Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Monday, 4 June 2012

How to Abolish the Monarchy

She's still around then?

So it seems. Republicans don't really seem to getting far in this country for some reason.

Roy Jenkins more-or-less said republicanism was a hopeless cause, suggesting that the only way to abolish the monarchy was for a progressive political party to stand in a General Election with that as it's main Manifesto commitment and win an absolute majority, which frankly isn't going to happen.

But that may be a tad defeatist. Since 1945 more than eighty kingdoms or sultanates have become republics, so its not as if it never happens.

What we need is a plan, so lets look at other monarchies that bit the dust, and see what we can learn.

1) The King (or Queen) Over The Water

If your King or Queen isn't from your country, doesn't speak the language and doesn't actually even live there then getting rid of them is easy.

Iceland became a republic when it severed its ties to Denmark in 1944 and Ireland showed the way for the British Empire in 1949 when the Dáil Éireann passed the  Republic of Ireland Act and ditched Colin Firth. (but see comments below).

India followed suit the next year and our current Queen has been ditched as head of state by Pakistan, Ghana, South Africa, Tanganyika, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, The Gambia, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Malta, Trinida and Tobego, Zimbabwe, Fiji and Mauritius to date with Barbados and Jamaica planning referendums.. Quite an impressive list.

The downside is that whoever replaces them will need to live in your country and hence require feeding and watering, which is an argument Australians have used repeatedly in debates about becoming a republic. Better a Queen with her head in our trough than a President with his head in theirs, being the argument.

The problem is that despite the last indisputably British king probably being old King Cole, we still seem to think of the Royals as British. Plus they do live here and speak English.

Plan: Persuade the Windsors to move back to Germany and speak German.

 2) The Agent of a Foreign Power

Kings put in place by a hated foreign power are never much liked as witnessed by the fate of Maximilian I (and only) of Mexico. A bemused Austrian aristocrat persuaded to become King of Mexico by Napoleon III, he was second rate ruler, he did at least go on to become a first rate piece Impressionist art.

The nearest modern equivalent is the late and unlamented Shah of Iran. Originally put in place by an Anglo-Russian invasion in World War II that deposed his father, he was elevated to absolute power by an Anglo-American coup masterminded by CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt.

You could say Kermit made him an American puppet, but I won't. This is a serious blog.

Plan: Spread the rumour that the CIA bumped off the nice George VI.

3) The Communist Takeover

Progressive politics hasn't always bothered with the niceties of democratic elections.

Communism and royalty never really mixed and communists coups or rigged elections have removed the kings of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Vietnam, and Laos and the sultans and emirs of South Yemen (all 25 of them).

Unfortunate the commies went of business a few years ago and haven't been heard of much since.

Plan: Bring back Comintern

4) The Military Coup

The left unfortunately doesn't have the monopoly on undemocratic routes to power, and military coups have deposed the rulers of Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Rwanda, Yemen, Burundi, Libya,  Afghanistan, Ethiopia and the Central African Empire.

Unfortunately subsequent heads of state have been amongst the most oppressive and homicidal in the world and most of these countries have since seen war and slaughter on an industrial scale.

Plan: I think we'll pass on this one.

5) The Fascist Collaborators

Italy and Greece both removed their kings in popular referendums. The monarchs had pissed on their chips by endorsing a fascist dictator and a military dictatorship respectively.

Worse, the fascists then went on to lose a war against a hated neighbour. Ironically in Italy's case this was actually Greece.

Now we very nearly did have a king who would have collaborated with any fascists he found given half a chance, but unfortunately he abdicated in 1936 and was replaced by his brother, who did as much to stand up to fascism as any constitutional monarch really could.

Plan:  Well, we could ask Harry to get his infamous fancy dress costume out again, but all told we're probably best passing on this one too.

6) The Palace Massacre

The world's newest republic is Nepal, where King  Gyanendra was deposed after he dissolved parliament and tried to defeat a Maoist insurgency via direct rule. He failed, but it wasn't the Maoists that did for him, but his own nephew Dipendra.

On 1 June 2001 Dipendra attended a party at his palace held by his father and mother, the popular King Birenda and Queen Aishwarya. Eton educated Dipendra then apparently got rat-arsed, argued with his dad about who he should marry, and eventually went mad with a brace of assault rifles and killed both his parents, two uncles, two aunts, a brother, a sister and a cousin.

He then tried to kill himself, failed and ended up becoming king by default whilst in a coma in hospital, before expiring three days later as the country's penultimate monarch. After that it was hard to convince the Nepalese people that their royals could be trusted with scissors, let alone power.

Juan Carlos of Spain only became king after his elder brother accidentally shot himself whilst cleaning his revolver and in 1975 King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was gunned down by his own nephew. Only one other king has been killed since WWII (also a Faisal, but of Iraq) so it seems the biggest threat to the life of a royal family comes from their own firearms. 

Plan: Well, we know they like guns......

7) The Deferred Republic

Samoa technically became a republic on independence in 1962, but they sportingly allowed the two existing kings to carry on for the rest of their lives.

One died the next year, but the other, Malietoa Tanufili II, was made of sterner stuff and soldiered on for the next 45 years before finally pegging out at the age of 94, probably after having outlived everyone who drew up the constitution.

Samoa then became a republic, and if that wasn't a big enough change for everyone they pretty rapidly changed the side of the road they drove on and missed a day out of their calendar so they could cross the International Date Line.

Plan: Given how long our royals tend to live this might not be feasible if you wish to actually live to see a republic.

And that I'm afraid is about it.

There was a popular revolt in Zanzibar, but it was a one off. So if we wish to be rid of the Windsors it's one of the seven options above.

In the meantime we can perhaps take comfort in the words of the mildly republican Spanish Princess Eulalia who, when asked what the people of Britain would gain if we abolished the monarchy, replied
"They would gain as little as if, by a popular uprising, the citizens of London killed the lions in their zoo. There may have been a time when lions were dangerous in England, but the sight of them in their cages now can only give a pleasurable holiday-shudder of awe - of which, I think, the nation will not willingly deprive itself."


A Heron's View said...

Oath of allegiance to the British crown:
Terminated in 1932, when Eamon de Valera amended the IRISH Free State's constitution by a simple majority in the Dáil, firstly to allow him to introduce any constitutional amendments irrespective of whether they clashed with the Anglo-Irish Treaty,(of that era) then amended the constitution to remove Article 17 of the constitution which required the taking of the Oath.

Martin Porter said...

Ah, I knew someone would pull me up there - and suspected it would be you.

There is not an easy answer to this.

Some would say it ended in 1936 when Ireland accepted the abdication of Edward VIII but did not recognise George VI, others that it was 1962 when the whole constitution was given a spring clean to remove any residual monarchy that might have been left behind.

However you're probably right to pick 1932, as once De Valera was in power there was no chance of anything the king ordered actually being carried out.