Elizabeth Windsor, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is 90 years old today. She is the oldest Monarch ever to lead this land, and she has been Monarch longer than any other Head of State who has ruled us. She has been Queen for the whole of my life, and I am now sixty.
There’s going to be a lot of smarminess around today that I will do my best to avoid. It’s not going to be possible to avoid all of it: I have already been alerted to a piece of preposterousness from one commentator, suggesting that the look of sorrow in her corgi’s eyes stems from their not understanding her status, which is going to take a lot of shifting if it isn’t going to be awarded the accolade for most fatuous thing said in 2016.
You may already have surmised that I am not an ardent Royalist. I am, in fact, a Republican, and have been for many years. I don’t remember how far back this position goes: I can recall watching a repeat broadcasting of the Investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969, but I also remember getting home from University in 1974 on the day of Anne’s Wedding to Captain Mark Phillips and shooting straight upstairs to my room to avoid seeing anything of it on TV.
But it definitely goes back to before 1981, and Chas and Di and the New Sycophancy that resulted from that particular match. That was when I first understood the roots of my objection to the social structure that governs this country of mine.
I am a member of the middle class (I mean, I was a Solicitor for over thirty years, what else could I be?). I was born into an aspirant middle class family with working class roots, and I spent my first decade in a working class environment, a back street terrace in East Manchester. My roots, my instincts derive from where I come from.
My parents were Conservatives. They voted Conservative, they read a staunchly Conservative paper (the Daily Express), their instincts were Working Class Conservative, and in favour of the Monarchy. I loved my parents. I lost my Dad before we ever had the chance to have any ‘political’ conversations. I was, for several reasons, younger mentally and emotionally than my age, and I don’t recall having much of a rebellious streak in me (with my mother, that was never going to happen).
But from the first signs of consciousness of the world around me, my instincts, my convictions have always been diametrically opposed to those of my parents. I was never Red, never hard-line like many of my fellow Sixth Formers. When the time came to vote, I chose the Liberals: I have many times defined myself as an instinctive wet small-l liberal. And I am also a deeply rooted meritocrat. I believe in judging people for what they are, how they act, how they treat those around them.
My instincts rule out a hieratic class system, an aristocracy and of course a Monarchy.
Eventually,the Monarchy will fall in Britain, though I doubt I will live to see it. Hell’s bells, I have to doubt that I’ll live to see someone other than Elizabeth on the Throne! It will come, eventually. The concept of a class-based society, that privilege of birth is a valid marker of one’s position in the power structure and that this is right has been fighting back viciously these last several years, but ultimately Kings and Queens are a relic of a past now fading.
It’s obviously not going to come in Liz’s lifetime, nor will she ever abdicate. Charles is already in the position of being potentially the oldest Monarch ever to be crowned – if he survives that long – and there are myriad objections to him as Head of State, and many who would want to see him passed over in favour of William. It’s highly amusing listening to these ardent Royalists going on about choosing their own King, and not for a second understanding that if they did, they’d be smashing the institution, because the whole point of Royalty is that it is instantly heritable: upon Elizabeth’s death, Charles becomes King. The same second. Any attempt to prevent him acting as King is Revolutionary, Republican and – oh, what’s that word? Oh yes – Treason.
They still have the Rope for Treason.
But there will come a change after Elizabeth’s death. There’s no mood for Republicanism in this country as yet, nothing even approaching a substantial Minority. But this will change. There’s already talk of a Referendum on Charles.
I may not live to see it, but I believe it will come about. It’s a state of mind. Say what you like about the United States of America, but its citizens are exactly that: citizens. By right of birth they enjoy a fundamental equality that underpins their every thought and action.
I am not a citizen. No-one in Britain is a citizen. We are subjects, subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. The very word says it all for us. We are born in chains, mental chains to be sure, our very nature a reminder that we are by birth inferior, and not just inferior but subject to an authority that can be employed to override our choices for ourselves, an authority that by its very nature is designed to be arbitrary.
We are never free, internally, and as we’ve seen these past years, nor are we free externally, as those set above us by a system that places an individual, no matter how good in herself, in a place of supremacy that supports a vast pyramid of entitlement and power owing nothing to ability or morality and everything to birth, have demonstrated.
I am not a Monarchist. Everything I think, I believe in, refuses to allow me to be a Monarchist, to accept that anyone be placed above me save that he or she be better than I am. All that I am insists I cry Vive la Republique!
So today I wish an elderly lady called Elizabeth a Happy 90th Birthday. But I have nothing to say to or for her alter ego.