Royal Popularity; A Ruthless Exercise In Identity Politics

The monarchy is kept in place as a result of its constitutional role, right? Not quite! In reality it is a grand exercise in the maintenance of public affection.  In fact, way back in 1977 at the time of the Silver Jubilee, no less a person than the distinguished historian A.J.P. Taylor concluded that the continuance of Britain’s Constitutional Monarchy was not so much dependant on its executive power but in upholding its emotional and symbolic links with the British public. But authors had been pointing this out for a century!  In reality much of the modern monarchy’s executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the other roles could easily be reassigned. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury would reasonably be head of a disestablished Church of England.  So the Monarchy is nothing more than a complex exercise in the continual generation of popularity.  How is it done in the sophisticated 21st Century? Enter the corporate branding experts!  In two previous blogs (you can read them here and here) I outlined the fact that  the Monarchy has become essentially a corporate brand and promoted as such (for example see this study).

In previous blogs I pointed to marketing experts who discovered that people select brands and brand culture in order to construct an identity of the self (many goods, for example, now being viewed as a ‘lifestyle choice’). It includes everything from cars to mobile phones to chocolate bars and so on (if you are in any doubt just look at Apple’s advertising!).  As a result of the application of these principles to the monarchy, people often use the Royal ‘brand’ as a means of reassuring themselves as to the type of person they are (‘patriotic’, ‘loyal’, ‘British’ etc), as a means of self-expression or a lifestyle ‘beacon’ to others. People will often seek ways in which they can express this personal identity and the courtiers  at Buckingham Palace are careful to provide a complete range of products and activities to support this; garden parties, parties in the Mall, walkabouts, royal visits so people can wave plastic flags.a whole range of tangible items such as mugs teatowels etc. This has led to a reliance on the monarchy by a greater or lesser proportion of the public for the maintenance of at least a part of their own identity.  The result is a family, the Windsors, being psychologically addicted to privilege whilst a great many people are dependent on that behaviour in a form of co-dependence.

It is unthinkable that I should adopt an institution dedicated unaccountable privilege as an integral part of who I am as a person. But, as a British Republican I recognise that I positively adopt aspects from history and my environment as part of my identity.  For example, many of my friends and family are aware of my deep affection for the poet Shelley. Similarly a part of my identity is bound up with the great scientists, artists and radical political thinkers who were born in Britain or moved here from other countries. My symbols are those which championed freedom, the Rosemary branch, Sea Green banner and suffragette tricolour to mention a few. Monarchy, empire and aristocracy have no place in my heart and thus form no part of the construction of my identity.

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