Dec 052020
 

If you ever talk with US citizens on the problems with their country, there is all too often someone who comes up with this old chestnut – “At least I’m not a subject”.

Which is false and even if it were true, it wouldn’t be quite what it appears.

For a start we haven’t been “subjects” since the Nationality Act of 1948, except for a tiny number of special category subjects because for special circumstances they don’t qualify for citizenship – mostly pre-1949 immigrants from the Republic of Ireland, or India.

And if we were subjects, we would be subjects of parliament not an inherited monarchy. Yes we have a monarchy, but the power of the monarch is wielded by parliament under a doctrine known as the “Queen-in-parliament“.

Which is a weird kind of solution to the problem of letting a monarch keep their crown, but keeping real power in the hands of parliament. Once you’ve ‘demoted’ a monarch with an axe and the world hasn’t come to a standstill, you’re no longer “subjects” in the sense of being the property of an absolute monarch.

War Memorial Church

Let us emphasise that last bit – we let the monarchs keep their throne, and they serve at our pleasure. To give a real world example of how that works is the story of Edward VIII who was the present queen’s uncle. To sum up, he wanted to marry a previously married woman and “the establishment” (various prime ministers and the archbishop of Canterbury) was opposed; in the end it was Edward who abdicated and “the establishment” got their way.

Now the reasons were ridiculous (although the outcome may have been unintentionally fortuitous given Edwards VIII and Mrs Simpson’s sympathy for the Nazis), but the balance of power is clear to see.

I dare say those who loudly proclaim “At least I’m not a subject” will ignore this.

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