Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Queen becoming our head of state. Only an idiot would claim she's not done a fantastic job. Even staunch republicans realise that it is pointless making the case for a different system, whilst she is on the throne. Any such arguments are reserved for what or who replaces her. What is the secret of the success of Queen Elizabeth? I suspect that it is the fact that she doesn't get involved with the day to day politics of the UK. As she has aged, so have we. How many of us remember a time when another monarch was on the throne?
The bizarre thing about the monarchy is that some of our best monarchs have been female, yet the rules conspire to keep them off the throne. Ask any Londoner to name six great monarchs, who will they say? I'd guess The Queen, Henry VIII, Victoria, Richard the Lionheart, Alfred the Great, Boudicca and King Harald. I once read that whilst we all know William the Conqueror, most of us don't consider him our King. Our Scottish friends may make a few different picks, but I'd envisage that Mary Queen of Scots would make the cut. Is it odd that even though women are so discriminated against by the system, three of the best known six are female? I don't think so. Whilst male monarchs have looked beyond our borders, my reading of history tells me that the female monarchs cared about the people who lived here.
A succession of kings sought victories in far flung places, to cement their place in history. As far as I'm aware, only Richard the Lionheart actually cemented his reputation for his achievementsabroad. I'm not saying this to validate his campaigns, but he was widely acclaimed as a military genius even by his opponents.
So what exactly has cemented the place in our affections for Elizabeth II. In short, I believe it is the fact that she is viewed as someone who just gets on with it. Whether she is meeting Richard Nixon or Nelson Mandela, she makes all of us feel that we have a leader who we could be proud of. She is non divisive and calm. She is perceived as being the Queen of the Commonwealth. This means she unites us all. The issue for me is whether Prince Charles will carry the same affection. Whilst the Queen seems to naturally exude authority, without seeming oppressive, what will we make of Charles?
As a Republican, I would like to see an elected head of State. I would not seek to replace the Queen in her lifetime. I suspect she is far more loved and better qualified than anyone else. What about when Charles has to replace her? I'd advocate a referendum. If the people of Britain vote for Charles, then that is the end of the issue. If they don't, we can set up a Royal Commission to look at the question. Some people have said "but the Monarch is the head of the Commonwealth". Many commonwealth countries have a head of state. Why is that such an issue for us?
My readings of the history books tell me that there have been as many bad monarchs as good ones. We have a good one at the moment, so there is no necessity to change the system. We just need to consider the fact that things change. In a mature democracy, that is something all of us should face up to and if that means choosing our head of state in future by a democratic process, is there really any logical argument against it.