It is a common knowledge that Great Britain is usually associated with a monarchial form of government. In fact, monarchy serves as a symbol of aristocracy, stability, preservation of ancient traditions as well as respect to the historical events and occasions. The monarchy witnesses about the rich history and high social and political culture of nation. Thus, it evokes positive images and associations, connected with the political awareness and appreciation of the historical heritage and customs. Nevertheless, the other point of view, claiming about the incompatibility between the monarchy and democracy should also be considered. The matter is that recent debates and discussions have doubted the positive role of monarchies in the modern societies. As a result, the question about the appropriateness of contemporary British monarchy obtains great attention from the public. This paper aims at the investigation of the role of the monarchy in Great Britain, its relationships with the democracy and relevance for the modern times.
Throughout the recorded history, Great Britain has remained a monarchial state. It highly valued the Royal families, their power and significance in the arrangement of social life. Till the beginning of the 18th century, the royal representatives possessed the major executive power and bore responsibility for the creation and adoption of laws and regulations. However, with the advent of 18th century the situation has changed, limiting the power of King or Queen with the Constitution. Starting from that period, the monarchs have begun to share the power with the representatives of government, according to the statements of Constitution. Thus, nowadays, Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy, which presupposes the division of the branches of power and follows the democratic principles of government (Turpin and Tomkins 356).
To start with, it is also essential to consider the modern political theories and their interpretation of monarchy in order to understand its relevance and appropriateness in terms of modern British society. For example, the pluralistic political philosophy claims that the monarchy does not represent interests and demands of the entire society, focusing mainly on a small group of aristocracy. Analogically, it does not meet the requirement of political pluralism in the government since the monarchs are not chosen by voters (Long and Palmer 153).
The similar point of view is shared by the classical elite theory. It also dwells on the sidedness of monarchial government and its orientation on those, who hold a real power in the society (Long and Palmer 162). Nevertheless, although those theories suggest the unilateralism of monarchy, they do not reflect the objective situation in Great Britain. According to pluralism theory, the role of royal family should have decreased, on the account of its failure, to satisfy the demands of all social groups and classes. In reality, the British monarch gains great respect and admiration from the citizens and remains an important public figure. Additionally, the very British people do not feel any pressing need in governmental changes, being satisfied with the current ruling. Thus, the absence of any solid background and demands for change make the question of the monarchy abolition outdated and irrelevant.
Additionally, neither pluralism nor elite theories consider the real monarchial status in Great Britain. It is important to remember that British monarchy is limited by the Constitution, which is based on the democratic principles, common for the majority of modern societies (Wilkinson 24). Therefore, it does not violate or limit the human rights and installs the objective rules and laws.
The classical Marxist theory claims about the necessity of shift from the monarchy to the liberal constitutional regimes. Such a change is explained with the industrial revolutions and the increasing role of science and technologies in the modern societies. According to Marxist classics, the monarchy does not meet the social requirement of industrial growth and cannot react properly to the new demands of increasing manufactures (Olechnowisz 7). Nevertheless, it is possible to notice that Great Britain has not eliminated its industrial power and technological progress, despite of monarchy form of government. Practically, there is no direct connection between the economic stability and governmental regime. From this point of view, monarchy does not threat the development of state’s production and businesses.
The New Right movement in politics (the opposition to the conservatism) represents another interesting view of monarchy. According to its tenets, the latter is regarded as the limitation of individual freedom and independence of citizens. Monarchy is viewed as opposition to liberalism and democracy, which values the personal rights and liberty above all. However, this theory also finds a little support and scientific footing. In fact, Great Britain manages to combine the democratic principles with the monarchial traditions without threating personal freedom or violating human rights.
It is important to admit that, nowadays, a monarch in Great Britain plays both constitutional and non-constitutional role. On one hand, the Queen of Great Britain is considered to be Head of State and the Commonwealth (Boyce 41). She is a Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, Church of England and other prominent state institutions. Moreover, the monarch has power to enact the legislation, reorganize the government as well as assign the Prime Minister (PM), playing the second most important role in the state’s ruling. In addition, monarch is responsible for appointing the supreme judges, ministers, civil servants and military ranks. From this standpoint, the monarchy is essential for Great Britain for the sake of its inner stability and domestic welfare. The monarch solves the major issues of political, economic, financial, military and cultural life, distributing the duties between the assigned figures.
At the same time, monarchy is of paramount importance when it comes to considering the cultural background and unity of state. Without doubts, the Queen of Great Britain serves as a symbol of national unity, social identity and political culture. The monarch is a necessary element of national consciousness and awareness, which connects the historical heritage with the modern achievements. The Queen is a bright representative of the whole country on the global level as well as a leader of important national holidays and ceremonies.
Thus, the modern monarchy of Great Britain possesses a huge symbolic meaning. The British admit that monarchy is essential for preservation of their ethnical and national identity and protection of cultural and historical inheritance. Thus, the importance of contemporary monarchy consists not in its political values and principles, but rather in its symbolic meaning and uniting character (Olechnowisz 189).
Secondly, monarchy considerably promotes the development of tourism industry within Great Britain. The tourists from all over the globe are attracted by splendid ceremonies, strict orders, ancient traditions and parades as well as by the very personality of the British Queen. Doubtlessly, the abolishment of monarchy will provide a serious threat to the British tourism industry as well as the recognition of state on the global arena (Long and Palmer 164).
Thirdly, the image of the monarch remains integral to the British culture. It is true that representatives of royal family are viewed as privileged figures with special rights and capacities. They are regarded as symbols of aristocracy and national elite, which is so important for the British national mentality and self-esteem (Olechnowisz 175). The Queen personifies intelligence, traditions, culture and British identity. Judging from this, the importance of monarchy in Great Britain becomes obvious and doubtless.
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The other argument, doubting the relevance of monarchy, is connected with the assessment of role of Prime Minister in Great Britain. On one hand, British Prime Minister does not possess such power as the presidents of other states. He has to coordinate his actions and decisions with the Queen and accept her suggestions, as well. However, on the other hand, Prime Minister begins playing an increasingly significant role in the government (Wilkinson 26). Thus, he successively gained in stature, by being constitutionally responsible for the identification and implementation of governmental policies and practices as well as control of the civil services and armed forces. Considering these facts, it becomes difficult to define the roles of state’s leaders in the governmental affairs (Wilkinson 28).
Nevertheless, contemporary Great Britain does not face problems with the determination of political leaders. The crux of the matter consists in the fact that Prime Minister and monarch are regarded differently in the society. Correspondingly, the citizens enforce various claims toward the national leaders and evaluate their work from different points of view. While PM is mainly concerned with the solutions of political affairs, the monarch is considered to be the focus of nation and its prominent symbol (Olechnowisz 189).
To sum up, the preservation of monarchy in modern Great Britain is a matter of historical traditions and national mentality. In fact, the monarchy is not regarded as the principal form of government or appreciated for its practical values and benefits. More significantly, it plays a role of a national symbol of unity and integrity. It unites the British nation around common historical past, cultural inheritance as well as ancient customs and traditions. These elements are essential for the preservation of British identity and its recognition all over the globe.