Why Royalty Still Works in the UK and Elsewhere

Hereditary rule removes the notion of someone having more merit than someone else, so problematic to our tastes. In doing so, it ironically allows monarchy a backdoor into the meritocratic, democratic age.
Queen Elizabeth II

LONDON – JUNE 17: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip seat on the Royal Coach at Queen’s Birthday Parade on June 17, 2006 in London, England. © Sampajano_Anizza / shutterstock.com

Everyone loved Queen Elizabeth II. ‘No one had a bad word to say about her’ is the defining phrase of the moment. Her popularity and success is usually ascribed to who she was, rather than what she was. But is that really so?

Birth or Merit?

Royalty is generally regarded as anathema to the meritocratic, democratic age. How can we possibly accept people being born to rule? It flies in the face of all we are taught to believe.

If that’s true, then the only way the queen can have been so great in her role as a born ruler is by dint of her being a truly wonderful person, on an individual, human level, in spite of the unsavory task of hereditary rule.

There are two other choices: our rulers either rule us due to corruption or merit. Depending on whether we live in an autocracy, a weak democracy or a strong one, the sliding scale between corruption and merit will be different.

Queen Elizabeth’s United Kingdom is generally regarded as more meritocratic than corrupt. By that rationale, our politicians rule us because they are better than us through merit.

The trouble is, meritocracy is hard to swallow. When you ask an individual: do you think a political leader is ruling you because they are better than anyone else, you soon hear arguments about the innate corruption of the system.

The Queen’s (or King’s) Magic

Hereditary rule removes the notion of someone having more merit than someone else, so problematic to our tastes. In doing so, it ironically allows monarchy a backdoor into the meritocratic, democratic age.

Queen Elizaebth II was not the queen through merit. She was just born to it. That makes her no better than anyone else at being a queen – if you were born to it. This notion puts people at their ease.

Sure, the whole edifice of royalty is deeply unedifying to the modern mind. But if in our hearts we don’t truly believe the utopia of meritocracy can exist, then monarchy becomes a fallback against worse corruption.

And so most people become happy with the queen, or indeed, the king.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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