Comment Writer Tom Cohen takes us through the corrupt nature of Queen’s consent, determining it to be the undoing of democracy
The early ‘noble lie’ as to how monarchs acquire their mandate to rule was through ‘divine right.’ A monarch was believed to be chosen by God and whose rule was therefore unquestionable. Evidently, belief in divine right no longer does any leg work to legitimate their existence, instead we have a constitutional monarchy. The existence of our Queen, we are told, is through formality, heritage and tradition, but this is just as much a ‘noble lie’ as the divine right that came before it. As has been revealed, connections between royalty and governance are closer than any of us had previously thought. The Royals’ role is not merely formal nor ambassadorial, instead they are landlords with their own political interest (and power), a vestige of landed gentry we are loathed to forget still exists in the United Kingdom.
An investigative report by The Guardian has revealed that a parliamentary process known as Queen’s consent has been used on multiple occasions by the Queen in order to influence legal decision making, including an effort to hide ‘embarrassing’ shares in companies and the royal family’s personal wealth. Queen’s consent means that for certain bills that affect matters relating to the ‘royal prerogative’ or the assets and interests of the Crown, ministers must seek approval of the reigning monarch in order to allow them to be debated in parliament. Although the process is intended to be a formality, the investigation conducted by David Pegg and Rob Evans, found many cases of Queen’s consent being rejected by the Buckingham Palace. In the 1970s Buckingham Palace used the process in order to become exempt from having to disclose the true nature of her wealth and investments. The exemption came as cunningly disguised when a clause added to the bill excused foreign leaders and heads of state from revealing such information. This, of course, included the Queen.
Although this provokes righteous fury, I cannot help but find the news unsurprising. Queen Elizabeth II is often cited as the largest landowner in the world, giving the monarch an enormous political interest. It is impossible to remain unbiassed in matters political while possessing such a large financial stake, especially when, for normal people, rent is rising faster than ever before and the proportion of home ownership falls dramatically. It is no wonder that the Royals would want to hide their capital as the ridiculous wealth disparity is becoming more apparent in the news and minds of ordinary people. People may start to ask the dreaded question ‘what are the royal family for?’ and it is a reasonable question to ask. Not only does the Queen have very real power to bend the law, but the monarch also finds themself in a position above the law. Our constitution says any reigning monarch has sovereign immunity, meaning that they cannot be criminally prosecuted. This makes the Queen’s corrupting influence all the more concerning, we have seen parliament will protect the interest of the one who wears the crown and even cover up their involvement. I am reminded here of the lie that the banks were ‘too big to fail’ in the 2008 financial crisis, the monarchy is simply too big to fail. But my position is the same: let them fail. Let the people see ruthless pursuit of wealth for what it is, and how it corrupts.
There are legal and constitutional concerns with the problem of the UK’s monarchy, but we cannot forget the very severe precedent it possesses in the modern world. The Queen is an icon of wealth, privilege and private ownership and her position as head of state is intrinsically tied to this iconography. This signals and legitimates that power is vested in the white and wealthy; power is born into; it is bred with ‘high standards.’ This is evermore discomforting when considering our monarchy’s attachment to Britain’s imperial history and neo-colonial present. Let us not forget that Elizabeth II acts as regnal not only to the UK, but for 15 Commonwealth realms where her powers can and have been used paternalistically over those countries which we have invaded, destabilised and plundered.
The lie now, that Britain’s regnal interests are that of tradition and ceremony and nothing of actual power, ignores the true nature of power; Ideas can be just as powerful as politicking. The idea that a 94-year-old multi-millionaire; the sole owner of the largest share of the world’s land; who and whose ancestors participated in the domination and oppression of millions, is allowed to even exist and be celebrated? It undermines democracy. Democracy is meant to mean ‘rule by the people,’ but the existence of the Royals is a reminder to all of their subjects that it is privilege that dictates rule. At least politicians exist under the aura of working for us, we are Queen’s subjects and therefore tools by which wealth is extracted from and power is exercised over.
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