By Ann Montague
Over 50 million people watched Oprah Winfrey’stell all interview with the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk (“Prince” Harry and Meghan Markle). They discussed their personal experiences with race but not systemic racism. They also discussed their relationship with the institution of the Monarchy, but of course without questioning its justification for existence. They were both quite generous towards Queen Elizabeth II, who is an unelected “Head of State” with an immense fortune, but only ceremonial powers inherited from the feudal era.
The monarchy is deployed today as national morale builders in times of imperialist war, or to encourage the UK’s “national interests” through “The Queen’s (or King’s) Speech,” or to present symbolic awards during archaic ceremonies.
In some countries, like Sweden the monarchy is solely ceremonial, that is, explicitly with no executive power. In England, the monarchy’s ceremonial duties are extended a bit further, but still with no real impact of the nation’s parliamentary system. The Queen is the “Head of State.” She must give her “Royal Assent” to legislation passed by elected members of Parliament. She has the “power” to dismiss Parliament. All these titles and “powers” notwithstanding, no British monarch has ever employed them to determine, alter or undermine any aspect of British capitalism’s parliamentary operations. Similarly, the British Queen is the “Head of State” over sixteen other countries called “The Commonwealth Realm.” These countries each have a Governor-General who is the representative of the British Queen. The elected Prime Ministers govern only under the “Crown Prerogative” through the “power” of the monarch, again a ceremonial arrangement.
Monarchy’s Australian Governor General
In 1975 during a budget stalemate the Queen’s Governor-General in Australia, Sir John Kerr did actually dismiss the elected Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (Australian Labor Party) and his government. Kerr then appointed the opposition leader to be Prime Minister and commanded a new election. But even here, the British Queen’s “ceremonial” Australian Governor General acted only when the government itself was stalemated, incapable of approving any budget via securing a parliamentary majority. As with similar situations across Europe, in Italy, Spain, for example, new elections are called as a matter of course, whether the formal call is issued by a titular monarch or by implementing a parliamentary rule.
In the Oprah Winfrey interview the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk often referred to “The Firm” and to “The Institution.” Markle specifically referred to The Firm as her employer. “At my old job there was a union, and they would protect me, but now I was alone.” The term “The Firm” was first used by Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, who declared, “We are not a family. We are a firm.” When Markle need help for her mental health issues she said she went to the “Human Resources Department.” The business interests of the Monarchy are substantial. They formally preside over all those who run the numerous palaces and royal family members that live in them. Buckingham Palace alone employs more than 1,200 workers, from maids and cooks to the royal’s corporate style public relations firm.
The Monarchy’s £Millions and £Billions
Almost all of the expenditures of the Monarchy are paid through the “Sovereign Grant,” which is covered entirely by the British taxpayer. During the height of austerity while the working class saw cuts to the National Health Service, disability services and libraries, British taxpayers paid £370 Million for the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.
The Queen’s personal assets of £500 million include jewels, investments and two castles. The Monarchy’s House of Windsor owns £28 billion in prime real estate, from central London to remote farms in Scotland. Thousands of the its employees around the world are similarly maintained via the “Sovereign Grant.”
The Firm exists to defend the institution of the Monarchy, heirs of the UK’s slave trading, racist and imperialist history.
When Meghan Markle, a women of African ancestry, was recently and repeatedly attacked and subjected to racist lies by the British gutter tabloid media, The Firm stood silent, according to the Winfrey interview. It went as far as intervening to reject Markle’s lunching with her friends or even leaving Kensington Palace because she was “overexposed.”
Crimes of British Colonialism
Black and Brown people around the world had their land and resources stolen from them and were captured and sold as slaves. The European imperial slave traders, led by the British monarchy and then capitalist class, slaughtered and/or enslaved millions and justified their heinous deeds with white supremacist myths. The mass plunder and murder paved the way for the emergence of the UK as the greatest imperial power of the era, similar in many respects to the emergence of the Southern U.S. slavocracy.
Needless to say, the modern-day British titular monarchs, including the present Queen and her coterie, never acknowledge the Monarchy’s historical role in the monstrous transatlantic slave trade. Yet racism in the royal family comes as no surprise to people of color in the UK today.
Abolish The Monarchy!
One of the clearest arguments for eliminating the Monarchy was made recently by Mona Kamal in the British Socialist publication, “Counterfire.”
“The Monarchy serves as the embodiment of the idea that inequality is not only inevitable but a virtue and that privilege is owed to them alone and to the class they represent. They are the symbols of the delusion that power and prosperity for the few are the result of the natural order of things and therefore immune to challenge. This is the system and ideology that underpins the Monarchy that they will do anything to maintain. Including, apparently driving a woman to suicidal intent. But this delusion is as ‘backwards’ as the countries they told us need civilizing. The Monarchy is wholly incompatible with building a society around principles of democracy and justice and this is why it must be abolished.”
As #AbolishTheMonarchy has been trending on Twitter, British journalist, Ash Sarker sees an upcoming clash between the feudal institution that entrenches class inequality and the social struggles of today. “You cannot have an institution which is premised on bloodlines and have it not be racist, have it not be controlling of women and indeed quite misogynistic. This is all entrenched in the royal family itself.”