The Royal Baby

BabyEvery child has the right to aspire to become head of state. And every child has the right to aspire not to.

There was a good Intelligence Squared debate about the British monarchy on 26 June 2013, “This royal baby should never be crowned”.

Although the debate’s title focused clearly on a child, and an unborn one at that, the discussion was naturally a general one about the overall institution of monarchy. Strangely, we don’t often look at the monarchy specifically from the child’s perspective, which is what I want to do here. When we do, this bizarre and unjustifiable institution becomes even more bizarre and unjustifiable.

Imagine sitting down with your first-born child when he or she is about five or six years old to explain some rather wonky facts of life which go something like this:

“What do you want to be when you grow up? Actually, don’t bother answering that question or even thinking about it too carefully because you don’t have a choice anyway. Other people have already decided what job you will do.”

“You have no freedom of conscience because you’ll have to head up another barking-mad institution called the Church of England. They don’t like women or gays, by the way. Hang on, you’re not gay, are you? I SAID YOU’RE NOT GAY ARE YOU?

“You don’t have a free choice of spouse because it’s very important your spouse is “suitable”. Oh, don’t worry too much about what “suitable” actually means because other people will decide that for you.”

“You don’t have the right to vote, or to talk openly about politics. These are rights which people have fought and died for, but you’re not allowed to exercise these rights.”

“Oh, I think you’ve noticed those cameras following you, right? Do you like them? Well I hope you do because they’ll be following you until the day you die, literally.”

And when your child pleads with you that they surely must have some choice, you calmly explain:

“Well actually yes, you are right there. You do have a choice. You don’t have to do this. No-one can physically force you to wear a crown or to open Parliament or to break bottles of champagne against the hulls of new ships. But if you do decide you don’t want this job you’ll probably create what historians like to call a “constitutional crisis”. And as a result of that crisis it’s very likely your entire family and extended family will be out of a job. We’ll have to move out of this nice big house with all its servants and pretty rooms because we don’t actually own it. So no pressure there, then.”

And even assuming your child is willing to take on the reins of this ultimate family business (putting aside the extent to which they can actually give anything resembling informed consent), you then point out they’ll need to have this very same conversation with their own first-born child.

What an extraordinary burden to place on such young shoulders. Bruce Springsteen once said “a life of leisure and a pirate’s treasure don’t make much for tragedy”, and I’m not suggesting forcing someone to live as a monarch in a palace is the gravest form of injustice committed against children in the United Kingdom. But surely, severely restricting your child’s choices in life constitutes some form of immoral treatment and bad parenting, no?

Monarchy is a freak show and its supporters are the ringmasters. We’re often told that foreigners, and especially the Americans, love the monarchy, but strangely they’re not so keen on having a royal family themselves. Funny that.

We deserve better than this. We can do better than this. Humans have built subterranean transport systems. Humans have built smartphones. Humans have put a guy called Neil on the Moon. Humans have sent a space probe to the edge of their solar system.

We the citizens of the United Kingdom have the democratic right and the intellectual capacity to elect a head of state of our choosing, and we have the moral duty to put the unborn Windsor baby and its future descendants out of their misery.

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