I am yet to meet anyone who knows all the lyrics to ‘God Save the Queen’ who isn’t: a) Over 50 or b) Googling them while singing. I am sure you all wait with feverish excitement on Christmas day for her vapid speech, which of course she is not reading from a screen strategically placed behind the camera. But we all know that even during such a festive and patriotic occasion all you’re really concerned with is fighting against Fat Aunty Sue for the last toffee penny Quality Street.
One of the (very) few useful things that I have learnt during my year studying law is something that I was certain of already: The Queen contributes categorically nothing to the world. The ‘extremely important’ role the Queen plays in government is nothing more than a ‘constitutional convention’. As the term suggests, it means that whenever the Queen, for example gives her royal assent to a law, it does not make a legally binding difference as to whether or not said law will be passed. It is nothing more than routine. Indeed, she might shake the new Prime Minister’s hand, but that does not mean that they actually work together. Rather than the government serving the Queen, it is more like the Queen is serving the government. I am certainly no fan of Teresa May and her traumatic trousers, but considering the number of people who actually do things in this country it seems more appropriate for the Queen to shake the hand of the Prime Minister.
An analogy that I feel the Queen fits into well is as if she were the parent of a student, the student being Britain. In the interests of politeness, the student might tell the mother what they are doing, and where but even if the mother doesn’t approve, what can she do to stop her child? She is miles away, her child in turn is flourishing and living an independent life and, bluntly, does not really need the mother for anything anymore. Therefore, to keep the peace, the mother might as well bite her tongue and agree with the child, as it makes no difference to the outcome. In similar vein, the Queen is so far removed from our country and the day-to-day runnings of it (she can’t even be bothered to run her own Twitter account), what purpose does she really serve?
You could say that with the Royal Wedding there was a ‘revival’ in the popularity of the Royals. But where was this popularity grounded? In the case of Wills and Kate, it was because they represented a type of lifestyle more of us could relate to. Despite what William’s hairline would lead you to believe, him and Kate are reasonably young as far as monarchs go these days. They met at University, fell in love, had a little couple’s ‘tiff’, and eventually got married and had lots of babies. They represent the ‘settled’ nuclear family life most people see as an end-goal in life: Kate’s looks obviously help, but the fact they are Royal may be the reason for their fame, but it is not the reason why people like them. The difference between the two must be duly noted. It is their personal attributes that keep them in the public eye. Somebody like Charles is the monarchy’s answer to Jar Jar Binks, in comparison, because he is unlikeable, faded into a position between disdain and pity.
Even though she died a year before I was born, everybody knew and loved Princess Diana: she was the single most famous woman in the world. It is my opinion that what made her so special was the fact that she was ‘The People’s Princess’. In other words, the very fact that she was not typically Royal was why she was so well-loved: the same phenomenon we see with Wills and Kate. The fact she came from a normal middle-class background, didn’t put herself on a pedestal, related to others and was very human in the publicised mistakes she made caused the whole world to respect her not as an accessory to Buckingham Palace, but as a human being in her own right. Whilst I feel that being a Royal will naturally throw you in the spotlight, the more ‘Royal’ one acts the less people care. My mum visited London the week of Diana’s funeral, and the whole city, she told me, was in complete mourning: the usually bustling London was so silent that you could hear a pin drop.
Meanwhile, when the Queen got a sniffle over Christmas, I got the impression that the public either didn’t notice at all or had a morbid curiosity that she might die: I wouldn’t go as far as saying some people ‘hoped’ she would, but I feel like the public were definitely prepared for it in case it happened, and the concern for the Queen’s actual welfare seemed somewhat minimal, as opposed to waiting for news of whether she ‘kicked the bucket’.
I digress, however. Nobody can deny that the Diamond Jubilee was a highlight of 2012 – Gary Barlow was marvellous! But once the lavish performance was over, everyone stopped caring and went back to their everyday life. The fact there was such a rapid peak in her popularity at this time which decreased almost just as rapidly makes me think that whilst we may like the ‘idea’ of a monarchy, it really makes no difference to our lives whether we have one or not. Our gift shops might be full of mugs with the Windsors’ faces on them, but it is clear in my opinion that she is nothing more than a tourist attraction.
We all come across Her Majesty at least once a day with money and stamps, but we fill these items with her face not out of patriotism or love for Britain, it is because it is more or less the only thing that makes us as a country a bit interesting. If the Bank of England and Royal Mail wanted to they could replace all the Queen faces with Susan Boyle. It would not change our economy one jot, it will just be a bit random. Therefore, much like her presence on money, it is clear that in this day and age the presence of the monarchy is nothing more than symbolic.