Royal wedding: Spat between monarchists and republicans

Tony Benn smoking a pipe
Image caption Are Tony Benn's republican views tolerated only because he won't be prime minister?

Not everybody will be celebrating Prince William and Kate Middleton's big day. There are those who believe the UK should not be ruled by a monarch. In the run up to the royal wedding commentators have been putting across their views on the debate between monarchists and republicans.

It is irrational. It is sentimental. It is absurd. It is the monarchy. So goes Peter Oborne's examination in the Telegraph of the British relationship with the royal family. But he goes on to explain why he thinks the apparently anachronistic institution has survived in Britain.

"At times it is completely dotty. And yet the monarchy works," he says. This is because it "humanises what can otherwise appear a distant and impersonal state".

"People who find it very hard to relate to an Act of Parliament, to a Brussels directive, a law lord or a permanent secretary (all essential parts of government) get the point of the Royal Family."

Much like a soap opera, he suggests that the public share in the Royal Family's tragedies, joys and family dramas. But he goes further to argue that there is something about hereditary rule that people like. Oborne argues the only people who don't like it are intellectuals as there is "no way that it would ever fit in with their grand, abstract schemes for the transformation of society".


While Oborne picks out the politician Tony Benn as Britain's "most distinguished republican", Steve Richards says in the Independent that other politicians are hiding their republican views. He suggests there are far more republicans in positions of power than we are aware of but that it is politically unacceptable to admit it.

Richards says there has never been a moment when senior politicians who wanted to win elections could come out. Tony Benn, he argues, is a publicly declared republican but his views are only accepted because he will never rule as an elected politician.

Richards argues that political leaders keep their republican views to themselves because they believe the public and press would turn on them.

Which all means for Richards that the "anachronistic absurdity of Britain's royal family, with its vast inherited wealth and theoretical power cannot be touched".

International influence

In the Financial Times, Labour MP Tristram Hunt adds that silencing of republicans may be because of the global benefits the royals offer Britain. In a time when the nation's military and economic power are dwindling, he says the wedding is proving to continue Britain's influence across the world. Mr Hunt urges the public to "set aside cosmopolitan cynicism to salute the allure of monarchy and Britain as a land of history." He goes on to argue that, while others have oil and diamonds, the British have the past and "rather than running from it, we should exploit it".

Image caption In the US War of Independence the British monarchy was rejected in favour of a republic

The US obsession with the British monarchy is questioned by Mark Oppenheimer in Slate. He urges Americans to boycott the royal wedding because "Americans are supposed to hate monarchs, not worship them".

He says that for an American to be excited about the royal wedding is "undignified and lame". He adds "if you get up at 3 am on Friday to watch the wedding on television, you are a traitor to your country".

Oppenheimer says his distaste at the relentless royal wedding rolling news being pumped out to American homes stems from that fact that "in the earliest years of English settlement, this land was a proud haven for king killers". And subsequently anti-monarchism was written into the US constitution.

Compassionate republicanism

The novelist Martin Amis recently launched a scathing attack against the current system in an interview with the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur.

But it wasn't against the monarchy's inherited wealth and power for being unfair to the public. Instead, he argues that the responsibility and invasion of privacy isn't fair on Prince William. The Telegraph translated the interview in which Mr Amis asks "how can we, today, ask for so much from a human being?".

A similar sentiment is expressed in the Economist which says the kindest wedding gift to the newlyweds would be a republic. Based on the dramas of Prince Charles and Diana's marriage and her death, the newspaper argues that class friction could eventually destroy the marriage.

"For the sake of the country, but also as an act of kindness," it argues "pension the royals off. Time for compassionate republicanism: it might be the best wedding present the young couple could have."