How Does the British Monarchy Survive?
For any intelligent outsider watching this weekend’s coronation in London, it almost certainly raises one question: Just how does an institution as unashamedly archaic as the British monarchy survive some 200 years of parliamentary democracy? The answer comes down to one word: neutrality.
Scratch beneath the surface and most Britons—even those proudly hanging the Union Jack bunting for the coronation—realize deep down how illogical it is to structure our entire constitution around one ruling family. Yet they also believe (perhaps correctly) that keeping our monarchy completely neutral is a foolproof system to eliminate any threat.
Of course, when it comes to party politics, that’s easy enough. But in the age of the all-consuming culture wars, true neutrality can be hard to maintain. The modern-day risk isn’t necessarily that the king expresses political views, it’s that his views or actions end up becoming politicized.
We saw an example of this last November when the monarchy became dangerously close to being embroiled in a full-blown race quarrel (a row, incidentally, that did not involve Meghan Markle). It began when a long-term palace aide (a personal friend of the late queen) stepped down from her duties following her tactless questioning of a black British guest. Within hours, the story had exploded.
On television channels like GB News, right-wing blowhards thundered their predictable outrage that an 83-year-old aristocrat could be forced out for a supposedly innocent faux pas. In response, progressive newspapers ran equally template op-eds about how seriously we should all take so-called microaggressions in the workplace.
You may well have a view on the rights and wrongs of the Lady Susan Hussey saga. But that isn’t the point. The real question is how an institution like Buckingham Palace—inevitably seen as an extension of its inhabitant—is meant to handle such a predicament when any response risks fanning the flames of the culture war.
In the end, the palace got it exactl
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