George Orwell explains why left-wingers should actually be grateful for the monarchy

Picture: Getty/Wikimedia commons
Picture: Getty/Wikimedia commons

The Queen might be celebrating her 90th this week, but republicans have used her birthday as a time to renew calls for the dissolution of the monarchy.

Specifically, Republic, the British movement for republicanism, has called for a referendum on the monarchy when the Queen dies.

So, as with everything concerning politics and the state, we come to the perennial question: "What would George Orwell say about this?".

Although Orwell did have some mixed feelings on the Royal Family himself, he defended the merits of a constitutional monarchy with no actual power, as a means of counterbalancing the potential for fascism.

In a 1944 article for Partisan Review he wrote:

The function of the King in promoting stability and acting as a sort of keystone in a non-democratic society is, of course, obvious. But he also has, or can have, the function of acting as an escape-valve for dangerous emotions.

A French journalist said to me once that the monarchy was one of the things that have saved Britain from Fascism. What he meant was that modern people can’t get along without drums, flags and loyalty parades, and that it is better that they should tie their leader-worship on to some figure who has no real power. In a dictatorship the power and the glory belong to the same person.

In England the real power belongs to unprepossessing men in bowler hats: the creature who rides in a gilded coach behind soldiers in steel breastplates is really a waxwork. It is at any rate possible that while this division of function exists a Hitler or a Stalin cannot come to power.

On the whole the European countries which have most successfully avoided fascism have been constitutional monarchies. The conditions seemingly are that the royal family shall be long-established and taken for granted, shall understand its own position and shall not produce strong characters with political ambitions. These have been fulfilled in Britain, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, but not in, say, Spain or Rumania.

If you point these facts out to the average left-winger he gets very angry, but only because he has not examined the nature of his own feelings toward Stalin. I do not defend the institution of Monarchy in an absolute sense, but I think that in an age like our own it may have an innoculating effect and certainly it does far less harm than the existence of our so-called aristocracy.

Food for thought before we cull Charles' crown chances.

HT Dan Kelly

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