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Questioning the relevance of monarchy

Updated: Sep 18, 2021



In our minds the image of a monarch is usually that of a big strong man sitting on a throne or of Queen Elizabeth II. The idea of a kingdom and a royal family comes across as a fairy tale. Monarchy, however, is essentially a political system based upon the rule of a single person and supreme authority is vested in them. This individual ruler, more often than not, achieves their position through heredity.


In today’s time, there are two types of monarchies which are actively practiced by over twenty-five countries (excluding the British Overseas Territories). These are Absolute and Constitutional. Under absolute monarchy, the ruler can use their power according to their discretion and the people of the country have no say in the proceedings of court. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman fall under this category.

On the other hand, constitutional monarchies entail a written or implied constitution and central government body like a parliament. The leader is still the monarch and the crown may be passed via bloodline; however, they do not hold the power to do as they please. Instead, they must rule within a set constitution of laws and act as a figurehead while the government is run by the parliament and prime minister. A very well-known example of such is the United Kingdom.


In this era, with so many different forms of government, it is indeed necessary to question the relevance of the monarchy and why it is still so prominent.


Serge Schmemann argues in The New York Times that monarchs are capable of rising above politics in a way that elected officials cannot as they cannot be influenced by and in a sense beholden to money, the media, or a political party. Moreover, another advantage of monarchs is that they have been trained since birth, to rule. Additionally, monarchies have the gravitas and prestige to make hard and necessary decisions. For instance, at the end of the Second World War, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito saved the lives of a multitude of people by advocating for Japan’s surrender.


A criticism that monarchies often face is that even the best of monarchs can leave an unworthy successor. However, heirs are educated from birth for their future role and live in the full glare of the media their entire lives. More importantly, because they have been ‘born to rule’, they have had been trained all their lives to ascend to the throne. As compared to a democracy, there is a higher chance of a monarch being well educated, with the ability to think critically and take prompt decisions for the benefit of the entire nation.


Paradoxically, some people to be political leaders and have them fail at the position for, they may not even want to be in charge in the first place. When there is apathy within the monarchy, the entire nation will suffer. Additionally, the example of a constitutional monarchy is taken, many people see Queen Elizabeth II as a figurehead head of state, however during her reign, there have been three instances when she has decided to appoint the prime minister instead of allowing the elected officials to do so ( 1957, 1963, and 1974).


Another important point to remember is that monarchs do not have any incentive to keep people happy. They do not have to worry about losing seats in an election due to an error of judgement or the outcome of taking tough decisions for the benefit of a country.


In the 21st century, democracy is considered as the best form of government (by the masses of course) and monarchy is often seen as a divisive system of politics with little to no diversity among the leaders. While a democracy is not much better than a traditional monarchy; as it is after all, very easy to manipulate masses with propaganda and bring into power, incompetent leaders, who don’t have the betterment of the country in mind. A nation can still be held responsible for voting someone ill-fitted into a position of power. On the other hand, monarchy is a deal of chance. There is a probability of being ruled by an authoritarian tyrant for the entirety of one's life or a fantastic leader who drags the nation to great heights, along with a multitude of other types in between. Sometimes, the leaders are worth the risk of awarding someone with absolute power.


So, in all honesty, it is tough to say whether or not monarchies are relevant, because they have their fair share of advantages, but, in an ever changing world, how long can an archaic concept like this last?


References

Ballard, B. (2020, May 1). A right royal argument: are monarchies still relevant? Retrieved from Eurpoean CEO: https://www.europeanceo.com/home/featured/a-right-royal-argument-are-monarchies-still-relevant/


Kostiner, J. (n.d.). Monarchy. Retrieved from Brittanica : https://www.britannica.com/topic/monarchy


Pillalamarri, A. (2014, June 24). Why Monarchies Are Still Relevant and Useful in the 21st Century. Retrieved from The Diplomat: https://thediplomat.com/2014/06/why-monarchies-are-still-relevant-and-useful-in-the-21st-century/


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