The King is Dead, Long Live the Queen

This date is a big one, vis-à-vis English monarchial history. Henry VII died on 21 April 1509 and Queen Elizabeth II was born on the same day in 1926.

Funeral_effigy_of_Henry_VII QEII as infant with parents

When Henry died, an ungrateful nation rejoiced because he had rebuilt their stability and standing in Europe via badly needed tax revenue. His son Henry VIII, who would spend money as well as his father had saved it, murdered two of his father’s most unpopular ministers, Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, 48 hours after becoming king. This act, as well as the refund of some of the money the ministers had theoretically “stolen” from the public, was wildly popular and probably done on the advice of the new king’s council … many of who were bitter because they had to pay taxes. They’d miss ol’ Henry VII by the time Henry VIII was done with them, though.

Queen Elizabeth II is, in my opinion, as undervalued in her own way as Henry VII. This is a queen whom scandal has dared not touch. Her kids may get into the spot of trouble, often over the lack of marital fidelity, and her husband may get into trouble, acting just like everyone’s racist elderly relative, but the queen herself does not put a toe out of line. The closest she’s come to real trouble is the public dislike of her coldness toward Lady Diana and Lady Diana’s subsequent death. This chill is not surprising, in as much as the queen was irked with Diana’s shenanigans and she personifies the “stiff upper lip” of English renown … but it was nonetheless unpopular.

It has become increasingly in vogue to decry the monarchy as an institution in Great Britain, but I think that this opinion completely misses the value of a figurehead. Think of how the fact the royals stayed in London and served in the military in WWII helped with morale. Moreover, as an American, I can promise you that ‘royalty’ of one sort or another will become a public entity, be it entertainers or politicians. (I’ll trade you the entire Kardashian/Jenner clan for one Prince Harry.) Humans are hardwired to lock in on the cult of personalities. At least the royals cannot meddle in politics.

If there is a problem with the fact the public pays for things like bodyguards and diplomatic functions, those expenses will still be there for whatever head of state has to do the global glad-handing. We make our Presidents do it and we shell out for ambassadors to do it; it is one of those things that has to be done. Right now, the royals pay more taxes than most other people of the socioeconomic class and they act as  charismatic megafauna to stimulate tourism in the UK. 

They are also used to call attention to charitable activities in the same way popular media figures do around the world, and they do it effectively. The royals are trotted out continuously on behalf of various fundraisers, and in exchange they have their privacy ruthlessly violated by the media.

For myself, I say happy birthday to Her Majesty QEII and love live the queen!


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