What happens when Queen Elizabeth dies
March 7, 2015 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Since ascending to the throne in 1952, the monarch has seen 12 Prime Ministers serve Britain, and lived through another 12 US Presidents. For at least 12 days — between her passing, the funeral and beyond — Britain will grind to a halt. It'll cost the British economy billions in lost earnings. The stock markets and banks will close for an indefinite period. And both the funeral and the subsequent coronation will become formal national holidays, each with an estimated economic hit to GDP of between £1.2 and £6 billion, to say nothing of organisational costs.
posted by TheLittlePrince (159 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Long live the Queen.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:24 PM on March 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


A couple months ago, I saw the play King Charles III in London, which poses a somewhat outlandish hypothetical answer to this question. It's excellent, and playwright Mike Bartlett does some fascinating things with language and verse to create a Shakesperian drama of kings and royalty with a delightfully modern touch.

I'm American, so it's not really for me to say, but there's a part of me that would very much like to see Queen Elizabeth II be the last monarch of the UK. End it on a high note.
posted by zachlipton at 1:30 PM on March 7, 2015 [19 favorites]


She won't be--there's way too much legal stuff to disentangle way too quickly (the Westminster act from whatever, 1931? chief among them) for that to happen. William is going to be the last monarch, is my bet.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:32 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


End it on a high note.

Or a not especially low note, at least.
posted by dng at 1:32 PM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


All that for a non-executive figurehead. Why?
posted by prepmonkey at 1:35 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


The economic effects on the GDP will be catastrophic. At least one British animator will be sacked.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:35 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wow. Has anyone bothered to calculate the loss to GDP resulting from such economically unproductive activities as blinking, holding the door for old ladies, going to church, and chewing your food? Probably adds up pretty quick.

Just monetize every thing.
posted by General Tonic at 1:37 PM on March 7, 2015 [105 favorites]


Hang on - is EVERY monarch's death day and coronation day turned into a national holiday? I don't think so, can anyone more knowledgeable weigh in? Or explain why Elizabeth gets this distinction if not?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on March 7, 2015


Was there really hysteria when the Queen Mother died?

as Charles Philip Arthur George, he could also be "King Philip," "King Arthur," or "King George."

If he becomes King Arthur I'm going to fly over there and start kicking! >:-<
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:40 PM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


She won't be--there's way too much legal stuff to disentangle way too quickly (the Westminster act from whatever, 1931? chief among them) for that to happen. William is going to be the last monarch, is my bet.

That's a fair point. The transition would be enormous legally, and sorting out property and land ownership issues could take a while too. On the other hand, it's phenomenally difficult for anybody to gain power and prestige and then voluntarily give it up.
posted by zachlipton at 1:41 PM on March 7, 2015


Oh god. The fucking Queen Mum was bad enough.

(Not to mention the continual mawkish sentimentality that's followed on from the death of Lady Di)

Hopefully Charles will be and to it all, though the vile fawning ridiculousness surrounding the last royal wedding doesn't speak well to that.

My country is full of idiots sometimes.
posted by Artw at 1:43 PM on March 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


Hang on - is EVERY monarch's death day and coronation day turned into a national holiday? I don't think so, can anyone more knowledgeable weigh in? Or explain why Elizabeth gets this distinction if not?

Not in perpetuity, just the days themselves.
posted by padraigin at 1:44 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's all going to be okay. Her will specifies that Charles gets buried with her.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:45 PM on March 7, 2015 [31 favorites]


Was there really hysteria when the Queen Mother died?

I mostly remember indifference, and jokes about her gambling and boozing.
posted by sobarel at 1:45 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Whatever happens formally, the shock on the day of the Queen's passing will see Britain effectively cease to function. The day of the funeral, around two weeks later, will be declared a bank holiday, but "shell-shocked" mourning will continue throughout this time.

Really though? I'm not sure how "shell-shocked" people generally are about the death of someone in their 80s or 90s. They compared it to Diana's death but that's a different thing. She was young and it was in sudden, tragic circumstances. That was a genuine shock to people. I'm not saying many people won't be upset or anything, but the idea of Britain shutting down entirely seems a bit hyperbolic.
posted by billiebee at 1:45 PM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I like the bit in the article about the BBC having to cancel all comedy shows between the announcement of her death and whenever it is our period of national weeping is over. Hopefully they've got something suitably stirring to keep our spirits up.
posted by dng at 1:48 PM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


As an American, I think it is nice that Britain has one of the few remaining royal families in captivity, and I hope they keep it alive and well cared for. We have the Grand Canyon, and you have the House of Windsor!
posted by General Tonic at 1:52 PM on March 7, 2015 [30 favorites]


Your equivalent go the royal family is probably guns or something.
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on March 7, 2015 [30 favorites]


This article fails to address whether there will be another Elton John song.
posted by argonauta at 1:56 PM on March 7, 2015 [50 favorites]


It seems to me that the obvious move would be to dispossess the Royal Family and abolish the monarchy so that this can never actually happen, but instead I'm going to settle for pointing and laughing at everybody who swears up and down that the monarchy brings in more money for the UK than it costs and therefore it's ever acceptable to have an aristocracy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:59 PM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think Charles has requested this one
posted by billiebee at 2:00 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm American, so it's not really for me to say, but there's a part of me that would very much like to see Queen Elizabeth II be the last monarch of the UK. End it on a high note.

I take your point, but as we watch Bush III quicken the pace of his always inevitable slouch toward the throne, wouldn't you rather have an open monarchy than one that dare not speak its name?
posted by jamjam at 2:00 PM on March 7, 2015 [22 favorites]


I used to work as a software developer for a media company. We had a rough contingency plan for great national tragedies that would mean changes to the Content Management System. It was usually talked about "if the Queen dies", though it could have applied to any similar scenario.

I have to admit, in my earliest prototype, the button to switch it on was an upside-down image of the Queen with X's over her eyes...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:01 PM on March 7, 2015 [34 favorites]


This article fails to address whether there will be another Elton John song.

Surely it will be the same song set to some slightly different lyrics?
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:03 PM on March 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Oh thank god she's still alive. For a moment I thought this was it. And I have no idea why I reacted this way, I'm neither English nor a subject.
posted by infini at 2:04 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Windsors and the Bushes are, at least, evidence that having the mental acuity of a tapioca pearl needn't hold one back from aspiring to be the head of state of a declining world power.
posted by sobarel at 2:04 PM on March 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


Hi I live in Canada and I desperately do not want Charles on my money when the old lady kicks it.
posted by pmv at 2:06 PM on March 7, 2015 [18 favorites]


She's living history. She drove a jeep in WW2 and visited the cemeteries in the 70th anniversary of DDay last year.

FFFM, It won't be William, but George. She's already had her portrait taken with her row of kings in waiting.
posted by infini at 2:06 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that the obvious move would be to dispossess the Royal Family and abolish the monarchy so that this can never actually happen, but instead I'm going to settle for pointing and laughing at everybody who swears up and down that the monarchy brings in more money for the UK than it costs and therefore it's ever acceptable to have an aristocracy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:59 PM on March 7 [+] [!]


Surely the obvious move is to ensure she never dies, possibly by the use of some sort of carbonite freezing process, or more unholy means if necessary.
posted by dng at 2:06 PM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


This article fails to address whether there will be another Elton John song.
Sure there will. Me, I'm hoping for a remake of "The King Must Die" from his first album.
posted by TDavis at 2:11 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that the obvious move would be to dispossess the Royal Family

... so that their riches can be given to bankers?
posted by junco at 2:11 PM on March 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Surely the obvious move is to ensure she never dies, possibly by the use of some sort of carbonite freezing process, or more unholy means if necessary.

Queen Mum was already on the baby blood and that didn't stick.
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on March 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


All that for a non-executive figurehead. Why?

The monarch may be a figurehead in theory, but in practice, there are enough loopholes to make a mockery of this. (For some reason, the UK is partial to crufty, patched-together ad-hoc arrangements; perhaps this has to do with the precedent-based nature of English common law, English Empiricism vs. Continental Idealism, and/or the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-touch-it subtext of Edmund Burke's conservatism, but in any case, the result is massively complicated systems with enough leeway for the well-connected to make a mockery of their ostensible intentions, as London's super-rich and their tax lawyers know.) While Elizabeth II appears (as far as I know) to have been an impeccable figurehead, the kind of monarch who wouldn't deign to “like” a Facebook update without Parliamentary approval, the same cannot be said for her son. If anything, Charles appears to be a poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger effect; surrounded from birth by sycophants, and never having had anybody to tell him that his ideas are mediocre if not wrong, he's keen to give his subjects the benefit of his enlightenment, whether they know they need it or not. During his long wait for the throne, this has taken the forms of, for example, pulling rank with Qatari royalty to get modernist architects sacked from projects, having Exeter University abolish the position occupied by critic of “alternative medicine” Dr. Edzard Ernst, and using ancient powers to influence parliamentary law-making processes (in ways which are secret due to royal privilege; not half bad for a non-executive figurehead). Who knows what would happen once he becomes king and starts looking at the country as if it were his personal model train set.
posted by acb at 2:13 PM on March 7, 2015 [37 favorites]


Hi I live in Canada and I desperately do not want Charles on my money when the old lady kicks it.

Can ya Spock him, at least?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:17 PM on March 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


Oh come on. Economic disruption? Is it too much to ask that England descend into a bitter war for the throne, while the wild people of Ireland and the ice zombies invade south of Hadrian's Wall?
posted by happyroach at 2:22 PM on March 7, 2015 [45 favorites]


The stock markets and banks will close for an indefinite period.

The article leads with that, but never really expands on it at all: the only other mention apart from the bank holidays is that "the London Stock Exchange will likely close if the announcement happens during working hours, and other businesses may too."

"Indefinite" here seems hyperbolic: businesses may close on the day of the announcement, and will close on the days of the funeral and the subsequent coronation. But that's not sky-is-falling-banks-will-be-closed-indefinitely: it seems to me like a very finite period.

I'm not sure how "shell-shocked" people generally are about the death of someone in their 80s or 90s.

Just because something's expected doesn't make it not shocking. For most people Elizabeth is the only monarch they've lived under. I'm not particularly royalist, nor in the UK any more, but still: I expect to experience it as a "whoa, end of an era" thing.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:23 PM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


On September 9th of this year, Queen Elizabeth will surpass her great great grandmother Queen Victoria as the longest reigning British monarch and her mother lived another 12 years, so there's no rush to start planning the funeral just yet.
posted by fairmettle at 2:25 PM on March 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


Once you guys sort out the whole monarchy problem, maybe it's time to really do something about the House of Lords too? In the US, we at least have the decency to require that, on paper, you leave the legislature before you can become a lobbyist.
posted by zachlipton at 2:28 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I take your point, but as we watch Bush III quicken the pace of his always inevitable slouch toward the throne, wouldn't you rather have an open monarchy than one that dare not speak its name?

The analogy is a bit off. He's closer to Pitt the Younger
posted by BWA at 2:30 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Goodbye, noble Queen
Even though you left us with Charles
He is a bit of a weirdo
While wife Camilla snarls
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:31 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I was going to say that the history geek in me hopes Elizabeth holds out until at least September 9th so I can say I lived to see a record like that being broken.

Also, it would be awesome if Royal Mail forced the next monarch to change his name to Edward or Edwin or something just so they wouldn't have to change the mailboxes.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:31 PM on March 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


I wish one of the Queen's grandkids would move to Canada to be our benevolant King. It couldn't be worse than Harper, who has most of the power of a King. I can't imagine the Royals would have savaged our science and environment funding so savagely.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:31 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Artw, it's Guns n Roses.
posted by clavdivs at 2:34 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Your equivalent to the royal family is probably guns or something.

Duck Dynasty.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:36 PM on March 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Much of this article is simply oversaying what might happen. However, there is a really really important point:

The vast majority of British people have simply never known life without the Queen.

There's only one living person in my family who is old enough to remember another monarch, and even he could well die before the queen does. The rest of us simply don't know anything apart from Elizabeth. There are statues of former monarchs and a few institutions named after them, but not vast numbers of either. Decimalization of the currency in 1971 means that only Elizabeth appears on any coin in circulation. Letterboxes are the only everyday reminder that there have been other monarchs.

Of course everybody knows we have had other kings and queens, but it feels very much like something you just expect to be the same from one day to the next. "The Queen" is much a fact of life as the sky being blue or bears toileting in the woods. Though I am a republican, when the queen dies it will feel like when the tide goes out further than usual and you see wrecks and sandbanks which have lain hidden for years.
posted by Thing at 2:45 PM on March 7, 2015 [40 favorites]


I can't imagine the Royals would have savaged our science and environment funding so savagely.
Charlie loves plants and believes you should talk to them, so the environmental funding would probably be safe. However, he also believes in homeopathy, so science, not so much...
posted by peteyjlawson at 2:45 PM on March 7, 2015


This doesn't really ring true to me.
Certainly the Funeral and Prince Charles's (King George, reportedly) subsequent coronation would be public holidays, but that's all. The city closing for 12 days though, nope wouldn't happen.

Coinage designs change frequently. They would change the design and continue production as before.

Charles would rapidly learn how to be King and people would keep an eye on him. Yes, the monarchy has more power than purely ceremonial, but it's in no way absolute, it pretty much never has been. He would be steered by advisors and parliaments and would learn not to make a fuss.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:48 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was going to say that the history geek in me hopes Elizabeth holds out until at least September 9th so I can say I lived to see a record like that being broken.

Of course, both Her Majesty and you would have to live that long.

And I think she technically has to make it to September 10th to break the record. She will be tied with old Vic on the 9th.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:50 PM on March 7, 2015


Well, obviously the nation can't afford to have her die, so she's going to have to keep on living.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:58 PM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Charles would rapidly learn how to be King and people would keep an eye on him.

He's spent his whole life preparing and has made it clear he wants to 'reshape the monarch’s role when he becomes king and make “heartfelt interventions” in national life'. It'll be fascinating to see what happens when the monarchy is no longer coasting along on the inertia of Brenda's grim and taciturn determination.
posted by sobarel at 2:58 PM on March 7, 2015


Instead, Prince William will become the new Prince of Wales — Charles' current role.

This is very nitpicky of me but doesn't William not automatically become Prince of Wales upon Charles inheriting the throne? Wikipedia seems to agree with me that the title doesn't automatically transfer.
posted by andrewesque at 3:03 PM on March 7, 2015


At the BBC, anchors actively practice for the eventuality of the Monarch's passing so they won't be caught unaware on their shifts. The BBC's Peter Sissons was heavily criticised for wearing a red tie to announce the Queen Mother's passing (as seen above), and the BBC now keeps black ties and suits at the ready at all times. Presenters also run drills in which they're required to make sudden "spoof" announcements that are never broadcast.
I sure hope somebody has a tape of all of these.
posted by ckape at 3:13 PM on March 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


Surely the obvious move is to ensure she never dies, possibly by the use of some sort of carbonite freezing process, or more unholy means if necessary.

This is how you get a bad case of Space Marines.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:16 PM on March 7, 2015 [19 favorites]


I sure hope somebody has a tape of all of these.

Queen Elizabeth dead today at the senseless age of 88...
posted by schmod at 3:18 PM on March 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Thatcher has still not been revived so that's good at least.
posted by Artw at 3:21 PM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jesus, the economic damage never occurred to me.

That said, there is still a business based off of Princess Di. Would a similar bump in Queen Elizabeth-themed merchandise and activity offset some of this economic damage? I mean, presumably she will have a grave, right, and tourists will come to visit it?

I am a horrible for thinking this, aren't I?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:33 PM on March 7, 2015


That said, there is still a business based off of Princess Di. Would a similar bump in Queen Elizabeth-themed merchandise and activity offset some of this economic damage? I mean, presumably she will have a grave, right, and tourists will come to visit it?

She'll be buried in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle so there won't be a new site for sightseers, but she could be a "draw", so to speak.
posted by Thing at 3:38 PM on March 7, 2015


Is the pyramid finished?
posted by Repack Rider at 3:41 PM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


She can't die yet. There are still about 1000 Princess Diana articles in the queue!
posted by srboisvert at 3:43 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Charlie loves plants and believes you should talk to them, so the environmental funding would probably be safe. However, he also believes in homeopathy, so science, not so much...

and then there is the spare, Andrew, and what he loves which is ...awkward.
posted by srboisvert at 3:45 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Would a similar bump in Queen Elizabeth-themed merchandise and activity offset some of this economic damage?

Commemorative plate sales are the bedrock of Cameron's infamous long-term economic plan.
posted by sobarel at 3:48 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


and then there is the spare, Andrew, and what he loves which is ...awkward.

Although, horrifyingly, seemingly quite apt.
posted by dng at 3:48 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "Is it too much to ask that England descend into a bitter war for the throne, while the wild people of Ireland and the ice zombies invade south of Hadrian's Wall?"

The wildlings voted on maybe invading but decided they'd rather keep the pound.
posted by kyrademon at 3:52 PM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thatcher has still not been revived so that's good at least.

It'd be hard to break through the calcified cake of urine that must have built up on her grave by now.
posted by Ber at 3:53 PM on March 7, 2015 [27 favorites]


Re currency and postage stamps, how does that work? Would the ERII ones be gradually phased out? Is the Royal Mint prepared with engravings of Charles' mug ready to go?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:58 PM on March 7, 2015


Hm. It seems they failed to take into account the number of t-shirts and coffee mugs and little flags and flowers that will pump money into the economy. It'll probably be a net gain when all that gets figured in.
posted by sexyrobot at 4:00 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


They could put her corpse in a glass coffin and charge everyone ten pounds to come and gawp at it.
posted by dng at 4:08 PM on March 7, 2015


instead I'm going to settle for pointing and laughing at everybody who swears up and down that the monarchy brings in more money for the UK than it costs

You know what? It's good to laugh! Therapeutic. So I'll oblige.

The queen, and the entire royal household, cost the UK taxpayer just under £40 million per annum. That's a lot of money! In fact, some people say that's not enough. There are people who claim the royals cost over £200 million! Well, ok, to be fair those people are republican political organisations who get that number by adding in a big chunk of the armed forces, plus over £150 million in local council infrastructure improvements that get opened by the queen every year, but still... either way, the monarchy is undoubtedly expensive. I mean, what could the government do with £40 million a year? Aside from giving to wealthy campaign donors, I mean?

How could the government be so wasteful? Here's how:

The queen is one of the biggest landowners in the world. I mean, obviously she 'owns' several whole countries, but those are property of the 'crown', not the queen personally. But, personally, she owns huge amounts of land. Let's look at one of the most important, the Duchy of Lancaster:

The Duchy of Lancaster (where I was born, as it happens) is owned personally by the queen. It includes most of modern-day Lancashire, plus bits of other places including big chunks of Merseyside and Manchester. Every year, the duchy collects well over £300 million in revenue. You know how much of this the queen keeps? £13 million.

Wait, if she's the landlord, how come she doesn't get the revenue? Since George III, every monarch has voluntarily handed over the vast bulk of the revenues from the Duchy of Lancaster to the state. Each year, the queen voluntarily gives the UK government over £300 million in revenue, and she pays income tax on the paltry percentage that she keeps.

Could you imagine, say, Donald Trump doing this with his estates?

So let's say that the crazy-land estimate of £200 million in costs was true, and that this wasn't mostly defending the nation and building swimming pools and public lavs, and all that other stuff that actually has nothing much to do with the queen... even if that was true, the queen would still be massively revenue positive to the tune of £100 million pounds per year. And that's just one duchy: she also holds the Duchy of Cornwall.

And, of course, that doesn't include tourism revenue. Like it or not, the royals are a major tourist draw. About nine percent of the British economy is drawn from tourism. Direct tourism, just to look at the royal palaces and castles and stuff, is estimated at around £500 million. But this number is deceptively low: a large percentage of tourists visiting Britain contribute to that number, then go on to visit other, non-royal things, further multiplying the UK's royal takings. The chance to see a Real Royal Castle™ factors in to their choice to visit Britain, and other tourist attractions benefit as a result. Of course, American tourists might still come to gawp at Buckingham Palace if nobody was living there. They might be just as interested to visit royal palaces and castles if the guards there were historical reenactors rather than authentic embodiments of a living monarch. Somehow, however, that doesn't seem to have the same mystique or transatlantic draw. I mean, Versailles is way more interesting to visit, and it gets a fraction of the US tourist market because... well, if Americans want to see art they can do that right at home.

So what would happen if the government got rid of the monarchy or just cut the Civil List and asked them to fend for themselves? All that land, and all that money, would revert to the queen and her family. The only way to get it back would be to dispossess this now private citizen of her property. Can you imagine what the ruling elites of Britain would say about that new precedent? And, in the mean time, she could afford to spend, like, £300 million a year on lawyers to slow the process down. Trying to get the land might be many times more expensive than the land itself. I would almost say that she is holding her crown for ransom if I didn't know that the 'threat' is that she'd stop paying us money that she's voluntarily paying us even though she's under no legal obligation to do so.

So anyway...

tl;dr: the Royal Family is massively revenue positive for the UK government and the wider British society.

You may now commence pointing and laughing; I love to entertain!
posted by Dreadnought at 4:12 PM on March 7, 2015 [108 favorites]


The analogy is a bit off. He's closer to Pitt the Younger

LORD PALMERSTON.
posted by entropicamericana at 4:12 PM on March 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


Down with the Saxe-Coburg-und-Gotha! Long live the Battenbergs! All hail our German overlords!

Re: the property of the monarch, they could do to the king what the king did to the monasteries.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:15 PM on March 7, 2015


During his long wait for the throne, this has taken the forms of, for example, pulling rank with Qatari royalty to get modernist architects sacked from projects, having Exeter University abolish the position occupied by critic of “alternative medicine” Dr. Edzard Ernst, and using ancient powers to influence parliamentary law-making processes (in ways which are secret due to royal privilege; not half bad for a non-executive figurehead). Who knows what would happen once he becomes king and starts looking at the country as if it were his personal model train set.

You're mixing up "power" and "influence." Charles has basically no actual political levers to pull to make anything happen--as Prince or as Monarch. He can't refuse to sign a budget or order someone imprisoned or anything else. The "abuses" you cite (which you're rather overstating in some cases--Ernst got pissed off and resigned, his position wasn't "abolished" and certainly not by Charles) are the result of influence. Charles is a famous and a rich and a well-connected person. As such, people pay attention when he tosses his toys out of the crib. But that's not the exercise of some latent monarchical power haunting the British constitution (using the word in the British and not the US sense). If, say, Paul McCartney had a bee in his bonnet about modernist architecture he'd have essentially the same capacity to affect new architectural projects in the UK as Charles does. That is, he could piss in the ear of enough powerful people to get them to sack the odd modernist architect and hire the odd traditionalist one. Or if he played a role in funding a medical study and thought that one of the participants was behaving unethically, his complaint would be sufficient to have the institution feel that they needed to actually investigate to see if the case had merit (which was what happened to Ernst).

Now, these are both examples of things that Charles would be foolish to do if he were King, I quite agree. And, what's more, I agree that he's silly enough to do exactly this kind of thing and piss away much of the good will that his mum carefully built up over her long reign. But, in the end, it's all about PR. It's a question of Charles failing to demonstrate that he "gets it"--not of some actual usurpation of state power.
posted by yoink at 4:20 PM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


> Re currency and postage stamps, how does that work? Would the ERII ones be gradually phased out?

I expect the stamps will just get used up and coins will stay in circulation until we adopt new designs for whatever reason. New coins will have the new head, and sometimes old ones will be withdrawn to change the mix of metals or because that coin is no longer legal tender or any other usual reasons for changing coins. The only reason it's QEII all the way on coins now is we changed our currency in the early 70s and all the coins that still had pre-QEII monarchs on them were withdrawn together.

Personally I was in favour of the Euro because it meant we would have some (but not all) money without the Queen on before Australia did. The shit I could have talked if that happened. Very unlikely to happen now.
posted by vbfg at 4:25 PM on March 7, 2015


Sigh. In a sane and rational world, Business Insider could be thrown into the Tower until the Royal Executioner found a window in their schedule.

The monarchy has survived for nearly a thousand years on the mutually agreed delusion that it is, in fact, a thing. It's been batted between families, decapitated, overthrown, outsourced and refocussed. It is now the very opposite of the sort of state institution that requires laws to punish dissenters, where treason is the worst crime on the books. Disrespect it, yo. You're welcome.

Which is why there is no republican movement worth the name in the UK, why it doesn't matter that Charles will become King George the Nth despite being your mad uncle, and why the country will have a self-indulgent few days of 'ain't we great' when Brenda kicks the bucket and then carry on. The monarchy has got the knack of adapting to what's required of it at any particular time - not always easily or with any particular grace, but it and the country have the sort of relationship where each overlooks the obvious paradoxes because we both get to feel special.

I'd love to see a monarch with the intellect of James I/VI or the political nous of Elizabeth I/0, and while the Windsors have had (and do have) their libertines, ya gotta dig the style of Chaz II. I'd be perfectly happy - intellectually much happier - if we got rid of the monarchy altogether. But I can't help but rather like the glorious Pythonesque nonsense that's the current state of the monarchy, and I would be delighted to drop acid with any of the top end of the Civil List.
posted by Devonian at 4:40 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd love to see a monarch with the intellect of James I/VI

And make the poor sod attend Royal Variety shows and open leisure centres?
posted by sobarel at 4:45 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


She's living history.

We're just over two weeks away from the 39th anniversary of the first email she ever sent.
posted by radwolf76 at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


Where does the nickname "Brenda" for the queen come from? It's not one of the usual nicknames for Elizabeth, is it?
posted by ocherdraco at 4:56 PM on March 7, 2015


Maybe I'm deluded (it wouldn't be the first time!), but I suspect --- assuming he doesn't die before his mum --- he won't have much time on the throne. Look at the closest precedence, Edward VII: waited forever for Victoria to die, then reigned just nine years. And he started younger than Charles, too: Charles is already 65, and Elizabeth is looking pretty good for someone who's about to turn 89.
posted by easily confused at 4:57 PM on March 7, 2015


Where does the nickname "Brenda" for the queen come from? It's not one of the usual nicknames for Elizabeth, is it?

Private Eye use it constantly and keep the nickname alive, but I don't think they're the source.
posted by Thing at 5:00 PM on March 7, 2015


Where does the nickname "Brenda" for the queen come from?

Per Wikipedia:
Queen Elizabeth II is often referred to as "Brenda", and the Prince of Wales as "Brian". This is a result of the 1969 BBC documentary Royal Family, after which the magazine gave each member of the Royal Family working class nicknames, as though they were characters in a soap opera. The Duke of Edinburgh is "Keith", Princess Margaret was "Yvonne" and Diana, Princess of Wales was dubbed "Cheryl".
posted by Etrigan at 5:17 PM on March 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've always been confused by the lack of a republican (in the normal sense, not the whackadoodle GOP style) opposition in the UK. Even if she has no power and helps the economy, she's still a rich person that every poor person is told is important for no reason but she happened to be born into the right family. Isn't that at least kinda disgusting to you all? Even if on average she's an economic benefit to the country, it's still celebrating hereditary wealth and aristocracy. I don't know. The whole idea makes me sick.
posted by downtohisturtles at 5:25 PM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


On September 9th of this year, Queen Elizabeth will surpass her great great grandmother Queen Victoria as the longest reigning British monarch and her mother lived another 12 years, so there's no rush to start planning the funeral just yet.
posted by fairmettle at 2:25 PM on March 7 [6 favorites +] [!]


I was just noticing that Charles is already seven years older than Edward VII was when he succeeded Victoria.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:37 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The whole idea makes me sick.

This is one of those subjects that I just can't let lie, and I'd like to refer you to several comments that I wrote in which I answer your basic question in greater detail.

Short answer: constitutional monarchies are nationals symbol and components of constitutional orders. They often serve a number of practical roles, most notably making it difficult for the army to be used to institute a dictatorship. On an everyday level, however, they act as a unifying national symbol, like a flag or an anthem. People who like their monarchs tend to see them, not as a privileged rich person, but as someone who has shouldered an incredible burden of public service.

At any rate, this basically falls under the general heading of 'foreigners are weird'. Of course, many (but not all!) of us are going to have ideas that seem strange, even obnoxious. I'm sure you can think of a few things from your own country over which outsiders scratch (or shake) their heads.
posted by Dreadnought at 6:39 PM on March 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Dreadnought, is that "personal" wealth something that George would have had even if Edward hadn't abdicated? Or is it "personal" wealth that goes with the Crown (or some other hereditary title that Edward gave up along with the throne)?
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:42 PM on March 7, 2015


is that "personal" wealth something that George would have had even if Edward hadn't abdicated?

To be honest, I really don't know. I mean, it's always gone with the monarch, but I don't think it goes with the crown automatically. Presumably, there's a very strong incentive to keep the various titles tied together because the duchies are a financial plank underlying the stability of the crown, and you wouldn't want to take that away. I really don't know what would happen if a monarch abdicated but refused to pass on the duchies. They'd be giving their successors a poisoned pill, as the civil list would pretty much collapse. I assume that there's probably a bunch of legal agreements, and whatnot, preventing this from happening.
posted by Dreadnought at 6:50 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Believe me, I'd like to French Revolution style cut off the head of every US politician that tried to run for office based on their parent's name. The Bushes are the most famous probably, but that shit happens in every state in the US unfortunately. And most people accept it for some reason. I just like to think that if they were in such a defined role as being "the monarchy" or something they'd be easier to get rid of. Kick them out of the castle already.
posted by downtohisturtles at 6:59 PM on March 7, 2015


What's interesting to me is if Her Majesty outlives Charles. Then, upon the Queen's death, the throne would pass to William. (I may have thought about this before because I'm Canadian and, well, would much prefer William on my money.)

As people have already noted, he's already pretty much up there and while he obviously has good genes, if the Queen Mother is any indication as to how long the Queen will live, Charles' window of opportunity grows smaller and smaller.

Having said that and having done no research on this, I have to wonder what might occur if the sitting monarch is incapacitated in some way, such as a stroke. What if the Queen is left comatose? Would there be an abdication of sorts? I also wonder if she would abdicate at a certain age. This has happened in the Dutch monarchy several times and even Pope Benedict XVI resigned. As modern medicine continues to extend the human lifespan, I imagine we're going to see more resignations or that sort of thing going forward, particularly if the monarch is still alive but perhaps not sound of mind.
posted by juliebug at 7:02 PM on March 7, 2015


This thread is really interesting to read as an American who hasn't yet been to the UK. One thing that's always made me uneasy is the centuries-long decree that only Protestant Christians can be part of the line of succession. Considering how secular British culture is, would there be any incentive to make those types of religious requirements nonexistent for the royalty? Can the religious component ever be dialed back or is it going to be needed to forever assert the family's legitimacy?
posted by autoclavicle at 7:14 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


have to wonder what might occur if the sitting monarch is incapacitated in some way, such as a stroke.

There are actually procedures for this. See here and the sections below. Prince Phillip's consent would be required as part of the process. Apparently, Charles would then act as regent, but it wouldn't trigger the actual succession of the monarchy.
posted by zachlipton at 7:15 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


This article fails to address whether there will be another Elton John song.

Yes, but this time 5,000 times better.
posted by that's how you get ants at 7:17 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


zachlipton - Oh, of course, regency! Totally forgot that was a thing. Thanks for the link!
posted by juliebug at 7:20 PM on March 7, 2015


Considering how secular British culture is, would there be any incentive to make those types of religious requirements nonexistent for the royalty?

The monarch is officially the head of the Church of England (the Supreme Governor of the Church of England). Undoing that would be somewhat challenging. After all, traditionally, the king/queen's power literally is supposed to have come from God.
posted by zachlipton at 7:23 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


While his maternal male ancestors didn't tend to live so long, his father is still going at age 93, so I wouldn't assume that Charles would have a short reign. Though certainly much shorter than his mother's.
posted by tavella at 8:22 PM on March 7, 2015


General Tonic: "As an American, I think it is nice that Britain has one of the few remaining royal families in captivity, and I hope they keep it alive and well cared for."

As an American, I think the British royal family is THE BEST, because we get all of the pomp and circumstance, in a language we can understand, without having to pay a dime in taxes for it, AND the smug superiority that comes with knowing that you fought a revolution over not having to pay a dime in taxes to it. I can admire Kate Middleton's hair while feeling smugly superior about having no aristocracy. SO GREAT.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:26 PM on March 7, 2015 [22 favorites]


autoclavicle: "onsidering how secular British culture is, would there be any incentive to make those types of religious requirements nonexistent for the royalty? Can the religious component ever be dialed back or is it going to be needed to forever assert the family's legitimacy?"

The issue is that the monarch is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, so needs to be at least technically Anglican. It's not so much the issue of the monarch's (or Prime Minister's) personal beliefs, but that the Church of England is run by the state, and it would be canonically impossible to have a Catholic in communion with Rome running the Church of England. (Non-Anglican Protestants are more or less fine as long as they don't talk about it too much; it has to do with the authority structure of the CHURCHES, not so much the state. An Orthodox Christian also probably could not be King or Prime Minister, although is not specifically excluded as PM.) The key point is really that the monarch be NOT-CATHOLIC, not that he or she be particularly religious in any way.

Honestly one of the major points of the Elizabethan Settlement is that if you can STFU and put on your happy face for your official Anglican duties (as monarch or anybody else required to conform to the state church), nobody will inquire too deeply into your personal beliefs and everybody will have some sympathy for the fact that you're having to put on your happy face for your official Anglican duties. I mean, Charles II managed to be all-but-openly-Catholic (and converted on his death bed) and James II, who married a Catholic and was Catholicing it up in Parliament left and right, had to baptize his male heir Catholic to get to the point of being deposed. The various Acts of Settlement, even very early on, required certain PRACTICES (turning up at services, which had to have certain components) but an extremely limited statement of faith, so that just about everybody who was loosely Christian and not actively in communication with the Pope could slide by, as long as they were willing to go to Anglican services. (Typically it was fine to go to Anglican services AND ALSO other services, as long as nobody was actively having a religious war. Fun fact: In the American colonies, some of the early Jewish communities that founded synagogues during the colonial era had members who ALSO went to Anglican services on Sunday, because you were often entitled to more citizenship-type rights if you did so, and because an awful lot of colonial business got done after church when the whole town was hanging out socializing. This was considered totally normal and was not a secret and the colonial governor at church would be all, "Oh, hey, Joshua Rosenthal, how was synagogue yesterday?" Nobody thought they were Anglican ... they just went to the Anglican services. So it's been pretty pro forma for a pretty long time!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:59 PM on March 7, 2015 [19 favorites]


constitutional monarchies are nationals symbol and components of constitutional orders. They often serve a number of practical roles, most notably making it difficult for the army to be used to institute a dictatorship. On an everyday level, however, they act as a unifying national symbol, like a flag or an anthem. People who like their monarchs tend to see them, not as a privileged rich person, but as someone who has shouldered an incredible burden of public service.

As an ex-Brit I wonder if monarchies in other countries perpetuate a class system similar to Britain's. While I lived in Britain, I felt that the queen symbolized the apex of a stratified hierarchy and made class discrimination acceptable.
posted by anadem at 9:13 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Really, almost 100 comments in a thread about the British monarchy and nobody linked to the CGP Grey videos on the topic? Shocking.

How to Become the British Monarch (What to do if you want to write your own answer to OP's title question.)

The True Cost of the Royal Family Explained (Basically the same economic facts Dreadnought noted upthread but with funny animations!)

PS: Confused about why Queen Elizabeth II is on so many different countries' money? See here.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:27 PM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Glad you brought that up, because I'd like to hear Dreadnought's response to Thomas Forth's response.
posted by polecat at 9:37 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


acb: The monarch may be a figurehead in theory, but in practice, there are enough loopholes to make a mockery of this.
Forget the loopholes; the monarch of England has absolute veto power.

No bill may become law without the signature of the monarch. That's not some bullshit figurehead nonsense; that's more power than the US president holds. The fact that QE2 would never, ever wield such a hatchet to duly approved bills from Parliament doesn't mean Charles couldn't, or wouldn't.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:52 PM on March 7, 2015


polecat I can't speak for anyone else but for my part I found it an eloquent (if understandably bitter) philosophical argument against the monarchy, but not a compelling economic one. The bulk of his argument rests on rejecting the crown as ever being legitimate in the first place, which, fine but is pretty much academic at this point. The comparison to France re: tourism income is unconvincing in the details (comparing possibly the world's greatest art museum, the Louvre, to Buckingham Palace isn't at all fair unless after you depose the queen you also move the entire art collections of the British Museum and maybe the British National Gallery over to Buckingham Palace) and still kinda weak as a whole. I accept that Britain is going to figure out a way to attract tourists no matter what, but the best thing that can be said about his tourism argument is that CGP Grey's assumptions about tourism aren't well sourced either.

Now the article/video I really want to see is what happens if the Brits dump the monarchy but the commonwealth realms want to keep it. Where do they set up shop?
posted by Wretch729 at 10:08 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't believe we have this thread without a discussion about King Ralph.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:45 PM on March 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


And here's a story:

I was in London about ten years ago, visiting a few museums around Trafalgar Square (AS ONE DOES!) and one of the nearby streets was stopped by several police cars. No pedestrians, no cars, nothing could cross.

Huh, I thought.

Then a car pulled up, and a woman dressed in sort of late sixties fashion popped out. Her hair looked to styled in a beehive. She disappeared into one of the museums. I felt like I was watching an episode of Time Tunnel.

About 30 seconds after she alighted the car, traffic started again. I was very impressed.

On a hunch, later that night I checked the Royal Diaries. Turned out I saw Princess Anne gladhanding some donors at some event.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:01 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


IAmBroom: No bill may become law without the signature of the monarch. That's not some bullshit figurehead nonsense; that's more power than the US president holds. The fact that QE2 would never, ever wield such a hatchet to duly approved bills from Parliament doesn't mean Charles couldn't, or wouldn't.

True that Royal Assent is required, but the last monarch to refuse it was Queen Anne in 1708. It's widely accepted now that the monarch has no power to refuse to Assent to any bill passed by Parliament. The signature is a formality - a necessary formality, but just a formality.
posted by Pink Frost at 11:52 PM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Forget the loopholes; the monarch of England has absolute veto power.

No bill may become law without the signature of the monarch. That's not some bullshit figurehead nonsense; that's more power than the US president holds. The fact that QE2 would never, ever wield such a hatchet to duly approved bills from Parliament doesn't mean Charles couldn't, or wouldn't.


Not knowing your nationality, I could only say that that was a very American view of things (a general concern for what the law technically says could occur is something I've encountered often with American colleagues when speaking of Britain or the former Dominions). For a system based in large part on precedent (though this is easily overstated; there are your usual acts and statutes as well), whether something traditionally is or is not done is one of the very foundations of governance.

For example, it was traditional that the House of Lords not amend any bill considered a money bill (i.e. budgetary-type stuff). There was nothing formally forbidding it; that it was simply not done was enough, based on a long line of precedent (and the history that had led this to be so; precedent rarely arises from a vacuum). When the Lords actually dared to go against this and challenge a government's budgetary agenda, their powers in this regard were formally curtailed, following two elections called specifically to secure a mandate to effect this curtailment. This produced a formal legal result, but only enshrined what had already been the way government operated up to that point anyway.

What would happen if the monarch attempted to use their power against anything important that had the backing of the will of the people? An election would almost certainly be required on the issue, as you're now dealing with a constitutional crisis, but assuming that the election was won with a majority and the broad strokes of public opinion favoured it, the monarchy would be permanently neutered by the government, turning their effective inability to affect the legislative process into a formally constituted one. And if the public didn't favour it, then you can hardly blame the government for their inability to act against the will of the people while simultaneously attempting to throw out centuries of legal and governmental tradition (it is usually difficult to effect constitutional change in any country, after all, and this is more of a safeguard than it is some annoying bit of bureaucratic hindrance).

But the British system doesn't need to spell every last little thing out (or big thing, in this case). No one is waiting with bated breath in fear of a monarch noticing that they seem to have a lot of power. The fact that the scenario you're describing has not occurred in the modern British era, and is unlikely to occur in the future, is not random chance.
posted by Palindromedary at 11:55 PM on March 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


IAmBroom - Gotta chime in and agree here that Canadians do not live in fear of the Queen (or, more accurately, her representative in Canada, the Governor General) not signing bills into law. I remember learning about the way a bill becomes a law in elementary school and I definitely asked my teacher what would happen if the Governor General didn't sign a bill into law after it had gone through the House of Commons and Senate.

"... that wouldn't happen. It's just not done."

It was said with the sort of same tone reserved for someone with bad manners. Like, "we do not chew with our mouths open at table, it's just not done."

Since then, I've always just figured that we Canadians are too polite to veto things in that manner and I'm pretty happy with that explanation.
posted by juliebug at 12:04 AM on March 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Duchy of Lancaster (where I was born, as it happens) is owned personally by the queen...Every year, the duchy collects well over £300 million in revenue. You know how much of this the queen keeps? £13 million.

So you're saying you could just cut out the middleman and you'd be £13 million better off?

Each year, the queen voluntarily gives the UK government over £300 million in revenue

Oh, how very big of her to hand over the revenue derived from 46000 acres of land she bought with her own hard graft and the sweat of her brow. I mean, it's not like she just popped out of her mum and somehow magically owned it by divine right, is it? Earned it, she has. World's most qualified dog walker. Worth every cent.

I mean, if somebody said 'here's Lancashire, lad, all that lovely sauce is yours now' and I only kept many, many millions of quid for myself I'd expect to be made a saint for my generosity.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:17 AM on March 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, how very big of her to hand over the revenue derived from 46000 acres of land she bought with her own hard graft and the sweat of her brow. I mean, it's not like she just popped out of her mum and somehow magically owned it by divine right, is it? Earned it, she has. World's most qualified dog walker. Worth every cent.

Well personally I think vast inherited wealth is an abomination. But the Queen's inherited wealth is no different from all the other inherited wealth around, except that she hands most of the interest over to the state.

If the US federal government offered Donald Trump the right to wear a shiny hat and ceremonially open hospital wings in exchange for 90% of the income from his wealth, the problem wouldn't be "Donald Trump is stealing 10% of his wealth from the taxpayer".
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:54 AM on March 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


The really important thing is the traditional British mourners.

Where do they set up shop?

That actually happened -- to Portugal. (The shop.)
posted by dhartung at 1:49 AM on March 8, 2015


One thing to bear in mind with the death of Diana is that a lot of folk liked her in opposition to the monarchy, or at least certain members of the royal family. They sympathized with the way in which she had been treated by them, not needfully in her status.
posted by Thing at 3:34 AM on March 8, 2015


Obiwanwasabi - you seem to be making the assumption that those Duchies wouldn't be sold of practically instantly by the first Tory government that got their hands on them.

Then you could watch all that revenue disappear into the nearest tax haven.
posted by garius at 3:45 AM on March 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


But the Queen's inherited wealth is no different from all the other inherited wealth around, except that she hands most of the interest over to the state.

Right. No different at all.
posted by vacapinta at 3:58 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's important are these two things:

1. We'll need to change the national anthem's lyrics back from"God Save The Queen" to "God Save The King"
2. We'll need to change the name of the country back from the United Queendom back to the United Kingdom

I hope the rest of the Empire can adjust quickly.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:12 AM on March 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


All that for a non-executive figurehead. Why?
President Thatcher.
posted by fullerine at 4:14 AM on March 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is how you get a bad case of Space Marines.

Seriously, if you are set on carrying on with a medieval institution in this day and age, you should at least have the decency to go full-on Warhammer 40K about it.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:26 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have ambivalent feelings about the monarchy, but whether they're too expensive or saving us money, overall I'm okay with keeping them (although maybe tweak the inheritance laws a touch).

I'm for keeping the monarchy for the same reason I like having fuses even when they never blow, or safety valves that don't activate. Sure, they might not be able to perform reliably when the time comes, but it's one more measure against some very nasty things. If nothing else, I think it does our PM good to have someone who they have to at least nominally bow and scrape to.
posted by YAMWAK at 4:34 AM on March 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


At the moment that the Queen passes, the House of Tudor will march on London and restore the throne to its true, rightful heirs.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:54 AM on March 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm for keeping the monarchy for the same reason I like having fuses even when they never blow, or safety valves that don't activate. Sure, they might not be able to perform reliably when the time comes, but it's one more measure against some very nasty things. If nothing else, I think it does our PM good to have someone who they have to at least nominally bow and scrape to.

Why should I assume an aristocrat's idea of 'very nasty things' is in line with mine? It is not an appropriate check/balance mechanism, whether or not it's ever likely to actually be used. And the symbology of an elected leader having to bow and scrape to a vestige of tyranny is abhorrent.
posted by Drexen at 6:21 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


In this case, 'nasty things' is someone seizing control without elected authority. At the moment, the monarch's primary legal power is the power to say 'no'. I don't think either of us want to live in a dictatorship. The monarch won't either. The current structure helps with that.

As for the elected leader not having to bow and scrape, we disagree. Symbology aside, our PMs have enough of a god-complex as it is. Actually having to explain themselves to someone could actually help keep them in line, even if it doesn't happen too often.
posted by YAMWAK at 6:36 AM on March 8, 2015


I don't think either of us want to live in a dictatorship. The monarch won't either.

Depends on the monarch and on the times. For every Juan Carlos leading the people out of dictatorship there's a Edward VIII who would prolly have been cool with leading them into it.
posted by sobarel at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Depends on the monarch and on the times. For every Juan Carlos leading the people out of dictatorship there's a Edward VIII who would prolly have been cool with leading them into it.

Fair point. It's far from a perfect safety measure, but the UK monarchs currently have far more power in blocking something than they do pushing it through.
posted by YAMWAK at 7:18 AM on March 8, 2015


President Thatcher.

You know there are real-life countries that have heads of state, separate from the head of government, that are broadly equivalent to the office of the king or queen in Britain, except that they're chosen by criteria other than whose birth canal they emerged from? Weird little countries nobody has ever heard of like Germany and Italy and Austria and Finland and Ireland and so on.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:47 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


In this case, 'nasty things' is someone seizing control without elected authority. At the moment, the monarch's primary legal power is the power to say 'no'.

I greatly admire Elizabeth and what she's done as head of state, but if things ever get to the point where someone is actively engaging in a coup, she and all her brood aren't going to be able to do jack and/or squat to stop it.
posted by Etrigan at 7:51 AM on March 8, 2015


I greatly admire Elizabeth and what she's done as head of state, but if things ever get to the point where someone is actively engaging in a coup, she and all her brood aren't going to be able to do jack and/or squat to stop it.

Once the pitchforks are out, yeah, but how is our hypothetical insurgent going to pull off their coup? I'm obviously not a good student of history, but the coups I can think of are:

Populist politician seizing more and more power. Still an option, of course, but kicking out the monarchy legally, and without losing support of the traditionally monarchist right-wing, is an obstacle to be overcome. Do it illegally and you have a different barrier to get around.

Pitchforks in the street (a la French Revolution) - hard to do with a modern army defending the palace these days, I think, and being in a democracy helps as well. Having a politically 'neutral' head of state might be useful to deflect rage too. People may dislike Charles, but I don't think there's enough hate there to get a proper riot going. It's hard to generate that hate when the target is seen as being neither the cause nor the solution to their problems.

Military coup. The monarchs have a history of close ties with the military. Not saying it can't happen, but it's a useful ward against it. An elected leader is less likely to have that protection.

Assassination by internal forces, anarchists rule etc. Monarchy is strong against this one - kill 120 people all the same day and someone will still be able to tell you who's on the throne. The King is dead, long live the king etc.

It can still happen in every case, of course, but any counter is nice.

Eh, I'm not too bothered by the argument either way, to be honest. I do see the monarchy as a safety measure - I see them as filling a niche in the political arena with something fairly neutral, and I see most of the options for replacing them as, if not worse, at least not any better. You can elect someone to fill the role, we lose tourist revenue, taxes, whatever. I'm not seeing a great gain.
posted by YAMWAK at 8:18 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait... wait... there won't be any British Comedy during the period of mourning? Who cares about economic catastrophe if we all aren't suitably entertained?!?!
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:34 AM on March 8, 2015


You know there are real-life countries that have heads of state, separate from the head of government, that are broadly equivalent to the office of the king or queen in Britain, except that they're chosen by criteria other than whose birth canal they emerged from? Weird little countries nobody has ever heard of like Germany and Italy and Austria and Finland and Ireland and so on.

That's true, and it's certainly a better option than, for example, what the US system has--where the "head of state" and the "chief executive" are the same person. But it has both advantages and disadvantages when compared with an hereditary monarch. The main problem with elected presidents is that the very fact that they are elected is an open invitation to constitutional crisis: the presidency may be conceived as "purely ceremonial" in constitutional terms, but it is hard for a person who has been elected by popular suffrage not to feel that they in some way represent and speak for the "will of the people." In fraught situations where the country is politically divided over some issue that gives a veneer of legitimacy to actions where the President opts to ignore the instructions of the government. In that way, the very absurdity of hereditary monarchy, it's implicit "illegitimacy" is actually one of its strengths as a constitutional solution: the Queen has no inherent claim to be speaking for "the will of the people."

I think the Commonwealth nations that still acknowledge the British crown as theoretical "head of state" get a fantastic deal: they get a figurehead to fill an important constitutional function who is also completely irrelevant to their political struggles. It is hard to imagine a more perfect solution. I think the question of the value of the monarchy is more fraught in the UK. While QEII has done an amazingly good job as 20th and 21st century monarch, there are ways in which the Royal Family are so deeply intertwined with the UK's specific history of class oppression that makes the mere fact of their continued ceremonial role--even if constitutionally impeccable--culturally damaging. I think if I were a UK citizen I'd be a not-particularly-enthusiastic republican. And I would recognize that whatever system we replaced the Crown with would inevitably have drawbacks.
posted by yoink at 8:40 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well it's not like England hasn't gotten rid of monarchs or had revolutions before - mostly not all that much changes and things sort of bounce back, but for the most part it hasn't resulted in any great Terrors*.

* May look different if you are Catholic or Irish. Oh, and as is traditional various socially progressive moderate types get crushed along the way.
posted by Artw at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2015


Fun timeline!

According to this things are most likely to kick off if someone called Liz dies.
posted by Artw at 9:15 AM on March 8, 2015


it's certainly a better option than, for example, what the US system has--where the "head of state" and the "chief executive" are the same person

I feel a bit reluctant to say this on such a US-dominated site, but I've always thought the US presidency to be such a crazy position. You're getting rid of a constitutional monarch and replacing him with a single individual who's head of state, head of the executive, head of the armed forces, with extensive veto powers and the ability to nominate the top level of the judiciary?

I think if I were a UK citizen I'd be a not-particularly-enthusiastic republican.

UK republicanism also has the problem that the Queen is a nice elderly lady. Talking about getting rid of her just seems ... mean. Like confiscating your granny's Baileys.
posted by sobarel at 9:17 AM on March 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Wait... wait... there won't be any British Comedy during the period of mourning?

There will be an Are You Being Served? marathon, followed by an Are You Being Served? marathon.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:03 AM on March 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, is not going to live forever.

Well now, see, right there they are all wrong.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2015


You know there are real-life countries that have heads of state, separate from the head of government, that are broadly equivalent to the office of the king or queen in Britain, except that they're chosen by criteria other than whose birth canal they emerged from?

This is true, but I can't think of any examples of independent countries making that transition peacefully. The benefit of transitioning to a figurehead presidency seems very slight compared to the risk inherent in any process to abolish the monarchy that could be achieved within any reasonable timescale.
posted by ambrosen at 10:28 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


[...] a single individual who's head of state, head of the executive, head of the armed forces, with extensive veto powers and the ability to nominate the top level of the judiciary?


Well, the idea* is that the President's powers are offset by those of the judicial and legislative branches. A presidential veto, for instance, can be overruled by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate. It's an intricate interlocking system that ensures not a whole lot gets done most of the time.

*Usually taught to us in civics class as the system of "checks and balances". Not--and this is very important--Jacks and Palances.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:01 AM on March 8, 2015


sobarel: "I feel a bit reluctant to say this on such a US-dominated site, but I've always thought the US presidency to be such a crazy position. You're getting rid of a constitutional monarch and replacing him with a single individual who's head of state, head of the executive, head of the armed forces, with extensive veto powers and the ability to nominate the top level of the judiciary?"

Don't worry, most of us Americans who study or worry a lot about politics ALSO think it's weird and frequently awkward and increasingly impractical (due to the increasing complexity of the job) to have a president who is head-of-state and head-of-government. (Less worried about the army and the veto and the judiciary as those are checks-and-balances baked into the Constitution, but boy would American politics nerds LOOOOOVE to discuss that with you! Bring it up any time!) But it's a little ridiculous that the president has to spend so much time ribbon-cutting and state-dinnering instead of, you know, GOVERNING, and then people get mad when his governing cuts into his ribbon-cutting. Separate the roles!

Since electing a separate head of state would obviously be a nightmare in today's US political climate, I believe we should instead appoint to an 8-year term whichever Hollywood actor or actress has most popularly played an imaginary (not historical) president in an Emmy-eligible TV show or an Oscar-eligible movie in the past 8 years. So we could have had, like, Morgan Freeman (Deep Impact) or Harrison Ford (Air Force One) or Martin Sheen (West Wing) or Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) or Alfre Woodard (State of Affairs) as our Head of State to show up at state dinners and royal weddings and so forth. THIS COULD WORK.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2015 [20 favorites]


I feel a bit reluctant to say this on such a US-dominated site, but I've always thought the US presidency to be such a crazy position.

It's not that crazy. Flaws are obvious and known. Anecdata: Every time the U.S. State Dept. has assisted constitution-building in developing countries, they've recommended a parliamentary system, not a U.S.-style, three-branched government.

I mean, at one point, the U.S. was more or less in total control of Japan and West Germany. They don't have a U.S.-style president. Neither does Iraq or Afghanistan, to use two recent examples.

But the U.S. itself won't change, if only because you dance with the date that brought you to the party.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:39 AM on March 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


The cousins were way ahead of us there. If the glove fits, the dance card becomes less accessible.
posted by clavdivs at 12:33 PM on March 8, 2015


Thanks to all who updated my knowledge of the Queen's veto power. I thought it was solidly on a legal basis.
juliebug: IAmBroom - Gotta chime in and agree here that Canadians do not live in fear of the Queen (or, more accurately, her representative in Canada, the Governor General) not signing bills into law.
OK... that's a weird "rebuttal" to a claim I never made.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:49 PM on March 8, 2015


OK... that's a weird "rebuttal" to a claim I never made.

It actually makes sense in context: the Canadian system, in this respect, is exactly the same as the British one. Legally, the Governor General acts for the person of the queen. juliebug was saying 'I'm not worried about that either', in agreement with the previous comment.
posted by Dreadnought at 1:43 PM on March 8, 2015


Couldn't they just promote a pawn?
posted by unliteral at 5:03 PM on March 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, how very big of her to hand over the revenue derived from 46000 acres of land she bought with her own hard graft and the sweat of her brow. I mean, it's not like she just popped out of her mum and somehow magically owned it by divine right, is it?

The fact that the money is returned to the state makes her a damn sight better than the Koch brothers or the Waltons, at least.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:49 PM on March 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Couldn't they just promote a pawn?

Now, that's not a very nice way to talk about Charles.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:11 PM on March 8, 2015


Regarding the relationship between the monarch and the Church of England, I remember an interview with Prince Charles a few years ago in which he said that when he succeeds to the throne, he wants to have the "Defender of the Faith" part of his title changed to "Defender of Faith." But I guess that would require changing some legislation.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:14 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


That sounds dopey and new age enough to be true.
posted by Artw at 7:51 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


After Her Majesty moves on to the Great Corgi Kennel in the sky, what happens to all the coins and banknotes with her picture on them that are now in circulation? Do the central banks of the UK and the Commonwealth actively pull them from circulation? Or do the coins and banknotes continue to circulate until they wear out?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:46 PM on March 8, 2015


They just circulate until they wear out. All new coinage that gets struck and bills that get printed will have Charles on them.

My guess, which I get from pulling it out of my ass, is that the Royal Mints in the Commonwealth countries already have new designs with Charles, and with William, just in case. I imagine having such designs ready is akin to news outlets pre-writing obituaries.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:26 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


They're just about to issue new coins with a new portrait of the Queen so they're not foreseeing a change of face in the near future. Also I'm not sure they would have coin designs ready for Charles or William because the selecting of the portrait is a process as per this article, so I don't think they just pick a design on the quiet and get ready to run with it. (Although this opinion is also brought to you courtesy of my ass so I may be wrong)
posted by billiebee at 3:58 AM on March 9, 2015


I wish one of the Queen's grandkids would move to Canada to be our benevolant King.
Two of her great grandkids, Anne's two granddaughters, both hold dual Canadian citizenship and are 13th and 14th in line for the throne. You want a monarch of your own, you pick one of them, but they are 3 and 4 years old right now. Give them 20 years or so.

I am reading a book that has 4 Americans in England and one said that Elizabeth I is an ancestor of Elizabeth II. I wasn't sure if that was an author error or would eventually be corrected by another character, but it hasn't been so far.
posted by soelo at 9:14 AM on March 9, 2015


Obviously Elizabeth I is nobody's ancestor since she didn't have any children.

But, Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's sister and thus Elizabeth I's aunt. Or, more simply, both Elizabeths are descended from Henry VII.

Perhaps they meant ancestor in a very loose, incorrect, sense.
posted by vacapinta at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2015


Well, either that of the character will eventually be exposed as an extreme anti-Stratfordian.
posted by Thing at 10:30 AM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Elizabeth Tudor, great-umpteenth grandmother of the current Queen" was what they said, so yeah they could have changed it only a bit to make it accurate.
posted by soelo at 10:31 AM on March 9, 2015


You sure they weren't referring to Elizabeth of York?
posted by Thing at 10:50 AM on March 9, 2015


They're talking about her being imprisoned at Woodstock in the 1500s before she took the throne, so I think they do mean Elizabeth I. This is The Calder Game and the subject hasn't come up again, although they are still in Woodstock.
posted by soelo at 11:06 AM on March 9, 2015


Presenters also run drills in which they're required to make sudden "spoof" announcements that are never broadcast.

"TrHagiddy today, as FHormer QuHeen Eyizabeph the sssHekont was eaten by wHolves."

Great, Tom. Okay, now we need one in Swahili . . .
posted by Herodios at 11:30 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


They just circulate until they wear out. All new coinage that gets struck and bills that get printed will have Charles on them.

When I was really little, whenever my sister and I would fight over the Fisher-Price people, I'd go off on my own and play with my handful of change. Quarters were adults, nickels were teenagers, pennies were children, and dimes were pets or other animals. I was always glad to have a mix of U.S. and Canadian coins, because the Canadian ones had a picture of a lady and could play mothers, sisters, female cats, etc.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wish one of the Queen's grandkids would move to Canada to be our benevolant King.

Well, there's two things about that:

1) See the 1867 BNA Act (I think it's the BNA--we're talking confederation), and therefore our Constitution, and the 1931 Act of Westminster. All of these define the monarch as whoever's on the throne in Westminster, which leads to...

2) EIIR is separately the Queen of her various realms. She may be the same person, but her legal status as Queen of Canada (her title here) is separate from her legal status as Queen of the UK (Australia, NZ, etc). We don't have the Queen of the Uk &c as ours, we have our own Queen of Canada, who happens to be the same person as Queen of the UK &c.

So... fun idea, but not even remotely legally possible. We'd have to amend the Constitution for it to happen.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:40 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


When is Canada going to move out of the house and declare itself a republic, though? I kind of feel bad for it every time I open up the World Factbook and I see "conventional long form: none" by its name.
posted by psoas at 1:12 PM on March 9, 2015


When is Canada going to move out of the house and declare itself a republic, though?

See above. That would require rewriting a large piece of our Constitution, which is not an easy thing to do. And, frankly, count me on the side of really, really liking not electing our Head of State; it's good to have someone who is above the political fray of the day. Most Canadians are actively happy with or fundamentally don't care; Americans have this notion that there's only one way to 'do' democracy. When The Queen (and her representatives locally--Governor General federally and Lieutenants General provincially) is nothing more than a rubber stamp that cuts ribbons and makes feel-good speeches, there's nothing undemocratic about it.

Yes, the Crown has the ability--duty!--to refuse assent, on paper, in reality it is bound to act on the advice of its ministers. Which is why Michaelle Jean, for example, allowed Harper to prorogue Parliament to avoid having his government taken down on a budget bill. I still think she did the wrong thing, but there is a legal framework within which she functions, and it seems that the legal advice she was given said she had to do it. And/or she thought it was the right thing to do.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:42 PM on March 9, 2015


It's worth noting that the George VI coins were legal tender, and in circulation until the current size of 5p coin was brought in in 1990. And they weren't even the same denomination as the contemporarily circulating 5p coins, being shillings.
posted by ambrosen at 6:24 PM on March 9, 2015


Multicellular Exothermic: "After Her Majesty moves on to the Great Corgi Kennel in the sky, what happens to all the coins and banknotes with her picture on them that are now in circulation? Do the central banks of the UK and the Commonwealth actively pull them from circulation? Or do the coins and banknotes continue to circulate until they wear out?"

It's okay to read the thread before posting. Or the article.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


After Her Majesty moves on to the Great Corgi Kennel in the sky, what happens to all the coins and banknotes with her picture on them that are now in circulation?

If you can prove you're a royalist, they are worth double their face value. If you're a roundhead, however, your money loses all its value.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:44 PM on March 10, 2015


Every year, the duchy collects well over £300 million in revenue. You know how much of this the queen keeps? £13 million.

The Duchy of Lancaster, last year, showed an operating income of £14.7 million, of which the queen kept £13.6 million. (annual report pdf). The Queen pays some personal income tax on that amount, though we don't know how much. The Duchy itself is exempt from Corporation Tax.

The Duchy is not owned personally by the Queen, it is held in trust for the Sovereign to provide income for the reigning Monarch. Cornwall, similarly provides income for the heir. Neither is part of the Crown Estates, which is where your £300 million revenue figure probably comes from, though in my opinion, they should be. The Crown Estate revenues do not belong to the Queen, they belong to the Crown, which is currently represented by the Queen. Crown revenues are public revenues and are paid to the UK Treasury because the functions the Crown used to fund, such as the armed forces and diplomats are now funded by general taxation.

If you agree that the Monarchy is something you want to have, which, in principle, I do, then it needs to be financed. The UK does not finance it directly from the Crown Estates. Since 2012 The Sovereign Grant is calculated through a formulaic link to the revenue of the Crown Estates, but this is completely misleading and designed to re-establish a historic relationship between the Estates and the Monarch. It was a move that has the stench of a certain big eared impatient Royal on it. The formula could and should have been, far more sensibly, tied to GDP.
posted by IanMorr at 9:24 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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