Discover more from Jagged Lines
Some Friendly Tips for Charles III from an Anti-Monarchist
In September 2022, Charles III ascended the throne of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He inherited an institution that, due to the long tenure of his predecessor, has slowly fossilised and isolated itself in ever greater degree from the people over which it claims to rule. Nevertheless, even this dedicated anti-royalist sees (or perhaps imagines) some glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Namely, Charles has long claimed that he wants to modernise the British monarchy. With that in mind, I hereby present some basic, common-sense steps that he could take. Will he follow through? Probably not, because it’s not like I have a direct line to Buckingham Palace and I doubt that he’d listen to me anyway. But here they are nonetheless: four (4) suggestions to drag the Windsors kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century.
Forego a coronation ceremony. The last two weeks have shown that nobody does pomp and splendour better than the British royals. They’ve also demonstrated that these ceremonies have no place in the modern world. Charles III should take a page out of the book of continental royals, who have long since dispensed with coronation ceremonies. He was already proclaimed king; this should suffice. If he desires a ceremony of some sort nonetheless, he should opt for a simple blessing for his reign from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Run The Firm like a real firm. Employees of The Firm (i.e. working royals) need clarity on their roles, goals, and success metrics—all of which must also be effectively communicated to the public so that his majesty’s loyal subjects know exactly what they’re paying for and what they can expect in return. The government should play a larger part in creating these new roles. In Norway, for example, the king and queen have an explicit understanding that they are meant to work with the government in order to further Norwegian diplomacy and business interests overseas. By contrast, recent overseas trips by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have centred largely around the promotion of their own charitable interests and personal image rather than the economic and political interests of the UK.
Next, a set of guidelines should be drawn up in writing to address topics such as what constitutes a working royal, what kinds of private enterprise working royals are allowed to engage in, and how non-working royals may or may not use their titles in conjunction with their business endeavours. In particular, there seems to be confusion surrounding the legality, feasibility, and desirability of private business ventures by royals. In order to prevent the monarch from being seen as capricious and the institution as incompetent, this situation should be remedied forthwith.
Financial transparency for The Firm’s assets—in particular the Duchy of Lancaster—and charitable endeavours/foundations is also long overdue.
Lastly, The Firm needs to stop seeking exemptions from laws that apply to every other individual and business operating in the UK. Stop accepting suitcases full of cash, which would land the CEO of any real firm in jail on charges of corruption. Stop the leaks from “sources close to the king” and “palace insiders.” Just stop!
Shrink the Royal House. A distinction between the “royal family” and “royal house” is much-needed at this point in time. Only the monarch and their direct heirs and spouses should constitute the royal house. Crucially, only these people should be raised to be full-time working royals.
In this vein, Charles should let Harry and Meghan go. Indeed, the “problem” of the spare should be a non-issue, particularly if the Royal House is created as a separate entity from the Royal Family. The creation of written guidelines around working/non-working royals, as also suggested above, would allow for a better understanding of Harry and Meghan’s roles going forward.
If Charles isn’t sure about how to proceed, he should call up Harald of Norway or Carl Gustav of Sweden: their daughters, both spares to the heir, live as private citizens in the United States. The transition has not been easy either for Madeleine, Märtha-Louise, or their families; they’ve had to learn, or are still learning, to balance business interests with their royal roots and there have been both hits and misses. The point, however, is that Charles can both commiserate with and obtain advice from other kings who have been in exactly the same position.
Apologise for slavery. In an outdated understanding of royalty, royals can’t ever be wrong and hence they can’t apologise for anything. Such an attitude may have held currency at the court of Catherine the Great or even Edward VII, but times have changed. The public nowadays demands not only accountability but self-awareness. The Windsors, sadly, seem to lack both—but that can be remedied, at least to some degree.
Charles may be reticent to apologise for the sins of his forefathers and it could be argued that as an individual he should not have to take on this responsibility. Yet at the same time he is the head of state not only of the UK but of the Commonwealth realms. If nothing else, he can apologise in this capacity.
There are also legal complexities to apologising for slavery, not least because the royal family is no longer one and the same as the British government. Therefore an apology for slavery should be (or possibly must be) coordinated with the foreign office. To be most effective, it should be made in conjunction with an announcement from the British government about opening negotiations with other countries on the topic of reparations.
While the government may be open to reparations, Charles will likely not agree to the payment of royal reparation and his apology may therefore be perceived as insincere. For this reason, Charles should consider the return of a handful of high-profile objects such as the Koh-i-noor diamond. In this sense, I am a cynic: although returning these items would not address the social and economic havoc wreaked by colonialism and slavery, doing so would allow the royals to appear as if they have reckoned with their past.
Anything else? This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but I will spare you the rest of my tirade. Thanks for reading; and cheers to a republican future!