, we channel it into the monarchy. I feel it too. The sense of community, of a nation embodied in a man – these are undeniably powerful sentiments. But these ideas do not belong to monarchy. The only thing intrinsic to monarchy is the elevation of one ruler above a people, a ruler chosen not by merit or by election, but by birth and the supposed will of a protestant God. However much the monarch tries to model itself as the servant of the people, or as a protector of all faiths – and I accept they have (sort of) tried – it will fail, because the monarchy is essentially contradictory to all these things.

To exist in a monarchy is to place the principles of unchecked power and hereditary privilege at the centre of our state. Everything else, everything we are as a nation (good and bad), is our own, not our monarch’s. A nation belongs to its people, not to a king. It’s high time we reclaimed ours.

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