Bill Emmott at PostGlobal

Bill Emmott

Great Britain

Bill Emmott is the former editor of The Economist magazine, a leading international current affairs publication from England. He is now an independent writer, speaker, and consultant on international affairs. Close.

Bill Emmott

Great Britain

Bill Emmott is the former editor of The Economist magazine, a leading international current affairs publication from England. more »

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An Englishman Says Abolish Monarchy

As an Englishman, I feel a need to respond to the accusation that we are all twits who dote on the monarchy. In 1994 I wrote an editorial declaring The Economist, of which I was then the editor, to be republican and arguing that the monarchy should be abolished. It is an anachronism from a past age of deference, and stands in the way of proper constitutional checks and balances. Lacking any legitimacy, it can no longer be a check itself.

The truth is, however, that few people in Britain really care about the monarchy, one way or another. Most would rather keep it than abolish it, rather as they would prefer to keep a nice old building rather than see it demolished. But they are indifferent about it, except for its celebrity aspects.

Short of a national crisis or an heir to the throne being exposed as a pedophile or the like, the monarchy will endure for many generations still to come. If there were to be a referendum on its future when Prince Charles becomes king (and I would advocate just such a vote), it would certainly be retained as people would be too divided about what to put in its place.

One final comment: Please, please, let no one in response to this bring up what I think is the most embarrassing argument for any proud Brit: the idea that the monarchy should be kept because it is good for tourism. This is embarrassing because it suggests we should maintain a constitutional arrangement for purely commercial reasons. And it is stupid; tourists still flock to the Palace of Versailles more than 200 years since the French revolution abolished France's monarchy. Tourists need only palaces and guards in Medieval dress. We could get rid of the royal family at no risk to our economy. But we won't, I am sad to say.

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