“The definition of relief, if you are Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is ringing up the Queen and saying, ‘Your Majesty, it is all right, your kingdom is still united’.”
– David Cameron
As Election Day in the United Kingdom fast approaches with party leaders making last-minute promises to attract voters to put them in power, let’s not forget that whichever party wins, the elected Prime Minister must swear alliegance to the one who holds the REAL power in the country – the present monarch, Queen Elizabeth the Second.
The appointment of a Prime Minister is the prerogative of the Sovereign. Once he or she has been appointed, the Court Circular records that “the Prime Minister Kissed Hands on Appointment”. Let’s face it, the ‘ministering’ of British politicians is performed not for the people of the land but for the ruling monarch. HMG stands for Her Majesty’s Government, after all, and HMP means Her Majesty’s Prisons, where you might linger at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
‘Power’ is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events”. The Queen has plenty of that. And although she is the only member of the Royal Family who is not allowed to vote, under the historic ‘Royal Prerogative’ she has
* The power to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister
* The power to appoint and dismiss other ministers.
* The power to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament
* The power to declare war and make peace
* The power to command the armed forces of the United Kingdom
* The power to regulate the Civil Service
* The power to ratify treaties
* The power to issue and withdraw passports
* The power to appoint bishops and archbishops of the Church of England
* The power to create peers (both life peers and hereditary peers)
* The power to grant honours
Although she is a constitutional monarch who is supposed to remain politically neutral, both the Queen and the Prince of Wales do exercise their power to veto legislation that is proposed by Parliament. It was recently revealed that in 1999 she vetoed entirely a private member’s Bill, the Military Actions Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill, that would have transferred the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to Parliament.
The strikes went ahead anyway, despite the protests of over a million demonstrators in the streets of London, probably approved after mutual agreement between the Queen (Commander in Chief of the Forces), and former Prime Minister Tony Blair at their weekly meetings at the time. Before that war ended, at least 550,000 Iraqis, including 120,000 civilians, died as a result.
The weekly audience given at Buckingham Palace by the Queen to the incumbent Prime Minister, where she has a right to express her views on Government matters, has been a regular event since she came to the throne in 1952. If not available to meet, they speak by phone. All communication between them is strictly confidential. No written record is made. The Royal Family is also exempt from requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The Queen has held audiences with twelve British Prime Ministers during her reign, beginning with elderly eccentric warmonger Winston Churchill at the age of 25, and latterly with old-Etonian toff David Cameron (a fifth cousin twice removed), at the age of 89.
Relationships have varied, but one or two Prime Ministers have commented on the meetings. Labour leader Jim Callaghan wrote: “Conversation flowed freely and could roam anywhere over a wide range of social as well as political and international topics.”
Conservative leader John Major said: “Nothing is barred. You can be totally indiscreet. If the corgies had been bugged the Russians would have known all our secrets.”
And PM David Cameron apologized profusely to the Queen after he was caught by cameramen with ultra sensitive microphones confiding to Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York, that when he rang the Queen to give her the news that Scotland had voted No to Independence: “She purred down the line.”
Although conversations between Queen and Prime Minister are confidential, you can be sure the topic of money is on her list. It’s an important subject between regents and ministers. In fact King George 11 made Sir Horace Walpole his first ‘prime’ minister as a reward for ‘screening his investments’ from the South Sea Bubble financial crisis which had ruined so many others. He gave Walpole the property of No. 10 Downing Street. Walpole didn’t use the new title, preferring the then customary title of First Lord of the Treasury.
The Queen won’t want to talk about the £13, 000,000 private income she earns from her estates of Balmoral and Sandringham, or the ‘Privy Purse’ (royal nickname for land and property in the Duchy of Lancaster, a huge chunk of land, from which she recieves all net profits and pays no Corporation tax.) That’s her own business.
And her personal investment portfolio, (estimated by royal financial observer, Professor Phillip Hall, at a total net worth of £400 million (only a guess), is protected by the 1976 Companies Act, which specifically excludes the Queen from having to disclose share holdings, as everyone else must.
What she wants to hear about is the ‘Sovereign Grant’ given by the Treasury to the monarch each year, (which has replaced the previous ‘Civil List’ with its yearly fixed £7.9 million handout). Now she is given 15% of profits from the massively profitable Crown Estate, which this year amounted to nearly £38,000,000.
The Crown is the second biggest landowner in Britain: 182,313 acres in England, 85,210 acres in Scotland, with large lucrative swathes of properties in London. Nice work if you can get it. How does she possess and retain such wealth and power? Well, it helps when you are one of those special people chosen by God.
If you examine any British coin you will see the letters ‘DG and FD’ around the inner rim of the ‘head’ side along with the Queen’s name. DG stands for ‘Dei Gratia’ (By the Grace of God), and FD means ‘Fidei defensatrix’ (Defender of the Faith).
‘By the Grace of God’ is historically considered to mean ruling by the ‘divine right of kings’, a doctrine which asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God.
Basing his theories on his understanding of the Bible, King James 1 wrote that a king “acknowledgeth himself ordained for his people, having received from the god a burden of government, whereof he must be countable.. The monarch is the absolute master of the lives and possessions of his subjects; his acts are not open to inquiry or dispute, and no misdeeds can ever justify resistance. The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God himself are called gods”.
“Almighty God, such blashemies are uttered!” thunders rebel preacher John Ball in Robert Southey’s play ‘Wat Tyler’, addressing the revolting peasants about to storm London in 1381. “Almighty God, such blasphemies believed! Ye are all equal. Nature made ye so. Equality is your birthright!”
According to ‘divine right’, the monarch is not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm. Only God can judge an unjust king. Any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute a sacreligious act. In fact, it is an officially treasonous act to “compass or imagine” the death of the Queen.
By the way, it was vain King Richard II, (he who triggered the 1381 Peasant’s Revolt by raising the poll tax), who first demanded that people address him as ‘Your Majesty’. King James I was the one who came up with the idea of calling the islands he ruled ‘Britain’. He believed he was a descendant of an early king called ‘Brute’, whom he called ‘the most noble founder of the Britains’. The English weren’t so keen on the idea, but who can argue with a king?
Brutal suppression has always been the response. After an uprising in York, for example, William the Conqueror sent his army north with orders to kill every man, woman and child living there. Around 150,000 people died, and much of the north of England was depopulated for generations. Queen Elizabeth is the 40th monarch in succession since the country was invaded and occupied by the brutal Norman ‘William the Bastard’ in 1066.
When German George 1(who spoke no English) came to the throne in 1714 he wasted no time introducing The Riot Act which gave his army the right to shoot-to-kill any group of over twelve people meeting for any purpose the King disagreed with. And the 1848 Treason Felony Act makes it a criminal offence, punishable by life imprisonment, to advocate the abolition of the monarchy in print.
The Queen’s full title is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”.
‘Defender of the Faith’-( DF on your English coin)- reflects the Sovereign’s position as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, which makes her formally superior to the Archbishop of Canterbury. She’s Head of the Church, of the State,of the Army, and of the Police. By law, nobody has the power to arrest the Queen. She can do as she pleases and nobody can stop her.
Only Canada, New Zealand and the UK use the title of ‘Defender of the Faith’ for the Queen. Others have dropped it due to religious diversity. Australia, for example, styles her: “…by the Grace of God, Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth”.
On the Queen’s last State visit to Australia a young man was arrested for dropping his trousers and running alongside her motorcade as she was visiting Brisbane, Queensland, with an Australian flag swinging from his butt. 22 year old anti-monarchist Liam Warriner was found guilty of ‘public nuisance’ and fined 750 dollars.
“The Queen does not get cute granny status,” said Liam. “She’s a very powerful woman. The Queen represents where people can be born into importance. I don’t think that any one family should have more importance than any other family on this planet. I do believe in a free and equal society and unfortunately we don’t have that and will never have that while we have this system, while we have this police state, while we have this monarchy. Any elitist, any self-important, self-propagating elitist, I will happily bare my buttocks to and tell them what I think of them,” he said.
During the Queen’s Australian visit, Royalty commentator Barry Everinham asked: “Why the British taxpayer, who is suffering at the moment, has to put up with the indignity of paying people to have nannies and butlers and footmen and God only knows what … what do they do get it for, for God’s sake – for opening fetes and cutting ribbons?”
“I don’t know, it seems to me that it’s certainly time Australia moved on and got rid of all this nonsense, but far be it for me to tell the Brits what to do.”
As Britain gears up for the elections one wonders if the UK could really be described as a democratic country? Democracy, after all, is based on the idea that we are all equal, a system that gives power to the individual and the people as a whole. Monarchy, especially with its secret powers and influences, is the antithesis of democracy. It’s a sham – and it’s time for it to go.
The Roman historian Tacitus wrote that before the Roman conquest, the old Saxon kingdom’s tribes elected their ruler. The crown was bestowed by the people choosing their leader according to his fitness. The historian Hallam wrote: ‘No free people would entrust their safety to blind chance and permit a uniform observance of hereditary succession to prevail against strong public expediency.’
And yet the elected Prime Minister of Great Britain will not officially be recognized as such until he or she has bowed or curtsied in obeisance and “Kissed Hands on Appointment” with the real, unelected, ruler of the country.
Screw the elections! The Queen Rules – OK?
Michael Dickinson can be contacted at email@example.com