Whither Now United Kingdom

There are twenty-eight constitutional monarchies worldwide, of which the United Kingdom is one.

It is often referred to as the British monarchy. To be accurate, it is the monarchy of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man, and the British Overseas Territories. But the name doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.

The powers of the monarch with regard to the conduct of Government are purely ceremonial. As of 8 September 2022, the Government is His Majesty’s Government. And my thoughts are with what Charles III must be feeling now that he has stepped into a role that is surely one of the most special, strange, and demanding.

The role of the monarch has steadily reduced since Magna Carta in 1215, and brought to an end with the beheading of Charles I in 1649. The republican Commonwealth of England lasted just a hair’s breadth of time – until 1660. But when the monarchy was restored it was not the same creature. With the Bill of Rights of 1689 it was made clear that the monarch did Parliament’s bidding and the role became ceremonial – a Constitutional monarchy.

As an example, when the monarch reads the speech of what his or her Parliament intended to do, the speech is prepared by the Government and the monarch does not utter a single word that is not already prepared.

But the monarch does have power. If the Parliament of MPs votes that it has no confidence in the Government, then the Government must resign and a General election must be held. If the Government refuses to go, the monarch has the power to dismiss it.

And the allegiance of the Armed Forces is to the Crown and not to the Government. In times of civil strife that can matter.

The bottom line is that save for when the Government and the people are at odds, the monarch’s only power is through the myth of the rightness of the pyramid of entitlement. Looking at the span of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, that pyramid has taken some hard knocks. Few people look back at the colonial history of Britain with the same misty eyed view that was the general view in 1952 when she became Queen.

The real power of the monarchy is in how deeply the loss of the Queen will be felt over the coming days and weeks and months..

Charles promised that once King he would rein in on his views on controversial matters. But everything is political in this modern world – and Charles has strong views on the environment and food security.

If this were a country governed by a Government of good repute; if this was a time plenty and rising expectations, then Charles might feel constrained to keep quiet. But the Government and the last Prime Minister are seen by not a few as a bunch of inept charlatans or worse. Charles might well feel he can open his mouth.

A Personal Note On The Death Of Queen Elizabeth II

Tamara and I booked to see Much Ado About Nothing, being put on by the National Theatre and beamed to our local Picturehouse cinema. It was Tamara’s idea and I was happy to go along with it. I feared that the comedy would be insubstantial, but in fact it is much weightier than say ‘Taming Of The Shrew’ that we saw recently. And it was well acted and the set design was terrific.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, Queen Elizabeth II died.

Tamara and I were late to arrive at the cinema, and when we walked into Screen 1, everyone was silent, as were the audience at the National Theatre in London who were on the screen. We realised that someone at the London venue had asked for silence to acknowledge the passing of the Queen. Then the National Anthem was played and people in the cinema stood up. Tamara and I were standing already because we had just walked in, and we hadn’t yet gone to our seats.

Then a man at the London venue spoke and said that the show would go on. And we expected the show to begin more or less straight away. But that didn’t happen. Instead the curtain with the words Much Ado About Nothing filled the screen and there was no sound. And it just went on and on. It was eerie, as though it was echoing the breakdown in the smooth flow of things. So we all sat in silence, just watching this curtain remind us that is was Much Ado About Nothing.

I was thinking that after three million years of evolution we still do not know what death is, or at the absolute least one can say there is no consensus about what it is.

And I was thinking of the living. How will the country deal with the event? Britain is faced with the worst civil discontent for a generation. People talk openly about the cost of living crisis. If you know the British you know that they do not talk about money and how tight it is and how bad things are – not in public, between strangers. But they are doing now. It is not taboo. Rather, it has become a part of the public discourse. That’s how bad things are.

Post Office Workers, Royal Mail workers, Rail workers, Legal Aid barristers – they are all staging strikes for better pay and conditions.

We have a new Prime Minister who is there because the last one was kicked out.

The pound is at its lowest value in a generation.

So how will the country react to the death of the Queen? Will it draw people together or will it be one more event that leads to the break in the ties that keep civil society intact?

So here we are in the play, near the end. In a moment Claudio will find out that Hero, his beloved, is not dead and everything will end happily.

Except the link to the National Theatre broke at that moment, and the last we see before the screen goes blank, is Claudio’s hand open, waiting, frozen.

The audience sits, waiting to see whether the link can be restored (it cannot), and there is a strange and patient mood in the air, and behind it all, the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Root Cause Of Self-Destructive Behaviour

Dostoyevsky, in Notes from Underground said that man will destroy perfection because he can. He might have said the following:

Call it fin de siècle, ennui, cynicism, pessimism, what you will, but things are not getting better. There is more depression with every passing year. And what is this better? ‘Better’ has a hollow ring. In a society with great disparities in wealth we are not all in the same boat, so why should I care? We are anyway doomed by our greed – climate change, polluted Earth. So you, who are careful about your health and behaviour and every shadow of the public conscience, will end a little later than I will, but I will burn with a bright spark while you, you goodie two shoes, live a perfect life – and who knows, my genes may protect me where yours do not despite your clean and careful living.

In the end we are all the same in our suffering. You have your problems and I have mine. And who are you to tell me? I can see any number of examples of so called shameless behaviour, so don’t try to shame me into feeling responsible for the whole of society It is you who is living in a fantasy world, while I live life to the full. And after all, aren’t we both driven by the same thing – to be sated, one way or another? And things are changing so fast, that what is good today will be bad tomorrow – and who knows where the race will take us?


We are all here against our will, and you have a responsibility not to add to the grief of those who feel responsible for looking after the wellbeing of anyone who needs it, to not add to their burden of having to decide who gets help and who does not.

It is bad for their psyche having to fight against a desire to ignore those who because of their own actions, brought themselves to be in need of help. Think about it, when you get diabetes or whatever disease you suffer from as a consequence of your profligate lifestyle, will you be so willing to live with the consequences without asking for help? I will be picking up the tab for your destructive choices.

In some societies I could say that if you don’t feel any responsibility then I will leave you to the mercies of X, who had no compunction in ending your life that is a drain on all of us – a drain caused by your own selfishness.

Reply back

I hear you. So give me something to believe in. Give me something, give me hope. What hope can you give me? What do you claim to know about the Great Plan and how it is going, and how we all going to be happy in the coming days. The days keep coming, but still they are not the coming days. The crowd is growing weary; it can see behind the magic trick and wonder when they are going to get theirs. Can you offer me anything?