The British Monarchy in 2012 - is it important or not?

May 28, 2012, 1:59 PM GMT+0

In the first of our five-part series chronicling your thoughts on the forthcoming Diamond Jubilee, we ask: How important (or not) is the monarchy in modern Britain?

This coming weekend, Queen Elizabeth II will become only the second monarch in British history to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years on the throne.

The only other monarch to reach this milestone was Queen Victoria, who celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Society and monarchy have changed a lot since the last Diamond Jubilee, however ‒ so we wanted to hear your opinions on whether the institution of monarchy is still relevant in the 21st century.

As you might expect, the opinions expressed here were polarised.

Of those who took part in the discussion, a significant proportion thought that the monarchy was either fairly or very important in today’s Britain.

A considerably smaller yet notably outspoken group told us the opposite.

  • Many of you said having a constitutional monarch was a much better system than having an elected head of state (i.e. a president), and that while political leaders often polarise the public, the Queen brings people together

  • Participants also told us that the Royal Family projects a positive image of the UK onto the world stage, and makes ordinary Britons feel good

  • Conversely, participants who said the monarchy was not important in Britain today argued that having a hereditary head of state was out of step with the principles of modern democracy

  • They also told us the Royal Family was too expensive to maintain, and that it helped to perpetuate social inequality

Is the Queen a regal symbol of Britain’s glorious history and unique place in the world?

Or is the monarchy an anachronism that has no place in a modern society? Submit your views below

Q: How important or unimportant do you think the monarchy is in Britain today?

1. The monarchy is still important in today's Britain

Argument 1 - A monarch is much better than an elected head of state

The monarchy represents stability, continuity, and ethics. They don't have to dirty themselves with politics and pander to the lowest common denominator” Anon

We would lose such a lot if we didn't have the Queen. She has historical knowledge which an incoming prime minister does not have and she has seen it all before Barbara W, Sheffield

There is a sense of ancient continuity with the crown, and heritage – tourists love it. It makes for colour and pageant. Presidents are grey, boring, and far too concerned with feathering their own nests; the thought of someone like President Cameron, or President Blair doesn't bear thinking about” Anon

It seems crucial to have an institution at the centre of British society that is impartial politically Anon

“It is a much more satisfactory way of preserving a Head of State. A political president always has far too much power. I believe that our rules of government maintain democracy in a much safer way than a presidential/republican system Kathryn R, Devon

The Monarch is free from political influence, and therefore is able to rise above any politicking and truly represent us abroad to all colours of political thinking” Anon

“It is constant - we don't have to elect a president every few years. To meet the Queen would be an honour. To meet a president representing a political party with views opposed to my own would not be an honour. It is a point of interest to the majority of countries that do not have a monarchy” Anon

“They do a pretty good job of representing us and are cheaper than some presidents. They take their job seriously and have the country's best interests at heart, which is more than can be said for some elected statesmen and women. … Having a hereditary head of state seems a bit archaic and undemocratic, but I guarantee that if any of them damaged our country or abuse their position in the future we would become a republic very swiftly. Because of this, we keep them in check, and they keep us in check. If it ain't broke, don't fix it Eadwyn, Hampshire

Argument 2 - The monarchy is a unifying force, and a source of national pride

At such a problematic time, due to the recession and public unrest caused by government benefit cuts, the country needs to look forward to the Jubilee and to the whole 'Kate and Wills' storyline. The Princess is helping the economy by simply putting on a dress and the rest of the world is just loving anything royal. … The British Royal Family is arguably the most known in the whole world and they may have gone out of fashion and many into mourning after Diana passed away, but they are back with a vengeance and they are much more exciting and definitely catching up to the 21st Century Bee, Birmingham

The Queen provides a much-loved global face who is respected and loved the world over. Furthermore, William will be a new style of monarch as a young man growing up in a modern Britain, which is likely to benefit the country as well as the monarchy” Anon

It brings our nation together. Those that appreciate the monarchy also appreciate the country and its history, and hopefully that will be seen during the Jubilee celebrations” Barbara Hinson, Chelmsford

[The Royal Family] provides a vital link with Commonwealth nations by acting as a living reminder of our shared histories and cultures” Michael, Surbiton

It’s the only institution that hasn’t let us down and it has been the bedrock of the community since Thatcherism established there is no such thing as society. The Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Anne and Prince Charles have worked endlessly to promote, amongst many other things, continuity, stability, harmony, endurance, commonality, patience, endeavour, and Charles through the Princes Trust has supported aspiration and social mobility, as well as championing green causes and farming ahead of the curve. So although I thought I was a republican in my youth, I have changed position as over time the impacts the Monarchy have had in society have been truly positive and enduring and therefore the Monarchy is worthwhile Anon

Over the last 10 years, the monarchy has become increasingly important as a symbol of Britain's prosperity and image of a modern-day family…with marriages between classes, and divorces, princesses attending London based universities, and so on. They have become more in touch with the public Anon

Although the monarchy is very monoculture and establishment, it manages to reach beyond that, especially when you think of the Commonwealth and all the people that the monarchy seeks to represent, and how proud this particular monarch seems to be to do that. Watching the video for the Diamond Jubilee song by Gary Barlow I was very struck that almost no other nation/ figure could produce such a range of places and peoples to represent it” Anne S, Bethnal Green

2. The monarchy has little importance in the Britain of today

Argument 1 - The monarchy has no place in a modern democracy

The Queen is merely a figurehead. Although she theoretically has a veto on Government action, in reality she makes no difference. As for the younger members of the family they are, as far as I am concerned, a waste of time and space” John A, Brixham

It doesn't serve any function and is a hangover from a very brutal period of human history. It's just mind-boggling that it still exists at all” Anon

It is an anachronism, which should, in a democracy, have been abolished centuries ago. In fact, the institution should never have been revived after the Cromwellian Commonwealth. In the present day, our so-called ‘Royal Family’ is mainly a dysfunctional group of over-privileged, out-of-touch individuals, with the possible sole exception of the Queen herself. After her death, the concept of royalty should be consigned to history along with her Howard W, Perth.

“The main function they serve is their own importance. They belong to an elite that no one can afford; most people around the world struggle to survive and they have far more than they need but still take. Our Queen is so insensitive that she invites guest for lunch that most people did not want in the country at all” Melvyn C, Colchester

“The only reason the monarchy has survived in the modern world is because it has made itself into something which carries only a nominal, symbolic importance. For all the pomp and ceremony, it has no real power. Parliament, Sky and Tesco all wield more control over people's everyday lives than the monarchy does Ed, Northampton

I don't think it contributes anything of significance. It certainly doesn't touch my life in any way. I would be more concerned by the loss of the local bus than by the loss of the monarchy” Anon

It is an outdated, undemocratic system, which favours people who are lucky enough to be born into a certain family. There are currently so many public spending cuts and yet ridiculous amounts of money are being spent on the Jubilee. The PM uses the royal prerogative; the monarch needn't exist Michael, Harrogate

We need a modern democracy where all citizens can aspire to be head of state, not just one over-privileged family Anon

Argument 2 - The monarchy is too expensive and perpetuates social inequality

The family as a whole costs too much and hangers-on should not be paid by the taxpayer. We suffer and they don’t [in our] unequal and unfair society. She knows it, but does nothing to help 'her subjects'” Pete, Luton

It exists to maintain an archaic class system and should be abolished Anthony, Derry

I do not see how they benefit the ordinary person and there are too many family members. Also, they have far too much cash! For instance, Prince Andrew flying everywhere at our expense, and Prince Charles has far too many servants” Jean, West Midlands

Having a monarchy only highlights the gap between rich and poor in this countryAnon

I think our country should grow up. Kings and Queens belong in fairy tales. Britain could still have all the pomp and rituals without royalty. The Palace of Versailles is very nice to visit and there is no royalty there; Britain could be the same. How can people bow down to others and call them ‘Highness’. They are like us, no better or worse. When we have to listen to the media drooling over ordinary men and woman as if they are superior beings it really makes us cringe” Tricia, Glasgow

The monarch is completely unrepresentative of British people and the British way of life. She and her family are parasites living on the British people. She has shown no sign of cutting back in this time is austerity like the rest of us have to! Fiona, Uxbridge

“They are an expensive irrelevancy. During the last Queen’s Speech I was very angry to see a woman in a hat worth millions of pounds talking about austerity for poor people Anon

“They are an outdated 'institution' who are a drain on resources full of snobbery and are not relevant in in today’s society. They should be disbanded, and all estates and wealth should be returned to the state and in turn the people Anon

Is the Queen a regal symbol of Britain’s glorious history and unique place in the world?

Or is the monarchy an anachronism that has no place in a modern society? Submit your views below.