British Monarchy and its influence upon governmental institutions

Born in June 1239 at Westminster, Edward was named by his father Henry III after the last Anglo Saxon

British Monarchy and its influence upon governmental institutions

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cally at the apex of feudal power, the medieval monarchs were in fact weak and dependent upon the nobility for much of their power. During the Renaissance and after, there emerged “new monarchs” who broke the power of the nobility and centralized the state under their own rigid rule. Notable examples are Henry VII and Henry VIII of England and Louis XIV of France. The 16th and 17th cent. mark the height of absolute monarchy, which found its theoretical justification in the doctrine of divine right. However, even the powerful monarchs of the 17th cent. were somewhat limited by custom and constitution as well as by the delegation of powers to strong bureaucracies. Such limitations were also felt by the “benevolent despots” of the 18th cent. Changes in intellectual climate, in the demands made upon government in a secular and commercially expanding society, and in the social structure, as the bourgeoisie became increasingly powerful, eventually weakened the institution of monarchy in Europe. The Glorious Revolution in England (1688) and the French Revolution (1789) were important landmarks in the decline and limitation of monarchical power. Throughout the 19th cent. Royal power was increasingly reduced by constitutional provisions and parliamentary incursions. In the 20th cent., monarchs have generally become symbols of national unity, while real power has been transferred to constitutional assemblies. Over the past 200 years democratic self-government has been established and extended to such an extent that a true functioning monarchy is a rare occurrence in both East and West. Among the few remaining are Brunei, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia. Notable constitutional monarchies include Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Thailand.

Constitutional monarchy: System of government in which a monarch has agreed to share power with a constitutionally organized government. The monarch may remain the de facto head of state or may be a purely ceremonial head. The constitution allocates the rest of the government's power to the legislature and judiciary. Britain became a constitutional monarchy under the Whigs; other constitutional monarchies include Belgium, Cambodia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.

THE BRITISH CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY

"The British Constitutional Monarchy was the consequence of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and was enshrined in the Bill of Rights of 1689. Whereby William and Mary in accepting the throne, had to consent to govern 'according to the statutes in parliament on."

A monarch does not have to curry favour for votes from any section of the community.

A monarch is almost invariably more popular than an Executive President, who can be elected by less than 50% of the electorate and may therefore represent less than half the people. In the 1995 French presidential election the future President Chirac was not the nation's choice in the first round of voting. In Britain, governments are formed on the basis of parliamentary seats won. In the 1992 General Election the Conservative Prime Minister took the office with only 43% of votes cast in England, Scotland and Wales. The Queen however, as hereditary Head of State, remains the representative of the whole nation.

Elected presidents are concerned more with their own political futures and power, and as we have seen (in Brazil for example), may use their temporary tenure to enrich themselves. Monarchs are not subject to the influences which corrupt short-term presidents. A monarch looks back on centuries of history and forward to the well being of the entire nation under his/her heir. Elected presidents in their nature devote much energy to undoing the achievements of their forebears in order to strengthen the position of their successors.

A long reigning monarch can put enormous experience at the disposal of transient political leaders. Since succeeding her father in 1952 Queen Elizabeth has had a number of Prime Ministers, the latest of whom were not even in Parliament at the time of her accession. An experienced monarch can act as a brake on over ambitious or misguided politicians, and encorage others who are less confident. The reality is often the converse of the theory: the monarch is frequently the Prime Minister's best adviser.

Monarchs, particularly those in Europe are part of an extended Royal Family, facilitating links between their nations. As Burke observed, nations touch at their summits. A recent example of this was the attendance of so many members of Royal Families at the 50th birthday celebrations for Swedens King Carl XVI Gustav. Swedish newspapers reported that this this was a much better indication of their closeness to the rest of Europe than any number of treaties, protocols or directives from the European Union.

A monarch is trained from Birth for the position of Head of State and even where, as after the abdication of Edward VIII, a younger brother succeeds, he too has enormous experience of his country, its people and its government. The people know who will succeed, and this certainly gives a nation invaluable continuity and stability. This also explains why it is rare for an unsuitable person to become King. There are no expensive elections as in the US where, as one pro-Monarchist American says, "we have to elect a new ' Royal Family' every four years." In the French system the President may be a member of one party, while the Prime Minister is from another, which only leads to confused governement. In a monarchy there is no such confusion, for the monarch does not rule in conflict with government but reigns over the whole nation.

In ceremonial presidencies the Head of State is often a former politician tainted by, and still in thrall to, his former political life and loyalties, or an academic or retired diplomat who can never have the same prestige as a monarch, and who is frequently little known inside the country, and almost totally unknown outside it. For example, ask a German why is Britain's Head of State and a high proportion will know it is Queen Elizabeth II. Ask a Briton, or any Non- German, who is Head of State of Germany? , and very few will be able to answer correctly.

Aided by his immediate family, a monarch can carry out a range of duties and public engagements - ceremonial, charitable, environmental etc. which an Executive President would never have time to do, and to which a ceremonial President would not add lustre.

A monarch and members of a Royal Family can become involved in a wide range of issues which are forbidden to politicians. All parties have vested interests which they cannot ignore. Vernon Bogdanor says in ' The Monarchy and the Constitution' - «A politician must inevitably be a spokesperson for only part of the nation, not the whole. A politician's motives will always be suspected. Members of the Royal Family, by contrast, because of their symbolic position, are able to speak to a much wider constituency than can be commanded by even the most popular political leader." In a Republic, then, who is there to speak out on issues where the 'here today, gone tomorrow' government is constrained from criticising its backers, even though such criticism is in the national interest.

All nations are made up of families, and it's natural that a family should be at a nation's head.

While the question of Divine Right is now obsolescent, the fact that "there's such divinity doth hedge a King" remains true, and it is interesting to note that even today Kings are able to play a role in the spiritual life of a nation which presidents seem unable to fulfil.

It has been demonstrated that, even ignoring the enormous cost of presidential elections, a monarch as head of state is no more expensive than a president. In Britain many costs, such as the upkeep of the Royal residencies, are erroneosly thought to be uniquely attributable to the monarchy, even though the preservation of our heritage would still be undertaken if the county were a republic! The US government has criticised the cost to the Brazilian people of maintaining their president.

Even Royal Families which are not reigning are dedicated to the service of their people, and continue to be regarded as the symbol of the nation's continuity. Prominent examples are H.R.H. the Duke of Braganza in Portugal and H.R.H. the County of Paris in France. Royal Families forced to live in exile, such as the Yugoslav and Romanian, are often promoters of charities formed to help their countries.

 

 

 

KINGS AND QUEENS OF ENGLAND

The history of the English Crown up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603 is long and varied. The concept of a single ruler unifying different tribes based in England developed in the eighth and ninth centuries in figures such as Offa and Alfred the Great, who began to create centralised systems of government. Following the Norman Conquest, the machinery of government developed further, producing long-lived national institutions including Parliament.

The Middle Ages saw several fierce contests for the Crown, culminating in the Wars of the Roses, which lasted for nearly a century. The conflict was finally ended with the advent of the Tudors, the dynasty which produced some of England's most successful rulers and a flourishing cultural Renaissance. The end of the Tudor line with the death of the 'Virgin Queen' in 1603 brought about the Union of the Crowns with Scotland.

 

THE ANGLO-SAXON KINGS

In the Dark Ages during the fifth and sixth centuries, communities of peoples in Britain inhabited homelands with ill-defined borders. Such communities were organised and led by chieftains

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