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The Royal Family means more to the US than ceremonies


King of Britain III. Charles is being treated for cancer. Chancellor Rishi Sunak added in the public announcement that the health issue was “caught early”.

The British Royal Family’s strong ties to Americans receive widespread media coverage. This reflects the distinctive partnership that began in the Second World War.

His predecessors, Charles I and Charles II, ruled during the revolutionary 1600s. The first one was decapitated. The monarchy was restored for the second time after a bloody civil war, followed by the dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell. Since then, national institutions have achieved remarkable stability.

Britain began World War II, when the Anglo-American “Special Relationship” truly took shape. It played a very important role in World War II. The relationship between President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill was central.

At home, Churchill and King George VI were vital to national unity in a desperate struggle.

The monarch now has powers to govern, including the power to actually appoint the government following a general election or other, sometimes unexpected, political upheavals.

In the 1960s, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, gave a speech at UCLA and was greeted by an honor guard of Army ROTC cadets, including me. Philip stopped, shook hands, and spoke to each of us; It was a classy gesture.

The public role of the queen or king may be primarily symbolic. However, in times of national crisis or tragedy, especially war, this can become important.

Following the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union, the British government embarked on a complex and painful effort to do so. Unlike the heroic, historical stand against Nazi Germany, this strange ordeal looked more like “Alice in Wonderland.”

More than four centuries ago, her namesake Queen Elizabeth I was powerfully in charge of the British Isles. These were brutal times when losing the power struggle could cost you your life.

That Elizabeth modernized Britain by governing Parliament with judicious skill. He stabilized politics after the turbulent reign of his father, Henry VIII. He confirmed his influence in Europe by effectively balancing the nations of that continent.

Today, the Crown and Parliament have subtly complementary roles. Walter Bagehot, the long-time editor of the influential weekly The Economist, described the situation brilliantly with enduring insight.

The world has changed greatly since Bagehot’s analysis appeared in 1867. But his fundamental insight remains valid today. Parliament undertakes the practical “productive functions” of government, while the monarchy undertakes largely ceremonial “honorable functions”. Americans may envy the lack of an “imperial” presidency there.

The fundamental point is that, unlike the Americans, the British do not have a written constitution. Although the country officially established an American-style Supreme Court in October 2009, Parliament is de facto the highest authority.

Important ceremonial functions appeal to the people’s collective feelings about government in general. In the 1930s, King Edward VIII caused great controversy when he wanted to marry Wallis Simpson, an immigrant American. In this different, earlier period, the fact that he was not British generated intense public interest and debate. He was also divorced twice. In general, fame followed him.

Much more importantly, while Edward was sympathetic to Nazi Germany, he was also extremely eccentric and unstable personally. Adolf Hitler and others at the top of the Nazi regime in Germany saw him as a strategic asset that would help Britain control the eventually conquered Europe. Eventually Edward abdicated to marry his American.

History highlights the importance of the British Royal Family. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine strengthens our important Special Relationship.

There is nothing false in these facts.

Learn more: Walter Bagehot, “The British Constitution” and the film “The Darkest Hour.”

Arthur I. Cyr is the author of “After the Cold War.”

Contact: acyr@carthage.edu


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