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Reform Magazine | November 29, 2023

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A good question: Should we stay with Monarchy?

A good question: Should we stay with Monarchy?

One question, four answers

‘No family should have to live in a goldfish bowl’

The liberation of the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey in 1950 was an early, amusing royal memory of my childhood, as were the cries of ‘sacrilege’ from those who had been content to store stolen property in a place of worship. I was in Primary 2 on the morning that Miss Ross, serious and sombre, announced that the king had died – and it was ‘very sad’. I duly did sad until mum told me at lunch time, ‘It’s OK. You don’t need to cry.’ In 1953 we joined other schools lining Duke Street to cheer the newly crowned Queen and the Duke as they drove past in an open Landau. It was a welcome lesson-break, but not as impressive as the choreographed news that Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hillary had successfully climbed Everest. Auntie Agnes had the only TV in the family and hosted a coronation gathering where we kids became quickly bored. The new Queen Elizabeth’s choice of numeral was a little controversial and offensive to those who never regarded Elizabeth Tudor as a British monarch and there was mild amusement in Scotland when a new pillar box bearing the ‘E II R’ cypher was blown up. In 1975 her Majesty’s Governor General in Australia used royal powers to dissolve a democratically elected Australian Parliament and dismiss its Prime Minister whose policies didn’t suit Westminster or Washington. (Am I the only one who was shocked and still remembers?) Yet it’s odd that a handful of domestic party politicians recently pressed the Queen unlawfully to prorogue the UK Parliament…

Alan Paterson is a retired URC minister


‘A monarch can unite the nation’

When Queen Victoria died in 1901, the novelist Henry James wrote in his diary of how unsettled Britain was by the death of their long-lived monarch, on whom the country had depended for its sense of stability. That same sensation of the tectonic plates shifting was felt by many people when Elizabeth II died on 8 September. Only those aged 75 or over had any recollection of the previous monarch, her father, George VI. How could we imagine Britain without her?

The days leading up to the Queen’s funeral, though, were not just about mourning Elizabeth II but about royal power transferring before our eyes from one monarch to the next. There was the new King Charles III’s address to the nation on television, the Accession Council, where politicians past and present and other figures from public life witnessed the new King sign documents regarding him being the new sovereign, and proclamations in London and around the country that Charles was King. Mixed in with these traditional ceremonies were new ones – church services in the capitals of the devolved nations, together with walkabouts to meet the people, and a gathering of faith leaders where Charles III talked about Britain being a community of communities. The plates had shifted, but were settling into position again. The smooth transition offered the country stability once more…

Catherine Pepinster is a writer. Her book Defenders of the Faith: The British monarchy, religion and the next coronation was published by Hodder and Stoughton in June


‘It represents imperialism and oppression’

Let me begin back in 1966 when I was a child growing up in the recently independent nation of Trinidad and Tobago. I distinctly remember my primary school class being guided onto the sidewalk, given little paper Union Flags and instructed to wave them as an approaching motorcade carrying the ‘Queen of England’ would soon be passing.

This event occurred just four years after my family returned to the Caribbean from the United Kingdom where I was born, and where my father had been working tirelessly for the Federation of the West Indies as part of a team representing ten Caribbean countries seeking to form one nation. The Federation was then defunct and unsuccessful in the mission to break away from the clutches of colonialism and the rule of an unelected head of state – the Queen, a ruler far removed from the context of the lives and situations of those who inhabited these Caribbean lands.

I have found the monarchy to be removed from the economic hardship being experienced by many in Britain where, increasingly, numerous families and individuals have had to rely on assistance from food banks and other aid organisations, and where the NHS is strained, even as the royal family’s wealth is accumulated and their health prioritised…

Mark Robinson is a URC minister and Convenor of the URC General Assembly Business Committee


‘No king but Jesus!’

Charles Windsor is created in the image of God – as are you and I. He is sinful and fallible – as are you and I. God loves him – as God loves you and me.

As a sinful human, I fail frequently to treat others as I wish to be treated. I cannot aspire to do so if I do not view them as my equals. To treat someone as inferior or superior to me is to violate the reality that we are equal in the sight and love of God.

The monarch has much less power than 400 years ago, but the monarchy sets the tone for other areas of life. A society in which one person bows down to another is a society that tolerates vast disparities of wealth and power. The military pomp that accompanies royal occasions is a reminder of how the militaristic values of hierarchy and obedience are intertwined with monarchy…

Symon Hill is an activist and writer.


This is an extract from an article published in the November 2022 edition of Reform

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